Monday, June 30, 2008

Prison or Paradise: Part Two

Red Poppy
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
I mentioned last time going to an Adyashanti Gathering and watching a DVD.
There was a woman talking with Adya. He asked her repeatedly and directly, “So, what happened? What simply happened?”
Amazingly, the woman was incapable of answering the direct question.
She had to spin a story.
Feeling somewhat savvy, she had ready explanations and elaborations.
At first, I didn’t like her. In time, I saw that we all spin out our stories.
We just do it a bit more subtlely.

Let's say you are living in an unpleasant place.
It's cold, it’s wet or damp, or noisy, or cramped. And there you are sitting on a chair. It is the form that this moment takes, and you realize the limitations of that form.
And yet, you allow this moment to be as it is.

Some people confuse that with accepting a story they are telling themselves in their head concerning this moment.
And that is a mistake that some people make, I have noticed that.
When we speak of allowing this moment to be
they confuse that with creating some interpretation of this moment which is a story…

… say the stock market has crashed and your wife has left you, a synchronistic event. And then the story comes in, in your mind which says:
‘Okay, you've worked for nothing for 25 years…you failed at your business and you failed at your marriage. There's no point in even carrying on now because at your age what can you do? Who would want you? You haven't got enough time to build up another business empire.’

The story goes on in your head.
It's an interpretation of this moment.
I failed.
It's been pointless.
My life has come to nothing.
(And this is a simple story. Most stories are more complicated than that.)

The story is not this moment.
The story is the story in your head. It is mind-forms. Object-consciousness.

So what is this moment? What is the form of this moment?
The form of this moment is not the story about this moment;
it is the simple appearance of this moment
which is chair, walls, window, cold, noisy neighbors, an unpleasant smell.
But even unpleasant is the beginning of a story.

Just sit. Just this.
This is the moment. This is Now.
And you are sitting (perhaps you still have a chair.)
You're sitting on a chair.
And that's a strange thing.

What happens if I allow this moment without the story?
And then, oh,
suddenly, by allowing the form,
suddenly, there's a peace that arises from a deeper place.

And you look around at the forms and it is that spacious Presence that is there then. When the forms are no longer obscuring that.
But, you can only get to that when you allow the forms...
that which appeared to prevent you from finding yourself is …actually the doorway…
Not the story, but the simple form of this moment…
Eckhart Tolle, notes from his Omega Retreat

So, by my count, Eckhart Tolle is telling us to stop the story telling.
So, is Adya.
So is Byron Katie.
And so was Epictetus ca. 100 AD.

We are disturbed not by what happens to us,
but by our thoughts about what happens.

His son is dead. What happened? His son is dead. Nothing else? Not a thing.
His ship is lost. What happened? His ship is lost.
He was carried off to prison. What happened? He was carried off to prison.
But the observation: 'He has fared ill,' is an addition that each man makes on his own responsibility.
(Discourses 3.8.1–5, trans. Oldfather)

I think it’s time I learn this lesson.

Prison or Paradise: Part One

Padma Padam
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

…it limits you tremendously to be trapped in the world of labels.
Eckhart Tolle

Becky and Pat are in Thailand – to be precise, they are on the island of Koh Tao, some 70 km from the Thai peninsula, in a tropical paradise.
Koh Tao has only recently become an “inhabited island” as people migrated there in 1947. Before that, from 1933 – 1947 it was used as a prison for political prisoners due to its lonely isolation.
Now, it’s a beautiful resort and a major dive site of Southeast Asia.

So one day the child is looking at the tree in openness and wonder.
That is still the state of oneness.
And the next day it has learned the word 'tree.'... "Oh, tree, tree!"
Yeah, that's right, that's what it is. Now let's go on to the next thing.
Many humans, from that moment onwards, they don't really look at the tree anymore because they think they know what it is.

And this is just one tiny example, of then thousands of concepts,
and then being imprisoned in that
and then having concepts about me.

Me? I’m in Atlanta.
I’m going to my job each day.
I’m not taking a vacation this summer. I’ve never been to a tropical paradise.
I’m shifting two and a half tons of rock from my driveway to backyard (well, actually – that’s my summer fun, creating a beautiful new rock garden… if my back holds.)

I got Becky’s email from Koh Tao last night after going to an Adyashanti Gathering.
On the DVD we watched, Adya was speaking of a man doing time in a prison in Florida.
The man had awakened while incarcerated.
He no longer thought of himself as being imprisoned. He’d found his monastery.

Adya said, “We’re all doing time.”
Do you think you can escape the planet?
Do you think you can escape your life?

