• May 12, 2018

    When I say ‘I’, where does this word resonate in me? What is the sensation? This is an important question. ‘I’ is a very powerful word and it tells me a great deal about myself.

    Do I avoid the word ‘I’ in my speech? Do I say tend to say ‘we’ or ‘you’? Why would I do this?

    For example, I may say: ‘We don’t seem to take such and such issue seriously’ instead of ‘I don’t seem to take this issue seriously’. Am I really able to speak for a collective? Perhaps I should just own up to my own opinions rather than generalizing them?

    Every time I say ‘I’, there is an opportunity to observe myself. When I use other pronouns, am I deflecting attention away from me because I do not wish to observe myself?

    Then there are those masters of circumlocution who twist their sentences around to avoid the use of ‘I’. They try to make their statements impersonal or general in nature to avoid the appearance of ego or subjectivity. Perhaps this has a limited application in academic discourse but it also leads to abstractions that limit communication and may make false claims to universality. Can I stand for what I say? Can I bring who I am to what I say?

    Consider the different ways I may start a sentence:

    I think….

    I believe…

    I know…

    I sense…

    I feel…

    I hear…

    I want…

    I wish…

    I agree…

    I don’t…

    Each of these formulations brings something different to what I say because each verb is active and activates something in me; each has the possibility of beginning in a different place in me and ‘sounding’ differently. What makes each verb unique is the possibility that at the moment of saying ‘I’, I observe myself and that places ‘I’ inside of what I say.

    Can I sense where my ‘I’ is when I speak? Can I observe the impact of that location on my state and my connection to the one I speak to? When my presence is present in the present, where is I?

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  • December 28, 2017

    For me, obligations are a heavy weight. Caring about others enmeshes me in a world of worry, frustration and anger. These seem to me to be obstacles to work. I think I would benefit from fewer attachments to the world around me.

    You have described precisely the field of our work on self. Without these difficulties, which are very real, nothing would be possible in this work. Swimming in a sea of self-indulgence leads to nothing. And let us be clear. Most of what we think of as spiritual practice is really self-indulgence.

    I obligate myself and I feel resentment that I cannot be at peace looking after my own preferences. I care about others and I feel anger and frustration at their pain and disappointment. This path requires that I learn to deal with these reactions, and not by avoiding them. It is not the obligation that weighs on me and it is not the caring that diminishes my potential. Rather, it is my habitual reactions that reduce the range of possible engagement to a few predictable defensive contractions.

    The problem is that I am partial. I want things to be a certain way. Consequently, I do not see what is actually happening in my life and I constantly lie to myself. To be impartial is to be free of personal demands. To be impartial is to be completely honest with oneself.

    This path is not one of disengagement but rather one of direct and open-ended engagement, without judgment, without blame and without self-pity.

    Can you discern a boundary that divides attachment from love? I cannot. Yes, I may have wrong attachments that cater to my self-lying and self-importance, attachments that cover me from my own sight. But it seems to me that attachment is also the secret purpose of the universe.

    The Buddhists teach a process called Trekcho, ‘cutting through’. The inner stage is impartially observing my reactions, not justifying them, releasing them and engaging with life from a place of freedom, a place of spontaneous presence. The state of spontaneous presence arises more often as my reactions subside.

    Resentment becomes agreement, not a ‘yes’ when you really mean ‘no’ but an inner alignment with the task required of you. The action is therefore joyful.

    Feeling the pain and disappointment of others could mean to suffer their circumstances while feeling love, compassion and the joy of relationship, rather than frustration and anger. This is not possible from a place of judgment. Why do we judge? Because we cannot bear the extreme contradictions of a fully human experience. The juxtaposition of opposites is both exquisite and excruciating. It is easier to divide the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’.

    Cutting through is a process of self-purification which cannot be accomplished without obligation and caring. In obligation I can learn to do things for their own sake, not for reward or the final result but simply because I said that I would. This is a doorway to impartiality and the joy of service. In caring I place the feelings of others ahead of my own. This is a doorway to the joy of sacrifice. Both actions deliver small defeats to self-importance that over time can make all the difference. As the Buddhists suggest, these experiences may lead to an insight that my personal self is essentially empty, having no independent existence.

    There are some schools that propose non-attachment as the goal. I propose a path of complete attachment…embracing the full catastrophe of human existence…its sorrow and its joy…attachment not limited by my personal preferences. The key is in knowing that it’s not about me. Attachment is only a problem when I make it about me.

    Can I be a medium through which the universe loves itself and celebrates its attachments?

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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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  • November 14, 2017

    Students of this work often seem to think that presence is an end-state, a goal to be accomplished. This thinking is far short of the mark. The state of presence is a point of transition. Presence provides mobility. Its great value is that it allows you to move, to change states, to enter other categories of experience.

    What does this mean, to enter other categories of experience?

    Our ordinary state is one of involuntary identification. The identities I assume are deeply ingrained ways of behaving which are based on even deeper habits of perceiving and reacting, based on even deeper self-images and assumptions about myself. These layers of habituation do not allow me to behave, perceive or think differently. In my ordinary state, I have zero degrees of freedom. This is what it means to be asleep. I can only truly know this through observation of self. Hearing or reading this will not convince me of this most basic fact of my existence.

