A Window is Where the Wall is Absent

The life impulse to express and to connect arises in me and in all of us. This blog is a celebration of these life impulses. Please feel free to join in the conversation or to just visit. There is a Family Photo Album beneath the posts so you can "meet" my family and I. Welcome!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I have nothing to do today.

I have nothing to do today.

I have nothing to do everyday.

This is true for all human beings.

I have nothing to do today even when thought says otherwise, even when thought says I have a million things to do today.

Just because I have nothing to do today doesn't mean that nothing will get done. On the contrary, when I feel deep in my bones that I have nothing to do today, nothing to worry about, I tend to have a much more productive day. Productive both on the inner level of accessing a deep well of peace, and productive on the outer level in terms of accomplishing tasks and having positive interactions with others.

I have nothing to do today! Ahhh - what a relief. And yet nothing will be left undone, as the Tao te Ching says.

Having nothing to do makes me unimportant, and what is more delicious than humility? What is more delicious than disappearing in the breeze?

If I did have a lot to do today I would be very important. What more dreadful burden is there than delusions of self-importance?

I relish the freedom and ease of having nothing to do today. I may work hard at my job, due a ton of errands, care for my kids, exercise at the Y; or I may simply relax with a cup of tea and a book of poetry; either way, I have nothing to do today, and the day will, without doubt, get done. So there is nothing to worry about.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Can I live without me?

Yes! I can live without me, and you can live without you, and every day each of us lives without a me for a few seconds here and there without realizing it. Those times when we forget ourselves.

When attention drops its clutch on the me (which is only an idea in awareness) then activity carries on exactly the same - eating, walking, talking, working, playing, thinking, seeing, etc. Action flows just fine without me. It's erroneous to believe that a me is needed for life to occur or for anything to get done.

Misery and stress are outcroppings of the me-idea. Where is misery without a me?

It's hard to say what I am, but it is possible to discern what I am not. It's possible to see that the me is not who I am, it is just a bunch of mind-stuff. As the things I believed myself to be are peeled away (through seeing they are not who I am) then what's left is who I am. It can't be boxed or put into language very well; who we are will always be as different from words as a finger pointing at the moon is different from the moon.

What's left of me without a me? Awareness. The fullness of being alive in this moment. When the me and true nature are mixed up, there is confusion and suffering. The very structure of language and syntax reflects how deeply this case of mistaken identity is embedded into human consciousness.

Yet it's not hard to be extricated from the entire morass of mind-stuff. It's as simple as being present with this breath, it's as easy as being alive and aware in this moment. With me or without me, life itself is great.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Banquet

I came across an eye-opening passage from Anthony de Mello's book Awareness (p. 26, excerpt).

"Life is a banquet. And the tragedy is that most people are starving to death. There's a story about some people who were on a raft off the coast of Brazil perishing from thirst. They had no idea that the water they were floating on was fresh water. The river was coming out into the sea with such force that it went out for a couple of miles, so they had fresh water right there where they were. But they had no idea. In the same way, we're surrounded with joy, with happiness, with love. Most people have no idea of this whatsoever."

As I type this, a new Mary Oliver poem that just came out in the spring Parabola issue floats to mind. Let me close by sharing this poem, which my husband Greg also loved. Every time I have read this poem it has had a new layer of meaning to me. It's related to the above passage from de Mello in my mind.


In Your Hands

The dog, the donkey, surely they know
they are alive.
Who would argue otherwise?

But now, after years of consideration,
I am getting beyond that.
What about the sunflowers? What about
the tulips, and the pines?

Listen, all you have to do is start and
there'll be no stopping.
What about mountains? What about water
slipping over the hard-skinned rocks?

And, speaking of stones, what about
the little ones you can
hold in your hands, their heartbeats
so secret, so hidden it may take years

before, finally, you hear them?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Alienation

I was sitting in the car this morning looking at a tree when all of a sudden, like a sheet of cracked glass, I saw veins of alienation running every which way throughout my life. Alienation from nature, alienation from myself, and from others, and from emotions, alienation from my body, and from the present moment, and from reality. In seeing the alienation there was a peculiar shock of feeling rejoined with that from which I have never been truly separated; namely, myself, and all that is.

As I sat there looking at the tree, I realized that the word "tree" is not a tree, and somehow the mental label "tree" blinds me to a full and real experience of the phenomenon called "tree." What is a tree without the word "tree"? Somehow the word becomes a dead-end, the word "tree" gives me a false sense that I know what this tree-phenomenon is, and my curiosity is cut off. "Tree. Big deal." says the mind.

In my interpretaton of the tree, I lose the tree. The mind creates a barrier between me and the tree where none exists.

Exactly the same process occurs when I label this mysterious energy that I am as "Colleen," as an image and story in the head. Suddenly an artificial barrier is imposed where none exists. But I don't know this. I think the image and mental interpretations and past history and stories are in fact who I am- or at least a huge and important aspect of who I am.

