20 June 2018
“Cheap metaphysics … are in frequent demand. With a little effort, a passable living can be made from dispensing them, but then the habit becomes hard to break.“
from the book "Woken Furies" by Richard K. Morgan
When you move about in the fields of alternative medicine long enough, you gather a bundle of beliefs that are shared among those seeking help outside of mainstream medicine. After a time it becomes tempting to simply put these beliefs into words and offer them up as help or even as solutions without really considering whether you have actually experienced these things as truth or simply adopted them because they sound right. There are even ready-made phrases which you can use without any further thought or creativity. In ungracious moments I sometimes call the phrases that result from this form of negligence "Greeting Card Wisdom" (GCW).
These snippets of GCW are easy things to say. In many circles they come across as truth and you come across as wise for having said them. If you offer up a piece of GCW with enough reverence, that reverence may in fact shine back at you from the faces around you. The swelling of righteous pride may even prevent you from feeling the trap clamping its jagged teeth into you.
There are three ways to prevent yourself from being dragged down this path. You can counter every piece of wisdom offered with snarky ripostes:
“You have to rediscover your inner child“.
I don’t want to wake him up, he’s a brat.
“All things are connected“.
My stupid smartphone thinks otherwise.
“You simply need to let go“.
Yeah, I already know who will be the first I let go.
“Your Higher Self already knows the answer“.
My lower self doesn’t have his number.
This may be effective to a point but it is ultimately debasing and a dead end which soon becomes tedious.
The second alternative to prevent this special kind of perdition is to avoid using the phrases at all. The problem here is that you may find yourself simply coming up with alternative phrases which are less threadbare, but no more substantial than the more popular GCWs. You would in fact be creating more superfluous phrases.
The third alternative is to go the long hard road of experience and find out where your truth lies and then let your heart speak, let your actions speak, let your conduct speak and, most importantly, allow for Stillness to speak. Until you have actually met and integrated your inner child, until you have experienced that all things are not connected, but indeed One, until you have gone to that place where you can only go when all else is gone, until you have embraced the span of higher and lower and lived through these categorizations as relative and ultimately superfluous, only then can you safely search for an expression that can facilitate the awakening of the person before you.
My dear departed Taijiquan teacher, Erle Montaigue, used to put it this way: „Some can talk the talk, but few can walk the walk.“ Thanks Erle. I guess „cheap metaphysics“ is the talk without the walk. We all know how far that will take you.
08 June 2018
The first half of 2018 seems to be a time in which many of us face challenges; not just everyday challenges but challenges that shake the roots of who we are. Challenges to our perspective on living, on life, on being here.
This act of being challenged to reassess our lives can be welcomed, even if or even though it causes pain. Growing pains. The pain of realizing the futility of continuing on as always. The pain born of the fear of letting the familiar go.
It is an opportunity for growth. Not "outward" growth - more money, more property, a bigger and fuller belly, more followers and more "likes", more security, more pleasure, more recognition or whatever "more" we strive for. The growth is an increasing openness to living our own unique expression of life, a movement towards absolute transparency in our own life, so that the incredible, divine light of the heart shows through in all its healing glory.
What is it we need? Trust in our divine nature. Patience with our life's path, even if it seems winding and full of dead ends. A willingness to stop and look, so that we may see what is and has always been in front of us. And, perhaps, a smile in our mind's eye. This smile can also turn into the laughter which is a deep confession of our readiness to embrace the world as it is and let go of the world as we would have it. The beauty which we find in the wake of this laughter is true and endless. Trust, have patience, be willing to see, smile and laugh and in the laughter abandon the old and recognize the new.
In my presentations to cancer patients describing the possibilities of supporting their healing using alternative techniques, I have over the years tried to come to a definition of health that resonates more than the official WHO definition of “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The TCM approach to a definition of health including the balancing of qi and the presence of the correct amount of manifest qi somehow also falls short.
Questions asked during my last presentation suddenly allowed a concept to coalesce in my bit of brain and it was at once clear to me what I had been looking for. It is, as often with matters of realization, actually quite simple. Health is the state we find ourselves in when we are pursuing our life's purpose as fully and uncompromisingly as possible. It has little to do with the perceived ailments or hindrances our bodies or spirits are subject to. It has to do with expressing our life, allowing our own unique, individual expression of the Divine to run its course through our lives.
