Your body is wheat.
The harvest is ready.
Let this breath brush
the hollow of your throat,
your chest and belly
as a blue moth delights
in the bearded kernel
fattened on its sun gold
Settle here, yet do not stay.
Dance, yet do not touch.
Don't even call it
Discover how, without
a name, without a practice,
you are a gesture of stillness.
in the small.
Photo by Laurent Berthier
there is nothing to know
but this inhalation
softly threading the bones,
tossing the soul like a sea stone
through wave-swirled boulder hollows
patiently carving ventricles
left and right, a figure
eight of doubled emptiness,
a sign of the infinite
for the old blood to follow
with its load of sky
down into the crevice
of my heart.
Grain by grain the flesh
is layered on my sandy shoal
of wind and water, salt and sun,
but just as gradually
taken again by the ocean
of breathing... Indeed
there is nothing to know
but endless life passing
through a body.
Photo by Charles Gurche
A true story of grace and transformation, originally published in the Quaker journal, 'What Canst Thou Say.' I share it again on this Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, July 22. Painting: 'Mary Magdalene,' by Cassandra Barney.
In 1972, I was a pilgrim. Not to India, but to the Medieval shrines of Europe, seeking the heart of Christian prayer. I'd spent several years exploring the wisdom of India with my guru, Maharshi Mahesh. I told him that I longed to know the mystery of Christ. I was not a Hindu.
"Be a Christian," he said. "Take this meditation into the Church."
On my pilgrimage, I visited Vezeley in central France. In the crypt beneath the church is the pilgrimage shrine to the Magdalene: there I discovered that her tomb was nearby. I had no idea she was buried in France. For the first time in my life, I prayed through a saint. "O Mary, mother of devotion, guide me to the heart of Christ!" I wasn't even Catholic.
Much later, I learned her mythic story. After the crucifixion, Mary Magdalene boarded a ship bound for Britain with Joseph of Aramethia. On the coast of Provence, where now is the port of Marseilles, Mary disembarked while Joseph continued to Britain with the holy grail. Secluded in a cave in the hills of Provence, Mary became the first Christian mystic.
But as I wandered on, I forgot about my prayer to her. Several weeks later, in the pilgrim church of Conques, I met an old priest with whom I shared my quest. We did not discuss Mary Magdalene. We spoke of Gregorian Chant and the old traditions. I asked him if he knew of a monastery where the old way of Gregorian chant was still practiced. Mumbling about a tiny Benedictine priory in the south, he scribbled a note which said, "Bedouin, near Carpentras." I stuck it in my wallet.
A month later, bound for Italy, I got off the train in Marseilles by a sudden intuition. I took another train to Avignon, where I reached for the crumpled note in my wallet. "Bedouin, near Carpentras." Carpentras was a three-hour bus ride into Provence. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says, "Be a wanderer." I had no idea where I was going. I had truly become a wanderer.
In Carpentras, I hitched a ride toward Bedouin, which was fifteen miles further into the countryside and not even on the map. No bus, no train stopped there, few cars. I had to walk the last few miles. The village dozed in golden light. Poppies and lavender danced in the fields. Granite hills shimmered in waves of noon-day heat. Everyone in Bedouin was napping: not a soul about town! Was there a priory near-by? A single old man I met didn't know. I started to hike.
Covered with dust and sweat, I walked for hours past meadows baking in the drone of crickets. I came upon a run-down farm where a young British couple leaped through the long grass with butterfly nets. They told me there was no priory near-by and they said that everyone in the region was as crazy as they were. By evening, I was back in Bedouin. With desperate faith, I tried one more country lane at the far end of the village. The sun was an orange candle on the purple hills. I ambled another mile, through apricot groves and a flock of goats without a herder. Then, around a bend, I saw a dome.
It was an ancient Romanesque dome of well-fitted stones, near a farm house and cinder-block dormitory, tidy gardens, no sign at the gate. From the domed chapel came a sound as timeless as the longing in my heart: Gregorian chant.
I knelt in gathering darkness where nine young monks chanted Vespers. An oil lamp flickered from a niche in the granite alter. Carved in relief upon that stone was a woman, wild and naked, long hair covering her breasts. She held the oil lamp in her stone hand and gazed at me.After Vespers, the monks greeted me in silence and beckoned me to supper: vegetables, cheese, lentil soup and bread without words. Then the prior, a young priest named Father Gerard, returned with me to the chapel, where we could whisper despite the rule of silence. In stumbling French I told Pere Gerard of my quest and he invited me to stay.
"I don't even know the name of this place," I said.
"C'est La Prieure de la Madeleine."
Pointing to the woman in the alter I asked, "Who is she?"
"La Madeleine." It was Mary, and this place was hers. Only then, after weeks of wandering, did I recall my prayer at her tomb. "Her cave was in these hills," said Gerard. "This shrine was built for her in the ninth century. She was the first Christian monk. And you are just in time."
"For what?" I asked.
A Catholic feast begins with Vespers at sundown. My saint had guided me to Magdalene Priory precisely at Vespers on July 21. The next day, July 22, was The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. As Tolkein wrote, "Not every wanderer is lost."
For months I worked in the apricot groves, sang the daily Latin Hours, rose for Vigils at 3 AM. There was hard work in the gardens, but the real work was prayer. In that ancient dome, before the soft granite gaze of the Magdalene, I prayed for hours each day, using the meditation technique with which my guru had graced me. The stillness inside me grew boundless, then vibrant, then dazzling. I tasted the light at the center of the soul, where the tiny bud of "I" dissolves into the blossoming "Am" of God. Yet I still longed for a personal connection to the Infinite.
Suddenly, doubt shattered my devotion. Can I unite with Christ through a meditation practice from India? Impossible, impure, even adulterous! I vowed to give up meditation and adopt the Jesus Prayer. I would only use the name of Jesus as my mantra. I tried several forms of Christian practice, but none united me with Christ like my guru's subtle sadhana.
