I could have been a cloud on Jupiter

When the inevitability of one’s life-package and its path becomes evident and one realises that nothing could possibly be other-than-it-is, the sweetest awe and appreciation flood into the space left empty by the imaginary controller.  It’s often misunderstood, this disappearance of the doer, and explained away with all manner of hypothetical imaginings. Actually, it isn’t understandable or able to be conceptualised by means of any erudite definition or name.  Best then, to leave the labels alone and keep silent unless confessing one’s own experience.  

Wislawa Szymborska’s poem didn’t fall from my own pen, but it expresses to perfection the astonishment and gratefulness I experience as I reflect upon the wondrous “coincidence” of the life-pack I call mine.  This is probably my favourite poem of 2017.


Clouds on Jupiter photographed by NASA's Juno

 

I am who I am.
A coincidence no less unthinkable
than any other.
 
I could have different
ancestors, after all.
I could have fluttered
from another nest
or crawled bescaled
from another tree.
 
Nature’s wardrobe
holds a fair
supply of costumes:
Spider, seagull, fieldmouse.
each fits perfectly right off
and is dutifully worn
into shreds.
 
I didn’t get a choice either,
but I can’t complain.
I could have been someone
much less separate.
someone from an anthill, shoal, or buzzing swarm,
an inch of landscape ruffled by the wind.
 
Someone much less fortunate,
bred for my fur
or Christmas dinner,
something swimming under a square of glass.
 
A tree rooted to the ground
as the fire draws near.
 
A grass blade trampled by a stampede
of incomprehensible events.
 
A shady type whose darkness
dazzled some.
What if I’d prompted only fear,
Loathing,
or pity?
 
If I’d been born
in the wrong tribe
with all roads closed before me?
 
Fate has been kind
to me thus far.
 
I might never have been given
the memory of happy moments
 
My yen for comparison
might have been taken away.
 
I might have been myself minus amazement,
that is,
someone completely different.

– Wislawa Szymborska

 


Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska


Photograph of clouds on Jupiter, courtesy of NASA.


 

the ten thousand things

To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things.
– Eihei Dogen

If one is very fortunate indeed, one comes upon – or is found by – the teachings that match one’s disposition and the teachers or mentors whose expression strikes to the heart while teasing the knots from the mind. The Miriam Louisa character came with a tendency towards contrariness and scepticism, which is probably why she gravitated to teachers who displayed like qualities.  It was always evident to me that the ‘blink’ required in order to meet life in its naked suchness was not something to be gained in time.  Rather, it was clear that it was something to do with understanding what sabotages this direct engagement.  So my teachers were those who deconstructed the spiritual search – and with it the seeker – inviting one to “see for oneself.”  I realised early on that I wouldn’t find any help within traditional spiritual institutions since their version of awakening is usually a project in time.  Anyway, I’m not a joiner by nature.

I set out on my via negativa at an early age, trying on all kinds of philosophies and practices with enthusiasm and casting them aside –neti neti – equally enthusiastically.  Chögyam Trungpa wised me up to “spiritual materialism” in the 70s;  Alan Watts followed on, pointing out that whatever is being experienced is none other than ‘IT’ – the unarguable aliveness that one IS.  By then I was perfectly primed for the questions put by Jiddu Krishnamurti – “Is there a thinker separate from thought?” “Is there an observer separate from the observed?” “Can consciousness be separated from its content?”  It was while teaching at Brockwood Park that I also had the good fortune to engage with David Bohm in formal dialogues as well as private conversations.  (About which I have written elsewhere.)

Krishnamurti and Bohm were seminal teachers for me;  I also loved the unique style of deconstruction offered by Nisargadatta Maharaj.  As it happened though, it took just one tiny paragraph from Wei Wu Wei to land in my brain at exactly the right time for the irreversible ‘blink’ to occur.

I mention this rather august lineage because it explains why the writing of Robert Saltzman strikes not just a chord but an entire symphonic movement for me.  He is a mindshifter in the same tradition, a Manjushri for the moment.

