This Month's Contents: Why Do You...? by Art Ticknor | Poems by Bart Marshall | Human Energy by TAT Workshop Participants | 21 Things that I Wish I had Told Myself when I was Younger by David Weimer | Words of Wisdom | Video - Oprah talks with Eckhart Tolle | Humor
Some months, I look at this little space of white and think, "What is the last line I would write?" This month, David Weimer provides us with twenty-one lines he would tell himself if he could go back in time. Art Ticknor uses the word "Why?" to wake us from slumber, while Bart Marshall leaves us in silence; feeling the ache of that which is lost yet close. We get a glimpse of collective wisdom as TAT Workshop participants collaborate to answer the question of human energy as a tool in the spiritual path. Finally, Oprah Winfrey interviews Eckhart Tolle. If you're looking to save your worldly toys and joys, look out for that smiling Buddha because he's leading you toward Emptiness.
Richard Rose organized a winter intensive in 1979-80, and in one of the sessions he posed some rhetorical questions for consideration, which I made notes of. One set of questions was the following:
Are you acting out the script to a play you didn't write? Sleepwalking through life—a life that's like a puppet show?
It doesn't make much difference how alert you think you are. You can vipassana or zazen until the proverbial cows come home—without awakening. Spiritual action involves turning the attention around, letting go of the fantasies.
Rose was pointing to the reversed focus of spiritual action in the opening lines of his blank verse poem "The Mirror": Who is it that speaks to you? Who is it that listens to me? Rumi was indicating the same direction in "Table Talk": Who says words with my mouth? Who looks out with my eyes? If you could let those questions get past the ego defenses, they could trigger the doubt sensation that announces the opening of the door to looking—and the possibility of awakening from the sleep of merely believing.
Another line of questions from the intensive was:
Do you long for inspiration? Do you say to yourself: "If only I knew what I really wanted, what to do...."? Can inspiration come via logic? Or is logic a "well-coordinated robot functioning, reacting with seeming consciousness" as Rose asked in the 1978 intensive? Is there any spiritual hope unless our intuition sees a possible solution?
Rumi was appealing to the higher intuition when he spoke these words:
Lo! I am with you always, means when you look for God,
God is in the look of your eyes,
in the thought of looking, nearer to you than your self,
or things that have happened to you.
There's no need to go outside. Be melting snow.
Wash yourself of yourself.
Does a man intentionally go out from his source—or is he propelled? Does a man do anything volitionally—or is he compelled to rationalize actions and inactions? Does a man sincerely hope to find happiness in transience—or is he programmed to choose temporary pleasure?
What brought you to read these words? Were you drawn by your "magnetic center," by hope and longing? Why do you keep busy with the inessential, which keeps you locked in space and time?
Verses in the Manner of Lao Tsu
Life goes nowhere and leaves no trace.
Forms and sensations arise in the Moment.
Sit quietly and stop talking to yourself.
The realm of heaven and earth is created by Awareness.
Thought creates objects of thought.
Telescopes create galaxies.
All arise in Awareness.
Awareness is the Source.
The multitudes appear to be aware,
Nothing exists without You.
Presented at the TAT 2008 Fall Workshop in response to the topic, "Discuss human energy in the context of its usefulness on a spiritual path."
Like any goal in life or perhaps even more so, the intentional spiritual search requires tremendous interest and energy. With interest comes the desire to dedicate time, attention, and energy toward the interest, and as such, we become increasingly aware of areas in our life that consume energy that might otherwise go toward the over-riding goal.
We can, during the course of our search, discover energy sumps. As the desire for the Answer strengthens, old behaviors seem to come in the way, such as excess drink, poor social habits, entertainment, etc. As we desire to put more energy into the search, many of these may fall away, to be rededicated toward other, Higher, ends.
With this rededication of energy, we often do not know what is the best use, but much like directing it toward any other goal, we have hints. We may see friends or a sangha, read books, consult teachers, or maintain a meditation practice. In short, this rededication moves us away from obvious error and establishes a vector more in line with our goal. Along the way, we may discover increased clarity and heightened intuition.
