Saturday, September 29, 2012

To give everything for this love...

There is a trade-off that each of us must face if we choose love as the organizing principle in our lives. It is not possible to give everything for love, to burn in the fires of intimacy, and escape utter, unbearable vulnerability. It is not possible to let the unknown guide us into the uncertainty of the grace-caves of love, and not live every moment until the day we die in an empty-luminous field of utter groundlessness. If what we really want is love, we must be willing to feel everything – especially the tender sadness and sweet longing at the core of each and every human heart, which is none other than our own.

At some point, we will be asked to surrender the irresistible movement to exit our embodied, immediate experience for some other state of consciousness, for some pre-programmed, second-hand way of being, wrapped up in our spiritual fantasies of “awakening,” “enlightenment,” “pure consciousness,” “God-realization,” and all the rest of it. None of this can survive an encounter with love, for such a meeting involves a shattering, a loss of every reference point, and a plunge into a luminous groundlessness where the Beloved is waiting.

In this love, we are crucified, resurrected, and transfigured over and over and over again, recycled by love and seeded as grace-fertilizer throughout every star in every galaxy, no longer riveted to what new glorious spiritual experiences can I get for me in this day, but how can my life and my love for others become one continuous prayer of gratitude in motion. I’ll take *this* life, thank you; *this* experience, *this* state of consciousness, without the demand for some other, better, more “spiritual” or more “divine” one. For I know that everything I could ever want is embedded by the Beloved within it, and has been laid before me as light-particles of grace, sent from beyond to show me the endless revelations of this precious human heart.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The love which gives birth to this and all worlds...

What if the stories we tell ourselves, the self-criticism, the shame, the doubt, the fear, the scary places, the grief, the judgment, the hurt, the armor we construct around our hearts: what if these never shift? What if the mythological sustained transcendent state (the “permanent” awakening, the “final” enlightenment) never takes place and the angels never arrive; the harps never play, the pearly gates never open; what if we’re never taken away by the divine on a golden chariot, welcomed by a gaggle of gods and goddesses into a realm of pure bliss, where all our troubles and problems disappear in the bosom of the avatar? What if it turns out that we’re really just ourselves, after all? After all is said and done—all of the seeking, struggling, fixing, striving, opening, processing—what if the ultimate revelation is simply us, exactly as we are?

None of us of course really knows what the future will bring. But let us for one moment, just as an experiment, feel into the emotional and somatic response to this question: what if I stay exactly the same, forever? What if my anxiety, my sense of self, my personality, my clinginess, my fear, my neediness, my inability to forgive, my tendency to run away from intimacy (often in the name of spiritual “deepening”), my use of the spiritual life to avoid genuine human contact; and, god forbid, my inability to let things go… what if all of these phenomenon are simply expressions of love in drag, alchemically making use of this body, this mind, this heart, these words; as an expression of wholeness and the totality of being? What would happen if I became fully committed to my life as it is, without the endless movement toward becoming something different, “deepening” into some other conditioned and no doubt “higher” cosmic state that we’ve learned is the right spiritual one? What sort of freedom might then reveal itself in the wake of a total embodied commitment to our immediate experience?

The love that we long for is not dependent on the presence or absence of any particular thought, feeling, emotion, or state of consciousness; nor is it in any way dependent upon us letting go of anything. Perhaps it even has nothing to do with our frenetic seeking and desperate craving for some state, any state, other than the one we’re actually in. All states, all experiences, all thoughts, all feelings, all sensations, all emotions, all spiritual bypassing, all spiritual materialism, all messianic complexes, all expressions of unacknowledged narcissistic wounding, come and go; including all of the constructed spiritual experiences and the endlessly compelling superstitions which we want and need so badly to inspire our lives. We want so deeply to be taken to a “higher” place, one that is far from the ordinariness of this human body, this vulnerable heart, these challenging relationships, these miraculous senses, and this literally mind-blowing brain; far away from the messiness of me as I am. But that love which gives birth to this and all worlds—and that somehow through grace expresses itself as this precious human body—does not come and go; it is forever here as the substance of each and every form which could ever be perceived by this precious and sensitive human nervous system.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sleep deeply wherever you are on the way...

