Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yes, It's Christmas

Yes, it’s Christmas. Pause, and come home. Look up and see what is there all the time. Appreciate and value what is worth valuing. Know that what is right and good is not far away. Wait a second before being disappointed; sense the magnificence that hovers over each moment.

A year has passed, what was in it? No regrets, no worries. Present wherever we are, we look one another right in the eye and see what is before us without cloud. Simplicity and humility are sustained—no gross materialism can enter here.

Visits...arranged. Chocolates...consumed. Friendships...deepened. Family...treasured. Love…evoked.

Knowing what is most beautiful, we are not distracted. We bring kindness where kindness has long been absent. We understand without confusion what this day is meant to teach. We unfold into a world that includes all beings within it. We move effortlessly into a boundless benefit that has no reason.

Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Memory Sticks

How fun it is to play with language and to see all the subtleties that can be discovered if we just pay a little bit of attention. We are so accustomed to viewing things from only one angle, but if we are able to come at things in a slightly different way, no telling how many diverse meanings can be found!

The other day I went out to the store to buy a memory stick for my computer, and while I was standing there looking at the advertising display, I had one of those odd little insights that comes now and again from out of the blue.

I have long known “memory sticks” to be data storage devices, but for some reason, in a moment of deflected attention, I saw the phrase in a completely new way. It was such a sudden and unexpected twist on a common phrase that I had to smile to myself. In that moment “memory stick” did not refer to data storage but to how our memory stays with us. We have a thought or experience, we then remember it as part of the flow of our lives, and then the memory sticks—-it stays with us and is held by the mind.

At one level, yes of course, it is great that we have this ability that is so painfully lacking in people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. We can remember what occurred when we went to the store to buy the memory stick because the memory stuck, and we can remember many of the experiences we have had over the course of our lives because those memories stuck as well.

We have these memories that remain in our minds, and that is all well and good, but then usually something less useful happens: we apply judgments to those memories. We call some good and some bad and others are judged to be merely neutral.

From these judgments we often derive conclusions about ourselves and our overall experience: “Oh, yeah, so many of my relationships have failed. So, the next one should fail too. I have messed up so badly so many times; I am just a person who messes up,” or, “I have undergone so much, and I know that life is sad and unfair,” or conversely “That was so great for me, and it needs to happen again or something is wrong.” You get the picture: a past memory can be stuck in us so firmly that it shapes and influences our present experience. Now, surely that is one disadvantage of memory sticking.

But there is another way. What if we let the data flow on by without grabbing it or categorizing it? What a different life we would have: we would still have the gift of memory, but it would not be a held memory that clouds the perspective. From a vantage of childlike wonder we would see everything without prejudice and with wide open eyes. We would be free in a most fundamental way, because each moment of life would be filled with effortlessness and ease. Our intentions and actions would be unbiased and our way forward undistracted.

I am so very honored to be able to say that I have met people who demonstrate this choice. I know for sure that what I have described is not merely theoretical but is the actual lived expression of amazing people.

For all intents and purposes, these people look the same as the rest of us; they dress like us, speak like us and have normal human experiences like us, but what sets them apart is the choice that they make. It is a simple choice, one that all of us can make: to not get stuck in memories or anywhere else. Because of their clarity and simplicity, they may actually have prodigious powers of recall and can remember specific details of events long past, but they are not bound by any of it.

I know from my own experience what a joy it is to be in the presence of someone in whom memory is not stuck. Each moment is rich and profound for them, unfettered by confusion. When they see anyone or anything, they see only the shining essence. They are totally present and fully engaged with life in all its many manifestations. They bathe in a love that is ever present, and they willingly share that love with all the world. They are not distracted by any of the labels conjured up by memory. When they speak, it is with an authority that no position could provide.

Now, while I have described a type of person that is not yet often seen in the world, the freedom of choice to not be stuck in memory is available to all of us, with none excluded, and more and more it WILL be the choice that is made. For short moments, many times, over and over again, we can rely on our own native intelligence, acquiring experiences and memories as we move through life, but not allowing ourselves to be limited by any of them.

In this way, that memory stick in our pocket can carry a reminder of a way of life that will take us beyond memory.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


This past weekend I was visiting with my sister and her family, and not only did I have the opportunity to spend time with beloved family members, but then I was given another—unexpected—gift…

My sister teaches a Sunday School class for young people, and as she was preparing for her next day’s lesson, she came to me with a question: “I want to speak to them about contentment, but I don’t know exactly how to explain what that means. How do you tell them about something that is probably only a vague notion for them?”

