The Shift is not
an event you have to
The Shift is always here,
a blessed fall
from the chatter in your brow
to the quiet
the swollen repose
of a snow-bound crocus,
racket of flycatchers
over thawing bog water,
fondle of your
own breath, kindling
the flame of now
in the gray mirage
awakening the brown caress
effervescing in its
99% of our suffering comes from believing in our thoughts. And when we have lost our center, our Presence, we believe that our thoughts are the world. We call them the "future."
But since we were so wrong about the future in the past, it is delusional to continue believing in it. In fact, we have no idea what the future will bring because the future does not exist. An enlightened definition of insanity would be, "mistaking the world for your thoughts about it."
Have a bracing cup of green tea. Gather some wood and light a fire. Take a barefoot Winter walk at midnight in sparkling moon-grass. Slap yourself in the face by plunging your head into a cold forest stream. Or plunge into seva, service, to someone in need.
Instead of believing in your thoughts, believe in the warmth of your skin, the rhythm of your heartbeat, the touch of your hand, the grace of sensation. Use awareness to divinize your sensuality. Awareness is not thought. Awareness is the space that irradiates creation before a thought arises.
When we return to the empty ground of awareness, we become sane again. We gain courage. Courage is waking up from the dream of the future.
Only in the present moment are we response-able, because only in the present moment are we available. Pay attention to the person right beside you. This relationship is the politics that matters. If you are alone, pay attention to a flower.
As your Presence expands, become aware of your living relationship with the stars. Feel them tingle in your body. Your solitude is the hub of cosmic community, a vast wheel of Sangha whose center is wherever you are, whose circumference is infinite.
Let this breath deliver you from the chatter of your mind. Inhale: the universe pours love into your body. Hold this gift in your chest and cherish the Creator. Exhale, filling the galaxy with peace. This is a very profound form of action, free from re-action.
At this very moment you are deeply connected with everyone. There is no "else." The revolution is to breathe. The radical act is to be present.
Flower photo by Kristy Thompson
The incomprehensible architecture of the present moment sparkles all around us with the diamond splendor of the hologram, an intergalactic macrocosm prism'd in the dewdrop of each atom, inviting our surrender to whatever simple task we do right now.
There is no more perfect kingdom, no more wayless way. Just pay some attention to the most infinitesimal ordinary delights, until you taste the nectar of attention itself. This is not an escape. Everything else is an escape. This is simply a call to be who you are and 'do what you are doing': age quod agis.
Minds that are constantly unraveling into threads of bad news, trailing off into regrets about the past or anxieties about the future, become far more useful and powerful when absorbed in the silence of bewilderment, the miracle of Presence.
The most powerful language
does not need to shout.
The most powerful tongue
does not seek a crowd to listen.
The most powerful voice
neither mocks nor offends,
but breaks with the breaking
heart of the world;
does not react, but reveals
from deeper silence
the Word that would create
a new and better place.
The most powerful language
is less than speech
yet more than song,
rustle of evening light,
breath of stars,
sussuration of morning's
first misted ray,
murmur of wind in pines,
waves that pound
in soft surrender
to a grain of sand,
cry of tiny flycatchers
piercing, thawing the bog
the Mother tongue
both Lover and Beloved.
Our public discourse has degenerated into a language of curses, spells of destruction, promoting discord and division. Let a new language emerge from our hearts, seeded in silence, inflected with the sounds of the green earth, to heal and gather us in circles of creative listening. The gift of language was given not to curse but to heal, not to destroy but to create.
The Beloved takes your hand and leads you up the path from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. This path is made of crushed diamonds, so fine it is a mist, a cloud, a morning breeze, a sigh...
Every step is love. The Beloved is nearer to than your name. The Beloved's touch is the stillness between heartbeats. Why have you not taken this path, this wedding walk from belly to brow, from Self to Self?
Because you thought you would find the Beloved in an ashram, a temple, a cathedral, or a mosque? You thought you would find the Beloved on an alter, in a book, a pair of sandals, a white robe?
The Beloved wears only the soft cloth of your inhalation. The Beloved is a vine of roses on the trellis of your spine. The Beloved is more inward to you than your lost rib.
When you were swimming like a minnow in the womb of night, the Beloved sang to you from every star. That song is still inside you. You are still inside that song.
Do not look for the Beloved anywhere special. Wherever you are, just listen, and dance.
