Sunday, November 29, 2009


Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

When I was in the sixth grade I learned that throughout history science has held fast to one erroneous belief after another. This lesson totally amazed me and then and there I asked, “What is it we now accept as true but one day will discover is all wrong?”

At the time, I decided it was division by zero, which we were told dogmatically, “you cannot do.” But, if you had a quantity (5 for example) and divided it by Nothing, I figured you had to have exactly what you started with: 5. This of course meant that division by one (you divide an amount once) gave 2 and ½ not 5. It all seemed obvious to me and I ran this fantasy through my head of all the bridges in the country collapsing on the day the mathematical error inherent in their construction was discovered.

Perhaps even at age twelve I intuitively understood the power of “The Story” that we tell ourselves.

Anyway, the lesson stuck and my years in science have not dissuaded me.
The discoveries that have just amazed me often are predicated on their over turning a long held dogma of biologists. A layman would simply say, “Oh? That’s nice.”

And so it was I approached the dogma of having Bennie neutered.
Yes – everyone is neutered these days. It’s the politically correct behavior.
All the experts recommend it.
And I didn’t care. I could resist all that and did so for three years.

But, it didn’t go unquestioned. I didn’t really understand my opposition until the day I drove by the vets on my way to work.
“Why?” I wondered. "Why do I resist?" And just like that I was flooded with the images, the memory of putting Annie down, of seeing Kitty Carlisle go limp in our hands.
The small warm bodies had put their trust in me only to rewarded with…betrayal? Human frailty masked as the humane?
All I knew was I couldn’t put another animal under anesthesia, even if only temporarily.

And then, Bennie's eager pushiness became blatanly agressive.
The animal behaviorist diagnosed it as “status aggression” meaning that in a world where he is not sure, he tries to control his environment. Nice words.
In practice, it means lying in bed reading, Bennie would come, sit on my belly, give a hard stare, growl, and then lunge.
My cuddly cocker had morphed into a naremarish Cujo.

It deeply frightened me, even as it broke my heart.

The past few months have been filled with learning about dog behavior and positive training. Going against all feeling and intution, I had Bennie neutered.
Within days he had ripped his stitches out leaving a gaping hole.
He had to be sedated yet again, re-stitched with twice the sutures, and go on antibiotics.
Wearing an Elizabethian collar, no running, no jumping, training had to be put on hold.

Well, Bennie’s stitches have held this time. They’ll come out in a couple days.
He’s behavior (due to clicker training) has changed amazingly.
When I do my morning yoga now, rather than climbing all over me, he sits on his mat and watches.
He loves his puppy-pushups: sit, down, sit, down, sit, down … his exercise that avoids running and jumping.
He will rush from the living room (Ok some running is unavoidable) and jump into his crate whenever I ask, “Wanna go to the slammer?”
He’s making progress on loose leash walking, will sit and stay focused upon me, even when a squirrel or dog flaunt him.
And he loves to cuddle and be massaged with TTouch.

It’s been an intense journey for the both of us.
And I guess that’s why tears came yesterday as I read these words from May Sarton’s, The Fur Person.

“He’s a tom,” Gentle Voice would say, as if this were not the best thing in the world. “There’s no getting around it.”…
It never occurred to the Fur Person that what they were contemplating was to change his personality, not his name, to change him

He had suspected that something was brewing but The Thing Itself took him totally by surprise… His first instinct, of course, was to escape (the eight Commandment of the Gentleman Cat is: “Never allow constraint of your person under any circumstances.”) But he was after all quite mature and he soon realized that struggle would achieve nothing. So, he quieted down, his eyes very big and alarmed…

Fortunately, the Fur Person, like any respectable animal, had unlimited amounts of patience to draw on, and what he did in the hospital was simply to wait for the strange experience to be over, a prolonged and exhausting yoga exercise which left him quite weak, so weak that he hardly responded when at long last Gentle Voice lifted him out of his cage and he knew that he had been rescued…

“I don’t like that cough,” Brusque Voice said the next morning.”…
“He’s not feeling at all well, “ Gentle Voice answered. “Oh dear – that awful hospital…”

When a cat begins to lose his fur, it is a very humiliating and terrible thing…
He who had been so full of self respect that his walk (his tail vertical, his paws lifted lightfully and gracefully) was a delight to behold, now felt an impulse to hide…
And one day Brusque Voice said, “Nobody could love him who had not known him before. But we love him, don’t we? And we won’t abandon him.”…

Ah, he thought, taking a surreptitious look, after all I still do have the white tip to my tail. And I must not despair…

A strange thing was happening little by little. He was coming to understand that even if he never got well at all, his housekeepers were now more than housekeepers, they were true friends and they would not abandon him…
They did not love him for his glossy tiger coat, nor his white shirt front and white paws, nor his great green eyes, no, not even for the white tip to his tail.
They loved him because he was himself…

It is all in the name “Fur Person,” he decided then- not really a name at all… For a Fur Person, he saw in the state of his extreme concentration, is not an ordinary cat. He is a cat who is also a person… a Fur Person is a cat whom human beings love in the right way, allowing him to keep his dignity, his reserve and freedom. And a Fur Person is a cat who has come to love one or, in very exceptional cases, two human beings, and who has decided to stay with them as long as he lives.

This can only happen if the human being has imagined a part of himself into a cat… just as the cat has imagined part of himself into a human being.
It is a mutual exchange.

And such is the power of love and such is the path of love and consciousness.
Happy belated Thanksgiving to you all.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Tax for Having a Life

You have not been educated to that you could be perfect from the beginning.
You think you will be perfect at the end.
And therefore a journey comes into play, the birth of all religions comes out of this.
So do we need the journey?
For a while, that seems unavoidable… we must taste the tax for having a life.
Mooji, You Can Be Free Today

Thanks to FaceBook I have reconnected with a friend I’ve not seen in over twenty years. Mark and I taught TM together in the late ‘70’s.
What a marvel to compare notes about the path after thirty years.
We speak the same language. We share the same roots… and a lifetime of practice has flowed past the bridge.

I asked Mark which non-dual teacher he likes the best.
I wasn’t that surprised that he said, “Mooji.”
Mooji’s soft, gentle, loving manner feels so like Maharishi to me.
Turns out, Mark had the opportunity to sit an hour with Mooji in personal dialog:

My question was about my teacher of Vedic wisdom (MMY, of course) teaching that the human nervous system over time and through repeated alternation of meditation and activity develops the ability to maintain pure awareness 24/7.
His response, quite lovingly, was, "Bullshit."

Ah! So Maharishi’s teaching left Mark with the same question I had – is awakening spontaneous and in the moment, or is there some kind of process, a ripening, that’s required?
I tried to look at this sometime ago. Now’s as good a time as any to revisit the subject.
Why? Because paying the tax bill has become just about unbearable to me.

Or, perhaps these words of Joan Tollifson will make the point from yet another angle.
I came to Joan on a tip[ from another FaceBook friend. Someone I have never met and known less than a year.

Some say enlightenment is the absence of suffering,
some say it is the absence of non-functional thinking,
some say it is the end of identification with the thinking mind,
some say it is the absence of ego or the dissolution of the separate self,
some say it is the absence of any sense of agency or of being the author of the thoughts and actions that arise.

Some say it is the realization of Oneness,
others describe it as the merging of difference and unity.
Some compare enlightenment to lucid dreaming in the waking state and say that it is the abiding realization that all of consciousness is a dream state, including the entire movie of waking life and the whole spiritual search.
Some insist that enlightenment manifests only as saintly behavior and is characterized by being soft-spoken, generous, kind, vegetarian and pacifist, while others insist you can be enlightened and still be an alcoholic, a meat-eater, a womanizer, a thief, a warrior, or someone prone to angry outbursts.
Some say enlightenment happens suddenly and irrevocably at a particular time on a particular day, and that it is a permanent, final shift;
others describe it as a gradual unfolding;
and some say that it only ever happens Now and that it never happens to somebody…

Who has it right?…
Who (or what) is it, exactly, that would be enlightened or unenlightened? …

Enlightenment doesn't “happen.“
It is.
It is neither gradual nor sudden, and what is realized is both ever-present and ever-fresh.

