Scholars say, "context is everything!" But what if the context is eternity? What if the context is boundlessness? What if the context is spacious compassion, where all points of view are equally insignificant?

Doesn't everything then become lighter than air, all boundaries as webs of dew? And these golden beams, rising neither in East nor West, nor falling from above: do they not emanate from your own heart?

Within the Within

There is a space within space
where darkness hides its wealth
of brilliant light.
That is where the world comes from,
and many other things too beautiful for the world
until we imagine them
in ourselves.
I know there is only One, but
God loves mirrors.
What is within the within
mirrors itself through countless faces,
all singing the name
of a hidden splendor.
That is where you and I met
before we were born,
and Christ was in Mary
like an eternal seed.

One Thing Left to Do

When I no longer need to be right
and no longer need to be sure,
no longer need to perfect myself
and no longer need to be pure,
no longer need to be smarter than fools
for knowing is not to be wise,
when I no longer need to ascend
for to fall is as good as to rise,
when I no longer need to seek heaven
or search for a place beyond earth,
or tighten my belly, or armor my heart
or wash off this afterbirth,
then I need to do nothing more
but one and only one thing:
to open my heart to your radiant Grace,
and laugh, and cry, and sing.


Sing in uncertainty. Smile in the dark.

Some think this smile is artificial. But really, it is profound. When we smile, thousands of neuro-muscular signals move from our face into our body, into the body of the universe. When a teacher like Nhat Hanh or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tells us to smile as a meditation practice, they honor the grace of nature' body above the pride of the intellect. We don't need a reason to smile. We don't need to explain why. If we do, we are lost.

When you are in darkness, what is artificial is pretending that it is light. But to embrace uncertainty, to relax into the night, to fill the void with your smile from one corner of the universe to another, transforms everything from the deep source where Being begins. That is the teaching of his Holiness, Nhat King Cole.

Peace between Israel and Palestine will not come through negotiation: that is just a ruse of perpetual postponement. Peace will not come through protest or resistance: that is just more angry polarization. When enough people are really ready, peace will come so simply, so clearly, through a mere shift of awareness: from old stories in the mind, to a radiant Presence in the heart.

Blessings of Kali Yuga

A dream becomes more and more absurd until I realize, "this must be a dream," and wake up.

Because the darkness of Kali Yuga is my most ferocious, surreal and absurd dream, it is also the most auspicious time for waking! The Kali age is ideal for finding out who I really am. As things get weirder and weirder out there, I can more clearly see that this dream is so weird, it could not possibly be me.

The world of the senses is a projection of consciousness into density. For thousands of millennia, this projected dream has been so pleasant, I was perfectly willing to remain asleep, my consciousness absorbed in the dream. But in the age of Kali, the sense-projection ripens into its grossest expression, dancing wild and frenetic as images of terror and sensational beauty create jarring contrasts to the tranquility of consciousness itself. It is the age of extreme contrast. Contrast is the key to enlightenment.

Perceiving the difference between the gross external world and my own pure consciousness, the Self awakens and is free. This is precisely why Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36)

Like a juicy gourd snapping effortlessly from the vine, I experience by Kali's grace the eternally joyful, inherently self-liberated, boundless radiance of my own true nature, inwardly distinct from the imagery of the projected dream. Then I cry with triumph and relief, "I am not that, I am this!"

In today's New Age market place, I hear a cacophony of muttering about non-dualism. Auditoriums fill up with devotees listening all day long to "non-duality teachers," who keep repeating exactly the same thing. We all know who they are, and share their videos constantly on Facebook. But at the end of the day, what we have is a concept of non-duality, rather than a living vibrant experience. Why?

These non-duality teachers proudly assert that there is no method of meditation. Hence they are incapable of directing our attention to experience the light of the Self. They can only talk about their own experience. Thus all we get is abstract second-hand advaita, which is no advaita at all.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna clearly teaches a path of development and a method of meditation: two things that are anathema to the non-duality movement. Krishna directs Arjuna's awareness from sankya, to yoga, to bhakti, and finally to advaita. Self-realization must be the basis of God-realization (or Goddess-realization) and God-realization must be the basis of Unity. This sequence is not a matter of preference; it is inherent in the very structure of consciousness. The purusha must be realized as separate from prakriti before the two can be ultimately known as one divine energy in two polarized functions.

Krishna first gives Arjuna the teaching of sankya: the atmic self is eternal and imperishable, distinct from the ever-changing and perishable world. This realization of absolute duality is the only possible basis for the eventual realization of non-duality. There can be no fruition before the seed. The fuel must be refined before it is consumed.

Next, Krishna gives the warrior the practice of yoga. Yogic practice culminates in dhyana, transcendental deep meditation. In meditation, attention transcends the turbulent external world to experience the changeless inner Self. Only when Arjuna's awareness is distinct, self-evident, resplendent in its own diamond brilliance, can he begin to progress to the ultimate reality of advaita.

When the transcendental light of the Self is realized, there is no further development of consciousness. All further development is on the level of perception.

Advaita unfolds in the subtle realm of perception, not in the realm of the perceiver. The celestial glow of consciousness enfolds, illuminates and glorifies the object, until the perceiver beholds the object as none other than her Self. When she clearly perceives that the object is composed of her own Self-luminosity, the world dissolves into diamond-like awareness.

This is not a philosophy, not a concept to be grasped by listening to a video. One cannot suddenly get non-duality. It is a perception whose mechanism must be developed like any other perception: through subtle energizing and re-ordering of the nervous system, glandular system, and chakras.

Non-duality is not a practice. It simply happens when the time is ripe. But one can practice the yoga of meditation that ripens the fruit of advaita. If I plant the seed of sankya, and water it with the discipline of yoga, the fruit of advaita will eventually fall from the tree by itself.

