One of the things meditation can be is a discovery of what about us doesn’t change and releasing identification with everything else, freeing oneself of all obstacles to becoming anything other than vast space. This means dis-identifying with form: sensation, feeling, structure, any imperatives including body, time, desires, mental journeys, memory, gender…even meditation itself. For me, that especially includes impatience. To whatever degree I may approach such a condition, the practice becomes non-meditation. Non-meditation is the essence of Dzogchen.
Gazing is an auxiliary practice of expansion, the elimination of distraction and finding what I have come to call integrity. Exploring what integrity means is to approach wholeness not only mentally, but also to explore its physical components. Coming into full stature in the practice of gazing is to embody a physical architecture of integrity, which is not separate from the integrity of mind. Opening to compassion is the point. Approaching integrity of the body is to create space for breath, rising into a connecting and expansive heart-space, expanding into fullness.
Premature dis-identification with feeling or ignoring the presence of unresolved conflict (by-passing) will always get in the way of the integrity we seek. The presence of strong feelings will hinder the longer-term clarification process. There are plenty of ways to work with feeling, but however one addresses that process during or in post-meditation, it will benefit quality of life and practice. Ignoring incomplete emotional clearing will obstruct the benefits of time spent in practice. Not that practice must be interrupted or delayed, just that a short and long-term emotional clearing process belongs as a part of practice. Either succumbing to by-passing or imagining the emotional work ceases at some point is a form of delusion and will undermine our capacity to inhabit our full stature and reap the benefits of sustained and careful attention to the full expression of integrity.
Assuming the emotional and physical architecture of integrity becomes a natural platform and a capacity to cultivate compassion, from which we may even sense the massive field of human karma, from those closest to us to the most remote strangers. Becoming permeable to and connecting with karma that is not our own, to witness and hold it without being affected or thrown off balance, remaining on one’s perch, as it were, is only sustainable if it’s based on authentic compassion, which is itself an intrinsic quality of integrity. This is the achitecture of freedom.
From this stance, Bodhicitta and Compassion become identical. They can only come from full integrity anyway. Not immobile or rigid, merely steadfast. From this platform of integrity, compassion and bodhicitta become one as they are expressions of the same thing: the mind of enlightenment.
Gazing into the ocean of human karma, the delusions overtaking a large portion of humanity become manifestly clear. In the grip of delusion, so many are stuck, trapped in an uninterrupted and tortuous cycle of wandering, being whiplashed back and forth between the first two Noble Truths, the truth of suffering and the root of suffering. It is so painful that now, given the helplessness of it all, whatever humor there may once have been in the infinite variety of human foibles is subsumed by the poignancy and terror, the desperation and bewildering hatred at the heart of mass delusion.
Take Trump himself for a moment. His delusion has always been apparent. And if one could momentarily set aside the wreckage left by his personal delusion, the naked and lost nature of this profoundly damaged being, he could even become an object of pity. But at some point, not only have his delusional transgressions become criminal as the relative legal world would define them, but he has dragged many millions into his orbit of self-serving chaos. How is this possible?
I think of Trump followers as those whose lives were already being lived at the edge of delusion. Inside their anxiety, resentment, victimhood and self-pity was a simmering anger with no socially sanctioned outlet. For Trump himself, seeing none of the familiar limits that most others see, the outlet has always been to push the envelope of propriety with a combination of entitlement and victimhood perpetually skirting the edges of lawlessness. Why, after all, shouldn’t he have whatever he wants? And anyway, who’s going to stop him? Who has the nerve to stand up against his audacity?
The American Dream has not been working for his people. For them, it crashed long ago. It was being systematically undermined by the plutocrats, bankers, politicians on the take, CEOs and various other capitalists (AKA sociopaths) in positions of authority. Those whom I regard as deeply lost in this cycle of hunger, resentment and rage were ready for the plucking. Yes, they’ve been exploited and played by the relentless and sophisticated divisive messaging and legislative agenda of the Republican Party for decades while simultaneously being misunderstood and abandoned by the Democrats. All it took was certainty, a certain braggadocio, someone who not only gave voice to their seething anger but who resonated with and could embody their own simplistic, zero-sum view.
From a distance, it’s all profoundly painful. That doesn’t mean I forgive or appease them or don’t resist them, because what they’re doing is trying to draw everyone else into their world while also destroying any alternative to their view, while Trump plants his delusions deeper into their receptive brains, by any means necessary. They cannot be permitted to succeed. But at the same time, the rest of us have to create a world that demonstrates the misguided futility of their quest.
The Leftist reality is more nuanced, less black and white. Of course, it is. And that’s why it’s been under attack for so long. The world view of the Left could never appeal to or alter the mass delusion of Trump world. It’s not selfish enough. There’s even speculation now that direct economic benefits will not break through the Trumpian hive-mind. It’s not a zero-sum vision. What passes for the inner sanctums of the Democratic Party in America may be equally deluded with some of its own toxic certainties, confusion about whiteness, their corporate view. And also similar to the right-wing is their steadfast belief that they are absolutely not deluded. Their submission to neocolonial capitalism is more subtle. The forms of grasping and exploitation are less overt, remaining in constant tension with forces of generosity and mutual dependence. In Trump world, no such tensions exist.
Referring back to personal practice, just because of what it already is, I’m being as deliberate as possible about dissolving every boundary between self and not-self, between external and internal. For brief moments I may skirt the edges of non-duality. In other words, leaping over physicality or presence into what is nothing but space, softening materiality, feels like a recapitulation of the dissolution of death itself. In fact, every instruction, every sitting, every incremental step toward realizing self-knowing Awareness is a practice for the end of life. Every sitting is an encounter with my own death as if my sole concern is noticing the Nature of Mind, noticing all phenomena as the natural emanations of Mind, empty in nature.
This is precisely a rehearsal for the bardo experience. This is the space of death, the journey through the bardos, of being finely tuned to the signs and signals of that journey, not skipping over or impulsively mis-interpreting anything, not being distracted, frightened, grasping, descending into desire, mentally chasing after every shiny object nor being afraid of any appearance that may arise. This is also a metaphor of this American moment. We are traversing the bardos, facing the conditions of our death and next life, defining the terms of a national rebirth.
The act of accessing the three kayas of Vajrayana, empty essence, lucidity and compassionate energy, realizing their inseparability, is also the personal journey into the three bardos happening every time your ass hits the cushion. Well, America’s ass is on the cushion. Our national karma and transition are playing out daily before our eyes. We’re being bombarded by demons, black arts, wrathful deities, apparitions, deniers and false prophets, the viral hallucinations of Trumpism dressed up as public discourse. But let us not be fooled. Let us remain focused and steadfast in our integrity, determined to remain in our dignity and full stature.
One important question continues to poke its nose into my space. We live within the machine, the zombie machine defined by and driven by late-stage capitalism, fundamentalism and whiteness determined to emerge triumphant and unscarred from the death throes of the Enlightenment. The machine has always offered the illusion of control. We may be able to personally or even in ephemeral enclaves or in our brief sitting time reject the machine, believing we can temporarily overcome its influence or live (or imagine we are living) outside its control and we may thoroughly reject the illusion of control. But if we are not also dismantling the machine, pointing out delusion, naming its impotence and offering an alternative, what are we doing? Practicing for our death while watching America meet its demons in this transitional time while standing for the terms of our rebirth is the only game in town.