the recognition of our own heart

Photography by Peter Bowers

 

Never lie. Never say that something moved you if you are still in the same place.  You can pick up a book but a book can throw you across the room.  A book can move you from a comfortable armchair to a rocky place where the sea is.  A book can separate you from your husband, your wife, your children, all that you are.  Books are kinetic, and like all huge forces, need to be handled with care.

But they do need to be handled.  The pleasure in a book is, or should be, sensuous as well as aesthetic, visceral as well as intellectual. *

 

I cannot lie.  Joan Ruvinsky’s new book, The Recognition of Our Own Heart – an interpretive translation of the Pratyabhijñahrdayam – moved me.  When it arrived I experienced the kinetic power Jeanette Winterson writes about.  It didn’t throw me across the room, but for some inexplicable reason it would not permit me to open its covers.  I walked around for some time clutching it to my heart.  Then I sat down with it in my lap for an hour or more.  It demanded deep stillness and undivided attention.  Eventually I could open it, handle it and bathe in its sensuous beauty, its visceral wisdom.

 

For the Tantric masters of the medieval period, who were not only great yogis but also great writers, poets, musicians, and artists, the vast emptiness of Being is inseparable from the flourish of freely, divinely inspired expression. Their means (upayas) included the body, the senses, and the mind not as obstacles to eliminate but as pathways to what Is. **

 

As someone who appreciates “the flourish of freely, divinely inspired expression” for its sheer poetic beauty, this book has been a sensuous delight for me.  I was (and still am) illiterate in regard to the tradition and texts of Kashmiri Shaivism, so I had the same sense of wonderment at what I’d been missing out on as when I discovered the writing of Peter Kingsley on the revelatory poems of our own pre-Socratic Western philosophers – Parmenides and Empedocles.  Rather than attempt to write a scholastic review of it – which I am entirely unqualified to do – I’ve decided to simply share what I appreciate about the poem and the way it speaks to my experience.

For a taste of what lies in store in the text, we only need to consider the implications of the exquisitely worded title: Recognition of Our Own Heart.

Recognition.  Not attainment, not enlightenment, not discovery or salvation.  Recognition of something we have always known, yet apparently lost sight of behind the veils of our accumulated knowledge.  Something we’ve been looking for – perhaps without being conscious of it, perhaps thinking it could be found in people, places, things, activities, if we just “got it right”; something that turns out to be inseparable from our aliveness, our beingness – and therefore inescapable.

Our. Own.  Not something belonging to any deity, Buddha, Christ, Godhead or some figment of someone’s imagination.  Not conceptual, abstract, philosophical.  Our own.  As entirely our own as is our blood, our breath, our DNA.

Heart.  As in, “the heart of the matter”.  Anatomically our heart performs a core function – when it stops pumping blood around our body with its contract-release action, we die.  However, the Heart of the matter is not the physical heart, it’s the creative capacity that makes a heartbeat possible.  It’s the primordial energy that beats the cosmos into being, and is identical to our own creative capacity.

~

Perhaps that’s all I need to say.  Yet I want to add this:

When you read a book for the first time there’s often a standout phrase that grabs you, and in some mysterious way becomes its touchstone.  In Joan’s book, this didn’t happen when I was reading the actual poem or the ponderings thereon, rich and luminous as they are.

It popped out in the heart-felt acknowledgement she made to her colleague and friend Kathleen Knipp, “…whose unending love and support provided this opportunity for the creativity of the universe to describe itself.”

 

for the creativity of the universe to describe itself

 

Since the evolution of language humans have been trying to describe what’s going on here.  We haven’t a clue, and our minds hate not knowing.  So we make up stories: creation stories flavoured with our unique cultural, geographic and temporal experience.  Sometimes we forget they are just our stories embroidered on the blank vastness of being, and we believe them to be “received Truth.”  That’s when they morph into organised religions.  One notices that when this occurs there’s usually an element of control and coercion involved.  There are lists of ways to behave, commandments to be followed, promises of salvation, bliss and eternal life … if one is obedient.

This creation story – the Pratyabhijñahrdayam – isn’t in that category.  What strikes me is that rather than being some abstract conceptual mapping of this “happening” called life, it’s more like a summary of the dynamics of our own human experience, writ large, and projected onto the unfathomable mystery called cosmos.  And this means you don’t need to have any knowledge of the history and philosophy of Kashmiri Shaivism (although I found the introduction of interest), and you don’t need to know anything about the creative outpouring of texts and poetry that occurred during its Golden Age in order to appreciate what you’re reading.

