Emptiness

July 13, 2017

A recent talk on one of my favorite subjects, emptiness:

“The nature of the world is that it resists your grasping. It resists being known to you, being owned by you, being in any way held or reconciled in you. The world will change its shape just to slip out of your grasp, shift its very quality just as you feel like you have finally gotten a handle on it. The world will not so much move out of your reach as suddenly become something other than what you thought you were reaching for. It will become a cloud when you thought you held solid rock. It will become a fragrance when you are sure you were tempted by a sound. It will become an enigma right at the moment you believe you have solved it. We cannot dominate this place, we cannot conquer it, not in any way, we cannot have it in any sense that is real, and we cannot know it in any manner other than a fleeting one. It is ungraspable in every way. And this, ultimately, releases us from our worst foibles, our most insidious habits. This fact of the slippery, ever-changingness of everything about this world makes certain that our grasping will come to naught, and so we will be left, over and over again, adrift in the unknowableness of things, lost, in a sense, in a sea of things as they are, things not owned or held, things not ‘belonging to me’, nor ‘of me’, but just things, refusing to adhere to names, refusing to conform to permanent qualities, refusing to be anything other than perfectly and endlessly changing. And it is this feeling, this constantly perpetuated sense of instability and unknowability that frees us from what would otherwise be the suffocating structure of our own minds. Every certainty the mind feels it arrives at, the world overturns beautifully. Every fact grasped and object possessed shifts and folds until it is unrecognizable, until it is, in fact, no longer grasped at all. It is not just that we will eventually lose all of the things that we have, it is that we do not have them even now; even now they are not ours, even now they change, they slide away, and they leave only traces of things we never intended to own in the first place. And it is not just that facts are seen in a new light, with information added, it is not that our knowledge simply fills out, it actually transforms, and from the very instant something is conceptualized it begins to turn into something else. There is nothing but this, this ocean of ungraspables, this sea of qualities unattached to particular forms. It is as if everything that exists was simply a bit of light refracted in a different way and shifting continuously like the sun through a prism. And we move and change and are ungraspable in precisely the same way. There is nothing solid here, nothing stationary. The moment you have grasped anything in your own self, it is something else. And this beautiful and liberating fact of things is a problem only for your mind, only for that part of you bent on concepts and knowledge. The mind wants a world that cannot be, and if it could be, then we would be forever prisoners of that mind, locked in a kind of permanence that would take the life out of our feathers, flight out of our breath. The mind would like you to be a wax version of yourself, posed in its most desired statue. But you are alive, and so you are unknowable, with even your stillness a moving, breathing thing. There is a tremendous fear in seeing the world and yourself this way, the way those truly are, a tremendous sense of dread, an insurmountability, like jumping off a building and just hoping that you can fly. I would simply ask you, is it not better than your prison? Is it not worth the risk of that cascading fall to escape, once and for all, every self-imposed limitation? We are lucky that nothing conforms to our expectations, that our minds are so completely and indeed so endlessly wrong. We are part of the stuff of all creation, and, with all of it, we move and change and refuse to be knowable. We refuse to stay, we refuse to be solid, we refuse to be grasped, and we are liberated in that state and in that state only. Everything your mind tells you about yourself and the world turns out to be wrong. Amen for that luck.”

Body

June 26, 2017

Here is a simple meditation for settling into physical form.

