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!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What we want isn't found in the story.


Good does not come from the story.

Good doesn't come from good fortune, good doesn't come from things going my way. Good isn't found there no matter how hard we try to find it there.

We all know this on some level. The good that comes from the story is fool's gold. There is transient pleasure and gratification but not the lasting fulfillment that is longed for.
Yet we honor the story and do the best we can on that level, as Eckhart Tolle says. I prefer good fortune over bad fortune as much as anyone, all the while knowing there is no up without a down. Good fortune and bad fortune are inseparable sides of a coin, and the deeper good that we long for is not to be found there.

Good comes from Reality, the current of the ineffable that is always present.

Good is the substance of everything.
Good is the proton and the electron and the space in between. Good is everything that is seen, felt, heard, palpated, thought. Good is that which sees, feels, hears, palpates, thinks.

Good is the air and the lungs and the blood that receives the air and the heart that moves the blood and the cells that are nourished by the blood that carries the air.

Good is death and the dissolution of every appearance. Good is birth and the unfurling of form. Good are all the exchanges between forms. Good is the space that envelops it all with the lightest touch.

Reality is gold.

~

"Fool's gold exists because there is real gold."

Rumi

~

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Sitting with uncomfortable feelings..."

  "Yet it is here- at futility's brink- where we can begin to free ourselves.  The cycle of craving is interrupted when we learn how to stop.  "Sitting with uncomfortable feelings, getting friendly with the hole you really are, you realize that emptiness is not really a problem," says Buddhist teacher David Loy.  "It's our ways of trying to escape it that turn it into a problem."  When we learn to tolerate this empty feeling within, instead of binge-feeding the hungry ghosts, an important, metanoia-like turnaround occurs (Buddhists call it paravritti), when the "festering hole at our core turns into a life-healing flow springing up spontaneously from we know not where," in Loy's words.  "The empty core becomes a place where there is now awareness of something other than, greater than, my usual sense of self- greater than I understand myself to be."

Mark Matousek, When You're Falling, Dive, p. 197

What is denied

What is denied cannot be integrated.

Denied feelings, thoughts, experiences clog up the energy pipes. What is denied cannot be absorbed, metabolized, transformed.

Fear is the force that pushes things down.

I'm afraid of my anger and I push it down.
I'm afraid of my sadness and I push it down.
I'm afraid of my arrogance and I push it down.
I'm afraid of my insecurity and I push it down.

Fear is a repressive force.

But what is there to fear?
This person I'm trying to protect is not there, this body-mind hurtling like a projectile through time and space from the cradle to the grave is in fact nothing but fleeting images appearing and disappearing on the motionless screen of awareness.

Seeing the insubstantiality of the time-bound self-sense releases long-held fears. The self-image is vulnerable in the extreme, but the core of being that is our reality is rock-solid power.

There is a shift from feeling that my identity is the story-of-me, to feeling that my identity is something real that cannot be described but that is inhabited effortlessly at this very instant and at every instant, whether it is consciously realized or not.

The absence of the me-entity as anything other than images in awareness is not something to be believed or disbelieved.

The absence of the me-entity is discovered by looking a thousand times: the me I think I am is nowhere to be found. While the truth of what I am is fully present. Only direct inquiry reveals this.

What had been denied no longer needs to be denied. It enters fully into conscious awareness and can be felt, accepted, absorbed, metabolized, transformed. Like ice melting into a flash of water, energy flows within.


~
Sitting quietly
doing nothing,

Spring comes
and the grass grows by itself.


                                                                                                             Zen proverb

~

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Noticing

Words topple from the pages of a book
through the pupil
down the neural hatch
of the retina
and through swirling chutes
of the optic cortex
to land with a kerplunk
on a certain piano key
in the heart.

Reading is one of the great delights of my life and here are words that appeared this hour:

One morning in a Dublin
coffee shop my attention was
drawn to a sweet presence,
a radiance of well being


I had the sense that she knew
all of her needs
would always be met


She had strawberry hued hair
and porcelain skin
She was not yet two


The travesty is
that most love and hate
what appears to be
and ignore that which envelops us
in well-being

( from Stuart Schwartz, The Great Undoing, p. 103)

I'm wondering more and more
what is here
that I'm not noticing?

These words go in your eyes as they go out my fingertips
and I'm grateful for all the invisible connections in this world.

