The bud is hard. Then it softens, bursts, releases the pollen, and fragrance spreads through the garden. The blossom becomes more than itself. It becomes a community of birds, insects, worms, human senses, and new flowers.
So it is with my heart. When it is armored, closed tight and safe, my heart is only me. But when it opens, softens, allows itself to be vulnerable, my heart is more than me. It permeates other hearts, a field of heart radiance, a scent that has no circumference, a cup that contains the sky, and all the weightless stars.
The unconditional vulnerability of my heart is called "courage." I am only beginning to learn this, because I was raised to armor my heart, to harden and separate it against others, so that I could be "self-reliant." I was raised in the cultural myth of American hyper-masculinity.
I am just beginning to open. I have a long long way to go. But now I am learning that Courage means to soften, not to harden, my heart.
May the part of you that never gets married wed every lover on earth. The ceremony is bewilderment. Wed the honeysuckle and wild rose, marry the sound of a bumblebee in a late afternoon sunbeam. All through the black hours, be wooed by the incoming tide; then consummate your silence with sunrise.
Though One and Two were never betrothed, marry the confusion. Your engagement ring is the uncut diamond hidden in a vein of sorrow. Polish it in your chest, tumbling in tears, until the water is quiet. Neither give nor receive that brilliance in marriage. Stay one, remain voluptuous.
You can't avoid the void. Some speak of it as naked and empty. Yes, sometimes it is, and you must drown there. Then the void glows with indescribably intimate softness. Receive that touch. And finally, at spiritual midnight, when the darkness is deepest, the void gushes with the Beloved, your secret and eternal Paramour. Be ravished. These are the three forms of the formless.
Don't tell them that the bride is an exhalation of surrender, a golden body of breath stretched into fragrant darkness. Don't tell them that this silver-crowned inhalation, laden with gifts, is the groom, who enters your garden through the open gate of prayer.
We meet in moonlit stillness. The heart is a lake. There seem to be two swans. But there is only one white-feathered splendor, settling gently into its own reflection. Softly now, in a whisper, renew your vows.
We have thousands of reasons to be happy. But we have one reason to be miserable: the mind. Instead of seeking happiness, just drop the mind that seeks.
Why pay so much attention to your thoughts when you can live from the level of intuition, the spontaneous guidance of the heart? The energy of intuitive living feels completely different than the energy of mind. And once you awaken the intuitive heart, you will look back to see that mind is a quaint 18th Century custom we can no longer afford: it has grown sour and toxic. It's been uncorked too long.
How does one choose happiness? Well, here is a very ancient way. Let go of thought, sink down through breath, rest in the heart. This is the beginning and end of all spiritual practice. Precisely these instructions are given in the ancient Shiva Sutras of India, and the Philocalia, an early Christian manual on "Prayer of the Heart" from the desert Fathers.
If you don't believe that you are entitled to choose happiness, at least you can choose to breathe prana, the healing energy of the cosmic life-force. Prana is all around you, at every moment, in abundance. You just have to learn the techniques for infusing its power, its shakti, into every cell, every nerve of your body. Depression and negative thinking cannot survive in a physiology saturated with prana, in a nervous system infused by the breath of life.
How do we imbibe this life-breath into our bodies? Find an Art of Living center in your city, where you can learn to practice the Sudarshan Kriya, introduced to the world by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Sudarshan Kriya is a most efficient and practical healing art for those who seek relief from depression, exhaustion, and the plague of chronic negative thinking.
Why keep rowing when the wind fills your sail? It's you choice.
Photo by Laurent Berthier
You are the Master of the Dream, and you are here for a very special task: to reanimate the world with wonder.
Until now, awareness has been the background of your waking life, and thought was the foreground. Awareness as pure space was so obscured by the chatter of your thoughts, that you were not even aware of awareness!
Now there is a foreground-background shift. Presence solidifies. Pure awareness emerges as the primary substance of your experience, as your mind, with all its anxious thinking, all its images of past and future, subsides into background noise, and finally fades into silence.
