Sunday 22 September 2013

O Happy Torment, When My Torturer Doth Teach Me Answers for Deliverance!

The Guru's Lament

They think they are broken,
Aching and finished, despairing.
They sit with me and their energy fills the room,
Sweet liquid blackness,
Tortured and strong.

Their tragedies spoken,
Quaking voice, just barely daring;
Their imagined shortcomings revealed to me,
Secrets to witness,
Kept overlong.

(Keep us safe 'til we are whole
Gently guide us to our goal)

How dearly they struggle.
They conjure my silence
Into just what they need:
Father or saviour, hero or scapegoat,
The faithful mirror, the love
On which they feed.

They never know it at first,
But they are perfect; there is never anything wrong.
Just as they are, they are perfect;
Perhaps they'll realize they were perfect
All along.

(No, no, no, no, no, no more
Will we wage this fruitless war)

When I first started, I thought I could help them.
Believed that their suffering was wrong;
At last I can hear them,
Beautiful song.

Desperate pleading,
Always convinced I can cure them,
Undivined divinity reviled,
They are exquisite,
Violent or mild.

(How we suffer, oh so needy
For sweet comfort we are greedy)

There is no medicine.
Nothing can save them, they are saved;
We sit padmasana, invite revelation,
Celebrating regret - the endless mistakes they have braved.

We may never realise we are perfect,
There is never anything wrong.
Just as we are, we are perfect.
Perhaps we'll realize we were perfect all along. 

(We will heal, we will see
What we need is to be)

               - Suzanne Foxton 2013

A few words on the meaning of life from my favourite flawed film guru, Woody (I'm Happy Being Miserable) Allen.

Yo, namaste peeps! Nice to be back blogging.  I've been looking after my ailing husband, the unfoldings are bearable (I know...I whom?) but preoccupying.  Let all and sundry know I'm writing again, "coming out to play" as one commenter put it.  Love a good play.

Monday 20 August 2012

When Such a Spacious Mirror's Set Before Him, He Needs Must See Himself.

There is talk in the "nondual community" (if that's not too ironic) of the place, philosophically and based on people's actions, of ethics and morality in the teaching of nonduality.  Much tsk-tsking and lambasting of "neo-Advaitins" and their preponderance to the pointer "there is no right or wrong".  Much made of gurus taking advantage of young, attractive and vulnerable acolytes.  The traditionalists condemn the neos for nurturing the attitude "it doesn't matter what I do...there is no me, I have no choice."  The neos, if indeed anyone dares take up that mantle these days (although there is the cool Matrix association), accuse the trads of being caught up in a story that doesn't exist.

I am always appalled when I hear stories of the fruits of such a laissez-faire attitude.  Being appalled is what comes up. There are several to many conceptual or philosophical explanations of the "no right and no wrong" pointer.  One might say that everything, absolutely everything must be let go of, including the notion of morality or right and wrong.  Such concerns, perhaps, are the last and most convincing bastion for the ego.  Certain things are just not the story is taken seriously, and the outcomes are valued, and true egolessness never occurs.  Some might quibble with the whole notion of letting go, which is an act of will by the ego...perhaps letting whatever may happen, happen, is the best approach.  Others might quibble that egolessness is not the goal...there is no goal.  Still others might find yet another facet to disagree with, just for the heck of it.

I have no answer to this debate.  There is debate, there is controversy, there is factionalism, there is right, there is wrong, there is neutrality.  Even the best and healthiest ego doesn't always know what's best for it.  The most deliberately moral person, constantly trying to do the next right thing, can get it wrong through a lack of perspective.  And surprisingly, the wrong choice can open wide garage-sized doors of opportunity.  The twists of the story are multifarious, unexpected, and perfect.  "There is no right or wrong" should probably be taken with a grain of salt, and understood in the context that in immediate presence (or whatever we're calling it today) there are no labels whatsoever, no concepts, no judgements.  And we are then free to make of the story what we will.

This is a long clip but hang in there, it's worth it.   An interesting story of right and wrong.  Is Anne Sullivan right to be so brutal with Helen?  Is this the only way to break through Helen's (somehow admirable) stubbornness?  A magnificent tour-de-force from both Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, who both won Oscars for their performances.  I can't help but wonder every time I watch this...well, to film it must have been taxing...but what about performing it on stage eight times a week?  Enjoy.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Better Far Off than Near, Be Ne'er the Near.

There seems to be some restlessness in the "nondual community", if it can even be referred to in that way, with some teachers who are insightful to a degree that does not tolerate the seeker or teacher enlightened only to the degree of glimpses.  Dig around in traditional Eastern enlightenment practices such as Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Jainism (part of Hinduism), and, of course, the darling of the Western interpretation, Advaita Vedanta (again, part of Hinduism).  One will find that various stages of enlightenment are named and described.  Arahant (Buddhism), Turiya or Nirvikalpa (Hinduism) or Reaching the Source (Zen Buddhism) are usually what is described as the "highest" level.  Both self and teacher are forgotten, not just Oneness is apprehended, but the nothinginess that is what truly is (hence the title of this blog).  Most of these traditions describe reaching the last stage as Nirvana, a concept at least a little familiar to the West. (Note that this last stage in Zen is not the final stage; after it comes Returning to the Marketplace.) The restlessness seems to be impatience with teacher/seekers at some "earlier stage" that are presenting themselves in an annoying fashion at Nonduality meetings as further along than they are, suffering from delusions of grandeur, or as egoless when ego is evident. 
I gather this is de rigueur for seekers, "jumping the gun" in this way. Some seekers apparently get a big glimpse and immediately start to teach with little foundation for it.  There's a lot of lovey-doveyness around, which is probably stage two or three of most of these traditional practices, where the illusion of subject/object has been noted, and the awakening human is infatuated with the Oneness of it all. I suppose I describe the absolute Source (or whatever) with the blog title phrase:  "nothing exists, despite appearances."  This is simply the phraseology that seemed closest at the time. It's a poor description, as they all must be, concepts never being what they describe. It all seems to unfold just as it must. This includes some teachers' impatience with the Advaita circus, and desire for only those who realise what stage they're at (thus displaying a little humility) to ask for their help.  
There is little difference, if any, between meeting the realised sage that seems to transfer some kind of energetic awakening by his mere presence (the purported goal of satsang) and a nice chat with the guy you meet by chance on a walk to the shops. There is no importance to attending a nonduality gathering and ascertaining which teachers/speakers are frauds, what stage everyone is at, whether one person is further along than someone else, who's in it for the money, who's in it for the fame, who's in it for the glory, or who's in it to try and help (most of them). It makes absolutely no difference whether there actually ARE stages of enlightenment or not.  All of these things are fascinating stories and judgements, but that's all they are.  Each and every apparent experience, or lack of experience, or shoe-tying incident, or bodily elevation to Nirvana are entirely equal, worthy, valid and ultimately non-existent, if we're operating on the premise that reality is illusory.  This includes superseding reality in some nifty beyond-beyondness way.  It includes even the lack of an experience, and complete return to the Source.  No matter how important our mind with its love of hierarchy makes it, or how hard we work for these magnificent achievements, everything that is or isn't is the same thing (or lack of "thing").  Nobody (or no non-person) is doing any "better" than anyone "else".
What I notice at these Nonduality gatherings is a lot of sufferers that need reassurance, teachers that are doing the best they can at whatever stage they may (or may not) be at, and a fair few seekers who are neglecting friends, children, long-tolerant spouses, their education, their bills, etc. for this dream of True Beyondness and the Absolute Best way to Be, or not Be. I couldn't say what stage I'm at.  Probably either completely stage one, if that, totally ego-enmeshed and deluded, or a full Bodhisattva who has been to Nirvana, done that, and chooses to remain human in order to help others.  Or something in between.  It doesn't matter one whit which one it is, or isn't.  They are all the same thing.
I keep saying "favourite movie" but this time it's really, really true.  I first saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on a long plane ride, and ended up watching it three or four times.  Brilliant premise - there exists a company that can wipe certain persons from your memory.  Clementine decides to do this with Joel, her ex-boyfriend, and Joel follows suit in a fit of pique.  However, mid-procedure,  Joel decides he doesn't want to forget Clementine and does his best to hide her memory as they are busy wiping her out.  (Spoilers follow!)  In the end, they find out about each other and the procedure, after having met again, after the memory wipes, by chance.  They know why the relationship didn't work out.  But they don't care.  They decide to go through it all again.  This is the scene where they decide to do this, and the whole film is the most glorious celebration of the value of getting things wrong.  Watch the film, if you haven't - it's also satisfying to see Jim Carrey in a non-gurning role.

