Becoming No Body

The vehicle of this life, our personal identity and material existence, is the body. The fields of feeling, physiology, memory, habit, the maintenance of relative equilibrium, motility, our conscious and unconscious adaptive strategies for meeting every circumstance are there, in the flesh.

With its delicate yet seemingly definite boundary, it’s obvious we are separate, that there is an immutable boundary between our interior and exterior life.  As a temporary collection of energetic process, providing what for all the world appears to be the differentiation between self and other, the body is our medium of perception, our personal home, our platform and our refuge.

In the body we write our history in time: our negotiation with gravity, injury, trauma, aging, self-care, aspiration, defense, success and failure. It is all there, from the values speaking from our bones to our story written deep in the sinews, to perpetual turning and re-turning, compensations, aggression and retreat, drama and restraint. We wrap our selves in the record of our actions like the accumulated rings of a tree, layering the extremes of love and loss, pain and recovery, solitude and connection, triumph and tragedy, learning and resolution, the ways we adhere to–or veer away from—our most precious integrity are all there.

The body-mind continuum is an endlessly fertile topic of investigation, testing and speculation. For practical purposes, we indulge the idea of separation as a matter of convenience for the sake of distinguishing between body and mind, as if there’s some reality to that view. While mind may operate independently of the body, there is constant interplay with the causes and conditions arising in our physical experience, forming and reforming the identity under perpetual reconstruction. In the process, mind is reflected in form. The body speaks its mind. How could it be otherwise?

In our time-bound reality, body is telling the story we tell ourselves about who we’ve been, who we are and who we will become. Physical reality and the dynamics of body-mind are the obscurations of samsara, the realm of sufferingThey are luminosity objectified. We are emptiness itself manifesting as us, in plain view. We are Being manifesting as an infinite number of beings, just in time.

There is no real separation, of course. In the blissful stillness and dynamic motion of timeless awareness, there is no distinction between mind and body. There is no distinction between being and doing. In that condition, mind and body remain distinguishable from each other. How can they be both in union and divisible, simultaneously? Because mind and body are only convenient labels for modes of attention. Even in the gnosis of dharmakaya luminosity, cognitive process is still possible. Dwelling on the concept of time is also possible. In other words, a choice is still available to entertain duality within non-duality….or vice versa.

Practically speaking, what does that entail? Form is our anchor, grounding us in time. From the moment of birth, we have a past, a present and a future. From the moment of consciousness, the ways we may spin out of the present moment and into the past or future become increasingly complex, automatic, unconscious, untamed and, ultimately, less accessible to conscious intervention without disciplined mental practice, physical practice, or both.

In short, as we know too well, what was once the map becomes the territory. Our view and our choice harden into stone. Our identity is literally made into new and limiting material. Whether it’s default pathways in the brain or structural limitations in the musculoskeletal system, the way we see the world becomes the world we see. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Being able to recognize and unwind our selves from that reified story, the inaccessibility of awareness, the ignorance of Being, is integral to our spiritual development. It is not only a way of piercing cognitive limitations, building new neural pathways, but also of discovering a physical architecture of Being, the harmonic of freedom itself, a character of mental and physical synergy reflecting greater freedom in the specific sense Buddhism most often speaks of freedom: freedom from the extremes of duality.

I prefer to speak of freedom inthe ultimate sameness of the relative and the absolute, of nirvana and samsara, of duality and non-duality. The union of body-mind and awareness cannot be denied. That is the Dzogchen view.

True embodiment becomes a journey into the present moment, peeling away layers of accumulated disequilibrium anchoring us in time, shedding the self-induced entrapments of asymmetry, torsion, equivocation, self-delusion, the foundations of attachment to inequality and conceptuality, until the true dimension of our imprisonment in time is bared.

The journey of embodiment is the discovery of the body-mind as a micro-economy, of being as a fractal of Being. Embodiment is gaining a measure of equanimity, dropping ever more skillfully into a vast stillness between past and future in which we discover the nano-detail of that economy, also known as the bardo of everyday life.

That journey includes the physical resolution of mechanical disturbance and life-long strain embedded in liminal tissues, the endless cross-talk of opposing impulses, movement limited or repeatedly thwarted, with associated adhesions deep in the connective tissue matrix, anchoring and enforcing our learned behaviors, limited views and self-imposed rules.

Sitting in stillness strongly connects us to the relative universe, reinforcing our beliefs or at least our attachment to a binary view, even as we endeavor to see through absolute differences to reveal the essential sameness of all phenomena. In finding stillness of being, our mental activity comes to the forefront of awareness, along with the constant activity of proprioception, kinesthetics, our relative comfort and discomfort and the minor dramas of the ongoing redefinition of that state.

