Pause Now: Handbook for a Spiritual Revolution

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Pause Now: Handbook for a Spiritual Revolution

Pause Now Handbook for a Spiritual Revolution Lyla Yastion Hamilton Books A member of The Rowman & Littlefield Publish

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Pause Now Handbook for a Spiritual Revolution

Lyla Yastion

Hamilton Books A member of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group

Lanham • Boulder • New York • Toronto • Plymouth, UK

Copyright © 2009 by Hamilton Books 4501 Forbes Boulevard Suite 200 Lanham, Maryland 20706 Hamilton Books Acquisitions Department (301) 459-3366 Estover Road Plymouth PL6 7PY United Kingdom All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America British Library Cataloging in Publication Information Available

Library of Congress Control Number: 2008935350 ISBN-13: 978-0-7618-4283-5 (paperback : alk. paper) ISBN-10: 0-7618-4283-7 (paperback : alk. paper) eISBN-13: 978-0-7618-4284-2 eISBN-10: 0-7618-4284-5

⬁ ™ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48—1992

For Edward, John, and James

Speech, eyes, ears, limbs, life, energy, come to my help. These books have Spirit for theme. I shall never deny Spirit, nor Spirit deny me. Let me be in union, communion with Spirit. When I am one with Spirit, may the laws these books proclaim live in me, may the laws live. —Kena-Upanishad


List of Illustrations







The Secret



A Spirituality of the Senses: The Pause



The Steps: a close-up: Posture and the Spirituality of Touch



Close-up continued: The Spiritualities of Seeing, Smelling, and Tasting


Close-up concluded: The Spirituality of Listening; Resting in Simple Awareness



The Spirituality of Moving



The Spirituality of Speaking



The Spiritualities of Work and Play



The Spirituality of Thinking



The Spirituality of Relating



11 Sowing Seeds of Spiritual Revolution


Appendix One


Appendix Two



305 v

List of Illustrations

PHOTOS chambered nautilus black hole/Milky Way Messier 81 Galaxy Sufi whirling dervishes Hatshepsut Buddha in the mountains Shaker chair The Serpent Mound TV Buddha mandala—Hildegard von Bingen Eskimo shaman mask flower head whale song DNA molecule Chinese landscape Martha Graham, Letter to the World, (Swirl), 1940 two water crystals seed sound OM dancing Shiva ‘American Progress’ Petra Cada with her eyes on the ball ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’ ‘The Thinker’ live oak Jane and Jou Jou vii

xiii 10 12 21 43 70 72 86 103 107 108 109 110 111 133 158 172 176 177 202 239 241 248 252 262


List of Illustrations

FIGURES Seven Major Chakras Sufi mystical ladder attention: undivided/divided The Three Worlds caduceus Tu Mo Jen Mo The Whip yin yang OM and the guna musical scale with Pythagorean proportions sefirot transcending gender identification overcoming habit through presence web of life circles of relationship ‘Great Communion’ peace mandala ‘Taking Down the Flame’

20 22 40 80 87 88 162 164 175 189 191 263 264 270 277 286 297 300


I would like to express my gratitude to the School of Practical Philosophy, New York City and London, and particularly to my mentor at the School for many years, Joy Dillingham, for introducing me to the steps of the spiritual journey. I also wish to thank those teachers whose guidance through the years has continued to expand my understanding and experience of the practices that constitute a spiritual life. Along the way I am forever indebted to those ‘with whom I walk’—my spiritual ancestors and earthly companions, especially my husband Edward—whose support and friendship are always available. The following publishers and copyright holders have generously given permission to use excerpts from the following sources. From the following books written by Jean Klein, edited by Emma Edwards: Who Am I? The Sacred Quest copyright © Jean Klein 1988, I AM copyright © Jean Klein 1989, Living Truth copyright © Jean Klein 1995, Transmission of the Flame copyright © Jean Klein 1990, and Open to the Unknown: Dialogues in Delphi copyright © Jean Klein 1992. Reprinted by permission of Emma Edwards. From The Essene Gospel of Peace, Book One, translated by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, copyright © 1981 by the International Biogenic Society and The Gospel of the Essenes: The Unknown Book of the Essenes and Lost Scrolls of the Essene Brotherhood Books Two & Three, translated by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, copyright © 1974, 1976 by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely. Reprinted by permission of International Biogenic Society (IBS) and Mrs. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely. From The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, copyright © Eckhart Tolle 1997, Practicing the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, copyright © Eckhart Tolle 1999, and Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle, copyright © Eckhart Tolle 2003. Reprinted by permission of New ix



World Library, Novato, Calif. From “Slabs of the Sunburnt West” by Carl Sandburg, copyright ©1922 by Harcourt, Inc., renewed 1950 by Carl Sandburg. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All other permissions are acknowledged in chapter endnotes.


At the heart of every religion is a shared teaching or perennial philosophy that transcends time, place and culture. This universal teaching states that the whole of Nature is energized by a Divine Source of Energy that endows every living form with its own particular perfection. As a unique configuration of this universal energy the human being is said to be blessed with eternal life, perfect wisdom and unlimited happiness. In other words, we are already enlightened. If this divine blueprint is our birthright how is it that we rarely recognize or experience its attributes? How is it that we daily strive for what we already have but think we lack? Happiness would be ours if we could awaken each morning peaceful and content, remembering the perfection that we are instead of entertaining anxieties, fears, and desires that keep us bound to a conception of self and world that is limited and unsatisfying— indeed, imperfect. Fortunately, the way back to our original enlightened nature is embedded within this universal teaching. One name for the return route is the art of spiritual alchemy. Methods vary but the essential aim of the return journey is the same: spiritual transformation. This book offers a simple, practical strategy by which we can be liberated from what we are not, so that what we are is fully remembered and fully disclosed. We are told by the wise that the earth plane, our home, is a kind of school where human beings are invited to learn that they are spiritual beings with an inherited propensity for enlightenment as strong as the urge of plant leaves to seek the sun. Here, in the spiritual school of the material world, humans have the opportunity to realize the sun of their true self. The world provides a learning space, a playground, wherein the seeker is guided through stages of an interior reconfiguration of energy. “By means of all created things,” says xi



Christian theologian Teilhard de Chardin, “the divine assails us, penetrates us and moulds us;”1 and Jewish philosopher Martin Buber writes: This whole world is a cloak for the lowest rung of holiness, for its feet, as it were. As it is written: ‘And the earth is my footstool.’ . . . And there God assigns every man his thought and word and deed according to the day, the place, and the person, and hides therein the signs to lead men to his service.2

We have only to look at a butterfly’s wings to recognize the calling card of Divine Energy. It is when the human being awakens to the ‘signs’ that reveal his or her specific return journey to initial perfection that inner healing takes place and the person is prepared to serve as a modern-day alchemist, working to restore harmony to the entire Earth community. When human beings again see and respect the sacred web of life to which they belong then the role of predator yields to the familial bond of blood brother and sister. Mirdad, a legendary teacher of the Arab world, uses the story of the descent of Adam and Eve from pristine Eden into a denser, flawed world of the dual forces of Good and Evil to teach his companion Naronda (and us) that even in this world of apparent imperfection the hidden seeds of perfection still have the capacity to sprout. The teacher explains how this world serves as a spiritual school for displaced man: So Eden, the state of blissful innocence, the unity unconscious of itself, fell away from the dual fig-leaf aproned Man; and swords of flame were put between him and the Tree of Life. Man walked out of Eden through the twin gate of Good and Evil; he shall walk in through the single gate of Understanding. He made his exit with his back to the Tree of Life; he shall re-enter with his face to that Tree. He set out on his long and trying journey ashamed of his nakedness and careful to hide his shame; he shall reach his journey’s end with his purity unaproned. . . . Aye, nothing else is Sin but the barrier that Man set up between himself and God, between his transient self and his abiding Self.3

If sin is the desire to create a barrier between the “transient self” and the “abiding Self”, what then is the lesson plan that enables the human being to dismantle this barrier of ignorance—of ignoring my Self—and “walk in through the single gate of Understanding”? How is the truant student to be reached and redirected? The lesson plan says: present the student with events which can trigger in that particular embodiment the desire to know more deeply his or her true being; give the person opportunities to wake up to his or her true self. When we look back at our lives, especially if we’ve reached an age where the spectrum of our life memories is wide, we recognize certain critical moments where our lives changed. These changes were incremental in some



chambered nautilus

cases, abrupt in others. We may, for example, see how a sequence of pivotal events shoved us onto a particular spiritual path or accelerated the path we were on, or added a new facet to that path. Certain images in the natural world are metaphors for this evolutionary process that pulls us to self-knowledge as if by some mysterious inner magnet of conscious energy. The golden spiral within the chambered nautilus is one such image. The chambered nautilus is actually two cephalopod mollusks. This life form is the sole survivor of a genus that thrived in the oceans two hundred million years ago. The animal lives in the largest and newest chamber of its shell where it can interact with the water, gathering food such as crabs by means of tentacles. However, its concealed body is a tubular structure that is elongated. This tube stretches into the secret crevices of the shell. The creviced spaces are divided by partitions called septa. The tubular body reaches all the way to the center or apex where the septa disappear into a unified point.



If we compare this natural structure of growth in the chambered nautilus to our own growth as spiritual beings we might view the newest, largest area of habitation as the world in which we are being schooled at this very moment. If we have awakened to the need to rediscover our divine template, and if we are ready to commit to the interior journey which is the aim of mystics in all religious traditions, then we will become aware of the septa or barriers in our mental-emotional-spiritual history that must be overcome in order to spiral back to our origin in the One Energy or Consciousness. We will remember that our spiritual ‘body’ stretches, as a translucent umbilical cord, back to its divine center just as the tubular body of the nautilus is connected to its apex. The call to turn and evolve back to our origin accompanies the outward spiral into existence on this earthly plane. We make the return journey even as we simultaneously interact with the world. When Jesus tells his followers to leave everything that has been precious to them—the treasures of the heart— and ‘follow me’ he is speaking of the hard work of detaching from habits that continually pull the seeker away from the path of spiritual evolution (Luke 12:34). Hindus and Buddhists describe this detachment as the work of retracing the karmic thread of sanskara. By examining and overcoming attitudes and actions of past lives that live on in the present because of contamination by egoistic desire we are led to the hidden treasure that we are—the pure, beloved Self. The Greek myth of Theseus demonstrates this sanskaric journey. By means of the thread that Ariadne gives her lover, Theseus, the hero is able to retrace his steps through the labyrinth after killing the ferocious Minotaur. The lovers’ reunion represents the reestablishment of an original harmony that each of us possesses as our birthright. The mystery of spiritual growth proceeds as a series of awakenings that stand out in our memories as formative. The ‘oceanic conditions’ surrounding these pivotal events are conducive to self-knowledge because they encourage the inner chambers of our being to open up. Each wake-up call is a mini-revolution of spirit whereby the septa that hide our divine center are penetrated and the interior spiral of evolution is accelerated. Indigenous peoples have traditionally celebrated the individual passage of tribal members through critical life cycle events such as birth, puberty, marriage and death. These rites of passage are important ‘generic’ events through which human beings move. But there are also other, more modest moments of transition that germinate seeds of future change in each individual life. Sometimes these turning points seem, on the surface, to be very small affairs—a book we read that captures our attention and passion, a conversation we exchange with a stranger, a place we visit and resonate with, the sights and smells of a particularly beautiful summer day when we were children, a feeling of breathless awe at the sight of so many stars one crisp October night.



Other turning points are deeply grooved in our consciousness. The fracture of these critical septa unlocks powerful energy that can abruptly revolutionize one’s life—the loss of a loved one, a life-threatening illness, a divorce. Jewish mystic Abraham Heschel describes the possible routes of divine grace: A simple episode may open a sight of the eternal. A shift of conceptions, boisterous like a tempest or soft as a breeze, may swerve the mind for an instant or forever. For God is not wholly silent and man is not always deaf.4

The spiritual lessons held within such traumatic experiences are not always easy to accept; but if we are fortunate enough to wake up to the lesson that a trauma teaches, and heed its wisdom, we are blessed. By assenting to the event we open ourselves to the support of the universe. If we stay awake and aware we will come to understand the current lesson and be able to receive the gift of the next lesson when it comes. Spiritual growth, therefore, relies on a succession of lessons in waking up which challenge habitual mental-emotional patterns. In my own spiritual journey I am only now able to write this book because of a sequence of awakenings that, as I look back, reveal to me their threaded logic. A covenant with Spirit, made quite ingenuously at an early age, set up a series of events in which the acausal principle of change, called synchronicity, took over and spread out my life like a map.5 A particularly powerful conjunction of energies happened when at the age of 26 my first marriage failed. Within weeks I had met my present husband of 40 years and together we joined the School of Practical Philosophy in New York City. A 25-year commitment to the school became pivotal to my spiritual growth. My husband and I attended and taught classes at the school, meditated together, enjoyed the support of spiritual friends, and raised two sons. This image may sound idyllic but it wasn’t; there were critical times when our marriage was severely tested. It was the spiritual tie, which remained taut when other lifelines were attenuated, that reminded us both to fight our personal demons and stay together. At the age of 54 I returned to academia in order to prepare myself intellectually to share with college students the practical application of philosophy and spirituality impressed by the School on my consciousness. The most memorable turning point, however, in my spiritual journey was the news at the age of 59 that I had contracted stage-3 breast cancer. This news caused an abrupt suspension of my life and forced me to apply the spiritual principles and practices engrained in the religions that I was teaching—principles that I realized I needed and loved. When the elements of the body undergo physical and subtle imbalance to produce dis-ease, the priorities of one’s life are quickly realigned. Illness either wakes you up to the possibility that the situation (bleak as it might seem) is a necessary part of the synchronous flow of



your particular spiritual journey, inviting you to reevaluate your life choices, or it summons up feelings of fear and anger that distract you from the spiritual journey by replacing the goal of an enlightened spiritual life with an obsession to preserve physical life. Illness can either summon one’s innate courage to accept and learn from what is—an attitude that actually creates healing energy— or it triggers a resistance that destroys one’s faith in the grace that surrounds each life. In The Alchemy of Illness Kat Duff describes her affliction—CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)—as the vehicle by which she became “privy to one of the world’s great secrets: that what is is enough, that each moment contains . . . the whole of creation in the space it offers, and we need not go anywhere or do anything to find it.” This knowledge gave her the gift of “the serenity of being still and feeling full with the moment at hand. . . .”6 The awareness of a hovering mortality led me immediately to the bookshelf. The books that I needed most called to me and I could read their messages as if for the first time. Lao Tzu told me to go with the flow of the Tao— the Great Mystery—and yield to the present moment as the perfect moment. Jesus told me to take up my cross and “learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matt. 11:29)”. These were words of action, not solace. I saw that the way out of my body’s physical trauma was learning all I could about alternative healing methods that acknowledge the subtle engines of physical disease. At the emotional level I recognized that self-healing is connected to a generous heart. I realized that a longtime demon in my own spiritual house was a self-protective fear which made me insensitive to and demanding of other people. This habit contradicted a deep reservoir of love in me. I wanted to make amends for any holding back in the past by releasing words and actions motivated by love—to my husband and family, friends, strangers, even and especially to myself. I awoke to an abiding love for the Earth and I vowed to help all creatures as my kin in any way I could. I saw that self-esteem is based in a Larger Self. In Eastern spirituality the teaching of reincarnation says that if a lesson is not learned in one lifetime it is given again in the next life. This karmic mercy is appealing to the spiritual seeker who stumbles through much of this span of 70-odd years. Even in religions that do not espouse reincarnation the idea of learning from suffering in this life is recognized as central to the process of spiritual evolution. It is Job’s suffering which makes him refuse to deny God; rather he says that even though He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a tree . . . I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. (Job 10:26)



Not everyone will resonate with the proposition being made here that we are, each of us, spiritual beings on special spiritual journeys; yet, if you picked up this book, perhaps you are secretly looking for your path. Looking for a path suggests that the path has been lost, abandoned because of some distraction. When we lose our way in the woods we attempt to regain the trail. The trail did not leave us; we left the trail. The effort to regain our footing may entail retracing our steps to find signs we missed. In order to learn the purpose for which one’s spirit resides in a particular body, at a particular time, in a particular culture, and with certain companions be they family, friends, colleagues, communities or nations it is helpful to review one’s life, mark the turning points, and be open to discover what constitutes the next septum to be dissolved in the journey home. As far as we know, human beings are the only species of 84,000,000,000 species on this planet that can be fully self-aware.7 Moreover, human beings have the unique capacity of refining and transmuting that self-awareness into self-realization. Once the desire to be conscious and awake is ignited—like a torch in a dark wood—the process of spiritual alchemy begins and we partake of a “journey forward to our origin”.8 Or, as the Katha-Upanishad puts it: “now and again a daring soul, desiring immortality, has looked back and found himself”.9 In order to facilitate Self-discovery the universal teaching contains a core spiritual practice that is embedded in every religion: the practice of beingpresent. This book’s rudder is a generic form of this practice. When religions offer methods of prayer and meditation the great, unsaid assumption is that the seeker knows how to be present and stay present. Abraham Heschel speaks of this pristine awareness when he defines the spiritual renewal of humankind as a rebirth of “the sense of wonder and mystery of being alive”; it is by “taking notice of the moment as a surprise”, he says, that we are transformed.10 Just as presence is the string upon which the beaded necklace of every spiritual practice is strung, it is also the catalyst for individual growth and social harmony because it generates a healing energy that cleanses and elevates thought, feeling and action. When we are present we are in Presence, receptive to the grace of Divine Energy. Being present depends upon being aware, awake, conscious, mindful, attentive, alert, and still. In fact, these words are all synonyms for the word present. But these words do not answer the important question that now arises: how is presence achieved? How does one come into the present and stay in the present? The initial chapters of the book will consider this question and provide an answer from the perspective of recognizing that most of the time we are not present but rather under assault from all sorts of mental



commentary and emotional attachment that distort our interactions with the world. As the chapters proceed we will discover that each physical sensation, each movement of the body, each word, each activity of work or play, each thought and feeling, and each relationship, can be consecrated through presence. As being-present reveals to us the fundamental interconnectedness of all life we are primed to be healers in a distressed world.

FORMAT OF THE BOOK This book is conceived as an adventure in holism, synthesis, and practical spirituality. Although ideas provided by the study of religion are central, the book incorporates information from disciplines such as science, music, art, literature, philosophy, and psychology to elucidate underlying mystical themes that the major religions share. These themes are investigated from both traditional and esoteric perspectives to the purpose of unearthing the core message of true religion and true philosophy: the transformation of human consciousness. Transformation is the essential spirituality of a religion— its raison d’etre. What you will read, therefore, is less of an academic treatise and more of a practical guide that seeks to clarify and implement the alchemy by which a person is transfigured. So rich is the offering in this book of life teachings by men and women whose spiritual journeys transcend formal religion that you are encouraged to linger over those quotations that you choose to savor and digest. Each chapter combines thematic discussions and creative practices. Thus the left hemisphere of the brain can delight in absorbing and delineating facts while the right hemisphere is inspired by creative experiments. A holistic perspective also determines certain vocabulary that the book will adopt. Instead of adhering to the embedded Western perception of body, mind, emotions, and spirit (or soul) as separate entities, terms such as mind-heart (denoting the confluence of mental and emotional faculties that Eastern spiritual systems avow), body-mind as two intertwined intelligences, and even the larger units of body-mind-heart and body-mind-heart-spirit will be used as heuristic reminders of a holistic perspective. These compound concepts have become more familiar to the West in the latter half of the 20th century. For example, the idea of a body-mind continuum that maximizes health through practices such as hatha yoga and meditation, emerges out of the innovative work of people in the medical field such as Herbert Benson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Deepak Chopra. Their holistic approach to medicine is paralleled in the field of education by the pedagogy of Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner whose mission and legacy is the education of the ‘whole child’.



The desire to discover the secrets that give real meaning to life is the motive that initiated this book, just as it is the catalyst that brings each of us to the spiritual journey. We all want to live a good life, not only for our own happiness but also for the benefit that a contented life bestows on family, friends and community. Just as good fruit comes from a healthy tree, so our spiritual trunk and branches must become strong and healthy to bear the good fruit of our lives. This book honors the spiritual path of each religion. If certain religions receive more coverage than others in any one chapter it is due to the capacity of that religion’s spirituality to resonate well with the subject matter and practices given. If you already follow a traditional spiritual path you will find that the information and practices provided in this book will enrich your commitment to that path. If you are still seeking a path it is hoped that the spiritual truths illumined in the following chapters will resonate with your deepest instincts and point the way forward for you. If this book is of help in jump-starting your own journey you may want to recycle it once the practices you choose become your own.

NOTES 1. Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), 112. Copyright © 1957 by Editions du Seuil, Paris. English translation copyright © 1960 by Wm. Collins Sons & Co., London, and Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., New York. Renewed © 1988 by Harper & Row. Excerpts reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. 2. Martin Buber, Ten Rungs: Hasidic Sayings (New York: Schocken Books, 1973), 23. Excerpt used by permission of the Balkin Agency, Inc., agent for the Estate of Martin Buber. 3. Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad (New York: Penguin, 1976), 156. 4. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity; Essays, ed. Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996), 333. Copyright © 1996 Sylvia Heschel. Introduction copyright © 1996 Susannah Heschel. Excerpts reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. 5. Synchronicity is the acausal principle that scientist F. David Peat and psychologist C.G. Jung define as the underlying base of mechanical laws (such as cause and effect) that govern the universe. Synchronicity proposes that the real operation of the universe is one of fluid, interconnected movements which do not follow a linear sequence but rather, bring elements together so that an event happens. Nothing is accidental or coincidental but proceeds from a web-like confluence of intelligent motions in a conscious universe. 6. Kat Duff, The Alchemy of Illness (New York: Bell Tower, 1993), 43.



7. This statistic is in The Orange Book: A Method of Self-Realization: Sayings and Talks of His Holiness Shantananda Saraswati (London: The Society for the Study of Normal Psychology, 1981), 39. His Holiness held the post of Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math in northern India from 1953 to his retirement in 1980. 8. James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A Search for God Through Awareness of the True Self (Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1992), 29. 9. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B. Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 33. Copyright © 1937 by Shree Purohit Swami and W.B. Yeats; copyright renewed © 1965 by Bertha Georgie Yeats & Anne Yeats. Excerpts from The Ten Principal Upanishads reprinted with permission of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group and by permission of A.P. Watt Ltd. on behalf of Gráinne Yeats and Benares Hindu University. The Upanishads are the distilled nectar of the Vedas—the Hindu scriptures. Hindu Vedanta is the study and practice of the Vedas. The root of the word veda is veid (to see, to know). The word upanishad contains the prefix upa (under) and shad (to stand). When one studies the Upanishads one is standing under the truth of the Vedas. 10. Heschel, Moral Grandeur, 275.

Chapter One

The Secret

If at any moment in our lives we are fortunate enough to awaken from spiritual amnesia and begin the journey back to our innermost, authentic self we will encounter a secret held and guarded as the spiritual blood of all religions. That secret is the sacred nature of all life. As Kabir, the fifteenth century Hindu-Muslim poet, says: “There is a Secret One inside us; the planets in all the galaxies pass through his hands like beads.”1 Much as the chambered nautilus is connected to its point of origin inside the labyrinth of partitions that divide its outer life of activity from a quiet birthplace at the center of its shell so we human beings are intimately connected to our birthplace in pure divinity. We are sacred beings, born of a Divine Energy or Consciousness that enlivens the entire web of life, yet we have forgotten that secret place of origin and the key to its disclosure.2 We are like Alice who falls down the rabbit hole of memory only to be blocked from entry into Wonderland until the proper door and key are found. We need to find out how the door of memory to our divine nature is opened. We need to remember who we are. The sign of spiritual awakening is a STOP in the stream we call our life that forces us to become consciously aware that the life we are pursuing is not fulfilling our innermost desire. What is this innermost desire? It is the essential desire to be liberated from all that prevents us from living the innate perfection that marks the human spiritual genome. As the Psalmist says: “Mark the perfect man and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace (Psalm 37:37).” Jesus assures us that we have the potential to realize perfection because God resides in us as the Holy Spirit. “Be ye perfect” he instructs, “as your Father in Heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:48).” Hindu Vedanta calls this true self Atman. Atman lives forever (Sat), knows everything (Chit) and is blissfully 1


Chapter One

happy (Ananda). Although Buddhism denies a personal self it confirms an intrinsic enlightenment that each living form possesses. That inborn purity is the buddha-nature. The divine seed sown in human nature by the hand of the Great Sower seeks reunion with its Source, and it matters little what that Source is called— whether it be Great Spirit, Brahman, God, Yahweh, Allah, buddha-nature, or Tao. The desire for reunion implies a separation in the whole cloth of the divine plan and a need to repair the tear by sewing together the Maker and the made. If we choose to turn away from the habitual direction of our lives and revolve back to our center in Divine Presence a spiritual revolution is triggered within us. This spiritual revolution sets in motion an evolutionary process whereby our wholeness—or health—is regenerated.3 Our behavior begins to change incrementally as the purifying spiral of spiritual evolution continues its revolution over time. We may notice, for example, that we become more patient, more compassionate, less disturbed by events, more comfortable with quiet, and more content. These changes are due to a rise in conscious awareness. As this personal healing process progresses it is accompanied by a realization that the human embodiment is uniquely programmed by Divine Consciousness to act as caretaker of the world, according to the law of interdependence by which I am my brother’s keeper. As my own level of awareness intensifies, for example, I can see that the level of stress, violence, fear, and disconnect with Nature in the global society rises in direct proportion to a fall in the collective level of awareness. As the displaced spiritual hunger seeks satisfaction in the lesser gods of a materialist, consumer culture the movement away from self-discovery—the source of true happiness—causes negative vibrations to invade the social, economic and planetary networks of relationships. The duty to restore to perfection the Creation which God made and saw as ‘good’ is the act of tikkun olam or repairing the world.4 The emanation of Creation as a mirror-image of the Creator is embodied in the ancient hermetic metaphor, attributed to the legendary Egyptian teacher Hermes Trismegistus. This metaphor reads: ‘as above so below; as within, so without’. The Hindu tradition uses a mathematical formula in The Perfect Prayer to reflect this universal spiritual principle: That is perfect. This is perfect. Perfect comes from perfect. Take perfect from perfect, the remainder is perfect. May peace and peace and peace be everywhere.5

The Secret


Peace is the natural consequence of honoring the perfection in all things. Walt Whitman, America’s foremost native mystic and lover of humankind, writes of the perfection that he sees all around him: Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth, And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own, And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own, And that all the men ever born are also my brothers and the women my sisters and lovers, And that a kelson of the creation is love, And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields, And brown ants in the little wells beneath them, And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and poke-weed. . . .6

In the world of Nature, alluded to above, perfection is readily recognized. The beauty and harmony, for example, within and between all species of life is evident and, to the awakened senses, breathtaking. We have only to listen to a mockingbird, watch the whirring of a hummingbird’s wings, smell a rose, stroke the silky fur of a cat, or taste the crunchy tartness of a ripe apple to appreciate the creative wisdom of Allah, “the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds.”7 Yet when we look at ourselves impartially the glaring discrepancy between our perfect nature and imperfect behavior is indisputable. As Robert Browning puts it, the human being—“a god though in the germ”8—senses a contradiction in which “so free we seem, so fettered fast we are.”9 We feel the energy of our innate potency being drained away by fears and anxieties that, like chronic bedsores, will not heal. The very need to ‘repair the world’ comes about by the abuse of the world when the partial, private interests of human beings take precedence over the health of the Whole. Instead of sending out the healing energy of our own eternal peace, knowledge and happiness (SatChitAnanda) we burden the world and ourselves with the reverse characteristics—endless conflict, ignorance and misery, all the while thinking that this situation is normal. This ‘reversal of fortune’ prevents us from accomplishing our role as healers and transformers. According to the Navaho people, the Great Spirit created a world of perfect harmony, beauty and order. This perfection is called hozho. Because humanity is the main instigator of disharmony, imbalance and therefore dis-ease in the world, the human task is to constantly remember and reconstitute hozho. By remembering that one is part of a web of life, a Larger Self, one will speak and act for the benefit of the web. Chief Oren


Chapter One

Lyons, contemporary Faithkeeper of the Onondaga clan, describes the human family as traveling a river of life together. At the inauguration of the “Year of the Indigenous Peoples (1993)”, Chief Lyons addressed the United Nations General Assembly, saying: We are the generation with the responsibilities and the option to choose the Path of Life for the future of our children. Or the life and path which defies the Laws of Regeneration. Even though you and I are in different boats . . . we share the same River of Life. What befalls me, befalls you. And downstream in this River of Life, our children will pay for our selfishness, our greed, and for our lack of vision.10

TAKING UP THE LEGACY OF SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION The art of spiritual alchemy involves a conscious transmutation of energy. In medieval times this art was symbolized by the study of turning base lead into gold. Teaching spiritual alchemy has always been the task of the spiritual revolutionaries who have founded the world’s major religions. It is said that great avatars and visionary teachers are born into the world at times of spiritual decay to remind humanity of certain seed truths. By their presence and teachings these revolutionaries inject conscious energy into the world so that people have the opportunity to recognize and live their own natural enlightenment. Such revolutions in consciousness are initiated by seed sounds of enormous power. If the seeds take root in a certain number of individuals then a spiritual alchemy begins and spreads, inspiring generations of followers to do the work of spiritual evolution. In Jesus’ parable of the sower these are the seeds “that fell on good ground and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold (Luke 8:8).” Krishna, whom Hindus worship as the incarnation of Vishnu, speaks in the Bhagavad Gita of this periodic shower of grace from the Absolute upon humanity. In advance of a great battle which will herald the cycle of darkening consciousness called the Kali Yuga or Iron Age which the world is now experiencing, Krishna teaches his star pupil, the soldier Arjuna, about the greater war of the soul: the life battle between truth and ignorance, righteousness and perdition. He says: Whenever spirituality decays and materialism is rampant, then, O Arjuna! I reincarnate Myself. To protect the righteous, to destroy the wicked, and to establish the Kingdom of God, I am reborn from age to age. He who realizes the divine truth concerning My birth and life, is not born again; and when he leaves his body, he becomes one with me.11

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The ‘divine truth’ to be realized, principally through the practice of meditation, is the teaching of Tatvamasi—Thou Art That Supreme Self. As the Brihadāranyaka-Upanishad says: Self is the honey of all beings; all beings the honey of Self. The bright eternal Self that is everywhere, the bright eternal Self that lives in a man, are one and the same; that is immortality, that is Spirit, that is all.12

Muhammad likewise was a spiritual revolutionary who was born to awaken his feuding countrymen to the Great Jihad—the spiritual battle whereby the sword of awakened consciousness slays the selfish passions that alienate the soul from Allah. Muhammad saw that the spiritual violence that possesses the soul far surpassed the civil strife that he, as an astute military leader, felt called upon to quell. Kabir describes this jihad by which the soul remembers its innate perfection: In the field of this body a great war goes forward, against passion, anger, pride and greed: It is in the kingdom of truth, contentment and purity, that this battle is raging; And the sword that rings forth most loudly is the sword of His Name . . . It is a hard fight and a weary one, this fight of the truth-seeker. . . .13

The ‘truth-seeker’ hears the seed truths that proceed out of the mouth of the holy teacher. For example, Lao Tzu, legendary founder of Taoism, reminds his followers that the intrinsic harmony between the individual and the universe is remembered when one yields to the Tao and feels the healing energy of ch’i coursing through body-mind-heart, connecting the individual to all beings. Lao Tzu’s spiritual descendant, Confucius, makes practical the master’s advice by teaching the Golden Rule as a sign of reciprocal trust and the route to a moral society. When Moses comes down from the mountain of higher consciousness he delivers to the wavering Israelites a practical means to salvation: the keeping of the 10 Commandments. Jesus models the way of love as the transformational energy that reverses Adam’s sin and regains Eden. By entering the strait gate of awakened consciousness a disciple sees the luminous Kingdom of Heaven within every being and naturally reaches out in love to “the least of these (Matt. 25:45).”

BUCKING THE STATUS QUO Great spiritual teachers start revolutions by challenging the status quo of their culture. They challenge the basis of the status quo—ignorance—which


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transcends time and culture. At the heart of each religion is a formulation of the disease of ignorance, an explanation of its inception through human error, and a prescription for the cure. Ignorance is literally the ignoring of spiritual principles such as respect, tolerance and compassion and their replacement with egotistic ambition and the violence that it spawns. The Hopi Indians tell of four worlds created in succession by Taiowa, the Creator. Humanity now inhabits the fourth world. The previous three worlds had to be destroyed because human beings had forgotten Taiowa’s laws and desecrated the Creation. A remnant who remembered the divine laws were saved at the end of each world to propagate the Emergence into a new world. The courage to attack the status quo is often met with opposition. Sometimes defiance is met with death. When Jesus challenged an entrenched, authoritarian religious elite with radical teachings such as loving your enemy, ministering to outcasts, and renouncing power, wealth and prestige he was crucified. In modern times followers of the initial revolutionaries of the major religions have become revolutionary teachers in their own right. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King used the radical idea of passive resistance, borrowing the Hindu/Buddhist teaching of ahimsa (non-violent compassion) and the Christian formula of turning the other cheek to galvanize their respective challenges against social and political injustice. In Western biblical imagery the curse and expulsion from Eden of the progenitors of humanity—Adam and Eve—describes a fundamental error in perception and judgment symbolized by their consent to the serpent’s whispered temptation. The grave error by which humanity ‘falls’ from grace every day is the mistaken notion of separation. The belief that every being is essentially separate and different is the bedrock of ignorance. Spiritual revolutionaries clarify this dis-ease of spirit as a willful decision to construct a separate self whose sole work is to obscure memory of the divine self and claim its powers. In the name of individuality this separate self unlawfully siphons out conscious energy that belongs to the entire web of life and builds a fortress of beliefs that represent ME. Perhaps Jesus is referring to this recurring, stubborn denial of who we really are when he warns his listeners that all sins will be forgiven except the “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” or Spirit of Truth within each person (Matt. 12:31–32). This transgression is compounded every time we say: ‘I can be happy and fulfilled and still keep my private, separate existence’. Both the idea and the speaker of the idea are delusions for which the penalty is suffering and unhappiness. The process of enlightenment for which we are embodied is the process of confronting and watching the dissolution of this potent but insubstantial idea through the laser light of the infinite I. Selfrealization is the full realization of the mistake. As the misused energy is di-

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rected back to its Source—the Self of all—healing begins, the wound closes, and the human being in his or her wholeness is able to minister to the Earth community whose harmony has been disturbed by human error. It is this status quo of the mind—the storehouse of habitual thought patterns, images and desires designed by the separate or egoic self—that revolutionary spiritual teachings unveil and debunk. And it is this status quo of the mind that opposes any violation of its privacy and power. The following commonplace scenario describes how the status quo of the mind preserves itself. I have an idea that a certain person is narrow-minded. Maybe that person has behaved in a narrow-minded manner and the stored memory of her behavior has calcified in my mind as a rigid preconception. I do not hear the voice of reason reminding me that any personality trait, including narrow-mindedness, is not the person; nor can I give her the mental-emotional space to see and change her behavior because I do not see my own entrapment. I address in conversation a ‘narrow-minded’ person and receive back my projected idea: narrow-mindedness. I’ve summoned it forth. Now we’re both stuck—that person in her ‘narrow-mindedness’ and me in my narrow view. Every time the conversation locks into this mechanical rhythm the grooves of the pattern become more indelible. The pattern becomes reality; the self-fulfilling prophecy rules once again. Now multiply this one instance of prejudgment to all the other ideas I have accumulated about people and events due to non-awareness and what emerges is a constricted life that negates the free will that I believe I have. I am reinforcing the dualistic view of me and you that Robert Browning captures when he says: “On the earth broken arcs; in heaven, a perfect round.”14 The revolutionary practice that raises the frequency of energy vibrations to a conscious level so that the mental-emotional patterns that bind us are seen and released is the art of presence. It may seem that being-present is not dramatic enough to initiate change. This judgment, however, comes from the status quo of the mind where simple presence, which is unobtrusive and modest, devoid of egoistic desire, is not equated with power. Yet the catalyst for every spiritual revolution is the rise in conscious awareness that emanates from each spiritual revolutionary even as it embodies his or her message. Wake up, says the messenger; wake up to the energy of your own beingness that will break the lock of the internal status quo and prepare you to receive the illumination of self-knowledge. Zen stories are full of wake-up calls. Here is one, appropriately called Every Minute Zen. An eager Zen student hears of a renowned teacher of Zen and wishes to study with this famous master. He arrives one day at the master’s house. It is pouring rain. The student knocks on the door and stands in the vestibule waiting. Water


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drips from his hat and raincoat. He quickly puts his galoshes and umbrella on the tile floor and hangs up his raincoat and hat on a hook just as the master opens the door. The old man bows. The young student respectfully returns the bow. “How can I be of service to you, young man?” asks the master kindly. “Please, revered sir, teach me how to meditate. I have studied Zen for some time but I know that you can accelerate my progress,” replies the youth. The old man smiles and is silent for a few minutes. Then he says: “I shall be happy to assist you. But first you must tell me one thing. On which side of your galoshes is the umbrella—on the left or the right side?” The young man’s face darkens in confusion. “Well, then,” says the master gently, “we will need to study presence first. How can you meditate if you do not yet know how to stay awake?”15

WAKING UP AND DIGGING When a religious institution loses touch with its spiritual essence it may succumb to the trapped energy of the collective status quo of the mind. For example, Siddhartha opposed what he perceived as an encrusted rigidity and superficiality in the Hinduism of his upbringing that covered up the secret knowledge of spiritual transformation. He rejected his royal heritage, renounced his own Brahmin caste (and the caste system in general), and went into the forest to seek enlightenment. Siddhartha surrendered himself to meditation and waited, trusting that truth would be revealed to him. Buddhism was born. Furthermore, when through the centuries disciples recast a founder’s creed to suit their own personal interpretations, the integrity of the religion can be compromised. The Inquisition, for example, could never have been convened by Jesus. Joseph Campbell, teacher of mythology and religion, speaks bluntly of this loss of connection to the underlying spirituality of religion when he says: “Religion is a defense against a religious experience . . . it reduces the whole thing to concepts and ideas . . . and short-circuits the transcendent experience, the experience of deep mystery.”16 When religion forsakes its function to convey and model the message of the founder Mystery is demystified. Man makes God in his image; then man does what he wants. So it happens that a nation’s enemies are perceived as godless while ‘God is on our side.’ When Gandhi says that God does not have a religion he is differentiating between true spirituality and the twisted logic of man-made religion that turned India into a battlefield of Muslim, Hindu and Christian bigots. Because religion is prey to the coarsening vibrations of ego energy the spiritual seeker must dig into a religion’s innards to find the liberating themes of

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the perennial philosophy. Just as the archaeologist digs into the earth of an ancestral site to find the precious artifacts of a once flourishing life, so the spiritual seeker must penetrate the skeletal body of religion—the institutions, rules, and rituals of its checkered history—and drink from the blood of its original teaching. As the Mundaka-Upanishad says: “Shining, yet hidden, Spirit lives in the cavern. . . .”17 When the seeker enters the cavern he “seeks no more; the riddle is solved; desire gone, he is at peace.”18 A story shared by the Christian and Islamic Sufi traditions reminds the seeker to differentiate between formal religion and its underlying spirituality. The following is a Christian version.19 A priest makes monthly visits to an island to teach the Lord’s Prayer to the tribe’s council of elders. On one visit the priest is disappointed to find his flock reciting the prayer wrongly. He admonishes them gently, reminds them of the correct wording of the prayer, reenters his boat and sets out to sea. Suddenly he hears an urgent call. He turns to see one of the elders walking across the water towards him. When the old man reaches the boat he bows his head humbly to the priest, apologizes for having so quickly forgotten the proper recitation, and asks for a review. The priest is too amazed to answer!

Unless we dig inside a religion we will not unearth the original mysticism of the religion. The very words mystery and mystic share an etymological root that means secret, hidden. In every culture, religion, and era spiritual revolutionaries—mystics—have tirelessly probed Mystery to find and decode its secret language and thus rediscover the spiraling route back to native perfection. Each of us are called to be mystics, not only for our own regeneration but also to facilitate the evolutionary paths of our fellows and the creatures with whom we share the planet. Indeed, many indigenous tribes of North America teach that each living generation is responsible by their actions to seven future generations. To think in this manner, to be so solicitous for souls not yet born, it is necessary to feel an urgency to stop, wake up, and learn to stay awake through the art of presence. As we dig beneath the surface of religions we see common themes. We especially identify more and more with that One at the center of every religion’s spirituality “whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”20 Since this Center is everywhere then the One is imminently discoverable! Lao Tzu says in his classic work, Tao Te Ching: “We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move.”21 Likewise, the sage who writes the Brihadāranyaka-Upanishad declares: “This Self is the Lord of all beings; as all spokes are knit together in the hub, all things, all gods, all men, all lives, all bodies, are knit together in that Self.”22


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When the essential desire for truth becomes strong enough in us, and we begin to awaken through the art of presence, we enter a black hole of mysticism. Once we take this revolutionary step, spiritual evolution begins. As matter, when it nears the horizon radius of a black hole, is pulled into emptiness by the enormous force of gravity emitted as sound waves from the hole’s center or singularity, so we are pulled back through the labyrinth of this flawed human existence into the dark womb of Spirit. A simulation of a black hole near the Milky Way, which accommodates 10 solar masses, symbolizes the vast depth of the mysterious journey inward. The mystical journey into the center of our being is mapped out in the prayer and meditation schemes of religions. When a seeker touches this center the ‘experiencer’ disappears and an experience of unity occurs. Religions have named this transformation. It is called samadhi by Hindus, fana by Moslems, satori by Buddhist, and divine ecstasy or divine union by Christians, Jews, and Moslems. Regardless of whether the experience is a temporary taste of bliss or a permanent change of being the foundational practice that is responsible for this high level of energy vibration is sustained presence. The following description of a mystical experience is the personal account of Maurice Bucke, a Canadian psychiatrist. After spending an evening with friends, discussing poetry and philosophy, Bucke tells of a revelation that changes his life as he travels back to his lodgings in a hansom. He writes:

black hole/Milky Way, ‘’

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My mind, deeply under the influence of the ideas, images and emotions called up by the reading and talk, was calm and peaceful. I was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment. All at once without warning of any kind, I found myself wrapped in a flame coloured cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, some sudden conflagration in the great city, the next I knew that the light was within myself. Directly afterwards came upon me a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. . . . Among other things, I did not come to believe, I saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal, that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of every one is in the long run absolutely certain. . . . The illumination itself continued not more than a few moments, but its effects proved ineffaceable; it was impossible for me ever to forget what I at that time saw and knew, neither did I, or could I, ever doubt the truth of what was then presented to my mind.23

Visions of this sort are not limited to spiritual adepts; they are possible for anyone who is able to raise the level of conscious energy in the body-mindheart and so invite a sudden infusion of understanding. Before considering how this rise in energy through sustained presence is accomplished (the subject of the next chapter) it is helpful to our inquiry if we become better acquainted with ENERGY itself. Let us therefore turn our attention to two fundamental questions: • What spiritual principles are illuminated when it is recognized that energy is the substance and powerhouse of the universe? • How is energy used to facilitate spiritual evolution?

THE UNIVERSE AS ENERGY Energy is the medium of all physical, mental-emotional (subtle) and spiritual manifestation. Walt Whitman’s exclamation “I sing the body electric” defines the physical body of the universe, but it also suggests the electromagnetic field that energizes, empowers and connects all creatures as they appear and interact in material form.24 Furthermore, the subtle intelligence that informs this electromagnetic energy in the physical universe originates at an even finer level of vibration that is called spiritual. The Mystical Body of Christ and the Dharmakaya (the universe as Buddha’s Body) are examples of this spiritual aspect of energy which, when linked to the subtle and physical aspects, makes a manifest Whole.


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Knowledge about this pervasive 3-layered energy comes from two apparently disparate realms—mystical experience and new science. Their respective inquiries into ‘truth’ have unveiled a powerful convergence. Einstein, the consummate scientist, refers to a marriage of religion and science when he says: The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.25

Both realms—mysticism and science—reveal that the universe is an energy network of harmonious design in which all life forms are dynamically interconnected. Mystics as culturally distant as shaman Black Elk and contemporary physicist David Bohm speak of a web that all species inhabit. Bohm’s studies of the cosmos lead him to conclude that we live in an animate, sacred “cosmic web of relations.”26 Whether it be a spider web or the spiral galaxy, Messier 81, the universe patiently shows us this cosmic law of interconnectedness.

Messier 81 Galaxy, ‘NASA/JPL-Caltech/S. Willner (Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

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How does a mystic—or for that matter a scientist—unmask this energy web which links all life? By the visionary power of the mind-heart. The mystic sees and experiences the true nature of matter as divine energy by lifting his or her own energy, through conscious practice, into the frequency of that divine vibration. The mystic enters a spiritually-charged universe where every life form is recognized as a vibration of the Holy, a living cell in a Divine Body of conscious, radiating Energy. Occasionally you or I may have a mystic moment, a glimpse into this sacred zone of numinous energy that Teilhard de Chardin calls the noosphere. But we don’t know how to sustain the experience; it vanishes like smoke. At the physical level energy disguises itself in form and appears to diversify itself as separate bodies. If we look deeply, however, as Einstein did, we see the ever-present spiritual law of unity in diversity. The underlying reality of Einstein’s revolutionary formula E=mc2 is the equation of matter and energy. This equation never fails to be amazing! What seems to be solid, stationary, discrete matter—this table, chair, floor, window, tree, bird, sky, sun, plant, insect, human—is an energy matrix of trillions of interacting particle/waves scurrying about in a vast electromagnetic field, indelibly connected to one another. Even rocks, which appear inert to the observing eye, are moving rapidly at the molecular level. The shaman who carries healing crystals in his medicine pouch acknowledges the animate power residing in all matter, including the mineral world. “Unmoving, it moves;” says the Eesha-Upanishad, “is far away, yet near; within all, outside all. . . .”27 The universe is continually unfolding its energy-forms from the dark womb of undifferentiated energy into discrete manifest forms even as, in time, each form disintegrates, enfolding its energy back into the all-encompassing embrace of that fertile womb.28 The Katha-Upanishad depicts this ensemble process of emerging and dissolving as the breathing in and out of infinite Self: The Self . . . is sun in the sky, fire upon the altar, guest in the house, air that runs everywhere, Lord of lords, living in reality. He abounds everywhere, is renewed in the sacrifice, born in water, springs out of the soil, breaks out of the mountain; power; reality. Living at the centre, adorable, adored by the senses, He breathes out, breathes in.29

When we are awake and at rest in the present moment we can become aware of this transparent energy network. If you stop reading these words for a moment and just focus your awareness inside your body you can feel the energy vibrating in the tissues. You can also feel an exchange of energy molecules with the surrounding environment through your breathing. This vibratory shimmering, as of light energy, is even more noticeable when the body stops after strenuous exercise and rests.


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Post-Einsteinian discoveries at the quantum level affirm this vast energy matrix as the deeper reality of seamless connections that underlies the circumscribed Newtonian universe of discrete material forms whose movements are regulated by mechanical laws. Behind the perceived timeline of linear events is the timeless whole of interconnected particle/waves performing their synchronous dance. When we recognize the universe as fluid, pulsating energy we understand that the preservation of the imperial trees of the Amazon rainforest—the living lungs of the planet—assures our own preservation. When we recognize humanity as a unified whole then we are not deceived by arbitrary divisions of class, caste, and race. Energy is the great leveler. Understanding Energy eradicates all excuses to abuse any denizen of the planet—human, animal, vegetable, or mineral. The perception of an interconnected, conscious universe in which each I is a member and a subject rather than an object is the relativity that shapes the Einsteinian perspective. Every view is the point and every view intersects with every other view. This kaleidoscope impression of the universe, like facets of a diamond sparkling in the light, is none other than the mystic vision. Contemporary Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh reiterates this mystery when he says: “We are each of us not the same, but we are not different either. We interare.”30 Since all life forms are interdependent and interrelated as family members the only reasonable response to our kin is compassion. Thich Nhat Hanh’s trainings in mindfulness—the Buddhist term for awareness or presence—begin with two promises that link compassionate action with understanding this fact of interdependence. They are: I vow to develop my compassion in order to love and protect the life of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I vow to develop understanding in order to be able to love and to live in harmony with people, animals, plants, and minerals.31

Indigenous peoples have always maintained that life forms are animate and sacred because all bodies live by means of the vital energy of the Great Spirit. This life force is understood to be conscious, intelligent and purposeful. Just as fruit cannot be separated from its juice, so the Great Spirit extends and reveals Itself through Its divine energy. Natives of Polynesia call this energy mana. It translates in Taoist teachings as ch’i and in ancient Hindu texts as prana. This energy enlivens each species of life with the intelligence and power intrinsic to that specific configuration. The entire universe vibrates with conscious energy. Since vibration is sound it could be said that the universe is continually speaking and listening to itself. When human beings participate consciously in this antiphonal speaking and listening they display a recognition of a relative universe where all creatures are relatives of one an-

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other and children of the Great Spirit. This participation is the powerful alternative to human manipulation of the universe as object. Sometimes extraordinary circumstances present us with irrefutable evidence of the universe as sacred energy. Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, for example, expresses a personal epiphany that occurred when he viewed planet Earth from outer space. In words refreshingly ‘primitive’ he says: “‘ . . . gazing toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.’”32 As the universe’s latest progeny, how should we humans understand ourselves and conduct ourselves in this vast home of stars and planets? Lawrence Freeman, Benedictine monk and spiritual teacher, describes the human function in terms of energy. He writes: The identity of each infinitely lovable person is energy in a constant state of transformation. . . . Everything is energy and all energy is a dynamic part of a cosmic process of transformation. The energy of humanity is being converted into the energy of God. . . . A human being is woven into a unity of different strands of filaments of energy—physical, mental, spiritual—and we are in a constant energy flow. But all energy has a common source—the ground of being, not a being but Being itself, God. In God’s image we are conscious energy, and consciousness makes the vital difference between us and other forms of created energy, but we retain the other kinds still woven into us. . . . What is this energy for? What does meditation do? Meditation is simply turning towards the sun, the source, towards God . . . so that we fully reflect the light. . . .33

The first conscious step towards that sun is the meditation of presence. USING ENERGY FOR SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION The purpose of human life is the conscious use of the creative energy that generates and sustains the Creation. More than any other species the human being has the capacity to use living energy in a conscious way. In order to use energy consciously presence is required. The art of presence is the ‘magic’ that invests ordinary life with sacramental meaning and closes the gap between spirit and matter. The world can become what it is: the abode of the gods, Heaven on Earth. The fine energy of presence ignites a transmutation and realignment of energy in the body-mind-heart that leads to self-realization. As the mistaken notion of separation is eclipsed it becomes clear that the Energy attributed to a Divine Source is, and always has been, one’s own. The light generated by this enlightenment radiates a healing power upon all who come near the source.


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Spiritual transformation is not a progressive accumulation of new, improved abilities and insights. Rather, it is an uncovering of innate knowledge by the removal of mistaken ideas. Just as a diamond is mined and processed out of its elemental substance, carbon, which is the chemical basis of all life, so human perfection discloses itself through the spiritual ‘labor’ of eliminating mental-emotional obstructions in the form of assumptions, prejudices, and the like. As teacher Jean Klein says: “. . . uncover the person who feels something is missing and what remains is perfection. What is false disappears of its own accord, once it has been seen as false.”34 This excavation work requires a high level of conscious energy—energy that presence generates. We are all ‘diamonds in the rough’ awaiting self-discovery. Or, to use another analogy, we are like the exquisite figure of David hidden within the block of stone that Michelangelo sculpted. The spiritual sculptor in us chips away at layers of flawed thinking and negative feeling that compose the building blocks of a counterfeit self. Thomas Merton describes the process: “Before we can realize who we really are, we must become conscious of the fact that the person we think we are, here and now, is at best an impostor and a stranger.”35 Contemporary spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle calls this collage of negative thought-feelings the pain-body. The pain-body occupies its host—bodymind-heart—and spreads its destructive energy like a virus in the form of anger, resentment, jealousy and the like. These are the demonic forces that Jesus is said to have exorcized. Presence is the counterforce that illuminates and eliminates this alien energy. Tolle writes: The pain-body is an energy field, almost like an entity, that has become temporarily lodged in your inner space. It is life energy that has become trapped, energy that is no longer flowing. . . . It is the living past in you, and if you identify with it, you identify with the past. . . .The truth is that the only power there is, is contained within this moment: It is the power of your presence. Once you know that, you also realize . . . that the past cannot prevail against the power of the Now.36

It is crucial to note that the energy expended to defend and promote the pain-body is energy that becomes unavailable for spiritual work. According to Hindu Vedanta, an allotment of energy is measured to each of us at birth. This energy can be used consciously by the practice of presence or used up indiscriminately by the siphoning effect of mechanical actions and reactions. Desire is the kingpin, the switch that turns on the energy circuit in mind-heart to determine the quality of action. The question becomes, at every moment, what do I want and who is this I that wants it?

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A sound spiritual ecology involves the conscious conservation and proper use of energy. It is a fundamental law of physics that energy cannot be lost, only transformed. Thus the spiritual choice of freeing trapped negative energy and converting it into positive energy through conscious awareness acknowledges an original neutrality of energy. Sometimes the conversion is accomplished through means that may appear extravagant. For example, the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert harness an energy they call n/um by long bouts of trancelike dancing. Heat fills their bodies and makes them tremble. This feverish, trembling experience has been reported in diverse religious settings, including the Shaker ritual of heavy dancing, the Sun Dance ceremony of the Plains Indians, and the feeling of the body being consumed by God’s burning love in the experiential reports of mystics such as St. Therese of Lisieux and Philip Neri. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that the practice of simple mindfulness is the most potent tool for conserving energy and directing it constructively. For example, mindful consideration of a turbulent situation that has the potential of arousing anger provides the mental-emotional switch whereby an angry reaction is transmuted into a flow of understanding and compassion. Similarly, the legendary Mirdad equates energy with passion. Passion is transmutable. He says: “Man’s fevers are transmutable. The fever of war may be transmuted into a fever of peace. The fever of hoarding wealth, into a fever of hoarding love. Such is the alchemy of the Spirit which you are called upon to practice and to teach.”37 The mystic way of all religions avers that spiritual energy is the same energy of sexual passion and procreation. Thus, the measure of energy expended in sexual pleasure needs to be regulated to allow for spiritual enlightenment. Tessa Bielecki addresses this conscious conservation and measurement of energy. She challenges the cultural stereotype of monastic celibacy as sexual repression. Rather, she says, celibacy is a voluntary sublimation (making sublime) that consciously directs sexual energy towards spiritual liberation. Bielecki warns young people in particular to avoid wasting precious spiritual energy through promiscuous acts. Using the model of St. Teresa of Avila—a fiery woman who used her formidable energy for spiritual consummation—Bielecki writes: We need to distinguish between eros and eroticism. Eros, great-souled desire for oneness, is the beginning of mysticism. Eroticism, a preoccupation with genitality, is a deflection of real erotic energy and the end of any mystical possibility.38

The care required in managing energy for the spiritualization of life is compounded by another consideration. If energy is devoted exclusively to


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the limited aim of individual spiritual evolution there is a subtle but potent danger that ego will claim the goods. Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa spots the mimic, ego, in this passage: The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality. . . . So if our teacher speaks of renunciation of ego, we attempt to mimic renunciation of ego. We go through the motions, make the appropriate gestures, but we really do not want to sacrifice any part of our way of life. We become skillful actors. . . . The interpreter is ego in the role of spiritual advisor. . . .This rationalization of the spiritual path and one’s actions must be cut through if true spirituality is to be realized.39

Because of the principle of interconnectedness spiritual ‘progress’ can never be private. Ignoring the Larger Self of the Earth community, in which our human identity is embedded, is the ignorance that erases the wholesome effect that impartial presence has on individual and community alike. The Eesha-Upanishad warns: “All that lives is full of the Lord; claim nothing, enjoy, do not covet His property.”40 This same instruction appears in Psalm 24: The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein . . . who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity. . . . (Ps. 24:1–4)

How is it that human beings have forgotten this spiritual law of solidarity with all living creatures as kin? Even the natural bond between one human being and another is denied. In the following poem thirteenth century Christian mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg reflects on the indivisible unity of the human family. She writes: Effortlessly, Love flows from God into man, Like a bird Who rivers the air Without moving her wings. Thus we move in His world One in body and soul, Though outwardly separate in form. As the source strikes the note, Humanity sings— The Holy Spirit is our harpist, And all strings Which are touched in Love Must sound.41

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THE CHAKRA ENERGY SYSTEM Chakra is a Sanskrit word that means wheel. The chakras, or spinning wheels of light, are subtle engines of energy production in our bodies. Universal energy manifests in each life form through the chakra energy system. In human beings this system is particularly complex, serving physical, mental-emotional and spiritual needs. It is helpful to become acquainted with the significance and power of the chakras so that we can care for our health holistically. Seven major chakras reside in the physical body at certain key positions, composing a subtle anatomy that can be seen and felt by certain healers and clairvoyants.42 Each chakra is said to have a color and emit a subtle tonal frequency. Nerve bundles or plexi occupy each chakra area. The solar plexus, for instance, is the physical counterpart to the subtle solar chakra whose vibrations reflect the mental image of who we think we are—our sense of personal identity. As the energy that supports ego is transmuted this chakra manifests the ‘sun’ of our true self. A diagram of the vertical chakra line shows the physical location of each chakra. The type of energy that each chakra generates is indicated.43 Each chakra oversees the health of adjacent physical organs. Variations in the color, spin, and sound of one of these clusters of vibrating energy can signal a physical ailment or mental-emotional blockage even before the problem manifests in the body. Thus, for instance, a weakened spin or unhealthy color of the heart chakra may portend a circulatory problem or even emotional depression. To use an analogy, if the amperage of a circuit breaker in a house is too low it may not be able to provide the necessary electrical energy for certain household appliances whose demand exceeds the capacity of the circuit. In like manner, an insufficient supply of healthful energy from the chakras to the physical organs they serve invites disease. The dance of the Sufi whirling dervishes mimics the spinning of the chakras.44 The monks spin, rapt in fervent meditation, around their sun, Allah, like planets orbiting the sun of the solar system. Simultaneously, the worshipful intent of their dance creates a force that refines and balances the chakras that spin in the microcosm of their bodies: ‘as above, so below.’ Within the circle of the Sufi dance is the octave of spiritual evolution—the chakra line—that forms a mystical ladder encircled by an arc of descent (the creation of the cosmos by Divine Energy) and an arc of ascent (the return journey to Unity). It is said of these seven subtle energy centers: “The creative ascent to the Divine, which is a latent potential in all mankind, may be accomplished through Divine Grace in the seven levels of realization through man’s seven subtle centers.”45


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Seven Major Chakras/Dominique Medici, used with permission.

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Sufi whirling dervishes, ‘courtesy of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office, UK’



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Sufi mystical ladder / from Sense of Unity: The Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture by Nader Ardalan and Laleh Bakhtiar (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), p. 8. Used by permission of Laleh Bakhtiar.

The healthy spin and color of each chakra facilitates the flow of energy through the body and radiates beyond the body forming a layered aura of vibrations. Painters often indicate holiness in saintly figures by encircling their heads with golden halos. In actuality an aura of rainbow-colored lights encircles the entire body of every life form. The aura around enlightened beings is so resplendent that those who look upon them report being blinded. When Peter, James and John climbed to the mountain top with Jesus St. Matthew reports that Jesus was “transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light (Matt. 5:8).”46 Western culture as a rule does not value the subtle dimension that the chakra energies represent. We in the West tend to physicalize everything. Yet,

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if we review how the physical world operates—for example, how a cell phone call is made between New York City and Beijing—the causal role of invisible energy is readily acknowledged. In Western medicine, analyses of the health of various organ systems through the testing of blood, urine, glandular secretions, et cetera, are traditional mediums for the diagnosis of disease. By contrast, the Chinese arts of acupressure and acupuncture, which spring from Taoist teaching, locate disease by determining the health of the meridians— the intricate subtle channels that interlace the physical body and receive energy or ch’i from their chakra pumping stations, much as water is pumped into irrigation channels. By applying pressure to the skin or inserting needles at certain key points on the surface of the body the ch’i moving through the meridians is evaluated and manipulated. Again, the origin of hatha yoga is Hinduism. When yoga postures are attentively performed it is the prana from the activated chakras that is toning the physical body and harmonizing the mind-heart. Not only does a healthy chakra system enhance physical and mental-emotional health; it also facilitates the spiritual transformation of energy. When the energy of unconditional love begins to dictate our thoughts and actions it is evidence that the heart chakra is opening. Feelings for spouse and children, activated at the second or sacral chakra, are now expanded to include love for all beings. The awakened heart chakra is the bridge whereby the three higher chakras are empowered. As Jesus says: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matt. 5:9).” The Sacred Heart of Jesus, an important icon of worship, signals the full development of this chakra energy.47 There is a saying that God was told by a trusted angel that he should hide in the human heart because no one would think of searching for Him there. Although there are oblique references to the chakra system in Western scriptures, it is in the Eastern traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism that we find a full practical knowledge of the relationship between the stimulation of chakra energies and spiritual evolution. One of the most famous examples is kundalini meditation. As the heat generated by the repeated mantra eliminates sanskara (the energy residue of past lives), and the karmic skein unravels, a progressive purification occurs in the mind-heart.48 In practical terms, kundalini energy, symbolized by a coiled serpent, rises from the base chakra and passes through each chakra in its upward route. If and when the energy reaches and penetrates the crown chakra, this seventh chakra opens, signifying the experience of samadhi or spiritual liberation. The important thing to understand about the chakra system is that the practice of presence works as an active meditation that awakens, energizes and empowers the pure qualities that the chakra energies embody. As we experience freedom from the ego-imposed constraints that bind thought and action


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our lives are directed more and more by these intrinsic powers. For example, the tone of jubilation that infuses the Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman suggests a considerable release from limitation and a surge of empowerment. How else but through a rise in conscious awareness, associated with a charging of chakra energies, is the poet’s vision of limitlessness possible? As you read a segment of this poem feel the energy that emanates from the words. Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road . . . From this hour I ordain myself loosed of limits and imaginary lines, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me. I inhale great draughts of space, The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine . . . The efflux of the soul comes from within through embower’d gates, ever provoking questions . . . The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is happiness, I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times, Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged.49

New energy-based healing modalities that acknowledge the chakras are beginning to affect the Western approach to health. These modalities reveal a respect for the presence of spirit in body and, like older approaches to healing like Christian Science, argue that the power of spiritual energy can heal the body-mind-heart. For example, the holistic hands-on practices of reiki, healing touch and varieties of energy medicine stimulate the self-healing properties of the chakra energy system. According to Barbara Brennan, teacher of Healing Touch, a healer’s power comes from a recasting of self as universal energy at work. She writes: Being a healer means to move toward this universal creative power which we experience as love by reidentifying self with, and becoming, universal; becoming one with God. One stepping stone to this wholeness is to let go of our limited self definitions based on our Newtonian past of separated parts and to identify ourselves with being energy fields.50

Donna Eden, author of Energy Medicine, speaks of her own journey into wholeness as an integrated passage of body-mind-heart-soul from sickness to health. When it became clear to Eden that a host of ailments that had compromised her health from an early age could not be overcome solely through

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Western medicine she began a search that culminated in a synthesis of Western applied kinesiology and the ancient Chinese medical art of manipulating the energies of the meridians and chakras. She was able to heal herself through these two systems combined with a healthy diet and a discovery of her own natural healing gifts. Eden generously shares her knowledge through inspirational workshops. The following personal account enumerates the obstacles she faced and overcame through the awakening, as she describes it, of the “two-million-year-old healer within.”51 I was born with a heart murmur, contracted tuberculosis at age five, had terrible food allergies and hay fever, showed the first symptoms of what was later diagnosed as multiple sclerosis when I was sixteen, had a mild heart attack in my late twenties, had severe asthma in my early thirties, a breast tumor at thirtyfour, and I have been hypoglycemic and struggled with severe PMS since I was twelve.52

Eden describes a process of self-healing: I am ambivalent about the word ‘healer’. It implies doing something to someone else . . . separating the healer from the healed. . . . I do, however, appreciate the concept of the wounded healer . . . I know that when you heal yourself, you discover what no one can teach you. It is an initiation into the very foundation of life, and it organically seems to follow that you have compassion for people who are frightened about their health and want to offer the harvest of your experience. . . .Your body is engineered so that if you tap into its healing force, that force will lead you toward health. It is not just the personality or the soul wanting the body to get better. The body wants to heal, and every cell carries extraordinary intelligence and fortitude.53

This healing force is spiritual in nature. Eden explains: The soul is the source of the most subtle energies of your being. Yet this subtle energy gives form to everything else about you, from your cells to your sense of self. . . .Ironically, the deeper you enter into the life of your personal soul, the more fully you identify with your roots in the life of a universal, unifying intelligent Spirit. And the better your body will fare.54

A REEDUCATION IN BEING Presence is the natural state of all beings. Beings are: that is the meaning of being. When mind-heart is occupied with past or future the pull of energy into


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illusory thoughts and feelings denies the sole reality of being. Walt Whitman speaks of this sacred Now: I do not talk of the beginning or the end. There was never any more inception than there is now, Nor any more youth or age than there is now And will never be any more perfection than there is now Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.55

Since being is all-inclusive it must comprise both the energy of movement and the still point of non-movement. At the still point is rest and dispassionate watching of movement. The Eesha-Upanishad says: “The Self is One . . . Unmoving, it moves . . . unmoving it outruns pursuit.”56 A story illustrates this unmoving One that moves: A competition is held in which all animals participate in a running race around the globe. They stand ready at the starting line; a shot is fired. All sprint forward—except for the elephant who does not move. The elephant remembers who he is and remains at rest at the starting point. When the other animals arrive breathless at the ‘finish line’ the elephant is already there; so of course, he wins.

When body-mind-heart takes up its natural location in the present moment the presence of Self is felt—literally. We feel Self breathing in the body through the prana that enlivens the breath. We feel the meaning of the words “be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10).” Yet this feeling of existence, which Hindu Vedanta calls mahatatwa, is still a step removed from Being itself. In other words, if Being is Self then in reality you cannot feel yourself or know yourself because you are yourself! Not only are human beings the One Self and not, as Alan Watts states, “isolated ‘egos’ inside bags of skin”, but also every human being is a unique expression of the whole sacred universe.57 All living creatures are children of Wakan Tanka—the Great Spirit—because they share ton, the spiritual essence that enlivens all beings.58 In order that we human beings remember this larger spiritual family and act out our designated role as conscious beings, a spiritual pedagogy that is practical and potent is needed. We need an educational method that does the work of e-ducere (to lead out), a method that leads us out from the bondage of ignorance. By habitually ignoring what is secretly known in the wisdom of the present moment the mind-heart commits grave acts of disobedience to Self that go beyond personal suffering. Indeed, how is the world to recover from

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continuous warfare, extreme poverty alongside gluttonous wealth, epidemic diseases, the shadow of nuclear holocaust, and perhaps most threatening of all, the disintegration of the Earth’s ecosystems due to human recklessness? We are at the cusp of an era in which we must rediscover, gather, and translate for our times the revolutionary visions and strategies which the great spiritual teachers have modeled for us. As Mother Teresa poignantly argues: Today if we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other—that man, that woman, that child is my brother or my sister. . . . If everyone could see the image of God in his neighbor, do you think we should still need tanks and generals?59

How shall we begin the restorative work that Catholic theologian Thomas Berry calls the Great Work of this present age? The conquest of the monumental challenges we face requires a shift in planetary consciousness, a paradigmatic change—in other words, a spiritual revolution. In order to initiate and sustain a revolution that respects and serves the spiritual evolution of each being as the incarnate Absolute the educational method that is chosen must fulfill two parallel objectives: • to foster the illumination and elimination of disabling patterns of thought and action, and • to thereby unmask the natural virtues of Self so that a peaceful, benevolent society is created for everyone. The first objective is modeled by Socrates. In the Socratic dialogues Socrates employs a system of rigorous questioning in which reason is used to knock down the presumptions and assumptions that keep ignorance alive in the minds of his interlocutors. Although the intent of the questioning is to uncover the meaning of a virtue such as holiness or courage the dialogue concludes without any conclusive understanding of the virtue being examined. The open-ended nature of the search suggests that understanding is meshed with the journey itself. The Holy Grail is discovered in the quest for the grail. Confucius shows a way towards the second objective—the revelation in society of the virtues of Self. By reeducating people in virtuous traits based in jen—a word rich in meanings such as benevolence, righteousness, self-respect and respect for others—social relationships and government at all levels, from family to nation, will reflect this refinement of character. The educational method that best fulfills these two objectives—the elimination of disabling patterns and the unmasking of Self—must demonstrate its practical usefulness by providing an alternative to a modern cultural lifestyle


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that many people experience as shallow, stressful and unsatisfying. It must offer a simple practice that teaches the art of presence and thus raises the level of conscious awareness. The power of intensified awareness is the hi-test spiritual fuel that transmutes ego energy and sets in motion the wheels of cultural and planetary renewal. An inquiry into such an educational method is comparable to going through the procedures for curing a physical illness. First, and most obvious, the patient becomes aware that he or she is sick and wants to get well. Next, the symptoms of the illness are noted and documented by a doctor. Then those symptoms must be penetrated to their root cause by diagnostic testing. Everything about the illness must be learned intimately. When the mechanisms by which the illness keeps itself alive are seen and understood a cure can be introduced that redirects energy to defuse the harmful mechanisms while boosting the natural vigor of the body-mind-heart to heal itself. The next chapter offers a simple practice in being that allows us to meet these criteria. As patient and doctor, each of us has the opportunity to fulfill the proverb: ‘physician, heal thyself’(Luke 4:23).

