Krishnamurti and the Call to Metarevolution

IFI used to be in favor of revolution; the idea in general made sense. Now, if pressed, I might call myself a metarevolutionary. To understand what such a term might mean, you may listen to the 8 minutes of Krishnamurti above. But if I leave it there, I may as well not be writing. So I’ll walk the edge of hubris and offer a little commentary on JK’s remarks.

  • Krishanmurti addresses and respects his audience’s sense of suffering. This, in fact, is why he encourages people to accept the responsibility that arises from his teaching: he knows their suffering and senses their courage. That very sense of our shared suffering is simultaneously our protection and our potential. To deny or repress that sense is to reject our humanity.
  • Therefore, he proclaims: become not mere managers of your lives; become the artists of your lives. The artist knows the truth that is opened to anyone who can embrace and surpass contradiction. Thus, JK says: you are both individual and universal. But you will find a deeper and greater uniqueness to your individuality when you reject the illusory walls of division that are created from the shadows of belief. You are not just joined with all of humanity; you are one with the All that includes us. The code of the entire program of life is written into you, into every vessel of consciousness that appears in any world or universe.
  • So he concludes that accepting the challenge which arises from that complete sense of union with everyone and everything is not a burden or a commandment or an order from a Boss-God or cosmic CEO. It is instead a gift. To make your life into the “response to the challenge” that is this heartfelt realization of non-separateness: that is both our guide and our gift.

IFA metarevolution is the kind of revolution we will one day experience, if our human race doesn’t first self-destruct, that is. The metarevolution will occur within a vast array of human hearts long before its external effects appear. There are certain psychological truths, certain universal realities that must be fully experienced before we become capable of real change. Obama promised change, and six years later America continues to trade, export, and ally with Death. Whenever anyone talks to you of change, by every means run the other way. Change delivered from another pulpit or the barrel of another gun is just the same old shit in a new container.

Now Democrats and other Obamists may object that things would be even worse if the Republicans rather than their man were in charge. To that I say, probably so, I don’t question that. But does it mean we turn away from Krishnamurti’s challenge to our universal reality as formed beings; does it mean we ignore or repress the very thing that could transform us simultaneously as individuals and as societies and nations? Is political affiliation so important that it be allowed to become a brand of despair?

Political institutions cannot create a metarevolution; they are incapable of it, threatened by it, in fact. I think that the Occupy Wall Street movement was a metarevolution — not because of the protests and the occupations of certain small spaces within some of our cities, but because of the mindset that energized it all. I remember talking with Occupiers in New York who said that their fundamental credo was of union, a deep commonality among all people: they even said that the well-known 99%/1% division was artificial, even if compelling. They wanted the 1% to see their place, their self-interest within the movement: if they could realize that they are not above or in any other way separate from all of us, then they would actually join in the work of transformation. They knew this was possible, and suspected (as I do) that it is in fact our inevitably best and sole alternative. Metarevolution.

IFKrishnamurti wasn’t calling for a revolution of spirit or mind or social and political institutions. Those things, he knew, would take care of themselves quite naturally, arise effortlessly from a metarevolution. The experience that enables metarevolution cannot be contained in a speech or a book or a body of law; it must be held without words and shared without exclusion. When Christ advised his followers to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s but to give to god what is god’s, he was not talking about taxes, money, material goods, or even allegiance. He was talking about the life-force of the individual self, which contains and therefore is one with the total energy of the human species and the universal whole.

Those superficial forms of human energy: law, money, government, media, business — they will all remain with us, but they will have to change under the heat of that metarevolutionary light of shared understanding. Metarevolution cannot be inspired by violence or guided by belief; it can only be experienced through the kind of “common sense” that the prototypical American writer of revolution conceived:

The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is the AUTHOR.

IFPaine begins with a simple declaration: we are all of Nature before we are of any party or social class. Not of God; not of the Prophet; not of the Cross; not of the Law. We are of Nature. Look again at his words: “Nature,” he says, “hath given [us] the Power of…” what? Of intellect? Of religion? Of belief? Of weaponry? Of global dominance? No: of feeling. That, too, is another formulation of Krishnamurti’s teaching and of the truth and mandate of metarevolution. Paine saw that Nature is the star by which the ship of social transformation is truly and reliably steered. Were he among us today, he would surely be either denounced or ignored by both political parties.

The fact that Paine wrote this down amid a time and circumstances that were ready for his message reveals another principle of this natural phenomenon I call metarevolution: great and enduring change is led not by thought or by feeling alone, but via their synergistic union, which begins within the individual and is then shared across the field of consciousness. It does not have to be forced into being, because it is already there; it always was.

