Saturday, June 30, 2007

Suzanne Segal

Abalone Cove Stormset
Originally uploaded by Dan90266
I picked up Collision with the Infinite by Suzanne Segal this morning. I was looking for a particular passage that I never found.
Instead, I opened to these words that slay me.

Maharishi’s description of the three stages of awakening - Cosmic Consciousness, God Consciousness, and Unity Consciousness - now appeared to be incredibly relevant. The initial months of my experience, in which witness awareness persisted throughout waking dreaming, and sleeping, was clearly the state of Cosmic Consciousness…this state of consciousness horrified the mind.

The dramatic shift to Unity Consciousness was also self-evident… However, I still found myself wondering what Maharishi had meant by God Consciousness. He had always described it as a state in which all creation is perceived to be infused with the sacred, the divine… Nothing I had ever experienced fit that particular description. Nor had I ever heard Maharishi describe anything resembling the experience, so clearly delineated by the Buddhists, that one is not an individual self.

It was not until I discovered a story about Shakespeare written by Jorge Luis Borges that I entertained the possibility that God Consciousness was really the consciousness of being no one. “In him there was no one,” the story begins, and goes on to explain what, when he was a child, Shakespeare thought that everyone knew they were no one as well. When he talked to his friends about the experience, however, he encountered blank looks, which “showed him his mistake…” The story describes a life lived in the wintertime of the emptiness, where the mind, juiced by fear, tried every thing my mind had attempted to spark the return of a personal reference point…

When Shakespeare became an actor, the story goes on, he found the prefect profession, where he got to “play at being someone before an audience who played at taking him for that person.” Although he spent his entire life attempting to reconstitute a sense of being someone, he never succeeded…

The story concludes: “The tale runs that before or after death, when [Shakespeare] stood face to face with God, he said to Him, ‘I , who in vain have been so many men, want to be one man – myself.’ The voice of the Lord answered him out of a whirlwind, ‘I too have no self; I dreamed the world as you dreamed your work, my Shakespeare, and among the shapes of my dreams are you, who, like me, are many men and no one.’”

Tears are streaming down my face even as I transcribe and edit words.
They hit me hard in ways I do not fully fathom. Yet, it makes so much sense to me.

I know I like the term “witness awareness” - so much more preferable and accurate than “Cosmic Consciousness.”
And I like the phrase, “the wintertime of the emptiness,” though I change it immediately to “wintertime of witnessing” and we are well into the heat of summer and I lie in bed each night in a sweat never going all the way to sleep.
And as we come on to the Fourth of July it self, I chuckle, “It’s a free country.”
I see the flag flying like some rightwing bumper sticker that I can appreciate.
It’s a free country and I have a free will.
And with my Free Will I seem to be screwing up my life just the way we all have screwed up this country.

Why can’t I just accept the witnessing? Why can’t I just relax, accept, drop all the lame excuses, and have the courage to look even deeper? Because, it’s a free country and I have free will and so I seem to be persisting in resisting.

Or as Suzanne Segal writes:
He took the presence of fear to mean the emptiness was a “strange ailment” and therefore spent his life trying to make it appear that he was someone.

Actually, as I write now, I have a grin on my face.
It’s nice to have the words, little navigation bouys out in the ocean.
It reminds me that Suzanne referred to we who get together and discuss all this as “buddies in the vastness.”
I like that.

And I do know the mind cannot figure this out. But, somehow, it must make it’s peace with it All.
It (I) need to slip past the fear.
I need to find more love. … as it all comes down to that… maybe…

I hope that you are smiling. I am.

Friday, June 29, 2007


Originally uploaded by Rune T

I came across this Adyashanti passage the other day.
Sorry, but I didn’t record the where.
But this is what he said:

Step out of the dream of your concepts and ideas. Step out of the dream of what you imagine enlightenment to be. Step out of the dream of who you think you are. Step out of the dream of everything you have ever known. Step out of your dream of being a deluded person. Stop telling yourself those lies and dreaming those dreams. Step out of all of that. You can do it. Nothing is holding you back. There are no requirements and no prerequisites to awaken. There is nothing to be done, nothing to think, nowhere to go.