NOTES 1. Robert Bly, The Kabir Book (Boston: Beacon Press, 1977), 29. Excerpts from The Kabir Book by Robert Bly, copyright © 1971, 1977 by Robert Bly, © 1977 by Seventies Press. Excerpts reprinted by permission of Beacon Press, Boston. Kabir was an illiterate weaver by trade. Raised a Muslim in India he became the disciple of the Hindu sage Ramananda. His poem-songs reflect an ebullient love of the Divine. 2. The word consciousness can have many meanings. We will assume the literal meaning taken from the etymology of the Latin word com + scire, to know within, self-aware. The true self is aware of being made of the same divine awareness that pervades the universe. The word conscience, which derives from the same root, refers to the knowledge of what is right and true. It infers that knowledge, including moral knowledge, is innate. 3. The etymological root of the word health is hol or hal which means whole. 4. The teaching of tikkun olam appears in the Kabbalah, the writings of Jewish mysticism. 5. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B. Yeats and Shree Purohit Swāmi (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 15. From the Eesha-Upanishad. 6. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York: Aventine Press, 1931), 33. 7. The Qur’an, trans. Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Elmhurst, Ny: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., 2001), Surah 1:2, p. 1. 8. The Poems of Robert Browning (London: Oxford University Press, 1928), 637. From the poem ‘Rabbi Ben Ezra’. 9. The Poems of Robert Browning, 131. From the poem ‘Andrea del Sarto’.

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10. Chief Oren Lyons, Opening Statement, United Nations General Assembly Auditorium, New York City, 10 December, 1992 < 6Nations/OlatUNin92.html> (21 Aug. 2007). 11. The Geeta: The Gospel of the Lord Shri Krishna, trans. Purohit Swami (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), 33. 12. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 135. 13. Songs of Kabir, trans. Rabindranath Tagore (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1974), 85. [Samuel Weiser is now Red Wheel/Weiser]. 14. The Poems of Robert Browning, 635. From the poem ‘Abt Vogler’. 15. Adapted from Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and PreZen Writings (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor, nd), 23. 16. VHS series Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers, Program Six, Masks of Eternity. A Mystic Fire Video in association with Parabola Magazine. Produced by Apostrophe S Productions in association with Public Affairs Television, Inc. and Alvin H. Perlmutter, Inc. 17. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 53. 18. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 56. 19. Sufism is Islamic mysticism. It arose as a rebellion against the pomp and splendor of the caliphs and sultans who adopted Islam and, in the opinion of the Sufis, lost touch with the basic simplicity and mystic ardor of the Qur’an’s teaching as revealed to Muhammad during a mystic trance. The word suf means wool. The simple wool garment worn by Sufis symbolizes their rejection of a materially rich life and their embrace of an intensified prayer life dedicated to the realization of Allah. 20. St. Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey into God, trans. Ewert Cousins (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), 100. This saying is attributed by St. Bonaventure to the mystic Alan de Lille. 21. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: Harper Collins, 1988), 11. Excerpts from Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, A New English Version, with Foreword and Notes by Stephen Mitchell, translation copyright © 1988 by Stephen Mitchell, reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Lao Tzu lived in the sixth century B.C.E. 22. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 135. 23. Richard Maurice Bucke, M.D., Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1993), 7–8. Whereas Bucke uses the third person pronoun to describe his experience, the first person has been substituted here for effect. 24. Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 97. 25. Living Philosophies (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1931), 6. 26. Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics (Boston: Shambhala, 1991), 319. 27. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 15. 28. David Bohm describes these cycles of unfolding and enfolding as the emergence of a visible explicate order of being out of a hidden implicate order of being (undifferentiated energy) and its reverse dissolution. 29. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 35. 30. Recorded in notes at dharma talk #2, ‘Walking in Peace Today’ retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, 11–16 Aug., 2005, Stonehill College, Easton, Mass. Thich Nhat


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Hanh is a Zen Buddhist monk and teacher, a native of Vietnam. He has been instrumental in spreading the Buddhist teaching of mindfulness to the West and has established three monastic communities of the Order of Interbeing: one is Plum Village in France, the other two are in the United States. He and his monastic brothers and sisters conduct retreats worldwide. He first became known in the West as a social activist who helped rescue refugees—‘the boat people’—during the Vietnam War. Both Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton considered Thich Nhat Hanh their spiritual brother. 31. Thich Nhat Hanh, The Long Road Turns to Joy: A Guide to Walking Meditation (Berkeley, Calif.: Parallax Press, 1996), 88. Reprinted with permission of publisher. 32. Michael Dowd, Earthspirit: A Handbook for Nurturing an Ecological Christianity (Mystic, Conn: Twenty-third Publications, 1992), 98. 33. Lawrence Freeman, The Selfless Self (New York: Continuum, 1998), 8–9. Reprinted by permission of The Continuum Publishing Company. Lawrence Freeman is the Director of the World Community for Christian Meditation whose headquarters is in London, England. Freeman is passing on the teaching of the late John Main who devised a Christian meditation using the Aramaic word maranatha (which means come, Lord) as a mantra to lead a person to the Kingdom of God within. 34. Jean Klein, I AM, ed. Emma Edwards (St. Peter Port, Guernsey, C.I.: Third Millennium Publications, 1995), 24. Trained as a musicologist and doctor in Central Europe, Jean Klein’s main interest was finding a true path to Self-discovery. In traveling to India to pursue this spiritual quest he met a teacher who helped him to awaken to his true nature. Returning to Europe in 1960 he devoted the rest of his life to teaching those who came to converse with him about the direct experience of reality. 35. Thomas Merton, The New Man (New York: The Noonday Press, 1993), 119. Excerpts from The New Man by Thomas Merton, copyright © 1961 by Thomas Merton, renewed 1989 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc., reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk whose inclusive spirituality included an interest in Eastern religions. He participated in intermonastic dialogues central to the ecumenical outreach of the Roman Catholic Church initiated by the Vatican II Council. Merton’s desire to activate the seed truths of Christianity— among which he emphasized silent contemplation—has inspired Catholics and nonCatholics alike. Merton was a prolific writer, starting with his powerful autobiography, The Seven-Storey Mountain. 36. Eckhart Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now: Essential Teachings, Meditations and Exercises From The Power of Now (Novato, Calif.: New World Library, 2001), 84. In The Power of Now and subsequent books Tolle teaches that staying in the Now is the ground by which all ‘life situations’ can be distinguished from life itself—your own pure presence. It is learning this difference that brings freedom, healing and joy to our lives. 37. Mikhail Naimy, The Book of Mirdad (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 173. 38. Tessa Bielecki, Holy Daring: An Outrageous Gift to Modern Spirituality from Saint Teresa, the Grand Wild Woman of Avila (Rockport, N.H.: Element, 1994), 48. Copyright © 1994 by Tessa Bielecki, excerpt reprinted by permission of author.

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Tessa Bielecki is co-founder, with William McNamara, and former abbess of the Nada Hermitage/Spiritual Life Institute in Crestone, Colorado, a discalced Carmelite sanctuary for monks and nuns. She is the founder of the Desert Foundation and now lives as a laywoman. 39. Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (Berkeley, Calif.: Shambhala, 1973), 13–14. Chögyam Trungpa founded the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. His teachings on meditation and the Shambhala tradition of the fearless, attentive, and compassionate warrior have guided many people on the spiritual path. 40. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 15. 41. Jane Hirshfield ed., Women in Praise of the Sacred (New York: Harper Collins, 1994), 93. Copyright © 1994 by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers and Michael Katz, Nevada City, Calif. 42. Hinduism posits 7 major chakras; Taoism posits 11; the indigenous Hopi Indians posit 5, omitting the root and sacral. There are minor chakras as well. According to Richard Gerber, M.D. there may be more than 360 chakras in the body! See his book Vibrational Medicine (Rochester, Vt.: Bear & Co., 2001), 130. 43. The condensed description, provided in the diagram, of the quality of energy attributed to each chakra is a synthesis of information gleaned from various sources, including Barbara Ann Brennan, Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field (New York: Bantam Books, 1988); Sri Chinmoy, Kundalini: The Mother Power (Jamaica, N.Y.: AUM Publications, 1992); Caroline Myss, Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003); and Anodea Judith, Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System (St. Paul, Minn: Llewellyn, 1992). Each chakra has a shadow side as well as degrees of realization of its positive power. A sign of ongoing spiritual evolution is the positive development of chakra energies. 44. Whirling dervishes is the popular name for the Sufi Islamic sect, the Mevlevi, founded by Jalaluddin Rumi, Persian mystic poet and Sufi, in the 13th century. 45. Nader Ardalan and Laleh Bakhtiar, The Sense of Unity: the Sufi Tradition in Persian Architecture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), 7. Diagram and text from The Sense of Unity reprinted by permission of Laleh Bakhtiar, Ph.D. The Sufi format of a mystical ladder of contemplation finds its complement in the mystical traditions of other religions such as Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity. 46. Hinduism speaks of koshas or sheaths that surround and, in regards to spiritual development, entrap the embodied soul. Through meditation these layers can be cleansed and transcended. The esoteric doctrine of the Rosicrucians speaks of a sevenfold veil that both hides and discloses Self, like rays of the sun or the aroma of a flower. 47. Some teachers believe that the heart chakra should be awakened first. Sri Chinmoy, for example, argues that the awakened heart chakra safeguards the opening of the lower chakras (which, if unmonitored, can release aggressive, selfish energy) by surrounding them with the energy of love. See Sri Chinmoy, Kundalini: the Mother Power (Jamaica, N.Y.: AUM Publications, 1992), 19. 48. Mystics from varied spiritual paths, as well as scientists, have heard the chakra locations vibrate to certain frequencies. It is said that yogis meditating in the silence


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of mountain caves at one time heard combinations of sounds emitted from their chakras and named these sounds mantras. The Sanskrit language is believed to have originated from these mantras. The repetition of mantra (japa) attunes the body-mindheart to powerful cosmic rhythms, facilitating health at all levels, including the ultimate spiritual ‘health’ called self-realization. 49. Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 153–156. 50. Barbara Ann Brennan, Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), 28. Excerpts from Hands of Light, copyright © 1987 by Barbara A. Brennan, used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. 51. Donna Eden with David Feinstein, Energy Medicine (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher 1999), 24. Copyright © 1999 by Donna Eden. Excerpts used by permission of Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Susan Schulman Literary Agency, New York, N.Y. and the author. 52. Eden, Energy Medicine, 5 53. Eden, Energy Medicine, 8–9. 54. Eden, Energy Medicine, 20. 55. Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 30. 56. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 15. 57. Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 9. 58. In the language of the indigenous Lakota Sioux Maka Ina is Mother Earth and Wakan Tanka is both the male Sky God and the transcendent Great Spirit that is beyond gender. 59. Dorothy S. Hunt, ed. Love: A Fruit Always in Season, Daily Meditations by Mother Teresa (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 112. Copyright © 1987 Ignatius Press. Excerpts reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Chapter Two

A Spirituality of the Senses: The Pause

It is proposed in Chapter 1 that the art of presence has the power to cause a radical transmutation of energy in human beings so that their divine potential as emissaries of reason and compassion in the world can be realized. It is the habit of non-awareness—sometimes called spiritual sleep—that blocks this natural route of human spirituality by allowing false and limiting thought patterns to petrify in the mind. The suffering that this status quo of the mind inflicts on the psyche—as well as on the living planet on which we all depend— will only intensify unless there is a cultural awakening in consciousness that reconfigures the way energy is used. Awareness provides the fulcrum by which consciousness in the world is raised or lowered. That said, if an individual decides that he or she wants to be present and aware and is willing to question cherished beliefs and feelings, how is this to be accomplished? What is the mechanism by which one stays present in Presence? Jesus hints at how to proceed when he describes the untutored multitude as: “seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand (Mark 4:12).” Having physical eyes and ears is no guarantee that truth, while not hidden, will be recognized. All the great spiritual revolutionaries manifest truthful principles by their lives and teachings yet, mysteriously, few in the audience see an enlightened being or hear enlightened words—just as Jesus, who called himself the Way, the Truth and the Life was not seen or heard but by a few who actually followed him. What if Jesus’ repeated references to an awakening of the senses are taken literally? What if Jesus and Buddha and Krishna and Lao Tzu and Muhammad and Moses and Confucius are telling us that spirituality is nothing out of the ordinary, that it centers upon the use of the senses—but with this profound twist: that they be used consciously? To use the metaphor of an archaeological dig, 33


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what if the excavation tools used to extract precious deposits of spiritual truth— including the unveiling of one’s own innate perfection and the formula for its realization—are ready at hand, in plain sight? In defining the pious man Abraham Heschel points to sensory awakening as fundamental. He writes: “ In the small things he senses the significant, in the common and the simple he senses the ultimate; in the rush of the passing he feels the stillness of the eternal.”1 Indeed, sensory awareness is the raw material of spiritual transformation because it ignites a spirituality of the senses. When sensory tools are used consciously they become spiritual conduits: thus are born the spiritualities of touching, seeing, smelling, tasting and listening. It turns out that our archaeological dig is quite a shallow one! The use of the senses in their spiritual as well as physical roles is nothing new. Breathing, experienced through the sense of touch, is the biological process essential to life; yet breathing also serves as a meditative aid in Hindu yoga and the Zen Buddhist practice of zazen or seated meditation. Conscious repetition of the Jesus Prayer, a contemplative practice devised by early Christian monks, coordinates breathing with inwardly repeating the name of Jesus. It is curious that while spiritual practice is the quintessential expression of the human desire to evolve beyond the limitations of earthly life by dissolving a conditional human existence into unconditional divinity, spiritual practice must use the conditional factors of human existence to evolve now, in this life. When asked if there was a heaven the Buddha is said to have replied enigmatically that heaven is neither existent, nor is it non-existent. He was directing his disciples’ attention away from an imagined afterlife to enlightenment in this life, through this body. Walt Whitman sought the Divine by means of an acute tuning of the senses. The poet writes: Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle. Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from. . . . Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy. . . . A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.2

When we are physically still and sensorily awake there is the opportunity, says Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi, to spiritually touch the true self as “the pure awareness in your heart.”3 Eckhart Tolle traces the origin of wisdom to this combination of stillness and sensory awareness. He writes: But what is wisdom and where is it to be found? Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you.4

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The cultivation of sensory appreciation is therefore the basic mechanics of the non-mechanical practice of presence that is the hallmark of free will. When, in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, the wayward son turns from his profligate life and ‘comes to himself’– or as one translation has it, ‘comes to his senses’—he chooses to begin the return journey to his loving father.5 Coming to our senses means that a conscious reactivation of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting brings the faculties of mind-heart into the present. And, conversely, being-present means that the senses are operating in a conscious manner. For example, hearing is a mechanical action by which the ears pick up and relay sound to the brain. Being-present transmutes this automatic functioning into conscious listening and introduces choice. We can choose to listen to the conversation we are having with a friend, or we can listen to the random noise in our heads and forego being present to our friend. Similarly, we can taste food consciously and thereby measure the amount we eat by the activation of the discriminating faculty of mind, or we can overeat, oblivious of quality or amount. Just as a dull knife will cut better when sharpened so the senses enable appropriate action when they are employed consciously. This conscious quickening of the senses is the subject of a meditative essay on art by the late Susan Sontag who speaks of a loss of sensory acuity in modern culture. She argues that without sensitivity we cannot see a work of art, much less critique it. She writes: ‘Ours is a culture based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern life—its material plentitude, its sheer crowdedness—conjoin to dull our sensory faculties.’6

On the other hand, when we are present to the Creation through the senses we have the opportunity to connect to Creation as the habitat of Spirit. The Lakota Sioux would say we are connecting to Maka Ina, sacred Mother Earth. The Chhāndôgya-Upanishad speaks of the sensory gate to Spirit: Who sees through the eye, knowing that He sees, is Self, the eye an instrument whereby He sees; who smells through the nose, knowing that he smells, is the Self, the nose an instrument whereby He smells; who speaks through the tongue, knowing that He speaks, is Self, the tongue an instrument whereby He speaks; who hears through the ear, knowing that He hears, is Self, the ear an instrument whereby He hears; who thinks through the mind, knowing that He thinks, is Self, the mind an instrument whereby He thinks. He looks through the mind’s eye, his spiritual eye; in that eye heaven is made. . . .7

The critical word in the above passage is knowing. Seeing through the eye and knowing that seeing is taking place describes the awareness that is necessary if


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Self is to be detected through the senses. There can be no sense of Self or Spirit as the ultimate observer unless there is awareness. Furthermore, the human experience of Spirit often necessitates investing that bodiless Being with bodily qualifications. Thus one prays in front of the statue of a saint in order to connect to the immaterial. Carl Sandburg remarks: How can I taste with my tongue a tongueless God? How can I touch with my fingers a fingerless God? How can I hear with my ears an earless God? Or smell of a God gone noseless long ago? Or look on a God who never needs eyes for looking?8

Presence introduces us to the natural interplay of our senses with the sacred elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space so that we smell, taste, see, touch, and hear Spirit everywhere. Traditionally earth is associated with smell, taste with water, sight with fire, touch with air, and listening with space. In the Gospel of the Essenes Jesus speaks of the five elements as Angels of the Earthly Mother, holy messengers with whom human beings must commune in order to discover ‘the kingdom within.’ Communion requires contact. This contact begins with sensory awareness. For example, Jesus speaks of communion with the Angel of Earth through smelling the “sweet-scented, swiftly spreading, the good growth of the Lord.”9 Through this communion I know my intimate connection to all earthly life; I know that “the Earthly Mother and I are One. I have my roots in her.”10 Heaven, the abode of the angels, is the hidden reality of Earth. When we consciously come to our senses in the natural world we become sensitive to the gifts of the angels. We experience the abundance of Providence. For example, let’s say you have a 90-foot black walnut tree growing in your back yard. What is that tree? It is the sun, the rain, the soil, the air, and the space in which the tree is growing. What is the tree’s gift? At the biochemical level the tree gives you oxygen; and you, in turn, give the tree carbon dioxide. It is a free-flowing, constant gift exchange between two species intimately bound to each other. Furthermore, if you gather the ripe nuts of the tree as they fall to the ground, split open the spongy greenish husks and then hammer open a hard, corrugated nut to reveal the sweet, oily seed and put that sweetness into your mouth, what do you eat? The sun, the rain, the soil, the air, and the space that the walnut has absorbed. If you take a handful of nuts inside the house and place your prize in a bowl on the rich-brown walnut coffee table, you meet yourself again in the table. Granted, it is easier to do this practice with a tree than, say, a plastic chair. The farther we get from the natural world through industrial technology the harder it is to reconnect to the live elements of which everything is made. Contrary to its appearance, however, plastic contains organic, molecular ma-

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terial which allows it to flow into any desired shape when heat and pressure are applied.

THE BODILY SENSES AS SPIRITUAL CONDUITS The senses operate only in the present. Only in the present do we hear, see, touch, taste, and smell. Being-present therefore requires being fully in the body. In the passage below, from Confessions, St. Augustine identifies a sensual connection to Beauty in the natural world as the unexpected conduit whereby his whole being appreciates Divine Presence. He rhapsodizes thus: I have learnt to love you late, Beauty at once so ancient and so new! I have learnt to love you late! You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself. I searched for you outside myself and, disfigured as I was, I fell upon the lovely things of your creation. You were with me, but I was not with you. The beautiful things of this world kept me far from you and yet, if they had not been in you, they would have had no being at all. You called me; you cried aloud to me; you broke my barrier of deafness. You shone upon me; your radiance enveloped me; you put my blindness to flight. You shed your fragrance about me; I drew breath and now I gasp for your sweet odour. I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am inflamed with love of your peace.11

Actions we take for granted like eating or talking or walking, which employ the bodily senses, are sacred acts when performed in awareness. In fact, all religious traditions offer communion with the Divine through a conscious use of the senses. For example, Mother Teresa taught her sisters, who minister to the poor and sick, that whether it is sweeping the floor, changing a patient’s bedding, or holding a dying person’s hand, “doing ordinary things with extraordinary love” is “the love for Jesus in action.”12 In the homely atmosphere of a nineteenth century French convent the young Therese of Lisieux discovered that by attending to small matters with great love and attention the inconsequential actions of daily life could be elevated to sublime expression. Her teaching became known as the little way. A morning prayer from the Celtic Christian tradition begins: ‘Bless to me, O God Each thing mine eyes sees; Bless to me, O God Each sound mine ear hears; Bless to me, O God, Each odor that goes to my nostrils; Bless to me, O God, Each taste that goes to my lips. . . .’ 13


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And Celtic Christian philosopher A.J. Scott writes of the translation of sensory impression into spiritual knowledge when he explains how an infant learns to appreciate ‘mother’: “‘What do its senses reveal? Forms, colours, motions, sounds: These are not a soul, but through these it detects the presence of a Soul, answering to its soul . . . Even thus does a knowledge of the Highest Spirit come through the universe.’”14 In Buddhist practice, every time one performs daily tasks mindfully, through a conscious activation of the senses, one is bowing to the buddhanature that animates all matter. Likewise, karma yoga instructs the Hindu that work as sacrificial action requires sensory awareness. The Muslim whose head touches the ground as his lips invoke Allah, to the degree that his behavior is wakeful and his intention pure, is purified in the sacred space of his praying. The Navaho shaman, whose fingers draw with precise care the sand painting that will be part of a healing ceremony, moves into the realm of the Holy People whose assistance is consciously invoked. And the Chinese Taoist who at 87 years of age practices t’ai chi ch’uan with mindful reverence every morning in the local park aligns herself with the Tao—the paternal-maternal ordering principle of the universe—as sacred ch’i courses through her body. Historically, religious traditions have not always revered the bodily senses as spiritual conduits. For example, St. Paul’s dichotomy between body and soul shows a persistent Christian ambivalence about the nature of body. Although Paul refers to body as the temple of spirit, he also differentiates between ‘spiritual’ and ‘carnal’ and seems to penalize the body for desires that arise in mind-heart under the sway of ego. Paul writes: For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. . . .For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing . . . For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. . . .O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?15

It is recorded in the Essene Gospel of Peace that Jesus hallows the body as a gift of the Earthly Mother. He teaches his disciples that the living word of the Father is found, not in dead scriptures, but in the living body of the Earth that unites all creatures by means of Her flesh. Here are his words: The hardness of our bones is born of the bones of our Earthly Mother, of the rocks and of the stones. . . .The tenderness of our flesh is born of the flesh of our Earthly Mother; whose flesh waxes yellow and red in the fruits of the trees. . . .The light of our eyes, the hearing of our ears, both are born of the colors and the sounds of our Earthly Mother. . . .16

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Jesus continues: God wrote not the laws in the pages of books, but in your heart and in your spirit. They are in your breath, your blood, your bone; in your flesh, your bowels, your eyes, your ears, and in every little part of your body. They are present in the air, in the water, in the earth, in the plants, in the sunbeams, in the depths and in the heights.17

It may be that spiritual work begins with a belief that our identity exceeds the body, but the false dichotomy that denies flesh any part in self-realization disintegrates when the art of presence teaches us that the intensification of being in the body—through a conscious use of the senses—is responsible for the first taste of spiritual life. HOW BEING ‘FULLY IN THE BODY’ IS EXECUTED: THE MIND-BODY SYNAPSE To be fully in the body so that the senses are used consciously is the direct result of mind being aligned to the senses through the faculty of attention. Presence is not happenstance. Presence depends on a methodical, conscious process that is not laborious but quick, agile, and natural. The catalyst in this natural process is attention. Attention is the power that connects the senses, as gatherers of impressions, to the mental faculty of discernment that examines those impressions. When this circuit is unimpeded the action appropriate to the moment is known and can be swiftly acted upon. Action becomes conscious instead of mechanical. For example, if I am driving a car and my attention is sufficiently distracted so that the car begins to glide into the opposite lane the natural synapse between sensory input and mental reception is temporarily broken. Corrective action, such as turning the wheel to avoid the approaching car, is delayed, even impeded. The natural body-mind connection yields to a dysfunctional, dangerous misalignment. A moment of presence prompts a stop in the habitual displacement of attention away from the present moment and strengthens the discriminative faculty of mind. Presence allows the question to arise in mind: where is my attention? With what is it occupied? The instant the diversionary thought or image is seen under the dispassionate eye of presence it is eclipsed by the rushing in of colors, forms, sounds, tactile sensations, and smells of the real world at that moment. The potency of conscious, unadorned perception arrests the attention and allows it to convey to mind information critical to right action. You are reading these words right now. You are aware of reading them through the miracle of


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attention: undivided/divided/Dominique Medici, used with permission.

eye-brain coordination. A moment ago thoughts and pictures about what you plan to do later on or what happened earlier in the day might have diverted your attention momentarily even as your eyes mechanically took in the words. But now, right now, the mind is connected to the sense of sight through the bridge of attentive presence. This connection is producing an awareness of the activity of reading as well as inviting insights about the subject matter. A richer understanding of the subject matter is unfolding in this illuminated openness and will continue to enlighten the mind if it is realized that these stimulating thoughts are not being released from ego’s cache but are arising from the infinite space of awareness where all knowledge awaits discovery. Each day is packed with thoughts and images. They occupy the wings of our brain theatre and often make dramatic entrances off cue to capture our attention. Here is a common scenario: we wake from a night’s sleep, rested, and for a moment we simply are. We’re hearing the morning song of a bird perhaps, smelling coffee brewing, feeling the sheets on our body as we sit up and bring our legs over the side of the bed. Feet touch the cold floor; we are aware of sunlight coming through the window glass warming our face. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, we are forming mental lists of the day’s agenda replete with

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worries, fears and anticipations. We have left the textured body sensations of the present moment only to be swept up in swirls of mind-motion where the future is fabricated or the past is relived. We are no longer grounded. Sensory awareness had grounded us in the present, connecting the energy of attention to our surroundings. Now the attention is wrapped up in a dreamscape. Fatigue ensues (remember we just woke up!) as our heads become heavy with the weight of a day that hasn’t happened yet. From this point of disassociation the day’s actions promise to be mechanical instead of conscious, fueled by the automaton of habit instead of by natural intelligence that depends upon awareness to activate it. If this distracted state persists our actions may very well be damaging to ourselves and others. ‘Coming to’ at any moment will depend on outside stimuli. Life becomes accidental. The world of make-believe wins the day. The penalty paid for living in the non-existent past or future is this: we have abandoned the only field of energy where spiritual practice can occur: the continuous present. Only HERE and only NOW can we be ourselves and not some canned version of ourselves. At stake is our identity. The first lines of Dante’s Inferno intone a regretted loss of presence, using the metaphor of sleep. The remedy is also suggested. In the midway of this our mortal life, I came to myself in a gloomy wood, astray. . . . How first I enter’d it I scarce can say. Such sleepy dullness in that instant weigh’d my senses down, when the true path I left. . . .18

Let us now consider a practical remedy by which a recharging of the mindbody synapse can awaken us to our true identity. THE PAUSE: A PRACTICE IN BEING-PRESENT My first education in pausing came from my grandmother who lived with our family when I was growing up. My grandmother was a consummate seamstress. She made all my dresses. Much of the day I would see her laying out patterns on the large, fold-up cardboard on the bed, cutting out fabric, sewing at the machine. But sometimes I would turn the corner of her room to find her


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not sewing but simply sitting in her blue armchair looking out the window. I remember asking her once what she was doing. She replied that she was just sitting. For my grandmother, sitting was a pause in the activity to which she devoted so much time and effort. Was she being recharged by just sitting and looking out the window? Just sitting and coming to our senses is a description of what we will call pausing. Pausing is an exercise in sensory awareness. It is designed as a minimeditation of two to three minutes. Pausing is not a withdrawal from the world of the senses, like some meditation practices, but rather a full entry into the world of sense, a participation in full body awareness whereby ‘I am simultaneously watching and being what is within and around me.’ I am a whole—myself—and also a part of a whole—the universe. My senses, as instruments of knowledge, show me this truth.19 Pausing is the foundation of all other practices given in this book. It is the tree roots and trunk of the branches to come. The promise of the Pause is its power to counter the pull of mechanical, stressful living by lifting the level of conscious energy. This surge of conscious energy institutes a new lifestyle of presence that replaces the deleterious habit of mental absence. The Pause is an artificial practice because it focuses upon each of the five senses in a linear sequence and we know that sensory impressions are simultaneously received. Nevertheless, in order to exercise the synapse between mind and senses, and so increase the ability to stay present, the Pause is formatted as an evolving succession of discrete steps in sensory awareness that draw the practitioner into deepening levels of rest.20 The practice of pausing is not new, nor is it exclusive to one religious tradition. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for example, there is an Egyptian Collection where a visitor encounters huge granite statues of pharaohs. These men and women, believed to be agents of the Divine, sit on their thrones in silent presence. One such sovereign is Hatshepsut, wife of Thutmose III and co-ruler of Egypt, 1479–1425 BC. The dignity of the pose and the attentive yet impersonal look on the face of this regal queen challenges one’s own sense of self and leads one to ask, what are these rulers doing? They’re pausing. They are being-present, the essential baseline spirituality at the heart of all religious traditions. The recipe given here is one of many possible ones. Its generic nature makes it universally inviting. PAUSING: THE STEPS Even as you read the seven steps of the Pause for the first time see if you can stay present to each of them. Take your time. Let each step register in your body-mind-heart awareness before going on to read the next step.

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Hatshepsut, ‘courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, dt534_iap_qtr, Image © Metropolitan Museum of Art’

1. Sitting in a comfortable but erect position, let the body relax from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet; let all tensions dissolve . . . (allow time) 2. Using the sense of touch, feel the body as a whole . . . feel the feet in contact with the floor, feel the clothes on the skin, the air passing across the face; aware of your breathing, let it deepen . . . 3. Using the sense of sight, let the eyes receive the images in your immediate surroundings; without naming, be aware of color and form; just see and know that seeing is taking place . . . 4. Using the sense of smell, breathe in the scents around you; smell and know that you are smelling . . . 5. Using the sense of taste, recognize whatever taste may linger in the mouth and know that you are tasting . . .


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6. Continuing to relax the body, aware through the senses of touch, sight, smell and taste, open up the listening . . . let the listening extend to the farthest sound without strain or comment . . . rest in the deep silence from which the sounds arise and into which they recede . . . 7. Resting in simple awareness by means of the senses, feel the sense of self, of wholeness, extend into your surroundings. Let imagined boundaries dissolve. . . . If a thought, daydream, image or feeling pulls the mind-heart away from being-present and you awaken to this distraction just redirect the attention to one of the five senses and the connecting circuit of healing energy between body and mind-heart will be restored.

A FEW SUGGESTIONS AND COMMENTS When the Pause is treated as a formal, seated practice that occurs every day, preferably at set times such as early morning and evening, its power to control run-away energy increases. Left to chance, stopping to pause is hit or miss given our contemporary cultural pace. ‘I’ll do it later’ is too tempting a response. As the Pause becomes a regular part of the day there is a greater chance that it will happen on its own—while we’re waiting for a bus, for example, or standing in line at the supermarket. When we consider that a 24-hour day consists of 1440 minutes the daily practice of the Pause consumes a mere 2 to 3 minutes. If we are diligent and practice twice a day the anodyne of presence will grace about 5 minutes of the day. Those 5 minutes are power-packed to create and replenish energy holistically better than any workout can promise. ‘Progress’ is measured by the factors of frequency and duration. The more often we practice and the longer we practice (in the sense of weeks, months, and years) the more our daily tasks will be energized by the healthful vibrations of presence. As the Christian monk St. Isaac said of this humble path: “Love of wisdom means always to be watchfully attentive in small, even the smallest, actions . . . Be sober and watch over your life; for sleep of the mind is akin to real death and is its image.”21 In establishing a regular practice it is helpful to choose a practice place that is quiet, clean, and pleasant to the senses. If, however, the Pause comes to mind and you are sitting in a bustling coffee shop or crowded sports arena accept the invitation to be present and practice. If the weather is good, being outside in nature is conducive. Turn off the cell phone. If family or friends enter the room as you practice include them. Pausing does not belong to an esoteric inner circle of adepts; it is a natural form of rest in the midst of cultural hyperactivity.

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As we begin to commune with the quiet contentment which is our interior ground, we will notice a simultaneous communion with the heartbeat of the elements around us. For example, if I am pausing as I sit on a park bench after a summer shower I feel the stability of my upright body supported by the bench but I also connect to the stability of the earth upon which the bench sits. As I see rain dripping from the leaves of a nearby tree and smell the succulent earth loosened from its dry, compacted condition, I feel a corresponding loosening and draining out of the arid thoughts and mean feelings that were gripping my attention a few minutes earlier. I can understand, in experience, the words of sixth century Roman philosopher Boethius, when he says: “He who is burdened by fears and desires is not master of himself. He throws away his shield and retreats; he fastens the chain by which he will be drawn.”22 Our shield is presence. When we are present to ourselves we are also present to all beings because presence is seamless. This experience of wholeness within my own body and between this body (microcosm) and the body of the universe (macrocosm) delivers the emotional strength to welcome whatever events unfold in my presence. The empowering sensation of wholeness is the spiritual dimension of sensory awareness. The Pause does what every meditation can do: it invites the practitioner to stop, relax, connect with pervasive stillness, and experience the seamless Present that cradles all sensations and motions of this life while hinting at life everlasting. Humans meditate because it is natural to meditate. Some meditations, like mantra meditation, direct the attention inward. Pausing, on the other hand, opens outward like the petals of a rose, or like a door swung open to the morning sun. In actuality, the markers of inward and outward are dualistic labels that disguise the truth of their common destination—the silence and peace of the true Self. To use a simple analogy, if I want to go from New York to San Francisco I can make the trip by car or train or plane or horseback, or even by foot. Whatever the means, the destination is the same. Ironically, the sense of moving outward in consciousness, feeling that the whole world subsists in one huge tactile embrace, can simultaneously feel like a contraction, a deep spiraling within, rather like coring an apple. In this way pausing ratchets down mental energies so that the attention sinks inward, away from the sensory world, into a deep pool of silence. However, the origin of any meditation practice is the sensory world. If a mantra is the meditative aid by which consciousness is withdrawn from the sensory world the mantra itself is a sound that is listened to. A mandala is a harmonious image that is looked at. At the level of spiritual understanding, in and out are moving shadows on a backdrop of stillness. Because one is always at rest in One Self the sensation of moving towards Self is simply the remembering process at work.


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As a professor of Religious Studies I have been introducing the Pause to students as an experiment. The Pause is practiced at the beginning of class. The student comments presented below offer insights that can encourage us all to infuse this simple practice into our lifestyle. • It brings you into a greater sense of being and allows you to stay more focused on your work during class time. It lets you concentrate on nothing . . . • The pause helps to bring the class into the now, to forget about the problems of the future and the past . . . • It relaxes me, focuses me on the class and gets me into a ‘student mood’ ... • I feel one with myself, calm, attentive to what’s going on around me . . . • The practice of pausing is easy to understand, but much more difficult to follow through with. . . . On only two or three occasions did I actually feel my body consumed with the energy of enlightened or heightened senses. The experience was electric, yet strangely calming. I was left feeling more awake, but more comfortable than I had previously felt . . . • It helps us take away stress, allows the mind to rest. . . . • Our bodies need that [calmness] especially in Western society where we are constantly on the move. I get a lot less headaches . . . • It allows us to become interconnected to the world . . . • It allows our mind and body to become one . . . • I think it’s refreshing. It’s like a nap . . . you get a chance to unwind . . . • Often I would come into class upset, exhausted, and I would be free after going through the steps of the Pause. I seem to gather sources of energy that I didn’t even know existed . . . • A moment of peace and rest in the middle of a hectic day. I have begun practicing before I study or begin a workout. It acts as a mini vacation when life becomes too stressful to continue learning.

SLEEPING AND WAKING Pausing is a practice in waking up. In mystical literature the metaphor of moving from sleep into wakefulness refers to an evolutionary awakening of consciousness in which presence to Being as the wellspring of all life crystallizes. The first step in waking up is the shift in consciousness that happens when, at any moment, we realize we have been asleep. As simple and preliminary as this might sound, it is the accumulation of shifts in energy from sleep to wakefulness that defines spiritual evolution. Twelfth century Christian mystic Hildegard of Bingen attributes this first step of awakening to the work of the Holy Spirit. She writes in ‘the First Verb’:

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The Holy Spirit animates all, moves all, roots all, forgives all, cleanses all, erases all our past mistakes, and then puts medicine on our wounds. We praise this Spirit of incandescence for awakening and reawakening all creation.23

Spiritual sleep is a forgetting of Self and a loss of natural power. Waking up is a remembering of Self and the regaining of natural power through presence. In his famous soliloquy, Hamlet queries: To be or not to be, that is the question. Let us suppose a subtler interpretation than Hamlet’s deciding whether or not to take his life. Could Shakespeare be referring to a life lived in conscious presence—TO BE—or a life lived in an absent-minded, mechanical fashion—NOT TO BE? We human beings have been given the species-specific equipment to make use of a degree of consciousness not available to other species. Ironically, one of our gifts is the choice of whether to be present and awake or succumb to the sleep of mechanical habit. Shakespeare notes the latter tendency when he says, through the wizard Prospero in The Tempest: “. . . we are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”24 If this sleep is seen as the unawakened life then the choice of whether to stay awake or fall asleep determines the quality of that life. It determines whether we are victims of circumstance; whether, as Hamlet puts it, we “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” or whether we find an inner stability based on the spiritual virtue of detachment.25 Detachment depends on cultivating mindfulness so that we are not victimized by events. Real freedom of choice depends upon being awake or mindful so that one can respond rather than react. Reactivity is the mode of the victim —as anyone who has found himself in the grip of road rage knows. According to Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, when things fall apart in our lives we are offered an opportunity to develop maitri—loving kindness towards ourselves and others. We can choose to accept what happens with equanimity, in solidarity with the human race through acts of compassion. This opportunity is usually missed unless we “let things fall apart and let ourselves be nailed to the present moment.”26 Christian doctrine calls this compliance


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surrendering to the will of God. It is the Passion of Jesus on the cross that betokens the resurrection. Hindu Vedanta calls the unawakened life avidya. Avidya translates as ignorance. Literally, one ignores what is in favor of what one imagines or prefers. If, as Hindu Vedanta instructs, the Creation is Maya—the radiant dream of the Absolute—then the stories we tell ourselves become dreams we impose upon the Dream. As Edgar Allan Poe puts it: “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?.”27 Lost in dreams we become estranged from life itself. Life happens while we’re doing something else. In Christian mysticism awakening from spiritual sleep is the first step of a mystic ladder by which the soul moves toward union with the Divine. St. John of the Cross describes this fervent movement in his own soul thus: On a dark night, Kindled in love with yearnings—oh, happy chance!—I went forth without being observed. My house being now at rest. In darkness and secure, By the secret ladder . . . without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart.28

Before his arrest and crucifixion, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells his disciples to stay awake while he retires to the garden to pray. Each time he returns to the disciples they have fallen asleep. Jesus says, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:40–41).” Is the master gently rebuking his friends for becoming unconscious of the presence of God within them? The inability to stay awake is costly. When Jesus is arrested his disciples desert him. They desert “the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).” We lose track of our own divine origin and nature when we fall asleep to its guidance. We know this sleep well. It is the mind-heart drugged with all kinds of fears, preoccupations and daydreams that circle in our heads like a tape on rewind or fast-forward. We are caught in a frenzied daytime sleep and we don’t even know that we are dead to life. If living in a dream state of inner commentary and fantasy is a kind of death then resurrection is choosing to inject wakefulness into the fabric of our consciousness. St. Paul instructs: “Ye are all the children of light and the children of the day . . . therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober (1 Thess. 5:5–8).” Otherwise, the Lord may “come like a thief in the night” and find us sleeping (1 Thess. 5:17). We wake up by entering the strait gate of presence (Matt. 7:13). At each moment we are free to choose between sleep and wakefulness, between make-believe and reality; but the catch is, the choice is only evident when we are awake. The Katha-Upanishad describes the choice thus: The good is one, the pleasant another; both command the soul. Who follows the good, attains sanctity; who follows the pleasant, drops out of the race. The way

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is as narrow and hard to traverse as the edge of a razor. Not through much learning is the Self reached, not through intellect and sacred teaching. . . .29

Only direct experience reveals the Self. Direct experience is presence. You sit reading this page. You are aware of movement . . . in and around you . . . external sounds . . . your own body breathing . . . yet there is also stillness; there is the watching of the movements. . . . Are you aware of life happening in you and around you right now as you, the observing Self, silently watch? This is the nature of being-present, at once still as a mountain and vibrant with the energy that generates life. Yet how often do we feel safe in this unpredictable present? What interferes with natural trust? What prevents us from living like the lilies of the field, without anxiety for the future? Why do we not flow with the Tao and let be? Only one obstacle could make us act against our own best interests: spiritual amnesia. We continually forget our home in Self. We continually fall asleep. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke reminds himself: Ah, not to be cut off, Not through the slightest partition Shut out from the law of the stars. The inner—what is it? If not intensified sky, Hurled through with birds and deep With the winds of homecoming.30

HOW WE FALL ASLEEP AND FORGET OUR TRUE SELF Have you ever gotten out of bed in the morning and arrived at work two hours later with very little recollection of what happened in the interim? What seduces the mind to live in this vacuity? What prompts this disappearance act? In truth, the ability to be present to Presence and live our divine inheritance at every moment is the true human nature. This is the good news that each religion pronounces in its own way. Yet the fact that we are often not aware of being in Presence (which is ironic since omnipresent Presence is the only substance we can be in) prompts each religion to ask what prevents human beings from carrying out their special role as conscious beings. A common conclusion threads itself through the major religious teachings: human beings have deliberately superimposed a limited, artificial nature of their own choosing upon the original, perfect nature that they are. As pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus puts it: “To those who are awake the world-order is one, common to all; but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.”31 This act of superimposition creates a profound and continuous forgetting because we only see, hear, smell, taste and touch—and therefore believe—what


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the limited nature presents. Settling for less than natural perfection consumes a great deal of energy because the maintenance of ignorance is a continual resistance to what is. The irrational decision to prefer a lesser existence to the bounty of Providence is a conundrum. Literally, the sense-less act of denying one’s true identity is induced by a deactivation of the senses as conscious instruments of knowledge. Islam uses the concept ghaflah, which means forgetting, to describe this identity theft. Only by strict adherence to the Five Pillars of Islam can the substitute self be annihilated (fana). Sufis deepen the practice of the Five Pillars. For example, prayer or dhikr (which literally means remembrance) is increased from five times a day to unceasing prayer.32 The Sufi extends the prayer astaghfiru’llah (I ask forgiveness of God) to mean I ask to be forgiven for my separate existence. Rabi’a, the eighth century Iraqi Sufi, scorned a rich man’s offer of marriage in order to dissolve the barrier between herself and the true Beloved through prayer. Only thus could the sin of ex-istence (standing apart from God) be eradicated. For Rumi ghaflah is the sleep that numbs remembrance of Self. He writes: A man goes to sleep in the town where he has always lived, and he dreams he’s living in another town. In the dream, he doesn’t remember the town he’s sleeping in his bed in. He believes the reality of the dream town. The world is that kind of sleep. The dust of many crumbled cities settles over us like a forgetful doze, but we are older than those cities. We began as a mineral. We emerged into plant life and into the animal state, and then into being human, and always we have forgotten our former states, except in early spring when we slightly recall being green again. . . . Human kind is being led along an evolving course, through this migration of intelligences, and though we seem to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.33

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Regrettably, it is not only mistaking where we truly live but who we truly are that incurs spiritual sleep. It is like the 1950’s game show, What’s My Line, in which at the end of the subterfuge the contestants are asked, “Will the real so-and-so please come forward.” Judaism, Christianity and Islam posit original sin as the cause of forgetting. Original sin is the desire to be something other than what we are. Moreover, that something must be special and different. The story of disobedience in the Garden of Eden tells of a fateful choice that seals human destiny until deliverance by the second Adam, the Messiah. The disobedience arises from the desire to own the Garden of Eden, so to speak, regardless of what others will get. In The New Man Christian mystic Thomas Merton reflects on how human beings continue to repeat Adam’s mistake, until awakening occurs. He says that a deliberate movement away from our true self, which is centered in God, allows a false self to be constructed. This fabricated self hijacks the powers of the true self and then tailors the universe to fit its own image. To return to God we must awaken to this wrong decision and turn around. Merton uses the term metanoia (literally, a turn-around) to refer to this radical change in direction. He writes: If we would return to God, and find ourselves in Him, we must reverse Adam’s journey, we must go back by the way he came. The path lies through the center of our own soul. . . .We must recover possession of our true selves by liberation from anxiety and fear and inordinate desire. . . .Before we can ever hope to find ourselves in God, we must clearly recognize the fact that we are far from Him.34

In the unawakened state, the human being is subject to an imaginary life in which the major preoccupation of ego is to surpass other egos as star performer on the stage of the world. While the development of a healthy ego in children is necessary and fits an early stage of spiritual evolution, the adult is warned in spiritual teachings to be wary of an ego that exceeds its function and becomes, in the words of Trappist monk James Finley, a “ruling despot” who imposes “an endless cult of domination and exploitation.”35 A bloated ego will endure any suffering so long as its partial view dominates. Its only fear is to be ignored. Ego is like the frog in Aesop’s fable whose desire to be lord of the pond and monarch over all other pond creatures is fulfilled through a rapacious appetite. Unfortunately for the frog, his body gets so bloated that he explodes and dies. Merton’s description of the soul’s departure and return parallels Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son who “wastes his substance with riotous living ” until he is humbled, “comes to himself,” and returns to his father (Luke 15:11–32). Similarly, when Jesus advises the rich man to sell his possessions and follow him he refers not to material possessions, but to all the ideas, feelings, desires, beliefs,


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and prejudices that possess and constrain us. Jesus’ formula for liberation from this bondage is both enigmatic and clear. He says: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it,” and “the first shall be last,” and “whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased.”36 Only a sustained practice of presence can generate a transfer of energy from ego’s fancies to the blossoming of the true self. The prophet Isaiah invites the Israelites to the same metanoia when he says: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and ye that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat. . . .Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? And your labor for that which satisfieth not? (Isa. 55:1–2).” When we awaken to the present moment the stage is set for the rejection of false gods and obedience to the First Commandment: ‘Thou shalt have no other gods but me.’ Through awareness we recognize in ourselves and others the original goodness that precedes original sin. As re-membering proceeds—that is, as we literally are made whole again—the thirst for the real waters intensifies and the hunger for true bread displaces the false satiety of allegiance to a separate self. A story that appears in several religious traditions illustrates the temptation to forget the essential desire for truth in exchange for temporary gratification: A monkey who is very fond of cherries discovers in the forest a jar of cherries half buried in the ground. He puts his hand into the neck of the jar and grasps as many cherries as he can. He hears footsteps in the distance; it is the hunter who planted the jar in order to capture the monkey. Whimpering and desperate, the monkey tries in vain to withdraw his fist from the jar. Suddenly the hunter bursts out from the cover of the forest, picks up the monkey and raps his elbow sharply. This action releases the monkey’s fist. The hunter pulls out the monkey’s hand minus the cherries. An obsession with cherries has cost the monkey his freedom.

According to Father Thomas Keating, the potential pain involved in releasing disabling ideas and emotions of the false self is alleviated by the Divine Therapist, God, who works in secret while the seeker rests in the Divine presence by means of prayer. The prayer method that Keating helped to design is called centering prayer. Based on Merton’s motif of centering, it guides the practitioner through and beyond layers of a false self system devised in early childhood to compensate for feelings of insecurity, lack of affection, and poor self-esteem. Keating writes: As we progress toward the center where God is waiting for us we are naturally going to feel that we are getting worse. This warns us that the spiritual journey is not a success story or a career move. It is rather a series of humiliations of the false self. . . .37

Shakespeare’s play Hamlet could be interpreted as an analogue of the internal conflict between truth and falsehood. The rightful king—Hamlet’s fa-

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ther (the true self )—is murdered by his brother Claudius (the false self). Hamlet’s task is to discern this unlawful usurpation of power and return the kingdom to harmony. This is our task too. When ego usurps the throne of the true self to pursue its own agenda instead of serving and expressing the will of the rightful king only an awakened, discriminating mind-heart can return the kingdom to harmony. Some fairy tales also illustrate the parallel universes of the false self and the true self. For example, in Snowwhite and the Seven Dwarfs the evil queen, who daily asks her mirror ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’ is one day surprised to hear that Snowwhite’s beauty surpasses her own. The young girl’s beauty radiates from an underlying goodness. The furious queen devises stratagems to destroy Snowwhite; yet, even as Snowwhite lies on the bier after eating the poisoned apple, her death is only apparent. She awakens with the prince’s kiss of love, for no force can kill the true self. Turning to the Eastern religions, the Buddhist perspective focuses on tanha, desire, as the force that obscures memory of one’s essential buddhanature. In the energy grid of an interdependent universe, in which all beings possess buddha-nature, there can be no separate self or ego to want anything. The First Noble Truth of the Buddha states that suffering is the inevitable consequence of believing in a separate, individual self. This counterfeit self is never content with things as they are. The present moment is never good enough. ‘I wish I didn’t have to go to work today,’ it says; ‘I wish I had a better job, more money, a bigger house, a new car. . . .’ The list undergoes endless permutations but its grip upon our attention is invincible. The recognition of one’s victimization by desire is the Second Noble Truth. The knowledge that ego’s cravings can be overcome is the Third Noble Truth, and the Fourth Noble Truth outlines a method of escape: the Eight-fold Path in which disciplines such as right speech, right action and right mindfulness combine to diminish the power of tanha and redirect energy towards an expression of the buddha-nature. For example, right mindfulness in performing one’s daily work creates the calming energy in which a job more suitable to one’s talents (right occupation) can be discovered. Desire only impedes this process. Mindfulness cuts through attachment to desires by creating a space in the mind. This space is detachment. When detachment is operating, compassion is possible. This sequence—mindfulness > detachment > compassion—dispels suffering. A Zen story illustrates the pull of desire and its transmutation into compassionate service: Two monks are traveling together towards a distant monastery. A heavy rain is falling. Coming to an intersection where water from a stream is overflowing onto the road they see a young woman, dressed in a silk kimono, standing to the side of the muddied water. She is distressed because she is unable to cross. One


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monk, named Tanzan, swoops her up in his arms, carries her to the other side, sets her down carefully and then rejoins his companion. The two monks continue on their journey. Ekido, the second monk, remains silent until they reach a shrine where they can spend the night. Unable to contain his anger any longer, Ekido turns to Tanzan and berates him, saying: “How could you pick up that girl? You know that it is against our rules to even look at females, particularly lovely females!” Tanzan replies calmly, “ I left the girl on the road. Are you still carrying her?”38

Hinduism offers perhaps the most meticulous conceptual framework for understanding the process of forgetting one’s true identity, and the consequence— the accumulation of karma. The system of Hindu Vedanta called Advaita Vedanta teaches that there is One Self. This One Self is Atman/Brahman. The Sanskrit word advaita means not two: a—not, and dvaita—two. Atman (individual true self) is in fact Brahman (universal Self or ‘God’). The purpose of meditation is to realize this essential unity. A process of mistaken identity occurs in which the ego claims to be the true self or Atman. Two selves then exist; but that cannot be. One has to be an imposter. However, the superimposition is so insidious, so gradual that we are virtually unaware of its cumulative effects. The nature of Atman is perfect peace, knowledge and happiness: Sat, Chit, Ananda. Ego, however, persuades mind to search elsewhere for what is already at hand—to chase after money, fame, pleasure or power to fill the perceived void. The Sanskrit word for ego is ahankara. The literal breakdown of this word reveals that ego is derivative rather than causal. Aham, which means I am, is the voice of the perfect Self, Atman. Kara translates as any limiting action, thought, image, feeling, et cetera. When Aham is linked to kara the word ahankara is formed. The voice of Atman is then colored by notions and imaginings about who I am: I am such and such an action, thought, feeling, et cetera. When the I is identified with any predicate that conditions the I then the sentences that are spoken reflect a limited view to which I readily sentence myself over and over again. For example, what is the effect of sentences like I am stupid, I am fat, I am ugly, I am lazy, I am unpopular? If we believe these conditional statements and repeat them often enough we become a living image of them, trapped in self-fulfilling prophecies. Even a positive statement, like I am smart, can lead to the cold veneer of arrogance that occurs when ego claims knowledge that rightly belongs to its mother substance: Self. A simple example of the power of language to obscure the unlimited nature of the true self is the following: when illness occurs and we say ‘I am sick,’ what is it that is sick? Am I sick? No, the body is sick. The I is fully fit and untouched. Of course, we don’t go around responding to the question ‘How

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are you’ by saying ‘The body is sick.’ But we can remember that it is the body that needs care and convalescence, not the I. This accurate assessment of sickness energizes the body’s healing properties and revives the ability of the mind-heart to seek out helpful remedies. What phrases and sentences do you cherish and repeat? You have a choice. A Hindu story illustrates the problem of mistaken identity that can only be solved by awakening to the reality of the moment through sensory awareness: A lion cub joins a flock of sheep when he becomes separated from his parents. The cub grazes like the sheep, tries to copy their bleating sounds, and in every way begins to think of himself as a sheep. One day a great lion comes out of the forest and roars, scattering the frightened sheep but not upsetting the curious cub who stands his ground and stares at the lion. “What are you doing living with sheep?” asks the lion disdainfully, “don’t you know you are a lion?” The cub shakes his head, mystified. Only when the lion leads him to a nearby pond and shows him his reflection in the water does the cub realize his true identity and parentage.39

SEEING WHAT WE ARE NOT A succinct formulation of the way back to our true nature is the following: to be what we are we have to come out of what we are not. Being-present allows one to discriminate between what is and what is not. Seventeenth century Christian monk, Angelus Silesius, delivers a terse Zenlike formulation of how the illusion of narcissism—what is not—prevents the revelation of the true self—what is. He says: God, whose love and joy are present everywhere, can’t come to visit you unless you aren’t there.40

Obviously the catch is in the use of the word you: the first you is the true self—and the second? The imposter, whose many names are the “legion” of “unclean spirits” that can possess a human being (Luke 8:30). The mistake of substituting ego for Self is imprinted in our subtle anatomy—the chakra system. The third or solar chakra is the seat of individual power. It is here that one’s self-image forms. If energy is continually pumped into preserving a limited self-image not only will the solar chakra reflect the false image but the energy needed to sustain this ignorance will deprive the other chakras of energy. The resulting imbalance in the chakra system can trigger ill-health.


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In the system of psychology developed by Wilhelm Reich life energy, or as Reich calls it, orgone, is harnessed by ego to defend and resist the uncovering of deeply rooted neuroses. That energy calcifies as a kind of emotionbased protective armor that translates in the patient as unnatural body posture, gesture and movement which the therapist can observe. In the armored situation the ‘moving out’ of energy to engage with the world (the literal meaning of emotion) is reversed as the whole organism retreats. The natural flow of cosmic energy becomes ever more trapped in the body. The result is psychological damage and physical disease. Eckhart Tolle welds this psycho-physical dilemma to spiritual teaching. He says: The I cannot make itself into an object of knowledge, of consciousness. So you cannot become an object to yourself. That is the very reason the illusion of egoic identity arose—because mentally you made yourself into an object. ‘That’s me,’ you say. And then you begin to have a relationship with yourself, and tell others and yourself your story.41

The desperate attempt to squeeze the fullness of Self into a small self-image is like insisting on wearing a shoe size that is too small because one thinks it makes the foot look attractive. The clinical tales of neurologist Oliver Sacks chronicle people who experience the bizarre results of such misplaced identity. Let us listen to the humorous exchange between Sacks and his patient Dr. P., a brilliant musicologist who appears to be normal until he must relate to something or someone in front of him. The natural alignment between mind and senses provided by the energy of attention is disturbed because the other person or thing is mistaken for someone or something else. Perception is distorted by conception. Literally, Dr. P. takes one thing and replaces it with a false substitute that he then ‘sees.’ Sacks has just asked Dr. P to put on his shoes: ‘Your shoe,’ I repeated. ‘Perhaps you’d put it on.’ He continued to look downwards, though not at the shoe, with an intense but misplaced concentration. Finally his gaze settled on his foot: ‘That is my shoe, yes?’ Did I mis-hear? Did he mis-see? ‘My eyes,’ he explained, and put a hand to his foot. ‘This is my shoe, no?’ ‘No, it is not. That is your foot. There is your shoe.’ ‘Ah! I thought that was my foot.’ Was he joking? Was he mad? Was he blind? . . . I opened out a copy of the National Geographic Magazine. . . . I showed him the cover, an unbroken expanse of Sahara dunes. ‘What do you see here?’ I asked. ‘I see the river,’ he said. ‘And a little guest-house with its terrace on the water. People are dining out on the terrace. I see coloured parasols here and there.’

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He was looking, if it was ‘looking,’ right off the cover, into mid-air and confabulating non-existent features, as if the absence of features in the actual picture had driven him to imagine the river and the terrace and the coloured parasols. I must have looked aghast, but he seemed to think he had done rather well. There was a hint of a smile on his face. He also appeared to have decided that the examination was over, and started to look round for his hat. He reached out his hand, and took hold of his wife’s head, tried to lift it off, to put it on. He had apparently mistaken his wife for a hat! His wife looked as if she was used to such things.42

Dr. P’s series of disconnects is humorous; but is it not an extreme case of the daily imaginings and mistakes of the fabricated self, parading as the true self?

WAKING UP AND REMEMBERING OUR TRUE SELF: A COST-EFFECTIVE WAY TO LIVE Human beings suffer from a dementia that is rooted in lack of presence. Only by waking up through a practice that emphasizes sensory awareness, like the Pause, will we remember who we are. We don’t remember who we are because we’re too busy forgetting who we are. A story describes this habitual condition: A man is riding on a horse. The horse is galloping furiously through a town. Another man, standing along the roadside, shouts to the rider, “Where are you going?” The rider breathlessly replies, “I don’t know; ask my horse!”

Absence from ourselves may be habitual, but it is not normal; nor is it healthy. Living in abstentia is neither cost-effective nor energy-efficient. In the world of business and commerce it is an important function of management to find ways to conserve energy and cut costs. These aims also apply in the world of spirituality; forgetting who we are is costly. Until we see this cost, which often shows up in physical illness or mental-emotional problems, we may feel no urgency to modify our lifestyle by becoming present to the flow of our lives. Just as the habit of telling lies requires more energy than telling the truth, so ignoring the present moment in favor of imaginings about past or future diverts and depletes energy because there is no reference point in the real world. The reference point is the ego that is guzzling energy in its endless search for satisfaction. ‘Trust me,’ says ego, ‘somewhere, sometime in the future, you will be happy.’ Thus are we immersed in a roller-coaster life: up one minute, down the next. The Hindu-Buddhist perspective calls this mental-emotional seesaw sukkhadukkha. Sukkha means pleasure; dukkha means pain. The anticipated vacation


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to the Bahamas becomes a bore when it rains every day. The dream date that promised a love relationship turns out to be a dud—et cetera. Only the neutrality of the present moment can deliver the mind-heart from this trap of changing fortunes. As the goddess Philosophy reminds Boethius, whose career is in shambles due to the calumny of rivals: The joy of human happiness is shot through with bitterness; no matter how pleasant it seems when one has it, such happiness cannot be kept when it decides to leave. . . . Is anything more precious to you than yourself? . . . Then if you possess yourself, you have something you will never want to give up and something which Fortune cannot take from you . . . happiness cannot depend on things which are uncertain.43

By staying alert, detached and not giving in to moods of elation or dejection induced by the belief that external events are responsible, the probability that we will have that extra store of conscious energy with which to respond with intelligence and calm to difficult situations is increased. This too is a cost-effective result of presence. A farmer knows that the storage of sufficient foodstuffs for family and livestock is vital in the event of a harsh winter. Likewise our spiritual pantry needs replenishment. Eckhart Tolle speaks of this wise husbandry: If you cannot be present even in normal circumstances, such as when you are sitting alone in a room, walking in the woods, or listening to someone, then you certainly won’t be able to stay conscious when something ‘goes wrong’ or you are faced with difficult people or situations, with loss or the threat of loss. You will be taken over by a reaction, which ultimately is always some form of fear, and pulled into deep unconsciousness. . . . So it is essential to bring more consciousness into your life in ordinary situations when everything is going relatively smoothly. In this way, you grow in presence power. It generates an energy field in you and around you of a high vibrational frequency. No unconsciousness, no negativity, no discord or violence can enter that field and survive, just as darkness cannot survive in the presence of light.44

The energy field to which Tolle alludes is the aura, generated by the chakras, that surrounds the body. Presence-power can teach us to use this aura as a protective shield. When the world is experienced as stressful it is tempting to seek pastimes such as daydreaming. But if we are observant we see that every time we relive pleasant times of the past or rehearse anticipated pleasures of a ‘better’ future there is a price to pay. Dreaming away our lives: • saps precious energy essential to spiritual transformation • causes inefficiency at work, unresponsiveness and even conflict at home • is not always pleasant; dreams can be recurrent nightmares

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• turns us into automatons because our movements are not guided by the changing needs of each present moment The bottom line is: the dream is not where we are or who we are. The dream is fake. How can what is fake bring the lasting happiness for which we yearn? Living in the dream compounds human error and even makes us look silly. When we do things like walk into a room and forget why we came into the room, where are we? In a dream. When we put down the car keys and later can’t remember where they are, where are we? In a dream. Distraction is the contemporary way of life. It may be that the rising percentage of hyperactive children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is directly correlated to a society in which adults are absent from themselves most of the time. The American philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, recommends that we imitate Nature in order to cure such distraction, for Nature operates in the present: “Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature,” says Thoreau, “ and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails.”45 When the decision is made to practice presence the level of conscious energy rises. This energy is potent and, like a tincture of strong medicine, less is needed to accomplish more. Work, for example, benefits in efficiency, quality and productivity. At the end of the day we feel replenished rather than wiped out. It would be a mistake, however, to equate the potency of a regular practice of the Pause with learning a new habit. It is true that when we repeat an action we are feeding memory. However, there is a danger in making any action habitual. For example, I may have a routine of taking vitamins after breakfast. Usually this routine works. However, it can happen that, a few hours after breakfast, I ask myself, ‘Did I take my vitamins? I don’t remember taking them.’ A split-second dementia erased memory. With that erasure a sense of my own existence disappeared. These situations are more frequent than we would like to admit. We have to be wary, therefore, of putting the ‘habit’ of presence in the same mental slot as ‘taking my vitamins.’ Habitual presence is an oxymoron. By definition presence uses and raises conscious energy whereas habit subsists on a base level of energy similar to the energy needed to run the involuntary system of nerves and muscles in the physical body. Staying present is better described as an art than a habit.

JUST BEING A Zen story illustrates well the art of presence—of just being: There was a man standing on a high hill. Three travelers, walking on the road below, noticed him and began to discuss the man’s reason for being there. One


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said: ‘He has probably lost a dear pet.’ Another said: ‘No, perhaps he is searching for a friend.’ The third said: ‘I believe he is just enjoying the view.’ The three travelers decided to ask the man why he stood there. As they climbed the hill they continued to debate the situation. At the top of the hill the first traveler spoke: ‘O friend’ he said, ‘have you lost your dear pet?’ The man replied, ‘No, sir.’ The second traveler asked: ‘Are you looking for your friend?’ ‘No, sir, I am not.’ The third traveler then asked: ‘Perhaps you are here to enjoy the view?’ ‘No, sir.’ Baffled, the third traveler continued, ‘Well then, why are you here since you have denied all our justifications?’ The man on the hill replied: ‘I am just standing.’46

The message this story delivers is basic to all religious teachings. For example, the first line of Psalm 23—the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want— is an assurance that resting in Self is sufficient. When ego is denied the energy to desire anything or feel any lack a natural contentment suddenly brightens the space of rest; I am satisfied to just be. The connection between the art of presence and effective action is at the heart of the teaching of Lao Tzu. He simply says: TO DO IS TO BE. Being comes first. Being guarantees that we can do anything well because we will be present to the action. Being allows us to go with the flow. Flow is the Taoist message: move like water, yielding when necessary, guided by the streambed of life and the flow of ch’i—the energy of the universe. Thus the assertive ego is avoided; for, as the Taoist axiom warns, ‘the ax falls first on the tallest tree.’47 To do is to be—and to let be. When the present is resisted habit gains sway. For example, if I am trying to finish a job at the computer and the phone rings I can either go with the flow and ‘let be’ by quickly moving from the computer to the phone or ego can react with annoyance and replay the habitual idea that a ringing phone interrupts my work. One action is wakeful, the other mechanical; one action preserves energy, the other action has the dual effect of wasting energy and sending out negative energy. Western culture tends to reverse Lao Tzu’s formula. In the West to be is to do. The Western perspective of action as primary identifies ‘being’ as passive. To be passive connotes the willingness to be pushed around. A whimp is passive. He or she has no ambition, no drive. On the other hand, to push, get, figure out, subdue, succeed, even exploit: these active verbs form the threads of the Western banner, determining our being at every shove and victory. As Nike advertising puts it, ‘just do it.’ Even in spiritual matters we want to do this enlightenment business; yet any transformation, including the creative impulse that produces great works of art, is triggered by presence alone.

A Spirituality of the Senses: The Pause


Lao Tzu says: The Master allows things to happen. She shapes events as they come. She steps out of the way And lets the Tao speak for itself.48

For Mozart the ‘Tao speaking for itself’ is the unperturbed calm that precedes the fever of invention. The master composer writes: When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone and of good cheer— say traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep—it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence, and how, they come I know not, nor can I force them. Those ideas that please me I retain in memory. . . . All this fires my soul, and, provided I am not disturbed, my subject enlarges itself, becomes methodized, and defined, and the whole, though it be long, stands almost complete and finished in my mind. . . .49

Going with the flow is the only way to stay present because each present is becoming a past even as it comes to pass. The typing of each of these words is coming to pass in the instant. Your reading them again dismisses them into non-existence. The thoughts running through the mind are literally running into the past; they scamper away like mischievous children. When we try to hold them we interfere with the natural, creative spontaneity of the mind. By mentally relocating ourselves in the cluttered, prefabricated closet of the past we miss the present where life happens. Alan Watts, student of Eastern spirituality, writes about the Western opinion of being or presence as non-eventful, non-productive, even boring: . . . nothing seems to us more boring than simple being. If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched, and tasted yesterday I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? But suppose you could answer, ‘It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what’s happening now.’ How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain can experience itself as anything less than a god? And when you consider that this incalculably subtle organism is inseparable from the still more marvelous patterns of its environment—from the minutest electrical designs to the whole company of the galaxies—how is it conceivable that this incarnation of all eternity can be bored with being?50


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In the Hindu classic, the Bhagavad Gita, the god-man Krishna describes pure action as simple being. When a person reaches “that stage of perfect freedom where action completes itself and leaves no seed,” says Krishna, he or she is one with Spirit.51 To use a mundane example, when such a sage walks, he or she just walks; or more accurately, walking is taking place. For most of us walking must be fleshed out by a person who mentally creates a diversionary life while walking. Or walking is given an aim, such as ‘losing weight.’ This complication of simple walking actually camouflages the work that is required to confine an action to its bare essence. For example, if you stop reading right now and just sit in awareness what happens? Maybe you’ll have beginner’s luck and experience the peace of not doing anything but sitting. The longer you sit, however, the tougher the challenge to just be. The body gets fidgety; the brain is besieged by run-away thoughts. ‘Just being’ announces the abiding buddha-nature that underlies action. Therefore, “kill the Buddha if you see him!” says the irreverent Buddhist koan.52 This instruction appears blasphemous until it is realized that the compulsion to reduce and refashion The Awakened One according to ego’s standards arrests the very enlightenment that is sought. Likewise, covering your infinite ‘self’ with restrictive labels is the self-deception that prevents liberation—as the Zen story of the angry man reveals: A Zen student complained to the teacher, Bankei: ‘Master, I have an uncontrollable temper. How can I remedy this problem?’ ‘You have something very odd,’ said Bankei, ‘Show it to me.’ ‘Just now I am not able to show you,’ replied the student. ‘When will you let me see this behavior?’ asked Bankei. ‘Its coming and going is unpredictable,’ replied the student. ‘If it is so unreliable, how can it be your true nature?’ asked Bankei. ‘If it were, you would be able to demonstrate its existence any time.’53

Building up an identity—a particular ME—is like filling up a scrapbook with photos and clippings which attest to an enduring existence which we know is short-lived in physical terms. The attempt to preserve the past gives the illusion of stability, but only the continuous present guarantees the stability for which we yearn. When we realize that each moment is the present (as in gift) of Presence then the grip on the past is loosened and we can welcome the future as it arrives. A story elucidates the contentment that is possible when the beauty of the moment is accepted: A man is being pursued by a tiger. In trying to escape the animal the man falls off a cliff. On the way down he grabs onto a ledge and hangs there. Looking up

A Spirituality of the Senses: The Pause


he sees the tiger peering over the cliff at him. Way below him an abyss awaits his body. He sees a strawberry plant growing from a bit of earth lodged in the ledge to which he clings. A succulent strawberry, glistening red, dangles from the plant. The man makes the effort to pull his body up enough to pluck the berry with his teeth. Never has a strawberry tasted so good.

