I stumbled into a conference the other day. I was only looking for coffee, I thought, but after standing in line at Croissant D’Or, and nearing the counter, I left. I didn’t question the urge as I used to. I would worry and fret what They would think–“fickle,” tsk, tsk. Then I went to Cafe Beignet. Same thing. I stood in line, and then realized this wasn’t it either. This is now ending up being a long walk just for coffee, I mused, but simultaneously didn’t resist.
Finally, I enter the Sheraton. There’s a Starbucks there, I “think.” Oh, and then the signage bursts vivid, “Diversity and Inclusion” conference. Yes, that’s why I’m here.
I am finding that what Adyashanti said to be true–that you are not going to get confirmation or pats on the back as validation. You just feel Life living through you, and it doesn’t explain and justify itself to the ego.
Anyhow, contemplating “diversity and inclusion” for several days, I had the takeaway that in the end, Enlightenment is total inclusion.
I want to judge, resist, avert, even vilify certain groups (at times, it never sticks anymore). The latest one was the corporate world. I was ill-at-ease with all conformity in expression, demeanor, protocol at the conference, and I realized that I needed to release that divisiveness within myself.
Wow, there’s nothing like indiscriminate, total love just pouring forth. Maybe it’s just all those good versus evil fables and tales where we’re told we need to have antagonists to challenge us to “grow” but I don’t think so! Anyhow, all these “antagonists” are the judgments we hold. The heart of Life seems to do a gracious enough job of dynamism and expansion as it is. It’s just that I used to believe that it was too radiant, too overwhelming, too intense, too powerful, too graceful, too vivid, too too -and was tempted to shield that Blaze from others, but now I’m more curious to see what else can be embraced and included.
On the equinox I am witness to a friend’s marriage seamed together legally by the Parish justice of the peace. (Two street violinists that I semi-introduced to each other.) And then a few days later, one of my dearest, closest friends here in New Orleans has her teenage son go into a coma and then die a few days later. A wedding and funeral a week apart. And that’s to say nothing of the intensity of other experiences mid-week as well.
Typically, I’m not sure I’d have dealt well with the roller-coaster of emotions swirling around and within me, yet somehow I managed to be uber-present with all of it without pushing anything away. It was punctuated by hours and moments of piercing peace and an alchemical joy that transmuted all things high and low–even sorrow as I did know the boy–into the timelessness and spaciousness of the Infinite. Unbelievable–I wouldn’t know how far “I” have come from being physically numb and holding emotional pain at bay decades ago, to this calm and penetrating presence of acceptance and agape. My heart seems seamless and most open and softened by all this heartbreak and intense, heartfelt feeling that isn’t blocked or dampened or dimmed or dialed down but completely embraced and allowed to have its way and its waves whether tumultuous or gentle–it’s the same, singular Ocean.
I am noting that it is easiest to live as a hermit and know the sublime and ecstatic spaciousness and vastness of the Infinite. I’m sort of saying this tongue-in-cheek because one cannot be ensconced as the Infinite and maintain Apartness, yet it sure seems easiest to “maintain” a sense of abiding non-dual awakening when I am house-sitting with a fridge full of food (thus basic necessities taken care of) and no being to interact with except the cats I’m feeding and the plants I’m watering. Once I go back to the ‘real’ world, that deep cosmic contentment and oneness seems to slip away.
That’s all a long drawn out way of introducing today. Wayne Wirs suggests keeping a blog about Awakening on a day-to-day level, not just the blissful highs and the epiphanies and how we want to be perceived by others. The nitty-gritty of living it and walking the walk…. where the rubber meets the road. I have to concede I usually don’t like to have scrutiny on my “self” that’s less than flattering and would rather discuss the highlights of awakening, but this time it seems more honest and less egoic to not be attached to any image of Awakening or any self-image of how the process of awakening unfolds as me–even if that means revealing the bad, and the ugly, too.