We are peers;  we were probably reading the same books by Watts and Krishnamurti at the same time during the 70s and 80s.  Reading his book, The Ten Thousand Things, is, for me, like feeling my way across a tapestry exquisitely woven from the threads of my own life. I’m not sure that I can adequately express my wonderment and appreciation…

The candor, lucidity and lack of jargon in Robert’s writing are deeply refreshing. I also relish his way with words. He knows how to write. He also knows how to take astonishingly fine photographs, and these are featured throughout the book.

It’s been said that this book will become a classic, which is a pretty good achievement for someone who isn’t claiming to be a teacher and has nothing to gain by its sale. (The book sells for the production price.) He is not peddling enlightenment. He is simply sharing how it feels to be free from all the spiritual fantasies that obscure our seamless engagement with this miraculous thing called life, right now.

[I chose the excerpt below because it addresses the ubiquitous myth that freedom/awakening will deliver some imagined state of eternal happiness… ]


 

Photograph by Robert Saltzman

 

The only relief I know is the freedom one feels when finally the need for certainty comes to an end, replaced by a willingness to allow life to unfold as it does without knowing a damn thing about “cosmic” anything, either pro or con.

When I say “freedom,” I do not mean happiness.  Nor do I mean immunity from ordinary human suffering.  I mean the equanimity and peace of mind that emerge in the light of the comprehension that in this moment things are as they are and cannot be any different, including what I feel, and how I see and understand myself and the world.

Each of us sees a different world, and what each of us sees is oneself.  This does not signify as some people believe that the world is not real.  It means that what I see is not the same as what you see.  What you see is you, and what I see is me.  When this identity of seeing and seer is understood, freedom is obvious, for then there is no stand-in, no alternative, or substitute for the seeing what I see and being what I am in this moment.  All I can be is myself, and all I can see is myself.

From my perspective, following a spiritual path, a religion, or a guru serves primarily as a means of avoidance – a way of replacing what one actually is right now with a vision of what one could be.   This is the fallacy of becoming.  Those who purport to teach methods of “self-realization” or paths to “salvation” are not awake, I say, but hypnotized by fancy ideas they learned from previous epigones.  Then, having convinced themselves of their “attainment,” they regurgitate the nonsense they learned to imitate, hypnotizing their followers in the same fashion.

You are what you are here and now.  There is no “later,” and there is, I say, no path apart from one’s own suffering, one’s own confusion, and eventually, with luck, one’s own understanding.

– Robert Saltzman, The Ten Thousand Things pp266-267

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Robert Saltzman - The Ten Thousand Things, cover

Robert Saltzman, The Ten Thousand Things


Thank you, Robert, for giving the remaining dead leaves on this gnarled old tree a fatal shake.


 

be light, light, light – full of light!

Right on cue, as I ponder putting this blog out to cyber-pasture, WordPress tells me that its “stats are booming” or that another handful of readers have subscribed to receive notifications of new posts, or someone emails me with their appreciation.  As some of you know, these days I post my own writing and poetry over at echoes from emptiness; inevitably, that blog tends to get more attention.  Yet I’m told the resources on this blog are valuable for those interested in the mystery of our shared primordial awarenessThis Unlit Light.  So I guess I’ll keep on posting – albeit erratically.  Today’s offering is a little cluster of light-themed quotes glowing in harmony with Tatiana Plakhova’s astonishing graphics. (Do watch the video full-screen!)


Tatiana Plakhova, Complexity Graphics

 

God
pours light
into every cup,
quenching darkness.

The proudly pious
stuff their cups with parchment
and critique the taste of ink
while God pours light

and the trees lift their limbs
without worry of redemption,
every blossom a chalice.

Hafiz, seduce those withered souls
with words that wet their parched
lips

as light
pours like rain
into every empty cup
set adrift on the Infinite Ocean.

– Hafiz


Tatiana Plakhova - Flowerwings

 
[Physicist David] Bohm suggested that the explicate order is extracted from the implicate order in a similar way in which a holographic image is extracted from a series of swirls and shadings into a three-dimensional image when illuminated by laser light.

The illumination that extracts the physical universe from the implicate order is the light of consciousness.

In this model the act of observation draws ‘in-formation’ out of the implicate order and manifests it in the explicate order. Bohm was keen to use the term in-formation rather than information. By this he meant a process that actually ‘forms’ the recipient.

