please take these offerings

They often sneak up on me at this time of the year – a gaggle of words-wanting-shared. Yes, it’s birthday time – not a blog birthday, but another tick in the annual count for she-who-scribbles while her spacecraft steers itself around the sun…

Birthdays are a good time to reflect on one’s blessings, and to offer gratitude to our friends for their kindness and thoughtfulness. I always begin my birthday with a gesture of thanks to my mother, who not only gave me the miraculous opportunity for life, but also fostered, nourished and inspired the flourishing of that life in every way possible.

Now in my eighth decade, and delighting in a life of sweetness and contentment, I feel to share some of the observations that have delivered me to this joy. It’s the best I can offer; may your hands and heart be able to receive.
 

Image source - https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/BoneStructure/

 

Life hurts.
But what you are never feels pain.

Everything changes.
But what you are remains unchanged, eternally.

You’re flat and exhausted and depressed.
But what you are is forever poised as equanimity.

You’re broke, stressed, squeezed dry, homeless and hungry.
But what you are is unaffected and impartial.

You’re smashed by disappointment, betrayal, abandonment.
But what you are is ever calm, accepting and unbroken.

You’re afflicted by physical and mental aberrations, abnormalities, imbalances.
But what you are never suffers for one second.

 

So what you are is clearly something with which you need to become very familiar. And it’s e-a-s-y to do so. You don’t need a formal introduction. You don’t need a manual or a map or a guide book. You don’t need to change your religion or your beliefs (although changes may well occur as a result). You don’t need a 12-step plan or a meditation practice.

What you are is more obvious and closer than the tip of your nose. It’s the one experience you can never escape, 24/7.

What would you call that? Your aliveness? Your awareness? Your presence? All these words come close, but none are ultimately true or exact. Why?

Because they aren’t yours. Or mine. Or anyone’s. Drop the personal pronoun, and there you are – radiant all-knowing alive presence. The Light of Knowingness, self-luminous, always-on, never-needing fuel or flint…

And that is what you are – free, fulfilled and flourishing as all you conceive, perceive and experience. All of it.

How wondrous that this is possible – that this primordial awareness is huge enough to hold the entirety of creation, excluding nothing – yet be unaffected and unmoved by any expression of its handmaiden, consciousness.

It is truly The Beloved, the Godhead of the saints and sages and poets.

And it is what you are.

 


Image source


 

the sight of Thy light

January Swoon

 

Showering Light

 

As I muse on Thee
a thrilling fountain spray lightninglike
spreads from my heart to all cells of my body,
saturating them with divine devotion.
I seek to enter the inmost heaven of Thy presence.

The soul’s secret door suddenly opens;
and, oh, what bliss I feel at the sight of Thy light!

- Paramahansa Yogananda

 


Whispers from Eternity by Paramahansa Yogananda


Source of poetry and image: Poetry Chaikhana on Facebook – thank you Ivan.


 

may life have its way with you

Lisa Rivas: La Vida

 

May Life
have its incomprehensible way with you, and
may you have the courage
to welcome It
to embrace It
as you would your hungry body’s perfect lover

 

May you
be reunited with the innocent awe-full
bright awareing
that is born afresh
in every instant of aliveness
regardless of age or race or belief or religion

 

May Innocence
the eternal holy child
arise in your heart and bless us all
with its unconditional and utterly impartial Love
that we may, in turn
recognize its gaze in the eyes of all we imagined were ‘other’

 


With my deepest love and gratitude to you all, dear readers, for this holiday season and new year.

May blessings shower upon you – whatever moves you in this ever-sacred moment.

- miriam louisa


Artwork: La Vida, by Lisa Rivas


embracing otherness, embracing myself

Let’s not be freaked out by our bountiful nothingness.
It’s more a reality than the ones our selves have created.
Imagine what kind of existence we can have if we honor inevitable death of self,
appreciate the privilege of life
and marvel at what comes next.
Simple awareness is where it begins.

- Thandie Newton

 

 

Transcript:

Embracing otherness. When I first heard this theme, I thought, well, embracing otherness is embracing myself. And the journey to that place of understanding and acceptance has been an interesting one for me, and it’s given me an insight into the whole notion of self, which I think is worth sharing with you today.

