Tuesday, 21 December 2010
As I sat looking out to sea, waiting vaguely for my friend to finish her shopping, a sense of complete wellbeing arose, along with some realisations that caused me to pick up my pen and my notebook, as I luxuriated in a perfect moment, in the sure knowledge that I could not hold onto it.
Of course, all moments are perfect, it's all about our relationship to reality, and that is the real subject of the little meandering poem/exploration below. I hope you enjoy it.
The absolute bliss
of a perfect moment,
which is any moment
when you know
without a trace of doubt,
that all is well,
everything is as it should be,
and nothing needs to be done.
You are home.
You are home -
knowing that there is no distinction
between you and home.
You are, we are, it is
it seems almost incredible
that you ever believed
that there was anything wrong,
that there was a problem with life,
that you needed something
in order to be
checking the record books,
you realise that you've been here
many times before.
The glorious holiday you took last year,
is now reduced to a collection of
fragments of fading memory,
as is every other cherished experience
you've ever had,
or ever will have.
And the joy, which was welcome
has been replaced by flatness
which aren't welcome at all.
How can this be?
It is simply the experience of being
It seems you have been
holding on to
the superficially plausible myth,
that a single perfect moment
can save your soul.
And it can't.
No experience is it,
and yet any experience
can be the gateway
to recovering your birthright.
To knowing yourself
as the ocean,
the grain of sand,
and as god,
how to live?
If nothing is it
and everything is it?
I shrug and admit,
that I don't know.
What I do know
living will happen,
choices will be made,
and life will unfold.
And the only choice remaining
that's worth the candle
is to love it,
over and over
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
I woke this morning, or rather I was half asleep and waking up, but I realised in my groggy state that all was not well in my world.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Then, as if from nowhere, something did arise. It didn't feel like quite the heart of the matter, but yet it was touching and it arose in response to something that someone else had shared, so I trusted my instincts and shared it anyway. As my teacher Adam says "there's no need to go digging - always play the top card" - and this was on top. (Of course by playing the top card, the next card in the deck is automatically revealed...).
What I shared was around "problems" - that the thought that there is a problem with what is happening in life is often very seductive, reasonable and convincing. And it often appears scary or difficult to challenge it.
To turn around, look the "problem" and the thought in the face - to call its bluff and ask, kindly, "is there really a problem here?" often seems a bit tricky.
Experience tells me that every time I've had (what feels like) the courage to turn around and ask the question "is there really a problem here?", the Wizard of Oz's curtain is pulled back to reveal that there never was a problem, just a state of affairs that I was scared to embrace - usually some feelings that I just didn't want to feel. And actually it was quite possible to feel the feelings, and everything melted into ease and love, often joy and bliss.
And noticing that quite often the courage to turn around and face the "problem" doesn't arise - that I simply seek a distraction from it, from engaging with reality, from feeling the feelings.
And allowing that to be OK too. Perhaps even welcoming that.
There's something here about compassion.
Pamela offered Papaji's observation that many of us are in tune with clear-seeing, but are a bit behind with compassion. He spoke of an aeroplane or a bird with the wing of clear-seeing unfurled but the wing of compassion not aloft. He pointed out that in order to fly effectively over the landscape (especially in turbulent weather) both wings need to be out. With only one wing out we will end up flying in circles! I found this funny and very touching. And of course in that moment there was compassion - for myself and for all of us.
And then bubbling up inside me I felt what was currently challenging for me in life - what I really wanted to share that evening.
It's around feeling the very strong feelings and sensations that often arise in my body. I suspect that they may be left over from unresolved "stuff" dating back to childhood, but that's just a guess - I don't know it to be true. What I do know is that the sensations are seriously intense, contain lots of energy and are very firey.
I know that like all feelings they only want to be felt.
And yet they sometimes feel "unbearable".
Or that's the thought that arises, combined with an unwillingness or seeming inability to engage with them.
Pamela's usual observation is that everything that comes to us, comes to us as the infinite in order to know its true nature (which is love).
It's as if love has wrapped itself up in a form and has forgotten itself and then presents itself back to us in order to come home.
All it wants is for us to sit with it with an open heart.
And this feels true to me.
And yet the feelings sometimes feel like they are too much.
It feels like...
It feels like there is a problem here!
Yet I know that there aren't really any problems.
So I knew that there was something screwy going on here. Some confusion on my part.
