Friday, May 23, 2008

Space: The Antidote

I frequently get email questions from people who read the blog. I really appreciate the questions; they are a great help in clarifying what is written.

I also hear in many of the emails a great deal of frustration and efforting and pushing to "figure it out." What I came to see, thanks to so many who graciously gave of their time and insight, is that there is no way to "figure it out." That came as a great disappointment to me. It was tremendously frustrating and I thought that people were just hiding something from me because they didn't think I was "ready" or maybe I was just asking questions in the wrong way.

The attempt to "figure it out" is at the heart of what the Zen tradition refers to as the 'gateless gate' that keeps us locked out of the garden (our true nature). Of course, the joke on all of us is that we have never left the garden; it is impossible for us to not be our true nature. However, we frequently remain mesmerized by the pictures and sounds that play in the fully-equipped theatre of thought. It was certainly no different in my experience.

Allow me to suggest something that is somewhat difficult to explain, but if you "listen softly" - as William Samuel used to say - I hope might be helpful in bringing the search and suffering to an end.

Notice that space surrounds and interpenetrates everything. In fact, it is accurate to say that everything is composed of space, a great emptiness. As the Heart Sutra says, "Form is emptiness and emptiness is form." Both interdependently co-arise. All form exists within space and all space exists within form, and while there appears to be a separation, that, too is an arising of space-form.

Why am I pointing this out? Because all suffering (confusion, struggle, efforting, pushing, grasping, aversion, attachment, etc.) involves awareness "collapsing" around an object. We mistake ourselves and the Open Knowingness that we are for impermanent, object-arisings. It is as if awareness is 'shrink wrapped' around a particular arising and space is 'lost'. Of course, in absolute terms, this is not at all the case; everything takes shape within infinitely clear, open space - even the experience of losing infinitely clear, open space! Nonetheless, our experience is frequently that of collapsing around some emotion-thought and being squeezed into some uncomfortable shape (like being stuffed into your school locker by seniors when you were a freshman!). Our most common reaction is to fight against the capture. This struggle against the experience tires and frustrates us, encouraging further collapse and more suffering.

Try this antidote: simply 'give space to' whatever is arising. Do nothing other than allow. A driver cuts you off in traffic and anger arises? Give it space. Frustration arises because you tell yourself the story that you shouldn't be angry? Give it space. Your hands grip the steering wheel with a vengence and your jaw clenches? Give it space. You forget to give it space? Give that space, too. Just keep allowing, 100,000 times a day. You will never run out of space to give.

Keep giving space to whatever arises - anger, irritation, frustration, worry, sadness, judgment, love, passion, excitement, confusion, criticism, forgetfulness, discouragement, laughter, attraction, focus, memories, uncertainty, numbness, tension, pain, sounds, odors, sights, sensations, thought, emotion. All of it, including uncertainty about how to do it and worry about whether or not you are doing it right. Give space to the search. Give space to the concern that you will never 'get it'. Give space to other people who are not doing it (whatever it is) 'right'. Give space to your unreasonableness.

Giving space to these seeming objects/events will come naturally (go ahead now and give space to the thought that you don't think it will and that you really don't get it). Giving everything more and more space will come naturally because you ARE space, too, not just form. Allowing space is simply a recognition of the full emptiness of your true nature.

You don't get it. Neither do I. You are a lost cause. So am I. Let's give that space, too.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What IS the Point? Part II

The point is Love.

As long as we remain caught in the fiction of separation, there is fear and defending and attacking to maintain the form - and there are countless forms: people and dogs and nations and ideals and philosophies and theories and property and mine and yours and certainty and right and wrong and Christians and Jews and us and them and Democrats and Republicans and conservatives and liberals and educated and uneducated and rich and poor and beautiful and ugly and man and woman and terrorist and freedom-fighter and war and peace and on and on and on - the history of humanity.

The point is Love.

As soon as we SEE, as soon as we SEE that there is no one to awaken, then we SEE that there is no "we." There is only just THIS. The Great Empty Knowingness that is looking through the eyes of the 'One' typing this is the same Knowingness looking through the eyes of the 'One' reading this. There really is just this One. There has never been anything else. There has just been an ongoing story. It is the belief in the story, the fiction, the movie of separation, that allows us to hurt and kill "the other."

There is no 'other.' Seeing that directly eliminates the fear that drives the need to protect the fictional 'me' from the fictional 'you.' We, you, I am not two. There is no multiplicity. There is just the complete Allness. You are It and I am It and she is It and he is It and they are It and we are It and this is It and that is All.

And the point of All of It is Love.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What IS the Point?

The following is an email exchange from a reader.

