Reality  Free to Express Itself

“As we see through the conceptual assumptions that pattern our experiences—whether dual or nondual—reality becomes free to express itself without the need for determination.” – A H Almaas

I love this quote written by A H Almaas. In his teaching he writes about our conceptual assumptions and how they are conditioned through our learning and development as individuals, beginning when we are born. We are quickly conditioned to believe that we can determine who we are in a mechanical methodological way,  and in that,  we develop a pattern of  spending much of our energy and  most of our life with this focus of becoming something perceived to be better.  Much of the conditioning is concerned with influencing our self-image. how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us to be. They are focused  efforts to attempt to determine what we become.

But the reality of this is not what it seems. This act of determination manifests as in an extremely reductive  and selective focus and effort and actually excluding many aspects of being. It creates a barrier that separates  us from a more fundamental and whole way of being. There are considerable consequences for this consciousness. One being that we  are cut off from something more authentic, compassionate  and passionate of what we are, however unmeasurable it might be. As we begin to experience life, having seen and understood this conditioning we are free to unfold in a more authentic way letting go of this habitual and mechanistic conditioning. Coming to a place of being free of that, we can once again experience our humanity in a more natural, open and whole way and once again we can experience life through that. It is not a perfect, idealistic way but a more imperfect, human way however more filled with awareness of our limitations and connection and most welcome of  all a compassion for ourselves and all else.

Letting it Out

Our conditioning has had a powerful influence on us. Much more than we are most often  aware. It is the conditioning that has created the “sub conscious”  that is a product of feelings and emotions arising from thinking and thoughts that have not been realized in awareness.   Very few are aware of their inward changes, setbacks, conflicts and distortions that have arisen as a result of this. We have been conditioned to the cultural way of our upbringing concerning what is right to think and feel and as a developing “person” in that culture we do unusual and oppressive things to our most natural feelings, thoughts and experiences. We learn to be a “self” in our somewhat fragmented cultural way.

Even if there is that awareness we have often learned in a powerful way to try to push these things that I have mentioned aside or run away from them. There is also a danger of living with one`s thoughts and feelings too closely. One has to be aware of one’s thoughts and feelings, without anxiety, without pressure. When there is awareness there is growth and we come to be aware of our thoughts and feelings, let them come out, not  checking them, not  holding them back. We come to let them pour out, the gentle as well as the violent ones. Awareness is a key.

The One Who Knows

Most of us can experience periods of being quite confused at times about what our lives are about and where we are headed. It seems to be habit of many to avoid or distract from the confusion and to take refuge in religion or conditioned beliefs about life. It has been difficult for me as well, at times, to let go of old habits to want to know and to want to find the security of a fixed belief in what I have been told, taught and have read. But these days I am looking in another way to understand what the mystery of life is and who I am.

Watching BBC as much as I do I find myself listening to the many politicians and their confident assurances about what they know. So often individuals seem to strive to reach this place where they think they know what is best.  This leaves me bewildered at times because I have come to be aware of the shallowness of such assertions and to doubt the truth in what they claim. I have no doubt that many of them accept their thinking without questioning it too deeply, perhaps it is that they have other motives for clinging to and pursuing what they believe and say. Even religious leaders who encourage the acceptance of belief blindly might be doing so out of their own unexamined thinking. But is there a possibility that the information imparted that claims to know is misleading and that these people who we have come to believe in are not aware of deeper truths of even themselves.

To find our way to honest and open inquiry involves a deep desire to know the truth and to want to live in an authentic way. A sense of wonder and curiosity and wanting to know for oneself what is at the heart of the mystery of life and to want to understand what is true and what is not is part of this. If we do not understand the motivation behind our thinking and other influences in our fixed ways we may remain locked in a state of being unaware where we continue to accept conventional and unexamined belief and others expert assertions about life and ourselves. We have to be willing to step our from that fear of what will happen if we do not conform to conventional ways and possibly dealing with being alone or in isolation if we wish to examine in a more honest and direct way. Some may be faced with a threat to their lives in this pursuit of truth. Ultimately
what we grasp onto in unexamined knowing and belief can block us from this openness and the self discovery that it brings.
How is it that we can come to a place of looking and seeing of such openness?

The Zen of Not Knowing by Zenkei Blanche Hartman

Zenkei Blanch Hartman talks about wanting to be “the one who knows” in her recent Tricycle article. She talks about being born with such innocence as children and being filled with a wonderful openness, sense of inquiring curiosity but that eventually the child reaches a point where he wants to be “the one who knows”. Her Zen teacher “Shunru Suzuki” of the well know book “Zen Mind Beginners Mind” constantly referred meditators back to the place of “beginners mind”, where one could encounter that openness, coming to a place of learning to again live in this way of innocence.