I came to the humbling point of realising that I could do with a little help with unravelling it.
So I offered it to Pamela and we batted it around together.
Her being with me and it was very helpful.
The words that follow are the words I wrote on the tube coming home, being a synthesis of what arose between us and what followed after...
There is no need to bear "unbearable feelings".
They do not need to be bourne.
No one needs to carry them - to hold their "weight".
They just want to be met in presence.
And yet...they are so intense and fiery.
The fear is that the fire will burn me up.
The longing is that the fire will burn me up.
The fear and the longing are so close.
I rub my hands together as I say this - a millimetre apart - as if making fire! Perhaps this is what teachers call the heat of practice...
What if I just let the feelings have me...and trust?
Trust that nothing essential can be burned away,
And only that which is not essential will be consumed.
Trust life and love.
It's not about mastering compassion.
It's about letting compassion master us.
It's absolute humility.
Allowing myself to be touched and be torched.
Set alight and burned clean.
Over and over.
With thanks to Pamela
Saturday, 20 March 2010
I don't plan to write in detail about what we did on the retreat, but I would like to share one or two of my experiences and some of the things that I learned (or at least started to learn).
The most important of these is about the possibility of giving up trying.
As I write this, I realise that I am writing something almost sacrilegious in Western society.
"Give up trying? Are you mad? You have to try. If you don't try you are simply a fatalist, a loser, someone who lets the world dump on them as opposed to going out there and making things happen" is what appears in my head and I imagine what might appear in many of the minds of those reading this.
And up to a point it is true. Trying is different to not trying. The outcome is often different. And yes, if you try, sometimes you will achieve an outcome that would not have been possible if you didn't try.
And yet there is something important to notice about trying and what happens when we don't.
I want to draw a distinction here: not trying is not the same as not acting/not choosing/not doing. There can still be doing, there can still be action, without trying.
Trying is about making effort. It is about seeing all of the easily possible paths laying in front of you and taking none of them and deciding to go cross-country through the brambles. It's about pushing through your boundaries.
Doing something is different to trying to do something. In the story of our lives, action is necessary - trying is not. To start talking all Star Wars and quote the great sage Master Yoda: "Do or do not...there is no try".
There is nothing wrong with trying, it's very human. But it's useful to notice that it really has an impact on you and on those you come into contact with.
On retreat I noticed that when I try, I (usually) stop being myself and start being what many people around me would describe as a pain in the arse (that's "ass" for the Americans reading). I start second-guessing myself and trying to think my way through what's happening, instead of feeling my way through the territory. Life starts to feel difficult, hazardous and complicated. All in all its very tiring for me and for those I meet.
It all came to a head when (having had it gently pointed out to me during the day that I was doing quite a lot of trying) I spent that evening at a party we threw noticing how I was behaving. It didn't make comfortable watching. I saw myself spending most of the evening trying. Trying to dance well, trying to connect with people, trying to have a good time. It was absolutely excruciating for me to witness this and to realise that this is how I often show up in social situations. I could also see how people were reacting to me and how the way I was behaving was creating this reaction.
The next day I had the opposite experience and I wrote about it in my diary. It is that entry (slightly expanded to make it readable) that I'd like to share with you. It is one of my first experiences of what life is like when I don't try. (This is not to say that I've not had times of not trying before, but simply I'd not been paying enough attention to notice that this is what was occurring).
I'd all but given up on having a private session with Adam on this retreat. Although he'd told us at the start of the retreat that in addition to the group sessions he would give us all an hour one-to-one during the two week retreat, by the time the second Wednesday came around and I felt ready for the session he informed me that he felt that he'd reached the stage in proceedings where he wasn't going to give any more of them. Bad luck. I'd missed out. I felt a little disappointed, but I figured that I hadn't really needed or wanted a session before then, so that things had simply turned out as they had and that it was all for the best (probably). With only a little bad grace, I let it go.
The next day, Thursday, we had ventured into town from our secluded hilltop hideaway. The little lakeside village of Orta (barely a town) had seemed positively overwhelming and exciting by comparison to the slow, low-stimulation environment that had kept us safe for the past 12 days.
It was a lovely day. I won't share with you what happened during the day, partly because I don't want to spoil the surprise for any future retreat participants and partly because what happened on my return from our day trip was of far more significance to me this time around.
