Riding The Lifemare

There is so much pain in the world. So much struggle. We have everything we need to have everyone on the planet happy, safe and well fed. But, the imbalance of wealth continues. The environment is red lining. There are random catastrophic attacks on innocent people around the world. Is any of this sustainable? Fixable? Actually, survivable?

Is it the end of times? Or, will that come with an election in the fall? (I’m old enough to have laughed at the idea of Ronald Reagan. And we all remember Al Gore winning the presidency, don’t we?) But seriously, are we going to elect a billionaire with questionable business histories to help restore economic balance? The alternative, by the way, is only a millionaire, albeit with an equally sliding business moral scale.
In what scientists refer to as a stable universe, we live with the fact that the cosmic rug can be ripped from us at any time. But, science only explains so much. Our beliefs, when they aren’t completely blocking us, only go so far. Ideas aren’t worth the projections they’re imprinted on. When it comes down to it, there is only life. And life does whatever the heck it wants.

That’s what we signed on for when we met the gleam in our parents’ eyes and pushed past the thighs screaming into the night. It’s no surprise we were crying. But, Then we gave in, forgot the truth, and decided to try it all over again. We became excited by our feet and the prospect eating the coffee table. Eventually, we walked and eventually we let go of youth to pound rocks in this improbable prison called life.

And we understood that those weren’t rocks so much as our heads. And when we stopped pounding long enough against the cell door, we had an epiphany. Okay, not an epiphany as much as a realization. Or, maybe a resignation. This is all there is. Its not gonna be anything other than this. And when we got that, we stopped hitting our head long enough to realize the cell was ajar. And that jars can be opened. And, all we need do is let go into that smile from divine tho born from the dirt and delivered to the dirt, in between, take our place on the planet as its stewards and its fruit. That’s it really. Just take care of things, as we can.

People try and find deeper MEANING in life as the planet is threatening to evict us, and we are warring on our own souls. Kind of like philosophizing at the scene of a car accident. Sure, these things beg the grand questions. But, shouldn’t someone call an ambulance?

This is a plea for us to do something out of love and care for each other and the world. This is a call to nonviolent activism. Waking up in the chaos and riding this lifemare into the dark and the light of our journey. Letting go of what we believe, so we can step into the arms of who we are and what we need to do for each other to save ourselves. I recommend sitting down to gather ourselves and letting the energy of change change us into the Bodhisattvas we were destined to become. If the world is grasping for something to save it, maybe we can be junkies for wakefulness. Maybe we can be willing to sleep in the cold just for the rush of helping our world. So when Walking Dead is finally done, when we’ve exhausted all excuses, when the alarm has been pushed to snooze enough times, we can wake up and realize this is the only life we have in this life. And it needs us. Not the planet. The planet will evict us and carry on like nothing much happened. In a billion years it will sprout another thinking race. And, maybe that race will know enough to live with some respect for itself.

But, maybe that race is here. In our dream of waking. In our belief in each other. In our trust in humanity. We can wake up into the dream, and bring the change.


Opening to Change

IMG_1129Life is continually changing. And although it is natural for us to fear change, by shutting down to that fear we shut down our life. Hence, opening to change, frightening as it may be, is opening to life.

The tool we need to supply the strength for this journey lies no further than our own heart. The power of a compassionate heart is the strong force of the universe that binds us to a lasting truth. The oldest written book we know is the Taoist I Ching or “Book of Changes”. A fundamental experience to all life is its transience. Even our planet, the very home to humanity, is changing. Yet, throughout human experience, we have endeavored to find stability and meaning. In order to live a full and rewarding existence, we have grasped at straws of permanence in ourselves, our spirituality, religion, art, science and even politics.  Yet, attempts at solidifying our experience are themselves subject to decay and dissolution.

This dissonance has created great tension in our lives. We are changing, and yet, we long to find stability and something that lasts.  The great Taoist philosophies from which Confucianism and Buddhism extend, posit the image of a river. The river has been flowing for through epochs, but each time we step in, it is an entirely new river.

As a tree grows, it is not cursed with the question of its existence, nor has it the need to find meaning to validate its experience. Animals, find need in dominance and survival and their existence is largely fearful. But humans have the greatest challenge of life on our planet. We are blessed with the curse of knowing. We can see just enough to understand that our time is very limited. Yet, we still don’t understand why. Hence, we struggle between the botanical model of ignoring our existence, or closing down into patterns of defensiveness. When we feel good, the tendency is to escape into frivolous experience, as though we have all the time in the world. We consume beyond our needs, take more space than is offered and live without appreciation. On the other hand, when circumstances arise that we are forced to see the precarious nature of our experience, we might burrow into warrens of protective repetition, shutting down our life into a dull, but controllable, routine. In either case, we are gripping, clinging and closing off our life. And in neither case, are we able to sustain our position. Exuberance and fear are both subject to change. And, in fact, most of us cycle back and forth between the two extremes. Life seems blissful when we are lost in a dream, but when the dream ends and we are faced with a life that has not been related to, we fall into depression of guilt and blame.