Thinking and mulling rather than being with and experiencing the intensity of emotion that is present. The survival instinct ebbs right this second, but it’s been in full bore freak-out mode for DAYS on end. I clearly can see that the fear of annihilation (the gut level of awakening as Adyashanti might term it) is entangled with the me-ness and how “I” must survive. Yet when is this survival threat? (Or survival fret.) If I check on facts I can verify that I am alive now, and yep, check, there are definitely no monsters under the bed. No imminent threat of not eating, or not having a roof over my head at least as today goes (tomorrow will take care of the morrow)–so what gives? What future am I in? Where am I living at since obviously I cannot be living in reality right now, right here, and still maintain this hormonal cocktail and reptilian brain roller-coaster of incessant fight-or-flight stress.
I am tired of barely surviving and scraping by (that’s a fact, but not what I’m actually feeling–the sensation is of imminent, real-time danger), but am I currently alive, healthy. I know in back of mind (hmm, or forefront) that I am perceiving differently and rather imaginatively and outlandishly (stuff that’s deemed impossible by most, except perhaps mystics and children) compared to my peers lately, and so I make up a cognitive, conclusionary leap that that is dangerous. As if it is a known fact that “The Tribe” kills (or exiles thereby indirectly killing) those that don’t abide by the rote rules and regimen of conformity. (Sure, I can observe that there is no “Tribe” out there and apart and divisible from Me, and that is the Other is Me on a mental level, but emotionally something more visceral is reacting.)
I recall now when I was at a blazing hot start-up in the Wild Wild Web West of 1999. It was touted as a team. We even read The Wisdom of Teams, yet when the ship started to sink (around fall 2000 when post-Nasdaq stock crash venture capital was drying up) it was back to typical corporate every man for himself. It felt as if every one was lying, stealing, embezzling, protecting, shielding, and back-stabbing and it still chalks up there as one of the most horrendous situations that I have ever been in my life. Survival instinct gone haywire. That story seems an analogy, a microcosm of the macrocosm whenever I step back into what many folks call “real” life–the “real” world one enters after they’ve left the ashram for good, or when they go back home after the intense and immense nine-day silent retreat, or when the falling away of the Me construct at the strip mall meets the other parts of ourselves that are confused and contracted and seemingly discordant as our friends, our enemies, our bosses, our politicians, our family, our wars, our recessions.
I continue writing, and noting that this post resolves nothing. I haven’t gotten rid of this fear of not surviving, but I know enough now to know the journey isn’t about stamping out unwanted feelings or abolishing less-than-stellar thoughts. All those have spent eons being buried, squashed, being unmet and discarded, and possibly for this once it’s time for their acknowledgment. This post and many others I presume is for fellow wayfarers–simply a scrawl along the pathless path to show I passed this way and hello.
p.s. If you have no idea what I refer to when I say Awakening, I recommend Sam Harris’ new book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion, as a good introduction.
May all beings flower into your glory, O Infinite One.May all flowers bloom in your grace, O Eternal One.May all seeds flourish in your caress, O Totality.May all things know themselves uncountable in your countenance, O Mystery.May all existence radiate in your brilliance, O Holy Luminescence.
“Crucifixion was a punishment that Rome reserved exclusively for the crime of sedition, for crimes against the state.” – Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, via interview with The Nation
I’ve always feared death by crucifixion.
Illogical, yes–but there it is nonetheless. The terror wouldn’t quiet down simply by being told it was not rational. Before we go on, let me backtrack a little bit.
I’ve decided to blog here again to explore some themes I’d like to flesh out from a different angle on other media I write in/for.
Also I am acting as if I have one single and specific reader. I have someone in mind, and I imagine I am writing for their eyes only. Otherwise, at times, blogging can feel the same as writing for the printed page–disembodied, distant, nebulous. Here I will make it more of an epistle — an intimate letter even though the person I am writing to I hardly know in real life.
Also I am going to come at Enlightenment from an angle I’ve never pursued in public beforehand, and that is from the angle of Jesus as an exemplar of embodying Enlightenment mind, heart, soul, spirit, gut and through every fiber of his being. I’ll also be referencing the Gospels of the New Testament–although not always from a purely historical, scholarly or literal sense–there are also multi-layered symbolic, mythic and mystical ways to hear and heed those teachings as a soul language that communes directly to our soul.
