Too much order is paralyzing. Too much chaos is terrifying. Find the balance between order and chaos, just where breathing in becomes breathing out, where discipline becomes letting go, where you are neither on the left or the right but gently swaying, where you give up the argument for perfection, where you stumble into grace, and surrender to the gift of your dance.
"I" hate to bow. It means losing the separateness that is "me." But there is that of God, deeper inside me than I, who loves bowing.
A bow happens when I have no idea to whom I bow. My forehead touches the soil and whatever was in here spills out... Then I am so empty, all creation bows to itself through me.
Friend, let's kneel to one another for no reason. Let's throw ourselves gently on the sweet earth, and scatter our bodies like brown sugar.
One morning when the Goddess Kwan Yin was a human child, she strolled out beyond the village to the place where the meadow meets the forest. While gathering berries for her breakfast, she met the Bodhisattva, deeply absorbed in walking meditation.
Sensing the sweet savor of enlightenment simply through his body's motion at rest, rest in motion, Kwan Yin approached him with a question. "Sir, I have been searching for someone to tell me why we are here. Can you?"
"I can tell you why I am here," he answered gently. Then he knelt and whispered:
"To sit, to stand, to walk, and to lie down.
These are the four dignities of human life.
If you do these four tasks well,
all else in heaven and earth is accomplished.
No need to pray for a miracle.
Just dwell completely in your body."
A professor from the nearby temple school was walking there too, gathering his thoughts for the next class in Advanced Moral Philosophy. Overhearing the conversation between the Bodhisattva and the girl, he interjected, "Sir, you should instruct this child's soul, not her body. Enlighten her moral character with the great virtues of justice, charity, temperance, and service."
The Bodhisattva replied, "You may teach these abstractions if you like, but I will teach the beauty of mere sitting, standing, walking, lying down."
Indignantly the professor departed. Then the Quiet One asked the child, "Tell me what you did this morning."
She replied, "Lying in my bed, I awoke. Sitting up, I saw the sun at my window. I stood and had a good stretch. Then I walked here."
"Well done, my little friend! And what were you doing as you did these tasks?"
"Sir, I was doing nothing else. Lying down, I was just lying down. Sitting, I was just sitting. Standing up, I enjoyed standing. Walking, I walked with delight."
"Well done." said the Quiet One. "Now I can see that when you stand, you stand like a mountain whose streams nourish the earth, your body as light as a cyclone of butterflies. When you walk, you walk like a well-fed lioness. When you sit, you are a forest in Spring, still yet stirring with unborn blossoms. Lying down, you become a river in a fertile valley. All your future victories rehearse themselves in the calm abiding of your breath. Warrior angels are at ease, yet ready to serve, in the sinews of your flesh."
The child looked at him with eyes so empty and clear, they were as spaces where galaxies whirl. She did not understand what he said, but she understood very well what he meant.
"Now tell me, little friend. Early in the morning, does the sun not rise in your chest?"
"Yes!" she replied.
"And in the evening, does moonlight not pour through your bones like milk into a hollow cup, filling you from belly to crown?"
"Yes!" she replied.
"Well done. Now honor your body till the end of days, when the secret of dust shall be revealed."
"And how, sir, shall I honor this body?"
"Pour one breath into another, letting the sky kiss the earth in your heart, sitting, standing, walking, and reclining with joy. Thus you bring peace to all creatures.
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the news of the day. We forget that the media pick the 10 or 12 most horrible events in the world, and repeat them ad infinitum 24/7, while all the while billions of people perform acts of kindness and beauty, the anonymous sacraments of the commonplace. With the grace of your breath, your glance, your Presence, why not help a dragonfly's wing lift up the earth? Why not harness the infinite power of gratitude?
Rest as Self-radiant awareness. Whenever you feel stressed, divided, weary, off-center, just rest as You.
Rest is not passive. Rest is dynamic return. Rest is empowerment. Rest is healing action. This is the real meaning of the Sabbath.True rest is that act which re-establishes the wholeness of matter, energy and spirit as one continuum. Matter, energy and spirit are just different densities of a single essence, which is your own awareness. This means that your awareness runs through the seer and the seen. All that is around you, from the nearest flower to the most distant star, is the intimate extension of You. You are the cosmic continuum.In order to find true rest, we must know where to rest. If we think we must go somewhere "else" to rest, that very "going" will make us restless. If we seek rest in a temple or an ashram, in the image of a God, or in a chakra of our subtle body, we will be restless. If we seek rest in a faith or belief, we will be disappointed. Rest can only happen in the present moment, right where we already are, before a single thought arises, before any seeking begins. Let us rest as awareness in awareness.
Through awareness at rest in itself, we rediscover the primordial continuity of consciousness and the material world. You are not a separate observer of the world. You are the world. The world arises in the observer, taking on the observer's quality and energy.
This primal unity was broken by our own mind. Resting heals our wound. What is the wound? The ontological gap that severs subject from object.
The gap between subject and object is the "original sin," the first fracture that caused every other mis-perceived duality: separation of man and woman, separation of man and nature, separation of "good" and "evil," separation of races, nations, parties, religions...
