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Archive for March, 2013

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Paw prints in the sand….

Charlie and Lucas

     “I don’t work with people that have dog problems; I work with dogs that have people problems.” -Cesar Millan (the Dog Whisperer)

There are hidden blessings in blindness; one of those treasures is a new companion; they call them guide dogs. My brother Jeff is on his 4th guide dog. First he had a Golden Retriever named Hoyt, next was a long-haired German Shepherd named Hale, and then there was Charlie- a brilliant, white lab. 

Charlie died recently, at about age 75 and he did so with dignity, that is, he was euthanized for wide- spread cancer that came on so quickly that, as my brother said:

     “. . . one day he seemed fine and the next he could not even stand to eat. . .” At the time, Charlie was already retired and living at home. My brother was working with his new dog, Lucas. As my brother says: Lucas is- “by far the fastest guide”- he has ever had. To attempt to keep pace with Lucas and Jeff on a hike is an exercise in futility or a workout to be remembered. 

All of my brothers ‘guides’ have been my buddies as well. Whenever I see my brother, at some point during our visit, his guide dog companion will come over for a massage, canine acupressure or spontaneous hands on healing. Of course, the healing they bring is always ten times more potent; if they could talk, they would surely chuckle at my ‘healing’ analogy and administer a slathering tongue across the side of the face.

The great thing is: it doesn’t matter if they are tired from guiding and need a massage or if I am overwhelmed with some ridiculous mental fabrication. Once they expose their dogness to me, my hands reach out and touch them. A minute later they lie motionless before me, succumbing to the rub. And, to my great benefit, it doesn’t take any time for the mind to recede into the nothingness from which it came. This gift of ‘no mind’ is cherished in spiritual circles, in fact it is so highly regarded that monks & other spiritual aspirants work a lifetime to ‘get there’ yet dogs show us it is ‘always here’.

In society at large this ‘no mind’ insight is not only highly underated, it is absolutely feared. So this great emptiness of mind or purity of spirit which springs forth once the veil of thought obsession is lifted, is missed entirely because most humans cherish their mind. People love their ‘bundle of thoughts’. Dogs just say:

     “Come on let’s play!” People feel lost without their memories, ideas, personalities, and all of the things which give them a sense of independent identity.  Dogs don’t have an identity; they don’t know separation; they don’t even know they have a name. Fortunately for us, dogs come when we call them. 

As the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle said:

     “Millions of people who otherwise would be completely lost in their minds and in endless past and future concerns are taken back by their dog or cat into the present moment, again and again, and reminded of the joy of Being.”

Most people do not realize that their dog is an integral part of their sanity. For many individuals, their dog might be the only life-line keeping them from: commiting some hienous act, drug or alcohol addiction, life on the street or some years in a mental institution. This is no joke in today’s fast-paced, poison-infested, high-tech world where slowing down is tantamount to suicide. The great thing about dogs: they are always in the flow of the present moment. So when we are with our dogs, an opportunity to remember who we really are is always available: and who we really are is this same Beingness that our dogs effortlessly reflect. And this vibration, the dog resonance, comes without asking. 

Today while walking on the beach I was feeling the massage session which took place with my brother’s newest guide, Lucas, last Sunday. During that session, as Lucas became more physically relaxed, the presence spread throughout the room, a powerful reminder and a serenade, pointing the way to the true Home. Moments later, while I was still walking on the beach, a man appeared, looking distraught. Suddenly he said:

     “I am looking for a small dog. . .” He held out his hands, with about 18 inches between them. I told him, I would come back if I saw him. As I walked away, I shook my head in awe at the connectivity of life and then looked down at the ground. A miss mash of many human footprints, some with shoes and other barefoot imprints dotted the landscape in front of me. I, however, was following the loan set of paw prints, etched gently and floating across the sand. All I could do was laugh. Once again the dogs had their way with me.