Just stop all dreaming. Stop all doing. Stop all excuses.

Just stop and be still.

And you know, that gave me pause. It was nice. … and it led to a whole train of thought regarding the excuses that I make … while not enlightenment it was
somewhat enlightening.

Excuse #1: The Biggest

blowing bubbles
Originally uploaded by MorningThief581

The barriers to awakening are all conceptual. The biggest barrier to awakening is believing, “Not me, it couldn’t possibly happen to me.” When that barrier is dropped, then the awakening is almost a forgone conclusion because you suddenly run out of excuses. When an individual runs out of excuses, they tend to get very serious and stop wasting time. As long as we say, “It’s only for the few,” we have an unconscious excuse not to take on the possibility ourselves and live up to what that possibility may ask of us.

Adyashanti, “The Awakening West: Conversations with Today’s New Western Spiritual Leaders.” P199.

“The barriers are all conceptual.”
Is that true?

I don’t think so.
But, I do trust Adya and luckily he encourages his students to accept nothing as a “given.” He wants us to find our own truth... So, I don’t feel too guilty expressing my doubts.

I believe that every state of consciousness is supported by a unique physiology.
Thus, there has to be some kind of physiology correlated with becoming enlightened. Maybe this is the same as, or maybe it is different from, the physiology needed to sustain enlightenment – but, initially something has to change within the body for someone to become enlightened… at least to my way of thinking.

It is this unique physiology that to me seems to offer a concrete barrier not at all “conceptual,” but rather physical.

For example, Maharishi said you had to get rid of all the stress in the body – the impressions of experiences that had overwhelmed and essentially scarred the nervous system. So there was this whole idea of “unstressing” or “normalizing” in TM in order to become enlightened.

I had another meditation teacher, an intuitively guided woman largely without tradition. She insisted that “every cell in your body must change.”
When I heard her say that I thought, “Yes! I have seen that. It is true and I’ve never heard anyone say that.”

Every cell must change. … and that is physiology and that it physical, even when it occurs within the “mythic” elements of EARTH, AIR, FIRE, WATER. I have seen this and to me, it is just the subtle physiology, the nervous system on the level of light. (Though, curiously, some systems of classification may place the subtle elements in the mental realms.)

So, my excuse for not being enlightened is that my physiology has not yet allowed it. My body is too screwed up.

Excuse #2: “Wait a minute”

Originally uploaded by hvhe1

Asking every cell to change is huge.
Such a huge event that if undertaken precipitously, I do believe you can be killed or at least rendered so nonfunctional that I do not want to risk it.

Somewhere in the late ‘70’s I was in bed for a month. My sister-in-law finally carried me out of my apartment so I could take up residence in the basement laundry room of my brother’s house.
I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t cook for myself. I could hardly walk.
I did, however, pee on their lawn under the full moon by way of protesting their holding me hostage.… yes, I was crazy too.

“Been there, done that.”
Or, I could say, Excuse #2: "Major changes take time and must be done carefully."

I can quote Adya himself for support of this belief.
Here he is describing his first awakening:

I literally said, “Screw it, I give up.” And as soon as I said, “I give up,” there was this I guess what they would call it now, was some sort of kundalini experience. But it was this incredible rush of energy… just overwhelming, overwhelming to such an extent that my heart started to race and my breathing was like I was running the hundred yard dash… I knew what maximum heart rate was; I knew my heart maxed at about 210 beats a minute and I knew what that felt like and I knew I was way beyond that. The whole body was completely out of control… I was quite certain, absolutely sure that I wouldn’t survive it, because I knew what my body could take, and it couldn’t take it very long. At that moment, I knew I was going to die….And all I said was… “If this is what it takes to be free, okay.” So as soon as I said that, it was like something just let loose… everything became (snaps fingers) like that, absolutely pristinely quiet…

from Adyashanti’s contribution to “When I Awoke”- see the 50 page article.

