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.”

Witness

October 12, 2015

“The path doesn’t lead anywhere. It doesn’t cross any bridges, it doesn’t end. This path that you are on does not traverse any territory at all. It doesn’t wind through the seeming labyrinth of worldliness, it doesn’t pass vistas and drop into valleys, it doesn’t go anywhere at all. There is one point that is real, and that single point, infinitesimally small from our current perspective, actually contains the whole path—every drama that we pass through, every character we merge with, every face and aspect of this nearly limitless life. In that single, tiny point is the whole vast and varied lot of it, everything that time and space have ever offered up, reflected in a single, tiny drop, something so small that from the viewpoint of reality it is barely noticeable at all. The whole world is in that drop. Every person you are or have ever been, everyone you have known or not known, those you have loved and hated both, every meandering, every experience, every detail of the vast complexity that is your form’s sum total—it’s all there in that single droplet, reflected back out at you, miniscule in its proportions and on the brink, always, of dissolving altogether. But we are funny creatures, so we focus intently on what is only there until we see nothing at all but that tiny reflection, that little bit of refracted light that is our entire perceived existence, and we look at it with such intensity, such ferocity, such total commitment that we make all those imaginings our imaginings, and we start to say, against all sense or reason, “That is me; I have found myself.” And then, for a period that is not even an instant but appears as hundreds of thousands of years, we are lost to ourselves, so certain that that tiny image is everything, so convinced of our own self-generated illusion that the feeling of loneliness and the certainty of suffering appear to be the only reality. But you who are looking, you who are still in the same spot in which you started, you who are watching, are still watching, and, at some point, the true fact of things, the fact that you just got distracted for a moment watching a reflection in a droplet, occurs to you, and you settle back in the one you actually are, the one you have always been, and you see again not just this tiny play of the light but the whole encompassing everything that is actually there, and you realize no time has elapsed, no journey was taken, nothing is revealed or learned or changed in any way, because what is real is always real, what you are and that you are is always true. You did not travel from that, and so you didn’t need to travel back. Because this is true, you can remind yourself that you needn’t journey anywhere now. You needn’t follow any promptings, no matter how compelling, that that image presents. You needn’t try, you needn’t evolve, you needn’t learn anything at all. If you are already that witness, then just be that witness now. Let the simple act of approximating that reality show you that it is reality. What I am trying to say is, be what you already are—and do absolutely nothing else. That very compelling illusion of time and space will shrink to its proper proportions and you will begin to see that is a trick of the light. There is nothing there.”

Being

October 5, 2015

I just returned from a four-day retreat I hold every year at Mount Shasta in northern California, an environment that seems to me especially supportive of meditation and self-investigation. This talk describes the practice that grounded the whole retreat, an observing of the way all of our thinking is fundamentally unrelated to who we actually are:

“There is a being-ness that has nothing to do with your mind. There is a way that you are here independent of and without any engagement in anything your mind produces or creates. There is an is-ness to that presence here which no thought can ever replicate, no explanation can make sense of, no image can mirror, and no word can describe. That is-ness is what you are; it is, in the most intimate and personal sense, your identity. That isn-ness is what constitutes you, and everything else that appears to be you, everything you have decided you are, imagined you are, hoped you are, is nothing at all to that is-ness. These things simply don’t meet. The thought of you never connects with the fact of you. The gap between these two may indeed be micro-thin almost all the time, but it is nonetheless an unbridgeable gap. And so that person you think you are—in fact, any person you think you are—cannot ever be really you, because it is impossible for the thought, born of a fundamentally different substance, to ever have been inspired by the reality of you. And yet every single thing we ever think, in any form, as long as it is thought, is supposed to represent and explain and reflect us; it seems that is all that thinking is: ‘I tell a story to myself about myself; if it is not about me then what could it possibly be about?’ But truly I am saying, it is not about you at all; it is not about the reality of you; it was not born out of that reality; it did not emit from that reality; it has never seen or touched or known that reality in any way whatsoever. And so, when you ask yourself, who are all these thoughts about?, you must try to stretch your understanding by answering, they are truly about no one. They are thoughts, stories, images, premises; they may be explanations, judgments, predictions, or lamentations; and they are real as all of that, but they are not really about you. You cannot very likely take a break from generating thoughts; that is nearly impossible and wholly unnecessary. But you don’t have to continue imagining that that character who stars in every story your mind creates is actually you. We aren’t this, and as frightening as that seems, as much loss as that appears to entail, truly in the end it is fantastic news, because all of this, though fascinating in the complexity of its storylines, though heartbreaking in all of those things that come to pass—this is exhausting, and it is full of death, and there is not a single beautiful or loving thing here which seems to last. And so, it is nothing but good news when I tell you: you are not this. There will always be the you that is real, and it will never have suffered what the mind’s ‘you’ has suffered, and it will never know death, it will never know confusion, it will never be damaged and broken and resurrected the way that character in all your stories must be. It’s just here, and it always has been, and it will never be anywhere else.”