– Anthony Peake, Infinite Mindfield


We are constantly in the midst of light. We are surrounded, bathed, and nourished by it. This miracle we call light can transform. It can teach, reveal, evoke, and heal. It speaks in many voices.

We tend to see light as something that makes form visible, but light reveals much more. It reveals us.

In the subtle, soft undulations of a snowscape illuminated by an overcast sky, in the rare presence of a backlighted, towering, ancient oak, both subject and photographer are revealed. Light makes visible invisible.

– John Daido Loori, Making Love With Light


Tatiana Plakhova - Complexity Graphics

 

What we understand to be phenomena

are but the magical projections of the mind.

The hollow vastness of the sky

I never saw to be afraid of anything.

All this is but the self-glowing light of clarity.

There is no other cause at all.

All that happens is but my adornment.

Better, then, to stay in silent meditation.

– Yeshe Tsogyal

Quoted in Advice from the Lotus-Born


That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists; come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
George Saunders, speaking at Syracuse University


Tatiana Plakhova - Light Beyond Sound

 

Even the sense of ‘I am’ is composed of the pure light and the sense of being.
The ‘I’ is there even without the ‘am’.
So is the pure light there whether you say ‘I’ or not.
Become aware of that pure light and you will never lose it.
The beingness in being,
the awareness in consciousness,
the interest in every experience
— that is not describable,
yet perfectly accessible, for there is nothing else.

– Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That


In a dream I am walking joyfully up the mountain. Something breaks and falls away, and all is light. Nothing has changed, yet all is amazing, luminescent, free. Released at last, I rise into the sky … This dream comes often. Sometimes I run, then lift up like a kite, high above earth, and always I sail transcendent for a time before awaking. I choose to awake, for fear of falling, yet such dreams tell me that I am a part of things, if only I would let go, and keep on going. “Do not be heavy,” Soen Roshi says. “Be light, light, light – full of light!”

– Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard



Video and graphics by Tatiana Plakhova
complexitygraphics.com


 

an extraordinarily elegant way of realising God

What would it be like to be fully, continually aware of all of our senses – and what’s more, to be aware of that very awareness?  What might that full sensory awakening have to do with the irreversible realisation of Reality? Drawing from his personal experiences with Parmenides and Empedocles – foundational figures of Western civilization whose mystical dimensions have been forgotten or ignored – pre-Socratic philosopher Peter Kingsley maintains that to approach the changeless authentically, Western civilization must rediscover its own sacred origins and purpose. He asks, how can Western culture participate in the harmony of oneness if it has forgotten its own note?

In this post, which is a transcript of part of an interview made in connection with the Global Oneness Project, Kingsley outlines the sensory awakening at the root of Empedocles’ writings.

 

Persephone - Greek Goddess of the Underworld; Museum of Ancient Sculpture, Cyrene, Libya

 

You have to find reality, ultimate reality, here, where you are, in this apparent body, surrounded by these apparent colors and movements, and shapes and forms and sounds and noises. And they (the ancient Greek mystics) gave the techniques. They gave the methods for using our senses to find oneness all around us.

Empedocles and Parmenides were very, very up front, as most great mystics are, and at the beginning of their teachings they say, “Everybody is living a totally wasted life.” Everybody’s life is a sham, everybody is living in a dream. We can think we are driving down the road, we can think we’re shopping, we can think we’re in a business meeting. We are asleep. We are never actually using our senses.

Sometimes there can be the brief moment when we look out at a tree, or we’re driving down the road, and just for a brief moment we can say, “Good Lord, I’m holding a steering wheel. I have my foot on the gas pedal!” Or, “Good Lord, I’m looking at a tree!”

Usually we’re just looking at a tree and thinking about something else. Or we’re driving down the road and thinking about the argument we just had with our partner. It’s very, very rare that we simply look and are aware that we are looking.

And that involves being aware of what we’re looking at, and being aware of ourselves looking at the same time. So right now, I can be aware that I’m moving my hand, and that I’m talking, and that you there are in front of me. But it’s actually not a very, very common state at all, to be aware like that.