Is that drama really so minor? We may fail to notice much about our movement in the same way we barely notice much of our mental activity. True freedom in the body comes with addressing and unraveling crossed purpose, just as settling into the present moment is to see through appearance into the heart-essence of everything.

What we experience in the body when we deliberately still all movement is not merely a rising awareness of shifting strain, appearing and disappearing. We experience the deep and ongoing structural conversation, the low chatter of subliminal neuromuscular homeostatic mechanisms. We experience the mind transfixed by form. The very existence of such mechanisms is that universe of form, the negotiation of polarities, the antithesis of emptiness, the suffering of samsara.

The practice of meditation is coming into Presence, which requires coming into the present, generating a new economy of being expressed as the infinite potentiality of Being. Negotiating that re-union is to pull back the curtain obscuring the true body, the no body of dharmakaya. Part of that experience is a return to unburdened presence, leaping into the union of mind and awareness, the union of form and formlessness, the union of sameness and difference. This is Dzogchen. These polarities only exist in time, the ongoing drama of cause and effect. This is suffering.

As no bodies, we are mere “viscous porosities.” (See Weathering Each Other) We are neither solid nor liquid, only temporary aggregations of multiple life forms, structural elements (collagen), an energy interface (ATP) and a replicative blueprint (DNA). We exist in a trans-corporeal world as individual contractions, adrift in the atmospheric ocean, “intra-acting” precariously with the planetary system, each according to our geography and culture, fractals of “co-constitutive” reciprocal relationships between the macro-economy of planetary change, biology and the micro-relationships by which we live every day, relating to other life forms.

In this vast and dynamic matrix, not only is the presumption of a unique identity flimsy; the presumption of a unique identity anchored in a discrete timeframe is equally flimsy. We are products not only of our ‘personal’ stories, but also of family stories, the social story, the historical tale of our tribe, our culture, a nation swimming in archetypal forces in a perpetual dynamic with myriad other social, cultural and national entities. We are constantly under their influence. Inter-being inter-acts; we make each other and, imperceptibly, are made by all others, including the non-human.

We share in accomplishments and failures, evolution playing out in uncountable nesting contexts. The ghosts of the past, the aggression, greed and indifference we have committed our selves and allowed to be committed in our names are always present. We are parties to the calculus of limited resources, manipulation, dominance, convenience, distraction and the pursuit of short-term comfort. As Bayo Akomolafe might say, the demons under the national bed will never be completely silenced until they are fully heard. We own them all. They are us. However subliminal they may seem, they still surge into awareness, arresting us from time to time. Now is (always) one of those times.

Dropping into the body in meditation, we prepare for nothing. We invite nothing. If the clarity of luminosity, timeless awareness arrives, we are fortunate. We may experience moments of liberation, loosening the bonds of time. Having entered that realm, even briefly, there is no going back. True opening is the dissolution of imagined boundaries, never to be fully reconstituted. Now we know and cannot un-know. In timeless awareness, the body disappears. To say it another way, timeless awareness cannot exist without full embodiment, which is the dissolution of time, mind and body, inside and outside.

In timeless awareness, cause evaporates; there is only effect. Linearity disappears. Analytical mind collapses. Inequality is transformed into the timeless equality of all phenomena. There is no imbalance to distract us. We are transfixed by the incomparably vivid streaming brilliance of limitless creation, without beginning or end. Bewilderment and confusion dissolve into overwhelming compassion. There is no ‘self,’ except as a momentary narrowing of attention. All that remains is the continuous dissolution of appearance into the vast space and infinite potentiality of emptiness, the potentiality of Being expressing itself as everything and anything.

Appearance and emptiness are in union. Appearance is not emptiness, nor is emptiness appearance. Appearance is also not other than emptiness, nor is emptiness other than appearance. They are not two, nor are they one. No identity exists here; there is nobody. Imbalance, structural tension and all internal conversations anchored in time disappear. There is no body.

All of it is instantly reconstituted simply by firing up the engine of samsara: desire. And yes, desire is irresistible. There is no relative existence without it. That is samsara. In timeless awareness, however, desire is none other than stupendously comical foolishness. That is the Great Perfection.

When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.                                                                              —Longchenpa (1308-1364)

©Gary Horvitz, 2019

Listening

We are universally enjoined by the expressions of Dzogchen teachers to regard all phenomena as the simultaneous appearance of both deluded mind (samsara) and the natural or essence nature of mind (nirvana). We are always ‘here’ and ‘there’ in every moment. This guidance applies to everything at all times, even, dare I say especially, to the expressions of those teachers themselves.

