Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Holy Fool

When it's cold and raining
You are more beautiful.

And the snow brings me
even closer to Your lips.

The Inner Secret,
that which was never born,

You are That Freshness,
and I am with You now.

I can't explain the goings
or the comings. You enter suddenly,

and I am nowhere again,
Inside the Majesty.

                   -- Rumi

        Last night I found myself once again "Inside the Majesty." I had been far outside it for a long time. Rejection by a close friend had wounded me deeply. Then I believed my job was being threatened because of unjust criticism and accusation. I felt old, hurting, angry and afraid, and could not stop obsessing about mistakes and wrongs of the past, dangers and difficulties of the future. I was lurching all over the psychological map--everywhere except here, now, in the Reality of the immediate present, the Eternal Presence.

       Yet from past experience I know that that Reality is always here, now, unchanging, incorruptible, a Beacon of Singing Light at the innermost core of my being, of all being. When Rumi writes "I can't explain the goings, / or the comings..." I don't take that to mean the goings or the comings of God, or Grace. Those goings and comings are my own; they expose how I chronically become obsessed by, then addicted to, my hurt, fear, anger, desire or despair. These delusions are the "goings"--my willful or clueless estrangement and alienation from my Higher Self. That's where I found myself last night--lying awake, staring into the dark, beseiged by my demons.


the ferocious piranhas of raw dread are tearing
bite-sized chunks right from my mind    a chair
is now the ridiculous pawn in a power struggle
the Nextel keeps shutting down in my pocket
DeWayne's pissed off because I've blamed him
I'm worried viral gossip could cost me my job

you'd think after so many years I'd have won it--
this endless pitched battle with chronic demons
you'd think a terrified little boy would grow up
stop cringing at those monsters under the bed
you'd think enough time was wasted    enough
chances blown    then you'd have to think again

you can't look at a life and judge: success/failure
not until you've suffered the same bitter wounds
wrestled with the same nightmarish obsessions
tasted the same bile of horror coating the tongue
but after that all judgement goes out the window
what's left is a naked mirror reflecting your soul


     After going round and round in my head, harried with insomnia, I became transfixed by that naked mirror reflecting my soul. Staring into it intently I understood that I have a choice, I always have a choice. I could continue to gaze--obsessed, addicted, spellbound--at the endlessly seductive or obscenely horrifying contortions of my demons, riddled with cosmic dread. Or by a drastic, purging, unconditional surrender; a profound, wholehearted metanoia penetrating right down to the naked core of my being, I could radically Focus Elsewhere. But not just any "Elsewhere." I could, and I did, uncompromisingly re-orient my soul's single-pointed attention to the radiant, joyous, serene, eternal, transcendent Light, the illuminating Presence which is always there and which never changes, falters or fails.

                       PIVOT POINT

the journey from one edge of an eyelash to another
                                how infinitely far!

and the time it takes--that microsecond's an eternity

but ride the next express between heaven and hell
either direction        now there's hair-raising speed!
               you'll arrive even before you depart

I know a breath    inside a breath    inside the breath

I know the pivot point for swirling clouds of worlds

tell me    are you awake yet    see what you can't see
hear what you can't hear      feel what you can't feel

there's a   pure   cold   stream   that's always flowing

if you find it don't hesitate    kneel    kneel and drink


     Paul wrote: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men..." (1Co 1.25). The choice I made last night to "focus elsewhere" felt at the time like a foolish thing to do. The issues I'm struggling with are real, damaging, serious. There are no easy fixes. Don't I need to focus exclusively on them, worry incessantly about them, constantly be humping to troubleshoot them? Yet when  I'm caught in a hurricane, it's impossible to cope effectively while I'm being blasted by 100-mile-an-hour winds! Only from the safety of the calm, clear, luminous eye of the storm can I get my spiritual bearings, find my essential balance, and discern the means of wise action. Coming back Home to my Higher Self was a choice to seek refuge in the Divine Eye of the profane storm. There's a difference between a blind fool and a Holy Fool. The blind fool sticks his head in the sand. The Holy Fool wraps her soul in the Light. 

     The Inner Light is beyond both praise and blame, like unto space it knows no boundaries; yet it is right here with us, ever returning to serenity and fullness...You remain silent and it speaks; you speak and it is silent. The Gate of Heaven is wide open, with not a single obstruction before it.

                                              -- Yung Chia



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Unseen

     This world is but a bridge, cross it, but build no home upon it. The world endures but for an hour. Spend it in devotion. The rest is unseen.

