Nate Loomis of New Renaissance Bookshop interviewed me and I loved the questions he asked. Here is the transcript from their e-news letter, which goes out to over 10,000 people. Thanks, Nate...
'May the pilgrim melt into her path,This Sunday, February 26th, Fred will lead "Poetry – Path to the Heart: A Guided Meditation & Interactive Poetry-Making Circle."
the path into the goal,
the goal into Presence,
the very first step
NATE: Tell us about how you discovered your love of poetry?
FRED: My earliest memory underlies every poem: it is a world of silence in blossom, an ocean of fragrant flowers without names, even before my mother started telling me: “lilac, magnolia, dogwood, wisteria.” If a poem can take you back into that silence, even for a moment, it is a poem.
In 7th grade I was searching for I knew not what in the school library. I saw a book whose author’s name refused capital letters: "e. e. cummings." It was a lightning bolt. I opened it and read words like “mudluscious.” I saw lines that ran like liquid down the page. In an intuitive vision, I saw creation through the Word. Words create our world, and words can carry us back to the source of creation.
Later, I was initiated into meditation and studied the science of mantra with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I saw how a single word sets fire to the soul. There is a profound connection between the creative power of the Word and the art of meditation. Mantra is the art of following the Word of creation back into the silence that was there before God said, 'let there be light.'
NATE: Reading poetry seems to be really different than reading non-poetry as it transports us to another world or a greater vision. What is your experience of this and can you please share with us a favorite poem of yours?
FRED: In ancient times language was sacred, people could heal and create through a mantric chant or a “God-spell.”
We need to recover this sacred shamanic power of language. Poetry is language imbued with the silence at creation’s source. The best poems guide our scattered minds back into that unity, which is love.
God meant to drop this mirror,
shattering into countless images
her perfect gaze.
This is why we meet in brokenness,
putting ourselves together again
through each other,
until we recognize one face
with eight billion
reasons for astonishment.
NATE: Lastly, what are you doing at this event and what can people expect to receive in coming?
FRED: We will gather a circle for “poetry-yoga” and meditation. We’ll not only hear poetry, but move to it, meditate in its waves, and create a collective poem with our own voices. Out of that gathered silence, we will speak the poem of our soul. It’s so important for each of us to recover the authentic voice of our own heart, from those whose language would fill our minds with chatter and propaganda. This is the politics of poetry.
I encourage participants to let their own Word of Creation embrace their brokenness, their darkness, and their loss, as well as their yearning for light. We cannot hope to create acts of power if we cannot speak our Word of power.
"Passing beyond the three Gunas of nature - purity, restlessness, delusion - repose in unity." ~Bhagavad Gita
Constantly driven to action by a restless mind, this same restlessness judges its own action to be superior to another's. But without any still and timeless center of reference, how could this mind judge whether the construction of the world's tallest building is more monumental than the silence of a trillium blossoming in forest shadows?
Whether a million marchers in the street are more significant than one healing touch on the forehead of a feverish infant?
Whether the overnight collapse of Wall Street is more meaningful than the imperceptible rise of one degree centigrade over a decade in desolate arctic ice fields?
Does the cry of a loon through mist on still water herald a transformation of the entire earth? Will you notice it when it happens?
"Meaning" comes from the mind, not the world. We superimpose our own mental qualities onto our perceptions. The violent look for violence. The tranquil find tranquility. The restless seek meaning in restlessness.
When we take sides, we polarize. One side fuels the other in a vortex of negative energy that makes each of us smaller, not larger. The heart contracts. Our very center is injected with the "three poisons" of hatred, pride, and ignorance.
What we don't want to hear is this: there is a seed of truth on both sides. We need to listen for the seed of truth in our "enemy." Compassionate listening expands us. This is the power that dissolves violence before it arises.
Power is in synthesis, not conflict. Power is the wider awareness that integrates mutual and complimentary truths from both sides. We don't even begin to realize why we incarnated on this earth-plane until we celebrate the dance of opposites.