There is a third option, a middle way that includes joy and truth. And that is, opening to our life, as it is and finding the love, joy and acceptance for which we yearn in our own heart and mind. We realize our basic human dignity by opening to fear, rather than finding an exit to a more manageable or less painful experience. When we accept that life is change and that change is frightening, we can open beyond. By opening to change, we are waking up to the truth of our experience. When we choose a life of knowing, caring and compassion are natural. And this gives a profound meaning to our experience. By connecting to the stream of love, we are connected to the lineage of life.

And, life, like the river in our analogy is the lasting experience we are craving. By opening, we step past our fear and touch our heart. When we connect to that self love and caring, we are connected to the love of the universe. And, whether that love is God, Dharma, the Tao, Humanity or History it is a living flow that is has never changed, and is different each time we step into it. The present has been flowing for as long as there has been life in the cosmos. But each time we come back to the present, it is a new and rich experience.

 

 

 


Love in the Face of Terror

Bartering Being Right for Being Love. 
1030592887More bombings. More terror. Tuesday morning, on the eve of a solar eclipse, suicide bombs and automatic weapons took the lives of over 30 people in Brussels. After 5 people died in Istanbul the previous Saturday. The two recent attacks claimed over 2oo wounded. And there were others before. Large and small. High profile and low. A lineage of hatred ringing through the streets. Our streets. The streets of human hope, life and understanding. Its hard not to be angry and frightened. And so, its easy to react with hatred, passing down hatred through a succession of aggression. And many will do that. And, this is natural and, for now, unavoidable. But, there are some who will stand in the face of terror. There are those who will offer love and caring for the victims and a world torn by hatred. It takes great bravery to do this. My heroes are those who stand for love regardless. Who don’t fall for the easy action, and instead try and face the danger with an open heart and open eyes. It is imperative that some of us begin to understand this anger and offer kindness in its stead.

Facing terror with an open heart will seem naive to some. But, by opening the heart instead of shying away we are willing to try and see. By accepting with radical allegiance what has happened in hopes of understanding how to heal this and break the chain. We may not have answers.  But, if we remain dedicated to waiting through the pain, perhaps we can one day find a way out of this. But, if not, and if this violence continues until it ends us, at least some will have given the love and care that is so needed in the midst of pain. Someone has to answer blood with heart, or we will never heal. And if we never heal, we will never grow beyond these cycles of self-interest and self-protection.

For those brave enough to face the terror, perhaps we can be still long enough to see its entire scope.  While we revile terrorism for its animal cruelty and relegate terrorists to sub-human status, we have given ourselves the moral permission to place all our frustration, fear and anger onto a nondescript other. This momentary empowerment feels right. It feels strong. But the more we grip, the more vulnerable. By closing our mind in a vice, we are actually more vulnerable.  We are vulnerable not only to danger, but to being manipulated by those who broker in fear and hatred. We all love the underdog in movies. We identify with native struggles, and those oppressed by stronger cultures. This “Robin Hood” syndrome is a very real human impulse. The United States itself identifies as rebels in it’s inception. But were the patriots we revere deemed terrorists to some?  How was our own country viewed by the native people of this continent? How were we viewed by slaves torn from their families, shipped and traded like cattle to support an illegal economy?  And how are we seen to young children growing up in the middle east with scant hope and little opportunity to realize their basic human ambitions? They are easily manipulated by those who profit from their anger, and frankly the first world is an all too easy target.

But, the truth is, we are all victims of aggression. There is poverty and disempowerment in the first world, as well. There are victims of abuse in our safe American homes who can so easily turn toward hatred to find a way from their pain. Hate on hate on hate on hate. Our lineage of suffering might look senseless and cruel from the outside, but it feels so heroic within. This hatred keeps us spinning, and in our spinning, we no longer see. We only grasp the closest ally, and follow the strongest current. In this way, we are all unwitting adjuncts to our destruction. And in the melee, we miss the reality, for it is a sad truth that in times of duress victims will kill victims. We are so caught in the bloodlust, we forget to see the obvious. For instance, an obvious thought is that terror costs money. Who has the money?  I’m sure that few people dressed in a suicide belt come from great wealth and power. Where is the money that supports them? Along with pictures of the carnage, why are there not articles on who is financing and who is actually benefitting from terror? Where is the money? If we stop the money, and prosecute the pipeline of arms and resources, might we not slow the progress of hatred? Might we not be able to separate out the causes and conditions and begin to see how to untie the knot?  Then those left in the trenches might be free to communicate and begin to understand what creates this hatred. Unfortunately, then we would have to listen to stories we’d rather not hear. We’d have to begin to see ourselves tin the other. And, that is so very much more complicated than blame.

No, its easier to stay with the simple. Its easier to build walls and blow up markets than to try and see what someone else sees. And because of this blindness, we are at the mercy of the momentum. We are pulled like bulls from our nose. We are lead to slaughter again and again. So, while anger is easily justified, some of us simply must try something else. Some of us must take the mantle of kindness and peace in the face of war. Some of us must stand to open our hearts, if not to the aggressors, at least to the victims.  So it will be said, never forget, and please don’t let them have died in vain. And monuments will be erected. And those slogans will be used to rally further war. This is what has happened, and what will happen again.

