Perhaps what wearies you
is not the world
but your own mind.
It's time to make
from the furrow
in your brow
to the temple
in your chest.
The distance isn't far,
merely an exhalation,
yet many lose their way
and turn back.
No voice will lead you.
Voices come from the past.
You're not going there.
into the ancient now.
Just follow the song
of the next bird.
Always choose the path
that leads downward
into deeper green,
the valley, not the mountain.
Rooted in loss,
find the place
where there is no ground.
return to your first breath.
Take it again
It's popular to talk about Kali Yuga these days in the West. Yes, according to the ancient Vedic teachings, this is the age of increasing injustice, chaos, and political corruption: the dregs of time, when impurities rise to the surface of creation, so that they can be emptied in the trash.
Most Western authors get off on identifying with the trauma, outrage, and chaos of this age, but they are only embracing a half-truth. Kali Yuga is also the age when the secrets are open, the temple veil is rent, and the "highest" teachings are given away in the street. The age of Kali makes spiritual liberation easier, not more difficult, because it is not granted through human effort, but through surrender to the grace of the Divine. Grace is the operative word in this age, not achievement.
And grace becomes concrete, substantial in the human nervous system, through the vibration of the divine Name, the mantra. This is why we find that we tend toward liberation when we hear beautiful music, whe we chant together in satsang, and especially when we merge our heart of devotion with the bija mantra, infused with the Shakti of the Goddess - She who is the very vibration of the supreme Lord's silence.
Harer nama harer nama“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, Kali Yuga, the only means of liberation is the divine Name. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” ~Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, 15th C.
harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva
nasty eva gatir anyatha
Kaler doṣa-nidhe rājann"Dear King, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by delighting in Krishna's name, one can enter the communion of the free, the divine kingdom. ~Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 12.3.51
asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya
mukta-sańgaḥ paraḿ vrajet
"Though the evil is thickest in this Kali Age, the remedy is the simplest... This Kali Yuga is praised in the scriptures as incomparably conducive to the salvation of humanity, for we can now attain the Highest through the mere remembrance of God's Name. So of all the Yugas, this Yuga is described as the most holy, the most beneficent.
"Concentration and contemplation were prescribed as the means of liberation for Kritha Yuga, Ascetism as the means for Tretha Yuga, and ritual worship for Dwapara Yuga. But for people of this age, the simple remedy prescribed is just Namasmarana, constant awareness of the Name. In spite of this, it is a pity that men do not care for this path and so render their lives barren wastes." ~Satya Sai Baba
When you feel overwhelmed by so many conflicts in the world, you imagine that you cannot be happy until you solve them. But is not your duty to solve the world's conflicts. Your duty is to solve just one conflict, the one that underlies them all: the conflict between who you think you are, and who you really are.
Can you experience I Am without putting any thought, any noun after the verb? Can you feel that joy bubbling up from the unfathomable well of pure Being in your heart? It is a gushing spring of silence. When you taste it, then, in a very spontaneous way, you can pour your healing waters over the earth.
Share that joy with others, in whatever unique way is most effortless and natural for you. That is the only solution to the world's conflicts. They cannot be solved until you are happy.
I was a heavenly being. But that wasn't enough. I wanted more. I wanted everything. I wanted it all right now.
So, because I was a heavenly being, my desire was instantly granted. I imploded into human birth. This is why we gods are here: to taste all possibilities, adamant as grains of sugar, and crush them on our lips, and taste them all at once, in combined opposites, every moment.
This is how we learn to welcome the chaos of one.
God's can't do that. They are too busy sorting out the one from the many, the rational from the random. They're always fussing over order, and cleaning up their desktops.
But here, well, it's seven pandemoniums of singularity: eyes, nostrils, ears, and tongue. Though who am I to say what's happening? I am too stunned, too drunk and amazed. I follow the simplest covenant: keep surrendering until otherness dissolves.
I taste the beauty of pain, the pain of beauty. I fall in love with dying flowers. I weep over deer droppings, knowing how silently they came to devour my garden. I walk barefoot in wet grass before dawn, un-naming the stars.
I am the space beyond the rim of all galaxies, globed in a tear drop. I am crucified at the center of a cross where six directions kiss, pathways for angels to descend into flesh.
I have abandoned the asymptotes of eternity to curve my bewilderment around a moth wing on a lupine petal in an alpine meadow. The gush of snow-melt under the moss makes me thirsty. I drink straight blues, the sky.
When the mountain turns into mist, awareness solidifies into diamond. True wealth is whatever disappears.
I have come to annihilate you with my gaze, and you me. I abandoned the name and form of God to be awakened by a gnat. Embracing midnight, I became fire. I am the spark that destroys the world when past and future strike like flint against stone.
The darkest child of the golden void, I abash the sun, my fallen body molded from melted pinions of Icarus. If in your search for desolation you stumble on my bones, still warm, rub my ashes on your face, friend. Then go naked.
If you witness thoughts arising, just where they arise, before the power of maya converts them into words and pictures, you can see that thoughts are simply ripples of stillness, boundless vibrations of pure awareness at play. And in its ground-state, pure awareness is utterly silent. This means that there is no conflict between thoughts and silence. Thoughts are made of silence.
We have been told that, when we meditate, we must concentrate on a single thought, or repeat a single word, in order to silence the mind. Disciplinarians, posing as spiritual guides, have indoctrinated us to believe that the mind must not be allowed to wander. But whether they teach in the name of Buddha, Yoga, Christian prayer, or New Thought, their doctrine of concentration and mind-control only suppresses the lively nature of our awareness, and makes us dull.
When you see that thought is silence at play, why is there any need to control or concentrate? The mind automatically gets centered and calm when we allow it to wander throughout the cosmos, with no resistance, expanding to its natural condition of boundlessness. In fact, meditation is the opposite of concentration. It is simply witnessing this effortless expansion of mind into its original nature, without grasping at any particular thought or image.
Your mind is not inside your brain. It is the uncontainable abyss of awakened space. Your mind is filled with stars and galaxies. Your brain vibrates in the limitless field of your mind.
Every star in the heavens is connected to a spark of electricity in your nervous system. Each synapse flashes with a sun. When you meditate, why convert the chemical-electric activity of your brain into words and images when you can experience the entire cosmos scintillating in your neurons?