Then came the breakthrough. With a single breath I sighed into realization. I saw that the conflict was not about East vs. West, but intellect vs. experience. God cannot be thought, for God is. I must surrender my intellect, and plunge into a darkness without concepts, a silence without thoughts. From this emptiness, love is born: light from darkness, Christ from Mary's womb.
Meditation deepened and softened, softened and deepened, until my longing was fulfilled. I realized that my bija mantra, the subtle Sanskrit sound heard in meditation, was really an echo of the one divine Word, the Logos "through whom all things are made" (John 1). This Word vibrates through every ancient language of prayer: Sanskrit, Hebrew, Latin, Arabic. The Logos is the resonant energy of silence. It is pure consciousness, vibrating as the seed syllable at the root of all language, before sound condenses into matter. As all material creatures are born of one Spirit-Breath, so all languages are born of one Logos, and all prayers return to one God.
Those who meditate with faith in the divine Name, in whatsoever religious tradition they are born, enter through one eternal Word into the boundless silence of God.
Gazing into the abysmal intimacy at the heart of creation, I gazed into the face of Christ. I saw no form, for his features are dissolved in light, and that light is the fruit of darkness. When two kiss, they are one. They no longer see: yet the beloved is nearer than the lover's own heartbeat. One, yet two.
I understood the Song of Songs, "For your lips are sweeter than wine, and your name is perfume poured out!" I tasted a vintage beyond lips, sweetness beyond naming. The person of Christ was essentialized in the sapphire radiance at the center of my soul.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good!" cries the Psalmist. O seeker, trust in the authority of your own experience. For we are led by the heart to understanding, not by understanding to the heart.
LINK: 'Kenosis: Entering Loss'
(Mary Magdalene Removing her Jewelry by Alonso del Arco, 17th C)
Jesus said to her, “Noli me tangere: Don't touch me. For I have not yet ascended to My Father."
Jesus said to her, “Noli me tangere: Don't touch me. For I have not yet ascended to My Father." ~John 20:11-17
O Magdalene, I never said such words. I said, "Touch me, touch me!" For as you live through my breath on your lips, so I am embodied through your caress.
Touch me in the smallest petal of a wild rose. Touch me in the rain-soaked sunbeam. Touch me in the loam and dahlia bulb, the icy water of a mountain stream.
Touch me through the feline curve of the midnight moon, the rippling pelt of the wild stallion, the fur of mist on fallow meadow.
Touch me in the blue flame of the homeless mother's gaze, ever searching for her child. Touch me in pain unbearable without the nearness of hands. Touch me in the speechless zero of a dying soldier's mouth.
The Word of the Lord is a radiant throb of silence at the heart of sensation. All scripture is written in your palm and pain. Working fingers are as holy as fingers that pray. Therefor touch me in the doubled kneading of risen dough.
Beyond stars and night touch me. Reach into the darkness that was here before I spoke the world: then cling to what yearns back.
My flesh is everywhere now, my inhalation sheathed in your form like the kernel in a chaff of wheat. Because we have met in this garden, holy men no longer say, "God is in heaven."
The time has come for you to repose more deeply in the chambers of your body. Let the marrow of your bones be yeast, fermenting the death-pale illusion that you were ever not ripe.
There is a bridal bower in your chest, where sun and moon lie down to conceive a human thistle, fragrant yet clustered with thorns. The scent brings forgetting, the thorns bring remembrance of grief: these are your wings.
On your ankles you wear the ringing galaxies, the earth your crown, weightless as the moment of death. Let every dust on your naked sole, each atom in the crysalis of your skin, become a doorway to the wedding.
Invite the living and the dead, the rich and poor, those who believe and those who doubt. This feast is not a secret.
14 thousand years ago, when I was 9 years old, my father sent me into the meadow to herd his meager goat flock. From the forest, where I was told never to wander, I heard a thrush song so melodious that it almost seemed like the call of an angel. At the time I did not know that songs do not descend from above, but rise up from the animal kingdom.
Allured, I abandoned my goats, who grazed contentedly on thistles and clover, and plunged into the woods where it grew thickest, greenest, and most wild.
Under a blossoming dogwood tree I met a boy my own age. His skin was blue as a rain-laden cloud in early May. His eyes were twin trillium dancing in fern shadows. Being a prince, he superciliously gave me a commandment: "Leave all your duties and make mischief with me."
"Is this permitted?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, " because the world needs mischief more than work."
"What about the rules?"
"There is only one rule. Fall in love. Then it is your duty to break every other law."
He taught me how to turn my body into a wounded flute with seven holes. He showed me how to pour tears through it. He taught me to catch peacocks by the tail and follow their outraged flight to the moon. He taught me to transcend both sleep and dreams, and to sing all night.
Then my dark blue playfellow led me to a deep pool filled by a waterfall in the forest, where the daughters of his royal cousins were bathing. We tiptoed over the moss and stole the clothes that they had scattered on the bank. Climbing up in a yew tree, we hung them from every branch, laughing and teasing the ladies below, who shrugged their shoulders and covered their buoyant breasts with crossed hands.
I accidentally dropped my wallet into the pool, a little bag filled with my most precious heirlooms. One of the girls dove for it, then came up gasping, waving the purse and shouting, "You must give us our clothes to get this back!"
I called, "There's nothing in that bag but my name, my grandfather's diamond signet ring, and the deed to my father's property. Throw it back into the water. I'd rather see your nipples!"
She did just that, causing the blue boy to laugh with delight. "Well done!" he said, clapping his hands. A very large salmon leaped out of the water with my wallet in its mouth, then swam down the stream toward the sea.
But the blue boy wanted to give the girl a little punishment for throwing my wallet away, not because she had done wrong, but just to tease her. So he blew a breath upon her that transformed her body into a mourning dove. "You may return to your human form tomorrow," he said.
Beating her wings in distress, the dove flew to a willow branch that wept over the water. All night she keened the plaintive ululation only lovers understand. At dawn her sweet mist-muted cry came from afar, over many hills.
When the sun was high and the mist had burned away, she wandered back to her friends, naked and human, her bare feet delicately pressing last night's dew from the moss. "Sorrow is lovely," she said. "Now I will never be afraid. I miss the dark."