Empedocles gave very, very specific directions for how to start to become conscious through your senses. How to look and be aware that you’re looking. How to feel your tongue inside your mouth, and be aware of it. Not just rub your tongue on the top of your mouth, but actually be aware that it’s happening. And how to do this with all of the senses at the same time.

And this last stage, about how to do it with all the senses at the same time, this is very, very powerful, it’s very, very esoteric, it is an extraordinarily elegant way of realizing God.

Not by leaving the senses behind, but by consciously using all of your senses at the same time. If you do that, if you actually do that, you start to become aware… there is your sense of sight, there is your sense of hearing, there is the sense of feeling what you feel, your backside on the chair, or you feel your shoes on the floor. The hearing, the seeing, the feeling, the tasting, the touching. And it’s difficult enough even to do one of those consciously, but if you do them all consciously, you become aware of this infinite blackness between them.

There is a void that connects the seeing to the hearing, to the tasting, to the touching.

And that’s ETERNITY.

And that eternity is totally unchanging, but that eternity is also what gives rise to the physical world. And it’s out of that experience of eternity that people like Empedocles or Parmenides, these ancient Greeks, were actually able to bring the germs of a new civilization.

Because that eternity – it never changes, but it contains the seeds of all change.

 


The complete interview – 19:02


A prominent mystic of our time and student of sufi path, Peter Kingsley’s groundbreaking work on the origin of Western spirituality, philosophy, and culture is recognized throughout the world. Through his writings as well as lectures he speaks straight to the heart, and has helped to transform many people’s understanding not only of the past but of who they are. The author of three books, including Reality and In the Dark Places of Wisdom, and recipient of numerous academic awards, he holds honorary positions at universities in England, Canada, the United States.

peterkingsley.org

Peter Kingsley on Wikipedia

About the image:
Persephone, Greek Goddess of the Underworld; Museum of Ancient Sculpture, Cyrene, Libya.
In Greek mythology, Persephone, daughter of the fertility goddess Demeter, was abducted to the underworld by Hades but was allowed to return for part of the year, when the earth became fruitful. She is often depicted, as here, drawing a veil across her face, indicating her time on earth is ending and she is returning to the underworld, when the earth once again becomes barren.
Source

If, however, you read Peter Kingsley’s Reality, you will learn the true role Persephone played in guiding those who journeyed to the underworld – her domain – towards true reality.
And you’ll learn the real significance of the veil…

“… two and a half thousand years ago we were given a gift
– and in our childishness we threw away the instructions for how to use it.
We felt we knew what we were playing with.
And, as a result, western civilisation may soon be nothing but
an experiment that failed.”
– Peter Kingsley

Reality, by Peter Kingsley

Eckhart Tolle says, “This book is a journey back to the source
– not only of western civilisation but, more importantly, to the source within you.
Read it! To understand it is to be transformed.”
I couldn’t agree more.


 

I see you

Particle tracks on film from the Fermilab Bubble Chamber

 

If I should seek to know the thought-free state
all I need do is gaze into your eyes
every being who ever was, is, or will be
gazes back; I am gazing back, even though
I am not a being, not a thought, not conceivable
or perceivable, not even a secret godly whisper
shimmering in the stillness, nor anything
I thought I was, you were, we are.

I cannot see myself except through you,
you who live to share this same silent vision,
this eternal gaze expanding, always becoming
more than sight, more than any kind of knowing —
a fluid wordless epiphany emerging from nowhere,
the same place we inhabit now in our loving, this
exquisite loving without location or circumference,
and even though we never move, yet forever we are
circling in lazy liquid orbits around each other,
never once allowing our gaze to falter,
never even blinking

– Bob O’Hearn


These links open in new tabs:

Source: Bob’s blog feeling into infinity

Image: Particle tracks on film from the Fermilab Bubble Chamber, sourced from the wondrous sagan*sense blog


 

fully inhabiting one’s luminous body

Mary DeVincentis - Shunyata (Emptiness)

 

Truly, is anything missing now?
Nirvana is right here, before our eyes,
This very place is the Lotus Land,
This very body, the Buddha.
– Hakuin Ekaku

 
Many of us who have journeyed through the rarified atmosphere of advaita and nondual teachings have been warned that we are “not the body.” And while in some abstract, absolute sense this might have validity, it’s only partially true and distinctly unhelpful. To disregard our body is to turn away from the only access we have to our unique and authentic experience. It is to inhabit a thought-bubble while telling ourselves that we are resting in nondual awareness – either that, or still desperately seeking it.