"Eternity was in our lips and eyes." ~Shakespeare
Take a long sweet gentle breath in, then give it back... Take another long sweet gentle breath in, then give it back... Root down in silence...
Now open your eyes and create the world you see. Open your palms and fingers to create the world you touch. Open your heart to immerse this planet in the ocean of your love.
For so many lifetimes you have been the antenna, the receiver of information. Your senses were portals to let creation in from outside. You took this passive role for granted. But now is the time of the Turning, when the tide of evolution changes direction. The rays of the universe no longer flow from outside in, but inside out. Humans must now evolve into creators.
You are called to Divine Sensuality. Stream the energy of awakening through your eyes, your ears, your tongue, your nostrils. Radiate the Shakti of a new earth out from your core. From now on, You will be the one who says, "Let there be light!"
Don't wait another moment. Begin now. Or would you rather wait another six million years?
Painting: Earth Goddess by Lihua Zhao
The Goddess said to me, "I have inspired poets,
artists, musicians and dancers to awaken you,
so that you may be the creators of your world;
but instead you follow politicians. I have made you
lions, but you would rather be sheep. Now follow
the golden thread of joy out of the maze of illusion,
back to the diamond palace of your heart."
Artist: Josephine Wall
What is a complex mystery to the mind may be a simple sensation to the heart.
Whether it is grief or joy, follow any faint thread of sensation into the heart. It will open a door. The kingdom of love is just a breath away.
"Let the mind descend into the heart" ~Philokalia, Orthodox Christian classic
"Set the mind in the heart." ~Vijnana Bairhava
"See that your chief study be about your heart." ~Jonathan Edwards
But for many of us, the din of electronic media, the buzz of consumer culture, drown our hearts in a stupor of numbness. Our schools teach us that the heart is only a physical pump. Yet science proves otherwise.
Research in neuro-cardiology reveals the heart as both an endocrine and neural center. Like the brain, the heart is rich in chemical neurotransmitters, with an electro-magnetic field hundreds of times stronger than the brain.º
How do we begin to reestablish connection with the heart? Several times a day, even for a few moments, practice this most ancient and simple form of heart meditation: "Let the mind descend into the heart." The breath will guide you there.
Honor even the most delicate fiber of heart-sensation. Merge with it, whether the sensation is pleasant or painful. Even the sting of loss is a thread to the kingdom of God within you. And any sensation is preferable to the anesthesia that our media, our pharmaceuticals, and our shopping malls induce in the heart of America.
The future of humanity depends on whether you awaken your heart.
º Institute of Heartmath
We chose to be born in this world of contending opposites, where everything is coming apart at the 'seems'....
Here we gain fearless wisdom. Fearless wisdom is not knowledge in the mind, but naked seeing, free from thoughts, that penetrates between the opposites, through the seems of mere appearance, until we discover that there is actually nothing to worry about.
It's all a play of light and shadow, prism'd through the diamond of our consciousness. Then we are free to gaze into each other's eyes with love, as jewels exchanging the jagged brilliance we are both made of. Yes, we have some rough edges. But even our edges are made of light.
January 12. Full moon. The birthday of my First Teacher. I bow down.
By his ancient grace, and not through any effort or wisdom of my own, I tasted from an inward grail the precious nectar of Pure Awareness, the boon for which I came into this world.
Through the gift of Transcendental Meditation, I learned by direct experience that Awareness is not thought. Awareness is the substance of the universe.
Conceptual thinking is only one tool by which Awareness extends its domain of wonder into worlds of energy and form. But Awareness itself is beyond thought, as the blue sky is beyond the clouds.
I attended schools both public and private, college and university, yet through all my so-called "education" I never met one teacher who could teach me how to transcend the mind.
The whole educational system was a trap of conceptual thinking, based on the contraction, not the expansion, of Awareness. This kept the student unrealized, unfulfilled, caught in the net of one ideology after another, without ever experiencing the vast ocean of Being, the boundless space where all ideas arise and dissolve like photons in the void.
Then I met a little laughing brown-skinned man from Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas, who was the incarnation of joy. With a single whisper, he opened the way to the infinite, beyond thought. He taught me how to experience what books and professors never teach: the Radiance I Am. And he showed me that this Radiance is the very Light from which the universe is made.
Awareness manifests this world out of its own mirror-like clarity in order to experience itself as an other, and so, through the contrast of opposites, to experience its Self.