   Farewell Charlie: You have been a great friend to my brother and your influence will never leave us.  (Photo is: Charlie and Lucas)

 

 

Meditation: “Breaking down the walls your mind has built around you. . .”

When I first began to truly become a conscious spiritual aspirant, I read about samadhi. The yogi’s have described various types of samadhi states. Samadhi, in the yogic context, often translates to: absorption or the highest stage of meditation. Really samadhi is our natural state but is held in great esteem because most of humanity has masked their natural state with so many layers of unreality. So samadhi is not an achievement of any kind. It is here, always, already present.

While in my room, at the recent monthlong silent meditation retreat at Spirit Rock, suddenly everything went away, the mind was not only still, it seemed to have vanished and so did ‘I’. There was just witnessing the unfolding of all things. The body was still but then the lunch bell began to gong and the body got up and moved towards the feed zone. Silently bodies began to emerge from dorm rooms, walkways and march down the hillside. There was amazement, watching the bodies, the Turkeys, the hawks, all of nature:all of them were me and yet none of it was me-all at the same time. I went through the buffet line and the hands grabbed a plate and put food on without any thought or movement of mind. Sitting down with my plate, eyes open, the beingness in the body just pouring forth was the taste of what is often called: “the peace that surpasses all description”. ‘I’ wasn’t necessary; ‘I’ wasn’t really there.

Several more periods of samadhi occurred on retreat and with them emerged something quite peculiar. It could easily be called low-intensity vertigo (dizziness, light-headedness, felt sense of spinning) with high-intensity tinnitus. For a brief moment the mind became agitated and went into damage control mode but just as suddenly the mind slipped into obscurity. For those that may be unfamiliar, tinnitus is defined as: noise or ringing in the ears, roaring, buzzing, clicking, hissing, etc. It is said to be a symptom of an underlying condition, like-inner ear cell damage, earwax blockage, ear bone changes TMJ, head injuries, high blood pressure and has even been associated with a disease label: Meniere’s disease.

Tinnitus is listed as an incurable condition but the internet is full of links listing remedies and stock full of treatments to ‘minimize its ‘debilitating, annoying, crazy-making’ effects. It is said that 20 percent of the population may have it in one form or another.

The tinnitus label did not fit; it wasn’t being bought. Intuitively I sensed all was well, that to attempt to ‘treatment it away’ with acupuncture, herbals, niacin, iodine, a neti pot, homeopathics, craniosacral therapy, etc was a desperate ploy of the mind, because mind cannot survive without disturbance; it only knows disturbance. For a minute or so it screamed, tried to turn this ‘ringing’ into something, fleeting flashes of immanent doom, fortunately thoughts trying to be grasped were like touching a hot stove, instantly found to be empty of real substance. I could find no problem in it. The mind then tried to distract turning the perception of the sound into an old Tommy Dorsey Big Band era tune in attempt to keep a separate sense of identity (‘me’ and the ‘big band sound’). I sensed that something else was going on and that intense meditation had brought about this response. On returning home, I found an interesting link from a Buddhist teacher named Ajahn Sumedho where the term: ‘meditation-induced tinnitus’ was used. Got to love the Buddhist’s, these practitioners have gone into and experienced just about everything via inner exploration. From the link:

“As you calm down, you can experience the sound of silence in the mind. You hear it as a kind of high frequency sound, a ringing sound that’s always there. It is just normally never noticed. Now when you begin to hear that sound of silence, it’s a sign of emptiness-of silence of the mind. It’s something you can always turn to . . . One problem with meditation is that many people find it boring. People get bored with emptiness. They want to fill up emptiness with something. So recognize that even when the mind is quite empty, the desires and habits are still there, and they will come and want to do something interesting. You have to be patient, willing to turn away from boredom and from the desire to do something interesting and be content with the emptiness of the sound of silence. . .”

The Buddhist even have a name for this: Dibba-sota or ‘divine ear’ where it is said to be a blessed occurrence (not the annoying curse we associate with tinnitus).

