I just arrived back to Halle, Germany. I am finding that since I came back from spending a few days at Tisarana Monastery in Perth, Ontario, I have had difficulty in talking. I seem to be struggling to put words together in communicating what is occurring. There seems to be too much energy required to do so as the realization that what I am saying is just a story as is the me that I use to focus on in the telling of the story. As I write to a friend to express my experience a story develops. But I know it is a story as is the I that is used to express anything that I do.
How I act and what unfolds as action is not planned. It appears to me to be quite unconnected to a plan or intention. When I am conscious of acting from a plan it seems to be quite devoid of passion or life. Never the less what I do can easily be perceived by others to be motivated by some thought out plan. But it is not in my experience as such. There is nothing of intention about it. Reflecting back on it, it could be said and perceived that the action can even seem to be foolish or an aspect of some weakness and/or unthinking or unfeeling that I lack. And so that may be, but I have a sense that it could be better said that it involves a different experience of being and emoting. Often it does not meet the efficient and logical criteria of a plan. The thing that I am realizing more than ever is that it is from a more authentic place than I have ever known. And that seems to be worth attending to as anything else that has ever influenced me in my life.
I just got back from a thee day visit to Tisarana Thai Forest Monastery. It was a lovely experience, at the same time it causes me to have questions. What happens when a meditator is no longer physically able to endure the rigorous routine of monastic ritual? Do they become less present and aware? Is this rigorous way of discipline really the way to transcend our conditioning? Are the perceptions and interpretations that are the foundation of their discipline and rules that guide them grounded in truth? Can we come to live a life of clear seeing in presence and awareness without this kind pf regiment? Can we come to live in a way that we are aware of the destructive consequences of our conditioning when we live with others who are not? Do we need to experience the monastic way, or something similar in order to rediscover liberation.
The Buddha compared his teachings to a raft. If you are on the dangerous side of the river where it is treacherous and you want to go to the other shore where it is safe, you can gather some sticks and twigs to construct a raft, working with what is available . With effort you can use that raft to cross over. Once you arrive there is no need to carry that raft with you. You can put it down for others to use.
In this way religious teachings are skillful means and not ends in themselves. They are maps pointing to something. In many ways much about our lives works in the same way. We often find ourselves attached to ways, stories,beliefs and other ideas and things that we might be better served in knowing ourselves if we were able to know better when to let go of them. There is a more intimate way of knowing our experience if we were to use our thinking as we use the raft. There is an advantage to using our words and ideas but they are not ends in themselves.
I have a sister who has muscular dystrophy. Her health is failing and her world as she has dreamed it to be is failing right along with it. She is stuck in a way; in a presentation that is stoic and filled with effort to keep things in control. It seems to prolong and intensify her suffering.
I am realizing that the vulnerability that I feel is very difficult to be with. I am sure it is the same for her. So why would we want to be with that? I am discovering that I can come to know myself in ways that I have not known before. There is more revealed of who we are from embracing this way than we ever realize. When we can come to open to it, express it and learn to live with it in a more direct and intimate way than it can be life transforming. The problem for most of us is that we have learned and in turn want to hide it, avoid it and fix it and just not have the experience. We have learned to search out comfort and to escape from pain of all kinds. But this doesn’t work. We are inseparable from it. My sister just cant seem to embrace it in the way I am talking about for various reasons so she acts it out. What we see of her is not what she is. I wish that she could come to be with it and that this might be a place that she can connect with others. But for now it lay hidden as a part of her authentic self does as well.
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It seems to take some courage to enter into openness. To let go of what I think that I know, what gives me comfort and security and what is familiar regardless of the truth of it leaves me with a sense of being vulnerable. But what I rigidly cling to blocks me from openly investigating what is. My beliefs and fixed perceptions about myself serve to limit and confine my experience of what I aam and how I interact in the world. In openness something more insightful might be discovered that previously lay hidden, but to grasp on to that, as we habitually tend to do, creates a barrier. I see as well how it can serve in the same way of limiting our experience to linger in institutions, structured ways of seeing and holding rigidly and blindly to opinions, beliefs and positions. They all seem to impede entry into openness.
Why is openness a good place to be? Almaas suggests that openness allows us to experience the “manifestations of being in order that Being may unfold and express itself and disclose its further possibilities.” It is not the self that we have been conditioned to know and relate from, cloaked in its rigid identification and clinging that is growing and expanding as we are taught to believe. It is not in becoming more of that, but in looking beyond all that has become static that we unfold as Almaas suggests. It is seeing and being from an open place beyond our fixation that we realize that we are more than we have come to know ourselves to be. From here we no longer take refuge in conventional existence. We find sustenance in a life energy unveiled.