"There Are No Repetitions" (excerpt) SUBTLE SOUND The Zen Teaching of Maurine Stuart) by Maurine Stuart
What is the condition of our minds right now? How are our hearts? This moment is all we have—so at this moment, how creative are we, how in touch with the source are we?
We need courage to be creative. To be sensitive and aware requires great courage. This word “courage” comes from the same root as the French word “coeur,” which means heart. So please have the courage to listen to your heart, to your body, your hara, not just to your head. You will discover new ways to experience your life.
We are always at the beginning. It is always the very first time. Truly, there are no repetitions. When I play the piano, I often come to a repeat sign. Can that passage be repeated? If I am teaching a piano student and we see a repeat sign, I tell the student that there are no repeats. We return to the beginning of a certain passage, but it’s never the same. It’s always fresh. Someone asked me, “Don’t you get tired of answering the same questions day after day—what is Zen, how do we practice?” Never! It’s never the same question, because it’s always coming from a different person, in a different moment; and each person
asks the question from his or her own state of mind. The words may sound alike, but each time they are coming from some- where unique.
What is zazen? Hui-neng defined zazen this way: “In the midst of all good and evil, not a thought is aroused in the mind. This is called ‘za.’ Seeing into one’s self-nature and not being moved at all, this is called ‘zen.’ ” We sometimes say “za” is just to sit cross-legged, but it means more than this; it means to sit with no discriminating consciousness, no dualistic activity. And “zen” is to wake up to our fundamental self, not to be disturbed by anything—just letting it come, letting it go; in-breath, out- breath; just here. Allowing the calm, deep breath to penetrate every part of the body, allowing the hara to fill up, we let go of all fixed notions. We let go of “I.” We let it all fall off. We are here to discover a way of relating to one another, rather than to expound a set of doctrines. With this attitude, our sitting is re- ceptive, alert, awake, open, so that we can hear what the silence has to say. We are letting ourselves be the vehicle for whatever teaching may come our way, not forcing or grabbing at any- thing.
Because I consider myself an artist, I tend to think in terms of poetry and music, but above all, it is the art of our own life that we are engaged in. The greatness of a poem or a painting is not that it portrays a certain scene or experience, but that it shows the artist’s vision of his or her own meeting with reality. Hence each thing, each time, is fresh and new. It is never the same place. There are no repetitions. It is not the head or the hand that paints the picture or performs the sonata. One of my teachers gave me a wonderful koan: “Play the piano without using your hands.” When we are empty and free, then the brush or the notes move by themselves. This is the source, whether or not we call it Zen, that we are in touch with. Is it done by heaven, or is it our doing? Our doing is heaven’s. Our movements are heaven’s. If the artist interferes, or if we as artists of our lives interfere with this source through some self-conscious preoccupation, what happens? What is to be expressed gets lost, becomes hard, constrained; there is no true expression. When mind and heart are open, empty; when there is no selfish motivation; then all one’s actions are one with heaven. The spirit flows freely, and we have a heavenly dance.
On loan to us at the Cambridge Buddhist Association for awhile was a most extraordinary calligraphy, by Soen Nakagawa Roshi. The top character, “human,” was very still. The bottom character was a wonderful swirling energetic character: “Heaven-dance.” This heaven-dance comes through all of us when we let go of all our ego-stuff, when we melt down the ego and let this source move freely through us.
In Japanese culture, the creative process is described by words like ki—vital energy; kan,—transcendent intuition; and myo,— wondrous action. When energy strikes intuition, a wondrous sound emerges. Myo also refers to a certain artistic quality not only in works of art, but in anything in our lives, in nature. This myo is something original, creative, growing out of one’s own consciousness, one’s own experience: spontaneous and personal creativity.