I was intrigued by this question, and I went off on my own to consider it for a while. I thought, “Well, “contentment” is quite a profound concept, and maybe a lot of adults don’t fully understand what it means. How does one put it into plain language so that even a child could comprehend it?”

I could see the possible context for dealing with this issue: these young people live in a materialistic culture with pressure from all sides to acquire more and more stuff, and reminders of contentment are few and far between. I also knew that deep discussions about contentment would probably not be going on in most households, and that it is the tendency of people—of all ages—to be more focused on what they don’t have as opposed to what they innately possess.

Normally when we hear the word “contentment,” we turn our attention to the things that are meant to bring contentment. These things are different for different people, but the list might start with an attractive and loving romantic partner, a beautiful home, satisfaction of desires, abundance, safety, security, material comfort, respect and acclaim. But the more I pondered my sister’s question, the more it became clear to me that there was evidence of contentment all around, but that it often went unrecognized because it did not necessarily have to do with any of those things.

I happen to know many people who have hardly any of the things that I have listed, who nevertheless have the obvious presence of contentment in their lives. What is it these people “have” that contents them, even if their contentment wasn’t in the having of anything?

What I see in these wonderful people is a vast openness to all experience, an enormous capacity for letting things be as they are. They are active, engaged, energetic, intelligent, skilled, joyous and serviceful, but at the same time they reside in a place of complete rest. The constant barrage of thoughts, emotions, sensations and experiences seems to be going on the same for them as for anyone else, but they are not carried away by the flow. Their attention is not on themselves and all of their personal concerns; rather, they maintain a profound interest in a place of great depth and peace that includes everyone and everything.

The key ingredient to this contentment seems to be the recognition of a place in themselves that has no place—an unchanging essence, a natural state, awareness, clarity, open intelligence, a place of peace—call it by whatever name. There is in them a moment by moment choice to return to that place of peace over and over, for short moments, again and again.

When distractions occur—and even if the distractions continue for a while—the choice is eventually made to return to that place of peace. They sustain themselves with reminders so that the choice is not obscured: they seek out community with this as the basis, they commit themselves to reaching out for support when needed and they refresh the commitment by reading, listening to and investigating unerring teachings that speak unwaveringly about what is true.

So, in the end, what would I want to tell those young people in the Sunday School class? I would want to stand before them and be able to say with the utmost confidence, “Dear ones, you have nothing to fear. Everything you need, you have. Naturally occurring wisdom and well-being that will never leave you come from acknowledging the truth within yourselves, for short moments, many times, until the acknowledgement becomes spontaneous and continuous.”

So, this was the gift I received: knowing that this is so for myself, knowing that it is true for others, and knowing that this simple truth can be communicated clearly and easily. This gift, this contentment, is our greatest possession.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Teacher, Sometimes Appearing in the Form of a Person

There are those rare occasions in our lives when we are simply overwhelmed by something—an inspiring personality, a captivating phrase, song or speech, an insight that catapults us into another level of understanding—and we are lifted out of the merely familiar into an unanticipated realm of great joy, passion and vision.

This summer, in a retreat in which I was a participant, I was transported beyond my usual way of understanding things by a short quotation in a text that went something like this: “The teacher, sometimes appearing in the form of a person, is pure beneficial energy bestowing empowerment. There is a great treasury of inexhaustible benefit brought to life in the visible form of a teacher. The teacher is completely devoted to the student; the teacher is the ultimate friend, a guide to a realm of treasure which is available to all beings.”

There are many, many things to be said about this short quote, but I want to focus my attention on this one phrase: “the teacher, sometimes appearing as a person.” There are multitudes of teachings in those seven words. The first thing I can see is that EVERYTHING is a teacher. Every thought, emotion, sensation, experience, every sound, image, touch, taste, sense, every pleasure and every pain is a teacher.

I just have to repeat this, not just for those of you who are reading this but for me who is writing this: EVERYTHING is a teacher. That one recognition completely and totally changes our relationship to our experience. All of existence is summoning us in each moment. We are entirely flooded with the whole of universal experience in each here-and-now. So, what need is there to “be in the moment” or “be mindful” or “come back to our true self”?

“The teacher, sometimes appearing as a person” also points us to our own power. We do not need to give up the autonomy of our own experience to some authority figure; there is no powerful person who is going to make things all right for us; there is no guru sitting there who holds the knowledge and power we will never possess. Being as we are an integral part of this “everything,” we are ourselves the teacher sometimes appearing as a person.