The Light Within Us Leads Us

The Zen of Not Knowing by Zenkei Blanche HartmanWe all have the light within us. Nobody can give that to us, no guru, no teacher, saviour, no one. There is no mystical experience waiting to be experienced. There is “no one” to have that experience. These are all conceptual creations of the mind, equivalent to the belief in a deity,  of ones cultural preference. For some time in the west we have had apparent choices about what we believe, more so than in the east. But they are  often based on beliefs  that are more of the same quality of choices, creations of the mind and a grasping at a belief in security and salvation. It is a habitual working of the conditioned mind that much what it comes to grasp in belief is in defence of itself. Even the attachment to a belief in self is suspect in this way.
But thought does exist, and we are not served in our efforts to deny or eliminate it. It is more realistic and helpful to inquire into and to become aware of the limitations and nature of thinking. Surely we have refined our ability to reflect enough to consciously question and contemplate  about that “mechanism” that we most use to understand our existence. We are in a better position if we can realize the relativity of our thinking and from there to go beyond it to a more fundamental and direct experience of our consciousness. To do this is to go beyond our narrow beliefs and formulations, our cravings and hopes, to experience that which is deathless and timeless. It is the mystical mystery that is pointed to by everything that we have believed and imagined although at the same time not being imaginable.
Our thinking can come to serve in a more functional and practical and whole way as an instrument of exploration, expression and creation from this deeper realization and the truth that it uncovers. That is the light that leads us, not our thoughts about it and the understanding of life and the extraordinary meaning of death directly experienced and in an ongoing revelation and realization is meditation.

The Ground Under Our Feet

I continuously encounter a sense of vulnerability in my meditation,  increasingly understanding that this is what I am meant to attend to. Coming to cope with this has not been something that I have been taught in my rearing from childhood ultimately because it has  been considered to be an aspect of weakness in my culture and in general of many other traditional cultures..

I now see it as more of an opportunity to come to know myself. It  is not easy to sit with the sensitivity that is part of that feeling of vulnerability. It requires stillness to do this. When we can let go of the resistance to it as we can in the silence we seem to come to what we must encounter in our search for authenticity.

Through living in a meditative way, fixed, inflexible layers of persona are exposed for what they are. In the light of this quality of revelation and examination, that which has been created as a part of a rigid conditioning can drop away. Those rigid developments seems to have their origins in the cultivation and refinement of thinking and the ensuing pursuit and obsession with identity, desire and related sensations of pleasure, many of which are grounded in illusive notions. A search for security and comfort are also aspects of this. One can understand how denial and deviation from this organic sense of vulnerability served and enabled survival of the species. At the same time, as a society, we have not much attended to the consequences of the avoidance of the deeper truth and the comprehensive implications of this on our perception of self, our relationships and our planet, although, they are plain to see if we look with awareness.

To be with that vulnerability that is exposed in our contemplative, meditative way mightl, simultaneously,  naturally and spontaneously ignite habitual and defensive ego responses that have endless origins in our conditioning. It is helpful to see this aspect of our response directly and to, again, be with the vulnerability itself. This can seem to be a fruitless and senseless endeavour but in fact it is the way of coming to realize directly our entrapped ways. It is not enough to adopt a philosophical or psychological reference alone and it seems to be more than a stoic and masculine effort to deny and push through that experience. It is more that it is a submergence into ones nature and an opportunity to be with that in a radically natural way letting go of ways of diversion and avoidance.

And what is the benefit of living in this way? For myself, who is devoted to comprehending what truth there may be of my existence, the benefit is more one of coming to an experience that I am more integrated and whole and that I am able to see and embrace deeper realizations of my connection with all else.That experience is more direct and not the product of book knowledge or other hand me down teaching and learning. I am also hopeful that I can come to a place that in turn in a non dualistic way that this awareness influences and is reflected in my actions, not so much as a result of ethical or ideal implications but more emanating from that wholeness and integration and an expression of that being. My experience is that this integration does indeed allow for more a compassionate and loving way.

The following is from a Pema Chodron book. She writes ” I see that a lot of us are just running around in circles pretending that there’s ground where there actually isn’t any ground. And that somehow, if we could learn to not be afraid of groundlessness, not be afraid of insecurity and uncertainty, it would be calling on an inner strength that would allow us to be open and free and loving and compassionate in any situation.”

– Pema Chödrön, “The Ground under Our Feet”

Purpose in Life

In the following passage Patrick McCarty writes about the loss of purpose being a result of our fragmented way. The increased reliance on the concept of time and how it has increasingly contributed to the management and ordering of our lives over the past two hundred years has contributed to this. Our economies and education of our young are more focused on the practicalities of finding a job, success and status than they are to nurturing purpose which is a more natural and inherent aspect of being. For  youth paying attention to what is inherently inspiring and organically creative is not encouraged.  Added to this is the extreme focus on the organization of ones life. What is natural has been conditioned out of us in this way. A contemplative life, in an ongoing way reminds me of what is natural about my being.

McCarty writes that “there is no time for purpose. Purpose knows its own time and place, and while the frameworks into which we compartmentalized our lives would keep us marching on with or without enthusiasm, this is no substitute for true direction, natural interests and talents, expression and creativity, doing the work that isn’t “work” in that it is loved so well. We have a barren stretch of mathematized time set aside for relaxation and we can’t think of what to do with ourselves, certainly nothing novel, nothing inspiring. Why? Because the context we have overlooked has stung the content into a moribund state of paralysis. The context of the dialectical relations that inform have been torn from anything “natural” and turned over to clock time, arbitrary divisions, superficial distinctions, the yak-yak of what everyone “just knows.” We have imposed a framework that freezes the dynamism of constitutive relations and that substitutes fragments for systems, parts for wholes, deadline drudgery for depth of experience. As Raymond Ku observed, even in Taiwan the lifestyle is fragmented. Fragmentation is the death knell for culture just as it is for language. Both only work as systems given a certain unity.”

Patrick McCarty from A Simple Profundity For Twentieth century Despair