To behold the divine Self intimately in another is to love: to "love thy neighbor as thy Self." And this unity of beholding fulfills both the way of Bhakti, and the way of Vedanta. It is the overflowing cup of waylessness, devotion in non-duality, non-duality in devotion.
By the grace of Maharishi's teaching I tasted the subtle essence of that Love which pervades both subject and object, the current of power that runs through every photon and star, the sap of this flowering cosmos: my own Pure Awareness.
Now, 47 years after I first sat at his feet, I still bow down in gratitude and say, "Jai Guru Dev." All gratitude to my First Teacher.
Here is a memory. It was 1970, at a long teacher-training course. A little group of us were sitting with him after a lecture. One asked, "How can I experience what you experience?"
Maharishi giggled, then spontaneously made up this little parable... "The wave asked the sea: Could I be like you? The sea replied: It's easy, just settle down."
Beware of the science which teaches that your Self is contained in your body. Beware of the education which teaches that your Self is contained in your mind. Both body and mind are contained in the Self.
Body, mind, and even ego, are useful instruments for the Self to extend its wonder into worlds of form and vibration. But they are only very small creatures swimming in the vast un-created waters of the Self, who was awake in its own radiance before the worlds were made.
Indeed, your Self shines through your body.Your Self shines through your mind.Your Self shines through your ego. Your Self shines through the Moon and Sun. Your Self pervades the stars, and the space beyond the stars.
The body grows old and dies. The mind dissolves each moment. But the Self is a continuum that neither comes nor goes, neither sleeps nor awakens. Changeless and infinitely interior, more intimate than "I" to "Am," the Self does not think, feel, or perceive; the Self only witnesses the thoughts, feelings and perceptions that arise and subside in the depths of your stillness, like clouds in the blue sky.
Motionless yet moving all creation, silent yet inspiring all harmony, the Self is beyond birth and death, beyond happiness and sorrow, beyond light and darkness. The Self is pure bliss. Truly, the Self is pure bliss.
Therefor repose in the infinitesimal bindhu at the core of your heart between out-breath and in-breath. Here you will enter the dwelling of the eternal Self who outshines the universe. In this space you have no enemy, no fear, no blame, neither past nor future, for in this space the earth is created afresh
with each inhalation.
Whether you name the Self Bodhichitta, Christ, Shiva, or Guru makes no difference. If you arrive by the path of Buddhism or Yoga, Judaism or Islam, the Gods and Goddesses of trees and flowers, or have no path at all, makes no difference. What matters is simply to rest in the space of the Self as you gaze into the eyes of the Beloved, even when the Beloved takes the form of a stranger or an enemy.
This gaze is victory. This gaze is the healing. This gaze is peace. For to see through the eye of the heart is to see your Self in every Thou. Truly, the Self is pure bliss.
Now, friend, isn't it time to stop looking FOR that place, and start looking FROM that place?
In the symbolism of Hindu art, Krishna's body is the color blue. This blue color is signified by the seed syllable Shyam, another name for Krishna. The sound of this bija mantra expresses Krishna's boundless sky-blue essence. The color blue is the vibration of infinite beauty before it takes any form.
At the heart of Vaishnavite philosophy is the esoteric teaching that this formless blue essence has a transcendental form. This form is not composed of matter, but of pure mathematical symmetry, the mathematics of the void. It is from the algebraic symmetry of the vacuum that creation is generated from nothing, a teaching not only of ancient Indian seers but of modern quantum physics. And it is within the transcendental symmetry of pure mathematics that the body of Shyam crystallizes.
Just so, 11th Century Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen gazed into transcendental emptiness and saw the lineaments of a cosmic human form. She called this form the mysterious "blue man," as portrayed in one of her visionary mandalas. Was this the cosmic Christ? Was it Krishna? Are they one and the same?
In the final canto of Dante's Divine Comedy, guided by his muse, the feminine intuitive power Beatrice, the poet ascends to the beatific vision. He gazes through the empyrean of the celestial rose, which contains in tier upon tier of petaled consciousness all saints, enlightened souls and bodhisattvas.
As Dante's vision penetrates the void at the center of that flower, he sees three interpenetrating spheres that "circle the square": the quintessential symmetry at the heart of all matter and energy. With a final breath of transcendence, just before his vision falls back into finite mind, Dante sees the lineaments of a human body, composed not of flesh but of seeing itself, the very form of the formless, the Christ-all-ized vacuum. This vision is at the heart of Renaissance art and alchemy, "man the measure of all things," as expressed by Leonardo da Vinci's drawing, "Vetruvian Man."