But, our memories of the victims can also be used to rally peace. Don’t let the victims die in vain. Let their suffering pose an opportunity for us to bond in compassion and caring. Let us forgive the easy answers for the bravery of being love in this time of hatred. This will change the world.

And, if you think that this is naive, and an avoidance of the responsibility of action, then please show me how aggression has helped. Maybe sometimes it has. More often its probably just unavoidable. But, in any case, it has added to the myth of the preeminence of might. And, justified or not, this has obscured our ability to see past vicious struggles for survival to greater human understanding. If we choose love, we do something different. We take a moment to pause and for a brief, but very important moment, we break the chain. And that break proves that the chain is not unbreakable. And that gap might open the window to an opportunity to develop a new way of working with our pain. Maybe then instead of erecting statues to commemorate war, we can build monuments to peace. Instead of using victims suffering adventitiously to strengthen ourselves, we can share in their pain and create greater compassion and understanding in the world.

I do not have that understanding now. I am angry as well. I do not know what is right, or who is right or what is best. But, I know that I want to make a statement for peace, because peace is what is needed.  Simply that. There are warriors, and their are healers. The world has always been this way. Let us not forget the healing. Let us not forget understanding. Let us not forget to sit in meditation or prayer and in honor of those who suffer, face the terror with love.

A Dance of Perception

A Guided Meditation

2010-11-30 19.13.35There is a moment when the mind ‘flips’ from externalizing and objectifying to an internalizing or integrating perspective. You slow down enough or maybe wake up enough. and you can feel that moment in the mind.

Let’s try. Okay?

  • Sit up right. Allow the energy to drain down through you  as you spine rises straight up. Elongate the yogic stretch of the spine as though the tailbone were a weighty ancient stone arrowhead and the head was gently pulled upward to the sky by a golden string. Imagine the spine extended gently creating space between the vertebrae.
  • Then allow the muscles, organs and sinew of the body to relax down, creating space inside the body for the organs to function and circulatory, respiratory and nervous to flow naturally. Allow room for the body to breathe. Close the eyes and gently relax them. Shut off the point of focus behind the eyes, behind the forehead. Relax the nexus of tension in the back of the neck. Open the throat. As you breathe, relax down to the heart. imagine that opening, as though it were a horizontal lotus, blooming, expanding. In the back ground you are aware of the breathing, the essential rhythm of life. Allow the energy to flow down and open through your stomach, abdomen, groin and hips and seat. Allow the rhythm of breathing to coax the energy out the hands, feet, fingers and toes.
  • Contact the felt experience of the breath.  Allow the breath to expand through you and open you. Allow the rhythm of the breathing to settle you further – even as the spine stretches upward. As the spine stretches upward toward its destiny of wakefulness to the sky, the viscera relaxes down toward a sovereignty of completeness within the earth.
  • Sit breathing for a few moments.
  • Then draw allow your primary awareness into a mindful experience of the breathing. Gently take in information from the experience. Relax the external experience of you. Just become the experience of the breath.  Your primary awareness is the breath. Around the breath, a secondary or harmonic awareness of the open and aligned body begins to occur. Beyond that, an experience of the room around you, the environment, sounds on the street, and your thinking.  As the mind localizes on a thought it will lose its connection to the breath and there will be an experience of you. The experience of you will occlude your awareness, and become insular and self-referential. Release that, as it happens, and relax back into identification with the breath. And through that, into non-identification itself. Be the breath breathing into an open vessel.
  • Simply that.
  • Allow the perceptions of the mind, to be part of the general awareness and allow the breath to lead us back to integration with the physical and emotional planes. Allow the breath moving through an aligned, and open body, to guide your experience away from identifying with the “you” construct and back into a physical experience of now.
  • Releasing yourself from all constructs, place your identification on the simple movement of the breath in the moment. Allow perceptions to come and go, as they will, without relating to “you”. “You” are only awareness of the present moment as embodied by the breath. So, just be the breath. And, at some point, just be.
  • As you continue breathing, feel that recede into the background as you place your primary attention on the left hand. First you notice that in the mind and notice any judgement (“I don’t want to do this?” ” I was just getting to samadhi” “I hate exercise.”  It’s all okay. Allow that information to recede into the background.
  • Then move your mind to the hand. The mind may want to jump off. “Okay, I got it.” But gently move beyond that. Investigate the hand. Is there a temperature? Are there different temperatures on different sides of the hand? Is there an evenness to the way the fingers are splayed? Just notice. Then open.
  • Open to the hand and allow the information from the hand to enter your mind stream. Keep ancillary attention on the breathing as you gather wordless information from the hand.
  • Just be the hand there in the moment, as you breathe.
  • Then bring the breath back to the foreground. First the mind hears that. Then, if there’s no resistance, you move the mind to the breath. Then, if there are no distractions, the mind can momentarily investigate. Where is the body moving? Where is the breath? Then, before words become sentences, open to the experience of the breathing and actually feel it. Open to it and allow the information to touch you

enter you

move you

and, change you.