Thursday 7 June 2012

But Had a Rougher Task in Hand Than to Drive Liking to the Name of Love.

So many paths, so little "time".  What to do next?  Meditate?  Achieve stillness?  See the absolute and attain "continuous nondual perception"?  All of those simultaneously?

Nondual perception is this perception.  There is no other perception.  You are already there, you are already that, this is it, etc. etc.  Maybe the thoughts coming up and what they are saying about This is what you are mistaking for This, although those thoughts are also seamlessly This.  There will be many people who write about this stuff - me included, occasionally - who recommend methods for clearing the thoughts up, or for not believing the thoughts.  The thoughts come.  Just try to stop them.  But just as the images of the film happen on the still screen, the still screen is there no matter what nonsensical plot twists and turns unfold on it.  You don't even particularly have to tune out the movie and sense only the screen.  It's there. No matter what.  You can believe it, or not.  It's there.

Nobody believes that this ordinary, everyday perception is what Enlightened Life is.  It must be more special, more perfect, more blissful, more loving, certainly with fewer thoughts and even less judgement.  Whatever reality seems to be, and whatever thought judges and interprets it as, is yet another face of love, or of God, or of the Absolute.  It just is.  It's doesn't get any better or worse than what it is.  What it is, is miraculous, by virtue of its mere existence.  Sometimes this seems more obvious than at other times.  All times are one.  All states and interpretations are equal.  All acts, happenings, feelings, sensations and thoughts are love, playing the duality game so that they may be manifest; so that they may be something, rather than nothing.  Perhaps it is problematic to have certain expectations, and narrow definitions of what life must be like.  On the other hand, perhaps suffering due to these expectations and definitions are exactly what must be.  If it is, it must be.  Often, those who have the memory of suffering would not trade it for anything.  It seems precious, and is often seen as the story of a springboard.  Suffering, then redemption.  Hard work, then rest.  However, it doesn't matter what the story seems to be or how it is retold with hindsight.  All stories are told now. 

While waiting for enlightenment, if you don't believe enlightenment is already the case, perhaps it's a good idea to do the best possible job you can do, however that is defined at the time, with the task in hand - whatever it seems to be. If it seems to be bridging the gap between "me over here" and "you over there," don't be afraid to judge that noble.

Ah, the task in hand.  Phil Connors gets ample time to explore several tasks as he relives the same day over and over in the classic film Groundhog Day.  There are many estimates as to how long Phil relived February 2nd:  anything from 8 to 50 years, with 10,000 years mentioned on one site! A representative estimate is here.  I always thought it was interesting that Phil managed to achieve intimacy in his relationships without the usual facility of memory and continuity (on everybody else's part anyway).  Maybe it takes time to learn to play the piano, but perhaps bridging that imagined gap between people is always already done.  Working on a relationship in time is also worthy.  Both are possible.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

All Great Fears, Which Now Import Their Dangers, Would Then Be Nothing.

There is a lot of talk amongst nonduality teachers and writers about integration.  About having an "awakening experience" and then living life in accordance to this new perspective or point of view (or lack of a point of view!).  Conversely, there is much talk about there not being any goals at all, or indeed, anything at all...reality is illusory...especially the apparent moment in which some awakening experience seems to happen.  There is guru bashing, and also encouragement to find the right guru, or teacher.  There is much emphasis put upon the concept that there can be no teacher or experience that can get you any closer to what you already are.  The importance of meditation is often stressed, and firmly so:  i.e., by the latest speaker on  Buddha at the Gas Pump.  The significance of the absence of thought and thus allowing present awareness to be more obvious than usual seems to imply that a certain state of mind is necessary for "awakening" or "enlightenment" to occur.  Apparently.

The flavour of Eastern traditions - ones that minutely dissect all meditative experience and states of consciousness, and puts them in a prioritised hierarchy - suffuses the content of some speakers, teachers and writers.  This flavour hints at "glimpses" being inferior and that a more concrete, lasting state (sometimes labelled in Western scientific fashion as  "persistent nondual awareness") exists, and is desirable.  And desire!  The tangled topic of desiring enlightenment - surely a manifestation of ego identity wanting things to be just generally "better" - gets garbled with eliminating desire through some force of will or with meditation; such a lack of desire is sometimes labelled acceptance; acceptance is sometimes dismissed as an act of will by the illusory identity.  Assimilating these concepts, the conclusion might very well be:  I can't win.

It's confusing and fascinating.  Perhaps all concepts can be looked at as the interesting dualistic manifestation of human nature, wanting to understand.  They may conflict, but they arise from the same geothermal thought pool, looking and feeling different but actually all the same thing.  Such is the nature of what is seen, heard, and felt; experienced and perceived; thought and judged.  Integration of the enlightened state of mind into daily life has been the goal of mankind since self-awareness.  We try rules, we try laws, we try kindness, we try instinct.  We keep trying.  And rarely consider that this is already integration.

