We don't need to construct a "higher self" or a "happy face" that denies the pain, the world-weary anger, the devastating loss we feel this very moment. We just need to open.
Open to the dark without resistance, breathing every chaffing grain of sand into the softness of your heart. Embrace each jagged edge and splinter of the world. Open down deep to the core, until you touch the one who is opening.
Unconditional vulnerability is invincible strength. When we touch our core, the dark broken flower that seemed so heavy with the toxins of human experience suddenly blossoms into what is so light, so fragrant, so whole. Why? Because it is no longer the mere content of our awareness, it is Awareness itself.
Beneath the pleasures and torments of our world is a continuum of awakening - an empty mirror underlying its reflections. Whatever disturbances appear, the nature of the mirror remains untainted: stillness, clarity, immaculate bliss.
Open Awareness is not a miracle. Requiring no belief, no transformation, no journey, it is the merest grace of being awake. Yet this mirror transforms whatever it reflects, drowns every fleeting image in the imageless ocean of love.
The Shift is not
an event you have to
The Shift is always here,
a blessed fall
from the chatter in your brow
to the quiet
the swollen repose
of a snow-bound crocus,
racket of flycatchers
over thawing bog water,
fondle of your
own breath, kindling
the flame of now
in the gray mirage
awakening the brown caress
effervescing in its
99% of our suffering comes from believing in our thoughts. And when we have lost our center, our Presence, we believe that our thoughts are the world. We call them the "future."
But since we were so wrong about the future in the past, it is delusional to continue believing in it. In fact, we have no idea what the future will bring because the future does not exist. An enlightened definition of insanity would be, "mistaking the world for your thoughts about it."
Have a bracing cup of green tea. Gather some wood and light a fire. Take a barefoot Winter walk at midnight in sparkling moon-grass. Slap yourself in the face by plunging your head into a cold forest stream. Or plunge into seva, service, to someone in need.
Instead of believing in your thoughts, believe in the warmth of your skin, the rhythm of your heartbeat, the touch of your hand, the grace of sensation. Use awareness to divinize your sensuality. Awareness is not thought. Awareness is the space that irradiates creation before a thought arises.
When we return to the empty ground of awareness, we become sane again. We gain courage. Courage is waking up from the dream of the future.
Only in the present moment are we response-able, because only in the present moment are we available. Pay attention to the person right beside you. This relationship is the politics that matters. If you are alone, pay attention to a flower.
As your Presence expands, become aware of your living relationship with the stars. Feel them tingle in your body. Your solitude is the hub of cosmic community, a vast wheel of Sangha whose center is wherever you are, whose circumference is infinite.
Let this breath deliver you from the chatter of your mind. Inhale: the universe pours love into your body. Hold this gift in your chest and cherish the Creator. Exhale, filling the galaxy with peace. This is a very profound form of action, free from re-action.
At this very moment you are deeply connected with everyone. There is no "else." The revolution is to breathe. The radical act is to be present.
Flower photo by Kristy Thompson
The incomprehensible architecture of the present moment sparkles all around us with the diamond splendor of the hologram, an intergalactic macrocosm prism'd in the dewdrop of each atom, inviting our surrender to whatever simple task we do right now.
There is no more perfect kingdom, no more wayless way. Just pay some attention to the most infinitesimal ordinary delights, until you taste the nectar of attention itself. This is not an escape. Everything else is an escape. This is simply a call to be who you are and 'do what you are doing': age quod agis.
Minds that are constantly unraveling into threads of bad news, trailing off into regrets about the past or anxieties about the future, become far more useful and powerful when absorbed in the silence of bewilderment, the miracle of Presence.
The most powerful language
does not need to shout.
The most powerful tongue
does not seek a crowd to listen.
The most powerful voice
neither mocks nor offends,
but breaks with the breaking
heart of the world;
does not react, but reveals
from deeper silence
the Word that would create
a new and better place.
The most powerful language
is less than speech
yet more than song,
rustle of evening light,
breath of stars,
sussuration of morning's
first misted ray,
murmur of wind in pines,
waves that pound
in soft surrender
to a grain of sand,
cry of tiny flycatchers
piercing, thawing the bog
the Mother tongue
both Lover and Beloved.
Our public discourse has degenerated into a language of curses, spells of destruction, promoting discord and division. Let a new language emerge from our hearts, seeded in silence, inflected with the sounds of the green earth, to heal and gather us in circles of creative listening. The gift of language was given not to curse but to heal, not to destroy but to create.
The Beloved takes your hand and leads you up the path from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. This path is made of crushed diamonds, so fine it is a mist, a cloud, a morning breeze, a sigh...
Every step is love. The Beloved is nearer to than your name. The Beloved's touch is the stillness between heartbeats. Why have you not taken this path, this wedding walk from belly to brow, from Self to Self?
Because you thought you would find the Beloved in an ashram, a temple, a cathedral, or a mosque? You thought you would find the Beloved on an alter, in a book, a pair of sandals, a white robe?