  • Now, become the breath
  • Place your hands over your heart area. Feel the radiant energy of your touch. Allow the dominant hand to hold the heart. Breath into that. Breath the energy of wakefulness and strength into the heart. Connect to the vertical alignment of rising in a yogic stretch from your connection to the earth through the spine infinitely to the sky. Awake. Now feel the energy of the other hand. Open your heart into it. Relax into the hands and the posture opening the heart, and allowing the energy within to flow through you. Bring a image of something you love into your heart.  And let that love radiate. Then, drop your hands.
  • Slowly open your eyes. Look around the room, allowing the space created from a settled mind illuminate al you see. Let form and emptiness entwine in a magical dance.  Let your eyes naturally fall on an object.
  • Then send your mind to the object. Penetrate it. See it in ways you would have never seen before. Allow the secondary awareness of the breath to settle this process in the background. Relax further into object as you breathe.
  • Now relax. Stop focusing and open. Allow the object in to you. Begin to receive it. And finally be it. Connected.
  • Then let go. Lower the gaze and return to the breath.

When I do this exercise in a group, I’ll have people couple off into dyads. I’ll ask them to turn to each other and sit in silence together with eyes closed.  Then I’ll ask them to open their eyes, look at each other for a minute or so. Then I’ll ask them to mention something they see or feel in the other one at a time. The first person looks a bit deeper and when ready offer a “gift” of their observation. Then the received after a moment of silence, responds with what they heard. Then silence, again and repeat. When the two gifts have been offered, heard and confirmed in silence and strength, I ask them to share with each other how they felt about their gifts. At some point, I usually they relax the form and just debrief the experience.

What is the purpose of this?

To interrupt the momentum of the mind as it burrows into concept and away from clear perception. To see the obstacles to opening to clear perception and to circumvent those obstacles toward a fresh experience of mind.

It is stunning and heartbreaking to see the world we generally miss.

 


Holding on to Letting Go

MIndful Awareness: The Precision of Openness
hands-silhouette-4x3We speak a lot about letting go. “I’ve got to let go.” “You should let that go.” “I’m letting go of letting go.” But, at the same time, we talk about mindfulness or holding to the present.  “I’m mindful of the moment.” “I’m mindful of my life”. “I’m doing a mindfulness retreat.”

Ah. And what did you learn on your retreat?

“I learned to be mindful of letting go.”

Okay.

But, what does any of that mean? How do we let go and pay attention at the same time? And while we’re at it, how can you pay attention to moments that are rapidly slipping by, without holding on? Grasping and fixation seem posited as twin evils in the church of mindfulness. But, how do we pay attention without grasping on to something?

How can we be here now, when it is gone by the time we get there?

Developing mindfulness and learning to let go are only contradictions to the programmed, conceptual part of our mind. It is the mind with which we create value judgements that allow us to communicate with the world. However, in doing so we also build an identification upon these concepts creating a “Me”construct, which is a compendium of conceptual ideas with no inherent substance. They are simply labels used to identify ourselves to social ecosystems. These concepts reduce the complexity of reality into a two-dimensional flatland of opposites. Good and Bad. Right and Wrong. Heaven and Hell. And while that may make for great rock n roll, or action adventure comics, these dualities fail profoundly as an assessment of reality. To the open, relaxed mind trained in meditation, it becomes apparent that good and bad are just points indicating a spectrum. In fact, they are really just points in an infinite array of possibilities.

In meditation practice we actually do ‘let go’ in order ‘hold to’ the moment. We let go of our personal identification and its attendant gripping in order to rest the mind on the moment. By taming the mind with meditation practice, we slow down assumptive and presumptive mental processing. At the same time, we increase our objective awareness and begin to see the steps beneath the assumption. This fellow is a good man, and will make a great president. But, if we relax into this assumption, we may see that we don’t know this person at all.  We may see that our assessment is colored by our fear of certain beliefs he stands against. We may see that our assessment is persuaded by societal pressures. When we relax beneath the labeling process, we can see the energetic exchange below. Relaxing may be a more accurate designation for letting go. Wze may see that much of our thinking on the subject is prejudiced by fear and, in fact, we have little knowledge of either the person, or the office. By relaxing, we loosen the fear based grip. We can look more deeply and objectively at the situation. We might even go beyond thinking and feel into the situation.  Far from eliminating or eradicating the moment, we are opening to the moment.  With meditation, we relax past designations and loosen the grip of our our identification in order to access the moment more objectively.

Problems arise when people either believe their assumption of reality or go to the other extreme and believe they are letting go of the moment itself. This is the linear mind of opposites. There is this and that. We are either believing our superficial mental designations, or letting go of the moment into a blank space. In meditation theory, we talk about the middle way. In our flatland way of believing the surfaces, we think it’s either gorge or purge. We believe that a middle way is a small theoretical point on a line of opposites. In truth, the middle way is the spectrum of possibility available in the moment. The middle way is multidimensional and those dimensions become more apparent as we relax further into the moment.  We are letting go of mental judgements in order to fully realize the moment. Meditation can be seen as a process of training the mind to ‘open to’ rather than ‘close down on’ an object.