We were returning from Orta to our country hilltop residence, Casa Feliciana, taking the long and windy road up the hill. We were walking slowly. The journey was probably going to take us about 45 mintues to an hour (though someone in a hurry could probably have walked it in 20).
The sun was shining gently on us as we wandered in little groups, arm in arm, some holding hands, back to dinner. People were talking gently about the day as they looked at the beautiful countryside around and traveled along in way which might only be described as sauntering.
Except for our teacher Adam and me. Adam was walking out ahead, leading the group and I was floating around wondering which of the hand-holding, arm-linked groups I might be able to join. To be honest, I was feeling a tiny bit left out.
I caught my standard mental/ego response kicking in. "I want to be part of one of those groups! Which one of them can I join? They all look so happy and settled, I bet they don't want me butting in". I could feel myself becoming dissatisfied.
In fact there was an element of truth to what I noticed. The groups were set up in such a way that at that moment it wouldn't have been very easy for me to have joined any of them. To have done so, or tried to have done so would have been a stretch. It would have been a little uncomfortable. Sure, it would have been possible, and one of the groups might have been prepared to re-adjust to accommodate me, but it wouldn't have been easy or straightforward. It would have needed some serious trying.
I found myself half-noticing this and the question arose: "how would it be just to wander along by myself?". I found myself not discussing this, but simply doing it. I wandered happily through the sunshine with the group but not trying to join any particular cluster of people, feeling the sunshine on my face, enjoying the scenery. It was lovely. It was easy.
It was also unfamiliar. The thought crossed my mind that doing what was easy instead of what I thought I wanted/needed was never the option I would usually take. I would usually look at the limit of what was possible instead of looking at the available easy options and deciding which of them I'd take. I didn't dwell on this thought though - I was too busy enjoying the sunshine and the scenery.
I found myself catching up to our teacher, Adam and we walked along in silence for a minute or two before he dropped back in order to do something or other. I briefly considered dropping back to join him, but by then I'd settled into doing what seemed easy or natural and going back to join him didn't seem like either, so I didn't. I continued slowly strolling along in the sunshine ahead of everyone else, enjoying this unfamiliar feeling of (for once) not trying to push the river.
As I continued walking by myself, doing what felt simple and easy, I thought I heard Adam say very quietly "good!", almost as a response - though I wasn't sure I'd heard it and even if I had, I wasn't sure it referred to me.
Within a minute or two I once again found myself walking alongside Adam. I think he'd caught up to me, though it didn't seem like anything that either of us had intended. I found myself falling into conversation with him about nothing in particular. We discussed how the weather was warmer and dryer than yesterday and how that had affected the group. Adam noticed that the school bus that had just passed us usually met the group further up the hill, meaning that we were walking back later this year than previous years. Nothing of any great consequence, just whatever we felt to say in that moment. It struck me that there was no trying going on. I wasn't trying to say anything clever, or deep or meaningful or to try to impress my teacher, as I usually might. We were just sharing in a very simple, easy, human way. It was lovely and touching.
After about 5 minutes of this, Adam turned to me as we walked and said "I remember that you wanted an individual session with me and I said that I wasn't giving any more". I nodded yes. He continued "we have another 20 or 30 minutes as we are walking back to the house, we could have the session now if you like".
I was delighted. I was delighted to be able for us to have the one to one after all. I was delighted that it had come about in such an unplanned way. I was delighted that I was able to go into the session in a comparatively relaxed and unpretentious way.
We had an easy and fruitful conversation. I broached things with him that I might not ordinarily have dared to discuss and received answers which were both touching and supportive. We parted at the door to the house with warm words and open hearts. It felt like something important had happened.
I found myself allowing the rest of the day to unfold in a similar sort of way - choosing what to do from what was easily possible and letting go of trying to make anything happen:
"What do I want to do now?"
"I want to build a fire in the fireplace."
So I did.
As I was building the fire a friend came along and told me that she was about to give one of the other participants a massage. I found myself saying "that makes me want to ask you for a massage, but perhaps you're too busy to do two". What was amazing was I said this with no agenda, with no sense of wanting to pressure her into answering yes. I genuinely asked for what I wanted whilst letting go of needing any particular outcome. There was no trying. Again it felt unfamiliar!
To my delight she didn't say no but instead asked "how long will it take you to finish building the fire?". I replied "10 minutes". "Fine" she said. "I'll give you a massage in 10 minutes". Easy. Delightful!
