"The Buddha visits my town. He is a great disappointment. He doesn't talk about Dukkha, Anicca, or the Four Noble Truths. He doesn't make us sit in the lotus chanting the Heart Sutra. No robes. No glamorous antiquated flower offerings. And his name isn't "Buddha." It's Raymond something. Feldman, I think.
He invites us to a gathering in a dilapidated rancher with moss on the roof. But it has a large living room and the hippie elder who lives there is kind. We sit silently for fifteen minutes and, since nothing happens, we get restless. Then Raymond the Buddha says, "Let's cut the bullshit. None of you are really happy. You try hard, but its all pretend. Right?"
No one replies.
Then he says, "If you want a workshop in Calling Your Guardian Angels, or Egyptian Wisdom Of Your Past Lives, or Using the Law of Attraction for Abundance, then go somewhere else."
Looking at our iWatches, half of us leave.
Fifteen more minutes of quiet sitting. Then he says, "I'm not here to discuss your tribal politics either. If you want to blame the rich for the problems of the poor, or blame one skin color for the problems of another, or blame the military, blame the media, blame the cartels, then go on a peace march, though you won't find much peace there. Because blame only isolates the mind, and the more you blame, the lonelier and more desperate you become."
About half the remaining people snort indignantly and leave. The ruffled atmosphere settles down into a deeper silence. He says, "I'll level with you. None of that stuff interests me, because none of it makes anyone free. I'm only here to discuss one thing: how to be free. Right now."
More silence. Finally someone says, "Sir, are we supposed to be doing something?"
"No," replies Raymond. A few more people walk out. A few remain. The silence gets thick and gold, like honey.
"Who can add one moment to life by worrying about it?" Raymond asks. "So let's just sit in no particular posture and savor this breath."
More quiet time goes by. Or maybe the time doesn't go by; maybe it just stays here like an ever-expanding zero, a pond reflecting the stars. After a few more minutes he says, "Watch this breath entering your nostrils, your throat, your chest. Is it you who makes this breath happen? Did you create your breath?" Silence... "Your breath is a gift," he says. "What did you do to deserve it? Nothing. Notice this, and be thankful." Silence...
"Now perhaps your mind is trying to do something. Just observe how that is. See the humor and absurdity of it. Then come home to your breath. Don't take a breathe, receive it."
Over the next ten minutes, most of the remaining guests leave. A few remain, and they have joy on their faces. Raymond says, "Receive this breath, and when you exhale, offer gratitude. This is worship." Maybe twelve are left, a remnant. None of them are scholars.
Raymond Feldman the Buddha says, "I'm not telling you, believe in the light. I'm not telling you, go and serve the light. I'm telling you, you are the light. But the light only shines when you embrace the darkness, without resisting anything. You are the darkness too, and darkness is the womb of light." No one departs.
"And when you leave here, know that you're not leaving. Wherever you go, work softly at your work. Let your breath touch other hearts in silence. The world is not transformed by your thinking. The world is not transformed by your doing. This world is transformed by your Being."
Raymond stands up. He is dressed in a ragged golf shirt, blue genes, and sneakers. Yet his presence is like a sunlit cloud on a mountain. Flowing like a river, he moves quietly around the room. Ever so gently, he touches each person with two fingers.
Some he touches between the eyebrows. We barely feel it on our skin. But inside, a cool breeze of emptiness. Others he touches on the chest, soft as a feather. Between heartbeats, we sink through an abyss of stillness into the golden void. Some he touches on top of the head. It feels like a drop of dew, melting into the vast sky.
With this touch, you hear the voices of all the flowers on earth as they open in the morning. With this touch, you see ten thousand golden suns silently birthed from a black hole at the center of the galaxy, and the galaxy is whirling in your body, right between your nipples. With this touch, you taste the inebriating nectar of clarity, and fall into the groundless beauty that you Are.