THE HEALING POWER OF PRESENCE To the degree that presence is sustained, healing energy radiates from the person. Have you ever noticed the effect of someone with powerful presence entering a room full of people? The atmosphere is charged and changed. Twentieth century Hindu saint Ramana Maharshi merely sat in silence with those who journeyed to see him and their problems were resolved without a word being exchanged. Gandhi’s presence continues to speak out for peaceful coexistence between nations, religions, and ethnicities. Our own presence, even in its apparent anonymity, has the capacity to nourish and heal those around us. Healing is a natural result of the realization that I am whole and one with the universe. The memory of this kinship with the universe, felt through presence, is the release valve that sends healing vibrations of compassion into the world, obliterating violence. This is not a platitude; it is a practice. According to Thich Nhat Hanh: The energy of compassion neutralizes violence. In the present moment, healing ourselves we heal the world. . . .The present moment is our refuge. . . .The practice of the present moment is emancipation.54

In this chapter a simple practice in sensory awareness has been given as a modern day equivalent of a basic formula that master teachers have conveyed over the centuries. The Pause offers presence as an alternative to mechanical living. In presence we are able to see the mismatch between the ideas, beliefs, feelings and imaginings that we have bought into as reality and the reality of the moment. When we begin to ‘come out of what we are not’ we recognize that the suffering we experience in life is a result of not being aware of these two parallel worlds of consciousness: the little one in our heads, engineered by an ego that preserves its authority through flawed thinking, and the reality of the moment. We realize that we were previously unable to discern these two worlds because we were fast asleep. Health and ‘normalcy,’ in every respect, depend upon aligning ourselves with the natural, real world of the NOW. If we choose to incorporate the Pause into our daily life we will activate the perfect antidote for all circumstances—being at rest in our own inviolable presence.


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The next three chapters explore the steps of the Pause. Each step provides a close-up view of how a fabricated reality is perpetuated and how the exit strategy of presence is the ever-available entrance into the real world. Before continuing our spiritual adventure let us take a moment to be where we are. Feel the body . . . note any bodily tensions and let them dissolve. Relax into the moment. Feel the texture and temperature of the book in your hands . . . feel the clothes on the skin, the air touching the skin . . . be aware of your breathing and let it deepen. Let the eyes receive color and form without naming anything. . . . breathe in the aromas around you . . . taste whatever lingers in the mouth. . . . open up the listening, letting it extend as far as it will. . . . Rest in the silence from which the sounds are emanating and into which they recede . . . rest in simple awareness, in your own presence, in the Presence that enlivens everything around you. . . . NOTES 1. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, ed. Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux), 308. 2. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York: Aventine Press, 1931), 54. 3. Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved, trans. Jonathan Star (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam 2000), 171. From ‘The Blast of That Trumpet.’ Copyright © 1997 by Jonathan Star. Excerpts of poems from Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved used by permission of Jeremy P. Tarcher, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 4. Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks (Novato, Calif.: New World Library, 2003), 9. 5. The New American Bible, with revised New Testament (Roman Catholic edition) copyright © 1986, 1988 Glencoe/Macmillan translates the phrase in Luke 15:17 as ‘comes to his senses.’ 6. Charles McGrath, “Word for Word/Susan Sontag: No Hard Books, or Easy Deaths” New York Times, 2 Jan. 2005, 7 (4). 7. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B. Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 116. 8. George and Willene Hendrick eds., Carl Sandburg: Selected Poems (New York: Harcourt-Brace, 1996), 201. From ‘Slabs of the Sunburnt West.’ 9. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, ed./trans., The Gospel of the Essenes: The Unknown Book of the Essenes and Lost Scrolls of The Essene Brotherhood[Books Two and Three] (Essex, England: C.W. Daniel Co., 1992), Book Two, 35. The mystic Essene Brotherhood began as a Jewish monastic community that inhabited the desert areas of what is now Egypt and Arabia around the second century BC. This ascetic community embraced the teachings of Jesus which were written down and preserved as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. According to the translation of the Essene Gospels by Professor Szekely from the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts, Jesus describes 14 Communions. The human being needs to experience God by communing with the seven Angels of the Earthly Mother and the seven Angels of the Heavenly Father.

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10. Szekely, The Gospel of the Essenes, Book Two, 37. 11. St. Augustine, Confessions, trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin (Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1976), 232. 12. Work of Love, VHS documentary on the ministry of Mother Teresa in India. Produced in association with William Livingston Productions by Konographics, 1982. 13. Phillip J. Newell, The Book of Creation: An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), 108. Excerpts from The Book of Creation, copyright © 1999 by J. Phillip Newell, Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, N.J., reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. 14. Newell, The Book of Creation, 70. 15. Rom.7:14, 18–19, 24. The Greek word psyche means soul as well as mind. According to Plato the liberation of the soul and its return to the divine realm requires that it break free of the prison of the body. Early Christian Fathers, including Paul, were influenced by Platonic philosophy and developed a hierarchical dichotomy in which soul was separate from and superior to body. The idea of the soul’s imprisonment in the body actually conflicts with the Christian doctrines of incarnation and resurrection which point to body as a sacred vessel. The sexual taboos of Calvinist Puritanism sprang from a bias against body and helped to spawn the witch hunt frenzy in Europe and colonial America. The female, seen as Nature and Body, was often the victim. 16. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, ed./trans. Essene Gospel of Peace, Book One (Nelson, BC, Canada: International Biogenic Society, 1981), 10. 17. Szekely, Essene Gospel of Peace, 13. 18. Alighieri Dante, The Vision of Dante Alighieri or Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, trans. H.F. Cary (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1913), 1. 19. Arthur Koestler coined the word holon to refer to this dual identity in which each life form is a whole unto itself and also part of the relational network of the whole universe. 20. I was introduced to this practice by The School of Practical Philosophy in New York City where the practice is called the Exercise. The way in which the practice is conveyed and elaborated in this book reflects both its presentation by the School and my own practice as it has evolved over the years. 21. Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, trans. E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), 250. 22. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. Richard Green (New York: Macmillan/Library of Liberal Arts, 1962), 9. 23. Carmen Acevedo Butcher, Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader (Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete Press, 2007), 36. Copyright © 2007 by Carmen Acevedo Butcher. Used by permission of Paraclete Press. 24. The Works of William Shakespeare, (Roslyn, New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1937), 19. From The Tempest, Act IV, Scene 1. 25. The Works of William Shakespeare, 1145. From Hamlet, Act III Scene I. 26. Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Boston: Shambhala, 2000), 5. Pema Chodron is an American nun of the Tibetan


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school of Buddhism. Her teacher was Chogyam Trungpa. Elaborating on the master’s teaching of “‘leaning into the sharp points’” of life (p. x) this book offers practical advice on dealing with and transmuting painful situations. 27. The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Richmond Edition Volume X (New York: Frank F. Lovell Book Co., 1902), 42. 28. St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, trans. E. Allison Peers (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1959), 33–34. 29. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 29. 30. Rainer Maria Rilke/Last Poems, trans. Stephen Mitchell (Oakland, Calif.: Okeanos Press, 1989), 43. Neither publisher nor Stephen Mitchell could be reached for permission to reprint this short poem. 31. John Mansley Robinson, An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1968), 95. 32. Note the similar emphasis in St. Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” (1Thess. 5:17). 33. The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A.J. Arberry, and Reynold Nicholson (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 112–113. Copyright © Coleman Barks 1996. Excerpts of poems from The Essential Rumi reprinted by permission of Coleman Barks. William Wordsworth similarly writes of the soul forgetting her spiritual home in Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood: ‘Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting’ (stanza V). 34. Thomas Merton, The New Man (New York: The Noonday Press, 1993), 118–119. 35. James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A Search for God Through Awareness of the True Self (Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1992), 26. The image of a despot recalls Plato’s inner dictator. In The Republic Plato considers how political systems deteriorate due to the inability of the leaders to sustain the rigorous, self-sacrificing disciplines demanded of the guardians of a republic. Corruption of society happens from the inside out. It is the mind’s three faculties—reason, passion, and desire—which gradually become imbalanced so that desire—the domain of ego— breeds its lusts and in time swallows up virtue, degrading the leader and the populace who follow him. 36. These formulaic sayings of Jesus appear in more than one gospel translation; see, for example, Matt. 16:25, Luke 14:1, 17:33, Mark 8:35, 10:31. 37. Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God (New York: Crossroad, 1996), 85. Excerpts from Intimacy with God reprinted by permission of The Crossroad Publishing Company. At the urging of the Vatican II Council (1962–65) monastic orders were encouraged to reinvestigate and renew contemplative practice for contemporary use. Along with his Trappist brothers, Basil Pennington and William Menninger, Thomas Keating helped to retrieve material on this subject, especially from the writings of the Desert Fathers and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing. The method of centering prayer was devised. Keating’s insightful books and retreats, offered through an umbrella organization, Contemplative Outreach, stimulate interest in centering prayer as a practice with ecumenical appeal. The term false-self system is also used by R.D. Laing in his study on the schizoid personality, The Divided Self. A split

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occurs between an inner essential self and the persona or mask of a false self that is created by the person to present to others. Although the case studies which Laing shares are clear examples of abnormal conditions there is also something familiar, and disturbing, about the obsession of his patients with the mask. An interesting correspondence to the modern description of the fragmented self is found in the sixth century treatise, The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. The goddess Philosophy tells Boethius that human suffering is the result of the attempt to find satisfaction in the part rather than the whole. Usually these ‘parts’ are limited goals such as fame or wealth. She says: “Human depravity, then, has broken into fragments that which is by nature one and simple; men try to grasp part of a thing which has no parts and so get neither the part, which does not exist, nor the whole, which they do not seek.” (Boethius, 1962, 58) The whole is the Self that contains all virtues. 38. Adapted from Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and PreZen Writings (Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Anchor, nd), 18. 39. Adapted from Good Company: an anthology of sayings, stories, and answers by His Holiness Shantananda Saraswati (London: The Study Society, 1987), 108–109. 40. Stephen Mitchell, ed. The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), 87. 41. Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks (Novato, Calif.: New World Library, 2003), 56. 42. Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat and Other Clinical Tales (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985), 10–11. Excerpt from The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, copyright © 1970, 1983, 1985 by Oliver Sacks, reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group. 43. Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, 29. 44. Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (Novato, Calif: New World Library, 1999), 62. 45. Henry D. Thoreau, Walden or Life in the Woods (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1906), 108. 46. Adapted from Robert Sohl and Audrey Carr, eds. The Gospel According to Zen: Beyond the Death of God (New York: Mentor/New American Library, 1970), 56. 47. Huston Smith, The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 211. 48. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 45. 49. Hans Mersmann, ed. Letters of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (New York: Dover Publications, 1972), vii. (Dover states this edition is an exact replication of the 1928 publication by J.M. Dent & Sons, London. Attempts to trace copyright holder have been unsuccessful). Improvisational jazz is a contemporary example from the world of music that reveals how being-present prevents limiting ideas from blocking the creative channel of consciousness. Keith Jarrett, improvisational jazz pianist, states in an interview with PBS anchor Jim Lehrer: “You’re at that moment at that moment. . . .It’s not scary. If there’s an idea in my head it will be in the way . . . true feelings or ideas will then be restricted. . . . It’s like an electric current flowing through you. It sounds like I know everything about the piece as it starts . . . but the only clue about


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what comes next is—[he trills a note on the piano to indicate that future notes are dictated out of the present note]. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, PBS, 19 July 2005. 50. Alan Watts, The Book: The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 137–8. 51. The Geeta: The Gospel of the Lord Shri Krishna, trans. Purohit Swami (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), 92. 52. A koan is a mind-puzzle that is used in meditation to stymie the logical mind and release the creative process of enlightenment. 53. Adapted from Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, 64. Although Buddhist teaching rejects the Hindu tenet of an individual Self (Atman) I would argue that Atman and buddha-nature are very close in meaning. Both refer to that which we are essentially as differentiated from the name and form in which ‘that’ is encased. The longing of the Buddha to find an antidote to suffering in this world—which he believed Hindu practice disregarded—led him to seek an essential spirituality verified by meditative practice. The rejection of personal self and personal god is meant to guard against two major pitfalls which await the spiritual traveler: (1) mixing up the true I with the constructed ME, and (2) remaking ‘God’ in my image. 54. From notes recorded at Dharma talk #1, ‘Walking in Peace Today’ retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh 11–16 Aug., 2005, Stonehill College, Easton, Mass.

Chapter Three

The Steps: a close-up: Posture and the Spirituality of Touch

Let us come into the present by briefly following the steps of the Pause. Open up each sense in turn. Acknowledge what is presented to your awareness. In this way the energy of attention is connecting mind to the present moment. . . . As we begin to examine the senses in more depth let us probe each one for its spiritual message. Sensory awareness is the most available of spiritual practices, yet the senses are typically underrated and underused as meditative tools, overshadowed by practices which train the mind in focused prayer and meditation. Each sense has the power to carry us to heightened consciousness when it is empowered by attentive presence. Thus, smelling a rose, tasting an orange, watching a hawk circle the sky, listening to the sweet tone of a violin thinning into silence, touching a baby’s skin: any of these can provide the revelation of a lifetime. Mother Teresa reminds us that inner transformation begins with an awakening of sensory awareness: You first change the way you look at things, the way you listen to things, the way you touch things; and you can change so deeply you can begin to know the presence of God already living within you. You begin to know his presence in others.1

Let us begin our close-up of the Pause by considering the first step. 1. Sitting in a comfortable but erect position, let the body relax from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet; let all tensions dissolve . . . (allow time) In this first step of the Pause we acknowledge the significance of posture for physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual health. In his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki contends that correct posture is meditation.



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How can that be? How can the simple holding of the body, in a way that is natural to it, induce meditation? First we need to ask, what is the natural posture of the body? If you look at the statue of a seated Buddha you will see a straight back and a supple, balanced position of torso with crossed legs. There is no stiffness in the pose yet the maintenance of an erect balance is unmistakable. The dignity of the pose illustrates one of the names of the Buddha: he who has sovereignty over himself. The rock-like confidence emitted by this posture is reminiscent of a mountain. Suzuki says that the cross-legged posture in particular allows one to experience the “oneness of duality”– that is, a right leg and a left leg, yet one form.2 In the same way, the body and mind are two, yet one. In sitting this way there is a pressing down towards hara, our subtle center of deep-seated power.3 The sensation of balance and grounding produced by the correct posture corresponds to a balanced state of mind. Thus, the aligned posture frees the person to be him or herself. Suzuki says: “The most important point is to own your own physical body. If you slump you will lose yourself. Your mind will be wandering about somewhere else; you will not be in your body.”4

Buddha in the mountains, Dominique Medici, used with permission

The Steps: a close-up:


During a crisis the natural posture may be disturbed if the mind-heart is identified with the crisis. Depression, for example, can produce a chronic condition of crisis that adversely affects the carriage of the body. When observed, however, this unnatural body posture can serve as a catalyst for treatment. Tibetan lama T. Lobsang Rampa tells in his autobiography about learning proper posture. He relates: From a very early age, from seven years of age to be precise, I had been taught to sit motionless for hours on end. A lighted butter-lamp used to be balanced on my head and I had to remain in the lotus attitude until the butter was finished. This could be as long as twelve hours.5

Fortunately, pausing cross-legged in the lotus or even half-lotus position is not a requirement! A chair is fine; but there are several instructions about proper sitting that can be helpful. As you read these suggestions you are encouraged to simultaneously adjust your posture and note what the experience teaches. First, choose a straight-back chair to sit on. Although the quality of any meditation does not hinge upon the kind of chair the body occupies most of us would agree that a cushioned easy chair is more conducive to watching television and snoozing than meditative practice. The idea that meditation is a form of ascetic endurance, however, may feed the mistaken notion that a straight-back chair is necessary because body stiffness and discomfort are to be expected. This assessment misses the real asceticism which is subtle, not physical: the ‘upright’ mind-heart enables the surrender of false, limiting ideas. Medical science is proving that stress and stress-related disorders are greatly alleviated by meditation.6 Because the shape of the straight-back chair naturally mimics the body’s vertical skeleton as it assumes the sitting position, the chair acts as an external spine of support. A properly aligned spine is critical to the flow of energy during meditation. When the body is straight and balanced, energy flows unimpeded up and down the chakra line, bringing wakeful alignment, relief of stress and, yes—a depth of relaxation and comfort which requires minimal effort to sustain. An example from American religious history shows a clear understanding of the importance of a proper chair to a prayerful life. The Shaker chair, as pictured below, is famous for its simple grace. It was designed by the Shaker spiritual community to accommodate the body’s natural posture of wakeful rest and it is reputed that Thomas Merton once remarked: “‘The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it.’”7


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Shaker chair, ‘courtesy of Shaker Museum and Library, Old Chatham, NY’

Hervey Elkins, a member of a Shaker community in the mid-nineteenth century, writes about the nightly procedure of ‘retiring’ for seated meditation at the sound of the 8 PM bell: ‘To retire is for the inmates of every room—generally from four to eight individuals—to dispose themselves in either one or two ranks and sit erect, with their hands folded upon their laps, and in that position labor for a true sense of their priviledge in the Zion of God—of the fact that God has prescribed a law

The Steps: a close-up:


which humbles and keeps them in the hollow of His hand, and has favored them with the blessing of worshipping Him. If any chance to fall asleep while thus mentally employed, they may rise and bow four times, or gently shake and resume their seats.’8

My father tells me that whenever he visited his 100-year old grandmother she would invariably be sitting erect on her rocker, dressed in her Sunday best. Her back was a good six inches from the spindled back of the chair. It looked to him as if the rocker was moving on its own; its rapid beat, back and forth, stood in stunning contrast to the woman’s body which never moved from its center! His grandmother knew that the natural poise of the straight spine could be maintained regardless of the chair. The second helpful instruction regarding posture relates to the maintenance of unimpeded energy flow up the spine. The perfectly poised posture requires that any muscular strain on the spine be eliminated. By placing a small cushion under the buttocks the hipbones are raised slightly so that the knees occupy a lower geometric plane. This subtle adjustment creates an angle which eliminates the tension of leaning forward to compensate for a displaced body symmetry. The angle resembles the correct deportment of riding a horse. The body feels grounded. Posture is further refined when we imagine a string at the top of the head that is being gently pulled upward. This little tug moves the whole skeleton into its natural, comfortable alignment. Notice how the chin slides in and back somewhat. According to Suzuki this subtle adjustment of the chin discourages the dreaming pose which forms when the jaw juts forward and the chin tilts upwards. With these adjustments we feel as if we could sit on the chair forever.9 Indeed, by eliminating whatever obstructs a balanced body posture we are arriving at the sensation of stillness and timelessness which verifies Suzuki’s remark that proper posture is meditation. The Alexander Technique is an interesting application of Suzuki’s instructions about posture, particularly the position of the chin. Developed in the late nineteenth century by Frederick Matthias Alexander, this healing modality is designed to induce a healthy body-mind by restoring the natural posture. Alexander was an actor who became so frustrated with an inability to deliver his lines with authority due to a debilitating throat irritation that he began a course of self-study to determine the cause of his ailment. When he watched himself reciting Shakespeare in front of a mirror he noticed that his chin would invariably tilt upwards as he took on the attitudes of the character he was portraying. This tilt stretched his neck muscles, constricted his vocal chords, and triggered compensatory movements in the spine that actually threw his whole body out of alignment. Through the simple action of adjusting the head-neck area by lowering his chin the rest of the skeleton fell into place. It became clear to Alexander that when human beings ‘act out’


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mental-emotional attitudes created by a false self-image these attitudes are preserved in the body posture. He found that correcting the misalignment can be difficult because the belief in the rightness of the errant posture is upheld by the source of the misalignment: the false self-image. Only observation can undo the damage. Therefore, says Alexander, an attentive use of the senses is the means whereby the natural posture—and a person’s health—is restored. The aligned posture, in turn, energizes the capacity to stay aware.10 When the body is aligned the interior organs that occupy the torso are given the space to do their work properly. As the chest lifts and the breathing eases the shoulders sink to their natural level. Tensions are released. In order to experience this natural spaciousness—and its opposite—take a moment and cave in your chest. What do you feel? Not only are the internal organs being squashed and deprived of the easy flow of blood and nutrients, but your breath is impeded. If held habitually in this manner the body is deprived of ch’i, the energy of life. Fatigue sets in, digestion is blocked, et cetera. Now straighten up. Feel the relief as energy rushes into the chest cavity. Accentuate this relief by taking a deep, nourishing breath starting deep down in the abdomen. . . . When the sitting posture is erect yet relaxed, note the association between this natural body posture and clarity of mind. In spiritual work proper posture is not an option but a necessity. A comparison can be made to army discipline. Every time a drill sergeant calls a platoon to order by shouting ‘Atten-tion!’ he summons the natural alignment of proper posture and mental attentiveness. He knows that training in attention is the essential preparation for combat. The spiritual journey is, in a way, a battlefield in which physical and/or mental laxity is the enemy. The body-mind connection implies that physical uprightness corresponds to an uprightness of mind-heart that is communicated to others. When on retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh I could not help but notice the wakeful, dignified serenity which exuded from the body language of this man as he sat and walked. It was like watching a king sit and walk; but the grandeur contained no arrogance. Rather, it was at once a posture and gait of humility, detachment and supreme confidence. When in the ordinary course of a day we ‘come to’ and observe the body slouching we will also observe that the body immediately moves to reposition itself into its natural balance. The energy of presence is reminding the bodymind of the health-giving properties of a natural posture. The body remembers and wishes to reestablish that posture. The slouch is a distortion of the natural posture honed by the habit of mechanical living. Our own particular brand of ‘slouch’ has taken years to mold itself. It reflects our subtle self-image. It is ego’s posture.

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Thirdly, obedience to the natural posture provides an exit for the elimination of trapped energy known as tension. If you are sitting on a chair the exit is your feet. When the feet are firmly planted on the floor or ground the lower limbs and feet act like tree trunks; they connect the body firmly to its ground, Earth. Right now, consciously let go of the energy pockets of bodily tension. Feel this freed energy stream down your body, down into the legs and out through the soles of your feet. The energy is percolating down into Mother Earth who gladly absorbs and recycles it. Notice how the body, by releasing this stagnant energy, experiences waves of relaxation as a result, while still retaining a supple erectness. If sleepiness intrudes you might take the advice of Hervey Elkins: get up and shake a few times, then resume the practice! As tensions drain out of the body there is a physical sensation of lightness, emptiness even, as if you’ve just lost 10 pounds. This unloading of tension is more than a physical experience. The subtle tensions of patterned fears and anxieties, which imprint their oppressive message on the body cells, are also being expunged. The dual letting go by mind and body is a conscious action generated by presence. Tensions cannot enslave body-mind when presence is sustained. In his book Postured Meditation, A Practical Manual For Meditators of All Traditions Will Johnson speaks of three components of a natural, healthy carriage of the body: alignment, relaxation, and resilience. Each component gives birth to the next: alignment allows for relaxation which gives resilience over time. Sustaining all three requires a watchful vigilance to avoid the physicalmental-emotional tensions which produce opposite components: misalignment, tension, and rigidity. Johnson relates the experience of the harmonious combination of the three healthy components to the surrender of the body to the force of gravity. This surrender to gravity is the natural reflex called relaxation. We could say that the spiritual dimension of this surrender to gravity is a rediscovery of the body’s intimate connection to Mother Earth. When tensions are released into Earth the result is rejuvenation. Johnson explains: If we find this delicate place in which the uprightness of our body comes into alignment with the vertical flow of gravitational energy, then we experience a natural quality of buoyancy and a feeling of being literally uplifted.11

Rooted in Earth and lifted to Sky like the mountain, we become aware that the life forms around us are, in their own configurations, also rooted in Earth and lifted to Sky. The tensions that preserve a protective screen between this body and other bodies dissolve and we feel the subtle energy bonds which link our own existence to that of countless beings. The natural posture is the window to this extended awareness of Self.12


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Uprightness of body-mind-heart is reflected in the radiance of the aura of rainbow lights that surrounds the body. Jesus reminds us that we are pure light, and adds a warning: “Take heed that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light (Luke 11: 35–36).” Learning to sit consciously, in a properly aligned posture, is the first step towards awareness of and control over one’s auric energy field. It also awakens a sensitivity to the auric field of others. If a critical mass of human beings were practicing presence how many dark vibrations might be converted into light?13

THE GUNAS When we sit erect yet relaxed a sensation of simple harmony is experienced. What explains this sensation? A teaching in Hindu Vedanta about the gunas may clarify this felt-harmony of body-mind-heart. The gunas are the three universal forces or energies of the Absolute which regulate the Creation at physical, mental, and emotional levels. Sattva is the energy of alert, peaceful awareness; rajas is the energy of movement; tamas is the energy which holds intact the form of each manifestation and facilitates deep sleep. All three gunas are present at every moment in the dance of life but they align and realign with one another, conforming to certain proportions depending on the nature of the situation. For example, when you feel a quiet awareness overcoming a sleepy (tamasic) or agitated (rajasic) state of mind-heart that is the guna sattva becoming dominant. Practicing the Pause puts sattva in the ascendant. Tamas is the force which maintains the natural posture of your body as you pause. The energy that courses through the resilient body, ready to initiate movement when it becomes necessary, is rajas.14 A conscious adjustment of the body posture activates sattva. By relaxing into the sattvic peace of the present moment bodily tensions—and mental tensions in the form of ideas, anxieties, and fears—are released. Body-mindheart is open to the universe. Note the vulnerable but safe quality of this openness. Realize that tension is an invention of ego to shield body-mind-heart from what is perceived as a formidable universe. In truth, however, as Transcendentalist poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson attests in his essay ‘The Over-Soul’: The soul gives itself alone, original and pure, to the Lonely, Original, and Pure, who, on that condition, gladly inhabits, leads and speaks through it . . . Behold, it saith, I am born into the great, the universal mind. I the imperfect adore my own Perfect.15

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Spiritual teachings tell us that real security comes from abandoning one’s being to the protective arms of the universe. The Christian mystic, St. Teresa of Avila, recommends throwing oneself into the arms of God. In Einsteinian physics, the mathematical equation of the universe’s curvature in the timespace continuum is reminiscent of the mythic image of the Great Mother who folds us in a maternal embrace that reflects the protective embrace of our own mothers, indelibly etched in our earliest memories.16 We are safe at this moment, cradled in the arms of our Great Mother—the universe. So just relax in this alert posture and let energy flow freely through the body. 2. Using the sense of touch, feel the body as a whole . . . feel the feet in contact with the floor, feel the clothes on the skin, the air passing across the face; aware of your breathing, let it deepen. . . . Having established an aligned, relaxed and conscious posture we are ready to engage the senses in a conscious way. We begin with touch: step 2 of the Pause. What we need to track, in experience, is how the sensation of touch is transmuted into a conscious act by presence, and thereby spiritualized: ergo, the spirituality of touch. Touch is happening all the time. There is a profound difference, however, between conscious touch and mechanical touch. For example, if I am given a cashmere sweater for Christmas my attention is swiftly summoned to conscious touch as I explore and enjoy the luxurious softness of the material. But in a few months will I still savor the feel of the cashmere when I put on the sweater? The senses only operate in the present. Therefore, the current information they relay will only register in my consciousness if I am present also; that is, if the I of awareness is connected to the sense of touch. Every new experience is in danger of losing its luster, especially when it is stored away in memory as an idea entitled ‘I already know about that’. In the example above, touching the sweater without awareness will be an automatic gesture, careless rather than careful. Touch will carry no real meaning. Things of much more value than a sweater—relationships, for example—depend upon the everpresent alignment of mind to the senses through the energy of attention. We begin to cultivate conscious touch in a simple way: feel the weight of the body on the chair . . . feel the texture of the clothes against your skin . . . feel the thin, airy space between your shoes and the floor. Be aware of air moving across the skin. If that air is coming from an open window, note whether the air is cooler than the temperature of the room. As the belly moves in and out with each breath be aware that breathing is keeping you alive. All these tactile sensations are being provided by two teachers: touch, and the element with which it is associated, AIR. Do you feel how the quality of energy is refining as conscious touch deepens your awareness of being present?


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Conscious touch connects us with our own bodies and, by extension, with the bodies around us. We become aware of a Larger Self impinging upon our skin. It is as if all surfaces are porous membranes interpenetrating each other, as if the very pores on our skin are not private. In fact, this is true. The biological exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between plants and animals through respiration, for example, is a physical reflection of a subtle, spiritual principle of interconnectedness that we can actually feel through the agency of touch. Simply said, “Nothing is itself without everything else.”17 Emerson rhapsodizes about the sensory experience of his relationship to other natural forms using images of touch and sight. He writes in Nature: Standing on the bare ground—my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God. . . .The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. . . .The simple perception of natural forms is a delight . . . needful to man.18

Conscious touch is a two-way relationship; as such it has the power to communicate healing vibrations that can effect spiritual transformation. For example, when a woman with a chronic affliction touches the robe of Jesus she receives fine energy radiating from the god-man. Jesus responds, “Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me (Luke 8:46).” In speaking of the touch that Christ himself administers, Vivekananda—disciple of Ramakrishna and a great teacher in his own right—says: When Christ touches, the whole soul of man will change; he will be transfigured into just what Christ was. His whole life will be spiritualized; spiritual power will emanate from every pore of his body.19

When the operation of any of the senses is refined through presence a world beneath or beyond the physical world becomes accessible to perception. This deeper reality is called the subtle or mental world. The subtle world is perceived at the point where felt body sensations interface with the cognitive/intuitive faculties of mind-heart. Touch becomes being in-touch. Whenever the ground water of deep sensing is activated—in this case, the phenomenon of subtle touch—we are being guided towards the invisible realm where spiritual knowledge resides. SUBTLE TOUCH AND THE THREE WORLDS Being in-touch reveals the shared consciousness that underlies the physiological (body), cognitive (mind), and emotional/intuitive (heart) aspects of every

The Steps: a close-up:


living form. When we are in-touch we realize that each life form projects a particular configuration of consciousness necessary to the well-being of the universal ecosystem. It follows that the extinction of any form diminishes the whole and therefore each being as part of that whole. Regarding the essential fellowship between human beings seventeenth century poet John Donne says: No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent. . . . Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.20

Subtle touch informs us that the connection we experience extends to all life, not just our fellow human beings. Abraham Heschel writes of a “holy dimension of existence . . . the system of divine values invested in every being.”21 Exploring touch in the Pause can provide our first hint of this subtle, unifying principle of interconnectedness and harmony known to mystics throughout the centuries and sought by new science as the unified field. Within this field are three worlds—physical, subtle and spiritual—enclosed within each other, as if breathing into each other. The center point that radiates through all three worlds is the Divine Energy that each religion acknowledges in its own way. This three-in-one format of the universe can be visually illustrated. There is constant motion and reconfiguration, as forms materialize into the physical world and disappear back into the spiritual world as energy. Each form reflects the whole as in a holographic picture.22 The subtle world is the bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds. The spiritual world is a very fine material. Its laws are not limited to logical reasoning and therefore access requires more than the cognitive process. Think of Alice falling into the rabbit hole, circling downwards until she hits another world of non-logical congruity. Or listen to a shaman speak of plunging into the mind-tunnel of his concentration to enter the dangerous but curative world of spirits. Or ask a Zen monk to explain the unexplainable koan that shuts off the left hemisphere of the brain so that insight can flare up from the right hemisphere, seat of creative thought. The divine intelligence that pervades these interconnected worlds is available to each of us IF we learn to use the senses consciously. It is not accidental that we begin with the sense of touch. The physical act of touch is how we sensitize ourselves to subtle energy and thereby to the subtle and spiritual worlds. Touch is our kinesthetic instrument of knowledge. Apparently, a species-specific programming for acute sensitivity to the environment through subtle touch is built into the microscopic level of physical existence. In a scientific experiment with electrons, conducted simultaneously in two countries at a remote distance from each other, the movement of the electrons in one location was picked up and copied in the other without the


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the three worlds/Dominique Medici, used with permission.

prompting of the experimenter. This tactile sensitivity exemplifies the Hamilton-Jacobi theory which postulates that all events emerge from a common ground which is the world of synchronicities and acausal connections characteristic of the law of the whole.23 In another synchronous event, called the Hundredth Monkey phenomenon, an inventive means of eating devised by a troupe of monkeys was suddenly and inexplicably imitated by another troupe in another continent. The data implied the existence of a subtle field where information was deposited and became available for transfer without relying on physical transport. The new knowledge was ‘picked up’ in the air.24 Through kinesthetic awareness the intuitive faculty is honed. People who develop clairsentience use this kinesthetic awareness.25 The awareness of sympathetic vibrations passing between one’s own body-consciousness and surrounding bodies may prompt comments like ‘I feel something is up’ or ‘I’m feeling something out’. We have all experienced that flash of knowing something before it happens—knowing that a particular person is about to

The Steps: a close-up:


call you on the phone or having the same thought as someone else who then speaks it for both of you. An appreciation of the subtle vibrations that link all beings can arouse love and gratitude. As I sit quietly, I am aware that the same breeze that caresses the thin fronds of the willow overhead is caressing the skin of my bare arms. I am soothed by an element, AIR, which I cannot see; yet touch informs me of its cooling presence. I experience the power of air to conduct energy to this body through the breath, while it simultaneously enlivens and connects all bodies. It is interesting that the word feeling has both tactile and emotional meanings. Through deep touch, we feel the transparency that reveals one family. We feel the incarnation of Spirit all around us. This feeling arouses gratitude. There are two idioms that refer to the sense of touch in a limited but revealing way. Being touchy—in a touchy mood—is the opposite of a generous extension of touch. Contact is withheld; the space through which air passes is guarded as my space and ‘I am not in the mood to have it invaded’. A touchyfeely person, on the other hand, likes to get ‘real close, in your face,’ in your space. He or she enjoys the tactile intimacy of rubbing elbows, of extending a hug or wrapping an arm around your shoulder. Research by Richard Bandler and John Grinder shows that we each have a particular sensory sensitivity and inclination: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic.26 It would seem to be beneficial to discover not only which of these three sensitivities is our dominant mode of perception but also to achieve balance by developing the other two. In order to develop a sensitivity to touch, for example, one can practice awareness of one’s hands coming into contact with objects. Right now, as you hold this book, be aware of touch. Be aware of the weight, temperature and texture of the book. Energy is being exchanged in the space between your hands and the book. The palms of the hands are minor chakras; they emit and receive energy. This energy is felt through subtle touch. To experience this energy put down the book a moment and place your hands, palms facing each other, a few inches apart. Attend to the space between your hands, particularly at the palms. You will begin to feel energy. Although sensations vary it is common to feel the interacting energy of the palms as heat and/or tingling. The heat that radiates from the palms is a healing energy that can be extended to others. The centuries-old practice of laying on of hands, and modern equivalents such as reiki and healing touch, employ touch as a spiritual intercession by which the body’s self-healing intelligence is energized. Holding in mind the intention that the objective of the healing session is the wellbeing of the client, the practitioner of healing touch, for example, simply lets divine energy extend through his or her hands to meet the energy needs of the client. Particular points of contact are areas of the body where chakras need to be energized and cleansed so that equilibrium is restored.27


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We all possess an intuitive knowledge about the healing power of touch. A mother, for instance, automatically puts her hands on a child’s forehead to cool a fever or gently rubs his tummy to relieve a stomachache. The following practice is a gift you can extend any time to soothe and energize a member of your family or close friend. ‘QUICKIE REIKI’: Ask your subject to sit down. Begin by standing behind the subject. Gently place your hands on top of the head of the divine being in front of you. Move next to the shoulders where you will feel tensions dissolve as vital energy penetrates through your hands, meeting and rearranging the energy field underneath. Next put one hand on the upper chest and use the other hand to firm the back lightly. Now move around in front of your subject, kneel down and place your hands gently on the tops of the feet. Conducting energy into the feet is a powerful way to alleviate tensions in the whole body (as the practice of reflexology shows). Complete the circuit by returning to the shoulders for a few moments. Note: maintain a light pressure at each locale for about two to three minutes, keeping your attention focused on the surface where your hands are ministering. As you work you may want to cup your hands slightly in order to focus attention on the space between the palms and the body surface. With practice you will begin to feel the vibrating energy of your auric field meeting that of the subject. Be sure to relax and breathe deeply and easily. Healing energy is available everywhere; trust that your loving intention to give energy and the focusing of your attention will direct energy through your hands to the body of the recipient.28 The meeting of energy fields happens every time we encounter another human being, animal, or plant. Petting your cat or dog attentively is a wonderful sensitizing practice as well as a bonding ritual. Research on plants have shown that the ‘green thumb’ is on the hand of a person who can stroke, soothe and thereby heal through simple touch. Wilderness survival teacher and author, Tom Brown Jr., relates that his teacher, the Apache shaman he calls Grandfather, recommends hugging trees (after asking permission) because trees, particularly old massive trees, possess potent energy. The Hindu avatar, Mother Meera, whose ashram in Germany attracts thousands of supplicants from all over the world every year, blesses the people who come to meditate with her by placing her hands on their heads and looking into their eyes. In silence each supplicant lines up to receive this infused spiritual energy. The encounter lasts for about 20 seconds. Mother Meera explains that there is a white line of light which runs from the toes up the spine to the head. Energy flows up this thread of light (the chakra line). As she holds the person’s head she sees and feels the knots which are impeding the progress of the upward moving light. She then unloosens them in such a way that does not disturb the thread.29

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During the day today, as you move around the home or workplace, become conscious of touch. Let conscious touch bring you in-touch with those around you. Being in-touch has the power to clarify and ‘massage’ communication, restoring harmony.

THE SPIRITUALITY OF BREATHING As the body assumes a natural posture and the sensations of conscious touch sensitize the body to its immediate environment a progressive ratcheting down of extraneous energies held over from previous activity is noticed. Indeed, energy held in physical and mental tensions is being released and funneled into an emergent, potent stillness. Fidgeting stops, waves of relaxation flood the body and the mind is emptied of its stale monologues. In this palpable quiet there is only one perceived movement: breathing. Through the internal aspect of touch one feels the gentle rise and fall of the breath within the spacious cavity of the torso. The measured regularity of the breathing does not disturb the substratum of quiet; rather, it accentuates the quiet. As such, the biological metronome of life that we call breath is also serving as a generic mantra. It is not surprising that spiritual teachings use the breath cycle as a mode of meditation. Let us better understand how breathing is employed as a meditative tool. As we examine in particular the methods by which Eastern religions encourage a spirituality of breathing there may be an experience of entering a world of information and technique very foreign to the Western mind-set. Indeed, these meditative methods using the breath have evolved from ancient times and may be thousands of years old.30 They show a deep understanding of the connection between sensory awareness (in this case, awareness of the breath) and spiritual transformation. As you read the following paragraphs it may be helpful to use the sensation of your own breathing to maintain awareness. You may observe that the rhythm of your breathing slows down as a result of simple awareness.31 All religions refer to the creative power of breath. Breath moves out of stillness to create all things. The Book of Genesis says that “the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep (Gen. 1:2)”, whereupon “the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters . . . and God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).” The word spiritus means breath, from the Latin spirare/to blow or breathe. The spirit of God is His breath. The Lakota Sioux call this breath of life niyan. Niyan is one of four aspects of the soul bestowed by the Great Spirit.32 When a person is ill it is believed that a part of the soul has been lost and hovers unclaimed in the spirit world. A shaman is called


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upon to retrieve the lost portion. He enters the spirit world through meditation and, on his return, blows the reclaimed energy into the patient’s body to restore health. The Eesha-Upanishad echoes Native American and Christian statements about the spiritual origin of breath, saying: “Out of Self comes the breath that is the life of all things.”33 This subtle form of breath is the spiritual energy called prana. Prana enters the Veda and enlivens the sacred knowledge revealed to the Hindu sages of old. The Veda continue to breathe (spirare), inspiring devotees who aspire to Self-realization. Sufism teaches that the source of Creation is The Breath of the Compassionate One. Kabir writes of the mysterious proximity of God in and through the breath: Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat. My shoulder is against yours. You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals: Not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables. When you really look for me, you will see me instantly – You will find me in the tiniest house of time. Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God? He is the breath inside the breath.34 Are we aware of the inward and outward breath? Feel the peace generated by breathing in Spirit and breathing out Spirit . . .

Another word for divine breath is consciousness. As consciousness is infused into the universe, the universe breathes through its multifarious life forms. The manifestation of matter and its restructuring as energy in the unfolding-enfolding rhythm of the universe, described by new physics, resembles breathing. Physical life and death are simply the pouring forth of divine consciousness and its retraction and refashioning. Plotinus, fourth century Neoplatonist mystic, explains the ebb and flow by saying that everything emanates from the Ineffable One in a centrifugal expansion, only to return by centripetal force to the One. In the Hindu teaching, the creator god Brahmā meditates and a yuga or world cycle is born from His breath. When its measure is completed the yuga dissolves back into Brahmā and the next yuga arises. The natural world lives by means of the rhythm of measured breathing. Waves rush upon the sandy shore only to be pulled back into their ocean depth. Day alternates with night, and each season has its day in the sun be-

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fore bowing to the next player on Nature’s stage. This lively play of the breath implies a conscious universe, a universe that is alive, aware, and intelligent. Indigenous peoples have long acknowledged an animate universe and inferred, from that animation, that the Great Spirit inhabits all beings. We human beings are constantly being in-spired—that is, we are physically brought to life with every inhalation. We are spiritually in-spired as well if we heed the call of Spirit. Our physical lives expire after a certain measure of breaths. Everything in between birth and death transpires. The key to spiritual enlightenment is the degree of wakefulness lent to this brief period of transpiration. Are we aware of the inward and outward breath? Feel the peace generated by breathing in Spirit and breathing out Spirit. . . .

Yogic breathing exercises, called pranayama, introduce the devotee to the subtle level of breath or pranic energy. When we breathe consciously prana is increased. Prana has five modifications to take care of different functions of the body. Udana, for example, conducts the soul upward as it exits the crown chakra at the time of death. Kundalini is the pranic energy that occupies the area of the base chakra or muladhara. It is a gift of Earth, serving as the reservoir and engine for a healthy life. Represented as a coiled serpent, kundalini’s spiritual nature lies dormant until it is awakened by the Light of Self and begins to undergo an alchemy whereby it uncoils and is pulled upward, aided by the sound of a mantra. The route of kundalini’s rise is the chakra line called the Sushumna. Wrapped around the Sushumna, rather like a DNA ribbon, are two major subtle channels of energy: the Ida which is the pranic current of lunar energy (‘negative-female’ pole associated with the heart) and the Pingala which is the pranic current of solar energy (‘positive-male’ pole associated with the brain). These energies are personified by the goddess Shakti and the god Shiva who are often portrayed as a couple in tight embrace. When kundalini bursts through the crown chakra the fire of spiritual illumination is ignited. The symbol of a serpent is used cross-culturally to represent spiritual regeneration as the counterpart to sexual generation. For example, an early indigenous earthwork found in Ohio has the coiled serpentine motion of a snake, culminating in an ovoid shape or head. Known as the Serpent Mound, it is one-fourth of a mile long, twenty feet wide and five feet high. Contemporary Hopi Indians believe that the mound was built by their ancestors. Might this serpentine pattern be a replica of the Hindu kundalini motion?


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The Serpent Mound, ‘courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society’

The idea that human life can be deified—the aim of all spiritual practice— gives the serpent symbol a third meaning beyond generation and regeneration: healing. The caduceus—the serpentine symbol of the medical profession— originated in Egypt. It appears in antiquity as the staff of the high priest Tehuty who transmitted the sacred art of healing from the gods to man. Both the caduceus and the intertwined Ida-Pingala design suggest the healing process of making whole again what was divided. Conscious breathing is a key to this ascent into ultimate healing. Are we aware of the inward and outward breath? Feel the peace generated by breathing in Spirit and breathing out Spirit. . . .

Taoism translates the vital energy of prana as ch’i. The holistic vision of Taoism recognizes that ailments of body, mind, and emotion are healed by consciously moving subtle ch’i in order to unblock and purify pockets of stagnant energy. In the Taoist breathing meditation called Tu Mo Jen Mo, ch’i moves in a circular fashion through the major chakras. Beginning from the tan t’ien point the attention is given to the first part of the journey (the governing meridian or Tu Mo) by means of a slow inhalation of breath. At the summit of this inhalation (located physically at the roof of the mouth) a slow exhalation takes the breath back to the starting point (the central meridian or Jen Mo).

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caduceus/Dominique Medici, used with permission.

The conscious repetition of this circular motion of the breath realigns and reinvigorates the chakra energies and works to balance the complementary forces of yin and yang. In a healthy person yin—the ‘female’ energy that characterizes inhalation—is complemented in just the right proportion by yang— the ‘male’ energy that characterizes exhalation.35 Yin and yang emerge out of a primeval ch’i to form the material universe. Since breathing is the signature of Spirit’s immersion in Matter the complete breath of Tu Mo Jen Mo as two halves of a whole demonstrates the marriage of complementary energies or qualities inherent in the universal pattern of Creation. The objective of human life is to balance yin and yang in such a total way that the life meshes with the universal Tao. Such a life is fruitful and devoid of stress. Jesus put it this way: When you make the two one, and when you make the inner as the outer


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Tu Mo Jen Mo /Dominique Medici, used with permission.

and the outer as the inner and the above as the below, and when you make the male and the female into a single one . . . then shall you enter the Kingdom.36 Are we aware of the inward and outward breath? Feel the peace generated by breathing in Spirit and breathing out Spirit . . .

The touchstone of Buddhist meditation is the breath. Learning mindfulness begins with simple awareness of the inward and outward breath. One method by which breathing becomes a meditation is the following: combine breathing with silent counting from 1 to 10. Match number to breath. Count ‘1’ for

The Steps: a close-up:


the first complete breath, ‘2’ for the second, and so on, attending to each complete breath. When the number ‘10’ is reached begin the process again. Sounds simple? The trick, of course, is to resist the tendency of the mind to dart off during the counting and breathing and get lost in some irrelevant thought or dream. If this wandering is detected—in other words, if one awakens to find that the sensory connection with the breath is lost—return to ‘1’ and start again, remembering that the first step in waking up is to realize that you are asleep! You may want to experiment with this breathing meditation as an extension of the Pause. Are we aware of the inward and outward breath? Feel the peace generated by breathing in Spirit and breathing out Spirit. . . .

Let us consider for a moment the intermittent reminders that were given in the last section to help us maintain awareness of the breathing. If you were engaged in this practice, what happened when the reminder was read? Did you awaken to the fact that you had lost consciousness of the breath? If so that is good: you were practicing waking up. Perhaps you noticed that the breathing slowed down and softened. Contrast this sensation to the occasions during the day when we are ‘catching our breath,’ ‘running out of breath,’ ‘holding our breath’ in anticipation, or ‘feeling breathless’ because of stress. Stress replaces deep abdominal breathing with shallow, upper torso breathing. This distortion of a mechanism by which the body naturally regenerates itself starves body, mind and heart of the energy necessary to health at all levels. It may be helpful, therefore, to review the natural mechanism of deep abdominal breathing. The complete breath reintroduces us to this natural breathing. You are invited to take the necessary time to practice as you read the instructions. THE COMPLETE BREATH: First, reestablish the intimate connection between natural posture and natural breathing by assuming an erect, relaxed posture. Realize that a crumpled posture constricts the space that healthful breathing requires. Now, exhale the air in the body and, in slow motion, breathe in from deep down in your abdominal cavity. Feel the abdomen pushing out as the diaphragm muscle extends out. Breath fills this area and then ‘climbs upward’ to fill the lungs which are located inside a protective cage (the ribs) that radiates from the spine in back to the sternum or breastbone in the front of the body. When the breath fills this area the 3-dimensional torso expands like an inner tube. In full inhalation the shoulders gently rise. Hold this position for a count of five before slowly, gently, without strain, letting the air be exhaled. Attend to the decompression of the inner tube as the diaphragm muscle contracts and the abdomen retreats. You have just enjoyed a complete breath!37


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In his book Breathing: Expanding Your Power and Energy Michael Sky argues that a lifetime pattern of shallow breathing that many human beings establish stems from an exacerbation of the natural contraction of breath that occurs during the birth trauma. This exacerbation may be caused by violent birth procedures, such as a doctor cutting off the umbilical cord before the infant can make the transition to using his own lungs. The trauma of the first breath impresses itself on the cells of the body by fusing stress with breathing. A primary pattern is thus set in motion as the growing child experiences the world. This harmful programming of energy may result in severe physical tensions and mental-emotional difficulties. Sky introduces breathing exercises to counteract such habitual patterns.38 This close-up of the first two steps of the Pause has zeroed in on breathing because conscious breathing is a spiritual as well as a physiological lifeline. In Appendix I you will find additional practices that incorporate breathing. You are invited to try them when it is convenient for you to do so, remembering that the substratum of any breathing meditation is a practical knowledge of the complete breath.39 When at death the breathing stops and the elements of the physical body make their return voyage to the dust of the earth, spiritual teachings say that the intelligence of soul, fueled by spiritual energy, continues to live on other planes of consciousness. In his poem ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey’ Wordsworth describes this transition, when . . . the breath of this corporeal frame And even the motion of our human blood Almost suspended, we are laid asleep In body, and become a living soul; While with an eye made quiet by the power Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, We see into the life of things. . . . And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man; A motion, and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things.40

Let us take a moment to open the senses. . . . Feel in the body-mind-heart that immanent presence that lifts Wordsworth to a sensation of the sublime

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that ‘rolls through all things’. That presence breathes through your body . . . sees and knows it sees . . . smells and knows it smells . . . tastes and knows it tastes . . . listens to the sounds that rise and fall within its eternal pulse. That presence remains forever at rest, watching.

NOTES 1. Work of Love, VHS film on the ministry of Mother Teresa in India, produced in association with William Livingston Productions by Konographics, 1982. 2. Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (New York: Weatherhill, 1974), 25. 3. Hara is synonymous with the Taoist tan t’ien point: t’ien means ‘field,’ tan means ‘power’. This subtle womb of power lies in the sacral area below the navel. According to visionary healer Barbara Brennan this center is sounding a tone—“the one note with which you have grown up your physical body from your mother the earth. . . .Without the one note, you would not have a body. When you change this one note, your entire body will change . . . this note is the sound the center of the earth makes.” Barbara Ann Brennan, Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Field (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), 288. 4. Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, 27. 5. T. Lobsang Rampa, The Third Eye (New York: Ballantine Books,1964), 174. Copyright © T. Lobsang Rampa. Reprinted by permission of A.M. Heath & Co. Ltd. 6. Pioneering research by scientists associated with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation, indicates that meditation reduces the dangers of heart disease, decreases blood pressure, relieves stress and stress-related disorders, and even slows down the aging process. See Bloomfield et al. TM Discovering Inner Energy and Overcoming Stress (New York: Delacorte Press, 1975) and Deepak Chopra, Quantum Healing, Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), 193–4. The program in mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronically ill patients at University of Massachusetts Medical Center, founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn, shows the healthful effect on body-mind of meditative practice. See also Herbert Benson, M.D. The Relaxation Response (New York: HarperTorch, 2000). 7. Edward Deming Andrews and Faith Andrews, Religion in Wood: A Book of Shaker Furniture (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1966), xiii. By 1840 the Shaker sect of Christianity had spread from New England to the Kentucky frontier with a total population of about 6,000 souls in 17 communities. Not only were the Shakers self-sufficient as farmers and craftspeople; they were also innovative. A Shaker woman is credited, for example, with the invention of the clothespin and the chainsaw. A policy of gender equality allowed both elders and eldresses to hold positions of authority. The commitment to celibacy contributed to the eventual demise of the Shaker movement. 8. Amy Stechler Burns and Ken Burns, The Shakers: Hands To Work, Hearts To God (Walpole, N.H.: Aperture Book, 1987), 66.


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9. Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, 26. Instead of a chair, you may want to experiment with a wooden prayer bench or cushions such as the zafu cushion (a hard, round cushion which can be straddled or used in a cross-legged position). 10. See Glenn McDonald, The Complete Illustrated Guide to Alexander Technique: a Practical Program for Health, Poise, and Fitness (Boston: Element, 1998). 11. Will Johnson, The Posture of Meditation: a Practical Manual for Meditators of All Traditions (Boston: Shambhala, 1996), 20. 12. In comparing the body work of Suzuki, Alexander and Johnson one notes a concentration on the area where upper torso and head meet. (This neck area is also critical in Rudolf Steiner’s eurythmy work) The thyroid gland that helps to regulate metabolism is located in this area. It is intriguing to ask whether chronic misalignment at this ‘bridge’ blocks entry into the higher chakra powers. Also, lowering the chin corrects the jutting jaw and stretched neck that suggest a pugnacious, defensive attitude. Does today’s competitive culture encourage a literal headlong, headfirst rush with headstrong force to face assumed foes while neglecting the major foe within— the untamed ego? 13. In the 1970’s the Maharishi University (now called the Maharishi School of Management) in Fairfield, Iowa conducted experiments in major cities to see if meditation for a sustained time by a ‘critical mass’ of practitioners (determined as the square root of 1% of the population) could reduce the crime rate. Indications of reduction were observed. Meditation was seen to be a contributing factor. The transformational power of meditation is called the Maharishi Effect. See The Maharishi Effect: Creating Coherence in World Consciousness (Fairfield, Ia: MIU Press). 14. In the teaching of Jewish Kabbalah Ayin, the No-Thing or Emptiness of unmanifest existence, gives rise to the manifest Creation beginning with a beam of Light, En Sof Aur. Light reveals three forces in the Emptiness: the Absolute Will, the actions that play out that Will, and the restrictive force that limits and shapes each event. These three principles are called the three Zahzahot or the three Hidden Splendours. It appears that the three Zahzahot correspond to the three guna energies of Hindu Vedanta which create, sustain, hold and dissolve created forms. The Zahzahot conduct the Light, En Sof, into the myriad manifest forms which, while made of Light, conceal the Light from one who is not awake. En Sof is sometimes called the Concealed of the Concealed. See Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, A Kabbalistic Universe (York Beach, Me: Samuel Weiser, 1977). 15. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays 1st & 2nd series (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1927), 166. Transcendentalism, a nineteenth century spiritual movement centered in New England, emphasized intuition and nature mysticism as gates to the supernatural realm. 16. See Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994), 220. 17. Swimme and Berry, The Universe Story, 268. 18. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, Addresses and Lectures in Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1903), 10. 19. Swami Vivekananda, Religion and Love (Calcutta, India: Swami Vishwashraynanda, 1976), 45. In his visit to the West in the late nineteenth century Vive-

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kananda incorporated the Hindu teaching of bhakti yoga (the way of devotion) with references to Christianity to show that devotional worship of a divine-human figure is a common human way to approach the Divine. Except for the Transcendentalists who studied Eastern religions, most Americans knew little about these ‘foreign’ religions. 20. John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1959), 108–109. From Meditation XVII. 21. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, ed. Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966), 322. 22. When the universe is appreciated as a holarchy (where each form or holon has integrity as part of a greater whole) rather than a hierarchy, it is evident that each form is equally valuable. The medieval concept of anima mundi or world soul, which referred to God-permeated spheres of ensouled beings as the Great Chain of Being, anticipated the holarchic vision but came short because it defined a ‘natural order’ decreed by God that ranked life forms and even social classes. The human species and the king, nobles of the feudal system, and church leaders were assigned top-ranking positions. See Diarmuid O’Murchu, Quantum Theology (New York: Crossroad, 1998). 23. See F. David Peat, Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), 52–58. 24. Anodea Judith, Wheels of Life: a User’s Guide to the Chakra System (St. Paul, Minn: Llewellyn, 1992), 378. 25. Other terms for clairsentience are telepathy and extra-sensory perception or ESP. 26. See, for example, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, Frogs into Princes: NeuroLinguistic Programming (Moab, Utah: Real People Press, 1979). 27. In both reiki and healing touch actual touch, a light touch, or a hovering of the hands within the aura of the client are all equally effective. 28. I learned this ‘quickie’ reiki treatment from my reiki teachers, Laurie Friedli and Scott Way, who conduct a healing practice in Poughkeepsie, NY. This introductory practice is not meant to substitute for a course in Reiki or Healing Touch, both of which deserve comprehensive training. I usually begin the treatment by a ‘sweeping or cleaning’ of the aura of the recipient. This is done by moving the hands like feather dusters from the head of the recipient down to the feet and then disposing of this ‘old’ energy by offering it to Mother Earth or the heavens. 29. An avatar is an incarnation of the Divine. Mother Meera says that her mission, as an incarnation of the Divine Mother, is to bring down the Light of the Paramatman— the Supreme Self—for the healing and spiritual evolution of those who request her blessing. 30. The ensuing descriptions of Taoist Tu Mo Jen Mo and Hindu kundalini meditation are an informative introduction, not a practical manual. It is imperative to receive guidance in learning either practice so that energy is safely and beneficially channeled. 31. The Maharishi speaks of the coordinated effects of mantra meditation on body and mind: a slower, ‘softer’ breathing rhythm accompanies a slowing down of the metabolic rate. Thoughts also subside, like sediment that sinks to the bottom of a lake,


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producing deeper levels of mental rest. See Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental Meditation (New York: Signet/New American Library, 1968), 194–197. 32. The four aspects of the soul (wanagi) are: niyan, the breath of life; wana’gi, ghost or shadow; sicun, power animal, guide; and ton, the spiritual essence common to all beings. 33. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B. Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 15. 34. Robert Bly, The Kabir Book (Boston: The Seventies Press, 1977), 33. 35. See Da Liu, T’ai Chi Ch’uan and Meditation (New York, Schocken Books, 1986). It is important to realize that yin and yang are energies that have nothing to do with gender. Each human being has both energies. They can be properly balanced by following a disciplined lifestyle of proper diet, exercise and meditation. Some common adjectives associated with yin energy are ‘dark, receptive, tranquil’; yang energy has been described as ‘light, assertive, active’. We can all think of situations when one energy is naturally more prominent than the other. For example, working out in a gym requires more yang; prayer or meditation requires more yin. The combinations can be complex, however. Working out is enhanced by the yin stillness of presence while meditation needs the yang energy of concentrated determination to maintain alertness. 36. The Gospel According To Thomas, trans. A. Guillaumont, Henri-Charles Puech, Gilles Quispel, Walter Till and Yassah ‘Abd Al Masīh (New York: Harper & Row, 1959), 17–18. Copyright © E.J. Brill, 1959. Used by permission of Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, Netherlands. 37. It is interesting that even though air is being inhaled through the nose and mouth it feels as if the air is being pumped up from the base of the abdomen, from the base chakra in fact (the kundalini seat). 38. See Michael Sky, Breathing: Expanding Your Power and Energy (Santa Fe: Bear & Co., 1990). 39. If you have respiratory or respiratory-related difficulties it is recommended that you first check with your physician before engaging in any meditative breathing exercises. 40. The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1904), 92.

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Close-up continued: The Spiritualities of Seeing, Smelling and Tasting

Before the mind engages in the subject matter of this chapter, let us remember the simplicity of being grounded in the present moment. Feel the body; let the body relax into its natural poise. . . . Be aware of the breath flowing in and out. . . . See . . . smell . . . taste . . . listen. . . . Rest in quiet awareness. . . . The instruction for Step 3 of the Pause reads: 3. Using the sense of sight, let the eyes receive the images in your immediate surroundings; without naming, be aware of color and form; just see and know that seeing is taking place. . . . In order to reawaken a spirituality of seeing we need to learn to see without preconceptions. A spirituality of seeing is based on subtraction—subtraction of habitual bias and commentary. When the ‘scales of the eyes’ are removed the fresh, innocent, naked seeing of a child is revealed.1 Naked seeing is the act of seeing reduced to simple awareness. Ironically the reduction does not diminish what or who is seen, but rather reveals the true underlying nature of the object or person without the addition of imagined attributes, good or bad. For example, if my daily perception of my employer is ruled by a conception based on a past incidence of mistreatment I will be prevented from finding out the origin of that mistreatment; maybe he had an argument with his wife before leaving home for work. I will also not discern the cause of my own reaction; maybe he didn’t mistreat me but I was oversensitive to his manner of instruction and took it as criticism. Subsequent interactions with my employer will very likely not change my opinion of him. Our relationship will remain bound by my failure to see. The phrases we commonly use such as ‘I see what you mean’ or ‘I see the point’ are admissions that sight—as understanding—has removed a previous bias treasured by ego. 95


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Ralph Waldo Emerson states: “Truth is always present: it only needs to lift the iron lids of the mind’s eye to read its oracles.”2 Unfortunately, it is usually not ‘love at first sight’ but ‘judgment at first sight.’ The eyes themselves are neutral conduits. In order for ego to spin its conceptual webs the visual cortex of the brain is permitted to ‘see’ only what inflates ego, what confirms its unexamined opinions. Therefore, we rarely see a person. We see our ideas about a person. Then we act out a relationship based on those ideas. It may take a crisis to dislodge and eliminate the domineering fiction that betrays our short-sightedness. We know from experience that when this fiction rules family relationships it poisons the very intimacy we want. A Sufi story reveals how assumptions block true sight: A group of blind men are describing an elephant that they obviously have never seen. They use touch to identify the animal. One blind man describes the elephant as a fan, because he is touching the elephant’s ear. Another blind man says no, the elephant is like a rope. He is touching the elephant’s tail—and so on. The blind men get into an argument. Each man’s knowledge of the elephant is partial, distorted by blindness.3

Seeing from preconception is a dead end. Nothing new can happen. King Solomon describes the tiresome quality of this repetitive kind of living: The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us (Eccles. 1:9–10).

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes of this corruption of sight in his essay ‘Experience’: Dream delivers us to dream, and there is no end to illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue, and each shows only what lies in its focus. From the mountain you see the mountain. We animate what we can and we see only what we animate.4

Wakeful seeing, on the other hand, allows a vision of the whole within which every part is held, nourished and connected to every other part. This kind of vision changes one’s life. Again, Emerson notes the difference in ‘The Over-Soul’: We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part

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and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing, and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one.5

This holistic seeing requires that we awaken in the moment to the screen which ego habitually places over the object or person in front of us. If that screen is prejudice we will notice how concepts of ‘enemy,’ ‘outsider,’ and ‘stranger’ will dictate what is seen and, if unchecked, generate improper action. On the other hand, if the faculty of attention is connected to the act of seeing—if the mind-body synapse is working—then pure observation allows pure discrimination. Even if prejudice has deep roots in the psyche the information being received by the eyes and sent to the visual cortex will not be automatically corrupted at the cognitive level. Seeing will become a creative act that initiates new behavior. Many spiritual teachers speak of the mastery of this practice of perceiving without conceiving. The legendary Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus instructs his son Tat, thus: Pray that through grace you will be able to perceive God as so great that even just one ray of Him may shine in your mind. For pure perception perceives the unmanifest as it is itself also unmanifest. If you are strong enough, he will appear to the eye of Nous, O Tat. For the Lord appears in His bounty throughout the whole universe. Can you see pure perception and take hold of it with these hands and contemplate the image of God? But if you cannot see what is within, how can God who is Himself within you appear to you through your eyes?6

The Buddhist path identifies true seeing—and therefore understanding— with the practice of mindfulness. When we look deeply, mindfully, at anyone or anything our habitual mindset is bypassed. A Zen story illustrates the power that looking deeply wields in the elimination of false assumptions. A nun who lives in a Zen monastery believes there are snakes crawling all over her body. The abbess of the convent is at her wit’s end trying to get help for the woman. As a last resort the abbess calls in a Zen psychiatrist who listens to the nun’s complaint and then says to her, “I will be back in a week. While I am gone there are two instructions I wish you to follow: do not complain about the snakes to anyone, and observe the snakes very carefully so that you can tell me all about them when I return.” At the end of a week the Zen psychiatrist returns to find the nun happily gardening with her sisters. Approaching the woman he asks if she has followed his instructions. “Oh, yes,” she says cheerfully, “ but it was a strange thing; when I observed the snakes very carefully, they had disappeared!”


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Pure observation reveals not only the actual material universe; it disrobes the inner world of mind. Thus when the inner eye of the nun is awakened she sees that the snakes were a figment of the imagination. When detected, ego’s habit of superimposing its own scenery upon the inner and outer landscape stops because its energy supply is withdrawn. An example from the realm of science reveals the human tendency to endow the perceived object with preconceived ideas. In the biology of sensory reception there is a bottom to top flow of information: for example, photons bounce off a flower to the eye which sends a pattern to the visual cortex which sends a more recognizable pattern of ‘flower’ to a higher region of the brain where more information about the flower species is encoded. Recognition takes place. However, though the flow of information is from bottom to top, the construction of reality comes from the top down. Interpretations engraved from memory dictate what is perceived. In other words, in this ‘top down processing’ perception is manipulated by conception. Using hypnosis neuroscientists manipulated the cognitive storehouse to persuade people highly susceptible to hypnosis to think that they were perceiving, for example, a dull gray-toned painting instead of the colorful abstract in front of their eyes. Hypnosis “created a mismatch”; as one scientist said, “‘we imagine something different so it is different.’”7 Unfortunately, living an imaginary life is not limited to a hypnotized subject. Anytime we buy into our own stories about ‘reality’ we are hypnotizing ourselves. The hypnotic state is defined by neuroscience as “a natural form of extreme concentration.”8 It is interesting that this definition fits the practice of the Pause, and, for that matter, any meditation. However, the concentration which is honed by conscious awareness is not the trance of a hypnotized subject. Furthermore, the objective of any meditation is to reveal reality, not make or manipulate it. These are important distinctions. At the same time it is intriguing to apply the idea of hypnosis to spirituality. Through surrendering our storehouse of energy to the divine ‘suggestion’ planted within us, instead of to ego’s allurements, God’s alchemy is accomplished. As St. Paul says: “we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye . . . for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:49–53).” As we learn to discriminate between the real and the imagined we will have the opportunity to choose the real and discard the imagined. A Hindu prayer asks for divine help in this regard: Lead me from the unreal to the real! Lead me from darkness to light! Lead me from death to immortality!

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When practicing this third step of the Pause you may want to make a subtle adjustment that helps to neutralize the activity of seeing. Let the angle of vision be lowered slightly so that it rests on the floor or ground in front of you. Consciously relax the eye muscles; resist the usual temptation to name and comment on what is seen. As you move about after pausing carry with you this non-invasive way of looking. In time, the sight of something or someone will not trigger the mental-emotional attachment to ideas that reconfigure, limit, and thereby violate the object of sight. The life story of Jacques Lusseyran, hero of the French Resistance in World War II, is a striking example of learning anew how to see. Lusseyran had an accident shortly before his eighth birthday that left him totally and irreparably blind. He writes in his autobiography, however, that blindness was never for him a handicap but rather a gift. It provided him with the faculty of inner seeing through an inner light that was brighter and more penetrating than physical light. Even at a young age he knew that this light was spiritual in origin and as he grew up he realized that the only time when its gift of clear inner vision was unavailable was when he was overcome with negative emotions. Then the light would shut down and he would be immersed in darkness and confusion. He writes: “at every waking hour and even in my dreams I lived in a stream of light.”9 Lusseyran was able to intuit a person’s character and motives by the quality and color of the light that he ‘saw’ around them. An enriched use of the senses of hearing, smelling and touching augmented the accuracy with which he could assess his immediate surroundings. But it was an intensified use of attention—the overseer of the senses and the mind’s eye—that enabled Lusseyran to ‘see’ beneath and into his environment to a degree rarely developed by people who are not blind. He gives an ordinary example of this capacity of attention to translate into actual sight: As I walked along a country road bordered by trees I could point to each one of the trees by the road even if they were not spaced at regular intervals. I knew whether the trees were straight and tall, carrying their branches as a body carries its head, or gathered into thickets and partly covering the ground around them.10

Lusseyran reports that the effort required to attend in this way was taxing because it disallowed any conceptual interference. He writes: . . . I had to hold myself in a state so far removed from old habits that I could not keep it up for very long. I had to let the trees come toward me, and not allow the slightest inclination to move toward them, the smallest wish to know them, to come between them and me. I could not afford to be curious or impatient or proud of my accomplishment.11


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SEEING AND WANTING We live in a culture addicted to seeing and its immediate predicate, wanting. To a certain extent our personal architecture of seeing is conditioned by this fact. The cravings created by seeing advertisements on television, in magazines and newspapers, on road signs and in storefronts demand gratification. Desire creates tension. We want to possess what we see. The eyes ‘grab’ at the desired object or person. Jesus said that the man who looks at a woman lustfully commits adultery already in his mind. Eyes that grasp are extensions of an ego that seeks to preserve itself by acquisition. It is as if the object seen must be appropriated in order to confirm the separate self that sees it. This is a losing battle since, spiritually speaking, that separate self is non-existent. As Jean Klein says: “When you really inquire, you will see that the looker is what you are really looking for.”12 In June of 2006 coach Pat Riley and his Miami Heat finally won the coveted N.B.A. title. For Riley this was the end of a fevered 18–year chase by the Heat for its first championship. In an interview after the victory Riley speaks of this chase: After 18 years and after chasing, you keep chasing it. You keep chasing it, you get tired. This gives me a sense of absolute freedom from having to chase it, desperately chase it.13

Savoring success after much work and dedication is a natural source of satisfaction. However, if we believe that the final attainment of a persistent desire is freedom we commit a serious error in discrimination, for surely as night follows day another desire will rise to take the place of the previous one. This is rajas in search of the peace that only sattva can provide. True freedom is the cessation of desire, the stopping of the identification with the chase. When we are simply present, without agendas, we see—we know—this truth and we can enjoy life’s games without caring about victory or loss. The spiritual skill of not caring about results is called detachment. The cultivation of this skill begins with the simple retraction of the physical reflexes of self-aggrandizement—that is, by assuming a natural, balanced posture and relaxing the muscles of the body, especially the eye muscles. According to Marcus Aurelius, second century Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor, detachment describes the proper care of the soul. He writes in his Meditations: The soul attains her perfectly rounded form when she is neither straining out after something nor shrinking back; neither disseminating herself piecemeal nor yet sinking down in collapse but is bathed in a radiance which reveals to her the world and herself in their true colors.14

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The bounty of universal gifts—sky, land, trees, ocean—can be appreciated without possessing them. Have you ever envied a neighbor’s cherry tree in full bloom, for example, and then remembered that you can enjoy its beauty without owning it? Natural beauty is free; ownership is the illusion. Indigenous peoples consider land to be a living being, not property. For them, ownership smacks of the sacrilegious practice of slavery. A Hindu story illustrates the mistake of ‘getting an eyeful’ of something and then claiming it as mine—the sin of avarice: A king on horseback is out hunting in the forest. He comes upon a beautiful garden of pomegranate trees. Tired from the morning’s ride he asks a wizened gardener who is tending the trees to fetch him a class of pomegranate juice to quench his thirst. Bowing, the old man leaves the king only to return immediately with a full-brimmed glass of the frothy liquid. As the king quaffs the delicious brew he compliments the old man on his care of the trees. The two men talk of the garden and its beauty. The king requests a second glass. The old man retires to fetch it. As the king waits he feasts his eyes upon the lush garden and begins to ruminate upon whether he is receiving the appropriate tax revenue. Times passes and the king becomes impatient. Finally the old gardener returns, sheepishly holding a glass not one-tenth full! “You have been away so long,” says the king, incensed, “and now you bring me, the king, such a paltry amount of juice!” The old man bows humbly and, raising his eyes to meet the king’s, says, “My king, I would have been happy to bring you a full glass as before, but when your desires were transmitted to the pomegranate trees their juice dried up.” Chastened, the king apologizes to the man whom he now recognizes as a sage.