Later I found other spiritual references to this, from the Yoga Sutra’s:

“Through becoming saturated in meditative absorption (samadhi) the habits of the mind, perceiver, perceiving, and perception, dwindle until transparent as a jewel. The Sufi Master Rumi writes:

“A million suns come forward with light, when I sit firmly in this world. I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken, Inside ‘love’ there is more joy than we know. . .”

Now, ultimately it doesn’t really matter which of these stories are true in this particular case. They are all stories. Whatever will happen, will happen. Could a previous head trauma ( I have had numerous concussions, fractured skull, broken noses, etc) switched hearing aids a month before retreat, started using a lipotrophic vitamin C product that is a known heavy metal chelator–could that have caused mercury redistribution in the brain)? The grasping for answers is endless. So it is nice to rest in whatever is, just as it is. I call it peace.

I want the ‘old you’ back

When there is an embarking on the authentic spiritual path, one of the side effects relates to how one’s family, friends, coworkers, etc react to the deconditioning that is taking place. When this deconditioning is profound, like a deep spiritual shift or awakening, the results can be intense, painful, and often comedic. An extreme example of this comes from the life of the Indian avatar Anandamayi Ma. An avatar is simply a being born realizing inherent oneness and true divinity. Each of us are That already, all we need is to remove the items we cloth ourselves with: Mostly the “I am the body idea” from which all the rest of the ignorance springs.

One day this lady avatar, ‘Ma’, was in the middle of an ecstatic dance; she was fused with such powerful divine force that her body was as if a current of divine electricity. Some family members arrived at this religious festival and Ma’s niece was so captivated by her aunt (Ma) that she ran up and gave her a hug. It was in the darkness of night and the child was flung backwards to the ground. The girl went unnoticed until later in the evening when the family began to look for her. The young girl was found uttering God’s name, repeating it over and over, in a state of divine union and bliss. Her family desperately tried to bring the girl back to so called’normalcy’ but were unable. The girl only answered each question with:

“I see the whole universe filled with this name, so how can I stop saying it.” After quite some time they went to Ma and asked her to please help bring their little girl back. Ma smiled replying that yogi’s work at spiritual practices for a lifetime to achieve this state yet they were asking her to take it from the child. The girl was returned to ‘normal’ state of mind.

The journey most of us take in this realm will not be so drastic but can still be quite intense. As our life changes from the inside out, it will continue to push the buttons of those we interact with. If Love and Truth of Being are your only motive than things will all work out.

Retreat: Healing from the inside out

When you spend 28 days in silence, meditation is happening all of the time, not only the 6-7 hours a day of sitting in ‘formal meditative posture-style’, monk-like in stillness. You can go very deep, very quickly if you are earnest.

Some do show up in vacation mode, wandering the rustic grounds like tourists at a theme park, mindlessly (instead of mindfully) taking snap shots of the wildlife using the retreat as only an escape from their jobs and life ‘back home’. Most of these retreatants, even those who show up on a long retreat and consider themselves spiritual aspirants, are simply looking to create a better, more well-rounded personality instead of burning up the personality itself. About one third of the practitioners who show up are very sincere arriving punctually when that meditation bell rings–dropping into their chosen locations for silent sittings, walking slowly and with great determination during the walking meditation periods, and really looking deeply into the Truth of Being, the Truth of Existence.

When you go to a long Retreat with deep sincerity, you are not sure if you will walk out, hobble out or crawl out at the end but you don’t care. In fact, if good fortune springs, most of your mind is left behind at these retreats: all the disturbance, worries, grief, sadness, insanity, illusion, delusion, while the life force gets purified in the stillness and ignorance peels off and this makes Reality impossible to ignore. This means you will not be returning back home with traditional gifts for family and friends, your gifts will be more intangible, not part of the normal world of delusion.

If one gets really lucky, they’ll be left in the unknown where all beings turn out to be your family and every heart is your home.  For this to happen, the ‘me idea’ has to go and it will go if you let it. Will you let it?

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