In the coming year, you may not bring world peace, but you may bring a healing light to the person right beside you. Walk gently. Go joyfully. Keep returning to your heart. That is enough.
Shabbat Shalom. Peace of the Sabbath to you. In Hebrew, Sabbath means "stop!" So I tried to stop my mind, but I couldn't. I'm sorry. Forgive me. I can't stop.
I let my mind wander among the stars to the rim of the nebula, beyond blackness, always moving toward Uncreated Wonder. When I arrive at any Edge, I jump off. What a holy Fall!
Perfect meandering in all directions at once is meditation. The mind that gets lost in the infinite is called The Heart.
The absolute stillness of chaos is born of non-resistance, which has nothing to do with concentration. It is just the opposite: the grace that is out of control.
Let your un-diagnosed adult ADHD attain the Sabbath rest. This is Divine Love. You arrive here by caring, but not trying.
Now get on with the silent, fragrant, thousand-petaled explosion of your emptiness.
Photo: Hubble photo of "Star-Forming Region 30 Dorodus"
The earth-plane is a perpetual dance of chaos, a spinning karmic wheel, where we must learn to embrace the co-existence of opposites. That is why we are here. Only by hugging paradox can we drop the apparent conflict and sink into the heart.
Those who wants "peace on earth" should not come to this planet, because the earth cannot provide constant serenity in external circumstance. Look clearly and see that this world is a flickering play of light and shadow. At any given moment, we find places of beauteous calm, and elsewhere, spots of infernal violence. Both heaven and hell are all around us.
Jesus never said that he would bring peace on earth. He said, "I give you my peace, but not as the world gives." He said, "My kingdom is not of this world." He said, "I have not come to bring peace but a sword." What sword? The sword of Shiva. The vajra-sword of Buddha Manjusri. The diamond sword of discrimination, slicing illusion from reality, shadow from substance, so that we may stop looking for peace in the wrong places.
Praying for peace on earth is like asking the wheel to stop turning. To impose permanent peace on human affairs would be a form of violence, denying sentient beings the opportunity to evolve in this dynamic energy-field, where every moment is precisely as it must be to let the mind surrender its clinging and relinquish another layer of illusion.
In this new year, I pray not for peace on earth. I pray that you may find the peace that is always already here, at the center of the turning. For in the radiant silence of your core, you are peace.
'We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.' ~Rumi
Only an embodied being can experience transcendental pure awareness, because the disembodied are too entranced, having no contrasting experience of the material world.
This is the inestimable value of a human birth. For it is only through the contrast of spirit and matter that the Self can awaken, and it is in this earthly body that we experience the paradox: both matter and spirit are made out of the same essence, which is pure Awareness.
Awareness is not thought, but thought arises and dissolves as the content of Awareness. Awareness itself is ever free from concepts and images. Awareness is unbounded, self-effulgent, shining with crystalline light, whose nature is ananda, bliss. In the mirror of pure Awareness, this entire creation appears as an uncaused reflection that is not composed of anything else.
Nor is awareness a product of material particles interacting in the neurons of the brain. Quite the contrary: material particles are vibrations of pure Awareness. Quantum physics verifies that the physical universe is made out of no-thing but "fluctuations in the vacuum." Yet the vacuum is awake: it is pure Awareness. And on this ocean of Awareness, universes appear and dissolve as bubbles.
Our waking world, our dream world, and even the black void of our deepest sleep, are ripples in a clarity that never slumbers. Awareness is the witness of birth and death.
But Awareness has a secret dynamism: the relationhip of Awareness aware of its Self. This transcendental relationship, Awareness of Awareness, is the inner space that creates the universe of subjects and objects.
Awareness is not One, but a Holy Trinity. Awareness is Love in Love with Love. In the Vedic science, this inner Trinity is called Sat-Chit-Ananda. "Sat" is Being, the substance of the objective world. "Chit" is Consciousness, the subject. "Ananda" is Bliss, the ecstatic energy of Subject and Object meeting and dissolving into each other.
The universe arises from this inner Self-relation of Sat, Chit, and Ananda. Thus the seed of all subject-object experiences in the world is transcendentally located, prior to creation, in pure Awareness.
The entire drama of creation, fall, and redemption, is just the story of Awareness. Awareness becomes separate from its Self, overcomes the duality, and reunites with its Self, for the sake of Love.
What are all these galaxies, worlds, atoms, aeons, lifetimes and infinitesimal moments, but Shiva making love to Parvati through the fire of Awareness? What is all this but Christ embracing the Magdalene in the bridal chamber of the Heart?
Again and yet again, through countless perceptions, countless dissolving kisses of subject and object, Love realizes its Self in the fragrance of a rose, the glimmer of a dragonfly's wing, the song of a thrush, the taste of the Beloved's lips...
And so, through every taste of the ordinary, we encounter the miraculous. Our wonder heals the world.
Aristotle was actually describing the Witness, who is more inward to us than our very mind, ever silent and awake, shining through us in the midst of the busiest activity. The Unmoved Mover is pure Awareness.
When I was hanging out in Trappist monasteries in France we sang this ancient Latin hymn, 'Rerum Deus' by St. Ambrose, at interludes between hours of manual labor. Ambrose based his conception of God here on Aristotle's Unmoved Mover.
'O God, creation’s secret force,
Thyself unmoved, all motion’s source,
Who from the morn till evening ray
Through all its changes guid’st the day'
When Raphael painted Aristotle's Unmoved Mover on the wall of the Pope's apartment at the Vatican in 1518 (pictured above), he portrayed God as a woman, setting the wheel of the zodiac in motion. In the Biblical tradition, this Unmoved Mover and ever-silent Witness of action is Hochmah in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek. She is the feminine divine, the womb of creativity.