The point here, of course, is not to copy or even to model what was done and said back then, in Paine’s time. We must hold that history long enough to draw the energy of its teaching and then surpass it. If Krishnamurti were here, he would urge us to do the same with his teachings (which is what he in fact did urge to his audiences). That is part of the challenge he calls his audience to embrace: if all we care about is how we look before others, then we are no better than the politicians with their image-obsession. We must take the lead, whether we want to or not: it is no longer a matter of throwing the bums out; for other and perhaps even crueler and more blackhearted bums will replace them. We must wake the bums up. This is the way of metarevolution.

Teachings of Night: The Eye of Mindfulness

IFI went this past Monday for what I had been assured would be a simple surgical procedure. Now I have long been of the opinion that the term “simple surgery” is as big an oxymoron as you can get. But I had been living with this cataract in my right eye for over a year, and it was getting difficult to live with more. Therefore, I went to have the thing taken care of surgically.

But I almost didn’t experience it. Like most westerners, I tossed a shroud of expectation lined with denial over the body of this experience; for I was afraid. So as the day approached I kept insisting, “I’ll be happy once it’s done and over with.” That is to say, I was messing with my own mind, skipping presence to indulge a fantasy-future.

IFNow I knew very well that I was playing a game, putting on an act of avoidance that parades as bravery, when it is really the very stuff of ignorance. I saw or sensed the same kind of act being played within my fellow patients at the clinic. I later reflected on how brutishly superficial are the kinds of adaptive mechanisms that we are taught and handed as our only navigational instruments amid such challenges as surgery. It is like being given a plastic butter knife to cut a path through a tropical jungle. No wonder, then, that we quake before the mildest tides of change.

Therefore, I was (or should have been) unsurprised to see that I had a systolic BP of 146 as I was received into the first of the three stages of pre-op. “That’s stunning,” I muttered, “I’ve never measured beyond 135 even while in a hospital.” The nurse assured me it was something they’re quite used to seeing. Just at that moment, an old fellow was wheeled in beside me (most of my fellow eye surgery recipients were older even than me). He tossed a 160 systolic into the squeeze-sleeve, and was visibly disturbed.

IFI realized that the time had come for action — inner action of course. As I was wheeled off to stage two (and even amid my trouble I paused to wonder at the choreographic precision and detail of this entire process and its actors); I felt pressure building in my chest and knew that I had to draw on all this insight of which I make quite a silly pretense in these essays here.

As I was settled into position and re-attached (BP machine, heart monitor, tubes and wires), I crossed my legs zazen-style and began a mindfulness meditation. Attention to breathing, to sounds, to my body’s weight in the plastic recliner. Then to the woman’s voice, the drops in my eye, the fluid running down my face. I called on my old cat Night, who is now a helping energy of cosmic consciousness — her unflappable calm as cat had been ported virtually without upgrade or correction into the formless realm — and asked her to enter my life-space and clear the tension by holding me in the moment, no matter how unpleasant I, the egomaniacal and fear-drunk illusion, happened to find it.

IFBy the time I was wheeled again to stage 3, the OR itself, the pressure in my chest cavity had passed and I sensed that I’d be fine through the rest of it. I maintained that focus, that presence, and that sense of Night’s calming energy, throughout the procedure. Afterward, I needed no time to recover from the effects of the sedative they had administered just before the surgeon had entered. I was able and eager to walk out of there.

The following morning, at the post-op exam, the doc mentioned that it was very rare in his experience to see someone read the 20/20 line on the chart with perfection the day after surgery. So I told him what I had done before the operation and said it would make sense for someone to teach such methods to people well ahead of their surgery dates. He thoroughly agreed with the notion but wondered how it might be done in the current culture.

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IFWell, I happen to know that it has been done, and very successfully done. Read any of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s books or visit the Center for Mindfulness and you will see a history of success that has been repeatedly verified by research and clinical outcomes. It isn’t a bunch of tree-hugging hoo-hah; it is as strong and as empirically sound as the social sciences can get. And most important of all, it makes sense — deep, inner, animal sense.

Even I, a relative amateur and beginner at this stuff, was able to respond and find some sense of presence in that moment. Obviously, being a bit of a hack, I waited too long and it nearly cost me, I’m certain of that much at least. Nevertheless, I had learned — and unlearned — enough over the years to sense, fairly clearly, the urgency of the moment and the necessary inner action to face it.

IFNow, to anticipate a few likely objections: oh c’mon tree-hugger, you were never in any danger, nor was anyone else — these procedures are a dime a dozen and no one ever gets hurt. Maybe so, I don’t have data, nor does it matter. The point is that I and others were clearly suffering psychologically — needlessly if you take account of the data from UMass General (see the links to Center for Mindfulness above). So it’s not a matter of whether anyone was going to die or become seriously ill from a cataract procedure; the issue is how much more psychologically untroubled an experience it could have been.