Effortlessly delight in the sensation of your brain. You use your brain every moment of the day, but have you ever taken a moment to appreciate the glittering electric cosmos in your skull, to feel it's luminous energy with gratitude, even sensual pleasure?
Meditation is a Sabbath from control. Just rest in radiant awareness of your own physiology.
This vacation from effort and thought-control will only make your thinking clearer after meditation. So instead of converting your brain's electricity into concepts and abstractions, feel the sensation of thought arising in sparks of neuro-luminosity.
It doesn't matter whether you have one thought or ten thousand. The more the better. Ten thousand thoughts don't limit your omnipresent silence any more than ten thousand stars limit the beauty of the night sky. In fact, those virtual photons of thought ARE the stars. Your awareness IS the sky.
Witness sensations in your brain as a single glowing field of energy, from the cerebral cortex back to the pineal gland, then down to the stem rooted in your spine. Feel electricity lighting up the hypothalamus and amygdala, flowing up from your spinal cord.
Don't conceptualize this experience, just sense it. Let concepts go as they arise and simply return to the sensation.
Your brain is the Tree of Life, burning with the cool fiery swirl of galaxies. The space between each dendrite and synapse is heavenly vastness. Space is awake, within you and without, and you are that awakened space. This is not mysticism. It is the birthright of your incarnation, the fact of your cosmic physiology.
Perhaps you need some evidence from physics? Try Bell's Theorum, 1962, later confirmed by high energy particle physicists at the Cern particle accelerator in Switzerland. Bell's theorum states in mathematical terms what was so poetically asserted decades before by Sir Arthur Eddington, founder of quantum field theory and president of the Royal Academy of Science: "When the electron vibrates, the whole universe shakes."
Every sub-nuclear particle is a wave. And just as a wave at its base is the entire ocean, so every particle is the excitation of the whole field. The wave appears as particle simply because the vibration of the non-localized field is more ample at one point. This means that the particle-wave is connected, through the stillness of its ground-state, to every other particle.
At the sub-nuclear level, we contain each other. We resonate in and through each other. We are each other. Every nerve cell in your brain is a spiral of stardust. An electron sparking over your infinitesimal synapse is a message from distant galaxies, connected for its brief half-moment to every sun.
Your body is so sacred! Where else would you want to be but here? Why waste your attention on worry and regret, when in this very now your nervous system radiates the whole glory of creation? Why do you not drop to your knees and give thanks, then stand and whirl, or move on the earth with the grace of a mountain cloud, touching, healing the people?
We live in the perpetual irony that, what we most need to remember, can never be recalled because it is only alive in this moment.
So we use all manner of ritual and symbol, by hand and thought, to remind ourselves of what it is like: the bread and wine of Jesus's last supper; the fruit and flowers of puja; the alms we give to the poor and the service projects, which we often do, if we admit it, only to cleanse our guilty conscious, or acquire sufficient merit to bring our hearts a moment of peace.
Then we practice all sorts of meditation techniques, trying to still the mind, that we might behold the elusive transparency that is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.
And what are we trying to find? The very light through which it must be seen. Yet we cannot, no, can never retain or remember, by any vision or merit, that which we are seeking, because it is This....
This is the Fire that burns to ashes the age-old story of our search. We already stand in the midst of its burning. For that Fire is just who we are, the brilliant flashing gone gone ecstatic emptiness of Now.
The gates of paradise are the portals of my body. I shall not transcend my flesh, but journey through it to the stars. There are angel worlds in every atom; at the center of a proton, the boundless Christ. I need not be washed in the blood of the Lamb. I was washed in the blood of my mother's womb. That was my salvation.
The sacred practices of all great wisdom traditions are techniques of incarnation. They do not erase the human body, they glorify it. The bread of the Christian Eucharist is the body of Christ. The tribal shaman draws divine energy from plants, animals, stones. Chi flows not down from heaven, but up through the soles of the Qi Gong master's feet. The whirling of the Sufi is a body-prayer. Our chakras blossom on the Tree of Life, which is the spine. And the breath of the Buddha is here, in the Hara, just below the belly.
A lantern's light spreads beyond the lantern, yet the candle is its source. Without the candle, there is no center from which radiation can flow. The body is our wick, the mind is the flame, the Spirit is the luminous aura that expands beyond this brief candle.
Don't snuff out the wick of your body, light it! Breathe the halo of your flesh into the galaxies. Revel in this secret of divine humanity: The journey up is a journey down. The journey beyond is a journey in: to the heart, the groin, the sacred dust beneath your feet. That dust contains the stars.
Your human form is the axis of creation, connecting earth to sky, water to fire, Shakti to Shiva, Mary to Christ, the smallest pebble to the Creator. Your body is the nexus of North, South, East, West, the holy cross on which God crucifies hers Self for the sake of love. In that love act, One becomes many, so that each may know the pain and beauty of return.
Your body is the temple where angels meet their animal familiars, celestial gandharvas learn plant songs, and Holy Spirit gleams through the wish-granting jewel of matter. Therefor, let your body have its way, and become God.
The eye is holy. The nose is holy. The lips and tongue are holy. Holy the skin and belly and buttocks. Holy the clitoris, the sole of your foot. And because your body is holy, the "I" who effervesces out of your body is holy too. The "I" is as much a part of your sacred body as a finger or a nose. And you no more need to destroy it than you need to annihilate your big toe. Anyone who tells you to get rid of your "I" is a lonesome fool, posing as a wise man. Don't get rid of your "I": hug your "I" with the whole cosmos.
For "I" am a vehicle to express the body's radiance, and negotiate its relationship to other forms. "I" direct and coordinate the flow of divine energy through the senses. "I" am the body's antenna. A human becomes truly happy, intimate, and selfless not through denying the "I", but through cherishing the "I" in each moment. For in truth, we have thousands of "I's" every day, arising and dissolving like bubbles on the ocean of conscious. Each perception, each sensation, each inhalation is realized and savored as an "I," and the real purpose of this"I" is to say "thank you."