Self awareness gives rise to self indulgence with this clip.  This is my favourite comic scene from my favourite comic performance from my favourite comedic actress, the great Dyan Cannon.  Heaven Can Wait is showing occasionally on one of the Sky film channels and the Tivo is set to catch it next time around...can't wait to share this one with the kids.  Enjoy - hysteria arises in awareness, and arises with superb comic timing.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Wherein I am False I am Honest; Not True, to Be True.

We are all seeking, and there is nothing wrong with that.  The emptiness, the darkness, the sense of being unfulfilled - there is nothing wrong with these plights.  Even in an end to seeking there arises many of the old conditioned responses, but perhaps these are not so bothersome.  It wouldn't matter if they were.  It doesn't matter if they are.

There are many suggested paths, some suggested more stridently than others, and some requiring more stringent actions.  Truth is plain at source, and is everything everywhere, but truth is malleable when concerned with ideas and concepts, even the most scientific ones.  Just pat your mind on its head and love its childlike need to have everything explained in an organised, sensible fashion...then just get on with it.  What ever It Is.

There is no one path.  (No, not even the Pathless Path. ) There is no ideal state of being other than what apparently is here and now.  There is no perfect story, no way out, no golden rules, no absolute truths, no perfect hints and no sure-fire tips on how to Live Your Life.  There is no perfect guru and no true religion.  There is just This, and what is made of it by Mind is neither here nor there.  Just enjoy it.  Be it, live it.  Try to fix it, or don't.  Improve the story, or let it organically unfold.  Try not to run away from it...but even running away is the perfect action, if that is what seems to be happening.  If you get it wrong, let me know.

I have been Shanghaied into watching every single episode of all eight seasons of Entourage by my Entourage-mad husband and son.  The joy of it is the work of Jeremy Piven, who plays Ari Gold, the Best Agent in Hollywood.  He is simply one of the best comedic actors working and I am a shamelessly big fan.  See his earlier work as the gay Versace salesman in Rush Hour 2 for a flavour of his range.  In this clip's rant he may just be a hair from "getting it wrong" when he's saying what he'd like to do to Terrence and Lloyd!  Enjoy.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

I Am Here Already, Sir.

There doesn't need to be a subtle shift in perception for enlightenment; there doesn't need to be any change at all. Change is impossible; whatever its face, eternity is always this. Enlightenment - awakening - is no more nor less than this, whether it's before thought judges it or not; the judgmental thought is this, too. The endless moment is this, always this, no matter what the mind seems to be making of it. Awakening is ordinary, mundane existence, just as it's always been, but very few minds will believe this.

There doesn't need to be a deepening of present awareness. There doesn't need to be more and more alpha waves, out-of body experiences, or the becoming of bliss and love itself. It can be about loving all, or falling in love with everybody, or frankly remaining a little wary. Although these apparent experiences may, indeed, occur, they are no less or no more this than anything else. This is all experience. Just as it always has been, is, and will be.

There is no correct method. All methods are correct. Some methods are correct in that they teach us of their inappropriateness, or untruthfulness. Life itself, exactly as presented, is always the best spiritual practice. However the story seems to unravel is unimportant. Once the pointlessness of life's story is apprehended, perhaps life's story can finally be revelled in. Perhaps realising that nothing matters in and of itself makes everything precious, in and of itself. Perhaps the loving feelings in the satsang or the therapy spread to the important relationships already a part of the story: spouse, children, girlfriend, boyfriend, mother, father, friends. Perhaps without the fear of certain dreaded outcomes, intimacy becomes natural. But even the faltering, human attempts at union with others (who are not truly other) is also beauty manifest. The muddling attempts are This; the blissful, honest communion is This; there is no escaping This. You are This.

OK, I've been looking for a decent embeddable clip of this scene for a couple of could be better, but it'll have to do - apologies for the ads. WHY do the Coen brothers continue to make fabulous movies, when M. Night Shyamalan seems to have gone completely off the rails? It's just not fair. There is no need for me to add to the accolades The Big Lebowski has garnered over the years, so I'll just say that this scene is the best crafted character introduction I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing: the socks...the nail...the purple uniform...the goatee...the hairnet...the tongue! Jesus is definitely already here, and in a big way. Enjoy.

Thursday 29 December 2011

With These Forced Thoughts, I Prithee, Darken Not The Mirth o' the Feast.

If life seems unfulfilling, the fulfilment is in that disappointment. If there is suffering, know that the suffering itself is not "wrong", only judged to be uncomfortable.  If the judgement is final and harsh, and the suffering is of a child abused or an innocent tortured, the despair and pain itself are what life is, right here, right now; and however Job-like the story seems to be, however unbalanced and unfair and intolerable, there is balance and justice and harmony in the same moment.  There are individuals whose unfolding story will be about eradicating such injustice, and rescuing the sufferer.  To be the child whose painful life is cut short by hunger is to have the privileged role of inciting another's story to altruistic action.  It is all here, it is always now, and the possibilities of life manifest are endless.

Within those possibilities is the vision of a world that runs efficiently, and where fewer actions are based upon the base fears of survival.  By all means, if this vision is alive for you and the plight of others seems intolerable, take whatever actions necessary to relieve some of the world's inequalities.  Give generously, travel to where help is needed most, and provide what help is possible.  Try not to worry that there will always be identities that, through fear, will seek to profit at the expense of others.  If there is balance, and there is good, there is evil: life cannot appear without this duality, although perhaps evil can be contained and reorganised.

Life appears as it is, neutrally, unheeding of man's inhumanity to man, merely appearing thus.  To let go of the need to change whatever is, is to make change more likely in the story that unfolds.  To stop listening to the thoughts and judgements and categorisations that always arise in the mind is to be free to do anything at all without the identity being validated, or not, by that action.  A certain natural acceptance can creep into the unfolding story, and this includes the acceptance of strong urges to change the story into what is usually judged "better".  The goal is not to be either without goals or to have only noble ones.  The goal is not to accept unconditionally all that seems to be.  This is the goal, whatever this is, however it is judged.  It is impossible to get it wrong.

I thought I'd better slip this clip in quickly whilst the holiday season is still upon this.  When the kids and I watch this film I weep freely throughout, still jangling along with loads of apparent conditioning to value life.  This is my favourite moment from the film, which makes clear the butterfly effect; everything unfolds just as it's meant to, and messing with it can certainly change the story!  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Lohri, and have a great Nirvana Day. 

Thursday 24 November 2011

For Certainly Thou Art so Near the Gulf, Thou Needs Must Be Englutted.