Buddhism defines tanha or desire as the cause of all suffering. In order to clear the mind-heart of tanha it is necessary to practice vipassana, the faculty of clear vision, which is cultivated through mindfulness. Similarly, Jesus cautions his followers to be wary of what they treasure because “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Luke 12:34).” The heart chakra is the seat of desire; it is also the font of compassion. When the compassionate heart works in conjunction with the discriminative power of mind action is not controlled by desire. LIGHT, SIGHT AND INSIGHT Sight is related to the element FIRE. Through the sun’s fire interacting with our eyes and visual cortex sight happens. Honoring Fire as the sun god or goddess pervades the mythologies of ancient religious systems. Agni, the great god of Fire in Hindu mythology, mediates between human beings and the Absolute. The Inca of Peru paired the Sun god Apupunchau, represented


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by a face disk of gold surrounded by flames, with the Moon goddess Mama Quilla as the parents of humanity. In dynastic Egypt Ra-Atum, the Creator Sun, was believed to be the source of all life. His descendants were the Pharoahs. To be as Ra was to be realized spiritually and wield absolute power. Fire provides Light. The Book of Genesis tells of God’s first creative act: light emerging out of a dark void to conceive life. The esoteric Kabbalah describes the creative force of Ayin or No-Thing sending down divine emanations of light, through the agency of En Sof Aur, the Endless Light of Will. The manifest world reverberates with Light’s presence.15 Scientist Richard Gerber describes all matter as “frozen light”!16 Isaiah says that the Messiah will come to “open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house (Isa. 42:6–7).” According to the New Testament Jesus is that Messiah who comes as “the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:8–9).” Jesus resanctifies the world by bringing its people back to the Light in themselves. He reminds his disciples that they are “the light of the world . . . let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:14, 16).” The interior sun of each human being is the Fire of innate wisdom that lights the mind of whoever is awake, producing intelligent action. Just as we flick on a light switch when entering a dark room, so the iridescent power of our own conscious presence illuminates the subtle world of mind, revealing the subtle dimension of sight: in-sight. A moment of insight is a glimpse into the transcendent state of enlightenment. Insight is the sudden knowing of what is beyond sight, beneath sight, inside sight. The Mundaka-Upanishad says: “In a beautiful, golden scabbard hides the stainless, indivisible, luminous Spirit.”17 Breaking through the illusion of this world (the scabbard) the devotee sees luminous Spirit. This breakthrough that transforms sight into insight depends upon the piercing of the ego screen. Zen koans are designed to invite insight. For example, read and contemplate for a moment the following sentence: All comes from nothingness, yet the nothingness shows through. . . .

Note how the logical functioning of mind is stymied. Logic is the tool by which ego argues its case. In the silence of non-comprehension illumination is possible. When the sixth or brow chakra opens, the mind-heart is transformed by the power of insight. Understanding and compassion now direct one’s behavior and the subtle underside of the world is accessed. This epiphany is also known as the opening of the third eye. Jesus says: “The light of the body is

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the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light (Matt. 6: 22).” And St. Paul intimates this profound change that culminates with the opening of the crown chakra when he says: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (1 Cor. 13:12).” Images of Hindu gods and saints, as well as Buddhist bodhisattvas, represent the third eye of enlightenment as a dot between the eyebrows. When devotees look upon these images or put a red dot between their own eyebrows they activate a memory of the innate wisdom this chakra announces. Furthermore, in many spiritual traditions the practice of concentrating the energy of sight on an icon is believed to facilitate spiritual healing. For example, when the Israelites are delivered out of bondage in Egypt they complain to Moses and Aaron that God is not providing them with food in the desert. For their ingratitude God causes them to be bitten by snakes. In agony the people repent. They are told they will be healed if they look upon a bronze serpent wrapped around a pole that Moses holds upright (Num. 21: 7–9). An ironic twist in the practice of looking at an icon to generate healing is the 1974 sculpture by Nam June Paik called TV Buddha.

TV Buddha, by Nam June Paik, ‘Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam’, used with permission


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In juxtaposing the spiritual and the technological the artist appears to be both deriding the iconic power of television and reminding his viewers that the buddha-nature resides everywhere. Is the black Buddha ‘contemplating’ his image reflected on the TV screen or are his eyes closed in silent meditation? The sculpture suggests that we can identify with the buddha-nature within us if we choose to. We can be tranquil no matter what we ‘face.’ We can also ground ourselves like the Buddha whose inner stability is emphasized by the solid block which supports his body. It appears that the opening of the third eye is closely related to the awakening of the fourth or heart chakra. Clearly this connection is indicated in the words of Jesus: . . . seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. . . .For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matt. 13:13–15)

In this passage Jesus connects the shutting down of sensory awareness to the closing or ‘waxing gross’ of the heart. As we give of ourselves without fear or desire, we begin to see that all beings are embraced in a pristine aura of divine love. The reverse is equally liberating: as we gain insight into the oneness of Creation, the heart opens in love to all creatures. The energy of Fire gives to love its warmth without burning. It is the warmhearted person who offers solace to the lonely or needy. In his letter to the Ephesians St. Paul wishes his new converts the experience of the enlightened heart when he says: “May the eyes of your heart be enlightened (Eph.1:17).” Thus, insight or deep seeing is more than a mental phenomenon. It has an emotional component; it is a mind-heart experience. For example, when we realize we have misjudged someone, does not this moment of mental insight confer a simultaneous feeling of fellowship and regret for the mistaken judgment? The emotional aspect of deep seeing, by which one ‘loves one’s neighbor as oneself’ because one sees only one Self, invests seeing with healing powers. St. Catherine of Siena, fourteenth-century Italian mystic, was known to heal a person by her penetrating gaze. Bestowing this grace on another person is the opposite of the evil eye of folk superstition. In the Hindu ceremony of darshan (which literally means ‘seeing the divine’) the disciple comes before the guru whose radiating presence enters the energy field of the devotee and transforms it in a healing way.

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SEEING IN THE DARK A see-r is one who sees clearly, one whose mind is lit by insight. In mystical literature there is an intriguing relationship between light—the domain of sight and insight—and darkness. Although ‘dark’ can refer to the dark of ignorance its multiple meanings engage a less simplistic inquiry. For example, there are people who radiate with spiritual light after immersion in a ‘dark,’ life-threatening crisis. What karmic mercy is at play here? In the Greek tragedies it is the blind prophet, Tiresias, who can ‘see.’ Paradoxically, the seer attains enlightenment through a plunge into darkness. The mysterious Tao is approached by means of “darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding.”18 A mystic night of meditation under the bodhi tree brings Buddha enlightenment at daybreak. Muhammad receives the Qur’an from the lips of the angel Gabriel during a mystic Night of Power. Saul the Pharisee, becomes Paul, missionary to the Gentiles, only after a cathartic three days of blindness. St. Bonaventure speaks of a superluminous darkness that leads him into divine union and Mirabai, the Hindu mystic, praises her Dark Lover who penetrates her body with color. The fourteenth century monk and anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing says that by putting habitual patterns of thought and feeling beneath a cloud of forgetting one can enter by “naked intent” the dark cloud of unknowing where the Divine is encountered.19 The Psalmist conflates darkness and light when he says: “Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee (Ps. 139:11–12).” Isaiah juxtaposes perfection and blindness when he says: Hear ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but my servant; or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? Who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the Lord’s servant? Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. (Isa. 42: 18–20)

These enigmatic phrases foreshadow the words of Jesus: “seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand (Matt. 13:13).” On the other hand, blindness may also indicate a spiritual handicap. When the man who is blind from birth testifies that Jesus has restored his sight the disbelieving Pharisees reject his testimony and confirm their own dark vision or ‘blindness’(John 9).


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According to St. John of the Cross the dark night of sense and the dark night of the soul are metaphors for a succession of life experiences that strip and deprive the mind-heart of all comfortable notions and thought patterns. Here, the element Fire takes on attributes other than illumination. It burns and purges out impediments in its purifying furnace, transforming ego energy into the energy of illuminated life. In order to tap into the spiritual energy of light and dark as complementary energies—woven together like yin and yang—try pausing at sunrise and sunset when the two energies converge. As dark becomes light and light becomes dark the level of sattvic energy rises. The image of the Egyptian god Ra as the rising or setting sun demonstrates this cosmic power surge.

SHAMANS AND VISIONARIES A shaman moves into the dark of an altered state of consciousness in order to see, often to the accompaniment of drumming, rattling, singing and dancing. Michael Harner describes the process of shamanic enlightenment: Shamanic enlightenment is the literal ability to lighten the darkness, to see in that darkness what others cannot perceive. This may, in fact, be the most ancient meaning of ‘enlightenment.’ For example, the special ability of the Iglulik Eskimo shaman to see is called his qaumanEq, his ‘lighting’ or ‘enlightenment’ . . . which enables him to see in the dark, both literally and metaphorically speaking, for he can now, even with closed eyes, see through darkness and perceive things and coming events which are hidden from others; and thus they look into the future and into the secrets of others.20

Shamans, prophets, and visionaries have the gift of clairvoyance. For example, Tom Brown Jr. describes the visionary feats of Grandfather, the Apache shaman, who taught him as a young boy the art of the shaman. Tom describes a vision that came to him while he was out in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey on a solo vision quest. While meditating he saw a scene from the tribal past of his teacher. It was a procession of Indians, one of whom—a shaman—looked at him and smiled. Tom noted that one of the women in the procession dropped a stone berry-masher near a certain pine tree. The next day he told Grandfather about the vision. Grandfather told him to go look in the woods for the berry-masher. Tom found the object buried beneath the dead top root of a pine! Many years had passed yet the berry-masher was still intact. Because visions happen outside of ordinary time, in the continuous present, the smiling shaman is not a figure from the past but an ever-present being living on another plane of consciousness.21

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Hildegard of Bingen, an eleventh century Catholic nun whose intellectual prowess, musical talents and visionary prophecies were scoffed at during her lifetime by the male hierarchy of the Church, received her visions in the form of mandalas. A mandala is a visual meditative aid that focuses the attention at the center point of a symbolic, often elaborate circular image. A revered figure, such as the Buddha, may occupy this center space. Hildegard says of her visions: ‘The visions which I saw I beheld neither in sleep, nor in dreams nor in madness, nor with my carnal eyes, nor with the ears of the flesh, nor in hidden places; but wakeful, alert, and with the eyes of the spirit and the inward ears, I perceive them in open view and according to the will of God.’22

mandala—Hildegard von Bingen, ‘Scivias—Wisse die Wege © Otto Müller Verlag, 9. Auflage, Salzburg 1996’, used with permission


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Eskimo shaman mask, ‘Catalogue No. 38862. Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution’, used with permission

The mandala appeared in one of Hildegard’s visions. It exhibits nine concentric circles of angels, human beings, creatures, seraphim and cherubim praising God with eyes riveted on a center circle which is hollow. This tenth circle has been interpreted as “the full emptiness, the via negativa, the hole that represents the ‘path of Transcendence.’”23 The shaman also travels into this empty circle—the eye-hole of God. Just as Alice in Wonderland falls through a hole into non-ordinary reality, so the shaman propels himself through an imagined tunnel or hole which usually

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represents a real geographic place such as the mouth of a cave. An Eskimo shaman’s mask resembles a mandala. The following images, taken from the world of nature, have the qualities of a mandala: a flower head, a whale song converted into an image, and a DNA molecule which could be seen as the biological reflection of the human spiritual road map.24 Let us take a few moments to contemplate any one of these images. CONTEMPLATING A MANDALA: Let the power of being present join the seeing. Relax the eyes so that no desire—even the desire to ‘understand’ or ‘experience something special’—inserts itself between the seeing and the object of sight. After the contemplation note any changes in the physical, mental or emotional state. Whenever the ‘scales of the eyes’ are momentarily removed, we leap, as Teilhard de Chardin says, into “the mysterious Pleroma, in which the substantial one and the created many fuse without confusion in a whole. . . .”25

a flower head


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whale song, ‘© 2006 AguaSonic Acoustics’, used with permission

THE PRACTICE OF DEEP SEEING In his book The Doors of Perception Aldous Huxley relates a formative spiritual experience in which he was able to see light emanating from the created beings around him. He was, at the time, under the influence of mescalin. Contrary to what he expected—an otherworldly mystical experience—the drug made Huxley acutely aware of his worldly surroundings. He feels overwhelmed by “Eternity in a flower, Infinity in four chair legs, and the Absolute in the folds of a pair of flannel trousers.”26 Huxley ruminates about the tendency of mystics to turn away from the sensory world in order to seek the Divine inside themselves. He writes:

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DNA molecule, ‘Reproduced with permission of Dr. Ross C. Walker, HPC consultant and staff scientist, San Diego Supercomputer Center

. . . men have felt that what they saw with their eyes shut possessed a spiritually higher significance than what they saw with their eyes open. The reason? Familiarity breeds contempt. . . . The outer world is what we wake up to every morning of our lives, is the place where, willy-nilly, we must try to make our living.27

The question Huxley poses is relevant to our study of presence. He is asking whether we really see what we wake up to every morning and whether the inability to see the Divine in the ordinary is responsible for the idea that spiritual transcendence requires sensory abstinence. He relates the quip of a Zen master who responds to a student’s question about where he might find the Dharma Body of the Buddha thus: “‘You will find him in the hedge at the bottom of the garden.’”28 Huxley suffered near-blindness as a teenager. He says it was mescalin which taught him to let go temporarily of the mundane mindscape of ego’s petty thoughts and pretensions so that he could see and know “the glory . . . of the given, unconceptualized event . . . that All is in all—that All is actually each.”29 Huxley discovers that the only way he can sustain this new way of


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seeing without using drugs is “the right kind of constant and unstrained alertness.”30 He had discovered the power of presence. Seeing our ‘ordinary’ surroundings from the deep quiet of presence releases the visionary capacity in all of us. We will see with the visionary eye of the artist. Contemporary artist Alex Grey explains: What is anything but spirit taking form? . . . . Just as we have a physical optical system that takes in the sensations of the light of our physical world, there is a metaphysical optical system growing from the open heart center that reveals the subtle light of the spiritual world. Emergence of this visionary anatomy will unveil . . . the infinite oneness of the material and spiritual domains.31

In his book Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing, Frederick Franck proposes that when the mind is released from ego’s hold the creative impulse is free to reflect truthful principles through art. He writes: When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted. The thing I draw, be it leaf, rosebush, woman, or child, is no longer a thing, no longer my ‘object’ over and against which I am the supercilious ‘subject.’ The split is healed. . . . I say ‘yes’ to its existence. By drawing it, I dignify it. I declare it worthy of total attention, as worthy of attention as I am myself, for sheer existence is the awesome mystery and miracle we share.32

Anthropologist and shaman Carlos Castaneda relates how his mentor, don Juan Matus, sees the universe as an energy network. Don Juan explains: ‘ . . . perceiving energy directly as it flows in the universe is a unit of cognition that shamans live by. They see how energy flows, and they follow its flow. If its flow is obstructed, they move away to do something entirely different. Shamans see lines in the universe.’33

Don Juan goes on to say that these ‘lines’ are “luminous filaments” that interact with each other and are constantly being “converted into sensory data”—or the world as we know it.34 Below is a visual exercise that introduces us to this subtle energy field. The ‘vision’ of a vibrating tapestry of energy, in which all beings interrelate, belies the appearance of separate, solid forms. This practice is truly an eye-opener.35 SEEING ENERGY: On a sunny day when the sky is a deep, clear blue, go outside and look intensely with ‘soft eyes’ at the sky for a few moments. ‘Soft eyes’ means relaxing the eyes by closing them slightly. You will see squiggly white darting tails of energy dancing in the blue. The clearer the day the faster these tails move and the more visible they are. Let your ‘soft eyes’ then move

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to study a tree or other natural living form. Resting your eyes around the outer rim of the form you will see a bluish cast, perhaps some yellow and rose colors as well. The blue light is the etheric layer of the energy aura—that nearest the physical body, while the yellow and rose colors denote subtler mental and emotional layers of energy respectively. Kirlian photography has been instrumental in giving credence to the reports by clairvoyants who see subtle energy phenomena. For example, the famous Kirlian photograph of a leaf, of which half has been cut away, reveals the entire etheric template of the leaf. When a human being whose limb has been amputated reports feeling the limb still attached to the body this is a recognition that identity goes beyond the physical body. In the world of sports certain athletes have shown a facility for deep seeing which suggests that a person does not have to be born a psychic to acquire deep sight. He or she just needs to be totally present to the moment. For example, Red Sox icon Ted Williams is reported to have been able to see the seams on the baseball as the ball shot out of the pitcher’s hand. The dividing line between seer and seen is blurred; action appears simultaneous rather than sequential. A new psychological evaluation of reports by athletes of spacetime warps in their perception and performance shows evidence of real changes in perception. These changes indicate a heightening of consciousness. For example, baseball players who consistently maintain a high batting average do appear to see a ball that is more the size of a grapefruit than an ordinary baseball.36 Tennis star Roger Federer modestly attributes part of his genius on the court to an ability to “understand the moment.” He says that this total engagement in the moment allows him to execute the right stroke from an impressive repertoire of skills without forethought.37 Step 4 reads: 4. Using the sense of smell, breathe in the scents around you; smell and know that you are smelling . . . Human bias may denigrate the sense of smell as ‘bestial’ but we are mammals and smell remains one of the five sensory portals of knowledge. Presence imbues the sensation of smelling with sacramental energy. Scientists Linda B. Buck and Richard Axel, co-winners of a 2004 Nobel Prize, discovered that the ability of people to smell 10,000 different odors, and recall those odors later, is due to the existence of a family of 1,000 ‘scent’ genes—not as many as dogs, but impressive nevertheless. Human olfactory receptors appear to be located on 5 million cells in an upper area of the nostrils!38 We may take for granted the revelations delivered by smell, yet we depend upon odors to teach us appropriate action in the physical world. For example,


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when the air smells stale in a closed room we open a window. When garbage releases an acrid smell it is quickly disposed of. We may not be as successful in eliminating the acrimony which can poison a relationship. Critical to survival is the smell of fire which immediately arouses the fight-flight reflex. In eighteenth century Europe doctors used smell to diagnose illnesses such as diabetes and kidney failure. A detective smells out a mystery in order to reveal the truth; the solution may turn out to be ‘right under his nose.’ A woman wears perfume to attract a mate and transform her solitary life into a relationship. The subtle attributes of smell teach us, for example, to avoid nosy people. If someone says of a business deal that it ‘stinks’ we are forewarned that a subtle corruption is rendering the deal unsavory; we pull out. In the novels of Marcel Proust particular smells evoke memories that are critical to the characters’ lives. We have all had experiences in which a smell takes us back to another time and place. The fresh smell of a newborn baby has power to instantly remind us of our own innocence and invites the hardest heart to open. Smell is related to the element EARTH. Earth is the substance and ground of physical embodiment. Earth is also the plane where the soul works out her spiritual journey. The subtle power of smell to change our mental-emotional condition relates to the power of transformation inherent in the element Earth. At a physical level earth energy transforms decomposing matter into fragrant loam with the help of earthworms, water, air and sunlight. At the mental-emotional level smell can alter a negative mood by transporting us into the present moment. For example, in the springtime one of the most delicious smells is that which rises from a fecund earth after a warm spring rain. The air is thick with the consummation of water and earth juices. When we are present to these smells hope in our own regeneration rises to overcome a lingering depression. Smell reveals its spiritual dimension by connecting us to Mother Earth— the incarnate Spirit. We are reminded that all Earth’s creatures are our kin. The power of smell to initiate bonding relationships ranges from its use in the animal kingdom as a mechanism for mating to the fine energy of love. There is a famous story, related in the Srimad Bhagavatam which tells of the connection between baby Krishna and the Sacred Earth. The god-man reveals himself in the following way: One day, when Krishna was still a little baby, some boys saw him eating mud. When his foster mother, Yasoda, learned of it, she asked the baby to open his mouth. Krishna opened his tiny mouth, and, wonder of wonders! Yasoda saw the whole universe—the earth, the heaven, the stars, the planets, the sun and the moon, and innumerable beings—within the mouth of Baby Krishna.39

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Smell can be a conduit of healing. The burning of incense has long been used as a purifying agent in the Roman Catholic mass. Certain reports identify the fragrance exuded from saints as having a beatific effect. The contemporary holistic modality of aromatherapy, which uses fragrant oils as healing agents, traces its origins to ancient sciences such as Ayurvedic Medicine. Rumi says of the spiritual power of smell: From deep within my heart I always catch the scent of my Beloved. How can I help but Follow that fragrance.40

Step 5 reads: 5. Using the sense of taste, recognize whatever taste may linger in the mouth and know that you are tasting . . . As the soul leaves the spirit world and enters the earthly plane as an incarnate being taste is the first teacher. A human baby bonds with the earthly home through mother’s milk and then begins his or her education by putting anything and everything into the mouth. All human beings—indeed all creatures—must eat to live, but the food chosen and the measure of food eaten is a matter of taste. Conscious taste requires presence. If the food we eat is tasted we will know what to eat. Some diets, such as a Zen macrobiotic diet or an Ayurvedic diet, are based on eating balanced, nutritious foods that in their digestion and assimilation endow the mind with sattvic energy. The universal ecosystem by which food is exchanged between life forms is, according to the Taittireeya-Upanishad, a spiritual operation in which Spirit is the tasting, the eating, the eater, and the eaten. The Upanishad gives this advice: Worship Spirit as the master of all, become the master of all. . . . I am the food, I am the food, I am the food; I am the eater, I am the eater, I am the eater; I am the link between, I am the link between, I am the link between. I am the first among the visible and the invisible. I existed before the gods. I am the navel of immortality. Who gives me, protects me. I am food; who refuses to give me, I eat as food. I am this world and I eat this world. Who knows this, knows.41

Conscious taste provides the opportunity to remember that when I eat an apple I am the apple, I am the taste of the apple, and most importantly I know that the I of this pure perception of ‘apple’ is the Self of me and the apple. The query do you eat to live or live to eat? addresses the sin of gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins. Gluttony has to do with desire, not need. The ice


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cream parlor looks especially inviting before a meal. On an emotional level overeating serves to cover up the idea that I am lonely or depressed or unlovable. If these ideas resonate deep within the psyche the ingestion of food becomes a means of filling up a perceived spiritual void. There is never enough food to compensate for this displaced spiritual hunger. Furthermore, when a culture is characterized by fast food, fast eating, and usually zero discrimination obesity becomes the norm; people embody the unhealthy food that they eat and forget who they are. The development of subtle taste refers to the refinement of a discriminating mind. When we acquire a taste for certain books, movies, clothes, music, activities and people we need to ask: are these choices tasteful or tasteless? Do they promote well-being? Do they lead to a measured, mindful life or do they push us into indiscriminate, negative behavior? The American cultural motto ‘anything goes’ celebrates freedom, but unrestrained freedom produces a tasteless self-indulgence that coarsens the commonweal. In A Return to Modesty, author Wendy Shalit suggests that many women— and men—would like to reestablish modesty in dress and behavior. Such discrimination about what we wear and how we act does not have to be about sexual repression or fear, says Shalit; rather, it is a sign of individual dignity and a means to safe relationships. Susan Sontag writes of the power of taste to govern a range of choices. She says: Most people think of sensibility or taste as the realm of purely subjective preferences, those mysterious attractions, mainly sensual, that have not been brought under the sovereignty of reason . . . but . . . taste governs every free— as opposed to rote—human response. Nothing is more decisive. There is taste in people, visual taste, taste in emotion—and there is taste in acts, taste in morality. Intelligence, as well, is really a kind of taste: taste in ideas.42

The Five Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing, established by Thich Nhat Hanh, invite the practice of discrimination, moderation, and compassion. These trainings are resolutions—decisions of taste—which a monk or layperson can receive and promise to observe. For example, the Fifth Training links consumption of unhealthy physical and mental-emotional ‘food’ with the deterioration of society. It reads: Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, maga-

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zines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.43

Every religion seeks to establish a measure whereby social equilibrium is secured. According to Confucius, the mannerly, tasteful conduct in relationships, or li, is regulated by a respect for self and others (jen). The custom of hijab or modest dress, embodied in the Islamic code of ethical behavior or Shari’ah, originated with Muhammad’s effort to protect women from the dangers of warfare and social anarchy. Men are also advised in the Qur’an to observe modesty in dress and decorum. The words in Psalm 34—taste and see the goodness of God—lift the sense of taste to a spiritual, revelatory function. Original sin is sapor mortis, the taste for death. Its opposite, sapida scientia is the knowledge of God available through tasting His goodness. In both the Kabbalah of Jewish mysticism and the early Christian mysticism of the Desert Fathers references abound which equate divine union with eating. For example, the monks Callistus and Ignatius instruct their pupils to “. . . abide constantly with the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that the heart swallows the Lord and the Lord the heart, and the two become one.”44 According to Christian doctrine, tasting and eating the Body and Blood of Christ at the Holy Eucharist confirms the human-divine relationship. The Huichol Indians of Mexico perform a remarkably similar ritual on their annual pilgrimage to ancestral holy land. At the climax of the journey the pilgrims harvest the mushroom-shaped peyote cactus. As they reverently eat the cactus the shaman reminds them that by performing this act of devotion they become as gods. Sharing food has long been a catalyst for communion within the human family. Even as the tradition of the family meal is disappearing from modern culture its cohesive effect can be rediscovered when family members make a conscious effort to eat together. The law of reciprocity requires that if we receive food from Nature we must make a return gift through sacrificial action. In speaking of karma yoga, the way of action, Krishna reminds the warrior Arjuna that rain, and the food it produces, comes from sacrifice. Conversely, rain is withdrawn from the greedy. Krishna says: Worship the Powers of Nature thereby, and let them nourish you in return; thus supporting each other, you shall attain your highest welfare. For fed on sacrifice, Nature will give you all the enjoyment you can desire. But he who enjoys what


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she gives without returning is, indeed, a robber. . . . All creatures are the product of food, food is the product of rain, rain comes by sacrifice, and sacrifice is the noblest form of action . . . in sacrificial action the all-pervading Spirit is consciously present.45

Taste is related to the element WATER. Ironically, pure water has no taste, yet it is essential to life. Pure water purifies the body, which consists mostly of water in space. Impure water is known through its taste. When the waters of the body stagnate and become impure sickness occurs. The Taoist exercise of t’ai chi ch’uan aims to free up the subtle ‘waters’ of the body—the ch’i energy that empowers the circulation of fluids—so that health is sustained. Christians believe that the waters of baptism wash the soul clean, making it a suitable habitation for the Holy Spirit. Catholics renew this promise by dipping their fingers in holy water whenever they enter or exit a church. Not only is water a symbol of purification; it also signifies the bonding energy of love. When one feels empathy for all creatures of Mother Earth one has moved past the stagnant waters of egoism into the ocean of love that unites all members of the earthly family. When the Great Drought of 1988 threatened the crops of the Cherokees, priestess Dhyani Ywahoo led a rain ceremony. The tribal people knew the ritual would work “‘because those singers have made a decision that they and the water and the air and the Earth are one.’”46 The spiritual epiphany that is possible through a conscious use of taste is the subject of a poem, ‘At Blackwater Pond,’ by Mary Oliver. She writes: At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled after a night of rain. I dip my cupped hands. I drink a long time. It tastes like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold into my body, waking the bones. I hear them deep inside me, whispering oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened?47

So far we have been expanding our appreciation of steps 1 through 5 of the Pause by considering the spiritualities of touch, sight, smell and taste. Every day we have the opportunity to experience these spiritualities in one simple, but richly textured activity: eating. You are invited to incorporate the following exercise into your next mealtime. EATING CONSCIOUSLY: Be present to touch, sight, smell and taste as you eat. Slow down; take time to enjoy what you eat. See the colors and textures of the food. Chew slowly; swallow with awareness. Realize that you can be

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in-touch with other beings in the Creation through the medium of food. Keeping silence during a meal can accentuate the hallowedness of the experience. As this chapter comes to an end let us enjoy being-present. Allow the senses to open . . . appreciate in particular the gifts of touch, sight, smell, and taste. Know that without awareness the experience of touching . . . seeing . . . smelling . . . and tasting does not exist, and neither do we.

NOTES 1. ‘The Scales of the Eyes’ is the title of a poem by American poet Howard Nemerov. 2. The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims/Quotation and Originality vol. VIII (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1904), 193. 3. Adapted from Indries Shah, Tales of the Dervishes (New York: E.P Dutton, 1970), 25. 4. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays 1st and 2nd Series (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1927), 231. 5. Emerson, Essays, 150. 6. The Way of Hermes. The Corpus Hermeticum, trans. Clement Salaman, Dorine Van Oyen and William D. Wharton (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co., 1999), 34. Copyright © 1999 by Clement Salaman, Dorine Van Oyen and William D. Wharton. Used by permission of Gerald Duckworth & Co., Ltd. Nous is the native Intelligence given by God that lights the mind of man. 7. Sandra Blakeslee, “3,2,1: This is Your Brain Under Hypnosis”, New York Times, 22 Nov. 2005, 1,4(F). The story of Dr. P (Chapter 2) resembles this error in perception. 8. Blakeslee, “3,2,1: This is Your Brain . . . ” 1(F) 9. Jacques Lusseyran, And There Was Light, Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance, trans. Elizabeth R. Cameron (Sandpoint Ind.: Morning Light Press, second edition, 2006), 17. Copyright © 1963 by Jacques Lusseyran. Excerpts reprinted by permission of Morning Light Press. 10. Lusseyran, And There Was Light, 32. 11. Lusseyran, And There Was Light, 32. 12. Jean Klein, Living Truth, ed. Emma Edwards (St. Peter Port, Guernsey, C.I.: Third Millennium Publications, 1995), 195. 13. Liz Robbins, “For Riley and Heat, a Long Chase Ends in Joy,” New York Times, 22 June 2006, 3(D). 14. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, trans. Maxwell Staniforth (New York: Penguin Books, 1964), 170. 15. This Line of Light is also called the Sefirotic Tree which is ‘climbed’ through meditating on the Divine Attributes or Names. It is interesting that the wisdom teaching of Hermes Trismegistus offers a parallel explanation of how the world was created. Nous, as God the Father/the Word/Light/Intelligence, fashions the Creation by a series of downward movements of unfolding Light. The work of en-lightenment is to


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regain the true human identity as embodied Light or Nous, for man is ‘made in the image of God.’ 16. Richard Gerber, Vibrational Medicine: The #1 Handbook of Subtle-Energy Therapies (Rochester, Vt.: Bear & Co., 2001), 59. 17. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B. Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 54. 18. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: Harper Collins, 1988), 1. 19. See William Johnston, ed., The Cloud of Unknowing and the Book of Privy Counseling (Garden City, N.Y.: Image Books, 1973), 56. 20. Michael Harner, The Way of the Shaman (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990), 22. Copyright © 1980 by Michael Harner. Reprinted by permissions of HarperCollins Publishers. 21. Tom Brown, Jr., The Vision (New York: Berkley Books, 1988), 121. Copyright © 1988 by Tom Brown, Jr. Excerpts used by permission of Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 22. Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, and Other Clinical Tales (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985), 168. 23. Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard de Bingen (Sante Fe: Bear & Co., 1985), 77. 24. Mark Fischer, an engineer with an artist’s eye, has found a way to translate the subtle, nuanced songs of whales and dolphins into acoustical pictures of great beauty that look like mandalas. Wavelets—a technique that processes digital signals—are used to transform the whale calls into images. The whales’ adaptation to the ocean, particularly the physics of how sound propagates in that environment, shows an exquisite synchronicity. For, example, Fischer discovered that when Blue whales communicate, “the brightest part of the Blue whales’ song (in wavelet space) . . . happens with the same timing as the arrival of a typical Pacific swell, every 14 seconds.” (personal correspondence 9 Feb. 2008). Mark Fischer’s website is 25. Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), 122. 26. Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990), 35–36. 27. Huxley, The Doors of Perception, 46. 28. Huxley, The Doors of Perception, 19. 29. Huxley, The Doors of Perception, 26. 30. Huxley, The Doors of Perception, 42. 31. Alex Grey, The Mission of Art (Boston: Shambhala, 2001), 173–174. 32. Frederick Franck, Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing: Meditation in Action (New York: Bantam Books, 1993), xvii. Copyright © 1993 by Frederick Franck. Used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. 33. Carlos Castenada, The Active Side of Infinity (New York: HarperPerennial, 2000), 124. 34. Castenada, The Active Side of Infinity, 147. 35. Paraphrased from Barbara Ann Brennan’s description in Hands of Light: A Guide To Healing through the Human Energy Field (New York: Bantam Books, 1988), 37–38.

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36. Benedict Carey, “The Grapefruit League,” New York Times, 29 Nov. 2005, 1(F). 37. Lynn Zinser, “Saying Right Things and Making Right Shots”, New York Times, 7 Sept. 2007, 17(C). 38. Lawrence K. Altman, “Unraveling Enigma of Smell Wins Nobel for 2 Americans”, New York Times 5 Oct. 2004, 18(A) 39. Srimad Bhagavatam: The Wisdom of God, trans. Swami Prabhavananda (New York, Capricorn Books, 1968), 190. Krishna is believed to be an incarnation of the god Vishnu. 40. Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved, trans. Jonathan Star (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2000), 128. From ‘Willing Slaves.’ 41. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 78. 42. Charles McGrath , “Word for Word/Susan Sontag: No Hard Books, or Easy Deaths”, New York Times, 2 Jan. 2005, 7(4). 43. Five Mindfulness Trainings booklet, received at Buddhist retreat ‘Walking in Peace Today’ with Thich Nhat Hanh, 11–16 Aug., 2005, Stonehill College, Easton, Mass. 44. Writings of the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, trans. E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), 223. 45. The Geeta: The Gospel of the Lord Shri Krishna, trans. Purohit Swami (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), 29. 46. Mary Pat Fisher, Living Religions (New York: Prentice-Hall, 2002), 68. 47. Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 226. Copyright © 1992 by Mary Oliver. Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press, Boston.

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Close-up concluded: The Spirituality of Listening; Resting in Simple Awareness

As we conclude our close-up view of the senses as spiritual conduits let us begin with being-present. Let us be here now: feel the body sitting on the chair, the book resting in the hands. See what is in your sight; acknowledge any smell or taste that comes into your awareness. Let the listening run out to the farthest sound; rest in the silence of pure listening. In this chapter we will examine the spirituality of listening. Then we will investigate how resting in simple awareness, by means of a conscious use of the five senses, breaks through limitations of ego and cultivates a sixth sense of inner wholeness and connection to the pulsating whole of Creation. The sixth step of the Pause says: 6. Continuing to relax the body, aware through the senses of touch, sight, smell and taste, open up the listening . . . let the listening extend to the farthest sound without strain or comment . . . rest in the deep silence from which the sounds arise and into which they recede. . . . Without judgment or preference let the ears receive the sounds that come into awareness. It may be the sound of an airplane overhead . . . the rustling of leaves in the wind . . . voices of children playing in a park . . . the swishing of cars as they pass each other on the highway. Take time to appreciate the changing kaleidoscope of sounds. . . . Realize in practice that this listening coincides with an awareness of a great space which houses these sounds. This empty, infinite space can also be appreciated as a great silence and stillness out of which sounds arise and vibrate for a time, and into which they recede. Over and over, like musical phrases, sounds are emerging from and falling back into a vast silent space. If we continue to listen we may, as Kabir says, “hear the Unstruck Music of God.”1 122

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Indeed, the element associated with listening is SPACE. In ancient texts this element is called ETHER. When we move from superficial, intermittent listening into the subtle world of deep listening our awareness expands into a vast cosmic consciousness in which inner and outer space are indistinguishable. Alan Watts puts it this way: The world outside your skin is just as much you as the world inside: they move together inseparably . . . instead of looking and listening, light and sound come to you on their own. . . . All space becomes your mind.2

As you read these words, become aware that the words are appearing only to dissolve into ONE SPACE and ONE SILENCE. Feel the dimensionless transparency of this silent, spacious awareness . . . into which sounds are dissolving . . . into which your body is merging . . . into which your mind sinks, giving up the ghosts of thoughts once thought to be of consequence. In his book Who Am I? The Sacred Quest, Jean Klein describes the power of this pure listening: It is a profound ‘listening’, free from mental interference . . . free from will or attainment, the body finds its original state of lightness, expansion, transparency and the natural harmonization of energy. In working with the expanded body one comes to the expanded mind. The expanded body-mind is the threshold of our real being, objectless awareness.3

What is objectless awareness? It is a holistic awareness that erases listener and listened-to—subject and object. Eckhart Tolle refers to this refined listening as the unifying field of awareness. He says: Far more important than what you are listening to is the act of listening itself, the space of conscious presence that arises as you listen. That space is a unifying field of awareness in which you meet the other person without the separate barriers created by conceptual thinking. And now the other person is no longer ‘other.’ In that space, you are joined together as one awareness, one consciousness.4

DEEP LISTENING AND THE UNIFIED FIELD Discovery of a unified field is an aim not only of spiritual work but also of modern physics. After completing the mathematical formulation of a general theory of relativity which included gravitation as a determining agent in the curvature of the time-space continuum, Einstein sought a totally encompassing unified field which held and dictated the lawful activities of all sub-atomic


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phenomena, gravitation, and electromagnetism. At the Maharishi School of Management in Fairfield, Iowa this search for the unified field has been a subject of study in applied physics since the 1970’s. The application of the concept of a unified field, with its spiritual connotations, to the political, social and economic spheres of human culture aims at the creation of a more just and harmonious society.5 The transformation of society is the aim of the Confucian educational system. For example, cultivation of the Golden Rule—‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’—maintains the reciprocal, nourishing relationship between all living beings. Mutual well-being is the real basis of natural law, beyond Darwin’s ‘nature red in tooth and claw.’ This reciprocity is the spiritual counterpart to the physical interconnectedness and interdependence basic to the design of life. When we enter the unified field of awareness through listening we join mystics of all religious persuasions who report a continuum of consciousness in which all material forms, living and ‘dead’, vibrate. Jesus speaks of this seamless continuum when he says: “Before Abraham was I am (John 8:58).” Shamans readily invoke their human, animal, and plant ancestors to help them in their healing work. Even minerals in the form of crystals are recognized as living guides with various healing properties. One of the best ways to access the guidance of these spiritual companions is deep listening. The Sanskrit language teaches us about the unified field. Sanskrit grammar is said to embody the Vedic laws by which the universe operates at physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual levels. The primary spiritual law is the unity of Self, Atman-Brahman. Every noun is in essence the incarnate, lovable Absolute—Atman—and every action is performed by Atman. In addition, the person or creature with whom you are conversing or relating is always Atman as your teacher. For example, a sentence such as I give you a book does not, in its English syntax, indicate an underlying message of unity; but when that sentence is written in Sanskrit the message of unity is conveyed through grammatical case endings. If we break down this simple sentence I give you a book and examine it from the Sanskrit perspective, using italics to indicate case ending information, the underlying unity is obvious. As we speak and listen to this Sanskrit version what happens to the notion of separation and duality? I, Atman (follow by stating your individual name), give to you, Atman and my teacher (follow by stating the other person’s individual name) this book (name of the book), the embodied Absolute.

The one giving, the one receiving, and the gift itself—all participate as Atman playing different roles in the drama of maya, the world of appearances.

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Deep listening reveals the unity of Self in the unified field of space. There are no objects in this unified field, only subjects. It may be that the way to upset ego’s fractional viewpoint is to change the grammar of how we listen. What would happen, for example, if we practiced Jean Klein’s formula: “Listening is not fixed in the ears . . . so don’t listen to a sound, let it listen to you?”6 Through deep listening deaf poet David Wright connects with a common ground which holds and connects all sensory faculties—and survives their absence—allowing, in this case, the eyes to ‘hear’ what the ears cannot. The poet writes: ‘Suppose it is a calm day, absolutely still, not a twig or leaf stirring. To me it will seem quiet as a tomb though the hedgerows are full of noisy but invisible birds. Then comes a breath of air, enough to unsettle a leaf; I will see and hear that movement like an exclamation. The illusory soundlessness has been interrupted. I see, as if I heard, a visionary noise of wind in a disturbance of foliage. . . . I have sometimes to make a deliberate effort to remember I am not ‘hearing’ anything, because there is nothing to hear. Such non-sounds include the flight and movement of birds, even fish swimming in clear water or the tank of an aquarium. I take it that the flight of most birds, at least at a distance, must be silent. . . .Yet it appears audible, each species creating different ‘eye-music’ from the nonchalant melancholy of seagulls to the staccato of flitting swallows. . . .’7

Indeed, science has uncovered compensatory mechanisms in the brain whereby the loss of one sense is redressed by the heightening of another sense. Wright’s oxymorons such as visionary noise point to a mysterious, subtle common ground of the senses. Even those of us whose hearing is intact may be in danger of losing the subtlety of deep listening due to the noisy assault of urban life. We would rather tune out than seek the quiet behind the noise. The following exercise may help in the cultivation of deep listening. DEEP LISTENING: Give your attention to a conversation between two people. Choose an ordinary environment where you can listen unobtrusively; perhaps you are sitting in a doctor’s office or waiting in line at the post office or supermarket. Receive the words; but more importantly, be aware—through listening—of the silence which holds the exchange of words. Rest in that silence. . . . Now, transfer this awareness to a conversation in which you participate. Stay with non-judgmental listening. Be aware of the physical and mental space within which the conversation is occurring. Later, see if you can remember moments when the conceptual division of ‘me’ and ‘you’ disappeared; these are the times when ego was not running the show, when the unifying field of awareness dominated. Did the atmosphere of the exchange change as a result of your practice? How?


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Jean Klein identifies this deep listening as global in nature. When the conceptual body barrier is let go, the sense of identity widens, and the universe is appreciated with a “welcoming openness.”8 Klein writes: All our senses, sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell have been channeled or dispersed towards personal defense and aggression, used as tools to maintain the person. . . . In real listening the ear does not grasp the sound but remains totally relaxed and receptive to sound, silence and rhythm. It becomes a creative tool for the transmission of sound to the whole body. The senses no longer function fractionally but the body is one whole sense organ.9

Thich Nhat Hanh uses the analogy of water and waves to explain how individual and universal being are simultaneously experienced. Each wave is uniquely itself yet it is also the water of which all the waves are made; the individual manifests the universal in a particular way. It is this realization that banishes fear and promotes real happiness. As the Eesha-Upanishad says: “The Self is One. . . . Of a certainty, the man who sees all creatures in himself, himself in all creatures, knows no sorrow.”10 Sorrow, then, is a product of believing in separation. When our natural communion with the universe is denied—when we do not hear ourselves in others any more—the self-inflicted wound of isolation festers and resists healing. Thich Nhat Hanh calls deep listening compassionate listening. Compassionate listening (and its companion, loving speech) is the natural antidote for all types of negative feelings because it transfers the attention away from the small self that feels cut off, or insulted, or fearful, or angry and thereby defuses the build-up of negative energy. In the space of compassionate listening the perception which triggered the negative feeling is reevaluated. Listening can be extended beyond the space of the body and its surroundings to a felt recognition of ever widening circles of relationship. Confucianism and indigenous spirituality, in particular, accentuate these expanding and interpenetrating circles in their teachings. The following exercise combines deep listening and subtle touch to bring into conscious awareness the natural expansion of one’s true identity by asking ‘where am I?.’ You are invited to try the practice now or at a later time. WHERE AM I? : Read, fill in, and allow time to experience, the following text: I am sitting in a chair in this room . . . in this building . . . in this city . . . in the state of . . . in the country of . . . which is part of the western hemisphere . . . which is part of planet Earth . . . which is part of the solar system . . . which is part of the Milky Way galaxy . . . which is one of the many galaxies in the universe where I live . . .

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If you imagined geographical maps realize that map-making is the effort of ego to confine the experience to a known process and thereby reduce its power. You may have experienced a dwarfing sensation; realize that a sense of smallness comes from ego identity. By letting familiar limitations go it is possible to enter the Space of Infinite Awareness. THE MYSTERY OF SPACE The Hindu Upanishads teach that space is the home of Spirit. Since Spirit is “everywhere, upon the right, upon the left, above below, behind, in front” comparative measures such as size or volume do not apply.11 In Book VIII of the Chhāndôgya-Upanishad a conundrum appears in which the amplitude of a small space in the heart is said to house the infinitely large Spirit: In this body, in this town of Spirit, there is a little house shaped like a lotus, and in that house there is a little space. One should know what is there. What is there? Why is it so important? There is as much in that little space within the heart, as there is in the whole world outside. . . .What lies in that space does not decay when the body decays, nor does it fall when the body falls. That space is the home of Spirit.12

In a conversation between Shwetaketu and his father Uddālaka, recounted in the Chhāndôgya-Upanishad, there is a beautiful description of space that reveals size as inconsequential. Uddālaka has taken on the patient task of teaching his arrogant son the true meaning of life through hands-on examples. Here is one of his efforts: Uddālaka asked his son to fetch a banyan fruit. ‘Here is it, Lord!’ said Shwetaketu. ‘Break it,’ said Uddālaka. ‘I have broken it, Lord!’ ‘What do you see there?’ ‘Little seeds, Lord!’ ‘Break one of them, my son!’ ‘It is broken, Lord!’ ‘What do you see there?’ ‘Nothing, Lord!’ said Shwetaketu. Uddālaka said: ‘My son! This great banyan tree has sprung up from seed so small that you cannot see it. Believe in what I say, my son! That Being is the seed; all else but His expression. He is truth. He is Self. Shwetaketu! You are That.’13

As you sit here now, be aware of the space around you. What is the nature of this physical space that houses everything? It is empty to the naked eye, yet we


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know that space is full of energy moving in and through all bodies. Energy is circulating in our own bodies right now. The Tao or Great Mystery is everywhere through its ch’i. Physicist Wolfgang Pauli describes this flowing design of the universe as a dance in which all forms, from subatomic to cosmic, participate. Viewing electrons through a high-powered microscope Pauli saw them move as individuals interacting in a larger collective of relationships: hence the metaphor of the dance. In the still action of listening we can be aware of this energy dance. Awareness loosens our attachment to the idea that the visible form is more real than that which cannot be seen. Even more intriguing is the conflating of the visible (matter) and the invisible (energy). The invisible ground of form is the emptiness that Zen Buddhists equate with form in the enigmatic chant Emptiness is form, form emptiness. A recent scientific discovery reflects this spiritual enigma. A Minnesota team of astronomers found a huge hole in the universe, 5 to 10 billion light years away. This giant void of nearly 6 billion trillion miles of emptiness contains no stars or galaxies or black holes or even dark matter! One astronomer calls it ‘a big nothing.’14 Yet ‘nothing’ must be ‘something’; otherwise we couldn’t talk about it. Ego, which is defensive and protective by nature, is threatened by any such description of space. Ego needs to objectify space, give it form so that ego’s own separate form is validated. Ego is afraid of disappearing into space. Yet some of our freest, happiest moments are when we suddenly ‘fall into space’ due to a temporary disappearance of ego. When the attention is released from ego’s siren voice—say, in the company of close friends—and listening expands into space, the barriers of ‘my’ body and ‘my’ mind disappear. The trepidations and expectations that usually constrain our behavior vanish. At that moment we partake of the true human comfort zone—the universe— where the belief in ‘me’ and ‘them’ cannot hold. Jesus talks of empty space as the home of the true self. He says: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head (Matt. 8:20).” He encourages his listeners to abandon ego and follow him into the empty space of self-discovery, the space Thomas Merton calls the palace of no-where.15 The door to this palace is emptiness, says Merton, and therefore is of no use to ‘self’—an entity bound to concrete plans and destinations. In the Taoist poem Cutting up the Ox, Chuang Tzu tells of a cook who discovers the vast space where he can butcher an ox with expert precision, using a cleaver as keen and sharp as it was when he began to learn his trade nineteen years ago. It takes three years for the cook to reach the perfection which he describes below: There are spaces in the joints; When this thinness finds that space

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There is all the room you need! . . . True, there are sometimes tough joints. I slow down, I watch closely, Hold back, barely move the blade And whump! The part falls away Landing like a clod of earth.16

The space within the ox contains information even more revelatory than how to butcher an ox properly. The space reveals an intimate relationship between the cook and the ox. How does the cook know where the cleaver should be placed inside the deep, dark, cavernous body of the ox? He listens. Through a fine-tuned listening he enters and occupies the same space as the ox. And what does that subtle movement reveal? That he, the cook, is the ox! To identify fully with the ‘other’ one must first acknowledge the space that connects observer and observed. This is the space of observation where the precious knowledge of how to act in the moment, and who ‘the other’ really is, are revealed. The next step is falling into the unity. We rarely experience this release into unity because the imposter, ego, rises to block the way.

WHAT ARE WE LISTENING TO? One of the definitions of the verb to hear is to obey. What we hear tends to be what we obey. When we listen to the Divine Voice within, obedience to that inherent wisdom is instantaneous. According to Mother Teresa, the fine vibration of energy that is God’s silence is the space in the heart where true prayer occurs. She writes: Jesus is always waiting for us in silence. In that silence He will listen to us, there He will speak to our soul, and there we will hear His voice. Interior silence is very difficult but we must make the effort.17

The seminal Hebrew prayer begins Shema, Israel, adonai elohenu adonai echad. This exhortation translates Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One. If one hears this truth then one’s life will be in obedience to God’s covenant. In order to hear God’s law it is necessary to listen. Jesus says, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear (Luke 14:35).” However, it isn’t a given that having ears equates with hearing. St. Paul describes lack of faith as a hearing problem: But they have not all obeyed the gospel. . . . So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes, verily their sound went into all the earth. (Rom. 10:16–18)


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What blocks our hearing? Or, more precisely, as we are always listening to something, what attracts the listening at any given moment? As the Pause becomes a more frequent practice we will come to realize that much of the time our listening is ‘in and out.’ Quite literally, the attention is out, listening to another person’s words; then, suddenly, listening turns inward to what we think about what is being said or what we intend to say next. In this mix of inward and outward attention portions of the speaker’s words are either missed or translated to fit our own conceptual universes. We may be nodding our heads but we no longer follow the gist of what the other person is saying, much less the actual words. Sometimes listening disappears altogether and we simply blank out for moments at a time. When two people talk and ‘listen’ in this manner they resemble two trains click-clacking along on parallel tracks that go nowhere. Inevitably, the conversation deteriorates. This mechanical process goes unobserved most of the time. When we are in the presence of someone who truly listens it is the presence of that person that permits him or her to listen deeply. A true listener does nothing but listen. The words he or she hears are entering a deep pool of empty space where thoughts do not divert the attention from listening. The true listener does not interrupt the speaker but digests the speaker’s words in emptiness. Then, if appropriate, speech arises from the creative silence of the moment. How often do we trust the silence of the moment to deliver its wisdom about how the duet of speaking and listening is best sung? When there is trust in the moment, rather than in the ego, listening becomes a spiritual practice. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus is shown demonstrating this practice when on trial before Pontius Pilate. Jesus listens to the hateful rebuke of his accusers and the plea by Pilate that he free himself, yet his response is silence rather than arguments in his own defense (Matt. 27:11–14). Staying connected to the world of exterior sounds instead of getting trapped in inner musings requires training in attention. For example, I am sitting on a terrace, pausing. It is summer. Listening, my ears are receiving sounds: birds twittering, a car going by, the chiming of a wall clock inside the house, my husband coughing. . . . I can attend to each sound as it comes to pass in the intricate tapestry of ‘life in progress’ or I can find myself suddenly swept into the net of busy mind. Listening is the brake that allows body-mind to slow down, merge with the rhythmic sounds of the natural world and slide through, into the listening silence.

LISTENING IN MIND-SPACE No doubt we are all claustrophobic to some extent. Pressed against other bodies in a crowded elevator is far different—and less desirable to most—than

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driving through the prairies of the Midwest. In the elevator we have to work at remembering the vast space of which this cramped space is a part. Even worse is the constriction of a prison cell with its psychological and emotional pressure. But there is more to it than physical sensation. The experience of wideopen spaces, so idealized in Wild West films, is preferred by mind because the essence of mind is space, emptiness . . . presence. Mind in this sense is not limited to the physical brain. It is much greater. Some spiritual teachers equate mind with consciousness. When one acknowledges mind as space then enlightenment is possible even in a prison cell. The Buddhist ministry of teaching mindfulness to prison inmates can remind the mind of its inviolable freedom. Victor Frankl writes of overcoming the oppressive conditions of a concentration camp through the mental appreciation of spiritual transcendence.18 The question is, do we ordinarily experience mind as empty and spacious? Isn’t it rather that we experience mind as a clutter of thoughts and images lodged in a little closed space in the head that we call the brain? In fact, we judge an ‘empty’ mind to be a sign of doltishness and call the running commentary in our heads thinking. How can true listening take place when the space of silence on which its fluid operation depends is crammed full of mental litter? In the Tibetan Book of the Dead or Bardo Thötröl (also called The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo) the reader is introduced to the concept of bardo which literally means gap or space.19 We are told that bardo is also equated with emptiness, luminosity and presence: ergo, bardo (space) = emptiness = luminosity = presence. That mathematical formulation is worth reflecting on. . . . In its narrow definition bardo is the interval of suspension after we die, that liminal in-between space in which the soul moves out of this present embodiment and readies itself for the next form. It is recommended that anyone who can serve as a spiritual guide for the dying person should prepare that soul by speaking or reading aloud the truth of the bardo experience as he or she listens. In his commentary on the Bardo Thötröl Chögyam Trungpa startles the reader by suggesting that the original writers of this how-to-die manual are treating the bardo experience as a description of both death and life; that is, if we admit that we are born and that we die each second then we have ample opportunity to acquiesce to the only certainty: uncertainty. As we embrace the gap of moment-to-moment impermanence and listen from this point of nothingness we grow in the wisdom and courage of our inherent buddha-nature. Actually we experience bardo all the time. Every night we willingly slip into the mysterious bardo of sleep. In our lifetime we pass from childhood to adulthood (with more or less alacrity and success), from single to married life, from professional duties to retirement, et cetera. The cultures of indigenous peoples


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view such rites of passage as physical-spiritual rebirths. At puberty initiations, for example, the individual, supported by the tribal group, is ritually stripped of his or her former life (separation), is removed to an isolated location to be instructed by elders in tribal wisdom (the bardo experience of liminality), and only then reassimilated into the group as a full-fledged contributing member (reaggregation).20 Sudden crises plunge us into bardo. How do we respond to such disturbances? Do we try to close the gap? Painful experiences such as sudden illness or loss of a loved one can become a living hell. However, such experiences can also ignite epiphanies by which the soul is swept into purgation and spiritual transformation, a process St. John of the Cross eulogizes as the dark night of the soul. The mystic juxtaposition of bardo as both ground and groundlessness appears to suggest an intertwining of two levels of experience. In Christianity there is a linear movement in which the cross—suffering, groundlessness— leads to the peace of God—ground. In the Buddhist teaching of Pema Chodron the groundless and the ground are mysteriously conflated so that the heart, in loving kindness, draws into itself the enigma of simultaneous uncertainty and certainty. One takes up residence in the gap. Perhaps the colloquialism living on the edge is an apt phrase for a willingness to accept the freefall which is life. Perhaps those of us who hug the ground, deluded by the law of gravity, have something to learn from the parachuter, handglider, and climber of sheer cliffs who dare to hover in the bardo of physical space! As an adventure, try the following practice: BARDO PRACTICE: Excluding any phobia for which a doctor’s care and guidance is needed, name an activity that arouses an unacceptable level of fear or nervous discomfort in you. Picture that activity right now. Can you consciously detach yourself from the anxiety it elicits? See your body successfully executing the motions while your mind-heart rests in the groundless ground of space—bardo. Just as listening takes place by the grace of space, and what is heard is evaluated in the space called mind, so the material forms around us are like figures drawn on a blank canvas. For example, this lap-top computer, lamp, books, teacup, and the desk on which all these objects sit in the space of this room are like words written on a piece of white paper. They appear and disappear within a constant background of space. In the same way all feelings, thoughts, desires of ego, are temporary impressions drawn upon the eternal space of pure consciousness.

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Look at the following figure: G What do you see? A G? Yes, you’re right. If we get the imagination going, maybe we also see a circle with a hole in it or a backward, incomplete e? The Western mind, conditioned by its materialist bias, zooms into the form, perceives every imaginable thing except the space wherein the figure is drawn; yet, without the space no figure is possible. The place where you are now sitting as you read this page, how is it initially defined? As a space containing objects such as your body, or as your body sitting on a chair and holding a book? Taoist philosophy asserts that space precedes the forms that occupy it. Look at any Chinese landscape painting and you will see a predominance of space with the natural world featured. Notice how the houses of human beings are modestly embedded in the lush forest and shrink in proportion to distant mountains.

Chinese landscape, original brush painting by Karen Kronenberg, used with permission


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As Lao Tzu puts it: We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. . . . We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable. We work with being, but non-being is what we use.21

If mind is space then mind in its pristine form is like a large room without walls or furniture. Ego constructs a particular ‘mind’ which has walls and lots of furniture—bits and pieces of recorded thoughts, dreams, images, desires, plans, anxieties, et cetera, in constant manufacture, replication and transformation. The sounds of these morphing pieces of furniture, which we habitually listen to, conceal a space silent and empty yet pregnant with possibility. Listening to ‘the still, small voice of conscience’ is a commonplace description of entering the causal realm of sacred space where all knowledge is stored. One listens and knows with one’s whole spacious being. The voice of conscience is the voice of creativity, insight, and intuition. Isaiah says “A voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it’ (Isa. 30:21).” In the Book of Kings, Elijah asks to hear God’s instructions regarding his mission to the children of Israel who are forsaking the covenant and even threatening the prophet’s life. God responds, not in His might but in His quietude: And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? (I Kings 19:11–13).

Knowing happens through listening with one’s whole being. It is said that the first Hindu sages heard the voice of Brahman. Only by their conscious listening to the revealed word could a conversion into written form—the Veda— be made available for succeeding generations. When a person repeats a mantra, recites the rosary, prays to Allah, or chants the Torah with full attention given to the listening the energy of presence allows the special words to shine within the mind-heart where their truth is revealed.

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DEALING WITH EXTERNAL NOISE Even though it is necessary to listen to exterior sounds in order to stay present to the world and avoid entrapment in the imagined inner world, we can feel barraged by the noise factor, particularly in an urban setting. Trying to tune out a high volume of exterior sounds not only seems to make them louder but also aggravates the level of annoyance in mind-heart. While using I-pods to introduce one’s own choice of sound is a solution, the fact of an interconnected energy network—which is the world—defies the illusion of carving out a separate existence. There is another way to remain detached while accepting one’s natural connection to the environment. If exterior sounds are acknowledged but the attention is allowed to sink beneath the sounds into the ocean of silence that holds them it becomes clear that, just as space precedes and contains all forms, so silence outlasts the sounds which punctuate it, however harsh they may be. We can invent our own daily sound medicine by monitoring what is listened to at home—as in the choice of music. Research in music therapy shows that certain types of music are conducive to a peaceful, balanced psyche. For example, listening to the music of Mozart creates a shift in a person’s brain to the alpha and theta waves associated with the sattvic energy of meditative calm. This Mozart Effect contrasts with deleterious effects attributed to heavy metal music.22 A ‘quiet place’ can be set up in the home, a sanctuary for pausing that in time will be endowed with the same sattvic energy that fills churches and temples. We can also retreat into the natural world more often and listen to its harmonious sounds. Most important, the practice of expanding the attention to the sounds around us, whatever their perceived worth, protects the listening from being sucked into inner noise that exhausts our energy reservoir to a far greater extent than any outside ‘disturbance.’ Step 7, the final step of the Pause, extends and expands the Pause so that sensory awareness teaches body-mind-heart its intimate connection with the living universe. A strategy is offered to help us remain in presence even in the face of mental-emotional assault so that, in moving about after pausing, there is a good chance that we will have gained the energy necessary to carry sattva with us. In time we will experience the toning effect of this build-up of fine energy. Step 7 reads: 7. Resting in simple awareness by means of the senses, feel the sense of self, of wholeness, extend into your surroundings. Let imagined boundaries dissolve. . . . If a thought, day-dream, image or feeling pulls the mind-heart away


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from being-present and you awaken to this distraction, just redirect the attention to one of the five senses and the connecting circuit of healing energy between body and mind-heart will be restored. It is helpful to consider three potential obstacles that may present themselves when the Pause is expanded into step 7. Particularly if the Pause is a prelude to an extended practice in meditation these obstacles can arise. They are: (1) distraction; (2) the urge to move; and (3) the desire for results, which includes the feeling that ‘nothing is happening.’ Let us deal with each of these factors in turn.

DISTRACTION The experience of quiet that the Pause cultivates reveals a mindscape alive with random movements. Thoughts and images flutter in the open space of silence like butterflies in the air. Sometimes the intensity of these mental fragments builds and the sky of our mindscape is buzzing as if a swarm of bees invaded it. The most effective response to this chaos is no response. It is important to realize that movement is a natural aspect of mind. Thoughts are the rajasic petit point stitched by desire on the plain sattvic cloth of stillness. Or, as Heraclitus explains, all is in flux. Change is the mechanism of life whereby the everlasting fire substance of the Logos or Divine Intelligence undergoes perpetual transformations. In comparing the world-order to a river Heraclitus teaches that while the identity of the river is constant, the waters continually move so that “‘you cannot step into the same river twice.’”23 The Buddhist doctrine of impermanence hinges on this inexorable flow. Hindu Vedanta says: “Unmoving, it moves.”24 The rising, swirling and fading of thoughts and images, like leaves in the November wind, confirm the lawful flow that is life. Only NOW anchors this impermanent permanence. In the words of Eckhart Tolle: This one moment—Now—is the only thing you can never escape from, the one constant factor in your life. No matter what happens, no matter how much your life changes, one thing is certain: it’s always Now.25

It is important to differentiate between the natural tendency of mind to move and the unnatural indulgence by which attention is fixated on an idea or image to the point where awareness of the underlying stillness—mind’s creative engine—is lost. Just as water in a flowing stream is trapped behind a makeshift dam of leaves and twigs, so energy can become trapped in ego’s imaginings. According to Plato, it is the persistent desire of ego to either

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avoid pain or access pleasure in the future that removes one from “the intermediate state” of the present where desire is inactive and choice is possible.26 Thomas Keating uses the metaphor of boats going down a river to describe how thoughts flow through the mindstream of consciousness. If the energy of attention is pulled to a particular ‘boat’ and then attaches itself to that bit of mind-matter distraction occurs. Distraction can condense into obsession: these are my beloved thoughts. We are under the illusion that we can stop these diversionary escapades whenever we want to. But the truth is we have little power over the ease with which the energy of attention is compromised, whether by a banal laundry list of the day’s plans or a vivid replay of an argument still ripe with unresolved issues. Only the capacity to stay awake for longer periods of time generates the power to keep the attention safely engaged in sensory awareness where the creative energy to do anything—which includes resolving a problem—is harnessed. Choosing presence from moment to moment is like Jesus’ image of putting one’s hand to the plow. The success in keeping one’s hand on the plow and walking the field will be measured by regularity of practice and perseverance over time. A story which appears in several religious traditions dramatizes this fundamental spiritual step of harnessing the energy of the mind to serve the needs of the present moment: There was a hermit who lived in the desert. A young man who wished to be the hermit’s disciple decided to undertake an arduous journey through the desert to study with the famed hermit. For two days the young man walked, under a scorching sun. The only living beings he saw were a few cacti. As the sun rose on the third day he came upon a dead donkey lying on the sand. Startled by the sight the young man examined the donkey, saw that indeed the animal was dead, and resumed his walk. That afternoon he saw in the distance a small speck which, as he got closer, revealed itself as the hut of the hermit. Fatigued but excited he ran, arriving at the door breathless. He knocked. An old man opened the door. The young man bowed, saying “Oh, honored sir, please teach me how to pray, how to meditate. I have traveled far to reach you.” The old man smiled, bowed, and escorted the young man into his hut. Pointing to a tiny cell containing just a bed and chair he said, “First you must stay here for three days to rest from your journey and prepare yourself to be introduced to meditation. I will furnish you with food and water.” The young man obediently entered the cell. The door was fastened. Just as the hermit was about to go he turned and said, “There is just one instruction. For the next three days, as you rest your body and quiet your mind, be sure that you do not think about the dead donkey you saw on the way here.” The hermit left. For three days the young man could think of little else than the donkey. At the end of the trial period, in utter frustration and


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disappointment, the young man admitted his inability to quiet the mind. The old man smiled kindly and said, “Do not be hard on yourself. You have seen that bringing the unruly mind under control is a formidable task. Stay here and you will learn the way to transcend mind: the power of awareness.”

Listening is a potent tool in maintaining awareness. Listening allows the attention to connect with and experience the space that surrounds and even penetrates our mental traffic jams, however dense they may seem. Eckhart Tolle says: “Most people confuse the Now with what happens in the Now, but that’s not what it is. The Now is deeper than what happens in it. It is the space in which it happens.”27 Just as the solution to a problem requires that one gets outside the problem to look at it, so moving mind cannot heal moving mind but must depend upon witnessing which is the space of NOW. Each awakening from the slumber of distraction is the work of one of the senses. The sensory world is the bait that pulls the attention back to the present moment. For instance, while pausing you may fall into a daydream about the coming vacation. Suddenly your daughter calls your name and you wake up; hearing brings you back to the moment where life has been happening without you. The habit of sleep is strong, weighing down our best intentions; thus the effort to remain sensorily awake requires that we be gentle with ourselves. Selfcritical thoughts are just another set of distractions. In time the stale thoughts stored in mind will be like boring guests who are attending a party in another part of the house. The door of the mind-heart swings closed upon their feckless pursuits. When Christian, the hero of Pilgrim’s Progress, decides to leave his ordinary life and embark for the City of Zion, he is beset with a series of obstacles. His first obstacle, the Slough of Despond, is a murky swamp which he must somehow traverse. Christian’s friend and fellow traveler, Pliable, balks at the slough’s challenge and returns home; but Christian perseveres, consoled by the firm resolve to save his soul. As ‘pilgrims’ we too may find ourselves stuck in the muck of discouragement. We will need to remember that replacing the habit of sleep with the art of wakefulness requires the same persistence that kicking an addiction demands. THE URGE TO MOVE As the Pause is extended we may notice the urge to physically move. Even though the body is in a comfortable position and doesn’t need to move we feel compelled to move, to readjust, to fidget. This compulsion reflects a restlessness that accompanies the modern ‘on the go’, ‘on the run’ ethos where movement is equated with productivity. The sin of sloth is converted into the ques-

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tionable virtue of busi-ness. We’re like wind-up toys. With energy flying out in all directions sitting still becomes a challenge, and when we do sit we need props: cell phone, palm pilot, snack, magazine. Only when we are daydreaming can we do without props. It may be that a fear of stillness keeps us on the go, for in the quiet we might see how shallow our ‘productive’ lives are. Being constantly ‘on the run’ is the way to lose one’s footing—one’s ground. Taoism locates this ground and source of power at the subtle tan t’ien point just below the navel. You may want to try placing your attention there if you notice the urge to break out in physical movement during the pause. If you watch a cat when he is just sitting you will see a cool ease and elegance which emanates from stillness. I had a cat once who loved to sit on the floor about a foot from the living room wall. He would face the wall, sometimes for more than 10 minutes at a time. He reminded me of a Zen monk facing the zendo wall, deep in meditation. Conservation of energy for life starts with simple things like sitting still and practicing awareness. Quakers sit together in silence to contemplate scripture and pray. There is but one way to approach Yahweh, says the Psalmist: “Be still and know that I am God (Ps. 46:10).” Because of the body-mind-heart continuum there is a basic relationship between the cultivation of a still posture and the diminishment of mental distraction. Physical agitation signals a distracted mind. When we learn to quiet the body the mind will gradually surrender its own brand of fidgeting. Therefore, when you notice the physical urge to move, use this cue as an opportunity to deepen the process of physical relaxation and feel the energy, now released from its restless confinement in the body, being consciously transferred to sensory awareness.