~

Friday, March 26, 2010

Damaged and undamaged

I read a poem by Mary Oliver today that I had never read before. It evoked a sense of the strange harmony between the damaged and undamaged regions within each of us. Here is the poem-




Mysteries, Yes


Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.




How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.


How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.


How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.




Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.


Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.


(from the book Evidence, 2009)


I have noticed a tendency within myself to hide, minimize, and avoid any sense of hurt or damage. My vanity wants to be flawlessly spiritual and joyful. But lately I"m more interested in honesty and courage and facing with kindness the pain within myself and others. I'm interested in integrating the long rejected feelings, swallowing them in the mouth of nonjudgmental awareness and love.

Mary Oliver notes that both delight and the scars of damage attract a person to the comfort of a poem. On one level, or from one perspective, I have been damaged and I have inflicted damage. On the temporal plane, who has never been damaged or inflicted damage?

It is our universal lot. Yet from another perspective, on another level, every being is wholly inviolate, undamaged, intact. The paradox is that opposite facts are simultaneously true.

Today I'm interested in a new relationship with painful memories when they arise. It is possible to be a space of loving acceptance for what arises. This is something I am learning very, very slowly and gently.

Planted here in the undamaged wholeness of reality, a reconciliation occurs as feelings of shame and damage come out of hiding and are not banned but received. It's time to end the internal holocaust where unflattering feelings were sent to the gas chambers. Let the damaged and undamaged regions within enjoy a mysterious harmony.

(Note: Thank you to Fred Lamotte of yourradiance.blogspot for post 3/25/10 about embracing and honoring wounds and disabilities, which led to these reflections.)

~

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hearth



Have you ever sat by a gentle fire and enjoyed the warm glow touching your hands and face?

I have many times. After tending to tasks today, I paused to rest in open non-doing. Everytime this is like magic, life whispers a new word through the space that I am in a language that remains forever unspoken. Today as I enter into the sacrament of rest, there is a sense of settling down towards an inward warmth. The life force within is a fire of sorts, and I draw near to this fire, basking in its warmth.

At first there is enjoyment of this subtle thrill of being; it is a sensation that is barely detectable but becomes more pronounced as it is attuned to.

Then a small leap occurs: From enjoying the warm rays of being that emanate from within, there is suddenly a sense of being "a beam unseparated from its Source." I am a ray of the fire of life, and I am that fire. There is no separation.

I sense this is always true for me and for all of us, even when we are looking the other way and forget the life-fire that we are. I'm going to return to working on the next task of this day, revitalized by this warm fire of being that is who we all are in essence. I know I can return at any time to this hearth of feeling the life within.

Oneness with life is not achieved or earned or deciphered...it is enjoyed. It is enjoyed whenever we care to rest in the truth that we are.

(Note: the quote "a beam unseparated from its Source" is from Fred Lamotte, blogspot yourradiance, posted 3/15/10. Thank you.)

~

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mary Oliver: "A bride married to amazement"

Mary Oliver feels the life that moves through her and she writes a poem. She has voyaged far into the Fact of being alive. She jots down notes with more than scientific rigor. The austere exuberance of the soul takes shape. Inspired, we embark into our own uniqueness. We feel the vessel of being.

Mary Oliver is not trying to manipulate the environment or extract nectar from the now, she is simply voicing the sounds that take passage through her.

What I like about Mary Oliver is she's not trying to enlighten me. She is not patronizing. She does not beam down on me like some paragon of wisdom. She's not trying to change me or save me.

Her words are a fresh shock of life, an ocean wave bowing on the shore.

Truth has no agenda.
It has no agenda because it has no lack.

Mary Oliver feels the truth deep within herself, and she is one with it, and from that oneness words appear. There's nothing extra added, no cartwheels for applause, no hidden plea for approval. No frills, no phoniness, no hurry, and no avoidance. Her poems and prose are solid and trustworthy, and they strike the chord of integrity at the center of each of us.

Because she's not trying to change me, the part of me that is changeless hears her. She's not trying to help me and reading her words I recognize where I am not in need of any help. Intactness lives within me.

There's no extra noise. Mary Oliver says that most people, whether they realize it or not, write because they want to be liked. I can see this in myself, I can be a pick-pocket trying to lift a bit of approval from others. I don't need to condemn this desire for affection. It's part of our humanity and there's nothing wrong with it.

But I'm also interested in tapping into a deeper motivation than the longing to be liked.

Mary Oliver loves her unknown reader. Whoever we are, wherever we are, she loves us quietly, you can feel it behind the words of her poems. The space behind and around the words of her poems communicate too. I'm sometimes startled when reading Mary Oliver by a sudden daring to love myself and others unabashedly.