                      -- Akbar the Great

     I spent a good part of my life longing, even lusting, for fame. I would become  a Great Poet, lionized by millions! Even a great Spiritual Teacher! My self-worth was dependent on my becoming widely recognized and applauded, a Major Player in the only Game that really counted--this Earth Plane ego dance; this shimmy-shake of vainglory and public spectacle; this endless, shadowy hall of glittering funhouse mirrors.

      But simultaneously, a higher, wiser Spirit was pulling me in exactly the opposite direction--toward deeper interiority, painfully acquired humility, purging emptiness. I began to realize that what's truly important is invisible, a transcendent sphere of being not directly detectable by the senses, and therefore mostly ignored by our overwhelmingly materialistic civilization. I fell in love with silence, solitude, mystery, the Unknown. I learned that to be a real "Player in the Game" meant I had to wean myself from my addiction to the chimera of worldly success, the mirage of ephemeral fame.

            A STRANGE WIND

The face turned away from the feast --
       learn that, be
             that one.

A strange wind is blowing
              through the black rectangle
         of the open doorway,

beyond which, night
      smells of unappeasable distance,
             and the narrow steps

lead down to no street
                  you can remember...

The heart weaned away from the world --
       earn that, free
              that one.

Let desire expand
          until it transcends
               all objects.

Possessing nothing,
          possessed by nothing,

in the perfection
        of such emptiness
                         make your Home.


      My ultimate Home is in the no-time and no-place of an infinite and eternal consciousness where "I" cease to exist. My own consciousness is only fully awake there for the first time; and what it's awake to is a Oneness beyond all separation. That is Reality. Beside it the tawdry child's play of worldly fame and glory is exposed as ludicrous and absurd.

                     THE WAY IN

Whoever you are: some evening take a step
out of your house, which you know so well.
Enormous space is near, your house lies
where it begins, whoever you are.
Your eyes find it hard to tear themselves
from the sloping threshold, but with your eyes
slowly, slowly, lift one black tree
up, so it stands against the sky: skinny, alone.
With that you have made the world...

                               -- Rainer Maria Rilke

      My greatest challenge is to take that crucial step out of the familiar house of my ego, which I know so well. "Enormous space is near." That's where the deepest meaning of my life suddenly breaks open. Dumbstruck, I experience my soul illuminated at last against the scale of the stars...

   Out beyond ideas of
wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

                 -- Rumi


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Soul Wounds

There are some blows in life so hard...
                            I don't know!
Blows that seem to come from God's hatred;
                            as if before them,
the backwash of all suffering
were welling up in my soul...I don't know!

                            -- Cesar Vallejo

     If I love with radical openness from my soul, sometimes I will radically suffer. There's no way to avoid this. At least I've not found one. If the ultimate goal of the spiritual path is to attain a pure and constant state of utterly blissful detachment, exempt from "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," then I still have many lifetimes of learning to go.

      Yesterday I lost a beloved friend--suddenly, shockingly, irretrievably. And today I'm a walking wound. How can I escape from this terrible grief, which after all is only the opposite face of that once joyous love? It's the risk I had to take for opening my soul unconditionally to the beloved; it's the price I must pay now, now that that love has shattered beyond all mending.


There are crimes so bad
                       I can't find words,
wrongs too obscene to bear.
If you think I'm lying
we've got nothing to talk about--
you inhabit
              a different universe.

There's an inferno of hate
         the human mind
                       can't encompass--
like a flame thrower
                    incinerating a rose.
Nothing's left
              but ashes that scream.

At such times
                all love can do
seems less than zero.
      We gaze dumbstruck
                    on Medusa's face,
       scorching us to stone...


     Do you know what I mean? How can you not know--here and now in 2011--either by direct experience, or from what you've seen and heard about the suffering of others? What I understand of "enlightenment" is the choice, every single moment, to keep my soul wide open and profoundly awake to the incalculable winds of the whole universe. The corrolary must be immense courage--for I can never predict or control what those winds will bring. So my soul is also a cosmic window, and to remain alive and growing there, in my naked soul, means to accept that absolutely anything may potentially enter  and profoundly transform the innermost sanctum of my being.

             WHAT THE WIND SAID

We agreed to meet this hour so I'm here
wind, faithful to the promise. As are you,
gusting with biting urgency on my face.

Then let our palaver begin. But mostly I'll
listen, hoping to grasp what you're trying
to say. Thus far, this is what I understand:

Don't clutch at even the barest "certainty."
It blows away like shingles in a hurricane.
Everything's provisional, forever changing.

That's all. The rest is theme and variation.
Which still leaves me alone with my heart--
its loves and fears, its longing not to die.

Wind, I concede; you're older and wiser.
You prowled before the icecaps formed!
Spellbound shamans conjured your voice.