We speak of the wonders of nature. Nature is full of myo. Nature is always showing this unfathomable, absolutely inex- haustible myo, and there are many wonderful poets who express this to us. Basho, who was the role model for Soen Nakagawa, who in turn was the great inspiration for my life, wrote wonder- ful poems of nature, but they are not just nature poems; they richly convey this myo. Here are two examples:
penetrates the rocks cicadas chirp
The temple bell dies away
but the fragrance of flowers resounds—
Such elegance! By the way, this word, elegance, is also used by physicists to describe their discoveries. Basho has given us a glimpse of the source. To come to such elegance, to come to such feeling, doesn’t happen by taking some pill, or some magic potion, but through strong discipline. This is not only true of Zen practitioners, but of all great artists. How many times did Beethoven write, rewrite, tear up, sort out all the things that came to his mind, day by day, week by week, month by month, until he finally distilled everything down to the wonderful sound we hear at this point! How many times do artists draw, draw again, over and over again, perfecting their technique so that they may work freely and directly from this source. We can speak very easily about how we should be free, how we should empty our minds, how we should open our hearts, but to do this, we need strong practice. As musicians we practice hour after hour perfecting a phrase so that we may have some free- dom of expression when it comes time to give it to someone else. As Zen practitioners we sit in zazen, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, refining our minds and spirits, to come to this elegance, to come to this place where we can be what Rinzai called the true person of no rank, or what Dogen called the primordial person: one who has freely dropped off the ego-self. Basho described this condition in another haiku:
Along this road
goes no one
this autumn evening
We are the no-person person, and at the same time, we are doing what needs to be done, completely, fully, absolutely, concentratedly.
We must be completely present with whatever we are doing—so completely present that there is no separation be- tween it and us. Sitting on the cushion is relatively easy. To take it into everyday life, to be completely mindful of what we are doing, this is more difficult—and essential. We must make our base very strong, like the Daruma doll—no matter how many times he’s knocked down, he pops right up again. We are doing mindfulness practice to nourish this fundamental source of our being.
We have this source within us, but we must do our practice over, and over, and over; sit over and over, do whatever tasks we are engaged in over and over. Yet nothing is repeated. It’s hard to keep wide awake, to keep vividly present in the midst of endless repetition. But look at this! Taste this! We may have drunk a million cups of tea, but we have never tasted this one before.
BUY the BOOK:
Introduction (from EVERYDAY TAO by Deng Ming Dao)
Following Tao means following a living path. It is a way of life that sustains you, guides you, and leads you to innumerable rich experiences. It is a spiritual path of joy and insight, freedom and profundity.
Tao is everywhere. It is literally the movement of all life. It is endless and flows in all directions. Since Tao is the total ongoing process of the universe, it makes sense to go along with it. If we swim in a river, we should make use of its current.
The study of Tao originated in China; its history spans thousands of years. Its methods, doctrines, and practices have evolved to a sprawling and complicated system that cannot be completely grasped even with a lifetime of study. Some individuals still I Initiates into religious Taoism, having both the calling and the opportunity, follow an arduous and devout life. But Tao flows for ordinary people and ascetics alike. After all, everyone is faced with the same struggles: the sun rises and sets on all of us, the seasons change for everyone, everyone ages. No matter who we are, e process of Tao affects us. The only question is whether we become aware of it and live in accord with it.
We all can live a life according to the principles of Tao, and we need not defer our study until some future time when we think we n enter into isolation solely for spiritual inquiry. There is nothing we do that is not part of Tao. All it takes to begin living a life harmony with Tao is a commitment to ongoing awareness, after that, there is only the thrilling process of learning more and ore about Tao.
Here are some of the special qualities of those who follow Tao:
Simplicity: Those who follow Tao keep life simple. They conserve their energies; they are content with what they have. Since they don't hanker after the dazzling goals of others who are ambitious, they are able to maintain their equilibrium.
Sensitivity: Those who follow Tao are observant of others, avoid the aggressive, and help those in need. They love nature and spend time in the wilderness learning from the seasons, studying animals, and absorbing the lessons of nature's creativity. Nature is not wholly synonymous with Tao, but it is completely a part of Tao and thus a perfect way to glimpse Tao.