Cherishing the "I" of this body, in this moment, means embracing limitations. Embracing my own impermanence, this "I" can cherish the "I" of another, with all her impermanence too. Have we not both taken embodiment here, now, just to savor the Formless in perishing lovely forms?
Yes, "I" may be flawed and fallen, but because of this, "I" can feel what others feel, breathe the sigh of a stranger, resonate your rhythms of pain and joy. Because "I" am a wave in the ocean of awareness, "I" can dance.
It is through the "I" that we enjoy the charm of creation, and allow the Creator to become personal. Because my body has an "I," the "I" of God takes shape as my reflection in the mirror of consciousness. Then "I" enjoy the ecstasy of devotion to my Beloved in every finite perception. The One Transcendent Absolute Being is glorified by the "I-Thou" relation beating in its very heart and core.
Engraving: The Sun at his Eastern Gate by William Blake
I was eleven. My father and Dr. Jackson took their sons pheasant hunting.
Dad and Dr. Jackson were about forty yards away in the Autumn stubble of a corn field. A pheasant took flight. They aimed and fired and missed. The pheasant flew toward me. I led it a few feet ahead in my sight and pulled the trigger. The pheasant went limp in the air. I felt an ancient exultation.
But in the two seconds it took the shot pheasant to plummet earthward, then thud against the ground, dead, I experienced an inner transformation of 10,000 years. That feathered thing of air fell down, but I was falling too, from power to grief to shame...
Yes, I was only eleven. But I pledged to my secret heart that I would never use a gun again. I have not told this story until now.
I'm sorry. Forgive me. Thank you.
Painting: Dead Pheasant, J.M.W. Turner
Why is it that so many of us always need to be right, always need to win? If we want to ripen and deepen our fragrance, we need to lose and be wrong sometimes.Yoga - which really means ripeness, wholeness - doesn't mean constant victory. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna defines Yoga as "equanimity in loss or gain."
Loss is a great teacher. Only one who knows how to embrace loss learns how to be a mighty and humble warrior, how to fall down on the field in defeat, then arise to win. This is the sport of wisdom.
I have always learned more from my losses than my victories. Victory could create ego, but loss created a depth, a silence inside.
November evening. The moon is full, hanging from a leafless branch. Forms hollow out in the frost, holding space for the formless. They glow with the brilliant colors of their dying.
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 means gently immersing your whole astonished body in the river of Presence, moved by the breath of beauty like a golden leaf, falling right where you are.
True activism means drowning in the mystery of communion with the creature right before you: a disheveled crow, a boy in the rain with his shining basketball, the moon gazing through a spider's web, 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.
Chinese character for 'one.'
I have been found innocent and sentenced to the bliss of eternal solitude.
No matter how far I travel, no matter how deeply I fall in love or how violently I fall into conflict, I can never meet anyone outside the seamless continuity of my awareness.
Ignorance is believing that there is another.
Ignorance insists that the world is divided and conflicted, when in fact the world is one indivisible whole, at rest in the shimmering simplicity of its Self.
My problem is not conflict, for there is no conflict. My problem is embracing boundless solitude.
I can never transcend the unity of the Self, no matter how multifarious and diverse my experience, for all that I perceive arises in the continuum of my own awareness, and any "other" whom I encounter, I must necessarily encounter through the lens of my Self.
If I do not know my Self, I have no basis for knowing anyone. Bit if I know my Self, I know that everyone is I.
When I fall asleep at night, I take no one with me, not even the person lying beside me. When I wake in the morning, it is only my Self who awakens: the dream of others vanishes. I was not born as a community. I will not die as a community. I was born alone and I will die my own unique death.
God give me the courage to confront this primordial aloneness. There is great pain in throwing off the bonds of illusion, the illusion of a separate "I" that has plagued me since birth, when in terror I sought to return to the womb and could not. That is when I create an abstract womb, a little bubble of thought where I could withdraw from a world that was marvelously and terrifying in its immediacy. This thought was "ahankara," the very thought of "I."
"I" was a device for pretending that there is an "other" who can come to the rescue. But when "I" am ready for the truth, "I" shatter and dissolve into Am, who is the universe.
The demonstration of this process is Jesus on the cross. In his moment of shattering, Jesus called, "Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?" But the moment of shattering was also the moment of liberation. Jesus rent the temple veil that separated the divine from the human, and thus ended the illusion of separation. He entered the great solitude of the All, becoming in St. Paul's words, panta hen panta: "All in All."
Realizing that there was no other, no one to call to, and no one coming down to save him, Jesus spread his arms and embraced the world, even his enemies, as his own Self. The arm-opening mudra from the center of the cross is not a gesture of forgiveness, but a gesture of unity, a gesture of at-one-ment.
Like Jesus, I am not saved by another. I am saved by being my Self.I am you, friend. And neither of us can ever know anyone outside the seamless transparency of the Self. We have the same fate. Transforming alone-ness into all-oneness is our task. It was Christ's task and he showed us the way. But he does not do it for us. No one can open your arms on the cross but you.
When the transformation is complete, we can joyfully embrace all creatures, whether lovers or strangers, as the play of our own consciousness. We can each "love our neighbor as our Self," fulfilling the Great Commandment - because our neighbor IS our Self. This is the one real solution to world conflict.
"How can you advocate such a solipsistic vision? There are so many problems in the world! We must become activists to solve the global crisis!"
There is no global crisis. "Global crisis" is a generalization, an abstract mental concept that we super-impose on a world of particulars, where each particular arises in the present moment as the projection of our own consciousness. We superimpose the concept of "global crisis" onto the field of experience in order to avoid ever having to face our true predicament: boundless solitude.
Certainly challenges arise, but never in general. Deal with a situation before it becomes a problem, Solve problems as local events, not global catastrophes. Act in the one place where action is possible: here and now. When I solve the problem on the tip of my nose, it never becomes a "world crisis."
"Is it possible to get rid of the "I"? Isn't getting rid of "I" a greater illusion than the "I" itself?
Yes, precisely! The problem is not having an "I"; the problem is identifying with it.
No practice of concentration or self-denial can eliminate the "I." Such practices only divide the personality, for the effort to concentrate against the "I" will only make it stronger and more devious. Then how does one deal with the separate "I"?