When we listen to the words of a teacher, using innate cognitive faculties to convey conceptual information, which is then apprehended by our own cognitive faculties, we have thoughts, interpretations, memories and visceral experiences in response. As we all know, this is no less a continuing cascade of mental and emotional activity in the presence of a teacher as it would be under any other circumstance.

Beneath those words, completely integral to them, coming from an equally expressive locus of the inner world of that teacher, not only from the thinking mind but from the natural mind as well, is the reality and experience of emptiness. Like a carrier wave, that inner experience is not separate from the teaching nor can it be separate from any other experience. It is a manifestation of both oneness and difference in every moment.

The words themselves are the path of knowledge and contemplation. The carrier wave is the path of direct experience. The words emit from the direct experience of the teacher, but they are a derivative, not the experience itself.  The words are as much a reflection in the pond as the reflection of the moon itself. They are, as the moon itself, mere appearance, not their meaning nor any of the internal responses we may have to conceptual interpretation.

How we listen to those words can, but may not always, happen on two different levels: one, by way of the intellect, by which we receive and interpret and assimilate the meaning we attribute to them; and the other, by which we have a direct experience of meeting them as they touch some other locus of gnosis other than merely the cerebral.

These two ways of listening are not mutually exclusive. In fact, to assume they are would be a primary strategic error, a fundamental misunderstanding of our encounters with the teachings and with their teachers. If we are to have any chance of assimilating teachings in a manner congruent with their intent, we must activate our capacity to listen in both ways at the same time.

These two ways of listening are inseparable. It is often said that we must listen to teachings for their outer, inner and secret meanings.  But in reality, listening in two ways activates a direct and immediate experience of duality and non-duality, of both awareness in time…and of timeless awareness that characterize teachings regardless of their inner, outer or secret meaning.

We can learn to recognize our error by observing our inner process. We can lean in one of two ways. We can pride ourselves in listening and recording with our intellect, making notes, committing portions of what we hear to memory, keeping a record of our engagement for consideration and possible regurgitation at some later date when we believe it will matter.

Or, we can listen with the subtle body, the inner ear, the ear that knows there is no cognitive meaning to which we can cling, much less retain. There is only one message, the same message at all times: the unity of appearance and emptiness, the unity of time and timeless awareness, the indivisibility of duality and non-duality. That is the experience of Dzogchen.

True enough, every moment is an opportunity to enter that experience. But sitting in front of a teacher is a special invitation to listen in this way.

All of the Buddhist teachers in the West, at least all the Dzogchen teachers I’ve encountered, are very well practiced in transmitting to their students. We in the West are so well suited to hearing them because we place such a high cultural value on and rely more on our cognitive faculties. That is our default mode. We are good students in the Western mold of being a student. And our teachers have done a very good job of learning our language and expressing themselves in ways that speak to our default approach to learning, the rational use of logic, the collection and storing of conceptual knowledge and ritual practice.

But ultimately, that approach is not what we truly need. Insofar as we automatically rely on that approach, we learn little, and slowly, because no student can truly arrive at the Dzogchen experience without an empirical experience of The Great Perfection.

It is the direct seeing of the inseparability of the kayas. It is the direct knowledge of dharmakaya, the immediate, timeless and complete mutuality of absolute oneness and absolute difference, the union of the relative and the absolute, perpetually folding into and creating each other, becoming one another without beginning or end.

 

Sacred Activism: Acting As One.

Maybe this is the moment I’ve been waiting for without realizing it–the approaching object in my rear view mirror that’s much closer than it looks.

I’ve spent time in the recent past at the edge of language, not merely in the occasional futility of finding words for experience, but feeling through the subtle and tenacious bonds by which consciousness functions as language, shaping and expressing default beliefs about the world. What I needed was not merely new words, but a path beyond limiting structures, a descent into the substrate, a journey into the interstices of the existential. Haha. That journey invites a new consciousness, new thinking….or…perhaps no thinking. Whatever it is, it’s part of a critical decolonization process underway as we reconnect with self, other and the earth.

That phrase, “self, other and the earth,” is a core principle in a recent collaboration between Andrew Harvey and Carolyn Baker titled, “Savage Grace.” Their definition of decolonization tracks Derrick Jenson very closely, about which he writes:

Decolonization is the process of breaking your identity with and loyalty to this culture–industrial capitalism, and more broadly civilization–and remembering your identification with an loyalty to the real physical world…It means seeing the harm the dominant culture does to other cultures and to the planet….It means recognizing that the luxuries of the dominant culture do not come free, but rather are paid for by other humans, by non-humans….It means recognizing that we do not live in a democracy, but rather a corporate plutocracy, a government by, for and of corporations. It means remembering that the real world is more important than this social system. Without a real world we don’t have a social system.