To the sender of the question: I am sorry I was not able to respond to you privately via email, but the comment you left was anonymous. I hope this at least begins to address your question.

(Matthew): Nice post, Vince, but let me challenge you a bit. You say there's no problem without thought. Obvious enough -- but let's say I have a son with leukemia who is going through painful and sickening chemotherapy. Am I not going to think about his suffering, and therefore see no "problem"? So what is your point? Saying that there's no problem without thought strikes me as saying that there's no pain in the leg if you don't have a leg.

(Vince): Hi Matthew - thank you for your note. Let's see what comes regarding your question.

I know that when members of my family (and friends) have been very ill, I have certainly thought about them. There is a kind of thinking that is very functional and helps us deal with the present moment (and bake cakes, clean kitchen counters, organize the garage, create spreadsheets, etc.). This thinking simply arises, serves its purpose, and evaporates. "I" don't collapse around it.

My dad died from a degenerative neurological disorder that caused significant deterioration in nearly all areas of functioning for him. I certainly thought about it and thought about him. He died. I miss him every day. So, what is the point? The point, is bringing an end to psychological suffering. The point, in my experience, is that as long as I mistake myself (or my father) for this limited physical experience rather than this beyond-infinite beingness in which every thought, experience, dad, vince, son, etc. arises, problems continue to arise. Suffering is created and perpetuated by the collapse of a seeming "me" around a story - a story constructed completely of thought, completely conceptually. I see in my direct experience that there is never a problem now. Never. However, substitute this very life in this very instant with the pseudo-life of thought, then problems materialize in every direction.

So, if my son was living with leukemia and painful, sickening chemotherapy, I would do everything in my power to help rid him of the disease and the pain. I would think about him. I would probably feel sad and desperate and angry. I would feel like my heart was breaking. I would probably have the thought that this shouldn't be happening. All of this, is the livingness that we are. Where is the problem in this?

Where is the problem in going to the hospital, remembering to bring the clean pajamas, calling the pediatric oncologist, holding my son's hand while he cries or moans, wiping his forehead, giving him a sip of water, crying when I see him, holding my wife, and on and on? There is no problem in any of these moments - there is simply the direct experiencing of what is. This IS livingness. If we remain only with what is, there is a richness and depth and kind-heartedness that permeates all of existence - even pain, and tragedy, and death. We cannot point to "a problem." We can point to a boy, a hospital bed, a catheter, a nurse, wet hair - but "a problem" only exists in the realm of concept.

I hope this clarifies what I wrote and helps in some way. Please feel free to write again if I have only confused the matter or if you have other questions.


Monday, May 19, 2008

There Is Nothing to Be Done, and Yet...

There is nothing that needs to be done about “the world.” The world is a concept. It arises in this present awareness as various combinations of sensation (read “sensing”) and thought. Look into your immediate experience. Can you find “a world” anywhere other than in this present awareness? There is no world – there are old quilts, paper cuts, sleeping dogs, dry skin, train whistles, darkness, dandelions, purple paint, pagers, pain in the back of the arms, thoughts about the weather and the middle east and strawberries. What is your world right now? See that it has died and arisen a billion times. It arises from nowhere and dissolves back into nowhere.

There is nothing that needs to be done about “other people.” Other people are experiencing of combinations of light and shadow and physical sensation (i.e., seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting) and thought. “Other people” arise only as these combinations presently. What other people do you see right now? Do they come to you in any way other than as combinations of sensing-thinking in this moment? They arise from nowhere and dissolve back into nowhere.

There is nothing that needs to be done about thoughts. They are picture and sound. They exist for an instant and evaporate. They arise from nowhere and dissolve back into nowhere.

There is nothing that needs to be done about physical sensations. All sensing – seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling – is sensation. Itches, contractions, tingling, coolness, softness, pinching, heating - all arise from nowhere and dissolve back into nowhere.

There is nothing that needs to be done about emotions. Emotion is nothing more than a combination of thought and sensation. Notice that emotion is sensation linked with a story. The building blocks of emotion arise from nowhere and dissolve back into nowhere (see above). Emotion does the same.

There is nothing that needs to be done about “problems.” What are they? Can there be a problem without a thought? Is there anything, in your direct experience right now, which can be called a problem without the judgment of thought? Is there any “problem” that has not arisen from nowhere and dissolved back into nowhere?

There is nothing that needs to be done about “you.” What are you, anyway? Is there anything “wrong” with you without the judgment of thought making it so? In direct experience in this very moment, is there anything other than sensation and thought?

Yes, there is.

What is it?

This is not a game. Answering the question with your blood and bone will vaporize you.