Dance with the "I." Hug the "I." Accept the "I" for what it is: an organ of your body, like your nose or tongue, a useful tool for negotiating with the chaos, beauty, and pathos of this shimmering creation that you have projected. Just as you don't need to eliminate your little finger, so you don't need to eliminate your "I"?
In fact, "I" arise and dissolve each moment, a ripple on the ocean of consciousness, a tremor in the continuum of One. Why regard it as a problem?
Even a Bodhisattva has an "I." But she does not identify with or cling to it. She sees it as something she has, not something she is. The "I" of the enlightened arises as a useful tool for self-expression when the body needs an advocate in the material world. "I" am your negotiator in the great mediation. But while "I" negotiate, Awareness rests in the background, uninvolved in the negotiation, just witnessing. Awareness signs the final contract, after "I" negotiate the deal.
"I" am a useful but finite container, floating like a transparent cup in the groundless ocean of Am.
* What vanishes like a mist when you stop fleeing from aloneness?
* When you embrace aloneness without resistance, who survives?
* Is there anyone separate from this aloneness, anyone to call it 'my' aloneness, or complain about feeling 'lonely'?
* Does your aloneness have any edges?
* When you encounter another person in this unbounded aloneness, how does it feel to regard them as your self?
*You might also like the essay, 'God, Body, I'
The veil between the worlds is thin,
Bright to dark the seasons turn,
Green Man's fire in the Jack O'Lantern,
Light above now shines within.
Come dance in the circle of Samhain,
Buds of Beltane burnished in frost.
Honor the Old Ones: nothing is lost.
Whatever you offer is born again.
Pictured here - a Samhain alter from our annual celebration of the Celtic New Year (our Halloween party) at Common Bread. Samhain (pronounced Sow'en) is my favorite yearly festival. It is a sacred turning.
What we call Halloween was the ancient Irish and Celtic New Year, the liminal time when the veil between worlds thins like a brittle golden leaf. Once juicy gourds hollow out, we touch the cobweb realm, sacred Emptiness glows. The Formless One outshines the husk of all her forms.
As Northern hemisphere tips into the kingdom of evening, we lighten our load, grieve and let go. Farewell to summer's cloy and cling. Allow the night to burn away too heavy-laden relationships, and burdens of spent memory.
Green Man elders and grows frail, touching his original seed in Her. Yang fruit-energy withers and withdraws from leaves and flowers, graciously allowing Wiccan Yin to resume her inward weaving. Spider mandalas in moonlight.
Let branches caress their root and earth exhale, sinking down to Winter's belly. Welcome the shadow. Your emptiness must sparkle with inner stars. Rejoice in the pregnancy of Mary, the season of Advent: breath of Spirit glows in heart of Mother-Matter, preparing for Solstice rebirth.
Important to remember now that darkness is not the opposite of light: darkness is the womb of light. You can restore a healthy relationship with your hollow places, your black silences. You can embrace the mystery of Kinosis, self-emptying. Give up clinging to husks. Fall inward. Meet your Ancestor in the bone-fire. Treasure the night.
He said, "Our only duty is annihilation. What leaps in to fill the vacuum is none of our business."
I said, "Don't preach to me about injustice. Preach the fragrance of a rose."
He said, "I want the sap, not the flower."
I said, "When you are awake, every myth is true, every ritual is efficacious. When you are asleep, none of them work."
He said, "All utopias are founded on revenge."
I said, "The only revolution is to breathe."
He said, "To each according to their need, from each according to their ability."
I said, "The Dharma Wheel does not turn when everyone is disabled."
He said, "We are all victims."
I said, "Teach that to the horse, not to the fly."
He said, "Socialism is vast and gray, the Commune is local and green."
I said, "Yes, the radical act is to be present."
He said, "There is no time for the check to arrive."
I said, "Investing in Silence will not exploit the labor of others, yet it provides a secure retirement."
He said, "This sounds like a turning without center."
I said, "Inhale, there is no worker. Exhale, there is no owner."
He said, "If everything has a cost, who will pay?"
I said, "After the money is gone, you will eat the bankers."
He said, "We have mistaken our Awareness for God."
I said, "Therein lies the play of the universe."
He said, "I have no religion."
I said, "My religion is to walk barefoot at midnight in wet grass, un-naming the stars."
Painting: 'Moses' by Frida Kahlo
Why not return to basic sanity, the silent explosion of Grace at the center of your body - not just to please yourself, but to infuse the world with the nectar of Beauty? Let your mind repose in the heart. That is the simplest and most ancient meditation. Sink into the bubbling golden cauldron of your solar plexus. That is true alchemy. Rest in the space where you were never born, you are never one moment old, each breath is a gift from eternity, and the countless electrons of your flesh are all angels of Light.
Awareness of awareness is not a thought. It is pure bliss.
Awareness of awareness is the laser-like self-radiant silence where thought dissolves into its source: the subject alone, without an object.
Upon tasting even a moment of this diamond emptiness, intellectuals give up philosophy and become mystics.
But throughout the ages, after tasting this inmost refulgence, mystic minds could not accept the experience as their own consciousness. So they named it "God," imagining it to be an Other. It is not other. It is not even "it."
There is nothing in the universe but consciousness. In fact, there is no nothing, because the very vacuum of empty space is awake and vibrant with creativity.
Consciousness is Shiva, the pure, the Self-luminous, the beautiful, the good. Everything that exists is a permutation of Shiva.
Shiva is eternally silent, formless, unmanifest, and blissful. Yet the silence vibrates. The stillness dances. The vacuum fluctuates in itself, forming virtual particles of matter and virtual photons of light. The entire cosmos pre-exists in the void as the radiant Self-awareness of Shiva.
When vibrataing, consciousness becomes love. And the vibrant energy of love yearns to create. This creative pulsation of love in the stillness of Shiva is Shakti, who is the Goddess and playmate of the Lord.
Shiva is the silent witness of creation, and She is the creator. The universe is the manifestation of their dance.
When Christian mystics experienced the pre-existent cosmos in the silence of the Godhead, they called it the Logos, the Word, for it manifests in silence just as a word appears in the mind. Figuratively, they regarded this divine Word as the "Son of God," the offspring of consciousness, who remains one and not other than the Father. And the vibrations of Shakti in the Godhead, which manifest the Logos as creation, they called the "Holy Spirit."