Yet, at the same time, I do not want to forget the great gift of a visible teacher who appears, one who is the ultimate guide and friend, a person whose sole interest is our greatest benefit. The devotion that comes from such a relationship is unimaginably beautiful. There is only the purest of motivation for both teacher and student, and from that purity the greatest benevolence flows. How glorious it is to contemplate the possibility of “a treasury of inexhaustible benefit brought to life.” Wow, count me in! A friendship filled with devotion and care and service to all—where do I sign up!

And finally, what a joy to consider the boon that is this moment, right now. All the instruction that is needed is being provided, right now. This one recognition is life-transforming. The universal intelligence that fills every bit of space is ever available and accessible. We just open our eyes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Drawing Water, Carrying Wood

Nothing to figure out, nowhere to proceed. No matrix to get out of. No assumptions to be overcome. No past to deal with. No one out there to blame. No interference from anywhere. No standards, no expectations, no hopes. Nothing to fear or avoid. No conclusions to make. Drawing water, carrying wood…the realm of the everyday; drawing water, carrying wood…the recognition of vast open intelligence; drawing water, carrying wood—the full expression of pure being, hidden amidst the commonplace. Wandering in the unknown without notion or goal, with no need to ask for directions, arrivals and departures evaporate. The magician draws back the curtain, smiles and says, “Ta da! Nothing there—had you fooled, didn’t I”? No end in sight. No cause for regret. Wonder is the only response.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Let Us Linger in the Lairs of Lovers

Let us gather together now and whisper enchanting notions to one another—enchanting notions that don’t come from our past or what we have taken ourselves to be, enchanting notions that aren’t from wanting to demonstrate or prove anything, enchanting notions that see no separation. Let us linger in the lairs of lovers and be ambushed by them there. Let them ply us full of their wine until we are satiated, and then let us drink some more. Ah, let us get drunk with this wine so sweet! It is an inebriation that the drunkard cannot know. We will stagger up to the rooftops and call out our invitations and make sure that all the unloved get the first summons to drink. We are so spellbound that our fears and expectations wander off like an untethered dog. We will arise and go now, and go to the abode loud with song, and we will remain there and smile gratefully at our abundance. No night will darken, no enemy intrude, no conflict issue forth. Oh, laughter so delightful, let us have more of it! 10,000 thanks that I should have even once dwelt there, and now it arrives over and over again unasked. May it flow, flow unceasingly that all may drink….

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Something in the Air, Something in Our Hearts

The images flow in one after the other: children viciously gunned down on an island in Norway, smoke rising over the burning streets of London, headlines screaming of yet more lying and stealing by society’s leaders, people’s trust being violated by those who know only their own self-interest, violent men daring to carry out greater and greater levels of brutality, anger bursting forth on all sides, fear and doubt showing on the faces of people everywhere. We are daunted by the challenges and perplexed as to where to turn. We ask, “Where is our refuge?”

But all the shouting and blaming we have seen for so long have only led us further down the road to despair. There are many traveling down that road, because no other one is seen, but there is a road less traveled by.

We as a human society truly stand at a crossroads, and it very much matters which path we choose. But to think that it is “human society” that chooses is putting the responsibility in the wrong place. It is we, the people of the world, who choose in every instant. In the moment that we hear that murder and mayhem are playing out and innocent people are being robbed and their homes destroyed, what is our response? Do we blame and hate and seek to take revenge on our enemies? Do we surrender to despair and seek to escape all engagement?

These are certainly choices that have been made, but it is becoming more and more clear to greater and greater numbers of people that there is another choice. Look at the people of Norway. When faced with a singularly violent act, they responded with love, tolerance, respect and grace. When the father in Birmingham, England whose two sons were murdered by a hit-and-run driver during the riots spoke to the community, he called for an end to hostility and bloodshed. Despite his enormous personal pain, he chose the road less traveled by.

People are reaching a turning point where they know that none of the tired solutions of the past are sufficient. Reacting to life from blind fear and ignorance-—has that worked for us so far?

There is something in the air, my friends, and it is not only the smoke of burning buildings. It is the as yet unsensed fragrance of love, hope and wisdom emerging from hiding. There is something moving in people all over the world. Why this marvelous era should be coming about now, at this time and in this way, I do not know, but I know that I want to be a part of it. My heart has been moved, and I know that so many other hearts have been moved.

When we see the evidence in our own lives and in the lives of others that peace is truly possible, then we can dare to hope that the whole world could be transformed. Filling the air, filling our hearts, this confidence grows until we are all swept up. Filling the air, filling our hearts, we allow the peace that knows no limit to manifest in each moment.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Being undefended: alertly present without choice or preference, unwaveringly rooted in direct experience. Clearly seeing without impediment. Fully relaxed, open and vulnerable while courageously facing risk. Denying no thought, emotion, sensation or occurrence, yet skillfully responding to everything that arises in a beneficial way. Restfully and easefully attentive, knowing full well that everything arises from the same source.

