• January 13, 2020

    This is my failsafe, my touchstone. Can I let my mind rest upon nothing? Just for a moment? I am not talking about blanking out the mind or stopping thought. This is the opposite of control. Can I let go, fully release? Can I, in one moment, completely submit…my self, my breath, my posture. And if I can? I get an immediate hit of ecstasy.

    Now I’ll warn you about this ecstasy thing. It’s not the same as extra joy, not euphoria nor extreme happiness. Ecstasy is laced with pain, with sorrow and with exaltation. Its exquisite intensity is inherent in its contradictory nature. Ecstasy is not one thing but rather the simultaneity of many things…a dose of another reality. This is the door-opener that takes you to the heart of the Universe.

    This is not something that can be maintained for long periods, at least in my experience. But if I can perform this maneuver, it’s like being shot out of a cannon and I have a moment when the work can be remembered and understood.

    The key is submission. Can I learn to submit? The whole of life is a lesson in submission. Every sacrifice I make for another’s sake, every sincere confession of my limitations, every time I voluntarily give up my point of view, I am learning the path of submission.

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  • December 22, 2019

    Why is Christmas still celebrated all over the world after 2000 years? Apart from the Christmas story, not much from 2000 years ago is still remembered. Perhaps you dismiss this simply as a naïve religious superstition slowly fading from the world over time. But it continues to influence the thinking and emotions of billions of people. Perhaps this is worth going into more deeply?

    Ideas have enormous power to shape and sustain a narrative that changes the way we experience our life. For example, all of us are now powerfully shaped by the idea of progress which is only about 300 years old. What ideas are contained in the Christmas story? The innocence, vulnerability and humility of a child borne in poverty in a manger attracts angels, Kings and shepherds. This is not a story before Jesus’s birth. It is a new story. The old stories are about the privilege of high birth and favor from the gods. This is no such story.

    O yes, stories of the miraculous birth of other ‘special’ beings were standard lore for centuries before the Christian birth but those stories did not survive the passage of time. And the qualities these other stories celebrated were not the qualities of innocence, vulnerability and humility.

    Let’s suppose just for a minute that the story of the birth is not only true but also intentional. Something new is being inserted into the human psyche. The pageant, for that is what I think it is, celebrates a change in human thinking.

    Could you think of the psyche of human beings, our interior life of mind and emotion, as a vast ocean? The changing notions of who we are as human beings are the tides on which we rise and fall. Not all the denizens of that ocean are kind. Strangely, some full of light yet they are not swept away. They continue to hold together despite the maelstrom of confusion humans live within.

    In the human psyche are many creations, some of our making, some from unknown sources. Angels are one of those creations, as well as a star that hangs in the heavens above a manger. You may dismiss the notion that the world of the psyche has its own creatures not found in the physical realm but this is very limited thinking. The world of the psyche is larger, more varied and more powerful than the material world. History is the proof. And consider what you know about yourself. I cannot see what I have decided is not there and I cannot know, understand and experience what I have already rejected.

    Consider that Christmas still has the power to reach into hearts and change us. Stories like this are a miracle. Their presence in our collective psyche is absolutely necessary. Do not let them pass without hearing them and wondering how they can be.

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  • December 10, 2019

    Every human being bends the universe. The fabric of the earth is formed into a sentient being capable of movement, thought and feeling. Such extraordinary order is created, the product of high intelligence and energies which run counter to the law of entropy. Resources are commandeered for our sustenance.

    Each of us is a vortex summoning attention and drawing the attention of others, initiating their thoughts and reactions. We create small universes of things that matter…relationships, special items, daily activities, places to be…that give shape to our lives. This little universe is manifest in our physical form and its habits but it also exists in the invisible world where certain habits of thought and emotion arise.

    In this world, every human being has sovereign power to bend the universe. The very act of living does so. The power derives from access to the non-physical attributes of will and attention. Why assume that this power is entirely dependent on the physical body? Why assume that the invisible dimensions of you and me do not continue?

    Our lives are not our own

    from womb to tomb we are bound to others, past and present.

    The consequences of our individual lives ripple throughout eternity

    and by each crime and every kindness

    we birth our future.

    (Cloud Atlas)

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  • November 14, 2019

    Have you noticed how little we depend on sensing? The headbrain is the tireless translator of my experience. I have replacement thoughts for just about everything I experience in my senses.

    I see the vastness of the sky filled with stars and I think about how far away the stars are, that the light I see was emitted billions of years ago by stars now long dead. The sensing lasts only a moment, if at all, and then it is replaced by thinking. Instant translation to the mental sphere. My ancestors had far less ‘knowledge’ of these things but they had a much greater possibility of being in relationship with the heavens.