The ultimate use may in fact prove to be the building of tension, much as the tightening of a string on a violin results in music, or a rubber band becomes taut to propel an object a great distance.
I'm no authority on others' lives; they've got to become that on their own. This isn't for other people. They might find it useful, however. If I could have talked to an earlier version of myself and that self had asked me for pointers, here is what I would have said:
Dave, once you notice that finding an answer to your life is more important than anything else, make a personal commitment to achieve this thing and go for it. Make it your life's career.
Start where you are, with what you have. No need to say, "I don't know where to begin." No one does. Start. You won't regret it.
1. Become honest. Start with "small" things. This isn't vague. Be honest with yourself and others. How can you become the Truth when you're telling lies?
2. Go to bookstores, online book sources and libraries. Keep your eyes and ears open for book recommendations. Read intuitively. If a book doesn't do it for you, close it without looking back but check them all out, especially the ones that you don't think will help you.
3. Listen to those people that you don't automatically agree with. Try.
4. Walk into fearful opportunities. You know hesitation and its fruits; this is familiar territory. Take one step forward when you feel fear. You'll enter a new world where acting on hunches and intuition is the major mode.
5. Question your actions, decisions and reactions. Why are you doing what you're doing? Be very honest.
6. Check out groups and anything else that is remotely related to your search, quest, and purpose in life (examples: yoga, meditation, study groups, prayer groups, esoteric philosophic groups, religious groups, astrology, divination, psychology, etc.). You are an explorer in search of an answer. Look under every rock.
7. Adopt a daily meditation practice. Sit, run or walk. Do what seems right. Be consistent and persistent. You've admitted to yourself that this is a worthwhile pursuit.
8. Don't do anything that you don't want to do. Don't do what a spiritual seeker "should do" or what someone else tells you. Do what you think is best for yourself.
9. Keep a journal like a mountain climber who records daily climbing activities in the tent after each day. Thoughts can be captured and examined by writing them down. You are the most available subject matter at hand in this quest for enlightenment, truth or ultimate answers. Writing is working through things.
10. Keep a dream journal. What do you have to work with in this most subjective endeavor? Study these definitive products of your mind.
11. Conserve all of your personal energy for this most important task at hand. Free from all other addictions and obsessions, every bit of energy and attention can be poured into a desired direction towards an answer. Practice celibacy; free yourself from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and television programs. These are some places where you may spend tremendous amounts of time and energy doing nothing getting nowhere.
12. Strain in the direction of your yearning with all of your might.
13. Go on spiritual retreats. Go on any retreat.
14. Try fasting with a spiritual purpose or profound intention in mind.
15. Spend time around those that you have a common interest with. Compare notes with these others who are on their own personal path toward an ultimate answer.
16. Hunt for gurus, masters and authorities on this most important subject. Nail them with the most important questions that you have. Don't' be intimidated. No one is more important in your life than you. It is your sacred right to find your life's meaning. Ask, "What do you know?" Genuine teachers will meet you readily and honestly on your level of inquiry. False ones will play games and play god.
17. Learn to pray.
18. Learn to continue walking or climbing when there is no guidance from others. When you die, the only thing that you'll have is what you've discovered or become in your lifetime. Other people's words and books—all books, all people—will dissolve, leaving you with only yourself. You can be afraid or uncertain at times, and still do your best with this sacred life. Be your own captain. Steer your boat.
19. Look into hypnotism. Be hypnotized. Learn to hypnotize other people. Try fire walking. Try skydiving. Challenge yourself.
20. Give yourself the authority to stand up and do your best in your life. Give yourself the authority to make your own decisions about things.
21. Live in another country. Learn the language. Go native.
The human understanding, once it has adopted an opinion, collects any instances that confirm it, and though the contrary instances may be more numerous and more weighty, it either does not notice them or else rejects them, in order that this opinion will remain unshaken. ~ Francis Bacon
If you don't see a video clip above, then go directly to YouTube.
I like quoting Einstein. Know why? Because nobody dares contradict you.