Flexibility: This is the aspect of Tao people of other disciplines often have the most trouble accepting. Since Tao holds that everything in the world is relative, it does not espouse any absolutes. Followers of Tao rarely rule anything out, because they believe any choice they make is dependent upon circumstance rather than preconceived notions.
Independence: Those who follow Tao seldom care about society's dictates, fads, trends, political movements, or common morality. They find these too limited, too imperfect, and too petty. It is not that those who follow Tao are immoral. It is just that they act from a far more profound level of the spirit. For this reason, followers of Tao have often been accused of being dangerous both to religion and society. But those who follow Tao affirm wisdom and experience over government, conventional morality, and etiquette.
Focused: Those who follow Tao learn an inner direction in their lives. They accept who they are, and they first ascertain and then accept the details of their lives. They take advantage of who they are and do not try to be someone they are not. They accept that they were born, they accept that they will die, and they take the distance traveled between those two points as their personal path. They accept that each stage of their lives has certain advantages and disadvantages, and they set out to work with those advantages.
Cultivated: Since a life of Tao is one of simplicity, observation, and action, people strive to refine themselves in order to follow Tao-more perfectly.
Disciplined: Those who follow Tao are disciplined. This discipline is not a harsh structure imposed upon one's personality, but the taking of orderly actions toward specific goals. That requires concentration of the highest order.
Joyous: Once one gains Tao, there is absolutely no doubt about it. It's like seeing a god, or paradise: no matter what anyone says or does, the experience cannot be erased. So top is it with those who have seen Tao and who live within its flow: They have a joyous sense of the deepest sustenance. They feel directly connected with the source of life. They do not fear tyranny, because no tyrant could ever destroy their faith in Tao. They do not fear poverty, because Tao brings them wealth overflowing. They do not fear loneliness, because Tao surrounds them constantly. They do not fear death, because they know in Tao there is no death.
Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmon by Deng Ming Dao
Picture by Roman Trottner
THE WISDOM OF THE ZEN MASTERS (excerpt) by Irmgard Schloegl
When the succession after the Fifth Patriarch was under consideration, his main disciple Jinshu was generally expected to be the heir. To present his insight, he composed a verse:
The body is the Tree of Awakening,
The heart is a bright mirror;
Carefully wipe it always So that no dust can settle.
Eno (Hui Neng), who in fact became the Sixth Patriarch, countered with another verse:
There is no Tree of Awakening;
The bright mirror has no stand;
When all is emptiness Where can dust settle?
The teaching analogies of the Zen school are finely balanced, and these two verses reflect each other like two mirrors. They make a point that is as important now as it was then: one cannot have the one without the other; the chicken comes out of the egg; without the egg, no chicken.
Many of the Zen Masters are claimed as fathers or founders of special teaching lines, stressing a particular way or style. Their teachings and biographies were written down by their disciples. They themselves wrote nothing; they taught. What they taught was not scriptural learning, not Buddhism or Zen, but a way of life. Familiarity with the scriptures is basic to all Buddhist monks. The Zen Masters made use of the scriptures and quoted them freely, though often with a comment that brought new light on what had become too familiar. They tried to break down blind piety towards the teachings, and to help their students to a real insight, to that clear seeing as a result of which the scriptures assumed a new and living meaning —not something abstract ‘up there’ to be quoted, but functioning here and now in one’s own life and in all that is, ‘clearly perceptible right before the eyes’.
The Zen Masters were men of few words, but mature in insight and skilled in means. They were also past masters in rousing their students out of complacency and in spotting imitative behavior. They could be fierce to an extent that to us seems appalling, though never without purpose, but balanced by a ‘grandmotherly kindness’ which seems to have been a greater danger than their fierceness, for we often find warnings in the texts against spoon-feeding.