We each have a self, but I don’t think that we’re born with one. You know how newborn babies – they’re not separate? Well that fundamental sense of oneness is lost on us very quickly. It’s like that initial stage is over — oneness: infancy, unformed, primitive. It’s no longer valid or real. What is real is separateness, and at some point in early babyhood, the idea of self starts to form. Our little portion of oneness is given a name, is told all kinds of things about itself, and these details, opinions and ideas become facts, which go towards building ourselves, our identity. And that self becomes the vehicle for navigating our social world. But the self is a projection based on other people’s projections. Is it who we really are? Or who we really want to be, or should be?

So this whole interaction with self and identity was a very difficult one for me growing up. The self that I attempted to take out into the world was rejected over and over again. And my panic at not having a self that fit, and the confusion that came from my self being rejected, created anxiety, shame and hopelessness, which kind of defined me for a long time. But in retrospect, the destruction of my self was so repetitive that I started to see a pattern. The self changed, got affected, broken, destroyed, but another one would evolve — sometimes stronger, sometimes hateful, sometimes not wanting to be there at all. The self was not constant. And how many times would my self have to die before I realised that it was never alive in the first place?

I grew up on the coast of England in the ’70s. My dad is white from Cornwall, and my mom is black from Zimbabwe. Even the idea of us as a family was challenging to most people. But nature had its wicked way, and brown babies were born. But from about the age of five, I was aware that I didn’t fit. I was the black atheist kid in the all-white Catholic school run by nuns. I was an anomaly, and my self was rooting around for definition and trying to plug in. Because the self likes to fit, to see itself replicated, to belong. That confirms its existence and its importance. And it is important. It has an extremely important function. Without it, we literally can’t interface with others. We can’t hatch plans and climb that stairway of popularity, of success. But my skin color wasn’t right. My hair wasn’t right. My history wasn’t right. My self became defined by otherness, which meant that, in that social world, I didn’t really exist. And I was “other” before being anything else — even before being a girl. I was a noticeable nobody.
Another world was opening up around this time: performance and dancing. That nagging dread of self-hood didn’t exist when I was dancing. I’d literally lose myself. And I was a really good dancer. I would put all my emotional expression into my dancing. I could be in the movement in a way that I wasn’t able to be in my real life, in myself.

And at 16, I stumbled across another opportunity, and I earned my first acting role in a film. I can hardly find the words to describe the peace I felt when I was acting. My dysfunctional self could actually plug in to another self, not my own, and it felt so good. It was the first time that I existed inside a fully-functioning self — one that I controlled, that I steered, that I gave life to. But the shooting day would end, and I’d return to my gnarly, awkward self.

By 19, I was a fully-fledged movie actor, but still searching for definition. I applied to read anthropology at university. Dr. Phyllis Lee gave me my interview, and she asked me, “How would you define race?” Well, I thought I had the answer to that one, and I said, “Skin colour.” “So biology, genetics?” she said. “Because, Thandie, that’s not accurate. Because there’s actually more genetic difference between a black Kenyan and a black Ugandan than there is between a black Kenyan and, say, a white Norwegian. Because we all stem from Africa. So in Africa, there’s been more time to create genetic diversity.” In other words, race has no basis in biological or scientific fact. On the one hand, result. Right? On the other hand, my definition of self just lost a huge chunk of its credibility. But what was credible, what is biological and scientific fact, is that we all stem from Africa — in fact, from a woman called Mitochondrial Eve who lived 160,000 years ago. And race is an illegitimate concept which our selves have created based on fear and ignorance.

Strangely, these revelations didn’t cure my low self-esteem, that feeling of otherness. My desire to disappear was still very powerful. I had a degree from Cambridge; I had a thriving career, but my self was a car crash, and I wound up with bulimia and on a therapist’s couch. And of course I did. I still believed my self was all I was. I still valued self-worth above all other worth, and what was there to suggest otherwise? We’ve created entire value systems and a physical reality to support the worth of self. Look at the industry for self-image and the jobs it creates, the revenue it turns over. We’d be right in assuming that the self is an actual living thing. But it’s not. It’s a projection which our clever brains create in order to cheat ourselves from the reality of death.

But there is something that can give the self ultimate and infinite connection — and that thing is oneness, our essence. The self’s struggle for authenticity and definition will never end unless it’s connected to its creator — to you and to me. And that can happen with awareness — awareness of the reality of oneness and the projection of self-hood. For a start, we can think about all the times when we do lose ourselves. It happens when I dance, when I’m acting. I’m earthed in my essence, and my self is suspended. In those moments, I’m connected to everything — the ground, the air, the sounds, the energy from the audience. All my senses are alert and alive in much the same way as an infant might feel — that feeling of oneness.