Mindfulness: Agency in the Moment

Mindfulness meditation is using an object of mindfulness to stabilize the mind. Mindfulness in action is being able to hold the mind to an object in space or a moment in time (actually, the same thing).  With mindfulness training, we are incrementally letting go of panic induced gripping in order to see beyond the constrictions of fear. Gripping is how we attempt to control an uncontrollable world. We grip onto each moment and then conflate a number of feelings, thoughts, memories hopes and fears into a very handy label in an attempt to control our experience. Hence, we would rather be miserable by our own hand, than open up to possibilities which may lead us to being miserable. However, we simply cannot control life by griping to it. We defeat the purpose and actually destroy life by gripping to it. A mind without mindful attention like being in a stuffy room. And meditation is like opening the window. Gripping to that moment is like slamming the window shut in order to keep the fresh air in. 

And then when the air is once again stale we will become miserable remembering what we once had. We will imagine a time when there will once again be fresh. We will be lost in the past and the future, we will scheme and cajole, bargain and manipulate, daydream and regret.  We will scurry into a cycle of schemes each triggered by the other. We will do any number of things, except open the window.

Until we it happen again randomly, on its own. This is likely, because the window represents our natural inquisitiveness. And, the space beyond the window, our very life. Whether we know it or not, we are naturally present in that life. But, although life is always out there, and the fresh air is limitless, when we forget we are alive in our life, we are effectively shutting it out. We are preferring the laundry in the closet to the trees, mountains and the rivers outside. So, windows open naturally all the time. Only, each time we ascribe a meaning to this and credit the book we read, the person we loved, or drug we ingested, we again shut the window.  We confuse the ‘finger pointing to the moon’ with the actual moon. We will lose the object to the method and surely the window will shut again. Then we may hate the book. We may toss the book across the room. And, in a borderline show of swinging opposites, switch our drugs and throw our lover out the door, as well.  

And, when we open the door to throw them out, and the fresh air gets in, we may mistake that again. It’s a common rookie error to blame the messenger. We’ll be at the bar and everyone we buy drinks will agree, all we had to do was get a new book. But, maybe someone who doesn’t drink will risk suggesting a way of giving up the control game in order to gain access to our life.  They may suggest an actual path to discovery, rather than a placebo or panacea.  A way of giving up control and gaining agency in our life. There are those darned opposites again. Giving up control, but gaining agency in our life.  We may actually learn about the window and our tendency to look at easy surfaces instead of the complexity of truth. We may learn how to open the window for ourselves.

In time, and perhaps more importantly, we will learn that we have been the one closing the window all along. The fact is, open windows are frightening. Anything can get in and close off our life again. And so we will seal the window shut ourselves just to have control. We will throw the lover out, in order to get a jump on them dumping us. We’ll stay in and read a book. An old book, of course. a nice musty one. New books all disappoint. They are not like they were back in the day. They are definitely not what they could be. We might sit a while and imagine the book we will write someday. It will be a book much like the way they used to be. And, WE WILL BE IN CONTROL.

Lucky for us, as the of fresh air of the outside life is our natural state, eventually some neighbor’s kid will toss a rock through the window. Or, maybe after repeated disappointments, at some point, it will click. We can learn how to open the window on our own. We can learn why we close it sometimes, but we can develop along a progressive path toward opening the windows more and more. And then, once the windows are open enough, we can enjoy closing them now and gain, as a respite from life. But we know it’s our decision. We have agency, and we have gained that, by giving up control. We can’t gain access to the mind by controlling it. We gain access by working with it. We can’t gain access to the moment by clamping onit. We gain access by opening to it. And when we’ve done that enough, we can choose to close off for a while. It can be our choice.

Awareness: Access to Life. 

cropped-10584450_10152364200277968_1913484645_o.jpgWhen we can train the mind to ‘rest’ in moments without gripping, we gain a deeper access to life. In time that resting mind allows us to naturally activate a different kind of memory. WE connect the dots – not conceptually – but in experience. Our ability to access the timeline of experience grows, and we actually increase the awareness of now. Now becomes a larger – and less defined – arena. In this way, non gripping mindfulness allows us to let go into a larger field of awareness. Instead of a pinpoint designation, “now” becomes a larger field of possibility, history and potential. Sakyong Mipham translates this as “Presently Knowing”. We are presently knowing our life when we are resting in the present, not carried away in judgments of good or bad, pulled by this and that. We may be aware of references from past experience, or a view of our future, but it is all regarded in the present, without conflating it into the personalized miniature of projection.

We have trained the mind to see what is, and trained our emotions and body to allow us the contentment to relax all gripping. With meditation, we train the mind to open to the moment and rest there long enough to let go into an awareness of life.