Another possible objection may involve the supposed difficulty of meditation, especially in such as setting as a surgery clinic. Now that one I have to allow a little air: yes, meditation takes commitment, time, and practice before it can be done in a busy medical ward. I’ve been practicing fairly regularly for years and still didn’t bring it off very well as I waited for my turn under the knife.

IFBut, done correctly, it would take far less work and time than you’d think. Kabat-Zinn’s clients typically do a one-week course with some “homework” meditation exercises; and if you’ve looked at his data, the results in stress reduction, hypertension management, and overall self-treatment are considerable. Many people spend a lifetime on medications and in hospital stays without attaining equivalent results as those meditators.

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Now let me go briefly back to my personal experience at the clinic. The manifest difference between people who manage illness through (or supported by) mindfulness meditation and those who are slaves to drugs and doctors would appear to be that the former are free to have all or part of the control to themselves. And that, to all appearances, is true.

But the actual experience is different from that. It is actually a process of giving up control. I regain myself by releasing my grip on my situation. By opening to the life, the vibrancy that I can’t see and which others deny; I discovered a connection — a broader identity — beyond the walls and instruments of that clinic. I did two things: I accepted my environment and joined it in a way; and then I called out to an old friend who is no longer with me here, but is of a Self that encompasses and surpasses my bodily life. It is what the ancient Indian authors of the Upanishads called Atman.

IF Artists can have a wonderful sense of this, of the All in ordinary and even banal things. I remember how I used to feel nothing at the sight of still-life paintings until one day I glanced at a shirt hanging over the edge of a chair and felt that flash of This-Is-It. Yes, at a glimpse of yesterday’s white shirt dangling in gray morning light, one sleeve tucked and rumpled. In a moment, that sense of the universe-in-a-shirt passed, and life went on. But I gained an appreciation of the still-life from then on.

My Zen teacher told me that he had experienced his first kensho, or enlightenment-moment, while sweeping leaves in a courtyard. I have never really believed in or trusted enlightenment; but I will admit that there are moments of perception that seem to encompass more than the great stream of moments to which we commonly assign importance. Those little, kensho moments are perhaps the ones that prepare us for the big ones: death, loss, aging, isolation, illness, pain, and all the others. The smallest stones make the most solid foundation.

IFAfter Night died, I kept seeing her, out of the corner of an eye, and as if she were moving too quickly for me to follow her with mere human sight. The I Ching told me: of course Night is here, but you must draw upon senses that you have long ignored or denied to perceive her. I decided to trust that insight and to call upon the senses of my cosmic brain.

Thus, I encountered her again while my one physical eye was being repaired (actually, replaced would be the word — I mentioned to the post-op doctor that the eye seemed to have become 30 years younger overnight, and asked him if he could operate on any of my other organs to make them a generation younger). That inner light, which in this life she carried as plainly and effortlessly as her tail, flowed into and around me.

I remained conscious of it just long enough to let go, to completely lose track of control, and therefore of fear. It was another gift, another teaching, from an old friend whose presence is now never quite the same, yet always true.

The Realization of Play

IFThere are lessons, teachings, all around and within us. They are present continually, the flow never stops. It only appears to dry up when we tune it out. But whenever we are open to it, our bodies and our lives carry messages in virtually every moment.

One choice we have to make to enable that openness is to make experience rather than belief the touchstone of our lives. If I were to draw a single distinction between a life guided by institutional religion and one led by personal truth, it would be this: religion is chained by belief; truth is liberated by experience.

Why should I believe in anything when I can experience it instead? Belief must be defended: the history of religion is a history of war. But experience needs no defense; it can simply be trusted, wherever it may lead us. Belief is fixed, carved into stone or law; it has no capacity for change. Experience tends to transmute; it is never quite the same from moment to moment, day to day. Therefore, when we allow experience the lead in our lives, we are far less likely to make that one fatal error of humanity: the impulse to exist severely rather than to live playfully; to, as Alan Watts used to say, take life seriously rather than sincerely.

IFNow you would think that, of all dimensions of human experience, our sports might lead us clearly in this context. But unfortunately, guided mostly by our media, sports as an institutional entity tends to be among the worst offenders of them all in choosing severity and the arrogance of seriousness over play and the genuineness of sincerity. Think of it for a moment, sports fans: never mind the horrible violence, police state machinations, and on-field barbarity that have dominated the recent world cup of soccer/futbol: do you ever hear more mindless diatribes of the most somber and saccharine sentimentality as you do during sports broadcasts? The vocabulary of these rants is often so idiotic that I feel embarrassed for the speaker. I rarely hear words like “eternal,” “forever,” “fame,” and “glory” spoken with such a laughably biblical tone as amid sports broadcasts and publications. And even the best of them fall prey to this impulse: the estimable sports writer for The Nation, Dave Zirin, whose work deserves immense respect, had this on his Twitter feed today about a basketball player*:

IFSo our media and other institutions can teach us absolutely nothing about recovering the natural spirit of play in our lives. It is a distinctly individual quest. This takes me back to the original point I made about the lessons contained in our lives, which flow through our days like the air, fluids, and secretions of and through our bodies. The natural life finds nourishment in experience in precisely the same way as our digestive organs find it in our food. Even a painful or positively toxic experience can guide us forward, just as our bodies can find some scrap of acceptable nutrition in a Big Mac (and god only knows how).