Those who allow this shift to happen find that their time has come. They lead the world into a new intuitive lifestyle. They function not from the field of mind, but from the field of intuition, which is the spontaneous guidance of the heart. And they teach humanity to make peace through simple Presence. For them, Being predominates over Doing.
Our civilization will no longer be dominated by mind, with its insatiable desires, appetites, obsessions, and fears, its need to own and consume, its addiction to never-ending arguments and conflict.
Humanity's economic and political problems will be solved very directly, not by engaging in economic and political activism, but by DIS-engaging in the behaviors that were causing injustice. Humans will simply rest in the heart as radiant consciousness. And this rest will bring so much fulfillment, such waves of love, that self-destructive behaviors like greed, lust and violent competition will not arise.
All this transformation of our ethical life will happen as a result of merely seeing the real nature of the world. The transformation will not come on the level of religion, ethics, or government, but through the physics of consciousness.
Every proton of solid "matter" is made of subtler quarks and anti-quarks, who themselves are made of mesons, baryons and gluons, which are no-thing but waves of pure space with no actual location. Each apparent "particle" is not a particle at all, but an excitation of the entire vacuum of empty space.
Therefor the most solid material object is composed not of any stuff that we can call "matter" at all. What then is it made of? Waves of the all-pervading void, or what physicists call "fluctuations of the vacuum."
If the content is empty, then what of its form? The form of the object is a ghost of akashic memory, a repeating tremor of space. This form is ceaselessly filled and emptied by the vibrations of emptiness which are, in the final analysis, the only particles of the world. Nothing is solid or permanent. All instantaneously appears and dissolves. As the Medieval mystic Jan van Ruysbroeck wrote, "The world is re-created each moment out of nothing."
Yet emptiness is ineluctable joy. This was the teaching of the Buddha, and it will be the ultimate message of physics. The nature of the vacuum is not mere abstraction, but consciousness. Space is awake. And when we awaken to our true nature, we see that, just as particle-waves interpenetrate one another in the vacuum, as non-localized waves of wholeness, so you are happening in the space of me, and I am happening in the space of you.
Pure consciousness is a diverse community! It interacts with itself as other-ness, in love, for the sake of love. We love our neighbor AS our Self, because our neighbor IS our Self.
So let us not be deluded by the myth of materialism. It is time to deepen our perception, until the background emerges as foreground, and spirit outshines matter. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "My kingdom is not of this world."
His kingdom is the vibrant field of awakened space, the silence of the vacuum singing and resonating in its own emptiness. When he said, "I have overcome the world," he did not mean that there was a conflict, but that Christ-consciousness irradiates the earth, illuminating every body. New wine bursts the old wineskin. We no longer behold a material world, but a world transfigured in the glory of being merely what it is, the vibrancy of consciousness.
Even the blow of a hammer is emptiness striking emptiness. The world does not have to be overcome; it simply dissolves into its actual Being, a marvelous mirage, shimmering in the clarity of the awakened Self.
When you realize this primordial empty wisdom, you have nothing to prove, nothing to regret, and nothing to attain. You flow like a river, rest like a cloud, and hold the mountain like a feather in your sky.
Photo: Mt. Rainier, taken by my brother David on our recent hike.
My intellect wanted to pretend that it knew something important. So I divided space into seven planes. I separated emptiness into physical, astral, mental and buddhic worlds, calling some "gross" and others "subtle." I split no-thing into hierarchies of angels and bodhisattvas. I parted the sea of silence into ninety-names. Then I imagined seven lotuses blossoming in the body of suchness.
As I treaded water, going nowhere in the ocean of wonder, I pretended that I was on a journey, ever ascending into higher spheres of wisdom. One day I might reach the goal. Perhaps, I thought, when I get there, I will say something profound. Or I will just hum and call it "the original sound of creation." Then I will adopt a Sanskrit name and charge people $125 an hour to talk to me on the telephone.
But now I stare into the face of my cat, I listen to the song of a baby, I smell the first magnolia, and this little mind-bubble pops. No planes exist, no higher worlds, no hierarchies of celestial beings, no names of divine silence: only the wine of bewilderment. There is nothing to be attained in suchness. Just as it dances, withers, and dies, this body is already the perfect blossom of innumerable galaxies in boundless space.