The Beloved wears only the soft cloth of your inhalation. The Beloved is a vine of roses on the trellis of your spine. The Beloved is more inward to you than your lost rib.
When you were swimming like a minnow in the womb of night, the Beloved sang to you from every star. That song is still inside you. You are still inside that song.
Do not look for the Beloved anywhere special. Wherever you are, just listen, and dance.
"Eternity was in our lips and eyes." ~Shakespeare
Take a long sweet gentle breath in, then give it back... Take another long sweet gentle breath in, then give it back... Root down in silence...
Now open your eyes and create the world you see. Open your palms and fingers to create the world you touch. Open your heart to immerse this planet in the ocean of your love.
For so many lifetimes you have been the antenna, the receiver of information. Your senses were portals to let creation in from outside. You took this passive role for granted. But now is the time of the Turning, when the tide of evolution changes direction. The rays of the universe no longer flow from outside in, but inside out. Humans must now evolve into creators.
You are called to Divine Sensuality. Stream the energy of awakening through your eyes, your ears, your tongue, your nostrils. Radiate the Shakti of a new earth out from your core. From now on, You will be the one who says, "Let there be light!"
Don't wait another moment. Begin now. Or would you rather wait another six million years?
Painting: Earth Goddess by Lihua Zhao
The Goddess said to me, "I have inspired poets,
artists, musicians and dancers to awaken you,
so that you may be the creators of your world;
but instead you follow politicians. I have made you
lions, but you would rather be sheep. Now follow
the golden thread of joy out of the maze of illusion,
back to the diamond palace of your heart."
Artist: Josephine Wall
The cosmos is nothing but pure awareness becoming aware of its self through the energy of bliss.
Though empty of form, the diamond wonder of self-awareness vibrates with ananda, and this vibration of bliss is the Shakti that shapes creation.
Become hollow and see awareness overflow, spilling through your eyes, your nostrils, your ears, your tongue, into meadows and trees, mountains, rivers, and clouds. Rooted in the emptiness of naked attention, each sensation is the moment when God says, "Let there be light!"
Who is this "God"? The symmetry of the vacuum breaks into fluctuations, waves of stillness, discharging the finest sub-nuclear particles as "matter" out of the formless void. Formless void - in Hebrew, "tohu w'bohu" - is not an image from Buddhism, but from the first verse of Genesis.
The very stuff of creation is immaterial bliss, and in the profusion of bliss, there is no external agent or creator. Existence itself is the creator. Goddess Shakti, who is this dancing cosmos, is the virtual reality appearing like an image on a clear mirror in the unmoving silence of Shiva's pure awareness.
The temple garden of Vrindavan, where Radha and Krishna make perpetual love, is the transcendental architecture of your own abysmal silence.
Find the wordless depth of prayer in the midnight quiet between two breaths. There, in that divine darkness, is the bridal chamber where Christ meets the Magdalene.
There is an infinitesimal zero, a fertile seed of yearning at the core of your heart, where the geometry of the cosmos is enclosed, just waiting to be ignited by a ray of bewilderment.
The ancient yogic text, Vijnana Bhairava, declares: "The supreme Goddess, whose nature is to create, constantly expresses herself as exhalation and inhalation. By resting awareness in the space of the heart, between the descending and ascending breaths, one experiences Bhairava, the source of creation."
Dear one, the mirror is inside you. Awaken, gaze, and be astonished. When you are astonished, you re-create the world.
What is a complex mystery to the mind may be a simple sensation to the heart.
Whether it is grief or joy, follow any faint thread of sensation into the heart. It will open a door. The kingdom of love is just a breath away.
"Let the mind descend into the heart" ~Philokalia, Orthodox Christian classic
"Set the mind in the heart." ~Vijnana Bairhava
"See that your chief study be about your heart." ~Jonathan Edwards
But for many of us, the din of electronic media, the buzz of consumer culture, drown our hearts in a stupor of numbness. Our schools teach us that the heart is only a physical pump. Yet science proves otherwise.
Research in neuro-cardiology reveals the heart as both an endocrine and neural center. Like the brain, the heart is rich in chemical neurotransmitters, with an electro-magnetic field hundreds of times stronger than the brain.º
How do we begin to reestablish connection with the heart? Several times a day, even for a few moments, practice this most ancient and simple form of heart meditation: "Let the mind descend into the heart." The breath will guide you there.
Honor even the most delicate fiber of heart-sensation. Merge with it, whether the sensation is pleasant or painful. Even the sting of loss is a thread to the kingdom of God within you. And any sensation is preferable to the anesthesia that our media, our pharmaceuticals, and our shopping malls induce in the heart of America.
The future of humanity depends on whether you awaken your heart.
º Institute of Heartmath
We chose to be born in this world of contending opposites, where everything is coming apart at the 'seems'....
Here we gain fearless wisdom. Fearless wisdom is not knowledge in the mind, but naked seeing, free from thoughts, that penetrates between the opposites, through the seems of mere appearance, until we discover that there is actually nothing to worry about.