Mary Oliver has a passion for the real, while remaining keenly aware that the real is not something that can be captured.

Mary Oliver is not trying to tell me the answer, she's not even trying to find the answer. She is enraptured with the question. She lives as the question itself: a bride married to amazement.

Thank you Mary Oliver.

Note: "A bride married to amazement" is from Mary Oliver's poem When Death Comes

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bad day

Actually, the day is the day, and, like all days, it's a miracle beyond description; however, my mood is moderately miserable. Funny how I tend to blame my mood on the day, when it's not the day's fault.

Moods appear, and it could become a full-time job analyzing them and tracing the intricate strands of causation for every mood that arises. I've certainly spent plenty of time trying to figure out why I get in bad moods occasionally. What thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, hormones, conditioning, circumstances, etc. could be causing the miserable mood?

I begin to realize that excessive analysis of feelings is a tactic to avoid them. And tactics to avoid feelings are a kind of procrastination.

Feelings can't be escaped, only felt. What feels feelings? Awareness. Silent, nonjudgmental, awareness. The silence within me feels my feelings and is not repelled by them in the least. In this silence which could be called love the feelings are embraced. And in the embrace the feelings relax. And in the relaxation the feelings may or may not dissolve. And the energy of flux continues fluxing through the silent space of this moment, as appearances appear and disappear, and moods morph into an endless parade of colors.

I argued with my nine year-old son because he hadn't taken a shower when I wanted him to take a shower. A blister of painful thoughts burst, "Colleen, you should be a better parent. You should be able to have your child take a shower without a lot of drama." I argued with people I love and said things I wish I had not said.

I notice that nearly every speck of my conscious attention collapses down into the tiny space of a few painful thoughts. This shriveling of the vast field of awareness down into such a small space is painful, like trying to compress an ocean into a thimble.

In the midst of my miserable mood, what washes up on the shore? Some words from a kind and wonderful mentor to me, Stephan Bodian, found in his book Wake Up Now. I'd like to share them with you.

"As you relax and let everything be just as it is, the tendency for awareness to fixate on objects naturally relaxes as well, and awareness spontaneously becomes aware of itself. True meditation is a kind of homecoming- you recognize the place immediately, and every cell and fiber of your being lets go and relaxes in relief."

Surprise! There is enough room here for my miserable mood, there is enough room in this world for all the miserable moods that arise in all of us...I am grateful for the room that is available for all that arises. I don't have to be spiritual and perfect. I can be ego-identified and miserable and deluded. Nothing that appears is exiled, and I don't have to pretend to be anything.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"The doors of perception"

"If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite."
William Blake

Have you ever disappeared effortlessly, with the same kind of effortlessness with which we slip off the cliff-edge of waking consciousness into sleep each night? This miraculous disappearance of ourselves in which everything gleams with infinite newness happens when we're not trying to make it happen.

Tony Parsons says that what we long for above all else and what we fear above all else is the same thing: the disappearance of ourselves. Whether we are conscious of it or not, on some level we long for freedom from the confinement of a narrow and ultimately illusory sense of self, and at the same time we cling ferociously to this sense of self. Now that is the pungent spice of life: our greatest desire and our greatest terror are one and the same! This ambivalence causes inner friction. Seeing that we fear and desire the same thing evokes within me a sense of compassion for our crazy spinning minds on this crazy spinning planet.

When we disappear the doors of perception are cleansed and the awareness "behind the eyes" recognizes its continuity with the infinite being it gazes upon.

Nothing really disappears, there is just a break in the fixation of attention on the self-image. There is just a gap between thoughts.

The moment attention drops the self-image, there is no self-image. That is the disappearance of the illusory sense of self, and that is all there is to freedom.

The doors of perception are cleansed of anyone looking through them. As no one or pure presence or Self looks through the doors of perception there is only infinity seeing infinity. The weightlessness of awareness is inherently blissful and it is our essence.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Seeking completion versus being complete

Here are some words that gave me pause:

"At the root of a lifetime of seeking was always the assumption that life wasn't complete...And out of this assumption, in a million different ways the individual tried to reach completion, and turned to drink or drugs or meditation..."
Jeff Foster, foreward to Everyday Enlightenment by Sally Bongers

The hamster wheel of futile seeking is highly addictive and I've often felt enslaved to this compulsion to strive toward one mirage of future fulfillment after the next. Secretly I know that the seeking itself is digging the hamster wheel deeper into the mud rut of suffering.