Painting: the three poisons at the center of the Mandala of Yama, Lord of Death. They are Pride (a cock), Hatred (a snake), and Ignorance (a pig). They chase each others tales. Their motion drives the entire wheel of karma and rebirth.
There is a blue sky in your heart. Before you take the next inhalation, before you have a single thought, gaze into your radiance.
Not a cloud moves here, and no horizon limits the space of your purity. This sky is before the beginning. Some call it Christ-Consciousness. Some call it Krishna. Some call it Buddha Nature. It is vast compassion.
Deeper than silence, deeper than sin, more inward to I than Am, the sky of the heart forgives all, embraces all, witnesses even our birth and death with joyful equanimity.
This space is the infinitesimal bindhu between breathing out and breathing in. Yet worlds arise here, and dissolve without a sound, without a Word of creation. Here is your true home. You never really left.
To return, surrender this exhalation. Feel the silence. For one vast instant, become no one. Be annihilated in an inconceivable stillness.
The same sky in every heart, you in I and I in you. Our lives enfold each other like azure petals on a single flower. This is the end of loneliness.
Before you leave this earth, please, at least for a moment, become aware of the blue sky within you. That moment will send waves of joy to all your ancestors for seven generations in the past, and all your unborn for seven generations to come.
One moment of pure meditation is worth more than a million good deeds or a hundred thousand years of study. If you do not taste it while you are here, you won't find it afterward.
Sometimes we fall in love with our anger - an exciting but dangerous romance. Anger tastes delicious for an instant, then turns sour with time. It flashes like lightning, then vanishes - wild, energizing, beautiful. But if we cling to the lightning bolt, we get burnt.
To last beyond a flash, anger needs a story. Drop yesterday's anger by dropping the story around it. What remains is love. Love needs no story.
In Tantric and Tibetan Buddhism, anger is actually a "wrathful deity" named Krodha, a matrix of potential energy that can be used for healing, and dissolving obstacles to evolution. The skill is to embrace the wrathful deity without grasping or resisting. Resistance is also a form of clinging.
Kiss the anger, then let it go: Krodha will transform into a mighty angel of creativity. Yes, the daemonic is but a constricted form of the divine.
For we honor not anger as anger, but the transformation of anger. What is useful and healing is the energy that anger becomes, when we do not hold on to it.
OM VAJRA KRODHA HAYAGRIVA HULU HULU HUM PHAT!
"May the lightning sword of anger pierce my heart, releasing the victorious energy of the Lord of Knowledge!"
Unthinkable that we might abandon the failed European concept of "the state." Unthinkable that we might let so-called "nations" and their borders dissolve. But in fact, it is already happening.
Unthinkable that we might witness the extinction of the dinosaur, "federal government," drowning in a tar pool of bureaucracy, corruption, and waste.
Unthinkable that we might dwell in harmony without national politicians and the oligarchs they serve, without world religions, without vast armies.
Unthinkable that our civilization might spiral back to its most stable and creative structure: the sustainable bio-regional economy. But after all, "economy" comes from the Greek words, ecos (home) and nomos (rule): the rule of the home. Thus economy by definition is LOCAL.
That we might trust in local shamans, elders, artists, entrepreneurs, perhaps even in ourselves; that with boundless compassion and infinite presence we might find our kingdom in a shovelful of rich black soil...
Unthinkable, but I have thunk it.
Painting: 'Tribal Dance' by K.C. Aryan
Vide Domine afflictionem: 'Behold, O Lord, our affliction.'
In the observation of pain is healing - not through resisting, trying to change, or labeling our pain with thoughts, but through witnessing the affliction as energy, swept by breath.
Let your silence invoke the Witness, the hollow glowing core who neither thinks, nor dreams, nor sleeps, but simply sees. Your very Being is a vigil.
In awareness is compassion; in compassion, transformation. And what if this is the end, your death? Then yes, yes, even then! Embrace affliction with a pure naked beholding, and beholding itself will become the infinite light.
By the English composer, William Byrd, this music is for deep meditation.
