Earth is in her birth pang. It is a long and difficult labor, because so much blame, so much anger, so much compulsive 'taking sides' distracts her from breathing. Breathing is more important than being right. Breathing is more important than taking sides. Breathing Life is more important than ideology, left or right. Give up the blame. If you cannot offer a solution, offer a prayer. Offer your next exhalation. Let the rhythms of the cosmos be the rhythms of your breath. Relax. Dilate. Give birth.
The planets and stars are singing. Every cell of your body is singing. Atoms ring infinitesimal round hollow bells of energy all night. Silence cannot contain itself. Your marrow never sleeps. Trees and stones must hum the melody. The sky's emptiness echos the praises of your flesh. You are music beyond words. Your breath is the drum of creation. Who needs a national anthem? Just kneel for no reason. Flower in quietness.
To taste each inhalation as a gift from the Divine, and each exhalation as your offering, is to enter the holy of holies in the temple of your body, and take part in the highest worship.
If you studied all the Vedas, the Torah, the Gospel and Qu'ran, you would learn no more. Each religion began with breathing: grace and gratitude, gift and return.
All other rites are images, rehearsals for this astonishing kiss in the silence of your heart. How do I know? I gave up theology, and became a lover.
Heaven and Hell: Your Choice
Back in 1970 a group of us were sitting with Maharishi, and one person asked if civilization would end soon, because there was such violence and injustice. Of course, when the mind is wavering, whatever time we are in feels like the apocalypse.Maharishi smiled and replied, "Heaven and hell are all around you. Your choice." Then he said something I've often heard quoted since, and attributed to many teachers: "What you focus on is what grows in your life. And whatever you resist will persist." Jai Guru Dev.
The world ended today.
A new one was just created.
Did you notice?
If you pay attention,
this happens with
You won't regret the past
or fear the future
when you can rest
this wavering mind
in the heart of presence.
Learn from the rose
surrounded by thorns.
the silent fragrance
that bathes the whole garden
Navaratri, Night 3
O Kali, I vow never to use You as a meme to focus my negative energy around my trauma and political anger. Rather, I will let You use me, to melt the boundaries of outrage, until I can behold the dazzling amethyst of your face at the heart of catastrophe.
On this third night of Navaratri I worship You, O Goddess, in the form of Kali Shakti, the power of inner and outer transformation, who destroys what is old in order to dance as the grace of the new.
Certainly, now is your time. You are in control. But pure devotion to You does not include Western cultural appropriation of your ancient serpent power. You are not a political icon, a symbol of our resistance to fascism, a channel for apocalyptic anxieties, a bandage for sexual wounding, or an embodiment of our trauma. In fact, dear Mother Kali, you are liberation from all such fears and obsessions.
In the Vedic tradition, blessed Goddess, you are pure ecstasy, pure freedom, and pure beauty, disguised in the most obdurate and troubling forms of the external world. You are Sat-Chit-Ananda - truth, awareness, bliss -veiled in tumultuous maya. Yet as you purify our vision through yoga, kriya, and meditation, the heart is empowered to behold You even in the enemy, the obstacle, the catastrophe.
Only then are we liberated from the binding habit-chains of blame and resentment, as You crush the demon of the little mind, and liberate in us the breath of the infinite. Wider wilder vision comes, not through moral or political struggle, but by naturally seeing God in the Other. This is your grace, Mother Kali.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches that, when the "equal vision" of yoga is cultivated in the nervous system through regular meditation, non-violence, seva, and devotion, we begin to see the beauty of the Divine even in the most troubling disguise. No longer bound by the tyranny of form, through every form we see Her. Then prejudice is impossible.
Every day on earth, trauma happens. And so does beauty. To focus our energy around the trauma, rather than the beauty, is our choice, not our destiny. May the grace of the Goddess gently breathe through our will, that we may choose beauty.
Om Shrim Hrim Krim Kalikayeh Namah!