Coming upon this poem, which distils centuries of dialogue into just 20 short verses, is like discovering a contemporary terma for yourself:  a capsule of memory-prompts hidden by ancients for discovery in later centuries.  You open the book and find the creativity of the universe describing itself to you, as if speaking to itself.  Which of course, it is.

While I confess a preference for cosmologies that are free from anthropomorphic projection, I understand why Joan chose to use the feminine voice in this case (rather than the traditional male voice of Shiva).  Why?  Because in our life experience it’s the females who birth new life; simple as that.  Yet there’s no gender-divide, because the dualistic concept of gender hasn’t been thought-up yet.  There are no hierarchies either, nor heavens, nor hells.  No wrath, no rules.  “She” doesn’t demand goddess stature, nor does she ask to be worshipped.  We just have a plain and uncomplicated explanation of how creativity works, and how the game of forgetting our core creativity – our Heart – and recognising it again, is set up.

Creation creates because that’s what creation does.  There are no almighty divine agendas, no maps for salvation or escape.  Magical thinking is not required.  An all-inclusive movement dances on throughout the time and space it creates; an inescapable self-luminous Light shines on through every being, regardless.  No one, no thing is excluded from this ultimate non-dual creation story, a story that aligns to perfection with the experience of one’s daily life: the wondrous experience of – just this.

Joan and her colleagues Kathleen Knipp, Tina Koskelo and Susheela Bouthillier are to be congratulated for their collective endeavour in translating the original poem.  Like icing on the cake, Joan’s wisdom shines lucidly in today’s language as she offers her “ponderings” on the verses.  The work poured into this beautiful publication has been immense – we’ll never know the half of it.  And Peter Bowers’s photography is a pitch-perfect partner for the poem – often enigmatic, always beautiful.

Yet for the original inspiration and motivation to bring this text into contemporary form we must honour Joan.  She was compelled to do so from her own experience, observation and understanding, and my sense is that she has accomplished, with her colleagues, what Polish poet and Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska referred to when she spoke of “that rare miracle when a translation stops being a translation and becomes … a second original.”

JAI

 

Photography by Peter Bowers

 

A simple walk on the beach becomes an experience of cosmic joy and at the same time, remains just a simple walk on the beach. 

I’m just little me, and yet also I am the beach and the shells and the ocean and the horizon. 

Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. I am walking through me. 

“I” has been assimilated by the totality and I have assimilated the totality and it’s just very amazing and yet totally ordinary. 

Consciousness is walking through consciousness. 

It’s so obvious.  How could I have missed it before?

– Verse 15 Pondering, p 113  [My formatting]

 


* Jeanette Winterson, The Psychometry of Books, in Art Objects

** From the front cover flap


Links:

To order a copy of Joan’s book, please visit the pathless yoga website.

If, like myself, you live at the other end of the planet and balk at high shipment fees, you can order a copy with free delivery from the Book Depository

See more of Peter Bowers‘s photography on FLICKR, here

Be sure to visit Tina Koskelo‘s stunning blog being silently drawn

For information about Kathleen Knipp‘s work, see her page at pathless yoga 


Footnote:  I can’t express my quiet joy at having one of my poems included in this book.   When Joan asked for my permission, the seed of this project was just starting to sprout and her death was some way off.   I had no idea what the book was really about, but knowing Joan, I was only too happy to say yes.  To think that my 2014 poem this shines on regardless found its home in such an exquisite and wise context is both astonishing and deeply gratifying.


the important thing is the tear falling down your cheek

there’s no time like the Present to have a good cry

 

 

When the courage (le cœur: heart, French) to sit still and see what might bubble up from the heart’s cauldron finds us – and finds us innocent of any agenda to analyse, to fix or flee, tears will most assuredly flow.

I was raised a stoic.  In our household one’s face had to be bright and cheerful, regardless of the inner weather.  Tears said “shame”.  Tears said “weak”.  Tears said you were no fun to be around.  Tears were taboo.

I was already ancient when, by some wild grace, courage found me and guided me into my body’s dark knowledge.  (I wrote about it in this post at my ‘echoes from emptiness’ blog – following fear into the star-stuff of my cells).  In my cocksure ignorance I assumed it would all be done and dusted within a modest time-frame.

Three years later the tears are still falling, the heart is still cracking, crumbling, awash in tenderness, trembling with bliss.  (Yes, bliss – I had no idea that bliss is simply the opening of the heart.)  Yet now the tears arise from a depth beyond the personal, from a well of sorrow that’s ownerless.  Personally I don’t feel the need for notions of karma and reincarnation, but my lived experience shows me that whatever is happening here is dynamically all-inclusive and interpenetrating across time and space.

No separation can be found.  The tears belong to all of us because there is only one of us.