Normally when we hear a word like “undefended,” it has a bit of a negative connotation, as in for example “the soldier was left undefended,” or “in that undefended moment she was very vulnerable.” If the world is a place full of threat and malevolence, it would not be wise to be undefended, and we would necessarily always have to be protecting ourselves. However, that is not the vantage from which I am viewing this word.

Seen in another way, to be undefended means to be totally at home in the universe; it means to lack nothing and feel an indivisible unity with all. It means that nothing is seen as outside of oneself, because that “oneself” is not bounded by a skin line. When one does not exist anywhere, from where does the threat come that needs to be defended against? When “good and bad” “safe and unsafe” are merged and non-different, then the notion of self-defense takes on a different meaning.

Now, of course, this sounds very theoretical and in some ways impossible, so it is good to bring this to the level of our lived experience. Let’s look at “undefended” first from the perspective of what being totally “defended” looks like. Being totally defended is where most all of us find ourselves most of our lives. If we trip or stumble in public, we look around to see who has noticed; if we make some embarrassingly stupid mistake, we attempt to cover it up. We want to avoid revealing our most hidden secrets, and we fear being found out.

We give a great deal of attention to seeking our advantage in order to protect ourselves. We often take great pains to appear rich, accomplished and respected to others whose opinions matter to us rather than just being naturally present as whatever we are. What terrific anxieties people often experience when they go, for instance, to reunions with old schoolmates, wondering, “What will they think of me? Will I measure up?”

If there is any doubt about the extent of defending oneself, we can observe our own thoughts. There is a constant stream of threat in subtle forms that needs to be defended against and dealt with. “This is not right; I have been wronged; how ridiculous that person is; why can’t things be better; why don’t I belong; how will I be safe and secure?” The mental stream includes a constant attempt to set right all sorts of things that are felt to be wrong.

Basically one could say that to be defended is to be afraid: afraid of death, afraid of failure, afraid of impoverishment, afraid of not being right, afraid of not getting what we want or getting what we want and being disappointed. The list is endless, and we are all very familiar with the items on that list in our own lives. We take great pains to protect ourselves from all these things, and the act of protecting oneself is going on constantly, whether we are aware of it or not.

So, now we come to the gift of being totally undefended. If we believe all the threats running through our heads are real, then certainly we are not in a position to remain undefended. We clearly perceive threat that needs to be dealt with. However, if we slowly begin to take a different perspective, something quite miraculous can happen. Maybe for just an instant we can stop thinking; we just pause for a moment and notice the alertness that is present whether thought is there or not. Maybe we grow more interested in that basis of thought. “Wow, is there something present in me that does not come and go with the thoughts? Is there a basis for all of my experience that rests unchanged as all the experiences flow on by?”

This is a most fortunate question to be asking and investigating! By just getting a bit of distance from our thoughts and feelings, we begin to see that in fact they don’t have an independent nature. They arise, appear and disappear in an unmovable intelligence. We get more and more familiar with that basic intelligence by coming back to it over and over again, for short moments many times. Again and again we come back to the intelligence, rather than getting pulled along by the thoughts.

As we gain more and more confidence in this basic intelligence, we also grow in assurance that the thoughts, feelings and experiences that seemed so threatening before are actually not threatening. We find that the old defense mechanisms are unnecessary, even silly. We no longer struggle to make an impression or preserve an image. Whereas before we were walking around as if with a mirror in our hand always looking at our reflection: “How am I doing? How am I looking?” we can now fully be with people without that defense. Things that were frightening are no longer so, not because the fear has gone away, but because we choose to not dance with the fear when it arises.

How simple, uncomplicated, transparent and available we become when we are not defending ourselves all the time. Our total self-focus dissolves, and lo and behold we begin to notice that there are actually other people out there, and we need not be afraid of them or their opinions. We begin to experience levels of relationship that were impossible for us as long as we were hiding out.

When we no longer fear our thoughts and emotions, we open up to a whole new world. It is a world filled with courage, joy, intimacy and possibility. This does not mean that disease, danger and death disappear. No, they are very much present, but our relationship with them is not one of fear and defense. Slowly we move into choiceless relationship with all of experience. In our undefended stance, we find our greatest strength.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In Sync

Many of us have important computer files that we want to have backed up in a remote location in case our hardware devices are lost, damaged or stolen, and we want to have those files accessible from any of our computing devices at any time from wherever we happen to be. The incredible solution to that need is file-syncing services that save our files in the computer cloud. Anytime you make changes on your laptop or smart phone to any file that you have synced with the cloud, those same changes go off somewhere into the cloud and are saved there too.