Almost 10 thousand years later, while wandering through Manchuria, I met the Old Master of the Way, hitchhiking out of the empire. I was still a young boy. "Before you escape from civilization," I asked the old fellow, "what can you teach me?" He taught me to breathe through the soles of my feet. I still hate shoes.
I followed the caravan routes across Persia to the Roman Empire. On the way, I passed through a picturesque little kingdom called Israel, noted chiefly for die-hard zealots who kept challenging the authority of Caesar, getting themselves crucified, then coming back for more.
I befriended the son of the High Priest while I was stealing pomegranates in the crowded marketplace. He took me to his father's house and, discovering that I had met some sages in the East, the High Priest asked me if I wanted to visit the temple. Of course I did. He made me bathe several times and cover my body in a white robe, then escorted me through the court of the gentiles and into the sanctuary, where I had no right to be.
"Are you sure the temple guards won't arrest me?" I asked.
The High Priest just winked and said, "You're a traveler. Speak well of what you see here as you travel Westward."
He led me down aisle after aisle, past many tables where merchants were selling pigeons, lambs, and wine for the devout to offer in sacrifice. There were pots filled with dinarii and other trinkets of silver. In the heart of the temple, I walked up the stairs past alters of incense and sacrifice, carefully stepping over trenches in the floor that ran with the warm blood of rams and bulls. The Levitical priests seemed entranced by their work of slaughter and didn't notice me, a 12-year-old goy in their midst.
Then the old man led me to the Holy of Holies, its door barely visible in the cloud of incense that perpetually gloomed the pillars and alters. He asked me not to speak, then opened the golden door. We walked into the shrine room at the center of God's little kingdom.
Imagine my surprise. There I expected to see another alter, with a holy book lying upon it. Or perhaps the Ark of the Covenant, containing the tablets that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai. Or even the lost tablet, the one Moses broke in fury, on which a single commandment was written: "Love thyself."
But instead I saw another door wide open, actually more like the black throat of a cave. The High Priest beckoned me with a sweeping gesture, and I walked through. Before my eyes grew accustomed to the dark, I seemed to be spinning through a vacuum, tumbled by waves of pure possibility, like a wildly unbalanced quadratic equation searching desperately for Zero, buffeted and baffled by expanding and contracting bubbles of space-time. I was lost in the swirling maelstrom of infinitesimal worlds smaller than Planck's Constant.
Suddenly I touched solid ground and could see again. I had passed through some mysterious portal into an ancient forest. Thick with cedar, hemlock, ferns and trillium, green shadows echoed with the sound of birds, shrieks of monkeys and other hominids, only the eyes of whom were visible, glinting from the dark. Reptiles with human faces twined around every tree trunk, smiling like flowers, singing so softly that their descant was an all-pervading whisper, mighty in its quietude.
Looking at the High Priest, I yearned for an explanation yet was unable to speak. In a very deliberate and barely audible voice, he said, "No temple can ever contain Adonai, the Lord of Creatures, whose true name is unknown. For God is wilderness, and order is chaos. In the presence of her mystery, all words perish, all thoughts fall silent. A holy scripture is holy only when it conjures images of the ancient forest. To find enlightened, you must be feral again."
So I walked deeper into the green shadows, and swooned... Then I found myself sitting in the market place, eating that pomegranate among the merchants' booths. Where was the High Priest and his son? Had it merely been a reverie? Were the seeds of the pomegranate fermented?
Not many centuries later, I was strolling through a village near the source of the Ganges, and who do you think I encountered? Bodhidharma, the 6th Patriarch, on his way to the North. He invited me to go with him but I answered, "I'm too young. Besides, I've already been there."
That night we lay under the stars. Bodhidharma gave me a pearl and said, "Rest this between your eyebrows." So I did. "Now look into the stars." Then I saw my seven grandmothers riding galactic bicycles, pregnant with light years, bearing the galaxies from virgin silence.
On my way home, I wandered through Macedonia. One night I left the path to sleep in a forest cave. About midnight I was wakened by a goat-footed singer with a three-stringed lyre, who was climbing through the cave on his way back from the Underworld, where he had been dallying with his lover. He gave me a drink from his wine skin and played the richest harmonies, the most haunting melodies, on just those three strings, for the complexity of the universe is only the music of the Trinity, Three in Zero. I began to weep with incomprehensible waves of grief. The singer said, "You must make a lyre of body, breath, and mind if you want to turn your tears to laughter."
I am not sure if this was a dream, but he touched his lyre to my lips and the strings melted like maple sugar candy, dripping down through the hollows of my rib cage, each drop echoing in the cavern of my belly. The goat-man said, "Loop these strings through your nostrils and stretch one to your heart, one to your navel, and one to the tip of your spine." I did as instructed. "Now breathe," he commanded.
As I inhaled, each neuron tingled with a love song. As I exhaled, strange rhyming couplets spilled from my lips in words of evaporated crystal. Even today I breathe these bejeweled sounds. This is how I remain just twelve years old, though I have outlived the world's most ancient volcanoes.
About 2000 years later, I met Jesus. He was an honored guest in the house of my master Levi, where I was a servant boy. Reclining on his elbow by the low table, as was the custom at Hellenistic feasts, Jesus said, "Come here, boy. What are you serving?"
"Olives, sir." I offered him my plate of succulent brown ones.
"Not sweet enough for me," Jesus said. "Do you have any grapes?"
The whole room grew quiet. My master Levi and all the men reclining at the feast wanted to see what I would do, for it was a great sin to insult a guest, and I was a slave boy. "No grapes, sir," said I, "Only olives; but my master's olives are more luscious than any fruit."
At that, both host and guests sighed with relief, resuming their debate on the philosophy of love. Jesus reached his fingers into my dish of olives, drawing out a dripping fistful. Holding his hand over my head, he crushed the olives in his palm and drizzled their juice over my hair. It spilled down my forehead into my eyes and over my lips. Jesus said, "Boy, I anoint you with oil. You are the Christ, just as I Am. Together, we will become pure breath, and enter the bodies of saints and fools."