Thus the "Holy Trinity" is a family: Father, Mother Spirit, and their offspring the Christ, archetype of humanity. Silence pulsates as Love, and Love manifests as the Word made flesh.
You are the incarnation of Love, and you express the eternal Silence of God in your own unique variation of Christhood.
Icon, the Holy Trinity by Adrei Rublev, 1425
"Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become in them a spring welling up to eternal life." ~John 4:14
These words of Jesus describe the Shakti of the divine mother, pouring from the silence of pure awareness, which is Shiva. True meditation means alignment with this wellspring in your chest, flowing from the groundless depth of your heart. You tap into the dynamic silence from which all energy is born.
Physicists call it the vacuum. Mystics call it the void. Meditators know that it is consciousness. But this boundless awakened space is not empty. It vibrates. The ocean of stillness in the heart's core is surging with mighty waves, in quantum science called "fluctuations of the vacuum." The silence bubbles with creative chaos beneath the limits of all measurement, "Planck's Constant." These waves of pure possibility spring out of the Un-created into creation as the subtlest particles of matter.
When you align your body, breath, mind and heart with this core of silence, rooting yourself in the heart-center, you become a vessel for the new creation, the new earth. For the earth is not born of politics, economics, or science: the earth is born of consciousness.
And when you come out of meditation, into activity, whatever you are called to do becomes a host, a channel, for the irradiation and recreation of the world. Your calling may be ever so humble. It doesn't have to be political activism. It doesn't require a PHD in chemistry, or the powers of a super-hero. Your vocation could be ironing your family's clothes, playing the flute, driving a school bus, operating a small restaurant, or working with autistic children. When you begin your day by tapping the Source, whatever you do is a vehicle for grace. When you open your awareness to the silent power of Shiva, every gesture of ordinary living is a channel for the outpouring of Shakti.
Simple innocent awareness activates a transformation at the subatomic level of your environment. Your world begins to evolve, to purify and harmonize, just because you are here as an awakened being. Jesus said it best: "You are the light of the world."
That's right. He didn't only say, "I am the light of the world." He said, "YOU are the light."
To radiate a new earth around you, tap the wellspring of creation in your heart through meditation. Then, when you emerge from the un-created silence, you can move joyfully over the world, light as a cloud yet grounding every step as a step of peace. Rooted in who you really are, pour out the nectar of healing.
Painting: Jesus, an ordinary man, by Rembrandt
Merely to exist is pure grace on a cosmic scale. But to exist in a body, with a chance to express this boundless wonder through individual form, is a gift beyond all miracles.
Yet some very "spiritual" people seem to regard this body as a prison, and devote themselves to getting out of it. What a waste to imagine that our precious flesh is bondage and ignorance, when it is really our opportunity to dance as incarnations of the sun, moon, and stars!
Once there was a seer whose gift was telling people how many lifetimes remained for them on earth. A long line of yogis, ascetics, and gloomy advaitists always waited to receive his wisdom.
"For you, 7 more lives... For you, 12 more... For you, only 3 more lives..." And they would all depart weeping and gnashing their teeth with disappointment.
A certain sinful man, holding a jug of wine in one hand, his other arm entwined in the arm of a gorgeous lady, came to visit that seer. With one look at him the mystic shook his head and said, "Hopeless! For you, more lives than the sands of the sea!"
When he heard this, the sinner leapt in the air, clicked his heels together and shouted, "Thank you, boss!"
At that instant he was liberated.
Hamsa means swan in Sanskrit. It also means, I am one with the Divine. Aham (I am) So (He, God). Hamsa mantra is also Soham. They are the same. Vedic literature declares that this two-syllable mantra is the subtle sound of breathing out and breathing in.
As we exhale Aham, we pour ourselves back into the ocean of Divine Love, whence we were born. As we inhale So, we allow Divine Love to replenish and recreate us, pouring light into each photon of the body. This miraculous yet ordinary respiration continues day and night. But most of us are so lost in the sensory stupor of worldly distractions, or dreams, that we are unconscious of the divine process of Hamsa. Like Esau in the Bible story, we have forfeited our sacred birthright for a bowl of porridge (Gen 25:31).
All we need is to return, return to the most primordial and effortless activity. Bring awareness back to the dynamic meditation that is already happening in each breath. As striking two stones generates a spark, so the gentle friction of in-breath and out-breath generates Shakti, the energy of creation. And just as a swan settles softly upon a still lake, so the luminous grace of Divine Love reposes in the heart-space when the silence of the mind is un-rippled by thought.
The still point where out-breath and in-breath kiss, between the syllables Ham and So, is a dimensionless dot that seems so brief yet is filled with eternity, seems so small yet is the womb of worlds. Suns and galaxies arise from this infinitesimal bindhu, which is the same jot that the Jewish mystics called ayin soph or, the infinitesimal point of No-Thing from which the Light of creation shines. Thus an ancient Yoga text, Vijnana Bhairava, declares:
The supreme Goddess, whose nature is to create, constantly expresses herself as exhalation and inhalation. By resting awareness in the space of the heart, between the descending and ascending breaths, one experiences Bhairava, the source of creation.
In Yogic tradition, the name of this heart space is Anahata, meaning un-struck sound. A Vedic text declares, Adau Bhagavan shabdha rasahih: "In the beginning, the Lord manifested the universe through a stream of sound." This heart-silence is the source of all mantas, or divine vibrations. All the laws of physics are structured into these mantric sounds. And this symphonic ocean of silence becomes the Vedas, the original scriptures. The entire material universe vibrates out of this primal sea of mantric music.
The same vision is presented by modern quantum science. All material particles arise from vibrations in empty space, "fluctuations in the vacuum," which are "virtual photons of light" and "virtual electrons" of energy. The universe pre-exists in vibrant silence.
Hamsa contains the inner science of all meditation practices: it is the subtle dynamic within all mantras, the link between meditation and breath. Mantra is a Sanskrit word meaning a vehicle that carries awareness back to its home. The word derives from mannas (mind) and tra (vehicle). From tra we get the suffix tron, as in electron, a vehicle for electricity. Thus a mantra is a vehicle for the mind to ride back to its source.