May all of us find the immovable silence at the center of our turning; for great music, great poetry, great acts of peace making, come from that stillness. This is my prayer for the new year.
The precise moment of solstice is Wednesday, December 21, 5:44 a.m. EST (2:44 a.m. Pacific time). At this instant, the whirling stars invite us to meditate, to meditate and taste, through the sacrament of the macrocosm, what is actually available in every breath...
You are the hub of the wheel. You dwell at the center of all that turns. The still point is everywhere, because its circumference is boundless. Here you may repose in the heart's silence, and be free from the endless karmic cycle, the world-anxiety of action and reaction.
This transcendental awareness is called 'Turiya' in the Upanishads, the thought-free state that is more intimate than waking, dreaming, or deep sleep, and nearer to you than the mind itself. One moment of this heart-silence frees you, along with generations of ancestors, from a mountain of weary weight.
Jesus said, "my kingdom is not of this world," even as he moved through the troubles of outward circumstance. Yes, your core of Christ-consciousness is in the world, but not of the world. The silence at the center of the spinning does not spin.
At the solstice pause, drink from an infinite stillness where everything is washed in rebirth. Enter this brief portal and fall into eternity. Listen to the unstruck gong of the void, the germ of every song of joy.
And never doubt that the solstice repose of light in the womb of divine darkness is the outward sign of a Mystery whose seed lies buried between your every sigh and inhalation. What is the cosmos but the radiant expansion of your own breathing?
You are not here to let bad news weigh you down, or let heavy clouds overshadow you. You are here to irradiate the earth, to lighten its burden, and to outshine creation.
The uncreated radiance that outshines creation is not from above, but from within. It shines from your own heart-center. This is your work. Don't wait for peace. Don't pray for happiness. You are peace on earth. You are joy to the world.
Nothing can rob you of this fiery connection to your heart, except your choice to believe in the anxious thoughts of your mind. If you attend to the chatter that the spinning world feeds you, rather than feeling the silence at your core, whose choice is that? Who is guiding your destiny?
Let your attention sink from head to hridaya. This is the most ancient form of meditation. The beginning and end of all spiritual practice is to rest the mind in the heart.
Then listen. Listening is stillness. Listening sweeps the mind clear and awakens Presence.
There is no need to transit through a hierarchy of ascended masters, angels, initiations, or spiritual techniques. What did Jesus say? "You ARE the light." (Mat 5:14) You have immediate access to the radiance of the Divine, because That is your being. Touch your heart with this breath. Repose in the kingdom.
The Winter solstice is my favorite holiday of the year. Its message is symbolized by so many great festivals of midnight tree lighting, candle lighting, heart lighting...
This is the time when we have no choice but to Fall, to descend into the shadow and honor the night. Holy night is the Mother of stars. And She is the night in our own heart. We should never be afraid of the dark. Darkness is not the opposite of light, but the womb of light.
As the rose grows from composted loss, so the dark night of our soul gives birth to radiance, but only when we embrace the depth without trying to rise, or ascend to a "higher" state. "De profundus: out of the depths" (Psalm 130). Out of the depths I not only cry, but awaken.
With infinite compassion, meditate on You.
I don't mean meditate on your "Self" with a capital S. I mean meditate on the heap of loose threads, rough edges, unforgivable shortcomings, and awkward body parts that you keep trying to reject as you "progress on the spiritual path." I mean all that haunts you, all that you wish you could leave in the past, like Marley's ghost...
Perhaps your religion taught you to repress or cast out your sins. Perhaps the New Age puritans taught you to transcend your "lower" self and reach a "higher" plane. Perhaps the Non-Dualists taught you to repeat, "I am not this body," the most arrogant claim an embodied awareness can make!
And it takes quite an effort, doesn't it, to believe this anti-body anti-matter propaganda? Perhaps this effort has left you weary, weary and ashamed of your constant failure to live "up" to your higher Self. For you are all too human, aren't you?
Yes, and this very humanity, this very mess you keep trying to throw away, may be your salvation...
Old voices told you your body was the wrong color, the wrong shape, with too many blemishes and wrinkles, and too soft. And your mind is even worse! Too angry, too proud, too jealous, too opinionated, too full of lustful images. And so you tried to purge not only your body but your mind: to still it, and separate its true "consciousness" from its thoughts.
Yet all this effort to rise against gravity, all this struggling to look like the blond in the yoga journal on the beach, balancing her free-range grass-fed organic torso on one thumb, is actually killing your spirit. This competition to be the most enlightened kid on the block is starving you. The slavish work of self-improvement, purification, and "oneness," your very "path to God," is what exhausts you!
So what can you do? Collapse.
Collapse and throw all that you ever renounced into the garbage heap of broken vows. Then throw the one who vows and renounces into the heap too. Because this pile of rubbish, this "massa perditionis" as Augustine called it, is the only true offering that God accepts... It is You.
Toss your body on the heap with all its farts and tears. Pour them like an oblation. Heap on your anger and lust as well, and don't forget to throw your "spiritual techniques" on the pile. Yes, "religious practices" must go into the garbage right along with bad habits. Don't you begin to see that your very strategy for rising above the garbage is part of the garbage?
Christ was crucified at Golgotha. It was the Jerusalem city dump. That is where he offered himself to God.
We all have permission to collapse into a rubbish pile and call it "Me." So please fall. Fall down into your authenticity. Surrender your sagging skin, your belly, your aching joints, your moldering brain, to gravity. Then throw in the thrower.
You have always been fighting the pull of darkness: now give in to Her. Surely, friend, you begin to see that gravity is a form of prayer, a wave of yearning from the Mother below, who draws you to her breast.
When you have collapsed and relinquished every effort to rise "above," when you simply rest in the tangled compost of all you despised about yourself, let it solidify. Admire its complete ruin. Say what Jesus said on the cross: "it is finished." Do nothing at all to change any lost or fallen atom. For the outcast heap of your failed efforts is You, and it glows with uniqueness. It is the perfect You that no other human or angel could possibly be.