Deeply disturbed, my master Levi cried, "Why do you anoint this servant boy as if he were a prophet? He belongs to me!"
Jesus simply gazed into my eyes and commanded, "Speak, boy!"
My mouth made sounds, but were they words? Was this a language anyone could understand? I had no idea what I was saying, but I knew exactly what I meant:
"You have wandered too long in blazing desert sun. Come to my oasis of figs, pomegranates, cocoa and apple boughs. Rest in my green shadows."When your eyes take root in my fecund darkness, you will see gemstones lying among the lilies: rocks of amethyst and jagged topaz, blackest onyx, sapphires gleaming with their own inward light."Turn them over one by one and behold, a gushing spring under each stone. And see, dwelling in those gurgling fountains of night are all the serpents that were ever banned by priests of religion from every nation on earth. Now they dwell here, in my oasis, beyond good and evil. Press your face into my streams and drink of these serpent waters!"That was a very sweet night.
Several centuries later, I wandered through the ancestral hills of Eire, searching for elves and leprechauns, having read in a wicked book that Ireland was the last place on earth where the little people could still be found - at least out here on the world's surface. I climbed over a mysterious mound covered with clover and eglantine. Ancestral commotions rumbled from under the ground. In the thicket, a five-point stag was waiting for me. He whispered, "Follow quickly, we are hunted."
Hearing the huntsman's horn, the buck and I ran into the white fog, then emerged in a cedar forest, walking along a deep crevasse in the broken earth. I heard no horn of huntsman now, but elfin music rising from that cleft in the earth. "Fairies?" I asked the deer. But the stag had dissolved into mist.
As I was very tired, and it was evening, I lay down among morning glory vines whose blossoms were folded up. A sweet breath of warmth pervaded that cluster of green. Falling into deep sleep, I dreamed that tiny dancers entered and left my body, carrying excavated treasures which they loaded into carts carved from bone, pulled by winged dolphins who flew up into the night. They exported my whole body, atom by atom, into the stars. And I was made of stars.
Awoken by sunbeams, I was refreshed but hopelessly entangled in morning glories. The blossoms opened wide and gaped with foolish grins, yet the songs they sang were just tremors of silence in the breeze. I had the peculiar sense that this breeze and its silent songs were emerging from my own bone marrow.
Then I noticed a little man sitting beside me on the ground, his endless wheaten beard spiraling around him. Those vacant limpid eyes were like pools of cream, and somehow I knew that he was blind. But he gazed upon me with second sight, holding a ruddy glistening fish in his arms, as one might hold a fat furry cat. It was the salmon who had stolen my wallet in a previous age. This fish had no trouble breathing the sunny air.
"Who are you, sir?" I asked the small wheat-bearded man.
"My name is Turlogh," he said, "Turlogh, the Blind Harper."
"Have you come to teach me to harp, or to see?"
"Ah," he said, "You are so clever! Have not the little people been teaching you my songs all night?"
At that, I remembered the music in my marrow, and watched my breath sink into my heart, where a flame burst out, undulating in the emerald form of a lady with a serpent's tail, on which she could tiptoe and spin, spreading enormous rainbow wings. Her eyes were filled with tears, her lips with a succulent smile. Yes, a harp sang inside me. And deep underground, a chorus answered the song of my body, echoing from the crevasse. I understood that the elves, who lived down in the heart-wound of the earth, had been teaching me their songs throughout the ageless hours of darkness.
"Now you comprehend your name!" Turlough said. The truth was, I had always hated my name, "Alfred." But I never knew what it meant until now. "It is Anglo-Saxon," the little man added. "Elf-Read, which means, Taught-by-Elves."
That is when I awoke a second time, and Turlogh was gone. Or was it the third time I awoke? I am losing count. My life has been a never-ending rosary of awakenings. There in the grass beside me was a rabbit, a squirrel, and a fat raven. They plucked, pulled, and untangled the morning glory vines from my body.
The raven said, "None of the beings you have encountered until now were real. Not one. But we are real. We are animals. We come to you in dreams, disguised as other sorts of people whom you respect more. But you have been learning from us the whole time."
The rabbit and the squirrel stared at me with great kindness, then hopped off into the forest. The fat raven beat his wings and rose into the air, making a croak that seemed like the gong of an enormous star-encompassing bell. At that, I seemed to awaken yet again.
"Wait!" I shouted, "Was it all a dream within a dream?"
The raven called, "Yes!"
I shouted back, "Not so, because ravens can't talk!"
And the raven, now very high above, disappeared into the morning sunshine, singing, "This too!"
"The sun and the moon can be seen in that place.
When looking at that,
bring your mind down to silence.
I will tell you the truth:
the one who has drunk from this liquid
wanders around like someone insane."
Kabir is not speaking of outer sun and moon in the sky, but Shiva-Shakti in vast blue awareness, the solar and lunar energies that spiral your spine, bursting as one light through your pineal gland, igniting the burning bush of your cerebrum.
The liquid Kabir speaks of is the neuro-peptide Soma juice fermented in your dendrites as your meditating physiology bathes in transcendental consciousness. Illuminated body is the Self, and Self is not other than the body. Only the intellect makes them two. But the intellect is a dull sword compared to the diamond penis of Shiva, who wanders around naked and crazy, somehow performing the ordinary tasks of the clerk in an Ace Hardware store.
So you must do the commonplace work of your life, and don’t let on that you are the creator of worlds, the destroyer of worlds, who embodies the megaton brilliance of eight galaxies. Without any calculation, numbers silently fall into place, and all your debts are paid. The archangels in your brain conduct the business, while you dance as a Witness in the silence between thoughts.
If you understand this, it must be after midnight. While others toss in black and white dreams, you and I make love in living color, wide awake.
Painting by Mahmoud Farshchian
You won't achieve happiness by doing anything. Happiness is the dissolution of the do-er.