But resting as awareness, we re-cognize the wholeness, and perceive the world as the effulgence of the Self. No longer divided from the cosmos by an abyss of "me" and "mine," we can taste the sweet nectar pervading both subject and object, spirit and matter. That nectar is our own consciousness.
Go nowhere. Rest here! You will become so awake, so whole and clear. Earth will float in your clarity like a playful mirage, and your presence will bring levity to the material creation. You will lighten the burden of multitudes. For as you dissolve your separateness, you dissolve the separateness of others.The other is not other than the Self. It is You who flows through a blade of grass, a speck of dirt. It is You who flows through the moon, the sun and stars. It is You who flows through the eyes and tears of the homeless, the refugee. "Love your neighbor as yourself for the simple reason that your neighbor is yourself.
Mountains, rivers, clouds and supernovae spill out of your eyes. Their music overflows your ears. Your senses enchant creation. The big bang silently explodes from the core of your heart. Empty of all concepts, the luminous ocean of your awareness is the energy that solidifies into material forms. Forms arise and disappear continuously, the effervescent poignancy of the world, where loss is the very pregnancy of abundance. As you let things go, they come. You are wealthy beyond all measure, for you grasp nothing. What is there to grasp? It is all You.
Earth and myriad other worlds are marvelous bubbles of sparkling foam. They are filled with your breath and consist of nothing but the light of your awareness.
Your are invited to see that the cosmos is made out of your seeing. Let the world mirror of your loving kindness. Rest and be radiant.
Happy Janmashtami, Lord Krishna's birthday, August 25!
Actually, Lord Krishna was not born into the world. He is Ananda, bliss-consciousness. The world is born out of him, the primal energy of Bliss, each moment.
Even as He dances in the garden of Vrindavan, Krishna remains Shyama Sundara: the boundless blue sky (Shyama) of Divine Beauty (Sundara), containing all the galaxies, yet pervading every sub-nuclear particle of creation.
It is enough just to remember that each atom of your body is the play of Krishna, and your inhalation is the whole sky. Enough to know that your own heart is Radha, the paramour of the Infinite, and what She longs for is simply this breath, filled with Brahmananda, the bliss-energy of God.
In the center of your chest is a muscle full of blood, fire, and air. And around that pulsing organ is a resonant field forming a hologram that contains every other heart on earth, as well as the heart of every Buddha, Bodhisattva, God and Goddess in the subtle worlds.
The work of this heart is the duty of a rose: drinking from its own root, absorbing the sun, opening, offering a breath of pollen to the sky. The work of love is simply to embrace your own heart with attention, and give it room to beat. It's beat will nourish heaven and earth.
The beginning and end of all spiritual practice is to rest awareness in the heart. Let action spring from there.
Photo by Kristy Thompson
The Savior was pure silence.
Then he put on flesh, like yours.
To touch the Christ, look deep
into your body.
Underestimating your glory
is the only sin.
Now drink up the rest of this day:
bask in yourself and squander the kingdom!
A fountain of something like starlight
will rise up your spine,
spilling over, showering the world
with burning seeds of wonder,
gold as the stuff in Mary's womb...
The 2nd Century Gnostic, Valentinus, defined the Virgin Mother of God as “mystical eternal silence.” St. Hesychius of Jerusalem called this mystery, “The heart’s silence, unbroken by any thought.” Inward silence is the untainted virgin who dwells at the center of your soul. Resting there, you give birth to Light.
Of this archetypal event, St. Bonaventure wrote, "You too must become a Mary if you would give birth to the Light of God's Son in your soul." The 12th century mystic, Meister Eckhart, said, "The birth which happened two thousand years ago is meaningless until it happens in me."
There is a spacious silence in the depths of your awareness. This silent space is untouched, unsullied by any thought, sense impression, memory or desire. This is the space of meditation. When your mind is full of thoughts, and you become frustrated because, "I am having too many thoughts!" how do you know that you are thinking? There must be a witness who sees your thoughts. But the witness cannot be a thought. The witness is pure silence. Behind all your thoughts, the silence just watches. The witness is pure awareness. She is the Virgin.
We call her “Ever” Virgin because the witness is timeless. Thinking creates time. Past and future are nothing but thoughts. When thought is silent, time is not. The silence of pure awareness is eternity.
Christian mystics speak of the "divine darkness." This all-mothering dark is the "formless void" of Genesis 1, "the deep" where the Word of creation is born. St. Paul wrote: "The same God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts..." So the inner Virgin is not only a Mystery of contemplative prayer, but a cosmic Mystery. When we touch her silence, we have touched the source of creation.
It is good to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, or the birth of Buddha at the full moon of May: but please do not underestimate your own birth. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God, shining in the face of Christ, is born this very moment in the center of your soul!
"The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men."
~1 Corinthian 1:25
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." ~Shakespeare (As You Like It)
The greatest good you could do for another person is to free them from their own thoughts. Not replacing their thought with another thought, but giving them a taste of infinity, a savor of the nectar of pure consciousness, liberated from the bondage of any thought at all.
"Guru" means "the light that removes darkness." A real Guru is the reverse of conventional Western notions about teaching. The myth of our tradition begins with the darkness of the unknown. Then an authoritative teacher imparts the "right" concepts to believe in, leading us to the light of knowledge.
