Monday, July 26, 2010

Theo's Search for the Center

Once upon a time a lovely and unremarkable spider, Theo (not poisonous, not mean-spirited, just your typical fly- and gnat-eating spider), sat in his web, thinking.

Theo thought about lots of things, but mostly Theo thought about spider enlightenment. He had read many books written by other wise spiders who had realized their true nature. In the spider world, this is called "living from the center of your web." Nearly all of the books Theo read (and he read a lot because of his multiple spider eyes) told him in one way or another that the center of his web was empty and to simply return to the center of his web and stay there.

"Easy for the enlightened spiders to say!" Theo thought, "But I can't find the center of my web!" Theo was miserable and desperate.

He looked high and low for his web's center. He did a number of the practices suggested by other wise spiders. He watched his breath. He labeled his thoughts. He felt his legs. He closed his eyes and repeated a secret mantra. He went on retreat with other wiser spiders and listened to them describe the center of their webs and what it was like when they first "realized the center." Theo prayed to the Absolute Arachnid for wisdom to find the center of his web. Nothing happened.

For a while, he decided to forget the search for the center and just ate flies and gnats and other assorted bugs willy-nilly without concern for his health or any other spider's inconvenience. Yet, Theo always returned to the search for the center of his web.

As he looked about his world, searching longer and harder for the center, he created a larger and larger web. Each time something came floating or flying into his web Theo would leap forward fast as, well, spider. The web caught all kinds of things, some of them useful (edible is a better description) and some of them just distractions - tree fluff, bits of leaves, dust, and sparkling drops of dew - none particularly edib...useful.

And, as Theo continued his search, he spun a larger and larger web each time he jumped to see whatever his ever-growing web caught. Through his search, his web caught even more and he found himself leaping more and more, faster and farther, with each web-quiver. He became exquisitely sensitive to the most minute web tremor. And, each time he jumped to explore whatever bit of fluff had floated into his web, it grew larger.

Other spiders admired his vast web as well as all that it caught. Theo became rich in spiderweb-stuff; but, Theo knew he hadn't found what he was looking for - the center of his web, spider enlightenment.

Time wore on and Theo grew older. He couldn't spring to the far reaches of his web as easily or as quickly or as often as he used to when he was a younger spider. Theo knew that time was no longer on his side. He thought, "I am so tired. I can no longer jump to every bit of fluff that tickles my web. I just can't do this anymore." He could still feel the web-tremors but he had given up hope that he would ever find the center of his web out there on the fringes. The sometimes beautiful, sometimes drab, sometimes useful and sometimes useless bits and flecks that tickled his web had never led him closer to the center.

Dejected and exhausted from his search, Theo just stopped. He needed rest. And then...with all of his spider eyes downcast, Theo saw below him...Nothing! He looked closely and realized that he was sitting in the center of his web at that very moment! It was this Nothing that held the rest of his web together. Absolutely everything in Theo's web universe was spun directly from this very Nothing. It was Nothing that was supporting him at that very moment.  Theo had been sitting on top of it all the time! What he was looking for was right under his nose (well, you  know, that thing spiders have)!

Theo saw that Everything depended on Nothing!

Theo thought, "Every time I went out looking for the center, I just moved further away from it. As soon as I stopped looking and jumping at every web tremor and just rested, I was resting in the very center Itself." It was only Theo's search that made it seem that the center wasn't there - but it had been there all the time.

Many spiders realized that something was different about Theo. They didn't see him jumping about his web anymore. He didn't seem particularly interested in the various bits of fuzz and fluff that tickled his web. They assumed that Theo had simply lost his drive and ambition. They were right.

Now and then, other spiders who were searching as Theo had searched came to visit. They asked him how he had realized his center. He told them that it had been there all the time and that it was no less true for them than it was for him. Other spiders asked him, "How did you feel when your spider realization happened?" "Embarrassed," was his usual reply. He did what he could to point out the Central Nothing that was holding the Great Everything together. Theo would say, "Describing Nothing is not easy - try it sometime!"

Theo watched as a lucrative fluff-and-fuzz web industry grew around the searching. He knew that the fluff-and-fuzz just served to distract seekers from Nothing as they searched for more of Everything.

Some "got it." Some didn't. Theo knew it really didn't matter because the Central Nothing was cradling them all anyway. And, regardless of "getting it" or not, a spider could still enjoy a nice juicy fly now and then as well as the swaying of his web in the breeze. Really, what more did a spider need, anyway?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Allow It All


If there was only one word to use as a pointer, this would be a pretty good one...Allow.