Suppose this sequence of development is not followed. Suppose that, without first realizing the Self as eternally separate from the world, we could instantly leap into non-separateness? Then the images of the world, both violent and seductive, would overwhelm us, reabsorb our dim awareness, and we would get lost in the dream all over again!

This is why the lineage of the Guru exists, and why the path has been carefully expounded in the Gita, the Yoga-Suttras, and the Vedic shrutis. Only by practicing the path does one arrive at the place where it becomes pathless.

Om Tryambakam yajah mahey
Sugandhim pushti vardhanam
Urdva rukamivah bandhanat
Mrityor mukshiya mamritat

"I worship One Lord in Three Persons (Creator, Sustainer, and Liberator), who presses out the nectar that sweetens creation and makes all creatures ripe. Just as the fattened gourd snaps effortlessly from the vine, so may my clinging mind, by grace, be freed from things that pass away, even as my heart rests in eternity."

I honor my ever-graceful teachers, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Shri Shri Ravi Shankar. I hope you will honor your teachers too.

Jai Guru Dev

Healing the Warrior's Wounded Heart

Most Americans deal with war simply by ignoring our troops. Lamenting the price of groceries, we forget the pain of military families. We were the first American generation to send soldiers into battle without paying a war tax.

Our troops bear more than the physical trauma for us: they bear the moral weight of war. With no luxury for easy judgments, like the Left’s “Peace now!” or the Right’s “America right or wrong,” they shoulder burdens of decision-making and psychic ambiguity unknown to civilians: burdens that wound the soul.

When is war justified? Am I defending the innocent or taking revenge? Who am I fighting for: the civilian who forgot me? The politicians whom everyone disdains? My commanding officer? My buddy beside me? Is this war really about freedom and democracy? Is anything worth killing for?

In a college distance learning program, I teach soldiers deployed to combat zones. They are as morally thoughtful as any students I’ve ever known. One wrote: “Americans regard soldiers with respect or disdain, but how does God see us? What will we say at our judgment? I took a life because someone told me to? Deep inside, I think about this so often it makes me sick.”

Whether you are liberal or conservative, please embrace our soldiers when they return. Help them heal from sorrows we can’t even imagine. The government won’t do it. You and I must care for the warrior’s wounded heart.

(Published in the Olympian, Olympia WA, Sept 21, 2011)

God's Opinion

God is the only person I ever met who has no opinion about anything.

I asked God how she gets away with it. She shrugged and said, "I just love. Whatever you've got to do, go ahead, I love you anyway. But if you treat somebody bad and shit happens, don't blame me."

Think Small

Big oil, big government, big guns, big shots, big deal. What's so great about Big? What's wrong with small?

Big things are made out of infinitesimally small particles. Big achievements consist of ten thousand momentary tasks. Big discoveries happen, not because discoverers think big, but because they pay careful attention to little details. Carl Sagan once said that Einstein made monumental breakthroughs in physics because he asked very very simple questions.

The world can't afford Big any more. When we all do our small chosen tasks with devotion, greatness will happen by itself.
The empiricist's work is to see the object clearly. The meditator's work is to see the seer. Both practice a science, and science is incomplete without both.

New Paradigm Politics

Give up the politics of anger, the politics of polarization.

Give up left and right. Form a circle.

Stop shouting. Start listening.

Listen first to your own body. Then you can listen to others.

Own your anger. Your anger doesn't belong to "them," it belongs to you.

Instead of projecting anger onto the "enemy," feel anger as a nameless sensation in the gut, brain, boiling blood and bone marrow, pure blue flame, sacred and guiltless as any other energy.

Let anger burn itself away to silence. This is the inner work.

Now the circle is truly gathered. Centered presence, listening silence. Not closed silence, but open silence. Not the silence of suppression, but the silence of pure possibility.

Only in the silence of possibility can the heart speak.

The voice of the heart is not your old voice. It is utterly new. Without shouting, without defensiveness, without taking "a stand," the voice of the heart speaks healing and vision.

The voice of the heart reveals the solution, and the solution is simpler than you think. What is the solution?

Form a circle, listen, find out.

Of Two Minds

I confess, I am of two minds on almost every issue. As soon as I pronounce a judgment, a voice in my conscience says, "Of course, the opposite may be equally true." I consider this a blessing. It cures me from the pathology of always being right.

First Principle

"Do not let the mind cast its shadow over the moon of your heart: let go of thinking." ~Rumi
All the transformational teachings of our time may be summarized in one principle: I am not my thoughts.

Whatever may be the content of this mind, it is not who I am. From the trauma or the nightmare, from the memory or the old story, from the craving or the passion I carry within me, I am instantly free, simply by virtue of observing that the one who watches this mental content cannot possibly be this mental content.

The I who perceives an object is self-liberated in the very act of perceiving. Any object or thought, however insignificant, can be our liberator, by drawing us into a perception that awakens the one who perceives. This is so obvious that we constantly overlook the opportunity for enlightenment, an opportunity inherent in each waking moment when the subject perceives an object.

Just as one who says, "this is my body," must be other than the body, so one who says, "this is my mind," must be other than the mind. Such an utterly simple act of self-recognition bestows immediate spiritual dignity and freedom, whether I am rich or poor, healthy or sick, in a prison cell or a seaside villa. We can accomplish liberating self-recognition instantly and without effort: this is the essential spiritual practice of the coming age.

I am the sparkling clarity of the one who watches my thoughts, regardless of whether those thoughts are pleasant or painful. I am the brilliant empty sky; my thoughts are only the clouds that pass through it. I am free now, and I know it without thinking or believing it.

I am the way, the truth and the life: no one comes to enlightenment except through the Self who is free from thinking.

What other grace, what other salvation does one require?