Everything is dissolving; therefor each particle of dust is infinitely precious. Nothing is important; therefor you are supremely beautiful.
No greater or less, no higher or lower, each creature the incomparable ideal of itself. Therefor I am free to give the same attention to your lips that Christ gives the soul.
The earth is not important. The sky is not important. Moon and stars are not important. The swirling galaxy is less than a water spider caught in a drain. The highest mountain is a ripple in a sea imagined at the final moment in the fading mind of one just dead.
How important are you? The hollow in a reed, an empty cocoon, the hole in a cheerio carried back to the forest in a crow's beak?
Tell me what thought you had precisely this time yesterday. Was it important? Where did it go? What happened to that thought is happening to our world this moment. We are dissolving. And all the information we have eve been, is stored nowhere.
Existence is loss - yet sacred loss opens space for wider existence. Friend, it isn't my intention to bring you down. What is weightless should not depress you.
I want you to dance on the sea like a bubble that just popped into oblivion. I want to give you wings, like the drop of last night's dew that disappeared into a sunbeam on the mouth of a blossoming iris.
The truth is very simple, but few want to hear it. The happiness I seek, I will never find outside my Self...
Neither in the body nor in the mind - for my mind is also outside me; neither in work nor play; neither in community nor solitude; neither in art nor science nor political action; neither in sex nor renunciation of sex; neither in the senses nor in control of the senses; neither in moral restraint nor in extravagance; neither in wealth nor in voluntary poverty; neither in the robe and sandals of the guru, nor in freedom from the guru...
True happiness is never the product of external circumstance, but a bubbling spring, deeper inside me than I am, overflowing from the core of Being through the portal of the heart for no reason at all, unearned, undeserved. Shall I call this the grace of the Beloved? Shall I call it surrender? Yet as soon as I give this fountain a name, it stops flowing.
To contain a Mystery this vast, one must be very humble, be nearly no one at all: just a veil of transparency, like a teardrop that covers the eye, yet encircles the galaxy.
Lots of talk about "shamanism" these days. People want to visit exotic countries and adopt the lore of indigenous tribes to turn themselves into shamans. But if you really want to be a shaman, you just need to return to your original nature.
You were a shaman when you were born, a master by the time your were six months old! Your throat was the rattle, your belly the drum. The sounds you heard in your body were sutras and godspells full of Earth-power. You uttered ecstatic bija mantras as you gurgled milk from your Mother's breast: "Bawa!" "Ma!" "Om!" "Ah!" Hum!"
As a fetus tumbling through the womb, you achieved every healing posture, embodying all the constellations of the zodiac. And in your crib, rolling, stretching, curling, bouncing, you performed the complete sequence of yoga asanas, your wrists and fingers ceaselessly playing in secret mudras of tantric blessing.
Through the soft spot in the crown of your head, star music poured into your body; and whichever way you turned, your vertebrae were aligned with the black hole at the center of the galaxy. In a cave at the core of your brain was a tiny altar, where you hid a medicine bundle called the amygdala.
Whenever you felt a thirst for light, you simply closed your eyes and turned inward, walking down the forest path from your eyeballs to the pineal gland. There, in a wilderness of dendrites, you drank sapphire streams of wisdom from a bottomless well.
Through the radiant field of Astonishment, you absorbed waves of prana from the empty space around you: it was the true ayahuasca. No need to squeeze the sacred soma juice from rare mushrooms: it was the nectar of your own neuro-peptides, streaming from heart to hypothalamus.
The glowing tendrils of your nervous system did not stop at the edge of your flesh, because your flesh had no edges. Your neurons rooted in loam through the soles of your feet; while your eyes, ears, nostrils and tongue entwined with the planets through filaments of radiation.
The vegus nerve, spiraling like a grapevine round your backbone, was the Tree of Life in the Garden of Paradise, your body, its branches sparkling up into the frontal cortex, bearing the fruit of your joy back to the Milky Way.
Thus your human form, streaming with currents of bio-energetic fire, was a Burning Bush that revealed the one and simple commandment, "Love!" And the symmetry of that commandment contained all the laws of nature in its vast singularity.
O yes, there was a Serpent in your Eden, wound at the base of the tree. But the Serpent was not evil, for no evil existed. How could there be original sin where there is only love? You were born to Original Innocence.
Now that serpent was Kundalini Shakti, who did not dispute with Eve, for the Serpent was Eve herself. They were one and the same Goddess.
