Saturday, October 16, 2010

People Get Ready

The year is 1965. People are awakening to social injustice, racial prejudice and the horrors of an unjust war. In the context of enormous fear, doubt, blind hatred and conflict, there is also so much hope. A song is written by Curtis Mayfield titled “People Get Ready,” and the words capture the spirit of the times:

“People get ready, there's a train a’comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board.
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin.'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.”

There was plenty for people to “get ready” for and there was much that would occur in those years that very much affects our lives now.

I am not a person given to bold prognostications and I have never been the least bit concerned about predicting the future, but I do, now, have something very important that I want to say: Something is happening in this world of ours, for the most part still unseen and unheralded—but nonetheless monumental—and it will make all that happened in the Sixties seem like small potatoes.

People are waking up! They are saying, “There is something more to life, and I want to know what it is.” What seemed so confusing and unclear before is now less and less so. Things that required great effort to comprehend no longer require that effort. Aspirations that in the past seemed to be impossible are now seen to be possible.

So often we have wished for harmony and peace in our lives, but never found it. We wanted our relationships to be easeful and filled with joy and intimacy, but failed to realize it. We looked to leaders to show us the way, but we never knew that we are the leaders we have always been looking for. We felt deep down at our most fundamental level that there was something present in us that never changed, despite all the change swirling about, but we could never touch it. But, but, but now there is something quivering on the edges that points to a way of being that is so incredible and awe-inspiring, and we can’t even begin to predict how exactly it will take shape.

I have had the experience over the past months where many people gathered together in a context of complete openness and benefit. They worked together closely without ill will, and they put the greater good ahead of their own selfish considerations. They dared to consider a world that would reflect what they were experiencing in their own lives: a world without conflict because people were no longer in conflict within themselves; enormous opportunity to benefit themselves and others and the willingness and ability to do so; the breaking out of the old ways of thinking into the clarity of being that comes from true freedom.

I feel great confidence in saying this. It is not based on some sort of New Age-type optimism; it is rather based on the hard evidence that more and more people are willing to make the simple change in themselves that allows the peace that is already present to flourish. There is something different in the air, although I can’t yet say exactly what it is. All I know is that it’s coming, and we are at a fortuitous turning point that will usher in enormous benefit and good will.

So, truly, people get ready, there’s a train a’comin’, you just get on board.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

For No Reason, Joy Unbounded

Sitting alone, minding my own business, not much bothered either way, nothing special on the menu, no angels dancing across the heavens, but yet....a joy that is unbounded and uncaused. Not as a passing experience, not as a special state, not as anything that belongs to any person, not dependent on a circumstance and not driven away by any circumstance. Subtle, barely noticeable, imperceptibly moving in and out of awareness—but uninterruptedly and powerfully present. Delicate, slight, understated, faint—but distinctly near at hand.
Our whole fucking life is spent chasing after the next experience just to taste this—what is it?—something that is already present. Life’s triumphs, pleasures and acquisitions conjure up a counterfeit, and we are led to believe it is the real thing, but that is a fool’s game. Those things don’t bring this nameless joy; they only hold up a mirror.
Doing nothing, what is obvious becomes obvious. Clear seeing, no distraction, passionate disinterest in the passing show, but yet full and adoring engagement in everyone and everything without exception.

The cat comes up and wants to be cuddled; the bright and beautiful autumn sun shines brightly on a splendid book lying by the half-drunk coffee; nature’s bounty unfolds miraculously in each moment; loving friendship profoundly expressed and appreciated. These dazzling ambassadors serve as expert reminders: “It is always here with you! Don’t despair.”
No job to complete, no need to hold on, no fear of anything coming or going away. Restfully, easefully letting things be as they are. I didn't earn this, but there it is! Appreciation and Gratitude overflowing....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Delightful Dance of Immediate Recognition