When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging, says Will Rogers. Yet just stopping, just resting, is strangely terrifying. It means I'm lazy or missing the boat or wasting time or sinking into the jaws of stagnation. There is an imagined need to plunge into activity and seek completion through grabbing as much knowledge or satisfaction or recognition or enlightenment as I can before death overtakes me, as it could at any moment.

The mind puts forth many arguments against allowing the nondoing and silence into which it disappears. There is an enormous taboo against "nonproductive" use of time, and this taboo keeps us sprinting after endless wild goose chases. And the mind also thinks, "Even if activity isn't really getting me anywhere, at least it's staving off the dreadful feelings of boredom and uselessness." Meaningless activity is a universal anesthesia for the angst of being alive as a small, separate ego self. It makes the world go round.

There's no recipe or formula for getting off the hamster wheel or for recognizing the presence of wholeness, and that is good. It's not a mechanical process but something unique and spontaneous and creative and it happens by itself when we're not occupied with seeking it or avoiding it.

I had a rough weekend butting heads with my teenage daughter. Now we've worked things out and life goes on, and every day fresh-minted love for her arises in me out of nowhere. There is a strange comfort in not knowing. I can't pretend to know who my daughter is or what life is or what love is. When I thought I knew I was living in a small, cramped room. Not knowing feels so much more honest and unbounded.

Resting doesn't mean literally laying in bed all day. What rests is the anxious voice in the head that says "I have to get somewhere." Resting means moving through activities without attention being completely absorbed by the inner narration of a protagonist-me hacking its way through the neverending obstacle-course of daily life. It means gazing silently into present reality and sensing deeply the awareness in which everything appears.

There is plenty we can do to express the good will that is at our core, but that doing does not spring from a sense of incompletion. It is an outpouring from the completion we all experience on the level of being. There may still be times of feeling like a hamster on a wheel, an ego in samsara, but the dimension of silence is also here, and it is always possible to fall backwards into its arms.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Adventure

There is the silence between sounds. There is the silence that is the absence of noise.

And then there is another kind of silence.

This is the silence in which both sound and the absence of sound occur.
This is the silence that is the field in which both sound and the absence of sound occur. This silence is deeper than the ordinary silence which is the absence of sound. This silence is the canvas on which both sound and ordinary silence occur. This deeper silence is who I am and it is who you are.

There are two kinds of spaciousness.
There is the spaciousness in a room where clutter or objects have been removed.
There is the spaciousness between stars and galaxies.
There is the spaciousness between electrons and protons and subatomic particles.

And then there is another kind of spaciousness. This is the spaciousness in which everthing arises and subsides. This is an openness that makes both phenomena and space possible. This second kind of spaciousness is what I am and it is what you are.

There are two kinds of light. There is the light of the sun that makes all the colors and shapes of the world visible.

And there is also the light of awareness that perceives the stars at night and the world of sun-illuminated objects by day. Without this perceiving awareness, the light of the stars and sun would be in pitch darkness. I am the light of this perceiving awareness, and so are you.

There are two kinds of peace.
There is the peace that happens when a desire is satisfied.
And there is the larger, underlying peace in which both desire and gratification occur.
This underlying peace is who we are.

The mind is a claw machine that tries to possess thoughts and understanding, yet some things elude possession. Let the claw machine grasp after thoughts, that is its nature, and it is a hardworking and wonderful tool. But it has been a great relief for me to see that the claw machine is not the tool for apprehending truth. Truth is for that aspect of ourselves that is deeper than the mind. There are different words to point to that aspect of ourselves that is deeper than thought: presence, being, awareness, soul, the ineffable. What matters is recognizing our depth without getting hung up on the words used to point to it.

Recognizing this depth in silent ways during the small moments of the day is to me the true adventure of life. Marcel Proust said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." May today be a day for new eyes of awareness as I spend time with my kids and my husband, and as I move through all the rich and mundane particulars of this day. I wish you also rich adventures in ordinary living.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A silent crash

In between tasks on a typical day I stumbled upon some words from e.e. cummings:

"...you've got to come out of the measurable doing universe into the immeasurable house of being... Nobody else can be alive for you; nor can you be alive for anybody else."

I land with a silent crash in the vividness of life now, tingling from head to toe, not knowing a thing, and a fountain of energy in the form of gratitude spouts up out of nowhere.
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About Me

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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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