But spiritual truth is just the opposite. The darkness is the known. A Guru plays the role of trickster and fool, startling us out of the shadowed labyrinth of our mind, into the light of the Unknown.
"If we are established in our Self, then we feel connected to everybody." ~Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Like so many of us, I was raised with the Western Christian concept of the self. Self was a dirty four-letter word. I was supposed to condemn myself as a "sinner," and regard everyone else as a "sinner" too. Then, somehow, I was supposed to love, selflessly.
From the earliest age, our religion educates us to believe that, at the primal core of our being, there is something wrong. In fact, we are at fault even before we are born, infected with "original sin."
But this is only the teaching of the Church, not the teaching of Jesus. Jesus said: "The kingdom of heaven is within you.... You are the light of the world." A spiritual Master never teaches original sin, but original innocence.
When I was in college, I received initiation from the Guru, through the Shankaracharya tradition of India. By Grace, I directly tasted the radiance, the beauty, the oceanic loving-kindness of the Self. Then I knew through direct experience that this boundless Being is not merely my Self, but the Self in all. And I saw that this Atmic splendor is the very Kingdom Within that Jesus spoke of. It became so obvious that there is no conflict whatsoever between Jesus and the Masters of India. They shine the same Light, refracted into different beams through the prism of human culture.
The Self is without sin. In the Self, there is no thread of imperfection, not even the slightest hair-like fault line. If I see imperfection, if I see ugliness, if I see wrong-doing and attribute blame, then I need to look more carefully not at what I see, but at the one who is looking. I see the world with the same degree of clarity with which I see the Self.
As I see, so are my actions. Disconnected from the Self, my vision is overshadowed by duality. I see only separateness, otherness. My actions reflect that separateness in judgment, competition, prejudice, defensiveness, and aggression. But what happens when I see my neighbor, or even my enemy, as my own Self? Then I can see through the clarity of compassion, with the eye of the heart. Everyone is acting from their own conditioning, in their own level of consciousness. The violent need our help, not our judgment. And if we perceive their faults, we perceive them through the fractured lens of our own mind.
Yes, right now it appears that the shell of civilization is shattering like an egg. That is because the old world is rooted in the false vision of separate religions, separate races, separate nations, separate selves in competition. But none of them can "win." Only wholeness can win. We are birthing a new world, rooted in the vision of one Self.
Ramana Maharshi said, "Transforming your Self is the means of giving light to the whole world." Who are you, really? Beyond your name, resumé, gender, race, religion, behind the external form of this body and the mask of this personality, who are You?
You are the boundless clarity of the sky in the midst of clouds. You are immaculate stillness at the center of the storm. You are eternally free, regardless of external circumstance. Your are the purest pearl, even if you have fallen into the mud of this mind.
You are awakened space, giving birth to stars and galaxies from vibrations of pure consciousness, waves of infinite possibility. Your Self is a luminous jewel faceted with all other selves, scintillating with complexity in the diamond of unity. And the binding force of light that plays through you is Love. Love is the subtlest law of nature, at the basis of physics, physiology, and astronomy. Love is the science of your heart.
The Bible said, "God is love." Yet something was not spoken. Now is the time to tell the whole truth. Time to say, "God is love. I am love. You are love. This entire creation is woven out of love. Love is the light of the Self."
Jai Guru Dev
For thousands of years, when you needed Grace, you thought of Krishna, you thought of Kwan Yin, you thought of Amitaba, you thought of Jesus. And for the briefest moment, a cool breeze came in the burning noon of your separateness.
But the Savior lingered only for a moment, the duration of a name. Jesus came into this world and departed, ascending to heaven. The Guest of your heart did not stay.
O friend, is there not a more constant way? A nourishing wind that greens your forest soul and seeds the meadows of your flesh each day, wafting soft light at dawn, then gentle evening rain?
If you yearn for love, just welcome the Guest who never leaves, the Christ who never departed. Repose in the grace of your own heartbeat. Receive eternal salvation from this very breath.
Hear my short recorded talk on the Jesus Prayer, with a guided meditation, on SoundCloud: LINK
I. Three Jewels
There are three precious jewels which you were given in your mother's womb. I am only going to remind you of their value, for you have let them get tarnished. Once you understand the value of what you already have, you will experience the deepest meditation and the highest form of prayer just by breathing. Before you set out on this life, your Inward Teacher gave you these three talismans to take on your journey: Breath, Heart, Silence.
The human body itself is the great sacrament. When you are fully embodied, no further sacrament is needed. If we would but attend to this body with as much devotion as we attend to church buildings, we would enter the temple of God at once.
As the center of the temple is the Holy of Holies, the center of the body is the Heart. The Heart is not merely a physical organ, but the matrix of our consciousness. The Heart is like a radio: it is constructed out of physical matter but in such a way as to receive invisible energies, turning them into music. We can attune our hearts to God just as surely as we can set our radio to our favorite channel. In this prayer, we quite literally put our awareness in the heart, in that beating organ at the center. Prayer is a sacrament: spiritual presence apprehended through a physical sign. When your attention rests in the Heart, you pass through a tiny golden portal to the Kingdom. Eternity dwells in a tiny spark at the center of your Heart. Entering that infinitesimal door, you discover yourself in the infinite expanse of God. This what Jesus meant when he said, "I am the door." The I Am at the center of your Heart is the portal to God-Consciousness.