Therefor, friend, your unfallen nature is pure wonder. And you may return to your nature now, in an instant, by taking this breath. Nay, by receiving this breath. For breath is not taken, but given. And every breath you breathe is the Spirit of the Creator.
As I watched the news tonight, the announcer kept talking about 'Trump in the Holy Land,' visiting 'sacred sites' that were disputed by the two warring sides. All at once it became clear to me that the cruelest human behaviors, and the slaughter of millions, are rooted in our tribal notion that one land is more holy than another.
Either the whole Earth is sacred, or none of it is sacred. Why is it acceptable to clear cut that forest, leave nuclear waste on that prairie, spread toxic chemicals over those fields, but your little slice of real estate is untouchable and holy? When will we hear the cry of the great Goddess from every bleached coral reef and each wounded branch?
I got very angry and shouted at the news, "Your holy land is no more holy than my back yard!" - and the very instant I shouted the words "back yard," my dear friend Rave landed with a jolt on my back porch, joined by his lifelong mate. Here they are...
I turned off the news. What a sacred evening, every leaf is vibrant with the green Spirit, and songbirds are rejoicing in the golden evening sun!
"Take no thought for tomorrow." ~Jesus, Matthew 6:34
For those who are addicted to thinking, here is a one-moment meditation: Drop This Thought.Drop thought, drop affirmation, drop belief. What can be formed in the mind is only an idea, and an idea can never bring us one step closer to Being. A thought of happiness is not happiness. A thought of God is not God. The image of Jesus in your mind is not what Jesus IS. Crucify the image.
The practice is unbelievably simple, so don't believe in it. Don't even do it.
Dropping this thought doesn't mean trying not to think. Trying to not-think is a form of repression that wastes our energy, because thinking is inevitable. But what we can effortlessly drop is our clinging to ideas. As soon as an idea or image arises in the mind, no resistance is required. Just drop it. Not-clinging requires no effort.
In fact, dropping a thought increases energy. When I drop this thought, the energy bound up in thinking dissolves its form and expands into pure awareness, which is the sparkling joy of boundless possibility.
The moment I drop this thought, an explosion of transparency fills the inner and outer sky, blessing every atom in my body and resonating into the stars.
When you pray, drop the name and form of God. When you meditate, drop the mantra. The very letting go of the mantra is like sowing a seed in dark loam. The seed has to be dropped in order to sprout power. The mantra only bears fruit when it dissolves into silence.
Truth is never the outcome of thinking. We cannot construct an argument, a chain of thoughts, that will end with, "Eureka! I found the truth, now everything will be OK!" Truth is a wave of space in the heart, not a particle of thought in the head. So drop this thought and taste the emptiness of your true nature.
Although we have been addicted to thinking for many lifetimes, thought is not our true nature. One authentic taste of the pure awareness beyond thought awakens a new destiny.
This is not just some "Eastern" teaching. In the Bible, awareness beyond thought is called "the peace which passeth understanding." In the Sermon on the mount, Jesus tells his disciples again and again to "take no thought."
We have left the Information Age. This is the Age of Awareness. We are in recovery from our thinking addiction. Humans all over the earth are now discovering the redemptive power of thought-free awareness. Like the finest wine, sip this awareness in short moments of awakening. With time, it will pervade all your perceptions, and remain sparkling through dreams and deep sleep. "I sleep, but my heart is awake." (Song of Songs 5:2)
Fall into the well between words. One breath of this clarity is baptism. Bathe in the blessing that has no image, no concept, no ideology. This blessing is nameless because it is the very silence from which words arise.
The well between thoughts is ananda, bliss. Why not come down from the ever-circling mind and alight upon the clarity of your heart, like a swan settling on a still lake?
This is a living stillness, not a state of inertia. When I drop thought, there is a sparkling surge of awareness, an awakening of space itself. And because the space is unobstructed by any conceptual form, it keeps increasing. The ever-expanding quality of pure awareness is what makes this space dynamically blissful.
The early Christian mystic, St. Gregory of Nyssa, called it epictesis: "ceaseless expansion into God." Greek philosophers had removed God from human experience, putting the Divine on a static idealized pedestal of Absolute Being. But St. Gregory describes the real taste, the wild flavor of mystical experience: the Divine is not stagnant, but ever silently exploding in wildering widening spirals of ecstasy.
The Sanskrit term for this dynamism within the Godhead is spanda, from which we derive the English word "expand." Spanda is the pulsation within the depth of silence that creates the universe. Quantum physics now describes spanda as "fluctuation in the vacuum." All material particles arise from these fluctuations, and so-called "matter" actually consists of abstract wave-energy: waves of pure mathematical intelligence in the emptiness of the void.