A man who wants to stand squarely on his own feet and to get his sight clear needs courage to see into his emotional household and to disentangle himself to some extent from it. Such a man in the fullness of time needs to come to a genuine breaking point at which ‘I’, fired by passion, abdicates. This is what Master Hakuin called the Great Death, and that this is a shattering experience is obvious.
To help to bring about this turning over, to assist what is in itself a natural process as a kind of midwife, is another of the functions of a Zen Master. The Zen analogy for it is a hen hatching out an egg. When the chicken is ready, the hen must peck the shell to help the chick out. If this is done too early or too late, the chick dies. Hence derives the very real responsibility assumed by a Zen Master, of which he is humbly conscious. The relationship is a serious contract, binding on both parties.
Every inner experience has a convincing, even overpowering finality. The little ones in particular are inevitably followed by 1 have got if, an I-appropriation. T wants to hold it, which is impossible. Then T strives to get it back, which is equally impossible for T has no say in the matter. The wanting and striving to bring it back is misdirected effort, is clinging to a passing phenomenon, and so only strengthens the sense of T. This is contrary to the Way, and so the Way is lost.
Hence one more function of a Zen Master is to prevent students from becoming stuck in any experience and thus losing the Way. He goads them on in their training till sooner or later they die the Great Death, and come to that true humility which is the joy of the heart, releasing its inherent warmth which now can flow and act freely. When the trammels of egoism are gone, its blinkers shed, what remains and is seen is what is.
A monk brought two potted plants to his Master. ‘Drop it,’ ordered the Master. The monk dropped one pot. ‘Drop it,’ again ordered the Master. The monk let the second pot go. ‘Drop it,’ now roared the Master. The monk stammered: ‘But I have nothing more to drop.’ ‘Then take it away/ nodded the Master.
The simplicity of such an analogy must not blind us to the veritable impossibility of doing just this. And yet it has to be done. Hence the importance of training.
Even dropping what we have, all we have, is not an easy thing. But dropping what has us, our ingrained opinions, views, ideals, our dear burdens that we so hotly and volubly defend—we cannot drop them by an act of will. It is just that which is the rub. W e never even dare to look at them squarely, much less to doubt their validity.
The Zen Masters hold that three things are necessary for this training: a great root of faith, great doubt, and great courage-endurance. The death of T is no easy matter. Moreover, it needs preparation so that the dying can happen cleanly.
A knight in medieval Japan deserted his liege lord after long inner struggles, for such an action was inconceivable according to the code of knighthood. He did it because he felt an overwhelming vocation for the Zen life. Having spent some twelve years in one of the mountain monasteries, he set out on pilgrimage. Before long he encountered a knight on horseback who recognized him and made to strike him down but then decided against it as he was unwilling to sully his sword. So he just spat in the monk’s face as he rode by. In the act of wiping away the spittle, the monk realized in a flash what in former days his reaction would have been to such an insult. Deeply moved, he turned round towards the mountain area where he had done his training, bowed, and composed a poem:
The mountain is the mountain And the Way is the same as of old.
Verily what has changed Is my own heart.
Such is the Way of Zen. Who could exhaust it? The guides on that Way are the Zen Masters. It is a Way that can be walked now as then. The guides are there still. They do not propagate either themselves or their teachings. They sit and train themselves, and those who come to them prepared for such training, able to bow at least the head and capable of giving up cherished views. ‘The Great Way is not difficult, it only avoids cherishing opinions’ on questions such as what is Truth, the Absolute, or other great words.
BUY the BOOK:
`COMPOSITION OF AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD DOGS JUMPING`
The quest for enlightenment is the quest for truth or reality. It’s not a quest for ideas about truth—that’s philosophy. And it’s not a quest to realize your fantasies about truth—that’s fundamentalized religion. It’s a quest for truth on truth’s terms. It’s a quest for the underlying principle of life, the unifying element of existence.
