Monday, April 29, 2013

The play of the beloved and her use of particles of love to create the world…

There is a moment as we transition out of the dream state and into waking reality that offers a special opportunity to explore the nature of awareness, of what we are, of the unique ways that particles of love are starting to take shape as a new day. Our habitual, familiar sense of self has not yet crystallized: we do not know if we are awakened or not, enlightened or not, a spiritual person or not – these dreams have not yet formed. The story of me has yet to be told. In these moments which are truly out of time, it is only us and the beloved; it is her realm, her garden, her environment, and remains outside the rules of conventional life. Inside this mandala there is no ground or support for egoic process; it is not dictated by our hopes, dreams, and fantasies. Becoming familiar with this very lucid area of consciousness allows us to get a behind-the-scenes look of how it is the beloved uses particles of love to create the relative world.   

In this dimension of experience, things are so vulnerable, so sensitive, so raw, so naked, so groundless – we are in the unknown, unsure of what it is we really want, what is moving within us. What will the day bring? Will we allow another fully into our hearts? Will we allow ourselves to be touched and transformed by whatever appears? How deeply will we meet that which arrives on this new day? Will our old friend anxiety come for tea? Will our faithful companion fear ask to join? Will our long lost acquaintance shame arrive for a reunion? Will we resist the temptation to turn from our old friends, to spiritualize them away, to dishonor their gifts through our habitual need to be in some state other than the one that has been given? Discrimination between “higher” consciousness and “lower” consciousness does not arise here; we see that love, that awareness, has no bias for wisdom or neurosis – for, when flooded with awareness, they are revealed to be the same substance. Can we remain radically embodied, staying excruciatingly close, profoundly intimate, outrageously kind, toward all aspects of self who arrive as special guests from beyond?

There is a part of us that knows that in such a meeting something will be shattered. Our images? Our dreams? Our hopes? Our strategies to avoid the risk of relatedness? Our spiritual fantasies? Our ways of hiding out from the burning fires of true intimacy? Our unconscious ways of using the spiritual journey to create ground for egoic process? The unbearable truth of the groundless and unresolvable nature of the field of grace that is this messy human life? Alongside this most sacred reassembling, it seems we are also simultaneously becoming aware of a call from beyond, whispering to us that in this shattering something will be reborn, reconstituted out of the dust-heap of the broken pieces of our tender hearts and faded dreams. Maybe it was only love after all, taking whatever form required to re-introduce us to ourselves. Perhaps it was all orchestrated and set-up by the beloved from the start, flooded with her fragrance from the very beginning; in these tender moments between the worlds, we remain in awe at how her body and her speech and her activity and her egolessness give birth to this universe. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sacred disorientation

It can be quite disorienting – and also tremendously liberating – when we come to an embodied, experiential knowing that there is *nothing* in actuality which corresponds precisely to our ideas and concepts. Even our most precious spiritual beliefs are not able to touch or to hold reality, for it is just too vast, too intelligent, too creative. At first, this realization can be so shocking, and we can be plunged into the unknown in a way that can be destabilizing. But as this experience becomes integrated, over some time, in a very somatically-oriented way, we might come to feel at home in this groundlessness; we can become so touched by it, so moved, we notice that we care so much about those around us, about this precious opportunity that we’ve been given. We allow ourselves to be filled with profound sadness at times, to be excruciatingly vulnerable, to be so broken open in response to the majesty that has taken form here.

We see so clearly that this human experience is an empty, luminous, groundless holding environment of love; that something is happening here that is a total mystery; everything that appears to these miracle-senses is a special form of grace, is the raging, intelligent, creative expression of the sacred world. For just a moment, we know so intimately, as if the knowing is inside of each and every cell of this beating heart, that love is the substance of this universe and this body – and we are left in awe at just how precious this opportunity is. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Love has absolutely nothing to offer...

It can be terrifying to let another really matter to us: whether it’s a new lover, our long-time partner, an old friend, an ex-wife or husband, our therapist, our parents, our children, our siblings, a co-worker. There is a part of us that just doesn't want to take that risk - that somehow we won't be met, that our tender hearts will be shattered, we won't be held or seen, that we'll have to feel a sadness or a shame or a level of exposure that might destroy us. And in some way we're right, in giving ourselves to love something will be destroyed. But it is this vulnerability that is the gateway into love.