And when I’m acting a role, I inhabit another self, and I give it life for awhile, because when the self is suspended so is divisiveness and judgment. And I’ve played everything from a vengeful ghost in the time of slavery to Secretary of State in 2004. And no matter how other these selves might be, they’re all related in me. And I honestly believe the key to my success as an actor and my progress as a person has been the very lack of self that used to make me feel so anxious and insecure. I always wondered why I could feel others’ pain so deeply, why I could recognise the somebody in the nobody. It’s because I didn’t have a self to get in the way. I thought I lacked substance, and the fact that I could feel others’ meant that I had nothing of myself to feel. The thing that was a source of shame was actually a source of enlightenment.

And when I realised and really understood that my self is a projection and that it has a function, a funny thing happened. I stopped giving it so much authority. I give it its due. I take it to therapy. I’ve become very familiar with its dysfunctional behaviour. But I’m not ashamed of my self. In fact, I respect my self and its function. And over time and with practice, I’ve tried to live more and more from my essence. And if you can do that, incredible things happen.

I was in Congo in February, dancing and celebrating with women who’ve survived the destruction of their selves in literally unthinkable ways — destroyed because other brutalized, psychopathic selves all over that beautiful land are fueling our selves’ addiction to iPods, Pads, and bling, which further disconnect ourselves from ever feeling their pain, their suffering, their death. Because, hey, if we’re all living in ourselves and mistaking it for life, then we’re devaluing and desensitizing life. And in that disconnected state, yeah, we can build factory farms with no windows, destroy marine life and use rape as a weapon of war. So here’s a note to self: The cracks have started to show in our constructed world, and oceans will continue to surge through the cracks, and oil and blood, rivers of it.

Crucially, we haven’t been figuring out how to live in oneness with the Earth and every other living thing. We’ve just been insanely trying to figure out how to live with each other — billions of each other. Only we’re not living with each other; our crazy selves are living with each other and perpetuating an epidemic of disconnection.

Let’s live with each other and take it a breath at a time. If we can get under that heavy self, light a torch of awareness, and find our essence, our connection to the infinite and every other living thing. We knew it from the day we were born. Let’s not be freaked out by our bountiful nothingness. It’s more a reality than the ones our selves have created. Imagine what kind of existence we can have if we honor inevitable death of self, appreciate the privilege of life and marvel at what comes next. Simple awareness is where it begins.

Thank you for listening.

– Thandie Newton


Source: TED.com


 

 

cracking open

This is a guest post written by my friend Amrita Skye Blaine. It was first posted, in part, on her blog The Heart of the Matter. I’m sure most readers will find themselves nodding in recognition at her personal description of her path from belief in the myth of separation (from the holy Whole), to the understanding of how we perpetuate this myth via our unexamined thoughts, to the full-blown and embodied apperception of the impossibility of separation.

Which is where the story of our life really begins, in Truth.

 -

Cracking Open - image credit http://uncoverawareness.wordpress.com/

 

When we are born, we are wide open; innocent and vulnerable, we know nothing, and trust everything. From that moment forward, we develop a shell of protection. This may occur quickly if our infancy is traumatic, or incrementally if we are raised in a nurturing and safe environment. But the shell develops, either way—in response to being denied, physically hurt or neglected, snapped at, not understood, or any number of other ways we are shaken into learning that we are separate. Our parents teach us this too, in hundreds of tiny ways. I cannot speak for all countries, but in the western cultures, we do not escape the experience of separation.

We cling to our shell because it is familiar. It is how we have learned to move in the world, based on decisions we made at a very early age. I learned that I needed to protect myself from my older brother’s wrath, and then expanded that world view to include all men. I understood that if I didn’t abide by my mother’s rules, she psychically withdrew her love. My heart contracted; it no longer felt safe or comfortable to remain open.

Later in life, some of us are drawn to unlearning this sense of separation that we have accumulated. This can occur abruptly, but that is rare. For me, it has taken a long time. Perhaps this process begins on our own, but it is more likely that we find a teacher, someone who can point both by the example of their presence, and their teachings, to the deeper truth of who and what we are.