Where is the mind going? What location is it seeking? The mind is ever restless till it finds its home in the silent radiance of the heart.
When the Guru gives the precious gift of mantra to the devotee, the mantra effortlessly transports the swan of awareness on wings of grace to this quiet lake of Anahata, the unstruck music of the heart. All true mantras settle into waves of Hamsa, and Hamsa settles into Om, the silent pulse of Absolute Being. There, the breath becomes still. Or, more precisely, the individual breath merges with the cosmic breath, pervading the universe.
In this communion, meditation fulfills the Biblical injunction to "Be still and know that I Am God" (Psalm 46:10). This is neither a belief nor a theology, but a direct experience. We can taste the living Peace that passes allunderstanding, the stillness beyond thought. To "know that I Am God" is Hamsa: to know that Aham merging with So.
Would you like to perform a very great service to humanity, right now? Would you like to provide nourishment to the whole earth? Then repose on the still ocean between your breaths. Rest in the grace of Hamsa. Awaken the healing pulse of inner silence.
Random memories of ordinary places I once took for granted, now bathed in the Autumn twilight of my longing. Where has this life gone?
Roses in an alley. The gaze of a Gernsey cow in a meadow of violets. Abandoned doll on a park bench. Cobblestone sidewalk on a street down which I never walked.
Smell of old books in the attic, invoking the whisper of the grandfathers. Frozen cream pushing the tops off milk bottles on the back porch.
Barn owl in Winter moonlight. Tangled vine on a ruined fence post, suddenly rioting with berries. Saturday morning, the color of butter dripping over hot pancakes. Where has this life gone?
Can I not bathe the present moment with this same liquid sorrow, same transparent beauty, each moment of time immersed in eternity, eternity of my awareness? The dream of the past, the dream of now; does it not all sparkle with love?
Painting by Sam Timm
Why do we want to change the world? It is already changing every instant, in every particle and wave. The world we wanted to change a moment ago has already dissolved. If we want to change what is always already changing, then it must be our perception that is stuck.
"I have found, yes, I have found the wealth of the Divine Name’s gem. My true guru gave me a priceless thing. With his grace, I accepted it." ~Mirabai"Breathe the name of God, empty of self and filled with love." ~RumiO mind, rest in the radiant Name. Sing the melody of the Goddess, O lips. Let these eyes witness all creatures take her form.
How can I ever be lost when I wander in the Word that created the world? Wherever I go, I have returned. Needing no vessel, I am the wine. Needing no lyre, I am the music.
This body is a filament for the glow of Kundalini Shakti, the electrical One who flows through wing and fur. I am just an animal filled with God. The anxious vanity of a human mind has dissolved into her radiance.
My rosary is a broken thread. It's scattered beads have become the stars, and "I" the silence between them. How? By dissolving a syllable of her name into my heartbeat.
With no more burden called a "path," I have become the goal. O soul, rest in the source. Your pilgrimage is over.
The acorn has fallen into the meadow. Now it springs without effort into a mighty tree. As the oak is already in the hollow of the seed, so the mantra given by your Guru contains the universe.
The sins of your past may be as sands of the sea, but they cannot find you! For the do-er who committed them has disappeared into the deep. Now a love song bears you far above the churning waves of the past and future.
Ride this wind! It is yearning without desire! It carries you where nameless soaring ones go to play with lightning!
Here's the secret: If you let the Goddess be your breath, you won't need any rules but Joy and Kindness.
The Beloved named you with an inhalation of darkness, so that you could name the Beloved with an exhalation of golden light.
Pour yourself into So'ham, giving all your tears to the golden void. Feel every tremor of pain in surrender, rolling the wheel of destiny neither here nor there, but inward, toward its own center.
God sang you, now sing back. It doesn't need to be pretty. It only needs to be You!
It requires some courage to live in the constant stream of destruction that is creation.
Can you remember what you were anxious about a year ago? A month ago? Or has your mind replaced that calamity with something even worse?
Yesterday's catastrophe was terrible. But you can't remember that either, because this morning's crisis is the worst of all. Until tomorrow. Why do you live like this, staggering from one apocalypse to the next?
You could be disaster-free, if only you would rest in boundless ambiguity, the Divine Uncertainty of this moment, this breath, this frail sweet ever-perishing body of chaos.
Why not embrace the end of the world right now? Today is Judgment Day, and you are the judge. Why not welcome the joyful presence of the great destroyer, Mother Kali, Mistress of Bewilderment?
Beauty cannot be repeated. Love cannot be repeated. Meditation cannot be repeated. We must be willing to let beauty die, let love perish, let meditation dissolve, moment by moment, if these eternal mysteries would reveal themselves to the heart. We are Autumn leaves burning in the fire of impermanence.
Photo: Useless bench in my back yard.
Title quote: Wallace Stevens
If I had not once been smaller than a particle of dust, I could not look at dust and see God.
If I had not once been vaster than a galaxy, I could not look at the sun and see myself.
It is because the human soul passes through every element, every kingdom, every kind of creature, that she feels at home in the chaos of the universe.
Yet not being any one creature in particular, she interprets her cosmic longing as its opposite: a sense of alienation.
Let your loneliness embrace the night. Search not for a star. You are the womb of constellations. You are the breath that turns them all.
No need to cling to your tiny point in this vast wheel. Be the stillness through whom the pleroma dances, ever coming Om.
Photo: Milky Way over Mt. Tahoma. Not my photo, but my mountain.
Earth is in her birth pang. It is a long and difficult labor, because so much blame, so much anger, so much compulsive 'taking sides' distracts her from breathing. Breathing is more important than being right. Breathing is more important than taking sides. Breathing Life is more important than ideology, left or right. Give up the blame. If you cannot offer a solution, offer a prayer. Offer your next exhalation. Let the rhythms of the cosmos be the rhythms of your breath. Relax. Dilate. Give birth.
The planets and stars are singing. Every cell of your body is singing. Atoms ring infinitesimal round hollow bells of energy all night. Silence cannot contain itself. Your marrow never sleeps. Trees and stones must hum the melody. The sky's emptiness echos the praises of your flesh. You are music beyond words. Your breath is the drum of creation. Who needs a national anthem? Just kneel for no reason. Flower in quietness.