Love demands that for just one moment we set aside our fears, our strategies, our transcendent spiritualities, our need for certainty, and our belief that somehow we can resolve this life in any fundamental way. Love is not resolvable, usually very groundless, and it is always a movement into the unknown. Let us see clearly the ways we hold back, how we stand aside as the witness of our experience, and subtly guard against the exposure which love requires. Let us somehow allow the other to mean everything; to somehow be willing to remain exposed, naked on the earth, humble, wide open, ready to learn something new in each and every moment. For it is then that we realize that love has absolutely nothing to offer, really, to our our personal ambition, hopes, fears, and egoic organization; yet it has something very interesting to offer Life itself, through the transparency of what we are - everything.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Transparent to the play of love in this world…

Is it a problem that sadness is there, that we are feeling intense anxiety in the face of an argument with our partner, that we are scared when another person starts to matter too deeply to us, or if we are feeling anger, confusion, loneliness, or depression? Do we need to take immediate action? Have we checked to see if there is actually a problem that we must fix? In what ways have we subtly and unconsciously come to the conclusion that we are fundamentally unlovable and defective? What would our lives be like if we were unconditionally committed to the truth of our immediate experience, whatever it is; if in the face of challenging thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations, we become increasingly embodied, present, and curious? What would it be like to actually open to the scary places? To become unbearably humble, softening into the reality that this life is an utter mystery, and that we really don’t know much of anything in any absolute sort of sense? How committed are we, actually, to remaining embodied in the face of our lived experience, trusting that whatever appears is a doorway into one of the many fragrances of being?

The habit of course, in response to unwanted feelings, emotions, fear, uncertainty, panic, and so forth, is to quickly become convinced that our very survival is at risk, that the very integrity of our being is compromised at the most fundamental levels. There is a place deep within us that feels quite sure that if we allow in our immediate experience that we may in fact not make it, that we might actually completely break down and fall apart, in a way that might be irreparable and permanent. And then what would happen? What about our jobs? The kids? The mortgage? Our stories about how “awakened” we are? Our images of ourselves that we must uphold at all cost? Our spouses? Our physical health? Our friends? The bills? Our sanity?

Those of you familiar with research in attachment theory know that when we were infants there were times when life was so overwhelming that we were unable to organize and digest our experience. In order to survive – psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, or even physically – we had to make a critical choice: to unplug, to move away, and to avoid our present experience; or, to panic, following the frenetic energy in the hope we can find a solution, get our needs met, and return to security and safe ground. Adult attachment researchers call these two primary responses deactivation and hyperactivation. We can all observe these movements in our own experience. As little ones, these strategies very often saved our lives. But, as adults, might there another way?

Well, yes, the way of love.

Here, love is that energy of willingness to turn toward whatever is arising in our experience, to not dissociate from it (including “transcending” it through our spiritual beliefs and concepts), and to care so deeply that we allow ourselves to fall apart, to take the risk of intimacy, to stop for a moment avoiding the reality of groundlessness and uncertainty, and to be willing to walk into the unknown. In this very pregnant, alive, shimmering field of the unknown, there is no support for personal identity: there are no longer any concepts of “awakening” or “self-realization” to entertain ourselves with – no longer any constructions of some sort of sustained transcendent experience or mythologies of enlightenment. In this blessed fire, there is no longer any perspective from which to label reality as sacred or profane, divine or non-divine, containing self or no-self; no stories of the “me” who has risen above it all, become “awakened” through some mythical journey, and all the rest of it. We enter this fire not because it feels good or so that the intensity will disappear. Rather, we do so because love wants to know itself through us, in all ways – through our bodies, our feelings, our emotions, our sensations, even through conflict, fear, and other “less-than-spiritual” energies. In this field of the unknown, we are no longer discriminating between sanity and confusion, between wisdom and neurosis; we see that they are made of the same substance, lit up from within by the same movement, designed of the same particles of awareness. In this fearless courage to be fully who and what we are, we are given the opportunity over and over to behold the dance of love in our lives.