And this begins when we choose to abandon the many belief systems we have been burdened with (well-meaning, perhaps, but a burden nonetheless) and strike out on our own. It begins when we stop judging ourselves and start looking for the best way of expressing that which makes us truly human, in all the wonderful facets this implies.
The road to health has, then, less to do with what we ingest or apply or "correct", and everything to do with what we express. When we allow our divine nature to manifest as our expression of LIFE, what can be greater? There is no room for "illness" or "disability" or "dis-ease" in a life lived to the fullness of our purpose.
What is required? The courage to follow our own heart, come what may. And that is where we start, in the very center of what we are: our heart. We start by learning to listen to our heart. We start by learning not to judge. We start by finding the gratefulness and openness within us and around us. We start by abandoning everything that is not ours, by questioning why we believe what we believe. We start by allowing for our own divine nature to become a part of how we live.
Love, gratitude, respect, humility – my many encounters with the people who have blessed my life have shown me that these states of mind are important and play a significant role in our lives. I have even met people who suspect that our physical well-being depends on whether we can sustain these states of mind in our lives or not. I have also often seen, however, that the question of how to bring about this state of the spirit hovers in the air, unspoken but imminently present. How do I come to feel love for things or people that repel me? How can I develop gratitude for situations that hurt me? How can I respect someone who does not respect themselves? How should I learn humility when the entire society in which I live regards humility as a ridiculous weakness?
Realization or perception is the key. When we recognize what truths these terms refer to and when we experience what reality these states of the spirit trigger, namely the identification with the Source of Being, then the question of "how to ..." has already been answered.
Love is a power that comes from the knowledge of the unity of all things. When the boundaries between the “self” and all that we consider to be "not me" dissolve, what is left is love. The recognition of the truth of "oneness" is the source of love. The experience of this love generates in us deep joy and is a source of great strength.
Gratitude is the power that gives us satisfaction. From knowledge of the validity of all things springs gratitude. This knowledge of the validity of all things is closely associated with love, because the truth of "oneness" leaves no room for invalidity. True gratitude has nothing to do with the fulfillment of needs. To be thankful that we have received this or that is very short-sighted and misses the profound realization of what effect true gratitude has on human life.
Respect generates mental strength and fulfilment. Recognizing the value of all things and learning to appreciate them allows life in this world to bloom into fulfillment. Respect has to do with mindfulness. If we follow with mindfulness all of the gifts that have been brought into the focus of our attention, we see how our respect grows for that which is given to us. Mindfulness is again a key to truth. Mindfulness, without valuation, without judgment and without expectation can be the way to revelation. The revelation of the Absolute leads to unrestricted fulfilment.
Humility is a natural product of the knowledge of the essence of the self. Through the knowledge of our true being, we recognize the nature of the world. Through the knowledge of who and what we really are we will inevitably be in a position to accept ourselves and take our place in the world. Acceptance means that all alienation disappears. Thus humility produces peace - peace with ourselves and with the world.
To experience love, gratitude, respect and humility, we don’t need to do anything except learn to listen and see from and in the state of stillness. In Psalms 46:10 of the Bible the following is written: "Be still, and know that I am God". No more is required of us; indeed adding anything to this statement would be watering down its truth. The great truths of life are not hard, not encrypted, and certainly not hidden. They are open to all of us. We need only open ourselves to them.
I recently had a woman come to me for a bit of advice. She is a civil servant. Civil servants in Germany generally live an extremely ordered and absolutely predictable life: unless they end up doing something deviously criminal, they can calculate with 100% accuracy where they will be in 20 years' time, what they will be earning and how much credit they will have accumulated in their pension fund.
This woman was a picture-book civil servant: absolute financial security, absolute job security, absolute predictability. Somehow, however, something had slipped and some 8 years after her divorce from her college sweetheart ("we parted as friends and still have tea together sometimes") she had fallen in love with a much younger man. What she came to see me about and what she couldn't understand was the carousel of emotions that she was being subjected to. All her life up to that point had been undramatic, level and comfortable. And now she had sleepless nights, heart palpitations, crying fits and uncontrollable carnal desires and even found that for the first time in her life she could feel hatred.
She believed she was terribly ill, some energetic or karmic attack had befallen her or that she was beset by bodyless souls feeding off her energy and destroying her comfortable life. She was desperately looking for some intervention the level of her subtle energies, which she perceived were being thrown into disharmony by forces outside her control. She was so distraught and woeful looking and I had to hold back my laughter, for I felt only joy at what she was describing!