It's all a play of light and shadow, prism'd through the diamond of our consciousness. Then we are free to gaze into each other's eyes with love, as jewels exchanging the jagged brilliance we are both made of. Yes, we have some rough edges. But even our edges are made of light.
Walking through this field among a stand of old prairie oaks on a raw December day, I taste that experience again, where my own awareness and the space over the frosted alfalfa are one and the same clarity...
The stark beauty of negative space patterns the mosaic of branches and twigs, receding into infinite gray, resonant with invisible stars; and this space is my own pure consciousness. Within me and without me, the same expanse, the whole planet poised in my own self-luminous mind...
And in the depths of this paradox, the same question haunts me as it did when the experience first dawned over 40 years ago in that meadow near my home outside Philadelphia, on the rolling dales of Chester County, Pennsylvania: Whose awareness? Mine or God's?
This singular momentous Now of consciousness has not changed, has not become a new moment, in over 40 years; perhaps not in a thousand years. Perhaps I tasted this crystaled transparency at some Cistercian Abbey in medieval France on a cold Winter afternoon like this one, walking, walking silently. Solvitur ambulando, said Augustine: "it is solved by walking."
I was a college student home for the holiday, chopping wood at the edge of the pasture, suddenly stunned by the clarity, the emptiness, the boundless transparency of pure awareness, glowing from its own groundless depth with a soft pearl light. I had to stop work and sink to my knees, giving thanks. But to whom, and with what words? I had no prayer to contain this silence, which I now call simply Presence. And I had no one to pray to, because this unfathomable Otherness was my own Self.
No tradition could console me with an explanation of this marvelous space that held the whole earth like a green jewel in an endless moment of glittering emptiness. After much searching, I finally found something like it in the writings of J. Krishnamurti. Years later I would find it in Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the breath of the Master, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; but in the early '70's I was alone.
I had been doing Transcendental Meditation for five years. I knew that it was this meditation practice that had opened me up and spilled me into the universe. And I knew, by the grace of my teacher, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, with whom I had personally studied, that this afternoon benediction over the Pennsylvania meadow was my own pure consciousness. For that is the promise and fulfillment of the teaching: with regular daily practice of Transcendental Meditation, the clear light of awareness will not only illuminate the silence of meditation, but the world around us, pervading trees and hills, clouds and stars... But that is all just an explanation, a series of thoughts in the intellect. And the intellect is so superficial, so puny, compared to the diamond solidity of pure consciousness.
Yet there's the rub! Nothing more abstract, nothing more no-thing, than pure consciousness. Yet when awareness dawns, nothing is more concrete! One finally has the courage to refer to no authority but one's Self. This silent explosion of Self-referral irradiates the universe, dissolving the mirage of the world into the ineluctable eye that sees, revealing this un-created abstractness to be more dazzling and tangible than any material object seen. Chitta Mani: jewel of awareness! All sparkling creatures suspended in the singularity of the diamond Self.
I had received this gift from the master, Mahesh; but as a product of my culture, I needed some confirmation from my own heritage. Because I am a Westerner, the only cure I could find for this poignant crystal arrowhead in my heart, bleeding light over the Winter fields that Advent season when the Presence first stunned me, was the Christian mystical tradition. I was not even a Catholic, but I left home and went to a Trappist Monastery. There, at St. Joseph's Abbey in Massachusetts, I met Dom Thomas Keating and Fa. Basil Pennington, two great Christian contemplatives who were also practitioners of Transcendental Meditation. They had bravely integrated this ancient Vedic wisdom into their Christianity. So I spent many months there, learning from their tradition as they absorbed the wisdom of the Vedic rishis. What sublime spiritual commerce and exchange!
St. Joseph's Abbey, Spencer MA
It was a miraculous time, the kiss of East and West, and it was during those days that Dom Thomas and Fa. Basil first developed the steps of Centering Prayer, which was to become an important meditation movement in the Western Church. I remember sitting with Dom Thomas in his office, which was small and humble despite the fact that he was Abbot of the monastery. We discussed our meditation practice. He said to me, "The future of Christianity depends on whether we can integrate this into the Western tradition..." He believed that the early Church had established Christianity on the contemplative experience of Presence, but over the centuries, dogma buried it.
I realized while chanting in the choir at the Abbey, walking in the cloister at dawn, and working on the monastery farm, that the Benedictine call to "pray and work" - ora et labora - was precisely the same teaching that Maharishi had given modern seekers: "meditate and act." This integration is the essence of the Bhagavad Gita. In chapter 2, verse 48, Krishna tells the warrior, Arjuna, Yogastah karukarmani: "With your mind established in yoga, the state of pure unbounded awareness, perform action."
Through combining vigorous daily work with periods of regular meditation, we integrate action and contemplation into one unified field of energy. Then we truly see: all activity arises in silence, and silence pervades all action. The clarity of pure awareness infuses our work. Finally, we directly perceive the space outside and the space inside to be one continuum, made of consciousness, for all energy, material or spiritual, is the same stuff. The matter of the earth is suffused and glowing with mother-of-pearl, the light of bliss, softly billowing from the emptiness of the void, which is not a lifeless void, but the living womb of awareness. And it is your own Self who shines from the heart of every atom...
