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.


 

you are the light of the world

You are the Light of the World

 

There is only one thing that stands in the way of our radiant true nature of innate unconditional happiness and peace and living light. It is our negative, self-defeating, insecure thoughts and beliefs, and the actions and behaviors that flow from such thoughts and beliefs.

We can habitually become so absorbed into such thoughts that they begin to take us over and define us and project them selves out into the world around us, as “us”. But we do not have to believe these thoughts. They do not really define who we are. They define who we have THOUGHT we are.

In reality, we are undefinable. We are a radiant light that spontaneously shines through us in a somewhat different way in each moment. How can THAT really be defined? 

But we can begin to question all these thoughts that block the light. Questioning them is itself, a powerful spiritual practice. This questioning will weaken these thoughts and beliefs and will eventually, dislodge them.

And when they begin to dislodge themselves and fall away, our true, radiant, peaceful and unconditionally happy nature can shine forth into a world that so desperately needs it! The source of this light is the same light in all of us. It is the same source in you and in me. But it shines through you and through me in an absolutely unique and wonderful way that can never be reproduced again.

If we don’t let this light loose in our world, it will be a great loss for the world and for us. We are here to shine, to radiate this light out into our world in our own unique way, so that those living around us can enjoy it and dance with it. And we are also here to simply enjoy the shining of that light ourselves! We too can dance with the light!

– Francis Bennett

Sourced from Francis Bennett’s Facebook Page; used with permission.


Francis Bennett was a Roman Catholic, Trappist monk for a number of years.

In 2010, while in the middle of a Church Service in his monastery in Montreal, Francis suddenly experienced what he has come to call, “a radical perceptual shift in consciousness”, in which he discovered the ever present presence of spacious, pure awareness. He came to see that this awareness is actually the unchanging essence of who he really is and always has been; the Supreme Self, talked about by many sages and saints from many spiritual traditions down through the ages. He also came to see simultaneously, that this vast, infinite sense of presence at the center of his being (and at the center of the being of everyone else on the planet) is actually not at all separate from the presence of God, which he had been looking for during his many years as a monk and spiritual seeker.

Francis is now living a “new incarnation” as a spiritual teacher in the contemporary, Non-Dual spiritual Tradition. Francis offers a blend of the Buddhist Traditions he deeply studied, the contemplative Christian mystical tradition which he lived during his many years in monastic life, as well as the Hindu Advaita-Vedanta teaching of Sri Ramana Maharshi, who has been a very profound influence on Francis for about the last 12 years or so.

Sourced from Francis’s website: finding grace at the center


Image source


my brilliant image

light will someday split you open


kitchen sink epiphany

In her book When Fear Falls Away Jan Frazier gives us a privileged, intimate view of her mundane daily experiences in the light of her awakening. This little extract is from a piece she wrote titled “A Visceral Experience of Immortality: April 22.” In it, she is happily doing the dishes when she suddenly understands something “fundamental about existence”; a long-held idea moves from the concept compartment and becomes an experienced reality.

It brought to mind the words my mother uttered (shortly after she announced she was “going to die now”) as I leaned over her, whispering my thanks for being the perfect mother and friend to me:

But I always will be – it never ends!

kitchen sink epiphany

I was standing at the sink doing the dishes, chanting, looking out the window. The kitchen sink is turning out to be the place where great realisations seem to happen. I love to chant, and I love to look out the window at the green world, where at a moment’s notice a creature might amble into the yard, its feet quick over the new grass, the sniffing nose collecting data, gathering intelligence of possible danger, possible food. I love the window. Do I love washing dishes? Well, I do. It is what gives me an excuse to look out the window and chant.

So I was doing that this morning, happy as could be. Tingly with happiness. (I get like this a lot.) I was feeling a really sustained surge of delight at simply being alive. The world outside the window pouring into my eyes, my nostrils, every possible portal – and I felt myself pouring out into the world. And I thought how great it is to be conscious, to be alive. I said to myself, I’m so glad to be alive. Consciousness is a total gas. I just want this to go on and on.

And that’s when I realised it. Viscerally, I mean, for the first time in my life. Oh my God, it IS going to go on. Forever. THIS is what keeps steady, this very sensation – even past death. I won’t have to do without, ever.