But “nondual” means just that – no duality: only one. If there’s only one thing happening here, how can we dismiss the body from the totality? How can anything be dismissed? Where would it go?

Judith Blackstone is one of the few contemporary female voices in the nonduality context offering a fully embodied approach to nondual realisation, an approach that doesn’t turn away from or bypass trauma (holding patterns) embedded in the fabric of the body.

Why is full embodiment crucial? Read on:

Most contemporary teachings consider nonduality to be the direct unmediated perception of phenomena, along with spontaneous, unmediated expression and action. In other words, direct, spontaneous participation in life, unhampered by preconceptions. Students of this view are usually instructed to fix their attention on the present moment, or to relax into an all-inclusive awareness.

There are two limitations with this approach. One, nondual consciousness is more subtle than simple attention. It not only focuses on phenomena, it pervades phenomena. It renders all of one’s experience as suffused with a radiant emptiness. Two, the fixations that obscure the present moment are not just mental. Long-held constrictions in the body limit our perception, cognition, emotional responsiveness and physical sensation. We cannot open to our fundamental nature just with our minds, we need to open throughout our whole body. Because of these bodily constrictions, when we attempt to let go into the present moment, we generally let go only from the surface of ourselves. In order to realize nonduality, we need to let go from deep within the core of our being.

When spiritual teachings do not recognize the transformation of the body, the result is, at best, a partial, imbalanced spiritual openness. Students can follow a path for many years without ever finding the spiritual dimension of life. In the Realization Process opening to nondual consciousness does not depend upon a volitional attention to the present moment. Instead, it is an enduring transformation of one’s whole being that persists even during reflexive thinking, intense emotion or while engaged in the I-Thou activity of relationships.

Approaches to nonduality that focus on recognizing and dissolving mental constructions also de-construct the notion of the self. Any fixed ideas of the self, such as “I am a teacher” or “I am a good person” will obscure our realization of nondual consciousness. However, when we realize nondual consciousness pervading our body and environment, we uncover a qualitative, authentic sense of our individual self. Nonduality is neither the subject nor the object of experience. It is the unity, the oneness of subject and object.

Nondual awakening is not dependent upon a particular spiritual lineage. When we realize nonduality, we are not realizing Buddhism or Hinduism. We are realizing our own fundamental nature—the spiritual foundation of our being is self-arising. It is naturally there, and it appears spontaneously as we become open enough to uncover it. Although the different spiritual lineages describe nondual awakening in different ways, the arising of nonduality itself is unmistakable.

The Realization Process is accessible to both beginning and experienced practitioners. It is particularly helpful for people who have glimpsed nondual reality and wish to stabilize there. The work includes practices for direct attunement to nondual consciousness, for moving as nondual consciousness, for releasing holding patterns from the body, and for relating with other people without losing one’s realization.

The Realization Process was developed by Judith Blackstone, but is now taught by certified teachers throughout the world. It is available in private sessions, classes, workshops and teacher/certification trainings.

Source nondualityinstitute.org. My emphasis.



Links

www.nondualityinstitute.org/Realization-Process.html

www.realizationcenter.com

www.judithblackstoneblog.com/2010/healing-trauma-through-embodiment/


Art by Mary DeVincentisShunyata (Emptiness)


how extraordinary! how beautiful!

Please tell me this: how does it profit one to be convinced that everything one takes to be true and real – beliefs, body, belongings – is so, when at the end it all “becomes transparent”? How can we heedlessly march into that Great Transparency without unshakeable awareness of the pure Clear Light? How can we deprive ourselves of the extraordinary beauty it unveils?

Pir Elias Amidon reflects on these questions in the light of his own experience. How beautiful!