As I sat by the fire receiving one of the most wonderful foot massages of my life and enjoying feeling my body lapping it it up, I noticed the thought running through my head that the fire might be burning out. My ordinary impulse would have been to break off the massage to check on the fire or to have sat there worrying about it instead of enjoying what was happening. Instead I found myself calling out to the person who was walking past the fire and asking them to check on it and throw on an extra log if it needed it. They happily obliged. Wow! I'd never have asked that ordinarily. How easy was that? Could life really be this easy?
The massage over, I thanked my friend and I wondered what I wanted to do. The answer came readily. "Sit here and relax". Again, the usual impulse would have been to do something. But no, it was clear that of all the easily available options, the one I wanted to take was of staying put. It is hard for me to express in words how radical this is/was for me in terms of my usual behaviour, but it didn't feel very radical just then. It felt easy. It felt right.
There came a time when it was enough. I don't know how I knew. I just knew. I knew that what I wanted to do was take a shower, so I did.
It was such a great shower. I luxuriated in the warmth and the feeling of the water on my skin. I sang and danced, because I wanted to and because I could. I felt such joy! After 10 minutes or so I found myself asking "am I done?". The answer was clear: "no!". So I stayed! For another 10 minutes. I noticed my mind judging that this was outrageous to spend so long in the shower, but I was long past caring and completely immersed in what was easy, what was possible and what was delightful!
The afternoon was almost done. There was an hour remaining before dinner and I found myself wondering how I should spend the remaining time. I caught myself imagining that there was a large group of people hanging out in the group room, probably having a group cuddle and momentarily found myself getting jealous and wanting to be part of it.
Then I remembered to check in with myself. "What do I actually want right now?" I realised that whatever might or might not be happening in the group room, what I wanted right now was to be by myself and to rest in my bed. I noticed that my reflex response was to try join the group even before I'd checked whether it was right for me. What a relief to be able to know what I needed and to be able to give it to myself.
With a quiet elation I took myself off to bed, without giving a second thought to what everyone else might be up to. With relief I laid down on my bed and found myself almost weeping for joy.
I found myself realising, crying and then (unable to contain my amazement) writing:
"This is what it feels like to look after myself and to hang out with myself. This is what life feels like when I don't try.
I realised that my tendency in life has almost always been to get ambitious. To go for whatever I want regardless of whether it was easily possible. This leads to strain and trying.
I twist myself, get bent out of shape, exhaust myself, become a pain the arse and (often) don't get what I want. (Or I do get what I want but there are often consequences later).
How much easier to feel my way in to what reality suggests and awareness knows is the easy next step.
How much truer, more respectful and sweeter?
As I lay in bed, I felt like I was lying in the revelation. I felt blessed.
The realisation felt like such a gift! A pointer of how to live life in co-operation with reality instead of constantly picking fights and picking up the pieces.
I felt so grateful!
I felt like the universe was looking after me.
It felt like proof that the universe was a kind place.
It felt like proof that I really am loved by god.
I felt washed through, clear and simple.
It felt like a watershed and one of the most important lessons I'll ever learn.
It felt like there was and is always the possibility to be simple,
to give up trying
and just be."
Coda: What I've just described is an example of what Adam refers to as being "internally lazy". I was presented with another example that same evening.
I was sitting at supper and was feeling happy but very tired. I realised to my dismay that I'd taken a full plate of food but had not got any cutlery. Damn! I really didn't want to get up - it felt like so much effort. The cutlery felt so far away! I then noticed one of the teaching assistants over the other side of the room by the cutlery drawer...
My mind said "You can't ask her to get cutlery for you! That's outrageously lazy. And she's one of Adam's assistants".
My heart asked "what's simple?". "Ask simply. Allow her to help you if she's willing. Allow her to say 'yes' or 'no'..."
I found myself asking: "Amanda, could you bring me a knife and fork please?", simply and with love. A clear request, not a demand. A genuine, simple possibility.
There was a short pause. She smiled and said:
To paraphrase my teacher's teacher: The universe says: "Relax!".
If we are prepared to let go of needing the outcome to be anything in particular, to still have a direction or even destination, but not be determined that we must get there at all costs, the possibility opens up for life to be easy. When we realise this we realise:
There is no need to try. Ever.
I know that I haven't stopped trying and that I'll probably continue trying from time to time, but I feel that I've tasted the possibility of something different. Frankly it's delicious, though it often feels a little scary.