The work of the monk blesses and heals the earth with each hoe's stroke in the garden, each drop of seed in furrow. Simply by being conscious in the midst of work, the contemplative envelopes the creatures around her in blessedness.
Yet I realized that Christian contemplatives desperately need to hang their experience of Presence onto the past, in an attempt to ground their consciousness in the story of Jesus. Any "religious" man or woman in whom the experience of God dawns will be haunted by guilt unless he or she can somehow relate it to the doctrines they've been taught.
As far as I could tell, this is how the Christian contemplative does it: The death of the egoic mind is the death of Jesus. In Transcendental Meditation, as in the Christian mystical experience, individual mind dissolves, is crucified, and resurrected as boundless awareness. But in that very boundlessness, ego must perish.
The Christian meditator dies at the center of the cross, the center of paradox, where past meets future, and spirit meets matter. The horizontal beam of the cross is time, the vertical beam is the metaphysical spectrum, from heaven to earth. But in pure Presence, these dualities are annihilated. Death at the center of the cross of paradox leads to enlightenment, a new life.
Our experience recapitulates the story of Jesus again and again, with each breath. Jesus dies and Jesus is re-birthed each moment, Light born from the womb of inner silence. Jesus represents the small "I," Christ is the "Am" of limitless being. Our contemplative life is the death of the "I" into the bliss of the "Am."
When we begin to live this experience not only in meditation, but through daily action, the Inner Light spills from within us, through our senses, into the world. Then we redeem the earth with every consecrated act of perception: tasting, touching, hearing, seeing Christ in all creation. Here is the divine sensuality of Jesus who said, "Take eat, this is my body," or the Hebrew psalmist who sang, "Taste and see that the Lord is sweet!"
The monks practiced deep meditation in their Offices of morning and evening prayer, then suffused their silence into the world through humble manual work, pouring heaven into earth, breathing Spirit into matter.
All great religions represent this process through their symbols and rituals. All religious stories are, in the final analysis, the story of our own enlightenment. As long as we choose to load our experience of Presence with the baggage of an old religious story, whether it is the story of Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Moses or Jesus, we can. And if we choose, we can spend lifetimes anchoring the present to the past...
But at some point we gently relinquish the religion of history, choosing quite simply to bathe in the splendor of Now. Then our religion is freed from the bondage of dogma, and it becomes a lovely poem. We can cherish the rituals, chants and stories as reflections of a Light that we constantly behold, shadows of a Life we perpetually breathe. For all religions symbolize the surrender of the ego to the mystery of unfathomable Presence.
Therefor, O my soul, standing in the windswept meadow, do not ask, "Is this God or my Self?" Allow the paradox of Presence to dissolve two into one and one into two. Let Pure Awareness descend upon these December fields, woods of oak and cedar, hills drifting cloud-like to white peaks in the boundless distance of this starry evening, all creation pressed from the crystal solstice of the birth of light. Let your silence be a Gregorian chant over the earth, each breath a Kyrie.
(Published in Tiferet Journal, 2014)
January 12. Full moon. The birthday of my First Teacher. I bow down.
By his ancient grace, and not through any effort or wisdom of my own, I tasted from an inward grail the precious nectar of Pure Awareness, the boon for which I came into this world.
Through the gift of Transcendental Meditation, I learned by direct experience that Awareness is not thought. Awareness is the substance of the universe.
Conceptual thinking is only one tool by which Awareness extends its domain of wonder into worlds of energy and form. But Awareness itself is beyond thought, as the blue sky is beyond the clouds.
I attended schools both public and private, college and university, yet through all my so-called "education" I never met one teacher who could teach me how to transcend the mind.
The whole educational system was a trap of conceptual thinking, based on the contraction, not the expansion, of Awareness. This kept the student unrealized, unfulfilled, caught in the net of one ideology after another, without ever experiencing the vast ocean of Being, the boundless space where all ideas arise and dissolve like photons in the void.
Then I met a little laughing brown-skinned man from Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas, who was the incarnation of joy. With a single whisper, he opened the way to the infinite, beyond thought. He taught me how to experience what books and professors never teach: the Radiance I Am. And he showed me that this Radiance is the very Light from which the universe is made.
Awareness manifests this world out of its own mirror-like clarity in order to experience itself as an other, and so, through the contrast of opposites, to experience its Self.
To behold the divine Self intimately in another is to love: to "love thy neighbor as thy Self." And this unity of beholding fulfills both the way of Bhakti, and the way of Vedanta. It is the overflowing cup of waylessness, devotion in non-duality, non-duality in devotion.
By the grace of Maharishi's teaching I tasted the subtle essence of that Love which pervades both subject and object, the current of power that runs through every photon and star, the sap of this flowering cosmos: my own Pure Awareness.
Now, 47 years after I first sat at his feet, I still bow down in gratitude and say, "Jai Guru Dev." All gratitude to my First Teacher.