“Soften into the sound of your own breathing. Surrender into the gentleness of your heartbeat. Fall back into your own form, letting it hold and nourish you, letting it feed you and replenish you from all its deep, abundant reserves. Settle into this body, the skin that holds and buffers you, the flesh that moves and stretches you, the bone that holds you up so that you may be perfectly still, perfectly at ease while the body supports you and takes care of you. Be at home right here, in this form, in this body, in this time and place. Settle into this fleeting and temporary thing and trust it completely. It doesn’t need your instructions; the heart will beat with or without your permission, the lungs will fill and empty no matter your agenda. So you can stop now, telling it what to do, bossing it about, punishing and tensing, using thought to make it do something it does not need to do. You can settle here and be completely, perfectly still, without any expenditure of effort whatsoever. This stillness is the only time you let the body just be as it is, just exist as the magnificently constructed dwelling it should be. In this stillness you can finally remove all your objectives, every goal and task you have ordered your form to achieve. You can silence all those agendas and be only as you are, letting the form be only as it is. Our bodies are not tense, not inherently, they are simply bossed around by thinking until they become knotted and frayed, prevented from functioning with the lovely seamless fluidity that is their nature. And our bodies are not sick, not inherently, but they are judged by and subjugated to the thinking mind that deems them so. Don’t hold your body; let it go so that it can hold you. Let it be the container for your stories and your experiences, the gentle well of vitality that gives you the whole world by giving you the senses by which to perceive that. Let it be the spark, the flame of physical aliveness that gives you so many opportunities while it burns. And let it be in charge of itself, beholden to no mind, no judgment, no condemnation, no agenda. Let it heal itself as it already knows how to do. Let it move and be still, both, without your continual interference. And right now, while you are still and silent, just let it rest so that you may rest too. Let it be free of all that thinking so that you may be free of that as well. We are very lucky to have these bodies, these personal little homes to shelter and support us for the time that we need them. Rest here, in this form, without struggle, without need, without expectation. Rest and be nourished by the heartbeat, by the breath, by the blood coursing in the veins, the energy radiating through the whole form. Trust it completely, even though it will change, even though it will die. Trust it completely in every moment you have it, in every precious, life-affirming moment.”

Solitary

June 5, 2017

“Time keeps each of us in the confines of our own solitude, and that is its purest benefit. Time teaches us that we are alone; it bathes us in the illusion of separateness so that, no matter how we try to connect, to merge with the formed material world, we find ourselves always, entirely alone. Time teaches us that that connection is not real, no matter how alluring it may seem, and that the formed things we seem so desperately to need are, themselves, always lost to us, always without us. And so we find ourselves always in solitude where, sometimes out of pure frustration, we look, instead, within for connection, for merging, for the satisfaction of all those persistent needs. It doesn’t seem that solitude can be remedied by turning within; it seems, in fact, to enhance the very aloneness we each seem to need to escape. But it does turn out that there is a unifying, a connecting experience within ourselves that somehow is both completely solitary and encompassing of all those forms and faces we once tried to merge with. By leaving all of that behind and succumbing to the depth of your own aloneness, all of it is yours. You are no longer choosing the special, the particular, the singular thing you wished to connect with; instead you are just choosing connection. And you are no longer pushing into the form of things to try to find the essence; instead, by abandoning that form, the essence is suddenly abundant. And so, to be solitary, to be alone, is to have the heart and soul of everything ever created, the spark of life itself that gave animation to all those things you thought you needed. We are blessed to be so deceived and so dissatisfied, for how else would we give up at long last and come only here to this core of solitude, this ground of aloneness? How else would we find the truth of all that is and all that we are? Stop pushing into form, stop ravaging the world with your mind and your body, trying to find its deep and satisfying essence. You already are its deep and satisfying essence. You’re already there, and your aloneness will show you, and it will make you happy once more.”

Longing

May 13, 2017

“Take hold of your longing. Take hold of that which drives you toward beauty, compels you to live your life, tempts you with greater experience, more profound hope, and surer footing. Take hold of that longing like it is the reins of the thing that will carry you forward into what you most want, and in this way let your longing lead your life, let it steer the great vehicle of this precious, precious lifetime to the heights and to the depth that you wish to go. And let your longing speak to you like a siren song, let it convince you of all the impossible things that turn out to be possible after all. Let it sing to you so sweetly that you happily crash into all the obstacles that were never there and, so, drown in the miracle of what can be. Let your longing so fill you with faith that you become one of the starry-eyed brotherhood, believing in things that others find ridiculous and impossible. And let your longing be for you the destroyer of all your hardness, all your illusions, all your craving for things that cannot feed you and all your insistence that they can. Your longing is your guide, your temptress; your longing is your inspiration and that which cuts the cord. Your longing is your happiness. It is both path and destination. It is already shining the brightest of rays deep into the darkness of your mind, giving you the opportunity to see and to know, giving you a chance to clear that mind of all its difficulty, its doubt, its judgment, and its hatred. Your longing gives you the chance to take the violence of our circumstances and see right through it into the blessing of our being. Your longing does all that. It gives you hope, it gives you clarity, and it gives you knowledge. And we are not lost, ultimately, not a single one of us, because we have this longing, because it is inseparable from our essence, because it is unsquelchable, because it, itself, emerges from the only source of permanence that there is, and is, then, a bit of that permanence, that utter and perfect bliss, inside each and every one of us. Your longing can’t not be yours; because you are, you have it. But it is because you are lucky beyond measure that you also know you have it. Don’t waste this precious, beautiful knowing. Long, and so, live perfectly, beautifully, driven, serenaded back into the lap of God. That is what this perfect life is for—for longing, for living, for finding your way and finding that way to be perfect.”