Remember, but without memories. Gently attend to the silent field of Memory before any images or events from the "past" arise. We can rest in the spaciousness of memory prior to thought; a subtle but effortless practice, really only possible when the mind is still, and the breath is faint. To be Present, we don't need to deny the vast Ago. Just don't crowd it with ego stories: 'I did this,' 'that happened to me.' Air brush the 'me' out of memory until it is just a blue sky. Pause in your linear journey to look back toward the horizon. Where did you come from? Where are you going? Out of vast space, into vast space. What's the hurry? To embrace Memory without memories takes us more deeply into Presence. This moment expands into the primordial beginning-less. Memory is eternity, and the ancient Now an abysmal silence, ringing with intelligence unborn, bell music unstruck, emanating from the place where Ouroboros bit her own serpent tail, merging time future with time past, whirling the linear vector of mere duration into a never-ending Zero, filled with infinite Possibility.
Smiling we know is a form of meditation.
Weeping is also prayer.
beseeching, “Let the Whirler of All
bring me the things I don't want.”
To practice the purest tantra, digest despair
like bacon in your belly, without naming it “despair,”
When the fire of outrage burns a hole through your forehead,
this is profound samadhi. Now be the hole.
Fall through it,
all the way down to your rectum.
This is yoga.
There are ten thousand ways to pray.
Lying here awake
at 3 A.M. is one of them.
Glittering constellations conspire to sabotage clear thinking.
Big-breasted crone moon throbs, making everyone crazy,
then veils herself in raven feathers.
Rejoice in the darkness where all your planets are ajar.
This could be freedom.
Your horoscope is
the web of a spider who fell
into a Starbuck's Frappuccino and got hammered on caffeine.
Rebel empaths invent their own Qigong. Get out of bed.
Wrestle with a mud-spattered doodle of dubious pedigree,
frolicking shamanic totem for the God of Uncertainty.
Use holy violence to defend hen’s eggs from a Norway rat.
Better than reading the Psalms, breathe the people you hate
in and out of your solar plexus, until you distil them into Kahlua.
Notice thrown-out alter flowers
on a rainy Monday morning sidewalk.
Don’t look away from the porcelain silence on your mother's face
just after she takes her last breath.
Hug the hot mess of alternate destinies,
all-forgiving curve of time.
Bend toward, but never quite complete, that Zero.
Wake down. Compost your curses and tears.
Plummet into your belly button
tenderly grieving, sighing, murmuring
"Yes" to the night.
LINK to hear this poem aloud.
Though it sounds too simple for our busy intellect, the purest meditation is to Be. No trying, doing, wanting, attaining. Just allow this worldly rainbow mirage to flash and dissolve, this foam of stars to swell and fall in the ocean of the effortless, where repose is vibration, vibration is repose.
No need to control your mind, whose nature is playful disobedience. So what if it wanders to the corners of the cosmos like a pin-ball? Just let it Be, frolicking where it will, the tantrum and lila of a child in the sandbox. The mother is watching over the child. Everything is OK. Because the restless lovable puppy-mind is not who You are. You are the Mother. You are boundless silence and compassion. The mind is a thing, but You are not in the realm of things. The mind is a creature, but You are un-created. Be the Witness.
To behold with wonder is our vast spiritual practice. Yet there is no act of practicing. 100,000 galaxies expand and overflow the rim of Laniakea. Scientists and astrologers try to tell you, "You are here," pointing to a dot on the edge of one small galaxy in this celestial explosion. But they are wrong. You are not contained in a dot. It requires a do-er to confine oneself to a dot. It's not easy. In fact, it is the very definition of dis-ease. You are space itself, containing all possible dots and points of view. And space is awake.
Even the deep vacuum beyond the farthest event-horizon is your own awareness, more intimate than the pulse in your jugular vein. Listen to the symphony of quasars filling every cell of your body with the hum of divine darkness. This is the music of the Vedas resonating in your flesh, where hosts of angels sing in the hollow of a quark.
You don't need to ascend or descend or transcend, because transcendence is the prior nature of awareness. The effervescence of your neuropeptide nerve fluid, the bubbling chocolate fire of your amygdala, the sapphire radiance of your pineal gland, zinging thunderbolts of Shakti through light-years of cerebral cortex to the fathomless blue pool in your forehead - these are all made out of one energy, consciousness itself.