First Day of Autumn
Mushroom scent of Goddess on the first Fall afternoon; rhyme of the happening apple, worm and all; sky within the sky, cloudless, blue, infinity self-evident; gift of the world to itself, unnoticed... In this ashram with spider-web windows and no roof, there's only one rule: don't fall asleep. Tomorrow will be even more wonderful. Virgo gives birth to Jupiter. Have a blessed Autumn!
It's going to be OK.
But not out there. That will never be OK. That is the world of ever-changing forms. What will be OK is deep within you, where there is no passing form, but eternal Being.
Your eternal Being has never not been OK. In Being, no problem ever arose. And no solution is necessary, because nothing was ever wrong.
Even if you 'die,' it will be OK, because Being never dies. Out there is what dies. The world dies and dissolves each moment, so why worry about it?
You don't need to look for happiness, because you Are happiness. So why not welcome this fear, this uncertainty, this pang of outrage, this wave of disaster-fatigue, without resistance? These reactions to the world are part of the world: they too are just waves of form out there. They have no Being.
You have Being. You are Being. The nature of Being is ever-expanding joy. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "My kingdom is not of this world." The Being you Are is unassailable peace.
There is absolutely no conflict between our Being of perfect peace and feelings of fear, pain, or weariness. These are feelings that we HAVE, but they are not who we ARE. Conflict only arises when we obscure Being by holding on to these feelings as our identity. Then we imagine that we must resist the fear, pain, and weariness, attempting to change them into something better and more enlightened.
We don't need to resist, change, or manipulate any feeling or experience at all. Just dissolve the form of that energy by welcoming it completely into the repose of Being.
This is the Way of no way, the practice of no practice, the discipline of no discipline, the dissolution of the imperfect into perfection without attempting to perfect anything.
It does not require great knowledge or enlightenment. It is what babies do.
Blessed Navarati (9/21-10/1)
The light of the sun, the moon, the stars and planets has a Source. That Source is the radiance of the stamen in the lotus of your heart. You irradiate the universe. You are joy. You are creativity. You are love.
But due to the dazzling confusion of creation's panoply, we think that the Source is outside and above us. The grace of Mother Divine, through the vibrating energy of her bija mantras, can dispel the clouds of this confusion, so that we realign with the light of the Heart.
And the most auspicious time for this realignment, through the practice of meditation, is Navaratti, the Nine Days of Mother Divine. Navarati begins on September 21 this year, which is just the time of the Autumn equinox.
We in the West are just re-discovering the Goddess, who was essential to ancient Judaism and Christianity. The feminine aspect of the divine was associated with Hochma (Wisdom) in Hebrew, Sophia in Greek. We mostly think of her as a vague intuited feeling. But her work is very specific: she is the animating power, the Shakti, behind the mantras that liberate the naras, the nerve-currents in our bodies, from the stress that causes ignorance, so that an open-hearted conscious body can bathe in the all-pervading grace of the Atman. Peace.
How To Go To Sleep
I have no idea what's going on in the world. But I do know how to go to sleep. I learned from my cat, who always naps on my shirt, so she can slumber in the kindness and protection of her master's scent!
When you fall asleep tonight, just assume that your head is lain at the feet of your Beloved, and rest in the miracle of this breath. Know that each inhalation is the Master's gift, and each exhalation is your flower of gratitude, offered back.
Drift off into the ocean of Grace. And when you wake up, you will radiate peace. Good night.
I notice with ironic surprise that those of us who obsess over our spirituality - perfecting our yoga postures, getting the right meditation technique, practicing meticulous purity of diet - are often more anxious than people who just do daily work and play without any pretense of gaining enlightenment.
In fact, the romance of sadhana, especially among those of us with a compulsion to hang out in ashrams, or frequent weekend retreats with "spiritual teachers," can be the mask for a neurosis: the avoidance of the ordinary.
What if the path of awakening lies, not through ashrams, non-duality workshops, health food stores and yoga studios, but through the small-time sacraments of the commonplace? What if the most profound mystical practices are these:
* Give up the search.