Such pulsing clarity cannot remain a secret inside us. We long to share that bliss which is the effortless nature of mere Existence. And this motivates us to give joy to others. How does our bliss influence the subtle strata of energy around us?
The awakened radiance of thought-free awareness overflows through our senses, energizing our environment. For consciousness, sensation and environment are a single continuum, one field of energy in different degrees of density.
To drop this thought illuminates my senses. Now I can see-hear-taste-touch more clearly, with more luminous energy. This burst of awareness in me reverberates throughout the field of space, cleansing and healing the world.
"Drop this thought" is such an innocent practice that we need not spoil it by turning it into a "technique." Nor do we need to give this effortless practice any duration through time. For the attempt to sustain the practice, as a practice, destroys its innocence and wastes energy.
I can imbibe short moments of "drop this thought" throughout the day, without clinging to the experience. Such moments of ecstatic non-doing are excellent meditations for those of us whose minds are fickle and incapable of stilling themselves. Which means all of us!
Brevity is the soul of practice. Drop this thought now and take a sip of eternity. Then go back to work.
What happens in that instant of dropping thought? "I" dissolve. Nothing is so refreshing as the dissolution of the do-er.
Some speak of instant karma, but what we need is instant grace. Grace is not a state of duration, maintained by concentration, affirmation, or mindfulness. Trying to hold on to Grace is just another thought. Drop it. Grace is only possible as surprise.
Let yourself be surprised by Grace, moment by moment, all day long, and even in the darkest night.
The Sabbath happens when we give up seeking. What's important is not how brief it is, but how conscious it is. One moment of awareness-without-seeking is a precious diamond, a sparkling burst of stillness that annihilates time. Something even more wonderful than happiness dawns the instant we give up looking for it.
"The wind blows where it pleases. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is for everyone who is born of the spirit." (John 3:8)
If we carefully examine the details of this verse, we find that it contains Jesus' meditation teaching on the breath.
Biblical Greek employs the same word for Breath, Wind, and Spirit. More than once, Jesus makes a wise pun on this Greek word, 'pneuma.'
The wind blows where it pleases. Your breath is moved by a mystery, not by your will. Simply noticing that your next inhalation is given, not taken, turns breathing into Grace.
You hear its sound. Listening within, you sense a subliminal whisper in your breath, the sound that Elijah the Prophet called 'a subtle murmur of silence.' In Hebrew, this is 'qol daqah d'mamah.' 'Daqah' literally means 'finely ground or atomized.' The whisper Elijah heard was the vibration of the cosmos at the finest level of creation, where particles emerge from the vacuum. In Jewish mysticism, this sound of cosmic breath is the most holy name of God, יהוה , so sacred and interior that it cannot be pronounced aloud.
The first syllable of this Name is the inhalation, the second syllable the exhalation. These mantric syllables, 'Ya' and 'Hu,' both divine names in Hebrew mysticism, are also sacred seed-mantras in Islamic Sufism, Tibetan Buddhist meditation, and the Hindu tradition of Yoga.
Practicing what they called 'the Prayer of the Heart,' early Christian mystics found these same seed-syllables in the name of Jesus, conjoining the Lord's name with their breathing to guide attention into the heart center. Their classic manual of prayer, the Philocalia, teaches that you may 'enter the heart by means of breathing: therefor, Let Jesus be your breath.' (Hesychius of Jerusalem, 5th C.)
The subtle sound that vibrates through the breath is the very Word of creation. 'In the beginning was the Word,' says the Gospel of John. This creative sound-energy is called 'shabda' in Sanskrit. A Vedic verse declares: 'Adau bhagavan shabda rasahih: In the beginning, the Lord manifested the creation through a current of sound.'
Thus, like a tuning fork, the gentle sound of the divine Spirit in your own breath calls your Being back into harmony with creation's source.
But you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. The experience of creation's source is not a mere intellectual concept. This is not a philosophy, but a direct experience that conceptual thinking cannot fathom. Inhalation arises, but from where? Exhalation returns, but to where? Who is breathing you?
Though our intellect cannot grasp the abyss at the heart of creation, we taste its goodness in our breath: the absolute goodness called 'tova' in Hebrew. The refrain of the Biblical creation story is, 'God saw that it was good.' The goodness of 'tova' is no relative good, in relation to something bad. In the creation hymn of Genesis 1, there is nothing bad, no evil whatsoever. 'Tova' is unfathomable bliss, called 'ananda' in Sanskrit. Absolute bliss permeates every particle of creation with the goodness of God.