There is a mindfulness in Nature that we tend to do a very poor job of integrating into our lives — not through incapacity but through ignorance or denial, much of which has been trained into us. We are by nature perfectly capable of inward attention, contemplation, and that calmly piercing and playful mindfulness of meditation. Nature has never told us: cats may have it but dogs may not; it will come easily to dolphins but to humans, not so much.

The animals — and I am certain that this is meant to include us — are attentive equally to the visible and the invisible; to the physical and to the supernal — to the quantum and the Newtonian alike, if you will. It is all part of their ordinary experience: the poet Lao Tzu tells us, “the formed and the formless coalesce / like the breaths of lovers.” There is no belief that can compare with such experience. The insight of the playful life penetrates, embraces, and then surpasses the apparent. It makes belief obsolete.

IFI recall one lesson that my old cat Night, about whom I’ve written so often here since her death, used to teach me continually. Whenever I felt broken or depressed or hopeless or self-pitying, she would always come to me with the compassion of her presence. But her eyes, her look, would deliver an added message with their ironic stare: “really, human, this is it? This is what has flattened you and made you prostrate with misery?” It really didn’t matter what the circumstances of the moment happened to be: poverty, loneliness, joblessness, even a death in the family — her look would carry the same message, the same teaching. And it always made me laugh at myself again.

I have occasionally been asked why I use the old Chinese oracle I Ching, and why I would recommend that anyone else use it. The best answer I think I’ve been able to provide to that question is that the teachings of the oracle remind me of all the lessons contained in the ordinary stream of my own life. The best oracles point us back there, to ourselves and to the oracle of daily living.

The I Ching exposes and often lampoons arrogance, immodesty, self-pity, and many other ideological and emotional marks of self-absorption and egocentricity. When we are truly attentive, our lives do the same thing.

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*Looking twice at that makes me wonder if Zirin was merely being humorously ironic, in which case my criticism of him falls flat. The key to that interpretation would lie in the choice of the word “forever” in an obviously playful context, surrounded by ellipses after the expression “all-timer.” Overall, my parting point on this is one I have made in a number of conversations: what sports needs is not a great writer but a great comedian. Sports needs its own Stephen Colbert.

Albany: The City That Can’t Walk

IFI live in a town that is positively drunk on gasoline. Strung out like a crack addict on the glass pipe; like the alcoholic on his bottle. In a city where the so-called left-wing political party has dominated for decades, the people of Albany, NY are slaves to gasoline and the automotive culture. When I started commuting here in Albany, I was at first pleasantly shocked to find that I could get a seat on a bus at rush hour. Then I realized why.

This is a city of drivers. Walking and bicycling range from dangerous to impossible in this town. They have some of the trappings of ped-friendliness but none of the reality. I stood once for five minutes at a particularly nasty intersection, waiting for the white walk icon to appear in the ped-crossing sign. It never came. So I wound up doing what peds do all over this town: looked for an opening and ran across the street. If you want to use your feet for anything other than pushing a gas pedal here, make sure you’ve written your will.

Their urban parks are expressways dotted with trees. My life nearly ended in Washington Park one day: I strolled across a narrow paved lane that looked for all the world like a walking path and a massive SUV (the comme-il-faux vehicle of this region) came barreling around the bend and swerved to avoid me at the last instant, its horn blaring in anger at my existence. I have seen one place with a greater tyranny of the automobile: southern California. Otherwise, Albany takes the prize of decadence for this obsession in my experience. The funny thing is that when you bring this addiction to the attention of people here, they bristle with the same defense: “we have no choice.”

I am here to suggest, dear readers and Albany-area residents: you always have a choice. But to choose, you must first be sane and free within. And there’s the rub.

Traffic at the park

Traffic at the park

During my 20-odd years in New York City, I watched it become — even under right-wing mayoral administrations — a city that was increasingly friendly to pedestrians and cyclists, with urban parks that keep vehicles at the margins and people in the center. Prospect Park in Brooklyn has a traffic loop that circumnavigates the park for one-way traffic only. No cars allowed inside the park, and that loop is closed to traffic on the weekends. But here in Albany, two-way traffic lanes weave through and around the parks, which have no wooded areas, no ballfields, no meadows, no hiking trails, no bodies of water aside from scrawny duck ponds, and no sanctuary from the automobile. Again, it is a picture of addiction: all surface and no substance.