Down through the door of the Heart flows the Breath, the carrier of all that nourishes and heals. Breath is the unacknowledged physician in every human body. It cleanses each cell, enlivens each atom. If we would employ the power of our breath, we would worry much less about the growing costs of health care. As our Heart is the physical sign of the soul, so our Breath is the physical sign of the Spirit. The Biblical authors knew this. In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures they used the same word to express both spirit and breath. The double meaning of the Hebrew ruach and the Greek pneuma corresponds to the double reality of our own breath. Breath is both the vehicle for oxygen and the host for spiritual energy. Each great religious tradition acknowledges this subtle energy in the breath: it is called chi in China, prana in India, spiritus in the West.
Simply to breathe is the purest form of prayer. But what turns ordinary respiration into worship? Awareness. Fully conscious of breath, I discover that each breath is a gift. I am not breathing: I am breathed by the Almighty. Inhalation is grace; exhalation is surrender. Breathing in, breathing out: grace and surrender. Merely observing this gift, with awareness, transforms mechanical act into angelic sacrament.
The jewel of Silence is our third birthright. When we become aware of the Silence that is always here beneath the static chatter of our thoughts, we immediately enter the kingdom of the present moment. Silence is the space where God dwells as eternal presence. Only when we enter the spacious silence of the present moment can we meet God. For God is never in the future, never in the past. God is presence itself.
"Take no thought for tomorrow," Jesus declared. He always brought his listeners into the Kingdom of Now. They asked when the kingdom would come and he replied, "The kingdom of heaven is right here, in the midst of you!" He declared, "Before Abraham was, I Am." The whole spiritual journey is from here to now. Those who aren't ready for this journey study old maps.
Then how do we dwell in silent presence without being swept into the past and future by a flood of thoughts?
First, we acknowledge the fact that thinking creates time. The past and future only exist as thoughts. We carry past and future in our heads, but our hearts always beat now. Our hearts are always in the Kingdom.
Failure to acknowledge presence is the seed of suffering. Regrets of the past and anxieties of the future are actually physiological stresses carried in the neurons of our brain. Time is a neurological phenomena, a chemical-electric activity in the cortex. Time is anxiety, and anxiety is time.
The solution to the problem of time is simply to become aware of time as a sensation in the brain. Watch time forming inside you as a knot of thoughts, fears, desires. See how you label this knot past and future. Instead of being mesmerized and absorbed by mental images, inner movies about what happened or what might happen, become aware of these thoughts as minute physical impulses. The moment I become aware, "Ah, this passing thought is just a chemical activity in my brain," the thought loses its binding power. I can observe the sensation that underlies the thought, without converting it into a mental picture. Then, penetrating that sensation without resistance, I can rest in the silence that is always here, behind every thought. This silence is the pure awareness that observes thoughts, but is never a thought itself. Pure awareness is the still space where thoughts arise and dissolve. This still space is the real me. I am the watcher. Thus Jesus taught, "Watch and pray." The watcher, not the thinker, finds God.
The silence that watches thoughts come and go is always in the present. Silence is the end of time.
Let each breath be an anchor that moors you to the silence of the heart. Follow your exhalation from the mind into the heart. At the very end of the exhalation, you will discover a moment of complete emptiness, just before inhalation begins. In that emptiness, there is no thought, no mind, no time: just silent emptiness. This is Christ's kinosis, or self-emptiness. "He emptied himself" (Philippians 2). Rest in that measureless empty stillness at the end of the exhalation, where this little stream of soul returns to the ocean of Spirit.
From that depth will rise the inhalation, your next breath, a gift. Yes, you will discover that this breath is not really yours. It is the gift of the infinite.
Heart Mandala with the seed syllable, "Hum". This syllable is practiced in Tibetan, Yogic, Sufi and Hebrew mystical prayer. 'Hu' is one of the names of God in the Hebrew scriptures.
These meditation instructions should be practiced, not analyzed. With eyes closed, practice each step for awhile until it becomes natural and easy. Then move to the next step. Don't try to force your way through the whole sequence at one time. Use the instructions that work. Own them. In the end, they flow together as one simple process carried out, not by your effort, but by Grace: the Grace of your Inner Teacher. There is no major religious tradition in the world that does not contain this practice.
• Close your eyes and observe the breath. Observe with gentle attention, not forced concentration. Let the breath flow naturally from the nostrils down to the abdomen. Be aware of it all the way.
• As you breathe out, let go of tension. Let go of any subtle holding in the muscles of the shoulders, chest, or belly. As you release tension through the exhalation, let go of grasping thoughts in the mind. What unconscious holding are you doing in the region of the solar plexus? Breathe out this tension. Along with it, drop the mind! Breathing out tension of your body, you can breathe out the tension of time past.
• Allow awareness to sink from the head to the heart, quite literally. Gaze down into your heart and feel it beating. Give it room to beat. Feel its warmth. With awareness in the heart, observe whatever sensations come, without analyzing or labeling the sensation "good" or "bad," "pain" or "pleasure." You may have denied your heart for a long time. Attention here can release strange feelings: heat, cold, fluttering, anger, fear, sadness. These words are just labels. Feel the sensations as energy without words. After regular practice, eventually you will experience a causeless glow of happiness in the heart.