It can appear gradual in the story where it seems (in retrospect) that awakening was a shift that unfolded slowly over time—that which is false was seen through ever-more clearly, ever-more deeply, ever-more subtly, ever-more often, ever-more completely….

To say, “I am enlightened and it happened on May 2nd at two o’clock in the afternoon,” sounds to my ear like a good story.
To say that “I am not enlightened yet, but maybe someday I will be,” sounds like a different story.
Both stories refer to a “somebody” that I have been unable to actually find, a “somebody” that is the bottomline myth or idea (the snake in the rope).
Joan Tollifson, Am I Enlightened?

I like Joan. Reading her entire article is worthwhile.
And if that is too many words, click here and watch a bit of video.
How very different from Mooji.
I just love to see the packaging!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don’t Think Twice

dandelion 2
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

When the mind is quiet, we come to know ourselves as the pure witness.
We withdraw from the experience and its experiencer, and stand apart in pure awareness, which is between and beyond the two.
The personality, based on self-identification, on imagining oneself to be something: "I'm this, I'm that", continues, but only as a part of the objective world.
Its identification with the witness snaps.


The other morning as I munched my breakfast granola, I began to wonder if I was simply depressed.
My life seems incredibly empty and has been these past many months now.
Nothing seems to really capture my interest and when it does the motivation that gets stirred doesn’t seem to last.
I have been trying not to run away from this emptiness, this sitting doing nothing, going no where, no great meaning, no great purpose.
But, it goes against the Protestant ethic big time.
And too, I turn sixty my next birthday – now is not the time to be wasting life.

It’s easy to panic and the only antidote I’ve found is faith.
Faith lies in a non-dual teaching that runs something like this:

There are traps that can come up with this process of going from an initial glimpse of awakening to abiding awakening.…
there is still a human being with a human mind that is trying to make sense of things.
The mind is even trying to make sense of awakening itself…
The mind will start to say, “Oh God, I no longer have any purpose or meaning.”

…It’s as if the ego was a big balloon, and now all the air has been let out.
Through the perception of reality, the balloon has been deflated, and all that’s left is this limp piece of rubber.
But, the balloon is still there, and it’s asking, “What happened? What happened to the air? What happened to the meaning in my life?”

Adyashanti, The End of Your World

There are also little snippets of direct experience:
When for the briefest, clearest moment I see that “I” simply don’t exist. Instead there is an infinity of Nothing.
Or, walking along I notice screwed to the sidewalk a metal plate of such stunning - what? “Beauty” falls so short it’s totally inadequate – it’s the merest tip of an infinity of “what?”
Again, it’s Nothingness – Incredible, infinite, stunning beauty of Nothingness blasting through the metal plate and sidewalk. The intensity makes me double over and wonder about throwing up.

No, this is not depression.
But, there are many similarities.
So, this morning I was open to the possibility…
When out of the blue this song comes from my car radio:

It ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don't matter, anyhow
An' it ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don't know by now
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I'll be gone
You're the reason I'm trav'lin' on
Don't think twice, it's all right.
Bob Dylan,
except the Four Seasons were doing this ridiculous falsetto version that made me laugh out loud.

I’ve loved this song from the moment I first heard it many years ago.
Because it was written by Bob Dylan and sung by the beautiful, beautiful Joan Baez,
I mistakenly assumed it was ex-lovers having bitter banter and twisting the knife.
But, not today.

This morning a whole new interpretation seems so obvious.
I have been in love with my little ego self and now that relationship is coming to a close.
True Self is separating from false self.
It hurts.
It’s confusing.
The relationship is dying...

When the rooster crows at the break of dawn, look out your window and I am gone... just like that. I'm Nothing. History.

But hey, how wonderful to be getting on with a more awakened life…
So, Don’t think twice, It’s alright!
I didn’t know and now I do.

It was all a simple misunderstanding, a misidentification:

I'm a-thinkin' and a-wond'rin' all the way down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I'm told
I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul
But don't think twice, it's all right

Yes, I loved that ego.

I thought she was a real woman, but now I see she was just a begining, a child -

and she wanted my soul - my entire being!
But having seen infinity, I must be true to that, where ever that may lead.

I'm walkin' down that long, lonesome road, babe
Where I'm bound, I can't tell
But goodbye's too good a word, gal
So I'll just say fare thee well
I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right

No, this is not depression.
It’s just a strange, uncomfortable period.
Time is precious and not to be wasted, if that is even possible, and I’m not sure that it is…
So, don’t think twice, it’s all right.

Enjoy the music instead.

Monday, October 12, 2009

For Eve: Fierce Grace

Petri Plate 4
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
…the image of my grandmother holding the cutout organza fabric over a tea light candle to make the petals of a flower on my dress… My mom pinning the lace to my bodice while I rest my arm on her shoulder for support...
If it weren't for the bad, I'd wonder if life could get any better.
Eve Bralley, Let It Rain

I love this image – three generations of Bralley women preparing for the wedding.
I have it in my mind almost as a still life.
But, nothing seems so still in our lives just now.
Eve is scheduled to begin chemotherapy four days after she is married:
Fierce grace is on my mind.

There’s nice grace and there’s fierce grace – sickness –
taken to your knees until you see something essential - that’s fierce.
We always value easy grace as being better than harsh, fierce grace…
When you see what fierce grace is trying to show you, then fierce grace doesn’t need to be so fierce.
Adyashanti, excerpted here

When you really understand fierce grace, you see that in the end it is ALL Grace.
Even, as we still retain our preferences.

I lost a friend to breast cancer several years ago. She had spent her life devoted to her meditation practice. She had been a vegetarian for decades.
And she was enraged that “after all that work” she had to undergo chemotherapy.
I can hear her now, “It just kills me to pump these poisons into my body!”

What a juxtaposition of intentions contained within that phrase:
“It kills me” and we are envisioning “The Cure.”

But, how often is killing all tied up with Life?
Fierce grace is just that: fierce.
The only way I know to the way to swallow without choking is to clearly recognize: even this is Grace.

I have another image, stored on my computer.
It is a close-up a petri plate. On it grow some of the bacteria that I’ve worked with for over twelve years now.
Streptomyces are the source of 70% of the world’s antibiotics.
From Streptomyces also come adriamycin and bleomycin, two of the drugs composing the ABVD treatment, the standard chemotherapy for lymphoma patients.

In the lab, you can see the drugs of Streptomyces diffusing into the agar of the petri plates: red and orange, blue and purple, even yellow and green when they are purified.
The colors have always delighted me.
But, in reading up these past few weeks on the drugs comprising ABVD, there have been times I’ve simply broken down in tears.

I hate this!
These damn drugs are so toxic that if you get them on your skin they’ll blister.
And the Solution!!! - inject them directly into your veins.

Fierce grace.

I want to turn away. Let this thing just pass on by.
But, we don’t have that option.
Eve is going to do this.
Evie has done it once already.

So, I’d like to offer up another image: the Streptomyces that delight me.
And may Evie take this knowledge with her as she moves through her chemotherapy.

These drugs come from Life woven deep into the earth.
Streptomyces is not some foreign species.
All our lives we have known and loved them by their smell: that delicious freshness of the earth just after it has rained. … that smell’s not really “earth” but these bacteria.

From Streptomyces diffuse the molecules we inhale as we renew ourselves from Nature. Essence of earth and air and water is actually essence of Streptomyces.
Granted, these good smelling molecules are lipids – not the drugs that get injected.
But, they flow from the same source, the same bacteria.
So, if one were trying to gain an impression of Streptomyces’ as an entity, the main impression I have as a scientist is of a rainbow of colors and the Life force of the elements.
That’s one side of the coin of Grace.
Now let’s turn it over – flip from science to spirituality.

In his teachings Maharishi always eschewed talk about the airy-fairy.
He wanted us to speak in scientific terms: like doxorubicin and bleomycin.
So when he wanted to teach about the Celestial, the realm of angels and devas, he chose to speak of “impulses of Creative Intelligence.”

That’s what I am trying to convey here: the Creative Intelligence behind a bacterium and the molecules it produces.
Because, behind the gross lies the subtle.
And at the subtlest level, words like deva, angel, even God are what traditionally have been used.