Derrick Jenson

The colonizing power of language is also a manifest tool of conquest and domination. This has been most true of English in particular, but also French, Spanish and Portuguese. And that’s only in the past four hundred years. The dominant narrative of the human story has been so deeply buried in language it’s hardly noticed. Along the way, as has been broadly noted elsewhere, our relationship to the natural world and to death have been denied, pushed away and/or buried.

Along the way, a relentless barrage of linguistic bullets has mowed down nearly every alternative world view, redirecting (and destroying) every un-dammed river of shamanic consciousness standing in its way. The bill for this error, and all the hubris accompanying it, is coming due.

Just as surely as those once colonized still struggle against zombie neocolonialism (disaster capitalism), the rest of the world remains in the grip of neocolonial ideology couched in the narrative of mass culture, the interlocution of establishment media, organized religion, finance and the multi-national juggernaut of extractive capital perpetuating its myth of “progress,” and “growth.” In subtle and not so subtle ways, we are constantly told, as Margaret Thatcher famously said, “There is no alternative.” The great extinction unfolding before us is noted and shrugged off.

To be sure, slipping the inertia of the neural substrate is no simple task. This is also not a new idea and there is no shortage of places to start. Just take the term “sacred activism,” for example. It’s been an evolving topic for decades. The meaning of these two words has been under perpetual construction and deconstruction, constantly shifting depending on whom you ask. Books are written about it. It’s jargon for some, a source of inspiration for others. It’s a guideline, a goal, a handy slogan whose meaning is debated, abused, misunderstood and celebrated.

A long time ago (haha), back in the 70s, one could be involved in politics OR spirituality. The two could not coexist in the same person. There was no bridge. You could either be on the front lines of “resistance” or back in your hutch sitting silently, doing “nothing.” Or so we thought. The traditional activist pitted herself against the inertia of the Industrial Growth Society. The spiritualist dropped out. Since then, the journey into politics AND spirituality (like the converging journey of spirituality and physics) has been leading to the same quantum location, which means everywhere, but mostly into creative institutions marrying the two.

Spirituality and politics were two separate pursuits. We could not envision acting simultaneously in both realms. The term itself embodies a powerful dualistic view of reality, a linguistic field from which we nearing escape velocity. Nevertheless, the confrontational nature of traditional activism and the perpetuation of that dualism eventually felt like a dead end. Activism set apart from its sacred roots became part of the problem, not part of the solution. The realization that all politics is personal and that the personal is political worked its way deeper into awareness, sending us on long journeys of “personal growth,” which not only ignited deepening inquiries into spirituality, but more complex inquiries into the politics of interactive dynamics.

Gradually, we come to know that “politics” is rooted far more deeply than we ever imagined, far beneath the silted and nutrient-poor everyday channels of discursive thought, all the way into the primary beliefs we hold about reality such as the (un)conscious division between subject and object, I and It, Human and Nature. Along the way, those “beliefs” have been informed by, supported by and also undermined by science and philosophy. What are we to think?

Language is the carrier of our separation. Language will never overcome its self-perpetuating confusion and grasp the singularity of sacred activism without inventing new words for it. I now have difficulty saying these two words together. They have become baggage from the Old Story. The words no longer make sense together because, ultimately, (finally?) what they describe are mirror images of that singularity, as if I’m seeing confusion as the inextricable four bodies of Buddha. There is no longer any daylight between them. No distinction between the essential meaning of either.  And there’s no time left to even debate the issue.

The only way one can fully understand what they mean is to realize, spoken together, they are redundant. They have become the Tao or the Two Truths (which are really One). The very fact that we must still refer to something called “sacred activism” is testament to how far we have yet to go in eliminating the artificial boundary between the realities they embody together.

How can true activism, the pursuit of justice, not be rooted in a sacred unity of self, other and earth? How can sacred practices, seeking and restoring that Unity, not become the pursuit of justice? How can spiritual practice not also become the soul of activism? This is an evolution. Living your activism becomes the materialization of your practice. There is no longer any way to leave the cushion, the ritual, the river of shamanic consciousness behind. Nor is there any way to say that unleashing the colonized and controlled rivers of my consciousness and continuously informing and purifying my intentions is not the pursuit of justice. There is no other way. We can no longer even speak of activism without understanding that now the only true activism arises from the sacred heart of the earth, the soul of nature, the consciousness of the planet as Self, acting within the ethos of trans-corporeality, the only matrix in which we have ever lived.