* Be grateful for this breath.
* Just rest your mind in the heart.
In fact, this is the surest instruction of the wise, found in the ancient yoga text, Vijnana Bhairava, and the original Christian treatise on meditation, The Philokalia. Precisely the same teaching, whether in Sanskrit or Greek: "Rest your mind in the heart."
Even for the mystical thrill-seeker, the ordinary is the highest path, because giving up the search is the ultimate rush. The very instant we give up the search, the universe blossoms around us like the motionless explosion of a golden rose.
Ever returning on the journey of this breath, nowhere to go but here, no higher plane than the present moment, sink deeply into who you are, and feel your body begin to dance.
When I come home to the place where I am broken, then I can be whole.
If I am willing to confess the weakness of my will, I open like a wound to strength. If I have the courage to say, "My deepest ability is vulnerability," the Gift comes, like a whisper of wind from deep within. Yet I cannot will this mystery, for my will is a broken wing.
How could the weak will, will its own strength? All I can will is confession. Confession is my native land, my homecoming. This is metanoia.
Only in confession am I free. Only then may the Other approach me, touch me, heal me. Here is wholeness: that my heart only finds healing in a Friend.
I was created to be broken. I was broken for communion. I yearn, yet not to be One, but Near...
Jesus took bread in his hands, broke it, and gave it to the disciples saying, "Take, eat, this is my body." So we break bread as a sacrament. Yet we pay so much attention to the bread, we forget the power of the breaking. It's the brokenness that heals.
What the clod of soil cries to the plow, the grape sings to the barefoot crusher; what the pomegranate whispers under the knife, the breaking heart implores the lover; the prayer of the loaf to the hand of the Master.
Knead me, bake me, tear me in two. I was not made for me, but for you.
Are Flowers Inevitable?
""Beauty will save the world." ~Dostoyevsky
"Objective" science seems to be skewed toward a utilitarian view of nature: nature as machine without a subject, without a taste for beauty. Are we so sure that beauty is a by-product, and not the motive, the beginning and end, of evolution?
A biosphere could have evolved without blossoms. Are flowers inevitable? The job of cradling seeds and distributing pollen might have gotten accomplished in a more mechanical and economic fashion. Whatever the work of fragrance is, from rose to musk, we might sense it as a thread of vibration, a ray of gray light, without a scent. Yet we, and perhaps the bees also, sense the garden as sweetness, with shade upon shade of subtle textures, flavors, aftertastes. Why do birds sing? Another form of communication might have been evolved, an electrical buzz too quiet for humans to hear, and more mathematically accurate for the birds.
I suggest that beauty is a driving force, and you reply that natural selection needs no motivation, for nature's mechanisms run on a simple will to survive. But is that not a motive? And what is so great about survival for its own sake? Without the possibility of savoring, mere survival is just work, a losing struggle against entropy. Without appreciation of the Beautiful, we give up hope, and don't live at all.
Read "Man's Search For Meaning," by psychiatrist Victor Frank, who not only survived the concentration camp at Auschwitz, but concluded from his study that the people who survived there did so, not because they had a hardier physical constitution, but because they nurtured a transcendent purpose, and cherished some beauty to live for.
We don't know how deeply mute creatures like bees and hummingbirds appreciate fragrance, color, song, or if they do at all, for they are mute. All we know is that men and women have evolved a capacity for wonder, and for singing about it. Is this capacity for wonder a random by-product of natural selection, or is it the reason we are here?
I don't know. But I do know that naked men with bare hands cannot do nature's tasks nearly as well as animal and vegetable species do, whether running, or swimming, or flying, or hunting, or cross-pollinating. We had to invent tools simply because we were inept without them. Comparing a man to a panther or an ant, it is obvious that the man is inferior at particular tasks, whether large or small. But at the general task of being astonished, and singing about it, humans do better than others, and were probably created for nothing else.
The words of Rabbi Heschel, "To be spiritual is to be amazed," I would paraphrase by making an even simpler claim: "To be human is to be amazed: this is our chief work."