When every attempt to manipulate, fix, control, heal, and improve, to repeat mantras and affirmations, perform asanas and pranayams, to meditate, to pray, to save the planet, to serve the homeless and poor, to achieve any moral merit whatsoever, when the do-er falls and all effort fails - only then is your Being radiant, immaculate as the sun in an empty sky.You discover that happiness was always already here, like the air before you breathed it. Happiness was never in anything that could be improved by work, for happiness was never outside the stillness that you Are.
This is why every great spiritual teacher first suffers a catastrophe, a loss whose dark sanctity is only reckoned in the light of its later gifts and graces.
O seeker, you desire to be "spiritual"? Then witness the implosion of all your strategies for attainment, the failure of all your efforts to control. Then only will the teachings flow from mysterious silence more inward than "I," more subtle than thought, and deeper than creation.
Your body, mind, and feelings, will be spontaneously activated to love and serve others, only as you surrender the will and constraint of doing, to the radiant silence of the all-pervading Self. Don't be afraid to collapse into Being.
Graphic by Abby Wynne
I feel sorry for the one who says, 'I am not this body.' What hopeless dualism: I vs. the body!
A vaporized zero-energy 'I' beyond the warmth of breast-bone and thigh? A blush without a cheek? He doesn't really mean it. Just trying to sound like a skinny saint in a loin cloth.
Now hear my confession. I don't wear a loin cloth. I AM my body. The whole cósmos is my body, every atom spinning on the axis of its galaxy, each photon tuned to a bursting star. My skin is too astonishing for the world to contain. I incarnate heavens.
Somewhere in my loin glows Krishna Loka. The almond space in my brain stem condenses the Milk Ocean, where Vishnu sleeps on his cobra boat. Mount Meru is a gnat between my eyebrows. Echoing from the hollow in my bones, the hymns of Sama Veda heal forests and wheat fields, calling a new race of honey bees from the planet Venus that orbits my belly button.
Stop trying so hard to be a ghost. Find out how crazy sensuous our Oneness really is. Dance with me. When we touch, we'll be a single lightning bolt, a fiery ladder of solidified silence between earth and sky.
I will dissolve your name in my kiss, but out beyond darkness, your body will keep whirling.
"Let me dwell here on the threshold of two worlds." ~Rumi
God isn't so into the details. God doesn't care all that much whether you say He or She, creature or creator, one or two. God leaves all the busy work up to the devas, the angels, the elemental spirits, right down to the quarkish ayin soph who creates this very thought in a synapse of your brain, then melts back into divine no-thingness.
So if you feel overwhelmed and exhausted by details, maybe you forgot that your awareness is divine, clear and empty as the sky. Drop your 1001 tasks this instant and expand into your true nature, like a bursting bubble of sea foam.
This is meditation, and if its true meditation, you only need a short blast of it to saturate your boundaries with boundless Silence. Then you can get back to the unique task of your earth work, like a busy gnome, a tree sylph, or a peony deva.
Don't underestimate this wild paradox of being human. You are both creature and creator, both the bee and the sap. You are passionate and dispassionate, personal and impersonal. You get to be unlimited while confined to a body. (Anybody can be unlimited without one.) You get to do absolutely no-thing while furiously dancing. (Anybody can be still if there is no dance.)
When you need to get grounded, do the work of a gnome. When you feel too small, dissolve into God.
"Now when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them and said... The kingdom of God is within you.” ~Gospel of Luke 17:20
"Take no thought for tomorrow." ~Gospel of Matthew 6:34
"Before Abraham was, I AM." ~Gospel of John 8:48
Jesus teaches exactly what Buddha, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, Osho, Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and all the awakened ones teach: Be Present. Surrender the burden of your old stories and wake up to the miracle of Now. The present moment is the kingdom of God.
The mind doesn't want to hear this, of course. Mind wants to accomplish something very complicated, and weighted down with history.
Painting by Rembrandt
The Buddha is visiting my town. He is a great disappointment. He doesn't talk about Dukkha, Anicca, or the Four Noble Truths. He doesn't make us sit in the lotus chanting the Heart Sutra. No robes. No glamorous antiquated gobbledegook. And his name isn't "Buddha." It's Raymond Something.
He invites us to a gathering in a dilapidated rancher with moss on the roof. But it has a large living room and the eldering hippie who lives there is kind. We sit silently for fifteen minutes and, since nothing happens, we get restless. Then Raymond the Buddha says, "Let's cut the bullshit. None of you are really happy. You try hard, but its all pretend. Right?"
No one replies.
Then he says, "If you want a workshop in Calling Your Guardian Angels, or Finding the Wisdom of Past Lives, or Using the Law of Attraction for Abundance, then go somewhere else."
Looking at our iWatches, half of us leave.
Fifteen more minutes of quiet sitting. Then he says, "I'm not here to discuss your tribal politics either. If you want to blame the rich for the problems of the poor, or blame one race for the problems of another, or blame the military industrial complex, then you should go to a peace demonstration, though you won't find much peace there. Because blame only isolates the mind, and the more you blame, the lonelier and more desperate you become."
About half the remaining people snort indignantly and leave. The ruffled atmosphere settles down into a deeper silence. He says, "I'll level with you. None of that stuff interests me, because none of it makes anyone free. I'm only here to discuss one thing: how to be free. Right now."
More silence. Finally someone says, "Sir, are we supposed to be doing something?"
"No," replies Raymond. A few more people walk out. A few remain. The silence gets thick and gold, like honey.
"Who can add one moment to life by worrying about it?" Raymond asks. "So let's just sit in no particular posture and watch this breath."
After a few more minutes he says, "Watch this breath entering your nostrils, your throat, your chest. Is it you who makes this breath happen? Did you create your breath?" Silence.
"Your breath is a gift," he says. "What did you do to deserve it? Nothing. Notice this, and be thankful." Silence.
"Now perhaps your mind is trying to 'do' something. Just observe how that is. See the humor and absurdity of it. Then come home to your breath. Receive a breath, and give it back. Smile deeply. This is worship, isn't it?"
Over the next ten minutes, most of the remaining guests leave. Then Raymond Buddha says, "When you exhale, all you can give back is gratitude."
Maybe twelve are left, a remnant. None of them are scholars.