Here is a memory. It was 1970, at a long teacher-training course. A little group of us were sitting with him after a lecture. One asked, "How can I experience what you experience?"
Maharishi giggled, then spontaneously made up this little parable... "The wave asked the sea: Could I be like you? The sea replied: It's easy, just settle down."
The Great Initiation of human birth bestows on us the priestly garment of flesh, anoints us with the oil of pleasure and pain, and opens the temple of holy sensation, where we offer every perception back to its original radiance.
How many devas and angels await their moment of initiation, when they will fall from the heavens to take human birth on this planet of roses and thorns, this vale of milk and tears? For only here can they awaken pure awareness through the contrast of opposites.
Here we gain liberation from the flesh by the very flavor of it. "Taste and see that the Lord is good!" sings the Psalmist. Shakespeare writes, "Eternity was in our lips and eyes." And Zen founder Dogen tells us, "Those who gained enlightenment through seeing blossoms or hearing sounds, attained it through the body."
Awareness cannot awaken in paradise, where poppy fields pour forth their bliss in one somnambulant continuum. We birth awareness in bewilderment, amid earthly contrasts, every moment a startling paradox, a contradiction of matter and spirit, breaking chains of judgment and expectation.
Never ask, "What difference have I made?" The earth was transformed just by your being here, just by your breathing here, just by holding it in the palm of your awareness for a little while, in the warm space of your heart, before you laid it gently in its nest again. What did you whisper to the world, that it grew such star-drenched rainbow wings?
Each sensation is a portal to eternity. Our eyes, ears, nostrils and tongue are ancient spiritual practices bestowed at the Great Initiation: the moment of human birth. In no other world are such profound practices entrusted to the spiritual seeker.
I woke this morning with the clearest conviction that each moment on earth is a miracle, each atom of the world is a temple of beauty constructed by the tireless skill of countless angels, and each sensation of this human flesh, of tongue, ear, eye, is the sacramental wedding kiss of Lover and Beloved. Merely by breathing we are heirs to inconceivable abundance, and if we lack anything at all, it is just a little awareness.
"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' teaching on the breath as meditation.
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 ('Jesu'), 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 story 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 ancient secret of the breath that we also 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. In truth, each breath we take recapitulates, in our most intimate microcosm, the cycle of cosmic creation and dissolution on the macrocosmic scale.
Breathing is death and rebirth, moment by moment. Breathing out, we abandon ourselves to dissolution in the void, merging in divine darkness, the silence that was there before God said, 'Let there be light.' When we have completely surrendered our exhalation, there is a moment of unbounded stillness before the next inhalation arises.
The point between breaths may seem momentary, but it contains eternity. This tiny dimensionless 'bindhu' ('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 explodes into creation.
Between your exhalation and inhalation, between your inhalation and exhalation, a still spaceless dot of surrender enfolds the boundless ocean of divine energy. Here, the Spirit of God gently stirs the un-created waters of the void, an experience wonderfully described in the second verse of Genesis: 'The earth was formless and void, darkness was upon the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.'
What is the 'deep' ('tehom' in Hebrew)? Is it not the vibrant living 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.
"Christ" is the vibration of pure Love emanating from awakened Silence inside us.
Jesus was simply a man, with no theology or belief, who spontaneously acted from the radiance of his Heart. He didn't have a plan, or know what he was going to say a moment before he said it. But in that moment, the living Silence spilled from his lips in words of fire. He was immersed and surrendered in the ocean of Love.
Through the flowering of Jesus, Christ became a personal fragrance that still permeates the earth. Ever so human, like you and me, ever so divine, like you and me, he is imperishable all-pervading Friendship.
Christ Consciousness, Buddha nature, Shiva bliss - it matters not what you call it. The play of Christhood through a personal human form is the work of every soul. Yet we bow down to those who have perfected the work, for they show us the way to become our true selves. We bow in freedom.
"Christos" means "Anointed One." First, we meet the Christos as an other, though the Christos is our own deepest Self. The Beloved's energy sustains us, until we are ready to anoint ourselves.
Breathe the same Spirit that Jesus breathed. Let your Christhood flower like his, and fill all creation with the special fragrance of your Love.
Beware of the science which teaches that your Self is contained in your body. Beware of the education which teaches that your Self is contained in your mind. Both body and mind are contained in the Self.
Body, mind, and even ego, are useful instruments for the Self to extend its wonder into worlds of form and vibration. But they are only very small creatures swimming in the vast un-created waters of the Self, who was awake in its own radiance before the worlds were made.
Indeed, your Self shines through your body.Your Self shines through your mind.Your Self shines through your ego. Your Self shines through the Moon and Sun. Your Self pervades the stars, and the space beyond the stars.
The body grows old and dies. The mind dissolves each moment. But the Self is a continuum that neither comes nor goes, neither sleeps nor awakens. Changeless and infinitely interior, more intimate than "I" to "Am," the Self does not think, feel, or perceive; the Self only witnesses the thoughts, feelings and perceptions that arise and subside in the depths of your stillness, like clouds in the blue sky.