Why are we searching and what are we searching for?  What is it that compels the will to seek something more, something better, something superior than what is right here and right now?  Perhaps it is the legacy of survival.  Perhaps we are always subconsciously striving to find the bigger prey, or the more secure shelter, or the healthiest and best-looking mate in order that the species might survive.  The same imperative may well inform the spiritual search:  the mission to improve our souls, to understand fully, and to exist completely and holistically in the consciousness that makes reality appear.  A vague unsettled-ness pervades our perception.  The feeling that something is missing, and that things are never complete and accepted just as they are may very well be a healthy urge to constantly better our circumstances, and put off the death of the body and the mind by virtue of stabler shelter, ever more protective and loving relationships, and increasingly healthy and satisfying food.  The "spiritual" goals of  losing ourselves completely in existence, and flowing unhindered with the energies of life, is reflected in our fear-driven urges and instincts.  They reflect beautifully, in duality, the oneness that they actually are. 

In losing one's self, a symptom of less fear is more compassion.  Compassion may seem to go against the grain of survival, as it shows mercy to those whose bodies and minds are not best suited for mere survival, and yet paradoxically strengthens our social bonds and thus further ensures that our species endures.  On the coat-tails of compassion comes great humility and possibly the clear perception of the size of all things.  Then we know the survival of the species is not necessarily important.  However consciousness (or awareness, or God, or Brahman, or whatever label we put on totality) manifests is perfection.  It manifests joyfully, whatever the face of it; the jumble of  horror and bliss that makes the whole cannot be molded into some logical package.  We question, and the question is its own answer.  We struggle, and the struggle is its own resolution.  We falter, and that error is Being's exquisite statement of the faultless imperfection of humanity. And we land where we began, with everything everywhere, here and now, fought with or accepted, or perhaps both at once.  The search is the destination. Here is the answer; there is no other.

The Addams Family films are right up my street, or rather down my poorly-lit alley. Interestingly, the original television series starred the great John Astin as Gomez, who is the father of non-duality writer and singer/songwriter John Astin. This clip is for all my Native American friends, all my Swedish friends and all fans of justice.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday 6 November 2011

With Truth and Plainness I do Wear Mine Bare.

Enlightenment is the realisation that there are no objects or subjects: all that seems to exist is One seamless whole. Or, it is the psychological process of stripping away the identity, achieved through diligent practice of meditation and self-enquiry, often aided by a teacher in such disciplines as Advaita Vedanta or traditional Zen Buddhism. Or, it is the epiphany that everything one has ever desired is always here, always now, because there is nothing but here and now. Or, it is not a state, not a thought, not a concept, not a description, not a word, but vibrant, present existence itself before that existence can be judged and measured by the mind. Or it is all of these things. Or it is none of these things. Or it is.

Enlightenment, some say, is only the beginning. How the comprehension and apprehension of the infinite affects the finite story that the point, if there is any point at all. The story does not exist in the infinite, therefore it is meaningless; but in the disregard for its meaning can lie the appreciation for its intrinsic value, of the story’s almost infinite designs and whimsies, tragedies and glories.

Mariana Caplan is a psychotherapist, yoga teacher and nonduality enthusiast, and a pragmatic and sensible teacher of spirituality. She has various degrees and generally strikes a nice balance between modern Western interpretation of ancient Eastern philosophy and scientific methodology, if one can call psychotherapy scientific. She recently gave an interview to Nonduality Magazine and a quote truly resonated with me:

"NDM: What about the "Stink of enlightenment?" What is this and how do you know is someone has this stink?

Mariana Caplan: I think the stink, as considered from a contemporary perspective, is that there are many sophisticated techniques for nondual insight readily available these days, and that people are continually mistaking a flash of insight, or even many flashes of such insight over a long period of time, for enlightenment. All of that is just the very beginning of the path, not the end. How do we know someone has it? That’s a delicate question. For myself, I know who I want to hang out with and when I smell the spiritual gobbly-gook that I have no interest in. I am much more interested in integration. Where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. How that moment of enlightenment was helpful in becoming more intimate with one’s partner, or child. That gets exciting."

How marvellous, this concept of integration, or “practising these principles in all our affairs” as the 12-step programmes of recovery put it. How differently it can seem to unfold: either effortlessly or with much diligent, labour-intensive conscious application.
Perhaps all such concepts are roughly equal - equally misguided, or equally valid - since talking about it is not "it" except inasmuch as talking (thinking, writing, conversing) may be what is at this particular moment. Is the point of enlightenment to make the story of life “better” - how “better” is usually judged, dictated largely by biological survival - in terms of happiness, intimacy, mental stability, and the brotherhood of humanity finally getting over itself and getting its act together? Isn’t it counter-productive to have any goal or desire, even if the desire is of the highest, best kind? Isn’t it useful to “let go” of everything you have ever considered sacrosanct in order to be entirely free, and able to see things exactly for what they are? Or is it best to entirely relax all semblance of control, and let life live you? The ego, or identity, or personality, or mind, grapples with these questions and concepts, knowing it can’t figure it out, yet powerless to stop the quest for understanding. Strangely fitting, how the ego so very much wants the thing that may very well kill it.

Enjoyment can arise with all that fruitless fun. By all means, enjoy the unfolding, and let each glimpse and flash of the infinite inform the finite actions and energies of your small, meaningless yet intrinsically significant life. Why not?


Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of those films that truly resonates on a cultural reference level, and thus reveals my apparent age. I like nearly every scene in the film but this one, near the end, where Spicoli delivers his best line and Sean Penn foreshadows his career as an actor who truly crawls into a character, is the one that evokes the most spontaneous pleasure. As far as I'm concerned, both characters display integrated enlightenment. Enjoy...

Thursday 8 September 2011

I Have Lived to Die When I Desire.

The path to enlightenment - as one studies the literature and resources available, seeks out the working teachers, and explores the various traditions that exist - often requires the seeker to stop desiring...well, anything, really. When you cannot be hurt, the self is gone; when you desire nothing, everything is available; the absence of desire is the beginning of happiness; and on and on. This is another way to be. No desire is difficult since the ego is manipulating its desires, and in the end desires desirelessness. Well, expand beyond the ego, say the sages. In the state of grace, Nirvana, or whichever label we're attaching to the concept/state of perfect bliss - a very desirable state - all worldly concerns disappear, along with the body, if only for a brief time. Go beyond. Far beyond, way beyond...into nothingness.

In the meantime, our friends and loved ones probably are wondering why we're so detached and uncaring, and have stopped doing the laundry, or helping the children with their homework, or having difficult conversations about those things friends inevitably clash on when they have two differing sets of conditioning.

Oh no, say the sages, in the state of ego desirelessness, all beings are equally loved, in fact, they are recognised as being love itself. This is so. But perhaps not desiring fun, fulfillment or health for ourselves and others can be described as not using all the marvelous tools we apparently have: our emotions, our minds, our arms, our legs.

There is nothing wrong with following certain traditions that endorse desirelessness. If nothing else, it's a useful discipline. But wading into the whole ego/life setup, sleeves rolled up, full of humanity, can also give a great "result". It is, in fact, what you've been doing all along. Even if you've been meditating away your desires.