The Eye that is humble enough to gaze into the center of the smallest atom, sees the womb of galaxies. The Eye that is courageous enough to penetrate the darkest radiance, sees the amethyst at the heart of No-thing, where zero engenders infinity. This Eye will not be satisfied by the impersonal. For there is a secret deeper than the Absolute: the secret of Hildegard's Blue Man, the secret of Krishna's sky-blue body, the secret of Christ's humanity conceived in the womb of the Mother Void. Beyond abstraction, beyond the Un-created, beyond the merely One, this Eye will gaze into the face of the Beloved.
Mandala by Hildegard of Bingen, 12th C.
The mind cannot liberate itself. Liberation requires the grace of the body.
In the final vision of Dante's Paradise, Canto 33, at the radiant center of the divine essence, the poet beholds the archetype of the human body:
O everlasting Light, you dwell aloneThus in First Corinthians 6:20, Paul the Apostle writes, "Glorify God in your body."
in yourself, know yourself alone, and known
and knowing, love and smile upon yourself!
That central circle which appeared in you
to be conceived as a reflected light,
after my eye had studied it awhile,
within itself and in its coloring
seemed to be illumined with our human likeness...
If we did not have this body, we would be hopelessly trapped in the whirlwind of our thoughts, like the disembodied souls in Dante's purgatory, driven by every gust of desire and habit. Our thoughts would be magnified into worlds from which we would have no escape. Would you want to be swept away in the phantasms of your mind?
Thanks to our body, we become aware of this breath, this sensation in the physical energy field, this warmth in the heart, and gently shift out of our mind. The body is our ticket to liberation.
When we step out of the stream of thought, onto the solid ground of flesh and bone, in the fresh air of breathing, we have the freedom to become aware of Awareness, which is the field where our atoms dance.
For over three thousand years our civilization has been crippled by the hierarchical dominance of "mind over body." This doubtless produced some useful inventions, but it also took a brutal toll, establishing a culture of intellectuals, technocrats and imperial patriarchs who exploited earth's resources in the service of ideology and dogma.
Now we unfold a whole new cycle in the spiral of evolution. We no longer ascend a stairway from the body to mind to Spirit; we walk a barefoot forest path from mind to body to Awareness.
Let us awaken by transcending the bondage of thought. Let us awaken through the sensation of subtler energy fields in our sacred flesh. Then, in Jesus words, "the whole body is filled with light" (Matthew 6:22).
Our physiology is the landscape of consciousness.
One of the greatest obstacles on our spiritual journey is the illusion that the Master is outside us. In truth, from the beginning of time, the Master has always dwelt within.
The Master is the luminosity of our own consciousness, drawing us intimately into relationship with the heart, and through the heart, into intimacy with all sentient beings. The external Master meets us one day and gazes into our eyes for no other reason but to ignite the fire of the Guru within. The Mother hugs us until we hug ourselves. Then we are free. Then the Master is free.
Meditation is simply a direct step to the Master's inner presence. I once heard beloved Mahesh Yogi say: "The impulse of the mantra that draws awareness to its source in transcendental silence, is precisely the same impulse that draws the disciple to the Master."
The true Master is formless love. Formless, but not impersonal. If I cling to the form of the Master in my mind, I lose the deeper intimacy, for I create a distance between subject and object. This is why, when Mary Magdalene reached out to touch Jesus on Easter morning, the Master said, "Noli me tangere: Don't cling to me!"
Let the breath of angels move the great stone away from the entrance to your heart. Let your mind be empty as the tomb of Christ. The gardener comes, calling your name. You are the garden, the Master is Spring.
Why then await the "second coming?" The Master never left. Why travel to India seeking a divine Presence that already Is? The Master is always already here as the very space of this moment - not the content but the awakened space that contains it.
I had a talk with Sri Sri Guruji in his room one evening, just the two of us. I was tired of the silly Ashram talk about his identity, whether he was Krishna or Jesus or Shankara come back, all that nonsense that bubbles up in the hothouse of an ashram. So I expressed my concern about this and then asked him point blank, "Who are you, really? Are you a deva, an avatar? Are you one of the great Masters from ages past?"
This question reminds me of a story at the heart of Buddhism. A disciple asked Gautama, "Are you a God, an angel, a savior?" Gautama merely smiled and said, "I am no different than you, except I am Awake." Therefor they called him simply, "Awakened One," which in Pali is "Buddha."