Maharishi told us that behind every form in Nature lies an impulse of Creative Intelligence. He wanted it to sound like it was an abstract law of nature.
But, if you read about the Findhorn Garden you can find descriptions of Creative Intelligence’s varied forms and the personalities these impulses can take.
And these angels have an impact:

I had never set out to learn to talk with angels, nor had I ever imagined that such contact could be possible or useful. Yet, when this communication began to occur, it did so in a way that I could not dispute. Concrete proof developed in the Findhorn garden… The garden was planted on sand in conditions that offered scant hospitality and encouragement for the growth of anything other than hardy Scottish bushes and grasses requiring little moisture or nourishment.

However, through my telepathic contact with the angelic Beings who overlight and direct plant growth, specific instructions and spiritual assistance were given. The resulting garden, which came to include even tropical varieties of plants, was so astonishing in its growth and vitality that visiting soil experts and horticulturists were unable to find any explanation for it, and eventually had to accept the unorthodox interpretation of angelic help.

To Hear the Angels Sing, Dorothy Maclean

At Findhorn they talk about the plants, flowers, vegetables.
Here, I am talking bacteria and molecules confident that every aspect of Creation has it’s Celestial level.

I am thinking that behind the Streptomyces there must be a most awesome angel.
Awe-some in the ground trembling sense.
It must embody some aspect of that fierce grace that brings us to our knees -
raw and archetypal power.
It cuts us down as it wakes us up and offers us a life we never had envisioned.

Perhaps you doubt the possibility, so let me offer another image:

I see your father last Christmas Eve. As a special gift I’d given him a sword – the kind of sword that made me realize why in legends swords always have a name.
This sword was no inanimate object.
There was something, something fully awake, behind the awesome gleam.
Yes, there is that word again: awesome.

I had worried about the appropriateness of such a lethal weapon.
But, after all the Christmas cheer had died down I watched unnoticed as your dad picked up the sword.
A change I’d never seen came over him.
He quietly circumambulated the living room. His attention turned within.
He was also settling into the feel of the sword: Its weight, its balance, its potential for lethality and violence.

But, he didn’t seem to be focusing upon death or any evil intent.
He was feeling into power.
I watched the power of the sword center him.
I watched as he merged his own power with the swords potential.

And at that moment lethal weapon became sacred object.
There is no contradiction here – only fierce grace.

I hope you can remember this when you receive the chemo.
I hope you can discover the sacred weapon flowing through your veins diffusing into tissue.
May you bathe in the powers of earth and air and water, and let fire consume the cancer.

No poison here to haunt your life – only fierce grace.

Life is full of grace—sometimes it's wonderful grace, beautiful grace, moments of bliss and happiness and joy, and sometimes it's fierce grace…But this fierceness is also beautiful.
It helps orient us deeper and deeper into our true nature…

Life itself has a tremendous capacity to show us truth, to wake us up, and yet, many of us avoid this thing called life, even as it is attempting to wake us up.

The divine itself is Life in motion.
The divine is using the situations of our lives to accomplish its own awakening, and many times it takes the difficult situations to wake us up…
If we’re ready to turn and face them, we can see and receive the gifts that they have to offer…
Adyashanti, The End of Your World.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Qarrtsiluni - Words of Power

Qarrtsiluni has published a photo of mine along with a brief commentary.
They also did a podcast - my first experience with that.

They did a nice job, I think.

Check it out!

Home From Retreat

Omega Buddha
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

Well I’m back from retreat and kind of wandering around the house and city.
What to say?

I was moved to see that people in all shapes and forms are awakening. How very hopeful for the world!

Adya gave a satsang on “Listening” which has inspired me to be more aware of how open or closed I am to the moment. It seems also the easiest, non-doing way to meditate as true listening is done with all the senses.

One theme running through the week was “stories” - recognizing how we spin simply “what is” into this whole drama. I was quite moved the last day when a woman stood to ask a question. She said she was a “literary agent.” She loved stories. She admitted that she actually “trafficked in stories” – and we all laughed for at that point she did seem somewhat akin to a drug dealer. … well, I have just realized I can’t tell her story here. But, she asked her question with such integrity – such integrity to the truth, that I was in tears.

Adya also spoke of a Zen master, Layman Pang. My interest aroused, I found and thought I’d share a Layman Pang story here. Stories, stories… enjoy them!

[Layman Pang] got the idea that a person needed solitude in order to meditate and ponder the Dharma, so he built himself a little one-room monastery near his family home. Every day he went there to study and practice.

His wife, son and daughter studied the Dharma, too; but they stayed in the family house, conducting their business and doing their chores, incorporating Buddhism into their daily lives.

Layman Pang had submerged himself in the sutras and one day he found that he, too, was in over his head. He hadn't learned to swim yet. On that day, he stormed out of his monastery-hut and, in abject frustration complained to his wife, "Difficult! Difficult! Difficult! Trying to grasp so many facts is like trying to store sesame seeds in the leaves of a tree top!"

His wife retorted, "Easy! Easy! Easy! You've been studying words, but I study the grass and find the Buddha Self reflected in every drop of dew."

Now, Layman Pang's daughter, Ling Zhao, was listening to this verbal splashing, so she went swimming by. "Two old people foolishly chattering!" she called.

"Just a minute!" shouted Layman Pang. "If you're so smart, tell us your method."

Ling Zhao returned to her parents and said gently, "It's not difficult, and it's not easy. When I'm hungry, I eat. When I'm tired, I sleep "
Ling Zhao had mastered Natural Chan.

Layman Pang learned a lot that day. He understood so much that he put away his books, locked his little monastery-hut, and decided to visit different Chan masters to test his understanding. He still couldn't compete against his own daughter, but he was getting pretty good.

Eventually he wound up at Nan Yueh Mountain where Master Shi Tou had a monastic retreat. Layman Pang went directly to the master and asked, "Where can I find a man who's unattached to material things?" Master Shi Tou slowly raised his hand and closed Pang's mouth. In that one gesture, Pang's Chan really deepened. He stayed at Nan Yueh for many months.

All the monks there watched him and became quite curious about his Natural Chan, his perfect equanimity. Even Master Shi Tou was moved to ask him what his secret was. "Everyone marvels at your methods," said Shi Tou. "Tell me. Do you have any special powers?"

Layman Pang just smiled and said, "No, no special powers. My day is filled with humble activities and I just keep my mind in harmony with my tasks. I accept what comes without desire or aversion. When encountering other people, I maintain an uncritical attitude, never admiring, never condemning. To me, red is red and not crimson or scarlet. So, what marvelous method do I use? Well, when I chop wood, I chop wood; and when I carry water, I carry water."

And I am home from retreat.

Went to the farmer’s market this morning. Kept being surprised by the realization I no longer had to maintain silence.
Silence has become so natural.
The hardest part of retreat was when we were told to leave the meditation hall and that “silence is now ended.”
My heart felt like a spear pierced through it.
My stomach tightened and I tried to hide my tears.

There are some pictures that I took while at Omega.
You can find them here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Silent Retreat

Fall petals
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
I am off tomorrow for a five-day silent retreat with Adyashanti at the Omega Institute. That means today is full of house cleaning, last minute shopping, and packing - then off to the airport Sunday morning, 5 a.m.

Can’t say that I carry with me much of a conscious agenda. Though I am one unconscious bag of hopes and desires.
In practice, I’m just going to listen to the satsangs and do the meditations… I look forward to the silence.
Perhaps something in me will shift.
It’s time … I think.
But, maybe not, who knows?

There is one situation I would like resolved: duality.
Adya speaks about “The Container of Silence” at a retreat.
To me Silence is just another word for Unboundedness or Consciousness.
What I am uncomfortable with is how “I” seem to rattle about in this Unboundedness.
It really feels like a container – a vast, vast tin can of the universe in which I rattle about.
What could be more dual?

I often view this in two dimensions, as a cross section of the ocean.
On the surface amidst the waves “I” exist as thoughts and activity. A little deeper, just below the surface swirl my emotions.
In these regions of waves and currents run all the stories my mind creates. Over time I’ve come to take all that less seriously.
The moment you realize that Stories are just that – stories, there is something of a disconnect. Entertaining, distracting, dramatic, painful – or not. Some are even useful to a point… but, none of them are Ultimately Real.

