Saying For Today: Presence is the landscape of spirit. Indeed, presence is its own information, for presence communicates itself.
LOTUS OF THE HEART
Everyone is Welcome Here
Living in Love beyond Beliefs
Meaning springs from belonging.
*David Steindl-Rast. Deeper Than Words.
Today's writing arises from reflection on encounters a few years ago, first with some Mennonites, next with a person I met with over a series of meetings. The above words of David Steindal-Rast speak to the sharing below. We think of meaning as something abstract, something we can create or find, if we do the right thing or follow the right path. Actually, meaning arises spontaneously from heartfully sharing with others. Hence, without opening ourselves to the other, we live meaningless lives. This is like how a word is meaningless without other words that help give it meaning. A meaningful life is a life of belonging, of togetherness of spirit with spirit, not merely person with person. In the former, we as sacred presences meet, while, in the latter, our personalities interact. Our heart aims for the sharing of spirit with spirit.
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I started visiting a Mennonite congregation in Gainesville, Florida. After worshiping with the small community for the first time in March 2015, some of the people invited me to enjoy a meal with them. We went to an organic food store and sat outside enjoying soup and salad. We talked for about an hour.
Upon leaving, I reflected that the talking did not accomplish anything - meaning, nothing of what we talked about would be changed by the sharing. There was no apparent goal to the time together. Then, I recalled something important happened, more important than reaching some apparently practical outcome. We shared with each other.
Sacred was that sharing, and such sharing with no practical intent is as important as the goals of change or progress we may become over-identified with. And, thereby, we miss the joy of just being together.
Or, possibly better, this just-being-together will transform our understanding of it, transcending the opposites of practical and impractical. That is, our full understanding and experience of being together are reconstructed out of the pragmatic vision we have unconsciously adopted from others.
Years later, again recalling the sharing that day with the Mennonite congregates, another insight arose. I had seen we had shared with each other. A more subtle way of seeing this is that sharing with is a step towards sharing oneself. We could even ask, "Can I share with anyone, without the principal thing shared being myself?" Of course, these moves in understanding reflect the evolving insight that takes place within us. Hence, what is happening is always before our seeing that it has or does or can happen. We can have times of sharing spirit with spirit long before we recognize such moments.
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We are not speaking of giving ourselves away or losing ourselves for others, or some egoless state of supposed self-transcendence. We are not diminished in this sharing and sharing ourselves; we find ourselves more enhanced, becoming more fulfilled in ourselves and as ourselves. The other, if able to receive this communion, is enhanced, likewise. Through such sharing, we feel more like ourselves. We become more human, not less human, so more humane.
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Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche speaks, in Smiling at Fear, of moving from privacy to real privacy. We can speak of false privacy to true privacy or isolation to communion. False privacy is shutting ourselves in on ourselves, closing our hearts to others, to the world. We can have false privacy while among others, even as we can be with others while apart from them. We may live with false privacy partly for we are not comfortable with ourselves, may even have a sense of shame that we are, that we exist, that we are fundamentally bad, damaged goods, not worthy to open up cheerfully, bravely to the world. Whatever the reason, we experience isolation even when surrounded by others - we are a butterfly hiding in the cocoon of self-reference pretending to be receptive to others. In this, however, we lose something of ourselves, even hiding from ourselves by hiding from others. We become less human, diminished selves.
Again, persons who habitually engage with others can be a master of this hiding. And a person who enjoys being by herself may experience much authentic connection with others in the limited time she is with them. Time alone can deepen our capacity to be with others and share ourselves.
We can experience the real privacy Trungpa speaks of, an aloneness wherein we are not hiding; we are enjoying the communion apart from others. Then, with others, we can remain alone, for there is no opposition between being with others and being apart from others in aloneness: as I have said before, solitude meets solitude. Aloneness is our natural being, it does not imply separation. In aloneness with is intimacy with.
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Sitting with someone over several weeks for short periods, I noticed how I often felt like an outsider looking in, like words and energy were coming at me from the other side of an emotional wall. I was present physically, listening intently, and glad to welcome what the other was saying. Yet, there was a shift over time from being with to being in the same space, from presence with presence to giving of information laden with emotion. In the being with, was the sense of a subtle feeling of connection, while in the separation a heavier, oppressive sense of emotionalism and being loaded down with too much information. So, in the separation is a sense of sharing space, and maybe talking together, but we are not sharing ourselves - information replaces communion, words replace presence, outer geography replaces inner geography. What we want is information to arise from presence. Presence is the landscape of spirit. Indeed, presence is its own information, for presence communicates itself.
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If I can come outside my isolation, I can invite another out of his or her hiding place into the open. The open makes possible sharing of presence. And she can feel more deeply the joy of her aloneness - aloneness that meets my aloneness. This meeting does not have to be practical, like, "What is the end result of being together?" It can simply be the enjoyment of being out in the open, out of hiding, together, breathing the fresh air of a vista of freshness. This communing can be like a boat on the water, having no direction to come from or to, moved by the tides and wind. Then, we could ask, "What have we accomplished?," and the question is found not to need an answer. We do not want an answer.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.