Everyone seems inebriated with the glamor of a spiritual hero, an external form, the Savior, the Guru, a chosen saint or rock star. We post pictures of them in our heads all day, all night, in a constant hemorrhage of attention. But the true joy, the bliss of ananda, only happens when we relinquish this clinging to our surrogate daddy-jesu-elvis-buddha, and let our attention collapse, to rest in its source. Then we ignite the radiance of God by the grace of simply Being.
Being is a jewel more solid than the world it holds, like a mosaic of reflections, in the prism of its singularity. The world is but mist compared to the diamond of its very Being. Tat Tvam Asi. That Being, You are. The Being of an infinitesimal bindhu, less than ten thousandth of the width of a hair, You are. The Being of the Supercluster SPT2349-56, largest single object in the known cosmos, You are. Ano-raniyan mahato-mahiyan,* "smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest," You are.
Your breath is the Milky Way. Your belly is the black hole at the center of Andromeda. Whether you recline or sit, stand like a mountain or walk like a cloud, do it with the grace and dignity You are. No need to attain what's already yours, or get rid of what isn't.
By not seeking, repose in the unattainable state of Christ Consciousness. Let the wisdom of every scripture pour out of your chest as spontaneous laughter. Don't try to grasp any of this; there is no-thing to grasp. You are a great distance from yourself if you imagine that the kingdom of worms is any different than the kingdom of heaven. This smoldering in your soul is your body.
How do I know this? I don't. In matters of Truth, all proof is a hoax. There cannot possibly be any confirmation, because if there were an other who could confirm it, you would not be whole.
Simply grok this very instant, which contains the abyss of the eternal past, and know that your work is finished. Perfected. Finally un-done. All (k)nots have been hopelessly untied. The universe is out of control and completely loose. Now dance. You are the whirled.
Painting by Rimi Yang
* Quote from Katha Upanishad
She dwells in my body as this very breath, a gentle lightning bolt in my spine. Every quark of my gristle sings to an invisible star, about some incomprehensible connection between pain and beauty.
Angels cock their heads, perplexed and ever so sweetly troubled by the music emitted from my nuclei. Something about my gravity and grief gives them courage. They long to clothe themselves in bone, the very stuff that weighs me down.
Then she releases my milk-weed, lifting me up on her breeze, yet in a way that honors my fallenness, placing me down in the meadow again, rooting me wild, nurtured by dust, mushrooms, and the forgiveness of the ancestors.
Of course, you may call her Chi, Prana, Ruuh, Shekinah Kundalini. Or just let her take the shape of wings in dissolving frost. A drunken worm in the golden apple. The shadow of a cloud brushing dew from a faery ring of toadstools. A hairy caterpillar crawling toward its rainbow of doom.
But let me call her Magdalene, because I yearn to know her, not merely as an archetype but a Person, the way Jesus is a Person, and you are a Person, the living energy of a Love who loves back.
And isn’t this what God is doing here, eyes sparkling with playful tears? A single I Am breathing into separate bodies, falling in love with the Self as an Other again and again, one sap risen through billions of quivering stems in a chaos of green?
I am sitting on a mossy nurse log beside her, after wandering barefoot all night in the forest. There are no words. I have un-named the fires of heaven. Listen! The rustle of growth all around us, sigh of photons, song of mitochondria, creation’s first breath.
Infant saplings tremble up out of dead cedars, fir spores fungus down their shakti into loam. Miryam reaches out her naked cinnamon foot, nudging my big toe._______________________
Photo: took this in the Carbon River Rain Forest, Mount Tahoma. LISTEN to this poem read aloud.