    Perhaps you think this is not important, that what matters are the facts? Perhaps you think that realism is based in knowing the facts? In my view, this is an enormously limited understanding of our capacity to know and the potential of knowing through sensing.

    My observation is this: sensing engages me in a relationship with what is sensed and that relationship does not arise from thinking. In my sensing, I can relate to phenomena outside of my limited location in time and space. And the extraordinary added benefit to entering into sensation, penetrating it with attention and holding it without mental translation, is that it also opens up the realm of feeling…higher emotions as they are sometimes called. Thinking rarely provides this bridge to feeling unless it first engages sensation.

    Try this at home. Watch an insect or small animal. Sense in yourself how it moves. Notice that it very often responds to your attention if you do not get caught in your thinking.

    How does sensing engage feeling? In my view, sensations have parallel feelings. The sensation of lowering the head may invoke humility. The sensation of remorse may invoke compassion. The sensation of beauty may invoke ecstasy. Can I learn to fill my senses with these sensations? In my experience, learning means to not let thinking interfere. This is a skill that opens many doors.

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  • November 1, 2019

    What is the point of zikr?

    Zikr is for the Absolute. It is our service to our origin.

    Why would the Absolute need something from us?

    What I am about to say is my understanding, from my own experience. This may mean nothing to you. But perhaps hearing this will be like what the Buddhists claim when you hear the dharma, that it reaches in and changes your orientation.

    Creation serves the purpose of the Creator. Imagining otherwise is like the sheep assuming that the shepherd and the paddock are for their benefit.

    What did the Creator wish to accomplish with creation? The Creator’s purpose was to know and love all the possibilities within Himself. The universe is an exercise in His Self-discovery.

    What does that have to do with us?

    We are a part of His Self-discovery. From Himself was everything made, because in the beginning there was nothing else. In creating us from Himself, He entered into Creation and became subject to the same laws He had established for His creatures. From the limitless, He became limited.

    If we sleep, He sleeps within us. If we wake up, so does He, or at least that portion of Him that sleeps in us. In other words, the Absolute fell in love with His Creation, He became identified and ceased to be awake.

    Of course, the Absolute also remains in His original state outside creation.

    The people who believe in God think He is all-knowing and all-powerful.

    He could be, if He wished. The evidence is otherwise. The evidence is that He has agreed to limit Himself in order to experience His Creation. This is disturbing to those who look for some ultimate, reliable perfection to rely upon.

    We have an urgent task to perform which is of great value and we do not know if there is anyone else to do it. The question is, can the Absolute awaken in His creation and thereby realize His aim of discovering Himself? Can His Splendour enter the mundane world? In Zikr, it is possible. We can invoke aspects of His Being and reflect them to Himself.

    Within His Creation, He experiences the suffering of His creatures. We can offer relief through mutual adoration. The relationship is reciprocal, based on mutual dependency.

    We humans are the active but limited side of infinity. By remembering our origin, we can restore His unity and redeem the unforeseen consequences of creation. We remembering who we are, we can remind Him of Who He is. That is the point of zikr.

    Is this what you mean by the Work?

    Yes. This is my understanding. In zikr, I remember this. In ordinary life, I do not. Is my life really mine to do with as I please? Or is there something more?

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  • October 15, 2019

    Let us say that your dominant characteristic, your ‘default program’, is fear. You are frequently fearful that strange and terrible things could arise from ordinary events. You are continually on the alert for possible difficulties, now and into the future.

    Your way of dealing with this fact is to try to ‘manage’ the fear, which means to reduce it in some way, perhaps by rationalizing it, noting its unreasonableness, breathing it away or to avoiding it through distractions. Fear is the enemy.

    But perhaps fear is your most useful asset. Fear makes you alert to what is happening around you, it summons energy and encourages active inquiry into what you are experiencing. Could fear be your steering wheel, helping you to navigate your terrain? But for this to be true, you must have enough separation from fear to give you the space to work with it. You cannot do this if you are the fear; you can do it if fear is your companion. Impartial observation of self could lead you in this direction.

    Every impulse, every perception, every sensation and every thought presents input, possible leverage in the ongoing battle to know and stay inside my experience, living it, using it.

    In a thousand times a thousand ways, each of us is looking for ways to ‘improve’ ourselves. I think I know what I need to be a better or more successful person. Seemingly the last thing I want is to deal with myself as I am. But I am the only path out of myself and into a wider universe. I can’t begin with some imaginary self-construction. Better to make my ‘flaws’ my companions.

    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.
    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.
    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.
    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
    Be grateful for whatever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

    — Jellaludin Rumi,

    translation by Coleman Barks

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