• 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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  • May 4, 2018

    It seems to me that the ‘normal’ setting of my nervous system is assertive, that I place myself according to my wants, facing in the direction that satisfies them. Even when I feel I am at my least assertive, when I don’t want to engage, I assert this stance also by turning away from what does not please me.

    Can I observe the nature of assertiveness? Does it not isolate me? Does it not establish a narrow, selective range of perception?

    Last night in zikr, it seemed that we were invited along a different path. The first step was a request, to abandon self-assertion, to set aside self-importance, to relax the physical posture that holds our assertiveness in place. An invocation of humility followed naturally. Humility is an ‘inner’ posture, a declination of breath and body and sense of self, an inner bowing of mind and heart, a rounded softness. Humility could be called ‘poor in spirit’ which refers not to a lack of energy, not a defeat but rather a dimming of self-assertion.

    The first of the Beatitudes says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (King James Version).

    Humility invited intimacy. Barriers collapsed. Intimacy is to be close, so close as to be able to follow the subtle movements of the one with whom I am intimate by knowing them in my own response. Intimacy is everything in prayer. Is there an answer in prayer, one could ask? Yes, intimacy, that is the answer. Prayer contains its own answer. Perhaps I could think that I do not know the one to whom I pray. But in fact I do, in knowing the response which is called by Him in me.

    Intimacy invites sweetness. Sweetness is the taste of my relationship with my Beloved. This is an inner taste, the essence of the sweetness found in honey.

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