With the disconnect it’s as if the mental content’s volume gets dialed down. That doesn’t mean the stories stop – all the chatter action keeps on going – but the words aren’t really listened to.
Now, I’ve come to notice there’s an actual physical buffeting that supports the mental agitation.
I hadn’t expected this. It’s like being tossed in rowboat on the waves of the ocean –thoughts no longer matter – there’s just the buffeting. And this buffeting (is this actually what “karma” is?) exists not only in my head but is broadcast from every single person’s mind. The room at any given moment is this swirl of desires, fears, plans, laser bullets of conflicting emotions zipping all about. It’s physically uncomfortable and I have trouble hearing my own self think.

The other day at work I suddenly realized I felt so weird I stopped working and sat down quietly at my desk over in the corner…
“What is going on?”
I felt the waves - a cacophony of to-do’s.
I noticed the ocean – it’s depths, solitude, and silence. And then to my utter surprise I saw that ordinarily, between the surface activity and ocean depths there’d always been this “me” - this ego – swimming.
And for the briefest, clearest moment I saw that there was “no-one” there.
The swimmer had disappeared.
I no longer had a center.
It was as if I had nowhere from which to establish a point of view - and that was the physical discomfort that I felt.

I felt the physical discomfort.
Realized how logically impossible the situation was.
Shook it off and went back to work.

It makes no sense when put into words, beyond perhaps duality is inherently uncomfortable.
The waves are actually the ocean. Philosophically – I know I am the ocean, the One.
But philosophy doesn’t cut it when it comes to actually living life.

For now, mostly I feel like a person straddling two rowboats, one foot in each, acutely aware of the instability of the situation.
Either be totally identified with the story of the waves, or melt deliciously into the ocean – but straddling the two can only lead to a groin injury.

So much for spiritual metaphors!

Better to clean the house and pack my bags.
Chop wood, carry water.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I came across this video of Mooji. It’s the closest I can come to explaining why blogging has become so difficult for me.
Trying to put words to my experience seems to actually hurt, as if being verbal rips some physical tissue made of almost nothing.
Words simply don’t do justice.
Words simply don’t make sense.
The moment a description arises I see how the exact opposite is also true, and then the next moment how nothing I could say is true.
… and if not true, why speak?

But this video presents perhaps an even more compelling point - how the heart is impacted by these changes.
Remaining wordless and silent with the heart seems the way forward for me now.

"Is it a sad discovery?" not really... and still

The heart is breaking. The heart is melting.
My job is to just let all this happen and go about my daily do.
It all feels somewhat strange and lonely on inside and looks extraordinarily ordinary from the outside - if one accepts as normal a fair amout of tears in public.

And for your convenience here’s a link to Wordless, Part 1.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Question is Important

Girl on Horse
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
She wasn't looking
when they took this picture:
sitting on the grass
in her bare feet
wearing a cotton dress,
she stares off to the side
watching something on the lawn
the camera didn't catch.
What was it?
A ladybug? A flower?
Judging from her expression,
possibly nothing at all,
or else
the lawn was like a mirror,
and she sat watching herself,
wondering who she was
and how she came to be there
sitting in this backyard,
wearing a cheap, white dress,
imagining that tomorrow
would be like all her yesterdays,
while her parents chatted
and watched, as I do
years later,
too distantly to interfere.
Dana Gioia, "Photograph of My Mother as a Young Girl"

Recently my mother emailed me noting that now, at age 83, she had been wondering, “Who am I?”
Was she the person people took her to be?
Was she the person she imagined in her mind?
While she didn’t say it in so many words, in the silence I could tell she didn’t think so.

I made no explanation when I replied to Mom.
Her comment rests in memory, along with this poem Garrison Keillor read a few days ago which brought to mind this picture from my family’s past.

These disparate elements came together once again, this morning as I listened to a YouTube video of Mooji and did my daily asanas.
He was addressing what he called an important question – this question of “Who am I?”
And he briefly mentioned fear.
My last post about Mooji also brought a comment about fear and so the bow is tied – something I felt like sharing.

What is watching all, experiences all, goes by the title “I”.
And then now even the sense “I” - even in its subtlest expression is also perceived.
What remains?
What remains?
And your answer, I don’t want.
I am looking for something else…

You are moving into the absence of you.
About now fear will come. Is it enough to stop your looking?
Fear also is some construct.
What watches that?

How much further to go?
What distance to cover?
Who are you?

I would take the answer from wherever it comes.
There is no last step to take.
There is no leap to happen, no explosion to occur.
Mooji, The Question is Important

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Hello, I am not dead. Just really out of words. However, a friend introduced me to a fellow by the name of Mooji - and I found this treaching of his quite moving.

This emptiness is not a trivial thing. It's the most supreme state.
But in the consciousness there is this itching, and I use this term: the athlete's foot mind. In the mind the thought is coming, there is this itching, and it feels it needs a scratch…
Like a question arising, something more to be solved, or resolved.
But I say: only stay as this, and that itchiness will subside.
When this itchiness is there, there is the temptation to start to scratch it, but it just makes it more bloody and awful. So just take note of that for the moment.
But stay as you are. Because you cannot improve this emptiness… a little bit of meditation or self-enquiry returns you to this affirmation in yourself, this recognition:
all there is is just a sort of emptiness, beyond the concept of empty even.

So can you step out of this emptiness now?
In the emptiness, what are you?
Are you IN the emptiness like you are in this room, or are you the emptiness?...

if you say you're in something, then there is like two: there is a sense “I” and a sense “I'm in something.” … if you feel you're in, then emptiness becomes kind of an experience, and you remain as the experiencer, and there's a sort of duality in that.
So it makes possible the sense of leaving it…
That's why I'm asking you: In the emptiness what are you?
What form do you wear in emptiness?
Are you in it, or are you it? ...

So if you are [it] how can you step out? ...
if you are on earth, you can say: a cloud covers the sun.
But the sun doesn't know covering. It doesn't know the sensation I am covered up…
When you say I'm covered up, it's as though I'm hidden from myself.
I'm just getting you to look at it, it's very important actually. It's just through this subtle overlooking that this pain creeps in, this sense of separation, this sense of split in yourself.
But when you really investigate it, it's exposed as a kind of fraud.
You are just you.
Yesterday we spoke about it…
the knife can cut so many things but it cannot cut itself…
the eye can see so many things, but it cannot see itself…
a scale can weigh so many things but it cannot weigh itself …
And you are yourself, you cannot perceive yourself.
You can only perceive some idea of yourself.
You are this unicity, you see. There is no split in you. Only by this function of the consciousness it appears as though you become something qualitative, something you can evaluate.
But whatever you can see, it cannot be you.

Emptiness is only an idea at the present moment. A word in the consciousness.
But it points to something actually that you intuitively feel.
It's like the emptiness perceiving the emptiness somehow.
Or consciousness perceiving consciousness.
There is not really a form being observed in this. There are no words really adequate to convey. At this point you are at the very periphery of language even,
and the words are exhausting the energy of themselves, because no words will do. Just this acknowledgement I am, but what I am I cannot say.

Mooji, Emptiness

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Healing, Part Four: Jimme That Thing

The hardest thing you’ll ever do is learn to love yourself.
… or words very close to this, Adyashanti.

Last night I noticed a large cut notched in edge of the front door underneath the lock. There was a second smaller cut near the dead bolt.
I’ve noticed a smaller knotch before but that didn’t really register with me mentally.
This new cut fairly screamed.
Someone had tried, and tried hard, to jimme the lock.
I kind of freaked.
Last week I sold my car to people I had enjoyed talking with, but who obviously lived in a world much harder than my own.
In fact, I was thinking drug deals and gangs and wondering if someone would return to steal the cash and murder me in my bed.

Now, I fingered evidence: a knife-cut deep in the wood. Metal weather stripping
bent out of shape almost as much as I was.

This morning, as I revisited the fact of the cut marks I noticed what my mind was saying:
“Someone is trying to break into the house!”
Yes, present tense!
And what a great opportunity to try a little Byron Katie inquiry.