I don’t have to do anything but tap-tap-tap on my keyboard and everything I do is harmonized with a master copy available everywhere but located nowhere. It is a technological wonder to me—-and one that happens to be free, by the way—-and another bit of evidence of how innovation can assist and support us in so many areas of our lives.

But there is another aspect of this wondrous offering that caught my eye. It was the recognition that all aspects of life are actually in sync with everything all at once. And my attention was drawn to a form of miraculous syncing that goes on that is so very common that it is usually taken for granted.

It so happens that three weeks ago I developed an infection that got to be so severe that the infected area was swollen up the size of a lemon, such that sitting, sleeping and doing any sort of concentrated work were almost impossible. The wisest thing to do with a bodily invasion like this is to go to the doctor’s office and have them put their cutting knives to good use. That is what happened, albeit with no anesthesia and with a firm conviction that I never wanted to have to do this again.

What we are left with after such a procedure is a large gash and a wound that is quite painful, swollen and vulnerable to further infection. Many of us have had something like this, so we know the conditions associated with it, but there is something more going on here than what might be evident at first glance: without our doing anything other than skillfully allowing nature to take its course, a miracle occurs. The natural healing processes of the body take over and gradually do their work. Slowly, imperceptibly they re-create the wellness, easefulness and functionality that had been temporarily moved aside by the disease.

What was three weeks ago a bloody, ugly mess is now totally transformed; and I didn’t do anything at all except stand by and watch as it took place. An incredible intelligence was at work doing something that borders on the unbelievable. I should also add, had the wound remain diseased, it would have been the very same intelligence in evidence, allowing the bacteria to do the astonishing work that they so naturally and ably do.

There is a second bit of evidence of the miraculous amidst the day-to-day that I had the privilege to notice yesterday. It is midsummer in Sweden now, and by the roadsides are hundreds of lupine flowers growing wild. Lupines have long stalks with small pea-shaped flowers branching off from the main stalk. I brought four of these flowers back with me to my room and put them together in a glass vase that is narrow enough that each of the flower stalks were touching.

It was the next afternoon that I noticed that a natural wonder had taken place: in the course of only sixteen hours the four stalks had grown apart. They had somehow sensed that they were too close to their neighboring flowers and would be limited in their exposure to sunlight. The stalks each now had a curve in the shape of their stem that would enable the flowers to receive more light. This curve they had formed after having been uprooted and taken out of their natural environment and placed in an artificial container—-but still the intelligence in them knew just what to do.

Computer cloud syncing, wound-healing and lupine growth adjustments—-how does all this tie together? Well, simply, the wonder of it all! How the hell is all this possible? What guides all this? What holds it together? It is so clear that this whole expanse, billions and billions of light years of existence, has a natural intelligence that allows everything to unfold so remarkably. I have only given some few examples, but there are millions of examples of the expression of this intelligence, each more amazing than the other.

I am convinced that this human intelligence that we call our own is the same natural intelligence that cures wounds and bends flower stalks. We are a total expression of that natural intelligence in every aspect of our being, but somehow we haven’t felt this to be true. We have felt limited to a body and disconnected from this uniting essence.

Just as our computer files are synced within a more inclusive system, our own human experience is naturally synced with a much larger intelligence that is everywhere, in every time and in every place without being anywhere or in any time in particular. To consciously sync with this natural intelligence is so very simple. It happens by not doing anything. By merely allowing everything to be-—all thoughts, emotions, sensations and experiences—-we remain integrated with that natural intelligence. We don’t block it by wanting it to be some other way. We are already naturally in sync, whatever is going on, and we only need to recognize that.

So, this is happy news: wounds heal, flowers grow, universes carry on performing the miraculous, and we are very much a part of this wondrous swirl. Our syncing with natural intelligence takes place in short moments of recognizing that intelligence, over and over again, never wavering, always pulling our attention back to this presence. There is no arrival point, only more and more unfolding of joy and gratitude as the abundance becomes more evident. That is a syncing that is truly worth the name!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What "The Rapture" Really Is

Some of you may have seen the news reports about a fundamentalist Christian sect based in California that claimed that on the 21st of May the “rapture” would occur—-the final judgment day on which all true believers would be taken up in to heaven by Jesus. This is actually a belief that has been nurtured down through the centuries based originally on a verse from the Bible. The word rapture comes from the Latin word “rapio” which means “to catch up or take away,” and the word also includes implications of being carried away by great emotion, pleasure, joy, enthusiasm and bliss.