Mindfulness is the tool by which we open TO an event, rather than close in ON the event.  Thus letting go and resting on are complimentary, and necessary components of the path to awakening.  During the path of meditation, we train ourselves to let go of its stages even as we render them into language to better track the process. We come to understand that labels are provisional titles pointing to deeper interpenetrations of experience. In this sense, as it clarifies itself, meditation practice uncovers a fundamental truth below our conditioned existence.  In order to see beyond the limitations of delineation and gain a deeper, more organic connection to life, we train the mind to loosen its grip and feel below the labels. As the mind naturally becomes more present, and more comfortable with its experience, we gain an internal confidence in ‘not knowing’ and a willingness to lean in and investigate further. Eventually, we relax our grip on this and that. Which is to say, we release our grip on separating ourselves and everything else. Apparent logical discrepancies become complementary and reality becomes unified and possible.

In the seminal manual on meditation “Turning The Mind Into An Ally”, Sakyong Mipham refers to ‘resting’ the mind on an object. Of course, “resting” is itself a conflation and a designation. But it is more subtle and energetically accurate in terms of opening to and contacting the object. The more we grip, the more the object changes and the less we actually see the object. Complicating this our personal evaluations and judgements further confuse the process. When I say resting is more energetically accurate to mindfulness, I mean it is closer to what the mind does in order to see an object clearly. It is inquisitive. It opens to the object without preempting experience with assumption. Therefore, rather than ‘focus’ the mind on the breath, Sakyong Mipham urges students to ‘rest’ the mind on the breath, and to open to the experience of breathing. This points the mind toward looking beyond the conceptual index and into an actual felt sense of a purer access to reality.

When we rest the mind repeatedly on an object, gently training the mind to return again and again to present experience, we develop the confidence to further relax the grip of our personal identification and its attendant histories and associations. The process is like raising a child, I suppose. The more our personal agenda comes into play, the more the child resists and the less accurately we see the child. This engenders a certain panic that increases our identification and gripping. We begin to conflate a miraculous human being into a limited dimensional thing, a “child”,  a “daughter”, a “son” that belongs to us. And while those designations are provisionally accurate, they evoke all sorts of assumptions that may have little to do with an actual person. This becomes particularly complicated when we say “my” daughter.  We automatically assign personal judgements and assume patterns of  behavior. Much of it is well intended, but sometimes the more we love, the more we fear. And, the more it we are instigated by fear, the greater our tendency is to panic and grip. The more panic and grip the less awareness we have. Expectation is the death of accuracy. When we expect a living, changing, dynamic being to remain faithful to our provisional designations for their lives, we rob them of self-agency and the confidence needed to live an independent life.

But does this mean we just let the child “go” and refuse to guide them or protect them? This would not be a very mindful upbringing. The key is learning to ‘guide’ the process. We are not gripping out of personal panic and its attendant delusions of the ego, but are letting go into the process of ‘seeing’ who  this person is, and how to help them open to their true potential. In this way, we are actually paying deeper attention who the child is, rather than preconceptions of what she should become. Because we are giving the child space to be, we can better understand and appreciate the child.  In this way, instead of letting go, perhaps we are letting be. We are gaining distance in order to become closer. We are opening to life by resting our mind on the moment rather than stomping all over it, appropriating it, or truncating it into a label. Therefore, we discover that there is simply more to life than we can imagine. In fact, our imagination is limited in comparison to the true complexity of life. If we are open to discovery, we will use a gentle touch in our investigation, honoring both the perceiver and perceived in an increasingly informative exchange.

By doing this we are letting go of the “Me” construct and opening up to everything else.


Becoming Possible

30Dorabu

LETTING GO OF WHAT YOU KNOW 

As you’ve no doubt experienced, meditation theory – from Zen koans to Indian Yoga – often posits contradictions. In meditation we sit up in order to settle down, as we cultivate the seeming opposites of paying attention and relaxing. But what seems contradictory to convention is often complementary to the mind of meditation. The Mind of meditation is more relaxed, and hence, can see a greater spectrum of possibility than the its usual binary categorizations.  The perplexities of life are posited as contradictions forcing us to THINK about the thinking process. Magic happens when the conceptual mind becomes frustrated in an attempt to fit reality into a frame it finds comforting. The mind might let go, surrender and open into a grander perspective.

This is the experience of the open space of possibility. It is a space beyond contradiction. In fact, it is a space where contradiction has never existed. It is the space of complete potential.

But, how do we get there? Well, in meditation, we simply sit and stop the mind, so that freed of itself, it can begin to see itself. What we begin to see is the vast potential of space, and the layers of ideas that we have created to try and make sense of that space. In order for us to make sense of the profusion of information available to the senses, our consciousness can be reduced to simple dualities. The conceptual mind, conditioned by the past and looking toward the future, – themselves a duality – tries to find meaning.  Contradiction implies language, as in posing a contrary dictum.  Therefore labeling is an assumption based on the conflation of more subtle inter-energetic exchanges. Realistically, we need labels to communicate. The problems arise as we begin to identify with the labels and automatically assign assumptive meaning based on uninvestigated and unrecognized feelings. We conflate history, physical sensation, emotional content and any number of environmental or societal factors into a judgement based on this and that, good and bad. We take these judgements for granted. We assume that our view of  “good” and ‘bad” actually means something to the universe.