Motionless yet moving all creation, silent yet inspiring all harmony, the Self is beyond birth and death, beyond happiness and sorrow, beyond light and darkness. The Self is pure bliss. Truly, the Self is pure bliss.
Therefor repose in the infinitesimal bindhu at the core of your heart between out-breath and in-breath. Here you will enter the dwelling of the eternal Self who outshines the universe. In this space you have no enemy, no fear, no blame, neither past nor future, for in this space the earth is created afresh
with each inhalation.
Whether you name the Self Bodhichitta, Christ, Shiva, or Guru makes no difference. If you arrive by the path of Buddhism or Yoga, Judaism or Islam, the Gods and Goddesses of trees and flowers, or have no path at all, makes no difference. What matters is simply to rest in the space of the Self as you gaze into the eyes of the Beloved, even when the Beloved takes the form of a stranger or an enemy.
This gaze is victory. This gaze is the healing. This gaze is peace. For to see through the eye of the heart is to see your Self in every Thou. Truly, the Self is pure bliss.
Now, friend, isn't it time to stop looking FOR that place, and start looking FROM that place?
In the symbolism of Hindu art, Krishna's body is the color blue. This blue color is signified by the seed syllable Shyam, another name for Krishna. The sound of this bija mantra expresses Krishna's boundless sky-blue essence. The color blue is the vibration of infinite beauty before it takes any form.
At the heart of Vaishnavite philosophy is the esoteric teaching that this formless blue essence has a transcendental form. This form is not composed of matter, but of pure mathematical symmetry, the mathematics of the void. It is from the algebraic symmetry of the vacuum that creation is generated from nothing, a teaching not only of ancient Indian seers but of modern quantum physics. And it is within the transcendental symmetry of pure mathematics that the body of Shyam crystallizes.
Just so, 11th Century Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen gazed into transcendental emptiness and saw the lineaments of a cosmic human form. She called this form the mysterious "blue man," as portrayed in one of her visionary mandalas. Was this the cosmic Christ? Was it Krishna? Are they one and the same?
In the final canto of Dante's Divine Comedy, guided by his muse, the feminine intuitive power Beatrice, the poet ascends to the beatific vision. He gazes through the empyrean of the celestial rose, which contains in tier upon tier of petaled consciousness all saints, enlightened souls and bodhisattvas.
As Dante's vision penetrates the void at the center of that flower, he sees three interpenetrating spheres that "circle the square": the quintessential symmetry at the heart of all matter and energy. With a final breath of transcendence, just before his vision falls back into finite mind, Dante sees the lineaments of a human body, composed not of flesh but of seeing itself, the very form of the formless, the Christ-all-ized vacuum. This vision is at the heart of Renaissance art and alchemy, "man the measure of all things," as expressed by Leonardo da Vinci's drawing, "Vetruvian Man."
The Eye that is humble enough to gaze into the center of the smallest atom, sees the womb of galaxies. The Eye that is courageous enough to penetrate the darkest radiance, sees the amethyst at the heart of No-thing, where zero engenders infinity. This Eye will not be satisfied by the impersonal. For there is a secret deeper than the Absolute: the secret of Hildegard's Blue Man, the secret of Krishna's sky-blue body, the secret of Christ's humanity conceived in the womb of the Mother Void. Beyond abstraction, beyond the Un-created, beyond the merely One, this Eye will gaze into the face of the Beloved.
Mandala by Hildegard of Bingen, 12th C.
The mind cannot liberate itself. Liberation requires the grace of the body.
In the final vision of Dante's Paradise, Canto 33, at the radiant center of the divine essence, the poet beholds the archetype of the human body:
O everlasting Light, you dwell aloneThus in First Corinthians 6:20, Paul the Apostle writes, "Glorify God in your body."
in yourself, know yourself alone, and known
and knowing, love and smile upon yourself!
That central circle which appeared in you
to be conceived as a reflected light,
after my eye had studied it awhile,
within itself and in its coloring
seemed to be illumined with our human likeness...
If we did not have this body, we would be hopelessly trapped in the whirlwind of our thoughts, like the disembodied souls in Dante's purgatory, driven by every gust of desire and habit. Our thoughts would be magnified into worlds from which we would have no escape. Would you want to be swept away in the phantasms of your mind?
Thanks to our body, we become aware of this breath, this sensation in the physical energy field, this warmth in the heart, and gently shift out of our mind. The body is our ticket to liberation.
When we step out of the stream of thought, onto the solid ground of flesh and bone, in the fresh air of breathing, we have the freedom to become aware of Awareness, which is the field where our atoms dance.
For over three thousand years our civilization has been crippled by the hierarchical dominance of "mind over body." This doubtless produced some useful inventions, but it also took a brutal toll, establishing a culture of intellectuals, technocrats and imperial patriarchs who exploited earth's resources in the service of ideology and dogma.
Now we unfold a whole new cycle in the spiral of evolution. We no longer ascend a stairway from the body to mind to Spirit; we walk a barefoot forest path from mind to body to Awareness.