I rest my case.
The barrier to enlightenment is physical and crashing through can kill you.

But, then look closely.
In Adya’s description of his awakening the physical crisis is both precipitated by a thought (“I give up.”) and resolved by yet a second thought (“…okay.”).
In each case that thought is essentially, “OK – You win.”
Or in one word simply, “Yes.”
Yes to what he can no longer control.
Yes, to what the Universe presents.

The barriers do seem to be conceptual.
The torment arose from resisting.
Once the concept changes, the body settles down and offers it support.

Oh yeah! They call it: Mind-Body.

We can give it lip service to the concept, but usually we each have our preference. Either we have a tendency to favor the idea that mind controls body, or body controls mind.
I think the truth is a much more subtle play.
The shuttle cock is batted back and forth in something of a blur.

Still, I do hold the belief that Enlightenment is a state of consciousness (again Adya disagrees) and that states of consciousness are supported by a physiology.

I believe the body supports and maintains our mind, and the body has to change if it is not to be a barrier to enlightenment …. a barrier, or excuse, my mind may be quite content to live with.
(but that leads to yet another excuse which I will save for another time).

No, let me just mention one more thing...

Excuse #3: “I’d Rather be a hamster”

Polly Sentada
Originally uploaded by Woupidy
I was talking about “excuses” – the barriers to enlightenment, which Adyashanti claims are all conceptual.

I am not sure I believe that, so I have been examining the idea and in the processing looking at what I do believe.

In a somewhat similar vein a student mentioned, on an Adyashanti CD, that she has been spurred by his teaching, “You always have what you want.”
She was looking at her physical disability.
She was asking herself, “What purpose does it serve?”

Well, I can relate!
My own body has been horrific lately: migraines, vision difficulties, nausea, poor memory, and cognitive malfunctions. It feels as if my brain is being torn up.
It’s scary.
It’s frustrating.
It’s a huge struggle at times.
I have missed so much work that I decided I really had to take some action.

Luckily my brother is an expert in functional medicine. He has his own lab and can run the book of subtle, metabolic tests on me. He’s figured out my body since that first “kundalini frying” back in the ‘70s.

This time, I carried along some new research on migraine and depersonalization.
It seemed to me my visual problems are both migraine aura and depersonalization,
which is a great confusion to me since depersonalization in many ways seems to the physiology of what meditators call “witnessing.”

Witnessing is a bug-a-boo to me.
On one hand it’s an experience to be commended.
It is one way of describing the effects of awakening.
You discover that “the Self is separate from activity.”
Oh yeah. I am so separate that at times I feel as if I am a pea rattling around inside this tin can called Creation.
I am so rattled or non-attached I cannot even latch onto the world visually.
Thus, there is the strangest visual “something.”
Something is all wrong with my eyes, except that I see fine.
No blur, no lights, no distortion.
Yet, it is totally non-connected in some way impossible to verbalize.
In the end, I avoid using my eyes – I get too nauseated.

The eye clinic refused to see me. I wanted them to look at the blood vessels of my retina. I wanted them to measure the pressure of my eyeball. Just some quick check for a tumor.
Instead they said it was a migraine aura without the migraine. “Glasses wouldn’t help.”
I know glasses are not gonna help!
But my complaints don’t sound like any aura I have ever read about either.
But then, I don’t feel enlightened either.
So surely my witnessing is a symptom of pathology not an indicator of awakening.

Or, am I using my disability as a conceptual barrier?
What if all this is just my way of justifying,
“Enlightenment couldn’t happen to me, so I must be sick.”

Excuse Number What? “I can’t become enlightened until my health is better.”

Even if it’s my direct perception that my self is separate from activity,
Even if it’s my direct perception that all Creation is not really Real,
Even if it’s my direct perception that all This could dissolve into That – Nothingness.
This last is one scary as hell perception.
No wonder I do not really want to see it, though my body seems to be insisting.