Unwittingly, I have become alienated from myself, from my reality, in the same way that I became alienated from the tree. I don't realize this however. I don't think I'm alienated from myself, to the contrary, I think I am obsessed with myself, drenched in myself, entangled in myself from sun up till sun down every day of my life. I don't know that in fact I am alienated from myself. All I know is a pervasive malaise permeates my days. I'm baffled by it and I seek endless explanations and remedies. Never do I realize the true ailment is a mind-imposed alienation from myself, from my very being, and from others, from nature, and from life.

Now what?

What is it that perceives this alienation? Instead of trying to answer the question with words, which would only lead to an infinite regression of further division and alienation, I simply looked and felt the awareness that perceives this mind-concocted alienation, and as I type I feel the awareness that is now seeing this sentence appear. For practical suggestions for seeing through mind-made reality to true reality, I looked through pages 248 to 256 of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. It's possible to have a little fun jumping off the diving board of the known into the unknown. There are some moments when I have absolutely no idea who or what I am, and those moments are exhilirating, those moments I feel more myself than when I have come up with the latest theory for who I am and what life is. I like skinny dipping without any theories at all, skinny dipping in the unspeakable fact of what is. Living without self-definition, it turns out, is the greatest possible adventure.

It's staggering what is seen in looking at a tree without calling it anything, what is seen when looking at oneself or another human being without labels, with a silent mind of full awareness. Last night I came across a passage from Nisargadatta that was like a slap of cold water in the face, and today I am taking it to heart:

"Fight with all the strength at your disposal against the idea that you are nameable and describable. You are not." (I Am That, p. 204)

Blogs are a great antidote to our collective dream of alienation, thanks for joining me here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thought is a camera-click away from reality.

Thought is a camera-click away from reality. The photo pretends to be reality but there is a world of difference between the flat photo and the reality of rolling hills. The personal self is a snap-shot distance away from fundamental reality.

There is something closer than thought, more immediate and intimate. It spills up in the tiny gaps between thought, the reality between the shutter-clicks of the mind.

If we call it something it becomes a thought.

What is closer than thought is elusive in that it cannot be pinned down in words, but it is abundant and accessible as the wind. Call it Life or awareness or don't call it anything at all, and don't think about it, but do pay attention to it. And realize the important distinction between thinking about something and direct looking or awareness.

I've tried to think my way to clarity for years and all it did was muddy the waters. Thinking has been my one paddle through life and it has been running me in circles, getting me nowhere. Not to denigrate the marvelous capacity for thought, but it can become like the field of poppies in the Wizard of Oz, and I am fenced into a very small region of reality when I live primarily in the dream of thought.

It seems that often a point of extremis must be reached before the compulsion to dig with the brain is finally broken.
The shovel snaps.
Dumb awareness, so long ignored by the haughty brain, turns out to be the great, ignored treasure. Awareness may be dumb in the sense of nonverbal, but it is not dumb in the sense of unintelligent. Awareness is intrinsically brimming with pure intelligence.

When it comes to being oneself, there's nothing to mull over. There's nothing to work out mentally. Realization isn't about thinking but about direct looking into the reality of one's being in this very instant.

It's entirely possible to settle back into this awareness from which the mind is witnessed. The conditioning of the mind doesn't have to broken, it merely needs to be recognized as conditioning and nothing more, it is not an entity.

Freedom from the mind is not found in the mind but in awareness. That which witnesses is free from that which is witnessed. Seeing just happens. Awareness happens effortlessly all the time and can be noticed in any moment. The embryo in the womb just grows. Galaxies whirl. It's the One Life that we all are. I am in no way separate from this One Life, no one is separate from it. Who needs success, fame, or a glorious story? All these are nothing compared to the magnificence of simply being alive. There is a great, unrecognized wealth of being that can easily be enjoyed by any human being. Jack is here and it's time for me to help look for our two missing ferrets, Happy Valentine's Day to you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"When you see the rope, the snake vanishes."



"When you see the rope, the snake vanishes." Ashtavakra Gita, Chap. 2, verse 7

I've tried running from the snake and I've tried fighting the snake and I've tried pretending the snake wasn't there and I've tried affirming to myself, "It's not a snake, it's just a rope." Running, fighting, denying, and lying do not make the snake vanish. What vanishes the snake?"When you SEE the rope, the snake vanishes." Seeing (inquiry, awareness) is an innate power, it is the Ruby Shoes.

Mistaken identity as an isolated "me" is the snake in the rope of thought. Stories are the snake in the rope of thought. Problems are the snake in the rope of thought. Thought (mind) is a harmless rope, and wonderfully useful; but when it's mistaken for a snake there is a lot of fear and distress. No need to fight the mind or thoughts, only see clearly that they are no more than innocent vibrations in awareness.