The following clip from The Remains of the Day is the best illustration I know of advocating a little unrequited longing. The tool of desire, unindulged, gives us - in the vast panoply of human emotion - something incredibly raw and rich, sharp yet soft. Anthony Hopkins acts his comfy cardy off. Those eyes!

Monday 18 July 2011

A Fool That Seest a Game Play'd Home, the Rich Stake Drawn, And Takest it All for Jest.

There is often a compelling urge to right perceived wrongs, find the correct path in life, or change what is and our reactions to it. Meaning, meaning, meaning: there is the endless search for it. The urge to do the right thing, find the right belief system, the right form of meditation, the correct way of being and doing and thinking and feeling...yet all of this is fraught with intrinsic meaning.

I cannot vouch for the absolute. I cannot describe what is before and beyond all description by definitive default. Nor can anyone; "pointers", we are told, are all that can be managed. It is perhaps a trick of the ego, to claim for itself everlasting eternal existence whilst denying its own reality. It is perhaps a quirk of the identity to endeavour, through years of diligent practice in a recognised form of Buddhism or Vedanta, to strip away the very thing that practices. I can only say that the practice is the goal; the journey is the destination; and the seeking is the realisation.

Try as we might to describe the quality of existence, the nameless being-ness, simple and unadorned, that is the underlying common denominator of all that is and seems to be, we stumble over the words that are never the thing itself. Yet those words and concepts are life too. Scholarly appreciation and tenacious study of the nature of consciousness are laudable; dedicated practice in the meditative states that clear away, if only for a short time, the running commentary on existence is to be admired. But life need not be, nor is it likely to be, understood to be lived. To be here, now is not an elusive state that the mind must be conditioned to. To be here, now is all there ever is. If meaning is taken from the turn of events or the events themselves, either possibility is exactly as is must be.

Several clips today, each of them a brief scene of fun or poignancy. Enjoy.

Monday 6 June 2011

It Is Required You Do Awake Your Faith. Then All Stand Still.

One way of describing reality is that everything is God; every feeling, happening, thought, object...everything. It is all love, it is all this, it is all itself. It can have any and every appearance and quality, including hating humanity or loathing the world or, indeed, loving humanity and accepting the world. Or something that seems in between.

There is no awakening moment, only perhaps a memory of such a labeled, interpreted experience: the memory, as everything, is happening now. There are also plenty of unfolding stories that are about a gentle awakening and seeing...or not seeing, or trying to see. It doesn't matter. "You" can't get it "wrong". Whatever seems to be happening is exactly what must happen, and what should happen. It can be suffering, but it doesn't have to be. It doesn't matter at all whether the story is one of suffering or not. There is no one way, or correct way, only every way, which is one way, since everything that seems to be is one seamless whole. If loving others arises, love them. If not, try to love them anyway, because love is probably akin to recognising that others are not other at all...we are all the same thing.

Being a single mom or dad or part of a family or a hermit in a self-sustainable mountain retreat is simply what seems to be. Whatever the story of life is, that is the best possible story.
The identity that seems to be in some situation is truly not in it; what we are is what that identity arises in, and is free from it; the identity, environment and manifest reality is simply awareness expressed. The more it is relished, the less it is likely to be about suffering. The more it is accepted, the less likely it is to be uncomfortable. Bliss is more likely when the inherent miraculousness of reality itself is recognised. However, the outcome of the story doesn't matter because truly, there is no story; there is only this perfect, timeless, endless moment, consciousness, awareness, whatever you care to label it. It's all here now. The story of bliss and the story of suffering are equally valid, equally important, equally "right".

You ARE your true nature. This is your true nature. It's nothing different from this. The realisation that such is the case is the "ah ha" that people sometimes go on about. There may be disappointment that such a spontaneous realisation hasn't happened yet, or that buckling down and really getting serious and following the prescribed schedule of meditation and self-enquiry is the right thing to do...there's nothing wrong with feeling and thinking those things. The idea that nothing is as it seems, and the small shocks or big shocks around that...perfect. Wanting a romantic relationship...great. Wondering if a relationship would create more attachment...fantastic. Staying on your own, feeling noble...just fine. Trusting life, or doubting life, or focusing on thoughts, or believing that focusing on thoughts are creating certain realities...perfect. Achieving out-of-body awareness after much meditation and practice...wonderful. Questioning it all...fabulous. What you're looking for is what you are doing right now, whatever that is, even if it's a resistant thought.

YOU CAN'T GET IT WRONG. You're doing it. You've been doing it all along. You can't not do it. Your thoughts can't keep you from what you are. This is it, this is it, this is IT!

The beginning and the end of the story: in this case, the Woody Allen film Manhattan. Our family is going to New York for the summer and the film we thought the kids might like to see in preparation is Woody's cinematic love poem. The opening is clever, visually compelling and enticing; the end, a very sweet and deceptively simple exposé of both human vulnerability and the wisdom of unjaded youth. I'm really looking forward to seeing the whole film again with the kids! Enjoy.

Monday 16 May 2011

I Drink, I Eat, Array Myself, and Live. Canst Thou Believe thy Living is a Life, so Stinkingly Depending?

Sometimes the feeling arises that whatever is, is never enough. It must be better, or stronger, or wiser, or fuller, or simply different. We seem to take endless actions, caught up in being the change that will make what the current circumstance, thoughts and feelings perfect, or at least more amenable. These actions can arise even if there is no conscious effort. These actions can seem to take care of themselves. There is instinct, we opine, and there is control-freakishness. If only I can let go and let God (or Oneness, or whatever we are labelling the play of life today) I will at last be happy and content. I will be the person I was meant to be. I will be better, newer, wiser, more compassionate, less selfish, and released from the bondage of self. I will stop identifying with the packet of causes and conditions I'm calling the ego, and my ego will at last be content. Because whatever it is that these causes and conditions are right now is not enough; or it is wrong; or it is flawed; or it is not as it is meant to be.

It's amazing, how the very same set of conditions and feelings and perceptions can be both lacking and full. How wondrous that the very same existence can be seen as either missing something, or absolutely complete. What is looked for, what is sought, is what looks for it; it is life just exactly as it is this moment. You need not "wake up". The mind will say, well, there is some change of perception that's not here yet. But it is here, it is now, because there is nothing else.

A film can be made or ruined by the opening title sequence. In Dr. Strangelove, the slow, languid movement of one jet towing another to the paradoxical strains of "Try a Little Tenderness" as a backdrop for hand-lettered typography counters perfectly the chaos and futility of the film to come. Or, if you're on a shoestring, compose your own creepy, urgent electronic theme, carve a jack o'lantern, put the titles on the right in matching orange, and ever so slowly move in closer to the pumpkin's face and you have the brilliant opening for the classic horror Halloween. The following clips are two examples of very different moods. The first is Repo Man, a quickly edited green-on-black map of the areas in the western US pertinent to the film's action, driven by Iggy Pop's classic punk riffs with an American accent. The second is the masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird, with the symbolic childhood treasures in Scout's cigar box lain out for us to see, introducing us fittingly to her story. Each is a prime example of hooking us in and setting the mood. Enjoy.