Don't let this quiet joy confuse you, asking, "What right have I to be joyful?" The innate joy of the heart has no cause. In Sanskrit it is called anahatta, meaning unstruck causeless sound. The heart is called the anahatta chakra. The gracious gift of undeserved happiness is your birthright. You don't have to accomplish anything in order to deserve a song in your heart! As Jnaneshwar sang:
"The moment the energy of Spirit (kundalini shakti) enters the heart region, the self-begotten divine unstruck music begins to play."• Now you are simply breathing in the heart. At the end of your exhalation, notice the stillness, the silent emptiness, the still point. This is the door. Here, surrender. This is the boundless space from which creation arises, the formless void mentioned in the first verse of the Bible. It is here already, even before God says, Let there be light.
• After spending some time observing the exhalation and resting in silence, become aware of the inhalation. Observe each in-breath as a stream of living energy, flowing into your heart.
• Receive the inhalation with gratitude. Note its effortlessness. The breath is given. It is not something you work for. With this awareness, you will feel a soft thrill, a warmth deep in the heart. This is the outward and physical sign of Grace. Life is a gift.
• Continue for as long as you wish, just resting and breathing through the heart. Nothing could be simpler. Nothing could be more profound. With every inhalation, receive. With every exhalation, offer. Breathing is the whole story of salvation: the gift of God and the soul's response. Your breath is Holy Communion on the heart's alter.
The Holy Breath is the Holy Spirit, consecrating and trans-substantiating your body into the Host of God. Adam was created out of dust (adamah) by the breath of God (ruach Elohim) to become a living soul (nephesh). Nephesh also means breath in Hebrew, an individual breath descended from the divine breath of the Spirit. So in the prayer of the heart, you become the new Adam: humanity reborn with every breath.
Of course, this is just the description in Western and Biblical terms. Exactly the same experience is described in the sacred literature of the Sufi mystics, the Buddhist masters, and the devotional saints of India. The Upanishads teach:
"The breath goes out with aham (I am) and comes in with Sah (God). Within everyone this natural meditation of ham-sah is happening."
Eastern Orthodox icon of the heart.
III. The Divine Name
When I find myself gazing into the radiance of my Heart, which is the radiance of every Heart, I have become a silent Mary brooding over the manger. A strange and wonderful sensation is born in my core, a sensation both physical and spiritual. It is what we have been seeking. All other desires are but shadows of this yearning for the birth of Christ-Consciousness within. As Augustine wrote, "Our hearts are ever restless till they find their rest in Thee."
Empty of thought, silently watching, untainted by time, my own pure awareness is the Virgin's Womb. So the early Christian Gnostic,Valentinus, said that the true Virgin Mother is "mystical eternal silence within."
Christ is born in the womb of awareness as an Inward Light. The Spirit who begets this offspring of God is the Breath. The Heart is the manger, for there is no room in the busy inn of the mind.
It sometimes happens that, even when we plunge into the ocean of silence, the Heart is so filled with gratitude that it needs to cry out, to express the beauty it gives birth to. This requires no more than a single word - a prayer word - what the Orthodox masters called eucharistos monologistos: one-word prayer. Please remember that this word is the effect, not the cause, of prayer. The word is not a technique but an effulgence. Word is the gift of silence.
In the East, the prayer-word is called a mantra, which means vehicle for the mind. We get both the English word mind and the Greek suffix -tron (as in electron) from the Sanskrit. Thus man-tra: a carrier or vehicle for the mind. In Biblical traditions, the mantra that carries the mind into the heart is the Divine Name. There is a vast tradition in Kabbalah about the practice of the divine name in Hebrew meditation. There is also a vast tradition in the Philocalia concerning the use of the name of Jesus in Orthodox Christian meditation.
A true experience of mantra is neither repetition nor concentration. These are misconceptions that commonly ruin the innocence of prayer before it even begins! There is no instruction to mechanically repeat the mantra, or to force the mind into focusing. The mantra need not be mechanically synchronized with the breath either. A true prayer-word is felt, not spoken: it is a vibration of silence. As a bird, soaring in a current of wind, only beats its wings with an occasional pulse to sustain its effortless air-born flight, so we invoke the mantra ever so softly. This image is from St. Theresa of Avila.
Breathing out or breathing in, gently and without effort hear the Name. Let the Name arise on the breath of silence as foam arises on the crest of a wave. Touch the Name with your awareness as gently as a feather touching a bubble.
Praying the divine Name with the breath folds the mind into the heart, like sugar stirred into cream. As the mantra dissolves into the breath, its subtle but powerful vibration infuses every cell of the body, thrilling each electron. This is how the word of prayer becomes the Word of creation, which God speaks in the genesis of heaven and earth. "In the beginning was the Word.... all things were created through Him." (John 1) So the Indian Mandukya Upanishad declares, "The syllable Om is the eternal Godhead, and is the universe. Whatever was, whatever is, whatever shall be, is Om." When the mantra vibrates in the Heart, we are attuning our individuality to the universal source of creation.