In your quiet moments of honesty, you know that you are not who you present yourself as, or who you pretend to be. Although you have changed identities many times, and changed them even in the course of a single day, none of them fit for long. They are all in a process of constant decay. One moment you’re a loving person, the next an angry one. One day you’re an indulgent, worldly person; the next a pure, spiritual lover of God. One moment you love your image of yourself, and the next you loathe it. On it goes, identified with one self-image after another, each as separate and false as the last.
When this game of delusion gets boring or painful enough, something within you begins to stir. Out of the unsatisfactoriness of separation arises the intuition that there is something more real than you are now conscious of. It is the intuition that there is truth, although you do not know what it is. But you know, you intuit, that truth exists, truth that has absolutely nothing to do with your ideas about it. But somehow you know that the truth about you and all of life exists.
Once you receive this intuition, this revelation, you will be compelled to find it. You will have no choice in the matter. You will have consciously begun the authentic quest for enlightenment, and there is no turning back. Life as you’ve known it will never be quite the same.
A great Zen master said, “Do not seek the truth; simply cease cherishing illusions.” If there is a primary practice or path to enlightenment, this is it—to cease cherishing illusions. Seeking truth can be a game, complete with a new identity as a truth-seeker fueled by new ideas and beliefs. But ceasing to cherish illusions is no game; it’s a gritty and intimate form of deconstructing yourself down to nothing. Get rid of all of your illusions and what’s left is the truth. You don’t find truth as much as you stumble upon it when you have cast away your illusions.
As the master said, “Do not seek the truth.” But you can’t stop seeking just because some ancient Zen master said to. Seeking is an energy, a movement toward something. Spiritual seekers are moving toward God, nirvana, enlightenment, ultimate truth, whatever. To seek something, you must have at least some vague idea or image of what it is you are seeking. But ultimate truth is not an idea or an image or something attained anew. So, to seek truth as something objective is a waste of time and energy. Truth can’t be found by seeking it, simply because truth is what you are. Seeking what you are is as silly as your shoes looking for their soles by walking in circles. What is the path that will lead your shoes to their soles? That’s why the Zen master said, “Do not seek the truth.” Instead, cease cherishing illusions.
To cease cherishing illusions is a way of inverting the energy of seeking. The energy of seeking will be there in one form or another until you wake up from the dream state. You can’t just get rid of it. You need to learn how to invert it and use the energy to deconstruct the illusions that hold your consciousness in the dream state. This sounds relatively simple, but the consequences can seem quite disorienting, even threatening. I’m not talking about a new spiritual technique here; I’m talking about a radically different orientation to the whole of your spiritual life. This is not a little thing. It is a very big thing, and your best chance of awakening depends on it. “Do not seek the truth; simply cease cherishing illusions.” And if you’re like most spiritually oriented people, your spirituality is your most cherished illusion. Imagine that.
© 2007 by Adyashanti — http://www.adyashanti.org
“One of Us” by Paul Pulszartti
Things I've Learned from the Spiritual Masters
On the day of my spiritual awakening, everything changed for me. Instantly, I felt engulfed by a sacred presence, the likes of which I had never known before. The sacred sense of the Divine presence has never abated since then, either.
Today, I live in a state of perpetual peace almost continuously. Sure, the intensity varies from moment to moment, but a feeling of the sacredness of all of life never does. Self-loathing, self-judgments, self-doubt, all symptoms of a low self-esteem, have given way to peace and confidence, self-love and self-acceptance. I still have questions, even doubts. What is different today, however, is that I accept them, even relish them, knowing and appreciating the paradoxical realities within myself and within this universe. Resistance to life itself, characteristic of my daily existence prior to the awakening, has all but disappeared, too.
I also have a new vision of myself, as well as the world, which transcends all racial, religious, and cultural differences. This is remarkable, given that I was raised in a conservative, evangelical church and was myself a Baptist minister for nearly two decades. But, since the awakening, I find value in all spiritual traditions. This radically new vision gave birth to the Unity pendant, which you have most likely seen advertised in the Unity Magazine.