“How do I feel when I hear this thought pounding in my head?”
I feel so much fear it’s hard to stay present … in fact, I don’t.
I do something to distract myself. I control my terror and panic by turning away.
If I force myself to stay with it – I see a child cringing in the corner as the door to his shack is pounded down by a pogrom in the night. He knows when the door blows open, he is dead.
I realize that someone forcing entry into my quiet suburban home still translates into death to me.

So, I tried a more accurate statement of the situation:
“Someone tried to break in and they failed.”
Yes, past tense!
That’s a good start.
“At least twice they’ve tried and failed.”
Now, I’m getting even closer to reality.

At this point you can go either way.
Twice attempted. Twice failed.
Is this good news or bad?
I wasn’t sure.

Then, I saw just how furiously Bennie would have barked and rallied with the little guy.
I also recalled that about a year ago when I intuitively read my house, I was surprised and amazed by how I could feel the building’s desire to shelter and protect me.
Such a possibility had never crossed my mind – feelings from inanimate structures!
Well, it seems the house is not all that unconscious.
With these two images, Bennie and the house, I was overwhelmed by how much love and protection that the Universe has already provided me.

The entire Universe supports me.
And my heart broke open with the impossibility of ever being large enough to receive the unbounded Grace.
I felt slayed, “How can anyone be deserving of such a gift?”

Immediately another belief spoke up:
“No one, no one can ever earn this blessing!” And I think this one is really true.
But that only made the pain worse, as it emphasized the enormity of Love we never see.

Then, deeper layers, the hidden beliefs that hold my unworthiness in place rang out like some Greek chorus:
“No, I could never deserve all this.”
“I am not pretty enough.”
“I am not smart enough.”
“I am not even kind enough.”

“And still, it has been given.” …well, one belief in five might actually be true…

I sat there with my belly, sobbing, trying to simply let it relax and breathe.
Curiously, my heart was totally at peace.
The lesson now was for my belly. And I tried to give it time.
…noticing too – how very lucky I was that someone had tried to jimme that door.

Which brings to mind a song … in all silliness, given my short attention span and proclivity for loose associations.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

On Healing: Part 3

purple cornflower 2
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
What exactly do you have to say to yourself?
What causes you pain?
What belief causes you grief?
What exactly are you saying to yourself innocently, unknowingly, that’s actually causing…
The closing of the heart,
The resistance,
The grief …
And the anger.
Adyashanti, The Omega Institute, July 2007, (CD 10:3)

And what I usually find is that part of me actually enjoys the misery and doesn’t want to let it go.
Which brings to mind the earlier comment spirituality isn’t about finding relief,
but rather, discovering the truth. (see part 1)
It’s embarrassing to find I’m deliberately holding onto pain.
At such times I have to make the choice: Truth or some secret self indulgence.
The choice is up to me.

How wonderful to be brought to this dilemma!
Most people haven’t even noticed what they’re doing.
And they suffer and complain for years.
The Universe is patient.

Here, Adya is in dialog with a student, a man in his fifties I would guess, still carrying the pain from his childhood and his relationship with his abusive father.
Adya asked the fellow what his belief was about that relationship, but feel free to substitute a belief of your own.

Student: “How could you hurt me? All I did was love you.”

Adya: Core beliefs are often where the first innocent misunderstandings happen.
Turn it around a little.
Ask, “How did I hurt me?”

How did you take what happened – cause it happened …
how did your system, that innocent system take an experience that happened
and then, hurt it self?
From that instant on, how have you been hurting yourself?

Student: By holding on?

Adya: And what’s the thought that causes the holding on…?

Student: Fear of being hurt, I think…

Adya: Yes, fear of being hurt.
And this is the crucial point we all must realize –
The hurt is the hurt that we are doing to ourselves.
That’s the hurt.
That’s what we need to see.

How am I hurting myself?

Someone may have hurt me 50 years ago, or I can drop something on my foot (that’s a totally different kind of hurt)… but, from the instant that hurt happened,
from the instant that event happened,
from a few moments after that event,
ALL the other hurt has been something we’ve been doing to ourselves.

That event was long over and so we look back and we go,
“Oh! Someone hurt me and it’s causing me to hurt me now.”

…The thing that’s actually empowering is to see that from the moment something happened, from that moment on, my belief structure shifted in such a way that it’s causing me emotional pain.

If it lay in someone else’s hands, or some other event, you’d be in trouble…
because none of us can ever go back and change anything that happened.
We can’t change anybody or any event…
But, we can see that our current emotional pain is something that our minds are creating and our body is reflecting.

When you get that principle you can go into yourself – meditative inquiry – not like sitting around analyzing it, but meditatively really go in where the thought is always linked with feeling,
so that you feel everything you think…
You have to have the patience to feel what you believe…
so you see, “Ah, that belief causes this pain.”…

“Is that belief a true belief?” …
“If that belief only causes pain, why would I hold on to it?”

When your body gets it on a cellular level that the beliefs we hold are actually the most dangerous things we have in our system –
Then they let go of themselves…

As long as we think someone else is causing the pain, or an event that happened in the past… we are totally disempowered. There is absolutely nothing we can do…

The best that can happen is what I call re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The best you can hope to do is manage your suffering:
Blame somebody less.
Hate them a little less.
Love them a little more.

Personally, I want more than that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On Healing: Part 2

purple cornflower 3
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
You can know it in the mind
But if the cells don’t know it, attention will be pulled there
Because everything seeks to wake up – every single piece of us.
That’s why attention is drawn to that which is unawakened.

Adyashanti The Omega Institute, July, 2007. (CD8:3)
(On Healing: Part 1, is here)

The doctor insisted that I not drive home.
When I protested, she pointed out that I could not even get from the chair onto the exam table.
I saw her point.

She presented options – drugs, transportation.
What did I want to do?
I was appalled to discover I could not even form a sentence.
I watched myself, sitting limply, head down swinging gently.
I tried to think things through but the mess was just too tangled.
From a distance I heard the doctor mutter “Ah, cannot make a decision.”
Then firmly, “Call a friend. I will be back.”

She left me in the white noise of the examination room.

It was then, I saw exactly how I move through life armored by my wit,
my clever mind,
my repartee.
I use them all to keep the world at bay.
And when intellect is stymied, I have a body that can turn and exit.
I’ve even thrown a punch or two and whipped boys three years my senior.

Clever mind and strong body, these are my carapace.
And at that moment, I was left with neither.
Stripped defenseless.
I felt like some little anemone without one bit of shell – naked, exposed,
and totally unable to defend myself from a world I Do Not Trust.

I struggled not to give into shear terror.
And gradually, I backed away from the abyss.

OK. Accept it. Just go along with what the world wants. This seemed my only option.
I called a friend.
She came and wheeled me home.

Once safely in my bed, I turned on the CD player
and just happened to come across these words of Adyashanti.
They are a continuation of the discussion I shared earlier:

Student: Another aspect of what it [illness] is doing for me… in terms of my striving in life with my work…I’m afraid not to strive.

Adya: So feel the fear of that.
If you don’t face the fear, then you’re just going to strive again…
The fear of course is based on separation…
Anything we’re striving to be, somebody. It is always because we’re compensating for perceived separateness.

Student: Striving to feel like I have enough money to pay my bills…

Adya: Right! Which comes from fear of survival…and that will have a world view of its own…that sees the world as slightly threatening, something that you’ve kind of got to struggle in to take care of yourself…
It comes out of those deep survival impulses.
Again - separateness – that the world will not take care of me.

And it does.
You let it.

I’m not suggesting that it means you sit on your couch and let the riches roll in. But, I’m saying it’s amazing.
Let it.
It does take care of you.
But, you have to meet the fear…

See it. Digest it. Take it in.
Cause then it doesn’t have to keep giving it to you through a negative means, through sickness…

Feeling the fear is the entry point.
A lot of people are pointed to feeling the fear… and through that, if it’s not too traumatic a fear, there’ll be a release… the fear dissipates.
The problem with that is although it’s a quick fix, it’s usually not a real fix.
Because [while] entering an emotional state fully can cause it’s dissipation,
usually the cause is untouched.

