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 joy of dying

Today is the 4th day of the 4th month and 9 years since my mother breathed her last at 4am.

Two Miriams, Hervey Bay QLD

This little blog was created to express my gratitude for her wondrous wideawakeness and wisdom; she was a priceless teacher for me. Her lessons – lived in her everyday life – deepen and mature in me as the years go by.  She gave us 97 years of her presence.  Even on her deathbed she was wide-eyed and full of praise for everyone.

This year I’m moved to share words from two teachers she’d have loved for their open-hearted honesty, warmth, sweetness, and for their radiant wisdom: Joan Ruvinsky and Robert K Hall. Joan was speaking shortly before her death. Robert is still with us, but his departure is immanent.


 

just this… in all its simplicity…
welcoming what is here already…
not coming… not going…
obscured even by seeking…

So we meet in the paradox of apparent teachings, retreats, trainings or gatherings, to celebrate and explore this nameless presence that we are.  At first, there is the tendency to accentuate the myriad of practices the yoga tradition has developed, to focus on concepts like nondual, true nature, awareness, self-inquiry or other-inquiry.

But all this activity eventually leads us to a giving up.  And in this surrender what is revealed is seen to be what has always been here, before the search began, during its full intensity and after its cessation.  The task turns out to be ceding to stillness, and in that stillness the recognition of just this.

Falling back and resting in what is so familiar that it has been overlooked during all the body sensing yoga, during all the pranayama, all the yoga nidra and amidst all the dialogues, amidst life itself, we find our self simply sinking back into just this.

Joan Ruvinsky

 


 

Letting go is not an easy process, especially how much I’m enjoying life, surrounded by so much love and people who take good care of me… I have talked at length about my experience and difficulties about the dying process… today I’d like reflect on the positive side and share my experience about the joy of dying…

Robert K Hall

 

This short talk (8:07) expresses so much warmth, love, joy and presence, it will melt your heart.
For more videos and audio teachings: Robert K Hall Dharma Talks


From the archives:
grief is a shower of grace
the gift of grief

here is where the vista opens
the cosmic chirp


 

here is where the vista opens

This post is a loving tribute to Joan Ruvinsky, who left us on March 21 in Montreal.

Just prior to Christmas, Joan wrote a newsletter note about the preciousness of the moment. I’m glad I kept it, because it couldn’t be more apt right now.

This Unlit Light: Michael Kenna - Huangshan Mountains, Study 42

You never know if this is going to be the last time, the last holiday season, the last menstrual period, the last trip to the mountains, the last whatever. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if, for instance, it were just the last time you were ever to put gas in the car, except, looking back on it, as a charming ritual. Does its being the last time make it more significant? Will we pay more attention? We don’t even know if it’s the last time when it is happening. We can only know through memory, in retrospect. 

Or we can pretend the future and say, “That was the last time I ever time I’ll ever go to that restaurant!”  This is the past conditioning the future. The food was terrible. Never again. Period.

Oh, how we like to place ourselves in time! It makes us feel situated. Secure. 

But in the moment, the actual moment, we just don’t know. Is it the first? Is it the last? Actually, it’s right now, first time, or last time – however we name it to stay comfortably situated in linear time, to play it safe. In fact, it is only and forever right now. 

So every moment, the smell of this hot cider mulling on the stove, the clacking of the printer, the wind in the pines, this holiday season to celebrate, or not… it’s just right now, whether we are labelling it from anticipation or from memory. This moment is absolutely precious. This moment is out of time, beyond comparison. No sequence. No succession. Just now. Here is where the vista opens. Now is when we are home, home in This, as This, as pure perceiving.

How wonderful.

May whatever you celebrate for the first or last unknown time be joyous. 

Love, Joan

pathlessyoga.com



Joan’s closing comments in a conversation with Grace Bubeck: Death only happens to the body, we are Love. 3:16



The entire conversation: The Radical Joy of Facing Death. 48:41


I treasure Joan’s last succinct email message to me…

Pas d’inscription. Juste de se présenter à 15h45

Amour


The magnificent photograph is by Michael Kenna.


 

the cosmic chirp

This Unlit Light - gravitational waves

 

Did you see the 2 black holes colliding? Spiralling inward and merging a billion years ago?

Did you hear the sound of the two becoming one?

If you haven’t heard it – listen here
For just the sound and the collision, drag the slider to 2:58

The shock wave was minuscule but measurable. Here, some flecks of the universe danced their way backward into the source. And we saw/heard it!

There was an audible chirp.

How marvellous!

(Well, it’s been happening all the “time”, but we caught this “one.”)

Usually what we experience is the one becoming two. Every morning we wake up. There is the moment before – the moment before formless being begins to differentiate itself into me and the bedroom, me and my list of today’s projects, or me and whatever. It might happen pretty fast, so we might miss it most mornings but, ultimately, duality gets the upper hand over eternity as the world comes into focus. We separate. We differentiate into seer and seen, witness and witnessed.

Now, consider by turning inward, the two universes – not just black holes, but whole universes – become one: the “Me Universe” (the Seer) AND the “Other Universe” (the Seen) – multiplicity coagulates into the Source.

And now, notice without noticing, it is happening, always, simultaneously, timelessly,

“…entering into the perfect fullness of I-Am,
merging with the everlasting pulsation,
the blissful effulgence of Being,
the play of the One and the many continues
in full knowingness in Her timeless cycle
of emanation and re-absorption.
Just This.”

– Pratyabhijñahrdayam, Verse 20, forthcoming translation

Yours unfathomably
– Joan


This splendid sharing of the vast view is from Joan Ruvinsky’s latest newsletter. You can sign up to receive it at her website: pathlessyoga.com. Doing so is a beautiful way to stay in touch with Joan, as she isn’t teaching these days due to her illness. Yet her wisdom is finding its way forth through the very circumstances that would appear to be undesirable. Unsptoppable Grace! I treasure the depth of her understanding and compassion: she is one wholly wideawake woman.


Image: Gravitational waves, sourced from ibtimes.co.uk


sinking back into just this

just this……in all its simplicity……
welcoming what is here already……
not coming……not going……
obscured even by seeking……

So we meet in the paradox of apparent teachings, retreats, trainings or gatherings, to celebrate and explore this nameless presence that we are. At first, there is the tendency to accentuate the myriad of practices the yoga tradition has developed, to focus on concepts like nondual, true nature, awareness, self-inquiry or other-inquiry.

But all this activity eventually leads us to a giving up. And in this surrender what is revealed is seen to be what has always been here, before the search began, during its full intensity and after its cessation. The task turns out to be ceding to stillness, and in that stillness the recognition of just this.

Falling back and resting in what is so familiar that it has been overlooked during all the body sensing yoga, during all the pranayama, all the yoga nidra and amidst all the dialogues, amidst life itself, we find our self simply sinking back into just this.

~ Joan Ruvinsky

.

Gratitude to Kathleen Knipp for introducing me to Joan Ruvisky’s work and recommending her for our wideawake women page. “Her teachings, offered in both prose and poetry, as well as verbally, are yet another beautiful expression of the inexpressible through a woman’s voice.”
~ ml

.