• September 14, 2018

    Sitting in the black room, I lose my orientation. I don’t know which way I’m facing or even if my eyes are open.

    Yes. What effect does this have on your thinking?

    I expected that I would be left in a state of confusion, where my thoughts would simply run around in my head, but mostly this didn’t happen. I actually felt less dominated by my thoughts, more free to simply be there and be in the present.

    This is a useful observation. But perhaps this is beginner’s luck? You are responding to something new. Our ‘normal’ sense of orientation is very locked in. I automatically step into myself when I sense myself in habitual ways, chief among them being the visual sense of facing in a certain direction, sensing that I am looking outside from inside my head and seeing my hands in front of me. Removing these familiar inputs opens up the possibility of disengaging from the usual.  I may find this energizing.

    What happens over time, after many hours of sitting in black silence? The real test is supplied by boredom. In ordinary life, outside the black room, boredom is disguised by my habitual engagement with people and things to do. I fall into identification with my experience, much of which centers around disagreement and resistance which ensure a steady parade of reactions to keep me occupied.

    In the black room, boredom is less disguised. Do I ‘invent’ illusory content…imagining events, conversations, having discussions with myself to fill the void? If the mind outlives the body, is this my experience after death? Do I then wish to reconstitute my life before death with all the same ‘amusements’, in an attempt to defeat the boredom? And do my suppressed impulses and my guilt manifest karmically as ‘unfriendly’ guides, as they call them in Vajrayana? To what extent is my experience now, in this life, determined by these same…but less visible… mechanical impulses?

    After a few sessions in the black room, I begin to notice that I am sometimes visualizing…it’s a kind of light show, eyes open or closed, displaying indistinct imagery of completely irrelevant and fictitious action…a movie without an apparent script. Is this actually going on all the time, even when I am doing my daily routine? Is this what it means to be living in a dream world even while I’m ‘awake’? Does this imagery unconsciously shape the way I perceive? Can this subconscious visualization be stopped?

    Perhaps I can now begin the serious work of learning to remain present in the present, an aim which requires that I know and resist the process of falling asleep, that is, falling into the automatic dreaming of the mechanical mind. This might be useful after death. It might be even more useful now.

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  • May 24, 2018

    One of the mysteries of zikr is that it seems to take place in another country which is not known to me in my ordinary state.

    In my everyday life, I know where I am.  I have a physical and psychological orientation, a map of my personal territory, which is as fixed as a street address. My movements take place around a few locations. I am placed within my tasks, my obligations. My life is a construction of things learned, past events, failures and successes, relationships won and lost. A thousand associations and habits keep me in my place.

    There are things that I do and things I do not or cannot do. The culture says I can be or do whatever I want if I follow my dream. This is foolish. Clearly I have limits in my life and whether they are self-imposed or imposed by others, many of these limits are real and true. A street address says not only where you are but also where you are not. I learn that there are places that are not for me.

    Work on self begins to peel away the layers of this onion, separating true from false. Impartial observation begins to whittle away at the reactions, judgments and justifications which maintain my location. Inwardly, I gain degrees of freedom from self. The world becomes larger. I find that there is an ‘I’ that is not constructed, not limited by a local fixed address and this ‘I’ explains the best of my doings.

    Work on self is not self-improvement but rather deconstruction, from the outside in. That is one direction for change. It is slow but certain.

    Zikr is in another direction. Its location is not in my ordinary world and I can’t get there when I am myself.

    Can I simply step outside of myself? This may seem illogical. For it to be true, I must magically be that ‘I’ which is not part of the construction, temporarily leaving it behind. How is this possible?

    The present is a crack in the cosmic egg. Without past and future, now being all the time there is, my presence is called to be, replacing my identities. ‘I’ enter. Can I can enter the present so fully that I no longer have a fixed address? This is what zikr is. This transition is made possible by several factors. First, it is most helpful to have a special space that is removed from my ordinary life, a chamber oriented by repeated use to have access to another country. These spaces are in part made by our efforts but it is also true that they are first found to exist because they are aligned to factors outside of the ordinary world.

    Second, it is most useful to have the collected attention of a number of participants. This creates an attractive consort for the forces that can assist the zikr and attract them.

    Third, I must be willing to surrender myself and cease to be the center, the active agent.

    Finally, I must ask for the transition. This is invocation which is, along with attention, a great and inexplicable mystery.

    These factors attract help of another kind. I am drawn into contact with another reality.

    Last night, entering the zikr chamber, sitting together, watching the breath, a subtle presence entered.

    It is sometimes possible to re-cognize the nature of a guest, to know it as one knows something of oneself. I cannot re-cognize a stranger, only someone known to me.

    The one who has entered is the Friend. Who is the Friend? The Friend is that one who is more me than I am. A friend is remembered. This Friend is remembered. His signature is always there in me even though I constantly forget.

    Can I open myself to my Friend without reservation, allowing Him to search every corner of myself, to see every bit of deceit and arrogance? This exposure is a whole sensing of who I am without Him. It is a great relief to admit this search, to allow my secrets to be seen. It brings us closer.