When you have finished making your mess, bow down to it. Surrender to your garbage heap and be free: is this not the only "path" to liberation?
Now you can become still, because there is no more struggle or search. And as you become still, you will effortlessly expand. Expanding, you will not experience the heap of You, but the space around it. A trash heap exists in space. The trash heap is the blessing that centers your awareness, so that awareness can become the space around the center too. You could not even be aware of space if it were not the space of your awareness...
Become still from striving, and you awaken to who You are. You see that the space around You has also awakened. This space was here before You were born; it will be here after You die. Free awakened space bathes all creatures in its stillness, and that stillness is compassion.
Compassion is simply the nature of awakened space. Compassion is the stillness that lets things be as they are.
Enfold the heap of all that You have despised and rejected with your own open-endedness, your starlit night of possibility. This is a mystery too wonderful for most of us to grasp right now. So we ease into it by sensing the space of compassion as an Other...
Perhaps this space around us is the Christ, the Mother of God, the Buddha, or our own personal Guru. Whatever form of divine intimacy feels nearest your heart, let that one encompass You, seeping into all your rejected fragments, your darkest corners of shame, your jagged shadows. Now look at your tangle of debris through the Other's eyes, the eyes of Love. And very quietly, with the whisper that is really the sound of your own breath, hear what Love tells you...
Listen deeply. Does Love judge You? Does love pity You? Not at all, for pity, like judgment, creates distance through condescension, and Love wants only to be near.
Does Love feel sorry for you? Not at all, because sorrow is not Love's nature, nor is it yours.
Love speaks tenderly but with a smile, for Love wants you finally to see the humor, the lightness of your situation: how your very effort to rise upward brought you down, how your very ascension became a Fall into this mess of tattered remnants, into this wonder of no-way-out, into acceptance, and the fire of self-revelation.
Look now! Are You not enveloped in the vast luminous breath of Love that is somehow also You? Does each particle of You not sparkle with the beauty of aliveness, just as it is? Are You, in all your heaped rejection, not smouldering with Grace?
Only this is what flowers.
It's not so important whether you are white or black or brown, whether you are gay or straight or transgendered, whether you come from a Muslim or a Jewish or a Hindu background. Just enter the circle from any direction you choose and find the center.
Find the divine essence that makes us all human. For when we awaken the heart, our differences sparkle like multilayered petals on a golden dahlia. But when we focus only on our differences, they divide us, we scatter, the circle is broken.
Do we not share the same blood, breathe the same breath, drink one water, grow food from one soil? Do we not dwell together on the same earth?
The full moon unites us in its silent glow. The reborn sun warms every atom of our sacred flesh. One race, humanity. One God, the light in the heart.
And though it may shine like a rainbow through billions of rays, there is only one religion - love.
Painting: Full Moon Solstice Mandala by Caterina Martinico
"One who sees stillness in action, and action in stillness,
truly sees." ~Bhagavad Gita, 4:18
In an already too busy culture, we constantly call one another to action. But do we call one another to the source of action?
Action that arises from the chattering mind has a completely different quality than action arising from inner silence. Deep action is not a re-action. Deep action is not other than stillness. Deep action does not come from belief or ideology, hope or regret, but from Presence.
Awaken to Presence, then see what happens, and what doesn't happen.
In the ancient Shiva Sutras of India, it is written: "Let the mind descend into the heart." In the Philocalia, ancient Christian writings on prayer, it is written: "Let the mind descend into the heart."
This is the first and last instruction for spiritual practice, for the beginner and the advanced, for the East and the West, the left and the right.
Let your mind descend into your heart. Rest in the goal before the path arises. Become the Light that is born from the womb of divine darkness, and irradiate the world.
Painting, 'Dalit Madonna' by Jyoti Sahi
Intimacy does not dissolve boundaries. Intimacy requires boundaries. Love does not erase our limitations. They become translucent. Let love illuminate your wounds, your darkest lines. Learn from the dragonfly, whose wings are precisely defined by the sunlight passing through them.
Painting: 'Shiva Dancing' by Cynthia Rose Young
Krishna and Radha appear as two, Lover and Beloved. Yet they are one self-referential whole. She is longing and He is fulfillment. Implying each other, creating each other, vibrating within each other, they are "Bhedabheda," which in Sanskrit means, "two and not two."
The mystery of Radha-Krishna is your own astonishing Self-awareness. Perhaps you yearn to be "in a relationship," but the truth is, you are never in a relationship. Relationship is in you. You are the continuum of the heart-space in whom all relationships arise and dissolve.
So when you feel this yearning, just become the yearning; let it flow like a river to the sea of your heart.=
The beginning and end of all spiritual practice is to rest in the heart, where stillness delights in the dance of multiplicity without ever actually becoming two. This is the fullness of Radha-Krishna.
Rest as the vastness in whose depth there is no other. For here, both "I" and "Thou" are waves on the ocean of your Being.
You need a soulmate? By the hundreds, by the millions, your soulmates sparkle and dissolve all around you. As they arrive, say farewell. As they depart, greet them.
Everybody you meet is a deeper revelation of who you are. This is true intimacy: a love that welcomes the otherness of its own self-revelation, without needing or clinging.
You grow intimate with all creatures when you are acquainted with your Being. Ever at home in the ground of silence, you are never alone. Your silence regenerates the whole creation. Don't take anyone's word for it. Find out through deep meditation.
Where opposites are polarized, humanity is blessed. I once heard my teacher say, "Heaven and Hell are all around you: take your pick." This is truer now than ever before on this planet. This is the best time to leap out of old patterns and gain liberation from the bondage of duality.