Fall

April 28, 2017

This talk describes a truth I often find difficult to stomach in principle, but so lovely when experienced.

“At the top of the world, the pinnacle of experience, a window opens and you can see with unsurpassed clarity the total futility of everything you have achieved. The pleasure is still there, the sensation that lured you all along, but what vanishes before your eyes is any notion of accomplishment. We do not succeed here. I’m not saying that we fail, though that is often what we call the feeling we have; I am just saying that it really was perfectly and literally for nothing. There is nothing achieved, nothing built, nothing grown. Nothing materializes at the point of that apex, nothing is grasped, nothing in fact is there, and so the futility of it dawns on us like a kind of clarity of impression, a kind of cleanness that all the acquiring and striving and becoming always masked. And we notice this peak experience is just that, an experience, a feeling-state, a set of ideas, a conditioned response, a sense once more of ‘me’ being ‘me’ and believing in the perceived meaning of that. But there is nothing gained. And that window of clarity can—if it is permitted, if you do not turn away from it—bring a great disappointment, as all the ideas you had about the greatness of your own achievements and your own purpose, the importance of those things, come crumbling down about you. But that is the very fall we most need, that sense of disappointment is itself the remedy; it is the remedy for the illusions, the remedy for the misdirected attentions, the remedy for the striving itself that is, when it is all said and done, too exhausting to be maintained anyway. We need these peak experiences, we need to push the limits of our own ambition, we need to test ourselves, and we need to find what’s really here; there is no substitute for this experience. But the great and beautiful result of this all is that we will fall. We will be disappointed. We will glimpse the pure and total emptiness at the very height of the world’s experiences. The fall is the magic. The fall is the landing place. The fall is the love. Be let down a little more completely than you allow yourself now. Be disappointed; there is truth there. And when the pure futility of all of that achievement, the absolute emptiness of everything you thought you had gained shines before you, please let it light you up. Let it light up your vision, light up your knowingness, light up the truth; and let that radiant, beautiful fall be your perfect relief.”

Life

April 14, 2017

“Life is not a series of events, not a list, chronologically arranged, of happenings, not time-bound, in fact, at all, neither limited nor organized the way we perceive that. This is an apparency that belies life’s true nature and structure, a seemingness which but veils what truly is. Life is unmeasured, uncaptured into moments, indivisible and so vastly and overwhelmingly outgradient that we must, for a time, make time its captor, its boundary, its structure. We don’t yet have the tolerance needed to absorb life in its true form, and to perceive rightly is to absorb, there is no difference. We must make ourselves stronger before we can even allow ourselves to see life as it is, in its true colors, in its radical immediateness, in its self. Until then, we must parcel and divvy up, separating life’s magnitude into some semblance of a reality with which we are at all prepared to contend. We create an illusion in this way, but it is a necessary and temporary one only. As we grow stronger, pieces of our own self-generated illusion fall away, revealing incrementally life’s true face, life’s true power. We cannot rush this, but we can want the unveiling, desire the revelation of life as it is; and through our own desire, life spills through all the tiny cracks we have created and helps push all those boundaries a little bit wider. Where we long for it, life greets us as itself, as it truly is, released from its prison of time, its illusion of smallness. We are not quite strong enough to be kissed completely by what life really is, but we will be, as sure as sunshine, as sure as breathing, and much more certain still. Life will envelop us, life will consume us in its totality, in its all-lovingness, in a kind of fullness we have never yet glimpsed. Life will make us like unto itself, whole without end, full without end, rich without end. But first we must learn to be strong, strong enough to endure that much blessing, strong enough, finally, to not fear what we already are but, instead, only to give thanks.”