The Clear Light and the beauty of the world - Pir Elias Amidon

 

At the moment of our death, when the messages of our senses cease and the contents of our mind become transparent, The Tibetan Book of the Dead offers this instruction:

Remember the Clear Light, the pure Clear Light from which everything in the universe comes, to which everything in the universe returns; the original nature of your own mind….
Let go into the Clear Light, trust it, merge with it.
It is your own true nature, it is home.

When I first read that passage as a young man I was deeply moved and reassured — it assured me that the confusion and loneliness I felt as a twenty-two year-old would vanish one day in that great, final homecoming. I didn’t understand what this “Clear Light” was, but it didn’t matter — the certainty of the voice in the Book of the Dead comforted me. The Clear Light would come.

And meanwhile, I would just have to make the best of it. So in the years that followed — my twenties and thirties — I kept attempting to find or build some kind of substitute, metaphorical home in which I could belong during my exile here on earth.

I realize now that I had succumbed to the old polarity of my species: the sacred hereafter and the profane here, heaven and earth, light and dark. As far as I can understand it, this polarity has its genesis in our need to identify ourselves as individual beings separate from the other beings and objects of the world: me in here and all the rest out there. The dominance of the “me in here” sets up the added polarity of my suffering and incompleteness now versus the promise of redemption and homecoming in the future.

Of course, these kinds of polarities are understandable — we are two-legged organisms walking about, seemingly disconnected from the earth and sky, and anxious about avoiding any dangers that might be lurking on our path. It appears we are separate beings.

It took me a few decades of spiritual practice and inquiry — not to mention the normal sufferings life provides — to realize that the nature of reality only appears to be split into these dualities. As one of my teachers, Murshida Sitara Brutnell, once cryptically said, “There is no other.” This whole show is one magnificent Happening, one awesome Brilliance reflected in the infinite prisms of possibility. Which means that we — you and I right now, every humming atom of us, every thought and feeling, every movement — are inextricably part of this blossoming of spontaneous light.

Sufis call this wahdat-al-wujud, the Oneness of Existence. Nothing stands outside of its Oneness and Suchness — there is no other. The multiplicity of the phenomenal world is sometimes imaged by Sufis as a veil over the Absolute, though the veil and the Absolute are not seen as two different things, rather “the veil is the external epiphany of the Absolute.” Or, as the 14th century Persian Sufi Mahmud Shabastari wrote, “The whole world of Being is the beams of the Absolute Light. The Absolute remains hidden because it is so clearly manifest.”

Which brings us back to the Tibetan notion of the Clear Light, surely the same as Shabastari’s “Absolute Light.” The Clear Light is not, as I had first thought, something waiting out there to welcome me when I die. It is present now, right here, both as perceptible as all the apparent things and thoughts and feelings of this world, and as imperceptible, invisible, and transparent as the awareness in which these words appear to us right now. The “light” of awareness, the Clear Light, “the original nature of your own mind,” all indicate this same “light” that can’t be seen or located, though it is unmistakably, spontaneously present. “God’s Light is in the heavens and the earth,” says the Bible and the Quran. And the Quran adds, “whichever way you turn, there is its presence.”

When I die I imagine that one of my last feelings will be, “How beautiful!” I won’t be referring to the beauty of where I’m going (I have no idea about that), but how beautiful is where I’ve been, this astonishing earth, sky, and cosmos, this astonishing body and its capacity to know and love. As the mystic-philosopher Francois Cheng remarked, “The universe is not obliged to be beautiful, and yet it is beautiful.” How extraordinary!

The mystery of the Clear Light and the mystery of the beauty of the universe have become the central contemplations of my life. “Beauty” (I’m fond of repeating these words of Ibn ‘Arabi) “is the welcoming openness of the truth toward us.” Somehow the “truth” of the unchanging Clear Light is revealed by ever-changing beauty. “God is beautiful and loves beauty,” a hadith tells us. Spontaneous, ephemeral beauty — the beauty of a song, a kiss, a passing cloud, a glint of sunlight — each one a momentary revelation of the unborn Clear Light, our home.

– Pir Elias Amidon


Text and image sourced from The Open Path


The Tibetan Book of the Dead