To kill a mockingbird Ouverture by jedall

Thursday 21 April 2011

This Bodiless Creation Ecstasy Is Very Cunning.

There is no awakening. There is no enlightenment. There is what is. Labels of awakening and enlightenment are another playful game of life, looking wonderingly at itself in all that is. Whether one "awakens" before "physical death" is a concept that gives the apparently unfolding story and its outcomes deep meaning. Whatever it is that seems to happen, awakening or lila, samsara or enlightenment, bliss or sorrow, is just as it should be, and are all the mind's labels "after" the fact. A spiritual journey is fun, engaging, intense and interesting. Those stories of reincarnation and karma are particularly fascinating stories the ego tells itself to keep itself going. If reincarnation "is," who cares...the new personality doesn't remember the last one, past life regressions aside. The story can be as interesting, and as long - thousands of years - as you like; it can include such things as telepathy, remote viewing, alien control, chakra energy centres, transcendant bliss, and suicidal depression if ordinary day-to-day living just isn't doing it for you. The mind will do a lot to make sense of life, bring in the concept of karma, of heaven and hell, of the last second of life being a pinpoint of infinity, where the final decision is many belief systems, so little "time".

All the answers to all the questions about life and death, birth and rebirth, samsara and awakening are "right", or "wrong". Conflicting answers can co-exist simultaneously, but the mind can't handle the co-existence of antithetical concepts, and so attempts to pigeonhole reality, to force it to make sense within narrow parameters. It is possible that the need for it to make sense can seemingly just fly away.

Some seekers have a very narrow definition of what "awakening" or "enlightenment" is. It is this. You are there. You are it already, your mind just can't believe it. It's not joy or bliss or tears or gratitude; it's this, whatever flavour and quality "this" seems to have. You deserve it, you are it, and in the unfolding story in relative reality, when the outcomes aren't the goal, it seems the goals become attainable. There is no goal. And in that concept, all goals become possible, because they are possible, especially in the absence of stultifying concepts.

If you seem to be going through a rough patch, and your mind is roving and spinning and trying to make sense of everything (a friend of mine calls it "washing machine mind"), don't worry. This isn't necessarily bad, although very uncomfortable. Perhaps it's an idea to relax, and hang in there - it's worth it. In the ever-changing, endless, timelees moment that is "this", all you have to do is nothing and everything changes anyway. It doesn't matter whether "you" "awaken" or not. The perfect expression is already you. If that expression is an ego that believes that it's separate from the rest of reality and is in pain because of this, that's a perfect expression as well. You are perfect. Whatever is happening is just as it must be. If you resist this, the resistance is perfect. Nothing is excluded. Here is the perfect playground for existence, right here, right now, always, even if it's negative, which balances out all that boring bliss stuff. If at all possible, try to enjoy it!

Bill Murray's character Phil asks a pertinent question at the beginning of this clip from Groundhog Day, one of the best films of all time and a fabulous analogy to seeking enlightenment. He is just beginning to sense what's important, at least to his character...after many failed attempts, he finally realises what his purpose is: live, and love, in a nutshell. Enjoy.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

When I Waked, I Found this Label on my Bosom.

There are so many assumptions, so many givens, so many "truths" we hold as absolute without being truly conscious of it. There are as well beliefs we consciously take on board so as to busy ourselves constructing the one true way to live, the correct prescription for life, the right things to do. There is the subtle interplay of conditioning and experience, fears and hopes, aspirations and defeats that come together in a beautiful, intricate culmination of a thousand causes and conditions that always are this one and endless moment. Some of us believe in reason and science, in observable reality, a reality that is reasonably objectively agreed upon; some of us see angels and feel energies and hear colours that are no less real, but perhaps not as objectively identifiable. These things all are, and are not; there is immediate presence before any analysis, or labelling, or judgement.

The words we use to label what we observe are often multifariously defined. The labels we hold sacred can fall apart somewhat; a quantum physicist struggling to pin down the movements of the ever tinier parts of an atom finds the labels "to observe" and "to effect" surprisingly interchangeable. We are boxed in by our beliefs, but also free within them, and helpless to choose anything but what is chosen, even when the choice is to discard our belief systems. There is freedom within the strict parameters of a sonnet, or a brief haiku. Beliefs don't necessarily limit us. We are limitless despite any beliefs.

I love Wayne's World so much I want to marry it. Being a complete sucker for cinematic in-jokes, I feel a beggar at a feast when watching this surprisingly intelligent film. Not only do we get subtitle gags, but rooftop philosophy..."when you label me, you negate me" is worthy of a long-winded essay. I think it was Dick Van Patten! Enjoy...a LOT. (Apologies for the ad up front...I couldn't find another version except in German.)

Sunday 6 March 2011

How Often Dost Thou with thy Case, thy Habit, Wrench Awe from Fools?

Sometimes, the expectations are met, and even then the ego feels a little cheated. The seeker will have a blinding flash of revelation and realise that this is it, that this reality lived is all the same thing, or that everything is one, or that there is actually nothingness, and what seems to be is illusion ("...albeit a persistent one" as Einstein observed). Whatever words or concepts attached to the revelation never capture it, or are a part of it, or are the current manifestation in this ever-changing endless moment. So, I was always here, this was always it, nothing has changed, notes the ego. Is this all there is then? Is this really all there is?

The ego may then be lived along the lines of row, row, row your boat. Life is but a dream, and the dreamer is no more; there is just the dream, manifesting. The story can then unfold in a stream of arisings, unlived by a dominant persona, unvalued by a needy identity. Life is everything, everything is life, there is no judgement, nothing truly matters, yet everything does by virtue of its apparent existence. But is that all there is? Is all there is, all there is? The ego will never be satisfied and that is its job. Questing, striving, improving, giving up, sinking, triumphing, seeking, finding; it will never be done, life will never be settled - but life not seeming settled is fulfillment disguised. If the illusion of reality is recognised, this striving, straining, project-building, happiness-confirming, comfort-saving unfolding of the human story can, at last, be fully stepped into and lived. The ego may arise, but its validation is no longer the tale being told. So roll up your sleeves and dig into it - with the ego, or egoless, whatever it seems like - even if it all seems black and full of despair, it's a miracle there is anything to do or feel or think or be at all.