Thus Jesus teaches the same ancient secret of the breath that we find in the Yogic classic, Vijnana Bhairava: 'By resting awareness in the space of the heart, between the descending and ascending breaths, one experiences Bhairava, the source of creation.'
So it is for everyone who is born of the Spirit. Can we be born again, re-created through the power of the breath? As stated above, 'Spirit' also means 'breath' in the Bible. Each breath we take recapitulates, in our intimate microcosm, the cycle of cosmic creation and dissolution.Breathing is death and rebirth, moment by moment. Breathing out, we abandon ourselves to dissolution in the void. We merge in divine darkness, the silence that was there before God said, 'Let there be light.' Completely surrendering through our exhalation, we enter a moment of unbounded stillness before the next inhalation arises. Yet this moment is permeated by eternity.
This tiny dimensionless 'bindhu' ('dimensionless dot' in Sanskrit) is the space where worlds are born. In Jewish mysticism it is called the 'ayin soph aur,' the point of no-thing from which light irradiates creation.Between exhalation and inhalation, between inhalation and exhalation, a spaceless silence encapsulates the boundless ocean of divine energy. And this tiny bindhu is the real 'Noah's ark,' carrying us through the waters of dissolution into the next creation. In Sanskrit symbolism, it is called 'Hiranyagharba,' the 'Golden Egg' that floats between creations on the sea of silence. Cosmic energy is concentrated in this golden point until it is born again as the next universe.
These mythologies not only describe a macrocosmic dissolution and re-creation, but the intimate rebirth that happens in each of us through our breathing. There is an ocean of silence between each breath, where the Spirit of God stirs the un-created waters of the void with a gentle breeze. The second verse opening verses of the Bible wonderfully describe this experience: 'Earth was formless and void, darkness was upon the surface of the Deep, and the Spirit (Breath) of God hovered over the waters.'
What is 'the Deep'? ('Tehom' in Hebrew) Is it not the vibrant vacuum described by quantum physicists, where all sub-atomic particles pre-exist as 'fluctuations' and 'probability waves' before they spill into material form?
Thus, by the grace of breathing and not by our own effort, a single exhalation carries us back to the source of creation, where we are 'in the beginning' with God. Then, from that ocean of living silence, the next inhalation arises as a gift. With each breath, we are created again. All that is required is to pay attention.
Mind creates duality between "time" and the "now," as if one is not the other. The seeker wants to stop the flow of "time" and enter the stillness of the present moment, as if "now" is a stasis, a stagnant pool of being, and not a stream of becoming.
But there is no "now" to be grasped and rested in, as if the present is a thing or a place. Because "now" is never an object of awareness, but the subject. I Am presence. Presence is a dynamic wave, moving without beginning or end. And all my suffering arises because "I" resist this wave-flow, which is only the flow of myself.
The paradox is that when I stop resisting the wave of presence, stillness dawns. A wave keeps moving across the ocean, yet at its base the wave is the ocean, and isn't moving at all. So my life endlessly flows through the tranquility of my own awareness, meeting apparent conflicts that arise and dissolve in the stillness I Am.
In the river of God's will, the goal is never in the future.When I separate myself from the flow of the Divine, and attempt to direct its current toward a future outcome, I alienate myself from Life. For God is the very Life from whom I separate myself in order to be in control.
Any goal that I desire is my will, not the Way of the Divine. But when I surrender to the Way, I am in a state of Grace. And this very surrender IS the goal, each moment, wherever the Way wanders.Does this sound passive? Of course it does, because our culture educates us to control, to manipulate outcomes, to grasp for the "ideal," and be ever discontented with what Is. Now just see where this culture of "goals" and "ideals," this addiction to thinking about the future, has taken us...
The real passivity, the real paralysis comes, not when I surrender, but when I attempt to rise above the stream of Now and focus on future rewards. Thus the Bhagavad Gita declares: "Focus on your work, not on its fruits... Established in the peace of Yoga, perform action" (2:47,48).
We do our best work in the present moment. Surrender is never passive. It is "wei wu wei," acting without doing. What disappears is the do-er, not the action.The instant one dives into the stream, Presence is electric, energizing the body with currents of Shakti that connect our atoms to the stars. Their majestic stillness is our dance. Their waltz of fire our stillness.And our "goal" for the future? Whatever it may be, it always comes down to joy, does it not? Yet that joy only thrives in the present moment. Take the stem of a flower out of the water, it wilts. Take love out of the present moment, it fades away.