Raymond says, "I'm not telling you, when you leave here, go and believe in the light. I'm not telling you, when you leave here, go and make the light shine. I'm telling you, go and Be the light. Then just work softly at your work,whatever it is. Let your breath touch the heart of every atom in the cosmos. This world is not transformed by thinking. This world is not transformed by doing. This world is transformed by Being."
Raymond stands up. He is dressed in a ragged golf shirt, blue genes, and sneakers. Yet his presence is like a sunlit cloud on a mountain. Flowing like a river, he moves quietly around the room. Ever so gently, he touches each person with two fingers of his right hand.
Some of us he touches between the eyebrows. We barely feel it on our skin. But inside, a cool breeze of emptiness.
Others he touches on the chest, soft as a feather. Deep between heartbeats, we sink through an abyss of stillness.
Some he touches on top of the head. It feels like a drop of dew, melting upward into the sky.
With this touch, you hear the voices of all flowers on earth as they open in the morning. With this touch, you see ten thousand golden suns silently birthed from the center of a galaxy, and it happens in the core of your chest. With this touch, you taste the inebriating nectar of clarity. You are falling, falling through no distance, into the groundless immeasurable beauty that you Are.
The power of Advaita is all-pervading silence. The power of Bhakti is the wave-nature of silence. Particles of matter arise from fluctuations of the vacuum. The dance of Shakti arises from the music of the void. We breathe in. We breathe out. The infinitesimal bindhu between exhalation and inhalation is the stillness where stars and galaxies are born. Rest the befuddled intellect in meditation. One and two are both vibrations of zero
Someone asked, 'What is your inspiration?' I thought about it and realized that my chief inspiration is something so small, so humble, so effortless; yet we cannot live without it. So insignificant that we hardly notice, yet vast beyond conception.
My inspiration is a sacrament that encompasses every cycle of ebb and flow, encircling the cosmos, yet is embodied here, in my particular and ordinary now.
My inspiration is this breath. This breath, nourished by awareness, illumined by Grace.
Grace becomes concrete in this breath, because I am simply aware that I do not take this breath, it is given to me.
Nothing more near, more common than a breath. Yet what moves my breath moves the planets, turns the galaxy, and pulsates eternity as time. This breath sparkles. It is the milk-flow of the cosmic mother.
My breath does not originate in me. It pours from the stars through my crown, my brow, my chest, my belly. Streaming down my spine, a string of liquid pearls, moonbeams pooled in my heart, seeping into every cell of flesh, saturating this body with the glow of God's first word, "Let there be light."
My breath connects heaven and earth. My breath is the first gift, and the last offering. My breath awakens me, reminds me that miracles begin right where I am.
I am still searching for the Breath Giver, so that I may bow down in thanksgiving. But I bow down anyway. Unknowing.
Painting: 'Holy Spirit' by Colleen Shay
The universe supports you to the degree that you are passionate about sharing your unique gift. Only when you risk giving yourself away do you discover who you are. And only then does the Goddess pay attention, bending every law of nature to uphold you. But she is not the slightest bit interested when you imitate someone else.
Why were you created? Don't just say "to love and to serve." That is a platitude. The universe is specific. She loves detail, every brush stroke, down to the bindhu of a single photon. Don't become a generality. Love as You must love, serve as You must serve, despite public opinion.
Be passionate about your work, even if no one else is. That is courage. That is faith. If you are not You, the cosmos will be impoverished.
The only original sin is to doubt that your heart is divine.
A pure light shines within you. It matters not whether you call the light Christ, Buddha, Guru, or Goddess. What matters is to merge with That through love. Then you will see the same divinity in others.
For the sake of world healing, it is time to be the light you are. Meditate, then radiate. Wouldn't you rather look FROM that place than FOR that place?
As soon as you become aware that "I am made of pure light!" countless hosts of sub-nuclear angels muster to your trumpet of intention.
Your flesh is composed of celestial hierarchies, ranked according to the table of the elements, which are waves of bliss.
This explains the little rush and plume of gold that fountains from each dendrite in your cerebral cortex.
It also explains how you can move a mountain. The material world responds to your intention. Earth is an extension of your body through divine antennae: seeing, hearing, tasting, smell and touch.
Send forth your messengers, O Eye, O Tongue, O sacred Nostril!
Even your pain is intensely luminous energy, sharpening your focus, melting ancient boundaries, removing the dross of thought, as long as you don't label it, "suffering."
But the moment you think, "My body is sick, I am a weak and fallen sinner," the heavenly hosts depart, and you are no more than a lump of uncooked bacon.
Engraving by William Blake
I found that when I stopped making any conceptual distinction between happiness and sadness, I became fulfilled.
But when I separated the 'state' of happiness from the natural field of awakened space which also contains the poignant sorrows of the world, the 'happiness' became quite brittle and superficial.
I don't recognize 'happiness' as anything real anymore. It is like trying to separate the air in a sea bubble from the salt water. Peace.
I pledge allegiance to no flag.
I pledge allegiance to no nation,
no government, no border.
True patriotism is rebellion.
True rebellion is joy.
Cast down the mighty, the masters of war.
I pledge allegiance to the poor.
I pledge allegiance to weeds and sod.
I pledge allegiance to the moon and tide.
I pledge allegiance to sun and wind.
I pledge allegiance to the rainbow,
to the light that contains all colors.
I pledge allegiance to coral.
I pledge allegiance to an heirloom tomato seed.
I pledge allegiance to the unborn
curled in the mother's sea of trust.
I pledge allegiance to the dust.
I pledge allegiance to all the winged
and swimming children of the earth,
to crawling things and creatures of night,
to all my friends, four-legged and two.
I pledge allegiance to you.
Transcendental Meditation is so easy it is hard, so innocent it seems nothing. The most innocent is the most profound. The deepest is the softest. The gentlest teaches the hardest truth, shattering the intellectual ego.
As awareness settles into subtler fields of meditation, there are worlds of devotional love to play in. These lokas, celestial realms of the devas, can distract us for lifetimes with their soft lights, pulsations of ecstasy, enticing sensations in the chakras, or brilliant insights for the mind to expound into thousands of pages of philosophy.