The really striking thing today is this: While I still regard myself as a Christian, and perhaps more so than at any other time, I feel just as connected to Buddhists and Buddhism, to Hindus and Hinduism, to Muslims and Islam, and so on.
From all of these traditions I have discovered valuable insights and learned invaluable lessons about life and living—insights and lessons that are transformative in nature within every person where they are regularly practiced.
Know who you are and why you’re here. Someone once said that the two most important days of your life are these: “The day you were born and the day you figure out why.”
I spent the greater part of my life knowing neither. For example, I mistakenly thought I was my name, my body, my thoughts, as well as my ambitions and accomplishments. Further, I mistakenly believed there was some job I showed up to accomplish. As a consequence, I spent the greater part of my life looking for myself, and my job, in all the wrong places. I did not realize there is but one reason you and I are here—to be. Now, you can spend your whole life trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do in order to be; or, you can relish who you really are and then, whatever you do, will have lasting significance.
Saint Augustine said, “Love and do what you will.” I would add, “Be and then do whatever you will.”
The mistake most make, which is the same mistake I made, is to think that the “I” I see in a mirror is the “I” I am. The truth is, however, the “you” you see is not really the “you” you are. Until you know this, you will cling to the illusory image you see which Albert Einstein described as “an optical illusion in consciousness.”
You are not the image you see. Neither are you your name or accomplishments. Instead, you are the nameless, formless “I am” behind all that will eventually disappear. Since I provide a comprehensive analysis of all of this in The Enoch Factor, I will go no further here but encourage you to more fully explore this in the book.
Question everything. The Buddha said, “Believe nothing merely because you have been told it.”
Until you question everything, especially those things you were taught to believe, your faith will be perfunctory at best. The ego in you may cling to a set of beliefs, and so vigorously defend them against anyone who may question them, but know this: all the ego in you is really clinging to are inherited beliefs. Until you question your beliefs, you will forever confuse beliefs for faith, which is the fundamental error made in most religions today.
Someone once observed, “Beliefs are a cover-up for insecurity. You only believe in the things you’re not certain about.” When people say, for example, “I believe in God,” what does that really mean? No one says, “I believe in the sun.” Why? What’s there to believe in? You knowthe sun. Similarly, when you know the Divine within you or, more accurately, when you know the Divine that you are then you living from the place of authentic faith, beyond mere beliefs.
Do unto yourself as you would have yourself do unto you. A slightly different twist on what is commonly known as “the Golden Rule.” While credited to Jesus, it is actually found in some form in all spiritual traditions. You only ever do unto yourself what you do unto others. Conversely, “what you do to others, you do to yourself,” or so said the Buddhist monk, Pema Chodron.
Confucius said, “When you meet a virtuous person, emulate them; when you meet an evil person, however, look within.”
Look for the life lesson in every experience. Your life unfolds as a series of synchronous and meaningful events, as Carl Jung taught us. While these events may appear to be random and disconnected, they are actually conspiring together to bring you into union with the Divine.
A similar truth is taught in Buddhism. What you are presently experiencing will not completely disappear until you learn the lesson it was sent to teach you.
This is precisely why Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who provided us insight into the stages of grief, frequently said, “There are no mistakes. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.” In Christianity, Saint Paul framed a similar picture of your life and mine when he said, “All things work together for our good,” (Romans 8:28). When you know this, instead of being in resistance to what is happening in your life, you will look for the life lesson in it.
You ask, “But how do you know that what I’m experiencing is what I am supposed to experience?” Precisely because this is the experience you are having. Eckhart Tolle says, “Whatever you fight, survives; whatever you resist, persists.” In other words, learn life’s lesson in each and every experience. Or, expect situations to keep appearing, usually in different clothing, but with the same purpose or intention—to help you evolve. To teach you an important lesson and so take you to a higher level of consciousness.
Let go of your regrets. Have you ever heard someone say, “If I had my life to live over, I wouldn’t change a thing?” What should you know whenever you hear this? The person making this boast is not likely shooting straight.