Presence

March 31, 2017

“Give to the good of the world your presence. It does not need your kindness or your contribution. It is not lacking your opinion or even your empowerment. The world is not lost without your creativity or your smile. But the very fabric of things needs, and deserves, your presence. You are here, but you are not here. You stand before yourself in the mirror but only as image, most times, and not as a person. You occupy space, but that is your body and not your self. There is breath and movement, words and actions, but there is not presence. Stand still, alone and silent, and if you have presence you have filled the world with all it is lacking; but make and do, attempt and accomplish—without the full palpable sense of your own presence, these are meaningless, forgotten, vanishing. There is nothing here to be; it is only to be here that matters. And you may fight or sulk, or help or be still, and these are all the same if you have within you and through you your own presence. You live here, but life is not an action, it is something given to you. You must be the empty vessel that it fills, and that takes acute and constant presence. “Where am I right now?” Ask yourself this. Where have you traveled to in your distraction and your numbness? What place of pain or excitement, what hope, what memory? All of these, I tell you, require you to leave yourself, and that empty husk that remains while you are elsewhere, forgetting, is no contribution to this place, to this plane and this time. But if you are here, even briefly, then you have accomplished the single purpose of any sentient life. We are here for no other reason than to truly be here; it is no more complicated than that. And while this is simple, it is also very difficult—difficult to practice, difficult to find, and difficult to understand. But if you have ever felt, suddenly, very, very alive, as if everything became suddenly, shockingly clear and simple and calm, then you know what I mean, you know what your own presence feels like. And if you believe in your misguided mind that you have ever felt the presence of another, I tell you, that is not what it was; it was you, every time, all along; it was always your presence that you noticed, and it always will be.”

Faith

March 16, 2017

“The gladness in your heart won’t catch you when you fall. It makes for an inspiring day, a beautiful day, but it sleeps at night and in the dark you must find something else to rely upon. The gladness in your heart is made of sunshine; it is made of things easy and free, made of all the small gladnesses the world offers you, made of the sunniness and the brightness of life, made in the day. And it is not that that joy has fled you when night comes and the pain sets in, it’s not that it is gone; but it is resting awhile, latent, in its potential, withdrawn into the quiet recesses of your open heart. That kind of gladness is not a crutch, not an aid able to see you through your difficult moments; it is not meant to be wisdom, it is not meant to buoy you through the pain. And so, when you are in pain, when it is dark all around you, do not ask, “Where has my joy gone? Why am I without my gladness?” Ask instead, “What is here now? What will see me through this place? What is it that visits me when I am so low and the world so bleak?” Certainly your inner guidance is there, its voice like all the patience you can’t muster for yourself, its kindness the kindness of things already understood. But you have, too, your own resources, those firm places inside yourself that cradle you when you cannot stand on your own. And these are not places of wisdom, or understanding, for, in that pain, in that darkness, confusion is your natural state. And they are not places of soothing reassurance, some way you might tell yourself that all is well, because it is very clear to you that it is not. And so, what gives firmness to your own self-support? What enables you to hold your own hand through the dark night? It is courage, sometimes, that special aspect of will that enables us to persevere because we are braver than we think we are. But I would say that the ground, the very foundation of your own ability to cradle yourself in such dark and painful times is faith, that it is faith that gives resolve to your own self-support, faith that carries you and that loves you as yourself in a way that only that can. Faith is the way you say to yourself that things are not all right and that they do not need to be, that pain is here and it is consuming you and you do not need to be preserved. Faith holds so firm to the notion of universal harmlessness that there is no chaos, no confusion, no catastrophe and no pain which can ever really hurt you, ever damage you in any meaningful way at all. And, in faith, you can be held in this notion yourself, cradled in this very understanding, alive on the exquisite edge of this vulnerability and open to all the possibilities that vulnerability brings. Faith is the firmness in your own mind which makes you sane when you want to be otherwise, and it is the sweet depth of certainty where everything else has none at all. And it is yours if you will have it. It is not the responsibility of your guidance to lend it to you, not the prerogative of your teachers or guides to inspire it in you; it is yours and yours alone—your choice and your blessing. Go forth in faith, and whether or not you have gladness, you are held aloft, you are cradled, you are well. Go forth in faith and there is nothing you cannot bear. Nothing that has been and nothing that will ever be can disturb or destroy you. Have faith and you have your sanity back, you have your touchstone, you have your ground. Have faith and you have everything you need.”