My mind takes off her clothes and runs naked through the meadow. She will return, smelling of pollen and tadpole streams. When I need to concentrate, I don't call her. She is like a thistle in the breath of the wind. I let her wander til she finds me where I do not know I am.
This path is a circle, the circle a pulsation of its center, the center a dimensionless point, the point a seed of laughter hidden in a tear. That is why the Buddha, when asked for his final teaching, only held up a daisy and smiled.
This time around, we're not here to focus on life's content. We're here to focus on life itself. Whatever forms may come and go in the space of life, it is not the content but the container, the space itself, that is our treasure.
In the past, our thoughts were the foreground. The spacious sky of awareness was the background, so buried that we weren't aware of it! Now the silent background becomes the foreground. We become aware of awareness. This is the shift that defines our age.
To guide a person's attention from the heaviness of objects to the weightless expanse of pure space - from the heaviness of thoughts to the weightless expanse of pure consciousness - what greater service can you perform? To liberate the sky from the non-existent boundary of clouds - what greater freedom can you share?
You may be one of those who are called to this work, but until now you felt useless on our planet. Your task was Being, and everyone else seemed obsessed with Doing. You pretended to be interested in the content of daily experience, but your interest just wouldn't stay fixed on money, sex, war, and politics. You had a hidden yearning, yet it seemed so amorphous it was nothing at all: because in truth it was no-thing! Your concern was not the things you could be conscious of, but the clarity of consciousness itself.
To explore the nature of awareness: this was your secret passion. You were drawn to the mirror and not what it reflected. But this endeavor wasn't recognized by your society as a valid pursuit. Nobody gave you encouragement. You couldn't speak about this inner work because your education gave you no vocabulary for it. Your teachers, your friends, your parents, called you "a dreamer." Perhaps a doctor even diagnosed you with attention "deficit." But in truth, your mind abounded in attention, pressed out and overflowing!
I tell you, Master of the Dream, your time has come...
Jesus had the same problem. They wanted him to fix the content of their lives: their religion, their poverty, their political situation. But he came to glorify the container, not to fix the content. He came to reveal the Kingdom of Awareness itself.
Jesus didn't give them a better concept of god: he shattered every concept, freeing the space around all gods. He said, "The space within you, the space of awareness itself, is God."
"My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus taught. They thought he was pointing toward a higher world, or a place you go when you die. But he wasn't pointing to any place at all. He was awakening pure space.
Jesus said, I am not here to replace the stuff in your mind with new stuff. I am here to empty you. I am not interested in stuffing. I don't impart any religious doctrines at all. I remove every idea, until all that remains of you is what I Am.
Those who heard him weren't ready for this teaching, so they crucified him. But now, many more are ready to hear. And when we awaken the space of Christ-Consciousness in enough of them, it will be the Second Coming.
Yes, many are ready. Many are weary with political, economic, and technological promises that don't solve the problems of humanity. Many are weary of religion and all its content, its stuffing of belief. Many are ripe for the foreground-background shift, which is the shift of attention from thoughts to the space in which thoughts arise.
Humans are ready to become aware of awareness. This is the great evolutionary step we are taking.
In Milton's words, "They also serve who stand and wait." You have been waiting, and by waiting, serving. Now your time has come. Time to speak the simple truth: the utterly transparent message of pure awareness.
They will ask, "How can simply being aware solve our problems?" And you will answer, "Find out for yourself. Become aware of awareness."
"How do we become aware of awareness?" they will ask. Then you will teach them to meditate.
Teach them to discover the kingdom inside, deeper than thought. Awaken the space that is silent, limitless, self-clarifying, eternal, free from past and future, overflowing with the nectar of joy. That space is neither doing nor thinking, but Being. It is the source of creation.
Don't hesitate to tell them clearly what all the great prophets have declared: God is consciousness, and all of creation is made out of consciousness. This simple fact dispels the materialist delusions that have crippled our civilization. It is not a belief or a philosophy, but a direct experience. That experience of pure consciousness brings peace to the restless soul.