I wasn't able to dig up the specific, small clip I wanted from The Return of the Jedi. In its favour, this longer clip takes place before the nauseatingly cute Ewoks show up. The bit I wanted was a brilliant exchange between Han and Luke, full of irony, and in a series lambasted for weak character development, illustrative of the timbre of their relationship in a 30-second snippet of dialogue. Also in its favour is the first glimpse of Princess Leia in her Jabba-slave getup, the launch of a million boys' fantasies...those that were teenagers in the mid-80's especially. I can imagine Carrie Fisher looks at this, notes her perfect stomach, and thinks, "I looked fabulous and it's recorded for all time in an iconic film." It's also fun to laugh at the state-of-the-art puppets, and stop-motion monster; kids today have little patience for these effects, built by the boys in the backroom with latex. In fact, my children are even discerning about the quality of CGI; if it's not top-notch, they're likely to inquire "CGI much?" of the screen. Touchingly, the monster's keeper puts in the best small role performance of the Star Wars hexad as the sole mourner of the beast's demise. I wanted the exchange between Luke and Han because it captures the attitude arising for me, the character Suzanne, or whatever it's OK to call the ol' identity today. Have fun watching.

Monday 28 February 2011

But You, O You, so Perfect and so Peerless, Are Created of Every Creature's Best!

Perhaps it is desirable to stop whatever quest or mission you are on and just enjoy the breath of life, the tingle of being. These complex tales of a life well lived or wasted are so compelling and ensnaring that the simple pleasure of consciousness is often overlooked. Whatever enticing form and quality, light and texture being seems to take, it is ever wondrous, ever fascinating, ever miraculous in its simple existence. Here you are; this is it; partake or deny, relish or resist it. This everlasting moment, always now, ever here, is its own sweet self before any thought judges it to be otherwise.

Always impossible to describe because it is simpler than description, usually elusive to the mind despite being all-pervasive; sometimes mistaken for a mirror of itself and often missed because its omnipresence defies observation, is simply what is. All the questing, longing, searching, missing, needing, emptiness, frustration, incompleteness and yearning for more are just crafty, mischievous stand-ins for This: the current guise, the fleeting quality. There is never ever anything that is not This.

Have fun trying to describe it; crawl into it, become it; you are it. What is aware of it, is it as well. Sink into despair and be it; rise into the helium of transformative joy. All is This; this is all. There is no need for anything to be other than it is, including the strong feeling that it should be otherwise.

This clip is the simply brilliant opening of the endlessly fun film, Pulp Fiction. Everything about it is fabulous; the casting of Amanda Plummer and Tim Roth; the dialogue, natural yet almost a parody of itself; the headlong progression from empirical discussion to sudden action; the juxtaposition of a sweet loving couple and a couple of ruthless bandits; Honey Bunny's vicious, unexpected transformation from timid and mousy to brutal and dangerous; and the technical brilliance of the segue from opening scene to titles, aided by the inspired choice of Misirlou, a Greek dance tune, by surf guitarist extraordinaire Dick Dale. Do more than enjoy it - be it!

Wednesday 23 February 2011

As Ravenous Fishes, Do a Vessel Follow that Is New-trimm'd, but Benefit no Further than Vainly Longing.

There is no more point to going to a meeting of friends together, a satsang, or whatever we're calling it today than there is of anything else. It is all sound and fury, it all signifies nothing. Sometimes it's silence and comfort but nothing it still signifies. Perhaps presence with others is desirable, perhaps some mind-quelling understanding or brain-stilling space can be more easily discerned, but that then is the story of desirability or easy discernment or the usefulness of a still, unthinking mind. Some seekers of truth come away from such meetings concluding that no matter what the speaker says or does, it is pleasant to pass some hours and converse with like-minded friends and acquaintances. The contentedness of the speaker is somehow catching; the fact that whatever is, here, now, this very moment, seems to be more than enough for the speaker rubs off a little, and the seeker feels a little more satisfied with life. Is being satified with life the goal? Is there a goal?

Maybe there is some spontaneous brain-bending change of perception. Even if there is, when it is no longer, it is only a spark of memory. Whatever form this takes, it is the same essence. Boredom, hatred, love, hope, creation, murder; these are all the faces of the same nothingness that seemingly takes form. Feeling that endless longing for more, going to a meeting with a teacher, writing, blogging, reading, talking, grasping for the ever-elusive understanding of This: it is all This. Whatever is, is just what it is. It is as it is; it is as it must be.

Rarely is contentedness with life more apparent than when watching the genius of Peter Sellars and Blake Edwards. Fond memories arise of watching Pink Panther films on TV as a child, usually Saturday afternoon with the family. This Clouseau vs. Cato vignette is my favourite, from The Pink Panther Strikes Again. The comic use of slo-mo vocals, combined with brilliant editing (thank you Alan Jones), and perfectly timed physical comedy make this battle stand out. Finally, a nod to Burt Kwouk, just made an OBE for Services to Drama and second banana extraordinaire. Enjoy.

La panthère rose : Clouseau vs Cato
Uploaded by david1705ts14. - Classic TV and last night's shows, online.

Friday 11 February 2011

I Did Steer Toward This Remedy, Whereupon We Are Now Present Here Together.

What is it that would make everything OK? What is it that is wrong? How can a change in the way things are become anything but - seemingly created over and over - the way things are? Consciousness detects reality, and reality can be interpreted infinitely. Conversely, consciousness is reality, and needs no interpretation...although there is no stopping the interpreting. Grief, discomfort, pain and fear, the feelings that are judged bad for the survival of the body and the continuation of the mind, need not be anything but what they are: twingling nerve endings that require no remedy. "What is" may seem to suck, but suckiness isn't necessarily to be avoided.

All these currents and eddies in the dreams and stories of unfolding life are as of nothing at all. Each revelatory solution to the problem of existence begets another quandary...yet the problems needing solved are also what is; there is nothing wrong with what is. However important or urgent the circumstances of life are, these circumstances are as of nothing at all. There truly is no one that needs things to be anything other than what they are . Those thoughts and feelings of emptiness and unfulfillment just the noise and flurry of the moment. Creation manifests nearly infinitely, and infinity needs each and every perfect existent manifestation to be its perfect self.

The clip today is a tender scene from The Birdcage, which has so many genius moments it warrants watching over and over. I would have loved to post the sequence where Armand (Robin Williams) desperately tries to detain Albert (Nathan Lane) from going back to their apartment, which is having a "straight" makeover to please the conservative parents of Armand's son Val's fiance (Calista Flockhart in a pre-Ally McBeal role). However, this scene, where Armand finally reveals the depth of his feelings for Albert, is remarkable for both its intensity and restraint. The unfolding story can be really, really lovely.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

He Shall Spurn Fate, Scorn Death, and Bear His Hopes 'bove Wisdom, Grace and Fear.

There is often a human longing for immortality. Such longing largely explains the cult of celebrity personality we endure: these people are guaranteed a little more of a legacy than most, the extension of the power of the personality over a bit more time, even after death. Our self-awareness married with the instinct to survive concocts a brew of grand imagination: reincarnation, heaven and hell and purgatory, all potential ways for the personality to survive forever. We attend a funeral and lament our own demise, as the story of our lives will inevitably end with death. At the funeral, we think: how much will this person be missed? Am I thinking of this person, or am I thinking of whether or not I will be remembered? How important is it that I am?