We are born with a basic goodness and natural inquisitiveness. As we grow older, we lose that natural inquisitiveness. The mind begins to configure around smaller and smaller sets of circumstances, as it avoids change instigated by outside stimulus. It is comfortable to rest in the known even if that known is painful or obviously limiting. We investigate less and less until one day, we investigate no further. Eventually, it seems labels are all there is to life. We take these labels for granted substituting designation for actual experience.  Because these labels are without substance, they are inherently unsatisfying. Therefore, in our panic for sustenance, we grip and cling to the idea of things, even as contact with those things becomes more and more elusive. Sadly the more we grasp, the less we have.

Ancient Buddhist wisdom warns against mistaking the finger pointing to the moon, for the moon itself. We confuse the labels for the essence. But, each time we take these designations to be real, we discourage further investigation.  We take the label as the truth and reduce awareness to a limited dimensional perspective. In religion, science, society and even our meditation practice, we begin to aggressively reinforce concepts with an intensity of ego identification and magical supposition. We dualize our view and begin to demonize opposites in order to further entrench our position. And thus, we are further and further from the truth. We fabricate concepts and magical abstraction as fingers become doctrine, spirituality becomes religion and supposition supplants discovery.  The mind creates any number of overlays to help it create narrative and context for its perceptions. Our conditioning, being basically materialistic, will try and assign a value judgement and meaning to the designations we assign.  The path of Meditation is a journey toward awakening from the overlay of concepts toward a direct perception of reality. According to Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, the truth of experience is that life is simply as it is. Life is actually so simple and direct that it lies well beyond any language capability. The path of meditation is the journey from sleepwalking through life, to actually experiencing life first hand, in real time. We go from taking designations for granted, through seeing the process of conceptualizing our life, to being willing to deconstruct the constructs. When we least expect it, and certainly when we don’t intend, we will actually glimpse naked experiences of reality. However, it may seem unsettling to our conceptual mind to rest in an undesignated space, without identification.  We need to pass beyond a significant firewall to actually rest in undesignated space. Because this open space is with0ut footholds, there is little change to create an identity. This experience must seem sad, frightening and disorientating to a conceptual mind addicted to identification with itself.  Each time we glimpse beyond thinking to naked reality, the conceptual mind confronts its own obsolescence. And yet, the experience is also quite exciting to another part of mind. ng our once we have accepted this experience, the conceptual mind, with amazing tenacity, will attempt to reconfigure itself to “own” the new experience. “Yes, this was ‘me’ all along.” However, comfort in identifying with this “deeper meaning” is simply grasping to another, ultimately unsatisfying, layer of construct.  If one remains faithful to the path of discovery, it will have to be let go. This is quite painful.  It takes patience and persistence to move beyond the defensive constructs of the firewall.  Two minds? Well. there are many. In the same way indigenous people’s of the arctic are said to have thousands of words for ice, the Tibetans have many designations for mind. These can be placed in three categories: conceptual thinking mind, nonconceptual feeling mind and our present experience. I say ‘present experience’ to distinguish from the other categories of mind, which reference an identity forged by a relationship with past and future. Simply put, our identity based on past associations and expectations of the future cannot exist in the actual present. Thus, our ideas, concepts and overlays can also not exist there. With the absence of identification  and conceptualization all that is left, is everything there is.

At some point, the mind, confounded by its inability to label this growing vastness of experience, will simply stop doing that. At that point, there is no meditation at all. There is simply what is. And while that much less than we make of it, it is actually much more than we understand.

We simply cannot grasp reality with the iron tongs of concept. We cannot grasp at all, as there is inherently nothing there to hold.  In order to touch reality, we can only land, albeit briefly, with open arms and meet it on its own terms.  In meditation practice, we train the mind to loosen its identification with itself in order to more accurately rest in the moment.  At that point, we are able see beyond our self-interest into the open space of possibility. We may feel harmonic associations to our past, but we do not confuse that with what is happening now. We relax our grip and let go of the past in order to see this moment as it is. In this way, we are both mindful of the moment and mindful of our process. And, we are letting go of the interference due to gripping from the panic of identification.

Consider an open hand. If we close the hand, we obscure the object. If we grip the hand, we actually change the object. At some point, out of our own panic, we will actually kill the object. In that sense, we have beaten the unpredictability of the universe. We have frozen a dead object in place. But, even then our object is subject to change. In fact, we have not saved the object at all. We have only frozen the meaning, we have solidified the designation, while we have lost the essence. In order to free reality of life from the prison of interpretation, we must have have the bravery to allow things to be as they are. Things as they are are fundamentally beyond our control. But, if we are willing to loosen control, we are able to allow each moment, every thought and every breath its own liberation. By letting go, letting be and opening up to what is, we liberate ourselves from the designations, expectations and obligations of our mind.  Letting go of the probable, the supposed, the compulsions, addictions, obligations, identifications and delineations of our experience is knowing that we do not know. And that is a truly remarkable position. Coming to the end of our road, is quite fortunate. Then we can give up, let go, and open to the landscape as it is. Becoming possible.

Becoming now and only that.