Let us awaken by transcending the bondage of thought. Let us awaken through the sensation of subtler energy fields in our sacred flesh. Then, in Jesus words, "the whole body is filled with light" (Matthew 6:22).
Our physiology is the landscape of consciousness.
One of the greatest obstacles on our spiritual journey is the illusion that the Master is outside us. In truth, from the beginning of time, the Master has always dwelt within.
The Master is the luminosity of our own consciousness, drawing us intimately into relationship with the heart, and through the heart, into intimacy with all sentient beings. The external Master meets us one day and gazes into our eyes for no other reason but to ignite the fire of the Guru within. The Mother hugs us until we hug ourselves. Then we are free. Then the Master is free.
Meditation is simply a direct step to the Master's inner presence. I once heard beloved Mahesh Yogi say: "The impulse of the mantra that draws awareness to its source in transcendental silence, is precisely the same impulse that draws the disciple to the Master."
The true Master is formless love. Formless, but not impersonal. If I cling to the form of the Master in my mind, I lose the deeper intimacy, for I create a distance between subject and object. This is why, when Mary Magdalene reached out to touch Jesus on Easter morning, the Master said, "Noli me tangere: Don't cling to me!"
Let the breath of angels move the great stone away from the entrance to your heart. Let your mind be empty as the tomb of Christ. The gardener comes, calling your name. You are the garden, the Master is Spring.
Why then await the "second coming?" The Master never left. Why travel to India seeking a divine Presence that already Is? The Master is always already here as the very space of this moment - not the content but the awakened space that contains it.
I had a talk with Sri Sri Guruji in his room one evening, just the two of us. I was tired of the silly Ashram talk about his identity, whether he was Krishna or Jesus or Shankara come back, all that nonsense that bubbles up in the hothouse of an ashram. So I expressed my concern about this and then asked him point blank, "Who are you, really? Are you a deva, an avatar? Are you one of the great Masters from ages past?"
This question reminds me of a story at the heart of Buddhism. A disciple asked Gautama, "Are you a God, an angel, a savior?" Gautama merely smiled and said, "I am no different than you, except I am Awake." Therefor they called him simply, "Awakened One," which in Pali is "Buddha."
So I asked Guruji this question, and he silently gazed at me with eyes like black holes of empty radiance, twin voids where galaxies are born. His gaze seemed simultaneously to dissolve yet re-create me. He shook his head slowly and whispered, "No, no, they don't understand. I am Nobody." And he meant it.
This took me years to comprehend. But at that moment, I knew he was my Guru.
Longing for the Master's glance is an exquisite drama, a play that thickens the plot of devotion. Yet even as you play your role and the Guru plays his, don't get stuck in the melodrama. Know that the Master dwells between your heartbeats, nearer than your next breath. In St. Augustine's words, "Intimeor intimo meo: More inward to me than I am to myself."
A true Guru is neither lord nor lawgiver, but mirror. Look deeply into the Master's eyes, yet deeper still, until you see the boundless expanse of your own Being.
Jai Guru Dev
On the first day of the New Year, go outside and take a walk. Walk in a new world, a world that crystalizes out of nothing this very moment, this very breath, a world composed of pure Love...
Which of course is this world, the world we hardly notice, just as it really is...
But before you take one step on your walk, you must see the simple truth. The creation all around you, along with the one who beholds it, are made of the same substance: pure Love.
You walk in Love. The ground is Love. Matter is Love. Mind is Love's moving stillness. There are no straight lines. Every motion is a swirl of return to Love.
Look at these earthly forms - trees, rocks, a dump truck, a port-a-potty, a broken bicycle in the milkweed. Each atom is hollow, yet brim-full with Love. Every boundary is a boundless fractal of infinite Love. All creatures swell with a breath of emptiness, lighter than space, and that emptiness is the fullness of Love.
You don't need to visualize this, because it actually Is. Just see it with the eye of your heart. Each cell of your body, each molecule of sod, each wave of fire in the vast silence of an atom, is pure Love.
We know from contemporary Western science that the physical world is an ocean of immaterial energy, pulsing waves in the vacuum. But waves of what? We can learn from the scientists of the East, whose instrument of research is meditation: the vacuum of empty space is awake. It is the space of awareness itself. And this space is your own awareness, witnessing the whirl of nebulae and galaxies, appearing and dissolving within your own stillness.
The vibrant silence of your awareness is the subtle essence, the God-stuff, that worlds are made of. And that subtle essence is the substance of both subject and object, spirit and matter; the current of power that runs through photons and stars; the sap of this flowering universe. It is who you really Are, and it is pure Love.
But what is the inner secret of this no-thing-ness, this emptiness, this space of Love? It is not mere oneness, but holy trinity.
The One is in Love with its Self: a trinity of Love in Love with Love.
This dynamic activity of Love-relation inside the stillness of space, reflects as a hologram in every particle of creation. Love at the heart of emptiness creates a virtual subject-object relation, sparking worlds into manifestation, so that Love can witness its Self as an Other, in myriad acts of perception throughout the cosmos, by countless sentient beings.