    Zikr is in the heart tonight. It aches with pleasure.

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  • November 25, 2017

    Do you know that you spend most of your time and energy being lost?

    I have a menu of lost enterprises. I can get lost in my thinking, lost in my business, lost in conversation, lost in watching television.

    When I find myself, I experience a moment of irrational joy and a surge of energy. Ah yes, here I am in the real world. Emaho, as the Tibetans say, absolutely amazing.

    Finding myself is spontaneous. In that moment, I have no agenda, nothing to change. I see it as complete agreement, no reservations.

    Now, I am going to suggest to you another feature of this state of finding. I mention it hesitatingly because, although I wish for you to look for it and recognize it, I do not want you to adopt this as a goal. Because the irrational joy of the state is intimately connected to its spontaneity. What do I wish you to see? That this state has an immediate sense of orientation; it is this which accounts for the experience of finding which is so different from being lost.

    By orientation I do not mean the points of the compass or the four directions. I mean an inner sense of orientation, as if you are facing something. If you are able to sense this quality of facing, and stay with it for a few moments, it may reveal something to you. First, what you are facing is indefinable, mysterious, but this lack of form is not at all uncomfortable.

    Second, the irrational joy of finding yourself, there and then, clearly and exactly arises from contact with this indefinable something. So, the moment of finding contains you, this other and a wonderful connection which expresses joy.

    Now, you could say that you have remembered yourself and that would be partly true. But it would be just as true to say you have been remembered. There are two sides meeting, acknowledging and completing each other. In no time at all, without words.

    I think it is very likely you have had this experience. Perhaps you can even recall it. Being human, we quickly forget and become lost again.

    Many times over the years I have challenged you to find evidence of God in your life. Thoughts and theories are not evidence. You may reject the very idea. That doesn’t matter either. The existence of God does not depend on your acceptance of it. The evidence is in the subtlety of human experience without any required reference to religion or theology. All it requires is to enter your own experience and perceive it, with fresh eyes and fewer preconceived ideas.

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  • January 20, 2017

    Where are you in time? Does it seem that your experience of time is more about the before and after of personal events, the past and future, and less about the now?

    The cliché is that we should live in the present. Does this mean that we lose the benefit of our experience and the lessons of history? Being in the present does not mean ignoring the past or not remembering it. It’s a question of placement. Being in the present is a beginning. Now, can you bring time past and time future into the present?

    There is a world of difference between re-entering the past and re-identifying with it, or bringing the past into the present to inform the present moment. Re-entering the past is a fantasy because the past that we remember is partial and subjective and its relevance to the present is easily lost. Bringing the past into the present integrates experience. What is relevant to the present is extracted and related to what is happening now, becoming part of the present. This understanding is consistent with how memory usually works; I do not remember the specifics of events so much as their impact on me afterward, upon reflection.

    It is very useful to notice where you are located in time. Events in our past or anticipated events in the future act as anchors for the attention, pulling us forward and back, out of the present. These attention-anchors create our orientation, unconsciously selecting what we see and relate to. If we continually inhabit time past and time future in our imagination, we become lost in time and the opportunities of immediate response in the present become extremely limited.

    Present time is the only time when anything happens. Please understand this.

    Experience becomes relevant, and not an escape, when I am oriented in the present. Can I anchor myself in the present and bring the content of other times to me? Attention on sensation can do this. Having a body locates me in the present. A vague notion or thought of my body image does not suffice. I need direct sensing.

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  • May 22, 2015

    I am sitting in the zikr chamber. I agree to be here. All connections to ‘my’ life outside are relinquished. This is the only place there is, the only time there is.

    I relax my body on the outbreath. This occurs in layers. The musculature is first, followed by sinews and tendons which hold me to myself, in habitual resistance to my environment, separating me from other. Posture triggers sense of self. I release them both. I become somewhat unfamiliar to myself.

    I relax my mind. Do you know that your mind has a shape? That is how it holds the thoughts that are habitual to you. This shape can be sensed, especially in the leaving of it. Breathing out, I release the form of my mind, allowing it to collapse. There is no longer a small comfortable space for ordinary thinking. Thinking loses its customary structure.

    Breathing out, I merge with the space outside. Breathing in, I take the outside space inside. Slowly, the distinction between these spaces is erased. The inside is the outside, two become one. I sense that I am suspended in space, a space which is unknown to me.

    Where am I? All sentient beings have orientation. Migrating birds tend towards home. Dogs turn to their masters. When the compass of life in the world has been disengaged, humans turn towards their origin, a place with many names and many paths leading to it. Tonight it is beauty. Tonight it is the beautiful one. As this feeling enters, beckoning, I face towards it in greeting, allowing it to suborn me, choosing to surrender and follow.

    You lead me to humility. Lower invites higher. I have nothing of my own and I am thankful for that. All that I am is your reflection and I am thankful for that.

    The zikr begins.

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