We all have regrets. And, if given another chance, there are many things I would change. Which is one reason why, I suppose, reincarnation is such a compelling belief to many. With regard to my regrets, however, what is more troubling to me than things I did I wish I had not done are the things I wish I had done that I did not do. Which is the point of forgiveness in Christianity.
Many Christians mistakenly think that forgiveness is about the innocent man Jesus having to suffer the wrath of a neurotic God who is twisted out of shape over the failures of human beings. What forgiveness is really about, however, is Divine grace—or, the divinely-provided capacity, as demonstrated in Jesus, to forgive others for unspeakable evil they might do to you and the equally provided capacity to forgive yourself for the wrongs you do to yourself. Both enable you to move beyond your regrets.
Meditate more often than you medicate. The latter requires a prescription; the former requires discipline. For several years now, I have practicing Japanese meditation. In this practice, one not unfamiliar to Benedictine monks in Catholicism, there is the repetition of a mantra.
“Mantra” is a Sandskrit word made up of two others: tra meaning “instrument” and manmeaning “mind.” Hence, a mantra is “an instrument of the mind.” When you meditate, try using a mantra. Often, for example, I will use the following mantra to bring focus to my mind: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
The fastest way to inner transformation is through meditation. When you go within, your world changes. Transformation only ever occurs within you. If you want your circumstances to change, your consciousness must change. When you go regularly to the only place where this kind of change could ever take place—your inner world—you discover your outer world morphs into something infinitely more meaningful. Lao-Tzu said, “Where there is silence one finds the anchor to the universe.”
Live in space, not time. What is it that comprises most of what is around you and me? Nothing. Emptiness. Train yourself to be aware of nothing.
“But,” you object, “that statement makes no sense whatsoever!”
To the contrary. Give some of your attention every day to nothing and see what happens.
On a clear night, I enjoy gazing into the heavens, as perhaps you do, and observing the stars, planets, and constellations. When I awakened spiritually, however, I instantly became aware of something else or, more accurately, I became aware of nothing—the emptiness out of which all things appear.
The universe is mostly nothing, isn’t it? If you’ll train yourself to give some attention to the space of emptiness—which is infinitely more than the objects in consciousness—I suspect you will make a similarly remarkable discovery. You will discover the Nothing that is Everything.
There many other things I’ve learned as a consequence of my awakening. I’ll mention one more—the importance of thinking about death daily. In the west, death is mostly avoided, denied, as well as dreaded by virtually everyone. While I have lived most of my life in fear of death, too, today I find it more mysterious than foreboding.
Why? When I woke up, for example, I realized that it was the ego in me that was frightened by death. The deeper me—beyond name, form, or function—could never be afraid of death.
Ego is your make-believe self, illusory in nature. Yet, it is that part of us that we typically mistake for who we are. You are not your name, however, or your body, or even the thoughts you think. In other words, just like everything else, ego is that part of you that will eventually die and disappear. Ego knows this, which is why it is terrified of it.
Dis-identify with the ego. Why? As long as you are completely identified with ego, you will fear death. The deeper “you,” however, the “I am” that you are (I mentioned earlier), will never die. It is eternal. Identify more with the “you” you really are and the fear of death will subside.
Virtually every spiritual tradition encourages you detach from the ego. Jesus put it like this: “Deny self” (Matthew 16:24). Muhammad said, “The most excellent Jihad is the conquest of the self.” The goal of all spiritual traditions is this: to guide you into ego-detachment, into self-discovery, self-fulfillment, or, as I like to put it, into Divine consciousness,” which is really, self-awareness.
For me, the greatest consequence of my spiritual awakening is this: while I had searched for God and inner peace for most of my life, I woke up to the realization that God had found me already. Which is why I love the way Thomas Merton put it: “When you are disposed to being with God, you are…no matter where you are: in the monastery, in the city, in the country, in the woods. At the precise moment it would seem you are in the middle of your journey, you have actually arrived at the destination already.”
What more could you need? What more could you want?