What is the sign of liberation? Perceiving the dance of opposites as a single field of energy, and not as a conflict.
For every hellish event that happens, somewhere on earth heaven is breaking through. The discerning heart remembers that only in a polarized world is the evolution of consciousness possible. Here only can we get unstuck, for when we try to grasp at anything, its antithesis arises.
Only here can we learn the secret: we are the creators. When we identify with the violence and conflict the media keep feeding us, we are co-creating that world. In fact, some political activists would rather sustain conflict than solve it, because the sense of "us" vs. "them" feeds the "i".
But we can also choose the miracles of love that blossom on this planet. Gently favor them, without clinging. Let slip away the shadows of despair. Where our attention goes, there is our reality. Or as Jesus put it, "Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also."
It takes no creativity to identify with the ugly husk of the old order that is fading away. The sweet fruit is layered a little deeper inside. Look just beneath the surface. Truth loves hide and seek.
Where doubt and fear dissolve, a New Earth emerges within the rough rind of the old. Faith discerns in the luminous albumen of spiritual energy what will soon be born as matter. Spring is latent in Winter. Just so, the future hides in the seed of Presence, wrapped in the chaff of the past. We are invited to love a better world into incarnation.
Can you not taste the honey between the cells? Darkness is the womb of light. Let your heart be a prism to radiate the healing rainbow. Hold up your Self of crystal to the night. Only then will the ray descend.
"Loka Samastha Sukinao Bhavantu." May the whole world be filled with happiness. This ancient Sanskrit prayer is our invocation to ourselves.
We will never solve a conflict until we observe the part of our own self that loves conflict, identifies with conflict, and builds it's "i" out of conflict. To "i"-dentify with the conflict lets us play the victim, the martyr, and the hero. As political activists, we would often rather sustain a conflict than solve it, because our "i" is fed by the sense of "us" vs. "them."
Even the worst human being carries a good seed, a seed that flowers when nurtured with our positive energy. On the other hand, even the best of us carries a vicious seed, whose shadow we project onto others so we won't have to embrace it as the hurt part of our self.
What good does it do to hate people on the other "side"? Better to dissolve the polarity of "us" and "them." Bathing people in our hatred and distrust only brings out the worst in them, but bathing them in the light of our goodwill awakens their better angel. Here's a radical idea: Love your enemies. But I actually think somebody already said that.
Happy Thanksgiving. If you want to be happy, be thankful. If you want to be thankful, just remember that the world is made of very little things. Now breathe into your heart one small creature, one tiny blessing for which you are grateful, and you will radiate healing through every cell in your body. Who knows? Perhaps through every particle of earth, and the ocean of stars.
"To see we must forget the name of the thing
we are looking at." ~Claude Monet
What happens, happens. That is all. A flower of energy in the void, incomprehensibly sacred, with absolutely no "meaning."
The mind makes up a story about it, superimposing its melodrama onto this marvelous dance of unfathomable suchness.
Yet, however heroic or tragic, our story can never be as extraordinary as what actually IS.
What is, disguised in the form the present moment, is the formless infinitude of Being, arising in ever-dissolving splendor as a portal of liberation.
But instead of stepping through the portal, we resist it. We want to change this moment, reform it, and redesign its Presence to fit our story.
Which of course is impossible, because Presence cannot be "fixed." It is always already happening.
Have you ever asked, "What would the world be like if I welcomed this moment, without copying and pasting my drama over it?"
Perhaps Winter would come, then Spring. A raindrop might be a raindrop, shaking the stars. The owl crying in the forest at night, nothing but the mystery of itself. Every breath a mysterious gift.
Sakyamuni Buddha taught that there are four great human virtues: sitting, standing, walking, lying down. All other virtues arise from these four, because right action flows spontaneously from a relaxed and natural body.
To relax is the most radical teaching, the most revolutionary commandment. When we truly relax, without falling asleep, something quite profound happens. All that is compassionate, all that is healing, flows from that restful alertness.
What could be easier than to relax? Yet it is difficult for most of us. And even when we do, we fall asleep. Then we cannot taste our own delicious Being, the source of every virtue.Why can't the body relax? Because the mind is not relaxed. Why can't the mind relax? Because the “I” won't relaxed. Why can't "I" relax? Because the ego can’t say, “I don’t know.”
Why can't the ego say, “I don’t know”? Because "I" won't stop clinging to opinions. Why won't "I" stop clinging to opinions? Because "I" fear Emptiness.
Why am "I" afraid of Emptiness? Because "I" resist death. Why do "I" resist death? Because death is boundless.
Why fear boundlessness, which is simply returning to the natural condition? Because the Infinite loves to frolic and play, and "I" am afraid to frolic and play.
Why? Because to frolic and play, the Void needs a body. Am "I" afraid to be in a body?
Now here is the problem. Spiritual seekers resist embodiment, believing that the body is an obstacle to liberation. They say that, to realize the One, it is necessary to know, "I am not this body." Yet this distinction between "I" and "the body" is the very duality they claim to transcend.
How could those who fear the body, deny the body, and seek separation from the body, ever relax and be natural?
O friend, your body is the Buddha-nature at play. Your body is none other than the Void, and the Void is none other than your body.
Every photon of your body is the sparkling effulgence of ever-expanding bliss. Every atom of your body contains the spaciousness beyond the galaxies. The vastness of your body is not limited by any phenomenon that whirls within it. Your body has no edges; it just ripples out in ever more subtle fractals, touching the most distant stars. Even your pain is a fierce contraction of the formless, calling your attention to the bliss solidified in its sensation.
O friend, if you resist your own body, you fear everything that happens. But if you welcome your body, just as it arises this moment, you are a Warrior of the Dance. You fear nothing.
Relax into your body. Be natural.
Material forms can never be solidifed. Mental concepts can never be solidfied. Yet we keep trying to hold onto our bodies and thoughts.