We who through suffering or grace have learned to drop out of time, to repose in the Kingdom of Presence, may harbor a secret doubt that something is 'wrong' with us. We feel like a different sub-species of humanity, because we just don't process time as well as we process eternity.For so many lives we've traveled down this linear vector from past to future that we're no longer convinced it takes us anywhere. This is our revolution, our radical action: from now on, we refuse to buy into the hype of linear 'time.'Looking honestly at the human race, stuck in 'time,' we've noticed how mournfully people are vested in a story out of the past, though the past doesn't actually exist; how anxiously they speed into a story about the future, though it's just the old story repeated ad nauseum. And we've come to realize how, whatever we did in the past that needs forgiveness, forgiveness is always in the now... So we're tempted to drop out of the race as an ultimate act of sanity.But we wonder if this might be breaking the rules, and those who are caught in the insanity of time might regard us as insane.At some point though, racing with the human race just becomes so absurd we have no choice but to give up linearity. We confess that we must ever gracefully circle and fall back into Presence. Maybe its insane, but it feels right. It feels Whole.It feels like when you were a kid, letting your breath out, sinking to the bottom of the pool, where in deep blue silence you watched swimmers on the surface thrashing by.We discover that reposing in the present moment isn't the beginning of a new journey, or the end of the old one; it's the beginning-less endless journey to itself, through itself, beyond time, ever birthing, ever complete.In this repose, many of civilization's old values, handed down through centuries, throttled into school children by grim Sunday school teachers, and later by 'Advanced Placement' courses or SAT prep, just aren't relevant any more. Competition feels ridiculous. No winners to identify with, or to resent. No losers either.We're finished with a civilization based on winning and losing. When we settle in the valley of Presence, which is somehow empty yet abundantly lush, we see in a new way: Those who constantly strive toward 'more' appear quite sad. The contemplative seems to accomplish as much as the activist. The sinner is as close to heaven as the saint. And the PHD has no more actual wisdom than a sweet pea.A lump of soil is the wealth of nations. A fresh wild mushroom is the feast of kings. If we identify with anybody, it's the broken people, the wounded ones, the minds that have come a little unglued. Because they see everything from the vale of loss that cradles the mountain of wonder.But there's a catch: the transition is bumpy. And lonely. There's a birth-pang between one way of Being and another. This is where we need to help each another. Because we who are fortunate enough to become fools, and stumble down the misty forest trail into Presence, may DOUBT OURSELVES, and waste years in hesitation.Suspecting that we are mentally ill, or that we need Adderall, or maybe - most unforgivable sin of all - that we are just lazy!, we feel ashamed. Ashamed of our gift, the gift of Being Present. We see others knock themselves out trying to 'succeed,' get 'rich,' publish their names in the annals of literature and art. They exhaust themselves just to be remembered for six months, a year, 10 years at the most. Then they dissolve into ashes and smoke... But we go on forever in the present moment, being nothing at all.So I'm speaking to you who have dropped out of the illusion, who feel culturally estranged because you're no longer striving for the future, you who've learned to repose in Being, but secretly believe that something might be 'wrong' with you; who suspect that maybe you ought to feel lonely, when in the motionless core of your heart you have caught the wave of eternity, fallen in love with divine solitude, and are profoundly free...I want to tell you what I think, for all its worth, though I am a Nobody too. I think you are the pioneer. You are the Presence of the future. Even when you are by yourself, you are gathered in an interplanetary sat-sang of ceaseless celebration. You are the wellspring of the ocean of Peace that will cover the Earth with waves of beauty.
Published July 24, 2023, in Braided Way Magazine
Photo by Victoria Pittman
"They also serve who only stand and wait.” ~Milton
I remember how my first teacher, Maharishi, loved and quoted this line from Milton's sonnet. There are some whose lives seem very humble, apparently not too "productive" or "successful" in a material sense: yet upon the invisible stability of their inner silence the world depends.
Are you one of these keepers of the vigil? (Ah, I write these words at 3 A.M. on a Sabbath morning!) Were it not for your unfathomable silence, offering this breath to the breathless, the world's getting and spending would spin out of control. Indeed, this is happening, and we need you these days more than ever, friend.
Never before has it been so important for contemplatives to dwell among us, though their lives be quiet, obscure and unremarkable. You walk softly on the earth, yet stay awake. If you are one of them, thank you. You play an important role, the role of Being.
