Never Send an 8 Year Old to Sunday School
I haven't really learned anything new since that radiant Spring afternoon when I was eight years old. After a beastly morning in Sunday school, I ripped off the stifling necktie and suit my parents made me wear to church, and put on musty jeans with a ragged tee-shirt, running barefoot into May weather. The sky was an immense robin's egg. Giant puffs of cloud tumbled slowly in the sunbeams, shimmering green on the grass, then gold in the wheat field all the way to the woods dotted white and pink with dogwood blossoms.
I gazed up into endless blue and, in the same instant, felt my feet rooted on the cool earth. I saw the essence of every religion from the dawn of history in that epiphany of earth and sky. And I knew it. I've studied them all for half a century since that moment, yet I've never found anything but a variation on that vision of ineluctable suchness in a schoolboy's heart.
"So this is what those old men in suits were trying to teach me in Sunday school!" I thought. "The sky is the Father. The Earth is the Mother. Standing between them, joining them like a lightning rod, I am their Son. This must be the Holy Trinity! But it only works when you run outside in your bare feet and put your body into it."
Here is how the universe taught me to breathe that day. At the crown of my head, where the baby has a soft spot, I visualize a bud unfolding into white petals, opening to the infinite sky. Blue sky is not a symbol or a day-dream, but the essential nature of consciousness: ever-expanding sapphire clarity of emptiness, where passing clouds of thought come and go lightly, without resistance. Breathing in from the crown of my head to my heart, every cell and every atom of my body fill up with that boundless blue. Christ became incarnate just to demonstrate this. I am here to experience the sky in each atom of flesh. Won't you join me in the universal body?
My spine is the stem of the flower. Having breathed the blue sky into my heart, I exhale. Awareness flows down the stem, out through the soles of my feet. I let all the chatter of yesterday, all the resistance of old thoughts, discharge their static into the ground. My root extends deep into the mothering darkness, to the center of the earth. When I need to release anxiety and fear, I can use this simple grounding breath. The key is not to make it esoteric, or technical. No one has to teach us how to breathe.
In Jewish mysticism, the Star of David depicts this breath: a down-pointing triangular flame from the sky meets the upturned triangle from the earth. They merge into a star at the heart. In the Yoga texts of India, this same symbol represents the heart center, hridaya, where Shiva and Shakti unite as Lover and Beloved. Mother Shakti rises up from the base of the spine, Lord Shiva descends from the crown. In early Christianity, the heart was the Bridal Chamber where Christos, the masculine energy of God, united with Sophia, the divine feminine. This is the mystery of Jesus and the Magdalene. It sounds quite esoteric in the Gnostic Gospels, but it's only the wild wisdom of a child running barefoot on the sunlit world.
The Garden is Now...
When my crown is open to the sky and my feet are rooted in the earth, I reclaim the innocence of Eden. I recover what St. Paul called the full stature of Christ, my birthright. No one can tell me this only happens in heaven, after we die! The Garden is Now. Creation is new each moment, and this human body is the Tree of Life. In the second century, St. Athanasius wrote, "God is humanity fully alive!"
When I practice this breath, I don't let the serpentine twists of the mind's doubt lure me to that other tree, the Tree of Thinking, clustered with opposites: good and evil, past and future, male and female. I rest in a silence free from the myriad polarities of the mind, at the center of the Garden of Now.
I breathe in blue radiance, crown to heart, then exhale into earth. I recognize who I AM, blossoming in stars, my roots clustered at the core of the planet.The Church Is Here...I AM grateful. Breathing unites earth and heaven. Just to breathe is worship. I AM grateful. This is a good place to build my church: right here, right now. The body is my temple, its alter my heart. Sink the foundations in dark soil, my bare feet. Open the ceiling to the sky, crown chakra. There is no priest but me, offering creation back to Creator, distilled in the fragrant incense of one breath. I AM grateful.
Dear friend, this little 'me' is only a string of memories, held together by a fear thread. But in reality, there is no thread. The real Self - the one who speaks in the Gita through Krishna and in the Gospels through Christ - is just radiant awareness, which is always now.
This radiance is You. Now turn your radiance around 180 degrees. Gaze into your infinite luminosity, your immaculate subjectivity. Let your Self shine groundlessly alone. Explode like a diamond without edges.
Don't worry, the little 'me' will continue to burst up and dissolve, moment by moment, like bubbles on the sea. What will cease to exist is just the work of threading them together into a necklace, a choker! Now play. No, don't even play. Let the ocean play.