The body is made of fleeting evanescent particles, ever dissolving into the vacuum. The mind is made of passing thoughts, and even our most cherished beliefs disappear as soon as we fall asleep. Yet humans cling to the body and mind as if they were real, without attending to the firm foundation of this inconstant life: their own Being.
The creature changes and passes away, but the Being of the creature is un-created and immutable. Un-created Being bestows existence on the creature, and pervades each fleeting moment of time as an eternal Presence.
How can the Un-created bestow existence on the creature? Through the breath of love. In the Indian tradition this breath is Shakti, the energy flowing into Prakriti, the material creation, from the Purusha, the unmanifest Shiva-consciousness. In the Western tradition this breath is the Holy Spirit. The breath of Spirit-Shakti intimately partakes of both natures, soul and body, creator and creature. And that is why, even in our own experience of meditation, breath is the link between soul and body.
For too long humanity has been entangled and identified with bodily sensations and thoughts, completely unaware of the source that lies beyond mind and body. Yet the source is more intimate to us than our own bodies, our own minds, because the source is Being itself.
We have been living in exile from what is nearest to us, and dwelling in what is most distant...
We inhabit a crumbling cardboard shack swarming with flies; yet our shack is built on an enormous diamond. We keep swatting the flies and bemoaning the collapse of our hut, without noticing the diamond that could bring us immeasurable and immediate wealth.
This mind is a swarm of flies, this body a crumbling hut. Yet our Being, which we mistake for an abstraction without substance, is in fact the real and changeless foundation of our lives. Instead of wasting our energy grasping at material forms and swatting at mental concepts, let us turn our attention to the very ground of existence. For when we pay attention to it, Being solidifies.
Solid as diamond, Being outlasts and outshines all mental concepts, all material forms. To experience the reality of Being as our own awakened essence, is bliss. No other joy, whether of mind or body, can compare to the bliss of Being. And no other service we do is as useful as the work of awakening. For whatever path other humans may follow, we solidify the very ground they walk on when we touch the depth of Being.
The material world is quite shaky now, the human mind even shakier. It is time for those who hear this inner call to awaken the power of Being.
How do we do this work? Breathe out and let the body rest. Breathe in and sweep the mind silent, until, without concept or form, you awaken the jewel of Self-Radiance. Relinquishing sensation and thought, taste the unbounded stillness of your source, and simply let awareness be aware of awareness. This is meditation. Meditation solidifies Being.
There is no Holy Land. For the whole earth is sacred.
All land is holy because it belongs to the Creator, not to men. No land belongs to any tribe or nation. We are just stewards and pilgrims here.
If you say that God gave you the land, you lie. You have no proof of ownership but an old book and the blood on your sword. God did not give any land to you or me. We took it. We took it in the Middle East and we took in America. We took it in the name of the Chosen People, in the name of the Sword of Islam, in the name of American Exceptionalism. But they are all the same name: imperialism.
We take the Land from God and from the People of the Land. We take it not with the permission of Mother Earth, but with scimitars and bombs, jets and drones. Then we use ancient myths and stories to justify our theft.
But the age of imperialism is over, and so is any religion invented to justify it. It is time to give up the old story and dwell in the Land of Now. For Now is the only space where humans co-abide in passionate neutrality, listening with open hearts.
Your duty is not holy war: not חרם or جهاد, 'herem' or 'jihad.' Your duty is to listen through your heart to the sound of children crying. And your heart has exactly the same access to divine revelation as Moses, Jesus or Muhammad did.
Now is the time to abandon prophecies spoken ages ago in the desert of Palestine, and listen to the prophecy uttered in the wilderness of your own heart. Then you will hear the hearts of all who yearn for peace. Peace is not an ancient story handed down from the ancestors. Peace is always now.
The Chosen People are those who choose to dwell in the holy land of this present moment, the only land where love is possible.
Perhaps you are working through a tough story. A story of loss, victimhood, shame, craving, betrayal, abuse. It hurts. So your mind keeps repeating the story in hope of finding some relief. And you assume, as we all do, that by repeating the story in your mind, and acting it out again and again in your body, you will eventually change the ending...
Yet it never changes, does it? You think the story is over. Then something happens in the world that triggers your outrage. And if something triggers your out-rage, the in-rage must already be there, just waiting to be triggered.
Every time you tell the story, or re-act it out, you get even more chained to the past in an endless loop. This is the wheel of karma.
Is there freedom from the wheel? Yes. This is the Good News. Yet freedom from the past never lies in a higher world, a savior, an esoteric doctrine. Freedom from the past lies in one place only: the present moment.
Your story is a boat of pain, a vehicle of suffering. But please observe: while the story is always in the past, the pain is in the present. That is why, every time you repeat the story, it feels so real. You are feeling pain in the present, through the images of the past, held together by a narrative in the mind.
Now here is the open secret: Instead of repeating the story over and over, just tell it more deeply, and enter its pain. Enter the pain so deeply that the story drops away, and only the pain remains. Then you are in the present, not with any story, but with the living energy of your pain.
Do not resist the pain. Just cease to tell a story about. Breathe through the pain and unlink it from any image in the memory. Feel the pain as nameless sensation. Let it swallow you in its darkest void. This is courage.
If you follow your pain all the way into the void, remaining present to it without a story, something wondrous and graceful happens. And it happens in the Now, without the slightest reference to the past. When you drop the story of your pain, your pain blossoms into pure energy.
Now your suffering flowers into something that is no longer suffering, something dynamic that is no longer stuck in a mental repetition of the past, no longer bound to a story. Your pain is free.
Are you listening? It is not simply that you are free, but that your pain is free! In fact, you are free because you pain is free of its story. You can breathe it out.
Let your pain flower into the sparkling energy of Presence, the radiance of pure awareness.
