Contemplation

October 6, 2017

“The quiet that you keep in your heart takes its form in your breath, in your words, in the way you are kind and, sometimes, in the way you seem unkind. The space, silent and still in the core of your being, is what gives life to your actions, substance to your utterances, meaning to your world. There is nothing empty about that space except for its lack of structure or limit, nothing hollow in its vastness except that it is unoccupied and cannot be reached by thought. It can be reached, however, by prayer, it can be reached by meditation, it can be reached, even, in that instant of thoughtlessness which allows you to enter even though you did not know the door was there. It is the space of contemplation and there is no entrance for it in thought. You access that core through your sensitivity, through your receptivity—these things which are the heart and soul of contemplation. You reach it through being, and through being yourself. And when you have come there, when you have settled there, if it is only for a moment or an hour or a very holy week, you will be tempted to stray. You will not know you are being tempted, you will not be conscious of anything that could be more blessed or more desirable than occupying that vastness, but there will be a subtle, insidious pull from the mind, from the manifest personality, urging you to return to all things solid, all things known, all things thought. And so, you will return, you will return to your busyness and your restlessness, you will return to your smallness from your greatness; each and every time you will be pulled back eventually. But I say to you, that does not matter. Though you know you cannot remain, though you know you will leave it, there is still no less pleasure or significance, no less importance to seeking that vast place of contemplation, because you can always return. And you always will. You will, over and over again; you will by accident and you will on purpose; and every time, each fresh encounter with that holiness will be equally lovely, if not more so. And so it is a general rule that, though you know you will fail, though you know you will stray, the turning inward, the prayer, the meditation is essential anyway, and is no less blessed because it will end. Reach inside that place within you in which that vast holiness resides. Reach by receiving it; it already fills your center. And then rest there as long as you can, however short or long that period is. Because when you are pulled back, when you return to your world of worry and upset, of busyness and thinking, some sliver of that wisdom which lives inside silence will accompany you back to your world of chaos and clutter. And that wisdom will live and grow in you even if you do nothing else to feed it, and it will open the door for you, again and again, to that cavern of eternity, that limitlessness, that space in your core. And so, every time, a little more wisdom comes back with you, and so, almost imperceptibly, your days are brightened, your worries lessened, your trials more bearable. This I wish for you. Tap the wellspring of your own unlimited holiness. Breathe that air sometimes; it is sustenance for the soul, comfort for the grieving, and clarity in confusion. And you all, already, have it. Just visit there. Make it a prayer or a meditation; make it your contemplation, your science, your art. But reach that holiness because it is waiting for you—and it always has been.”

Brightness

September 19, 2017

“The brightness that lives inside you knows no season. It has no boundary in time, it needs no special occasion, it knows no weather, no fluctuation, it knows no difference from one moment to the next. The brightness that lives inside you is not technically yours since everything that is yours will one day pass, but it is also not outside of you since it is so integral a part of you that you cannot ever lose it. That brightness is a shining that knows no day, no month, no year. It is not bounded by moments and cannot be counted or measured. It is full of itself, a light that has no color but also is not transparent since it is your substance, like it is the substance of all things, and that cannot be seen through. The brightness, that shining, not only illuminates all form but is that form in its essence. It does not create the things that are but, rather, it is their being. The brightness within you shows itself in the most subtle and rarified of your experiences but also in those which are most overt, most crushing, passionate or exuberant. That brightness is like a fire within you, but it is not hot and it destroys nothing. And when you look into it, as into the burning bush, you hear the voice of God, as if God had a voice, and you know the shape of things, as if things had a shape. The fire of that brightness, the shining of that brightness, is all you really have. And while that does not mean you should not seek every pleasure and every treasure there is to find here, it does mean that all of those, too, are just this brightness, this fire, this shining, and so all of those, too, if you look at them intently enough, if you feel them intimately enough, speak back to you the voice of God, the only voice there ever really was. And these things, too, when they are truly known to you, reveal all else in their essence, reveal that that brightness was the one light, your one true possession, your only real hope, the sum of all things.”