Allow whatever is happening right now. Right now! Really. Don't make this an intellectual exercise or, if you are, allow that.

See whatever it is that is registering in sight and allow.
Hear whatever sounds are present right now and allow.
Smell whatever odors are present right now and allow.
Taste whatever flavors are present right now and allow.
Feel whatever sensations are present right now and allow.
Notice whatever thoughts are present right now and allow.
Allow it all.

We fight so much with our own experience. If you notice "fighting with experience" happening, allow that, too.

We work so hard in the search, imagining that there is some other way other than the way it is in this present moment. If that is true for you right now, allow it.

If the film of "I give up; I'll never get it" is playing, allow that.

If there is a lot of thinking/intellectualizing about this article, this search, dropping the "I" - all that malarkey - allow that, too.

If there is agreement or disagreement, passion or neutrality, peace or war, anger or calm, happiness or sadness - allow it all. If there is great desire or no desire at all, allow.

If there is a sense of allowing, a sense of "me" who is allowing and disappointment that there is a sense of "me" still present, allow that, too.

What you are is within and beyond all of that. YOU ARE ALL OF THAT. What you ALREADY ARE is this unobstructed knowing in which all of this ("this" meaning whatever is arising in experience as these words are read RIGHT NOW) happens.

Allow is another word for REST. I know that it seems there is a choice about resting or not, allowing or not. Remember, "resting" and "allowing" are just pointers to what you already are - but there really isn't a choice about it because YOU are already THAT - always have been and always will be. There is nothing you need to "work on" or "try for" or "get under control" or "understand" or "figure out" or "experience" or "rest into" in order to simply BE what YOU ALREADY ARE! And, if that seems too easy and nonsensical, I really need to say it again?

If none of this makes any sense - good.

Allow that, too.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It Is All a Story...Including This (Step 1)

I've mentioned before in other posts that all that is ever really experienced is thinking and sensation. No matter what it looks like, everything that we are ever experiencing is thought and sensation. The combination of these two elements is what we sometimes refer to as emotion (with sincere thanks to zen teacher Joko Beck for pointing this out to me). All else is a story. The story is our interpretation of any particular configuration of thought and sensation.

Most of the time, we get into trouble because of the story we tell ourselves about the thought-sensation arising in any particular moment. As an example, let's say a car cuts in front of us in traffic. The body (probably) immediately tenses in reaction to a perceived threat to its safety - a natural reaction preparing the body to respond further, if necessary, to safeguard the organism. We can see this same reaction throughout the world of living things. No problem here.

Then, almost as automatically as the physical reaction occurred, the thinking apparatus drapes a net of interrelated thoughts over the sensations. These thoughts are The Story. They attempt to explain the experience (sensations) in some way. The net of thought that drapes over the experience-sensation varies from person to person depending upon a nearly infinite number of variables. Is there a problem here? Not really. 

The "problem" is created by BELIEVING the Thought-Story - "that guy is a jerk and doesn't care about anybody on this road but himself!." That is, we assume our Thought-Story is true - we assume it is "the way things are." The believed Thought-Story creates more physical sensation (usually tension, clenching) which we then assume confirms our original Thought-Story - "See! He really is a mindless cretin in a Pinto!" We then drape even more thoughts over those sensations get the picture. The more blaming or critical or fearful the Thought-Story, the more intense the sensations.

There are a few things going on here that we will investigate over the next few posts. First, there is the awareness of sensation and thinking.  Then, there is a recognition of the believed Thought-Story. Third, there can be a recognition that what SEES all of this - sensation, thought, Thought-Story - is not itself sensation, thought, or Thought-Story. Finally, at the heart of it all, is the realization that the body and the very idea of a "me" who is experiencing all of this is itself composed of thought,sensation, and Thought-Story. This realization dissolves it all.

However, it can be useful for some of us to be a bit more methodical about uncovering all of this. Let's begin by simply NOTICING physical sensations as we go through daily life. We can do this especially when we find ourselves upset in some way - what we typically label as sad, lonely, irritable, angry, worried, afraid, confused, troubled, etc. As you begin to play with this, notice how thought is always attached to these states. Don't worry about investigating the thinking. It is enough for now to know that it's there. 

Instead, come back to the raw physical sensation (buzzing, tingling, heat, cool, pressure, tension, hardness, softness, etc.) and stay with it. What do I mean by "stay with it"? Let your attention rest easily on the sensation for a while - maybe a minute or so. Give the sensation ROOM. Give it SPACE. It is already there so, as best you can, leave it alone and watch what happens (hint: it will change).

