*Brian Wilcox 'Jerusalem Artichoke'
We can either be empty with Spirit or full of ourselves.
*Kabir Edmund Helminski. Living Presence.
you are not what
you do, acquire, earn, become, or may become
you are that you are
you are what you are before birth and death
returning to that invites Natural Ease, Contentment of Heart
returning to Life, you return to Spirit
returning to Spirit, you return to Life
in this returning is conservation and renewal of energy
giving is getting, not by greed, but by self-flowing-out
in blessing to all around by that you are
and action expressing this subtle, unseen communion with Spirit
* * *
At the root of grasping is fear. One feels there is not or will not be enough - money, attention, affection, time, pleasure, knowledge, fun, sex, ... Hence, we need to see discontent can only be resolved within ourselves, not outside. If we struggle to find enough outside ourselves, we will never enjoy the natural ease within. Time in Silence exposes this anxiety for what it is - an emotion linked with delusional thinking. We can, then, explore the illusory nature of neurotic insecurities, not to strive against them, but welcome the integration into Spirit that transmutes this disquiet and the underlying falsehood into the natural state of contentment. Then, we can enjoy life, meaning to be in-joy with life. Then, we feel harmony with the within and without, in Spirit.
* * *
In a Sunday morning meditation session at a Tibetan Buddhist gathering, we engaged in Insight Meditation, or Vipassana. The Lama gave us direction before. I had moved from that years prior but decided to join in. Afterward, during the break, I relaxed, turned myself, and leaned onto the back of the chair with the left arm. Looking through a small window to my far left and slightly under the ceiling, I was more relaxed, open, and receptive than when trying earlier to meditate correctly, as per the instructions. Then, this afterward - relaxed openness, natural ease, pure receptivity. This was a teaching into how to live with life. As I told someone recently, "The best way to enter into meditation is without a thought that you are going to meditate."
* * *
The rich industrialist from the North was
horrified to find the Southern fisherman
lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.
"Why aren't you out fishing?" said the industrialist.
"Because I have caught enough fish for
this day," said the fisherman.
"Why don't you catch some more?"
"What would I do with it?"
"You could earn more money," was the reply.
"With that you could have a motor fixed
to your boat and go into deeper waters
and catch more fish.
Then you would make enough to buy nylon
nets. These would bring you more fish and
more money. Soon you would have enough
money to own two boats . . . maybe even a
fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich
man like me."
"What would I do then?"
"Then you could really enjoy life."
"What do you think I am doing right now?"
*Anthony de Mello. "The Contented Fisherman." In The Song of the Bird.
* * *
"To relax" derives from Latin "to loosen back." To relax is the opposite of tension; relaxation and contentment go hand-in-hand.
Spirituality entails easing the stress of trying to get something more we think will make us happy, striving to make life work out a certain way, straining to make sure we are and have enough. We learn to trust the natural flow of life expressing Spirit. We affirm what we have at the moment is enough, and we already are enough. We learn to give ourselves permission to lighten up, cheer ourselves, and enjoy ourselves for the pure blessing of enjoyment. We release any felt-need to justify immersion in the glory of the timeless Moment that appears here in time.
* * *
Recently, I drove to the beach on a lovely day in Georgetown Island, Maine. I went to the road leading to the beach, only to turn back and return to town. I assumed at the beach would be a large crowd. In town, I decided to return and go to the beach anyway. I had never gone in the Summer, preferring to go in the Winter, when a few persons or no one would be present - I do not enjoy large crowds.
When arriving at the beach, there was a large crowd. I parked and found a place with no one, though a few persons were in sight. I sat on a rock near the water. I decided to move closer and put my feet where the waters would rush up onto my feet. I sat there for maybe an hour, enjoying the cold waters flush over feet and legs, sometimes splashing onto my upper torso.
Though persons were in distant sight, I was alone. In this aloneness was natural ease. What more did I need, sitting beside the sea, resting under a spacious, open sky? Majesty was all around. I was immersed in the Effulgence of Life, beauty mirroring absolute Beauty.