But I'm so small. The dark's so immense.
Isn't there an axiom I can hold and save,
some truth that doesn't always confound?

I'm the free quintessence of who you are--
the Spirit's breath transforming all things!
Surrender your crutches. Fly home to me.


        What I hear that Spirit's breath telling my soul is not "don't let everything in," but rather "don't try to hold on to one bit of it," because that's impossible anyway. As Heraclitus wrote: "Nothing is permanent in the world, except change." There are so many priceless moments my friend and I shared. They're enshrined in my heart forever. But I can't bring them back, because I can't bring her back. I can't even hold on to our love as a living, breathing, astonishing and immediate experience. All I can do is to be wholeheartedly grateful for what we once had, and to know that it's a part of me now, and has changed my life forever.

     We see clearly...that there is suffering in life, that the suffering is inherent in it, that the cause of it for us is our grasping or our identification. When we learn to be free in that way, nothing can touch us. We discover that there is a real liberation that is possible for every human being. We come to understand the teachings of the heart, and see that it is possible for the heart to open and to contain the entire universe.

                                   --- Jack Kornfield

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Still Small Voice

  Great ideas come into the world as gently as doves. Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear amid the uproar of empires and nations, a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope.

                       -- Albert Camus

      Are we listening attentively? Unless we are, we'll miss the summoning, the wake-up call, the beaconing voice of a New Consciousness which is struggling to birth right now, right here, at any moment of our lives. But what could be harder, while careening along on our globalized, digitalized, information superhighway, than to take the next exit and pull over; to simply stop and truly listen? And listen for what? For nothing out there, "amid the uproar of empires and nations." But rather--for a still, small voice like the faintest fluttering of wings--whispering from the innermost depths of our souls.


Not the barest swaying of a small branch
in the breeze this morning, not that. Not
a starling stretching out one wing, pecking
at its feathers. Not the thought of you
with both hands cradled around your
first cup of coffee. Not even the silence.
No, none of these...Not a single ant
crawling across the tabletop. And not
the farthest galaxy wildly cartwheeling
from the Big Bang! Not any kiss. Not
every tear. It can't be named by these...


      Another name we might use for this mysterious voice, however, is "intuition" -- a knowing which transcends emotion, imagination, conscience, intellect, will, senses, desire, instinct and experience, yet somehow encompasses all of them. There's only  a single, interior "bull's-eye" where the contradictory priorities of each of these many different poles of our beings can ever finally be integrated and reconciled--the human soul. Here alone the Timeless intersects time, the Infinite overarches space. Yet in a supremely materialistic age such as ours, in which the soul itself has been virtually rationalized out of existence, our task of radical rediscovery can scarcely be more difficult, or more essential. 

At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshness;
Neither from nor towards:
At the still point, there the dance is.
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered.

                      -- T. S. Eliot

     It's from Eliot's "still point of the turning world," where the dance is, that the still small voice of our intuition addresses us. And just as only a condition of completely open and attentive stillness may enable us at last to participate in that intuitive dance, so a comparable state of completely open and attentive silence is necessary before we can truly hear and respond to that intuitive inner voice. 


What we have no words for, never
stops speaking to us strangely inside,
although its voice is so terribly small,
so easily drowned out by the clamor
of pain, desire, or even some brief,
minor irritation, like a fly in the soup.

But there comes a moment when,
despite ourselves, awe spills across
every barricade we erect to repel it.
The ecstatic murmur of the universe
swells subversively, waking our souls,
and we shudder, flooded by grace!

Here's the huge, scandalous secret
we sleepwalkers still carry around.
Bit by bit, an incomparable lodestar--
our luminous wisdom, a holy gift!--
got shunted aside. Now we worship
things, money, power, status, self.

Ever since I realized this, I began to
die, over and over. And each time
I'm changed, reborn! The only way
I could recover the treasure I'd lost
was to break free from possession--
that suffocating armor of my fears.


     Nothing drowns out that still, small voice more drastically than fear. As long as I'm mesmerized and obsessed by my own particular demons of terror--or repressing them such that they control my life from the shadows--I can never hear the gentle, wise, intimate, redemptive, divine voice of my soul. So part of the unavoidable spiritual spade work I must do, is first to honestly face and then to courageously come to grips with, my worst, most crippling and addictive fears. As Carl Jung wrote: "There is no coming to consciousness without pain." But this also is true:

The pain was great when the strings
were being tuned, my Master!
Begin your music, and let me forget
the pain, let me feel in beauty
what you had in your mind
through those pitiless days.

        --Rabindranath Tagore