In the coming year, you may not bring world peace, but you may bring a healing light to the person right beside you. Walk gently. Go joyfully. Keep returning to your heart. That is enough.
Shabbat Shalom. Peace of the Sabbath to you. In Hebrew, Sabbath means "stop!" So I tried to stop my mind, but I couldn't. I'm sorry. Forgive me. I can't stop.
I let my mind wander among the stars to the rim of the nebula, beyond blackness, always moving toward Uncreated Wonder. When I arrive at any Edge, I jump off. What a holy Fall!
Perfect meandering in all directions at once is meditation. The mind that gets lost in the infinite is called The Heart.
The absolute stillness of chaos is born of non-resistance, which has nothing to do with concentration. It is just the opposite: the grace that is out of control.
Let your un-diagnosed adult ADHD attain the Sabbath rest. This is Divine Love. You arrive here by caring, but not trying.
Now get on with the silent, fragrant, thousand-petaled explosion of your emptiness.
Photo: Hubble photo of "Star-Forming Region 30 Dorodus"
The earth-plane is a perpetual dance of chaos, a spinning karmic wheel, where we must learn to embrace the co-existence of opposites. That is why we are here. Only by hugging paradox can we drop the apparent conflict and sink into the heart.
Those who wants "peace on earth" should not come to this planet, because the earth cannot provide constant serenity in external circumstance. Look clearly and see that this world is a flickering play of light and shadow. At any given moment, we find places of beauteous calm, and elsewhere, spots of infernal violence. Both heaven and hell are all around us.
Jesus never said that he would bring peace on earth. He said, "I give you my peace, but not as the world gives." He said, "My kingdom is not of this world." He said, "I have not come to bring peace but a sword." What sword? The sword of Shiva. The vajra-sword of Buddha Manjusri. The diamond sword of discrimination, slicing illusion from reality, shadow from substance, so that we may stop looking for peace in the wrong places.
Praying for peace on earth is like asking the wheel to stop turning. To impose permanent peace on human affairs would be a form of violence, denying sentient beings the opportunity to evolve in this dynamic energy-field, where every moment is precisely as it must be to let the mind surrender its clinging and relinquish another layer of illusion.
In this new year, I pray not for peace on earth. I pray that you may find the peace that is always already here, at the center of the turning. For in the radiant silence of your core, you are peace.
'We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.' ~Rumi
Only an embodied being can experience transcendental pure awareness, because the disembodied are too entranced, having no contrasting experience of the material world.
This is the inestimable value of a human birth. For it is only through the contrast of spirit and matter that the Self can awaken, and it is in this earthly body that we experience the paradox: both matter and spirit are made out of the same essence, which is pure Awareness.
Awareness is not thought, but thought arises and dissolves as the content of Awareness. Awareness itself is ever free from concepts and images. Awareness is unbounded, self-effulgent, shining with crystalline light, whose nature is ananda, bliss. In the mirror of pure Awareness, this entire creation appears as an uncaused reflection that is not composed of anything else.
Nor is awareness a product of material particles interacting in the neurons of the brain. Quite the contrary: material particles are vibrations of pure Awareness. Quantum physics verifies that the physical universe is made out of no-thing but "fluctuations in the vacuum." Yet the vacuum is awake: it is pure Awareness. And on this ocean of Awareness, universes appear and dissolve as bubbles.
Our waking world, our dream world, and even the black void of our deepest sleep, are ripples in a clarity that never slumbers. Awareness is the witness of birth and death.
But Awareness has a secret dynamism: the relationhip of Awareness aware of its Self. This transcendental relationship, Awareness of Awareness, is the inner space that creates the universe of subjects and objects.
Awareness is not One, but a Holy Trinity. Awareness is Love in Love with Love. In the Vedic science, this inner Trinity is called Sat-Chit-Ananda. "Sat" is Being, the substance of the objective world. "Chit" is Consciousness, the subject. "Ananda" is Bliss, the ecstatic energy of Subject and Object meeting and dissolving into each other.
The universe arises from this inner Self-relation of Sat, Chit, and Ananda. Thus the seed of all subject-object experiences in the world is transcendentally located, prior to creation, in pure Awareness.
The entire drama of creation, fall, and redemption, is just the story of Awareness. Awareness becomes separate from its Self, overcomes the duality, and reunites with its Self, for the sake of Love.
