Monday, July 26, 2010

The Two-Sentence Rule

The quote today, July 26, in Transform Your Life, “I respectfully decline the invitation to join your hallucination,” by Scott Adams reminds me of a very helpful “encouragement” we have in our practice: Don’t participate in any internal conversation more than two sentences long. Another, similar, guideline is: Spiritual practice does not begin until the beatings stop. Together these constitute a powerful set of reminders for who we are and how life works.

There are several basic understandings that are extremely supportive of a spiritual aspirant working to escape the “convincing’ arguments egocentric karmic conditioning puts forth for keeping one’s attention on “something wrong and not enough.” The first thing we need to get—as an intellectual understanding that moves as quickly as possible to the level of intuition and onto clarity—is that life is not dualistic. The conditioned human mind is dualistic; life is not. Life contains the human being with the ability to experience life as dualistic, but that’s not the same thing as life is dualistic.

How can we picture this? Imagine that life is a giant empty “container” the size of infinity. Now, of course, the difficulty in that endeavor is that conditioned mind, with its dualistic perspective, draws a line around the edge of infinity and wants to know what’s on the other side of that line. (It doesn’t actually want to know anything, but that’s the kind of remark that can derail a line of exploration such as this; conditioned mind will always consider it worth a try.) So, let’s put that aside and imagine our infinity has no edges, there is nothing beyond it, it is not contained in anything else—it is all there is.

“Inside” that infinity is everything that has existed, does exist, and will ever exist throughout time and space for eternity. There is nothing outside That and that That is This. Let’s say we call This the Ground of Being or Brahman or True Nature or God. Can we then see that there is no other or opposite or “separate”? There is only One and That is all that is.

It can feel when viewed through a conditioned mind by the illusion of a self that is separate, that we are having this discussion outside That. But of course we’re not because that’s not possible. There is no “outside”!

So, that’s very helpful to practice with, to move along from intellectual understanding to intuition or insight to clarity. There is nothing wrong. There are no mistakes. There is no “them.” There are no good people and bad people, no right/wrong, no past or future. This is it and it is us and we are it.

To help us get to clarity about that fact, we can practice the “two sentence rule.” Egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate keeps the illusion of duality alive in a conversation about what’s wrong, loss, lack, deprivation, fear, urgency, the past, the future, using judgment and comparison as its tools. Its method is conversation, a conversation in the head of a human who is vulnerable to being caught in a dualistic belief system. Without that conversation the illusion of a dualistic reality cannot be maintained. Why? It cannot be maintained because there is no illusion of a separate self creating and sustaining that imaginary reality.

The Practice: Conditioned mind starts a conversation that will quickly build to the “something wrong/not enough” perspective it must create and maintain in order to support the illusion that it is real. We, practicing attending to waking up and ending suffering, listen just long enough to get a sense of which story is being spun with an intention of drawing us into unconscious collusion. We recognize the ploy and turn our attention to Here/Now/This, the breath, the space between the thoughts, returning to an experience—even if fleeting—of the infinite container in which all arises.

Within that breath, that letting go everything as This, to be This, it is quite easy to respectfully decline all invitations to join in any hallucination the illusion of separation might currently have on offer.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Letting life live me

My practice, and the one I encourage others in, could best be described as “learning to let life live me.” The quote “don’t seek after enlightenment, simply cease to cherish opinions” has long been a guiding beacon on that path. Letting go, getting out of the way, saying yes, receiving, accepting, allowing. This life belongs to life. “I” get to enjoy it for as long as life animates this form, and when it no longer does I will no longer be. Simple as that.

Recently I’ve been enjoying realizing how perfectly meditation practice teaches us the how of letting go and letting life live us.

As we know, the only thing standing between a “me” and a peaceful, joyful life is egocentric karmic conditioning’s “better ideas” about how life should be. Those interfering better ideas are difficult to recognize, harder still to let go, when we’re busily going about the day. But when we sit in meditation we can practice being open to everything that is, just as it is, in a safe, “manageable” environment.