As with every addiction, this one is fueled by denial. When I have mentioned my complaints about the parks to the locals here, the response has been: listen Nature-boy, you want Nature, get in your car and drive a few miles and you’ll have woods as thick as you want them. That is to say, they can’t imagine a person living without a car. These people just can’t see that there’s any problem with the carbon culture, aside from the price of gas, that is. With everything that both science and common sense are telling us, this madness is beyond surreal.

People in the park (?)

People in the park (?)

The strangest thing about it all is that Albany is a city whose irony reflects the lives of so many of the individual  people I meet here: a being of vast, untapped, and nearly limitless potential that makes an equally vast pretense of ignorance. I recall thinking one day: god help me for saying it, but this city needs a benign billionaire autocrat like Bloomberg: he would have protected bike lanes and traffic-slowing walkways running throughout this town in no time; there would be trains and an updated bus system extending far out into the exurban areas; the parks would be enlarged, enhanced, and closed to traffic. Much would be done to undermine the dominance of the internal combustion engine.

But trust me: I lived in New York under the Bloomberg corporate hegemony. You don’t want that, Albany; you don’t need it. You can change without the pressure of an autocrat and his corporate police force. You merely have to commit yourself to real change; the kind of change that is the way of Nature and of human nature in its original clarity and freedom. This is what I and others refer to as transformation: the kind of change that awakens the surface by clarifying the substance; that fulfills all potential through the action of the kinetic within; that realizes the unique in stripping away whatever is derived.

IFPeople can do it, and don’t tell me they can’t, because I’ve watched it happen. So it stands to reason, by any logic you wish to apply, that cities of them can do it too. Whether you are a single individual or a city of them, the same simple requirement applies: it all begins with a commitment to the quantum reality of inner truth. The mechanics of appearances will then take care of themselves. It is a choice we can make freely today, so that our children won’t have to accept it fatefully tomorrow.

 

Teachings of Night: Freedom-From and Freedom-To

IFIt has been a month since my old friend died in my arms, and I find that mourning doesn’t really end. But it changes, it becomes something that most people in our get-over-it culture wouldn’t recognize as mourning. The old word-play applies: the “u” leaves the scene and mourning becomes morning.

I’ve been remembering some of the conversations we had; certain things I used to tell her again and again. “Night, you’re not really my cat — you are merely on loan from the universe, and I’m just here to cherish and care for you as much as I can, because you are not mine — you are the Sage’s cat.”

IFSage is just another word in our dictionary. Ordinarily, it is understood to mean “sage”: a human wise person or visionary, gifted with insight from no one knows where. I had always assumed this was an adequate definition of “sage,” until two extraordinary people showed me an alternative explanation. They pointed me to that “no-one-knows-where” part and asked: what if that Sage* is the source of all sage-like thought, expression, and creation among humans? So this is the word that they chose to represent the teaching energy of cosmic consciousness.

The Sage is present to us all and equally so (though uniquely to each individual); it appears in dreams, meditation, the consultation of oracles, creative experience, and most especially in the ordinary events and encounters of our daily lives. Thus, it does not have to be sought out or pursued with either longing or belief: an opening is the only following that the Sage requires. Belief, after all, is a function of desire and clinging; but experience continually creates and re-creates itself in the personal space of the universal realm that we may call freedom. Thus, it makes sense for us to explore this universe of freedom, to see if we can find its heart, its essence.

Freedom, To and From

IFFreedom to and freedom from: we’ll call them FT and FF for short. My work tends to focus on FF because it avoids error and clears a space for FT’s right measure to arrive as if unbidden. As anyone with a modest capacity for insight has seen by now, America has become a land of a distorted, misshapen FT with a desire not truly for freedom but for indulgence. Freedom to take, to buy, to acquire, to own, to use, to consume, to get, to accumulate. We will readily reap but have no taste for sowing. This is the story of Wall St., corporate culture and its advertising machinery, and all who are suckered by that web of greed and lies. Selfishness, properly considered, has no self about it: the roots of selfishness are in groupthink, not in the individual.

FF, on the other hand, tends to be more personal and less collectivist. If I were to let loose the proverbial genie in the bottle, or have a chance to get a prayer to God that was guaranteed acceptance — I would ask for enduring freedom from ego and its conflicts. For from this would come all the FT’s that I might desire or merit.

nightgazeBut I believe in propitiatory prayer about as much as I believe in genies. I have found that the greatest and deepest blessings we receive are those for which we never ask. If there is a god, it certainly doesn’t need my steerage or suggestion-box input. The only prayer that works is an opening rather than a plea: receive and then share. As the old saying goes, pay it forward. That’s effective prayer.