When you as a subject behold this snowflake as an object, Shiva makes Love to Shakti; the vine of Christ entwines the trellis of the Magdalene; Love falls deeper in Love with Love. When you are truly alive in Awareness, every perception you have is a blessing to the earth.
Now see the snowflake melt into Love. That Love is your seeing. Smell the cedar scent of Love in the Winter forest. Breathe. That sensation in your nostrils is pure Love. Look! Each hair on the trembling pelt of the doe who steals the last shriveled rose from your garden is composed of Love's electrons. Hear the scarlet-tailed flicker's piercing cry: she's dipped in the wine of your Love.
Now it is late afternoon, evening on the First Day. The darkness of Love descends, filled with stars. You are alone. You are the multitude. You are alone in the vast otherness of Love.
"Prayer is not asking, prayer is just loving God.
~Shri Karunamayi Amma
The purest meditation is just to rest your heart in the love of God. Is this the love of the Other for me, or my love for the divine Other? How could love be two?
Is God the do-er of love, or am I? Our love is toward someone. The "toward" of love is like an in-coming or out-going breath. Its flow may proceed from my heart toward the Divine, or from the Divine toward by heart, until the two tides equalize in one serenity: the silence between breaths, between the syllables of 'So'ham."
"So'" indicates God. "Ham" indicates me. "Aham" is the Sanskrit root of "I am." Where they merge, inhalation kisses exhalation. Here, going and coming cease. Words cease. Prayer becomes deep meditation, and there is no more "toward." My love for God is God. God's love for me is who I am. Lover and Beloved dissolve in love, yet in that unity, a pulsation continues to arise, just for the sake of devotion...
Now in this effortless repose through love, as love, the mind might begin to question: "How can I love God when I do not know what God is? For I have never seen God, and I cannot prove God's existence."
But you know what love is, and that is enough. Just bring to your heart the image of the smallest love, even your little child, or your pet. Surely, there is some little one you love. Feel that pulse of warmth in your heart, quite literally, in the deep core of your body.
Now let this image go, and just be with the formless feeling. Immediately, this little thread of formless love expands to fill the cosmos, because it has no boundary, no image. In a moment, you have captured the ocean of love in the cup of your heart.
The tiniest thread, the faintest impulse of love, is a breath of the Cosmic Mother, felt as a sense of the heart. Surrender to that subtle intuitive sensation, without attaching any picture or face. This ripple of affection will lead you to the sea. The Mother guides you into meditation. As the psalmist sang in the Hebrew Bible, "Depth calleth unto depth." In the formless abyss of love, one depth touches another. The depth of God merges with the depth of You.
If images of the avatar or the master appear, let them. They are delightful bubbles playing on the surface of love's formless ocean. You may envision Mother Amma, your Guru, Jesus or Krishna. They are all facets of one diamond, the brilliance of your divine heart. Your heart is a little hologram that contains the cosmos, and the forms of every Avatar, every God and Goddess.
Divine love is the subtlest form of energy in creation. The Hebrew Bible calls it kavoth, "glory." This is the cotton-soft down that fills the void with threads of pure light. In Buddhism it is the samnboga-kaya, the luminous form of Avalokiteshvara. In Hinduism it is the bliss body, ananda-kaya. In Christianity, it is the "Taboric splendor," the celestial substance surrounding Jesus seen by the three disciples on Mount Tabor. In Judaism it is the fiery cloud of light that consumed Moses on Mount Sinai.
This soft fabric of love-energy is why God is never impersonal. It is why Christians experience the reality not as abstract awareness but as Christ-consciousness, infused with the splendor of the Lord's gaze; why Hindus experience that reality as the very body of Krishna, the shimmering blue sky of Shyama Sundara, who is the very form of formless awareness; why devotees of the Mother experience the effulgent splendor of Sri Lakshmi seated on a red lotus within our own breast.
Whatever sadhana you practice, just rest in the heart, gently remembering your Lord as a faint thread of feeling, awakening a substantial inner warmth that soon grows to a glow, then a radiance, filling the empty silence where thought used to be. And this silent glory suffuses every cell of your body. Let love pour out through your eyes, your words, your hands of blessing.
Did not Jesus say, "The (inner) Eye is the light of the body. If your Eye be one, then your whole body will be filled with Light" (Mat 6:22)
"Eternity" is not an otherworldly condition. It's just remaining in the present moment.
The past and future are the jaws of Yama, Lord of Death, ever waiting to devour us. But we are delivered from death's dominion when we enter our own Buddha nature, the Kingdom of Christ Consciousness, which is simply this unbounded Now. Where can we enter? Gaze into a flower. How can we enter? Dissolve into a breath.
"But how can you be of service to humanity if you are just gazing into flowers and breathing?"
Only in the Kingdom of Presence is compassion possible. When you are present, you are available to the person right beside you. No one in the future needs your love. No one in the past needs your love. You are needed here.
(Photo: another exquisite Kristy blossom.)