With every tear, your core becomes stronger. In the midst of grief, feel the silence within you solidify. You are a survivor. You are the inalienable light of the Self. Now breathe your power into the heart of a friend. It's compassion-time. No need to blame others. Just serve others, until you see that there is no other.
Witness the whirlwind. The whirlwind of thought, emotion, and action. Can you find a "do-er" doing it all? Is there an "I" at the center of the storm? Or is the eye of the storm a wondrous silence, the silence of the witness?
We forfeit this birthright of divine silence because we insist on forming concepts and holding points of view. As soon as we have a point of view, we lose the energy of the infinite, shackling our infinite space in a self-created enclosure.
What happens when we cease enclosing space? There is no center. And with no center, there is no left or right. In order to form a concept that we feel right about, as opposed to wrong, we must first create and hold an enclosed space in the boundless space of our own consciousness. We must form a point of view in pointless awareness. Only then do left and right, right and wrong, have any meaning. Take away the point and the boundaries that enclose it, and infinite space has no center to be on the left or right of.
We waste so much energy creating these enclosures, so that we may hold onto concepts, beliefs, opinions. Every time we form a concept, we must form the contextual enclosure that makes it right or wrong. But this is a futile act of consciousness in the infinite space of consciousness. It is like trying to draw shapes in the water of the sea.
The boundaries of a concept are imaginary. Why form them at all? Do you have to be right or wrong? Do you need a point to be to the right or left of?
Infinite awakened space is your real nature. You are the boundless sky. This absolutely still, absolutely clear sky only appears to take shape and move as a mirage. Yet within the boundary and movement of the mirage the sky actually remains formless and still.
Up until now you have been playing the bondage game. The bondage game was the game of creating conceptual boundaries, getting stuck in them, then feeling the need to put them into action in order to break out of them.
But when you finally weary of the bondage game, you discover a more exquisite form of play, a new game: the liberation game.
You play the liberation game by refraining from forming a concept. You refrain from getting stuck in any mind-created boundary. Then there is no need to act out, for there is no concept to act on.
As the player of the liberation game, you are simply vigilant. And as the vigilant witness, you live in constant delight. Why? Because, in the vast space of your awareness, whose very vastness is the nature of bliss, you have inserted no point that needs to be defended. And with the discovery that you need not be to the right or left of any point, you are constantly delighted by boundlessness.
Just keep inquiring, "Why do I need to be right or wrong about this?"
The ultimate activism is to refrain from falling into a concept. Of course, this act of refraining from concepts is not doing, but non-doing, which provides abundant free energy to use in simply being aware.
So as the player of the liberation game, by ceaselessly offering and letting go of the need to form concepts, you are perpetually replenishing your supply of free energy, not as form, but as the unending infusion of sparkling awareness.
The point of the liberation game is constant awakening. This means witnessing the infinite play of energy in stillness. The bondage game was a game about doing. The liberation game is a game about refraining. And the more you refrain, the more you delight, until finally you do nothing and accomplish everything.
The truth is, no one really does anything. The One is simply happening, in countless fractals of its Self.
The winner of the liberation game competes with no one, wins nothing, and has no point of view. She is like the wind moving in the sky.
Existence is pointless. To see this is not to fall into despair, but to experience boundless delight in all phenomena, without judging one as superior to another.
Perpetual delight is not an achievement or a reward. It is merely the inherent nature of the Witness, pure consciousness, who is utterly still in the midst of activity, and utterly boundless in the midst of the world's boundaries.
You are the victor! Now you delight in exuberant waves of form, arising and dissolving in the ocean of the formless, without leaving any conceptual residue in your mind.
This is your work: to bestow your delight upon all creatures as you delight in them. And this perpetual bestowal of delight is love.
Painting: 'White Lotus,' Georgia O'Keefe
There is no catastrophe in the present moment. But the mind, full of past and future, loves to project its anguish into the world, then play the victim in its own melodrama...
What happens to my fear, my rage, when I breathe it as the sacred energy of Presence, without telling a story about it in my head?
This suffering gracefully transmutes into sparkling awareness, pure, transparent as the sap in a scarlet dahlia, and I become available to love.
Yet we still have a choice: whether to know this moment as a motionless explosion of bliss, or the world's annihilation. This mind will desperately attempt to contract the experience of the heart into its outmoded concepts and stories. We will scroll through all the assumptions about time and space we inherited from the scriptures, from Aristotle, from Isacc Newton, from Wall Street, searching for some ratio, some measurement to describe what is happening. But in vain. Then, like Arjuna facing the thousand-headed Purusha-form of Krishna, this mind will panic and resort to its code-red labels: "system failure," "disaster," "the end," and finally: "death."
But all failure comes from the mind. The heart is too big to fail.
At that moment, how will you handle your mind? Doesn't this depend on how you handle it right now? Will that moment be any different than this moment? Plato tells us that philosophy is a rehearsal for dying. Don't ask the Virgin Mary to "pray for us now and at the hour of our death." It will be up to you to handle your own mind in that Last Judgment, when you will judge yourself.
Will you once again mistake the words and images of this mind for your actual Being, entrapping your heart's warm seed in another sarcophagus of stony fear, leading to another birth? Or will you allow a falling, a naked plunge, a surrender into the eternal abyss of the momentary crisis, labeling your fall not "failure" but "grace"?
Do it now! Did you think that meditation was some comfortable New Age daydream? No, friend, meditation is rehearsal for the deathless splendor and terror of eternity. This very moment you can sink into your annihilation. It feels like grief, loss, or emptiness; but even so, let go and plummet through the darkest vortex of becoming. This is real courage. Feel it all, to the last drop of darkness: then feel the silence that feels it.
At the center of your heart, in the deepest loss, is a portal to boundless Radiance. For darkness is not the opposite of light. Darkness is the womb of light.