I smiled, she looked at me through her tears and was just about to get very angry with me when I said: "Barbara, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you! Quite the contrary. You've simply begun to live a truly human life. This is what we are. What you were living before is only a fraction of what life is about!" This woman had avoided all circumlocutions, all waves and all of the true pulsations of a rich human life and traded them for security and comfort. And now, as she was given the gift of passion, she was afraid she was doing something wrong, she thought she was being beaten up by her fate or something equally arcane. Well yes, people do come to me with arcane problems, but this was not such a thing. This was her being confronted with her own raw humanity.
She did, once she got over the shock of what I told her, thank me and seemed genuinely relieved. She was able to accept what was happening to her and even see it as something positive. Grand, dramatic, beautiful Chiaroscuro where before, there was only grey.
Truly living your life is the highest form of art. It may hurt terribly sometimes, and it may threaten to break you, but it is what we are intended to be: grand works of art! There no "cure" for a work of art. We can only learn to live our lives to the utmost by embracing our passions and fears and joys and everything else that we are gifted with. Anything less is a waste.
The subject of "belief" comes up now and again in my wanderings and I recently formulated the following for a dear friend of mine:
I don't think everything is a construction of belief. But everything requires belief to stabilise its existence. Without belief, the manifestation of the conscious impulse dissolves. Belief gives all manner of developments a kind of sustainability, regardless of the nature of the phenomenon. Thought arises out of consciousness, the manifest thought is held in place by belief, the manifestation dissolves when a moment of clarity (perception or awareness) negates its foundation and the cycle begins again.
This describes as plainly as possible what I see happening in the world of duality. I will try to expand upon this when I get a chance to explore it further, for it is an important binder in our existence and is worth the effort to look at. Of course you can simply skip to "I know nothing" (see below) and have done with it, but what fun is that?!
I don't often write poetry anymore. But for whatever reason, I was prompted to write this a couple of days ago:
I see behind the light
As only in being I can know:
It is Nothing.
“You know nothing!”
I think it is important for us to take this statement to heart, to learn to take this as the compliment it is, as the starting point for all true awareness. The more we feel we know a thing, any thing, the less we are inclined to look at what has been given with any sort of innocence, curiosity or openness. The chance to discover is stifled by knowledge.
Recently a new student appeared at one of my qigong training classes. She introduced herself, saying that the recurrence of a malignant medical condition had prompted her to come to me. She was somewhat baffled at the deterioration of her own health, as she had taken an expensive course to become a qigong teacher and had apparently believed that this choice of pursuits would keep her healthy. I refrained from commenting on this and showed her the basic movements and breathing techniques involved in the particular form of therapy she wanted to learn from me.
Unfortunately, this woman paid little true attention to either my example or my words. She already “knew” what was important to know, for she was a qigong teacher. She already had pre-finished explanations for executing the movements in such and such a way. She was confident that her knowledge served her well, so her attention was on confirming her knowledge; her mindfulness of what was happening and what she was doing was weak. She knew so much, that it was simply now a matter of learning that last little bit from me so that she could restore her health. It was just this last spoonful of knowledge that was missing. The paradox in this approach was lost to her.
This encounter prompted me to think very hard about my own approach to the people who come to me. Knowledge is a trap which closes in upon us all too readily. To think I know what is right for the person entrusted to my care is arrogance of the worst kind and leads to gross negligence. Knowledge locks us down and seals us. Knowledge is a barrier. Knowledge can prevent empathy, can distract us from becoming aware.
I know nothing. And because I know nothing, I must start from there. From Nothingness. In every encounter, in every glance, in every stirring of consciousness I must come from nothing. Because that is what I really have to share.
I've heard people bandy the term "karma" about for well over 40 years, ever since I got interested in learning to understand things I couldn't grasp with my senses. I've read all sorts of things about it, meditated on it, watched its workings and in the end it reveals itself as just another facet of consciousness trying to make sense of the game it has initiated to recognize itself. Bad karma, good karma, dissolving karma, working karma off, escaping or lifting the wheel of karma - how amusing it is to occupy thoughts with these concepts, to interpret duality in this way. I suspect that it is not our "karma" which binds us, but our obsession with it. Karma is like anything else in a perception of duality - basically distracting. Let it go. Like any concept, it lives through our attention to it. Identify with that which is beyond karma and you will see that there is no real cause and effect. The awareness of the non-dual cannot recognize the dual as reality. Karma "dissolved". Simple, isn't it?
