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.”

Love

May 20, 2016

“Love blinds the surest among us to all our certainties.  Love blurs the edges and distorts the image of what you thought to be real, recreating it in the image of the very thing’s essence.  Love changes how you see things and makes that clearer.  It can’t transform you, but it can transform how you know, and so, what you know.  Love defines things out of thin air, but erases all the definitions you thought you could rely on; it puts things in perspective so they inevitably look distorted to you.  Love makes what is real appear as it is, indescribable, without the hard edges you put there, and in its core, benign and painless.  Love can’t lead you to itself; it calls your name but you have to look for it.  It needs you but not as a thing it craves, only as a part of its very definition, an essence the same as its essence.  Love can have no urgency, it can have no spiked words, it cannot be unkind; but you will have to learn something new about kindness to understand this.  You will have to know what is really meant by hardness and why it is merciful sometimes to be penetrated.  Love will get inside you because you have no solid boundary, you are porous in every way and love seeps in, filling you up from the inside as much as from the outside.  Love lies in wait for you and will consume you with certainty as soon as you encounter it.  Your death is assured because love will slay you; you will give in eventually to that embrace.  Love hands you the keys to heaven, it wants you to have paradise, it even knows that you deserve it.  But love can’t make you enter that kingdom; you can stay in your illusions if you wish, though they rightly be called “hell.”  And love cannot damage you, but one day it will destroy you and leave no trace, no carnage.  Love kills like that, like a clean beheading, and all identity gone; and then, at that precious moment, all there is is love, there is no you and no story and nothing up ahead.  There is love backwards and forwards in space and time, in every direction, permeating every being, every thought, every bit of dust that you walk on and which you breathe.  Love is all there ever was.  To keep the truth as simple as possible, I can say just this one thing:  Love is all there ever was.”

Truth

April 22, 2016

“Forgotten by all who would seek to know, the truth waits patiently for us to care again. Discarded, abandoned, the poor step-child overshadowed by its glamorous cousins—abundance, long life, wealth and fame, success and ambition—the truth has nothing to offer, no gifts to bestow, no promises. It cannot make you wealthy and very often it cannot even make you happy; almost every goal seems more worthwhile, more fruitful, more full of possibility than the truth. And so we have abandoned it. And even when it tugs at our sleeve, we ignore it and hope it will go away. We seek our pleasures and sometimes we even seek our pain, but the truth we do not seek, not often, not well. We try to forget that there is an is-ness to things, that some things are real while others are not, that some things are fact while others are fiction. We even coin phrases like ‘my truth’ to evade the fact of things and to refuse any responsibility for that fact. But the truth matters, and if you seek some higher principle, some universal good that you term the truth, then you will have to also seek that smaller, mundane fact of things that is also rightly called the truth. You will have to care when you lie and you will have to seek to know that you have done that. You will have to wish, even, that things be as they are and not as you would arrange them. You have to want the truth. You have to want that truth in every painful memory, in every secret impulse, in every word you speak, in the very rightness and resonance of the way you live your life. You have to want to know when someone does not love you, and you have to want to see that you do not forgive them for that. You have to want your rage because it is in you, and you have to want to have all your judgments shattered because they were built on illusion. You have to need to see that you are responsible for your life and that what befalls you has you as its source and nothing else. And you have to want to know the depths to which you already love and long for God, as well as all the ways you still don’t. Clear seeing reveals an infinite variety and results, ultimately, in the perception that everything under the sun is beautiful. But at first it reveals painful, difficult lessons. It reveals the side of the truth that you have turned from the most staunchly. It reveals your blindness and your weakness and your culpability, and it reveals that things are not kindness and roses here; they are infinitely more varied than that. Please just want to know, just want to see, just try. The truth is always within your grasp, it’s just not always the thing you think you should be reaching for. But when it seems no other hand will steady you, and no other light illumines the darkness in your mind, I tell you the truth always will. It will not let you down. It will not be the softest thing you have ever held onto, but it, by far, will be the most certain. Seek to know it and one day, without your having realized that it’s happened, you will also love it, and you will not abandon it any longer.”

Fall

November 13, 2015

“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.”

Brightness

August 11, 2015

“A tremendous weight has been placed on each of your shoulders, and it is the weight of your own life. It is a tremendous and perfect gift, this life, but it is also full of density, full of the material, full of weightiness. It is a thing of responsibility and, very often, of burden, and though none of us wish to leave it, it is, without a doubt, difficult to bear at times and the carrying of it hard on our hope. We incarnate out of a place of total weightlessness, a place without the kind of heaviness brought on by a body and a mind, brought on by needs and by desires but, most intensely, brought on by confusion. We come here from a source not composed of material, without the ties and binds of physical matter, and without the burden of any kind of individuality, and so, when we come here and each of us assumes ‘my body’, ‘my heartbeat’, ‘my self’, we assume also a tremendous weight. And many of us bow under that; without even thinking about it our shoulders stoop, our heads lower, our gaze is downward and our aspect becomes that of one with too much to carry. And in this stooping, in the bending we start to give way to, we forget that the whole paradox of life here requires that we be upward pointing, open, ever, with a face towards hope despite the obvious confines of our bodies and our minds. The truth is that we should all be very depressed. We are certain to die; almost as certainly that death will be preceded by illness and pain, sufferings both small and acute, psychological disturbances, emotional upheaval, and when none of that is happening, tremendous boredom. We are destined to always have needs, and to struggle to fulfill those. We are constituted this way and we are constituted with the awareness required to know that this is how things are and how things will end. And yet almost everyone has some measure of inner brightness, some small bit of subtle surety that everything can and will be good, that there are things here that make all the difficulties worthwhile, and that there is probably something here so profoundly beautiful, so deeply wonder-filled, that none of the rest of it matters at all in the face of that. And we are all right in that small place of inner brightness. That hope, mixed with longing but grounded in truth, is the whole reason that we can and should turn our weighty selves and the whole heavy act of living this life towards hope, towards brightness, towards a kind of optimism that nothing in this world would seem to support. We have a deep sense that holiness of some sort is real, and however it might be described or discussed, however it is defined and whatever its name, it is the same spark of holiness that everyone alive is capable of perceiving, and it is truly the only real and abiding reason to be merry. It is the foundation of all those little shifts in you that lend you greater happiness, and it is truly what makes all of this okay. We are going to die and it will not matter. There will be pain and heartbreak and deep confusion and it will not make any difference because we, like that, and as that, are holy ourselves, through and through, and cannot be separated from that from whence we came. And so we are weighty indeed, but it is the weight of holiness even. We are doomed indeed, but that is just holiness beginning again. And what I most want to say to all of you is that you already know this. That if you did not, you would never smile, you would never have any true joy, you would never find anything beautiful, and you would never love anything at all. But you do know, so be very glad, and remember.”