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!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Thinking doesn't solve problems, it creates them.

   A poem fragment I came across recently keeps coming to mind. I'd like to share it with you:

I know that stars are born
only to die
we see the light
of heavenly bodies
long since gone

this also I know:
Your light shines in me
the universe holds no terror
   (Gabriel Rosenstock, Uttering Her Name, 2009)

   Appearances disappear.  There is no getting around this fact.  Oblivion is the destiny of every appearance.  Maybe it can be stalled a bit by people who make a big splash of some kind, but we will all be equally forgotten at some not too distant point in time.  Is this fact depressing or liberating?  I've certainly experienced this fact as depressing.  From the perspective of great swaths of time, everything seems so pointless and meaningless, at times I have felt the apathy of "nothing really matters in the long run, why bother to care about things that will soon be forgotten?".

  What about the second half of the poem, "Your light shines in me/  the universe holds no terror" ?  Is there anything other than appearances disappearing and appearing and disappearing?  Is there anything other than perpetual transformation and flux?  The universe crackles with the dynamic energy of change, but is there anything that doesn't appear and disappear?

   The answer to this question is not a fact to be memorized or believed or pondered or mulled over.  Reality, the great space of formless being in which everything appears and vanishes,  is to be met directly in this moment through silence, not through mental noise.

   I dropped Jack at school this morning and did some errands.  Driving along the mind was quiet.  I once heard Jack Kornfield relate that his teacher one day picked up a cup and asked, "How should you relate to this cup?"  After a pause the teacher said, "Relate to this cup as if it is already broken."

   For me, this means drop unnecessary worries.  Accept impermanence, even celebrate it. Today I imagined the cup as already broken, I imagined a thousand years from now, just a blink of an eye in the cosmic time scale, when there will be virtually no trace whatsoever that I ever existed.  Talk about a weight lifted off!  There is exhilaration in the furnace of time that burns away every appearance.  The essentially illusory nature of separate self-hood  is revealed and there is a sense of being unbounded, undefined, undefinable...no longer in need of any self-definition.  

  This sense of not being encapsulated in a mental definition of self, of not being confined to a million beliefs, doesn't make me feel irresponsible or in any way detached from others.  On the contrary, I feel eager to meet this day and my children and whoever shows up in any moment, without all the usual barriers of mind.

   Suddenly all my so-called problems seem like just a bunch of judgments in the head, and there's nothing actually wrong with this moment.  I'll deal without whatever challenges arise, as Eckhart Tolle points out, but "problem" is just a notion in the head.  It's like the chicken - egg mix-up:  it seemed that thought solved problems, when in fact it is the other way around.  Thought creates the mind-mirage called "problem", and this mind-mirage in turn perpetuates the stream of thought.  There is this compulsion to think endlessly about so-called problems.  There can still be an appropriate and valuable use of thought to deal with practical, present concerns; but the endless agonizing over past and future is needless thought-activity that produces seeming problems where in fact there is no true problem.  I can think of many concrete examples in my own life where I was convinced there was a problem when in fact there was no problem.  My first child Chris will soon turn 16, and he was born with an X-linked genetic abnormality that caused brain damage. He is unable to walk or talk. He has needed many surgeries.  For years I was convinced this was a problem.  Yet now it is impossible for me to see any problem.  Where is the problem?  Chris is a radiant and joyful human being. He is in fact the most loving person I have ever known in my life.  There is no problem, even though thought at one time told the story that there was a problem.

    If you have examples in your own life of something that you thought was a problem, but that you then realized was not a problem, feel free to leave a comment to share your shift in perception. Whether you leave a comment or not, thanks for visiting this blog and sharing in this life adventure that we are all part of.

(photo is Hubble Telescope image of The Pleiades)



M. Anna said...

Great post honey, now let's get Chris to bed. So next time you think there's a problem, think again...or rather, don't think (says Jack).

Greg said...

Ooops...M. Anna post was actually left by Greg, Colleen's husband, and Jack, Colleen's son.

Alton said...

Hi Colleen:
Out of nowhere you join my blog when only a few friends joined after I told them about it.

After reading this offering, I am thinking the reason you appeared in my life and blog is because you are fated to be my guru.
Are you taking on disciples, or should I be a silent one. I am not kidding.
You write as well as anyone I have ever read and with poetic muses too.

Some questions after some snips.

Your light shines in me
the universe holds no terror

Q: Is the universe inside us, so the external universe that gets it's light from the internal, can never hold any terror?
How does the internal terror happen?

...is there anything that doesn't appear and disappear?

Q: I know my teachers say the SELF is eternal. Is there any proof of that Truth?
After we die who has reported back to say they still exist?
Isn't that just a belief that needs faith to make us feel better about dying?

Reality, the great space of formless being in which everything appears and vanishes

Alton: OK, I wont question that one right now.

Accept impermanence, even celebrate it

Q; If we let come what comes and go what goes, is that a way to celebrate impermanence?
Is that another way of saying we can enjoy our pleasures as long as we know they may abruptly end?

Much appreciation for the wisdom offered on this blog.


Colleen Loehr said...

Hi Alton,

I'm happy to be your friend, and hopefully that is more comfortable than a guru-disciple relationship. I've learned and benefitted from your blog and the wisdom you share, and my sense is that all human beings have infinite wisdom and we are each doing our best to tap into the wisdom within ourselves. Thank you for valuing the words shared on this blog, and for your comments.

As for your first question, I think the internal terror occurs, speaking for myself, when I identify with the body and mind as all there is, and I'm terrified of death.

The poem to me says that when we recognize a light or reality that is outside time and space, that is imperishable, then the terror of oblivion disappears, or is at least tempered.

Question 2 is about whether there is any proof of something that doesn't appear or disappear, an eternal Self. In my experience there is no proof. I have read some people, like Eckhart Tolle, who say they have experienced within themselves proof of eternal reality or Self.

I agree with you that we have a lot of fantasy, fairy-tale beliefs about immortality and eternal life that are essentially fictions or lies to protect us from our fear of death. Whether there is truly an eternity that is not just a lie to avoid the fear of death, I don't know.

I totally agree with you about celebrating impermanence, letting experience arise without excessive clinging or aversion, and enjoying pleasure while recognizing it is fleeting.

Thanks again for your comments Alton, and I look forward to checking out your blog later today.

I like sharing on this blog experiences and insights that arise in my life, and it is not my intention or desire to give the impression that I have all the answers. Please forgive me if some kind of know-it-all preachy tone comes across in the writing, I would like to keep the communication as a mutual exploration. Blessings, Colleen

Alton said...

Thanks for your reply to my questions Colleen. I look forward to your next blog.

With all the love that I am currently capable of.


Cindy said...

I love your writing too, Colleen. It sounds to me like you are painting. There is searching, exploration and follow through for whatever particular topic, and then on to the next.

My example: I thought it was a problem when Val needed my financial support just when I was out of debt and began saving up for the big move upstate (late 2003). I was pretty shocked at this turn of events but the book you sent me (Financial Freedom for the Average Family) started me on an amazing path of exploration and joy as I read and learned more about veering away from spending myself to sleep. So, that's one!

Colleen Loehr said...

Great example Cindy! I love it when a problem turns out to be a non-problem that was disguised as a problem. It's always a pleasure to look under the disguise and see the non-problematic reality.

Thanks for your encouraging feedback and hours of dedication to helping me with my writing- without you and Val it's likely fear would have snuffed out many of my creative writing urges. My gratitude is boundless!


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