Photo by Laurent Berthier
Drops (A Metta Meditation for the World-Sorrow)
Your heart is a small blue teardrop containing a glimmer of the sun.
Yet in its glow you keep the sorrow and weariness of hurricanes.
You smother forest fires.
You hug the weary whose houses have been crushed to match sticks,
whose windows are gashes bleeding sand,
whose only light is the memory of the gale,
pulverizing glass at midnight.
But your dewdrop heart makes room for more.
You hold the devastation of Cuba and tiny Caribbean islands,
the poorest of the poor in the quaked gaping streets
of southern Mexico.
You are a nest woven of their jagged cries.
In the tiny blue egg of your spacious inhalation you keep
the sub-Saharan multitudes who thirst for their own voices.
You gather the drowned bodies of villagers from the torrents
of Nepal and Bangladesh.
The breath of you luminous silence is a eulogy
for floods and famines that the news won't tell.
You are the eye of chaos.
Yet earth's affliction is just one of your tears.
An unselved garden of grief, your lungs entangle
the weeping of other worlds.
The hollow of your bones are rivers of planetary tribulation,
flowing into the ocean of cosmic sorrow.
In the pit of your stomach where singing begins,
you store up the groan, the agony of galaxies.
Now here is the secret: you are wider than pain.
You embrace catastrophe
as a flame outshines the blackest wick.
Every heartbeat expands your capacity to feel
the unutterable fever of creation.
You press to your nipple the desolate throng.
With a single exhalation your vigilance solidifies
the hunger of multitudes,
offering it back into the ache of the un-created.
Are you the cup bearer's witness?
Does your silence spill over the bruised rim of affliction?
Can the bold womb of your laboring darkness bear
an inconceivable peace?
Might your stillness not encircle birth and death?
When you break open, the center of your body is the heart of Christ.
In the palm of your hand is the infinite diamond wound of Buddha.
Your breath is the sky.
And the mothering pang of all human sorrow is a bindhu,
the merest drop, evaporating into blue and boundless joy.
Blue and boundless joy.
Listen to this meditation here: LINK.
Photo by Samantha Wallace, who took it while flying Om.
A Breath Is Richer Than A Thought
A breath is so much richer than a thought, so much more interesting in texture and luminous with vitality. A thought is an abstraction, a mere sign of something else. But a breath is itself, the very energy of Presence.
Our civilization has vastly over-rated the power of thought, but under-rated the power of breath. We replace one thought with another and call it "thinking," or "reasoning," but what does it lead to? The next thought. There is no end to the trap of thinking. But superimposing these thoughts onto our energy-state and our body does not penetrate our anxiety or heal us.
If we are anxiously thinking of some problem right now, we can be sure that a week from now we will replace this problem with another one and think about that with the same level of anxiety, because our thoughts do not change our energy. And next week, we won't remember what we were worried about this week. We'll just replace it with another catastrophic thought.
Yet all the while, our breath is silently pulsing beneath our thoughts, an untapped resavoir of transformation.
A breath is much richer, much deep, much more real than a thought. Why not let this breath be your prayer? Let this breath penetrate the anxiety you feel and transform it. Let this breath irradiate the world with healing greening power. This breath needs no name. Let it be your silent blessing, and your inward guide.
A silent breath will lead you to the bottomless well of stillness.
Jesus doesn't want to "save" you; he wants you to become what he is.
Crucify the opposites nailed to your mind: past and future, heaven and hell, matter and spirit, ignorance, enlightenment.
Your flesh is the rose, your soul is the fragrance; resurrection is the pollen at the heart of the flower.
Feel your heavenly body entangled in this earthly one; the mother bird has woven a strand of pearls into your nest of twigs: her eggs are blue because they contain the sky.
Why does your emptiness glow with compassion? Why is your darkest night the womb of morning?
Because death is the Kingdom of Presence: as soon you think that the Garden is elsewhere, you have fallen into exile.
