Spring is Here!... in Northern Maine
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David Chadwick, in Crooked Cucumber, his biography of Shunryu Suzuki, shares of one of Suzuki's devotee's frustration with his teaching -
Betty noticed how much he contradicted himself, coming back around to the opposite of what he'd just said in the same lecture, sometimes even in the same sentence. He just didn't think in a way she was used to. "One week he says we have to put our entire effort into it," she said to Delia, "and the next week he says there's no use trying, give up and the answer will come. No use trying, and you've got to do your damnedest!"
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When expecting consistency in spiritual teaching, we are expecting it in life generally, are disowning change. Change means inconsistency. It is good to learn from someone not consistent in her teaching.
The inconsistency urges one to welcome the unity in which the contradictions are in prior harmony. If I see a shadow, I know an object is nearby. If I see change, I know something changeless is present. Yet, how many of us suffer from becoming enthralled with the shadows of this world, both the pain and pleasure, hence not looking to see what does not change? The changeless, however, does not move. At any time, we can look and see.
Where is consistency anyway? If there is consistency, it is change. Otherwise, there is only inconsistency.
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This inconsistency correlates with how the Way manifests as paradoxical. Suzuki Roshi spoke from both sides of duality. In duality, there is no consistency, hence only change. Yet, this does not mean there is no consistency, hence something changeless.
In the Way Itself, we cannot speak of consistency or inconsistency, change or changeless. This not-either-or might threaten some persons. The ego likes everything to fit neatly in the mind - meaning in itself. Yet, it need not. And it cannot, regardless of how we think it can or does.
We can enjoy being change when we embrace inconsistency. Knowing ourselves as change... there is no polarity between change outside us and inside us or with us and what is about us. We do not look out and say change is happening - we are that happening looking at the happening - we are it. To say "I'm changing" means "It's all changing."
So, what shall you become? Living with becoming leads to what is - is does not alter. Yet, we must suffer enough from attachment to change. We must get exhausted from trying to find all we most deeply seek amid the flux. So, then, we embrace change and no-change. We fall into it. Change is the dress rehearsal for the unity.
In intimacy with the changeless, amid change, we find the Peace we aspired to enjoy and the Love we wished to love. We become more, not less, intimate with all that changes. In fact, only in the harmony of the unity can we know this intimacy. Someone may sense we have one foot in time and one in eternity and, thereby, be drawn to this same Love.
I will illustrate. This is a rough correlation, but hopefully, it will suffice. When you hear a song, what do you hear? Lyrics? Music? Lyrics and music form a unity. From whence arises both? What makes possible the two meeting as the song? The song cannot explain itself, and we cannot explain ourselves. Something outside us explains us. Those of the Way find the unity of lyrics and music - life - to lead to harmony, as though something teases us through the duality to awaken to Itself.
Regardless of how well-arranged, the conflicting aspects of life never replicate the Harmony but only approximate it to varying degrees. This imperfect replication compels us to seek Something outside the fluid aspects. The refractions of light lead us to the sun; the refractions of the Light lead us to the Light.
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How do we access the changeless? Well, Suzuki says, we can access it, and we cannot access it. So, since we have to do something ... Stop, be still, anywhere, and listen - not just with your ears... your whole body. You will see something that always is. It does not become. You will recognize how change is all about, but all the change happens in one space. This one space mirrors Something - all-embracing, changeless. Do not rush to impose a name, religious or otherwise, as the mind is apt to do. Names belong to the world of separation. Drop any wish to know what this changeless is. Later, you can name it what you wish. For now, enjoy the closeness and all happening within the spaciousness as many manifestations of what is in itself unmanifest. In recognizing this, we comprehend all life forms are potentially sacramental means to lead us to Grace by Grace.
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John Butler, in Wonders of Spiritual Unfoldment, writes of his love for a woman and his seeking a Love holding them both in Itself...
You bid me recognise that "Love is now,"
Confirming it and demonstrating how
By looking, presenting, giving straight to me
This master fact of loveís immediacy.
When "Love is now" arises, love is wide,
Dark desolationís curtains fall aside,
Times past and future melt into being here
And simple realisation blossoms clear,
That waving grass and sunshine, traffic noise,
And all things manifest are joys
And indications of your love for me.
Most sure it is, supreme and honestly,
That love so welling in your misted eyes,
Flows over endlessly in rich surprise,
Feeding my hunger with the windís caress
And nature beautiful in autumn dress.
But somehow, each of all these lovely things,
Though lovely in itself and what it brings,
Is passing empty too before my sight,
Only indicative, lit by reflected light,
A whispering of deeper, hidden ground,
Where only, deep fulfilment may be found.
As also with ourselves, all seen and heard
Is but an outer seeing, outer word.
Enough is glimpsed when deepened eyes reveal,
To know the superficial from the real;
This is no secret only for the wise,
All lovers look into each otherís eyes
And steadfast held when loving trust is found,
Drink from that fountain head of love unbound,
And finding there the essence of loveís light,
Penetrate further to the infinite.
Oh God my Saviour, and my love so dear,
Youíve taken me so deep, so held me near,
That through my daily living, shallow, far
From those abundant depths, and where you are,
I wander restless, fretful, until when
This curtained absence may dissolve again.
When oft with rising tears "I miss you so,"
Your "Love is now" awakens, whispers low,
"Iíll never leave you, no, nor rift allow,
For always and forever - Love is now."
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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.