I Am the Fray

If you consider yourself a non-dualist, be sure your advaita is not an excuse to exempt yourself from the political responsibilities of citizenship, the tussle of economics, and the market place of daily work.

For all our talk of non-dualism, we must still distinguish between Self and Not-Self, the field of rest and the field of action, silence and its play. This is the ancient distinction between Purusha and Prakriti, the uncreated Being and created Nature, a distinction made by even the most radical advaitins. That Purusha and Prakriti are identical in essence does not contradict the fact that their qualities are completely different, as the quality of a mirage differs from the quality of the clear desert air.

The manifest world is a shimmering mirage in the Self, who is the still empty space where the mirage vibrates. Even though the mirage consists of nothing but the empty space containing it, the mirage is active while the space is still. As long as we are embodied creatures, we are both mirage and emptiness. We have responsibilities in the realm of appearance as in the realm of stillness.

"Even I am constantly engaged in work," Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita 3:22. Our mind and body are part of nature, but our Self is not. Our Self is uncreated and eternal, but our mind and body are created entities, subject to karmic law in time. While the Self dwells in choiceless awareness, silently witnessing the play of nature, the mind must choose and the body must act.

Even the most enlightened non-dualist chooses turkey or tofu, the Men's Room or the Lady's Room. The saint whose awareness ever rests in absolute stillness must breathe, eat, and work for food.

I am not only the witness of the world: I am the world. I am not above the fray: I am the fray.

Zero Is the Number of the Fool

You know the way of the atheist, you know the way of the disciple, but do you know the way of the fool?

The atheist bows down to no one. The disciple bows down to the master. The fool bows down to everybody.

"Namaste." I bow down to that of God in you. Yeah, even you. Our survival depends on our foolishness. 

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men." ~1 Corinthians 1:25
There is no such thing as thinking outside the box. Thinking is the box. What is outside the box is the infinite creativity of Silence.

A Direct Path to Stress Release

Thinking does not release stress. Thoughts only trap stress in a Story. And the Story endlessly repeats itself in the mind.

We release stress not by analyzing it with the mind, but by direct feeling of bodily sensations, combined with the breath. No need to pollute the mind with inquiry into the Story of our trauma. No need to retrieve or relive the past. Dissolve post-traumatic stress now, just as it arises, by being 100% present to the body and the breath.

Religion of the Heart

Hate may wear the garment of Islam, Christianity or Atheism. Love may wear the garment of Islam, Christianity or Atheism. Our religion does not determine the quality of our heart. The quality of our heart determines our religion. Illuminate your heart with love. Then practice any religion you like. 

The First Practice of Peace Making

It is a great service to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and heal the sick. It is also a great service to show people the silence between their thoughts.

This silence is the unfathomable source of peace. This silence alone soothes the restless craving of the human mind that causes all greed, resentment, and war.

Some say there is no peace without justice. But there is no justice without the fundamental peace of inner silence.

"Above all things, love silence," wrote St. Isaac of Ninevah. "Out of your silence will arise something that will draw you into deeper silence. If you practice this, inexpressible light will dawn upon you."

Shift your attention from thoughts to the silence between them. Let thought subside into the space that contains it, just as a mirage is seen to be part of the empty air. You are not this chatter, you are not these waves of restless thinking. You are the ocean of silence where chitta-vritti, thought waves, arise and subside.

The power of meditation lies not in the effort to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, but in the effortless discovery of the space between thoughts, around thoughts, and within thoughts - the stillness of space within the mirage. To taste this stillness, this silence, is the first practice of peace making.

Silence, free from thoughts, is your original nature. You do not need to conjure it through religious practices, or achieve it through concentration. And the silence in you is the silence in me, and the silence in the heart of "the enemy." To discover this silence is not to escape from the human condition, but to ground the human condition in its source. You meditate not only for you, but for others.

Self Help?

A non-dualist friend told me, "You are your own creator and your own savior." All I could say was, "I hope I save myself by my own Grace, so that I don't condemn myself by my own Judgment."

Friend, I am not as strong as you. I confess my weakness. I have been dependent on the love of another from my mother's womb, and from her breast. I must rest my heart in other hearts, in yours, friend, and the heart of the Master, and the heart of the Lord.

I am a garland of hearts, opening into one another. By the Grace of the divine Friend, the fragrance of Grace is awakened in me.


The world is as it is, not as it should be. Therein lies all our conflict.

Now just suppose the reverse were true. Suppose the world were not as it is, but as it should be. Where would the should come from? Your book or mine? The Muslim should or the Jewish should? The Catholic, Protestant or Agnostic should? The Liberal or Conservative should? Would you really want to live in that world? Would you want to be a cog in such an infernal machine, forced to submit to the law and order of the should, even if it is your own?

To enact its unambiguous command, the should must rob us of free-will. O yes, the should might give us a little time to squirm and pretend to be free: a test of faith perhaps. But eventually the should must pull everything tightly together in pristine conformity to its absolute decree. And whoever will not forfeit her freedom is cast like refuse into the fire. No one is permitted to remain outside the dominion of the should. I ask you, which would be more like hell? To burn in that fire, or to live in the perfection of the should?

Hell is the tyranny of the should.

Then how shall we act? Without a should to motivate us, how shall we change the world for the better?

Perhaps it is time for a new kind of action: action that does not arise from the should. Call it wu wei, the flow of the Tao. Or like the Bhagavad Gita, call it action in harmony with stillness. Call it, in Christian terms, mere grace.