What are all these galaxies, worlds, atoms, aeons, lifetimes and infinitesimal moments, but Shiva making love to Parvati through the fire of Awareness? What is all this but Christ embracing the Magdalene in the bridal chamber of the Heart?
Again and yet again, through countless perceptions, countless dissolving kisses of subject and object, Love realizes its Self in the fragrance of a rose, the glimmer of a dragonfly's wing, the song of a thrush, the taste of the Beloved's lips...
And so, through every taste of the ordinary, we encounter the miraculous. Our wonder heals the world.
Aristotle was actually describing the Witness, who is more inward to us than our very mind, ever silent and awake, shining through us in the midst of the busiest activity. The Unmoved Mover is pure Awareness.
When I was hanging out in Trappist monasteries in France we sang this ancient Latin hymn, 'Rerum Deus' by St. Ambrose, at interludes between hours of manual labor. Ambrose based his conception of God here on Aristotle's Unmoved Mover.
'O God, creation’s secret force,
Thyself unmoved, all motion’s source,
Who from the morn till evening ray
Through all its changes guid’st the day'
When Raphael painted Aristotle's Unmoved Mover on the wall of the Pope's apartment at the Vatican in 1518 (pictured above), he portrayed God as a woman, setting the wheel of the zodiac in motion. In the Biblical tradition, this Unmoved Mover and ever-silent Witness of action is Hochmah in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek. She is the feminine divine, the womb of creativity.
May all of us find the immovable silence at the center of our turning; for great music, great poetry, great acts of peace making, come from that stillness. This is my prayer for the new year.
The precise moment of solstice is Wednesday, December 21, 5:44 a.m. EST (2:44 a.m. Pacific time). At this instant, the whirling stars invite us to meditate, to meditate and taste, through the sacrament of the macrocosm, what is actually available in every breath...
You are the hub of the wheel. You dwell at the center of all that turns. The still point is everywhere, because its circumference is boundless. Here you may repose in the heart's silence, and be free from the endless karmic cycle, the world-anxiety of action and reaction.
This transcendental awareness is called 'Turiya' in the Upanishads, the thought-free state that is more intimate than waking, dreaming, or deep sleep, and nearer to you than the mind itself. One moment of this heart-silence frees you, along with generations of ancestors, from a mountain of weary weight.
Jesus said, "my kingdom is not of this world," even as he moved through the troubles of outward circumstance. Yes, your core of Christ-consciousness is in the world, but not of the world. The silence at the center of the spinning does not spin.
At the solstice pause, drink from an infinite stillness where everything is washed in rebirth. Enter this brief portal and fall into eternity. Listen to the unstruck gong of the void, the germ of every song of joy.
And never doubt that the solstice repose of light in the womb of divine darkness is the outward sign of a Mystery whose seed lies buried between your every sigh and inhalation. What is the cosmos but the radiant expansion of your own breathing?
You are not here to let bad news weigh you down, or let heavy clouds overshadow you. You are here to irradiate the earth, to lighten its burden, and to outshine creation.
The uncreated radiance that outshines creation is not from above, but from within. It shines from your own heart-center. This is your work. Don't wait for peace. Don't pray for happiness. You are peace on earth. You are joy to the world.
Nothing can rob you of this fiery connection to your heart, except your choice to believe in the anxious thoughts of your mind. If you attend to the chatter that the spinning world feeds you, rather than feeling the silence at your core, whose choice is that? Who is guiding your destiny?
Let your attention sink from head to hridaya. This is the most ancient form of meditation. The beginning and end of all spiritual practice is to rest the mind in the heart.
Then listen. Listening is stillness. Listening sweeps the mind clear and awakens Presence.
There is no need to transit through a hierarchy of ascended masters, angels, initiations, or spiritual techniques. What did Jesus say? "You ARE the light." (Mat 5:14) You have immediate access to the radiance of the Divine, because That is your being. Touch your heart with this breath. Repose in the kingdom.
The Winter solstice is my favorite holiday of the year. Its message is symbolized by so many great festivals of midnight tree lighting, candle lighting, heart lighting...
This is the time when we have no choice but to Fall, to descend into the shadow and honor the night. Holy night is the Mother of stars. And She is the night in our own heart. We should never be afraid of the dark. Darkness is not the opposite of light, but the womb of light.