Doubt

August 25, 2017

“Leading up to this life are a series of pitfalls, bumps in the road, obstacles to be overcome, chances for failure, and chances for grief. Birth is the last of these, the final, sad, strange circumstance preceding the form’s resting place in the here and now. We act as if we are only a few decades young but, in fact, we are older than mountains, older than the land itself, older than dirt, some of us, older than stone. And in that dreamy, almost-endless passage between where we began and where we find ourselves in this lifetime, there have been almost immeasurable opportunities for self-doubt, almost immeasurable circumstances in which our lacks and our failures succeeded in undermining whatever confidence, whatever belief we may have had in ourselves. We may have believed at some point that anything was possible, but then a hundred and then a thousand circumstances and events collided with that notion and brought us into doubt. We may have thought, anciently, long, long ago, that we were destined for something great, something beautiful, something grand, but almost uncountable circumstances since that moment have undermined that notion and replaced it with a kind of steadfast, a kind of resolute, doubt. We are convinced from long experience that failure is what we are made of, what we are destined for, that it must be inherent in our constitution for it to be so ubiquitous in our experience. It is a normal view, this one I am describing; doubt is the common and almost inevitable lens through which we see ourselves and our potential—so common, in fact, as to go almost completely unrecognized in its day-to-day guises, in its insistence, in its pervasiveness. Because who could imagine that all those lessons and all those circumstances—that, indeed, all those failures—are nothing more than misperceptions, mistakes made innocently but conclusively, a wrong view reasserted so often as to seem to be the only view at all? It simply does not seem possible that we were just wrong so many times, for so very long. But it is only in acknowledging the possibility of this vast and far-reaching mistake that we begin to see our doubt as something not founded in reality at all, but leaping out of illusion. And this, this confounding way that we were wrong every single time, is the fact of things; it turns out to be true—almost impossibly improbable, but true nonetheless. And the view that sees the mistake, the very lens of right perception itself, is faith. The very way we have been wrong is illuminated by, and rests in, that thing we know as faith. It is to see things as they are—that is faith. And when seen as they truly were, all those circumstances and all of those failures appear not as ways we have been diminished, ways we have not reached our potential, but rather as the unfolding of that very potential, a way that we have been and continue to be all things manifest in form, the great, holy mystery of variety itself made alive and concrete. It turns out that the perfection that we think we need was actually the place from where we began. Our beginning, then, has not been, ever, what we’re truly after, because who can call that progress, to stay exactly where you already were? We have progressed, to the extent that that word is real at all, through our great and many transformations, through our almost infinite variety, through our forms, our aspects, our stories, and our qualities; through all of the things that have made us doubt ourselves, we have been, truly, made as ourselves. You were never destined to be other than these things, never destined to live lives unriddled by the kind of tragedy and grief, the kind of shame and courage that transformation is made of. We are form transforming—that is our perfection. And the doubt, it turns out, is not a product of failure but a product of misperception, and all of you are here because somewhere inside you there is a seed of right perception, and that seed I call faith. If it is too much right now to see properly, at the very least I would say, loosen your commitment to seeing improperly, step back from the resolution you have made that doubt will be your stronghold.   Doubt your doubt, if you can do nothing else. We can be happily, contentedly flawed, and that is the deep, true gift of human life. Do not think that anything less is what you are destined for.”

Bright

August 5, 2017

“Hidden away in the necessary selfishness of your soul is a need to be bright again, a need to be joyful, a need to know again what it is that you are made of. Hidden away like a secret is the knowledge that this brightness is already within you, the certainty that all will be well again. And though you are, for good reason and by every instinct, selfish in your ways and in your pursuits, it is not what you want for yourself, it is not what you long for, it is not who you ache to become. What you ache for is a thing so unlike the form you have become used to, so holy in its aspiration and so bright in its perfect being that it barely resembles this earth, though only things of this earth become that. This that you ache for springs from the very material of things and yet ceases almost instantly to resemble them, and that perfect, perfect essence, that being that all being bends towards, is your essential hidden agenda, your intention for yourself. We are propelled in our thirst and in our longing by this kind of an ache. We are seeking both for this and from it, and it is what we already know of our own brightness that motivates the search for its completion. We are deeply involved in that which is both material and useless, that which is misguided even, and certainly that which it seems is self-serving and yet is not life-serving; but that does not mean that we cannot find this other longing, this way that we seek not to be released from the earthly plane but rather consumed by it, surrendered into it so much that the heaviness of our other agendas lifts and we are one again with the intention to be only our brightest. The human essence is a shining; deeply and fundamentally, inescapably, we are each of us and all of us together predicated upon this shining. We are rays, we are light, we are part of something and we are the whole of it; and this something is experienced as bright. And we turn towards this, or we try to, and though sometimes we are turning in the wrong direction, always it is the search, the intention to find that, that proves to us that none of this is in vain. It is the fact of our longing and the need in our search that proves to us that the brightness is real, because we seek what we, however dimly, remember; we seek a completion that, however uncertain, we know to be real. We come from this place of brightness. That is how we know we will return to it. We come from a place of hope for that return, and it is certain. Until your own longing is complete and your own surrender as deep as it must be, remember your brightness; seek it in your own experience, follow its ways and its hunches, let it send you in unknown directions. We are a fast and furious species and we need the return to that which is simple, essential, and bright within us. Under your selfishness, it is there. Under your confusion it waits for you. Under your despair, it is always still shining. And if it could hope, it would hope for you to come back to it. And if it could call to you, it would call you by name. You are the brightest thing there is. We are all that shining.”

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.”