Let's leave it there for now. Next post (probably), we'll talk more about The Story. If you resonate with this methodical approach, STOP READING NOW!

For those of you who really hate a methodical approach, when you feel the sensations, ask, "What is aware of this (tingling, burning, itching, pressure, etc.)?" or "What is seeing this now?" But, don't leave the sensation to investigate some thought that comes up in response to the question - that keeps us caught in the same trap. The answer is not a thought. 

(By the way, I am not trying to be tricky or coy when I say "the answer is not a thought." I am not trying to make you "work at it." The deal is that the answer really is NOT a thought. The only thing another thought can do is point to "it" or attempt to describe "it" - but the description is not "it," and "it" is not an "it" anyway! [this is the point at which, when I used to read this stuff, I wanted to throw my computer out the window and/or strangle the writer...*gulp*])

I'll bet you wish you hadn't read on :-)

More to come.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What You Really Are Can Never Be Found By Anyone

Everything we see/hear/touch/taste/smell/think is an object, an object of consciousness.

These objects include everything from a 50 ton whale to an atom viewed through an electron microscope. And the one we typically think of as "me" is also an object of consciousness.

What You really are contains what you think you are.

Do nothing except notice whatever sensations register on the screen of the senses right now. Notice the thought, "I am witnessing all of the sensations registering on the screen of the senses right now." Good. Now, what notices that thought?

Any answer you give is yet another thought. What notices that?

There is nothing tricky here. Just rest as what you already are; there really is no choice anyway. All the thoughts that swirl around and say "it can't be that easy" or "there must be a practice" or "but nothing happens" are simply more of the same. Another object arising in and as what You are.

You are the silence in the center of it all. You are already that. Everyone is already that. There really is only one of us here.

Rest, little mind. Everything is already OK. And, the flowers need weeded.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Keep Driving

I was driving in the country the other day and it came to me that the drive was very much like the journey of the search. At first, it is clear that I am driving. I feel distinct, definite, separate. There is clearly a "me" doing the driving. I look around and see the car in which I'm driving as well as the trees, people, buildings, other cars, road, weeds, signs, clouds, dust, bugs - all of the objects - that I am driving past.

At some point, the space in which all of these objects are appearing becomes evident. Then there is me seeing all of the objects as well as the space in which they appear. I seem real. The objects seem real. The space in which the objects appear seems real.

A little further down the road, I become aware of thoughts and sensations as objects arising within my body. I see those objects in me as well as all of the other objects and space outside of me. They all seem real.

Rounding a curve in the road, I become aware of a kind of space in me in which all of the thoughts and sensations (objects) are arising. I see the space in me as well as the objects in me. I also see all of the objects and space outside of me. It all seems very real.

Driving on, it dawns on me that everything that I see outside of me arises within me as a thought - including space. Just a thought. The thoughts-sensations seem real as does the space within me in which they all float.Outside seems to have disappeared.

Now, while driving, it occurs to me (?) that even the saying "I" or "me" is itself a thought. No objects exist outside of the car and it is beginning to look like nothing exists inside of the car, either - including the car. Gulp. The thought of me is a thought arising within me which is another thought arising within...? Inside and Outside are both recognized as concepts that no longer seem to refer to anything. Something recognizes that space in the body is another concept as well as the body itself...and what is aware of it? Nothing seems real.

Everything has disappeared. No trees or beetles or worms or clouds or corn or dust or breeze or ditch water or cars or little kids with sticky fingers and scraped knees; no dogs, no up, no down, no inside, no outside, no thought, no sensation, no me, no you, no body, no realization, no need of realization...nothing. Not even nothing.

An intersection appears, a foot pushes on a pedal that slows the car. Both directions - left and right - appear as well as corn and soy beans, bullfrogs grump at a pond in the distance. A dog barks from a barn down the road. Red-orange light in the sky staining the bottom of narrow clouds. A rusty corn bin creaks ahead. Ash from a cigar held by two fingers floats to the floor. Pain in the lower back. Sweat in the ear. Butter-yellow moths dart across the road. The foot, the hands, the corn, the flies, the dog, the thoughts, the frogs, sweat on the ear, the breeze, the ditch water, the car, the clouds, the purple-blue-orange-red sky - all drive on to get bird seed from the hardware store. The birds will be hungry in the morning.