The Guard and the Prison Breaker

‘The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog’ (part) – Caspar David Friedrich, 1818 – WikiArt

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Without freedom there is no self-knowing 
and without self-knowing there is no meditation
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~ J. Krishnamurti 

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Few sensations are as boisterously exhilarating as freedom is. Freedom is something that we all love to feel. To be freed! Freed from all weights and limitations. Freed from everything that bullies us and pins us down. But most of the time, this feeling is experienced from the vantage point of the little thought in our head that thinks it runs the show. This entity thinks that its freedom comes from being separate, and from its capacity to do what it wants. This is what being free means to most people. But is this really what freedom is, where freedom lies? In expressing all that comes from the lack and desperation of a limited, vindicative little self? If that is so, then this freedom takes us nowhere but in the already known boundaries of our self. How could that account for the power and magnitude of this feeling? Freedom cannot be so small and contrived. What is it then? Where is true freedom to be found? 

Freedom can never be fully felt within the conglomerate of our thoughts, feelings and perceptions, between the four walls of our prison cell. We may feel some occasional bursts of pleasure but this is not the real deal. If you search for freedom through that portion of yourself that is fleeting, fragile, untrue, you will by definition prevent the advent of any meaningful freedom. You will have limited freedom, something to be achieved, something to be added that becomes just another object, another aim in view. And don’t forget that this limited freedom can never be achieved anyway, for we in truth can never do what we want. And of what advantage would it be to follow the clumsy, limited, fanciful ideas of a mind that stands on false premises. Because of this impossible claim, we feel bitter, sad, violent, jealous, regretful. Let’s move away from such dangerous idea. 

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An inquiry into the question of freedom… (READ MORE…)

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The Virtues of Shopping

Shopping is not an activity that I‘m particularly fond of. Quite frankly, I only get on with it. One of these things that I just have to do. Sometimes, it comes with some extra difficulties. Today it is pouring rain. That just came suddenly to annoy me as I’m walking back home with my bag of groceries. Well, I’ll clench my teeth and show some bravery. But my inner world is screaming out loud. A whole company of thoughts that march in my mind, and on it. For they numb me, make me blind and deaf to the world. In short, I’m complaining about all sorts of things: my stiff body and this cumbersome umbrella; a walk far too long from the shop. Now I long to be home and hurry my steps. I fiddle for my keys. Three storeys to climb. No room for a view…

Well, that’s one version of it. The other is to be simply present. But that’s easier said than done. Unfortunately I don’t master it yet. I get lost. Forget myself. Maybe I’m trying too hard. For this quality of presence often comes unexpectedly as a gift when you really let go of yourself; of that little babbling, pestering mind. In those precious moments, you come to know precisely what you are doing. It is such a gift, to know what you are a part of. Life then comes with its own explanatory notes. It unfolds; shows its brightness and dumbfounding simplicity. I know with a childlike clarity that I am now — actually — coming back from shopping. Not in a vague and lazy way but clearly. I am fully participating. There is a slowing down. I become interested. Present.

There is a body walking here in the street. And I’m grateful for it. It’s even a thrill to feel it. To be alive. To have this pain in the shoulder. Nothing much. The little price to pay for carrying the shopping bag. There are not many thoughts around, so the world does not appear somewhat darkened, in two dimensions, as a flat and dull projection of a mountain of resistance. There is some relief, profundity. It is three-dimensional. The rain has stopped and the houses around appear with their various pastel colours, as it is commonly seen in this region. This is really beautiful. Many bicycles are negligently resting against the wall by my side. Some are standing under the trees with elegance, and a certain artistic composure. I feel truly happy. 

I don’t feel constrained by my shopping. On the contrary. It comes with a gentle and subtle sense of pride. To bring back home the necessary food that will substantiate us. It has purpose. What a lovely thing to know what is exactly going on, and not what we project and finally invent. To have a clear view. To see meaning. All these things that come easily when we do not impose unnecessary barriers on our living experience. Countless drops of water are now falling leisurely from the trees onto the pavement. It is a soothing thing to see and hear. It is music. A few high green plants grow around a nearby trunk, stand erect, dance even, stretching towards the rain, blessed. Even plants can show some eagerness of living, some gratefulness, and finally this strange sense of happiness that pervades the world when it is seen for what it exactly and truly is. It is my turn, today, to feel just that!…

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Suggestion:
– Other ‘Reveries’ from the blog…

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An Unnoticed Pathology

In our relationship to truth, we often find ourselves in the position of somebody who, on waking up, tries to remember his dream. Any searching, any effort to remember, the slightest doing towards that goal, is pushing the dream away, dislocating it irremediably.

The problem is that we want something. This is our state. Our unnoticed pathology. One that we have inherited from society, and that we have integrated to the point of being it — this wanting, craving, searching. We mind what happens and want to control it. Fair enough. But we should do it from a position of truth, of relaxation, of not minding. We should let the story go, the one that tells us that we are incomplete, not enough, needy of a thousand things, and that prevents us from seeing clearly this presence that we are now and of all eternity. 

We cannot even say that we will let go of all seeking and just sit down doing nothing, for our ‘not doing anything’ is already a cathedral of doing that we have patiently and methodically put together over the years. As the French philosopher Blaise Pascal once noticed, “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” 

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Some thoughts on our unfortunate propensity for seeking… (READ MORE…)

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The Practice of the Presence of God

The monk at prayer’ (detail) – Edouard Manet, 1865 – WikiArt

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A little lifting up of the heart suffices.
A little remembrance of GOD, 
one act of inward worship
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~ Brother Lawrence

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From the remote time of the seventeenth century in Paris has come a voice whose freshness and intimacy struck a chord in many a spiritual seeker throughout the generations. The man behind it was a lay brother working in the kitchen of a Carmelite monastery in the French capital. He was born Nicolas Herman in 1614 in the region of Lorraine, but took the religious name of Lawrence of the Resurrection. What a miracle that the writing of this simple lay brother found its way down to us. But although a remarkable journey, it is understandable that it did so. For the words of this humble, hardworking man, all occupied to his cooking activities, show a mountain of dedication to God. His simplicity and softness, combined to an undefeatable and spontaneously joyful practice, is a deeply valuable gift passed down to us.