THE DESIRE FOR RESULTS In any project to which we give time and effort we want some assurance of reward for our labor, whether it’s learning algebra, taking guitar lessons, planting a garden—or learning a spiritual practice. This need for assurance resembles the promise of the king in many fairytales that if the handsome youth kills the monster, or whatever the heroic feat is, he will receive the hand of the king’s beautiful daughter in marriage. It is clear, however, that presence can have nothing to do with future guarantees because the desire for results contradicts the very nature of being present. The concept of dharma embodies this truth. Embedded in both Hindu and Buddhist teachings, dharma has many definitions: way, teaching, law, duty, moral conduct, and righteous action are among them. Righteous action is action


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for the action’s sake. There can be no rider which specifies a lucrative result for the doer of the action. If an action is righteous karma does not accumulate; rather, the wheel of sanskara turns towards realization instead of reincarnation. Nonchalance about results doesn’t mean that there are no results. The Eesha-Upanishad instructs the devotee to “claim nothing, enjoy”: the joys of the contemplative life spring naturally from a practice unsullied by ego’s claims.28 A story from the Zen tradition, called The Taste of Banzo’s Sword, illustrates the pitfalls of desiring results: Matajuro Yagyu was the son of a renowned swordsman. He wished to learn the art of swordsmanship from his father but the latter believed his son incapable of mastership and disowned him. So Matajuro went to Mount Futara to enlist the help of another famous swordsman, Banzo, who simply affirmed the father’s judgment. Matajuro began to argue with Banzo. “But if I work very hard” he said, “how long will it take me to master this art?” “The remainder of your life” said Banzo. Dejected, Matajuro pleaded: “That is too long; what if I consent to endure any hardship and serve you devotedly?” Banzo relented: “Perhaps ten years” he said. Matajuro, sensing an opening in the argument, said “ But master, I will need to take care of my father who is aging; if I work with great concentration, how many years would it take me then?” Banzo promptly said: “Probably thirty years.” “What do you mean?” asked Matajuro, clearly upset. “You say ten, now thirty years. I will do anything you ask to become a master in the shortest time possible!” Banzo was clearly annoyed with Matajuro’s pleas. He shook his head in disgust and said: “Anyone in such a hurry as you rarely learns quickly. You will have to stay here for seventy years.” Matajuro then understood that he was being admonished for impatience. “All right”, he said. “I will stay and learn, no matter the time it takes.” Banzo told Matajuro that he was never to speak about fencing or even go near a sword. For three years Matajuro cooked for Banzo, cleaned his house and yard, and never once spoke about swordsmanship. He began to be sad because he had not even begun to satisfy the desire to study the art to which his life was devoted. But one day, as Matajuro opened the door to the kitchen, Banzo sprang at him, giving the young man a heavy blow to the shoulder with a wooden sword. The next day, when Matajuro was making the master’s bed, Banzo crept up behind him and again thrust at him with the wooden sword. Thereafter, day and night, Matajuro was wary and alert to unexpected attacks. He could not dismiss from his mind the taste of Banzo’s sword. So quickly did Matajuro learn the art of swordsmanship that his master could not help but show his delight and approval. In time Matajuro became the most renowned swordsman in the land.29

In another story, from the Hindu tradition, the payback expected from applying oneself to a task is given an interesting twist:

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A thief finds that the work of stealing, while very lucrative, is also exhausting. Every morning on the way to ‘work’ he passes a sadhu who sits under a tree meditating. People come regularly to present gifts of food and drink to the revered monk. The thief says to himself, “This is not fair. I work hard and this sadhu gets everything without doing anything.” So the thief decides to imitate the sadhu. He goes out each morning, sits cross-legged under a nearby tree—he is careful not to encroach on the sadhu’s territory—and closes his eyes. After a few days of no results he is about to give up when a villager quietly approaches and sets down a bowl of fruit at his feet. Another villager comes with an offering of bread. The thief can hardly believe his good fortune. His artifice is working! A few days later a thought comes to him as he ‘meditates’—a thought that jolts his mind: “This is pretense. What would happen if I meditated for real?”

This story reveals that the power of meditation, even when it is impurely practiced, will in time purify the one who meditates—and eclipse him. The feeling that ‘nothing is happening’ is related to the desire for results. The idea that if something does not produce a visible change it is useless can contaminate the practice of the Pause, engendering impatience and irritation. This is the work of ego. In actuality, spiritual development is subtle and often invisible. If this were not so ego would most likely sabotage the process. Spiritual alchemy takes place in the dark, creative womb of consciousness. Nineteenth century English essayist, Richard Jeffries, describes the mystery of his awakening thus: ‘I was not more than eighteen when an inner and esoteric meaning began to come to me from all the visible universe. . . . I now became lost and absorbed into the being or existence of the universe . . . and losing thus my separateness of being, came to seem like a part of the whole. I feel on the margin of a life unknown, very near, almost touching it—on the verge of power which, if I could grasp, would give men an immense breadth of existence.’30

A New Yorker cartoon captures the folly of trying to engineer one’s own transformation. Two Zen monks sit cross-legged on the polished floor. The younger monk looks expectantly at the older seasoned monk who merely turns to him and says, “Nothing happens next. This is it.”31 In the 1960’s, when Zen Buddhism had just arrived to the shores of America via teachers like D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts, my husband and I went to visit the newly constructed Zen Garden at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in New York City. The garden drew many curious tourists. We watched as visitors entered the archway to the garden. They walked down the pebbled path that was bordered on one side by bleachers where a visitor could sit and contemplate the garden. On the other side was the garden itself, a long stretch of


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combed sand interrupted strategically by large rocks. Most people walked straight by the garden to the end of the path and peered around the corner of a second archway, expecting to find the garden elsewhere. After all, how could mere sand and a few rocks be a famous tourist attraction, much less a spiritual magnet! In the Bhagavad Gita, the divine Krishna explains to his pupil, Arjuna, that he should act according to his duty or dharma: he must fight the war against former mentors and esteemed warriors on the enemy side. However, says Krishna, the key is in remembering that Self does not die. In fact, Self does not fight, nor does Self, the Atman, do anything but watch. The feeling that ‘nothing is happening’—that I am not in control and can only watch—is actually the evidence of the absence of resistance to the alchemical process which is underway during every practice of the Pause. The surrender to the space, to the bardo or gap of the Pause, is the locus of inner peace and the beginning of empowerment. The Pause serves as a purposeful (conscious) but purposeless (desireless) break between actions impelled by desire and blunted by routine. As such, pausing is an open, aim-less example of what Jean Klein calls “‘waiting without waiting.’”32 After decades of marriage a couple can sit on the front porch and not speak for an extended time. Superficially, nothing is happening; subtly, that which is most important is happening: the silent conversation of two people at rest in each other’s presence. If we could approach life as a giant Pause—a stretched out space, a bardo of simple awareness and rest between an apparent birth and death—could we abide this No-thing and this Non-doing? American Transcendentalist philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, loved to sit on the threshold of his well-swept, sparsely furnished cabin in the Walden woods for most of the day, doing nothing but contemplating the natural world around him. Thoreau had chosen to leave town life and take refuge in the wilderness of nature. He worked a small plot of land to supply a meager diet. The townspeople thought he was lazy, unproductive and therefore strange. In fact, Thoreau was hard at work staying awake so that it wouldn’t happen that “when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”33 He writes: “I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear. . . . I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life . . . to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”34 Life at its ‘lowest terms’—and its most sublime—is the experience of pure awareness. Thoreau encourages his reader thus: We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. . . . To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.35

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Each moment that we are present is a moment of observation and participation. There is both a watching of and a participating in the unfolding drama called life. Walt Whitman describes this drama as a ‘game’ where he is both player and watcher. He says: . . . My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues, The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or Ill-doing or loss or lack of money, or depressions, or exaltations Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events; These come to me days and nights and go from me again, But they are not the Me myself. Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am, Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary, Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest, Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next, Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it . . . I witness and wait.36

THE INTERPLAY OF THE SENSES The Pause is designed to manipulate sensory perception in order to examine each sense in turn. In fact, sensory impressions are a result of the senses working together. Even so, we may become more aware of a particular sense when it dominates an activity. Washing a car enlivens touch; a phone call elicits listening; and so on. When the attentive faculty of mind connects to the senses a current is activated. Just as the lighting of a house depends on the activation of an electrical current, so spiritual enlightenment is a process that depends upon a lively current of presence. In the contemplative practice offered below, you are invited to enter the drama of the interplay of senses and elements under the observing eye of presence. You may want to read the passage aloud, slowly. As you contemplate this image of Self in the Creation know that you are this sublime Self. A SENSORY CONTEMPLATION Resting in the womb of undifferentiated Divine Energy I am as I am, NOW, an incarnate Spiritual Being . . . I am present to myself as Divine Consciousness . . . Recognizing that this mind-heart, even as it contains familiar treasures—limited ideas, beliefs and feelings long entertained—also holds the memory of the perfect


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knowledge and perfect love that I am . . . I know by the light of my own conscious awareness that the eventual overcoming of all limitation is my birthright as a perfect being . . . Therefore, I am free of ego . . . I live and move without impediment . . . Aware of my own existence in this body, feeling the life force within me, I acknowledge this self and the self of all manifest beings as having life and perfection through Divine Energy . . . By means of presence I am aware of Space—the infinite home of all created forms, the invisible, vast no-thing in which sounds, vibrating in their ceaseless genesis, fashion bodies out of energy . . . Countless voices around me speak their divine names . . . I hear the voice of Divine Consciousness sounding in each living form in the infinite, animate energy matrix to which I belong as a vibration in Consciousness. . . . I feel each form by an exchange of pervasive Air, by the great breathing cycles of life. . . . Air enlivens, moves and connects all vibrating forms. We touch one another in a beautiful spacedance that obeys natural law . . . Divine Air puts me in touch with numinous Presence everywhere. . . . Fire empowers my sight . . . I see myself everywhere, in everything, as fire lights up the darkness and shows the shape and color of each manifest being . . . Fire is the warm blood and tissue of every life. Fire illuminates this mind with insight into immortal wonders. . . . Through taste I appreciate the life force that Water provides. Water flows through all ensouled bodies, sustaining each life and binding all living forms in the fluid embrace of love . . . Finally, I acknowledge Earth through smell—Earth as the fragrant garden where all elements congeal and where the spirit seeds of all beings are embodied, grow, find shelter and companionship, and in time return to their spiritual essence . . . I know, as a spiritual being in the process of evolving, that this earth is nothing less than Heaven, the abode of Divine Energy at play. . . . Resting in my own Infinite Presence I am at peace. I am peace.

In the poem below, E.E. Cummings describes a day in which he awakens through the portal of sensory awareness to discover that he has moved out of his small self into the amplitude of God’s gracious creation. Hear how the rush of words spill and tangle in an effort by the poet to express the inexpressible joy and gratitude of awakening to Presence. i thank You God for most this amazing day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes (i who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth

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day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay great happening illimitably earth) how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any—lifted from the no of all nothing—human merely being doubt unimaginable You? (now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)37

The next chapter—the spirituality of moving—investigates the paradox of stillness in action, rest in movement. We will discover how the antidote of presence relieves the moving body-mind of stress by aligning sensations with the energy of attention. For now, let the energies used in the assimilation of the material of this chapter subside and return to stillness. Feel the body relax and lose its illusory perimeter. . . . Listening in the vast space of your beingness know that every cell in your body-mind-heart is awake and engaged in the celebration of ‘most this amazing’ universe.

NOTES 1. Songs of Kabir, trans. Rabindranath Tagore (New York: Weiser, 1974), 72. 2. Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 125. 3. Jean Klein, Who Am I? The Sacred Quest, ed. Emma Edwards (Rockport, MA: Element, 1996), 42. 4. Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks (Novato, Calif.: New World Library, 2003), 95. 5. According to the Maharishi School, the unified field is an energy field of all possibilities inherent in consciousness and guided by natural law. Some of the qualities of this unified field are dynamic silence, pure knowledge, perfect harmony, and wakefulness. When human beings become aware of these qualities in themselves through meditative practice society is reshaped. 6. Klein, Who am I, 134. 7. James Redfield, Michael Murphy and Sylvia Timbers, God and the Evolving Universe (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2002), 86. Copyright © 2002 by James Redfield. Used by permission of Jeremy P. Tarcher, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 8. Jean Klein, I Am, ed. Emma Edwards (St. Peter Port, Guernsey, CI: Third Millennium Publications, 1995), 5. 9. Klein, I Am, 5. 10. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B. Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 15. 11. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 54.


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12. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 107. 13. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 93–94. 14. Seth Borenstein, “Astronomers Find Huge Hole in Universe”, AOL News, 25 Aug. 2007, 15. James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: A Search for God Through Awareness of the True Self (Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1992), 151. 16. Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu (New York: New Directions, 1969), 46, 47. Copyright © 1965 by The Abbey of Gethsemani. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing and Pollinger Ltd., UK. 17. Dorothy S. Hunt, ed. Love: A Fruit Always in Season, Daily Meditations by Mother Teresa. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 82–83. 18. See Victor Frankl, The Unheard Cry for Meaning: Psychotherapy and Humanism (New York: Touchstone, 1979). 19. The following analysis of bardo stems from a study of The Tibetan Book of the Dead trans. Francesca Fremantle and Chögyam Trungpa (Boston: Shambhala Pocket Classics, 1992). 20. These three concepts (terms in italics) originate with anthropologist Victor Turner. See Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and anti-Structure (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991). 21. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 11. In the Chinese study of feng shui—the art of placement—the design and decoration of a house or office start with a study of space. Objects are then placed consciously within that space to enhance the beneficial flow of ch’i. 22. In a 1988 documentary called Rising to the Challenge, statistical studies were presented which linked heavy metal music, and the erotic or violent imagery on MTV that accompanied it, to the rising use of drugs, illicit sexual behavior, and violent acts. Spearheaded by Tipper Gore and other prominent political figures, this film was part of an effort by the Parents’ Music Resource Center and Teen Vision, Inc (PMRC) to increase awareness in the general population of the negative influence of heavy metal music and their stars’ persona on young people. The PMRC was able to persuade Congress to enact laws that required the labeling of records and tapes that used inappropriate lyrics. Rising to the Challenge, VHS, produced by PMRC, executive producer Robert De Moss Jr. (Arlington, Va., 1988). 23. John Mansley Robinson, An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1968), 91. 24. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 15. From the Eesha Upanishad. 25. Tolle, Stillness Speaks, 39. 26. Plato, Republic, trans. Robin Waterfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 331. 27. Tolle, Stillness Speaks, 45. 28. The Ten Principal Upanishads, 15. 29. Adapted from Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor, nd), 75–76. History documents that in medieval Japan Zen monks were called upon by the emperor and feudal lords to train the fierce samurai in the practice of attention. Being-present was the key to the samurai’s skill in swordsmanship. In a

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true sense it was attentive presence that defended the kingdom from enemy attack. The art of attention is still the basis of the martial arts. For a stunning example of the Zen practice of attentive presence see Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery. 30. Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (New York: Penguin-Meridian, 1974), 192. 31. Recounted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life (New York: Hyperion, 1994), 14. 32. Klein, Who Am I?, 84. 33. Henry D.Thoreau, Walden or Life in the Woods (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1906), 101. 34. Thoreau, Walden, 101. 35. Thoreau, Walden, 100. 36. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York: Aventine Press, 1931), 31–32. 37. E.E. Cummings, Complete Poems: 1904–1962, ed. George J. Firmage (New York: Liveright, 1991), 663. “ i thank You God for most this amazing’ copyright 1950 © 1978, 1991 by the Trustees for the E.E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1979 by George James Firmage from Complete Poems: 1904–1962. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

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The Spirituality of Moving

Let us come to our senses; let us pause. . . . Enjoy the simplicity of just sitting, being aware of the body and its surroundings through conscious touch . . . conscious sight . . . conscious smell . . . conscious taste . . . conscious listening. . . . Breathe deeply . . . relax; feel tensions dissolve. Observe how the simple choice of coming to our senses activates an extra-sensory perception of peaceful silence that generates and absorbs the ephemeral sensations we call life. Rest in this silence of your own presence. . . . Pausing refreshes and rebalances the body-mind-heart so that the fever of movement that characterizes the day can be met with fresh energy. But the idea of the Pause as an occasional oasis in the hot desert of the workday sets up a false duality that ignores the point of the Pause: the incorporation of presence into daily movements. The Pause is not a time-out from the day’s movements but a way to touch the still, unchanging timeless within the apparent motion of time. The Pause itself is movement: a subtle shift in energy superimposed upon unmoving stillness. As I pause the blood flows, the breath comes and goes, the mind conjures up images, the emotions dart this way and that. The key is, I am aware of these movements. They are subservient to a quiet watching. Sattva preempts and regulates rajas. Then, as the body gets up from the chair and begins to move into the next activity, the Pause as conscious awareness can be carried into the next moment. We need to become acquainted with this continuum of stillness upon which movements are superimposed. ‘Studying to be quiet’, as St. Paul puts it, creates the grace with which we can move through life (1Thess. 4). Through the character of Lorenzo in the play, The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare reminds us that “there’s not the smallest orb which thou beholdest/ But in his motion like an angel sings.”1 Indeed, when we watch the living beings 148

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that comprise the natural world we join Walt Whitman’s definition of himself as the “caresser of life wherever moving.”2 We admire the supple flow of a cheetah loping over the savannah, the attentive vigilance of a hawk dipping and gliding with the air stream as it looks for prey, the beauty of the snow goose landing on a lake in spring, the deft weaving of the spider’s intricate web. We recognize the Divine Intelligence that creates these natural motions, but have we discovered the human equivalent whereby we move in consonance with our human nature and thus sing with the angels? Do we know how to—as Billie Yellow, a Navaho shaman, puts it—“move lightly like a bird, live our life lightly like a bird?”3 The natural conversation between mind-heart and body is so intimate, so quick and coordinated, that we rarely notice the synchronicity of their joint intelligence. A flight of steps, for example, is climbed by the body only after the mind has ‘decided to’ and the heart ‘wants to’ go upstairs; yet the nanosecond in which this coordinated, efficient effort occurs is too infinitesimal to be detected. From vibrating electrons to swirling galaxies in an expanding universe, matter is constantly in motion. It was once thought that everything moved around the earth. This geocentric perspective was replaced with the heliocentric worldview, but the idea of an immovable fixed point remained because the concept of a First Mover or God presumed a Being beyond the impermanent nature of movement. We know now that every piece of matter is in constant flux and transposition; yet a subtler law of wholeness keeps the universe stable. Heraclitus’ formulation of a Logos that rests in change and the EeshaUpanishad’s pronouncement of a Self that is unmoving yet moves proclaim a mystical paradox that describes the only way ‘God’ is complete—by absorbing all apparent constructions of duality and opposition into a larger Whole. The Book of Genesis says God rested on the seventh day and “sanctified it because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made (Gen. 2:2–3).” This account leaves out an important part of the story, perhaps because the writer assumed the reader knew it: God was resting on the other six days also. He was showing His Creation that activity doesn’t interfere with rest; rather, activity arises from and is sustained by rest. When we move in awareness the fact that activity lies upon rest like dew upon the grass is confirmed in experience. Long before the dancing energy matrix of the universe was revealed by the expertise of modern physics indigenous peoples contended that all matter moves because ‘it’ is animate. Even rocks move and have life because all matter has anima, soul, which is an energy granted it by the Great Spirit. Movement cannot contradict or pollute the sacredness of the ensouled body.


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According to Hindu Vedanta, the guna energy of movement, rajas, sustains the universe as an animate operation. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reasons with Arjuna that just as He, the Lord, must act to keep the universe going, so Arjuna must do his karmic duty and fight the upcoming battle. Krishna says: No man can attain freedom from activity by refraining from action; nor can he reach perfection by merely refusing to act. He cannot even for a moment remain really inactive; for the Qualities of Nature [guna] will compel him to act whether he will or no. . . . There is nothing in this universe, O Arjuna! that I am compelled to do; nor anything for Me to attain; yet I am persistently active. . . . And if I were to refrain from action, the human race would be ruined; I should lead the world to chaos and destruction would follow.4

There is, however, a valid way to act, a valid way to move through life. The yogic way of action or karma yoga sets the measure for a spirituality of moving: move and act selflessly for the welfare of all. Krishna explains: As the ignorant act, because of their fondness for action, so should the wise act without such attachment, fixing their eyes, O Arjuna! only on the welfare of the world. . . .Therefore, surrendering thy actions unto Me, thy thought concentrated on the Absolute, free from selfishness and without anticipation of reward, with mind devoid of excitement, begin thou to fight.5

HOW MOVING FROM HABIT REINFORCES THE FALSE SELF In the human body the quality of movement is strongly affected by the subtle movements of mind-heart to which it is connected. As we begin to awaken from the long sleep of mechanical living we find that the integrity of our actions is determined by the extent to which we get caught up in movement, whether it be of mind or body. For example, if there is identification with an idea that arouses anger, the mind-heart deserts its ground in presence and, following ego’s lead, instructs the body to move as a projectile toward the offending party. Fingers point; insulting words pour out of the mouth; even a fistfight may erupt. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this type of reactive energy habit energy. The only effective counterpoint to habit energy is root energy. Thich Nhat Hanh says we each have a ‘personal tree’ whose deep roots are threefold: biological ancestors, land ancestors (eg. each person possesses racial, ethnic, national and Earth qualities) and spiritual ancestors. When we stop and connect with the positive energy of these ancestral roots through mindfulness we are freed in that moment from the seductive force of habit.6

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Just as we create a false self to cover who we really are, so, as we grow up we assume a posture and gait which reinforce this subtle self-image. In his book on posture and meditation Will Johnson writes of the challenge of carrying an awakened posture into daily movements because the body is programmed early on to express and reinforce the limiting ideas we hold about ourselves and the world. He writes: The first thing that you may notice as you begin to observe your movements through life is how much of the time you spend lost in the inner monologue of your mind. If you pay close attention, you will also come to recognize that when your internal voice is particularly active you have very little conscious awareness of anything else that is occurring: the sensations in your body, the sounds, sights, smells and tastes that surround and penetrate you. You will further come to realize that the unbridled momentum of the inner monologue is itself dependent on a specific bodily posture or attitude. . . .7

The natural intelligence of the moving body as an instrument of knowledge is obscured when body consciousness is emphasized (that is, pampered as an expression of ego), repressed (that is, associated with sin due to cultural conditioning), or not acknowledged at all. In the latter case, even a seemingly trivial set of movements, like walking from the car to the front door carrying heavy bags of groceries, is a catalyst for severe back strain if the attention is so captivated by daydreaming that the body’s understanding of how to move in a balanced and safe way is blocked from operating. Ilana Rubenfeld, the founder of the Rubenfeld Synergy Method, a body/mind therapy, says that when we develop awareness of detrimental feelings and beliefs which have been frozen in the body it is possible to be released from their grip. When the false self identifies with activity and replaces allegiance to Self with its own agenda we lose our way and seem to lose our rest. Jesus says: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt.11:28–30).

If we would rest in Jesus’ easy yoke, the yoke of love and forgiveness, we have to be willing to give up the heavy yoke of enslavement to all the false gods we have constructed. We are rest-less because we have lost touch with our own innate reservoir of rest. Literally we do not take the time to stop moving and feel within our bodies the relaxed stillness that lies beneath movement. Pausing is the hinge between non-action and action that teaches us to close the apparent gap between the two.


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THE ENERGIES OF VIKSHEPA AND SHENPA Hindu Vedanta explains how movements of mind-body become distorted and unnatural when the gunas are improperly balanced. When body movement is directed by attentive presence, as with the expert ballroom dancer, the correct balance of the three gunas translate, from the viewer’s perspective, as grace, ease, exquisite skill and beauty. However, when there is preoccupation with interior mental noise or negative emotion we ‘lose it’; literally, we lose the sattvic underpinning of action. We figuratively ‘run around in circles’ which means that body and mind-heart are being dominated by a rajas which has shifted into its negative form: vikshepa. Erratic movements of the body betray the tensions that the moving mind creates under the executive order of the ego. Vikshepa steals our natural vitality and can, if unchecked by the power of discrimination, damage physical and mental health. We know from experience that when a friendly argument turns bitter the effort to restrain the energy of vikshepa is comparable to the energy required to keep the steering mechanism of a ship steady during a fierce storm. Similar to vikshepa is the Buddhist concept of shenpa. Traditionally defined as attachment, shenpa refers to the tendency to get ‘hooked’ by thoughts and feelings that defend ego and remove a person from the present moment.8 The self-righteous quality of shenpa expresses itself in aggressive stances and movements of ‘I am right, you are wrong’ which, when unchecked, can precipitate anything from a family argument to war between nations. Often shenpa energy and “shenpa-speak” are directed at ourselves. We explode in anger, then we denigrate ourselves for being bad. Pema Chodron describes shenpa as an annoying “itch.” She explains: . . . scratching feels good but it spreads, like poison ivy. Without interruption the itch gets worse . . . during the de-tox period of not following the chain reaction, you feel insecurity, groundlessness . . . Shenpa initially is a little tiny spark. To throw kerosene on the spark turns it into a forest fire. Thoughts are the fuel; we keep it alive by talking to ourselves.

When we get caught in the “chain reaction” of shenpa, karmic seeds of future compulsive action are sown in the ālaya—universal basic ground— which Pema compares to Jung’s archetypal unconscious.9 When we begin to see how easily we get caught in shenpa it becomes possible to interrupt the automatic movements that result from the triggering of these subtle mind patterns. We become alert to shenpa by body sensation or ‘felt-sense.’ Speaking of the “hook of rage”, for example, Pema describes an awakening process very similar to our practice of the Pause:

The Spirituality of Moving


Feeling the shenpa-moment as if you smelled it, tasted it—a felt-sense. Find the positive energy inside the rage; feel it in the whole body . . . then pause, connect to the sense to interrupt the momentum, breathe, be with the experience. Only thus can you unravel the cycle of dissatisfaction, or dukkha. Relax, let the storyline go, don’t repress, but let it pierce to the heart.

It is then possible, says Pema, to “do something different”—to choose actions inspired by our own natural goodness.10 As Rumi puts it: “Don’t turn your head. Keep looking at the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you.”11 Pema’s reference to shenpa as a reactive pattern of behavior that both humans and animals display is well exemplified by the territorial impulse. For example, have you ever noticed that when a person enters the same room multiple times—say, a classroom or conference room—he or she sits in the same seat? The ego is in constant pursuit of securing its authority by claiming territory. The phrases ‘staking out a claim, ‘standing firm’, ‘staying the course’ may be expressions of courage, but they may also signify a rigidity based in fear. In order “to relax with the groundlessness of our situation”— which is life—we need the practice of mindfulness.12 Only mindfulness allows us to ‘change seats’—to choose to avoid the dangerous panacea of routine by finding security in the one place and time it can be found: the ever-changing present.

HOW NATURAL MOVEMENT REFLECTS THE TRUE SELF According to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras the universe is a gigantic musical instrument. Its microcosmic mirror image is the human body: an instrument to be played with exquisite skill. Whether we speak of the sinuous movements of the samba dancer, the agile gymnast, or even the simple grace of walking, the body shows an inherent understanding of the musical harmony that arises when the energies of body, mind, and heart are integrated through presence. When we are puppets of circumstance we walk in a fog, tied to the strings of ruling ideas. We are . . . not. Presence, on the other hand, encourages movement that harmonizes with circumstance—that is, movement that is responsive, not reactive. Even in difficult situations, presence allows the body to move through space as an instrument of the true self. For example, no one would deny that the labor contractions of giving birth are painful. However, the Lamaze method teaches that the woman who can detach from and assist the movements in her pelvic region through attention and relaxation is moving


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with the natural flow of energy, instead of resisting that flow. There may be physical pain but not suffering which is a form of resistance in the mentalemotional energy field. Sometimes a crisis lifts the level of consciousness, enabling the body to move entirely against habit and even against the instinct of self-preservation. When part of the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in August 2007 young Jeremy Hernandez was hailed for having rescued children from a school bus that hung precariously on a ledge overlooking the rushing river. He simply reported: “I just moved. My feet were just moving. My body was following.”13 This modest account points to an instinctual acknowledgement of a bond between all beings that precedes and surpasses individual concern. When this primary instinct is aroused by crisis the economy and power of intelligent movement takes over and will not allow thinking ‘about me’ to interfere with the knowledge that saving another person is saving ‘oneself.’ Since the ordinary day is usually bereft of crisis, how shall we remember to act in harmony with instinctive knowledge? By practicing the art of presence. When the body moves in the space of the pervasive Whole—in Divine Space, in Infinity—with mind attentive and receptive, then our beingness moves in wholeness, in health. Poet Mark Strand offers an intriguing perspective about moving in awareness of this whole. He suggests that keeping the world whole is a human function: ‘Keeping Things Whole’ In a field I am the absence of field. This is always the case. Wherever I am I am what is missing. When I walk I part the air and always the air moves in to fill the spaces where my body’s been. We all have reasons for moving. I move to keep things whole.14

We are thus present to Divine Presence not only with our hearts and minds but also with our bodies. Tenth century Greek Orthodox mystic, Symeon the

The Spirituality of Moving


New Theologian, was exiled by the official church because he dared to describe graphically his own awakening to the immanence of Christ in his body. He wrote that God, being omnipresent, not only inhabits his hands, feet, and every bodily organ but also moves them in marvelous ways. Anticipating an outcry from church authorities that he is speaking blasphemy he contends that transcendence demands that we awaken inside the body of Christ— where all our body, all over, every most hidden part of it, is realized in joy as Him, and He makes us, utterly, real, and everything that is hurt, everything that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged, is in Him transformed and recognized as whole, as lovely, and radiant in His light we awaken as the Beloved in every last part of our body.15

The body language of prayer and meditation symbolically expresses a desire to ‘awaken as the Beloved.’ When Christians kneel to pray with heads bowed or when Muslims prostrate their bodies so that their foreheads touch the earth, body is speaking the surrender and supplication that the heart feels. When Hindus and Buddhists sit in the lotus position for hours of silent meditation they formally align themselves to the liberating flow of prana that courses through their bodies, minds, and hearts. Awakening from the sleep state is a body-mind maneuver. Sometimes the mind initiates the wake-up call, sometimes the body. The latter is demonstrated by a simple example: I am hunched over a computer at work. The hours drag on. Suddenly my cramped body moves back from the desk, straightens up, stretches and fills its lungs with rejuvenating air. SHAZAM—I am awake! The body intelligence has inserted itself into my narrow mental world. Like a computer booting up, the energy level in the body surges—for the moment. It is tying these moments together that is the challenge.

RESTING IN MOTION The sleek blue heron glides with languid, graceful steps through the shallow waters of the placid bay. It is dusk . . . feeding time. The heron’s long neck and small head are so positioned that her jet-black eyes can note even the slightest undulating movement of prey in the filmy liquid lit by a setting sun.


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She is a study in the economy of movement and singleness of attention. She glides, watches, and waits. . . . Here is a lesson for human beings. By resting in the motion of life we glide through its waters, whether they be calm or turbulent. To be at rest while physically moving through the day’s activities sounds contradictory. How can there be simultaneous rest and movement? Thomas Keating answers the question this way: “the contemplative state enables one to rest and act at the same time because one is rooted in the source of both rest and action.”16 In other words, I can get up and walk to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and be fully at rest in body, mind and emotion if I am resting in their mother substance—awareness, consciousness, Spirit. Just as a line or geometric shape must begin with a point so the central point within the body-mind-heart is conscious rest. The point moves as the body moves by means of attentive presence. Resting in motion is the cure-all for this rest-less age that misconceives rest as a future reward. We say, ‘when I retire I’ll rest’, as if rest were the final compensation for hard work instead of the basis of life. This illusion is addressed in Jesus’ parable of the rich man who, after working hard to accumulate much wealth, decides to store all his goods in barns and take his deserved rest. He will “eat, drink and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee (Luke 12:19–10).”

DANCE: A MODEL OF RESTING IN MOTION When we see a great dancer perform our attention is drawn to his or her movements like a magnet. Why? Because we recognize the high level of beauty, power, economy and rightness of every move as a potential that we too possess. Without minimizing the enormous discipline, dedication, and training that such artful form demands, it is important to recognize that the root energy of any exquisite movement is simple presence. If we look closely, carefully, we see that each movement originates in a still point or center that regulates every line, curve and angle. When we submit to a daily practice of the Pause this same beauty of natural, coordinated movement emerges to become our modus operandi—in the turn of the head as someone calls our name, in bending the body to pick up an object, in walking to the car, in getting out of bed in the morning. The innovative work of Martha Graham exemplifies this natural motion. Martha Graham viewed dance holistically, as consciously executed movements emerging from an integrated body-mind-heart-spirit. Graham, a diminutive 5’3” charismatic woman, is remembered as a powerhouse of en-

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ergy and insight. She clearly embodies what Hindu Vedanta calls shakti—the power of female energy. One reporter notes her “‘extremities, roped with veins and knotted in the joints, that seem to stream light when she lifts them into dance.’”17 Graham describes the intensity in her dancing and experimental choreography as “‘divine turbulence.’”18 Although some dance buffs saw her earthy, sensuous movements as savage, Graham countered by saying that she moved from instinct, not thought. Obedience to an instinctive, emotive intelligence suggests tapping into the earth powers of the root and sacral chakras. Through innovative contractionrelease movements, spiraling, and dramatic leaps and falls Graham sought to demonstrate the power of the subtle world inherent in physical movement— what healers call the etheric body with its pulsating pranic life force. She writes: ‘I am interested only in the subtle being; the subtle body lies beneath the gross muscles. Every dance is to some greater or lesser extent a kind of fever chart, a graph of the heart.’19

Graham saw as her mission nothing less than the creation of dances that “‘give voice to the fully awakened man.’”20 Thus the dancer must master the discipline of presence and, through movement that springs from a still center, plunge into mankind’s interior landscape. Many of Graham’s experimental movements are based on ancient Eastern mystical dance forms linked to yoga-like breathing. She appears to be familiar with the chakra energies and the chakra line which becomes a dancer’s center through the power of attention. Graham speaks of the spine as a tree, the tree of life. The dancer needs to “‘respect it. At all times, the dancer should feel poised as if in flight—even when seated. . . .’”21 She explains how the body’s intelligence is discovered through careful attention to a daily set of exercises. She says: ‘ . . . the body has a lovely animal logic. It is the duty, the joy and the desire of each generation of dancers to discover more deeply all of its meanings. All these exercises must be done slowly and with great concentration. The weight is held in the center of the body during all these movements, or returned to the center after a lunge, tilt, or pitch. . . .’22

In a cryptic lesson about the interplay of movement and stillness, worthy of Zen, Graham declares: “‘It takes five years to learn to run, ten to walk, and fifteen to learn to stand still.’”23 Graham knows that the subtle beginning of any movement expressive of eternal truth is contact with the still point of one’s center.


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Martha Graham, Letter to the World (Swirl), 1940, ‘© Barbara Morgan, The Barbara Morgan Archive’, used with permission

Graham’s focus on spiral spins touches upon the archetypal significance of the spiral as a symbol of growth from a central point. “‘Everything grows on a spiral,’” says Graham.24 Power exudes from Martha Graham’s body as she whirls a spiral into the air. From microcosmic DNA molecules to the gargantuan Milky Way, the spiral pattern dictates movement. Even the heart’s pumping is accomplished through a twisting spiral motion. In Hindu mythology Shiva, god of creation and destruction, dances the universe into existence. In mirror image human beings dance to show a spiritual affinity with the lawful permutations of the great cosmic dance. Thus, tribal members perform the ceremonial rain dance to summon the rain, and whirling dervishes circle around the subtle pillar of Allah’s presence within their bodies. Whenever we are present to the movements of our bodies those movements are transformed into dance.

The Spirituality of Moving


WALKING MEDITATION We are all familiar with ‘walking off’ a problem. Somehow the rhythm of walking sets up a harmonious rhythm in the mind conducive to problem solving. Shaman don Juan Matus teaches that walking is a necessary means to unearth buried memories that need to be confronted and resolved for spiritual purification.25 Dorothy Day writes in her autobiography that praying in the traditional postures of kneeling or sitting did not yield spiritual fruit for her. It was in walking on the beach of Staten Island that words of prayer spontaneously arose from her heart and filled her with exultation.26 Walking in a meditative or contemplative manner is a longstanding monastic practice in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions. It may be that contemplative walking emerged as a means of subtly aligning the disciple with the personage of Jesus or Buddha. Jesus walked from town to town, healing people. According to Christians Isaiah prophesized the coming of Jesus as one who walks into earthly life as savior: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace (Isa. 52:7).” Legend has it that when the Buddha was born he walked immediately. As his feet touched the ground lotus blossoms—the sign of the ever-present buddha-nature in all beings—fell from his feet. In the East it is said that a sage knows all about a person from his footfall. As human locomotion has ‘progressed’ from walking to horseback, to train and car, to airplane, and now to jumbo jets that transport hundreds of people, it is relevant to ask whether these time-saving advances in transportation have removed human beings from an intimate sensory contact with Mother Earth and her creatures that simple walking nurtures. Walt Whitman pinpoints his own expansive connection with all of life when he says: “the press of my foot to the earth springs a hundred affections.”27 When we literally lose the ground of presence we are in danger of forgetting our connection to and dependence upon the natural world. How then can our movements be supportive of the global ecosystem upon which our own survival depends? The modern focus on exercise for a healthy body elevates walking for its physical advantages, such as stimulation of the cardiovascular system. But recent studies are also showing that walking stimulates the memory, attention span and other cognitive functions. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, walking becomes a spiritual meditation of great power when it is consciously performed. Thich Nhat Hanh has popularized the ancient Buddhist practice of mindful walking by making it available to the general public through his books and retreats. He explains that in walking meditation the most natural place for the attention to rest is at the space where the foot meets the earth. This is not to say that other sensory impressions are not also fully appreciated—like the


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feel of the wind on the cheek or the sun warming the back. In fact, when the mind is stilled through focused attention the entire sensory world is available. In the event that you may want to practice walking meditation now, or at a later time, Thich Nhat Hanh’s instructions are simple: attend to the steps, be aware of the breathing, and smile. WALKING MINDFULLY28: Walk at a slightly slower pace than what is habitual, but not so slow as to feel self-conscious and anxious that others may think you strange. Feel the contact between your feet and the earth. To help you concentrate you can also coordinate walking to breathing by counting the steps that measure your inhalation and exhalation. For example, I inhale, step and count 1,2,3; I exhale and count 1,2,3. Smiling conveys your own sovereignty, your innate buddha-nature. It is very satisfying to walk in silent mindfulness with someone you love. Where we walk is not important; how we walk is. That how can heal. Thich Nhat Hanh asks: do we place our anxieties on the Pure Land of Amida Buddha and thus pollute Mother Earth, or do we bestow peaceful steps? He writes: Walking mindfully on the Earth can restore our peace and harmony, and it can restore the Earth’s peace and harmony as well. We are children of the Earth. We rely on her for our happiness, and she relies on us also. Whether the Earth is beautiful, fresh and green, or arid and parched depends on our way of walking. When we practice walking meditation beautifully, we massage the Earth with our feet and plant seeds of joy and happiness with each step. Our Mother will heal us, and we will heal her.29

Chief Oren Lyons speaks in a similar way of our intimate relationship with the womb of life. At an environmental conference in California he said: ‘When we walk upon Mother Earth, we always plant our feet carefully because we know the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground. We never forget them.’30

Even in mundane activities such as cooking, cleaning the house, driving the car, mowing the lawn, or paying the bills, if movements are performed attentively, without interference from ego which inevitably prefers this or that activity, then the activity is spiritualized. Not only do we begin to experience a confirmation of the human dignity built into conscious movement but we also recognize a Larger Self to which we belong. A reverence for all life is reborn in consciousness. In Buddhist terminology, mindful movement allows us to touch the Dharmakaya—the universe as Buddha’s body.

The Spirituality of Moving


T’AI CHI CH’UAN: A MEDITATIVE BODY-MIND ART FOR HOLISTIC HEALING AND HEALTH Learning how to release blocked energy and direct a healthy flow of energy into all our bodies—physical, subtle, and spiritual—is the purpose of the ancient healing art of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. By consciously moving the physical body in prescribed ways, in coordination with measured breathing, ch’i is allowed to energize and align the spinning chakras, thus facilitating a renewal of health on all levels. While no verbal description can replace direct instruction, the following brief explanation of the history and purpose of T’ai Chi Ch’uan may enkindle an appreciation for the human capacity to self-heal through the power of conscious movement. From Taoism and Zen Buddhism have emerged a panoply of what are called martial arts.31 These arts are only ‘martial’ in the sense that their inner substance, which is meditation, also serves as the backbone of the warrior’s defense. The martial arts are forms of active meditation. T’ai Chi Ch’uan originated at a time when a devastating plague was obliterating the Chinese population. Legend has it that Emperor Yu (2205 BCE) asked the wise men of his realm to find out what was causing the plague. The wise men found stagnant waters where mosquitoes were breeding. When this situation was rectified the emperor asked the wise men to devise a method of healing whereby the waters of the body could also be kept in motion. T’ai Chi Ch’uan was born. Among the legendary physical benefits of this gentle moving meditation are: the restoration of proper circulation of body fluids such as blood, the energizing massage of internal organs, the stretching of muscles and ligaments, and the expansion of one’s breathing capacity. Just as dramatic as the physical effects of T’ai Chi are the mental-emotional benefits. As a practice in conscious movement, T’ai Chi enhances one’s ability to stay awake and aware. T’ai Chi teacher Sophia Delza attributes a healthy body-mind-heart to the power of attention. It is the thread of attention that makes possible a central theme of T’ai Chi: moving from stillness. As the master teacher, Lao Tzu, says: “The unmoved is the source of all movement. Thus the Master travels all day without leaving home.”32 By itself, says Delza, the body will repeat the automatic habits of the past. Attention, however, frees the mind and body of this mindless repetition. An attentive mind also “leads the heart to equanimity and helps the heart to be mindful of itself.”33 Delza writes: Ever-present attention is the prevailing element which prevents the body from acting mechanically and automatically. Even in the most ordinary of everyday movements, as in walking, the mind must be present, alert for any contingency.34


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The power of T’ai Chi to alleviate stress by promoting relaxation and awareness is facilitated by a basic principle of moderation which T’ai Chi teacher Bruce Frantzis calls the 70% Rule. He remarks: The 70 percent rule states that you should only do a tai chi movement, or any inner chi-energy technique, to 70 percent of your potential capacity. Striving for 100 percent inherently produces tension and stress. . . . The 70 percent rule powerfully counters the prevalent Western philosophy to never give less than 150

The Whip /Dominique Medici, used with permission

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percent, as embodied in the phrase, ‘No pain, no gain’. . . . This philosophy of strain and stress helps keep our generally overscheduled, overwhelmed society in a state of anxiety. It is a root cause of the stress syndrome, and a contributing factor to medical illness.35

The bent elbows and knees that characterize the fluid, non-doing movements of T’ai Chi exemplify this 70% Rule. A pose called The Whip displays this principle. This pose also communicates groundedness and balance. The observer senses the power emanating from the bodily center—the tan t’ien point— from which all T’ai Chi movements flow. Revealed also are the Taoist complementary qualities of yin and yang. The yang energy lends to the body pose the strength and stability of a mountain, while the lithe grace shows yin, as of a feather falling through the air. Delza explains further: The body is ‘divided’ into two sections. The upper part—torso and head—is yin, and the lower—pelvis and legs—yang. The waistline is the area of separation. Each part acts with contrasting intensities to balance the forces of power and lightness, of energy release. . . . When too much airiness (lightness) outweighs the force needed for stability, then one is vulnerable. When the strong force outweighs and eliminates the light unnecessarily, then one is brutal.36

Clearly, this is information for life, not just for the proper execution of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. When the harmonization of everything male and female, everything moving and still, reveals the hidden unity from which diversity springs then enlightenment is near. The traditional yin-yang symbol points to the unity that penetrates duality. Yin peeks out of an eyehole in the yang space and yang peeks out of an eyehole in the yin space. Watching T’ai Chi movements is like watching a slow underwater dance. Body motions are distinct yet connected in a seamless whole. When I began to study T’ai Chi the slow pace was initially difficult to maintain. In time the ease induced by this pace not only became a welcome relief but it facilitated the experience of tying together moments of awareness. In the seamless transition of one body position morphing into the next, I discovered that if my awareness faltered the body could not continue. It could not move automatically within a conscious practice. The body would stop moving and I would literally not know where I was because the whole practice is not a linear sequence of independent segments but a conscious continuum or unity. T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a demonstration of Lao Tzu’s definition of the Tao. The master writes: The Tao never does anything, Yet through it all things are done.


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yin yang

If powerful men and women could center themselves in it, The whole world would be transformed by itself, in its natural rhythms. . . .37

STOPPING BETWEEN ACTIVITIES: THE MINI-PAUSE One seeker remarks: It should be as easy to expel an obnoxious thought from the mind as it is to shake a stone out of your shoe; and till a man can do that . . . he is a mere slave, and prey to the bat-winged phantoms that flit through the corridors of his own brain.38

In order to be liberated from the ‘bat-winged phantoms’ that assail us during the day we need a tool that reinforces the formal Pause by continually re-

The Spirituality of Moving


aligning inner mental-emotional rest with outer bodily movement. We need to learn how to stop in mid-stream, as it were, between activities. Buddhists call this art of stopping shamatha. A momentary stop between activities allows underlying rest to surface. The verb to rest comes from the Latin restare which means to stop, to remain quiet, to be at ease. As a soldier is at ease between assignments so the individual can stop and rest in the Now between one action and the next. Then, as the body resumes movement in response to the next Now ‘assignment’ awareness of Now can be sustained. This line of Now is like a string that holds together the entire construction of worldly time even as it contradicts that timeline.39 In order to experience this string-like awareness let us tie small knots of rest in the string of activities between the morning and evening practice of the formal Pause and call these knots mini-pauses. The mini-pause is a compression of the Pause into a quick but potent stop. It can be used anytime and can take as little as 15 seconds. THE MINI-PAUSE: As the energy swell involved in one activity ratchets down, and one becomes aware of a momentary gap in the action before the energy crescendo required by the next activity begins, let the body come to a complete stop. For example, after folding laundry and putting it away I allow body-mind-heart to join the natural pause that connects ‘folding laundry’ to ‘going to the computer to get my email.’ Standing between the bed and the desk, I become aware of the senses opening up, especially the listening. I feel the breath slow down and deepen. The vivid textures of sensation replace feelings and thoughts. Just as a scientist is interested in the exact execution of a laboratory experiment so each sensation is fully acknowledged. Soon the amplitude of space-time is felt. Cradled in rest, body-mind-heart is being readied for the next activity. In musical compositions a rest denotes a momentary stop in the music. Rests are of various lengths. For example, the rest may be as short as a sixteenth note or as long as a whole note. These intervals of silence between musical phrases compare to the rests introduced between the ‘notes of activity’ in one’s daily rhythm. The sequence of fixing dinner/eating dinner/cleaning up, for instance, contain two obvious points of rest, noted by the slash lines. The custom of ‘saying grace’ before a meal is one such insertion of rest, a residual sign of a culture that once valued rest as the natural ground of movement. In the Middle Ages many church compositions featured a pes or ground, a single note which reverberated throughout the musical piece even as the melody line and counterpoint played above it. Like the pes, a frequent practice of the mini-pause supports the music of daily life. In time we learn to stay


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at rest in the continuous flow of the present because the ‘we’ will disappear. The rest will remain. The following practice sustains the ‘rest stop’ of each mini-pause by carrying it into the next movement. MOVING WITH AWARENESS: As you begin the next activity—say, leaving the house in the morning to go to work or take the children to school— watch the body move. Feel the earth beneath your feet. Let the sounds, sights and smells of the environment come into your awareness. If you notice that imaginings are pulling the attention ‘into the head’ stop moving, stand still for a moment and ‘regroup’—that is, return the attention to the sensory world so that the confusion caused by fusing movement with thinking is removed. Feel the feet supported by Earth energy. Feel the breath perform its cycles. With body fully in view resume moving in awareness. The sensation of ‘my body’ may liquefy and, if just for a moment, the one Body of the moving universe may be revealed. Let all movement of body-mind-heart come to a gentle stop. Simply BE . . . alert through the senses . . . resting in your own presence . . . nothing to say, nothing to think, nothing to do. . . .

NOTES 1. The Works of William Shakespeare (Roslyn, N.Y.: Walter J. Black, 1937), 247. From The Merchant of Venice Act V, Scene 1. 2. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York: Aventine Press, 1931), 40. 3. Touching the Timeless, VHS (Chicago: Biniman Productions Limited; Adrian Malone Productions Limited; BBC-TV, produced by Michael Grant and Richard Meech, 1992). 4. The Geeta: The Gospel of the Lord Shri Krishna, trans. Purohit Swami (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), 30. 5. The Geeta, 30–31. 6. From personal notes recorded at a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘Walking in Peace Today’, 11–16 Aug., 2005, Stonehill College, Easton, Mass. 7. Will Johnson, Postured Meditation, A Practical Manual for Meditators of All Traditions (Boston: Shambhala, 1996), 86. 8. Shenpa was the subject of a four-day workshop with Pema Chodron that I attended at Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, N.Y., 27–30 May, 2004. Quotation marks identify Pema’s words. 9. Jung’s teaching about the shadow side of our personalities and the need to confront negative patterns of behavior held in this shadow side resembles the teaching of shenpa.

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10. The practice of focusing developed by Eugene T. Gendlin, is based on using felt-sense to locate in the body the locus of mental-emotional disturbance. By getting quiet and letting the searchlight of attention move deeply into the body it is possible to locate a dense pocket of trapped energy created by an unresolved problem. Deep in the body itself is a message of relief which cannot be reached by intellectual analysis. When one experiences a felt-sense of the problem one contemplates this felt-sense until the correct ‘name’ of the problem springs out of the felt-sense. This ‘name’ is a ‘handle’ that exposes knowledge about the problem. Like picking up the scent of a skunk this emergence of the name out of the felt-sense initiates a body shift that releases and transmutes the repressed energy. See Eugene T. Gendlin, Focusing (New York: Bantam Books, 1981). 11. The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A.J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson (New York: HarperSan Francisco, 1996), 142. From the poem ‘Childhood Friends.’ 12. Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Boston: Shambhala, 2000), 42. 13. Ellen Barry, “Stunned Victim Turns Hero in Busful of Children”, New York Times, 3 Aug. 2007, 1(A). 14. Mark Strand, Selected Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 10. Copyright 1979,1980 by Mark Strand. Used by permission of Mark Strand. 15. Stephen Mitchell ed., The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), 38–39. Excerpt from “We Awaken in Christ’s Body” by Symeon the New Theologian, translated by Stephen Mitchell, reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. 16. Thomas Keating, Open Mind Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel (New York: Continuum, 1995), 75. Excerpts reprinted by permission of The Continuum Publishing Company. 17. Robert Coe, Dance in America (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1985), 141. 18. Coe, Dance in America, 136. 19. Coe, Dance in America, 135. 20. Coe, Dance in America, 141. 21. Horosko, Martha Graham: The Evolution of Her Dance Theory and Training (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002), xi. 22. Horosko, Martha Graham, 238. 23. Horosko, Martha Graham, xiii. 24. Horosko, Martha Graham, 239. 25. Carlos Castaneda, The Active Side of Infinity (New York: HarperPerennial, 2000), 149. 26. See Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: the Autobiography of Dorothy Day (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997), 133. Dorothy Day was a convert to Catholicism. Founder of the newspaper and social outreach agency Catholic Worker, she became a savior to many victims of the Depression in the 1930’s through her houses of hospitality. 27. Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 41.


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28. The following instructions are adapted and paraphrased from Thich Nhat Hanh, The Long Road Turns to Joy, A Guide to Walking Meditation (Berkeley, Calif: Parallax Press, 1996) and Thich Nhat Hanh, A Guide to Walking Meditation (Berkeley, Calif.: Parallax Press, VHS film). 29. Thich Nhat Hanh, The Long Road, 15. 30. Accessed 8/21/ 2007. 31. Buddhism emerged out of Hinduism as a reform movement. When realized masters of the new religion, called bodhisattvas, left India and passed through China, Buddhism picked up strands of Taoism. When it reached Japan this syncretistic product became known as Zen Buddhism. 32. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 26. 33. Sophia Delza, T’ai Chi Ch’uan: Body and Mind in Harmony, the Integration of Meaning and Method (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1985), 163. Sophia Delza established a studio in New York City where the Wu style of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, a 6 series exercise of 108 forms, is taught. I studied with a student of Sophia Delza and have been practicing T’ai Chi daily for over 10 years. 34. Delza, T’ai Chi Ch’uan, 161 35. Bruce Frantzis, The Big Book of Tai Chi: Build Health Fast in Slow Motion (London: Thorsons, 2003), 36. Reprinted by permission of Energy Arts, Fairfax, Calif. 36. Delza, T’ai Chi Ch’uan, 159. 37. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell, 37. 38. Magus Incognito, The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 1993), 126. 39. It is interesting that string theory—the newest theory in physics about the nature of the quantum field of matter/energy—proposes that ‘strings’ rather than discrete particles or particle/waves are the basic format of the physical universe. A string suggests continuous uniformity and interconnectedness of ‘parts.’ A parallel could be drawn to the nature of the present moment which in its continuous flow dissolves the divisional overlay of past/present/future. It is when we flow with the string nature of the present that we feel unburdened and at ease in our natural state of rest.

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The Spirituality of Speaking

Let the movements of the moment subside into silence and stillness. Feel the body relax into the stillness . . . with each deep, easy inhalation and exhalation of breath let any observed tensions drain down into the earth through the feet. . . . Awaken to sight . . . smell . . . taste. . . . Listen into the silence where all sound, all movement, originates. In the last chapter we examined the origin and practice of conscious movement. We found that conscious movement radiates from a still core of presence and thus reflects equilibrium at the heart of the cosmos. When living beings move from presence they sing praise to the Creator whose Body they embody and express in movement: “ Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord,” says Psalm 150. In fact the language of harmonious movement arises from a more fundamental language: patterned sound vibrations. These energy vibrations create and are each living form. When Divine Energy vibrates as sound the body of the universe in all its diversity is given birth. Lao Tzu teaches: The Tao is called the Great Mother: empty yet inexhaustible, it gives birth to infinite worlds.1

Creation then is an intricate sound matrix in which all living forms interact by means of subtle vibrations. For Pythagoras the image of the universe as a musical instrument implied that all creatures, from crystal rocks to celestial bodies, are designed as mathematically precise patterns of sound. The medieval paradigm continued Pythagoras’ metaphor. The whole universe was perceived as a series of interconnected, sounding spheres divinely lit by God’s presence. This anima mundi or world soul hums with the music of the spheres. 169


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Each living form adds another note to the symphony of life. Frogs bellow, birds warble, lions roar, mice squeak, waters gurgle, and even trees ‘groan and sigh’ in the wind. If we were really tuned in to the music of the spheres reverberating on this earthly plane we could hear the sound of grass growing or rocks eroding under the pressure of rushing water. Catholic theologian Teilhard de Chardin says: “At the center of the divine milieu all the sounds of created being are fused, without being confused, in a single note which dominates and sustains them. . . .”2 This single note is the Divine Source that composes the symphony and resounds in each form. Thomas Berry, contemporary ecotheologian, reinforces Chardin’s view, saying: In reality there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other than human. In this community every being has its own role to fulfill, its own dignity, its inner spontaneity. Every being has its own voice. Every being declares itself to the entire universe.3

As unique and beautiful as each creature’s sound is in the universal symphony it is the unparalleled versatility of the human voice that endows the human being with great power. That power is conjoined with responsibility. Human ‘freedom of speech’ is literally that: not the programming of instinct but the power of choice to dictate what is said. As we know, the words we choose, and the actions that ensue from those words, can have a nourishing or detrimental effect on those around us. As a tool of spiritual liberation speech revolutionizes human society. Teachers like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and Confucius, as well as their contemporary descendants—Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, for example—energize the ‘dream’ of heaven on earth by means of words. One of the names of Jesus is The Word. On the other hand, we know from experience that the fog of forgetting who we are and the habit of speaking from ego have interfered with our spiritual genetics and rendered the gift of divine speech sporadic at best. We participate in and witness daily the power of angry words to kill, and the power of lies to deceive and corrupt. This unloving, dishonest speech is unnatural speech. Since sound is the creative force and substance of matter it matters greatly what we say—and what we think, since thoughts are the silent words used to construct and energize our private narratives that often determine the spoken word. What will monitor this verbal architecture? What will cut through the cherished repertoire of old, habitual tunes whose lyrics repeat themselves in the head and may, if unmonitored, spill over as offensive or insensitive comments? The only positive regulating force upon human speech is

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awareness. As Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, only mindfulness can direct the mind-heart towards the natural duet of deep, compassionate listening and loving speech. Words which arise out of the natural stillness that empowers them impart harmonious vibrations into the atmosphere. Such words remind the listener, as well as the listening speaker, that he or she is born of divinity and shares a divine, primordial bond with all forms of the living universe. As Jesus said: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man (Matt. 15:11).” What comes out of the mouth identifies the condition of the mind-heart where treasured beliefs are stored. Thus, if I can connect with the stillness of my own presence before I speak, I can bypass the speech of ego and tune into the flow of loving speech that rises to meet the need of the moment. This perfect fit is what makes the words ring true. Thus, a spirituality of speaking depends upon relearning the art of playing the human instrument so that sounds are true and supportive of life. Harmonious speech in turn relies upon the cultivation of presence. The Pause teaches us to connect to the Source of speech—silence. Speech then becomes transformational in two principal ways: (1) one’s inner being is cleansed and (2) one’s fellows (of all species) are nourished and protected. The whole Earth community that is now threatened by the misuse of human speech, and the selfish actions which flow from that speech, is redeemed. Another way of expressing this potency of natural or true speech is its capacity to rebalance the guna energies so that the beauty and order of the global symphony—what the Navaho call hozho—is restored. St. James implies a responsibility inherent in human speech when he says: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures (James 1:18).” Adam as God’s emissary was charged with the duty of naming the creatures; we, his descendants, are charged with their preservation. In fact, according to Sufi teacher and musician Inayat Khan, we live a spiritual life to the degree that we remain attuned, as sounding instruments, to the natural harmony of the universe. Sufi Inayat Khan says: To obtain spirituality is to realize that the whole universe is one symphony; in this every individual is one note, and his happiness lies in becoming perfectly attuned to the harmony of the universe. . . . All the different principles and beliefs of the religions of the world . . . come naturally from the heart of someone who attunes himself to the rhythm of the universe.4

This attunement is the source not only of our own soundness in body, mind, heart, and spirit but also the potential soundness of the creatures who receive


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the energy we project by way of sound. Plants, for example, flourish when given gentle words and loving touch. Even water droplets organize themselves in harmonious—or chaotic—designs depending upon the sonic frequencies to which they are exposed. In Masaru Emoto’s fascinating study of the effect of sound on water droplets the sensitivity of water as a living substance is revealed. The first photo of water crystals subjected to spoken words shows the sanguine effect of the words ‘thank you.’ Conversely, notice how the second crystal is prevented from forming its natural shape when it is called a fool. We know the soothing effect of loving words on a crying baby, and inversely, the sparks which literally fly when two people argue. But do we fully appreciate the extent to which we subject the world—and ourselves—to spiritual healing or spiritual angst every time we speak? In order to better understand speech as a creative, transformational force, let us examine four topics: 1. 2. 3. 4.

creation as sound emerging from silence the pollution of sound through lack of presence the cleansing of sound through presence the octave of spiritual evolution: an introduction to the law of seven

two water crystals, ‘courtesy of I.H.M. Co., LTD’

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1. CREATION AS SOUND EMERGING FROM SILENCE When we understand that the material world is a sound of myriad frequencies emerging every moment from the silence of the Absolute we begin to appreciate the necessity of staying with the stillness so that the language we speak does not adversely affect this sound matrix. In fact, the Buddha teaches that “even though a speech be composed of a thousand words, but words without sense, one word of sense is better, which if a man hears he becomes quiet.”5 The idea that silence is the womb of sound provokes a mystery. How can sound emanate from an absence of sound? How can some-thing come from no thing? This question, however, arises from the assumption that sound is the fundamental reality and silence is its absence. In the same way that space is discounted when there are no material objects in it, so sounds, which are the ephemeral forms of the universe, are mistaken for the substantial ground of procreation—silence—in whose enduring presence all possible sounds rest. This procreative Silence is analogous to the white Light that creates the prism of rainbow colors. Nevertheless, there is a mystery here—the mystery of Silence itself, the mystery of who we are. This mystery intensifies when we realize that Silence both observes and is the myriad forms created by Its first-born: sound. For instance, I am conversing with a friend about a problem she has. From out of silence, from out of a primeval awareness in which our conversation is taking place, come the right words to assist her. How does this happen? How does silence know what to say? In religious lore various Creation stories give archetypal images of form emerging out of silence through the agency of sound. Essentially the stories tell of a Divine Being, silent, alone, but pregnant with possibility. This Being stirs Itself and out of a dark, fecund void brings forth a world of diverse forms and riotous colors wherein Being plays. How is this feat done? By sound. The Quiche Mayans, an indigenous people of Meso-America, relate in their bible— the Popol Vuh—that before the voice of the Mother-Father formed the Earth and all creatures “there was nothing which could make a noise, nor anything which might move, or tremble . . . There was only immobility and silence in the darkness, in the night.”6 Similarly the Book of Genesis describes elements of darkness, emptiness and silence that precede the beginning of life. God speaks out of the silence: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. (Gen. 2–3)


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The sound of God’s voice, emerging from the silent void, rides upon the divine breath—spiritus—to become audible, then visible and palpable as matter. Light, as the first emanation of divine energy, radiates as the aura around each material form. In and by light (which is vibration) the profusion of Creation unfolds. The Psalmist describes the whole universe as vibrating with God’s words: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. (Ps. 19:1–3)

In The Gospel of John, the genesis of Creation is identified with Jesus as the Word made flesh (John 1:1). The Word is in the beginning as the creative impulse of the Father; yet I (Jesus as Word) and my Father (as Silence) are One. When John the Baptist introduces this Word he is “the voice of one calling in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord (Matt. 3:3).” The incarnate Word reconciles the Creation to its Creator after the breach of the Fall and models the human role of speaking words of reconciliation. In his in-depth study of ancient Egyptian civilization, Serpent in the Sky, John Anthony West recounts the Egyptian myth of how the Creation began. Tum, the One, is Unity. Tum looks at himself, which brings into being Atum (the number 2—duality) from the primeval waters of Nun. If we take the ‘primeval waters’ to be silence then the One begins Creation in silence by looking into a mirror. That look is a sound that divides Tum into Tum and Atum. However, this division is only apparent, a stratagem whereby dualism (the power to create an opposite or complement, rather like yin/yang) sets in motion more numbers and harmonic patterns which form the numerous manifestations of this Creation as vibrating sounds. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead it says of the One who creates the Many: “‘I am the Eternal, I am Ra . . . I am that which created the Word . . . I am the Word.’”7 We are not fooled when we look at our own image in a mirror; we see two, but we know there is one. Yet when we look around us what do we see? Forms different and separate from us. This error in perception arises from the limited self or ego. With ego at the helm mind-heart disregards the reality that the One contains all beings in the same way as Silence subsumes all sounds. Speech becomes propaganda for dualistic thinking. In one Hindu creation story Brahmā, the Creator, sits upon a lotus in the primeval waters and meditates upon the name of the One—the unpronounced mantra OM.8 From the void a silent sound—the nada sound—emerges from the heat of Brahmā’s meditation. Like a point radiating into infinite space the nada sound bursts forth in an explosion of consciousness called a sphota. In-

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OM and the guna

deed, like the Big Bang theory of modern physics, this sunburst or sphota of the Absolute creates the universe and continues to be the fire of creative energy by which every living form is sustained.9 The Creation is none other than a divine projection of God as Word. Referring to the Sanskrit word for creation—srishti, which means projection, the Hindu teacher Vivekananda says: “What nonsense is meant by saying ‘God created things out of nothing.’ The universe is projected out of God. He becomes the universe and it all returns to Him, and again it proceeds forth and again returns.”10 The sphota that bursts from Silence to create living form is OM. When this sublime seed sound enters Creation as a pronounced sound it reveals in its three-fold constitution the origin of the guna energies which regulate the universe. OM (AUM) is made of AH (sattva), OO (rajas) and M (tamas). OM generates, sustains, and dissolves the universe. It is the master sound that draws the human being back in meditation to the silence of the Absolute that he or she is.11 The radiating perfection of the seed sound OM is revealed in its vibrational image.12 The mythic image of the descent of sacred energy into the world as creative sound is the god Shiva in a dancing pose. From Shiva’s feet fall the Sanskrit alphabet of sounds that become the building blocks of all living forms.13 Just as the vibrational power of OM maintains the universe and makes selfrealization possible by setting the chakras of each human being in motion so in the esoteric philosophy of the Hopi Indians the Creator, Taiowa, sounds His wisdom through the vibratory centers along Mother Earth’s axis, communicating with all created beings whose songs of praise He receives in return. Earth’s axis is replicated in the microcosm of the human axis, the vibrating chakra line.14


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seed sound OM, ‘from Sacred Geometry by Robert Lawlor, by permission of Thames & Hudson, Inc. New York’

Calling Spirit Just as the world is called into being by Absolute Silence through the medium of sound, so human beings reach into the silence of their hearts to find speech to call upon the Absolute. They compose liturgies to affirm their faith, request blessings, and offer praise or thanksgiving. Through prayers, invocations, vows and creeds worshippers seek to harness divine energy for spiritual purification. They seek a way back to the Silence and Its peace. Muslims seek the silence—and the peace (which is one of the meanings of Islam)—through Shahadah. The believer begins his Shahadah or profession of faith by declaring La Illaha illa la; there is no God but God. This is the first pillar of Is-

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dancing Shiva

lam. According to the second pillar he must pray his faith five times a day. The Muslim who takes on the rigorous demands of Sufism attempts continuous prayer. The Qur’an also advises the devotee to bring to mind prayer verses of Shahadah whenever he or she is harassed by negative feelings such as anger or envy. The purpose of an invocation (from Latin in-vocare to call on), whether spoken or sung, is to summon the power(s) one believes in to bless, inspire, help and guide one’s life. In the practice of karma yoga, for example, before beginning an action one dedicates that action to the Absolute by an invocation


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such as paramatmane namah, a bow (namah) to the supreme (param) self (Atman). This promise of commitment, percolating up from the silence of presence, sanctifies the work in advance. The Upanishads are full of fervent invocations ‘to the Lord.’ In the EeshaUpanishad the devotee cries: They have put a golden stopper into the neck of the bottle. Pull it, Lord! Let out reality. I am full of longing. . . . Holy light! Illuminate the way that we may gather the good we planted. Are not our deeds known to you? Do not let us grow crooked, we that kneel and pray again and again.15

Invocations ask for relief and rescue from the temptation to ‘grow crooked’—to sin. Sin is falling into the loud din of false beliefs that obscures the Silent One—one’s true and perfect Self. In order to remove the noise that disconnects the devotee from Self, religions institute formal words of prayer that serve as bridges of reconnection. For example, Hail Holy Queen, a prayer to Mary included in the practice of the rosary, is a plea for help: Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, Hail our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

At the Zen Mountain monastery at Mt. Tremper, NY, a visitor to the Sunday Buddhist liturgy is reminded to stay centered in silent mindfulness while reciting the historical lineage of bodhisattvas to the resounding wake-up calls of gongs, bells, and drums. Then, in chanting The Four Great Vows one pledges solidarity with all beings and promises to realize in oneself the buddha-nature: Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them. Desires are inexhaustible; I vow to put an end to them. The Dharmas are boundless; I vow to master them. The Buddha Way is unattainable; I vow to attain it.16

The call to Spirit by indigenous peoples is a way of entering the Sacred Silence where all knowledge and help abides. The Navaho believe that the Creator, meditating in silence, chanted the world into existence. It is the task of human beings to imitate the Creator by chanting the world into existence every morning. It is also the duty of the elders, especially the shaman, to pass down orally the tribal wisdom first spoken to the ancestral Holy People by the Creator. According to the Navaho, “speech is the outer form of thought and thought is the inner form of speech.”17

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Shamans use sound as an essential part of healing rituals. Chanting of prayers is often accompanied by the repetitive sound of a drum and/or rattle that facilitates the shaman’s plunge into non-ordinary reality—the world of spirits. In calling upon the spirits for help the shaman will often imitate the sounds of his own spiritual guardian or power animal (or plant) who has revealed itself, by means of vision quests, to be an aspect of the shaman’s soul. Some indigenous peoples believe that certain sacred places in the landscape possess power songs. As the Australian Aborigine travels by a certain rocky cave or grove of trees, for example, he copies his Dream Time ancestors by creating anew the songline of that living landscape. Only an animate being can sing. If enough human beings realized that Earth is a living, singing being, how might the changed quality of human sound bring about the end of desecration and the beginning of regeneration of life on Earth?