Over the past weeks we have been looking at each of the words in the title of this blog, "Read, Relax, Recognize," and today we come to the last of the three words.
It might be helpful to begin with a story that could help illustrate what "recognize" means. Some years ago, I was traveling in a VW bus through the south of France with a dear friend, and on the Saturday night before Easter we arrived in the city of Arles. We were sitting in a cafe on the square beside the ancient Roman amphitheater watching the people promenade along the main street. There were many drunken young men who were out and about, and as so often happens in a situation like this, two of them got into a violent fight. After they had thrown a few punches, they grabbed one another by the shoulders, and each struggled to subdue the other. But suddenly there was an instant when they looked into one another's eyes and held the gaze. There must have been a moment of recognition, of actually SEEING the other person for the first time. They at once relaxed, gave up struggling, let go their grip, put their arms around each other and begin to dance a waltz with great big smiles on their faces! Wow, now THAT is recognition!
So, what does that story have to do with us? We have been struggling with a lot of things in our own lives: "Who are I;" "What about all these thoughts and emotions I have;" "Will I be happy in life;" "Will I find someone to love me;" "Why do things go wrong;" "Will I be free of the pain I feel," and so many other things. We have things occur in life that we don't want; we struggle to make things better or make the wrong things go away, but then more things occur that we resist and resent that we need to deal with, and on and on it goes for a whole lifetime. Quietly (or not so quietly) we live a life without ongoing balance, peace, sustained joy or any resolution of the things that afflict us.
This battle with our experience may not be obvious to us much of the time, because when we feel afflicted we often turn to things like food, spending money, sex, entertainment and other distractions to paper over the negative feelings. We may present a brave front to our partners, friends, family and to ourselves, but often we struggle with deep dissatisfaction and doubt.
We want to make it better, but the solutions we find are not long-lasting. The freedom, stability and peace of mind we long for seem to be so distant. That is a pretty bleak picture, but for many, many of us, this is our lived experience on a moment-by-moment basis.
But wait a minute, is it in fact our lived experience moment-by-moment? Or is seeing things in this way only an acquired habit that has engulfed us because we didn't know any other way? Like the two drunken brawlers, could we be struggling with an enemy that is not really an enemy at all, but who is a friend who has merely gone unrecognized?
The fight that we have been in, maybe for our whole lives, can be swiftly ended. Nothing inside or outside of us needs to be changed; we only need to see clearly....we need to recognize what is already there. And what is already there? An as yet unrecognized clarity and wholeness that exists at the base of all this turmoil.
We could say that the moment of recognition that the two men felt when they truly saw one another occurs for us when we gaze into the "eyes" of our experience and recognize it for what it is. The labels we apply to the experience--good, bad, want this, don't want that--do not determine reality, unless we allow them to do so. If we choose to be caught up in these things, the stillness and ease that are at the basis will remain unrecognized.
We are introduced to this peace and clarity by not pursuing our thoughts and emotions and building a story around them. We rest in the peace that is already present by not seeking anything or wanting to change anything. In a very simple way, on a moment-by-moment basis, we rely on the clarity that is the basis of the thoughts and emotions.
"Recognize" as a word means simply "to see or acknowledge again." That is all we are doing...seeing again, acknowledging again...rather than being enthralled by all the confusion. We, like the two drunken brawlers, are only a moment away from a very beautiful and delightful dance.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Relaxation, Even When the Emotions are Boiling

It has been quite an extraordinary process for me to compose these few words that you are now reading! I knew I wanted to write separate blog entries about each of the words used in the title "Read, Relax Recognize." Having already written about "read," I was very, very interested in focusing my attention on "relax" and exploring what the word actually means and then trying to communicate what I had discovered.
Rather than pondering and analyzing and figuring out, I wanted to just let the interest in the discovery rest in my mind and then see what would emerge. You could say that I wanted to relax (yes, that's it) and let the insight effortlessly appear. Over the past evenings, when the work of the day was finished, I would sit quietly and attentively, letting things be as they are, calm and undisturbed, but intent.
Over and over again I would return to the interest..."What does it mean to really relax?" Evenings flowed into days and back into evenings, but nothing came, nothing came, nothing came. There were also some occasions where, amidst a busy work schedule that included a couple of dances with familiar old partners like impatience, anger and frustration, the thought would come up, "Well, shouting at the malfunctioning lawn mower is not a very relaxed response! Maybe I should postpone my investigation for a while until I get a grip on this."
But I knew better than to be fooled by such trivial distractions. Real relaxation is not absent even in the midst of the most troubled emotional outburst. How do I know this? I just have to let go of the anger and frustration by not running a story on them or pursuing the series of thoughts that proceed from them. When I lose interest in being angry and frustrated, I can see that nothing has fundamentally changed from when I was totally engrossed in the anger and frustration. The relaxation that seemed interrupted or distant is in fact wholly present and accessible, even if temporarily obscured.
Here's another wonderful discovery: we don't have to blame ourselves when our emotions have boiled over. Each moment is a new moment of opportunity to choose where we will focus our attention. It doesn't matter where our attention was two seconds before or where it has been for the whole of our lives; we can choose right now to rest in the peace that is naturally present...or not. The resistance to life, of which the anger and frustration are a part, happens right now, and the attempt to focus on the past and blame ourselves for what occurred then happens right now. It is really, really a choice as to where we will put our attention in that 'right now.'
Rather than trying to fix the anger or do all the things to become a non-angry person, we just relax and do nothing. Yes, that's right, we do nothing. The peace and calm that are recognized in that moment of doing nothing do not need to be acquired or produced. They only need to be acknowledged.
So, after many evenings of sitting quietly without expectation, something finally emerged, and I am now gratefully typing it out on this computer screen. If this offering is worthwhile and helpful for you, that is okay. If it is totally off-putting and does not reflect your own experience, that is okay too.
Relaxation means being at ease with whatever appears. Once we grow more and more accustomed to being easefully attentive to all appearances, we recognize the innate gifts that are present in us. But wait, "recognize" is the subject of the next blog. See you then!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Does "Reading" Really Mean?