Sometimes I consider myself there as a stone before a carver, whereof he is to make a statue; presenting myself thus before GOD, I desire Him to form His perfect image in my soul, and make me entirely like Himself. At other times, when I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit and all my soul lift itself up without any care or effort of mine, and it continues as it were suspended and firmly fixed in GOD, as in its centre and place of rest.”
~ Brother Lawrence

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Rejoice in the illuminating life and practice of Brother Lawrence… (READ MORE…)

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The Price of Immortality

‘Evening’ – Caspar David Friedrich, 1824 – WikiArt

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Death doth not trouble me. 
‘Tis through that door I come
Unto the place which long 
hath been my spirit’s home
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~ Angelus Silesius 

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There is one thing in life that is haunting us. This is the fact of our certain death. And yet, considering that we all know that we are going to die, most people don’t actually worry that much about it. How come that people who believe that they are solely their body can stay so cool when waiting for a certain death? They should be terrified. This should come as some unbearable news. But it’s not. Even though we don’t look forward to dying, we nevertheless take the news with a remarkable composure. We don’t mind that much if you ask me. Why is that? 

Is it that we have deep down the intuition of our immortality? If I say ‘I’m going to die’, how does it feel? Am I saying the truth? Do I really know this for certain? Or am I casually repeating something that I have learned and has now become a deeply ingrained belief? But this being said, don’t let us be mistaken. Most of the time, we push death far away and numb ourself to its dreadful reality. And the fear of death is conditioning and bending our lives in the most ruthless manner. What a paradox it all is! But in that paradox lies the whole riddle of life and death, of suffering and happiness, of love and God. Death is a portal to our true nature. One that is inescapable. Who is it that is going to die? Or rather what is it? Let’s have a look at it…

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An exploration of the nature and meaning of death… (READ MORE…)

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Search me, O God

I am presenting here a text excerpted from the Christian Old Testament, in the Bible. It is commonly known as Psalm 139, and belongs to the Book of Psalms. ’Psalm’ in Greek means ‘instrumental music’ and is by extension, a hymn. These hymns are mostly praises to God. This particular Psalm was brought to my knowledge by Rupert Spira. This is certainly one of the richest for it expresses the all knowing and pervasiveness of God, of that deep presence that is the nature and heart of our utmost self. It also stresses that this presence shines in all circumstances, including in our darkest hours. The psalm seems to hold in itself the soft power of a prayer, which is the ability to make us aware of our true self. For this is the function of a prayer, to throw us back into our self, into the deep silence that is the core of our being. As Stephen Mitchell wrote in ‘A Book of Psalms’, “Pure prayer begins at the threshold of silence. It says nothing, asks for nothing. It is a kind of listening. The deeper the listening, the less we listen for, until silence itself becomes the voice of God.” Listen to the depth of this poem. As its promise reads, you may be led “in the way everlasting”.

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O lord, thou hast searched me, 
     and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, 
     thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, 
     and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, 
     but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, 
     and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
      it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? 
     or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: 
     if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, 
     and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, 
     and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; 
     even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; 
     but the night shineth as the day: 
     the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: 
     thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: 
     marvellous are thy works; 
     and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee, 
     when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought 
     in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book 
     all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, 
     when as yet there was none of them.
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! 
     how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, 
     they are more in number than the sand: 
     when I awake, I am still with thee.

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Search me, O God, and know my heart: 
     try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, 
     and lead me in the way everlasting.

~ Psalm 139 (King James Version)

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Psalm from the Holy Bible (King James Version)

Photo by Alain Joly

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Bibliography:
– ‘The Book of Psalms: King James Version’ – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
– ‘A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the Hebrew’ – by Stephen Mitchell – (Harper Perennial)

Websites:
The Bible (Wikipedia)
King James Version (Wikipedia)
Psalms (Wikipedia)
Psalm 139 (Wikipedia)

Suggestion:
Other prayers from the blog at Fragrance of Love

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The Golden Thread

A golden thread is running through our life;
It says: listen, I want to be happy,
I long to be free from darkness and strife
And find that peace that is looking for me.

So now I’m out in search of all the things
That will give me some meaning and relief;
But that peace is short-lived, only quick flings
That leave me unfulfilled and full of grief.

Is it that things cannot satisfy me,
Have no power in bringing happiness?
Is it again that I have failed to see
That not a thing away from me can bless?

Life knows it well that puts death at the end
To stop me ‘cause this endeavour is null;
It is only a hint — not some cruel bend —
To show there is some answer in that lull.

Now turn around and face that void in you
That is no thing but bears all things that are,
And remember you’re not anyone who
Can say I am separate and afar.

I am empty presence that knows and sees,
Renders all things as if they were in me;
I’m the silent watcher behind all these
That previously were my identity.

Now hear at last — there is some highlight here —
That when you rest in that newly found ‘I’,
All your strife and suffering disappear,
You’re found to be happy, at peace — oh my!

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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This poem is inspired by Rupert Spira’s suggestion that the longing for happiness is a golden thread which, if followed right through the end, leads to the discovery of our true nature.

Suggestion:
Voices from Silence (other poems from the blog)

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