This invitation to the natural ease, this resting in the Sufficiency and Harmony is always present. We get entwined in our insecurities, lied to by social systems that tell us we are a means to an end, rather than reminding us what we do and what we buy is not in any way who we are or what we most need. Social dogma feeds us messages informing us we cannot relax, except as maybe an exception, that life is a constant struggle for survival and security, and we need to grab, for there is never enough for everyone. These messages come to us through profuse advertising, for example, filling up our inbox on our internet and through text messaging, as well as through the news and education, even through religion. And politicians keep reminding us what is most important in whom we vote for is the economy, not our souls, not our internal well-being and that of those close to us.
Hence, implicit in the social creed of some cultures is the implication that to relax is an exception, not a way of being. The social doctrine says we need more, and only then can we repose and discontinue the torrid pursuit. Yet, the message continues, that even then there is another delay, another more before we can experience the innate natural ease. We are informed that if we survive until retirement from our job, we can then finally enjoy ease as a way of life, not a brief interlude. This social creed shows up in myriad ways, for acquisition, when the norm, is antithetical to contentment and opposed to the Way of Spirit, of Grace. This prevalent materialistic dogma is preached by the evangelists of materialism, propagating it to be as inerrant as any religious group has deemed its holy book free of human fallibility. Our becoming converts to this surface, shallow worldview keeps the rich wealthy and the poor impoverished. When we bow at the altar of capitalism, with its priority of economic progress - but not for all -, we forfeit the health of our souls to the god of mammon.
Gospel of Matthew 6.24 -
No one can have two masters. He will not prefer the one and be devoted to the other. Or he will listen to the one and ignore the other. You cannot have both God and wealth as your master at the same time.
* * *
Referring to the hungry ghost realm of Tibetan Buddhism - I live in a hungry ghost society. In the United States, we citizens are called consumers. Here is Chogyam Trungpa describing such a society - while these realms some Buddhists see as future lives, other Buddhists address how they apply to this life.
In the preta or hungry ghost realm, one is preoccupied with the process of expanding, becoming rich, consuming. Fundamentally, you feel poor. You are unable to keep up the pretense of being what you would like to be. Whatever you have is used as proof of the validity of your pride, but it is never enough. There is always some sense of inadequacy. The poverty mentality is traditionally symbolized by a hungry ghost who has a tiny mouth, the size of the eye of a needle, a thin neck and throat, skinny arms and legs, and a gigantic belly. His mouth and neck are too small to let enough food pass through them to fill his immense belly, so he is always hungry. And the struggle to satisfy his hunger is very painful since it is so hard to swallow what he eats. Food, of course, symbolizes anything you may want - friendship, wealth, clothes, sex, power, whatever.
Anything that appears in your life you regard as something to consume.
*The Myth of Freedom.
* * *
Spiritually waking up entails seeing the illusion of this dogma of acquisition, even as it applies to spiritualized greed - such as preoccupation with getting to heaven, gaining merit to escape rebirth, and religious leaders who milk people in the name of God to fill their own pockets with wealth, promising people in return how God will surely bless them. The greed of acquisition is endemic to much religion, turning Spirit into the cosmic slot machine. Rather, waking up, we affirm that our natural way is one of receptivity to Grace, not gain, enjoyment of contentment, not greed, that we are sacred beings, not earners or consumers, and that an afterlife cannot add one iota of the Sacred for us that is not present in this moment.
Spiritually waking up means honesty about the brevity of our life, that we as a person are soon to die. Living with this awareness inspires us to reassess how we use our time, what is important to us, and our relationship with others and the Holy. The wealthy and so-called powerful will die the same death as the materially poor who have been trampled underfoot for the gain of those whose path is greed, not Love and Compassion. Greed is an egoic feeling of insufficiency, one that veils the heart, so leads to progressive stages of death, even while existing, until the self is numb to life, barnacles of neglect conceal the heart, and one can be said only to be existing, not living.
As said the wise Teacher Jesus, in Gospel of Mark 8.36-37 -
For what does a person have if getting all the world and losing her own soul (or, life)? What can person give to buy back her soul (or, life)?
Existing and being alive are not the same spiritually? One with open heart, who is generous, finds contentment, enjoys Life. Those pulled along by greed lose life, as though it seeps from them slowly, until one can say, "She is dead," even while she walks about as though alive among the living. There are many dead among us, even as there are many who never die, for they live with open hearts and find joy in Life. These latter do not need to wait until death to enjoy heaven, paradise, the celestial - they live in it before the death of the body - this they take with them beyond that death, their transition being Life to Life.