We want a radical intimacy more than anything – a partner or a situation or a friend or an experience through which we are able to share our deepest truths and our raw open hearts; to finally, once and for all, let go of the exhausting effort to become someone different. But until we deeply embrace our utter aloneness, invite it all the way in as the sweet friend it is – meet it as a beloved guide from beyond, receiving its gifts from the stars – the intimacy we so long for can never be fully embraced. We will always be holding back slightly, not fully able to allow the other to mean *everything*. We will always remain a bit distant, longing painfully for a plunge into closeness, driven from within to seek some experience – any experience – other than this one. In the words of our dear Rumi: “Any search moves away from the spot where the object of the quest is. Sleep deeply wherever you are on the way. Maybe some traveler will wake you."

So, friends, can we allow ourselves, somehow, to be awoken by the traveler of love, to stay utterly, unbearably close to the other, painfully close to our own experience, as it is? Can we somehow stand still in the raging fires of intimacy, of relationship, of being utterly naked in the heart of the beloved? For when we stay very, very close – resisting all temptation to hold back just a little, ducking behind our fears and strategies – the apparent reality of separateness is revealed to have never, ever happened. And then, in the end, love is laid bare as what it always was, a luminous thief, with nothing to give, everything to take, and yet still somehow offering everything, more than we could possibly ever want. Our fear of intimacy, which even our most precious spiritualities can help us to stay distant from, melts into unbearable grace, and unspeakable connection, over and over and over again.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Autumn and her invitation to enter into the direct revelation of the mysteries of love…

In the early morning in the mountains the fall has arrived, sharing her special grace in a way that touches me like no other. It’s sometimes so hard to believe that another day has been given, another opportunity to allow the energies of love to make themselves known as this sensual world, sent from beyond, laid out as one harvest feast of grace for lover and beloved and their union. The fact that we’re here at all is the only miracle – that we’ve been given these hearts that can feel so much; that we can love and be loved; that we can reach out and touch another with these most precious hands; that we can take a moment to say something kind to another – the grace-harvest of this Life, the endless bounty of these senses and this longing to return Home.

It appears we will be gifted with one more autumn; an unfathomable, humbling, awe-inspiring opportunity. May her sensual, deep richness infuse our lives – with her colors, her wisdom, and her luminosity guiding us into the direct revelation of the mysteries of love as they pour out of the center of our Milky Way home, flooding into each and every heart on this one-and-only sweetest of planets. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The excruciating, endlessly-rewarding yoga of relationship

It is no secret that relationship-yoga is, for many, the royal road to profound (and often excruciating) revelation about where we really are in our lives, to illuminating exploration of our emotional/somatic world, and to uncovering the unconscious forces that are at least in part running the show. Intimacy has a unique way of showing us very quickly where we’re caught, where we’re holding on, how we’re closing to immediate experience, and the intricacies of how we defend and guard against the unyielding realities of the heart. We really don’t want to be too exposed. Maybe a little bit here or there, on Tuesdays and Fridays, or when we’re sure that even in the face of intimate exposure, things are likely to remain relatively safe and predictable. 

People often ask: you’ve met and worked with so many teachers and authors behind the scenes, in their most vulnerable, unscripted moments. Who are the ones that are really, truly awake; and who are the ones that maybe aren’t quite as awake as they come off in their public roles? I find myself simultaneously enjoying and cringing in the wake of these sorts of questions. Perhaps playfully, but also in a more serious way, I usually offer a response along the lines of: if you really want to know how awakened someone is, don’t ask them. Don’t ask their students or disciples. Don’t read their books. Don’t watch them on stage responding to questions from devotees. Ask their intimate partners. This is often met with a bit of awkward silence. 

