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.

Now,
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.
Interpretations.
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.

2 comments:

Scott said...

Thanks! I enjoyed this entry. I just read this recently in "Games Zen Masters Play" by R. H. Blyth and it seems to dovetail here. He wrote (or translated - not sure which) "Do not seek for the truth, only stop having an opinion".

Pat Bralley said...

Oh, that's nice!
Thanks.