As the rose grows from composted loss, so the dark night of our soul gives birth to radiance, but only when we embrace the depth without trying to rise, or ascend to a "higher" state. "De profundus: out of the depths" (Psalm 130). Out of the depths I not only cry, but awaken.
With infinite compassion, meditate on You.
I don't mean meditate on your "Self" with a capital S. I mean meditate on the heap of loose threads, rough edges, unforgivable shortcomings, and awkward body parts that you keep trying to reject as you "progress on the spiritual path." I mean all that haunts you, all that you wish you could leave in the past, like Marley's ghost...
Perhaps your religion taught you to repress or cast out your sins. Perhaps the New Age puritans taught you to transcend your "lower" self and reach a "higher" plane. Perhaps the Non-Dualists taught you to repeat, "I am not this body," the most arrogant claim an embodied awareness can make!
And it takes quite an effort, doesn't it, to believe this anti-body anti-matter propaganda? Perhaps this effort has left you weary, weary and ashamed of your constant failure to live "up" to your higher Self. For you are all too human, aren't you?
Yes, and this very humanity, this very mess you keep trying to throw away, may be your salvation...
Old voices told you your body was the wrong color, the wrong shape, with too many blemishes and wrinkles, and too soft. And your mind is even worse! Too angry, too proud, too jealous, too opinionated, too full of lustful images. And so you tried to purge not only your body but your mind: to still it, and separate its true "consciousness" from its thoughts.
Yet all this effort to rise against gravity, all this struggling to look like the blond in the yoga journal on the beach, balancing her free-range grass-fed organic torso on one thumb, is actually killing your spirit. This competition to be the most enlightened kid on the block is starving you. The slavish work of self-improvement, purification, and "oneness," your very "path to God," is what exhausts you!
So what can you do? Collapse.
Collapse and throw all that you ever renounced into the garbage heap of broken vows. Then throw the one who vows and renounces into the heap too. Because this pile of rubbish, this "massa perditionis" as Augustine called it, is the only true offering that God accepts... It is You.
Toss your body on the heap with all its farts and tears. Pour them like an oblation. Heap on your anger and lust as well, and don't forget to throw your "spiritual techniques" on the pile. Yes, "religious practices" must go into the garbage right along with bad habits. Don't you begin to see that your very strategy for rising above the garbage is part of the garbage?
Christ was crucified at Golgotha. It was the Jerusalem city dump. That is where he offered himself to God.
We all have permission to collapse into a rubbish pile and call it "Me." So please fall. Fall down into your authenticity. Surrender your sagging skin, your belly, your aching joints, your moldering brain, to gravity. Then throw in the thrower.
You have always been fighting the pull of darkness: now give in to Her. Surely, friend, you begin to see that gravity is a form of prayer, a wave of yearning from the Mother below, who draws you to her breast.
When you have collapsed and relinquished every effort to rise "above," when you simply rest in the tangled compost of all you despised about yourself, let it solidify. Admire its complete ruin. Say what Jesus said on the cross: "it is finished." Do nothing at all to change any lost or fallen atom. For the outcast heap of your failed efforts is You, and it glows with uniqueness. It is the perfect You that no other human or angel could possibly be.
When you have finished making your mess, bow down to it. Surrender to your garbage heap and be free: is this not the only "path" to liberation?
Now you can become still, because there is no more struggle or search. And as you become still, you will effortlessly expand. Expanding, you will not experience the heap of You, but the space around it. A trash heap exists in space. The trash heap is the blessing that centers your awareness, so that awareness can become the space around the center too. You could not even be aware of space if it were not the space of your awareness...
Become still from striving, and you awaken to who You are. You see that the space around You has also awakened. This space was here before You were born; it will be here after You die. Free awakened space bathes all creatures in its stillness, and that stillness is compassion.
Compassion is simply the nature of awakened space. Compassion is the stillness that lets things be as they are.
Enfold the heap of all that You have despised and rejected with your own open-endedness, your starlit night of possibility. This is a mystery too wonderful for most of us to grasp right now. So we ease into it by sensing the space of compassion as an Other...