1. Put it under Donald Trump's pillow?
2. Go back to sleep and un-trigger it?
3. Play Mozart and lie in the bathtub for hours pretending it isn't there on the wall above your futon?
4. Name it. But what if its name is Legion?
5. Google instructions for exterminating it. But what if all you find on line is this meaningless poem?
6. Rouse yourself to action and resist, bravely turning a wine glass upside down on top of it, slipping a stiff sheet of paper ever so gently under its horrible legs, while tremors of cowardly despair run up and down your esophagus?
7. Now you have it trapped in glass, like the specimen of an ancient pestilence. But then what? Let it run out of oxygen, shrivel up and die? You could flush it, yes, but what if it lives and even multiplies under your house, its myriad progeny emerging through your pipes and spigots?
8. Tweet out a picture of it. Let it go viral.
9. Call your neighbor, whom you have never spoken to, the retired Special Forces major in the dark shuttered house across the street. This would be a good time to get acquainted. He will come. He will capture it.
10. But what if he is the one who sent it here? Perhaps he was radicalized by the very enemies from whom he pretended to protect your fatherland. Surely, he breeds them in his basement. This is a warning.
11. Call 911. A fire truck will arrive. Then police officers will come and make everything better. This may work, as long as you are white.
12. Light your meditation candle and gaze into the poison sac that pulsates under its mandibles while repeating this affirmation to activate your hridaya chakra: "I am That. Thou art That. We both dissolve into pure love."
13. Blame the stars.
In the form of the mind, our karma goes out into the world and gets stuck in the web of time. But the Self passes through this net without getting caught.
Beyond the mind, the Self is neither diminished nor increased by living in the world. There is no future or past in the Self, for whom the world is like a glorious and terrible mirage.
The Self is pure awareness without an object, slipping out of all chains, either of iron or gold, pain or pleasure.
The motion of turning and returning like a wheel from life to life is only an appearance in the stillness of the Self. It is the world that comes and goes, not the Self.
Repose without effort in the Self, who is a tiny spark lodged in the core of your heart. Yet instantly this spark ignites and consumes the entire universe like a ball of cotton.
Repose without effort in the Self, by whose sun-like golden splendor you will be replenished, and will replenish others, until there is no other.
Painting by Kay Larch
I don't take a breath. Breath is given. Inhaling, breath flows into my body as Mother's grace. Exhaling, I offer it back. So effortless is this process that I take it for granted. But breathing is profoundly Eucharistic, a two-fold sacrament of grace and offering.
From effortlessly breathing in, I learn how to receive other gifts, like food, shelter, warmth, and love. From breathing out, I learn to give it all away. Shall I hold my breath so as not to lose it? Am I afraid to share my breath with the world? Breath is given on one condition only: that I ceaselessly give it back.
If Divine Mother provides each breath, why would she not provide all other necessities? It is only the mind that blocks her grace, inventing the thought of lack.
"Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can a woman forget the infant at her breast?"(Isaiah 49) She never asks whether her child deserves milk. Milk just flows. Yet I imagine I must prove myself worthy of Divine Mother's grace!
Do I ever spend an hour, a minute, or the duration of a single breath just resting in Mother's embrace, allowing her to give me what I need?
Neither separate from God nor one with God, I am God's breath, and every breath of God is a prayer. Breathing in, I am created. Breathing out, I pour back into my Creator.
If I could go back anywhere in time, meet anyone, naturally Jesus would be high on my list. I’d be on a dusty path in Galilean noonday heat. He’d be sitting in the meadow with a handful of workers eating figs from a sack, sharing his bread, the land owner waddling up in his white caftan, red in the face, shouting, “Now look here, these men and women aren’t for hire!”
Jesus offers him a fig, saying “Asalam aleikam,” then stands up and walks over to me. He doesn't speak, just smiles, but his eyes are full of welcome. And that is all I need...
Of course I'd want to visit the garden of Vrindaban too, at the end of the previous age when human bodies were still more like moonbeams than bone. It would be midnight. I hide behind a tulsi tree, watching Lord Krishna dance with the cowherd girls. I linger and gaze only a moment, yet that gaze becomes a dark well from which I drink for ten thousand years…
I wouldn’t mind visiting the steps of the Acropolis either, back when that crinkled indefatigable elf sputtered wisdom like a leaky crank case, asking strange troubling questions to eager youths.