Do you think you can escape your labels?

Koh Tao used to be a prison.
Now, it’s a paradise.

So our practice is meeting the Now fully.
We spoke of the possibility of allowing what is, to be.
And that means not imposing interpretations on it.
So let’s use where we are…
And see if we can meet Nature without imposing mental labels or interpretations on it…

This is a very important, very helpful way of stepping out of the stream of thinking. …
The prison of your mind, the prison cell, the conditioned mind, that most people identify with as themselves, as me,
that prison cell has hidden little exits.
Easy to overlook.
But it’s not really locked, they’re open.
And one such exit is, quite simply, sense perception.

…most people don't know this because all they know is whatever they perceive is immediately interpreted through the conditioned thought processes.
It’s compared to something else,
you find some personal relationship to it,
it reminds you of that,
or you simply put a label on it
and then you think you now what it is
and you inhabit a flat universe.

It lacks depth because the mental labels obscure to you the depth
that there is
and the aliveness
and the sacredness that there is in every living thing…

And it has happened that the greatest criminal turned into a saint.
Eckhart Tolle, from his Omega Retreat

Friday, June 27, 2008

An Experiment

Me, ca. 1952
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

I'm just going to try this... I've created a "badge" to view my photos via FlickRiver.
The whole process has been somewhat out of control.

Let's see if this works. I think you can click on the next bit of text:

Seeking Tao - View my most interesting photos on Flickriver

Ahhh. I see. If you click on the blue dot (above) you can see either my photos and paintings with a black background and large size... OR (for a real treat) once in Flickriver, click to FAVORITES and enjoy my collection of favorite Flickr images from other folks. There are some stunners there!.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Meister Eckhart

Milk Bowl Doggie
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart

I’ve not read any books of Meister Eckhart’s writing.
Perhaps I should.
I think I would enjoy them, finding the Same Story yet again with slightly different wording so that my attention is peaked anew.
For instance here, speaking of the Now, he sounds so much like that present day Eckhart (Eckhart Tolle):

There exists only the present instant... a Now which always and without end is itself new. There is no yesterday nor any tomorrow, but only Now, as it was a thousand years ago and as it will be a thousand years hence.

With my love of sacred language, I enjoy discovering:
Every creature is a word of God.

While biologist and meditator in me seem to be entwined by these words:
A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart.
We know so many things, but we don't know ourselves!
Why, thirty or forty skins or hides,
as thick and hard as an ox's or bear's, cover the soul.
Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.

For more of Meister Eckhart, you can go here.
At Michigan State University, the course of Religious Studies 275 has a website with links to Eckhart.
There you’ll find the complete text from which I’ve made these excerpts regarding the desire for Transcendence and the path of getting There:

The soul is furious for self-knowledge.
Her face is lit with passion, red with rage for the arrears withheld from her in God…

The masters say there is no fiercer appetite than a friend's desire to possess his friend and all that he possesses.
The soul proclaims her rage so boundless she cannot be appeased by him…
Alas! she cries, who shall console me? My misery is too deep…
So I take refuge in myself and there I find the lowest place, aye,
one more base than hell for even thence do my shortcomings hound me.
It seems I cannot then escape myself.
Here I sit me down and herein will I stay…
So I go out and let the soul go in.

The third rage of the soul is that she should be God
and that there should not be a single creature,
like when God was in his eternity ere he created creature,
so that she may enjoy God-nature in its simplicity as he did before.

Fourthly, she rages to be absolutely nothing but the naked essence,
there being neither God nor creature.

Man has to seek God in error and forgetfulness and foolishness.
For deity has in it the power of all things and no thing has the like…
the soul's lower powers should be ordered to her higher
and her higher ones to God:
for her outward senses to her inward
and her inward ones to reason;
thought to intuition
and intuition to the will
and all to unity,
so that the soul may be alone with nothing flowing into her but sheer divinity,
flowing here into itself.

Meister Eckhart

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Body, The Soul: Part I

Leaf & Shadow 2
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

While the data will be convincing to many readers, it would be a mistake to think that accepting reincarnation as the most likely explanation for these observations gets us past many of the difficulties with personal identity and the meaning of ‘‘memory’’ which have plagued philosophy of mind for millennia…

The biggest import of this work is for basic science and the
understanding of the universe as a whole. More profoundly than most of the work on psychokinesis, telepathy, and so on… the prospect of personal survival of bodily death speaks against the doctrine of materialism…
It is clear that if the human personality is not simply a by-product of the biology of the body, a drastic revision in our basic sciences will be required.