"Mantra" is a term often misused and misunderstood in our culture. Mantra means, literally, mind ("manas") vehicle ("tra"). Many think that a mantra is just a word repeated over and over in the mind, and that any word will do.
But when we receive a living mantra from a Master, it is not just a word. It is an impulse from the boundless field of pure consciousness, the silent potency at the source of creation. The mantra carries our awareness back to the Creator.
A living mantra contains, in seed form, the cumulative power of countless enlightened beings, extending far back into the ancient now. A living mantra is a lineage.
The art of mantra is not repetition or concentration. Repeating a word that we get from a book, or hear in the spiritual marketplace, makes the mind drowsy, and this drowsiness can be mistaken for "meditation." But a living mantra is imbued with shakti, awakened power, at the moment of initiation, under the auspices of the Master.
The mind does not need to concentrate on a living mantra, or repeat it. Quite the contrary, a living mantra de-concentrates the mind. The mantra does not repeat, but dissolves into infinity. Effortlessly, the mantra settles from the mind into the heart, finding its root as a pulsation of silence. And that is not the silence of absence, but the silence of fullness, the ocean of silence from which waves of creation arise.
A Vedic text declares, "Adau Bhagavan shabda rasahih: In the beginning the Lord created the universe through a stream of sound." The mantra vibrates in our consciousness at the finest level of energy, right between creation and the un-created, where silence becomes music. Thus the scriptures of all traditions declare that creation is born from silence through the Word.
"In the beginning was the Word," says the Gospel of John, almost a verbatim repetition of what the Mandukya Upanishad pronounced in a previous age: "In the beginning was the sacred syllable Om; all that ever was, is, or shall be is created through the sound of Om."
The mantra's vibration permeates, purifies, and energizes every atom, every photon in our body, with the subtle essence of the cosmos, which is bliss. Meditation is re-creation. There is no deeper grace than to receive a mantra from a living Master. That is why our hearts are filled with gratitude and we say, "Jai Guru Dev."
Picture: Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati, d. 1948, who passed the timeless Vedic lineage of the Shankarcharya to the teachers of our time. Jai Guru Dev.
All anger is really directed toward the self, a cry for our lost wholeness. We are only outraged by one thing: that Life ever became separate from itself.
Anger is an intensified form of love, seeking restoration. The end of anger is not to attack the enemy, but to melt into that wholeness which was always here, underlying the appearances, the cracks on the mirror.
Moving reflection of moon on forest pool. The ripples are not deep. They give texture to the stillness. Moon is full, even if the image seems broken.
Full moon helps us return to our nature, which is peace. Feel fresh cool beams of moonlight permeate each cell of your body, calming the agitated intellect, melting away past and future, softening intuition beyond thought.
In Vedic science, there is a connection between the moon and the mind. The moon's fullness re-minds us, we are waves of beauty playing in the womb of silence. Om Shantih Shantih Shantih.
"When all your desires are distilled, you will cast just two votes: to love more, and be happy." ~Hafiz
"Laugh, sing, dance, and meditate," says an ancient Sanskrit proverb, which is not only my spiritual path but my politics. "That," one might say, "is highly irresponsible!"
But lasting political change is the fruit of love, not resistance. It is our joy, not our anger, that changes our adversary's heart.
Instead of street marches, hold street dances! Don't gather to protest, gather to sing! Create thunder through the silence of your meditation. Collect your softest breaths into honey; drip it upon lips parched by curses.
In these disturbing times, so many do not believe they have permission to be joyful. They think they must save the whole earth, and wash the nation clean, before they can even smile.
But the deepest sign of Spirit is repose, innocence centered in the midst of turmoil, offering the radiance of a new creation rather than a cloud of ancient doom. Friend, this is a planet that is only transformed through happiness.
To dance lightly in dark times is not irresponsible. Joy is true response ability. Can you respond, can you give anything at all, without a well of beauty, a fountain of delight, bursting in your chest?
~ "But how will meditation and the development of "consciousness" help us solve the critical problems that face our society, our economy, our environment?"