2. THE POLLUTION OF SOUND THROUGH LACK OF PRESENCE The sounds which come out of our mouths create the environment in which we, and others around us, live: as within, so without. We are, by nature, made of pure sound because we are made in God’s image. But when we are ‘asleep’, listening to the stale ideas, feelings and beliefs that are chattering in our heads and resonating in our hearts, how can we speak what is true? The content and even the tone of our speech will be colored by partiality, and at a baser level, by hypocrisy. Jesus exposes this shadow play when he says: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me (Matt. 15:8).” For Christians only the saving words of Christ drown out the voice of the serpent in the Garden. Even words that appear harmless, which are said unintentionally, are energies with effect. Indeed, lack of presence is a sound—like the humming of florescent lights in an empty room. The vacuum which lack of presence creates surrounds each person like a cocoon, cutting off meaningful communication and aggravating social conflict. St. James gives a scalding description of the unbridled tongue: If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. . . . But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. . . . Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. (James 3:3–10)


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The power of sound to mobilize action for good or ill is in everyone’s experience. Isaiah summons the Israelites to awaken to God’s voice and shun the voice of ego, for “ I am the Lord thy God . . . And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand . . . Thou art my people (Isa. 51:15–16).” The story of the Tower of Babel recounts the origin of polluted sound. In the great city of Babylon human beings become so arrogant they think they can build a tower straight to the Almighty. God topples the tower and confuses the people by creating a multiplicity of tongues to replace the one language that symbolizes their unity and harmony. It was the descent of the Holy Spirit into the company of Jesus’ disciples at Pentecost that enabled people once again to understand each other and even to speak in unknown tongues of the Spirit. Misunderstandings—babble—continue to fuel conflicts at social and global levels. According to Confucius a civil society depends upon good relationships—li—because self is perceived as a network of relationships. One aspect of li—The Doctrine of the Mean—advocates negotiation through dialogue. When opponents speak to each other they use a weapon less lethal than physical force to mend their differences. To know what to say and what not to say in the moment is an exercise in discrimination. Discrimination requires a pause in the action, a momentary stepping back that allows the level of awareness to rise so that speech becomes a conscious act. By practicing the Pause the power of discrimination is strengthened. An interpersonal meditation practice called insight dialogue, devised by Buddhist teacher Gregory Kramer, cultivates one’s ability to observe and relinquish reactive patterns of thought, feeling and speech that deter the development of healthy relationships necessary for a stable society. At retreats and group meetings people are instructed to sit in pairs and consider a topic—for example, fear, freedom, or forgiveness—from a spiritual perspective. Inevitably, personal reactive patterns arise in conversation to color the exchange. Whenever the play of one’s habitual self-image is seen each partner is invited to stop or ‘pause’, relax, breathe and sink into mindfulness before resuming the verbal interaction. By pausing often in this non-threatening environment, partners learn to recognize and share with each other insights about their protective armor seen from a backdrop of shared awareness. The communal effects are evidenced by an increase in compassionate listening and a greater comfort in speaking truthfully.18 Hindu Vedanta teaches that speech develops in a sequential way in the body. It passes from a causal or spiritual ‘location’, into the subtle world of mind, and

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finally into physical manifestation as spoken words. As sound makes it bodily journey towards audible speech it can be checked and modified at certain points along the way. Like the ocean at its deepest level parā is a space of deep silence, located near the navel. Seed sounds are born here but the vibrations begin to manifest at the next level, pashantī—the subtle resonating chamber of the heart. In the heart reside all possible sounds; all knowledge is held here in readiness to be used by an individual. The vibrations of a pure heart reflect the stillness of parā. As Jesus says: “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8).” At the level of ‘mind’ or madyamā, located at the throat chakra, the moving waters of thought and feeling become more apparent and thus more easily monitored. A decision to speak or not to speak, to modify what will be spoken, and even to lie, happens at this mental junction. Finally, vaikharī is the often turbulent surface of the ocean where words manifest on the tongue. The sudden wisdom that appears ‘out of the mouth of babes and sucklings’ reflects pure presence and innocence. If we do not grow wiser as we grow older (in the sense of learning the value of being-present) vaikharī will grow accustomed to spewing out sounds indiscriminately and mechanically. In the practice below we are urged to strengthen observation of this journey of sound into audible speech. SPEAKING FROM AWARENESS: Rumi says: “A white flower grows in the quietness. Let your tongue become that flower.”19 As you move about, observe how the power of attentive silence delivers the right words at the right time, without premeditation. Conversely, if you awaken to a rush of words delivered mechanically know that the act of observing this habitual behavior is disrupting and weakening it. Meditation using a mantra or sacred word reverses the upward route of sound, cutting through the familiar babble in the head to steer the attention down to a place of rest deep in the body-mind-heart where words are no longer necessary. In The Way of a Pilgrim, for example, a Russian peasant recounts the development of his practice of the prayer of the heart—a prayer of supplication thought to have originated in the monastic communities of the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the first centuries after Jesus’ death. The words of the prayer of the heart—‘Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me’—are repeated until they resound in the pilgrim’s mind and then silently descend into the heart as impurities are progressively purged. The pilgrim feels the fire of God’s love branded upon his heart until it ‘burns.’ His whole body pulsates as if the words had entered his autonomic nervous system. The result of this alchemy is a virtuous life, lit by the perfect alignment of words and actions.20


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Blessed Callistus Patriarch, Greek Father of the first millennium, uses a musical analogy to describe the way in which attentive prayer ‘guards’ mind and heart and leads the lover of God to union. He writes: The dulcimer is the heart; the strings—the feelings; the hammer—remembrance of God; the player—mind. By remembrance of God and of Divine things the mind draws holy feelings from the God-fearing heart, then ineffable sweetness fills the soul, and the mind, which is pure, is lit up by Divine illuminations. The dulcimer player perceives and hears nothing but the melody he enjoys. So the mind, during active prayer, descends into the depths of the heart with sobriety and can no longer listen to aught but God.21

When we can ‘no longer listen to aught but God’ then we will speak the words of God. Conscious words of blessing and goodwill emit power for good relationships; but they need reinforcement. For example, the marriage vow of I do must be continually refreshed with words of love. There is a story about a couple who seek counsel from a minister because the wife is complaining that the husband does not love her anymore. The minister asks the husband, “Is this so?” the husband replies, “Of course not; I love her.” “Do you tell her that you love her?” asks the minister. Puzzled the husband replied, “What for? I told her that when I married her; isn’t that enough?” Not only the health of marriages but all social and global relationships totter on the pendulum swings of our tongues. Interior Speech Unless discrimination is awakened through the practice of awareness we will continue to treasure the private towers of babel that resonate in mind-heart. Even if these beliefs and ideas are not voiced it is important to realize their considerable power as interior speech. Such inner sounds can stunt mentalemotional development. Mohammad Ali says that he spent his entire young life trying to overcome the words of an elementary school teacher imprinted in his mind: “You’ll never amount to anything.” To break the spell of such sentences it is necessary to consciously evaluate whether these power sounds are ghiza-I-ruh—the Islamic term for ‘food for the soul’—or poison. It may be that a sentence such as I don’t like papayas is fairly inconsequential to our mental and spiritual well-being. But to repeat, as a mantra, I can’t make friends or I am stupid has disastrous potential. Rumi warns his followers that spiritual health depends upon the receipt and digestion of true words which by-pass the imaginings of ego. The poet writes:

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If you take in my words but do not digest them you’ll have to color every truth with your own imaginings. O man, you drink from an empty cup while the precious wine gets poured in the gutter, You drink from the well of your own delusion while spitting out these sweet and ancient words. If you eat stale bread thinking that it’s fresh, all you’ll get is a stomachache.22

It is heartening to know that even a destructive sound that is well embedded in the mind-heart can be defused through the power of observation generated by presence. In presence a positive thought wave can be substituted for the negative one. Affirmations are of this nature. Intent An important facet of speech is intent. Since thought is energy then intent vibrates in the air without a word being spoken. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the intent to sin, though not as grave as the act itself, is not without blame. Jesus says, for example, that the thought of adultery in the mind is a sin. The power of good intent can make words superfluous. In the Hindu tradition there is a story of a devout man who practices bhakti yoga (the way of devotion) by meditating upon the name of his favorite goddess. One day the goddess appears and praises the man for his devotion. He is filled with joy and humbly bows before the goddess. As she turns to leave the smiling goddess remarks, “Oh, incidentally, you are mispronouncing my name.” Obviously, intent in prayer outweighs ‘political correctness’! In his explanation of centering prayer Thomas Keating describes the significance of the practitioner’s “intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.”23 Even when the mind drifts away into imaginings God knows our original intent and simply awaits our return to the Divine Indwelling. In centering prayer a self-chosen sacred word is used to reorient the practitioner to the initial pure intention. The unnatural breach between thought (intent) and speech is a lie. The Mosaic law warns against the sin of ‘bearing false witness against one’s neighbor’—that is, lying. The power of a lie to debase a whole kingdom is


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powerfully elucidated in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. When the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears in Act I, Scene 4 Marcellus sets the tone of the entire play with his remark: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”24 That rotten thing is Claudius, murderer of his brother the king. In Act III, Scene 3 Claudius attempts to pray; yet even as he prays to God with his mouth his heart seethes with ambition. He shows a momentary recognition of the selfimposed hell that encloses him when he articulates the agony he feels in this whispered lament: O my offence is rank, it smells to heaven. . . .Pray can I not, though inclination be as sharp as will: My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent. . . .My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.25

3. THE CLEANSING OF SOUND THROUGH PRESENCE Spiritual teachers say that the ultimate method for cleansing the inner sounds that constrict us is a regular meditative practice. The Pause is one such practice. In addition, some religions have specific disciplines which address the choice of whether our words will be weapons or peace-offerings. For instance, right speech, one of the practices in the Buddhist Eight-fold Path, depends upon mindfulness. Mindful speech is responsive, not reactive. It emerges from egoless listening. A story illustrates this practice. A man visits the Buddha. The man is distraught because everything in his life seems to be going wrong. In his anger he denounces the Buddha for allowing his life to fall apart. The Buddha says nothing; he sits serenely listening. The lack of reaction on the part of the Buddha alerts the man in the middle of his harangue. He stops and asks the Buddha, “Why aren’t you reacting? I have heaped blame upon you for my sorry condition.” The Buddha replies, “If someone gives you a gift and you do not receive it, to whom does it belong?” The man replies: “To the man who gave it.” Chastened and ashamed, the man takes refuge in the Buddha.

From the Sufi tradition we hear similar advice. Rumi says: “People who insult me are only polishing the mirror.”26 The four practices below are designed to help us speak in our true voice. These practices rely for their power on connecting the attentive faculty of mind to the senses; in other words, the Pause in action. Practice 1: Listening to the sound of your voice When we listen to our voices we may not like what we hear. Change comes with acceptance of the way things are. As teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn is fond of

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saying: “Be with what is and love it because it is.”27 Only by listening is the voice led to its natural register and ease. The strident tone, for example, which reflects tension in the body-mind-heart, is removed when the cause of tension is seen and progressively released. As we hear and name the emotional content behind our words we begin to have power over what we say. Listening to the sound of the voice keeps us present. It disengages the mind-heart from familiar sounds in the head that prejudice conversations with others. For example, an internal sound like ‘my boss hates me’ can so infiltrate a conversation between my boss and me that I hear that belief being corroborated in the boss’s words. My cramped reply will affirm the negativity I superimposed on his words. Inner conversation (when we talk to ourselves) is a superimposition upon the only two legitimate activities in any real conversation: listening and speaking. If I am present I can prefer the live conversation to the canned one in my head. When the door of awareness opens, hidden motivations are seen. The habit of using words to impress, bait, nag, and put down others, for example, may be recognized and if self-criticism is avoided by a neutral listening these egobound sounds will gradually lose their quota of energy. If you find yourself interrupting the speaker or rehearsing what you plan to say next, or wondering whether your words—and you—are being approved of, stop, open the awareness by means of the senses, and redirect your attention to the speaker’s words. In fact, you may even say candidly, ‘I didn’t catch a word you said just now; I was off in a dream.’ It is likely that your partner in conversation was also absent. Practice 2: Saying only what is necessary In modern society we eat on the run, work on the run, and talk on the run. We tend to talk too fast and too much. Small talk is precisely that: talk about small matters. Because we are usually inattentive we tend to repeat ourselves and misunderstand what others are saying—which leads to more talking and more wasted energy. Slowing down the metronome of our body movements through presence coincides with slowing down the movement of speech. A slower pace provides the opportunity to remember the silence and allow the necessary words to be spoken without slipping into the self-conscious trap of orchestrating the conversation. If no words arise we can learn to find mutual comfort in silence instead of habitually rushing in to cover the silence with words. Usually it requires certain circumstances, such as sitting in a church or a doctor’s waiting room, to make us feel at ease with silence. We can learn about being at ease with silence from the Western Apache who have instituted in their culture an appreciation of silence as the means of avoiding embarrassing or disruptive social occasions. For example, the initial


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awkwardness of courting is ameliorated by the custom of sweethearts sitting in each other’s company for as long as an hour without talking.28 Shakespeare’s assessment of measured speech says it all. In the words of Hamlet to the players: Speak the speech I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. . . .Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. . . .29

In this way, says Hamlet, one avoids immoderate speech that favors loud braggadocio and is diametrically opposed to the ‘temperance’ and ‘smoothness’ of natural speech.30 Listening in silence can reveal the mood of the person we are with and elicit a helpful response. When the husband, for example, comes home after a long day at the office, the wife may realize that he needs quiet time to unwind and so, instead of feeling neglected, she can wait for his readiness to converse. On the other hand, the empathy of a husband, communicated by a few soothing words, may be the perfect antidote for the wife who has been dealing with a fitful baby all day. In silence the husband may perceive this need and give those necessary words. As Rumi advises: Now be silent. Let the One who creates the words speak. He made the door, He made the lock, He also made the key.31

Practice 3: Tuning the body-mind-heart with healing sounds Sound therapy, one of a number of complementary healing modalities, experiments with ways of retuning and reharmonizing mind-body vibrations through sound. For example, the healing tones of crystal bowls—a contemporary form of Tibetan singing bowls—are used to rebalance inner vibrations in the body which, incidentally, is composed in part by millions of crystals. Tuned to different notes of the musical octave each bowl has a particular power to tune a particular chakra. For example, the FA note of the diatonic scale is traditionally associated with cleansing and strengthening the heart chakra, seat of compassion. A story attributed to the spiritual school of Pythagoras shows how soothing sounds relieve mental-emotional imbalance. A young man, jilted by his sweetheart and seething with anger, piles up sticks around the foundation of the young lady’s house, intending to burn it down. A member of the Pythagorean community begins to play the lute so sweetly that the young man’s rage dissipates and he returns home without committing the crime.32 In ancient Greece it was common to play serene music to expectant mothers—a therapy which our modern medical world has rediscovered.

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Just as musical instruments need tuning so the body, as a musical instrument, needs a tuning regimen of pure sound. Jean Klein writes in Living Truth: “Every organ in our body is a vibration. All the organs in our body are like a symphony of sounds. When the organ loses its precise vibration, then it is ill. . . .33 Healing through sound depends upon the establishment of tonal conjunction, or entrainment. The falling of the walls of Jericho, for example, may have coincided with a specific pitch and intensity of the trumpet blast. Clocks hung side by side will in time attune themselves to an identical swing of their pendulums. Using a microscope, one can watch as two muscle cells of the heart, each pulsing to its own individual rhythm, synchronize when they move closer together. This urge to synchronize is the spiritual law of interconnectedness at work in the manifest Creation. Entrainment is central to new research in healing with sonic energy patterns. It has been found that the heightened state of consciousness that meditation promotes can be induced through technologies using sound. When a person is hooked up to a brain machine that manufactures alpha frequencies his or her brainwaves imitate those of the machine. Sharry Edwards’ groundbreaking Bio-Acoustics reveals that when a personal sound frequency pattern is disrupted by illness health can be restored by exposing the person to his or her ‘missing note.’34 Note the correspondence between these new sound technologies that restore a patient’s internal harmony and the ancient shamanic process of retrieving and restoring the lost aspect of a patient’s soul by means of meditative chanting and drum-playing. Mitchell Gaynor, whose medical practice was transformed by his interest in sound therapy, writes: We carry in our bodies every trauma, every negative idea or emotion that we choose to embrace. If you translate the idea in energetic terms, we become ‘out of tune’ with our essence when deleterious mind states rule the body. But I am equally convinced that each of us has the innate capacity to vibrate in harmony with our essence.35

By waking up to the superimposition of false ideas on ‘essence’ we start a conscious tuning process at the cellular level so that the divine musical score of this essence is restored. Christian monk and teacher, Lawrence Freeman, gives meditation the major role in reestablishing our entrainment with the Divine. He writes: We are like a piece of music played on many different instruments. . . . If, as happens to all of us, we feel less than whole, if we feel a disharmony somewhere, a distress, a discontent, a depression or anxiety, then we need as the major priority of the moment to restore true musicality to our being. . . . How do we discover what we really sound like? How do we find our true self? . . . Every


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spiritual tradition teaches meditation as the way. We come into resonance with a harmony that is greater than our own interrupted harmony. We are drawn into completeness of harmony by listening to a deeper harmony. . . .36

The human attribute of speech is a property of the throat chakra. By a conscious practice of sounding, or toning, the voice is released from habitual sounds that reflect a distorted self-image. As sound purifies by means of conscious listening, enriched energy is set free to invigorate the body cells, cleanse the subtle chakra system, and in time remove mental-emotional impurities. Appendix II offers a practice in sounding. Singing is another way of cleaning out mental-emotional debris and introducing fresh energy into the body. Whether we sing while we work, croon a lullaby to a baby, sing in a choir (or even in the shower), the effect is therapeutic. Research shows that certain music boosts endorphin production in the body and thereby fortifies the immune system. The act of singing would appear to extend greater health benefits than just listening to a song because of the organic experience of the sound. Isaiah exclaims: “Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem (Isa. 52:9).” Likewise, St. Paul instructs new converts to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Col. 3: 15–16).” The Holy Bible and the Torah are full of references to celestial choirs of angels singing around the throne of God and sometimes coming to visit human beings. The Kabbalah states that in chanting the names of God the devotee is attuned to the sacred harmonies of the universe. This connection to the universe or One Song produces healing—tikkun. In fact, the Zohar or Book of Splendor says that a person only enters the gates of Paradise through song. This insight may indicate an alchemy in which the transposition of speech into song produces a rise in energy so that one is more easily transported into a heightened state of consciousness. Sufis believe that the devotee is a song offered to Allah. As such he cannot help but sing. As Kabir explains about the origin of his song poems: “I hear the melody of His flute, and I cannot contain myself.”37 In Eastern religions singing is often aligned with the practice of meditation. Chanting kirtans (Hindu songs of praise and devotion) and holy mantras purify mind-heart in the journey to Self-realization. A tantric branch of Tibetan Buddhism employs a chanting meditation that is unique. It originates in the ancient monastic practice of sounding a mantra in unison on a very low pitch. This DO reverberates until, through the concentrated force of the sounding, the harmonic intervals or overtones belonging to the DO appear and resound like rungs of a ladder headed straight into the heavens.38

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4. THE OCTAVE OF SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE LAW OF SEVEN In esoteric teachings of the East and the West the Law of Seven is the octave of spiritual evolution. It is useful to understand this octave for we shall travel it if we commit to a spiritual journey in this life. The Law of Seven describes seven steps or mystical stages in the purification and illumination of the soul. Realization of each step is totally dependent upon remembering the initial pulse of Unity which, though named by religions, is beyond name. This allencompassing Unity or Law of One is the point from which the myriad geometrical lines of Creation are drawn. It is also the still point of presence. In the West, Greek philosopher Pythagoras related his discovery of the frequencies of the measured intervals of the diatonic (major) scale of seven notes to the harmonious operation of the universe. According to the law of consonance, if the vibrations emitted by a human being align with the vibrations of the cosmos the result is health of body, mind-heart, and spirit. Disease in the individual and society is the result of dissonance. Furthermore, Pythagoras used the progression of the scale as a sign of the Law of Seven at work in the octave of spiritual evolution.39 Each note of the musical scale relates to the initial DO according to precise mathematical proportions. Below is a diagram showing these Pythagorean proportions. Just as the notes of the scale ‘ascend’ in constant reference to DO as their origin—for example, the SOL reveals its strong character through the relationship to DO as the major fifth or half-cut of the octave—so the DO of presence is the still point of awareness and essential source of energy to which each successive stage or ‘note’ of spiritual evolution must depend for manifestation. Thus the ascent is a wholeness and a progression. We are divine but we still have to become divine in practice.

musical scale with Pythagorean proportions/Dominique Medici, used with permission


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Furthermore, each ascending ‘step’ or sound contains the steps before it and cannot stand on its own. Indeed, the metaphor of a vertical ascent is in a sense illusory as one never really moves from the initial DO of perfection that we are. Just as the top DO is a magnification—a doubling of frequency—of the base DO (the ratio 2/1), so the return to a human being’s initial perfection is the full realization of the eternal Self. Images of the spiritual octave appear in the mythic metaphors of many religions: the cosmic mountain, the pillar of the world, and the cosmic tree are three such universal images. But perhaps the most informative and practical metaphor is the mystic ladder of seven rungs. This mystic ladder actually resides within our bodies as a “mystical physiology.”40 The rising of kundalini energy through the octave of seven chakras is an auspicious signal of spiritual metamorphosis. Whereas the Greek (Orphic) and Persian (Mithraic) rites of initiation used an actual ceremonial ladder to conduct the initiate into the mysteries of death and resurrection, the mystic ladder is usually a contemplative device that aids the soul in its alchemical work.41 Hindu Vedanta provides two meditative ladders: the ladder of knowledge for practitioners of jnana yoga and the ladder of devotion for practitioners of bhakti yoga. Jewish Kabbalah presents the sefirot, pictured as both tree and ladder, to delineate ten emanations or Divine Names that descend from En Sof—the Light of the Divine—to become the spiritual DNA of all creatures in God’s earthly kingdom or Shekhinah.42 Just as the Divine Names signal a descent of Divine Consciousness, unfolding through a series of seven heavens to final manifestation as the living forms of the natural world of Earth, so by meditatively sounding these divine attributes the aspirant seeks to ascend through successively finer levels or veils of consciousness and return to the Nameless One. The Biblical account of Jacob’s dream depicts this flow of divine energies in the guise of angels ascending and descending a ladder. The formulation of the Christian mystic ladder, attributed to twelfth century St. Bernard of Clairvaux, uses the broad strokes of purgation, illumination and divine union to depict the ‘ascent’ of the divine spark called the soul. The actual incentive to move through these three stages is a prior and profound awakening.43 When the soul awakens to a sense of deprivation, contradicted by a memory of initial abundance, a sea-change happens in the life. St. Teresa of Avila describes this first step as the desire to enter into one’s own interior castle—a metaphor for the soul—and begin the journey inward towards the center, the throne room of the Lord. The door of the castle is conscious prayer. Good company, even crises, help to push us through that door, says Teresa, but the passage is dangerous, because the alienated soul is weak,

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sefirot /from Jewish People, Jewish Thought, first edition, by Robert M. Seltzer © 1982, p. 431. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc. Upper Saddle River, NJ.

veiled with a “thick black cloth as over a crystal.”44 We must cling, therefore, to conscious prayer to protect the soul from assaults by venomous creatures, which figure in Teresa’s metaphor as the impediments that surround the soul and block the light. This awakening is the note RE. If you sound DO to RE you will hear a great space between the two notes. A threshold is being crossed, from


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stability to the unknown. An adventure is beginning, a rite of passage, that cannot be planned, only received. Traversing this passage the soul must submit to being purged of the obstacles—the sins—that have alienated her from God. Purgation reveals the underlying illumination of the soul’s inherent wisdom. In time the soul may fully realize her absolute nature and dissolve into God through divine union. These are huge steps, threaded together by mini-steps that depend upon the practice of presence. The steps can overlap as well. For example, when the soul is purged of the habit of impatience it is simultaneously illuminated by the virtue of patience. The mystic Suso was known to swing between the highs of illuminated joy and the lows of wretched mortification—a kind of divine bipolarism. It could be said that, once awakened, the soul undergoes purgation until every drop of ego energy is transmuted. Rumi offers a powerful formulation of this process. Assuming the voice of Allah he says: You are burning in the flames But I will not let you out until you are fully baked, fully wise, and fully yourself.45

Mystics of all religions regard the ladder as a sacred commitment that is endangered by arrogance. Thus, the virtue of humility plays a significant role in the spiritual octave. Rumi says, for example, “Stay low like the grass and let His soft petals fall upon your head.”46 It is the attrition and transmutation of ego energy that is central to the soul’s progression. Terese of Lisieux sought out occasions when she (as ego) could be humiliated in imitation of Jesus. Humility requires the courage to do without the defensive weaponry of ego. Bede Griffiths, Benedictine monk and founder of Shantivanam, a HinduChristian ashram community in India, describes how a crisis accelerated the purging of his ego: I had the experience of a stroke in 1989. I was completely laid out and couldn’t speak or walk for over a week. But as I came round, I found my ego, my mental consciousness, had been knocked down. It was as though I had a blow on the head . . . I saw everything embraced as a unity, as a harmony, instead of disunity and divided. I feel it was the opening of the deep Self, of Love. . . . I believe that any serious accident, disease, or loss in life can be a means of breakthrough . . . If one accepts it as Providence and surrenders to the process, one finds the emerging of the deep Self. . . .47

The Spirituality of Speaking


If, as Pythagoras suggests, the mystic rungs of the spiritual journey coincide in quality with the seven notes of the musical scale then each note vibrates with its ‘sister’ spiritual quality. In regards to the pivotal spiritual experience of purgation, for example, which requires surrender, the musical octave reflects a tone of surrender at two critical intervals: between MI and FA and between SI and DO. At these points spiritual teachers say that a boost of energy is needed to step over the spiritual chasm.48 To reach the fourth step of FA, at which the heart chakra opens, an infusion of energy may come from a teaching or teacher, or a spiritual school. Again, the unfinished nature of the octave is painfully audible at the note SI which yearns in tone towards unity. The upper DO draws the SI into itself. Terese of Lisieux describes this interval in her autobiography. Suffering from tuberculosis at the end of her short life she offers herself to Jesus as a little child who cannot, by her own effort, make this last arduous step on the stairway to heaven. She says: “it is your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up.”49 The Absolute meditates in silence to become the Creation through the agency of sound. The human being meditates in silence through the agency of sound to become Absolute. Silence moves towards speech; speech towards silence. As we step upon the mystic ladder let us gain solace from the words that Virgil speaks to Dante in Purgatorio: Such is this steep ascent, That it is ever difficult at first, But more a man proceeds, less evil grows. When pleasant it shall seem to thee, so much That upward going shall be easy to thee As in a vessel to go down the tide, Then of this path thou wilt have reach’d the end There hope to rest thee from thy toil.50

In silence become aware of the body. Relax. Listen to the sounds around you. . . . Let the listening move through the sounds to connect with the silence from which sounds emerge and into which they fade in obedience to life’s perpetual cycles of ebb and flow.

NOTES 1. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 6. 2. Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), 119–120.


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3. Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future (New York: Bell Tower, 1999), 4. 4. Sufi Inayat Khan, Music (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1977), 96. 5. The Dhammapada, trans. Irving Babbitt (New York: New Directions, 1965), 18. 6. Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Ancient Quiche Maya, English version by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus G. Morley, trans. Adrian Recinos (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969), 81. 7. John Anthony West, Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 81. Note the similarity to John 1:1: “The word was with God and the Word was God.” 8. The threefold expression or trinity of the Absolute (Brahman) consists of Brahmā (the creative principle), Vishnu (the principle that preserves the Creation), and Shiva, whose dual role includes the principle of creativity and the principle of dissolution. 9. Astronomers are seeing in galaxy patterns scattered across space vestiges of the first sound waves that rippled out from the Big Bang. The sound waves are telling the story of how matter developed and differentiated itself. See Kenneth Chang, “Vestiges of Big Bang Waves are Reported” New York Times, 12 Jan. 2005, 15(A). We experience sphota in our personal lives in the bursts of energy that bring forth sudden insights and creative works. Sphota is as close to us as the magical fire of digestion by which enzymes transform food particles into blood, bone and tissue. 10. Swami Vivekananda, Religion of Love (Calcutta, India: Swami Vishwashraynanda, 1976), 69. 11. The energies of the three guna are another way of speaking about the three-fold nature of the Absolute. The sound of sattva awakens and animates the universe; the sound of rajas moves the universe by harmonious laws; the sound of tamas keeps the forms of the universe intact and dissolves them when it is time. Bija or seed mantras like OM have the power to bring forth sympathetic vibrations which can build, sustain, or dissolve form. Mantras are used to dissolve the limitations of individual form. An ancient formula of the bija mantras, shared by Hindus and Sufis, identifies each mantra vibration with a chakra center. OM, for example, sounds at the brow chakra; RAM, a fire mantra, sounds at the solar chakra. 12. In Robert Lawlor, Sacred Geometry: Philosophy and Practice (London: Thames Hudson, 1982), 87. 13. The god is dancing within a fiery wheel of recurring life and death (sanskara). In one hand a drum is held; its beat is the creative pulse of life energy entering and enlivening physical form. One foot crushes the demon. This action symbolizes the destruction of those karmic obstacles which prevent the aspiring devotee from realizing the true Self, Atman. The other foot is raised in a dance step. 14. See Frank Waters, Book of the Hopi (New York: Penguin, 1977), 4–5, 9. 15. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B. Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 16–17. 16. In John Daito Loori, The Eight Gates of Zen: Spiritual Training in an American Zen Monastery (Mt. Tremper, N.Y.: Dharma Communications, 1992), 249. 17. Gary Witherspoon, Language and Art in the Navajo Universe (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1977), 29.

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18. For more information on insight dialogue see Gregory Kramer, Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom (Boston: Shambhala, 2007). 19. The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 13. From ‘Be Melting Snow.’ 20. See The Way of a Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues His Way, trans. Helen Bacovin (New York: Image, 1978). 21. Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, trans. E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), 271. 22. Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved, trans. Jonathan Star (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2000), 137. From ‘The Bread of Egypt.’ 23. Thomas Keating, Open Mind Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel (New York: Continuum, 1995), 139. 24. The Works of William Shakespeare (Roslyn, N.Y.: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1937), 1134. 25. The Works of William Shakespeare, 1151–2. 26. The Essential Rumi, Barks, 223. From ‘Polishing the Mirror.’ 27. From notes recorded at a 7-Day Professional Training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, 7–14 June 2002, Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY. 28. See Keith H. Basso, Western Apache Language and Culture: Essays in Linguistic Anthropology (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1990). 29. The Works of William Shakespeare, 1146–1147. From Hamlet Act III, Scene 2. 30. The Works of William Shakespeare, 1146. 31. Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved, 29. From ‘He Also Made the Key.’ 32. In Manly P. Hall, The Therapeutic Value of Music (Los Angeles: The Philosophical Research Society, Inc. 1955), 2. 33. Jean Klein, Living Truth, ed. Emma Edwards (St. Peter Port, Guernsey, C.I.: Third Millennium Publications, 1995), 96. 34. Entrainment (as well as bija mantras) is discussed in Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D., The Healing Power of Sound: Recovery from Life-Threatening Illness Using Sound, Voice and Music (Boston: Shambhala, 2002). Sharry Edwards’ Bio-Acoustics, followup research by Nicole LaVoie (she calls Edwards’ ‘missing note’ the ‘soul note’ that generates spiritual evolution) and other sonic technologies are described in Richard Gerber M.D., Vibrational Medicine: The #1 Handbook of Subtle-Energy Therapies (Rochester, Vt.: Bear & Co., 2001), Chapter XIII. These technologies reflect ancient medical arts. Chinese medicine, for example, adjusts the subtle chakra energies—and thus the bodily organs that they control—by manipulating the vibrations of five elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood) which denote the pentatonic musical scale. ‘Water music’, for instance, is used to balance water in the body. 35. Gaynor, The Healing Power of Sound, 55. 36. Lawrence Freeman, The Selfless Self (New York: Continuum, 1998), 51–2. 37. Songs of Kabir, trans. Rabindranath Tagore (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1974), 111. 38. A similar practice attributed to early Sufis was to chant on a single note for periods of one half-hour. While chanting the monks would examine the effects of sound on each chakra (Gaynor 2002, 101). A contemporary group led by David Hykes imitates


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the Tibetan practice. Hearing the proliferation of sounds springing out of the One is like hearing the universe being born. 39. The Grecian modes are octaves where the DO starts on one of the seven notes of the diatonic (major C) scale. For example, the Dorian mode begins on D (RE); the Phrygian mode on E (MI). It was believed that each mode fit a particular social function. In early Greece music was almost exclusively composed in the Dorian mode because that mode was believed to project a calming, spiritual quality of sound (this mode was later used in Christian Gregorian chant). The belief that certain music could stabilize society was also prevalent in ancient China. The Chinese treatise Shu King describes the travels of the Emperor Shin. In each province the emperor would test the music played for exact pitch according to the pentatonic scale. If districts diverged from this standard it was believed people would fight with each other and the peace of the realm would be threatened. 40. Mircea Eliade, Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1969) 54. 41. Mithras was the Persian god of light and truth. In the Mithraic ladder each of the seven rungs corresponds to a planet. For example, the fourth rung is the planet Mercury (Hermes, the messenger) that symbolizes the liaison between heaven and earth. 42. This diagram appears in Robert M. Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought, 1st edition (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1982), 431. Copyright © 1982, reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc. 43. Evelyn Underhill, scholar and author of Mysticism; A study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (New York: Penguin-Meridian, 1974) adds to Bernard’s schema what the saint most likely assumed was already present in the devotee: a first step of awakening. Underhill also breaks the step of purgation into two parts (borrowing from St. John of the Cross): the dark night of the senses (sensory withdrawal or detachment) and the dark night of the soul (the eclipse of ego). Later Christian versions have built upon Bernard’s three-fold ladder. The idea of alienation from a Divine Source and reconciliation is recounted in the sacred myths of some indigenous peoples. For example, the Samburu, a Kenyan tribe, believe that they were once connected to God—Ngai—by a leather ladder that reached to the sky. The ladder was cut by a member of the tribe who blamed Ngai for the death of his cattle. Ngai forgave the people and placed an everlasting spring where the ladder had been cut. Ngai cares for his people from the height of Mount Nyiru. 44. St. Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, trans./ed. E. Allison Peers (Garden City, N.Y.: Image Books, 1961), 35. 45. Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved, 89. 46. Rumi: In the Arms of the Beloved, 74. 47. Meath Conlan, “Bede Griffiths’ Teaching on Meditation”, The Golden String, vol. 11, no. 2, Summer 2006, 4. Used by permission of Bruno Barnhart, editor of The Golden String, New Camaldoli Hermitage, Big Sur, Calif. 48. In musical language these are unfilled intervals; that is, the C scale on a piano has no black keys to bridge the notes at these two locations in the scale. 49. Saint Teresa of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul, trans. John Beevers (New York: Image Books, 1989), 114. 50. Alighieri Dante, The Vision of Dante Alighieri or Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, trans. H.F. Cary (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1913), 163.

Chapter Eight

The Spiritualities of Work and Play

Let us come into the present moment. Feel the weight of the body on the chair . . . the air circulating around the face and skin. Feel the clothing on the body, the shoes on the feet, the feet on the floor. Breathe deeply; relax into the sensory world of touch. Allow tactile awareness to stretch out to all the bodies breathing around you. Let each breath bring the body-mind to deeper relaxation . . . deeper stillness and peace. Acknowledge the other senses as well: see . . . smell . . . taste . . . listen . . . all without haste . . . all without the accessory of comment. Just be and enjoy being. . . . When the movements of mind and body are channeled to perform a particular task we call that activity work. The measuring stick that defines the quality of the work is the level of attention. Conversely, when the movements of mind and body are given free flight to express themselves (within the rules of the game) we call that activity play. In this chapter we will investigate the spiritual dimension of work and play. We will ask whether work performed with attention releases the same joy that we experience in play. If so, how do we learn to play at our work, particularly in a cultural atmosphere where work is perceived as shackled tedium and play is the escape of rationed pleasure? What if work and play are not opposites but actually symbiotic complements—soulmates, as it were, that share a common spiritual ground? In fact, there is a common spiritual ground: the practice of presence. If the mystics are right when they say that the defining sensation of a spiritual experience is that of unity with all beings then play is naturally spiritual because the opportunity for player and play to mesh as one is built into the character of play. Watch a child’s delight in playing with a pile of autumn leaves or engaging his friend in a game of tag and you see the child’s full commitment to the game itself, not to ‘me playing the game.’ This pure yoga 197


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of player and play is the essence of play’s power—its power to liberate the player from the limitation of living in separation. Play is also the seed of the creative impulse and therefore the origin of art—and an artful life. One cannot truly play and be mentally preoccupied with past or future. If we are to spiritualize our daily lives it will be necessary to extend into the workplace the same conscious energy of awareness that characterizes the playing field.

THE UNIVERSALITY AND EVOLUTION OF WORK Work is not limited to human beings. The sun and moon work every day. On that celestial work all creatures rely for survival. Worker bees devote long hours to constructing hives and collecting pollen; ants toil tirelessly to build their anthill cities. From dawn to dusk the robin searches for food, flying back to the nest repeatedly, worms dangling from its beak, to feed the fledgling young. Even plants grow and sustain themselves by work, their root systems sucking in nutrients and water from the soil while their leaves are busy transforming sunlight into chlorophyll. At the microscopic level the cell is a wondrous factory that maintains efficiency by means of a programmed division of labor. Anthropology teaches that in the course of evolution the human species develops unique abilities for work at both the physical and mental-emotional levels. When Homo erectus (upright man) begins to use his hands to manufacture tools he becomes known as a nascent homo faber or working man. When his cortex develops sufficiently to allow for thinking, animal rationale, or thinking man, is born. Homo sapiens sapiens is gifted with reasoning and the complex skill of speech. These talents endow the human species with an even greater capacity to work. The human being builds cathedrals and bridges, creates works of art, finds cures for incurable diseases, and ignites the engines of commerce. In his poem A Song for Occupations Walt Whitman celebrates work as the fertile ground of American fortune and virtue and thereby points to a higher mission of work: the revelation of Spirit in the world. He writes: In the labor of engines and trades and the labor of fields I find the developments, And I find the eternal meanings. Workmen and workwomen! . . . We consider bibles and religions divine—I do not say they are not divine, I say they have all grown out of you, and may grow

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Out of you still, It is not they who give the life, it is you who give the life.1

By glorifying work as a privilege, a natural source of pride, and even the spiritual fire that enkindles religion Whitman is lauding the sacred seed that generates work. That seed is the power of conscious energy which, when applied through attention to the work, regenerates the worker and all those who receive the fruit of his or her labor. For example, a mother who prepares meals for her family mindfully, without heeding thoughts about liking or disliking the work, provides food energized and blessed by conscious energy. Remember any work that you have undertaken that measures up to this criterion and you are remembering a standard that is applicable at any time. If a spiritual work ethic based in conscious work were to be rediscovered and practiced by a critical mass of human beings might the species evolve beyond homo sapiens? Might we tend the garden of a new Eden as conscious beings?

WHAT WORK IS NOT The enthusiasm that Whitman brings to the activity of work is not a prevalent feeling in modern society, nor does a hallowing of work describe much of human history. Work has been misinterpreted and corrupted. In order to appreciate the elements of conscious work it might be helpful to subtract from our mental vocabulary four ideas about work. Let us affirm that work is not the following: 1. Work is not slavery: Contrast this idea to the pervasive feeling of being enslaved by our daily ‘workload.’ Enslavement is not limited to the unjust institution of slavery or the abuse of factory workers before the rise of unions. We modern laborers have constructed a workaholic 24/7 culture that binds and subjects us to the stress-induced illnesses that such lack of measure produces. In his third encyclical letter, On Human Work:Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II says that “work is ‘for man’ and not man ‘for work.’”2 The Pope identifies work as the right, duty, and natural provenance of man. He writes: Human work has an ethical value of its own, which clearly and directly remains linked to the fact that the one who carries it out is a person, a conscious and free subject.3

One must be wary, says the Pope, of a flaw in the capitalist industrial system whereby the human being becomes an instrument of the work process


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while work itself becomes dedicated to the production of things. Man should always remain “the purpose of the work, whatever work it is that is done by man . . . even the most monotonous, even the most alienating work.”4 Although technological advances can facilitate man’s work these advances can also “cease to be man’s ally and become almost his enemy, as when the mechanization of work ‘supplants’ him, taking away all personal satisfaction and the incentive to creativity and responsibility . . . and reduces man to the status of its slave.”5 In a similar critique of the progressive stages of the Industrial Revolution, particularly the innovative introduction of automation, historian-philosopher Hannah Arendt writes that when quantity surpassed quality as the business motto the working man, as creative artisan, withdrew into the “prison of his own mind.”6 The laboring aspect of work—what Arendt calls animal laborens—took over. This phenomenon of man serving the machine and fast becoming the machine is popularized in the bittersweet comedic character of an assembly line worker played by Charlie Chaplin in the satirical film, Modern Times. Everyday this endearing, clownish man goes to a colorless factory to turn bolts on machinery parts coming down the great conveyor belt. His happy face, full of life and vitality, becomes pinched and anxious as he frantically tries to keep up with the unstoppable, lifeless machine. After work he leaves the building and walks down the sidewalk, twitching with the movements of the automaton he is becoming. Modern hi-tech culture has moved past this milestone in industrial production yet how sure are we that mind-heart has survived its subtle impact? Without the sentinel of attentive presence, can the human being be master of the machine? 2. Work is not the handmaiden of greed: The consumerist drive that impels people to keep buying more and more material things for ME and MINE is in direct opposition to the use of work as a means of financial sobriety that stabilizes family and society. The accumulation of ‘things’ ignores the source of true wealth. As Proverbs 16:16 states: “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!” Wisdom is the wealth produced by spiritual practice, and its revelation begins with presence. Only conscious awareness can satisfy the one legitimate desire: the spiritual hunger for liberation. As King Solomon tersely puts it: “All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled (Eccles. 6:7).” Driven by the illusory ‘carrot’ of personal prosperity, each individual separates from the commonweal, societies founder, and the fissure between rich and poor widens. Work deteriorates into hard labor, toil—the curse of Cain. This deterioration is directly proportional to a diminishment in available consciousness. In the Grimm’s tale, The Three Wishes, a peasant and his wife are beguiled by the promise of riches that a talking fish offers them by way of three wishes.

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The wife in particular wants to be rid of the labor and plain life to which she and her husband are confined. She wants luxury items like fancy clothes, servants and a big house. The fish fulfils her wishes, but when her avarice drives her to want to live in a palace as queen of the country the fish balks and, chastening the couple, returns them to their peasant hovel. 3. Work is not a depressing necessity: Imagine getting up in the morning and feeling happy to go to work. Although a fortunate few do enjoy their work, many people feel chained to a 24/7 treadmill that threatens even the sacrosanct weekend of ‘freedom.’ Staying on the treadmill has dangerous consequences: the physical rest required by the body is reduced and the mind-heart succumbs to depression, one of today’s most pervasive illnesses. Insomnia is also on the rise, a side effect, say experts, of an overworked, stressed-out society. Sleep medications that are designed to cure insomnia are now under investigation for their adverse side effects. Meanwhile, contemplative rest—source of health in body, mind, and heart—is completely ignored. 4. Work is not just a means towards ‘progress’: Because work is the natural bedrock of society the deterioration of that society is imminent when work is equated with progress and progress is defined as a means whereby a select few benefit from the work of many. A brief historical journey illustrates the equation of work with progress and reveals how, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the West, the equation was promoted by religion. The infusion of the Protestant ethic into the nascent capitalism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was a spiritual bridge that linked two paradigms: the new man-centered paradigm of the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions which highlighted human ingenuity, and the older God-centered paradigm of the Middle Ages. The medieval mind-set embraced work as a reflection of the Great Worker. Work was a form of worship. The craftsmen who built the Gothic cathedrals understood that the key to fine work is conscious awareness. The medieval paradigm yoked the active and contemplative threads of the human psyche together. As a bridge to the modern era the Protestant ethic based its credo on the idea, espoused particularly by Calvinist theology, that if material gain accrued from one’s work it was a sign of God’s favor. After all, the man in Jesus’ parable of the talents who buries his master’s gift instead of using it profitably is condemned to “lose even that which he had (Matt.25).”7 However, Jesus is also reported to have castigated the moneylenders who bought and sold in the temple, and in righteous anger he overturned their tables. As Western culture shifted away from its center in God and entered the age of the machine, not only was the fervent belief in a sacred world—an anima mundi cared for by God—lost but also the active and contemplative components of the human psyche were torn asunder. Recognition of the real engine of all action—Divine Energy—was left behind in the dust of Progress.


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Even when the belief in an Invisible Hand that regulated the free market promised fair distribution less naïve observers noted an acceleration of profiteering which handed the wealth increasingly to those who fed off the work of others.8 By the nineteenth century even America, the New Jerusalem, was exhibiting the corrupting influence of naked self-interest that French statesman Alexis de Tocqueville, in his 1845 visit, warned might occur if the democratic practice of equity backed by fervent religiosity was not maintained. Progress is the seed idea of the modern industrial paradigm. It continues to influence our thinking. A nineteenth century painting reflects the effusive optimism of the industrial age while revealing an underlying irony, for ‘Progress,’ portrayed as a woman, was denied to women—as well as ethnic minorities— until changes were ‘progressively’ made in the twentieth century. Progress has delivered great boons. Below is a list for us to consider, but let us add a reality check so that we might reflect on possible losses as well as gains. For example, we live longer as a result of advances in medicine; we therefore have extra time to contribute to the welfare of the community. reality check: do we use this extra time to serve the community?

‘American Progress’, ‘courtesy of Library of Congress’ by John Gast © 1873

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We are mobile with a choice of car, train or plane; and jet lag seems a small price to pay for getting somewhere fast. We’re saving time! reality check: what do we do with this saved time?

Many more people enjoy creature comforts; we own one or two cars, TVVCRs, computers, ipods, et cetera . . . et cetera . . . reality check: do we own these gadgets or do they own us?

The humorist-critic Kurt Vonnegut describes in his good-natured diatribe, A Man Without a Country, how “Progress has beat the heck out of me” by replacing typewriters with computers.9 He says of computers: We have contraptions like computers that cheat you out of becoming. Bill Gates says, ‘Wait till you can see what your computer can become.’ But it’s you who should be doing the becoming, not the damn fool computer. What you can become is the miracle you were born to be through the work that you do.10

We have the speed and power of machines to do the work for us so that we can have time and leisure— reality check: no, the extra time is not for leisure it turns out, but for more work to produce more in workplaces where more is demanded of fewer workers because the company is downsizing.

Don’t worry, multitasking is inserted to fix this imbalance in staffing. reality check: multitasking is spurious as a strategy because it is physically impossible to fully attend to more than one thing at a time. Thinking ‘I must work faster, produce more, in the same amount of time’ is a deceptive imposition that makes a human being dysfunctional. While you can build faster production into a machine by creative technology you can’t build anything into a person whose quality of work is proportional to the economy of one-pointed attention given to the work.

Reduction in pensions and benefits, insider investment scandals that reward CEOs, husbands and wives working two to three jobs to support a family— these are some of the effects of substituting self for Self. The flow of reciprocal energies, that is the spiritual keeper of social/economic balance, abates. The tribal sense of interdependence, whereby each member works for the whole while venerating the ultimate provider, Mother Earth, becomes an alien idea to those captivated by Progress and its twin children: tireless production


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and addictive consumerism. We who began the Earth journey as indigenous peoples have lost touch with our ancestral knowledge. Let us take a moment to compare the contemporary perception of work as enslaving, self-serving, depressing, and obsessed with progress with the work that brought forth the Creation. When the Book of Genesis describes God the Craftsman creating the universe in six days, then resting on the seventh, the account doesn’t read as a saga of drudgery or toil. The Great Work doesn’t begin with a ‘blue Monday’ and continue with six more days of monotony and stress. Nor is the work inspired by ambition, a vain act to magnify ME, GOD. The creation of the world is not parsimonious, engineered as a desperate attempt to make ends meet or to reward a lucky few; on the contrary, Creation is abundance for all. Progress is not a concern because everything that might be needed at any moment is present in God’s imagination. Man, Adam, is given the privilege of being steward of this perfect Creation. Although his job is secure he and Eve are deceived into seeking other employment. Hannah Arendt offers the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden as a compelling symbol for the beginning of a long history of the degradation of work and life. She asserts that God gave human beings the work of tilling His garden. In Hebrew the word for tilling is leawod. The term connotes service. When man disobeyed God’s plan the punishment of ‘working by the sweat of his brow’ reversed the dignity of work because “the service for which man was created now became servitude.”11

A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT WE HAVE LOST BY THE ADVENT OF THE MACHINE The passage from a small family-owned business to multinational company, from solitary craftsman to mass production, and from small farmer to megaagribusiness has come at the price of spiritual loss; that is, the energy which is always available for use in conscious work has been diverted to serve lesser aims. If our own individual practice in awareness is to compensate for this loss then we need to understand three critical outcomes of the loss: (1) a growing alienation from Nature and natural materials; (2) a compartmentalized perception of work; and (3) the loss of the Sabbath. (1) A growing alienation from Nature and natural materials: When the craftsman interacts with natural objects such as wood and builds one rocking chair at a time at his own pace he cannot help but form a tactile relationship with the object that his senses apprehend. He nourishes the wood by attention; the wood nourishes him by the responsiveness of its animate nature to his

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ministrations. This reciprocity tends to keep the craftsman awake. Mechanized work tends to remove the worker from this instructive intimacy and, unless he or she practices mindfulness, the felt alienation of the human being from Nature intensifies. Unresponsive to any community of beings the human being becomes narcissistic and irresponsible. The memory of interconnectedness is actually held within the awareness of the bodily senses and is activated when the senses meet the sensory world of Nature. Being outside in the fresh air tilling a garden cannot be replicated by sitting at a computer station in a windowless cubicle. While machines are welcomed for their capacity to lighten the workload and increase production, human beings resist being mechanized themselves. Have you ever noticed how people dress up their gray metal desks and cardboard-thick cubicle walls at hospitals or other bureaucratic complexes with little potted plants, family photos, dishes of candy, and various memorabilia? We cannot go back to a pre-mechanized age, nor would most of us want to. Yet it is important to recognize the difference between walking behind an ox, as the wooden plow turns up the moist, loamy earth that smells of spring, and sitting in the cocoon-like cab of a spanking new air-conditioned 7 foot tall harvester that allows the farmer to never touch the earth with his feet. Only by extending the power of his attention can the farmer appreciate the subtle connection between his feet and the breathing earth. “ Daily labor”, says Hannah Arendt, “is the human way to experience the sheer bliss of being alive which we share with all living creatures . . . happiness is a concomitant of the process itself.”12 Wendell Berry, farmer-ecologist-philosopher, worries that the removal of the human being from the work by mechanical conveniences may atrophy his mental-critical faculties. When, says Berry, the lesser or human economy breaks off from and disobeys the laws of the Great Economy of Nature upon which it depends—when, for example, farming conglomerates allow erosion of top soil for quick profits or craftsmen make inferior products—then not only is the quality of work degraded but so too is the mind that did the inferior work. Berry suggests an even deeper corruption, a deprivation of heart and spirit that is tied to a lack of responsibility and care for the thing made.13 When we wake up to the fact that the mind-heart is asleep in storylines written by ego then we will realize that a mechanized life is not caused by the machines that we have invented but by submission to a mechanical lifestyle devoid of presence. (2) A compartmentalized perception of work: The corollary of man as machine is man as part of a machine. The subdivision of labor, which mass production demands, places each person in a special slot that mimics the car assembly: eg., ‘I’m the clutch plate, you’re one of the gears, he’s an axle, etc.’


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It is true that specialization has advantages. If I have a heart problem I want to see a heart specialist, not a general practitioner; however, if that heart specialist is not tuned in to the holographic truth of body as a whole within a greater whole of body-mind-heart-spirit, then his diagnosis and treatment will be partial and therefore inadequate. The family doctor who traveled from farm to farm to treat all kinds of illnesses had to know something about every disease just as the teacher in a one-room schoolhouse had to be able to teach every subject at a variety of levels. The cultural value put upon a universality of knowledge culminated in the Renaissance man whose breadth of understanding and ability was exemplary. Marsilio Ficino, for example, was such a man. Ficino was a spiritual teacher, scholar, philosopher, priest, doctor, musician and founder of the Platonic Academy in Florence. Even in colonial America a frontiersman had to know many skills in order to provide for, educate and protect his family in the wilderness. By contrast, our current cultural aptitude is greatly diminished. For example, when the wife of a stockbroker tells her husband that the hinge on the bathroom door is not working properly the stockbroker recommends that his wife call in a handyman. Ironically, the analytical skill that allows the stockbroker to examine company trends and advise a client as to wise investments is the same analytical skill required to examine and fix a door, which may be as simple as tightening a screw! (3) The loss of the Sabbath: Notwithstanding a loyal faithful who celebrate the Sabbath in traditional Christian and Jewish ways as well as the disciplined daily Shahadah practiced by devout Muslims, the acceptance of a 24/7 culture in the West has all but erased the concept of a sacrosanct time reserved for spiritual rest. I remember as a child in the 1950’s when Korvettes was the first big store to open its doors on Sunday. Some members of the community were outraged. Newspaper editorials debated whether this incursion of business into Sunday worship was sacrilegious. Now an aura of eternal life hovers about supermarkets and gas stations that never close. The loss of the Sabbath is not the loss of a day of rest; it is the loss of rest itself. It is the loss of a cultural valuation of rest. King Solomon recommends a proper balance between rest and work: “Better is an handful with quietness,” he says, “than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit (Eccles. 4:6).” The Sabbath acknowledges that the goods and services that businesses engender and customers enjoy originate in a divine Provider. And, as Jesus says, the Sabbath does not necessarily preclude work—work of a certain kind. In response to the Pharisees, who criticize him for healing a cripple on the Sabbath, Jesus says: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work (John 5:17).” In fact, Jesus indicates that inner rest defines a true observance of the Sabbath when he says: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2: 27–28).”

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He then continues to bait his accusers saying, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill? Mark 3:4).” Emily Dickinson offers a cheerful daily alternative to weekly church attendance: celebrate God’s glory with the natural world. She writes: Some keep the Sabbath going to Church – I keep it, staying at Home – With a Bobolink for a Chorister – And an Orchard, for a Dome – Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice – I just wear my Wings – And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church, Our little Sexton sings. God preaches, a noted Clergyman – And the sermon is never long, So instead of getting to Heaven, at last – I’m going, all along.14

The very ability to work springs from rest. For example, the energy needed to concentrate on studies or patiently care for children is quickly depleted after a sleepless night. Beyond physical rest is mental-emotional rest. If work is to reflect inner peace and equilibrium the energy repository for all work— spiritual rest—must be cultivated. Thus, coming to rest in the Pause before work activities is the surrender of private will that embodies the Sabbath. Jesus reminds his disciples that unless there are laborers in the vineyard there can be no harvest (Matt. 20). Only a rested laborer can work effectively in the vineyard of the world. Philosopher Hannah Arendt contends that as the higher capacities of mind languish in the non-conducive atmosphere of a mechanized society the artisan, who creates according to his or her genius, disappears and the laborer, who sustains society by faithfulness to daily tasks, is reduced to brutishness. Human beings become beasts of burden. As available consciousness shrinks, the “sacredness of egoism and the all-pervasive power of self-interest prevails.”15 The only remaining value is life itself: survival and the satisfaction of biological urges and base desires. The gravity of Arendt’s assessment, which places the modern era at the cusp of human devolution, is captured in the following prophecy which was frightening in 1958 when Arendt wrote it; the words yield even more somber weight today. She says: Laboring is too lofty, too ambitious a word for what we are doing in the world we have come to live in. The last stage of the laboring society, the society of job-


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holders, demands of its members a sheer automatic functioning . . . [they] acquiesce in a dazed ‘tranquillized’ functional type of behavior. . . . It is quite conceivable that the modern age—which began with such an unprecedented and promising outburst of human activity—may end in the deadliest, most sterile passivity history has ever known. . . . man may be willing and indeed is on the point of developing into that animal species from which, since Darwin, he imagines he has come.16

WHAT WORK IS: A SPIRITUALITY OF WORK We have talked about what work is not. In examining the devaluation of work the elements of true work have been touched upon. Now we need to flesh those elements out. The spiritual principle underlying all true work is that it is conscious—permeated with awareness, illuminated by knowledge, and energized with joy. Hindu Vedanta defines these three characteristics—awareness, knowledge, and joy—as qualities of Self: namely, Sat, Chit, and Ananda. Furthermore, the categorization of work into physical, mental or spiritual is a cultural myth. For example, by differentiating the activities of washing a floor, studying for an exam, or contemplating scripture we lose sight of the common denominator that makes each activity spiritual: presence. Another mistaken notion is that physical work is not as elevated a pursuit as mental work. This idea ignores the body-mind continuum. If we look closely at the ‘physical work’ an able carpenter does, is it not obvious that without the full engagement of his intelligence the quality of the work will be forfeited? One of the first impressions I have of my husband, a cabinet-maker, was when I watched him put up crown molding in a designer studio. His body moved with a ballet dancer’s grace and speed, his hands working the materials and tools in precise obedience to the information arising from the interaction between his attention and the surface where the work was taking place. Henry David Thoreau refers to the underlying work of staying aware during his stay at Walden Pond. He writes: I did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon . . . in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house . . . I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been.17

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When work is suffused with the incense of presence it is a conscious, meditative act. In the Essene Gospel of Peace Jesus tells his disciples that if human beings imitate the perfection of the Ultimate Worker they will live wholesome, healthy lives in harmony with the Earthly Mother, who cares for their bodies, and the Heavenly Father, who watches over their souls. He says: Follow the example of all the angels of the Heavenly Father and of the Earthly Mother, who work day and night, without ceasing, upon the kingdoms of the heavens and of the earth. Therefore, receive also into yourselves the strongest of God’s angels, the angel of deeds, and work all together upon the kingdom of God.18

Although many elements weave themselves into the intricate fabric of conscious work there are five particular aspects that teachers in various spiritual traditions have highlighted over the ages as representative of a spirituality of work. Let us examine each of these aspects. • • • • •

Work is sacrifice Work is service Work is restoration Work is attention Work is joy

Work is Sacrifice Work does not belong to us. True work is dependent upon and inspired by Divine Energy. Therefore, true work is sacrificial: action made sacred in imitation of the Sacred. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells Arjuna about the active path for those who work, also known as karma yoga. In the passage below Krishna describes work as a reciprocal action: giving back what one has received. Krishna says: In the beginning, when God created all beings by the sacrifice of Himself, He said unto them: Through sacrifice you can procreate, and it shall satisfy all your desires. . . . For, fed on sacrifice, Nature will give you all the enjoyment you can desire. But he who enjoys what she gives without returning is, indeed, a robber. . . . All action originates in the Supreme Spirit, which is Imperishable, and in sacrificial action the all-pervading Spirit is consciously present.19

Krishna also differentiates between the duty and right to work and the unlawful claim of ego to the results of work. He warns Arjuna: . . . thou hast only the right to work; but none to the fruit thereof. Let not then the fruit of thy action be thy motive. . . . Perform all thy actions with mind concentrated


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on the Divine, renouncing attachment and looking upon success and failure with an equal eye.20

Mother Teresa insists that when work is done according to God’s plan it is blessed whether it succeeds or not. She writes: The good God has given you His work. He wants you to do His work in His way. Failure or success mean nothing to Him, as long as you do His work according to His plan and His will. You are infallible when you obey. The devil tries his best to spoil the work of God and as he cannot do it directly to Him, he makes us do God’s work in our way and this is where the devil gains and we lose.21

This ‘devil’ can be interpreted as the false self or ego that gains ground every time it is allowed to claim the work. By contrast, the elevation of work to worship happens when attention guides the work. The mindful dedication of all types of work to God is summed up in the Shaker motto attributed to founder Mother Ann Lee: ‘hands to work, hearts to God.’ Work is Service The sacrifice of daily work to the One whose energy makes work possible includes serving the needs of that One embodied in the people and creatures around us. The worker shows responsibility for others by being present to the work. By giving to the work the energy of unqualified attention the worker endows that work with his own genius while simultaneously delivering a guarantee to his fellows that the work has integrity and authenticity. St. Paul admonishes his listeners to remember that as members of Christ’s body each person’s work contributes to the coming of the Kingdom. Therefore, says Paul, “let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth (1 Cor.10:24).” Whether it is crafting a fine piece of furniture, sewing a button on a jacket, or installing a new muffler on a car, the worker’s own soul substance is being passed on to the recipient of the work. If attention guides the process and the goal is service then everyone benefits.22 In establishing the Missionaries of Charity in India Mother Teresa’s mission was to serve the poorest of the poor. She taught her novices to be “contemplatives in the heart of the world” and serve the people by praying the work. By yoking together action and contemplation Mother Teresa’s work brings religious devotion into the street.23 Good parents serve their children’s needs before their own. Dedicated doctors and nurses serve their patients. A wise business CEO knows that customer service sustains a healthy company. Jesus praises the generosity of true service when he says: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure,

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pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (Luke 6:38).” Confucius speaks of the one who serves as chuntzu. Chuntzu is defined as the superior person whose jen (benevolence) is well-developed. Such a person knows that a harmonious society depends upon service. When at his inaugural address John Kennedy reminded Americans that service to country should exceed self-interest many people were inspired because they were reminded of a truth they knew deep inside: that work is not for ‘me.’ Rather, when work is channeled to my true self in others the One Self is illuminated. Service or seva is fundamental to both Hindu and Buddhist practice. At a Hindu or Buddhist retreat a portion of time is given to work—in the kitchen or garden, for example. The inner work of meditation is thereby balanced by service to the community. Seva infuses the practice of Buddhist economics. As an alternative to the excesses and inequalities that can plague a capitalist system Buddhist economics focuses on the idea of self-sufficiency. One agrees to take from the work only what is needed to live modestly. Mindfulness reveals the threshold where sufficiency yields to excess. By cultivating a sustainable lifestyle based in voluntary simplicity one allows other people to receive what they need through a more equitable distribution of goods. Sulak Sivaraksa, engaged Buddhist and social activist, says that unbridled greed can be combated by adherence to the Eight-fold Path (which includes Right Livelihood) and the five moral precepts or panca-sila. He argues that the first and second precepts, for example, which say ‘I vow to abstain from taking life’ and ‘I vow to abstain from stealing’ address the dangers of theft and deprivation which are implicit in a competitive system like capitalism. Another example of the compatibility between service and business is the Grameen Bank founded by Muhammad Yunus in the 1990’s. Yunus is a native of Bangladesh, a Muslim, and a professor of economics. Consonant with the Islamic pillar of zakat or obligatory alms-giving to the needy, Yunus decided to start a special kind of bank, a bank exclusively for the poor. He decided to take a financial risk by lending small amounts of money to women without collateral but with the ambition to master skills necessary to start cottage industries. One hard-working woman named Sufiya, for example, needed 27 dollars to make and sell stools in the free market without becoming indebted to usurious moneylenders. It was bank policy that the loans could be paid back in small, affordable increments. Yunus’ generosity paid off. Today the Grameen Bank and the small businesses it services are flourishing.


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Work regains its original integrity when its transcendent meaning as service to the human community is appreciated. As Martin Luther King, Jr. says: An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. . . . Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.24

Work is Restoration The word restore implies a condition of intrinsic wellness. Whether it is renovating an old Victorian house, cleaning a vintage car so that it shines, or tackling an overflowing clothes’ closet, work is restorative in nature. We work to restore the material world, knowing full well that everything is in a continual process of decay. The Hindu teaching regarding the yugas or world cycles describes a natural flow from fine to coarse in this created world. This inevitable devolution follows a sequence in which the Golden Age progressively declines into the Silver, then the Bronze, and finally the Iron Age or Kali Yuga. Each age is a big chunk of time but the ratio is such that each successive age cuts in half the previous age. Deterioration is measured by the amount of conscious energy available for spiritual work. Fortunately the Iron Age (which offers the least opportunity for conscious work) is the shortest yuga. When the Iron Age expires (the completion of a kalpa) the energy of Creation is withdrawn into Brahman for a period of rest, only to pour forth again in another cycle. One Hindu calculation says that humanity is now at the beginning of an Iron Age. This might seem a grim fact; however, the Hindu spiritual teaching maintains that it is possible, even in the darkest age, for a human being to retain the virtues of a finer age in his or her thought and action. The science of physics provides an analogy. The principle of inertia maintains that a material object has a natural resistance to acceleration because of its relationship to other objects in the environment which, through friction, slow it down. If the phenomenon of inertia is compared to ‘sleeping’ man then conscious, restorative work is the necessary catalyst to spiritual acceleration. In other words, it is possible, while materially embodied in the lower frequency of the Iron Age, to live at the energy frequency of the Golden Age. To go against the grain, to go upstream like the salmon, to evolve by harnessing and transforming energy (also a law of physics), regardless of the

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spiritual inertia which overtakes society in the Iron Age, depends upon applying presence to whatever task is at hand.25 The Navaho concept of hozho describes the natural state of the cosmos: beauty and order. Hozho is the Golden Age of God’s initial creative plan. Every disturbance, whether accidental or deliberate, is a ‘sin’ that must be ritually removed to restore hozho. At a more practical level certain Northwest tribal societies once used the ritual feast of the potlatch to redistribute goods and thus restore economic equilibrium. Rich and powerful men showed their status by giving away items considered precious in the culture. The focus on reciprocity as a social-economic mechanism is not limited to indigenous peoples. In colonial America, for example, the system of bartering guaranteed that your need for potatoes and my need for flour were mutually met. An example of restorative work that plummets the subtle and spiritual realms to effect healing is the shamanic ritual of soul retrieval. Similar to the psychological problem of dissociation, soul loss means that one’s sense of wholeness is disrupted, often by a traumatic event. Whereas the psychologist seeks to uncover the missing identity memory from the unconscious the shaman journeys into the spirit world—a parallel universe of non-ordinary reality—in order to find the missing ‘pieces,’ and restore them to the soul. Sandra Ingerman, a therapist and shamanic teacher who has concentrated her shamanic work on soul retrieval, says that in this modern age a deep sense of loss and disconnection from life is pervasive. She writes: When any living creature is fully infused with its own spiritual force or soul, it will radiate energy and vitality. Any creature whose spirit is fully at home in its body will feel a deep resonance with that same spirit in other living things. By contrast, when any creature loses a part of its spiritual essence, a profound depletion and alienation from the rest of creation occurs.26

Because of the spiritual principle of interconnectedness, the plight of the modern human being exceeds personal soul loss. Because humans have polluted the rivers and air, poisoned the earth with chemicals, and generally worked to destroy Nature’s equilibrium the restorative work that is now required to bring healing energy to the Earth and her creatures is considerable. By awakening the physical senses, and also what Sandra calls “our invisible senses” of intuitive feelings and visions, the human being prepares for the Great Work.27 This latter term is used by Thomas Berry to refer to the formidable task of the present generation—“the task of moving modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on the Earth to a more benign mode of presence.”28 Each age has a particular work for its people in advancing the spiritual evolution of the planet, but now, at the cusp of an era singular in its forecast of possible widespread disaster, it is incumbent upon each


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person to assist in this Great Work. Berry states simply: “Personal work needs to be aligned with the Great Work.”29 Just as the Earth constantly works to rebalance itself, even when exposed to indiscriminate exploitation, so high-level work strategies of prayer and meditation are the means to restore health to the human community. In fact, the memory of original health is potent and can be accessed through heightened awareness. According to Ayurvedic doctor Deepak Chopra, for example, the mysterious occurrence of spontaneous remission in the case of terminal disease shows this conscious use of energy in which the patient, just before the cure appears . . . experiences a dramatic shift in awareness. He knows that he will be healed, and he feels that the force . . . extends beyond his personal boundaries, throughout all of nature . . . This leap in consciousness is . . . the quantum leap.30

We must, says healer Donna Eden, awaken “the two-million-year-old healer within”—that indigenous ancestor whose survival depended upon knowing how to regenerate energy for maximum effect.31 Just as the body naturally eliminates waste everyday so the mind-heart learns to restore itself by discarding old belief systems and entrenched negative feelings that obscure Self. The purging agent is attentive presence. Thus spiritual evolution moves forward, even in the Iron Age. Work is Attention In each of the aspects of work that we have considered so far the faculty of attention has been central. Without attention there is no sacrifice, no service, no restoration. When the thread of attention passes intact through the work that work achieves a high level of energetic resonance that affects everyone. Let us now examine attention in more detail so that we might better implement its power in our daily work. We will find that attention is the magic key that transforms work into play. When one fully attends to the work at hand, what appears ordinary becomes extraordinary. Work becomes meditation-in-action. Thich Nhat Hanh explains how the act of washing dishes mindfully illustrates this higher level of action: Each thought, each action in the sunlight of awareness becomes sacred. In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane. I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy. Washing the dishes is at the same time a means and an end—that is, not only do we do the dishes in order to have clean dishes, we also do the dishes just to do the dishes, to live fully in each moment while washing them.32

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According to St. Benedict’s Rule work is a humble but important means to avoid temptation and worship God. Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century Carmelite monk, was assigned to work in the monastery kitchen. He discovered that when he gave loving attention to the preparation and cleanup of meals he was in God’s presence. He called this work the practice of the presence of God. “It is not necessary to have great things to do,” he says, “I turn my little omelette in the pan for the love of God.”33 For twentieth century Christian theologian, Teilhard de Chardin, attentive, selfless work offers the opportunity to experience God incarnate in the world. Chardin writes: . . . our union with him is in fact determined by the exact fulfillment of the least of our tasks. . . . God, in all that is most living and incarnate in him, is not far away from us, altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell, and taste about us. Rather he awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment. There is a sense in which he is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle—of my heart and of my thought.34

Philosopher Simone Weil points to attentiveness as the key ingredient in any work. Using the example of school studies she says: “Attention is an effort, the greatest of all efforts perhaps, but it is a negative effort. . . . Attention consists of suspending our thought, leaving it detached, empty . . . waiting, not seeking anything, but ready to receive in its naked truth the object that is to penetrate it.”35 In the act of writing, for example, one waits “for the right word to come of itself at the end of our pen. . . .”36 Weil equates this attitude of attentive waiting with prayer. The application of attention to work is natural; however, resistance to particular types of work at particular times is familiar to us all. It arises from the false self—ME—who dislikes giving attention to anything other than itself. Hindu Vedanta calls this resistance pramādi, which literally means the idle one, the one who wants the results without doing the work. By worshiping the idol of the false self one is vulnerable to the mental-emotional effects of pramādi, which are six-fold, namely: 1) nidrā—literally, sleep, the lethargy which makes us feel that we don’t have the energy to work; 2) tandrā—a mental limbo or frozen state in which there is a disconnect with the task in front of us because our attention is caught in imaginings; 3) bhaya— fear and resistance to change which makes us avoid certain work; 4) krodha— anger, which is destructive rajas burning up the fine energy of sattva necessary for constructive work; 5) ālasya—laziness, making up excuses why we can’t do the work; and 6) dīrghasūtratā or ‘the long thread’—procrastinating until things get so heavy and complicated that we can no longer receive instruction from the work as to how to do it. The only cure is waking up—presence. Under the light of observation the power of pramādi weakens.