Michael Levin, PhD., Forsyth Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, Forsyth Institute, Harvard University, reviewing Life Before Life.

I’m sure she changed the subject on me as we pulled into my driveway, which is why her words kind of stunned me.
You wrote, ‘I’m dying.’ I know you’re not, but if you do, will you contact Charlie and send me a sign that he’s OK?”
In my head I saw vastness, darkness, floating wisps, or even less – just a point of consciousness. I also got the feeling I might be highly distracted, if not disoriented once I “crossed over.”

“What makes you think I could even find him?” I never met Mary’s son, Charlie, who died at age 16, in a car crash three years ago. But, Mary and I have meditated together for over a decade now.
She knows my spiritual issues well and I know how deeply she has grieved.
“You could find him. And you could give me a sign.” Mary is usually pretty clear on what she thinks and this was no exception.

More silence ensued as I sat there taking a deep breath, trying to implant an instruction that would go deeply enough to be retained even when I'd dropped my body. I didn’t fool myself for a minute that it seemed a long shot. These days I can’t remember how I spent my weekend.

So, I kind of switched the subject.
I told her she might enjoy reading about the work of Ian Stevenson and his successors at the University of Virginia.
If she was looking for some validation beyond hope and personal belief – this is about the best that I can offer.

To be continued… (no pun intended)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

News of the World (little, little world)

Mirror Image 2
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
Qarrtsiluni translates as "sitting together in the darkness, waiting for something to burst."
That’s a sentiment I really like and I enjoy visiting this online journal frequently.

A painting of mine appears in the current issue, “Water.”
Or, you can see both of my pieces that they’ve published by going to the author’s link.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Once More...

sakura twilight
Originally uploaded by tia*

I have posted this Rumi poem before.
Today, I have come across it yet again.
I find it just right.

For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn't decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.


I came across this poem while visiting Douglas Hardings' teachings on the web.

If you would like to try a fairly direct and immediate way to experience the Silent Nothingness within, I point you to Right Here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Silence, Part 3: a recommendation

Coi smokin'
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

Silence is great in theory.
It is even better when experienced.

In keeping with my recent efforts to explain consciousness (or spirituality) via an individual’s creativity, I recommend you visit Beth Adam’s post.

I’m finding that when someone observes a moment closely and are talented enough to capture it in words, they can pass the Silence on to you.

What a blessing.

Monday, June 02, 2008


The Boy
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
Today is yet another day when I cannot write – that’s not so dandy and I’m not lion. (Hey! I said, I couldn’t write. That’s predicated on not thinking.)

But, I do juice – a green smoothie each morning for breakfast.
My favorite of late: romaine, parsley, aloe, and dandelion. To which I add, frozen blackberries and bananas, plus a dash of glycine and magnesium.
There is some method to this madness, though I’m not sure of the ratio between the two.
Dandelions are not only sweet, but also help your circulation (supposedly).
I’m not sure they are the diuretic that I need.
But, I LIKE them, far beyond the matter of taste.
So, I’m merely reporting here and do not recommend.

However, I do recommend this blog I came across this morning, which has a whole archive on dandelions.

I’m an old-fashioned community herbalist from Lobelia, West Virginia… My style: traditional, grounded, common-sense Appalachian herbwifery.
I like local weeds, teaching backyard herbalism, demystifying plants.

When it comes to my kitchen, I am my great-grandmother’s great-grandaughter. (In her nineties Nanny lived alone with two full refrigerators and a stand-up freezer. She never lacked for guests.) Feeding people is one of my greatest pleasures.
I’m fascinated by food traditions of all kinds, and the many intersections between culture, food and health.

This site is full of good information and information that feels good.
I have looked and looked for “spiritual” websites to link to and have found very few that really draw me. (I’d write about why this is so… if I could write, but I can’t.)
But, my search for sites that inspire has led me to the realization that what truly grabs me are people simply expressing what they love.

The Herbwife’s Kitchen is just such a place. It feels good, and you can learn.
I perused a bit this morning and felt so much quieter and centered.
I enjoyed reading:

This is a good egg.
A tasty egg.
A nutritious egg.
See how the yolk is practically orange?
That’s because the chicken pecked all around in grass and weeds, eating bugs and plants and whatever it could scratch on 8 acres of pasture down the road…

There’s just no comparing this kind of egg to the pale imitation you get from a confined chicken, even an organic one. You don’t need laboratory tests to tell you that these eggs are miles better.
You can see it.
You can taste it.

This little egg was destined for rice fritters.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want to start sharing the places where you can actually feel the “chopping wood and carrying water” of a clear consciousness.