Some of you will understand that the greatest work you can "do" in this world is just to radiate the light of the heart. The light of the heart springs from groundlessness, when no mind, no belief, no "me" gets in its way. The contemplative is the one who knows that light overflows from the darkness of Unknowing. So there is no need to flee the dark or seek the light.
Radiant darkness cannot be sought or found, it just Is. And if You just are, the light already shines in your heart. The pure impulse of existence is vibrant with love, loving for no reason, no purpose, no end. Is this not who you really are?
This radiant Being is not an angel, a savior, or the white-robed guru on a flower-bedecked stage. This radiant Being is simply what gushes out of the Deep, through your chest. Nor is it a "spiritual practice." Your radiance happens very naturally, because it is your very nature. No one needs to pick the camellia blossom. When it is full, it just drops from the twig.
"I have become the original Image freed from its reflection... The chains of my forgetfulness only existed in time... Now, where time rests in the stillness of Eternity, I repose in silence." ~The Magdalene's Song, Coptic Gospel of Mary, 3rd C.
ary gave birth to her own anointing.
She exchanged a life of hollow things
for wholly living no-thing full of bliss.
You too are a Magdalene,
walking on waves of the Moon Path,
keeper of the Sun's likeness.
You too enfold the luminous egg,
finishing the silent work
of inward motherhood.
It is no small accomplishment in your darkness
to give birth to the radiance of Christ,
for the secret beams of your conception
penetrate all other souls.
We are each a hungry mirror, friend,
yearning for reflection,
longing to contain, by means of emptiness,
the beauty of each other’s face.
on the earth.” ~Epistle to the Hebrew, chapter 11
Only through estrangement
Almost all conspiracy theories can be dispelled by applying the principle known as Hanlon's Razor: "Do not attribute to malice that which is more easily explained by stupidity." However, I admit to having my own conspiracy theory, and you may feel free to use it. For billions of years, in fact, from the birth of time, the black hole at the center of every galaxy, and the gravity of each gazing star, every hydrocarbon and chloroplast, each photon of sunlight or proton of breath, and even shy colors like celadon and sage in the meadow have conspired to guide my atoms to this moment, when I have no choice but to fall on my knees in the moss, to spread toward wind and sky my arms, useless as wings on a whale, and here now confess: "I don't know what the fuck is going on!" Only then am I capable of praying: "I'm sorry, forgive me, thank you, I love you." This is how the universe conspires to reduce me to perfect joy.
So you want to be a certified Machu Picchu Shaman?
You’re already there. You danced the twelve constellations
as you tumbled through the amniotic intergalactic womb.
You were baptized in the sweat lodge of the birth canal,
microbiome bubbling with talismans.
Each morning in your crib, as a grasshopper, serpent, peacock, frog,
you performed the total phylogenic sequence of asanas.
You embodied eons, your wrists and fingers playing Buddhic mudras,
throat a bone rattle, belly a drum, lips gurgling incantations to invoke
your animal familiars, a spaniel, a tabby cat, a parakeet named Sanchez.
Your burbles and farts were tantric bija mantras filled with God’s Word:
"Hum!" "Phwat!" "Hri!" "Gah!" Creation through baby talk.
Your epithelium the robe of the Deer Priest, veiling mysteries:
Wingéd jaguars in the rain forest of your cerebellum.
Hidden in the leaves of your medulla, a sepulcher containing
medicine bundle, the amygdala. And in the ancient well
of your pineal gland, a turquoise ayahuaska toad who spat
crystal wisdom to your forehead, star-juice down your backbone.
Distant suns fell through the soft spot in your skull like rebel angels.
The fiery polypeptide tendrils in your solar plexus reached beyond
your edgeless flesh; neurons rooted through your naked toes,
entwined with mycelium; your diaphragm a lyre of gut strings
resonant with hummingbird thunder; dust, fire, water, air, offerings
to Viracocha through the burning sage of your original amazement.