Prepare now for so-called "dying." It may come sooner than you think; not only to you but to all humanity, as a collective moment of transformation.
The Chosen People choose themselves, when Eternity extends her invitation to step across that threshold, through the portal of the heart, into the Infinite Rose.
Lady Moon, perhaps you are the great Sun's mirror. But there is a more ancient story that says, you are a portal to Divine Darkness. I travel to you on my breath, leaving this world of words behind. Lady Moon, the sound of So'ham is only the name of the gate keeper. I let all wombs reverberate with your silence.
The golden fullness of this Moon
does not limit or condition
the dark mystery of Night
any more than the radiance
of a photon gives boundaries
to the womb-void that bears it.
Devotion to the Master
does not limit or divide
the unity of the Divine
any more than an open door
encloses the space of the mansion
one enters through it.
Nor does the personal form
of the Lord limit or bind
the bliss of the Formless
any more than a drop of sweetness
contracts the ocean into which it falls.
Let this drop become the sea.
Let the sea become this drop.
Don't be afraid to bow and enter
the little door of this enormous tent!
Let the nectar of your Master's presence
be the flavor of the Infinite
in the cup of your broken heart.
Photo: My teacher gazing at the full moon
The energy you shine affects the world far more than the ideas you believe. People who need healing are not drawn to your ideas, but to your radiance. Don't worry so much about whether your beliefs are liberal or conservative, holy or pagan, politically correct or incorrect. Just keep raising the vibration of your light. This is what spreads love.
Between the rising and the falling of your chest is the portal to a marvelous world composed of nothing but fragrance and the music of dying.
The furrow between your nipples was harrowed by this breath; the blossom of earth and heaven's marriage kiss grows there.
Why do you think Gods and Goddesses descend in pairs?
To heat themselves in little quarrels and tiffs, spinning their downy essence toward two-ness, then embracing to dissolve.
The air around your face is a quantum field of whispers that suddenly crystallizes; you quit you work and look up, wondering why your mind stopped.
These visitations come so that your soul and body might remember their long betrothal, and their lifetimes of courtship.
Now you can boldly advance in the art of love toward that ecstatic union where pollen rains from the midnight sky, inebriating your tomb with star-melt.
Deeper than sadness, deeper than sin, the state that you have fallen in...
It is not you who awaken, but every seed in the garden you so joyfully abandoned for the sake of divine hopelessness.
We see the world in a state of crisis when our mind is in a state of crisis. But we see the infinite possibility for miracles when we breathe the breath of Beauty.
Through a few minutes' deep meditation in the morning and evening, as we let the mind repose in the coral heart of silence, Beauty blossoms through our perceptions, as surely as the flower is born of the seed.
Our first response-ability to mother earth is to purify our awareness of her.
I don't agree with the world, and I don't disagree with the world. The world is an ever-turning kaleidoscope of paradox, and paradox is neither agreeable nor disagreeable. Paradox is not there to protest, to reform, or to mold into something that corresponds to our opinion. Paradox is there for our liberation, as we gradually learn to stop clinging to preferences, and to embrace the ineluctable mystery of wholeness. Then we see the awful beatific truth, to which almost every religious and political endeavor is a form of resistance: things are simply as they are. Finally, in embracing what Is, we can love.
Time, with its inherent anxiety, disappears when we stop resisting anything that happens. How could we possibly resist the continuum, the stream of dissolving forms, when we are part of it, and it is our own consciousness?
The flow of happening need not be divided into separate "events." But our mental resistance granulates this gentle stream into "time." The continuum is one, not many. The liquid now is eternity, which is not a pond but a river.
The frictionless pour of the unending moment is true wine; to drink from it is communion. Communion requires no "holy" place, no special sacrament, no spirit apart from the body. Communion is our assent to the ceaseless flowering of the ordinary.
But if the mind insists that circumstances should be otherwise, and things are better elsewhere, then the ecstatic stream of suchness is dammed by an "I," and there is suffering.
Nothing to seek, nowhere to hurry, just be dynamically present. Only now is love possible.
Let a breath of Thou
sweep the I from my heart,
O sparkling emptiness!
If I do not heal
my own awareness,
how can I heal anything
of which I am aware?
The moth folds her wings
on a petal of blue lupine
the raven complains
from the misty pine
this tear kisses
my cheek for no reason
Earth is not purified
like a cloud in the sky
that was never not
Return to the crystal
Bathe the world
Not working more
but needing less
cleanses our water,
soil and wind.
Let a breath of Thou
sweep the I from my heart,
O sparkling emptiness!
Photo by Wang Wusheng, 1984
'Discipline' comes from the same root as the word 'disciple.' In the Medieval Church, the word was associated with punishment, self-flagellation. But originally it meant profound learning, grasping the truth, and receiving pure knowledge. The deepest discipline happens without effort or control, through surrender to the Beloved. That is the discipline of pure freedom.
You can be an activist by planting Winter squash, walking in a fern forest, listening to your children, or smiling from your heart at someone who is lonely.
True activism is to gently immerse your whole astonished body in the river of Presence;
To be moved by the breath of beauty like a golden leaf, and fall right where you are;
To drown in the mystery of communion with whatever creature is before you...
A disheveled crow, a boy in the rain with his shining basketball, a spider web gazing like an eye, a crone at the grocery store, marveling at all the soup.
These are your tribe. They have no political party. This is your native country. It is all sacred land.
Earth is not transfigured by how much you do, but how wantonly and nakedly you plunge into the ocean of this perishing moment.
To me, a beautiful woman usually wears glasses. But not always. She looks like a studious librarian on the verge of turning into a wild panther.
Modesty and contentment veil, yet magnify, the motion of her hips, cooling the earth with the sinuous breeze of her walking.