In these subtle states of meditation, one might see the luminous countenance of the Guru, Jesus, Vishnu or the Goddess. At this point, many are attracted by paths of bhakti and tantra, "spiritual" techniques that promise heavenly encounters with angels or "ascended masters."
Yet precisely at this stage of meditation one must remember the instruction to leave behind every sensation and every thought, returning to the effortless grace of the mantra, whose nature is to dissolve in the silence between out-breath and in-breath.
Become nought. Become stillness. Transcend every experience of form, even the form of heaven. Be subject naked of object, awareness without a concept. Here, in the flash of luminous darkness, is a union that is both I and Thou.
This meditation actually follows the model of Jesus's kinosis, described in one of the earliest passages of the New Testament, the primitive Christian hymn in Philippians 2. "Christ emptied himself" to become human. When he was completely hollow, emptied "even unto death," he became God. The rarely used Greek word kinosis means self-emptying.
Students of Buddhism will recognize this as sunyata - the emptiness of no-self. Vedantists will recognize it as neti neti - not this, not that. Christian mystics called it the via negativa: the way of negation. But this negation is positive. This nothing is no-thing. It takes us to the Spirit.
The heart of God is ruthless in its yearning for beauty. The sword of Shiva cuts even the hollow from the bone. Being breathed into the groundless chaos prior to creation, is not addition but subtraction, dying with Christ, pruning every branch and twig of the Life Tree. We enter the garden in Winter. The Absolute is not a consolation, but a perfection of loss. And loss teaches you everything.
Without a glimmer of holiness, meditation unveils the soul and God together, until they are one nakedness. So the psalmist sings in Psalm 42, "Depth crieth unto depth." Can you taste the brilliant color of silence? Can you hear thunder in the void?
Transcendental deep meditation dissolves all relationship in the abyss beyond love. Pure awareness, samadhi, is a place that has nothing to do with heaven, or any mythological fantasy of salvation. Transcendence is quite different from a "religious" condition, or a petition to the Lord "above." For here, the Other is nearer than the self. The true Lord is pure Presence.
This is why, upon tasting the abyss even for an instant, many seekers abandon Transcendental Meditation to seek a path more colorful, fanciful, with soft white robes, wooing words, and someone's feet to bow down to. Having touched the groundless depth, they want to return to the surface, to play in waves and bubbles. Only the soul who can swim in the depths without breathing, knows the eternal exhalation of stillness.
In this ceaseless breath, the soul must fast from joy and sorrow, being and non-being, I and Thou. Her path is not an ascent, but a fall into un-faceted onyx, the darkest jewel. She finds true substance: the inward solidity of consciousness itself, making mist of the world. Here, formlessness is more concrete than diamond, and all forms are a mirage.
If the soul has the courage to repose in the adamant depths of her own silence, she no longer worships a creator, for she herself has become the unfathomable fountain of the world.
And yet, after meditation, as we re-emerge into action, the waves of love that emanate from the ocean of our inner silence turn every perception into an act of devotion and surrender. Each breath we breathe out is an offering. Each inhalation is a gift of divine grace.
Jai Guru Dev
If you want to feel a great relief from the project of getting enlightened, or saving the earth, just try becoming ordinary. To accomplish this, stop trying to be any-thing. Just Being is enough.
You might look at ordinary objects and say, "There are no miracles." But in fact, these objects are miraculous - the dandelion, the cloud, the dewdrop, the eyes of a child - for they exist, and Being itself is a transcendental, breath-taking, never-ending miracle.
If you realize that you Are the miracle, you will see everyone as a miracle. That is the only solution to our crisis.
Photo: My plastic Buddha
One is so attached to the light of joy that joy becomes dry, with a brittle smile.
Another prides herself on embracing darkness, and becomes so heavy she drowns in it.
Truth is neither light nor darkness, joy nor sorrow, but the sparkling clarity of pure awareness.
Truth is Awakened Space, not the content within it.
Whether thoughts are light or dark, whether emotions are joyful or sad, these are merely the content of awareness, not awareness itself, which is ever boundless and transparent.
When the space of truth awakens, that space itself becomes as solid as a polished diamond, while the forms that arise and dissolve within it are like a mirage, an evaporating mist.
Once truth is realized as the space whose vastness is independent of its content, there is nothing to grasp and nothing to resist. The continuum of pure awareness simply pervades all experiences, whether sorrowful or joyful, light or dark.
And since there is nothing to resist, awareness ever expands. The quality of boundless expansion is ananda, bliss.
Spacious ever-expanding bliss is the actual nature of Being, which is never limited or contained by the forms of joy and sorrow, darkness and light.
Bliss cannot be practiced, embraced, or remembered. It is the sheer grace of existence, this very moment.
What will you do? If you do anything, you are grasping, and truth will get away. If you don't do anything, you are resisting, and will never find it.
But if a way opens to dissolve the do-er, then there is a possibility that the sky will find you somewhere in the beauty of its vastness, just where you already are!
The final goal is to wake up before the journey begins. Silence is the wildest adventure.
Friend, let your heart be open, which simply means, refrain from closing it. For the ever-deepening adventure of silent awakening requires the courage of an open heart.
Liberation is sparkling awareness. Sparkling awareness is the first and last freedom. Sparkling awareness is pure subjectivity awake in itself, unalloyed with any object.
The objective universe exists as a bridge from sparkling awareness to sparkling awareness. Consciousness projects the universe out of its own energy as an object to perceive. For what purpose? So that, through the act of perception, the subject may reflect back from the object, and become aware of itself as sparkling awareness.
Awareness creates the world in order to perceive it, awaken its own light, and thus experience liberation from the world it has created.
This is a process of ecstasy. Literally ecstasy means "standing out from itself," ek-stasis in Greek. Awareness stands outside itself as the world, in order to become aware of what it is not, so that it may then, through the contrast of opposites, discover what it is.
Sparkling awareness dissolves the external world, its intimate lover, back into itself through love.
