• 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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  • July 1, 2018

    I have said for many years that it does not matter what name or concept you use for God. What matters is what you feel about Him.

    People want to talk about God with the same frame of mind and setting of the nervous system that they would use to do the grocery shopping or figure out the Times crossword puzzle. This is nothing short of stupid.

    I speak to a beloved friend with a special feeling, a different tone of voice, a different countenance. In this way, the basis of our friendship is renewed. If I do not make this effort, the relationship is closed to me; in reality, it does not exist, it is something else, something unrecognizable.

    So it is with God. Thought of in one way, He does not exist to me. I am an atheist. But when I am in the right state to be engaged with Him, He becomes accessible. He becomes real.

    I have often said, ‘do not allow yourself to think about God when you are in the wrong mood.’ Use the mood you are in to do the things appropriate to it, or change your mood, do not try to talk to your beloved friend when all you can think about is your taxes.

    This is the problem with so-called logical proofs of God. The sort of thinking that examines things logically is not up to the task of proving His existence. All my capacities need to be awakened for me to be satisfied that He exists and then my speech will have many more dimensions than logic alone. It is not possible to house an elephant in a closet, and in the dark, the various parts of an elephant will be easily mistaken, as the story goes. To ponder His Endlessness, I need my best efforts at spaciousness and subtlety and even then I will be far short of the task.

    Bring together feeling, sensing and thinking. Look with great care. Search your heart. Stay with the search. You will find Him, however you have conceived and named Him. Faith is not belief and it is not blind, as the saying goes, it is the most perceptive of faculties.

    Rumi tells us of being in a caravan crossing the desert. At night, while encamped by the fire, he hears a man plaintively calling for his camel by name. ‘Have you lost a camel?’ Rumi asks of him. . ‘I feel I am missing a camel,’ the man responds, ‘and the more I call him, the more certain I am that I have lost my camel’. Rumi begins to think that he, too, has lost a camel. That is how it is for those who find that they are missing something dear to them. They begin to look for Him and call His name.

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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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  • 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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  • December 15, 2017

    Where were You, and where was I, when we had our meeting?” (Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi)

    Let us say that you have sincerely decided to invite God into your life. You wish to receive His visitations.

    Your room has a lot of furniture and your house is small. There is room for only a little bit of God. Over time, the relationship may empty your room and make additions to your house so that you can accommodate more of Him. The manner of His visits will then become more and more uniquely your own and less the script found in religion. He is most considerate to limit Himself to the expressions in which you are most able to recognize Him.

    Now, consider that you may also wish to visit Him, to enter His Life. You would need to relinquish your room, your house, your identity, your sense of self. It would be a journey requiring you to sacrifice past and future in order to enter His Presentness with all your attention, forsaking all others. This is zikr.

    You know who you are when you enter the zikr chamber. You know where you are, the street address, the ascending stairway, the carpet where you sit. Such a place does not yet have room for a meeting with Him. But soon, the journey begins and you are no longer in that place, not in the same time. Your address has changed and you are not yourself. If you were to look around you, you would be able to reconstruct the room you entered. But you have moved on. You have left your life. You are on the Way to Him. Invocation shapes the space which then corresponds to His inclination to express Himself. Your response is His Gift to you.

    According to Hadith, Allah says: “Take one step towards Me and I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards Me and I will come running towards you.”

    Where were You, and where was I, when we had our meeting? We met on the Way.

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