Finally, after many decades, and with the pointers of more than one teacher, a dear and thoughtful husband, and friends, I learned to see the ways that I cut myself off, made myself separate. Later, I saw how believing my thoughts framed my world, and the old patterns and conditioning fell away more quickly. This leaves a softer and more vulnerable heart; this is the process of cracking open. Just like the baby chicken who grows until its shell is so unbearably tight that in desperation it flails and pecks it until it breaks, we too must crack open the shell of our own creation. After the first crack, when a touch of light pours in and we taste a new way, the unlearning may be able to be slowed, but it will not be stopped. We crack open to the truth and to love until we see that they are not two. We were never separate—never were, never can be.

- Amrita Skye Blaine


 The Heart of the Matter

Amrita’s unedited text concluded with a quote from yours truly –
something I’d written in a comment on my last post
imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing

“It is exactly so: the shape of the heart is changed. And there is no way back.”
Thank you dear Amrita.


Image source


imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing

words from my treasured teacher 4

 

J Krishnamurti

 

On July 20, 1961, Krishnamurti wrote an extraordinary account in his journal of the ineffable and unknowable as It was experienced through his body-mind. He struggles to find the appropriate words … the outpouring is, to my mind, pure poetry:

The room became full with that benediction. Now what followed is almost impossible to put down into words; words are such dead things, with definite set meaning and what took place was beyond all words and description. It was the centre of all creation; it was a purifying seriousness that cleansed the brain of every thought and feeling; its seriousness was as lightning which destroys and burns up; the profundity of it was not measurable, it was there immovable, impenetrable, a solidity that was light as the heavens. It was in the eyes, in the breath. It was in the eyes and the eyes could see. The eyes that saw, that looked were wholly different from the eyes of the organ and yet they were the same eyes. There was only seeing, the eyes that saw beyond time-space. There was impenetrable dignity and a peace that was the essence of all movement, action. No virtue touched it for it was beyond all virtue and the sanctions of man. There was love that was utterly perishable and so it had the delicacy of all new things, vulnerable, destructible and yet it was beyond all this. It was there imperishable, unnameable, the unknowing. No thought could ever penetrate it; no action could touch it. It was “pure”, untouched and so ever dyingly beautiful.

All this seemed to affect the brain; it was not as it was before. (Thought is such a trivial thing, necessary but trivial.) Because of it, relationship seems to have changed. As a terrific storm, a destructive earthquake gives a new course to the rivers, changes the landscape, digs deep into the earth, so it has levelled the contours of thought, changed the shape of the heart.

- J Krishnamurti,  Krishnamurti’s Notebook

It was coming upon such clearly authentic writings about the inescapable presence of the Unknowable that led me to Brockwood Park, the school Krishnamurti founded in Hampshire, England. I was a teacher and I found my perfect niche in this unbelievably rich and stimulating environment, where students are guided towards both academic excellence in their studies and deep inquiry into the workings of their thinking.

I revisit these words decades later with delight, and with inexpressible gratitude I can say, “Yes. It is exactly so: the shape of the heart is changed. And there is no way back.”


Other posts featuring Krishnamurti’s writing:

try it, do it

keep far away

words from my treasured teacher 1


Find a comprehensive selection of Krishnamurti’s books at the Krishnamurti Foundation Trust website.


 

the one outshining light

Sufi dancer; Light Outshining

 

‘I’ and ‘you’ are but the lattices,
in the niches of a lamp,
through which the One Light shines.

‘I’ and ‘you’ are the veil
between heaven and earth;
lift this veil and you will see
no longer the bonds of sects and creeds.

When ‘I’ and ‘you’ do not exist,
what is mosque, what is synagogue?
What is the Temple of Fire?

- Mahmud Shabistari

 


Mahmud Shabistari was one of Sufi’s greatest poets of the 14th Century. Stressing the One Light that exists at the heart of all religious traditions, his work is one of the clearest and most concise guides to the inner meaning of Sufism, and offers a stunningly direct exposition of Sufi mystical thought in poetic form.
–  Poet Seers


In this new video Rupert Spira explains with precision and clarity how this unlit light is not external to ourselves, but the self-luminous Knowingness of everything we perceive. Never lit because never not-lit; never to be found because never-lost; never to be escaped because it is the very essence of our Being.


The video is from Rupert Spira’s Facebook page; you can also find it at his website.
The poem by Mahmud Shabistari, and the stunning image, are from Dean Keller at one of my favourite blogs:
The Beauty we Love