The universe supports you to the degree that you are passionate about sharing your unique gift. Only then does the Goddess pay attention, bending every law of nature to uphold you. But she is not the slightest bit interested when you imitate someone else.Why were you created? Don't say, "to love and to serve." That is a platitude. The universe is specific. She loves detail, every brush stroke, the flavor of a pollen mote on a bee's nose, the bindhu of a photon. Don't be a safe generality. Love as You alone can love. Serve as You alone can serve. Be wild about your work. You impoverish the cosmos when you are not You.
Photo by Kristy Thompson
To taste each inhalation as a gift from the Divine, and each exhalation as your offering, is to enter the holy of holies in the temple of your body, and take part in the highest worship.
If you studied all the Vedas, the Torah, the Gospel and Qu'ran, you would learn no more. Each religion began with breathing: grace and gratitude, gift and return.
All other rites are images, rehearsals for this astonishing kiss in the silence of your heart. How do I know? I gave up theology, and became a lover.
Back in 1970 a group of us were sitting with Maharishi, and one person asked if civilization would end soon, because there was such violence and injustice. Of course, when the mind is wavering, whatever time we are in feels like the apocalypse.Maharishi smiled and replied, "Heaven and hell are all around you. Your choice." Then he said something I've often heard quoted since, and attributed to many teachers: "What you focus on is what grows in your life. And whatever you resist will persist." Jai Guru Dev.
The world ended today.
A new one was just created.
Did you notice?
If you pay attention,
this happens with
You won't regret the past
or fear the future
when you can rest
this wavering mind
in the heart of presence.
Learn from the rose
surrounded by thorns.
the silent fragrance
that bathes the whole garden
O Kali, I vow never to use You as a meme to focus my negative energy around my trauma and political anger. Rather, I will let You use me, to melt the boundaries of outrage, until I can behold the dazzling amethyst of your face at the heart of catastrophe.
On this third night of Navaratri I worship You, O Goddess, in the form of Kali Shakti, the power of inner and outer transformation, who destroys what is old in order to dance as the grace of the new.
Certainly, now is your time. You are in control. But pure devotion to You does not include Western cultural appropriation of your ancient serpent power. You are not a political icon, a symbol of our resistance to fascism, a channel for apocalyptic anxieties, a bandage for sexual wounding, or an embodiment of our trauma. In fact, dear Mother Kali, you are liberation from all such fears and obsessions.
In the Vedic tradition, blessed Goddess, you are pure ecstasy, pure freedom, and pure beauty, disguised in the most obdurate and troubling forms of the external world. You are Sat-Chit-Ananda - truth, awareness, bliss -veiled in tumultuous maya. Yet as you purify our vision through yoga, kriya, and meditation, the heart is empowered to behold You even in the enemy, the obstacle, the catastrophe.
Only then are we liberated from the binding habit-chains of blame and resentment, as You crush the demon of the little mind, and liberate in us the breath of the infinite. Wider wilder vision comes, not through moral or political struggle, but by naturally seeing God in the Other. This is your grace, Mother Kali.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches that, when the "equal vision" of yoga is cultivated in the nervous system through regular meditation, non-violence, seva, and devotion, we begin to see the beauty of the Divine even in the most troubling disguise. No longer bound by the tyranny of form, through every form we see Her. Then prejudice is impossible.
Every day on earth, trauma happens. And so does beauty. To focus our energy around the trauma, rather than the beauty, is our choice, not our destiny. May the grace of the Goddess gently breathe through our will, that we may choose beauty.
Om Shrim Hrim Krim Kalikayeh Namah!
Mushroom scent of Goddess on the first Fall afternoon; rhyme of the happening apple, worm and all; sky within the sky, cloudless, blue, infinity self-evident; gift of the world to itself, unnoticed... In this ashram with spider-web windows and no roof, there's only one rule: don't fall asleep. Tomorrow will be even more wonderful. Virgo gives birth to Jupiter. Have a blessed Autumn!
Rummaging through my mind, I couldn't find any past, or future, or now. So I concluded that past, present, and future are all a dream. This very inquiry woke me up.
Then I looked at the shining blue sky, and the shining blue sky was looking at me: mirror-like vastness gazing into itself, beginning-less, boundless, ever-expanding.
This infinite gaze into Itself is all there ever is. This gaze vibrates as Love. And this vibrant loving gaze beholds itself in the hollow of each nutrino, each atom, each cell, each breath, each flower, each sun, each galaxy.
The shimmer of consciousness celebrates the ecstasy of formlessness in the form of you and me, waking again and again to its own Beauty, which is the substance of all matter and energy, the first cause of creation, and the final goal.
Look into the petal of the last Autumn rose, look into the burst of a supernova, look into the eye of the refugee child who seeks a new home: you will see one invitation to love, fall, fall in love, fall deeply into who you are...
Merely to awake is why we are here.
It's going to be OK.
But not out there. That will never be OK. That is the world of ever-changing forms. What will be OK is deep within you, where there is no passing form, but eternal Being.
Your eternal Being has never not been OK. In Being, no problem ever arose. And no solution is necessary, because nothing was ever wrong.
Even if you 'die,' it will be OK, because Being never dies. Out there is what dies. The world dies and dissolves each moment, so why worry about it?
You don't need to look for happiness, because you Are happiness. So why not welcome this fear, this uncertainty, this pang of outrage, this wave of disaster-fatigue, without resistance? These reactions to the world are part of the world: they too are just waves of form out there. They have no Being.
You have Being. You are Being. The nature of Being is ever-expanding joy. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "My kingdom is not of this world." The Being you Are is unassailable peace.
There is absolutely no conflict between our Being of perfect peace and feelings of fear, pain, or weariness. These are feelings that we HAVE, but they are not who we ARE. Conflict only arises when we obscure Being by holding on to these feelings as our identity. Then we imagine that we must resist the fear, pain, and weariness, attempting to change them into something better and more enlightened.
We don't need to resist, change, or manipulate any feeling or experience at all. Just dissolve the form of that energy by welcoming it completely into the repose of Being.
This is the Way of no way, the practice of no practice, the discipline of no discipline, the dissolution of the imperfect into perfection without attempting to perfect anything.