Rather than accept that I am sitting on the border of awakening, it makes better sense to me to think:
I have weak adrenals.
I have a carnitine deficiency, or hypoglycemia, or migraines, or yada-yada pitch a fit.
Apparently, Anything is better than saying, “Yes,”
and simply dropping the excuses,
dropping the pathologizing.

Because then, I’d have to drop the Big One, that one that Adya mentioned,
“It can’t happen to me.”

It seems that letting go of that last excuse simply requires … too much love.
That’s all that it would take …

It’d take a smile to myself.
It’d take a bit more compassion than I now can offer to say…

“Yes, Dear, this is for you.”

Apparently, I prefer a self-image more along the lines of a hamster,
a hamster running round and round on that little exercise wheel in her cage of samsara.

So for now, I run in circles…sporting the most lovely, chubby cheeks
that can squirrel away all kinds of lame excuses.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson is back at her monthly column.
Oh, I have missed her.
I am missing a lot of things of late. My body- brain and eyes – have not been cooperating. So I have missed writing very regularly here.

This seems to make me enjoy Jeanette’s words and world all the more. And I want to share a bit of them with you...

Now I am sitting in my cottage in the Cotswolds, with the kitchen door open onto the garden, watching the rain pour down. I love to have the back door open - feel oppressed when I am shut in. I don't know how my friends with smart but shut-in London flats cope with life. My hens get more fresh air than they do.

I suppose there is a big psychological difference between the urban beast and the country animal. When I have to go to London for work things or to the theatre or the opera, that's fine, but when very occasionally I have to spend leisure-time there, I find myself going mad. What is there to do in the city unless you make a list of plans?

In the country there is always something to do - in the garden, walking, little jobs with the radio on, and then a quick dash in for a cup of coffee, or a quick dash out for a walk. I need to have ordinary contemplative life - it is easy to calm down digging a vegetable bed, or clearing out the shed or going for a walk whatever the weather, all things that can be done without spending money or being run over…

I have just finished kitting out my studio, where I won't be making skulls. Downstairs, there is a reading room, and upstairs, there is a workroom, which has nothing in it but a simple trestle desk and a bed; I sometimes need to fall asleep when I am working.

It's a beautiful space, made of oak, with doors onto the garden, so that I get plenty of light. I can't explain why I can't work in a domestic space, and need a dedicated space, but that is how it is - even though I am no clutter-queen, and even though my house is always quiet and orderly.

In the early days I used to work in various sheds and houses lent to me by others, and then gradually I acquired extra space of my own. Now, moving permanently to the place that used to be my run-away hide-away, I have had to build another run-away-hide-away in the garden.

But I like it here very much; it is not grand, not making any statements, just the thing that modest places used to be when people could afford them. I am set alone in my wood, with a cuckoo in the mornings and owls in the evenings, and the tap-tap of woodpeckers. Not a single car has gone by since eight this morning, and that was the farmer's wife going to the farmer's market down the road.

I'm making asparagus soup for lunch, with a salad from the garden. Then a walk, then more work, then, as it is so wet and damp, I will do my favourite thing and light the fire and keep the back door open until it goes dark. Then bed. Not what you might call an exciting life - but I can do that in my head.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Stories for the Day- Not from Me but StoryPeople

Blocks 2
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
I collected these the other day. In going over them today, I find them something of a psychological test. They seem to have a gardening theme, and I have been putting in a flagstone patio and garden… so I guess the labor shaped me.

Enjoy them, each one at a time, like a cherry popped into the mouth.

1. I once had a garden filled with flowers that grew only on dark thoughts but they need constant attention & one day I decided I had better things to do.

2. That's not my real reflection, she said. I've changed so much since then most people barely recognize me.

3. This is a tree on fire with love, but it's still scary since most people think love only looks like one thing instead of the whole world.

4. My grandma used to plant tomato seedlings in tin cans from tomato sauce & puree & crushed tomatoes she got from the Italian restaurant by her house, but she always soaked the labels off first. I don't want them to be anxious about the future, she said. It's not healthy.