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When fifteenth century philosopher and essayist Michel de Montaigne decided to retire from public life and give his well-used mind a rest, he found that the idle mind “. . . like a runaway horse . . . gives birth to so many chimeras and fantastic monsters, one after another, without order or purpose, that in order to contemplate their strangeness and foolishness at my pleasure, I have begun to put them in writing, hoping in time to make even my mind ashamed of them.”37 Montaigne’s clever ambush of his runaway mind by writing down its imaginings allows detachment and observation to quell the mental riot. What becomes important, spiritually, is not what work we do, but how we do it. There is story from the Hindu tradition about an arrowmaker who is at work fashioning an arrow. A wedding procession, winding its way through the village amidst laughter and music, passes right in front of the arrowmaker’s shop. A friend looks in after several minutes and asks the arrowmaker whether he enjoyed the procession. The arrowmaker said he neither saw nor heard a procession; he was focused on shaping the point of the arrow. A contemporary example of this undivided, impersonal use of attention comes from the book and film Peaceful Warrior. When circumstances cause Dan Millman to reevaluate his assumed identity as ego he begins to understand what emptying the mind and living in the moment means. As a gymnast he is then able to perform at a high level, attaining a perfect score on the rings because his attention is fully focused on the task instead of himself. Disciplined work becomes the creative play of art. The Taoist approach to work is called wu wei. Translated as effective action, work without working, and effortless effort wu wei is all about the conservation of energy by its appropriate use. Wu wei requires that the attention be directed to the space where the work is taking place. For example, if you are sweeping a slate terrace with a straw broom where does the attention naturally go? To the space where the ends of the straw broom meet the slate. When the attention is off ME—my fantasy thoughts and erratic feelings—and onto the work for the work’s sake then everything the mind-body needs to know about executing the work will reveal itself. The practice below can train the mind-body to work in this effective way. WU WEI: Choose a simple physical work activity. After getting quiet through a mini-pause begin to work. Let the work tell the mind-body what to do. You may find that the attention darts away occasionally. When you become aware of this lapse bring the attention back to the work without criticism. If the work involves the hands in a prominent way you may find it helpful to watch the hands at work. Work is Joy The alchemy of work produces joy. Say, for example, that the project is cleaning the garage and rearranging its contents. I may observe an initial re-

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sistance in the mind, but if I decide to give attention to each action and the work proceeds empowered by that intent, an interest in the work grows. An economy and grace of movement take over. Before I know it the garage shines and the worker shines. Literally, vibrations of body-mind-heart are cleansed and reordered in sympathy with the vibrational changes happening in the objects I handle. This vibrational configuration cuts through barriers the ego sets up so that the pact a human being naturally has with the world is powerfully renewed. The joy that arises is not the claim of ego but a proclamation of Spirit. Even working with inanimate objects can be an act of bonding. In considering how human beings might healthfully relate to technology, specifically motorcycles, Robert Pirsig takes the point of view of a craftsman. He writes: The craftsman isn’t ever following a single line of instruction. He’s making decisions as he goes along. For that reason he’ll be absorbed and attentive to what he’s doing even though he doesn’t deliberately contrive this. His motions and the machine are in a kind of harmony . . . the material at hand determines his thoughts and motions, which simultaneously change the nature of the material at hand. The material and his thoughts are changing together in a progression of changes until his mind’s at rest at the same time the material’s right. . . . It is art.38

Pirsig continues: “The ultimate test’s always your own serenity. If you don’t have this when you start and maintain it while you’re working you’re likely to build your personal problems right into the machine itself.”39 Another word for this familial bond between the worker and the work is love. The energy of love is the line of attention between the two. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter whether we like what we are doing or not. The energy of attention as love is stronger than any opinions we may have about the work. Love, in the end, pushes through negative energy and transmutes disgruntlement or impatience into their opposite—joy. As a young housewife I was grateful that my husbands’ shirts could simply be turned over to a dry cleaning establishment so that I wouldn’t have to learn to iron them. Ironing was a chore I always avoided. Fate would have it that, on a 7-day spiritual retreat, I was given the daily work of ironing everything from men’s shirts to tablecloths. An important theme of the retreat was working with attention. As I got acquainted with the touch of the hot iron moving across the fabric I saw wrinkles disappearing under the heat, shirtsleeves pressed smooth, collar and front panels looking elegant enough for a king’s attire. The air in the laundry room smelled fresh and clean. I began to look forward to taking up my station every day at the ironing board. I felt comfortable, even affectionate towards the implements of the work. With each disappearing wrinkle I could feel a corresponding loosening within me as the old idea that had clothed the mind peeled away. I had discovered the joy of ironing.


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THE SPIRITUALITY OF PLAY Hindu Vedanta states that the Creation itself is a play—maya, the radiant dream of the Absolute. The act of playing is called lila. In speaking of the difference between being—presence—and becoming—the effort to be something else, Jean Klein uses the image of play. He writes: Divine play comes out of perfection. There is nothing to perfect, so strictly speaking it is not becoming because it never leaves wholeness. There is always presence. It is life playing with itself, expression for the joy of expressing. There is no agent. But in the becoming that we mostly know, presence is veiled. You have identified with the expression and not its source. Stop identifying with ‘playthings’ and stay present to the play.40

The Creation plays according to natural law. The human being’s role is to imitate this divine play by living consciously. Play is all about direct sensual contact with the world, without mental manipulation, motive or expectation. Play is being in and with the world without ego. Any disturbance in the field of play is unnatural, orchestrated by ego who wants to ‘win’ the football game or skating competition. Since each day is a play, and we are here to play, we might ask ourselves, how playful is my daily life? Do I greet events with a carefree, non-judgmental attitude? Do I accept what happens with a touch of humor? Is the work that I do invested with the lithe, joyful quality of play? One of the most famous comments about the effervescent but ephemeral play of life comes from Shakespeare, through the words of the magician Prospero in the play The Tempest. The bard writes: Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.41

Again, in As You Like It, Shakespeare addresses the play of life, saying “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts. . . .” It follows that our level of accomplishment as actors on the set of maya’s

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insubstantial pageant will be dependent upon the degree of wakefulness with which we play the parts we are given.42 Since we are the Divine Self then the identities we assume are finite, undertaken as opportunities to realize the Self that we are. We play at being human, finding out what that means as our primary role. We acquire subsidiary roles too: son, daughter, friend, lover, wife, husband, sister, brother, mother, father, student, co-worker, et cetera. Roles are ever appearing, disappearing and reconfiguring like the weather, while Self is the hidden constant. If a person says ‘I am Janet, the wife of John and a teacher of history’ that person and the person to whom Janet is talking both know at an intuitive level that this information reveals little of the complex layered existence that is ‘Janet.’ When we go to a movie we have no difficulty distinguishing between the movie and life outside the theatre, no matter how engrossed we may be in the story. We also know that the actors are not really the people they portray in the movie. Yet we leave the theatre unable to see that our personal life is also like a movie. In order to feel secure we clutch at the roles we act out instead of the Self that is their genesis. Sri Shantananda Saraswati, teacher of Advaita Vedanta, describes this roleplaying within maya. In the following passage he points out the need to go backstage often—by which he means the quiet of meditation—so that the energy to play the role well will be available. He says: There are two aspects in a drama. One is playing the part on the stage. Just behind the open stage, there is the back stage, where the actors are told what to do and how to do it; there they are dressed properly so as to play their part. But what is seen in the world is that people just go on playing their part, their costumes become dirty, worn out, and their part becomes stale and repetitive. They do not know that they also have to go back stage and be prepared again for the next part.43

PLAYING THE WORK: CHILD’S PLAY Nineteenth century historian, Johan Huizinga, coined the term Homo ludens— playful human—to describe the creative, intuitive powers that he believed best define the human species. The play of children can remind us of this distinctive talent. Indeed, when a scientist immerses himself in the play of constructing hypotheses and experimenting with chemical combinations is he not displaying the adult version of the child’ make-believe world where imaginary friends are real and the child’s love affair with the natural world includes a fascination with simple processes like water running down the driveway after a rainstorm?


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Maria Montessori’s genius as an educator was to value and make use of this creative imagination of the child. The Montessori schoolroom is spacious, colorful, orderly, with beautiful objects for learning math, letters, artistic and motor skills, as well as the child-size furniture this learning requires. Montessori believed that the delicate psychic inner being of the child as a “spiritual embryo” should be protected from more traditional curriculums that stuff information into the child instead of removing obstacles from the special being that the child is.44 Knowing that the child does not distinguish between work and play the Montessori teacher gives the young students games they prefer like putting the room in order, doing kitchen chores, or wiping down the tables after lunch. Montessori believed that becoming an adult is the child’s primary instinctual work; therefore, furnishing the child with playwork that develops a sensory hands-on connection to living beings, like plants or objects made of natural material, guides the child in a favorable direction so that when he or she takes on the work of the adult—transformation of the environment—that work will be done with care and compassion. Below is a practice that might remind us of how we once saw Creation. ‘LET’S PRETEND’: Look at a being in the natural world as if for the first time. ‘Pretend’ that you have no idea who or what this being is. Look, listen, touch, smell or taste as appropriate. Later, reflect on the experience. Did you learn something new?

EGO AS SPOILER The insidious entrance of sleep—non-awareness—into the psyche of the growing child darkens the glow of childhood play that is dependent for its light upon presence. The separation of the play instinct from work is a casualty of this shift. As the ego appropriates the play instinct for its own games the desire to succeed constricts the creative impulse. The inner child that is naturally present to the world and impulsively interacts with that world as a part of himself or herself bows to the voice of society that tells the child to rein in natural exuberance and carefully calculate his or her actions because life is a serious sequence of moves in ‘getting ahead.’45 The pollution of play with self-interest can cause deep distress. In the film The Luzhin Defence, the star chess player is so obsessed with winning chess tournaments as the marker of his identity—a distorted self-image formed by a disturbed childhood—that he has difficulty thinking about anything but chess moves. He cannot truly appreciate the intrigue of a chess match because he can never let go of the overlay of anxiety that incessantly harasses him.

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Even when he receives the gift of a woman’s love he cannot remember that he is a whole person, with or without chess. Even though ego as spoiler can corrupt play, play in turn has the power to reveal the fingerprints of ego. In Hamlet the young prince devises a scheme whereby he hopes that a troupe of actors, by playing ‘The Murder of Gonzago,’ may draw out the truth about his father’s death—that Claudius murdered the king. Hamlet says: “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”46 Indeed, the play dis-plays the darkness within the heart of Claudius. How does a play—and playing—so readily reveal the truth about a person’s inner life? Perhaps the secret power of play’s revelatory nature is its apparent safety. Playing occurs in a neutral, safe space outside Time where action can be free and spontaneous. The thick strands of responsibility, accountability and guilt that are laced through Time’s fabric are excluded. Ironically, it is the transparency of the neutral space that reveals underlying secrets held in Time’s grasp.

REDISCOVERING WORK AS PLAY: FLOW Moment-to-moment awareness will open the door to what we knew as children: that life in all its aspects is really play. Rediscovering the playful aspect of work might be compared to recovering from a stroke and having to relearn simple actions like eating with a spoon or putting on a shoe. Nevertheless, if the adult practices sustained presence he or she not only regains the child’s spontaneity and playful relationship to the world but also gains access to powers beyond the capacity of the innocent child: intellectual insight, compassion, even wisdom. In reestablishing a playful life it is helpful to understand a phenomenon called flow. According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi the transcendent experience of flow is the result of the practice of sustained attention. He explains that the attention refines until there is “. . . no excess psychic energy left over to process any information but what the activity offers. All the attention is concentrated on the relevant stimuli . . . people become so involved in what they are doing that the activity becomes spontaneous, almost automatic; they stop being aware of themselves as separate from the action they are performing.”47 Csikszentimihalyi’s use of the word automatic is not to be confused with robotic activity. Rather, in this context it describes the ease of merging with the activity while remaining fully conscious. For Csikszentmihalyi, the path of self-actualization is a matter of being in the moment, shedding preconceptions,


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and accepting that anything that happens can be a source of joy. These prerequisites of flow are demonstrated in Csikszentmihalyi’s example of Joe Kramer, a welder in a South Chicago plant where railroad cars are assembled. Joe stopped school after fourth grade and has worked at the plant for more than thirty years. Now in his 60’s Joe has consistently refused chances for promotion, though his mastery of every part of the plant’s operation is well known. His ability to fix any piece of machinery, even without formal training, is legendary. No offer of a higher status in the company has ever competed with the joy he feels in meeting the mechanical challenges that come his way. He credits his mechanical know-how to the inquisitive affinity he felt as a child for machines needing repair. He relates: “‘Like when my mother’s toaster went on the fritz, I asked myself: ‘If I were that toaster and I didn’t work, what would be wrong with me?’ Then he disassembled the toaster, found the defect, and fixed it.” What is Joe’s secret? He knows that work is play.48 This is the Taoist teaching of letting be and going with the flow. It is also the Pause in action. Flow is an abandonment of habitual patterns imprinted by ego. It urges the human being to obey impulse and plunge into the wildness and untamed turbulence of God’s Creation without fear. Such is the philosophy of Celtic Christianity which, in blending its pagan roots with a Christian ethic, has never lost a love for the impromptu creativity of fecund Nature as a source of aesthetic inspiration. Celtic poet Kenneth White insists that the mysteries of Nature are uncovered by ‘Taking off the clothes of the mind and making love to the body of reality.’49

THE TAO OF SPORTS Flow explains the amazing feats of athletes whose work ethic of sustained attention propels them into the zone. The runner’s high, the tennis champion ‘raising the level of his game,’ the easy swing that sends a baseball 400 ft. into the bleachers: these are examples of flow. Something happens that we can prepare for but that we cannot do. Lao Tzu may have lived in the sixth century BCE but he knew something about ‘entering the zone.’ He says that only those who are in harmony with the Tao can be the best athletes, generals, businessmen and political leaders. How is this harmony achieved? Lao Tzu writes: All of them embody the virtue of non-competition.

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Not that they don’t love to compete, but they do it in the spirit of play. In this they are like children and in harmony with the Tao.50

Sadaharu Oh—the Japanese Babe Ruth icon—credits his exceptional success as a hitter to the mastery of two practical elements of Aikido—ma and ki (ch’i). Ki is energy. Ma means “the space and/or time ‘in-between.’”51 With his Zen teacher’s assistance Sadaharu says that he mastered the art of dealing with ma as the space where opposing energies of pitcher and hitter collide. His teacher explains: Ma is there because the opponent is there. If you don’t like that situation, all you have to do is eliminate the ma between you and the opponent. That is the real task. To eliminate the ma. Make the opponent yours. Absorb and incorporate his thinking into your own. Become one with him so you know him perfectly and can so be one step ahead of his every movement.52

This move towards unity is approached through the art of attracting the other’s ki, because “the moment you are able to draw another’s ki to that which you extend from yourself, you have more power than you could ever have imagined yourself to have.”53 To realize that opposition is imaginary and that only unity exists is the key to spiritual empowerment, whether in athletics or any other pursuit. The Mundaka-Upanishad states this truth eloquently: He who has found Him, seeks no more; the riddle is solved; desire gone, he is at peace. Having approached from everywhere that which is everywhere, whole, he passes into the Whole.54

Let us come to rest in that which is whole, in the seamless presence of Myself. Beyond seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, yet perceived through these gates. By the light of pure attention, we move into the zone that we are.

NOTES 1. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York: Aventine Press, 1931), 222. 2. John Paul II, On Human Work:Laborem Exercens, Third Encyclical Letter (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1981), 14. 3. John Paul II, On Human Work, 14. 4. John Paul II, On Human Work, 15. 5. John Paul II, On Human Work, 12.


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6. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 288. Copyright © 1958 University of Chicago. Excerpts used by permission of publisher. 7. There is a current proliferation of American evangelical Christian businesses that are resurrecting the Protestant work ethic in a networking fashion. C12, for example, is a company (C is for Christian, 12 is the number of Jesus’ first disciples) that brings CEOs of twelve local Christian-based businesses together for monthly meetings to consider how to help God run the businesses for which they see themselves as stewards. Monetary success is expected when a business abides by God’s laws. See Ellyn Spragins, ‘God’s Network,’ Fortune Small Business vol. 16, no. 1, 2 Feb. 2006, 37. 8. This trust in an essentially spiritual regulation is a key concept in the economic theory of Adam Smith in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, first published in 1776. 9. Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005), 56. Copyright © Kurt Vonnegut 2005. Excerpts used by permission of Seven Stories Press. 10. Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country, 56. 11. Arendt, The Human Condition, 107. 12. Arendt, The Human Condition, 106–107. 13. See Wendell Berry, Home Economics (New York: North Point Press, 1999). 14. The Poems of Emily Dickinson, vol. 1, ed. Thomas H, Johnson (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1955), 254–5. “Some keep the Sabbath going to church” by Emily Dickinson, reprinted by permission of the publisher and the Trustees of Amherst College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. 15. Arendt, The Human Condition, 311. 16. Arendt, The Human Condition, 322. 17. Henry D. Thoreau, Walden or Life in the Woods (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1906), 123–124. 18. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, ed. The Essene Gospel of Peace Book 1 (Nelson, B.C.Canada: International Biogenic Society, 1981), 46. 19. The Geeta: The Gospel of the Lord Shri Krishna, trans. Purohit Swami (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), 29. 20. The Geeta, trans. Purohit Swami, 24. 21. Dorothy S. Hunt, ed. Love: A Fruit Always in Season, Daily Meditations by Mother Teresa (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 89. 22. The contribution of the late Edna Lewis to the culinary arts is an example of individual artistry and communal purpose. Miss Lewis wrote cookbooks to reintroduce people to the good taste of Southern cooking. Born in 1916, the grandchild of a freed slave, she grew up on the family farm in Virginia, one of eight children. She believed she could serve society best by restoring to recipes as simple as ‘shrimp and grits’ the pure ingredients, authenticity, and simple elegance she remembered enjoying as a child. 23. Work of Love: VHS of Mother Teresa’s ministry in India, produced in association with William Livingston Productions by Konographics, Huntington, Ind., 1982.

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24. The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. Selected by Coretta Scott King (New York: Newmarket Press, 1987), 17. Copyright © 1963, 1991 Excerpts reprinted by arrangement with The Heirs to the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., c/o Writers House as agent for the proprietor, New York, N.Y. 25. It is interesting that in holistic bodywork strategies like t’ai chi ch’uan and yoga the expenditure of energy and its restoration is finely balanced. In yoga, for instance, resting the body for a few seconds after each posture resets this equilibrium. 26. Sandra Ingerman, Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 18. Copyright © 1991 by Sandra Ingerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. 27. Sandra Ingerman, Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000), 157. 28. Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future (New York: Bell Tower, 1999), 7. 29. Berry, The Great Work, 10. 30. Deepak Chopra, M.D., Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), 17. Copyright © 1989 by Deepak Chopra, M.D. Used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. 31. Donna Eden with David Feinstein, Energy Medicine (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999), 24. 32. Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life (New York: Bantam Books, 1992), 27. Copyright © 1991 by Thich Nhat Hanh. Used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. and Rider/Random House Group, Ltd. 33. Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (Springdale, Pa.: Whitaker House, 1982), 81. 34. Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), 64. 35. Simone Weil, Waiting for God, trans. Emma Craufurd (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1951), 111–112. Copyright © 1951, renewed 1979 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Excerpts used by permission of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 36. Weil, Waiting for God, 113. 37. Michel de Montaigne, Selected Essays, trans. Donald M. Frame (Roslyn, N.Y.: Walter J. Black, 1970), 4–5. 38. Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (New York: Bantam Books, 1976), 61. Copyright © 1974 by Robert M. Pirsig. Excerpts reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers and Bodley Head/imprint of Random House Group Ltd. 39. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 159. 40. Jean Klein, Who Am I? The Sacred Quest, ed. Emma Edwards (Rockport, Mass.: Element, 1996), 52. 41. The Works of William Shakespeare (Roslyn, N.Y.: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1937), 19. From The Tempest Act IV Scene I.


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42. The Works of William Shakespeare, 262. From As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7. 43. Conversations of Sri Shantananda Saraswati with Leon MacLaren, India, 11–17 Dec. 1965. Used by permission of Donald Lambie, leader of the School of Economic Science, London, England. 44. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood, trans. M. Joseph Costelloe (New York: Ballantine Books, 1966), 34. 45. Family counselor and author John Bradshaw focuses on the concept of the inner child. 46. The Works of William Shakespeare, 1144. From Hamlet, Act II, Scene II. 47. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), 53. Copyright © 1990 by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Excerpts reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers and Rider/Random House Group Ltd. 48. Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 148. 49. Phillip J. Newell, The Book of Creation: An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), xxv. 50. Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell ed. (New York: Harper Collins, 1988), 68. 51. Sadaharu Oh and David Falkner, Sadaharu Oh: a Zen Way of Baseball (New York: Vintage Books, 1985), 119. 52. Oh and Falkner, Sadaharu Oh: A Zen Way of Baseball, 121–122. 53. Oh and Falkner, Sadaharu Oh: A Zen Way of Baseball, 125. 54. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B. Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 56.

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The Spirituality of Thinking

Letting go of whatever commentaries may be running in the head—the typical material that we call thinking—let us come into the present moment where thought is extraneous. Open the senses: feel the body through touch, see the subjects around you . . . smell . . . taste . . . listen into the corners of silence. . . . Rest. . . . A cartoon features two monks sitting side by side in meditative pose. One turns to the other and says, “ Are you not thinking what I’m not thinking?”. . . It is when we sit down to practice the Pause that we experience a bombardment of images and mental commentaries that directly contradict the serious intention which inspired us to sit down and practice in the first place. Where is the promised dive into blessed quiet? Instead of a mental respite we are beset by interior noise that seems to percolate up from some deep place and take over our consciousness. We call this noise thinking. The more we try to suppress the thoughts and pictures that scurry around in our brain like animate beings the more they tug at our attention. Eventually the burden becomes a headache . . . literally. Welcome to your personal lila: the acting out of a beloved play expertly designed and directed by ego—or, as Abraham Heschel puts it, “the arrogance that guides the traffic in our mind.”1 In this beloved play there are many characters, plots, and carefully honed themes (limiting ideas and opinions) to think about. Sometimes scenes of one’s personal play repeat themselves over and over. These scenes are of two sorts: a rehearsal of a non-existent future, as when we rehearse an imminent job interview until we ‘get it right,’ or a rehashing of an incident where we give ourselves stage notes about how it could have turned out differently, if only. . . .



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Captivated by past or future, mind energy constantly manufactures whatever the ego wishes. Capturing the star role in the performance of our daily lives ego also stages every scene according to its own agenda. There are no understudies for this role. We might have noticed that our mental lilas consist of both monologues and conversations between two or more voices arguing an issue. Having such inner conversations is not limited to schizoid personalities; ‘normal’ people are vulnerable as well. And where do these conversations take place? On a mental stage-set full of furniture and props: the ideas, desires, daydreams, anxieties, and fears which habitually occupy our attention. If processed food is an unhealthy diet, so is processed thought. In this play it is as Hamlet says to Rosencrantz: “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”2 Our stage-sets are so cluttered that there is precious little space reserved for ‘thinking’—if indeed there is a legitimate activity by that name. At the end of the day we experience a mental fatigue that rivals any physical exhaustion incurred by the day’s work. This Sufi axiom says it all: “A man once asked a camel whether he preferred going uphill or downhill. The camel said: ‘What is important to me is not the uphill or the downhill—it is the load!’”3 The question is, do we want to unload or are we happy with the burden? After all, daydreaming can be a pleasant diversion, especially if we feel stuck in what we have defined as an unpleasant situation. If however we consider the possibility that thinking may not be what we think it is then mind is open to discovering a legitimate reason for its existence: the revelation of Self. Perhaps, without the clutter of thoughts, Divine Logos—that supreme Thought “‘that steers all things through all things’”—will reveal itself to mind.4 This chapter examines the difference between interior commentaries, daydreams and assorted thought debris (we will name this activity mechanized thinking because it is prompted by habit) and real thinking that emerges from conscious presence. Let us assume for a moment a connection between real thinking and the proper use of an innate intelligence provided by Spirit. What is the nature of this intelligence? The fact of the body-mind continuum suggests that this intelligence is not confined to the brain but pervades the entire being at physical, mental-emotional and spiritual levels. Real thinking would unveil the nature of this mysterious intelligence—sometimes called consciousness—that is the essential life force of all living forms.

THINKING AND KNOWING The practice of pausing teaches us that when mind is aligned with the senses—the essence of presence—thinking and its complement, knowing, is

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possible. In Psalm 46:10 it is written: “Be still, and know that I am God.” To be still in body-mind suggests that a quieting of the body accompanied by keen awareness is the necessary precursor to knowing the Divine Intelligence that enlivens everything. A negation of thinking is suggested—or at least the absence of what is habitually defined as thinking. It is in this sense that we understand Lao Tzu’s instruction: “Stop thinking and end your problems.”5 Knowing is not the purview of future or past. Something is known only in the present. Only by coming to stillness in the present moment is energy removed from thought debris so that the nature of the Divine is felt, intuited, and, in time, known as our own presence. As the poet Robert Browning writes in Paracelsus: There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness, and to know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape, than in effecting entry for a light supposed to be without.6

To gain mental access to this center we need to, as Jean Klein puts it, “stay away from the already known.”7 The ‘already known’ are those self-critical thoughts and stale feelings of inadequacy and fear that resonate from the past and may quite unexpectedly appear, especially as we gain in presence power, to seduce us into their tangled web. Seeing these ghosts and feeling their alien energy in the body creates the space to refuse their debilitating influence. When awareness trumps distraction, what happens to ‘thinking’? Does it vanish or is a finer functioning of mind revealed? Common experience points to the latter. When mind wrestles with a problem, for example, it needs empty space to consider possible solutions. Or again, ‘sleeping on a problem’ can produce a viable solution that mysteriously arises in mind upon awakening. Inventors often speak of the ‘aha’ experience as a sudden knowing that appears once the energy of thinking, driven by the urgency to know, subsides. The knowledge was in mind all along but could not be ‘brought to mind’ because of mental-emotional disquiet. It is interesting that Albert Einstein starts his autobiography not in the usual way by describing family and childhood, but by asking the question ‘what is thinking?.’ Einstein believed that thinking was the essential human attribute, the tool with which a human being might understand the “‘great eternal riddles.’”8 When a man accesses this fine energy of thinking he is liberated from personal desires and habits which constrain and pollute thought. He is also given the means by which these personal constraints on the development of his unique talents can be mastered. Einstein discovered that as his scientific imagination flourished so did the development of human virtues such as modesty and equanimity which he never claimed but which observers recognized in his behavior. Einstein’s description of thinking suggests a rise in consciousness


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that provides both the energy for insights otherwise unavailable, and a balanced, creative life. For Einstein the process of thinking is multi-faceted. Thinking uses logic, but also intuition. Thinking generates concepts, but also values the sensory experience on which conceptual formulation depends. Einstein said: “‘All our thinking is of this nature of a free play with concepts.’”9 He was wary of dogmatic allegiance to even the most exalted or innovative concepts since they came from the human mind which is susceptible to false deduction. He said once of his own revolutionary work: “‘ There is not a single concept of which I am convinced that it will stand firm. . . .’”10 Einstein recognized that a willingness to reshape or discard entrenched ideas is key to an evolutionary refinement of human knowledge. Thus his discovery of laws regarding space, time, and energy that shook the Newtonian paradigm did not negate mechanical laws like gravity but simply unveiled deeper laws that further an understanding of the universe. Finally, in Einstein’s inclusive view of ‘thinking,’ a sense of wonder is essential. The fact that the mysterious, incomprehensible universe bends to man’s inquiry to reveal an order both comprehensible and rational is the inspiration that, for Einstein, validated scientific research while also eliciting in him a “‘cosmic religious feeling.’”11 An enduring source of illumination regarding the nature of thinking and knowing is Plato. In the Platonic dialogues Socrates is presented as a seeker of truth who relies on a patient, conscious reasoning process called dialectic to penetrate abstract concepts like justice, holiness or courage. By admitting his own lack of knowledge Socrates stymies ego energy and releases mind to a patient contemplation of truth, lit by reason. For example, in Euthyphro, Socrates surgically examines what elements may or may not belong to holiness by posing a series of logical questions to his interlocutor, Euthyphro. Socrates circles around the essence of holiness, which emanates from the Good, and gets closer to his target of knowing holiness by eliminating what it is not. This elimination includes shaving away the hubris of Euthyphro who believes he knows what holiness is. In the end holiness escapes definition, for how can man penetrate the infinite knowledge of the Good? Yet the mind, like a fine knife, has been sharpened for further enquiry. In the Republic Socrates summarizes the philosophical search by which reason devotes itself to the attainment of the knowledge of the Good, or Real. His words also foreshadow the later development of scientific inquiry in the West. He says: . . . a genuine lover of knowledge innately aspires to reality, and doesn’t settle on all the various things which are assumed to be real, but keeps on, with his love remaining keen and steady, until the nature of each thing as it really is in itself has been grasped by the appropriate part of his mind . . . then he

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has knowledge; then he lives a life which is true to himself; then he is nourished.12

In the East, jnana yoga (the Way of Knowledge) resembles Socratic enquiry. The task of intellect is to discard what is not myself so that the radiating light of Self is revealed. This method of spiritual discrimination is called vichara, or selfenquiry. The process of vichara is stimulated through asking existential questions such as ‘Who am I?’ and ‘How is the world made?’ As false or partial answers are eliminated so also does the enquirer (and the mind by which enquiries are made) come under scrutiny. The dualistic process by which, for example, the enquirer asks ‘is the Self this?’ contradicts the Vedic law of One Self: how can Self ask about Self? Enquirer and mind must finally be absorbed into the one Self that they are. Mind as instrument of knowledge is like a thorn used to remove a thorn lodged in the skin. At the point of unity both thorns are discarded. As a devotee of jnana yoga, Ramana Maharshi practiced and taught vichara based on the question ‘Who am I?’ Meditation upon this question provokes ancillary questions, such as ‘am I this body? . . . these thoughts and feelings? . . . this ego?.’ As coverings upon the Self, or koshas, are removed because they are revealed as non-causal, the proximity to Self intensifies. Mind comes to rest in its source, Heart, and Self shines through as the transcendent source of all partial identities. For Ramana Maharshi mind is primarily the false ‘I’ or ego which is effaced by self-enquiry. He says: Thought is the nature of mind. . . . Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the ‘I’ thought is the first . . . it rises in the heart. . . . The thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and, like the stick used in stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.13

Below is a practice fashioned after Ramana Maharshi’s method of vichara. You are invited to try it now or at another time that is convenient for you. VICHARA: Sit down, quiet the body, and let the senses open. Begin by asking yourself ‘Who am I?’ Let the question be sounded without looking for an answer. Proceed with the following sequence of questions, giving time to each and observing what, if anything, comes up in mindspace: ‘Am I this body?’ . . . ‘Am I these thoughts?’ . . . ‘Am I these feelings?’ . . . ‘Am I this personality, this ego?’ . . . ‘Am I the roles I play in life?’ . . . ‘Who am I?’. . . . Perhaps this exercise gave you a taste of the eliminative process by which habitual assumptions about who I am are seen and discarded. Perhaps you are finally left with the enigma ‘I don’t know who I am.’ I don’t know is the door to Self-knowledge. It is the via negativa of all mystics. Not-knowing incapacitates


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the analytical process and reveals that, as Euclid states, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.’ Like sifting silt to find a gold nugget, vichara requires patient diligence. In the end, apprehension of Self transcends the activity of mind and depends upon direct experience alone. Direct experience of Self can be induced by the practice of meditation. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was fond of reminding students of transcendental meditation (TM) that mind naturally seeks ultimate happiness. Mind moves to its mother substance: the ever-present, all-knowing, blissful Self. Mind gives itself up to Self in meditation. Thus, the practice of meditation is the unraveling of the thinking process. Mind meditates—‘thinks on’ or ‘rests on’ a mantra or the breath—in order to be relieved of thought and sink into remembrance of Self. A story illustrates the advantage of giving mind a focus in the pursuit of direct experience of Reality. A spider gets caught in a beehive. He is put into a honeycomb to be eaten the next morning by the bees. During the night he ponders his fate; how shall he escape death? He comes upon a solution. The remaining hours of the night he meditates on bee-ness. In the morning he is— a bee!

WATCHING MOVEMENTS IN MIND If mind is envisioned as an enormous space, like the blue sky that stretches into infinity, then thoughts which appear and disappear in that space are like birds in flight, illuminated against the blue sky. Just as the movement of birds cannot disturb or diminish the sky so the natural movement of thoughts, feelings and desires through mind-space is inconsequential unless identification with a particular movement is induced by ego. Then mind-space seems to shrink into that thought-form and one experiences the agitation of energy unnaturally confined. “A still mind is not a mind without thoughts,” says Jean Klein; “It is a mind without agitation.”14 Only the desire to realize Self, as a thought, liberates mind from the tendency to be confined by thought. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells Arjuna that the art of controlling mind is the path to the experiential knowledge of Self. Here is a segment of their dialogue: Krishna: Let the student of spirituality try unceasingly to concentrate his mind. . . .Thus keeping his mind always in communion with Me, and with his thought subdued, he shall attain that Peace which is Mine. . . .when the volatile and wavering mind would wander, let him restrain it, and bring it again to its allegiance to the Self.

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Arjuna: I do not see how I can attain this state of equanimity which Thou hast revealed, owing to the restlessness of my mind. My Lord! Verily, the mind is fickle and turbulent, obstinate and strong, yea extremely difficult as the wind to control. Krishna: Doubtless, O Mighty One! The mind is fickle and exceedingly difficult to restrain, but . . . with practice and renunciation it can be done.15

Krishna avows that the restless mind, with which Arjuna struggles, is susceptible to the weapons of practice and renunciation. What is to be practiced and what is to be renounced? If the mind is re-minded through presence about the true self then it will not be so easily deceived by spurious conceptions concocted by ego. An expert on fraud is not fooled by the similitude of counterfeit paper money to real dollars. Therefore, the practice of bringing the wandering mind back to its allegiance to the Self is essential. This reminder is the purpose of the Pause. As the practice of presence extends out from the Pause to enlighten our daily activities strength is gained to remember Self and rein in this wild horse of imaginings—the thinking mind. And what of renunciation? Is thinking to be renounced? No. It is not the thinking process or the thoughts themselves, but the identification with thoughts that needs to be observed and defused by a disengagement of the attention. Identification with any mind movement is an indulgence that saps energy and fosters a condition of mind that is unnatural because it is divorced from present reality. If, for example, I am attached to the idea that my child may not measure up to his peers in the development of learning skills I may compound the worry by imagining possible defects that he may have. This mental luggage prevents me from being open to factual information that arises in the present to guide me in assessing the situation. In the spiritual practice of centering prayer Thomas Keating advises a ‘hohum’ attitude in regards to the wanderings of the mind. Instead of blaming ourselves for mental lapses we can accept this attention deficit as a product of habit and gently return to the sacred word that anchors the practice. Even addictive thoughts will in time be released through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Keating calls this process the ‘unloading of the unconscious.’ He writes: ‘Unloading’ refers to the experience of psychic nausea that occurs in the form of a bombardment of thoughts and feelings that surge into our awareness . . . from our unconscious . . . the evacuation process may be extremely painful but . . . the Divine Therapist is there to enable us to handle it.16

The Allegory of the Cave in Plato’s Republic offers an indelible image of how the thinking mind becomes so persuaded by its own stories that it


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cannot recognize the real world. Socrates is explaining how the mind, if not exposed to the Good, may mistakenly embrace ignorance as reality. The image is of a dark cave where men are sitting with their backs to the light of a blazing fire. These cavedwellers are chained; they cannot turn around. On the wall in front of them they see shadows of people, creatures and objects moving in a steady stream. However, because of the chains that bind them, literally and metaphorically, they do not realize that the procession they observe is occurring on a platform behind them and that the fire is projecting shadows which they take for reality. Socrates asks: if one of the prisoners were to turn and have his shackles unbound by a guide who then drags him up the path, past the fire and into the Light of the Sun outside the cave, how will the former prisoner react? Even as his eyes adjust to the new light of knowledge will not his mind struggle to comprehend and accept the Light of Truth? Might it take time and patient mentoring from his guide before he can reject the old familiar life of the cave? Indeed, if such a person is convinced of his new vision and decides to return to the cave to enlighten his fellows will they not kill this ‘new man’ as a lunatic? St. Paul instructs new converts to Christianity to prefer the ‘new man’ or ‘new self’ by ‘putting on the mind of Christ.’ Paul describes how this is done. He writes: You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds . . . but should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the Spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:17, 20–24).

This transformation of mind suggests a spiritualizing of mind. ‘Putting on Christ’s mind’ cuts through the bogus thinking of the old self and dismantles its facade. Thus is born a new way of thinking and behaving. The Christian way of love or agape requires that mind power be suffused with the compassion of Christ’s Sacred Heart, creating what in Eastern religions is called mind-heart. Indeed, enlightenment is signaled by the fused energies of wisdom and compassion that emanate from an awakened crown chakra. Thus, an enlightened man or woman responds to the needs of the moment with mindheart cleansed of selfish ideas and the feelings attached to those ideas. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk and director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, challenges cerebral Western man to discover God in the Incarnation, to see God in front of his nose, so to speak, and not in his head. Rohr argues that our lives require a radical change

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in which love inspires a simultaneous acting and thinking that brings heaven to earth. Rohr states: We don’t think our way into a new life; we live our way into a new kind of thinking. The Gospel is before all else a call to live differently . . . to live in a new way, to lead a life of authentic brotherliness and sisterliness—economically, politically, socially, and spiritually. . . . For us the Gospel has never really landed on earth; it’s never touched the socio-political and economic order; the Kingdom of God never came. False religion comes on the scene when we piously say, ‘Thy Kingdom come,’ but don’t immediately add, ‘My kingdom go.’17

The nature of this new thinking, attained by ‘putting on the mind of Christ,’ remains unclear until we become aware of habitual patterns of thought and let them go. By weeding out what is not thinking we may stumble upon the mental space where real thinking takes place. Below are adjectives that characterize the impoverished mental state of identification. We may recognize these aberrant conditions of mind. They describe the futility of mind that St. Paul says we must overcome. Just as we would not associate with people whose company we have come to realize is detrimental to our mental-emotional health, so we can learn to resist this habitual misuse of mental energy. Mental energy is misused when it is directed in ways that are: • Irrelevant: Mental scenarios, fabricated to manipulate the future or fix the past, are irrelevant and therefore unsuccessful, because the past is over, the future is yet to come, and only the present holds all possibilities. If needed, memories stored from past experience can be accessed in the present or thought can be given to planning a future event in the present. Conscious planning recognizes that the plan may not happen as planned. • Involuntary: There is little control over thoughts that occupy the attention. We don’t say to ourselves ‘now I’m going to daydream’; the dream happens to us. Mind is on automatic pilot. Instead of being the driver, we fall into the role of passenger. We need to admit this lack of control, much as the alcoholic admits his addiction at every AA meeting. • Forgetful: Because attention is captive to private imaginings mind ‘forgets’ what is being said or done around us. Disconnected from the senses mind becomes absent-minded. • Non-productive: Energy for work is squandered when private imaginings make us inattentive at work, distracted at home and spaced out in general. • Opinionated: When we see, hear, taste, touch or smell through a screen of biased commentary our behavior becomes sense-less and unreasonable. As


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Heraclitus says, unless the senses are connected to the intelligence or logos that interprets events, comprehension of what is really going on around us cannot occur. When many personal agendas bump into each other a collective cantankerousness is created which poisons society. • Stale and non-creative: The limited group of thoughts, images, and desires that whirl around in my head can only recreate themselves. Nothing new, creative, and arresting can happen in mind. When King Solomon speaks of there being “no new thing under the sun” he speaks of this lifeless mental treadmill based in vanity (Eccles.1:9). • Dangerous: Have you ever been driving for several hours and, suddenly, summoned from your amnesia into present awareness by some unknown force, wondered how it is that you are still sitting behind the wheel, alive? With incisive humor the late Albert Ellis, psychotherapist, characterizes what he calls ‘absolutist’ or ‘crooked’ thinking. We might add his assessment of misused mental energy to the list above. He writes: ‘Some of us walk around all day long getting on our own cases: . . . ‘I should have said this to that person. I need to be more that. I ought to be more organized. I should be more attractive. . . . I ought to be more assertive. I need to be less aggressive. I’ve got to speak up more, I really need to keep my mouth shut.’ Some of us ‘should on ourselves’ all day long!’18

A hospitable way to challenge the habitual misuse of mental energy is to establish an open door policy—that is, leave the back door of our mental house open so that imaginings of all sorts can freely come and go. In time the mind is tamed by being re-minded of its innate efficiency. If a thought is particularly pesky direct the attention to the sensations of the moment and persevere with this choice. According to Hindu sage Sri Aurobindo, the next step in human spiritual evolution is the rediscovery of self-awareness. Aurobindo calls this awareness Supermind.19 As the human being becomes more conscious the whole of Nature advances towards a realization of its hidden divinity. Indeed, Aurobindo rejects a dualistic paradigm of Spirit as the opposite of Matter. On the contrary, Spirit is involved in Matter from the beginning of Creation because Spirit is the essence of each created form. Spirit evolves through Matter into a full measure of bliss when being present and being one with all beings is the aim and delight of living.20 As presence of mind is awakened we are less absent-minded. We are also less vulnerable to losing our minds in a morass of anger, confusion and fear. As mind comes to rest in Divine Mind, in the infinite Tao, we are less likely to pronounce someone with whom we disagree as out of his mind. Lao Tzu presents the challenge thus:

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Can you coax your mind from its wandering and keep to the original oneness? . . . Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but the light? Can you love people and lead them without imposing your will? Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course? Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things?. . . .21

THINKING AS ATTENTION Let us consider the possibility that real thinking is simply the process of giving attention. When mind attends to the present moment by means of sensory awareness it is operating in a healthy way. Mind is open to the play of its native, alert intelligence interacting with circumstance. Whatever needs to be thought is the product of this connective tissue called attention. Extraneous thoughts that may crisscross mind remain mere background noise because they are not invested at the moment with the potent energy of presence. Attention given to the need of the moment—whether it is balancing the checkbook, cooking a meal, or helping a child with homework—ensures integrity of thought because thinking stays relevant to the task. In his poem Thought D.H. Lawrence identifies attention as the core of real thinking. He writes: Thought, I love thought. But not the jaggling and twisting of already existent ideas I despise that self-important game. Thought is the welling up of unknown life into consciousness, Thought is the testing of statements on the touchstone of the conscience, Thought is gazing on to the face of life, and reading what can be read, Thought is pondering over experience, and coming to conclusion. Thought is not a trick, or an exercise, or a set of dodges, Thought is a man in his wholeness wholly attending.22

Let us consider Lawrence’s claim that “thought is a man in his wholeness wholly attending.” Attention requires an outer-directed generosity of mind. This benign interest in the ‘other’ squelches “that self-important game” in which ego burrows into past regrets and future anxieties—“the jaggling and twisting of already existent ideas.” Even “pondering over experience, and coming to conclusion” can be a reflective act of presence, not a mental lapse into the past. Thinking that is fresh, honest, non-manipulative, selfless and


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creative requires presence: a man in his wholeness wholly attending. By implication Lawrence unveils the deeper source of this attentive presence: unconditional love. Anybody or anything to which we give our full attention also receives our love. Love closes the space between the two, making the two one. The pulse of love amplifies the vibratory network of connections that is the real world. Eckhart Tolle explains: Attention is primordial intelligence, consciousness itself. It dissolves the barriers created by conceptual thought, and with this comes the recognition that nothing exists in and by itself. . . . It is the healer of separation.23

Attention is the mental knife that cuts through habitual detours to produce creative solutions. For example, you’re at a business meeting. The conversation is stalled over a certain problem. Inertia and frustration envelop the conference room, but you are not affected because you have taken refuge in the Pause. Receptive and detached, your mind is lit by sattva, the energy of attentive presence. In the still space of silence you suddenly ‘hear’ a solution. You speak and the whole room is lifted out of its despondency. This is not a fairytale. The collective creative mind in which we all live awaits our participation. In the stillness of our own presence the mind is free to be itself, to be the mind of the universe. As Jean Klein says: “A free mind is not ‘my’ mind, and in this total absence you will feel your presence.”24

HOW ATTENTION IS USED The tool of attention has two useful applications: open and focused. Open attention allows all the senses to operate consciously. Attention is outward and welcoming; the senses are picking up energies from the environment and delivering them to attentive mind. Open attention is the mode of the Pause. Focused or centered attention is that mental power which, like a laser, can be directed to one point in the environment. Reading a book, writing a school report, listening to someone speak to you over the phone, even watching a traffic light until the red changes to green—all these are everyday examples of focused attention. It is important to recognize that focusing on something does not eliminate the backdrop of open attention that is always active to some degree. There is no conflict in this simultaneity. For example, if my husband and I are engaged in conversation and I am listening to what he is saying I am also aware of background noises like the rumbling of the clothes dryer and the wall clock ticking; I see in my peripheral vision the objects in the room. Again, if I am meditating, the effort to stay with the mantra does not obviate an awareness of external sounds or internal sounds flitting around in the head.

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Even in the midst of intense bodily pain the power of attention can provide inner rest. During the labor pains preceding the birth—by natural means—of my second son, I discovered that the only way I could endure the contractions when their rhythm intensified was to put my attention directly into the pain, into its center in the birth canal. It was like entering the eye of a storm. With the attention poised at the quiet center where the labor was taking place I was able to relax into the trauma, at least to some degree, and accept the pain of the stretching and pushing motions inside my lower abdomen which by necessity were violating the body’s normal functioning. I knew that if I resisted Nature and refused to ‘go with the flow’ I would surely create more pain, real and imagined. By working with the biological pain I could locate deep rest in the seconds between contractions. This miniscule window of rest was enough to energize me to push until the baby was released. In fact, these moments of deep rest as they accumulated sent soothing vibrations into each new contraction. Perhaps the agony of bodily death requires this same concentration so that the soul is aided in its separation from the body. As one seeker describes the stillness at the center: Poised balance is . . . the secret of mastery. There is always a centre of everything. . . . And in the central point is always found the power of the whole event or thing.25

Petra Cada with her eyes on the ball, AP Images/Chitose Suzuki, used with permission


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This ‘poised balance’ is epitomized in an amazing photograph of the athlete Petra Cada of Canada. Watching a ping-pong ball, she is poised in readiness to hit the ball back to her opponent during competition at the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. There are also two dysfunctional uses of attention: divided attention and captured attention. Both of these diversionary modes of attention sap energy. We can, however, wake up to their dysfunctional nature and avoid being snared. Divided attention often happens in conversation. I am ‘listening’ to someone speak yet I am simultaneously tuning out in intermittent blips to ‘think about’ something that the speaker has said or plan what I’m going to say next. Divided attention infects the workplace. In an already stressful environment employees are expected to switch their attention rapidly between competing jobs. The prestigious name for this scattering of energy is multitasking. A critic writes: Multitasking, throughput, efficiency: these are excellent machine concepts, useful in the design of computer systems. But are they principles that nurture human thought and imagination?26

Switching from one task to another does not necessarily imply a dysfunctional state of attention. A mother, for example, may need to quickly end an important phone conversation to tend to a crying baby. This break and transfer of attention is clean if the response to the new need is not mixed with thinking that the previous task is incomplete or feeling impatient at the ‘interruption.’ The inherent risk in multitasking is that one may succumb to a mental-emotional stew of residual thoughts and feelings even while going through the motions called for by the new task. This superimposition of past on present is essentially dishonest and therefore ineffective. Furthermore, the faculty of attention, as a physical-mental ability, is not of the ambidextrous type. Pure attention illuminates one thing at a time because the ‘closed circuit’ between mind and senses prevents thoughts from successfully splitting the attention. This is not a handicap but a gift. If I am trying to calm a cranky child while simultaneously making a cake for supper it is very likely that I will either slight the child, prompting an increase in his whining, or I will neglect to add an ingredient, like the baking powder, and end up with a flat, unappetizing cake. A constant diet of divided attention stunts spiritual awakening which depends upon a mind-heart that is quiet and aware. The other dysfunctional use of attention—captured attention—is a wholesale abrogation of conscious presence, a retreat into an imaginary world. For example, I am walking down a city street. The attention is out; senses are open, mind is at rest. I am in a desireless, stress-free state of open attention. As I pass a travel agency my eye lights upon an attractive poster in the window. I stop walking and turn to face the window. My attention focuses on the

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beautiful colors of the aquamarine sea, the deep blue sky, and the white sand associated with a trip to the Caribbean. The beauty feeds the mind with its vibrations. Although attention is focused on the poster I am still aware of standing on the sidewalk; I hear sounds of people passing by. If someone were to call my name it would probably only mildly startle me. Then something changes: the desire to be in the picture fires up. The desire to be in the Caribbean on permanent vacation, away from the headache of my job, overtakes presence. My reservoir of energy is sucked into a dream as I am transported to another, ‘better’ time and place. This is attention captured.

‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’ by Francisco Goya, ‘courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, dt652_iap_qtr, Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art’


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In his essay Of Idleness, Michel de Montaigne spots the propensity of mind—when it is not usefully occupied—to succumb to unbridled fancy. He says that agitated minds “‘form vain visions, like a sick man’s dreams.’”27 An etching by Francisco Goya called The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters perfectly embodies Montaigne’s argument. One of the most egregious generators of captured attention is watching television. The hypnotic effect of TV compounds everyday daydreams, removing mind-heart even further from an active, attentive engagement with the Creation. Ironically, captured attention, in which we become what we observe and lose the sense of self, is directly opposed to the experience we occasionally have of becoming one with the universe. The two identifications may appear the same but they are vastly different. In captured attention awareness of Self is lost because ego is defining the world as a reflection of its own imaginings. Truthful identification occurs when ‘subject’ and ‘object’ merge. Contrary to the opinion of ego—that loss of self is an isolating, fearful experience—the natural bonding that bypasses ego fosters an ebullient feeling of belonging, a certitude that I have come home to my global Self. Below is a practice in discriminating the various states of attention. You are invited to try it now or at another, more convenient time. GIVING ATTENTION: Dedicate a set time to work with focused attention. If you awaken to the experience of divided or captured attention, due to lapses in awareness, just bring the attention back to the work at hand. At the end of the allotted time assess the quality of energy. Remember, maintaining conscious presence is work. Work requires energy; but the energy used in staying attentive is replenished. In time we will live and work at a higher level of consciousness that requires less energy because the energy is used economically. As Jesus said: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance” (Matt. 13:12).

HINDU VEDANTA’S MIND MAP AND BUDDHISM’S ‘ORIGINAL MIND’ Both Hindu Vedanta and Buddhism offer insights about the anatomy of the mind that help us distinguish between real thinking and mechanized thinking. Hindu Vedanta systematically describes four functional components that operate within a larger framework called the antakarana or inner organ of mind. These components are chitta, ahankara, buddhi and manas. Chitta is the heart where all precious memories, ideas, values and desires are held. Ahankara is synonymous with ego. Manas is discursive mind; buddhi is the power of discrimination.

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Recognizing how manas and buddhi are used, or misused, is crucial to a proper management of mental energy. Manas, as the moving part of the mind, functions as a messenger; it delivers information from either the senses or memory to the discriminative faculty (buddhi). In turn, buddhi shines its laser beam of reason on that information to distinguish true from false, useful from extraneous. Reason illuminates and chooses the appropriate response. To use a mundane example, the activity of searching out a birthday gift for a friend at a department store by gathering sense impressions about possible choices, as well as remembering that friend’s needs and preferences, are performed by manas. Sifting through this information and deciding on the right gift is buddhi’s job. This teamwork is swift and effective: manas as discursive mind is delivering the raw material and buddhi is discriminating its value. In the act of discrimination the inherent wisdom of Self becomes accessible. At each moment I will know what to do and what not to do. There is a story that compares the awakened buddhi to a lantern that guides us: A devout but poor man goes on a journey. He leaves his modest dwelling with only the clothes on his body and a small lantern. It is night. He walks slowly, for the lantern’s light barely illuminates the vast darkness around his body. A holy man appears and joins the traveler for a while. “How can I complete this journey?” complains the traveler to the holy man. “My lantern is inadequate. Its light is limited to the small area of my next step.” The holy man replies encouragingly, “That is all the light you need, just enough to take the next step.”

Awareness is necessary to the proper functioning of buddhi and manas. When buddhi is covered by distracting thoughts and images, like the light of the sun obscured by clouds, it is impossible to ‘think straight.’ This weakened, indecisive state of buddhi allows manas to play with whatever it fancies in the moving mental landscape. Manas behaves like a child left without adult supervision in a roomful of toys. The natural hierarchy of manas as servant and buddhi as master is overturned. Being able to access the inner core of quiet presence is the only way to retain mental orderliness. If, for example, my egoistic self-righteousness is aroused in a heated conversation with my husband, the ability to discriminate and choose words and actions that might restore harmony between us is compromised. There is no repose in the mind. The accelerated heartbeat and rush of angry thoughts and feelings that discursive mind is delivering for use is preventing the light of reason from shining through. To make things worse, ego urges discursive mind to dig up from memory any slights and humiliations from past confrontations to use as ammunition against my husband. Only by coming to my senses and entering the present moment can the power


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of reason be restored and manas be relieved of the hyperactive contortions of trying to satisfy ego instead of serving buddhi. The question is: will I wake up in time to minimize the damage? A Hindu story illustrates the dysfunctional situation in which discursive mind becomes a rowdy underling of ego and challenges the authority of reason: A man decides to dedicate his life to Shiva by living as a hermit in the forest. He begins to design a small hut for himself and marks out a vegetable garden. Suddenly out of the forest strides a big man with bulging muscles. In a gruff voice the man says to the hermit: “I will be your servant; however, you must keep me busy with things to do, otherwise I will destroy you!” In fear for his life the hermit stutters a reply: “Build my hut, here are the plans.” In a flash the hut is built. The man returns, more ferocious than before. “Give me something to do or I will destroy you!” he barks. The hermit looks around the clearing in desperation. “You can dig up the garden and set out these seeds,” he says, fully believing that this work will take some time. But no, the man is back instantly, the job done and done well. The hermit trembles under the towering figure of the big man who shouts, “GIVE ME SOMETHING TO DO, OR I WILL DESTROY YOU!” Suddenly the hermit has a clever idea. He plucks a hair from his head—his hair happens to be very curly— and, handing the strand of hair to his foe, says, “From now on, whenever you finish a job you can occupy yourself by straightening this hair.”

By attending in the moment to the task at hand—whatever it is—manas and buddhi maintain their correct alignment. This prerequisite fulfilled, mind can seek its progenitor—Spirit. The Kena-Upanishad points the way: The enquirer asked: ‘What has called my mind to the hunt? What has made my life begin?’ . . . The teacher answered: ‘It lives in all that lives, hearing through the ear, thinking through the mind, speaking through the tongue, seeing through the eye . . . that which makes the mind think, but needs no mind to think, that alone is Spirit. . . .’28

Just as Hindu Vedanta teaches that real thinking depends upon a total engagement of mind in the present moment, so the discovery of what Buddhism calls original mind depends upon the practice of mindfulness. Being ‘full of mind’ is being full of awareness. Mindfulness brings clarity of mind—vipassana. When the mind is clear there is appropriate action. Buddha describes mind as a mirror. If it is wiped off daily through the practice of mindfulness then the shining light of original mind or buddha mind directs the action to suit the needs of the moment. The dust of habitual thinking patterns does not collect on the mirror. As mindfulness replaces my private stash of opinions and desires then the peace of Nirvana—literally, the extinguishing of the flame of desire—draws near. Remove the habit-infested mind and the calm of original mind is revealed.

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Zen Buddhist teacher Shunryu Suzuki equates original mind with beginner’s mind for “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”29 The following Zen story elucidates how enlightenment is hindered when reliance on opinions and assumptions, even those of an expert, supplants trust in the open conduit of original mind: A university professor visits a Japanese master to inquire about Zen. As the master serves tea to his guest he continues to pour until the tea splashes over the rim of the cup and onto the table. “Stop! Stop!” cries the professor. “The cup is full and now you are spilling tea everywhere!” The master replies, “Like this cup you too are brimming over with opinions. How can I teach you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”30

The ‘empty cup’ suggests a pristine state of knowing that precedes the chaos of mechanized thinking which Buddhism calls monkey mind.31 Feng Shui master William Spear, for example, speaks of an innate intuitive wisdom that can be called upon in arranging space at home or work so that ch’i flows healthfully. He notes that the Japanese characters for the word intuition mean original ability.32 Zen master Baso calls this primal mind ordinary mind. The root of the word ordinary is also the root of the word orderliness. When there is presence the mind settles into its natural order; thoughts and cravings subside like sediment sinking to the bottom of a lake. As mind moves towards vacancy—a welcome vacation from monkey mind—an original serenity is uncovered. The word ordinary usually connotes something run-of-the-mill, humdrum, even unimportant. Perhaps a true story can illuminate what ordinary might really mean. A young boy I once knew was fond of dressing up and playing the role of popular heroes like Spiderman and Superman. One day he came to me in his regular clothes and asked, “Who do you think I am today?” I shook my head, mystified. “I’m Ordinaryman,” he said, beaming. Perhaps ordinary is the right adjective to define Everyman and Everyman’s special gift of inherent wisdom. Unless there is access to ordinary mind through mindfulness, thinking is easily contaminated by ego’s agenda. In the First Mindfulness Training offered by Thich Nhat Hanh, the student vows “not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.”33 That the real killing fields are thought-energies projected outwards, even before words are said or actions performed, is a teaching that appears in many spiritual traditions. The demons that Jesus exorcizes from afflicted people are negative thought-energies. When a tribal member comes to a shaman and complains that a neighbor is sending daggers at him the sufferer is metaphorically reporting the real mental assault he feels. Rituals of black magic release this power of negative


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thought energy. Conversely, white magic repels it. For example, a healing practice native to Hawaiian indigenous spirituality, called ho’oponopono, requires the shaman to recognize within himself the same vices that are causing suffering in his client. By offering healing forgiveness to himself, he heals the other by extension. This is the Law of One in action.

REEVALUATING THE NATURE OF INTELLIGENCE: BEYOND LOGIC What thinks and what knows? When skin draws itself together to heal a cut on the body does this denote an intelligence in the skin cells? While the cerebral cortex may be the command center for intelligent action the science of psychoneuroimmunology is revealing connections between brain, nervous system and immune system which link all biological systems in an intelligent, complex network of communication. Looking at the brain alone, it appears that the two hemispheres use the energy of intelligence differently. The split-brain research of Dr. Roger Sperry and others shows that when the bundle of fibers connecting the two cerebral hemispheres (the corpus callosum) is cut the severity of pathological conditions, like epileptic seizures, is reduced. Furthermore, split-brain surgery reveals a natural cerebral laterality—rather like yin/yang complementaries— which associates the ‘left brain’ with language, mathematics and logic while the ‘right brain’ is responsible for creative thought and expression, intuition and emotion. There appears to be some validity to this claim. Particularly dramatic are studies that indicate a correlation between left brain damage and observed impairments in speech articulation and comprehension. However, a simplistic dichotomy of differing functions ignores the subtleties of brain operation. For example, although in most human brains the formation of letters and their combination to make words does seem to take place in the left hemisphere of the brain, the right brain is responsible for interpreting the tone of voice used in speaking those words in conversation.34 A more integrative approach to the mystery of brain functioning is the holographic model. The evidence of Dr. Karl Pribram, a reputed brain researcher, shows that, just as the universe is holographic in nature so the brain’s deep structure is a hologram: as above, so below. Pribram discovered that the brain structures the five senses in such a way that information about sensory perception is stored everywhere in the brain. Along a network of fine fibers that surround nerve cells information about the whole can be traced. Furthermore, brain research confirms that as any brain activity is enhanced, whether assigned to the left or right side, that refinement creates an energy

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that is synergistic, stimulating a kind of telepathic refinement of other cortical skills and fulfilling compensatory requirements when there is nerve damage or loss. 35 Still, in the realm of spirituality, the idea that language and creative insight pass through two different physiological areas matches the experience of meditation practice. As the ‘language’ of the left brain—inner chatter—fades into a widening space of silence during meditation, the scales of balance shift to a rising of intuitive, creative energy out of the right brain. The Zen practice of seated meditation—zazen—attempts to awaken right brain energy. For example, the koan that a Zen student meditates on disengages the logical process once that process is observed as a dead-end. When left brain energies shut down in frustration the creative energy of the right brain is triggered. Enlightenment becomes possible. Hold in mind the following koan for a few moments: What was your face like before you were conceived?

Logical mind tries to compose an image of ‘your face,’ perhaps by dredging up genetic cues or family photos. When this effort is abandoned what remains? The space of not-knowing, the space of buddha-mind that knows everything. Jean Klein calls this space the relaxed or meditative mode of mind. He says, When the mind goes to its end—and it goes to its end when it thinks of the unthinkable—we can call it meditation, because in thinking the unthinkable, we are silent. . . . When the mind comes to the end of its potentiality, it is a relaxed mind. . . . If we do not come to the end of the thinking mind, we will be bound to it, so that even when there are moments when there is nothing to think, we are still in the mind and live in constant agitation.36

Logical analysis has been the premier method of inquiry in the West since the Scientific Revolution. This method is epitomized in the sculpture by Auguste Rodin called The Thinker. The Western obsession with figuring things out—even to the point of trying to prove God’s existence—has brought innovative solutions in science, medicine and industry. But as a method for spiritual transcendence logic falls short because the mind cannot conceive something larger than itself. Medieval scholars like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure knew the limitations of logic in probing the Divine. Their insights came through mystical contemplation. Even vichara and the Socratic method are preparatory stages to transcendent knowledge. Abraham Heschel reflects on the limited efficacy of logic when he describes religion as “not a conclusion won from an inquiry


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‘The Thinker’ by Auguste Rodin, ‘courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Thomas F. Ryan, 1910 (11.173.9) Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

into the nature of the universe, not an explanation of a riddle, but the living in the riddle, the effort to be the answer to the riddle oneself.”37 An example of the ultimate futility of logic to effect spiritual transformation is the effort of Descartes in his ‘meditations’ to prove God’s existence. Descartes was an early proponent of the scientific age. He lived at a time

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when reliance on the power of human rationality was replacing the medieval faith-based dependence on God. Consumed with existential questions such as ‘how do I know I exist?’ and ‘how do I know God exists?’ Descartes endeavors to answer these questions by applying logic. He admits that his doubts may not be relieved; yet, “. . . if I do not really have the ability to know the truth, I will at least withhold assent from what is false and from what a deceiver may try to put over on me. . . .’”38 He also recognizes that a tendency to sleep keeps him prisoner and makes “‘habitual views constantly return to my mind and take control.’”39 Descartes’ critical mistake in reasoning is his apotheosis of the thinker as Self. It doesn’t occur to him that the thinking self he is euphorically discovering may be the very deceiver he fears—indeed, the ego or false self. Because of this logical miscalculation Descartes concludes: “The fact that I exist and have an idea in me of a perfect entity—that is, God—conclusively entails that God does in fact exist.”40 The alternative conclusion overturns Descartes’ sentence by placing the true I—God as every being’s identity—as the origin of existence and thinking: ‘I am . . . therefore I (embodied as an individual) think.’41 All the scientific experiments in the world will not guarantee the a-ha moment of discovery; and while the linear thinking of cause and effect has no problem going from 1 to 2, it is not equipped to enter the mystery of infinity. Rumi captures this truth: I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I’ve been knocking from the inside.42

INTEGRATING THE ENERGIES OF INTELLIGENCE When we tap into our native intelligence, which springs from awareness, we recognize a complex weave of available energies that includes instinct, intuition, body sensation, emotion, rationality, and attention. The Pause, for example, stimulates an integration of these energies. Living in the whole that we are is the requisite for developing holistic thinking. The fourteenth century English anchorite, Julian of Norwich, for example, credits her insights about God and Christ to what she calls ‘showings’ or ‘touchings.’ She is shown through intuitive-sensory channels that God is both mother and father, enfolding us in sweet love and sheltering us with tenderness.


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The holistic perspective is an ancient one. Chinese medicine, for example, recognizes the healing synthesis of correct diet, exercise, acupuncture and acupressure, herbal remedies, and meditation.43 In the Republic of Plato, Socrates recommends an educational system based on a balanced regimen in which the physical training of the body promotes courage while cultural studies promote a refined, virtuous mind. The mind naturally divides itself into three sections: desires, passions, and reason. The instinctive appetites or desires of ego (the inner dictator) must be carefully watched and measured. The higher passions of the heart such as courage and affection should be developed whereas meaner passions such as pride and greed must be restrained. All passions should be under the rule of the rational faculty that fastens upon the Good. True thinking is then linked to the love of the Good and its pursuit. One way to comprehend the energies of intelligence available to us is by classifying them as ‘male’ or ‘female.’ C.G. Jung teaches, for example, that the process of healthy individuation requires a proper development of the anima (female) and animus (male) energies within each human being. ‘Female’ energies of intelligence are associated with such qualities as receptivity, emotional sensitivity and intuition; ‘male’ energies suggest assertive action, detachment and rationality. In the West a cultural bias that has traditionally assigned reason to the male gender and emotion to the female gender has reduced complex, interrelated energies to simplistic notions of gender superiority or inferiority. Energies of intelligence are not about gender. They are about attributes of Self that each human being possesses as his or her birthright. It is the meager exploration of these innate powers that contributes to the attenuated life that many of us lead.44 The Eastern religions can help the Westerner understand the composite nature of intelligence. For example, Confucianism defines the individual as hsin, which translates as mind-heart. Taoism speaks of the complementary ‘female’ expansive yin energy and ‘male’ contractive yang energy that evolve out of primordial ch’i. Each human being possesses yin and yang in particular proportions. Health depends upon a specific regimen of diet, exercise and meditation to balance the two energies. Lao Tzu writes: The Tao gives birth to One. One gives birth to Two. Two gives birth to Three. Three gives birth to all things . . . When male and female combine, all things achieve harmony. . . .45

Hindu mythology is full of references to a desirable harmony of energies. Shiva, God of Creation and Destruction, is not whole without his consort,

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Shakti. The erotic embrace of Shakti and Shiva and the generative energy released in sexual union symbolize the regenerative power that accompanies a spiritual rediscovery of wholeness.46 In many fairy tales only the reunion of the prince and princess after many trials allows the ‘kingdom’ to ‘live happily ever after.’ The famous Hindu story of Rama and his chaste wife Sita, relayed in the Ramayana, describes the capture of Sita by the ten-headed king of the evil demons, Ravana. Rama and his loyal monkey general Hanuman must wage fierce battles to defeat Ravana and rescue Sita. Only when the couple is reunited is the happiness of the kingdom secured. Both philosopher Sara Ruddick and psychologist Daniel Goldman contemplate a natural fusion of reason and emotion. In her book Maternal Thinking, Towards a Politics of Peace, Ruddick traces the stereotypic definition of reason as a masculine trait to the era of the Western Enlightenment when ruling males decided that the prize of reason makes the male inherently dominant in public affairs while the lesser domestic duties fall to the emotional female. Ruddick takes up this ‘lesser’ role, looks at mothering, and discovers that there is a very specific use of reason that a mother masters in her work of raising a child. She calls this reasoning attentive love. Attentive love demands an appreciation of subtle nuances and an attunement to precise measure.47 When a mother practices attentive love she is grounded in the present moment; she uses her senses and intuition to assess the child’s situation in order to act with simultaneous detachment and empathy. In the larger social context Ruddick maintains that maternal thinking may be critical to human survival because it replaces aggressive militarism with the maternal relational skills that nurture community. Unwarranted militarism is a betrayal of reason. Failure to assess a situation rightly, due to lack of awareness, forfeits both reason and empathy. In his book Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goldman argues that human beings possess two interconnected intelligences—rational and emotional—that spring from the same biological root. The neocortex develops out of a more primitive emotional storehouse of experience lodged in the limbic system which itself grows out of the olfactory lobe that investigates the world by means of the oldest sense—smell. This original role of the senses suggests the primacy of sensory awareness. Goldman believes that a tolerant, empathetic society depends upon the recognition of the ‘emotional brain’ so that its energy is neither suppressed nor permitted to trigger unhealthy reactive patterns. In order to harmonize these two ‘minds’ Goldman recommends certain practices that are based in self-awareness. In the world of Nature one of the most instructive demonstrations of the harmonious integration of ‘male’ and ‘female’ energies is the live oak. When I look at a live oak I am reminded of the fusion of strength and grace that can


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define human life. The species of live oak is native to the southern United States. The photograph shows a huge live oak which is probably over one hundred years old. The rock-like immobility of the trunk, which is about four feet in diameter, supports innumerable branches that stretch out in graceful, sinuous patterns. Like the supple arms of a ballet dancer the branches dip and curl upward and outward, supported by the stalwart trunk and root system. Sometimes branches sweep very close to the ground yet are held suspended in the air. The live oak is home to several plant species. It is as if the tree’s health springs from a generous hospitality towards its symbiotic partners. A lush, compact fern called resurrection fern sprouts along many of the branches. The use of the word resurrection refers to the ability of brownish fern fronds, which appear to signal death, to suddenly transform themselves into vibrant green leaves. Orchids often find their way into the fern and nestle in the lush outcropping. Spanish moss drapes delicately from the branches like a Southern belle’s lacey gown. Virginia creeper vine meanders down towards the ground, its clinging roots hidden somewhere up in the branches. The vine’s green berries turn red in December, in time for Christmas. The live oak is a balanced ecosystem, gathering its daily nourishment from Mother Earth and Father Sky. Similarly, the human being possesses an internal ecosystem rich in harmonic energies.

live oak, Brooksville, Fla.