Many wise philosophers, poets and teachers have alerted us to the crucial importance of taking the descent into the unknown depths of the psyche.  The unapologetic baring of all that arises – free of analysis and explanation – turns out to be the ultimate alchemy:  The healing, the return to the whole.

We are not here to flee sadness and unhappiness but to welcome them whole-heartedly as part of our living experience of an inescapable immensity that unfailingly shows up as this, here, now.


Whenever sadness visits, I cherish these lines by Hafiz.  What a treasure of a poem!  The perfect antidote to mind’s default denial of one’s immediate felt experience, the slick side-stepping into the God zone, where all is light and great happiness … and one is experiencing only half a life.

Hafiz knows that Wholeness can’t be whole without including everything.

Hafiz:

I think I just want to be sad today, the way many
are in this world.  True, God rides in my pocket,
as He does in yours.

Yes, I could lift Him out and look upon various
realms of light and know great happiness.  Maybe
I will do that tomorrow.

The ocean has moods.  Have you not seen how its
colour can change, and the waves’ force and heights
can differ?

Feast Here


Steven Harrison:

Like archaeologists of the soul, we begin to uncover the debris of our mind.
Our need to exist in full relationship to our world is what drives us.
Layer upon layer of ideas, conditioning, and fear is what we dig through.

The hubris of knowledge must be the first sacrifice.  For it, we get nothing.
Nothing is a great gift indeed.

The Shimmering World: Living Meditation


Reggie Ray:

Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism understands non-dual awareness as an essentially somatic state. Practitioners come to see for themselves the condition of yuganaddha or union: that the more fully we know, explore, and identify with our human incarnation, our somatic being, including our traumas, the more profound and unwavering our realization of non-duality.

Trauma is a well-known phenomenon in the Pure Awareness traditions of esoteric Tibetan Buddhism and is considered the ultimate obstacle to realization.  In tantric yoga, through a series of somatic practices, practitioners are enabled first to create a safe and stable ground in the non-dual state for addressing trauma; then to open pathways so that early, previously unconscious painful experiences can communicate themselves to consciousness; and finally, how to allow unresolved emotional dilemmas to make their own journey toward healing and resolution.

Dharma Ocean


Rumi:

Set your life on fire.
Seek those who fan your flames.

Who gets up early to discover the moment the light begins?
What was whispered to the rose to break it open last night was whispered to my heart.
You’ve gotten drunk on so many kinds of wine.
Taste this. It won’t make you wild.

It’s fire.
Give up, if you don’t understand by this time that your living is firewood.
Set your life on fire.
Seek those who fan your flames.

The lamps are different,
But the Light is the same.
To change, a person must face the dragon of his appetites with another dragon, the life-energy of the soul.

What is the body?
That shadow of a shadow of your love, that somehow contains the entire universe.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and attend them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Sorrows are the rags of old clothes and jackets that serve to cover, and then are taken off.

That undressing, and the beautiful naked body underneath, is the sweetness that comes after grief.
You haven’t dared yet lose faith – so, can faith grow in you?
Gamble everything for love, if you’re a true human being.
If these poems repeat themselves, then so does Spring.

Rumi: Selected Poems


Dr. Gabor Maté:

I’ve seen so many positive thinkers in palliative care who say: “In all my life I’ve never had a negative thought.  How come I have cancer?”  The answer is, they have cancer because they never had a negative thought.  Not having negative thoughts is not allowing reality to intrude on your perception of the world.  You never see how things are.  You have to always maintain a sunny, falsely rosy view of the world so that you can’t see what doesn’t work.  Lots of studies show that people who are sunny and positive die quicker of their disease.  If you’re a woman with breast cancer and you’re a positive thinker, you’re guaranteed to die much quicker.

Dr. Gabor Maté


Cheri Huber:

Many people quit meditation practice for this very reason: it opens the door for everything we ever tried not to face.  And from a Buddhist perspective we aren’t talking about just one childhood; we are talking about lifetime upon lifetime, eons of suffering.  All of it will find its way into our awareness if we sit still with it long enough, and allowing that to happen is the only way it will be healed.

Trying to be Human, Zen Talks with Cheri Huber


Carl Gustav Jung:

No noble, well grown tree ever disowned its dark roots, for it grows not only upwards but downwards as well.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.