She does not hunt or hurry. She is too busy generating energy from darkness, light from the Unmanifest. Men become gentle with power around her. They become better men.
Blessings to Lakshmi, Goddess of Beauty, in this sacred festival of Divali. And blessings to all the Lakshmis who carry the divine power of creation in their human bodies.
Lakshmi is the secret abundance in every breast. Through her grace, giving is overflowing. Sweet daughter, beauty is not your perfume or the color you paint your lips, or the shape of your body, or the gemstone you wear on your finger. Beauty is the splash your soul makes when you dive into the ocean of her Presence.
Lakshmi is the fountain of tears that cleanse both the seer and what is seen. To that Lady of my faltering chest, to that paramour of my exhalation, I whisper, "Om Shri Mahalakshmi Devyai Namaha," asking nothing in return. For she has already placed in my heart, like aa rose floating in a cup, this swirling centerless hollow astonishment filled with stars.
I am heartened to observe that the greatest artists and philosophers emerge, not during periods of social stability, but precisely when cultures fragment and decline.
It is not equilibrium but the broken symmetry of the unbalanced equation that engenders creativity. Inspiration never comes through the entropy of even redistribution, or the imposition of equality. Wisdom does not emerge from a flat-line of social conformity, but from the purifying flame of chaos.
Lao T'zu wrote the Tao Te Ching as he abandoned a rotting empire. The Renaissance was an age of political mayhem and petty violence between city states. The "Golden Age of Athens" was not a respite of social harmony, but a series of plagues, wars, and dictatorships, when the best men were hastily imprisoned or exiled.
Beauty is born when wise souls embrace the clash of opposites. Great leaders speak in paradox, not platitude. There is no need to flee from conflict: conflict invokes the Witness, and awakens the very space that contains it. Even the most terrible crisis - even your death, your birth - is enfolded by a stillness, filled with the breath of stars.
"We must climb to our proper dark." ~William Butler Yeats
We do a great disservice to our spiritual heritage when we confuse the Divine Darkness of the mystics with "dark" emotional states. Emotions like thoughts come and go, clouds passing through the empty sky. Emptiness remains, sparkling with compassion.
As understood by the Christian mystics, "the dark night of the soul" is not about suffering, but dissolving. It is what Buddhists call "anatta," no separate litte "i, i, i, me, me, me!" with its anxious thoughts and stories about the past and future, full of blame and victimhood.
This darkness is not evil, but divine. This night is not a mind full of unhappiness, but no mind at all! It is a night beyond thinking and story-telling. It is a radiant annihilation, a cauldron of rebirth, not for the faint of heart.
Emptying the mind into the void was called "kenosis" in New Testament Greek: Jesus became divine by "emptying" himself. The void so hollow, so empty, is the very womb of creation, the source of continuous revelation.
Now gourds are hollow too, flowers wither, stems fall back to the seed. The spider web glitters in the moon, yet cannot capture the stars. We enter the sacred season of Samhain, when the veil between worlds is thin. Awareness wants to dissolve the past and future into Presence.
Why not rest in the heart's silence? Why not become the dark, and radiate peace beyond light?
Photo: Our Samhain alter.
A passing apprehension of the Beautiful - brushstroke of our gaze against the last petal of Autumn, sparkle of attention at the owl's lament from the hemlock grove, sudden homecoming to the miracle of a breath - stirs a depth in us that resonates forever in our stillness; whereas the contraction of a fear or worry, a shudder of despair, is a momentary shadow that is external to the soul, with no seed in Being.
The soul is Beauty itself. It is never nourished by doubt, guilt, anxiety or blame. But the soul is formed by those small moments when we are deeply happy. Joy is eternal, unhappiness a mirage. Be a flame, rooted in the ground of wonder. Hafiz said, “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
But what of the "dark night of the soul?" Is there no dignity in suffering?
Pain is in the present moment. There is profound dignity in the way pain focuses our awareness. Pain, awful as it is, can be a gateway to Presence. But when our mind maintains a commentary about our pain, and builds a story around it, pain becomes "suffering." Pain is present; suffering is about the past and future.
We make a romance of our suffering as long as we choose. Some of us identify so thoroughly with thoughts of shame, despair, victimhood, and blame, we are afraid to let them go. Letting go of powerful thoughts and beliefs about our story feels like death. To plunge into the void beyond the mind is annihilation, and not for the faint of heart.
This is what Christian mystics like St. John of the Cross meant by "the dark night of the soul." The dark night is not a negative thought or feeling in the mind, but the negation of the mind itself.
"Dark night" in Christianity is precisely what the Buddhist means by "anatta," no separate mind. Yet this sublime emptying of the self - "kenosis" in New Testament Greek - is the heart of Presence, and the source of creation.
Green economics begins with a new definition of abundance: the freedom gained by needing and using less. Wealth is a simpler material life, making room for the infinite resource of the spirit.
A Green vision celebrates the small, not the big; the local, not the federal; conservation, not waste; cooperation, not competition; enough, not more. What riches do we gain by investing in clean energy, sustainable economy, local community, and gentler living?
The wealth of an ancient forest, a fallow meadow. Abundance of beauty, with leisure to walk more slowly on the Earth. The profit of evening silence, a thrush's song. At midnight, ten million stars. At dawn, time to breathe.
Your mind is the oppressor. Your mind is the healer. Your mind creates your role, leaps in and calls it fate. Why spend ten thousand lifetimes playing the victim, complaining about the darkness of the past, when you can dissolve into the light of Presence now?
Your spine is a wick, your body a flame that has no edges. Just radiate. No need to make even a hair's breadth distinction between 'spirit' and 'flesh.'
Why not choose to contain the stars you see above you? We could meet here. But you're so stunned with astonishment, you've forgotten that you dwell in the heart of a miracle - this perpetual flowering of the Self into the Other.