I have believed this for a long time, belief being a thing that lives in the mind. I have had the idea of immortality, of continuity between physical life and post-physical life. But that moment in front of the sink, experiencing the very body of continuity, I realised something: I only thought I got it before, the idea of consciousness being eternal. But I never really got it before, not until right this second.

I couldn’t get over it. I never have to stop! Body or not. This will be my experience, clear past death – which will be a little road bump, if I even notice it.

Jan Frazier

When Fear Falls Away: The Story of a Sudden Awakening


If you enjoy Jan’s writing, you might be interested in another excerpt (on undivided perception) I posted over on the awakened eye:

I’ve lost track of which is which


Photo credit: katherinecollette.com


embracing life in all its messy glory

the dream bus

To believe we control the movement of life is to believe we are driving a bus on which we are merely passengers. We feel as if we are in control when the bus takes us where we want to go, but when it keeps chugging merrily on its way despite our attempts to turn or stop or slow down, we are incredulous. We grip the frozen steering wheel and stare helplessly out the windows muttering that teenagers shouldn’t be having babies, corporations shouldn’t be exploiting legal loopholes for profit, and a cure for cancer should have been discovered by now.

Life asks many things of us, but suffering for our delusions isn’t one of them. The biggest delusion is that life should unfold in ways that make us happy. Since we weren’t even around when life began, our happiness could hardly have been a bullet point in its mission statement. Finding happiness is our job, and there’s more of it to be found when we meet life with open arms rather than with a fistful of angry questions.

~ John Ptacek – from Reality Check

I love John’s honest wisdom-wordsmithing. Find more at his website: On Second Thought

Image source

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everything you ever wanted is right here

Longtime readers of this little blog are familiar with my addiction to retreat.  Today I’ve been inspired by a blog post by self-confessed “Inner-revolutionary, truth-teller, writer, thinker, and dreamer” Sandra Pawula, about a disappearing Dharma teacher.  He’s off on retreat in the great tradition of super-yogi Milarepa, “wandering from place to place, staying in remote caves and sacred sites with no plans or fixed agenda, just an unswerving commitment to the path of awakening.”  He’s off.  No one knows where to or for how long.  Here are some gems from his parting letter.

All that we are looking for in life — all the happiness, contentment, and peace of mind — is right here in the present moment. Our very own awareness is itself fundamentally pure and good. The only problem is that we get so caught up in the ups and downs of life that we don’t take the time to pause and notice what we already have.

Don’t forget to make space in your life to recognize the richness of your basic nature, to see the purity of your being and let its innate qualities of love, compassion, and wisdom naturally emerge. Nurture this recognition as you would a small seedling. Allow it to grow and flourish.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, pause from time to time and relax your mind. You don’t have to change anything about your experience. You can let thoughts and feelings come and go freely, and leave your senses wide open. Make friends with your experience and see if you can notice the spacious awareness that is with you all the time. Everything you ever wanted is right here in this present moment of awareness.

~ Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

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may all beings be happiness

Happiness happened when my back was turned.

It flowered in the absence of desire or need for it.
It crept up uninvited when I stopped imagining how good it would be.

How strange that no one ever tells us this secret –

When don’t-mind mind is the default mind,
happiness is another word for Being

 

May all beings be happiness.

 

– miriam louisa


full moon eclipse in aquarius

My astrowiz friend tells me that I was born when the sun and moon were in Aquarius, and that a lunar eclipse was underway. I don’t know the significance of any of that, nor is there much interest. But who could pass by the chance, upon an eclipse of the full moon, in Aquarius, today – 2pm Australian time – to offer up a prayer. (Just in case those cosmic god/esses are bending an ear!)
 

May we all be free from

– wanting to be admired (respected, liked, right)
– not wanting to be criticized (inferior, wrong, disliked)

– wanting to be happy (free, awakened)
– not wanting to be unhappy (burdened, ignorant)

– wanting to gain (own, acquire)
– not wanting to lose (anything, including face)

– wanting to be famous (special)
– not wanting to be ignored (invisible)

 
Gratitude to Khyentse Norbu Rinpoche for writing this on a tree in Bhutan! The inclusions in parenthesis are my own.