Anzan Hoshin Roshi:

We actually can experience directly and intimately the activity of thinking and feeling of other bodyminds; the more that we open to how experience actually is, and move past the tendency to narrow attention into discursiveness, the more that this is the case.  The more completely that we sit up straight and let our delusions fall away, the more completely that we live our life as it is, the more that we recognize ourselves as all beings and all beings as ourselves.  In the realization of what Dogen calls “shinjin-datsaraku” or “dropping through the bodymind” we recognize that all beings and ourselves are only the luminosity of “nehan-myoshin” or the “radiant Knowing which is beyond reference point, the nirvana of the Buddhas.”
[My emphasis]

White Wind Zen Community


Eric Baret:

Life speaks only of you, of this emotion.

So, you might occasionally go to listen to someone,
but when you realize that what you hear to be true on his lips is your own truth,
you will no longer feel any need to do this.
You will see that life, in all its forms, speaks this same truth.
Every daily event is a reminder of this profound emotion.

In many ways following a tradition, a spiritual teacher, is an escape.
You must follow yourself when you feel a true emotion.
You might be reading a text by Meister Eckhart and an emotion arises in you.
Close the book; the text will fall away.
The important thing is the tear sliding down your cheek.
This is your treasure, your direction, your teaching.
It is what you must follow, must listen to.

De l’Abandon, translated from the French by Mary Mann.


Image:  Vincent van Gogh, Vieil Homme Triste
Dessin au crayon noir, lavé et aquarelle (réalisé à Etten), 24 Novembre 1882
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (Pays-Bas).


may you shine as golden space

May your Solstice be pure gold.  May it bring the healing that enables full immersion in non-conceptual wholeness.  May you shine as golden space.

 

We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have lately seen photographed from the moon.  We were not delivered into it by some god, but have come forth from it.  We are its eyes and mind, its seeing and its thinking.  And the earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth, we are told, from a nebula; and that nebula, in turn, from space.  So that we are the mind, ultimately, of space … each in his own way at one with all, and with no horizons.

Joseph Campbell

 

Max Gimblett, Eagle

 

Later … I opened my eyes with wonder and the sky had utterly changed again and was no longer dark but bright, golden, gold-dust golden, as if curtain after curtain had been removed behind the stars I had seen before, and now I was looking into the vast interior of the universe, as if the universe were quietly turning itself inside out.  Stars behind stars and stars behind stars behind stars until there was nothing between them, nothing beyond them, but dusty dim gold of stars and no space and no light but stars.  The moon was gone.  The water lapped higher, nearer, touching the rock so lightly it was audible only as a kind of vibration.  The sea had fallen dark, in submission to the stars.  And the stars seemed to move as if one could see the rotation of the heavens as a kind of vast crepitation, only now there were no more events, no shooting stars, no falling stars, which human senses could grasp or even conceive of. All was movement, all was change, and somehow this was visible and yet unimaginable.  And I was no longer I but something pinned down as an atom, an atom of an atom, a necessary captive spectator, a tiny mirror into which it was all indifferently beamed, as it motionlessly seethed and boiled, gold behind gold behind gold.

– Iris Murdoch’s character Charles Arrowby in The Sea, The Sea 

 

– – –

 

Now that I see in Mind, I see myself to be the All.
I am in heaven and on earth, in water and in air.
I am in beasts and plants.
I am a babe in the womb and one that is not yet conceived
and one that has been born,
I am present everywhere.

– Upanishads

 


Painting by New Zealand / New York artist Max Gimblett Eagle, 2015
Leaves of gold, gesso, resin, gelatin, 23.75kt rosanoble gold leaf on wood panel, 850 x 840


sink deep down into yourself

So.   The atoms in a human body are 99.9999999999999999% empty space.
But is space really “empty”?
Bob O’Hearn echoes the ancient sages – Eihei Dogen comes to mind – in reminding us that what we think of as “empty space” is in fact vibrantly conscious, aware, and synonymous with the pristine and timeless awareness that is the bottom-line of our Being.  And – crucially – that one can know this irrefutably, for oneself and by oneself.

 

Just take the dive.

 

Sink Deep Down Into Yourself - Bob O'Hearn

 
 
Sink deep down into yourself, passing through flesh and bone, blood and water, nerves and electrical impulses, cells and molecular structures, atoms, and between atoms, immense empty space, conscious space, pristine awareness without gender, race, age, affiliation, belief, identity — our fundamental nature, nameless, formless, yet the basis of all names and forms, all life, all worlds.

Within this vast spaciousness, which has neither ceiling nor floor, nor any boundary or circumference, something appears. Immediately, attention flows out of itself and merges with that manifestation of itself, in the same way a cloud might appear in the midst of the empty sky, or a wave on the ocean, until we forget about the sky, or the ocean, in our effort to grasp at the cloud or wave. By habit, we grant these objects of consciousness a substantial and independent existence apart from their basis, identifying with them to the point that, when they inevitably vanish back into the space from which they originated, we tend to suffer a sense of loss.