The ancient masters of Christian prayer experienced this epiphany through the name of Jesus. By means of the breath, Orthodox masters carried Jesus into their hearts. St. Hesychius of Jerusalem (4th Century) spoke of "breathing Jesus Christ." In the 6th Century, St. John Climacus wrote, "Let the Name of Jesus be joined to your breath: then you shall know the use of silence." A later saint, Nichodimus of the Holy Mountain, wrote, "Let Jesus be your breath."
I invite you to listen to God's Breath in your heart. The Spirit will reveal a prayer-word appropriate for you, a word that helps your mind merge into God. After all, the original Aramaic meaning of messiah is God's out-breathing. God's anointing happens to you through the grace of the divine Name.
If you have experienced the blessing of initiation by a true spiritual master, then practice the mantra your Guru gave you in this effortless graceful way.
Prayer is not your work, but God's work inside you. When divine breath centers to a single fiery seed of love in your heart, silence vibrates with the thunder of God's Name. The Word incarnates in your body. Though you are not aware of its true amplitude, theWord sends forth a wave of healing that ripples through every photon of light, every atom of creation, regenerating not your flesh alone, but all humanity. Every particle of your body is inter-woven in one quantum field with each child in Darfur, every mother in Haiti. This principle is known as Bell's Theorum in physics, and has been verified experimentally. In the words of founding quantum physicist, Sir Arthur Eddington, "When the electron vibrates, the whole universe shakes." You are truly part of the "universal body of Christ." Every breath you breathe through the Heart is a breath for the world.
IV. The Culture of Prayer
We need to confess that there is a spiritual void in our hearts. Most of today's social and economic problems arise from our denial of that void. We deny the void by stuffing it: filling it with alcohol, stimulants, fast food, nerve-pounding music, instant sex, even violence. The busy-ness of work is also a way to stuff our inner void. So is shopping! Strolling through the mall, we buy not out of necessity, but despair. Our national economy of consumerism thrives on spiritual emptiness.
Ironically, the solution is right where the problem is: the empty space in the heart. Nowhere but here will we find the antidote to our angst and the dryness of our workdays. If we would only take a little time each morning and evening to enter the Heart through prayer, it might be "the little leaven that raises the whole loaf." Renew your world by renewing your Heart!
This prayer is not a flight from darkness: it embraces darkness. Not a flight from emptiness: it embraces emptiness. Prayer of the Heart accepts our inner emptiness as sacred ground. When we embrace emptiness, we become the vast space of compassion. When we embrace darkness, we hear the silence say, "Let there be light!"
Jai Guru Dev
You might look at ordinary objects and say, "There are no miracles." But in fact, these objects are miraculous - the dandelion, the cloud, the dewdrop, the eyes of a child - for they exist. And that they exist is a miracle, because Being itself is transcendent, breath-taking, eternal.
Just before he died, Buddha's followers asked him for his final teaching. So Buddha merely pointed to a flower. We see the thing-ness of the flower, but the Awakened One was pointing to the Being of the flower. There is a difference between the thing-ness and the Being of a flower.
To the mind that is half-asleep, Being seems abstract. But to the awakened, Being is more solid, more actual, than any thing. The difference between ignorance and enlightenment is simply this: the ignorant see a world of things, but the enlightened see the Being of things.
This divine Being imparts to creatures a fleeting and apparent existence, so that we behold them and know quite clearly that they are real, whether they be subatomic particles or stars. The Being that imparts a brief and relative existence to these things, must be more actual and solid than any of them. Therefor pure Being, though formless, is more real than any thing which exists.
When you awaken your own Being, you know that you are not an object. As Being, you participate in the Being of all. There cannot possibly be more than one Being, and you are That, I am That, all this is That. Om Tat Sat.
Compared to the lightning-bolt of pure Being that passes through a thing to give it reality, the form of the thing is a mirage.
Pure Being enfolds us, upholds us, births us, and finally receives us in death. Out of the Being we take form, and to the formless Being we return as an offering, just as waves emerge and return to the depth of the sea. At the moment of death, we awaken and rejoice in the boundless majesty of who we truly are. We know our Being as more solid and substantial than the world. But why wait until then? Why not awaken now, dying to form and waking to eternal Being?
Being is the pure generosity of space, birthing atoms and galaxies, gods and men, world upon world, beyond imagining. Yet the marvelous and boundless ocean of Being is simply the space of our own awareness.
Being is always full and complete, in whatever form we might behold it. The wing of a dragonfly might be frail and broken, but its Being is perfect. A dying old man might be yellow and shrunken, with a death rattle in his throat. But his Being is eternal, fresh and vigorous, passing out of that breath into eternity.
Simply Being, you have nothing to fear, for your existence is whole and complete each instant. You require only one commandment: Be.
Being requires no effort, and when you truly Are, doing flows spontaneously from the grace of Being. The only reason we cannot experience this is because we try too hard to exist. Yet existence requires no work: we need only to allow it to Be.
When we become an empty vessel, and the mystery of Being flows through us, decisive action flowers from the heart, without plan or preconception. All great masters have taught this truth: dynamic action through effortless stillness.