The cognitive discontinuity introduced during the Neolithic was the beginning of straightening the channels of our perception and… placing the dams of hierarchical thought along these new, linear constrictions. The monoliths of politics, economics, organized religion and warfare were imbedded in these straightened channels to control the flow even further. Perceptual stagnation set in – not only unnoticed for what it was, but pursued as a charismatic ideal of perfection – becoming the sine qua non of the human species….Awareness had been civilized…The rivers [of perception] had been channeled, the flow multiply dammed.

The celebration of pluralities, the seeing of one/ness in all/ness and all/ness in one/ness, and the renewal of ex-stasis intrinsic to the previous two hundred thousand years of human cognition was deemed unnecessary. What was necessary was to straighten ever more cognitive channels, build more cognitive dams. Those populations of humans who persisted in the primal, unregulated cycle of cognition and ecstasy were driven out, marginalized or killed.

John Salskov-Iverson

The evolution parallel to a personal experience of overflowing the artificial channeling of cognition is in transforming the collective dynamics of this journey into wholeness. The agency we have imagined as humans, manifest in a broken relationship with the natural world, is a false version of our true condition.

In increasing numbers and in diverse places, this awakening is propagating itself, manifesting personal versions of an incipient mass spiritual breakthrough. We are igniting nothing less than global shamanic network–prophesied by Tibetan Bonpo shamans–by manifesting the true meaning of sacred activism, exhibiting conscious attention in ways that dissolve the collective mind control we call the liberal order of the Western world.

We are bringing the dervish mentality, the Shambhala warrior mentality–the energy of transformation, making peace with the demons inside while curing instead of killing outside, taking the cushion with them into every “being” while turning every moment on the cushion into “doing” justice. The tools of the true sacred justice warrior are, as Andrew Harvey would say, none other than those of the divine Shakti goddesses of Hinduism: Kali, the Dancer of destruction; Parvati, the messenger of love and devotion; Durga the Invincible; and Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity who restores us to the true  source of all bounty, the earth itself.

To channel energies such as these is to learn to stand in the eye of the storm, surrounded by profound spiritual and moral corruption, economic and ecological injustice with unwavering courage and integrity, attending in every moment to what is dying, performing mass healing ceremony, restoring eco-guardianship with unyielding dignity, fueled by illuminated compassion.

The place where life and death meet. The sky is always becoming the ocean. The ocean is always becoming the sky. We are always losing what we wish to hold onto. Yet we are always gaining the rewards of losing, too. And in that way, we are always discovering the secret of life and death, which is that love is always and forever the place where life and death meet.

Umar Haque

Emptiness Dancing

I’ve been very distressed lately. A thread running through much of what I do is to either seek approval from an outside source or aimlessly follow an illusion of enlightened purpose, commitment, responsibility, idealism or creativity. Who I “am” becomes a shifting mirage, subject to changing conditions at any moment, like a passing vehicle temporarily catching the attention a sleeping dog. We all know what happens next. I become the dog, obsessively running after every model passing my way. Sometimes the distractions even look new. But on closer examination, none of them really are.

Then I realized, suddenly, to my great surprise and relief, that all of it, the emotional attachments to certain “favorable” outcomes, the appealing appearance of shiny new objects, the desire embedded in each decision to engage with them, or people, or to see conditions in a self-affirming way, even the moment by moment play of deciding if I am happy or not, being myself…or not…being “good,” being responsible, or ejecting myself from all of it, is all one thing and one thing only—that is not really a thing at all:  Emptiness dancing.

Not merely a dance of awareness or the dance of mind, but something within, the primary dance. Emptiness dancing is the name I give it. It covers any moment, every illumination, rabbit hole of awareness, every black hole of despair, every experience, whether of union, alienation, desperation, every blissful connecting embodiment, every ecstatic dream of pure detachment, including true non-duality, the Great Abiding in supreme Equanimity.

Emptiness dancing softens every edge, completes every unfinished aspiration, rounds every corner of uncertainty or disappointment, even lifts up every tragedy. It’s the poetry in every moment, the inexplicable, the paradoxical, the ineffable, the laughing/crying never-alone reality of being alone. It’s the expanding heart of meditation. The dance with emptiness dancing is the drama of every life, every death and everything in between.

No, it’s not necessarily so simple to understand either term, emptiness or dancing. Their essence is not obvious. The expression covers the entire profound simplicity of the two truths, the artificiality of conceptualizing the relative and absolute as separable, and the truth that they are not “inseparable” either because even that implies two.  They are always and only one. Emptiness dancing is the effortlessness at the heart of every effort, the perfusion of every achievement. Emptiness dancing is the center of every arduous journey helplessly conceptualized by the materially-oriented mind. Emptiness dancing is the propellant, the inexhaustible fuel of all beings and all phenomena.