However, by the time you read this, it’s over.  Something else is happening. All that was now is now gone. And now there is everything else.  So, we are left with nothing but sitting, and sitting still, until the mind gives up control, as it will in any case, in death. Only to surrender now in life. To release ourselves of its limitations with every breath in every moment. And, in each moment life becomes possible.

 

 


The Politics of LOVE

3bc2b461f74275834645cd3815ceab75There is a strength in a commitment to love. There is assurance in a commitment to non-violence. And, there is an unshakable power in a commitment to understanding. I will NOT act out of reflex, but will hold to the moment until I understand what is best. I will act when conscious. And, I will eschew all reflexive defenses that close communication and rely on awareness, as my best defense.

I will build no walls.

Now going into a new set of elections, the most powerful nation on earth will bargain for its heart. And, where is our heart? Are we one nation under God, as we were brought up proclaiming, reciting as a mantra, so we will never forget? Or are we an ocean of people willing to find common cause in order to keep some of the pie. In truth, ‘American’ is a designation with little meaning except as it defines itself in defiance to others. We are ‘American’ not South American, or North American, Central American, or Mexican. We are not Indian, or Native American. Nor are we in the U.S. native to anything, really. We don’t belong, really to anything except the belief that we are something in relation to other things. And, as that is an admittedly fragile platform, we reinforce our position by determining what we are NOT.  We gain more strength in our determination to NEVER become what we are not. Our leaders galvanize the populace in defiance of common enemies. Those enemies are a known threat. But their identity is determined by our position. We shore up barricades in the south to hold off barbarians to the north. In the east, we warn against armies of unwashed waiting in the west. Everything is a threat to someone, and we grow stronger in our determination to hold the other out. We are, in fact, one nation united against someone else’s God.

And so now, at the turn of the teens,  technology develops more quickly than sense and children learn to hate more than they know. We are joined in our disdain for the left, our hatred of the right, our fear of heaven and our acquiescence to hell. For, all of us follow God until we are backed into a corner. And, then deals are made that trade our dignity for the momentary assurance of belonging.  We belong to heaven against earth, we belong those who oppose those who do not belong. To paraphrase my favorite philosopher Bill Hicks, we all want to create a people who hate people club, but we can’t get anyone to join. So, we do the next best thing, and create an object of our hatred in order to attract the masses.

And, we know, inside, that this is so very provisional. This carousel of cruelty turns with each season and reconfigures with each shift in power. One day we are in and the next, we are out. And, along the way, the more fear we cultivate, the easier we are to manipulate. The more entrenched we become in our hatred, the more quickly our base erodes when tides shift.

There simply must be more than this ancient surge to protect ourselves, this biting back on life with tooth and nail, this selling of our future to safeguard our past. There must be more. There must be love.

Oh, yeah. Love. Say amen. Sure. Love.

Love in the face of hatred? Really? Love is strong, yes. If we make love to our partner in the morning, we float out the door, and it lasts all the way to the freeway, or subway. Ok. But, should we fight with someone in the morning, our anger could last all day. Or, longer. Our anger could eventually define our life. And, then we are oh so easily led. If not Trumped by a demigod, then led around by our own nose like a beast of burden. Led by fear into the blind alleys of small mindedness and conformity. Everyone wants to be a rebel, wave the flag, be an insurgent, be the resistance. And the first thing you do? Pledge allegiance to your rebel state. Place a flag on your pickup and a gun in the window. An individualist, like all the rest.

Yes, love seems like not enough. Understanding looks too passive for change. Peace feels too calm to stand up to the fight. This is because love is not of ego’s creation. It was the first cause and its condition is that all things are possible. Love is natural. It is not stilted, nor configured around a temporary base. Love has the simple power of the universe behind it. In fact, it is the simple power of the universe. Love is not the province of any one God, but the reason for all of them. Love is a harder choice sometimes. But commitment to its principles is so strong. Outrageously strong. When hate feels like the sexy choice. When joining everyone else feels good. When building a wall no one can actually afford gets cheers in the hallowed halls of hatred, it time to sit still for a moment and learn to look at things. Perhaps it is time to make the brave choice, the outrageous effort to hold to principles of wakefulness, to not cause harm, and to never run from pain of the moment. To make choices that are best for all. That is strength. The strength to look at the world and see what needs to be done to heal it, and to pledge our allegiance to stay with the pain devoid of blame until each of us is liberated.

And, when we dedicate ourselves to the benefit of all beings, we are not excluding any.  We are not amassing strength at the expense of those weaker, on whom we can pour our enmity. We are believing in ourselves and feeling that love for all humanity. Until ALL beings are liberated. Not some at the expense of others. Until ALL beings are liberated.

That is the politics of love. The power to stand with humanity, and to believe in us completely. Love can be a powerful tool.

Is that naive?  If we use force against those who hate we will lose. Those who broker in power are well versed in hatred. As Dr. King told his crew, God said to love your enemy. He didn’t say you had to like (them). So, we can learn to bring love to all that we see as wrong, to al we see as problematic, to all we see as the other. We can bring love to the very things we dislike, and we can begin a dialogue right here. Right here in the loving arms of now.