The name of this blog is "Read, Relax, Recognize," and as I begin the series of posts that will follow, it will be helpful to look at each of those three terms to see what they really mean.
For instance, what does the word "read" actually mean? The first and most obvious assumption is that it is what we do with the printed word. Most of us read every day, whether it is email, web articles, books, instructions on food packaging, advertising and countless other things. It seems so fundamental and natural for us to be able to look at a page and know what is being communicated.
A key element that might not be so obvious is the fact that the words are actually a sort of code which we have the ability to discern. We did not have that coding ability when we were small children, and if the words are in an unfamiliar foreign language, we won't be able to get the meaning. One could say that the key element in the interaction with words is not merely seeing them or hearing them, but being able to truly decode them.
A lack of understanding might come not only from not being able to decode and understand the language, but from not WANTING to understand. A racist who reads information that contradicts his prejudices will certainly understand the words, but he simply will not be able to process and assimilate the meaning because of his resistance to what the words point to.
Lack of understanding can also occur because of lack of attention. If we are not alert or are disinterested in what is being communicated, then communication and understanding will not take place.
Reading is not limited to man-made language. A person who is very familiar with the natural surroundings can read the natural signs: how will the weather change, when is it the right time to plant a crop, is this a place animals would come to feed, is this a plant that can be used as a medicine, and so on. It is an art that has almost totally disappeared in the modern world, but it is nonetheless a form of reading.

Now I come to the most significant interpretation of the word "reading." We are living a life filled with a profusion of experiences that are difficult to understand. A loved one dies, we get a severe illness, nations go to war, children starve....One day we are hopeful that we can find a solution, but the next day we fully despair. We seem to be under assault by things we cannot understand and for which we have no solution. We may end up just blocking it out in boredom, apathy, distraction and medication, but the flow of life is unrelenting.
Am I now going to give you a gimmicky solution to this age-old dilemma? No, thankfully not! But what I will say is that the response to this challenge has a lot to do with reading. Can we understand what the flow of life is bringing us if we are totally distracted by our thoughts and emotions about the experiences? Can we be discerning and clear if our minds are totally unclear? That is, can we "read" our experience fully if we are confused about the language?
Well, okay, fine, but how do we have a clear view; how do we find peace when our minds are constantly raging? In a very simple way, we take a stand, we make a choice....we refuse to be distracted. We do that in each moment of our experience, and we keep coming back to that place of non-distraction and rest over and over and over again, rather than being carried along by the distraction. We remain clear, unmoved, alert and aware in each moment, regardless of what storms swirl around us.
We can do this for short moments, over and over again, and like a baby taking little steps, falling and getting up to take more baby steps, we become confident in our capacity to remain alert and clear in each moment.
So, dear friends, the reading that we are doing in this case is the utmost reading we can do: skillfully discerning what is important and what is not....reading the signs, as it were. When we see that our thoughts and emotions don't need to control us, we can read without distraction. And it begins with short moments, many times, until it becomes spontaneous.

Friday, June 11, 2010

That Place of Peace

I would like to pass on a quote from a marvelous little book with a very long title!!: “Short Moments of Clarity, Repeated Many Times, Become Continuous: The Most Powerful and Easy Way to Live”:

"Awareness, in the immediacy of the flow of thoughts, emotions and sensations is the source of profound insight, perfect clarity, complete mental and emotional stability, compassion and skillfulness in all situations. The innate ability to be at ease, wise, balanced and compassionate is discovered in the clarity of awareness."

The word that is used here is “awareness,” but another way to express that idea is: the place of peace and repose in ourselves that is present in us, no matter what. When we are searching around for satisfaction, this “place” is what we are actually searching for.
I know, for me, there was always a longing to experience freedom from all sorrow. Of course, at first glance that would seem to be a truly ridiculous endeavor, considering how much sorrow seems to pervade our lives. But still, damn, there was this feeling that there was something present in us that all those bitter things could not touch.

So, when I hear about having “profound insight, perfect clarity, complete mental and emotional stability, compassion and skillfulness, and being at ease, wise, balanced and compassionate,” then, whoa, sign me up, please! These are wondrous gifts I have always longed to receive. They are ambassadors of this place of peace that so many of us have sought. But, look again, no seeking is required. They are ever present as the loving expression of this place of peace. Bring me home…..

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Introduction

Dear Friends, My first post as a blogger...hurray! I am not only pleased to be able to offer these posts for your reading pleasure, but I am also very happy that the posts, as well as the things that are being posted about, will be of benefit to people.
I will be posting on books, texts and reading, but not just any books and texts. I am interested in wise words that introduce a person to their own innate nature. I am interested in texts that can give a person an instinctive recognition of their own inherent and natural clarity.
Hence the title of this blog: "Read, Relax, Recognize." Through reading very profound texts, one relaxes into a state of receptivity and openness, and in that receptivity and openness, just very naturally the recognition of clarity can come.
So, that is the basis. Welcome to all!