The interesting thing for me is that the operating belief in these religions is that some outside force—-God, Jesus, Allah—-will swoop down and replace this painful and corrupted life that we have on earth with a life of heavenly comfort. Helpless sinners that we are, we can only await the appointed time, and our salvation will come through the grace of a benevolent, if also judgmental, divine being.

This idea that we are incomplete and that we will be completed by something that is added on is so pervasive that we cannot really see it. Our cultures have indoctrinated us from the beginning to think that we are unfinished and imperfect and that deliverance will come from something outside us. Most people these days are probably not of the opinion that God will appear in the sky and raise us all up to heaven, but we do hold more subtle beliefs that our true well-being will be presented to us by some external element. We feel that rapture will only happen in our lives if something is added on: a loving partner, vocational and financial success, acclaim and respect, the right drug-—in short, being transported to some new life that is different from the life we have right now.

We can see the evidence of this in pop culture-—for instance, the love songs about being carried away by the knight in shining armor or by the sexual experience that will change our life completely. We have loads of self-help books that tell us how to acquire all the material circumstances that will make our lives okay. The underlying assumption is that well-being will be delivered by something we do or obtain.

There is also the notion of what rapture, bliss and ecstasy mean. When we hear those words we probably have an image of some person (not us) shivering with orgiastic delight in the midst of a splendid experience. But as compelling as that image may be, there are other ways of being “carried away,” which, again, is what the word rapture originally meant. The irony is that in the rapture that I am speaking about, there is no carrying away at all. In fact it is just the opposite! It is in NOT being carried away, but in residing fully in the here-and-now. We don’t move anywhere; we are not carried away to some other state; no deity comes to take us off to a heavenly realm. We simply rest in our true self.

Is this merely theoretical? Am I just blowing smoke here? No, dear reader, I am not. To have a direct experience of this is a matter of gaining increasing confidence in our naturally rapturous state and of becoming more familiar with its presence in every moment. We don’t move even one inch; we don’t shape anything into something else; we don’t add on anything to what is already completely whole.

How to realize this? By doing nothing. It is by allowing the natural open intelligence that is the basis of all things to be as it is. Without believing in anything—not even what I am saying here or wanting it to be true-—we just relax and recognize, and we do this over and over again. When thoughts and emotions carry us away, we simply return to the place we never left, and we do this again and again for short moments, many times.

At some point apparently ordinary things in life become extraordinary. We are enraptured by a life that had been hidden from us as long as we were seeking something. No longer carried away by anything in particular, we are open to the rapture that only this very moment can provide.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What’s Simply the Case, My Dear

I hope I can pull this off. I am very much moved to be intimately in touch with you, dear reader, whoever you may be. I have been sitting for many hours over the past few days just letting the intuitive muse weave her spell, as many notable ideas have swirled around and then receded. None of her offerings seemed entirely suited to the purpose; I could sense that an inspiration was present, but it had not taken any specific form. No matter; the waiting and watching are loads of fun, and nobody is any worse for the wear.

But then, most graciously, something did land and stick. This little bit of news I have is so self-evident, but yet so completely neglected by most of us most of the time, that its announcement has the potential to be quite an “ah-ha” experience for all of us! This apparently insignificant bit of news is actually not insignificant at all; it is a most crucial key to understanding the life that we live. It is our own experience each and every moment, but it passes by unnoticed.

This simple truth needs a few seconds of rested attention before it can lend its effect, so please easefully grant those few seconds, gentle reader. This gem, this incredible insight is simply: The here-and-now is all there is.

Surely, we might say, there is a continuity from past to present to future which confirms itself over and over in our experience. However, this conclusion is simply an oversight on our part. Yes, I know, this claim may raise a few doubts, but I would only ask for a bit of trust in this matter. Like with all new ideas, there needs to be some reflection and engagement with the notion before it can find a place.

In addition, it is helpful to employ an already recognized idea as an example to make the newly introduced idea a bit clearer. So, all of us have been to the movies, and when we look up on the screen, we think we are seeing an actual moving image, but we are not. We are seeing individual frames projected 24 times a second. Our eye is not quick enough to pick out the single frames, so as they rush past, the movement looks to be unbroken.

Our own experience, as a human being living a life that seems to pass in linear time, is one of movement from past to future with a fleeting stopover in the present. But could it be that it is all happening right now?