Shaman: "one who sees in the dark." The stars are only beautiful
because the night around them is so deep. Even now
you are that child, beholding the full moon of beauty that rises
in an opal sky between your eyebrows. Your senses do not receive
the world, but suffuse it. Nostrils, ears, eyes, tongue
irradiate creation with a Self again. Take, no, receive this breath.
And even now you might perambulate these terrible holy flowers,
the sacrum, navel, throat and crown, following a winding way
with the pilgrim goddess, who walks with you through Eden again
in the cool of the evening, placing the lost rib back in your side,
where it blossoms.
dissolve in "Thou."
You are not a gender
or a tribe,
a nation or a race.
You are the one
who was born to gaze
into my face,
as I was born
to gaze into yours.
is a broken heart,
out of darkness.
We meet in the smell
to the smallest
the bee, the seed,
learning from a withered
how to scatter a thousand
Painting by Laurent Berthier
Between heartbeats is a garden, the place where Magdalene
and Jesus touch. She thinks he is the gardener. He thinks She is
the breath of God, caressing his chest. And she is.
Between heartbeats is a garden, the wilderness where Israel
meets Wisdom, that Sabbath Queen who sings of loss.
How could they make love in the desert?
They pitched a tent of animal skins, and it became
a holy pavilion of gathered silences.
Between heartbeats is a garden, where village girls dance
with the Prince of Herdsmen. Each maiden is his flute,
but only one can be his Song.
If she who wears your respiration as her wedding gown
does not wound your artery, here, in the throat,
how will you know her? By what signs will you prove
that the Paramour is your Betrothed?
Dear friend, your emptiness turns indigo, fragrant as jasmine.
Your numb places overflow like awakening breasts.
There is a bruise in your crown that never quite heals,
and when you breathe through it, your bones fill up
with orphaned lightning.
One grail breaks against another, mingling the tinctures
of birth and death. Now you are a vineyard fallowing wild,
edges un-plucked, where wandering pilgrims eat their fill.
All night some feral goddess presses her kiss of solitude
between your eyebrows, a dreamless throbbing pearl.
A waveless flame on the wick of your spine consumes
the sky-blue oil of wonder, whose scent is love.
is your Lover’s secret name.
In the darkest hour you cease to ask for light,
because the midnight stillness under your breastbone
has become a maelstrom of stars.
You remember that this smoldering in your soul
is your body, and the dignity of this inhalation,
how it gently places the spirit in each cell of your flesh,
You can hear it read at this LINK. Boreas, Goddess of Wind, by John William Watherhouse
You taught me your hungry language: Ishq Allah Ma'bud Allah, “the Lord is love, lover, and beloved!”
I know it now, God's native tongue, though my grammar is confused. The pronouns bewilder me because I have fallen into the flower of your wound, whose petals are Mine, Yours, His, Hers, Ours.
A groundless falling, a ravenous exchange of lips and silences, gazes of Otherness in a single eye, Ishq Allah Ma'bud Allah! All that matters is the wave nature of the moon, the secret kiss of the bee in the pistil of the hyacinth.
All that matters is the sexual caress of listener and stillness, a tremor where the music is conceived. The blue note in your flute has become my sky. I taste the death of distances.
In the star-swirled center of my forehead, you drown your dark embryo. We are reborn as drops in each other’s eyes. Healing, like a bellows, is the gift of hollowness.
Is your desert night above, or deep inside, where the constellations arrange themselves so tenderly, in the shape of a hand over my slumbering face? You flowing in, I flowing out, ebbing into the diamond blackness that is always awake.
Some imagine comets and suns to be out there, beyond us. But they are my tears, caught in the silken web of your longing for me. My inhalation is the pilgrimage to a temple nearer than stillness. My exhalation carries us, together, across the void.
One stirs my buried seed, the other, ah, releases sap, bathing the earth in a bittersweet liquid prayer. I have wounded my diaphragm with this invitation: Come fill me, empty me, drown me in the silence of your Name.
Ishq Allah Ma'bud Allah. O stranger, pilgrim, seeker of lethal cleansing transformations, wield your breath wisely, for it is a burning sword of love!
Vintage book cover, Rubaiyat of Omar Kaiyyam