The Taoists called it wei wu wei: doing through not-doing. Laotzu said, The way to do is to be. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna taught, One who sees stillness in action and action in stillness, truly sees. Jesus said, Behold the lilies of the field, they neither toil or spin.
One who is established in Being appears to be engaged in dynamic activity, but their inward experience is stillness. Outward action, inward silence: that is the husk and core of life. Seen in true perspective, Being is solid as diamond, while action is like a line drawn on water, ephemeral and dreamlike.
When we observe our past, all that has lead up to this moment, we see how dreamlike it is. As for the present moment, it is gone in a micro-second. As for the future, it does not exist at all. Thus all of our existence - past, present, and future - is a phantasm, a mirage, playing in the still space of eternity. Why not realize the dreamlike fluidity of existence now, while it is happening?
Just as dynamic action occurs in a dream while our head quietly rests on a pillow, so in waking life we may achieve masterful accomplishments while our awareness reposes in the unwavering stillness of Being.
You cannot experience the grace of Being through some other being - neither through Jesus, nor Buddha, nor your Guru. You can only taste the infinite through your own infinite nature.
Please, for the sake of the world, awaken the sheer magnificence of who you are. When your heart consciously resonates with Being, you will send heart-waves throughout creation. Your realize Being not just for you: your Being uplifts the world.
Many creatures exist, but there is only one Existence. Touch the Being in your heart and you touch everyone. Taste the miracle of your own Existence and you see the miraculous nature of all creatures. Even a gnat is holy.
The death of Pan reminds us that the most brilliant comic genius, the most visionary poet, the greatest artist and musician, is nurtured by the cool deep springs of melancholy, grief, and sorrow, as surely as by rays of sun. Those who expect life to be a constant smile or laugh will never know the wellspring of creativity, the seed of light, which is an immaculate, terrible, magnificent darkness, a God beyond god.
Robin Williams, d. August 11, 2014
'Layam vraja: dissolve now.' ~Ashtavakra Gita
They say that dissolving the 'I' is enlightenment, and this is extraordinary. But didn't it happen when you were a child, in ordinary moments of wonder, every day? Wonder at a caterpillar, wonder in the eyes of a new friend on the playground, wonder of a shooting star?
Doesn't it happen now, when you give yourself completely to your grief, and dissolve into a tear? When you give yourself completely to your joy, and dissolve into laughter? When you give yourself completely to the sound of Miles, a Monet water lily, a sonnet of Keats, and dissolve into beauty? When you give yourself completely to the Friend, this touch of divine breath, and dissolve into love?
In such an ordinary moment of no-thing, who is left? Doesn't enlightenment happen a thousand times a day?
Painting by Claudia Olivos
Lord, I have a confession to make: I don't believe in Sin. Even at the age of seven, It was self-evident to me that my Creator, whose nature is pure love, could not possibly judge one of her creatures to be any less divine than herself. But I do ask forgiveness for one thing...
Please forgive me for ever having doubted your immediate, immaculate, overwhelming, unconditional presence, at every moment everywhere, in darkness and in light. For you are Presence itself.
The thought of silence is not silence. Thought can never appreciate the beauty of silence. Only silence can taste its own beauty.
The concept of God is not God. Concepts are bound by their definitions. They cannot taste the infinite, because the infinite is boundless, indefinable.
We must become the infinite to savor the infinite, and become silence to taste silence.
When we encounter "great thinkers," it is not the form of their thoughts that are great, but the depth of silence resonating inside them.
That thought which dissolves into living silence, awakening silence within you, is true mantra. That form which transports you to the formless, is true art.
"I love your silences; they are like mine," wrote Anias Ninn. There is more than one kind of silence. There is the silence of repression and fear. There is the silence that is just an absence of noise. There is also the silence of deep communion. And there is the womb-silence of infinite possibility, a silence that vibrates with waves of potential, silence of the ocean of bliss, silence foaming and bubbling with unborn planets and galaxies...
Don't be so smart. Be a little stupid. Watch thoughts come and go without grasping them. Even the thought of 'me.' You can rest beyond mind as self-radiant emptiness.
You are not an idea, ceaselessly arguing with other ideas. You are sparkling omnipresent free space, where all ideas arise and dissolve without conflict.
I know this because I am the stupidest person of all: the way to peace is awakening the Witness.
I entered the confessional, because I was trying to get rid of some bad habits. The confessional was deep inside my own chest.
There I met the Master, a white haired 2nd Century desert saint named Theodorus. "Father, I need help with some bad habits. I keep making excuses and back-sliding. I'm beginning to think it might be part of a bigger problem. Come to think of it, more often than not, I do what I ought not to do, and I do not do what I ought to do, and I'm afraid there might be something terribly wrong. Do you know what it is?"
"Yes," said Theodorus. "Are you ready to hear it?"
"I'm pretty sure," I said. "Pretty sure."
"Well then," he said, "here it is. You lie to yourself about everything all the time."
I was silent for quite a while. Then I said, "What was that?"
"You lie to yourself about everything all the time."
"I'm not sure I get your drift," I said.
"Every thought you think is a lie," Theodorus answered.
I breathed a sigh of remorse, which was also a sigh of relief. It was the sweetest breath I ever offered.