This cannot become clear if we are caught up in all our thoughts, emotions, sensations and experiences and if we take them all to be absolutely real. If, however, we can be a little bit at ease and not so pulled along by the demands of the thoughts and emotions, then things slowwwww downnnnn. If we are not always off chasing after our thoughts, and we choose over and over again to NOT go off chasing our thoughts, then something interesting happens. We start to see that things are not as they had appeared to be. What seemed to have a reality, a fixity and a certainty seems less substantial.

No one need accept this without experiencing it themselves. So, simply be still and watch, and do that over and over again as you feel moved to do so. Don’t insist that it be any particular way, and don’t seek anything. Just let things be as they are, watch as the whole pageant unfolds and see what happens.

It is not something that you do at any special time; just when you remember to do so, stop for a second and just LOOK. You could be very busy and engaged, but you will find that the looking can go on unimpeded, because that looking is always going on in the here-and-now, whether we acknowledge it or not.

So, this is my simple message. I am not giving you anything that you don’t already have. You don’t have to expend any effort to acquire something new. If more and more of us choose to slow down, even if outwardly we are required by circumstance to move very fast, the world we experience will be a different place. The alertness and clarity that are already present within us will become more and more obvious, and seemingly impossible things will become possible. Who knows what wonders we can bring about together!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Cats Doris and Björn

So, okay, on the surface, quite a boring title, right? Yeah, we have cats, they have cute names, a huge cuddle factor and a very large family-—Doris Cat has 342 friends on Facebook at last count, and a picture of Björn perched on the shoulder of a friend got over 50 “likes” and comments in just a few days.

But this musing of mine is not about Doris and Björn, no matter how much I love them. And, no, it is not about cats either, because to be honest, until I met these two, I had no great love for cats and would have taken a dog over a cat any day. So, if the title has nothing to do with Doris and Björn, and nothing to do with cats, then what is it about?

It is about “our.” This very common word appears to be quite simple on the surface: a possessive pronoun indicating shared ownership or participation. But there is quite a profound implication hidden in that little, mundane word.

We don’t say, “I-you-you-you-you-you has cats,” as if each one were only a separate part and nothing more. We have a word, “our,” that binds those separate parts into a whole and gives them something in common. But what is the glue that holds the parts together?

Well, now we have hit on to something quite intriguing. So I will take as example the “our” that applies to Doris and Björn. We are a diverse lot, this particular gang of cat possessors: many different countries, backgrounds, sensibilities and levels of education; ages from 16 up to 70; funny people/serious people, quiet ones/loud ones, folks who had quite easy lives and folks who emerged somehow from personal hell realms. It might have been possible that we would have all met at a party some years ago and had absolutely no inclination to form an “our” together, but now we find ourselves in a masterfully joyous cheek-by-jowl existence with one another.

This “our,” hmm, I think I’ve grown to know what it is. It is the shared good fortune to be introduced to a simple way of life that chooses easeful and restful alertness over being lost in stories about oneself and others. It is the shared commitment to that simple way of life and the willingness to keep coming back to it over and over again, regardless of the convulsions of the thoughts and emotions. That commitment has led to an assurance and confidence in a relationship to life that naturally creates love of self and love of others.

As people begin to experience the true depth of who they really are and lose interest in the old myths that seemed to determine who they were, they can abide more and more in the natural being that is common to all of life. Then wonders surely happen. The barriers, obstacles and aversions that had filled one’s existence for so long begin to fall away, and a true “our” begins to emerge in which no thing and no one is excluded.

And that is the secret of “our.” It is not about any particular group of people or any thing that is owned. It is about that which holds all things together, lacking nothing and rejecting nothing. Whatever it is that is the origin of all and which holds all, that is the basis of all “ours.”

So, dear Doris and Björn, without doing anything, you are doing just fine!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

From Berlin to Beijing to Tunis to Cairo—To Us

Who can forget the images?
After forty-five years of Communism and thirty years of not being able to walk freely through their own city, one exhilarating night, totally unexpectedly, the checkpoints of the Berlin Wall are thrown open and multitudes of euphoric East Berliners come flooding across to the West, passing freely by the befuddled guards who would have been obligated to shoot them only the day before.

A lone man, anonymous to this day, stands defiantly before a tank in Beijing and refuses to step aside. The tank tries to go around him, but the man repeatedly steps into its path, heedless of his own possible death. The whole world rejoices at this symbol of liberty and courage.

A poor, disadvantaged vegetable seller in Tunisia is insulted by a policewoman; he goes to the authorities for redress and finds none. His solitary protest against the injustice sets off peaceful demonstrations around the country that, in less than a month, will topple a dictator who has been in power for twenty-three years.