We may form intentions; we may pledge to follow a certain path. We may try to be mindful, compassionate, engaged, empathic, generous and follow every precept of the paramitas. We may believe in merit and diligently pursue opportunities to “collect” or generate merit. But merit is not that. It is not a thing. Merit as a thing merely perpetuates delusion. The banking of merit (as a thing) is thus also illusion, the accumulation of a karmic account can only be for one thing; and it’s not about the future. It is the capacity,…no, the surrender to falling apart now. It is the planting and the replanting of the seed of realization.  It is the realization of emptiness dancing, becoming the capacity to dissolve into that realization in every moment.

Such a realization cannot be bought or “brought.” It is not discovered through analysis. It cannot be engineered into awareness. It is not a realization to “have” or give or find. It is the inherent space beneath shamatha. It is the antithesis of analytical vipashyana. It doesn’t belong to anything. It doesn’t come from anything. The paramitas may become mere objects of awareness, but they too are emptiness dancing. Everything, all pleasure, all pain, all tragedy, violence, ecstacy, every loss and every gain are all the same….emptiness dancing.

Falling into emptiness is a relief. Every time. It’s a lesson relearned with amazement that the lesson can never be learned too many times, because every relearning is fresh, as if it is for the first time. And what comes with that relearning is expanding forgiveness and compassion for everything and everyone lost in the illusion of something. The something that I strive to be, the something in every moment that gives it–and me–substance. The something I can sink my teeth into, that becomes a new or deepening furrow in my gray matter.

I want to keep every one of those grooves, every memory, however fragile or remote. I want to feel it all again and again, as many times as possible, file it away indefinitely, bring it out again at the perfect moment, savor the pleasure and the pain, the entire luminous and terrifying journey, the impermanence of it, the death in every moment of it, the innocence of it, thanking emptiness dancing for all of it until poof! I disappear. That is the most confounding, confusing, maddening and astounding part of all. The disappearing, being subsumed into everything, connected but not bound. The humor of it, the throw your head back and laugh at the sky of it.

It seems Adyashanti has written a book by this title, which I did not know…or recall…when I started this. But let it fall open here, at random, repeating these words:

This tremendous innocence produces the feeling of an ever-present newness in life. Since the awakening, the brain no longer holds and compares, so every moment is experienced as new, just as it would be in the mind of a young child.

Oh. That distress. What was that about?

So…So You Think You Can Tell

Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail
A smile from a veil
Do you think you can tell?

 Everything changes….and there is no end. Everything seems to have a beginning, a middle and an end. But the end? An illusion. Sure, we are created, grow, mature, decline and die. No exceptions. The cycle is repeated in every life form, every material creation, everywhere in the physical world. Ideas, social movements, artistic expression are all born, develop and morph into maturity and decline, ever to be overtaken by something new. Nothing endures. Only the form and the venue change. What exists now could not be possible without all that came before.

It is, no doubt, these realities of life that spur our view of heaven, the nature of human existence, of ultimate fruition or any other supra-mundane vision. Human frailty is another matter. From the narrowest view of our individual (and separate) lives, we have all suffered (or will suffer) in some way, more or less. There is no such thing as perfection. No one is severed from the network of relationship, from the infinite ongoing web of events. Within that matrix, we are forever exploring and seeking a novel expression of human potential.

At the collective level, our magnificence and flaws are all amplified. We are violent, messy, conflicted, paradoxical, and interminably so–which stimulates curiosity and inquiry and reasoning, psychological and social theory and experimentation and testing and innumerable forms of remedy for imperfection and suffering.

Conventional wisdom, including prevailing spiritual wisdom, refers to healing as if it might represent resolution, completion. We even speak of enlightenment, like all other aspects of life, as a developmental process that has a beginning, a middle and an end. What is that end?–presumably eternal unchanging omniscient bliss. We talk about personal and collective spiritual evolution as an ongoing linear process happening for each individual and for the collective as a whole, leading to “higher” consciousness, which, in the language of integral dynamics, transcends and includes all previous levels of attainment.

This process is not described as one that is never completed. Rather, with the proper intention and discipline, the right effort, the right teachers, the right view and given enough time, something is achieved in a distant future; namely, the cessation of the cycle of beginning, middle and end. To suggest that this bias may be false or doesn’t serve us would be to threaten the entire superstructure of personal-even collective-spiritual achievement.