When I am hurting, I don't need your should, I need your presence.

Acts of graceful presence are acts of giving, not perfecting, acts of blessing, not busyness. A contented heart feels no need to fix the world: it simply overflows. Grace spills from centeredness, not from a sense of lack. Your grace enfolds my fallen-ness, just as I am.

Have the courage to act like the dawn - a quiet blossoming of inner light, not a re-action to darkness. Cradle the whole earth as she cradles you.

When the peony blossoms, should it? When the mist dissolves, should it? When the sea breaks upon the sand, when the new fir roots in the nurse-log, when the robin awakens you at dawn with a song, should it?

Cold Water

Pain is real. "Suffering" is the story we make up about it. Remorse is real. "Sin" is the story we make up about it.

"Sin" and "suffering" are not experiences. They are not even feelings. They are stories we tell about our passing sensations when we superimpose thoughts onto the taste of life.

Pain is real. Sorrow is real. Anger is real. They are part of our rich palette. Pain, sorrow and anger arise and dissolve as appropriate and immediate tastes of energy. They are as valid as pleasure, laughter or compassion. All these delectable tastes arise in the empty space of awareness, which remains vast and still, just as the sky remains the sky in the midst of clouds.

We don't say that pleasure or laughter are problems when they arise: why should we say that sorrow or anger are problems? It is our mind that makes them problems when we insist on turning passable sensations into a story, a story about "me."

This "me" is quite special, with unique problems and a remarkable fate. This "me" has a venerable pedigree and a glorious future. This "me" contends heroically against terrifying enemies who try to undermine its calling and destiny. This "me" gravitates to ancient stories about super-heroes and god-like saints, because these stories seem to confirm the drama of "me."

In fact, you have no genealogy. Forget about it. You are never one moment old. The birth you take this moment is far more crucial than the birth you took from your mother's womb. Why must you make up a story about that baby and connect it to this Now? Is there really a "me" whose passport you have to validate for every stop along that journey? Are you sure there really was a journey?

You have no destiny. You show no promise. So don't promise anything, just be. Why keep disappointing yourself by failing to become the one who was prophesied by your ancient story? There is no story.

Right now, you are who you are supposed to be. Otherwise you would not exist. That is all the prophecy you need. I throw cold water in your face to make you free, even if it stings.


A great deal of talk about mindfulness. But what our culture needs is heartfulness.

Spiritual transformation happens in a realm of silence, free from the bondage of compulsive thinking. This is the realm of the heart, the subtle realm of feeling. We enter this realm through sensation, not thought. Yes, I know, our education has prejudiced us against feeling as a valid means of empowerment, just as our religion has prejudiced us against the spiritual power of sensation.

"My mind will save me. It is superior to my body. All I have to do is think harder." The myth of mind over matter is the root ignorance of our civilization.

In fact, we are saved not by thinking more, but thinking less. We are saved by those periods when we return to the basic sanity of Presence, freed from the noise of the past and future which is thought. We are saved by disengaging the mind and resting in the silence of the heart.

The moment we relinquish a thought, even a brilliant or positive thought, awareness settles and grounds itself in a profoundly different kind of space. In this space, we can attend to the heart. Yes, I mean the actual physical organ, warm and vulnerable and alive in the body. The heart is not a mere pump. It is a neural network as rich and complex as any brain. When we allow the heart to speak its own silent language, it opens. The heart is a door, a portal to the wider universe, and to the realm of the angels.

Honor the beating flesh of your heart. Bathe in the sea of subtle sensation that flows through this portal of divine Radiance. Do not name these sensations with religious, or medical, or New Age labels. Such words come from the non-existent past and only lead you back to a thought-trip of stored memories in your brain.

Practice heartfulness for short periods several times a day, especially at dawn and sunset. Again and again, gently abandon any thought that arises in your head, and sink into the ever deepening well of silence. Fall into the sensation of your heart.

After practicing this, you will find that your mind is clear and sharp, ready to focus on important tasks without anxiety or effort. Your mind can be a useful tool, but it is not who you are. Who you are is not discovered by thinking.

What Is "Real"?


They say that Guru Dev only saw beauty. One day, two disciples tested him. They took him for a stroll to a place where a dog's carcass was rotting, full of maggots. "Look!" they exclaimed, waiting to see Guru Dev's response.

One canine tooth, perfectly preserved and taintless, gleamed in the noonday sun. "How beautiful!" said Guru Dev. "In all this decay, a piece of pure ivory!"

We cannot see that he failed to confront reality. But as he confronted reality, where did he choose to put his attention? 

Our "reality" is wherever we choose to put our attention. The truth doesn't get any simpler than that.


Taking sides is the sign that I have not awakened from a dream.

When I am caught in the dream, I take sides. Just as when I dreamed, as a child, that a tiger was chasing me. Only when I awoke did I realize that I was both the tiger and the prey. When I am dreaming, I only fuel polarity by calling one side good and the other side evil. When I am dreaming, I do not end the conflict: I feed the conflict with my anger and fear. Therefor, if you are concerned about a conflict, the best way to help is to wake up.

Does a mother take sides when her toddlers squabble? Does she call one child her friend and the other her enemy? No, she simply watches over them with love, sings them a song, and whispers, "Fight as long as you must, children. When you're finished, I'll make you lunch."