We have so many ideas about relationship that we’ve picked up from our families of origin, teachers of all kinds, the media, books, television, and movies. One idea in particular that I’ve been really aware of lately is the idea that a conscious, intimate relationship is one where both partners feel profoundly connected at all times. And that if this feeling of connection is missing, then something must inherently be wrong; and must be fixed. Connection is one very fundamental quality of a relationship, yes. But what about the times when we feel disconnected from our partners, our friends, our children, our parents, our co-workers? Where has the “relationship” gone? 

What is relationship, anyway? Is it a feeling? A sense of security? A warmness in the heart? A content knowing that there is someone to share the journey with? Is relationship, like love, a vast enough field to contain aliveness, flatness, waves of joy, feelings of irritation, sensations of disturbance? Can we sit in the fire of intimate relationship knowing that all of our fears, fantasies, anxieties, scary parts, and vulnerability will likely never ever be resolved into some neat little relationship package? That there is something perhaps about intimacy that by definition is ultimately unresolvable? And that is in fact why it is so transformative? Can we find a way to be in relationship where we do not limit the mystery of love’s expression, and resist the temptation to have the fire of love conform to our endless requirements? Perhaps there will always be surges of uncontainable grief, sadness, fear, anger, and irritation that arise in the intersubjective field of lovers. We are all painfully aware of the seemingly miraculous power of our partners to touch our sore spots and to elicit the most unexplainable reactions within us. 

One question I find especially important to explore at the deepest levels, conscious and unconscious, is: can we allow the other matter to us? Are we willing/able to let another touch us, to expose ourselves so profoundly to them, that we stand completely naked, vulnerable, fully exposed to very unsafe waters of real love, knowing that we could be devastated at any instant? Many of our childhood biographies, of course, present a very unstable situation, a groundless reality where it was not safe to let another become too important. As innocent little ones, of course we very naturally allow others to deeply matter. This sort of exposure, as we all know, is tremendously risky; and we can learn very quickly the danger involved in letting someone matter, usually the hard way. But as little ones we can’t really help it, we’re wired to connect. 

Often in the challenges inherent in intimate relationship, we become convinced that it is our partner who is causing us to feel so bad. They don’t respect us, they speak unkindly to us, they don’t understand us, they’re never there when we really need them, etc. And of course there is likely some relative truth in these things. But we might also be able to see that just by being in relationship, we will be forced in a certain way to feel feelings that we really don’t want to feel. It’s not so much that our partner is doing something to us, but rather when we open ourselves to love, there are previously unmet feelings there, lurking in the unconscious, looking for the light of day. If we look closely, perhaps we can see how we organize our lives around not having to feel certain feelings. 

Intimate relationship is a yoga because it cuts into this organization. Perhaps we’re able to avoid certain feelings, certain thoughts, certain bodily sensations, certain emotions, in our daily lives or in our spiritual lives with all of our rituals and practices and worshipping the guru from afar. But in intimate relationship, alas, we’re not so lucky. The so-called “other” in intimate relationship will always push against that which is unresolved within us. How fortunate! (and painful) 

Let us all love those we’re in relationship with, including ourselves, by committing to taking love’s journey with them, knowing nothing about the route or the destination. Let us be kind to ourselves and our partners if we decide to truly take up the yoga of intimacy, knowing that it will take everything we have and are to navigate, as it offers fruits beyond this world.

The open doorway in the center of your heart

In the very center of your heart, there is always an open doorway. It has nothing to do with any of this movement into “higher” states of consciousness, with the mythical sustained transcendent experience, or moving beyond this messy world of intimacy, confusing gooey love, and human vulnerability. It wants so badly for you to walk through, to meet for the first time this unbearable longing to be home, to behold for the first time the miracle of this precious human body, of *these* thoughts, of *these* feelings, of *these* passing states of consciousness. For in just one moment of caring enough – of somehow resisting the call to exit this experience for another – what you see is that it is all made of love, crafted out of the substance of love, all the way through, from the inside-out and outside-in. And no matter what the details of your specific and deeply personal reality, love has somehow configured itself as your unique life, and has offered itself as a gift… only forever waiting for you to receive it, as it is.