I is We
Garden, Inn Along the Way, Chapman Farm
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Today's Saying: The spiritual life is releasing and welcoming; without releasing, there cannot be welcoming. Life, death, and resurrection is the Way, and these three are one action. One cannot find where one is and is not, where one ends and another begins. To see one is to see three; to see three is to see one.
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A disciple had recent experiences he esteemed to be breakthroughs to higher consciousness. He was sure the Sage would be delighted with his progress. After telling the Sage of several such experiences, the Sage said, "Very interesting. Now, that's something else to let go of, isn't it?"
*Brian K. Wilcox. "Meetings with an Anonymous Sage."
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Shunryu Suzuki Roshi -
When you do something, you should burn yourself [up] completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.
*Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
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We can become spiritual experience collectors, or spiritual experience gluttons. We may want to share these with others, easily an expression of spiritual pride. So, we create an attachment with experiences we see as signs of our growing expertise.
Suzuki Roshi spoke of acting without leaving a trace. Leaving no trace, we act without sticking to the act. It is like walking without leaving footprints or dragging our last step with us. We keep walking. Walking is not walking, unless it means change. When saying, "I'm going for a walk," we mean, "I'm going walking."
When we act, the act is complete. We act one with the act, so when the act is done, we are done. This is like walking; when the step is over, it is over. What we were with that step is over, too. With the next step, we are someone we were not before, and the step is unlike any step prior. When I write, what I write becomes ashes. I, too, become ashes. You cannot separate the ashes into what was written and who wrote. We - you and I, everything - are always burning up, but something remains.
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So, we live in freshness; even our suffering has a freshness. We are not looking back. A nonspatial, nonlocal continuum makes the action possible, but the acts arise and disappear. So, like walking, we remain in action, for we cannot not be acting; to refrain from acting is action. As the Bhagavad Gita teaches, no one can not act. The key, then, is how we act, or, better, how action acts.
We are not like someone who feels a need to leave reminders of what we did. We are not looking back in the rearview mirror. So, our mind-heart can remain open to the magic of the Way.
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Elevating experiences are important. They can encourage us. They can point to possibilities we have not grown into. Yet, because they come and go, they are experiences. As I have written before, we aspire for the nonexperience. Even in experiencing the nonexperience, it is still a nonexperience. There is a nonexperience, the groud of experience, even as when walking, something is under our feet making walking possible.
What does not come and go? What does not come and go, we can neither grab hold of nor let go of. Many words are given to this nonexperience, and they can serve us as pointers. Finally, however, when experienced, the nonexperience is traceless and refuses to allow us to cling to it or repeat it. We can cling to experience, not the nonexperience. Experience is conceptualized as past, present, or future; the nonexperience is tenseless. Clinging to experiences, we miss the nonexperience.
Jesus refers to the nonexperience by "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Kingdom of God." This cannot be located anywhere in space or time; it is everywhere. Regarding this nonplace, nonexperience, he says, in the Gospel of Luke 9.61 (NRSV), “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” When he says to his first followers, "Follow me" (NRSV, Gospel of Matthew 4.19 et al.), this means step-by-step. He does not give directions of where they are going or what is along the way - so, the Way. The Way is a never-ending following, in time and in relation to the timeless, among the seen in relation to the unseen.
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So, how do we relate to the passing experiences on the Way - whether pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral? We take the next step. Memory can help us as we recall past experiences. I had a remarkable breakthrough at age 9. It has served as an anchor. Without having that experience and memory, I might have abandoned the Way many years ago, during some very trying years. Yet, I do not cling to the experience or its memory. It appears in memory and disappears. It does not define me. It does not mean I am spiritually elite, nor do any similar experiences over the decades since. The memory can serve rightly in my holding it in gratitude, but in a way that leaves no trace. It is over. The person I was then is over. Even my understanding of what happened remains in process, without any end in sight.
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A Buddhist saying teaches the impermanence of all experiences, all dharmas (lit., things). Buddhists say, "You never cross the same river twice." The river is change; without the river becoming a new river, there would be no river. Without rain falling, there is no rain - rain is rainfall. One can enjoy a spiritual life by realizing what cannot come or go and is the potential of our most inspiring experiences. In releasing the past, we are welcoming what has never before been, even as how we relate with this moment is shaping all future moments. The magic is always now.
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*©Brian K. Wilcox, 2022.
*Use of photography is allowed accompanied by credit given to Brian K. Wilcox, and title and place of photograph.
*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.