People in Egypt watch what is happening in Tunisia and ask the reasonable question, “Why not here?” They know the military, the government and the secret police will mobilize against them. They know that they are unarmed against the might of the state and that most likely some of them will die. They take to the streets anyway, calling for the peaceful removal of a strongman who has harshly and unjustly ruled their lives for thirty years. Some are arrested and tortured, others are shot where they stand in the streets, but still the crowds keep coming. Why? Because they crave the freedom and dignity that they know to be theirs.

We look on and are moved to joyful celebration for these triumphs of the human spirit. We identify with these people, even if they are far away in places that we will never go. We feel the kinship. “Yes, I know what they must be feeling. I would do the same. We are all in this together.”

Hurray and hurray again for these recurring emblems of courage. We are well served by gentle and not so gentle reminders of what is possible, and for some fortunate people in less troubled lands, these images lead to a searching glimpse into their own situation: “What is possible for me in my life?”

Now we come to the crucial point: what is possible in our own lives? Many of us may have felt fearful, doubtful, confused, repressed, depressed and disempowered, but not because of what some government has done to us, but because of what we have done to ourselves. We may have beaten ourselves up for our many perceived faults; we may have compared ourselves with others and doubted who and what we are; we may have been at the mercy of negative thoughts and emotions and believed that we would never be free of them. We may have bought in to all the ideas that said we were limited, sinful, unworthy and not good enough. We see others around us believing the same things, and we may conclude that this is just the way things are.

But the freedom that never left us and is always present beckons us at every moment, no matter what ideas we might have had about its loss. It is said that “hope springs eternal,” and that hope is ignited when we see examples in the lives of others, and in our own lives, that we can be free. This does take a bit of courage ….not unlike the courage of those in Berlin, Beijing, Tunisia and Egypt. It is the courage that says, “No matter what obstacles I see before me, I will not be deterred; I will not be limited; I will not be denied.”

This freedom that I am speaking of is the most basic of human rights — the birthright of all of us to know ourselves as we truly are. One moment at a time, over and over again, we quietly confirm that freedom for ourselves, and we persist, bravely, without wavering, until all hindrances have fallen away and our vision is clear. I wish this recognition of freedom for myself, I wish it for all of you who read these words, and I wish it for all citizens of the world.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

So Dear, So Precious—So Near

The sun is just disappearing behind the mountains, and the orange light is reflected on the revered river as the mothers with their children, the sadhus and the cows walk past. What did I get here?
At one level one could say, "Well, I got into an airplane, had a meal or two, watched a movie or two, slept some and then somehow a few hours later I ended up halfway around the world."
That is miracle enough in itself, and I don't ever want to take that for granted. We fly through the skies with a confidence unimaginable to our grandfathers. We arrive, set up shop in a place that looks completely different from the place we left. We sit for hours in front of a small electronic box that is a wonder world in itself: if we want to write blogs and send them out to people on every continent, it says "okay;" if we want to speak to anyone in the world who has their own small electronic box at no charge, it says "no problem, would you like to see them live on the screen too?;" if we want to create worlds of print, picture or film, it says "step right up." Things that were science fiction only 15 years ago are now commonplace. How did we get to that?
But as stunning as computers, Internet technology and global air travel are, that is not really the main subject of my wonderment here today. It is something much nearer and dearer than these things. The awe, the glory, the absolute thrill that have prompted this message are about something that can never be taken from us.
What possible phrase could I use to communicate this precious gift: awareness? consciousness? God? the peace that passes all understanding? the here-and-now? What?
When all things have settled and the mind is at complete rest and there is nothing to be accomplished and nothing to be feared, what is that? When death comes, and nothing changes, what is that?
But maybe these ideas are too big and too distant and not in the realm of the everyday for all of us. At a very simple level we can be with it: we feel in our hearts at times that we can be at ease with everything that appears, because we have done it before; we are able to remain unafraid, even when fear is very near; we can look at people and we don't see them as being our ideas about them or their ideas about themselves; we look out at a world that is for us new at every glance; we sense that wherever we go, there we are; we recognize that what's looking never changes — even if the face in the mirror ages over decades, what's looking never moves. So, what name is there for this?
Death can come at any second, at any second, at any second, and surely it will come. Life seems to be lived around a vague present that swiftly passes from past into future and then suddenly ends; but is it so?
The whole parade of life and death happens only RIGHT NOW. Nothing is ever outside of the here and now. It is that which I so want to cherish just now, thank you so much...this dear and precious instant of life that has no shape or measure. Ever new, ever unfolding, without limit. Joyfully, I want no other.