Typically I way more comfortable quoting Buddhist, Advaita Vedanta and nondualistic teachings, yet now I directly confront my fear of crucifixion by bringing up the most vivid example in Western civilization.
Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts of our body is death.
So beautiful appeared my death—knowing who then I would kiss,
I died a thousand times before I died.
“Die before you die,” said the Prophet Muhammad.
Have wings that feared ever touched the Sun?
I was born when all I once feared—I could love.
Art credits: Image is painting, Night at Golgotha, by Vasily Vereshchagin, 1869.
Bonus: An interpretation of “take up your cross and follow me” written by S. Michael Houdmann that resonates with me too as ultimately it’s surrender to the One and Only Self, and not being contained by a conceptual, smaller self. And note too, in Islam, the prophet Muhammad asserts, “Die before you die”–
“Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. After each time Jesus commanded cross bearing, He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25). Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.
Wherever Jesus went, He drew crowds. Although these multitudes often followed Him as Messiah, their view of who the Messiah really was—and what He would do—was distorted. They thought the Christ would usher in the restored kingdom. They believed He would free them from the oppressive rule of their Roman occupiers. Even Christ’s own inner circle of disciples thought the kingdom was coming soon (Luke 19:11). When Jesus began teaching that He was going to die at the hands of the Jewish leaders and their Gentile overlords (Luke 9:22), His popularity sank. Many of the shocked followers rejected Him. Truly, they were not able to put to death their own ideas, plans, and desires, and exchange them for His.
Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.
In Luke 9:57-62, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him. None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests.
As Adyashanti put it in his book Emptiness Dancing:
The Middle Way has nothing to do with the notion of being halfway between two opposites. The Middle Way is when spirit and matter are in harmony–when the inherent oneness is realized. Spirit and matter are not two different things, they are two aspects of the One.
I have a recent creative venture idea that deals with the Marketplace, and there is a part of me that feels like I will be bashed by the spiritual folks because it doesn’t reject money, and then I’ll be bashed yet again by materialists because it doesn’t chase for money. Of course that is my own belief system and convoluted thinking usurping Reality, but there it is.
In My Secret is Silence, Adyashanti has a poem he wrote:
I like to sip sweet tea
a mix of peppermint and licorice –
amber gold and smooth as silk.
I have a silk shirt
that feels like that tea tastes.
It sits on my shoulders
like a warm breeze.
That tea tastes like Ramana’s soft eyes
like Buddha’s serene face.
People go looking far and wide
for the Buddha’s enlightenment
but I just sip my tea
and my tea swallows me.
The Buddha breaks into a grin
and Ramana winks one eye
like my grandfather did
when he knew that I knew
what he knew.
I like green tea too.
Strong and bitter
like the taste of grass.
Like tasting sure defeat –
the kind that you can
taste on the tip of your tongue
the kind that can change
your life on a dime
With each bitter sip
cuts the mind to pieces
cuts it awake
and cuts awakeness
People come here
and listen to my dharma words
when all I really want to do
is sell them a little tea.
“Saunders: Do you use the terms “awakening” and “enlightenment” interchangeably, or are you talking about two different experiences?
Adyashanti: Awakening is when you realize that what you thought you were was nothing more than a dream, and you perceive the reality outside the dream, what’s dreaming the dream of you. It’s not just a mystical experience. It is actually realizing the underlying unity of all things.
Simply because you’ve had an awakening, however, does not mean you stay awake. Enlightenment, in simple terms, is when you stay awake. If the awakening is abiding, that’s enlightenment. And most awakenings are not abiding — at least, not initially.”
Then he adds awakening is really the beginning:
“After that initial awakening, there is almost always the work of cleaning up, of the “me” surrendering itself. I usually say that’s the beginning of the second phase of spirituality: what I think of as “life after awakening.” There’s this myth of “That’s it. I have that experience; I hoist my enlightenment flag, and it’s over.” Sooner or later most everybody realizes it’s not that simple. There’s a whole other phase of the spiritual life that happens after awakening, and in some ways it’s more subtle and complex and difficult to navigate. There’s not much written about it, and most of what is written is so old and trapped in tradition that modern people can’t make sense of it.”