I whisper over his left shoulder, “Watch out old man, they're going to arrest you for this!” Then I vanish and Socrates chuckles to himself, cocking his head, muttering to the empty sky, “Is that so?” He turns back to the children and says, “My daimon just visited me...”
As for Adam and Eve, if they were ever real, I wouldn’t care to meet them, the old bores. But I'd like to visit their garden and look for Adam’s first wife, Lilith, inviting her to walk in the cool of the evening with me, by the edge of the forest, far from any patriarch…
Yet of all times and places, I'd most like to visit 1958, the Five Spot Café on the Lower East Side, a sultry August evening in smoky gin-scented air. With tears in my eyes, I hunker lonely and white at a wooden table carved with initials like runes of some chthonic language filled with the wisdom of squandered lives, listening to lightning bolts from Johnny Griffin's tenor sax as he sits in with the Thelonious Monk Quartet.
This night, this play of shadows through the ineluctable ambiance of sorrow and beauty, an anonymous sacramental sign that we're all true fallen angels on the Earth, turning the light we bring down into jazz.
The answer is to be radically yourself. You are incomparable. You were created to resemble no one. Polish your face with the breath of uniqueness. Only when you sparkle in your own unadulterated suchness are you One with the cosmic mystery. Don't bow down to the Master because you want to imitate him. Bow down because the Master demonstrates how to be infinitely irregular, crazy, and unlike anyone.
The worst hack ever. This is much more serious than defective chips in your iPhone or Russians hacking into your PC. This is the Final Hack.
They can get into your DNA. They can infect your program at the level of your ribosomes. Once they get in, they take over your personality and tell you how to vote.
More likely, they will use your coding to create an alternate You, one who is immune to senility and ADD. Meaning that when you go before the judge and he asks, "Which of you is real?" your doppelganger will answer much faster, and remember stuff about you that you can't.
The government will choose the new You, and the old they will send to an interment camp to do slave labor packing Amazon orders. With good behavior, you will be let out to run free paper routes for the Washington Post. They have already taken over Rachel Maddow, Don Lemon, and Melania Trump.
Now listen. There IS a way to protect yourself. No, there's no patch for your program, but you can practice meditation every morning and evening, immerse in the chaos of unbounded emptiness, and erase your programming completely. Then you can live as the Witness, who is not subject to the induction of their dreams. For only deep meditation inscribes pure Silence into your chromosomes. You will never be hacked.
For my birthday, my daughters gave me some "edibles." Those of you who don't live in Washington or Colorado may not know that edibles are cannabis candies. Perfectly legal. Unless you are a Republican, in which case you believe in our Attorney General who says, "People should not smoke marijuana."
Unfortunately, though I ate three of these little demon chocolates, I didn't get high. I didn't even get the munchies. Maybe that's cause I always get the munchies. But these hip products, sold at designer pot stores by sales girls who could be marketing cologne at the Nordstrom cosmetics counter, bear no resemblance to the stuff we smoked at college in the 60's.
Oh yeah, that was a life or death experience. My room-mate, Bob, couldn't find stereo speakers big enough to contain his head.
First, the weed was not commercially available in convenient candies, cakes, and oil inhalers. If you wanted to get high, it had to be illegal. You had to scrape the withered leaves off twigs delivered in a plastic bag by the "cousin" of a friend of a friend. Who always turned out to be a black guy from the Bronx.
It's 1967 and I'm watching a vintage, black and white, Micky Mouse cartoon projected on the wall of someone's walk-up in a high rise I can't remember how I got to. All I know is, I scored. I didn't get arrested. And the ounce only cost me twenty dollars.
Whether the evening begins or ends here, I can't remember. All I know is, Micky loves Minny and her nose is spinning in silent inter-galactic explosions of compassion.I will need to explain to you in the morning how atoms are emitted from chaos with secret names that are the song of God. But all I can tell you now is, the grainy quality of the film is part of a benign aesthetic conspiracy intended to teach us, by means of subliminal osmosis from the dream-time, how ancient wisdom returns to the ineluctable sparkle of The Present Moment.
Wait. Did Krishnamurti say this? A Mick Jagger record is playing. I crave a cheeseburger. But I don't eat meat. The cheeseburger is not meat. It is made of stars and protons of electromagnetic mind.
Oh, yeah. Happy birthday, Me.