It does not require great knowledge or enlightenment. It is what babies do.
The light of the sun, the moon, the stars and planets has a Source. That Source is the radiance of the stamen in the lotus of your heart. You irradiate the universe. You are joy. You are creativity. You are love.
But due to the dazzling confusion of creation's panoply, we think that the Source is outside and above us. The grace of Mother Divine, through the vibrating energy of her bija mantras, can dispel the clouds of this confusion, so that we realign with the light of the Heart.
And the most auspicious time for this realignment, through the practice of meditation, is Navaratti, the Nine Days of Mother Divine. Navarati begins on September 21 this year, which is just the time of the Autumn equinox.
We in the West are just re-discovering the Goddess, who was essential to ancient Judaism and Christianity. The feminine aspect of the divine was associated with Hochma (Wisdom) in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek. We mostly think of her as a vague intuited feeling. But her work is very specific: she is the animating power, the Shakti, behind the mantras that liberate the naras, the nerve-currents in our bodies, from the stress that causes ignorance, so that an open-hearted conscious body can bathe in the all-pervading grace of the Atman. Peace.
I have no idea what's going on in the world. But I do know how to go to sleep. I learned from my cat, who always naps on my shirt, so she can slumber in the kindness and protection of her master's scent!
When you fall asleep tonight, just assume that your head is lain at the feet of your Beloved, and rest in the miracle of this breath. Know that each inhalation is the Master's gift, and each exhalation is your flower of gratitude, offered back.
Drift off into the ocean of Grace. And when you wake up, you will radiate peace. Good night.
I notice with ironic surprise that those of us who obsess over our spirituality - perfecting our yoga postures, getting the right meditation technique, practicing meticulous purity of diet - are often more anxious than people who just do daily work and play without any pretense of gaining enlightenment.
In fact, the romance of sadhana, especially among those of us with a compulsion to hang out in ashrams, or frequent weekend retreats with "spiritual teachers," can be the mask for a neurosis: the avoidance of the ordinary.
What if the path of awakening lies, not through ashrams, non-duality workshops, health food stores and yoga studios, but through the small-time sacraments of the commonplace? What if the most profound mystical practices are these:
* Give up the search.
* Be grateful for this breath.
* Just rest your mind in the heart.
In fact, this is the surest instruction of the wise, found in the ancient yoga text, Vijnana Bhairava, and the original Christian treatise on meditation, The Philokalia. Precisely the same teaching, whether in Sanskrit or Greek: "Rest your mind in the heart."
Even for the mystical thrill-seeker, the ordinary is the highest path, because giving up the search is the ultimate rush. The very instant we give up the search, the universe blossoms around us like the motionless explosion of a golden rose.
Ever returning on the journey of this breath, nowhere to go but here, no higher plane than the present moment, sink deeply into who you are, and feel your body begin to dance.
When I come home to the place where I am broken, then I can be whole.
If I am willing to confess the weakness of my will, I open like a wound to strength. If I have the courage to say, "My deepest ability is vulnerability," the Gift comes, like a whisper of wind from deep within. Yet I cannot will this mystery, for my will is a broken wing.
How could the weak will, will its own strength? All I can will is confession. Confession is my native land, my homecoming. This is metanoia.
Only in confession am I free. Only then may the Other approach me, touch me, heal me. Here is wholeness: that my heart only finds healing in a Friend.
I was created to be broken. I was broken for communion. I yearn, yet not to be One, but Near...
Jesus took bread in his hands, broke it, and gave it to the disciples saying, "Take, eat, this is my body." So we break bread as a sacrament. Yet we pay so much attention to the bread, we forget the power of the breaking. It's the brokenness that heals.
What the clod of soil cries to the plow, the grape sings to the barefoot crusher; what the pomegranate whispers under the knife, the breaking heart implores the lover; the prayer of the loaf to the hand of the Master.
Knead me, bake me, tear me in two. I was not made for me, but for you.
""Beauty will save the world." ~Dostoyevsky
"Objective" science seems to be skewed toward a utilitarian view of nature: nature as machine without a subject, without a taste for beauty. Are we so sure that beauty is a by-product, and not the motive, the beginning and end, of evolution?
A biosphere could have evolved without blossoms. Are flowers inevitable? The job of cradling seeds and distributing pollen might have gotten accomplished in a more mechanical and economic fashion. Whatever the work of fragrance is, from rose to musk, we might sense it as a thread of vibration, a ray of gray light, without a scent. Yet we, and perhaps the bees also, sense the garden as sweetness, with shade upon shade of subtle textures, flavors, aftertastes. Why do birds sing? Another form of communication might have been evolved, an electrical buzz too quiet for humans to hear, and more mathematically accurate for the birds.
I suggest that beauty is a driving force, and you reply that natural selection needs no motivation, for nature's mechanisms run on a simple will to survive. But is that not a motive? And what is so great about survival for its own sake? Without the possibility of savoring, mere survival is just work, a losing struggle against entropy. Without appreciation of the Beautiful, we give up hope, and don't live at all.
Read "Man's Search For Meaning," by psychiatrist Victor Frank, who not only survived the concentration camp at Auschwitz, but concluded from his study that the people who survived there did so, not because they had a hardier physical constitution, but because they nurtured a transcendent purpose, and cherished some beauty to live for.
We don't know how deeply mute creatures like bees and hummingbirds appreciate fragrance, color, song, or if they do at all, for they are mute. All we know is that men and women have evolved a capacity for wonder, and for singing about it. Is this capacity for wonder a random by-product of natural selection, or is it the reason we are here?
I don't know. But I do know that naked men with bare hands cannot do nature's tasks nearly as well as animal and vegetable species do, whether running, or swimming, or flying, or hunting, or cross-pollinating. We had to invent tools simply because we were inept without them. Comparing a man to a panther or an ant, it is obvious that the man is inferior at particular tasks, whether large or small. But at the general task of being astonished, and singing about it, humans do better than others, and were probably created for nothing else.
The words of Rabbi Heschel, "To be spiritual is to be amazed," I would paraphrase by making an even simpler claim: "To be human is to be amazed: this is our chief work."
Photo by Laurent Berthier