So, open to the fear, but as a means to get in touch with the story of the fear,
the voice of the fear, the belief structure of the fear – cause that’s what’s causing the perception of separation:
“Life’s not safe.”
“You’ve got to struggle to make it in the world.”…

You start to feel that belief, that my beliefs, that have an unspoken promise to help me get by and protect me in the world… when you examine them through your mind and your body – your body starts to recognize
“It’s not true!”

The very beliefs that tell me they’re protecting me are hurting me…

It has to be connected from the inside of your head to letting your body feel it.
You’ve got to go slowly and step by step so each thing is felt.
If it is not felt, it’s analytical.

Then, you’re just a person [whose] gone to therapy for 20 years…
and they know how neurotic and totally screwed up they are.
They can tell you why.
They are experts, but experts who are a mess.

Why is that?
Because there is no connection between what they know and what they feel.
They haven’t let the knowledge reconnect them with experience.

The knowledge has been a means of hiding from experience.

So, connect it. Feel the belief…
And when your body feels it …the body will drop it…
Boom! It’s gone right out of your system.

This is actually classic Byron Katie inquiry.
If you’d like more support in being able to do this I recommend her teachings.
There is also a bit more to this discussion which I’ll share in Part 3.

Friday, April 24, 2009

On Healing: Part 1

Stone as egg
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
What you think shouldn’t have happened should have happened.
It should have happened because it did, and no thinking in the world can change it.
For me, reality is God.

Everything happens for me, not to me.

Byron Katie

A couple weeks ago found me in bed, flattened by what the doctor called, “classic vertiginous migraine.”
After more than 16 days of vertigo and confusion, I was finally drugged and fairly content to just float there in a daze.
For company, I turned on a randomly selected CD from the Adyashanti retreat I attended in 2007.

There, in the luck of the draw, was a student asking about chronic illness.
The discussion that followed spoke to so many points I needed to hear.
I’d like to share some of this - fresh appreciation of old points.
The easiest way to do that is to post my transcriptions here.
So, here’s a dialog about illness, acceptance, and grace.

Student: For a lot of years I have been sick a lot… When I can accept it, it is almost fine…

Adya: As long as you prefer not being sick to being sick, it’s not so problematic… Given a choice, I’ll take the energy! …the problem becomes if we have a judgment that one is essentially more right or more valuable than the other.
Sickness has just as much right to exist as health does.
And if you DON’T think sickness has as much right to exist, then you tend to be sick all the time…

Student: I do have a resistance to being sick. It’s getting old…

Adya: What is it trying to show you? What IS it showing you? What is the positive thing that happens through being sick?

Student: …it really helps me feel, sometimes, more of what I actually am. Cause I can rest in that. I go to that. (and now she is beginning to cry – and so was I. For I know exactly what she means.)

Adya: Ah, Wow! Boy, I’d be thankful for it…
It does push you there because up to this point – maybe the next minute it won’t need to – up to this point you’ve needed to be pushed there.
Cause if you weren’t pushed there, you wouldn’t put attention there with any consistency. When you recover and feel good, the mind gets on with its own agenda. And then the sickness kind of brings it to its knees a little bit… This is a gift, right?

It’s hard, fierce grace.
There’s nice grace and there’s fierce grace – sickness taken to your knees until you see something essential - that’s fierce. We always value easy grace as being better than harsh, fierce grace… When you see what fierce grace is trying to show you, then fierce grace doesn’t need to be so fierce.

I had the same thing by the way. I had a series of illnesses, a couple of which put me more or less in bed for six months at a time – until I could see what they were doing. They were destroying persona.
I told you earlier that I had been a very high level competitive athlete.
That’s a nice persona to have – very empowering persona – but it’s a persona.
I was not ready to let it go. I knew I needed to. I felt it coming.
But, I just couldn’t do it.

So, grace put me in bed, flat on my back until I was so weak…
How can you be a strong athlete when you’re crawling to the bathroom on your hands and knees every morning?
And then it demolished it.
And then it was grace – Ah, that’s not what I am! What a relief! ...

And then health came back.
Hey! I can be athlete man.
So, I had to get sick again and have it demolished.
Wouldn’t it be nice if I’d been smart enough the first time?
…[but] it had to be squeezed out of my system.
God’s not always nice, fortunately.

Acceptance - If I’m good at it will life hurt less?
Yes. … so let me do acceptance…
Will that work?
Probably not, since that’s totally ego driven.

It’s like asking, “If I’m enlightened will life hurt less?”
Yes… so now, I’ll be enlightened.
That just doesn’t work.

And while meditation can be sold as a means to lower blood pressure,
meditation is actually about finding God.
Spirituality isn’t about finding relief. It’s about discovering the Truth.
(my version of a Adya quote)

God isn’t always nice, fortunately.
Sometimes we get sick.
Sometimes Life really hurts.
And the love in this Reality breaks my heart wide open.

Gratitude is what we are without a story.
Byron Katie

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Love after Love

This morning I was listening to John Kabat-Zinn being interviewed on Speaking of Faith. He was giving an articulate argument for mindfulness but my curiosity was peaked when he was asked to address the fact that his father had been a scientist and his mother an artist.

These are my roots too.
The mixing of these two opposites play out in my life each day.
Kabat-Zinn was asked to explain.

He declined a “cognitive” reply and chose instead a poem saying, "it's not very long, but it really hinges around just this issue of who we are and how much we split ourselves apart."

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fabric of the Univerise

She wanted to ask him if horses understood the wind.
His glass eyes looked at nothing. His mane was stiff, glued by the knacker to sit perfectly smooth in wind and stillness. She knew he was gone, that what she heard was only an echo.

But that echo reminded her how to listen deeper than her bones, to listen for what no one else heard.
And as the days passed, and she learned how to listen, when the wind touched her skin she began to hear much more than just her name.

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale

Those were the words I opened to in the book. Just like that, in the library last Saturday. I’d loved the cover art, and so, judging by the cover, had taken up the book.
Something transformed me as I read. Silence pervaded everything.
I sat there for some moments simply trembling. Looking about the room. Hand stroking the pages of the book.
What was That?
What had these words done to me?

I have read other words this week – emails that have also stayed with me.
Like these words from a young woman I have never met, but with whom I correspond:

I woke up an hour after I'd gone to sleep last night and I didn't know who or what or where I was, or if I was dreaming or awake.
I just was.
It was the most vivid and scary thing, and then I sort of settled back into my story.

I'm not sure how to feel about it but I know I couldn't understand it in any way until I came back to myself.
I do know that earlier in the day I had sort of made a statement to the effect I may not be cut out for any great wonderful Buddha-like experience of enlightenment, and realizing I could just accept that…

Or these words are from a dear friend, a mother mourning her son on her own birthday:

Peter brought me flowers and a composter
(I tried a “pile” before and mostly we got rats).
I have been asking Charlie to “come to me” in meditation and at bedtime for several days now.
Last night I had a convoluted dream in which he called me on a cell phone that I couldn’t figure out in time to pick up…
He sang a few bars of happy birthday. It makes me weepy now.

Simply little snippets: a retelling of the Brothers Grimm, my friends just checking in.
In the fairy tale the young princess will one day learn the language of the wind.
As for my friends, they don’t seem that different to me. Our stories will unfold.

On the way to work today, proceeding at a crawl, at some point I had the thought,
“I am lost in traffic.”
But, I had accepted my fate and so I was at peace.
Except, perhaps, for the fact I could not find a single station that I liked on the radio.
I kept trying a new button, cycling through all six selections until I switched to an entirely new “page.”

There I found Eye in the Sky. And was delighted.
Alan Parsons Project, 1982, my original hieroglyphic calligraphy.
I turned up the volume.
Was the instrumental intro particularly long?
It was beautiful, and the words- the words were once my anthem.

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind…

Bitter days. Was I really once like that?
Now it seems just another love song.
Is it not about God after all? But those words…
“I am the eye in the sky…”

I am lost in traffic going nowhere fast, singing
"I am the eye in the sky."
I think of the painting I did this past weekend, “Fabric of the Universe.”
I think of the wind. What language might it speak?
I think of what my teacher told us last time I was with him:
“Enjoy the little things. Learn to enjoy and notice little things.”