Just so, this essentially cloud-like and transitory matrix of memory, thought, and perception which we generally regard as me, myself, and I spontaneously manifests within the spaciousness as a play of the spaciousness itself, except that we then imagine it to be our exclusive identity, and consequently squeeze the vastness down into this fragile formation of bubbling elements which we want to somehow persist forever, even though it never will, and so in its inevitable vanishing we tend to suffer a sense of loss.

Our friends and relations may gather around a glazed box of stuff which we once took to be our self. As it is lowered into the ground or rolled into the crematorium, some tears may flow, because the spaciousness took back what it made, leaving memories which too will fade, and eventually it will be as if it never was, and that much will be true — no praise or blame, no lingering regret: a wave arose, an ocean swell, it subsided again like a night’s brief dream, and all is well and will always be, in the empty sky of eternity.

– Bob O’Hearn


 
Sourced from Bob’s Facebook page.
Bob also writes on several blogs. Here are links to a couple of favourites:
the conscious process
feeling into infinity
Thank you dear friend.
 


 

memo to earth species H. sapiens

Let us find our place:   on our knees in awe, wonderment and humility.

 

Earth, Jupiter and Venus seen from Mars

 
Consider that:

– You can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum and hear less than 1% of the acoustic spectrum.

– As you read this, you are traveling at 220 km/sec across the galaxy.

– 90% of the cells in your body carry their own microbial DNA and are not “you.”

– The atoms in your body are 99.9999999999999999% empty space and none of them are the ones you were born with, but they all originated in the belly of a star.

– Human beings have 46 chromosomes, 2 less than the common potato.

– The existence of the rainbow depends on the conical photoreceptors in your eyes; to animals without cones, the rainbow does not exist.

So you don’t just look at a rainbow, you create it.

This is pretty amazing, especially considering that all the beautiful colors you see represent less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum.
 


 
Source: NASA Lunar Science Institute

Image: Earth, Jupiter and Venus, seen from Mars

Thanks to: love is a place
 


 
I posted this to Facebook a year ago.  It’s been circulating again recently and since many readers of this blog don’t ‘do’ Fb I decided to share it here as well.   It’s a keeper.
 
PS:
Where, in this whirling mix of cosmic biomaterial and activity can a solid, changeless self be found?  If such an entity can’t be found, what KNOWS this?
 


out here

Out Here - Chuck Surface
 
 
I like it out here, where no one can see,
Far from any notion of myself.
Here, I am no one, and yet, I Am.
 
 
Out here I am Unclothed.
Can you imagine the Delight,
Leaving that scratchy garment behind?
 
 
Out here no intercessor stands,
Between the arising and the arisen,
Between Heaven and Earth.
 
 
Out here I am far away,
From the raucous din and clamor,
Of the spiritual bazaar.
 
 
“Shhh!” We don’t debate out here,
Where “Truth” is a word,
In a land where no language is spoken.
 
 
Out here I care nothing,
For what others think of what I think,
For I care nothing of what I think.
 
 
Out here thought and feeling arise,
Only thinker and feeler are lost,
And the River Flows, undammed.
 
 
What Rapture, out here,
Where I Exist without existing,
In the Answer to every Prayer ever uttered.
 
 
What a Blessing to discover,
Out here,
In Here.
 
 
– Chuck Surface
 

And there was endlessness

The wholeness of undivided, intimate attention – an awareing that has no boundaries, no sense of separation, where observer and observed are both obliterated in a single movement of observing – is the subject of one of Denise Levertov‘s last poems, First Love.  The whole poem is sublime, but the final few lines speak so powerfully to me that I’m singling them out for this post.

It seems to me that one taste of that timelessness changes everything. This is not some cunning escape into yet another thought-bubble; not some desperate effort to transcend one’s mediocre little life. This is an experienced glimpse of another order of relationship. Haven’t we all had this glimpse? For me, it took hold of the steering wheel and has driven the trajectory of my life.

Through the entirety of your lifetime, what is it that you’ve deeply desired?

What has been – is – the Great Motivator of your days?

 

Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968)

 
 
[…]

`Convolvulus,’ said my mother.
Pale shell-pink, a chalice
no wider across than a silver sixpence.

It looked at me, I looked
back, delight
filled me as if
I, not the flower,
were a flower and were brimful of rain.
And there was endlesness.
Perhaps through a lifetime what I’ve desired
has always been to return
to that endless giving and receiving, the wholeness
of that attention,
that once-in-a-lifetime
secret communion.

 

– Denise Levertov, from First Love
 in This Great Unknowing, Last Poems

 


Painting by Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968), Morning Glories (Convolvulus)