• 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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  • October 2, 2019

    There are two basic settings of the attention. In one of them, my thinking steps between attention and the object of attention. I act as if my attention depends upon thinking to direct it and keep it in place. This is head-brain attention. This form of attention is weak and easily diverted because it is funnelled through the thinker who is notoriously unreliable. Thinking flickers with associations, prejudices and habitual reactions which interrupt attention, causing it to be unstable and often involuntary.

    Head-brain attention is a dance between thinking and attending. The thinking apparatus steals some of the available attention to provide energy for considering itself, its aims, its analysis, its evaluation of its experience and other preoccupations.

    The second attention, which we call being-attention, is impartial and self-willed. Nothing stands between this attention and its object. This attention locks in and establishes a relationship with its object, acting as a kind of bridge uniting viewer and viewed, hearer and heard. The master of attention has learned that this attention is not his, but rather a universal property accessible to sentient beings. She has learned that this attention can be beckoned or invoked to perform a particular task but the task is then fully entrusted to the attention. Thought follows attention rather than the other way around.

    Let’s say I wish to attend to a beautifully shaped cup. I place attention on the cup. I then removes itself…. the thinker, the observer…so that there is, moment to moment, a direct engagement of attention with cup. My eyes and mind are filled with cup. In first attention, I am in here looking at something out there. There is separation which limits knowing. In second attention, inside and outside are one movement, one taste, more knowing.

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  • September 19, 2019

    “All we need is love’, says the famous song. And that is the cliché that we use to pacify the emptiness of ordinary experience. But love is not a simple pleasure or an easy solution; it is very painful to be so concerned about another and to suffer all their ills and problems. Love is rife with desires, needs and attachments which are part of its transformative power but not romantic at all. No wonder Buddhists prefer compassion.

    There is another path which I think of as intimacy. This path does not replace the wish to love and be loved or its importance to us as humans but it does offer another form of transformation. My sense is that intimacy is what most humans want more than anything else. By this I do not mean sex. Intimacy is a complete lack of barriers and defences, allowing free expression between us, without effort. It is a state of openness, ease and trust.

    Fourth way practices and theories do not encourage intimacy, in my view. Trying to self-remember or trying to voluntarize attention tends to isolate the practitioner. However, impartial observation of self can, over time, bring down the barriers and prepare for intimacy.

    Perhaps I wish for an intimate friend to whom I can tell everything. Here lies a trap. If I complain to this person, I arm myself with judgment and blame, the greatest of defences, and intimacy is lost. Confession is an entirely different matter because it is disarming and carries within itself the quality of humility. My most intimate moments arise from confession, but there are very few, other than His Endlessness, who can be trusted with my confessions lest they hold them against me.

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  • September 12, 2019

    The way was prepared by thousands of such nights. But tonight’s zikr marked a transition. The aim was to feel the exquisite intimacy of remembering and being remembered, to find again my relationship to Him, to experience the mushahida, the mutual regarding that unfolds in His presence. But not this night.

    Something more was asked. As we took our places in the circle, it was clear that we were being held by strong hands, supported by our lineage but also great beings who form the spiritual hierarchy…Muhayamin, the ones who protect us here on earth. We were not there to meet Him. We were there to do His work.

    The world is increasingly out of alignment. The connection between earth and the higher realms has been broken. We invoked Him as Restorer, that all might find their correct place and that the links might be restored. The zikr was for Him and for us.

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  • August 19, 2019

    It was there from the moment we entered the zikr chamber, there waiting for us. A gentle, all pervading kindness, felt in the heart and sensed in the eyes, a lightness of being and generosity to all.

    In ancient times, when the nature of kingship was still understood, it would have been the duty of a real king to invoke this higher emotion for his subjects. The feeling of beneficence is that of a blessing, of being blessed, without reason or favor, simply because it is a mark of the divine nature. It gives rise to a quality of contentment unknown to us in ordinary life.

    Many and varied are His ways. At every moment, He assumes a posture by which He can be known to us, a quality of His Being, but only if we set aside what we think we know and find Him in our sensing and feeling. Tonight it was beneficence.

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  • August 15, 2019

    When entering the hall of a great king, it is only necessary to remember one thing. That one thing may be humility, sincerity, loyalty or simply the need for the king’s presence, but whatever it is, it must be remembered fully, for it is your gift to him.

    Do not think it is necessary to be more than you are. What is asked is that you be who you are. In a world so fully dedicated to pretense, illusion and deception, there is nothing more powerful than this.

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