I've been thinking of this business of the "higher self", a term used in "spiritual" and esoteric circles, a term used in some meditations I've been given. I can't get a handle on what this is supposed to be. I don't think there is such a thing.
It is an artificial separation, a denigration of a part of you (the one you usually associate with as "yourself", although if you examine this question of who you really are long enough, "yourself" will likely dissolve) and veneration of another part, thus creating two where there is really only one. This business of higher self and the higher good and higher levels of development and higher states of consciousness is, from my perspective at least, rubbish. It's all there, it's not higher or lower. In the dream state or the amusement park or the soap opera or whatever it is you want to call this thing we perceive of in the waking state as "reality", in this universe there are directions and levels of fineness or subtlety and all manner of shades of light and darkness, but to say there are higher states or developments or consciousnesses or higher or lower selves is simply placing a value judgement on distinctions which we ourselves have created.
I look at the person in front of me and I see a marvelous confluence of timelines and energies and materials and streams of consciousness, or I look at this person in another way and I see God, or I look at him or her and see a part of myself, or I look and see the rightness of the world. Which is valid, which is true, which corresponds to what that person really is? All of them and none of them of course. And if I choose to perceive all of them, then no one view of that person is better or worse, higher or lower. I can choose for an instant to single out God in that person and see only that (well theoretically anyway - in actual fact it is sometimes difficult for me to see only one aspect and separate it from the others), but such an isolated view is just a trick, like crossing your eyes to see everything double when there really is only one.
Then again, maybe my "higher self" is just on holiday. Not a bad idea actually.
There is little else in my experience which unfetters the spirit in the way paragliding does. It is of course not really suited to people with acrophobia or aerophobia, but if you can get past that, the experience is always "uplifting" (sorry, couldn't resist the pun).
During my gliding holiday in Croatia recently I was granted a flight that seemed to mirror experiences of consciousness. Then again, how could it be otherwise - what is not a mirror?
I took off on a sunny afternoon replete with rough thermal vortices and crosswinds, battling with the turbulence until I hit the ceiling of the lower strata of air. By this time I had climbed from 540 meters (takeoff level) to just over a thousand meters. Suddenly and yet in a gentle transition, gentle enough for me to almost miss it, the air became quiet and noticeably cooler. I looked up and saw that I had positioned myself under a rather large grey cloud. This cloud was sucking up air and moisture widely from the lower levels and so I found myself flying in relatively quiet, cool air and constantly climbing. I flew right, I flew left, I turned around and flew back, I flew over the valley and over the ridge and always my sail was gently lifted - not even a hint of sinking. Soon I hit 1350 meters and estimated that I was about 500 meters from the base of the cloud. I began to look for a way of getting out from under this thing; if I got too close, it would suck me right up into it and I would have to take desperate measures to get out of the formless grey, with uncertain chances of exiting with this body unscathed. It kept getting colder the higher I got and I thought about the gloves I had in my back pocket and which I couldn't reach. I soon found the edge of the cloud though, and began to sink before reaching the critical altitude.
An invigorating and fascinating experience, not without its parallels in certain experiences of awakening. I set out willing to see where the ride would take me; trusting in the Grace of the weather and fully accepting the buffeting that initially filled my awareness I soon found myself soaring above the struggle, experiencing the peace of abandonment. I was still acutely aware of both the mortality of this knot of consciousness I label "self" and the dissolution of all things associated with this fragile illusion of humanity. Three levels overlapped or intertwined: the mortal individual freed of any need of discrimination, the elemental unity of all that is manifest, and the unnamed, supra-present nothingness that can no longer be denied. Easy to experience in this situation of overriding freedom - it can sometimes slip behind the screen in the everyday and is only sporadically present in my dreaming state. But the seeds are there waiting for that short moment of stillness to suddenly shine out and permeate creation. Gratitude abides above all else, through all things.
God blew gently upon the water.
You think you are a ripple.
I see you are the breath.
OK, here it is. My penultimate picture of a human being. The nearly perfect metaphor of what we really are:
Tip: the person is the one on the left.