For instance, a thought--the result of a sensation labeled anxiety--arises about something I need to do. If I’m up and moving around in life, that combination of thought and emotion can launch a flurry of unconscious activity leading to more unnoticed sensations, thoughts, emotions, behaviors—and suffering. But here I am sitting in meditation. I can watch the whole thing arise, linger, and pass through, knowing I’m not going to follow any conditioned patterns of behavior because my commitment is to staying here paying close attention for this period of practice.

There’s a sensation somewhere in the body that carries the label “pain.” I get to practice being with those sensations rather than allowing conditioned mind to take the label and run with it—run away from the sensations and the body having them. I can stay with the body, exploring what feeling feels like when labels and stories don’t get to replace experience.

Practicing in this way lets me see the process egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate employs to take the life force away from life and to use that energy for its own suffering purposes. I get to see how I have been conditioned to abandon myself each time a story arises that “this is too hard” or “I don’t like this” or “I don’t want to do this” or “this is scary.” Sitting there, present, alert, attentive, willing, committed, I can recognize that’s not “me” talking about “too hard/don’t want to.” That which has made this commitment to meditate, to wake up, wants me to live without suffering, knows stillness as home, is life and revels in the delight of being present with itself. And I get to see that THAT is all of me.

As the awareness of what is animating a human being becomes more obvious, the enthusiasm for following an illusion of a separate self around through life dwindles rapidly. Shall I choose to have my life guided by unconditional love or a cruel and hateful conversation? Doesn’t require a lot of discernment.

Faith and trust grow with practice. We can relax into life’s utterly impersonal unconditional love. We can feel the stress of trying to figure it out, trying to get it right, of believing we should know or that there’s something to know or someone to know it drain from our body, mind, and emotions. As we learn simply to be in meditation, we know how simply to be in life…and that is worth practicing!

In gassho,

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

We are in love.

Last evening on Open Air I heard myself say a sentence I really like: “We are in love and we can fall in love with the love we are in.” We are in love. As fish are in water, we—and they!—are in love. This notion of “being in love” caused me to think of the Garden of Eden tale.

If we read from Genesis in the Judeo-Christian bible we find this creation story:
God charges Adam with tending the garden in which they live, and specifically commands Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is questioned by the serpent as to why she doesn’t eat from that tree. Eve states that the commandment not to eat of its fruit says that even if she touches the fruit she will die. The serpent responds that she will not die, rather she and her husband would "be as gods, knowing good and evil," and persuades Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve eats and gives the fruit to Adam, who also eats. At this point the two become aware, "to know good and evil," evidenced by awareness of their nakedness. God then finds them, confronts them, and judges them for disobeying. God expels them from Eden to prevent them from also partaking of the Tree of Life. The story says that God placed cherubim with an omni-directional "flaming sword" to guard against any future entrance into the garden.

When I look at that tale I get to:
1) This, our very world, is the garden and the garden is love.
2) We, as human beings, have the ability to experience ourselves as separate from life, outside the garden, cut off from love.
3) Rather than that ability being an example of our inherent evil, it is a beautiful gift enabling us to feel lost and then know the joy of feeling found. We believe ourselves to be unloved and unlovable only to realize we are unconditional love.
4) Once we realize who/what we truly are, we can see that there never was an entrance or exit to the garden, we have always been in the garden, there is nothing other than the garden, and we have always been living in love—we just didn’t know it.
5) When we have that knowledge we are free to be love, which is when we fall in love with the love we are in, and, yes, if that isn’t God-like, I can’t imagine what is!

Rumi said:
“A lover’s food is the love of bread,
not the bread. No one who really loves,
loves existence.

Lovers have nothing to do with existence.
They collect the interest without the capital.”

When we are in love with love rather than with an object, in love with the process of love rather than the content, we can feel that we are always in love, a love without conditions. How can we practice that? We can practice turning our attention away from the conversation in the head aimed at reducing the unconditional to conditional, be with the breath of being, and recognize that as love.

In gassho, in love,