    To be present is to be unidentified. My habitual patterns no longer contain and limit the range of experience available to me. My body and my ordinary mind may continue to ramble on during presence…we can call this the momentum of sleep…but the ‘I’ of presence, a not ordinary I, can see over the barricades and also experience its own presence in the present. This is an opening. Or perhaps we could call it a threshold. It is what we call being.

    Sleep continues while you are present?

    Remnants of it, yes. These reverberations of the biological machine die down in time. This is because the body and ordinary mind exist in successive time. Their processes unfold and change from moment to moment. Presence does not. It has the quality of immediacy, therefore timelessness, from the point of view of body and mind. Presence exists in the second dimension of time as a kind of alien outside the flow of successive occurrence.

    Presence can continue to be present in the present only if it is continually renewed. Only presence can know itself to be present. Only presence can hold itself in the present. When I fall into identification once more, presence is no longer in the present…it has succumbed to the momentum of sleep and I have re-entered successive time, time passing.

    But while I am unidentified, I can feel, I can contemplate, I can invoke. I can know things immediately from the inside as if they are myself. You could call this voluntary identification…not repeating the habits of the body and ordinary mind but engaging in the essence of other beings. This is the mobility possible in the state of presence.

    This sounds easy but it is not. To remain present in the present for any period of time involves ongoing struggle. Somehow I must function in two different worlds, two different dimensions of time. I remain in a body. The pull of sleep does not cease. At any time my presence can be pulled into forgetting itself. Then I am swept into the river of successive time, the fashioner and sustainer of my identities.

    Only presence can know it is present. It does so immediately, in the place of no time. Anything in successive time is in a different realm, of a different nature, too slow to participate.

    Only presence can hold itself in presence. It remembers itself. Presence is sustained by its own experience until it is interrupted. While engaged in its experience, presence can also know the tiniest slip towards sleep, those interrupting sensations and thoughts that beckon me to re-join my limited but known universe. Has observation of self impartially exposed the ways of sleep so that they can be seen and resisted as they arise? If so, presence may be able to continue in the present.

    My ordinary self cannot will itself to be present.

    From the point of view of ordinary mind, moments of presence are very fleeting, if knowable at all. Can I remember being present? In my ordinary state, it is inaccessible.

    From the point of view of presence, its moments are eternal, comprising all the time there is. When presence returns after an absence, it is completely itself, as if it never left. This is what it means to be.

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  • November 1, 2017

    I entered the zikr chamber and almost immediately felt as if suspended in space.

    Most of my attention is used unconsciously to maintain my physical positioning in the world. It fixes my position in a particular time and place….a day, a street address, a set of clothes, a task I am doing, a place I am going, my body shape, the way I occupy space. All these references are set in place and habitually held there by involuntary attention without conscious notice or involvement.

    To be present is to bring voluntary attention to contemporary engagement which may then be used for transformation of energies. This is what happens when I invoke presence; presence entering the present transmutes sensation into consciousness. Attention is voluntarily re-connected with its source. But the possibilities do not end there. Engagement with the present can then be released. Presence remains but it is free to enter another realm, another set of references.

    This is the point of meditation. Meditation unwinds my habitual set of references.

    Once I am present, my presence may find relationship with a larger presence, leaping into the lap of the mother as the vajrayana teaching says. One pronounced effect is that you may sense and feel that you are suspended in space. There is nothing supporting you nor is any support needed. This is what is meant in this work when it is said that presence is a voyager. I remember myself as the voyager, a presence suspended in the labyrinth of creation.

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  • July 9, 2017

    Have you experienced second wind phenomena? You are running. The running requires effort; it’s a bit of a struggle. You think about how happy you will be to get to the end and stop. You may imagine a cool drink or flopping down on the ground, task completed. This is such drudgery….and my side is beginning to hurt…but you continue.

    And then, the unexpected happens. Running is suddenly effortless, a pleasure. You feel that you could run all day. The pain fades away. You enter into the running, no longer separate from it as something you are analyzing, you are runner and running, one movement. This is the second wind of running.

    All spiritual practices have the possibility of second wind phenomena, when the practice becomes effortless and real. Perhaps the most important is relaxing the body. I am always asking you to relax the muscular tensions of the body, the tensions that are not required to sit up straight. Unless you are very practiced, being able to immediately sense and release unnecessary contractions, you will obtain a limited response and then the tensions will snap back.

    Can you continue to attend to the body, noting the tensions and releasing them? If you do, you may find that you attain a certain momentum of relaxing. Releasing one tension exposes another which in turn is released. One tension supports another. Also, one release supports another. The process is incremental. Suddenly, the body relaxes more fully and continues in a state of ease, supported by an unintended shift to more rhythmic breathing and pulse.

    What are the secrets of second wind? First, knowing if I have resistance. Is there a part of me, a little voice in my head, a mental image, sensation or a physical impression, which prefers some activity other than relaxing? Often, resistance is simply the continuity of my previous state or engagement which wants to continue with its own momentum. I must deal with this first. Resistance can be recognized and released.

    Second, recognizing my impatience. My efforts to relax most often fail because I am impatient. I want the result, I want to get to the end, before I have really begun. I may try to reproduce the sensation of relaxing so I can move on to the next stage. Can I find the movement of impatience in me and release that?

    There is virtually no end to the process of relaxing. You may find that the deepest meditative states are simply more perfect relaxation.

    There is also second wind of attention and second wind of presence. We may discuss those at our next meeting.

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