Non-duality books, blogs and speakers seem to promise, to the personality, identity, ego or however you care to label it, a guarantee of immortality. This is already eternity and infinity, they say. What you are, truly, is timeless. This is comforting. The ego laps it up eagerly. But the point of awareness that we are, in which all that seems to be appears to rise and fall in, is not a complex personality or a life story filled with highs and lows, joys and sorrows. What we are is simpler than that; but the story that seems to unfold is the great, uncelebrated gift. A gift from itself, to itself, full of sound and fury as the Bard says, and signifying nothing; yet signifying a great deal, by virtue of its mere existence. When it no longer matters whether the personality will continue to exist for a considerable amount of time, when time is only a handy reference, then the personality, perhaps, has the freedom to fully blossom in this illusory, wonderful play of life. Perhaps the point of it all has been just this. Perhaps no point is the biggest point of all.

Now, let's celebrate the enduring immortality of two 2010 celebrity deaths: Peter Graves and Leslie Nielsen. Both coincidentally prematurely white-haired, known for their early serious work, and came to comedy late in life. Below are examples of each actor's early work, and a scene from Airplane! where they exercise their comedy chops. May they both live forever.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Light Seeking Light doth Light of Light Beguile.

Perhaps we'd like to call all of existence "absolute love" because that is a promise of comfort to the fragile, timorous ego. Yet what is, simply is, before we label it with any reassuring or despairing concept. Those thoughts, whatever they are, just come; and after, so it seems, we give them credence. We believe this or that about reality, and those belief systems are all the causes and conditions of a life, memory, upbringing and the Universe itself, coming together, seemingly over and over, in this ever-present endless moment. There is nothing wrong with belief. There is nothing wrong with "wrong" belief, or falsehood, or truth; these are arbitrary labels, subject to all the causes and conditions mentioned; reality will be interpreted as a matter of survival. There is no escaping the truth of mere existence. It is, whether it is obviously apprehended or not. It is, in everything, in every appearance, every act, each thought, all feelings; it is every frantic manifestation of reality, ever transforming, never changing. It is, whatever it is labeled, by billions of label-makers. Truth is here. Truth is this. Truth is existence.

Being is never lost, so can never be sought. Seeking is a bundle of thoughts, feelings and interpretations happening here and now. The feeling of emptiness can be the flavour of all, just now. It does not matter what the bundle seems to be. It does not matter what how the story of one life, all of humanity or the Universe seems to be unfolding. These labels are fleeting, ambiguous, ever-changing and unimportant. What matters is existence itself, whatever its apparent form. And mere, absolute existence mattering or not is yet another arbitrary label, as are the words and concepts contained in this brief essay. Read, or do not. Interpret, or ignore. Take comfort, or tremble at the void; there is no choice about what happens or what is thought and felt; there never "was"; there never "will be". Even the most conscious, responsible choices are choiceless. All the Universe comes together for these apparently well-thought-out decisions. When the last sacred belief is no more, when the last unbreakable tenet is discarded, when everything is gone, then everything is possible, and everything can be reveled in, by the reveling itself. And whether this happens or not is also unimportant. It only matters to the nebulous, ghost-like identity.

If seeking enlightenment no longer holds persuasion, take it as a "good" sign.

Even the Grinch must exist, and a fine thing too, even if he didn't have his own spiritual awakening at the top of Mount Crumpet. The best part of our family Christmas celebrations involves watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas - the original Chuck Jones/Theodor Seuss Geisel collaboration, not Jim Carrey's somewhat overblown full-length cinema version - and waiting for the smile that accompanies his wonderful, awful idea. I remember reading an Atlantic article in the 70's calling Mr. Jones the great lost actor of his generation, as he drew his own emoting visage in the faces of characters from Sylvester the Cat to Jerry the cat to Bugs Bunny himself. And, of course, the Grinch. I can't find that article online but here's a fine article on Charles M. Jones' life and work. Merry Christmas.

Friday 17 December 2010

Since I Could Distinguish Betwixt a Benefit and an Injury, I Never Found Man that Knew How to Love Himself.

It seems a lot of people are very fond of the ego, identity, or whatever we want to call it today. They like the limitation. They are fond of the story of their life, their loved ones, their trials and tribulations and challenges. The struggle is appealing. The sense of "something is missing" lends an apparently meaningful search to their existence. They grieve when loved ones die, and wonder at how this body before them could at one moment be alive and animated, and in the next moment that same lump of flesh could be as lifeless as a stone. They savour the mystery. They despair of the point of it all. They are mesmerised by the story in time. They take comfort in such words as these, picking and choosing, taking from the message that our true nature is immortal that "our true nature" means the bundle of causes and conditions that make up the identity. The identity dies. It can die apparently "before" the body does. All those things that seem so important in the story can at once become meaningless, and this fills the identity with despair. Pointlessness is seen, and despised.

But what is often missed is that all those causes and conditions, whatever they are, however the mind interprets them, whatever the heart feels about them, that make up this moment, whatever its quality and flavour, is the face of immortality. Immortality is now, and life and its apparent accompanying story is not reliant on any particular outcomes. Whatever seems to be, is. Whatever seems to be, can be relished. The loved ones and the valued projects are not abandoned, or perhaps they are. The seeming unfolding and the form it takes is not what is important; simply that it is, is what matters. Every bit of the mirror is a miracle. Grief is a gift, from existence to existence. Duality is a gift, the illusion of reality is to be enjoyed. And if it is not, that is a gift too. None of it need be understood.

When ideologies and personal comfort do not matter, the story of war is most unlikely. If ambition and power do not matter, the tale of greed ceases. When the welfare of yourself and your family doesn't matter, the story of enslavement and jealousy and envy is at an end. If your identity doesn't matter, the end of the story can be anything. When nothing matters, everything is possible. Yet none of this is guaranteed. Whatever unfolds, unfolds, including the story of living too much in thought, resistant of pain, afraid of privation, and needing the phantom self to be validated. There is nothing wrong with anything that is. The ego can take comfort in this, or despair; it matters not; both are the face of limitlessness. And who knows, the story might actually seem to go a lot "better".

Two clips today. The first is from the superb Hotel Rwanda, the scene where Joaquin Phoenix, playing a photographer, tells the owner of the hotel just what happens when the west is confronted with news of tragedy in the safety of their living rooms. The second is from Beyond Rangoon, set in Burma shortly after the military refused to honour Aung San Suu Kyi's election as leader. The actress playing Aung San Suu Kyi (a New Yorker named Adelle Lutz, and David Byrne's wife) shows that man's inhumanity to man is not necessarily the norm. The heroes are the soldiers. We need both humanity and inhumanity each for the other to exist, however unpalatable that may seem. Sit back and let it all unfold.