Awakening spacious clarity in ourselves will awaken that clarity in every atom of the earth, in trees and mountains, moth wings and plum blossoms. And awakening space in ourselves will awaken other human beings as well. This is your work: reanimate the world with wonder.
Humanity is sound asleep. Sleep walking humans tread heavily on the earth, stumbling on its delicate greenery. And we trample each other too. But as we awaken the beauty within us, we bow to that beauty in nature around us. As we honor the space of awareness, we honor the environment. And as we love our own Self, we love our neighbor as our Self. This is the ecology of meditation.
Do not dilute the work of meditation with any political, economic, or religious message. That is all just content. Simply help people polish their mirrors: it is their business what to reflect. Teach meditation to East and West, artist and executive, believer and non-believer, pacifist and warrior. Do not teach Buddhist meditation, Yoga meditation, Christian meditation, Goddess meditation, or Metaphysical meditation. These labels are just more stuffing. If your meditation has a label, it is not meditation.
Remember that the world's problem is not war, injustice, pollution, racism or poverty. These are only symptoms of the problem. The problem is that we are asleep. Our mirror is clouded by thoughts. Our presence is clouded by images of the past and future. Our awareness does not know itself. And our mental disorder throws all our actions into disorder.
Give both friend and enemy the one solution to all problems. Teach them to cleanse the mirror, so that they may reflect the real world, which is luminous and divine.
The world doesn't need our busy-ness, it needs our consciousness.
I feel sorry for the one who says, 'I am not this body.' What hopeless dualism: I vs. the body!
A vaporized zero-energy 'I' beyond the warmth of breast-bone and thigh? A blush without a cheek? He doesn't really mean it. Just trying to sound like a skinny saint in a loin cloth.
Now hear my confession. I don't wear a loin cloth. I AM my body. The whole cósmos is my body, every atom spinning on the axis of its galaxy, each photon tuned to a bursting star. My skin is too astonishing for the world to contain. I incarnate heavens.
Somewhere in my loin glows Krishna Loka. The almond space in my brain stem condenses the Milk Ocean, where Vishnu sleeps on his cobra boat. Mount Meru is a gnat between my eyebrows. Echoing from the hollow in my bones, the hymns of Sama Veda heal forests and wheat fields, calling a new race of honey bees from the planet Venus that orbits my belly button.
Stop trying so hard to be a ghost. Find out how crazy sensuous our Oneness really is. Dance with me. When we touch, we'll be a single lightning bolt, a fiery ladder of solidified silence between earth and sky.
I will dissolve your name in my kiss, but out beyond darkness, your body will keep whirling.
"Let me dwell here on the threshold of two worlds." ~Rumi
God isn't so into the details. God doesn't care all that much whether you say He or She, creature or creator, one or two. God leaves all the busy work up to the devas, the angels, the elemental spirits, right down to the quarkish ayin soph who creates this very thought in a synapse of your brain, then melts back into divine no-thingness.
So if you feel overwhelmed and exhausted by details, maybe you forgot that your awareness is divine, clear and empty as the sky. Drop your 1001 tasks this instant and expand into your true nature, like a bursting bubble of sea foam.
This is meditation, and if its true meditation, you only need a short blast of it to saturate your boundaries with boundless Silence. Then you can get back to the unique task of your earth work, like a busy gnome, a tree sylph, or a peony deva.
Don't underestimate this wild paradox of being human. You are both creature and creator, both the bee and the sap. You are passionate and dispassionate, personal and impersonal. You get to be unlimited while confined to a body. (Anybody can be unlimited without one.) You get to do absolutely no-thing while furiously dancing. (Anybody can be still if there is no dance.)
When you need to get grounded, do the work of a gnome. When you feel too small, dissolve into God.