And so I look. I turn my head.

It’s all there: grain of sand, or in the little green sprouts opening by the roadside.
There is a fabric to this Universe – we are connected.
Fairy tales, Love stories, of course the rats are in the compost.
We are dear fools dealing with it.
Debris is everywhere.
The traffic all a snarl as power crews are called out to clean up.
It seems the wind has spoken:
“Slow down, the Light will come back on.”

Monday, April 06, 2009

What the Light Was Like

Eye of the Storm
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.
George Eliot, Middlemarch, Book II, Chapter 20, sited in the notes for “August Darks” a poem in What the Light was Like by Amy Clampitt.

The “August darks” what is that, and are we not in April now?
I don’t know.
I am in week three of vertigo and dizziness unassuagible by any drug or Epley maneuver.
And I realize now that Nothingness – one version of that clear perception of Infinity or Silence – can arise from simply a dizzy brain, a troubled middle ear.
I think of Scrooge telling Marley's ghost, “You’re nothing but a bit of undigested meat.”
So, much for spiritual pursuits.

I am not at all clear anymore as to causes or effects,
and was thinking it was to to give up on trying to explain or understand
when I came across this Nisargadatta quote that seemed to only emphasize the point:

Your needs are unreal and your efforts are meaningless.

What a swift kick.

It seems enough to get through the day when most steps shake the floor a good six inches.
I seemed to have lost all sense of shock absorbers.

When nothing stays in focus,
when your world arrives through the wrong end of binoculars,
when gratitude finds inspiration in the fact there is no nausea,
what wonderful support for the practice of letting go.
Let Go.

Nothing can make you happier than you are.
All search for happiness is misery and leads to more misery.
The only happiness worth the name is the natural happiness of conscious being.


Conscious Being...
Beyond the Silence there can be a crushing roar of dissolution.
Or having settled into That, there is the opposite, the outward stroke - the roaring of that March lion, Creation, springing forth.
Did George Eliot realize this? Or do I misconstrue?

Anyway, this poem and these quotations caught my eye,
middle March, middle ear.
I also completed this version of a painting this past weekend.
It’s done upon a photo I took of my bathtub drain and shadows on the water.
It doesn’t seem your usual bathtub. Not at first – but, every child knows just such a tub exists and has explored these waters.

The August Darks

Stealth of the flood tide, the moon dark
but still at work, the herring shoals
somewhere offshore, looked for
but not infallible, as the tide is,
as the August darks are –

sanguine with labor, but effortless:
as is the image, far out, illusory
at the dark’s edge, of a cruise ship
moving, seemingly unscathed by effort,
bright as a stage set…

out where the herring wait, beyond
the surf-roar on the other side of silence…
have already died…
Amy Clampitt

And I try to keep the faith that everything is as it should be even as I maintain the delicate dance of playing my part with best efforts, even while I accept
this is how things are.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stand By Me - the song

Eloquent beyond anything I may say...
A friend sent me this:

Friday, March 06, 2009

So much depends upon…

so much depends
a red wheel

glazed with

beside the white

William Carlos Williams

Because I couldn’t stand hemp milk replacing my usual half & half I arrived at work this morning woefully under caffeinated.

So as soon as I got my experiment in the oven I set out to remedy my state.
You can walk an incredible distance and see fascinating things in the building complex where I work simply going from one coffee shop to the next.
Here in, I report my road trip:

The first shop’s coffee dispenser was broken. As I wrestled with the pump I noticed that the decafe thermos looked totally non-functional. This was worrisome as I require the perfect blend of caffeinated and decaffeinated. Just as this worry was really registering, the attendant appeared by my side. I was right, absolutely no decafe.

I stopped pumping. Set my cup aside, “I’m sorry I can’t do this without the decafe.”
“I know baby,” was all she said. I thought that very sweet.

I headed for the tunnel that would take me to the next shop, falling in behind a women who walked with quick determined steps. In her hands she had The Cup.
“God, she’s caffeinated.” I realized that much and noticed it wasn’t that pretty of a picture. However, this did not dissuade me in the least from my own intentions.

The next cashier called to me over the woman between us still struggling to get her act together and leave.
“How can I help you?”
“I am in desperate need of coffee!” This was my attempt at humor.
No one caught the joke. Didn't matter- I'd enjoyed it.
As I stepped up to pay, an employee behind the counter on the phone kicked a cabinet and swore into the receiver.
“Ooooo, bad juju in the food today!” I took my cup acroos to the urns.
There I waited until the disorganized woman noticed me.
She apologized, explaining that she had to figure out just the right mix of decafe and caffeinated.
I assured her I understood perfectly.

And that was when the poem came:
So much depends uponthe red wheelbarrow… or the caffeine… or the smile… the desire… our consciousness.
Or that “Winter Blend” actually smells of hazelnut and that’s all wrong. The label hadn't said that and maybe they mixed the labels up and now maybe I’ll get a headache…

Back in the lab I got a text message: a friend could see the day looked fresh, but she was feeling stuck…
I replied, I’d send a song…

Actually, on the way into work today, the moment I saw on the radio screen, “The Archies, Sugar, Sugar!” I started laughing right out loud.
How delicious.
Alright! Song for the day!
“This one goes out to Mary.” (She who struggles mightily with sugar.) My head’s best DJ voice announced. And I had laughed some more and she who doesn't hardly ever dance was bobbing her head as she drove.
And now, I know it goes to Lily too… and maybe even you might need it.

So much depends upon… you fill in the blank.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Past, Present, Future - Nothing

Sleeping Buddha
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
The first of what was to be a series of occurrences took place. I can’t say what it was.
I didn’t seem to be present for it, yet there was no interruption of normal bodily awareness as far as I know--no break in the visual stream reporting my surroundings, for instance.
Coming out of it I discovered I was weeping. A great quiet followed.
This pattern repeated maybe eight or ten times over the next several hours.
Between episodes I took the following notes…

I am the stillpoint of Now at the center of the universe, the portal through which Nothing becomes Everything. This is happening here, now, where I sit--at the moment, in the seat of an airplane.
Bart Marshall, on his awakening

A couple weeks ago, I was in the lab working at my bench.
I was following a protocol, following the points as usual, when I set down all accoutrements, turned, and left the room.
I simply acted.
There was not the slightest thought regarding leaving mid-experiment.

I walked across the hall to our other lab and starting looking through a stack of old X-ray films we keep on hand to use as dark backgrounds.
I went through the films until I came to one which was encrusted with white crystals outlining the bottom of dishes and stoppers that had sat upon it.
I held the film up in front of me, eyeing it with pleasure.

“Oh, this is nice! Take this home and make some art!”
It seems the pleasure also brought back thinking.
And then I jumped.

“What the hell are you doing? You’re in the middle of an experiment!”
I scuttled back to my bench and tried to reorient myself.
What had happened?

Like Bart Marshall – I had retained complete awareness of my surroundings and body. At no moment had I felt the least bit strange or spacey.
I tried to recall exactly how the whole episode had unfolded.
To my surprise I discovered the memory of a momentary only thoughtless, present of body doing and sensory awareness.

I started laughing because I immediately realized that a spiritual practice focused on remaining in the present, the Now, made absolutely no sense.
It was based on the premises that we continually wander off into the Past or Future.
It was based on the premise that mindfully, we must drag attention back to the Present.
And I had just seen very clearly – there is no such thing as past or future.
There is only, Only, the Present, Now.
This insight felt very strange and somewhat silly.
It also rattled me a bit.

fast forward to the future.
This past weekend,
my Teacher came for a workshop.
On Day Two, seemingly out of no where he asked, “Patty, there is Past, Present, Future. Is this correct?”
Shocked, I began my answer uncomfortably, “I am not sure that’s true.”
Some people laughed, but I was dead serious. I may have started crying.
It went downhill from there.

Part of me wanted to stubbornly hold to what my vision had shown me.
Part of me also clearly understands the coordinate system we use every day.
From which level did he want me to answer?
Well, I don’t think it really matters.

The Teacher’s purpose was to simply make me sweat.
He knew just where my button was and he wasn’t letting up.
“There’s past, present, future…” his hands blocked them out in space making it all so obvious. What could be the problem?
And I kept refusing to give an answer that felt like kowtowing to… to what?
My mind went into meltdown.