To a large degree, the ideology of healing depends on the existence of a separate self and assumes that a full cleansing and reintegration of every shred of separation from the core self can occur, that the unconscious can be plumbed, interpreted and redirected, that all “parts” are either fully discharged of their accumulated energy of dissociation or  whatever drives self-defeating behavior, whatever perpetuates suffering can be exhausted to the point at which the root of suffering itself, wanting things to stay the same, dissolves. That, after all, is the point of needing to choose between heaven and hell, between blue skies and pain, when actually, if we were really “here,” there would be no distinction between samsara and nirvana. They would be regarded as ultimately the same…and also as nothing whatsoever.

The path “to” enlightenment is different from one tradition to another and also within different Buddhist traditions. Some paths are all about the individual, as if everyone is on a solitary path. Others are about each individual realizing an intrinsic and unbreakable relationship with all beings such that their personal accomplishments are a contribution to the enlightenment of the whole and also derive from the actions and contributions of uncounted others.

Even in We-Space dialogue, the intention may be to access a moment of collective consciousness, whether through alignment or dissonance, and thereby advance the development of the whole. But we rarely imagine that the wounds of the individual cannot be “healed” until all wounds are healed.

And now it’s time to declare-via the Resonance Path Institute-that such wounds are themselves the fuel of connection itself. The healer is perpetually wounded, lives in and with the wound and never loses the perspective that the wound is the connection to all things, not a personal black hole, a soul-anchor drawing energy and light, the atomic dimension of being, one’s “freedom” into its deep invisible mass. It is a portal.

I cannot truly heal “myself” because, as we are coming to know more fully every day,  everything is a transpersonal phenomenon. What and who is being healed, however that may look to us on any given day, is greater than we know or imagine. We “know” this, but most of us still think and act as if it’s not so. What can be healed may feel like it has something to do with me-and it does-but it is also about relationship. What is made whole is not merely me, but also my relationship with the whole. What we call “healing” might be a new realization of continuity, an expanding complexity of relationship between the individual and the whole. And not solely to the intra-species whole, but to the full trans-species matrix of existence.

Healing is necessary for the evolution of consciousness and especially for an eventual resolution of all grasping, all unhealthy desire and aversion, all duality dissolving into the perfect unchanging non-dual bliss of absolute presence. But no one gets there alone. “My” problems will never be healed until all problems are healed. And for that matter, no collective problem can be isolated either. “You” are a flickering of my imagination. And in a trans-corporeal world of viscous porosities, the same could be said of “me.” We are all fully connected to the matrix. All wounds, the currency of our individuality, are portals to the network of collective consciousness…directly, without mediation.

Our hurts, our conditioning, the flawed beliefs that drive us, the sources of our dissonance, our reactivity, alienation and loss of agency are not what separate us from each other so much as the belief that they are ours alone to be suffered in silence or only to be shared with shame, regret or judgment. They are the essence of relationship. This idea pierces through the conditioning and the increasingly antiquated cultural ideology that says we are each alone in our dungeons of secret pain.

Whoever embodies this truth, who manages to be sufficiently present with whatever arises, as the Dzogchen teachers say, is then “spontaneously liberated.” There is no loss of feeling, and no lingering emotion remains to reinforce attachment to any remaining shred of embedded trauma, which means, again, awakening is not an isolated event, but instead is an expanding realization of connection with everything.

How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
And how we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here. 

—–Pink Floyd “Wish You Were Here”             

 

 

 

 

 

We-Space: Locating Self

In the midst of Circling, the ethic of immersion into a deepening group process, cycling more and more into the present moment, the boundaries of Self get murky and less defined–whether we like it or not.  Expressions from any individual are often tentative, as if venturing forth from the safety of one’s personal domain carries unknown risks. Clinging to separate identities in an atmosphere of implied intentional dissolution turns out to be more or less slippery, at times even counterproductive. But that’s the idea. Let go of your preoccupation with Self and feel your way into the collective dynamic. Tricky. Challenging. Murky. Also an invitation to unearth what for some may be profound discomfort.

The true nature of our relations to each other and the world emerge in toppled assumptions, unexpected curves along the path of unwinding layers of personality, guarding, looking for a “true” self in relationship or imagining there is anything solid to “conclusions” or even “lessons.” One is faced with realizing that while we might have momentary or even tenacious fantasies of being in the center of our own worlds, the truth is that everyone else is also in their own center…or at least wrestling with its unique parameters, its anchors, imputing its indelible nature.

Yet the fantasy of a center is just that, an illusion.

Everything is moving. Nothing is truly resolved, despite reflexive reification to satisfy our longing for certainty. Trying to pin anything down is a fool’s errand, certain to lead to confusion and dissatisfaction. We are perpetually in the middle. Yet also, at any moment, the truth of Self, hovering like a condor on warm updrafts, swoops to the front of awareness, perhaps even unexpectedly erupting into familiar, old or even novel emotional states including fear, uncertainty, self-criticism or a delightful and playful freedom.