In order to do so, we need to nurture our FF. If we are bound up in conflict, fear, division, suspicion, and claim, then we are spinning on the treadmill of gain and loss. We cannot possibly understand let alone practice a way of natural blessing that way. So we must strip down and see what’s left after fear and suspicion drop away.

The word of FF is No; its process is elimination; its vision is discernment; its action is release.

The word of FT is Yes; its process is intake; its vision is desire; its action is reaching.

IFI think there is a natural order here: no leads to yes; cleansing leads to reception; discernment is the prerequisite to the natural fulfillment of desire; and letting go extends one’s touch — when we are in the center of being, the force of attraction (known as gravity to scientists) becomes our reach. Getting the order right makes the difference between struggle and effortlessness; between longing and achievement. FF enables FT; I don’t think it works the other way around.

Meditation is the way of FF; its touch fills the space that both joins and separates the living and the dead, the formed and the formless, the great harmonic and its physical shadow in this realm. Active contemplation is art brought to the space of personal living: like all art, it embraces and disperses contradiction. Yes and No; union and division; gain and loss; life and death: when you clear away what is not-yourself, what is toxic to the heart of being, then what you want flutters down toward you.

It is like solving a simple mathematical problem: find and subtract the terms of falsehood, and in that very resolution you add to the sum of the truth that is already within you, merely by giving it more room to express itself. No other operation is required.

IFWhenever we can experience that surpassing of contradiction, we see, ever more deeply, that opposition is not merely an impractical and destructive guide to living; it is also false — that is to say, illusory. This is precisely the moment in which FT opens and reaches toward us: when we abandon our learned belief in conflict and fear.

It is not the sort of thing that can be done alone. Nor is it the kind of thing that can be done in groups, as in institutional groups. Governments, corporations, religious sects, and ideology clubs — every form of tribal or jingoistic affiliation impedes genuine freedom. So if we are to make progress here, it seems desirable that we open ourselves to the company of invisible beings; especially since, after all, such beings are not really invisible to our inner sight.

What is “in-sight,” then, but our capacity for a vision that reaches beyond the range of our eyes and our optic cortical functions? Yes, insight is the capacity for seeing into people, situations, and societies. But all that proceeds from inner sight, a vision that embraces but surpasses the physical sense that it symbolizes.

IFScience is catching up on this general point, and that, in fact, is what science is supposed to do — both expand and refine its knowledge base in light of new experience.  Michael Brooks of The Guardian has done an excellent job of bringing this fresh scientific awareness before the public: read the whole thing, but pay particular attention to the discussion of quantum effects in sensation (and of the capacity for genetic transformation, which evokes points I raised in my essay on the tardigrade).

None of this should be especially shocking to anyone whose mind is not totally dulled by obedience and television. In fact, I would predict that the next two or three generations of scientific understanding and invention will reveal wonders that will make the wildest flight of Star Trek fancy appear conservative by comparison. This seems to be one of the principal points implied in Dr. Tyson’s recent program.

So we can wait and/or hope to be reincarnated into a world thus changed, or we can find it out for ourselves now. Genetic malleability; quantum  sensation; inherent unity of mind and body; the holographic or binary universe — these things are not matters of entertainment for sci-fi fans or speculation for navel-gazers like myself. They are objects of scientific research, and contain the potential for a personal transformation that will bring renewal to your life — yes, your plain, work-shop-sleep life of repressed neurosis.

nightstareThat is to say, the point of revealing the way of Freedom-From is not a path of retreat from society but of a return to a natural society through the liberation of the real self. It is about abandoning the search for Answers to explore possibility and potential instead. It is about perceiving, very clearly: “this doesn’t work, this myopic obsession with FT — in fact it has failed miserably, and it keeps failing. I want to try something different.” And then taking up the simple work of discovering what is invisible to your physical vision but perfectly apparent to your quantum sight.

I think that with such a new and broader perspective, we can all go out and play the game of FT with delight and pure, pay-it-forward pleasure, freed from the bindings of attachment, fear, and claim. When we are led by the Sage, then we all become, each in his and her uniqueness, sages.

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*Capitalizing the S in the Sage is not a call to worship, as is the capital G in God. Quite the contrary, in fact: the capital S is no more significant than the capitalization of our own names. Thus, it is a mark of respect and descriptive differentiation from “a sage”; nothing more  (or less) than that.

 

Teachings of Night: Dreams of a Hologram

IF3 years, 3 deaths. It began late in 2011, with my younger brother; then five months later, another one. And now, less than three years since, this beautiful animal who gave me 13 years of such love, loyalty, and pure presence as I had never experienced before. I have lived long and never felt old before — even when younger ones offered me their seat on the bus or held a door open for me or (it just happened last month) greeted me with “hey old-timer.”