Don't take two thousand years to remember this moment; turn your pilgrimage into a labyrinthine fire dance.
You were a guest at this wedding before you were born; therefor unveil the smile of wonder, recline at the bountiful table of your own breast.
Sip the wine of silence, crushed from love and aged in your chest.
The Groom gave his invitation standing on a mountain; over and over he said, Don't worry!* But no one heard him; they weren't drunk enough.
Strip off every garment and stand in your body of fire; you were created to whirl and sing: all else is hesitation.
* In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeats five times, 'mei phobei,' or a similar construction, meaning 'don't worry.' The King James translate it as, 'take no thought.'
Icon: St. Gregory Orthodox Church, Washington DC; Jesus at the Wedding Feast in Cana, turning water to wine for his Mother.
You don't need priests or politicians, you make peace on earth simply by being awake.
The kingdom is not a nation of laws and borders, a heavenly city descending from the sky, or a utopia designed by economists and college professors.
The kingdom is not invoked by shouting magic slogans in the streets, just as food is not created by banging pots.
Justice spills into the world from a blossom inside you, overflowing after the shower of grace, tasting blue, like the sky.
The kingdom comes a thousand times a day, when you nourish a thirsty stranger with your smile, when your mind is suddenly empty and your heart is filled with nectar.
Friend, don't wait for a prince. You are the royalty. Your palace is the present moment.
The throne is in your chest. Silence from a golden cup anoints you with astonishment.
The pulse of your blood commands the galaxies to shine. Your nakedness is the sun.
The gesture of your merest breath absolves all creatures from a colossal and primordial Sin that never happened.
The Void Is Not Devoid
The integral silence of pure awareness is oceanic, containing waves of sorrow and waves of joy, both of which are waves of ananda.
The Void is not devoid of passion. What physicists call "fluctuations in the vacuum" fill empty space. Transcendental feelings permeate unbounded silence.
The great Jewish theologian Joshua Abraham Heschel called this paradox The Divine Pathos: Godhead empathizes with human suffering. Spirituality is not the transcendence of feeling. Indeed, human feeling is but the reflection of transcendent passion.
The Godhead is not passivity. Christian mystic Jan Ruysbroeck wrote about "the wildness of God," and "the wilderness in the Godhead." Entering transcendental consciousness is an ever unfolding relationship of Lover and Beloved in the very silence of the Self. Thus the 4th Century Christian father St. Gregory of Nyssa coined the term "epictisis": eternal becoming in the groundless depths of God.
To enter the wild inward life of the Divine is to enter the Garden of Vrindavan, and to participate in the passion of Radha for Krishna, full of longing, ecstasy, and the pain of separation. Yet this longing, even this divine feeling of separation, is the play of God and Goddess in the absolute Unity of Brahman. The flowering of non-duality is the lovers' "lila."
In Buddhism, the divine emotions are called the Four Immeasurables: omnipresent compassion (Metta), joy in the happiness of others (Mudita), sadness in the sorrow of others (Karuna), and dispassion (Upeksha). It is dispassion that holds space for passion. The spacious heart of dispassion remains clear as the sky, even while embracing the clouds of human experience.
Our graceful task is not to reject human feeling, but to infuse it with the radiance of the Infinite. If I use "awareness" as a shield to protect myself from the wounded, angry, jagged, uncertain shadows of my soul, it is not awareness at all, but flight.
Meditation Notes 1: Witnessing
To "witness" does not mean detaching the observer from the observed. Rather, I embrace the whole continuum of my mind, with all its thoughts, as one dynamic emptiness. There is no "I" who witnesses thoughts. Rather, there is just this trackless ocean of vibrant stillness, thoughts arising and dissolving as waves of silence.
Thoughts are not other than the stillness of the witness. Thoughts are not other than emptiness. But this stillness, this emptiness, is playful and dynamic. Enjoy thoughts as the ecstatic play of the formless.
Detachment is just another version of duality: "witness" vs. "thoughts." And such detachment is a subtle form of violence, division.