You Are peace, you Are love, you Are joy...If you surrender to the current of the Goddess, wherever you are, the miracle of Presence arises. Yes, even in the midst of catastrophe.Become present. Let the vast silent clarity of this moment swallow your mind.
(This essay was published in 'Empty Mirror,' a journal of art and culture, on April 28, 2017.)
The relationship of Buddhism and the poetic process is a sublime yet unexplored topic among Western scholars. It’s about the silent space between the words, not just the word itself.
The poet John Keats writes: "At once it struck me what quality went to form a man of achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when one is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason..." (Letter to his brother, 12/21/1817)
In a letter to Reynolds, 5/3/1818, Keats speaks of stepping into the "Thoughtless Chamber, in which we remain as long as we do not think." This could mean nothing else but sunya, the Buddha-nature of thought-free emptiness. Keats describes his creativity in terms that Buddhists would recognize as anatta, no-self. In a letter to Richard Woodhouse (10/27/1818) he writes:
"As to the Poetic Character itself... it is not itself - it has no self - it is everything and nothing... A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence, because he has no Identity - he is continually in and filling some other Body... I have no nature. When I am in a room with People, then not myself goes home to myself, but the identity of everyone in the room begins to press upon me, so that I am in a very little time annihilated."
Jack Kerouac echoes Keats in his Scripture of the Golden Eternity. "Strictly speaking, there is no me, because all is emptiness. I am empty, I am non-existent. All is bliss."
What Keats calls “Negative Capability,” modern artists call “negative space.” Leonardo da Vinci wrote, "Of all the great things found among us, the Being of Nothingness is the greatest." Negative Space is the lesson of Japanese minimalism that influenced Matisse and Van Gogh at the fountainhead of modern European art.
Miles Davis filled his solos with negative space, creating by subtracting. "Don't play what's there," Miles said, "play what isn't there." (LINK)
Silence between notes. White sky between plum blossoms. Void that births creation. Darkness before God says, "Let there be light." The opening verses of the Bible describe the womb of creation in quite Buddhist terms, tohu wa bohu, in Hebrew meaning "formless and void." So the Heart Sutra, core of Zen, declares: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”
What the artist discovers in negative space, the mystic finds in pure awareness, free from the clutter of thought. Emptiness between stars, hollow in our throat and belly, vacuum in an atom, black hole at the center of the galaxy: these are all the same space. This space is awake. It is who we truly are. It is Awareness.
If you fall through the crack between quarks, into the vacuum of infinite possibility at the core of a proton, you will hear the music of the spheres. A pointless bindhu contains the information of the whole universe. The ancient Upanishads proclaim: "Ano raniyan, mahato mahiyan: One atom of the smallest is greater than the greatest."
And so affirms Neruda, the modern poet: "I, infinitesimal being, drunk with the great starry void."
A family of possums
living in an old tire.
Waves of morning glories
drowning an abandoned Chevy.
Who planted these
flowers in the junkyard?
No one, friend, no one.
I would rather love
the smallest good
than hate the greatest evil.
The robin weaves
her nest from threads
of dangling moss, dead twigs,
too ardent for outrage.
The moth does not protest
the evening of the world.
The honeysuckle's thin
conquers the night
with a drop of dew.
What are you resisting?
Be open to the kiss
of rain, the sun's caress.
Expand this vulnerable
sweetness of your heart
and bees will return.
Here's the revolution:
sing in the dark,
People are so anxious these days, because the message they get from the world is that things are totally out of control - so out of control that no one can fix it.
This is exactly the right message for now. Settle down and receive it. Breathe it into your heart: the world is out of your control.
When we stop freaking out, we will get the next message, which is: "So what?" So what if everything is out of our control? Do you really want to control the world? Do you want an almighty leader to control the world? Which one?
Have you ever been in control? Are you in control right now? "Control is an illusion." That is the second message.
Finally, there's a third message for these times, one we can only accept when we surrender the illusion of control. The message is: "All we really have is our compassion, the brokenness of our heart."
We are here for compassion, not control. To love with every breath, to love with each small ordinary deed, even if the deed is merely listening.
You can spread the message of compassion. You must. The world is thirsty for it. You don't need to be a scientist, a politician, a guru, a social "activist," or a charismatic TED-talker. You only need to break open your heart and release the fragrance of love, in your own unique voice, your own royal gesture. With the generosity you are, breathe compassion.