Now I begin to feel the creep of age.

It is both a lesson and a deception, the self-image of the old man. It brings us up against some of the most challenging questions of age and of life itself. Is it natural for us to feel the need to follow them — the beings who were, just last week or last month or last year — here and alive; and are now somewhere in the great and vibrant stillness? Is it right that sorrow calls us to its cause; that every death that touches also beckons us?

3 years, 3 deaths. After more than two weeks, I finally found the energy to clean house this weekend. This is a part of the process, a turning of mourning’s page. In Nature’s realm, this process is simpler than we have made it in ours: the physical remnants of the consciousness that has transited are consumed by scavengers, bacteria, and the forces of dissolution. Wind, rain, microbes, insects, foragers: the body is never really gone, just changed. Nature has memory, but it is physical, molecular, imagistic and not prosaic; it carries no burdens of attachment, as our memory does. Nature is feeling; ego is sentiment. Nature is art; ego is contrivance.

nightipodThe memories that we tend to cling to most are illusory. True: like many illusions, they are powerful, compelling, haunting. But they are still false; graspings of a desperation out of tune with the universe. There is no greater or more natural wisdom than in the act of letting go. It doesn’t matter how you do it; it does matter that you do it, and when.

Many of us wait too long to get there, to that point of letting go. By attempting to “get over it,” we only drive the pain further underground, where it soon becomes poison to our own lives as well as a chain of claim upon the one who has gone. So this time, I made an effort to complete the process, to focus upon every stage and task within that journey of grief, so that the letting go which is the mandate of Nature can happen and be made complete.

3 years, 3 deaths. For me, there were three major factors to deal with (your experience may vary somewhat from what follows). I discovered the need to dispel or release three major areas of confusion:

  • Self-blame: a learned impulse of self-externalization, in which we become our own judge, jury, and — all too frequently — executioner. Self-blame spins in a vicious vortex of inner fragmentation along with…
  • Guilt: the ideological or doctrinal concretization of remorse. Guilt is the shadowy cornerstone of most major religions, particularly in the West. It is the stain that never comes clean; the self-hatred of an entire society drunk on belief and delusion, made into a vast cosmic slur against the living self of Nature. Trust me, Christians: there is nothing “original” about sin. It is just another vapid fantasy of your hollow institutional mind.
  • Self-righteousness: ego’s reaction against its own trap of self-blame and guilt. “I didn’t deserve this [tragedy/misfortune/rejection/loss].” Again, it externalizes the self by creating an artificial separation between who we are and what we experience. Particularly when we suffer, the voice of claim, of self-righteousness, tends to shout its demands for recompense.

nightmagicLike memory, our suffering is also an illusion. That realization doesn’t make suffering less painful; but it does make it less real. We can still feel it and work through it without paying it the counterfeit currency of belief. Then we can experience it without entangling ourselves in it under the massive weight of blame, guilt, and claim. When we can just watch it: witness its spectacle and hear its noise, there is no compulsion to judge or escape it. When we do that, we grow.

3 years, 3 deaths. I still find traces of her — bits of fur, a piece of claw in the carpet. It is so hard to let go of what was and remains so precious, so real beyond description. Smoldering threads of memory heated by these tiny, dry remnants. But the memories become lighter and stronger each day, almost touching that new and current presence. I recall the last month of her life here and wonder at it: she had to be suffering, there must have been pain. Yet she remained what she had been from the beginning: for over 13 years, the truest, most loyal, and calmly supportive friend I have known.

And again I wonder: if she could have been all of that here, beside me, how much more might she become in the invisible and vibrant space of transformation, along the wide portal of communication between the formed and the formless?

marinightI recall what I mentioned last week here: that our universe and all its contents, including us, are a hologram, a mathematically-configured organization of photons and energy. Now does that mean we’re not real? Of course it doesn’t; it only means that we’re not what we think we are: we are not stuff, substance, matter. To understand this about yourself helps a lot: it lets you play within this holographic space without taking it seriously. It also helps to know that there is another realm, where gravity and time and mass do not exist.

Yet memory of a certain type can live even there. Some memories are beyond time; I know that sounds strange and self-contradictory, but it is so. An image, a sound, a feeling, a sense of presence, an impression outside of any moment’s reach — these are the memories that soar past our petty histories, beyond the weak grasp of claim, wish, belief, or attachment. Such memories can be found in the center of the self, amid what the Buddhists call “the middle way.”

Such a center has nothing to do with geometry. It is not a point or position within a circle or along a line. The center of life, the middle way of the true self, cannot be pinned down with a compass or a ruler or a laser. The eternal center is a wide, welcoming, ceaselessly moving area of being. There is room there for nearly endless freedom and for the kind of memory that eventually surpasses mourning.