I know that I'm not done with trying (I can even feel some happening as I type this and know that this piece of writing is not free of it), but I'm hoping that from here on in I'll be doing it less of it.
Something inside me knows that's true.
And that's enough for right now.
Sunday, 24 January 2010
The answer to the question has real practical value when it is known.
But I don't know it.
I'm guessing that "I" never will!
And yet beyond the knowing of the I, there have been some delightful flashes of recognition here about freedom that I felt to share with you, and to share with you how they occurred.
So...I was listening to a podcast by John Wheeler on Charlie Hayes's blog on "the practical value of this" and I came across a pointer about the nature of freedom and choice that felt like it might be true, but it was also clear that I couldn't quite connect with it. As is often the case, it certainly didn't "make any sense"!
The suggestion was that although there is no-one who chooses, there is a choice. Paradoxically, the choice is to choose what is actually occurring, as opposed to fighting it.
(It's true that doing this doesn't sound much like a choice in the conventional sense).
Then I had two quite strong experiences of knowing that it is true - the first walking down the street where there was a powerful experience of shifting from resisting "my" experience to embracing it. The second was on the dancefloor doing meditative dance, which was very similar - a powerful experience of loving every aspect of what was arising through me and in me.
Once again, revealing the gap between hell and heaven to be paper-thin.
What follows are the words that emerged...
Freedom is always available here and now through choosing what is.
It is not freedom in the conventional sense of “freedom to do anything” or “freedom to choose anything”, which are illusory anyway, because they are just ideas.
It is not freedom from the circumstances of life, but freedom in the circumstances of life.
And although it is not freedom from life’s circumstances, it is freedom from suffering.
It is freedom in the sense that you are unbound and you know yourself as that.
In the paradox of the dream, where it appears that there is someone who chooses, it appears that there is a choice to embrace life as it happens or to resist and reject it.
In the moment of choosing to embrace what is happening, it may be realised that there never was anyone to do the choosing, although there was an apparent choice to be made.
This is tricky to speak of, because to speak of it is to touch on the heart of the mystery of life and who we really are.
And yet we must speak of it, because beyond escape from physical incarceration, it is the only freedom worth the name.
A previous question I posed myself was:
How to be with strong/difficult feelings or sensations that arise?
It turns out that this is a misstated question. Or even a non-question.
Being with the feelings isn't just easy, it's more fundamental than that -
It's a done deal.
The feelings are already the case.
That I am with them is already the case.
I am with the feelings whether I like it or not.
There is no choice here.
If there is a choice it is to choose the feelings (that I'm already having).
The question now becomes: how can I enjoy the feelings I'm actually having?
Where is the satisfaction in the feelings I'm having?
In answering this question the focus shifts from the future-oriented trying-to-change-how-it-is to the present oriented loving what is.
And as it does, there is freedom.
Saturday, 9 January 2010
It was a familiar physical/emotional pain that I've known in many forms for many years. Not a sign of medical emergency, but a well-known pang that was dull and sharp all at once.
And in that moment I didn't like it. Not one bit.
The familiar questions arose to accompany the familiar pain:
Why do I feel this pain and tenderness again?
What can I do to make it go away?
What is wrong with me?
And then, as if by magic and certainly by grace there was a shift, something softened and I realised that (and this doesn't really make sense to the mind) the pain/tenderness around my heart was the answer. It wasn't a problem, it was what I was looking for. The following words arrived as I walked home through the snow and picked up my pen to write...
The pain in my heart is the answer.
The sound of my breath is the answer.
The snow melting on my tongue is the answer.
The sound of my pen writing is the answer.
The page of my notebook turning is the answer.
These words appearing are the answer.
And they would be so if they were written in Chinese...
...or indeed a language long-forgotten that no-one understands anymore.
If life appears to be a question
Then life if the answer.
Why does my heart feel tender again? Because it does.
What can I do to change it? Nothing.
What is wrong with me? Nothing.
There is only what's happening.
The why is not important.
"Why?" presumes that you need to understand something, which you don't. Not really.
It refers to the past with reference to the future.
It is functional.
You don't need to understand something to love it.
You don't need to know why.
You just do.
Because you are.
You don't surrender in order that you might get what you want.
You surrender in order that you might want what you've got.
And you don't surrender.
But surrender may happen.
If life appears to be a question
Then life is the answer.