And then when we sit with a loved one, a child, a colleague, a client, a stranger, a dear friend who is facing difficulty and challenge, we are able to naturally create a healing space together, like an attuned mother expanding to contain the emotion and pain of her little baby. In this space, our friend is given permission to meet whatever experience that is arising for her, to spin if needed into the groundless, uncertain dimension of being, knowing that you will be there for her if she needs you, to help her to metabolize the confusion and intensity. It is never easy to watch our loved ones suffer, but what they need more than anything from us is our attunement and our presence, knowing that who they are and what they are experiencing is valid and true for them, is an integral part of who they are, and they need not change, fix themselves, be different, or be “more spiritual” in order for us to love them. We set aside all of our agendas to awaken them, heal them, transform them, or to otherwise confirm our own identity in any way.

When we commit ourselves fully to our immediate embodied experience, whatever it is, a portal opens to connect our hearts with the infinite, and we yet again become transparent to the play of love in this world, in all of its qualities and ways of expression. And then whatever Life sends to us – whatever sweet or fierce grace comes our way, as both are equally luminous movements of the sacred – we somehow remain committed to staying close to our experience, allowing everyone and everything to deeply matter; we develop the most radical trust in this life, we know that our hearts will often break open, and that they may not actually be put back together. We are left with compassion, empathy, gratitude, and humility. We don’t really know who we are and what this life is. We know that the mysteries of love will never be resolved, that there will never be some permanent resting place for the heart, and we watch in awe as the unknown becomes our true refuge. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Loneliness and aloneness...

How do we come to understand and respond to this experience of loneliness that seems to pervade much of contemporary life? We know that this longing for love, for truth, to touch the sacredness of a life of unguarded intimacy - that this longing is a doorway into the most unimaginable grace. What is this loneliness? Will it go away soon? Will it ever yield to the mysteries of our longing? Even if we've managed to hold it all together in a certain way, to take refuge in our spiritual practices, to pray, to forgive, to let go, to stay "in the now," to open our hearts, still there is that longing, to love and be loved, and to know the mysteries of the beloved, in a much, much deeper way. The reality of this longing sometimes appears very early in the morning, or very late at night, when the edges of egoic process become transparent, when we haven't quite yet scrambled to put ourselves together, to form the solid identities of what we have come to believe we are, whether neurotic or "awakened." From the beloved's point of view, these stories are the same, they are made of the same substance. Awakened, unawakened, enlightened, unenlightened, sane, neurotic, crazy, together, in pieces - these are all dreams in the landscape of the beloved.

We might differentiate between “aloneness” and “loneliness.” Aloneness is a very raw, alive, fully embodied, vulnerable reality and experience: the realization that despite our connection with others and with life as it is, we do appear to make this journey alone. No one can have our experiences for us, love another for us, open our hearts for us, fall apart for us, break open in love for us, or die for us; likewise, we for them. For the yogi or yogini who is called to the tantric journey, there is a way that they start to feel at home in this type of aloneness, in a way even welcoming it, knowing that to have one's life organized around love will inevitably result in a certain sort of unbearable vulnerability, tenderness, and sadness - they are willing to be so touched by this life, to be broken into pieces and reassembled again by love. Living in the very alive, shimmering, luminous, unprotected field of aloneness is so fragile, so unknown, so unbearably touching, always uncertain, forever without ground or reference point. Not even our favorite spiritual beliefs, identities, superstitions and beloved gurus can quite protect us from the Aloneness that was given to us. We come to know so clearly that this Aloneness is a doorway into the unknown, a portal into the cells and DNA which comprise this very heart that is beating inside the center of being.

In this reality, we know that at any moment our hearts may break, we may fall in love in the most excruciating way, meet deep waves of feelings and sensations, and no longer be able to hide out from the movement of love, from the ways that the unknown is pouring into our lives. We realize that, without our conscious knowing, we have taken some unexplainable vow to turn all the way into the gift of this exposed heart, to be touched by whatever appears, to walk with another wherever love leads, willing to enter directly into sadness, into suffering, into darkness, into utter naked vulnerability, seeing that whatever form that could ever appear within this sacred body is lit up from within by an intelligence and creativity designed in the beyond. We then find ourselves guided only by the unknown, into the unknown, held only by love, carried by a certain kind of revolutionary, transformative, unyielding and very raw grace, following the stars around the galaxies.