Teacher then changed the question just a bit.
“Past, Present, Future and then beyond the future. What is there? What’s beyond the future.”

All I could see was Nothing. A Nothingness that surrounds and cradles the Present and any past or future you care to create in your mind.
I felt my stubbornness smash into my mind and my emotions rage.
Something in me didn’t want to admit to Nothingness in public.
I was covered in sweat. My heart was breaking. My mind screaming. My intellect totally confused.
I responded, angry now,
“I don’t understand the question. What does that question mean?”

Teacher ignored me and looked to the far back of the room. He asked Vicky,
“What is beyond the future?”
Without a moment’s hesitation I heard her say, “Nothing.”
I was utterly amazed, flooded with relief. What a miracle. Someone understood.

Teacher said, “Nothing! How did you come up with that?”
Vicky laughed, “Patty mentioned it at lunch.”
Busted! Busted! (do click on this link)

That night I tried to make sense of this exercise.
I decided Teacher was just clarifying to me how very stuck I am.
I cannot really tell the difference between my beliefs and direct experience.
One is of the mind and the other of the senses.
Or at least, that is how I’ve always conceived of the difference.
The description of a strawberry is not the same as eating the berry.
I am clear on that.

But, now I’m beginning to wonder if in that initial arising from the Nothing, perhaps thought and object are less differentiated.
Is this the source of my confusion?
Is this why I cannot tell the difference?
Or has my ego simply found another way to wrestle, another way to hang an ornament onto the Christmas tree of Nothingness – and so sustain my false existence?

I needed to just let go of the wrestling. Thinking gets me no where these days.
Thinking seems almost counter to what my brain wants and needs to do.
Simplify. Stop. Don’t think.
Be still.

These words from Bart Marshall’s translation of the Faith-Mind Sutra helped bring me back to center.

When like and dislike are absent, the Real is obvious and clear
Make the slightest distinction, however,
And it appears as heaven and earth…

Seeing appearances as real, you miss the Source.
Seeing appearances as Void, you miss the show.

I could get off the marry-go-round of suffering by either jumping off, or by sitting in the quiet center point.
So much huffy-puff is just a trick to keep the Nothing somewhat more at bay.
For one thing has become quiet clear:
Suffering (no matter how sincere) is always just a bit enjoyable because it helps the ego to keep going. And ego is a verb.

Not long after this, I received a link from a virtual friend, Rebecca. She had also brought Bart Marshall to my attention. Now, these words of a fellow by the name of Scott Kiloby rang true:

…after a while, the non-dual ideas just become more conditioning.
…For those who have been seeking for a while … my suggestion is to use Byron Katie’s “The Work” …[to] question every non-dual teaching, book, and website you can find… until nothing is left but emptiness…

Whenever a teacher says, “It’s all One,” ask “Is it absolutely true?”
…rest into the silence that is left when all these non-dual pointers are seen to be ultimately empty…
A thought cannot see what is.
Thoughts are memories.
Never confuse the interpretation of what is with what actually is.
Scott Kiloby, under his writing, entitled, Try This.

Yes. Ultimately, there is emptiness.
At times, I find it rather shocking.
Shock and pitching a fit is how I pull back into what is familiar.

I’m back on the merry-go-round... but, this time round enjoying the ride.
Not to worry... The Nothing will have Its way in Its own good time.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Turnaround of the Heart

This is an extract from an Adyashanti satsang. I saw the entire DVD some time ago and something about it has stuck with me... the part about how pleasure seeking egos do so much rearranging of their lives... always with the renovations!

I think this is a teaching easy to mis-interpret. i.e. I think of it by way of an excuse, everytime I don't want to clean my house. But, I don't think that's what he's saying.
So why did it so stick with me?
Listening yet again just now, I noticed.
He asks, "What is actually here right now?"
That's the true essence of the teaching.

And I think of the text message I sent a friend this morning at 7:30 from my back deck. Sky was so gray. Trees were black webs of branch and twigs against a silence filled with birds chirping. The temperature was warm enough to leave the back door open and carry my breakfast outside.
What a morning!... I had to text my friend...

U awake? Note trees clouds sky sweet

It wasn't a gray, sad day at all. It was beautiful, just as it was right now...
U awake?

Enjoy the video:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Addiction, Ego, Pain

This cartoon fascinated me.
I believe we are each knitters of one kind or another.
But, I noticed the people commenting on YouTube seem oblivious to this fact.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pennies from Grandma

1914 penny
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
I received a 1914 penny in change a couple days ago.
I was amazed.
Had someone broken out their old collection? But, this was no collector’s specimen.
It was well worn and a bit corroded. I began to think about a penny’s life span.
How many were in circulation? How many were pulled out regularly and melted down?
I wonder if pennies aren’t like seeds blowing in the wind- out of a million, surely one will survive and take hold.

Anyway, I began to think of pennies. And when I see a penny, a discarded and old penny for that matter, I always think of Grandma.

My point here? I really don’t know. But, it has to do with what we hold onto and how we let go. It has to do with love, and love gone wrong, and love curving round to heal.

It brings to mind an essay I wrote, long ago now, entitled, Pennies from Grandma.
The clip the magazine highlighted declares:

They told me that her blood was too thick for her heart to pump, and I wondered how it was that someone stayed alive so long after nothing’s left. I’d seen bugs crushed and gone so quickly. I couldn’t decide if life was fragile or tenacious beyond belief.

I’m still wrestling with these concepts. So I thought I’d share a bit more of the essay here.

I’ve been passing pennies on the sidewalk. There seem to be a lot, as if I’m not the only one who doesn’t bother anymore to lean down and pick them up. After all, what good’s a penny anymore? It’s enough to buy a memory. Every time I see one I think of Grandma Bralley. I see the two of us in 1954. She has me by the hand, for I am only four, and we are walking down the street in Bristol, a town all brick and iron-stained industrial cement.

We were on our way to the Delaware, to watch that oily river flow by, when Grandma saw the penny. It seemed to take her forever, and I held my breath, as she leaned over all arthritic to retrieve that penny off the street. When she finally had it, she held it out proudly for me to see, “Now, that’s a lucky penny!” The idea truly impressed me.

It’s a young girl’s first memory, those visits to Grandma’s. I think she liked me then. It was later that I grew too loud and impulsive, so that when I entered a room Grandma would jump and snap at me, “Be still.” I made her nervous. I don’t recall ever doing much of anything right for her except one time when I was about ten. Realizing she was very old, I spent the afternoon sitting on the sofa with her, holding her hand in mine, pushing her thick blue veins back and forth under the skin like spaghetti on a plate. I wanted her to tell me all about what it had been like when she was a girl. I looked into her eyes and saw they were so blue. I told her they were beautiful and suddenly, eighty-three years old, she sat up like a ramrod and burst into a smile. “The boys used to tell me that.” I’d never thought of Grandma and boys. I had never seen, nor would I ever see again, such a spark in her.

Later, that night, my father came to my room. Grandma had told him I had been nice. I was about to say how happy I was. Grandma’s stories had been wonderful. She’d told me things no one else knew. But Pop saw something else. “Here, you earned this dollar.” I liked the money, but it made me feel strange, being paid like that. Everything, like love, got turned askew…

I could hardly wait to tell my sister that Grandma had died. It seemed like such a news flash. She replied with a big grin, “She did?” and at the funeral we started laughing. It was terrible – my father next to me, head bowed, his hands trembling. And I was laughing out of control. I would just about burst with trying not to, but every time I got myself quieted I’d feel the pew shake, and knew my sister was down the line doing the same thing… I remember Grandma’s funeral as the torture of this laughter, and the curious inability to comprehend that she was really up there in that coffin…

Soon the dreams started. I saw Grandma old and we both cried. But in a while she was happier and we would talk. After a few months I didn’t really consider them dreams anymore. They were more like visits while I was asleep. She was getting younger, strong and happy. We enjoyed each other and I’d wake up feeling good. Then the dreams stopped. I figured she had gone off on her own.

Extracted from The Sun, issue 130, September, 1986.