The condition of witnessing is simply to refrain from grasping or rejecting. Do not grasp one thought out of the stream as more significant. Do not reject another thought as less. Whether pure or impure, whether positive or negative, all thoughts are one continuum, the playful wave-nature of the void.
We may think that we are rational, but the truth is, thought happens for no reason.
Therefor we don't have to turn thought-waves into thought-particles: that is, into points of view that are separate from the continuum of emptiness. Rippling bubbling thought is the texture of stillness, the soundless echo of a gong never struck.
Just as the ocean can be whole in the midst of its waves, I can be still in the dance of thoughts, because there actually is no "I." There is only boundless awakened space where the dance happens. This space is self-luminous and delightful whether thoughts happen or not, because, as long as it is not grasped, a thought is just a tremor of that emptiness.
Song of Kabir
"The sun and the moon can be seen in that place.
When looking at that,
bring your mind down to silence.
I will tell you the truth:
the one who has drunk from this liquid
wanders around like someone insane."
Kabir is not speaking of outer sun and moon in the sky, but Shiva-Shakti in vast blue awareness, the solar and lunar energies that spiral your spine, bursting as one light through your pineal gland, igniting the burning bush of your cerebrum.
The liquid Kabir speaks of is the neuro-peptide Soma juice fermented in your dendrites as your meditating physiology bathes in transcendental consciousness. Illuminated body is the Self, and Self is not other than the body. Only the intellect makes them two. But the intellect is a dull sword compared to the diamond penis of Shiva, who wanders around naked and crazy, somehow performing the ordinary tasks of the clerk in an Ace Hardware store.
So you must do the commonplace work of your life, and don’t let on that you are the creator of worlds, the destroyer of worlds, who embodies the megaton brilliance of eight galaxies. Without any calculation, numbers silently fall into place, and all your debts are paid. The archangels in your brain conduct the business, while you dance as a Witness in the silence between thoughts.
If you understand this, it must be after midnight. While others toss in black and white dreams, you and I make love in living color, wide awake.
Painting by Mahmoud Farshchian
Word and Silence
Word and Silence are not opposites. Together they co-nourish creation.
The womb of the Untold ululates in fluctuations of the vacuum. She is the mother of physics, Genesis 1, a feathery hen of breath ruffling darkness into waves of fire, oceanic night-singer of infinite possibility. She was here before God said, "Let there be light," and is still here, beneath all that we can say, the resonant field of eternal Silence, where Words of creation are conceived.We used to savor the Logos on our own tongues. We could talk the elements into doing anything, inspire the wind, instruct the waters, still the storm, ignite a garden with song, move colossal stones with a whisper. Our language vibrated with mantras, Godspells, healing shamanic gutterals. Even our Hum was an unstruck gong in the heart.
We named each other. And respecting the power of names, we were creators.
But we lost the science of magical speech when we dissipated Word-energy through gossip, vulgarity, and derision. We allowed talking heads and technocrats, politicians and the media, to infect our language with the virus of babble. Now, instead of empowering us, language exhausts us. Our minds are full of chatter we hardly understand, because it is not our true name...
How shall we speak Truth again? How shall we recover the Godspell? How shall we awaken from ancient sleep the inner Bard? And how root down in Divine Silence, to tap our Words of Creation?
"En archai æn ho Logos: In the beginning was the Word." ~John 1:1
"Adau Bhagavan shabdha rasahih: In the beginning, the Lord created the universe through a stream of Sound." ~Rig Veda
"Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts as a sound, ends in a deed." ~Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
"Don't ever diminish the power of words. Words move hearts and hearts move limbs." ~Hamza Yusuf
"Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds." ~Eli Wiesel
"Words are also actions." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
"But our words from loose using have lost their edge." ~Ernest Hemingway
"The limits of my language are the limits of my world." ~Ludwig Wittgenstein
"Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace." ~Gautama Buddha
Picture: Tibetan mantra wheel. In the ancient traditions, mandalas that mapped the cosmos were made of letters and their sounds.
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