Love

February 24, 2017

“Love gives to us all of our experiences. Love blesses us through every sight and sound of this world, and in that benediction we are able to finally learn that love is all there is. We are tormented by this existence. There are periods of contentment, and even moments of bliss, but without exception every single person has enemies here—things that are too painful, too trying, things that stalk and haunt us, things that we cannot be rid of. And so this place, this plane of form existence, this earth, is a hard place, indeed, for us to find true love. But that is also its secret blessing. It is only in the midst of torment and limitation, of struggle and suffering, of confusion and difficulty, that love serves to shine its brightest and bestow its deepest help and guidance. In the realms of no suffering, what can be love’s role? But here, where it is hidden among all the things that haunt us, it is priceless, more precious than anything we could hope to gain. And it is hidden, yes, but not in the sense that it is scarce, in the sense, rather that it is so abundant, so near, so varied and yet so constant, that it is unrecognizable to us in almost all of its forms. Every single thing here, every piece of matter, every energetic wave, every substance, every emotion, is in fact two and not one: it is itself, its form, with all of its attendant qualities, and it is secondly, and always, pure love. Everything, no matter what we think of it or believe about it, no matter how it feels to us, no matter whether or not it is understood, is these two, never less, and always complete in each of its two aspects. And so, when I say, ‘Love is everything’, I mean it as pure literalism; everything is love’s voice, love’s exhale, love’s graciousness, love’s tenderness, love’s beauty. And you needn’t try to see things as love in order to understand this for yourself, you need only to see things as they already are. Love is the thing itself. It is that simple, that unadorned, that transparent. Look right at anything in this world and love is what you will see. Listen to any voice, any whisper, any vibration, any sound, and love is all you have heard. Feel anything as itself, any emotion, any sensation, any part of your never-ending story, and that is love. Your senses were made so love could be your prize, so knowledge of love could be your knowledge, so wisdom could finally accompany perception. But you must allow all of what is here or love cannot visit you. If you are closed to anything at all, love waits just on the other side of your refusal and your ideas, so close to you that if you were to but whisper, ‘Yes’, you would have it in floods. You will feel pain here; that is assured. You will have confusion, because we are made of confusion. But every single time you allow the world, or any part of it, to be what it actually is, you will have love; you will have it alongside the pain, alongside the confusion, but you will have it. And you will find out that it is enough, that the balm of that caresses you in ways you didn’t even know you needed and leaves you whole again, leaves you as you are supposed to be, and that is penetrated by love, absorbed into love as it is absorbed into you, loved by everything that is. The need to let love in will one day disappear, because eventually you will succumb to it completely and there will be no difference between you and the love that always was. But until that vanishing, let the world love you in every way it’s trying to, through all of its faces, all of its substance, all of its seeming difficulty. The whole process is really just this: Let everything in until the world itself loves you into vanishing.”

Courage

February 6, 2017

“Blessed are they who can walk through the line of fire and never care. Blessed are those, shattered and broken, who stay their course anyway, who walk still, without thought for their destiny, and care nothing for the chaos around them. Those few have a courage in their hearts that we all must look for. They know what it is like to be beaten, and they know that it doesn’t matter. They know what it is like to have lost and have no hope of winning, but still to have that fire which is their life and their purpose intact and burning. Blessed is the one who can go to his death with his eyes on God. He is royalty; he is the most noble among us. Blessed are the poor, but only if they have his courage; without it, they are nothing. We have died a thousand times and it has never diminished us; why then can we not all look on the face of God without turning away? Why can we not all remember the peace that outlasts us, that peace we all know and only temporarily forget? Why are we not all that brave? Bravery is wisdom; it s nothing more. Bravery is the remembrance that you always die and it never matters, that you always lose, and nothing can stop your heart from beating or your life from continuing. If you knew you were eternal, would you grieve so much? If you knew you had no boundaries, would you protect them so obstinately? Courage is remembrance; courage is infinity speaking in your willingness; and courage is possible. Every single one of you can remember eternity. Did you find it today? Did you remind yourself? Did you prize it? Walk on, eyes on God. Wisdom would have you do nothing less. Remember your defeat only so you know it doesn’t matter, and suffer your dying only to remember that you outlive yourself over and over again. Your eternity is untouched, your boundarilessness is uncompromised, and the deepest recesses of your own heart are deeper still, and never end.”