Perhaps this space around us is the Christ, the Mother of God, the Buddha, or our own personal Guru. Whatever form of divine intimacy feels nearest your heart, let that one encompass You, seeping into all your rejected fragments, your darkest corners of shame, your jagged shadows. Now look at your tangle of debris through the Other's eyes, the eyes of Love. And very quietly, with the whisper that is really the sound of your own breath, hear what Love tells you...
Listen deeply. Does Love judge You? Does love pity You? Not at all, for pity, like judgment, creates distance through condescension, and Love wants only to be near.
Does Love feel sorry for you? Not at all, because sorrow is not Love's nature, nor is it yours.
Love speaks tenderly but with a smile, for Love wants you finally to see the humor, the lightness of your situation: how your very effort to rise upward brought you down, how your very ascension became a Fall into this mess of tattered remnants, into this wonder of no-way-out, into acceptance, and the fire of self-revelation.
Look now! Are You not enveloped in the vast luminous breath of Love that is somehow also You? Does each particle of You not sparkle with the beauty of aliveness, just as it is? Are You, in all your heaped rejection, not smouldering with Grace?
Only this is what flowers.
It's not so important whether you are white or black or brown, whether you are gay or straight or transgendered, whether you come from a Muslim or a Jewish or a Hindu background. Just enter the circle from any direction you choose and find the center.
Find the divine essence that makes us all human. For when we awaken the heart, our differences sparkle like multilayered petals on a golden dahlia. But when we focus only on our differences, they divide us, we scatter, the circle is broken.
Do we not share the same blood, breathe the same breath, drink one water, grow food from one soil? Do we not dwell together on the same earth?
The full moon unites us in its silent glow. The reborn sun warms every atom of our sacred flesh. One race, humanity. One God, the light in the heart.
And though it may shine like a rainbow through billions of rays, there is only one religion - love.
Painting: Full Moon Solstice Mandala by Caterina Martinico
"One who sees stillness in action, and action in stillness,
truly sees." ~Bhagavad Gita, 4:18
In an already too busy culture, we constantly call one another to action. But do we call one another to the source of action?
Action that arises from the chattering mind has a completely different quality than action arising from inner silence. Deep action is not a re-action. Deep action is not other than stillness. Deep action does not come from belief or ideology, hope or regret, but from Presence.
Awaken to Presence, then see what happens, and what doesn't happen.
In the ancient Shiva Sutras of India, it is written: "Let the mind descend into the heart." In the Philocalia, ancient Christian writings on prayer, it is written: "Let the mind descend into the heart."
This is the first and last instruction for spiritual practice, for the beginner and the advanced, for the East and the West, the left and the right.
Let your mind descend into your heart. Rest in the goal before the path arises. Become the Light that is born from the womb of divine darkness, and irradiate the world.
Painting, 'Dalit Madonna' by Jyoti Sahi
Intimacy does not dissolve boundaries. Intimacy requires boundaries. Love does not erase our limitations. They become translucent. Let love illuminate your wounds, your darkest lines. Learn from the dragonfly, whose wings are precisely defined by the sunlight passing through them.
Painting: 'Shiva Dancing' by Cynthia Rose Young
Krishna and Radha appear as two, Lover and Beloved. Yet they are one self-referential whole. She is longing and He is fulfillment. Implying each other, creating each other, vibrating within each other, they are "Bhedabheda," which in Sanskrit means, "two and not two."
The mystery of Radha-Krishna is your own astonishing Self-awareness. Perhaps you yearn to be "in a relationship," but the truth is, you are never in a relationship. Relationship is in you. You are the continuum of the heart-space in whom all relationships arise and dissolve.
So when you feel this yearning, just become the yearning; let it flow like a river to the sea of your heart.=
The beginning and end of all spiritual practice is to rest in the heart, where stillness delights in the dance of multiplicity without ever actually becoming two. This is the fullness of Radha-Krishna.
Rest as the vastness in whose depth there is no other. For here, both "I" and "Thou" are waves on the ocean of your Being.
You need a soulmate? By the hundreds, by the millions, your soulmates sparkle and dissolve all around you. As they arrive, say farewell. As they depart, greet them.
Everybody you meet is a deeper revelation of who you are. This is true intimacy: a love that welcomes the otherness of its own self-revelation, without needing or clinging.
You grow intimate with all creatures when you are acquainted with your Being. Ever at home in the ground of silence, you are never alone. Your silence regenerates the whole creation. Don't take anyone's word for it. Find out through deep meditation.