Pure sparkling awareness is Shiva. Shiva's world-manifesting power is Shakti, the energy of creation. The appearance of the material world in consciousness, and its dissolution back into consciousness, is their love-play.
The time is coming when the science of physics will verify this ancient Vedic vision. The greatest quantum physicists of the 20th Century have already intimated that this "material" world is made of nothing but consciousness:
"I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness." ~Max PlanckOnce realized as Self-radiance, awareness becomes free of the objective universe, its own creation. The liberation and detachment of consciousness from matter is Sankya, attained through the purification processes of Yoga. This de-linking of sparkling awareness from its created universe is the beginning of freedom.
"Modern physics has definitely decided for Plato. For the smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense of the word; they are forms, or in Plato's sense, Ideas, which can be unambiguously spoken of only in the language of mathematics." ~Werner Heisenberg
"All through the physical world runs that unknown content which must surely be the stuff of our consciousness... The stuff of the world is mind-stuff." ~Sir Arthur Eddington
Now awareness is free to make love to the creation from whom it has distilled itself. Sparkling awareness tastes and sees subtler aspects, finer veils of creation's beauty, until it beholds its Self in all. This process of refinement is Bhakti, devotion. It begins when we see God in the Guru. Then our perception widens to experience God in the leaf, the raindrop, the face of the poor, the diamond radiance in a dog turd.
Sparkling awareness solidifies as bliss, until bliss is perceived as every atom of matter. Then one knows through direct perception that every atom of matter is nothing but sparkling awareness. Yet this alchemical process of transforming perception must begin somewhere, in a moment of ignition. Who initiates the process? A living Guru. That is the real function of a Guru.
Yes, many self-authorized "non-dualists" preach that we may by-pass the personal Guru and be instantly realized. But that is mostly intellectual chatter. In truth, the presence of a living master is not an attachment or a form of bondage, but the portal to freedom.
Advaita is not the beginning, but the end of the process. Non-duality isn't a practice, but a realization of the fullness of Brahman, when one beholds the invisible in the visible, stillness in action, one continuum of silence through the chatter of multiplicity. Then the subject perceives her own consciousness in the object. She makes love to her Self through every perception of the material world.
Shakti dissolves into Shiva through the unity of supreme love, and this union is Advaita. Indian philosophy does not present rival schools of teaching, but stages in the evolution of consciousness, moving from Sankya, through Yoga, to Bhakti, and then Advaita Vedanta.
The entire process depends on our ability to refine the experience of pure sparkling awareness. The process begins when we learn to practice transcendental deep meditation, which gives a direct experience of awareness in itself. The practice of transcending into pure awareness becomes our daily stepping stone. The experience is neither waking, dreaming, nor deep sleep - but Turiya, the fourth state of consciousness. Turiya is not awareness of any-thing other than awareness. The fourth state is awareness of awareness.
Objects cannot cling to sparkling awareness, any more than muddy water clings to the golden lotus. Sparkling awareness needs no object other than its Self, because the subject reflects itself, like a mirror reflected in a mirror. When this Self-reflection gets stabilized through daily meditation, one's awareness remains luminous, changeless, taintlessly pure in the midst of activity, whatever the changing turmoil of the world around may bring.
There is no other liberation but the innate condition of sparkling awareness. Great souls from St. Paul to Gandhi, Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, realized perfect freedom even in a prison cell, because freedom lies in consciousness, not in external circumstance. This is what is meant by dwelling "in the world but not of the world."
Awareness sparkles when Wall Street crashes and you lose all the money in your portfolio. Awareness sparkles when your team is defeated. Awareness sparkles in the midst of sudden violence or tragedy. Awareness sparkles among rain-drops on forest blossoms, or rusty chassis junked in an empty urban lot. Awareness sparkles in your breast, even as a sensation of loss or disappointment. Awareness sparkles in the slowly dying eye of a sparrow on your porch, who has just flown into your glass door. The bliss of sparkling awareness is beyond sorrow and joy.
That thread of poignant kindness for a dying sparrow spreads over the town and forest, over the mountains and sea, through all the stars, until it becomes compassion for all sentient beings in the cosmos. Yet this boundless sorrow is made out of sparkling awareness. It sparkles in the grief and beauty of your mother's last breath, as you gaze through your tears at the finished stillness of her lips. It sparkles even in your knowledge that, no matter how tenderly you may have lived, you could not have prevented any pain, or tasted any deeper beauty.
Love is just a word we use: it is not enough to describe the sensuous all-embracing emptiness of sparkling awareness, which, because it is empty, enfolds all creation. If there is any transformation, any revolution, any enlightenment to be gained, it is simply awareness of sparkling awareness, shining through all creatures just as they are.
For awhile we may angrily rebel against the seeming injustices of the world, or desperately try to reform its fickle fleeting forms. Our efforts may feel heroic, but have nothing to do with real freedom. We are not here to change the world: we are here to awaken sparkling awareness. And yet, awareness transforms everything...
The transformation is completely natural, requiring neither effort, control, nor concentration. How much effort is required to wake up in the morning? "Spiritual" techniques merely function to short-circuit the thinking mind that gets in our way, which may increase the likelihood that awareness falls back into itself. But ultimately, our awakening simply happens by Grace.
The projection of matter from consciousness, the intercourse of consciousness and matter, the dissolution of matter back into consciousness - this whole dance of Lord Shiva and Mother Divine plays through every breath we breath and every love-act of sensory perception. It is all carried out by grace, not the effort of the mind.
Therefor, seeker, abandon seeking. Surrender, and repose in the Self. Gurusharanam. Surrender to the one who dispels darkness with the breath of light. Surrender to him in the form of the Guru, and surrender to him in a mote of dust. Use every sensation as an opportunity to accomplish one simple thing: surrender awareness to awareness.
Your awareness is Shiva. Your awareness is God. This is the final truth. This very instant, wherever you are, the Divine is creating abundance, wisdom, and beauty for you to enjoy as awareness, through awareness, for the sake of sparkling awareness.
Jai Guru Dev