"It is a key point to see that all problems are just created in thought and nowhere else. Your living awareness, who you really are, is utterly present and not affected in the least by thoughts. You are utterly free of thought. There is a fundamental difference between direct awareness and thought, which is just words and labels. We take the words and labels to be real. Can you drink the word 'water'?...Try to see the difference between awareness (direct knowing) and the labelling activity of the mind. ... You can know your real nature for certain at any moment because you know you are aware, you know you exist, even without taking a thought about it. Normally, this is overlooked because it is so simple. The mind is apt to minimize this pointing, but it is utterly profound." John Wheeler, Awakening to the Natural State, p. 26-7 (excerpt)

Seeing (silent, nonverbal awareness) is a gentle, natural power that does not require struggle or effort; it's happening all the time by itself, and when it's attended to there is a shift from the trance-of-thought to being simple, spacious, open presence. This space of consciousness-without-thought is a space of great intelligence. This space of consciousness-without-thought is fully present and unmarred even when the mind is seething with a billion thoughts. The shift from thought to awareness is as easy as noticing the Ruby Shoes on your feet.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Shadow (a.k.a. the First Noble Truth)

In the grand scheme of things, it's been a very decent day (give it a 6.5 on a scale of 10), plenty of pleasant moments, and yet what interests me now is noticing the "background static of ordinary unhappiness." (Tolle) All the fidgeting, all the restlessness, all the boredom, all the "wanting things to be different" amounts to a kind of unease and rejection of the present moment. There's a friction against the present moment- a clash behind mind and is-ness - which manifests as a vague sense of discomfort or unsatisfactoriness, also known as dukkha, the first noble truth.

It's the first noble truth because it is a revelation to realize the magnitude of subtle unhappiness in even supposedly happy human lives. While the acute unhappiness of major difficulties is recognized, there remains a huge ocean of suffering that is largely invisible, unattended to, discounted, overlooked, glossed over, because it's considered so normal; it's written off as "just the status quo" and therefore unworthy of attention.

It's staggering how much subtle unrest there is in a typical day, in the form of impatience, craving, a nebulous sense of dullness and tedium, or any other of the thousand flavors of ordinary unhappiness. If all this grittiness is overlooked, one could become a spiritual ninny. I've definitely fallen into this error of spiritual bypassing - basting in all the joy of clarity and deceiving myself that dukkha was a thing of the past for me. But that felt off. Yes, it's possible to sense the naturally joyful buoyancy of awareness that is ever-present behind the mind-parade; and that joyful buoyancy is in no way diminished even when the mind-parade is full of dukkha, dukkha, dukkha. It's also possible to sense that the open presence of awareness is actually one's self, whereas the transient surface moods of discontent are only passing clouds. Still, becoming conscious of and honest about dukkha is helpful. What is habitually unconscious can become conscious, what is ignored can be examined. Which may open up noble truths two, three, and four...

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Why do the river's work? The river knows how to flow." Pavel Somov

Like a rat in a maze I spent years scampering up and down the hallways of the mind until I read Eckhart Tolle and began to glimmer that there is more to reality than the maze, there is more to reality than the mind. Mind is one of those tricky words that means different things to different people. To me mind is thought, perception, images, the stories we tell ourselves, and it is a wondrous instrument; but identity is not equivalent with mind anymore than identity is equivalent with the liver or pinky, eyebrow or spleen. Awareness or being includes the mind, and the liver and pinky and eyebrow and spleen; but they do not include awareness. Awareness is more than mind-stuff, and the mind cannot encapsulate or fully comprehend what awareness is. We are so addicted to and drunk with the mind that we are often completely oblivious to our mind-possessed state.

I was happily surprised yesterday to see that this month Eckhart gives a 90 minute webcast on Emerson! This is hog-heaven for a girl who named her blog Emerson and Tolle. Eckhart reads this sentence from Emerson: "We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity...When we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow passage to its beams." (Self-Reliance) The intelligence, for example, of the human body never ceases to stagger me- and I am very much in the lap of this intelligence! Sometimes I turn away from the chatter in the mind and sink deeply into the intelligence that sweeps ceaselessly through the body. Eckhart calls it inner body awareness- being nonverbally alert and present to the intelligent energy animating every cell of the body. "Man is a stream whose source is hidden." (Eckhart reads this sentence from Emerson's The Oversoul.)
We are a stream whose source is hidden. But we live in the lap of that stream. Feel that! Slip out of the mind-maze into the effortless river of real life. "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." (John Lennon) It's not so hard to shift from the busy plan-making mind to the silent shock of the life that is happening right now. "Lose your mind to find your consciousness." (Pavel Somov) Today I'm feeling the current of the river, sometimes easy, sometimes swift and turbulent, flowing from me to you and from you to me, carrying along the crazy maze of mind, which is part of it all...
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Greetings. I am a psychiatrist working at a state hospital, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at University of Missouri Medical School. I am also a wife and mother of three grown children. Qigong has profoundly changed my life for the better. I am interested in connecting with other people interested in qigong.

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Mary (14), Chris (15), Jack (9)

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Greg and Colleen

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