Another tip: What is left when we unravel and discard all the layers of paper (belief systems that allow us to identify ourselves and give us the illusion of a location in time and space)? What is left is who we "really" are.
The good news is, we don't have to unravel all the layers to experience who we really are. We just have to look through the middle of ourselves. In doing so, layers fall off automatically. I guess this is the way of meditation, or what happens when we bring our awareness to our "essence".
Unfortunately, as one of my students recently told me, we tend to paste the layers of paper back on after they've fallen off. Sometimes even after they've been used! Yuck.
Good? Is it not all good? Either everything is a miracle, or nothing. We choose. The I is dissolving, bit by bit. Is it good? It is what it is. Even this I can no longer judge - good, bad - it all seems a silly dream. I let it be what it is, it will not concern me much longer. The path is coming full circle and revealing itself as no path. A melancholic mirth, nearly an oxymoron or even paradox in its fusing of opposites, begins to overlay the remnants of my humanity.
And what is humanity? Good question. What is it we can know, ultimately? In the light of the one, ultimate truth (how inadequate language is - there is no light here and the "ultimate truth" is really nothing that can be named!), the dream of our humanity is just that - a dream. I could surely just as well be dreaming I am a dung beetle and it would have as much substance as this belief that I am human.
What is humanity? If I take away all that I cannot prove to be real, what is left? Certainly not humanity. Certainly not this "I". What we label our "humanity" is a strange bundling of oscillations in the fabric of the universe, a trick of consciousness convincing us that we are other than everything else, or that we are other than nothingness. If we keep going beyond - beyond humanity, beyond separation, beyond the polarities that drive our world, where do we end up? In the place that is no place, in the where that is nowhere, in or better perhaps, as the thing which is no-thing and cannot be described. It is only a question of whether we have the courage or the need to slough off the illusion. Do we really want to wake up from the dream or are we content to dream further? It doesn't matter, both impulses are the same, both are dream substance.
There are three ways to live: attempting to fulfill needs and desires, endeavouring to flow with the workings of the universe, or surrendering to the nothingness in all things. In the first we can be likened to children or to other animals. The second way describes those who have attained some wisdom of the manifest world. The third is the state of Grace.
My experience is simple (though not simple to describe): there is "beyond" (or before or above or below or unmanifest or the Tao or transcendent reality or any number of names that are not the thing, for the thing itself is not a thing and the label is just a label) and there is consciousness. Everything, absolutely everything that is experienced, thought, planned, done, created, uncreated, manifested, eaten, drunk, pissed, grunted, slurped, bothered, left alone, in short, everything we perceive of as having manifest existence no matter how gross or subtle, everything else is consciousness reflecting upon itself. It's scary in a way, but only for ego. Everything, other than consciousness itself, is a projection of consciousness - fullness, emptiness, expansion, contraction, whatever it is that is experienced. Wonderful states, but not "beyond". Perhaps even dangerous if we begin to mistake subtle levels of consciousness' projection for something akin to ultimate truth. Realizing this in a way that all levels of what I have until now labelled "self" partake of the realization brings about some pretty weird feelings. And yet I go on and ego becomes less and less pervading, the self which I've believed to be me is left with ever less significance, dissolves before its own dissolving eyes. Even significance as a concept fades increasingly, as the association with a discriminating awareness dissolves. Indiscriminate reality just is, everything else is projection and discrimination, preference, separation, individualization, everything else is just a play of light, a trick, sleight of hand, a conjuring for self by self. And, in the end, even the distinction between what I've labelled "beyond" and what I've labelled "consciousness" fades and there is no longer any projection, only one non-thing, one no-thing, indescribable and unnamable.
When the bush disappears, you find it difficult to beat around it.
My essence has recognized itself – I hesitate to say recognized its source, because the separation is just as illusory as every other thing in the game. I’m enjoying the ride, but the giggling does seem to annoy some. I understand. They mistake form for essence, gravity for fate, the prismatic lightplay dancing through their substance for a noble truth. Nothing is noble, everything is noble. You, me, the hairy dog next door, the fungus between my toes, the exploding star which creates a thousand planets and a trillion lives – all of it just as significant or insignificant as anything else we turn our attention to. I laugh again. This is a gift, this is the last gift. I accept it. Do you want it?
There's good news and there's bad news.
The bad news is, there are no shortcuts.
The good news is, we don't have to go anywhere.