3 years, 3 deaths. There are no short cuts. As the old Master says in the video above, the soul does not record time, only growth. As I feel my way back toward the center, I feel Night’s living presence — those supra-temporal memories of her made kinetic — within me. I realize it doesn’t make sense, and it never can — not until you’ve walked the lonely and stricken paces of mourning, every one of them.

Such walks, such moments, hold immense promise. They offer us the opportunity to distinguish between what is of ego and what is of our self; between what we are told to be and who we really are. I will, in all likelihood, be perceived by others as old for the rest of this life. But that doesn’t mean I have to feel that way. When you are given a mask, you are also offered a choice. You can wear it or you can burn it.

IFIt has been my experience — right up to this very morning — that when we are able to burn the masks, the center opens and we are free to communicate with that other universe, and it with us. Sometime during the night, I was watching a great conflict being played out: a fight among a group of brothers for control of a kingdom after the death of their father, the former king. The violence of this contest nearly touched me: I felt the chaotic movement of steel and the razor edges of the struggle; I was spattered by its blood, yet unharmed. I walked into a large room, a studio in which the victor was being interviewed for TV. I walked quietly past, into the background. Along a darkened hallway I saw a door open but no person. Then I noticed a little black blur along the floor: it was my Night, hustling outside. I followed her and found myself amid an elevated village of small houses sitting amid clouds. There were cats running around all over: I picked up a scrawny black one and looked at him. He was obviously not Night. I put him down and moved on, stopping at a tiny cottage whose roof was barely six feet above ground. There was Night, walking toward me along the eave. She bowed her head and winked at me with that same calm humor that I have known for so long, and reached her front paws out to rest on my right shoulder. I caught her and let her settle into me, and I nuzzled her gentle black fur. She purred as I wrapped both arms around her…

And then I awoke, with such a feeling of bliss as I’ve rarely felt before. It had been so real, she had really been there with me; we had touched once more. The feeling of her presence persisted, as if she were within rather than merely beside me.

Oh, but it wasn’t real, it was “only a dream.” OK, let’s go back a few thousand years, to my old friend Chuang Tzu:

“I was out for a stroll late in the afternoon,” said Chuang Tzu. “I went to one of my favorite spots under a tree. I sat there, thinking about the meaning of life. It was so warm and pleasant that I soon relaxed, dozed off, and drifted into a dream. In my dream, I found myself flying up above the field. I looked behind me and saw that I had wings. They were large and beautiful, and they fluttered rapidly. I had turned into a butterfly! It was such a feeling of freedom and joy, to be so carefree and fly around so lightly in any way I wished. Everything in this dream felt absolutely real in every way. Before long, I forgot that I was ever Chuang Tzu. I was simply the butterfly and nothing else.”

“I’ve had dreams of flying myself, but never as a butterfly,” Chuang Tzu’s friend said. “This dream sounds like a wonderful experience.”

“It was, but like all things, it had to end sooner or later. Gradually, I woke up and realized that I was Chuang Tzu after all. This is what puzzles me.”

“What is so puzzling about it? You had a nice dream, that’s all there is to it.”

“What if I am dreaming right now? This conversation I am having with you seems real in every way, but so did my dream. I thought I was Chuang Tzu who had a dream of being a butterfly. What if I am a butterfly who, at this very moment, is dreaming of being Chuang Tzu?”

“Well, I can tell you that you are actually Chuang Tzu, not a butterfly.”

Chuang Tzu smiled: “You may simply be part of my dream, no more or less real than anything else. Thus, there is nothing you can do to help me identify the distinction between Chuang Tzu and the butterfly. This, my friend, is the essential question about the transformation of existence.”

IFAgain, we are in the holographic universe. But if we are projections of light and energy, then who or what is the projector? God? Tao? Brahman? Yahweh? Allah? To posit such a Projector is to create division, separation, between ourselves and our source. Even to the most doctrinally-drunk mind of belief, this can make no real sense. The priest knows, deep in his secret heart, that the story of the King-God and His distant collection of puny subjects is a vast and transparent lie. All that longing, struggle, and bloody conflict among brothers — carried on amid the luminous village of a clear and undivided perfection that can only be diminished through neglect.

So my little dream and Chuang Tzu’s celebrated one coalesce and speak to one another across two dozen centuries, as if there were not a moment’s or a molecule’s space separating them — precisely as it is with the background universe of no-time and no-thing and its holographic brother.

md530Night has taught me these things, and will go on teaching me, nourishing me with the gentle breath of her continuing and ineffable essence. I need only commit to following, listening, and abiding with her from this moment and into the end of mourning. I feel as if I am already there. I sense now that I have successfully let her go, for she has been made free to come back. I feel drunk — intoxicated, as old Rumi might say, with the nectar of gratitude.