At the same time, beyond collective awareness, the unforeseen and mostly unpredictable dynamics of We-Space, there are further nuances of Self and selflessness in the reciprocation of the interpersonal exchanges, the interpenetration, shifting connections, the levels of permission, the sheer dependent co-arising of it all, which is to say, “relationship.”

That this is occurring in a context assuming the exploration of We-Space to be the cutting edge of human evolution (or at least spiritual evolution) makes it all the more portentous and at the same time even dubious.  Whereas some insist Circling is a deliberate cultivation of a supportive atmosphere in which individuals elevate and clarify the level of mutual permission to access and share deep personal process, it is also just as likely that sooner or later its more challenging transformative potential is realized in the deliberate or unexpected discard of the vestments of ego to expose a more raw and real, even purified, identity. Is such a condition a result of “support?”– or, more likely, the erosion of every notion of support?

Individuals undertaking a traditional practice of mindfulness (shamatha meditation) eventually understand that peering through the blizzard of spontaneous mental activity isn’t necessarily a direct path to blue-sky clarity. One meets persistent and deeply rooted patterns, the shadow self, demons and false states masquerading as truth.  Likewise, a Circle, or for that matter any group, deliberate or otherwise, populated with the same personalities over time (a family?), might be regarded as a group mindfulness practice,  exploring and sharing transient emotional and mental reality, slowly evolving to more intimate and authentic qualities of relationship. It could be said that any group eventually learns to cut through and discern internal process to a consciousness of field process/phenomena. Circling is merely a more deliberate and accelerated path. If I am in a Circle, I am sharply focusing on my internal process and I also want to notice the collective field (the activity of “group mind”). And I want to distinguish the two.

However, just as in solitary practice, there is nothing linear about entering “group mind.” We cannot automatically identify or regard any single expression as an expression of the field. More likely, what is an expression of self (or discursive mind) is constantly shifting as each participant moves back and forth into and out of mindful space. Responding to or being reactive to someone else in a Circle is not equivalent to an emanation of group mindfulness. Sooner or later, personality (a regression into ego) interrupts every drop into the deep silence of authentic connection.

When we are able to cut through the personal need for support, looking for reinforcement for what are in essence our personal constructs (projections) about ourselves and others, the naked reality starkly revealed is that none of us is here to please, to connect, to support, to fix or give others what we imagine they want. Yes, we do all of these things as if they are our true mission, or at least we try. But the Circle can also be a hot context in which we examine our motives (or have them reflected back to us), thus refining our capacity for fearless compassion.

As I once witnessed in a blazing Kali-esque exquisite moment of liberating truth, one person in a Circle, at least within the limited time-frame of that meeting, embodied the profound and most painful paradox of Self: the non-dual nature of appearance and reality, the simultaneous truth of selflessness and how each of us is helplessly clinging to our identities as if there really is some materiality to our existence.

She appeared to be in a (silent) state full of both crystalline clarity and inexpressible grief, a momentary deconstruction of everyone else feeling their own unmet needs reflected back to them. For that brief period, her piercing brilliance caused considerable discomfort in some others as they appeared to struggle with ego boundaries, differentiating between Self and the field, bias about what a Circle is, a role they may have chosen or their own projections about themselves and what they want from Circling.

And ironically, of course, all of this is simply my personal projection. It is certainly my own dance with Self, mindfulness practice, assumptions I have about extending solitary practice into a group setting. But I will continue to test and test and assess and learn. I will throw open the doors and windows, just in case, one day, someone shows up to set fire to everything and burn down my house of straw.

We-Space III: Eros and Evolution

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This gallery contains 2 photos.

What is increasingly common among a global sampling of practitioners is that ingenuity, skill, intelligence, fearlessness and chance are conspiring in group settings to dissolve psychological barriers, heal social isolation, conditioning and the colonizing effect of modern society to access … Continue reading

We-Space II: Supernormal States

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Signs of intersubjective entry into the We-Space Sangha. The yoga of intersubjectivity in all its forms is yielding information and learning at new levels of consciousness and in new configurations of field phenomena. If an individual awakening process is any … Continue reading

We-Space: The Next Buddha

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We-Space is a term for the experience of collective field phenomena occurring in groups. It may be called collective intelligence, an energetic manifestation of the resonance occurring among the participants. Whether “we-space” pre-exists or is evoked by a group process, … Continue reading

Equanimity

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Equanimity means stability or composure, an evenness of mind and attitude. In the Buddhist sense, this means an imperturbable vision in which nothing stands out, all phenomena being regarded as literally equal. No phenomena distinguishes itself from any other. There … Continue reading