So I asked Guruji this question, and he silently gazed at me with eyes like black holes of empty radiance, twin voids where galaxies are born. His gaze seemed simultaneously to dissolve yet re-create me. He shook his head slowly and whispered, "No, no, they don't understand. I am Nobody." And he meant it.
This took me years to comprehend. But at that moment, I knew he was my Guru.
Longing for the Master's glance is an exquisite drama, a play that thickens the plot of devotion. Yet even as you play your role and the Guru plays his, don't get stuck in the melodrama. Know that the Master dwells between your heartbeats, nearer than your next breath. In St. Augustine's words, "Intimeor intimo meo: More inward to me than I am to myself."
A true Guru is neither lord nor lawgiver, but mirror. Look deeply into the Master's eyes, yet deeper still, until you see the boundless expanse of your own Being.
Jai Guru Dev
On the first day of the New Year, go outside and take a walk. Walk in a new world, a world that crystalizes out of nothing this very moment, this very breath, a world composed of pure Love...
Which of course is this world, the world we hardly notice, just as it really is...
But before you take one step on your walk, you must see the simple truth. The creation all around you, along with the one who beholds it, are made of the same substance: pure Love.
You walk in Love. The ground is Love. Matter is Love. Mind is Love's moving stillness. There are no straight lines. Every motion is a swirl of return to Love.
Look at these earthly forms - trees, rocks, a dump truck, a port-a-potty, a broken bicycle in the milkweed. Each atom is hollow, yet brim-full with Love. Every boundary is a boundless fractal of infinite Love. All creatures swell with a breath of emptiness, lighter than space, and that emptiness is the fullness of Love.
You don't need to visualize this, because it actually Is. Just see it with the eye of your heart. Each cell of your body, each molecule of sod, each wave of fire in the vast silence of an atom, is pure Love.
We know from contemporary Western science that the physical world is an ocean of immaterial energy, pulsing waves in the vacuum. But waves of what? We can learn from the scientists of the East, whose instrument of research is meditation: the vacuum of empty space is awake. It is the space of awareness itself. And this space is your own awareness, witnessing the whirl of nebulae and galaxies, appearing and dissolving within your own stillness.
The vibrant silence of your awareness is the subtle essence, the God-stuff, that worlds are made of. And that subtle essence is the substance of both subject and object, spirit and matter; the current of power that runs through photons and stars; the sap of this flowering universe. It is who you really Are, and it is pure Love.
But what is the inner secret of this no-thing-ness, this emptiness, this space of Love? It is not mere oneness, but holy trinity.
The One is in Love with its Self: a trinity of Love in Love with Love.
This dynamic activity of Love-relation inside the stillness of space, reflects as a hologram in every particle of creation. Love at the heart of emptiness creates a virtual subject-object relation, sparking worlds into manifestation, so that Love can witness its Self as an Other, in myriad acts of perception throughout the cosmos, by countless sentient beings.
When you as a subject behold this snowflake as an object, Shiva makes Love to Shakti; the vine of Christ entwines the trellis of the Magdalene; Love falls deeper in Love with Love. When you are truly alive in Awareness, every perception you have is a blessing to the earth.
Now see the snowflake melt into Love. That Love is your seeing. Smell the cedar scent of Love in the Winter forest. Breathe. That sensation in your nostrils is pure Love. Look! Each hair on the trembling pelt of the doe who steals the last shriveled rose from your garden is composed of Love's electrons. Hear the scarlet-tailed flicker's piercing cry: she's dipped in the wine of your Love.
Now it is late afternoon, evening on the First Day. The darkness of Love descends, filled with stars. You are alone. You are the multitude. You are alone in the vast otherness of Love.
"Eternity" is not an otherworldly condition. It's just remaining in the present moment.
The past and future are the jaws of Yama, Lord of Death, ever waiting to devour us. But we are delivered from death's dominion when we enter our own Buddha nature, the Kingdom of Christ Consciousness, which is simply this unbounded Now. Where can we enter? Gaze into a flower. How can we enter? Dissolve into a breath.
"But how can you be of service to humanity if you are just gazing into flowers and breathing?"
Only in the Kingdom of Presence is compassion possible. When you are present, you are available to the person right beside you. No one in the future needs your love. No one in the past needs your love. You are needed here.
(Photo: another exquisite Kristy blossom.)