Then the old saint said, "A thought is an idol. Even the most brilliant thought is a falsehood, because it is only the shadow, the image of a reality you refuse to live with total commitment. A thought is a veil you wear because you are afraid to stand naked before your Beloved."
So I observed my thoughts for awhile, those veils, that mirage dancing upon the stillness of my soul. Then I said, "Please teach this mind to be silent."
The saint replied, "Just let your thoughts arise and dissolve without grasping them, until you sink into the groundless abyss of pre-existence, transcending the very idea of being itself. That is the un-created No from whom every fleeting Yes is born, the dark womb of light, our Mother."
"But how can I understand this?" I asked. "I am a Christian. This sounds like Zen or Vedanta. There is nothing like it in my tradition."
"Certainly there is," Theodorus answered. "Why do you think Jesus died on the cross? He was crucified at the center of a paradox, where opposites converge. He was crucified to show you the Way to the center."
"What Way, Lord?"
"If you would be free, then crucify your mind."
"This is a form of Christianity I never knew about before. Tell me more."
The Lord answered, "The Medieval mystics called this the Via Negativa, 'Way of Negation.' Those who practiced the Way lived in utter simplicity, witnessing every thought arising and passing, even the most beautiful or truthful thought, without clinging to it. They simply remembered that whatever appears in the mind is not who I Am, not who I Am, not who I Am... They crucified every image, even the image of Jesus, even the thought of 'God.' "
"What is that cross?" I asked.
"Those who follow this Way dissolve at the infinitesimal center-point of No-thing. Here, a boundless Now expands, enveloping the beams of past and future, heaven and earth. This is the cross they must carry moment by moment. But their burden is light. Their cross is weightless as a feather in a zephyr of grace, because they dissolve.
"Beholding a new and resurrected earth with every breath, each creature as it is, unadorned by labels and thoughts, they free the object of perception from the story of its past. They illuminate all that they perceive in the pure light of Presence.
"Christian mystics called this clear perception 'quiditas,' which in Latin means 'whatness.' Can you see the 'quiditas' of a caterpillar on a twig, the 'whatness' of a moving cloud or fallen snowflake? Can you gaze at the world without name or story, through the sparkling transparency of your own unfathomable awareness, in whose abyss no 'God' appears, because God is Awareness itself?"
I pondered these words quietly. Then I asked, "Is there no divine Beloved whom I may adore?"
The Lord replied, "She is pure and imageless. She is deeper inside you than your soul. Prior to any conception of name or form, She shines as the Conceiver, like a perfect mirror. That is why we call her 'Virgin.' She is eternal silence. When you awaken each morning, before you conceive your first thought, She is your own blue sky."
The Master ended his words and dissolved into a breath: my own breath. For the entire conversation had only been the whisper of an inhalation, passing through the wind-harp of my heart.
I went to a priest to seek confirmation about all this; he told me to go to church more often. I went to a rabbi; he told me to read a book. I went to a Buddhist monk; he said it was time to chant the sutras. I went to a therapist; he asked me about my sex life.
Then I understood how lonely and sweet, how passionate and solitary, how empty and radiant, how full of beauty and courage this path must surely be!
Abandoning every temple and church, I went into the meadow. I visited a lady bug on the tip of a grass blade. I asked her for further instruction, not in words, but in the overflow of transparency that glistens as crystal silence when you pay complete attention to the tiniest creature. She spread her wings, and led me through cathedrals of clover and dew, into the kingdom of the Ordinary.
Today I went to see my therapist, because I felt the ancient anxiety returning, that shadow of the past, that ghost in my body, with all its stories of conflict.
So I visited my therapist and lay my body down on her couch. Without speaking a word, she rubbed her silken spine against me, gently climbed on top of me, sat on my chest and gazed into my eyes, her pupils expanding with implacable nowness. She let me stroke her cheeks and run my fingers through her fur.
Her body shivering with delight, she arched her back, and I could feel the stress flowing out of me, a current of stale electricity cluttered with images of yesterday. My muscles released their grip on themselves. My brain dissolved its stories. My neurons became vibrant hollows filled with golden streams of imageless bliss. Because I was whole again, the world was whole again - the actual world of furry suchness, without blame or division.
Suddenly, the therapist leapt off my body and walked out of the room. My session was over. She had another appointment.
I inhabit this body for more than half a century. I inhabit this mind for less than half a second. What lupine-blue moth from the mountains lands on my chest, gently pulsing its wings until they find the stillness that is always here?
Or what edgeless sky, camouflaged as my soul, awakens in each honeyed cell of flesh? It withers and dries in the Autumn of my bones, returns in a breath with the fragrance of wisteria, purple riot on gnarled roots of patience.
The morning sun is completely contained in a dewdrop on the hummingbird's tongue. If you want to evaporate into pure compassion, hold two opposites in a hollow place: the desiccated wick of the old moon, and this promiscuous flame.
(It leaps from lover to lover, eye to eye, one star to another, crying "Yes!")
The Lover said to the Beloved,
"I am in love with You."
The Beloved replied with laughter
and twinkling eyes,
"You have no choice!"
Who comprehends this conversation?
I love because I have free will.
But when I surrender completely,
the will is annihilated in love,
and this is perfect freedom.
I know this because I became