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.