5. O no, she said, you can't say just anything to the wind. Only the deepest secrets will do
& also you must not use the letter i.

Duane Keiser: A Painting A Day

Koh Toa Sunset
Originally uploaded by alex the greek
Duane Keiser is the fellow who created the concept of “a painting a day.” This method of producing small pieces of art and marketing your work directly on the internet has been inspirational to me.

The other morning I checked his site just to have a updated look-see. To my surprise and delight, I found Duane had written a piece that may inspire many of us to live a bit differently. Here is what he said, edited a bit for brevity:

I’ve been struck by how many emails I have received from non-artists wanting to learn how to paint and start their own PAD projects. They typically aren’t interested in selling or even showing their work publicly. They often have full-time jobs and kids. It finally occurred to me there is something going on here that goes beyond wanting to learn how to paint a pretty picture, and I think it taps into an underlying attraction to the idea of making a painting a day:

We go through our lives with a perpetual cursory glance. We see but we don’t notice. It is like when we are on a long car trip and get so lost in thought that we suddenly can’t remember the last 30 minutes of the trip… the landscape, the road signs, nothing. We didn’t crash, so we were seeing, but we weren’t noticing.

…once when I was visiting California several years ago. A crowd had gathered on the beach to watch the sunset. As I joined them, I overheard someone talking about a green flash. I asked what she meant. She explained that the moment the sun disappears behind the horizon there will be a green flash. I had lived in California as a child and had seen many ocean sunsets and not once did I see a green flash. I was skeptical. But sure enough, there was a green flash. I watched for it again the next day, just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. It was there.

What amazed me, however, was that I had never seen it before, even though I had been looking right at it during dozens of sunsets.

If I can look at dozens of sunsets and not see something so obvious and beautiful as that green flash, what is going on around me, right now, that I am missing simply because I am not prepared to notice it?

We are bombarded with imagery-TV, video, cameras, camera phones, movies, computers etc. All of this information forms the visual equivalent of white noise. It is hard to see and appreciate the colors in a candle flame when it is seen against a fireworks display-- and if we are only looking for fireworks in the first place, we will not only not see the subtleties of that single flame, we won’t notice the flame at all. In effect, the flame ceases to exist to us.

Direct observation and the patience it requires has become less natural to us. When you go to any art museum, look how much time the average person spends in front of even the greatest painting... not much.
Or look what happens when somebody is on vacation and discovers some amazing vista… out comes the camera for a snapshot and then it’s time to move on.

We simply aren’t used to observing things firsthand, of investigating them, and I think we sense this—that we’re missing something; that we have, to some degree, become spectators of our own lives.

I think this is one aspect of the PAD idea that draws artists and non-artists alike to the idea of making a painting a day. Even to the uninitiated, there is the notion that painting makes us participants again. The idea of bringing painting into our life holds the promise of experiencing a moment each day when we can be still.

Duane Keiser

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Navigating Life

Sam & Maka
Originally uploaded by
The principles of wayfinding are simple; the practicalities are very complex." -- Nainoa Thompson

I went sailing this past Sunday. On the drive up to the lake we got talking about the skills of traditional Polynesian navigators. … rumor had it, they could see stars during the daytime. I spoke of what science tells us, that using our senses is a process of throwing out layer after layer of information - don’t use this, don’t use that. So, have we decided to throw out seeing stars during the day? It’s like that with learning a language. By the time a baby is about six months old, an English child can not distinguish between subtle Asian sounds. English babies actually can’t hear what Japanese babies can, and vice versa.

So, Monday morning I wanted to know if Polynesian navigators of the old school, could really see stars during the day. I never found that directly addressed on the Internet. What I did find was the work of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. They are trying to save traditional skills and teach a new generation.

What I realized is this skill of “wayfinding” is also a powerful metaphor for the navigation we all must do through Life. And so, I want to share the words of Nainoa Thompson here.