~ The real solution to our economic, social, and environmental problems is not a new government or a new economic system, but a new state of consciousness.
When people enliven their perceptions through meditation and yoga, they begin to experience how happy they can be just taking a breath, just opening an eye to the stars, just hearing a sparrow at dawn, just smelling the hyacinth in April. Not through amassing wealth, but through enlivening perception, we become rich, owning little. We become content, desiring less. We are at peace with ourselves, and so with others.
Through this transformation of the heart, cravings vanish, and with them the need to exploit, to do violence, to steal, to acquire in a large house, an energy-guzzling car, or an elaborate wardrobe, to seek constant sexual stimulation, or to build vast armies for protecting all that we hoard.
It is in the simplest sacraments of the ordinary that the world is healed. It is in the exquisitely small and delightfully local that we invite waves of bliss, waves of God, waves of love into this word.
But if we do not develop this inward joy, no political program either of the Left or the Right will redeem us. Friend, if you want to save the planet, save your awareness.
"One who expects nothing enjoys everything." (Francis of Assisi)
What is Salvation if I cannot save my own awareness? What is Prayer if I cannot meet the Spirit in this breath? Where is Heaven if I cannot feel it in the soles of my feet?
The present moment is not a vanishing point between the past and the future. The present moment is a vast and radiant kingdom, where the boundaries of past and future dissolve like shadows at dawn. Can you rest in the bounty of not-seeking? This wealth is always available. Let your breathing be the gesture of Grace. Let your mind be the flowering of Now. This is the new way to solve every problem...
We have come to the end of a phase in human evolution. This phase brought us the scientific method, deductive reasoning, the teleological theology of Christianity: all attempts to impose an ideal future on the present moment, to change the world according to a plan. We need not abandon these tools when they are useful for specific immediate problems, but we desperately need to transcend the world-view which gave rise to these modes of problem-solving. It is time to step into the new way.
At first, this way seems irresponsible. But if we have the faith to try it, we discover that Radical Presence is the ultimate response-ability. In Presence, we can respond to what is, not reacting from thought-patterns of our past conditioning, but acting from our core-silence. We no longer need to impose pre-conceived ideals about how things should be. We no longer argue from an entrenched position, inattentive to the needs of others. We see clearly that any "ideal" is an attack on the real, and "improving" the world is an attack against Being.
Honestly examine your plans and see which ones were successful and which ones were not. In every case, you will see that the plan failed unless it changed. Your creativity, responsibility and life-energy were in the moments of change, not in the plan. The moments when you responded to the Now and modified your plan were moments when you were truly living. For life is all in the present moment. Creativity never arises from the past. The only plans that work are the plans that change.
Before we devastate our economy, our environment, and our spirit with one more plan for the future, let us live! Give up hope. Give up idealism. Give up the future. This is real responsibility, and real courage. "Courage" derives from the Latin word for "heart." Courage means living from the heart, which is only possible when we are present.
The truth is, all our plans have been based on an illusion: the future does not exist. That is why Jesus said: "Take no thought for tomorrow." And in the Bedda Karatta Sutta, the Buddha taught: "The past no longer is. The future is ever unborn. But deeply observe the present moment, just as it is, and you shall attain the peace and unity of the ancient masters."
In the heart of the present moment, there is a timeless core of silence that is the ultimate power in creation. It cannot be attained by thought: only by resting in the source of attention, before any seeking arises. In practical terms, this means declining the temptation to conceptualize anything.
The Western scripture calls this "sabbath rest." The literal meaning of the Hebrew word Sabbath is "stop." Stop the mind. The real Sabbath is the resting of the will to think.
All contemplative techniques are simply tricks to short-circuit thinking and stop the mind. Do we have the courage to stop? Can we listen deeply together, dwelling in the hermitage at the center of the soul, deep in the wilderness prior to any concept? Only then and there does the graceful energy of Love re-create the cosmos through our silence.