* * *
Discontent, so strain, manifests differently in the self. In the physical (body), one feels insecure, needing more or better food, shelter, sex, clothes, and always being too lean or too fat. In the mental (mind), one craves for more knowledge, more mental stimulation. In the affective (vital), one grasps more attention, reciprocation of affection, and pleasure and happiness. We can become at any or all of these self-aspects like the hungry ghosts. Life can become an all-you-can-eat buffet, but like the real buffets, in which the stomach is not shaped for such gluttony, the physical, mental, and affective is not designed for such excess either. Life gets out of proportion, with physical and emotional and spiritual consequences. Energy is dissipated, the self experiences imbalance of the life force.
* * *
Meditation is a means to set aside time to practice natural ease. Then, over time, this permeates more time outside formal meditation. Relaxation itself is not enough, however. Relaxation is a means to bodily, wakeful openness to the Mystery of Life. We do not enter Silence for self-sedation in some trance-like, unconscious state. That is zoning out, such as when listening to music with sound effects. Time in Silence is not a time for escape, but inscape. Meditation, then, becomes training in how to live outside the times in Silence.
Within relaxed receptivity - receptive for wakeful - will arise varied movements, some relaxed, some tense; the background, however, becomes the yielding openness able to embrace even tenseness as only a moment in the flow of Life. Few persons would fathom what this contented embrace of tenseness is - they have not integrated relaxation and tenseness into a higher order of natural ease in Spirit. Yet, if one tries to maintain ease as a state of body-mind, that effort can create tension and negate contented relaxation. Natural ease arises from Spirit, not from self-effort, even as one opens the eyes to see the Sunlight but cannot thereby say, "I made the Sun shine."
Relaxed and open, we are with Life moving, we watch the ease, celebrate our physical and mental selves, and are in the flow. We welcome Aliveness to permeate body, mind, and feeling domains. We experience the inner, more subtle aspects of these domains. We are the seer and seen. We come to celebrate this paradox - both being with the flow wakefully and thankfully (communion) and accepting being in the flow with everyone, everything, even the unseen (union).
* * *
The contemplative Way is to posture the natural self - physical, mental, affective - into a Unity of heart. Then, in the heart - the wellspring of devotion and connection with Spirit - one experiences contentment as gift and expression of Grace. In the natural self, this contentment, with its relaxed openness, comes and goes. In Spirit, the self receives contented ease as more than an experience. With its felt-sense of gratitude for the fulness already given one, natural ease becomes a realization in which one lives, for Spirit draws the self into the heart and its finer movements. Then, the basis is present for the supersensual Life, beyond even the affections and wisdom of the heart - soul, spirit, True Self, Self.
Spiritual traditions speak of this entrance into a paradox, a fullness that is emptiness. When many of us decide to assume a spiritual path, we enter full, unable to receive but little from the Life of Grace. As Kabir Edmund Helminski writes, in his Living Presence, "Sometimes we want to begin spiritual work but are too full." Hence, this fullness is not a being filled with the plenitude of emptiness - the Void of God. Yet, I say, being full of things and full of self is a good place to begin a spiritual path. Indeed, the misery of this self-gluttony may be what prompts some persons to go deeper, to seek what truly fulfills rather than only increasing the longing for contentment. Below all the getting is the longing for peace, for ease.
Then, we enjoy the natural ease of contentment as our innate being. We grow in stability within this ease. This ease means to enjoy life, like the fisherman who sees simplicity is more important than unnecessary complication added to life. We know and feel enough is enough. Then, enjoying life is not only enjoying what is in life or added to life, but enjoying life. We find ourselves on wise guard against complicating the simplicity, a gift we feel fortunate that we found - better, found us.
* * *
Last, in spirituality, we are "found" by this ease, this grace, for it arises from Something beyond ourselves. The self does not generate tranquility for itself, it receives tranquility from That more than itself. To associate intimately with the All-Sufficiency means to grow in the sense of being provided for, being guided from grace to grace in its internal and external manifestations.
Somehow I must relate myself to something more than I am, more than I can be when I am completely and thoroughly expressed.
*Howard Thurman. "Not We Ourselves." In Meditations of the Heart.
* * *
*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020