Nainoa Thompson, the first modern-day Polynesian to learn and use wayfinding for long-distance, open-ocean voyaging, studied wayfinding under Mau Piailug, a master navigator from the island of Satawal in Micronesia. Mau navigated the first voyage of the Hokule'a to Tahiti in 1976; Thompson was Hokule'a's wayfinder on the 1980 and 1985-87 voyages.

Wayfinding involves navigating on the open ocean without sextant, compass, clock, radio reports, or satellites reports. The wayfinder depends on observations of the stars, the sun, the ocean swells, and other signs of nature for clues to direction and location of a vessel at sea.


Easter Island Rainbow
Originally uploaded by goudance03
Nainoa Thompson:
How do we tell direction? We use the best clues that we have. We use the sun when it is low down on the horizon. Mau has names for how wide the sun appears, and for the different colors of the sun path on the water. When the sun is low, the path is tight; when the sun is high, it gets wider and wider. When the sun gets too high, you cannot tell where it has risen. You have to use other clues.

Sunrise is the most important part of the day. At sunrise you start to look at the shape of the ocean -- the character of the sea. You memorize where the wind is coming from. The wind generates the waves. You analyze the character of the waves. When the sun gets too high, you steer by the waves. And then at sunset we repeat the pattern. The sun goes down; you look at the shape of the waves. Did the wind change? Did the swell pattern change? At night we use the stars. We use about 220 by name -- where they come up, where they go down.

When it gets cloudy and you can't use the sun or the stars, all you can do is rely on the ocean waves. That's why Mau said to me, "If you can read the ocean you will never be lost." One of the problems is that when the sky gets black at night under heavy clouds, you cannot see the waves. You cannot even see the bow of the canoe. And that is where people like Mau are so skilled. He can be inside the hull of the canoe and just feel the different wave patterns as they come to the canoe, and he can tell the canoe's direction lying down inside the hull of the canoe.

Mau, who is about 20 years older than me -- my eyes are physically much more powerful than his -- he gets up on the rail of the canoe and says: "The island is right there." And we all stood up and we climbed the mast and everything and we just couldn't see it. Vision is not so much about what you do -- but how you do it. It's experience. Mau had seen in the beak of the bird a little fish. He knew that the birds were nesting, and they were taking food back before they fed themselves.

The more the weather gets up, the more the navigator needs to be awake, the less he can leave the crew on their own. We estimate that our navigators stay up between 21 and 22 hours a day. We sleep in a series of catnaps. Mau says the mind doesn't need much rest. But the physical body does. …When you are tired, you close your eyes. He always said that for him maybe his eyes were closed but inside here, inside your heart, you are always awake.

I just dreaded the doldrums, because I had no confidence that I could get through it. …I limited myself to thinking that I could only really accurately navigate with visual celestial clues. And getting into the doldrums, where there's 100 percent cloud cover all of a sudden … I would be blind. And that's what happened.

We got in the doldrums, and it was just a mess. It was 100 percent cloud cover, the wind was switching around, it was about 25 knots, and we're going fast, and that's the worst thing you want to do -- go anywhere and not know where you're going. And I was just fighting it to search in this kind of black. It was nighttime, and it was black -- the sky, everything was black -- and I couldn't find anything with my eyes. It was like I just got so exhausted that I just backed up against the rail and - and it was almost as if …there was something that allowed me to understand where the direction was, without seeing it… I just gave up fighting to try to find something with my eyes, I just settled down, and then all of a sudden, it was like this warmth came over me. It was just solid rain… you couldn't see the moon, it was so black. And then I directed the canoe with all this total confidence at a time when I had already convinced myself prior to the voyage that I would have no confidence in knowing where to go. And I turned the canoe to this particular direction, got things lined up, felt very, very comfortable in this cold, wet, rough environment, and then there was a break in the clouds and the moon was there…

And those are the things that I chase now. It's not like I can do that any old time…Internally I have to be at a certain state to be able to get into this kind of special realm. And so those experiences, I just can't conjure them up consciously. But they do come, and they're coming more and more often now. And it has a lot to do with this kind of internal relaxation.