"Now when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them and said... The kingdom of God is within you.” ~Gospel of Luke 17:20
"Take no thought for tomorrow." ~Gospel of Matthew 6:34
"Before Abraham was, I AM." ~Gospel of John 8:48
Jesus teaches exactly what Buddha, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, Osho, Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and all the awakened ones teach: Be Present. Surrender the burden of your old stories and wake up to the miracle of Now. The present moment is the kingdom of God.
The mind doesn't want to hear this, of course. Mind wants to accomplish something very complicated, and weighted down with history.
Painting by Rembrandt
The power of Advaita is all-pervading silence. The power of Bhakti is the wave-nature of silence. Particles of matter arise from fluctuations of the vacuum. The dance of Shakti arises from the music of the void. We breathe in. We breathe out. The infinitesimal bindhu between exhalation and inhalation is the stillness where stars and galaxies are born. Rest the befuddled intellect in meditation. One and two are both vibrations of zero
Someone asked, 'What is your inspiration?' I thought about it and realized that my chief inspiration is something so small, so humble, so effortless; yet we cannot live without it. So insignificant that we hardly notice, yet vast beyond conception.
My inspiration is a sacrament that encompasses every cycle of ebb and flow, encircling the cosmos, yet is embodied here, in my particular and ordinary now.
My inspiration is this breath. This breath, nourished by awareness, illumined by Grace.
Grace becomes concrete in this breath, because I am simply aware that I do not take this breath, it is given to me.
Nothing more near, more common than a breath. Yet what moves my breath moves the planets, turns the galaxy, and pulsates eternity as time. This breath sparkles. It is the milk-flow of the cosmic mother.
My breath does not originate in me. It pours from the stars through my crown, my brow, my chest, my belly. Streaming down my spine, a string of liquid pearls, moonbeams pooled in my heart, seeping into every cell of flesh, saturating this body with the glow of God's first word, "Let there be light."
My breath connects heaven and earth. My breath is the first gift, and the last offering. My breath awakens me, reminds me that miracles begin right where I am.
I am still searching for the Breath Giver, so that I may bow down in thanksgiving. But I bow down anyway. Unknowing.
Painting: 'Holy Spirit' by Colleen Shay
The only original sin is to doubt that your heart is divine.
A pure light shines within you. It matters not whether you call the light Christ, Buddha, Guru, or Goddess. What matters is to merge with That through love. Then you will see the same divinity in others.
For the sake of world healing, it is time to be the light you are. Meditate, then radiate. Wouldn't you rather look FROM that place than FOR that place?
As soon as you become aware that "I am made of pure light!" countless hosts of sub-nuclear angels muster to your trumpet of intention.
Your flesh is composed of celestial hierarchies, ranked according to the table of the elements, which are waves of bliss.
This explains the little rush and plume of gold that fountains from each dendrite in your cerebral cortex.
It also explains how you can move a mountain. The material world responds to your intention. Earth is an extension of your body through divine antennae: seeing, hearing, tasting, smell and touch.
Send forth your messengers, O Eye, O Tongue, O sacred Nostril!
Even your pain is intensely luminous energy, sharpening your focus, melting ancient boundaries, removing the dross of thought, as long as you don't label it, "suffering."
But the moment you think, "My body is sick, I am a weak and fallen sinner," the heavenly hosts depart, and you are no more than a lump of uncooked bacon.
Engraving by William Blake
I found that when I stopped making any conceptual distinction between happiness and sadness, I became fulfilled.
But when I separated the 'state' of happiness from the natural field of awakened space which also contains the poignant sorrows of the world, the 'happiness' became quite brittle and superficial.
I don't recognize 'happiness' as anything real anymore. It is like trying to separate the air in a sea bubble from the salt water. Peace.
If you want to feel a great relief from the project of getting enlightened, or saving the earth, just try becoming ordinary. To accomplish this, stop trying to be any-thing. Just Being is enough.
You might look at ordinary objects and say, "There are no miracles." But in fact, these objects are miraculous - the dandelion, the cloud, the dewdrop, the eyes of a child - for they exist, and Being itself is a transcendental, breath-taking, never-ending miracle.
If you realize that you Are the miracle, you will see everyone as a miracle. That is the only solution to our crisis.
Photo: My plastic Buddha