This is the new way to transform the world. In the past, it was a way for the forest monk, the contemplative. But we will do it in household, market place, and community, as we open to divine silence in the midst of action. Our community will be an unfolding of Presences, rather than a competition of egos.
Through the alchemy of meditation, consciousness crystallizes until it is more solid than the object of consciousness. Then the subject outshines the object and the radiance of the Self is not lost in the experience of the world. The truth is, my world is only known through my state of consciousness. If I want to change the world I see, I must begin by changing the seer.
More than any other agent of change, it is the quality of our awareness that changes the world. Christallize your consciousness.
Ask-me-Answers is a social media interview conducted by Marion Nasser, from Germany. I was honored to be asked to participate in one of her interviews...
- Marion: How is true greatness characterized in a human being?
Fred: When we sense that something is 'great,' we cannot define it, but we feel it in our marrow. Even if that music, that painting, or that person who walks into the room is not well-known, we still feel the 'greatness.' It has nothing to do with fame or technical skill. It is a quality of depth. Depth of what? Depth of time, depth of stillness, and depth of silence. A great painting by Leonardo carries a subtle void between its particles, and that void is alive with ancient peace, stillness, the thunder of silence. And that same depth we feel in the silence between the words of Rumi, Basho, or Milton; or between the notes of great music. We feel the depth of 'greatness' not in what is there, but in what is not there. In a human being, the 'greatness' is the ancient silence they carry with them. It emanates out of their very atoms.
- Marion: Is true greatness a result from the connection with the Divine?
Fred: True greatness is therefor a connection with the formless Void. That infinite silence sings through every word. That infinite stillness vibrates through every action. The great one walks like a mountain, stands like a cloud, disappears into action like the sky. The connection is to Being itself.
- Marion: Is there still a process of development in true greatness?
Fred: True greatness keeps dissolving into the next moment with the innocence of a child. The great is ever evolving into its own wonder, and since wonder has no limit, it is ever expanding.
- Marion: Can a person of true greatness learn better, love more and be more present?
Fred: A great person sins boldly and makes beautiful mistakes, turning each "wrong" note into a new harmony, a more expressive melody. There are no mistakes because everything is a mistake. Creativity is a continuous revelation, and that is only possible because nothing is ever finished.
- Marion: Does a human with true greatness deal differently with problems?
Fred: A person of true greatness does not see "problems," only situations. Every "problem" is really an infinite possibility. If our circumstances were perfect, we would be frozen in the ice of a diamond, flawless, but hard and cold. Physics shows us that the universe is made out of vibrations that are waves of pure mathematical probability in a vast ocean of possibility. Yet the mathematical equations of quantum science, through which the universe is created, are never perfectly solved, never pure symmetries. They are broken symmetries, unbalanced equations. And that tottering of the universe, like a spinning top just off its axis, from imperfection to imperfection, is what creates particles of matter, bodies, stars, galaxies.
The cosmos spins just off-center, not quite fixed, blessedly imperfect. The "great" person sees the imperfections of the universe as a perfect opportunity to dance, each moment. She stumbles great-fully, each stumble a new step of the dance. She dances with chaos instead of reacting against it. And that is how she turns what we call disaster into a constant act of creation, through service. She knows that at the axis, the center of her whirling, is stillness. For her, every mistake, every stumble, every wound, leads inward to the ancient silence of love.
Those who pretend to rule over us try to keep our minds in a constant state of political shock, economic anxiety, and fear of war, because when we are outraged, we are easy to manipulate.
The best resistance is to remain centered in the joy of inner freedom, without projecting despair onto the mirror of the future. The revolution is to rest in the heart. The radical act is to be present.
Feel the nearness of the Beloved in the warmth of anahata, the space in your chest where music arises from a silent unstruck bell. Where you are most hollow, you are most full.
That warmth is unfathomably gentle, yet its power is mightier than all the mind's strategies for self-protection.
Use this tenderness to heal some small creature right beside you, and you will heal the earth. Love is local, but its breath sweeps the stars.
(Collage with my words by Rashani Réa)