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LIVING HOLISTICALLY At the cutting edge of science, nanotechnology is showing that intelligence inhabits the particle-waves of sub-atomic matter. These particle-waves respond to one another’s presence even when they are geographically separated from each other. If the energy composing each living form is simultaneously local and universal within a fine mesh of instant communication then we are all plugged into the same universal awareness. Immersion in the reality of this interrelated, intelligent universe is an aim of shamanic training. The Apache shaman, Grandfather, who taught Tom Brown Jr. says that to know the universe—and think as the universe—one must enter the Sacred Silence of the Spirit-that-moves-in-all-things. Here one accesses inner vision—the intuitive realm of the heart that is beyond logical mind and beyond ego. Inner vision is the gate to fusion with both the natural and the spirit worlds. Fusion unveils knowledge. In one incident Tom and his fellow pupil, Rick, are told by Grandfather that the evening camp meeting will be devoted to spiritual lessons and not to the survival techniques they are learning. In their enthusiasm the boys had set some animal traps some distance from the camp, without Grandfather’s knowledge or approval. They decide that they will return and take down the traps after Grandfather goes to sleep. Late that night, after sitting around the fire with the boys discussing spiritual things, Grandfather leans back against a tree and closes his eyes. The boys are about to carry out their plan when Grandfather says to Tom, “‘A rabbit has sprung your deadfall, but it did not get him.’” Then to Rick he says, “‘Your snare got him.’” When the boys ask Grandfather how he knew about the traps he speaks about entering the realm of inner vision where the oneness of things is obvious. He says: “‘If a rabbit moved upon your back, could you not feel it? There is no separation in the force of nature.’”48 Grandfather extracts information from the universe because he inhabits the mind of the universe! If we admit a global intelligence instead of little brain circuitries enclosed in flesh then we are not surprised when the phone rings and we know beforehand who is calling or when someone’s words match what we are thinking. Alan Watts writes of this synchronicity: The world outside your skin is just as much you as the world inside: they move together inseparably, and at first you feel a little out of control because the world outside is so much vaster than the world inside. Yet you soon discover that you are able to go ahead with ordinary activities—to work and make decisions as ever, though somehow this is less of a drag. Your body is no longer a corpse which the ego has to animate and lug around. There is a feeling of the ground


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holding you up, and of hills lifting you when you climb them. Air breathes itself in and out of your lungs, and instead of looking and listening light and sound come to you on their own. . . . All space becomes your mind.49

Whenever mind is free of attachment to limiting thoughts it functions globally. It functions, says Jean Klein, “as the whole mind or consciousness. As it belongs to this totality, it belongs to reality, to truth, and can have a glimpse of reality. . . .The switchover from living in the fractional to living in the global is instantaneous.”50 When we know unity with the mind we also feel unity with the heart and act unity with the body. The wholeness of our being meshes with the wholeness of universal being: this is the Way of the Tao. A reduction of ‘thinking’ to private imaginings separates us from our immediate family—the living universe. This unnatural severing of the heart’s affection causes suffering. The Buddha saw this error and immortalized it in the First Noble Truth: life is suffering. Mindfulness eats away at the premise of separation lodged in the mind and reveals the buddha-nature in all beings. In the next chapter we will examine how a spirituality of relating to other beings is dependent upon a spirituality of thinking. For now, let us pause. Let us rest in mindful attentiveness to each of the senses . . . let conscious touch . . . sight . . . smell . . . taste and listening lead the mind-heart into the stillness where the primal connection with the web of life is felt and known.

NOTES 1. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, ed. Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966), 328. 2. The Works of William Shakespeare (Roslyn, N.Y.: Walter J. Black, Inc, 1937), 1141. From Hamlet Act II, Scene 2. 3. Indries Shah, The Way of the Sufi (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1970), 122. Copyright © 1968 by Indries Shah. Used by permission of Dutton, a division of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. 4. John Mansley Robinson, An Introduction to Early Greek Philosophy (Boston; Houghton-Mifflin, 1968), 95. The quotation is attributed to Heraclitus. 5. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 20. 6. The Poems of Robert Browning (London: Oxford University Press, 1928), 444. 7. Jean Klein, Who Am I: The Sacred Quest, ed. Emma Edwards (Rockport, Mass.: Element, 1996), 101. 8. Gerald Holton, “‘What, precisely, is ‘thinking’?’ Einstein’s answer”, in Einstein: A Centenary Volume, ed. A.P. French (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979), 154.

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9. Holton in Einstein: A Centenary Volume, 157. 10. Holton in Einstein: A Centenary Volume, 156. 11. Holton in Einstein: A Centenary Volume, 161. 12. Plato, Republic, trans. Robin Waterfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 210–211. 13. The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi (Boulder, Colo.: Shambhala, 1972), 5–6. Copyright © 1972 Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvanamalai, India; used by permission. 14. Klein, Who Am I?: The Sacred Quest, 101. 15. The Geeta: The Gospel of the Lord Shri Krishna, trans. Purohit Swami (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), 32–34. 16. Thomas Keating, Intimacy With God (New York: Crossroad, 1996), 79. 17. Richard Rohr, Simplicity, The Art of Living, trans. Peter Heinegg (New York: Crossroad, 1992), 58–59. Copyright © 1991 Crossroad Publishing Company. Used by permission of publisher. 18. Mary Jo Murphy, “Word for Word/Get Over Yourself: Sex, Love and the Scolding Psychotherapist”, New York Times, 29 July, 2007, 5(4). 19. Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are co-founders of the world-wide spiritual organization Integral Yoga. See Robert McDermott ed., The Essential Aurobindo, Writings of Sri Aurobindo (Great Barrington, Mass.: Lindisfarne, 2001). 20. This evolutionary image resembles St. Paul’s pronouncement that the “whole creation groaneth” with desire for fulfillment (Rom. 8:22). It also captures the idea that the human being is the universe becoming conscious of itself, espoused by Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry. 21. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York; HarperCollins, 1988), 10. 22. D. H. Lawrence, The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence, ed. Vivian de Sola Pinto and F. Warren Roberts (New York: Viking, 1975), 673. Copyright © 1964, 1971 by Angelo Ravagli and C.M. Weekley, Executors of the Estate of Frieda Lawrence Ravagli. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. and Pollinger Ltd., UK. 23. Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks (Novato, Calif.: New World Library, 2003), 16. 24. Jean Klein, Transmission of the Flame, ed. Emma Edwards (St. Peter Port, Guernsey, C.I.: Third Millennium Publications, 1993), 27. 25. Magus Incognito, The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993), 246–7. 26. Ellen Ullman, “The Boss in the Machine”, New York Times, 19 Feb., 2005, 15(A). 27. Michel de Montaigne, Selected Essays, trans. Donald M. Frame (Roslyn, NY: Walter J. Black, 1970), 3. 28. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B.Yeats and Shree Purohit Swami (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 19–20. 29. Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (New York: Weatherhill, 1974), 24. 30. Adapted from Robert Sohl and Audrey Carr, eds. The Gospel According to Zen: Beyond the Death of God (New York: Mentor/New American Library, 1970), 52. 31. A riveting example of the power of monkey mind comes from the autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran. The Nazi Gestapo arrested Lusseyran when it was discovered that


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he was directing an underground French resistance movement during World War II. The blind leader was put in a cell and given no information about whether he would live or die. He observed that his mind began to go into a crazed state. He writes: “The most distressing thing in such circumstances is that one keeps on thinking in spite of oneself, and not thinking straight. . . .Thought runs away from you, like a car abandoned by its brakes in the middle of a hill. It no longer bothers about you. You can stay in it or jump out. It is a machine and doesn’t care at all.” Only by resorting to his spiritual strength was Lusseyran able to bear and overcome the anxiety. See Jacques Lusseyran, And There Was Light, Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance, trans. Elizabeth R. Cameron (Sandpoint, Ind.: Morning Light Press, 2006), 243–244. 32. William Spear, Feng Shui Made Easy: Designing Your Life with the Ancient Art of Placement (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), 30. 33. From Five Mindfulness Trainings, Recitation Ceremony of the Order of Interbeing. 34. This distinction appears in the research of neurophysiologist Dr. William H. Calvin and neurosurgeon Dr. George A. Ojemann relayed in their book Conversations with Neil’s Brain. If the left brain does control language then the interior chatter we experience would seem to engage this hemisphere. However, our inner conversations also involve images and imaginings which would appear to engage the faculties of the right brain. 35. See Diarmuid O’Murchu, Quantum Theology (New York: Crossroad, 1998), 32. 36. Jean Klein, Open to the Unknown: Dialogues in Delphi, ed. Emma Edwards (St. Peter Port: Third Millennium Publications, 1992), 74–5. 37. Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, 321. 38. Christopher Biffle, A Guided Tour of Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy with Meditations trans. Ronald Rubin (Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield, 2001), 21. 39. Biffle, A Guided Tour of Rene Descartes’ Meditations, 20. 40. Biffle, A Guided Tour to Rene Descartes’ Meditations, 53. 41. According to Hannah Arendt the history of Western industrialized society after Descartes is dominated by a corrosion of Cartesian logic into mechanized thinking compatible with the machines men were creating. Conditioned into the culture, these mechanical thought patterns, though essentially flawed, are vigorously defended as rational and true. See Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1958). In similar fashion, Abraham Heschel warns of a “spiritual liquidation of man” due to “vulgar standards of thinking” that serve his greed for power; furthermore, “Man is becoming obsolete, computers are taking over. The issue we face is not secularization but total mechanization, militarization. The issue is not empty pews but empty hearts.” (Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, 294) 42. The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A.J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 281. 43. It is interesting that the words meditation and medicine have the same Latin root, med, which refers to activities of reflecting, considering, and healing.

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44. An interesting objection to this bias comes from the Pueblo Indians who believe that the heart is the center of true thought. Historian Richard Tarnas argues that the West’s passion for wholeness is bringing about a rediscovery of the neglected attributes of female energy, eg. intuition and relational skills, to balance masculine energy which has dominated the West in its positive aspect, eg. abstract reasoning, and negative aspect, eg. combativeness that leads to war. See The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View (New York: Ballantine, 1991). 45. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 42. 46. One writer explains the fertilization process by using the prosaic example of a battery. An electrical circuit is accomplished when electrons move from the male ‘positive’ pole to the ‘negative’ or female pole. The word ‘negative’ is misleading because it is stereotypically associated with concepts of weakness and inferiority. On the contrary, the female pole allows something to be generated. Likewise, in the formation of the atom, positive (‘male’) electrons circle around a central negative (‘female’) electron, causing the female electron to generate an atomic structure. See Magus Incognito, The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993), 58. 47. Hindu Vedanta teaches that the matrika are the 16 measures of Sanskrit vowel sounds that conceived the universe. Matri means measure and mother. 48. Tom Brown, Jr., The Vision (New York: Berkley Books, 1988), 56–58. 49. Alan Watts, The Book: The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (New York: Vintage, 1989), 125. 50. Klein, Open to the Unknown: Dialogues in Delphi, 72.

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The Spirituality of Relating

Let us pause. Let us be where we are through an awakening of the senses. Feel the body as a whole . . . wherever physical tension is observed let it go . . . feel the weight of the body sitting on the chair, the contour of the body in intimate contact with the air . . . take a deep breath . . . let the breathing bring further relaxation. . . . Be aware through sight . . . smell . . . taste . . . let the listening run out as far as it will . . . rest in presence. . . . The spiritual law of interconnectedness determines that all beings are destined to interrelate as one family because they are made of the same divine substance. Whether or not we wish to acknowledge this native bond with every creature, and the responsibility that ensues from the bond, we experience every day the effects of acceptance or rejection of this fact of existence. Religions embody this universal design in their teaching of a divinely infused universe of interdependent forms. For the Hindu all beings in their diversity express Brahman, the Supreme Absolute. For the Buddhist the doctrine of dependent co-arising means that all forms interrelate through an essential buddha-nature. The Book of Genesis says that God invests his substance into each newly created embodiment and breathes his being into the first parents of humanity, Adam and Eve, caretakers of the Creation. The Tao unites and harmonizes all beings through its ch’i. Confucianism teaches that the Golden Rule—‘ do unto others as you would have them do unto you’—is the natural regulator of the spheres of influence that impinge upon the individual. Native Americans call these circles of relationship the web of life, weaved into existence by the Great Spirit. When mystics experience cosmic consciousness it is this underlying kinship between all living beings that is revealed, prompting the heart to open in unconditional love. This mystical experience is available to any human being 258

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who experiences a loving relationship because love heightens the power of conscious awareness so that the natural communion between all beings is felt and known. Falling in love is actually being lifted up—uplifted; we ‘walk on air,’ the element that supports, fills and connects us all. A loving relationship—between human beings, between humans and other species, and between humans and the Divine—is the natural prelude to an acknowledgement of the unity of Self. Love is the fine binding tissue that dissolves duality. The Christian marriage ceremony says “and the two shall become one flesh” yet implicit in the pronouncement is a greater mystery than physical union. Lao Tzu says: “Love the world as yourself; then you can care for all things.”1 The verbal root of the word religion—religio—means to bind. The spiritual seeker desires a binding relationship with the One Consciousness through prayer, meditation, and virtuous acts. Thomas Keating states that “contemplative prayer is a process of interior transformation, a relationship initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union.”2 When divine union arrives the cord of relationship is no longer needed and self-destructs. The spirituality of relating—the dynamic of two—is absorbed into the greater spirituality of unity. Moses was God’s friend, yet he longed for the abolition of duality, however sweet the conversation. He awaited the experience of I AM and the dissolution of the private self. When mind is captive to isolating preoccupations—the modus operandi of the private self—the natural evolution from ‘seeing two’ to ‘being one’ is stunted. When the belief in and reliance on this separate self evaporates, even momentarily, the experience of interconnectedness sweeps us up in its embrace. We are at one—fully atoned and reconnected—to our own Self in every particle of the Creation. Suddenly a tree, a flower, a bird, a child playing, a man or woman walking down the street, is illuminated in the light of our awareness and we hear a wise silence speaking from the heart: that is my own self ‘out there.’ As young children we are in touch with the living vibrations of the natural world. As adults we tend to lose the child’s weave of sensitivity and awe. There are exceptions. Dag Hammarskjold, for example, writes in his book Markings of an acquaintance who “had the wilderness for a pillow, and called a star his brother.”3 George MacLeod, Celtic poet and founder of the Iona Community, shows a sensitivity to the underlying vibrations of Nature as a divine Being when he writes: ‘The grass is vibrant, The rocks pulsate, All is in flux; turn but a stone and an angel moves.’4


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When the natural world is perceived as an arrangement of objects for human use—a perception exacerbated by the industrial era—then deliberate violations of Nature are sanctioned by the culture and the spiritual gulf between humanity and Nature widens. Hammarskjold describes the death-knell of such a choice: “A heart pulsating in harmony with the circulation of sap and the flow of rivers? A body with the rhythms of the earth in its movements? No. Instead: a mind, shut off from the oxygen of alert senses, that has wasted itself on ‘treasons, stratagems and spoils.’”5 In a sleeping world human beings gravitate toward what gives pleasure and reject what gives pain. Obeying the appetites of ego the adult is likely to perceive the unique being called ‘cow,’ for example, as an object of consumption, the provider of a delicious steak. The appreciation of a tree for its shade, beauty, and more importantly its output of oxygen, may be disregarded because, from the eye of commerce, a tree is an economic asset. Small creatures seem to be more vulnerable to our insensitivity than larger ones, yet contemplation of an ant walking across the kitchen floor shows that this tiny being lives by means of the same biological systems that you and I do, albeit in miniature. We are one consciousness. Writing many centuries before the industrial age Lao Tzu predicts an ominous outcome of treating the natural world as object. He says: The world is sacred It can’t be improved. If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it. If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.6

There is a wonderful story attributed to Abraham Lincoln during his presidency that illustrates the capacity to remember and act upon the child-like identification with all beings. On route to a cabinet meeting with some colleagues, Lincoln suddenly asks the driver of the carriage to stop at a farm on the side of the road. It is pouring rain, yet Lincoln gets out of the carriage and wades through the mud in his best black suit and top hat towards a pig sty where a piglet can be heard squealing. The piglet is caught in some fencing. Lincoln releases it and hurries back to the carriage, drenched and muddied. When praised by his colleagues for his magnanimity he modestly demurs, saying ‘I didn’t do this for the piglet; I did it because of the insufferable ache in my own heart.’ It is this same ache that urges Lincoln to plead with the peoples of a divided nation to restore the “bonds of affection” that arise from “the mystical cords of memory.”7 Walt Whitman, a compatriot and admirer of Lincoln, threads his poetry with a deep sense of fellowship with all people, saying “of these one and all I weave the song of myself.”8

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Relationship anchors the very construction of the physical universe. Whether it is the pull of gravity, the nitrogen and oxygen cycles of a shared biosphere, or the planetary connections of the solar system, the universe operates by a fundamental law that everything is connected to everything else. We are, as Thomas Berry insists, not a “collection of objects” but a “communion of subjects.”9 In the Middle Ages the aim of the esoteric study of alchemy was to find the spiritual gold that illuminated all life forms and linked these subjects one to another. This spiritual gold was God’s wisdom, hidden in all the bodies of Nature as their quinta essentia. Because spiritual evolution is measured by the extent to which we are no longer ruled by the defective perception of a separate self, each time we wake up and realize the intimate connection between our own well-being and that of other living creatures we enhance both our own inner healing and transformation and the evolutionary advancement of each creature. Inner healing is assured, says Isaiah, only when we . . . break unjust fetters and undo the thongs of the yoke . . . share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the one you see to be naked and do not turn from your own kin. Then will your light shine like the dawn And your wound be quickly healed over. . . . (Isa. 58:6–8)

An extraordinary photograph shows primate scholar Jane Goodall giving the greeting gesture of chimpanzees—a bowing of the head—to an aging male chimp. The chimp responds to her gesture, stretching out his hand to touch wisps of Goodall’s hair. This exchange resembles the Buddhist greeting of gassho in which one places the palms of the hands together in front of the heart and bows the head to consciously acknowledge the buddha-nature in the ‘other.’ We see in the ritualized greeting between two species—human and chimp—the mutual respect and affection that supports the web of life. Subject greets subject. In the following passage Jane Goodall describes a flash of mystic ecstasy that convinces her of the essential rapport that signals the existence of One Self. Note the clear observation of sensory details. Such clarity often accompanies moments of heightened consciousness. She writes: ‘It seemed to me, as I struggled afterward to recall the experience, that self was utterly absent: I and the chimpanzees, the earth and trees and air, seemed to merge, to become one with the spirit power of life itself. The air was filled with


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Jane and Jou Jou, Michael Nichols/ National Geographic Image Collection, used with permission

a feathered symphony, the even-song of birds. I heard new frequencies in their music and also in the singing insects’ voices—notes so high and sweet I was amazed. Never had I been so intensely aware of the shape, the color of the individual leaves, the varied patterns of the veins that made each one unique. Scents were clear as well, easily identifiable: fermenting, overripe fruit; waterlogged earth; cold, wet bark; the damp odor of chimpanzee hair and, yes, my own too. And the aromatic scent of young, crushed leaves was almost overpowering. . . .’10

THE THIRD FORCE Relationship implies two or more subjects. In the esoteric study of mathematics the number 3—which is called the third point or third force—is the knowledge that reconciles the dual appearance of ‘relationship’ represented by the number 2. The number 3 reveals the number 1 hidden within the 2. The Christian teaching of the Holy Trinity points to this mystery of three in one. The three ‘persons’ are bound by love, agape. The colloquialism ‘three’s a crowd’ may signal the disruption of a romantic duo by an outside party, but for compromise and peace a third party—the mediator—

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transcending gender identification/ Dominique Medici, used with permission

is essential. For example, the field of sexual politics may be rife with controversy between male and female points of view; but if the third point is remembered in any argument reconciliation is possible. That third point is the fact that humanity is the common denominator of the two genders. A simple diagram describes this resolution which is known at a higher level of consciousness. The Law of Three refers to this recognition of an underlying commonality that provides reconciliation within a relationship and transcendence of relationship itself. Restoring relationships is therefore a route to unity.11 In the spiritual work of being-present the desire to stay awake is opposed by the habit of sleep. The third force that changes this gridlock of opposition is the practice of the Pause and other meditative methods that dissolve internal disharmony. As the twenty-first century begins, a collective ignorance threatens all life with the specter of ecocide. The willful exploitation of the environment by the wielders of power in industry and politics continues to flood the atmosphere with pollutants, provoking climate change. Human beings continue to disregard the right of other species to live and flourish—species on whom they themselves depend. Abraham Heschel rebuffs man’s hubris, saying: “ Man is neither lord of the universe nor even the master of his own destiny. Our life is not our own property but a possession of God.”12


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overcoming habit through presence/ Dominique Medici, used with permission

When the umbilical cord of familial relationship between all beings is ignored it is as if the cord were deliberately cut. Heightened awareness is the birth canal by which loving care for our diverse family is reborn in us. With this awakening, the umbilical cord that stretches out from the navel, the omphalos, of Creation to embrace all of Nature, again strums in our hearts. Martin Luther King, Jr. feels the breadth of this cord’s extension within the human species when he writes: All men are interdependent. Every nation is an heir of a vast treasury of ideas and labor to which both the living and the dead of all nations have contributed. Whether we realize it or not, each of us lives eternally ‘in the red.’ We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women. When we arise in the morning, we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge which is provided for us by a Pacific islander. We reach for soap that is created for us by a European. Then at the table we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese, or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs we are already beholden to more than half of the world.13

The bottom line is: we love what we feel connected to. My brother loved his pet rat, Amos, and cried when Amos was lost for two weeks. When Amos’ little white nose ventured from beneath the furnace in the basement on the fifteenth day my brother continued to cry but his tears were now tears of joy as he and Amos were reconciled (my brother was 30 years old at the time!). It is the emotional-biological energies of love that also sustain us in illness and, according to reputable studies, accelerate healing and promote longevity.14

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THE BREAKING AND MENDING OF THE ORIGINAL BOND The spiritual law of the original bond is broken whenever ‘another’ is reduced to being an object for my private use. Use easily mutates into misuse when ego has its way. The eventual outcome, however, is not supremacy but isolation. When in indigenous cultures a person transgresses communal mores the worst punishment he can receive is not death but exile. To be spurned from the tribe is comparable in industrialized nations to being separated from the life-support of Earth due to the reckless plunder and exhaustion of natural resources. W.B. Yeats warns in his poem ‘The Second Coming’ of an ominous revelation emerging in which a “rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.”15 The juxtaposition of Jesus’ birth and this dark event signals a dangerous period ahead. Yeats writes: Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worse Are full of passionate intensity.16

‘Things fall apart’ when the original bond is not acknowledged. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes in his essay Nature: Things are so strictly related, that according to the skill of the eye, from any one object the parts and properties of any other may be predicted. . . . A man does not tie his shoe without recognizing laws which bind the farthest reaches of nature.17

The Book of Genesis places God both outside and inside the Creation as its maker and substance respectively. Ninth century Celtic theologian Johannes Scotus Erigena writes of this simultaneity: We ought not to understand God and creation as two things distinct from each other, but as one and the same. For both the creature, by subsisting, is in God; and God, by manifesting himself, in a marvelous and ineffable manner creates himself in the creature, the invisible making himself visible . . . and what is without form and species, formed and specific . . . and the supernatural natural.18

Yet history shows that European Christendom would favor not Erigena but third century theologian Origen who—following the Neoplatonic model—saw


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the world as the domain of Satan where the soul pines in exile. Much later, in the sixteenth century, the Protestant ethic, as outlined by John Calvin, legitimized the Industrial Revolution as an opportunity to practice godly industriousness, making Christianity complicit in the eventual abuses of Nature by industry. Martin Luther even said that all creatures except man are “hostile energies . . . of the left hand of God.”19 The rationale offered by Christian entrepreneurs and early advocates of science, like Francis Bacon, came from the Bible—namely, God’s instruction to man that he “replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Gen. 1:28).” The attitude of domination and the indiscriminate use of Nature’s resources that this rationale produced spread into the colonial treatment of Nature’s native peoples in the Americas and Africa.20 In his book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community visionary social critic David Korten examines the disastrous results of what he calls imperial consciousness by which Western Christian culture has historically divided the world into favored elites and people who serve the elites—or oppose those elites and therefore must be vanquished. History continues to be a battleground in which the fiction of an ideology based on competition, hierarchy and domination holds sway. Yet even as the world is mesmerized by the lure of power Korten sees a Great Turning in progress—an awakening to the memory of spiritual interdependence upon which earthly harmony depends. The practice of presence gives power to resist the dualism of ‘us and them’ and embrace life as a cooperative venture.

THE MISTAKEN DICHOTOMY OF LIVING AND NON-LIVING Whether from belief or convenience, a living/non-living dualism has historically ruled human behavior, in opposition to fact. According to scientist Lewis Thomas the sacred bond between all created beings on this earth is traced biologically to their shared cellular structure. Thomas writes: The uniformity of the earth’s life, more astonishing than its diversity, is accountable by the high probability that we derived, originally, from some single cell, fertilized in a bolt of lightning as the earth cooled . . . we still share genes around, and the resemblance of the enzymes of grasses to those of whales is a family resemblance.21

Not only are grasses related to whales, says Thomas, but in our human bodies we carry the mitochondria of ancient ancestral microorganisms. Thomas writes:

The Spirituality of Relating


We are shared, rented, occupied. At the interior of our cells, driving them, providing the oxidative energy that sends us out for the improvement of each shining day, are the mitochrondria, and in a strict sense they are not ours. They turn out to be little separate creatures, the colonial posterity of migrant prokaryocytes [without nucleus], probably primitive bacteria that swam into ancestral precursors of our eukaryotic cells [with nucleus] and stayed there.22

Even the biological differentiation between living and non-living structures becomes tenuous when one examines strange borderline cases like the diatoms. These ‘living crystals’ bridge the mineral and animal kingdoms. They are tiny amoeboid creatures housed in shells of siliceous material. Thousands of diatoms can be gathered together and not occupy more than the head of a pin!23 Even metals display life qualities. One test of life’s presence in a form is its response to external forces. Just as nerves register fatigue in their response to outside stress so metals require rest after a threshold of use.24 Carbon, which exists in metals, is a chemical substance from which protoplasm evolves. Can we say then with authority that carbon is a non-living substance? Where is the line to be drawn between chemistry and biology; and, within the false dualism of living and non-living, how is it that humans get top billing—at the top of the food chain? Do we not know that, were the lowly bacteria to vanish from the earth, so would man? If humans continue to ignore the indispensable function of each species in the network it may be that “the meek . . . shall inherit the earth (Matt.5:5).” We may balk at minerals being alive, because life to us equates with visible movement; we may wonder, for instance, at the shaman who carries ‘healing’ stones in his medicine bundle. But even plants—which we know are alive—are indiscriminately abused when acres of vegetation are torn up to build strip malls or mine coal. Is it just poetic metaphor which prompts Walt Whitman to anthropomorphize grass as “ the beautiful uncut hair of graves” or “the produced babe of the vegetation”?25 Whitman invests grass with the same divine essence with which humans are endowed. He writes: . . . I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped, Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may See and remark, and say Whose?26

Moreover, though we humans often estimate the value of a life form according to the degree of intelligence it shows, are we willing to acknowledge that it takes a certain intelligence to move your root system downwards to seek water, to face your leaves to the sun, and to reject certain substances while accepting others as nutrients? Like plants, do we not depend upon gravity to hold


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us upright, seek out the sun for health and warmth, and reject non-nutritious food? Adaptation is a form of intelligence, a reaction to stimuli for purposes of survival. All life forms share this faculty of adaptation.27 We may also need to rethink the emotional supremacy awarded to human beings. How often does compassion win out over anger? How often do we humans empathize with the emotional life of animals—with their grief or pain? Do trees have emotions? Does a tree feel pain and loss when it is cut down? The indigenous elder will say that the tree does have feelings. A Taoist aphorism says: “The sandalwood tree exudes a most fragrant perfume when the ax fells it.” Perhaps the sandalwood tree is teaching humans the mature emotional response to adversity: courage and magnanimity. In the ancient Mayan cosmology it is said that the universe itself has a heart and that it is out of love that the cosmos is made by The Heart of Heaven.



We do not see the web of life to which we belong when we believe in a hierarchical universe. When human beings are ranked at the top of the list of species and, in addition, certain races and classes of peoples are ranked according to arbitrary criteria, we are bound to think and act aggressively, condescendingly, or in a host of other abusive ways. We cannot honor the living forms around us. Thinking holarchically means being obedient to a different, life-affirming and life-honoring paradigm. A holarchic design of the universe bends the vertical line of a superimposed ranking into a circle of equal partners, where human being is equal to protozoa, where hunters and gatherers have as valid a lifestyle as industrial countries, where races are equivalent, where class status disappears. When we are awake and aware this symmetrical design is self-evident. Science confirms the holarchic blueprint. Physicist and mystic David Bohm describes the universe as a sacred and animate cosmic web. Wolfgang Pauli observes the dance of electrons and confirms their individual integrity and communal interdependence. That humans come from stardust and can rediscover their ancestral birthplace in the universe is avowed by Albert Einstein. His theory of relativity is just that: the theory that all is related. He writes: A human being is part of the whole world, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion.29

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This statement by the foremost scientist of the twentieth century matches that of Marcus Aurelius who describes the web-like interdependence and synchronicity of the universe without the aid of scientific technology. He writes: Always think of the universe as one living organism, with a single substance and a single soul; and observe how all things are submitted to the single perceptivity of this one whole, all are moved by its single impulse, and all play their part in the causation of every event that happens. Remark the intricacy of the skein, the complexity of the web.30

ECO-SPIRITUALITY—THE STUDY OF OUR DIVINE HOME The word ecology consists of two Greek words: logos (study) and oikos which means home. The science of ecology is the practical investigation of our earthly home. What ecologists have found is a planet made of ecosystems— fragile yet sturdy networks of interdependent life forms. For example, the health of a pond environment depends upon the health of each water droplet, each species of fish, insect, plant, et cetera. Inherent in the ecological view is an ecospiritual perspective that combines a respect for the science with a reverence for the integrity of each species. The ecospiritual perspective replaces a hierarchical concept of vertically ranked species with a web of life where all life forms have equal rights. This new image transforms the ruling thought-sentence from everything is separate from everything else to everything is connected to everything else. A collective adherence to this new perspective is the catalyst for a healthy transition from a cultural ethos that elevates technological prowess as a means to power and wealth to an ethos that views technology as a tool to enhance the interconnected lives of all beings as expressions of Spirit. Then is Isaiah’s vision of an earthly paradise realized, where “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid (Isa. 11:6).” The metaphor of a web of life manifests Isaiah’s vision. Naturalists John Muir (1838–1914) and Aldo Leopold (1887–1948) were early pioneers in the science and spirituality of ecology. Muir was a champion of the preservation of wilderness. He preferred the ‘church’ of Nature, with her communion of species, to the strict Calvinist upbringing of his father with its utilitarian, anthropocentric view that all creatures were made for man. Muir delighted in forest sanctuaries where the “‘psalm-singing’” of trees could be heard and where you could “‘lose consciousness of your separate existence.’”31 During a vicious rainstorm Muir chose to climb a mighty Douglas


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web of life/Dominique Medici, used with permission

fir and watch the fireworks of Nature. He writes about the subsiding of the storm in clearly spiritual language: ‘I beheld the countless hosts of the forests hushed and tranquil, towering above one another on the slopes of the hills like a devout audience. The setting sun filled them with amber light and seemed to say, while they listened, ‘My peace I give unto you.’’32

Aldo Leopold saw Earth as an animate being where all forms of life were connected in a web-like network of living connections. He described Earth’s parts—her mountains, lakes, rivers—as organs in a body. Just as the human body undergoes metabolic processes so the body of the Earth has life cycle processes. Moreover, just as humans point to an essential soul, so “‘ . . . there would also follow that invisible attribute—a soul or consciousness—which

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many philosophers of all ages . . . ascribe to all living things and aggregates thereof, including the ‘dead’ earth.’”33 Leopold argued that, as a living being, Earth has rights; these rights were being endangered by fledgling capitalists who were raking in profits from a reckless exploitation of America’s plentiful resources. We must, he said, “think like a mountain” and recognize our dependence on a healthy land ethic.34 There was no reason, said Leopold, that conservation and economic well-being could not co-exist. In 1987, close to 40 years after Leopold’s efforts to regulate land use, biologist James Lovelock shot an arrow into human hubris by presenting The Gaia Hypothesis, which asserts Earth’s vitality as a complex, self-regulating organism of which we human beings are a small part. Gaia is the Greek goddess Earth. Lovelock craftily uses the myth of Gaia to describe biological interdependence and responsibility. All life forms have their roles to play to sustain the whole organism. Gaia bestows the necessary energies for the great Ecosystem’s health. However, Gaia’s nurturing generosity can be withheld. She becomes “‘ruthless about species that don’t obey the rules. They are just eliminated.’”35 As greed incites the powerful to continue to plunder the Earth the list of endangered and extinct species grows longer. The living air in Mother Earth’s nostrils and the water of Her blood are being poisoned by chemicals. Stripped of her sacred aura the Goddess Mother continues to suffer abuse. How long will Gaia’s anger be restrained? Biologist David Graber contends that because human beings have rejected the fact of interdependence they have become cancers in the universal ecosystem. Spiritually, the sin is pride, wanting to be special regardless of the needs and rights of other beings. This imbalance, says Graber, is reflected in our bodily ecosystem. When proto-oncogenes (genes supportive of potential cancer cells) disable, by various ruses, those genes that suppress the growth of tumors cancer cells multiply. Ironically, these rapacious cells kill not only the host body but themselves by consuming their environment. This drama has the disturbing character of a deliberate, conscious undertaking.36 Only a shift in perspective that rebalances individuality and community can reverse this trend towards mass suicide. We relearn our roles first hand from biological ecosystems which, as communities of interest, balance competition and cooperation. For example, rhizobial bacteria, which invade and seem to feast on the root nodules of leguminous plants, are actually busy cooperating with the plant cells to produce a laboratory for nitrogen fixation. As a communal process, symbiosis blurs the distinction between self and non-self. If we could hear the sound of healthy ecosystems their consonance would reveal the harmonious relationships of their parts.37 From the executive who oversees a


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manufacturing business to the truck driver who delivers the product, the salesman who sells it, and the consumer who buys it, the human community of commercial interest relies on this same law of consonance. By being too intent on individual stardom we miss the wise interdependence that rules everyday life. It is this vision of an extended kinship or Larger Self that inspired Wordsworth to say in “Lines from Tintern Abbey”: . . . Therefore am I still A lover of the meadows and the woods And mountains; and of all that we behold From this green earth . . . well pleased to recognize In Nature and the language of the sense, The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul Of all my moral being.38

ECOSPIRITUAL WARRIORS Ecospiritual warriors are people who promote a vision of Earth as spiritual Mother and Provider. They embrace a deep ecology of respect for Nature. The organization Greenpeace exemplifies the activist mode of the ecospiritual warrior. The original members of Greenpeace were spiritually inspired by a climb up the 1600-foot Akutan Mountain in Alaska. Founder Robert Hunter describes the climb: ‘It was a religious experience of some kind. At least it was connected with the root of what is thought of as religion . . . the emotion of awe. . . . If there was ever going to be a moment in anyone’s life when they could feel like part of some mystical universal force—it was at that moment, in the wind on Akutan Mountain, in the shadow of the H-bomb.’39

Prominent in the mythical, mystical ethos of Greenpeace is the Native American mythic vision of the Rainbow Warriors. A Cree shaman named Eyes of Fire prophesized more than two hundred years ago that a time would come when ‘The birds would fall out of the skies, the fish would be poisoned in their streams, the deer would drop in their tracks in the forest, and the seas would be ‘blackened’—all thanks to the White Man’s greed and technology. At that time the Indian people would have all but completely lost their spirit. They would find it again, and they would begin to teach the White Man how to have reverence for Mother Earth. Together, using the symbol of the rainbow, all the races

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of the world would band together to spread the great Indian teaching and go forth—Warriors of the Rainbow—to bring an end to the destruction and desecration of sacred Earth.’40

In the Hebrew account of Noah’s Ark the rainbow was God’s sign of peace, forgiveness, and new life after the devastation of the flood for which human beings could blame no one but themselves. According to healer Brugh Joy, Nature will be supported in her daily work of maintaining planetary equilibrium when the human family takes the next big step in human evolution: a communal opening of the heart chakra. When all beings are loved into health the world is transformed. Joy states: We are all interwoven into one another’s patterns, we have been for generations and we will be for generations in the future. When we learn to heal and to harmonize our relationships both internally and externally, it becomes possible to transform and transcend the human plane. When you can forgive both another and yourself, the pattern is broken, and you move from the law of karma (action and reaction) into the law of grace (resolution)—that effulgent state that transmutes and heals.41

USING RELIGION TO ENTER THE ECOSPIRITUAL PARADIGM The basic spiritual tenet of Unity and the basic spiritual practice of Love encased in the Golden Rule ennoble each religion, regardless of cultural-historical trespasses against these shared foundations. Interpretation of scripture to favor a dominant elite is a major trespass that has afflicted religion. Some contemporary Islamic scholars, for example, are reexamining the Qur’an for clues about Muhammad’s true teaching about the status of women. Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s Nobel Peace prize laureate, writes: “‘Islam, like any religion, is subject to interpretation. . . . It can be interpreted to oppress women or to liberate them.”42 Christianity’s historical ambiguity about the interpretation of Genesis 1:28 is another threat to the practice of the Golden Rule as it applies to the treatment of the planet. How the Christian interprets the words “subdue” and “have dominion over” (which are themselves translations) determines whether behavior is ecospiritually friendly or damaging. Does dominion mean stewardship or manipulation? Is the relationship perceived as one of equality or subjugation? Since perception is influenced by the degree of awareness, the inhumane role of human being as predator vis-à-vis the Earth may be symbolically traced back to Adam and Eve’s tasting of the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil which triggered a fall into a world of reduced consciousness.


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In order to tap into the original ecospiritual vision at the heart of institutionalized religion let us explore three interconnected aspects of that vision: • the world as a web of relationships • earth as mother and creatures as kin • ‘I am my brother’s keeper’ As we traverse this ecospiritual landscape note how these three interlocking themes remain constant as universals even as the religion being considered frames them in a unique way. Practices will be offered to awaken the deep ecologist within each of us. The World as a Web of Relationships There are no dichotomies of animate/inanimate or secular/sacred in indigenous spirituality. All beings are animate and sacred, connected to one another in a living web of life. Sioux shaman, Lame Deer explains: Nothing is so small and unimportant but it has a spirit given to it by Wakan Tanka . . . the spirit splitting itself up into stones, trees, tiny insects even, making them all wakan by his ever-presence. And in turn all these myriad of things which make up the universe flowing back to their source, united in the one Grandfather Spirit.43

Another description of this web comes from the Apache shaman Grandfather who describes the barriers which modern man has constructed: barriers of ego, logical mind, and belief in body as self that prevent access to the larger circles of the sacred web of life. Grandfather says: ‘Man is like an island, a circle within circles. Man is separated from these outer circles by his mind, his beliefs, and the limitations put upon him by a life away from the Earth. . . . His isolation from the greater circles of self is suffocating and prevents him from seeing life clearly and purely. . . . Beyond man’s island of ego, his prison, lies the world of the spirit-that-moves-in-all-things, the force that is found in all things. . . . It is a world that expands man’s universe and helps him to fuse himself to the Earth.’44

An attitude of respect and affection for all beings is built into the thinking patterns and languages of indigenous peoples. For example, Mi takuye oyasin— to all my relations—is a common greeting in the Lakota Sioux language. For the Lakota Sioux, a person’s relations extend beyond human beings. Rocks, mountains, lakes, plants, animals—the entire web of life—are all relatives because, like humans, they have souls. One of the elements of soul that all life forms share is ton, or spiritual essence. Ton originates in the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka.

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The design of a Native American tribal council reflects the understanding of the universe as a web-like network of connections. Traditionally, the major functionary leaders of a tribe sit in a circle, which mimics the medicine wheel and acknowledges the four cardinal directions. The circle connotes wholeness and equality. At the council the leaders converse and make decisions about matters affecting tribal life and harmony. Tribal unity is paramount and not limited to the living. Rather, the horizontal reach of community is joined to a vertical connection with one’s ancestors. There is a continuum between this world and the spirit world whereby the ‘dead’ live in tribal consciousness. Through rites of passage tribal peoples reconnect with and reinforce these ancestral roots. Anthropologist Victor Turner calls the sense of tribal unity communitas. For example, in the rite of passage at puberty, adolescents who will be the next generation are removed from society (except from elders who will instruct them in the wisdom of the tribe’s ways) and enter a liminal period in which they belong to no group. Their dignity is reduced because of the lowliness of this ‘in-between’ time, yet they are viewed as occupying a sacred space because of the transformation they are undergoing. Their bond to each other as initiates is intimate; it is pure communitas. Everyone, even those who gain a modicum of power in the loose structure of tribal society, must go through such liminal rituals of humiliation; the anti-social impetus of personal arrogance and ambition is thereby curbed. Surely, if politics in the capitalist world were infused with this perspective would not society be transformed?45 Malidoma Patrice Somé—a native of West Africa and member of the Dagara tribe—has become a spokesman in the industrialized world for the value of ceremonial gatherings to reinforce community. Communal support for each individual is linked to the well-being and health of the tribe. He relates, for example, the way in which the naming ceremony for a newborn in his native village in Africa serves to gather the entire tribe to bless this new gift of the Great Spirit to the people. In conducting retreats in the West Somé aims to reintroduce meaningful communal rituals; in particular, retreats for men are designed to counteract rugged individualism and macho repression of feelings that tend to produce stress. Community consciousness is an acknowledgement that the smallest unit is the tribe. In our modern global society the tribe is humanity itself. When acknowledgement of the human community is extended to earth consciousness then the smallest unit becomes the planet. Because all religions begin as indigenous religions all religions hold within their roots this extended sense of identity. The following practice can help us regain our indigenous appreciation of the web of life. EXERCISE IN IDENTITY: Sit (preferably outside), pause, and then contemplate a life form (plant, tree, insect or animal). Find your natural relationship with this being on three levels: physical, mental (ie. intelligence), and spiritual


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(essence). Write down words and phrases to describe the physical, mental, and spiritual elements of identity which you share with this other life form; also, how do you differ? Next, examine how you feel about this life form. Is there an emotional connection? Compose a poem, create an essay, or draw the life form in its surroundings. . . . Let your mind-heart rest on all that has transpired in this exercise. Has your view about this life form changed in any way? Confucius’s teaching is similar to the indigenous world-view. Human beings, he says, are embedded in circles of relationship. Self, in fact, is defined as a network of relationships. The construction of a civil society depends upon the development in individuals of the primary character trait: righteousness or jen. Confucius writes: ‘If there is righteousness in the heart there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation there will be peace in the world.’46

Confucius lived at a time of civil strife and chaos. He understood that only a practical education in certain virtues could restore social health. Confucius prescribed a methodical formula: the mastery of jen—which also means benevolence, self-respect and respect for others—would automatically lead to healthy relationships—li—because a person grounded in jen cares about others. He or she is a chuntzu or mature person who recognizes that service to the needs of the ‘other’ is the only real satisfaction for self. While Confucius’ mission to resolve the corrupt and contentious situation besieging his native China was local in nature, the discordant society he observed is not so different from today’s global unrest. Modern societies could well ponder and act upon Confucius’ practical formula for peace, because the indebtedness of each person vis-à-vis every other person is neither a theory nor an ideal but a glaring fact, born of an ineluctable circle of relationships. The ecospiritual perspective implicit in Confucius’ teaching becomes explicit in Neo-Confucian ethics. Hsin—individual mind-heart—is intimately linked to family, community, nation, and ALL LIFE. As hsin purifies through conscious practice the circles of relationship are remembered and the person serves the Earth Community. Eleventh century Neo-Confucian philosopher, Chang Tsai, writes of this stewardship: ‘Heaven is my father and earth is my mother, and even such a small creature as I finds an intimate place in their midst. Therefore that which extends throughout the universe I regard as my body and that which directs the universe I consider as my nature. All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my companions.’47

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circles of relationship/Dominique Medici, used with permission

Below is a practice that awakens an awareness of the circles that surround us. CIRCLES OF RELATIONSHIP: Sit comfortably, preferably outdoors. Pause; then let the attention rest at the solar chakra. See this chakra shining like the sun; it is the sun of your true self, your hsin. Let awareness connect this center to the circle of family. Bring family to mind in all its permutations (relatives, pets, close friends). Resist thinking about family; just sense being surrounded by family. Proceed to the next circles, recognizing relationships without dwelling on particulars. Earth as Mother and Creatures as Kin Again we summon the indigenous world-view as the most explicit reminder that the estrangement of human beings, especially in modern industrialized nations, from Earth as mother and the natural world as extended family is an


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unhealthy and abnormal signal that the memory of One Life and One Consciousness has atrophied. For indigenous peoples the honoring of Mother Earth is so natural that it is assumed to be a typical human response. Unlike the industrialized Westerner who identifies a plentifully stocked supermarket as his or her primary resource, the person who lives close to the land sees, up close, how Earth provides sustenance to all Her creatures. In fact, disturbing the Earth in violent ways is shocking to one whose filial loyalty is culturally engrained. For example, when plans to erect the James Bay hydroelectric plant in Quebec, Canada were considered in the 1970’s the Mistassini Cree vigorously fought the project. The tribal members were distressed that the skin of Mother Earth would be scraped of its trees that provided food for many animals. A tribal solidarity with the land is affirmed by the Western Apache through their use of specific placenames, such as t’iis bitl’ah tu ‘olii (‘water flows inward underneath a cottonwood tree’). When these placenames are referred to in conversation they remind the people of important tribal events, stories, and moral wisdom which are believed to imbue specific locales.48 Before the disruption of their customary way of life by colonial incursion, the North American Plains Indians conducted the buffalo hunt in a sacred manner befitting their sense of kinship with animals. This hunt included elaborate rituals of purification by the hunters, prayers of apology and thanksgiving to the victim, utilization of all the body parts of the slain buffalo, and an implicit ecological regulation on the number of game to be killed in any one hunting season. The brotherhood of man and animal required a respectful form of address. Ants, for example, are still addressed as the ant people, and buffalos are the buffalo nation. Australian aborigines intertwine human identity with that of the land and its creatures. Each person is believed to be an incarnation of the land, a spiritual being attached intimately to the local geography which was formed in the primordial Dream Time. Pilgrimages are made to sacred sites such as a particular cave where special sacred objects called churingas are kept. These sacred objects are invested with the stories and powers of the ancestors. A non-human species, identified as a close ‘relative’ of a tribe, is honored as that tribe’s totem. Totemic taboos outlaw the eating of that animal or plant species to which the human tribe has pledged an intimate kinship. It is believed by many indigenous peoples that animals and plants serve humans as spiritual guardians and teachers. Walking Buffalo, a member of a Canadian Native American tribe, says of trees: ‘Did you know that trees talk? Well they do. They talk to each other, and they’ll talk to you if you listen. Trouble is, white people don’t listen. They never learned

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to listen to the Indians so I don’t suppose they’ll listen to other voices in nature. But I have learned a lot from trees: sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit.’49

An inspirational example of indigenous wisdom being applied today in the world of politics is the work of Wangari Muta Maathai. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, Maathai is engineering a fundamental change in her nation of Kenya. Her Green Belt Movement seeks to reverse the cycle of poverty and women’s lowly position in society by giving women the job of planting trees throughout the country. Because of drastic deforestation and the resulting soil erosion, a depleted landscape gives neither crops for eating nor the wood necessary for cooking and nourishing the family—which is traditionally women’s work. Maathai connects ecological responsibility to democracy (particularly women’s rights) and peace. She insists that peace requires people to follow a sustainable lifestyle individually, socially, nationally, and globally. Translated also as ‘voluntary simplicity,’ the sustainable lifestyle is essentially a spiritual acknowledgement of the right of each creature to have what it needs. The idea of voluntary simplicity is old. Stoicism, for example, armed the human being with the practice of autarky or self-sufficiency to withstand the stressful effects of a disintegrating Roman Empire. Today’s world is just as precarious—indeed, more so as the Earth suffers the effects of human irresponsibility. In his book Voluntary Simplicity Duane Elgin argues that when one’s life becomes less automatic and more conscious (this is the fruit of pausing) one begins to conserve energy in various ways. A satisfaction with less rather than more has a salutary effect on the Earth community because the individual’s attention is redirected outward to the needs of others. Elgin writes: To live more simply is to live more purposefully and with a minimum of needless distraction. . . . We each know where our lives are unnecessarily complicated. We are all painfully aware of the clutter and pretense that weigh upon us and make our passage through the world more cumbersome and awkward. To live more simply is to unburden ourselves—to live more lightly, cleanly, aerodynamically.50

You are invited to devise and practice your own version of living simply and responsibly in a world where accumulation of material goods and neglect for the environment continue to outweigh the spiritual maturity of a sustainable lifestyle. The natural bond between human beings and the natural world is recognized in the religions of the East—particularly Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism—by


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the practice of ahimsa which teaches non-violence and compassion to all created beings as manifestations of Spirit. The Eesha-Upanishad declares: “Whatever lives is full of the Lord.”51 Brahman animates the majestic Himalayas, holy Mother Ganges, and all the varied embodiments of Nature or Prakriti. A sacred chant states: Sarvam kalwidam Brahman (All is Brahman)—as the following story demonstrates: A devotee is traveling some distance to deliver holy water to a shrine dedicated to the god Shiva. On the way he meets a donkey lying by the side of the road. The donkey is dying of thirst. The man instinctively gives the holy water to the animal. Realizing his offering is now used up he prays to Shiva, saying “Oh Shiva, I would have come to your holy shrine, but I met you here on the road!”

In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna reminds Arjuna that if he looks deeply into all that is perishable he will see the Lord. Krishna says: He who can see the Supreme Lord in all beings, the Imperishable amidst the perishable, he it is who really sees. Beholding the Lord in all things equally, his actions do not mar his spiritual life but lead him to the height of Bliss.52

The ‘marring of one’s spiritual life’ is caused by a lack of reverence for life. As The Philosophy of Love (Narada Sutras) states: The two most important virtues of a devotee are non-violence and truth. Thoughts of hatred disturb the harmony of the heart and mar the inner life. A moment of hate or harsh speech or practical injury done to any being cannot be effaced by days and weeks of prayer and meditation.53

The Buddhist belief that the presence of The Awakened One lives within all beings is a way of acknowledging that the whole world is the body of Buddha. Buddha’s embodiment as the world is called Dharmakaya. One imitates the Buddha, also called The Compassionate One, by showing compassion to all the members of his body. Thus springs the prayerful vow of the Buddhist: “May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness; may they be free of suffering and the root of suffering.”54 Engaged Buddhism combines the concept of sangha, or community, with ahimsa. Zen teacher Bernard Tetsugen Glassman, for instance, established the Greystone Foundation in poor sections of New York City to provide job training, help people start small businesses and serve the homeless. Glassman traces his inspiration for community work to the Sarvodaya movement in Sri Lanka. Based on Gandhi’s work, the Sarvodaya movement encourages the people of small villages to come together, examine their priority needs and

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contribute mental and physical energy towards the accomplishment of goals. What started with a communal digging of wells for drinkable water now includes the building of roads, hospitals, schools and businesses. Interdependence becomes the instrument of self-sufficiency. Buddhist philosopher Joanna Macy believes that the wheel of Buddha’s dharma is currently turning so that those who have ‘fallen in love with our world’ and wish to heal it are following the bodhisattva ideal of compassion. Macy writes of the ‘greening of the self’ and other converging forces which are helping to turn the wheel: As many Dharma brothers and sisters discover today, the world is our cloister. Here new hands and minds, aware of the suffering caused by outmoded ways of thinking and dysfunctional power structures, help turn the wheel. Strong convergences are at play here, as Buddhist thought and practice interact with the organizing values of the Green movement, with Gandhian nonviolence, and humanistic psychology, with ecofeminism, and sustainable economies, with systems theory, deep ecology, and new paradigm science.55

Buddhism teaches that while life forms are continually undergoing change there is always the verity of the one constant—NOW—where we can awaken to our kinship with all life. In the Now, says Eckhart Tolle, “everything is honored, but nothing matters.”56 Chögyam Trungpa asserts that Now-awareness introduces the spiritual warrior to “the magical quality of existence or natural wisdom” called drala.57 He explains: Dra means ‘enemy’ or ‘opponent’ and la means ‘above.’ So drala literally means ‘above the enemy,’ ‘beyond the enemy.’ Drala is the unconditioned wisdom and power of the world that are beyond any dualism . . . beyond aggression.58

When one lives in the One Consciousness the experience of being embodied everywhere is magical: I am the world and I love the world as my incarnate Self. Jainism, which is ancestral to Hinduism and Buddhism, offers an ecospiritual vision founded on ancient wisdom that has a remarkably modern sound. Jains advocate three spiritual practices as the means of liberation from karma with its long-range effects on planetary health. These practices are: (1) aparigraha: eschewing acquisitiveness by adopting a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity (2) anekantwad: religious tolerance (Jains believe that all religions are paths to truth) (3) ahimsa: non-violence and compassion


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In the Jain view of ahimsa all occasions of inflicting harm on living beings should be avoided. Those who follow purist guidelines adopt a strictly vegetarian diet, avoid swimming, and cover their mouths and noses while walking so as not to breathe in microscopic beings. For Jains, sitting in meditation is the best way to avoid inflicting harm because the body is still. A new brand of Christian theology called ecotheology is adding its voice to the claim by indigenous and Eastern spiritualities that the familial relationship of human beings to the entire sentient universe is a compelling fact. Ecotheologians challenge the biblical interpretation that equates dominion with unfettered use of the environment.59 On the contrary, the world is to be cared for and celebrated as God’s Body. Writing in the 1950’s Teilhard de Chardin showed himself a precocious advocate of the ecotheological perspective when he described the world as a divine milieu in which “all the elements of the universe touch each other by that which is most inward and ultimate in them.”60 The human task, he said, is to bring into manifestation this divinity by shedding ego and growing in conscious presence. Sallie McFague, Protestant feminist ecotheologian, argues that when human beings proliferate nuclear weaponry and abuse ecological laws they profane their own Divine Body. This profanity is the essence of sin. McFague states: . . . sin . . . is refusal to be part of the body, the special part we are as imago dei. . . .To sin is not to refuse loyalty to the Liege Lord but to refuse to take responsibility for nurturing, loving, and befriending the body and all its parts. . . .In the metaphor of the world as the body of God, the resurrection becomes a worldly, present, inclusive reality, for this body is offered to all: ‘This is my body.’61

Furthermore, McFague says that the traditional image of God as male and kingly may have encouraged Christian nations to defile the Earth and conquer the Earth’s people in the name of a conquering Monarch. She suggests that if alternative models of the Godhead—like Mother, Friend, Lover—are reconsidered (these models imbue mystical Christianity) a shift in energy from control and power to love might release the planet from imminent destruction.62 In The Essene Gospel of Peace Jesus himself speaks of two parents to whom love and obedience are due: the Heavenly Father and the Earthly Mother. He says: It is by love that the Heavenly Father and the Earthly Mother and the Son of Man become one. For the spirit of the Son of Man was created from the spirit of the Heavenly Father, and his body from the body of the Earthly Mother. Become, therefore, perfect as the spirit of your Heavenly Father and the body of

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your Earthly Mother are perfect. And so love your Heavenly Father, as he loves your spirit. And so love your Earthly Mother, as she loves your body.63

Through human interference the ecosystems of Mother Earth, as resilient as they are, have joined the population of outcasts to whom Jesus ministered. Matthew Fox, a former Catholic priest, coins the term creation spirituality to denote the biblical love of God for the creation as His dwelling place and to affirm that salvation is not an exclusive human prerogative, but rather the promise to all living beings as incarnations of Divine Love. Original blessing is prior to sin; innate goodness is the ground of all existence. In The Universe Story ecotheologian Thomas Berry and physicist Brian Swimme team up to warn human beings that continued predatory action against the planet threatens their own survival. Because the human being, unlike other species, has no natural enemies to control his exploitation of the natural world he must relearn the law of restraint or limits—rita, as the Hindus call this cosmological principle. The authors present a compelling narrative that traces the evolutionary history of the universe up to the current precarious situation. If the approximate age of the universe (15 billion years) were to be equated with 100 years, they explain, then Homo sapiens inhabits the last 24 hours of the 100th year. Within 23 of those 24 hours he has traveled from Stone Age hunter-gatherer all the way to the last 60 seconds of an industrialized Technozoic Era rooted in hubris. Humans now stand at a spiritual-ecological crossroads where it must be decided whether to charter a new course and usher in an Ecozoic Era of responsibility to the Earth community or risk our own elimination as a species. By cultivating our natural capacity for self-awareness we might make the right choice.64 The life of St. Francis of Assisi epitomizes a respect for and communion with all the creatures of Nature, from animals and plants to Brother Sun and Sister Moon. A story is told about St. Francis’ salutary effect on a wolf who is attacking and killing children in an Italian village. At the urging of the village council Francis confronts the wolf and gently informs him that his violent actions must stop. He makes a bargain with the wolf: stop your murderous ways and the villagers will feed you each day. The wolf agrees and becomes the village pet. Below is a daily practice in ahimsa which you are invited to try. PRACTICING AHIMSA: When there is a felt rise in negative energy towards another person, ground your awareness in the present moment by connecting mind to the senses and then extend awareness into the ‘skin’ of the other so that you experience his or her suffering. From this experience let words and actions of compassion flow.


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I Am My Brother’s Keeper The impertinent question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?,” addressed to Yahweh by Cain after he slays his brother Abel, resonates in today’s world as both a repressed admittance of responsibility to other human beings and an angry refutation of that responsibility. Moreover, if the name brother or sister is extended to all living forms then the human responsibility to keep and protect all these beings is awesome indeed. Let us look to the ‘Religions of the Book’ for guidance in this third element of the ecospiritual perspective since the question of being my brother’s keeper comes from the biblical account in Genesis (Gen. 4:9). Judaism is centered in a communal responsibility that begins with the commandment to love God and treat with respect one’s neighbor as oneself. The suffering that has afflicted Jews throughout their history has fed a sense of communal solidarity as God’s chosen ones. The custom of hospitality to strangers and sensitivity to the plight of the weak inform a strong social activism that obeys the concept of tzedakah, which means righteousness. Tzedakah conveys empathy for others’ sufferings, a feeling of fellowship born out of the historical struggles and victimization that Jews have experienced. The horror of the Holocaust in particular has nurtured this empathy.65 Another Jewish concept, tikkun olam—the practice of ‘repairing the world’—has spawned numerous philanthropic organizations to help the disadvantaged by restoring economic and social balance. Tikkun olam can extend to the natural world, resonating in such practices as a kosher diet and the deep connection many Jews feel with the promised land of Israel. The message of Christianity is also a call to love one’s neighbor as oneself. And who is my neighbor? The poor, the sick, the powerless—all those that society treats as pariahs. The sacredness of each person is confirmed when action conforms to Jesus’ words: “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me (Matt. 25:40).” One mission of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) was to revive the communal idea of church as the People of God rather than an institutional hierarchy. Reformist priests and religious in Central and South America developed literacy programs to enable the poor to be agents of their own economic and social liberation. This effort to imitate Jesus’ compassion for the poor became known as liberation theology. The world-wide ministry of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in serving the diseased and dying is another application of love for one’s neighbor. Unless service to others comes from the heart, however, it is deficient. When St. Paul pronounces charity as the essential virtue he says: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing (1Cor. 13:3).” A story indicates the eventual outcome of choosing personal gain over charity, and vice-versa:

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A sumptuous banquet is being held in Heaven and Hell. All residents are invited. The same ornate table settings and bountiful gourmet meal are offered at both locations. The only oddity is the eating utensil—a spoon with a two-foot long handle. With relish the hungry guests sit down to eat. Those in Heaven enjoy the meal but those in Hell curse the host in frustration. You see, those in Hell are trying in vain to feed themselves; those in Heaven feed each other.

Islam recognizes the communal nature of humanity through the unifying base of Islamic social law or Shari’ah. The ummah, or Muslim community, practices this unity through keeping the Five Pillars. For example, the community prays at set times facing Mecca; the community practices self-discipline and gratitude for Allah’s gifts by keeping the fast of Ramadan; and the community recognizes its solidarity with the poor by pooling financial resources—a set portion of income—to meet those needs. This latter practice, called zakat, accomplishes two objectives: it reminds the giver that all gifts come from Allah and it provides an ongoing social means of ‘being my brother’s keeper.’ Buddhist philosophy offers another angle on how to practice ‘being my brother’s keeper.’ It states that right actions will follow right intent. By intending each morning to be receptive to the needs of others, and by keeping this intent alive by practicing mindfulness, we are presented with the action appropriate to the moment. When Thich Nhat Hanh decided to leave the meditation halls in Vietnam and, with his monastic brothers and sisters, assist the refugees of the Vietnam War he said that this new work of engaged Buddhism would combine mindfulness meditation and action. He said: “Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing?”66 We needn’t look far to recognize a pressing need. It is not necessary, says Mother Teresa, to go to India to find the depressed, the lonely, the sick in mind and body; they live with us as family members, coworkers, friends and acquaintances. In late April 2005 it was announced that there had been sightings of the regal ivory-billed woodpecker—the ‘Lord God bird’—in central Arkansas. Even as the old-forests that protect this species are fast falling to loggers, the bird, like the fabled Phoenix, may rise again to renew man’s hope in his own redemption. As one reporter notes: Among its gifts to us, the ivory bill can help us see ourselves as we really are, torn between our own desire to be free—to shoot and develop and cut down and expand—and the desire to live among free things that can survive only if we are less free. With the double vision of birders, we still can recognize ourselves as the wild children of American fantasy, but also as the far less romantic, but equally biblical stewards of the earth. The challenge now is to give the ivorybilled woodpecker a home—not merely in legend but on actual, American


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ground, where it can be both the metaphorical Lord God bird and also the literal eater of grubs. If we can pull this off, we will not merely be saving this bird, we will be saving ourselves.67

The spiritualization of our daily lives is deeply connected to the perception of the universe as sacred. If, right now, we acknowledge in awareness the sensory tools that we share with other beings—touching . . . seeing . . . smelling . . . tasting . . . listening . . .—we reaffirm in presence that universal Presence which illuminates the web of life to which we belong. May we take the words and music of the song offered to heart.

‘Great Communion’ by Jan Novotka © 1998. © 2006 by Jan Novotka’s Music LLC, used with permission

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NOTES 1. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 13. 2. Thomas Keating, Intimacy With God (New York: Crossroad, 1996), 41. 3. Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, trans. Leif Sjoberg and W.H Auden (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), 40. 4. J. Phillip Newell, The Book of Creation (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), 8. 5. Hammarskjold, Markings, 40. 6. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell, 29. 7. Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address,” in The American Tradition in Literature vol. 1, eds. Sculley Bradley, Richmond Croom Beatty and E. Hudson Long (New York: W.W. Norton, 1957), 1326. 8. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York: Aventine Press, 1931), 45. 9. Thomas Berry, The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future (New York: Bell Tower, 1999), 16. 10. Sandra Saar, “Amazing Jane” in Science of Mind 77:12, Dec. 2004, 20–21. Reprinted by permission of Science of Mind. Attempts to reach the author for permission failed. 11. According to Egyptian scholar John Anthony West, the esoteric study of numerology posits number 4 as the materialization into physical form and action of the reconciliation afforded by the number 3. The four elements—fire, earth, air and water— are assigned thus: the active principle (fire-1), the receptive principle (earth-2), the mediating principle (air-3), and the material principle (water-4). They provide the basis for the world of discrete matter. Without water no life is possible. See John Anthony West, Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt (New York: Harper & Row, 1979). It could be argued that a similar progression exists in the chakra line in that the development of the higher chakra powers depends upon the activation of the heart (love) at the fourth chakra. 12. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, ed. Susannah Heschel (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1996), 328. 13. The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr., selected by Coretta Scott King (New York: Newmarket Press, 1987), 18. 14. New studies in social neuroscience show that the healing energies generated by loving relationships between a sick person and caring family or friends are actually mirrored in the brain cells. Mirror neurons allow synchronization in body posture, movement, and speech between two people who have a rapport. See Daniel Goldman, “Friends for Life: An Emerging Biology of Emotional Healing,” New York Times, 10 Oct. 2006, 5(F). 15. The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Volume I: The Poems, Revised, ed. Richard J. Finneran (New York: Scribner, 1989), 189. Copyright © 1924 by Macmillan; renewed 1952 by Bertha Georgie Yeats. Reprinted with permission of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, and A.P. Watt Ltd. 16. The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Volume I, 189. 17. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays 1st and 2nd Series (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1927), 301–302.


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18. Stephen Mitchell, ed. The Enlightened Mind: An Anthology of Sacred Prose (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), 78. Used by permission of The Governing Board of the School of Celtic Studies of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. 19. David Kinsley, Ecology and Religion: Ecological Spirituality in Cross-cultural Perspective (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1995), 111. 20. The use of scripture to justify abusive action is evident, for example, in the argument by powerful Christian leaders that the institution of slavery in the American South (which served a growing industrial economy) was legitimized by the biblical story of Ham’s sin (Gen. 9) and St. Paul’s injunction to slaves that they obey their masters (Eph. 6:5–9). Dominionism, a militant ideology of the Christian Right in America, is a modern application of Genesis 1:28 that preaches Christian dominion over the nation, other religions, and the world in order to defeat Satan. 21. Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (New York: Viking, 1974), 5. Copyright © 1971 by The Massachusetts Medical Society. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 22. Thomas, The Lives of a Cell, 4. 23. The mysterious power inherent in all crystals is their ability to grow and reproduce like plants and animals. This crystallization process is generative, transformational, alchemical; hence the use of crystals in certain healing modalities. See Magus Incognito, The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993), 76. 24. Factory equipment, for example, has been found to ‘recuperate’ and work better when given a day off. 25. Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 33. 26. Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 33. 27. Our link to the plant kingdom is even more basic when we acknowledge that the substance and growth of human and animal tissue is vegetable in nature. The very vocabulary of medical procedures such as ‘transplanting’ a body organ or ‘grafting’ skin takes it cue from plants. It is interesting that the gravitation towards nutritious food while instinctive in plants is a matter of choice for humans. The rise in obesity in America shows that free will can be exercised to disobey natural laws of good nutrition. 28. The term holarchy (from holon) was coined by Arthur Koestler. 29. Alice Calaprice, ed. The New Quotable Einstein (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), 206. 30. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, trans. Maxwell Staniforth (New York: Penguin, 1964), 73. 31. Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 151. 32. Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 152. 33. Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 155. 34. Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 129. 35. Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 192. 36. In Michael Dowd, Earthspirit: A Handbook for Nurturing an Ecological Christianity (Mystic, Conn.: Twenty-third Publications, 1992), 37.

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37. Astronomers have discovered outbursts of energy from giant black holes in the distant Perseus galaxy cluster and, most recently, from the galaxy M87 at the center of the Virgo cluster. These enormous energies spread sound waves. ‘Songs of the galaxies’ (the Perseus frequency is equivalent to a Bflat) show a relationship between black holes and the galaxies in which they reside and appear to regulate. See Dennis Overbye, “Songs of the Galaxies, and What They Mean,” New York Times, 3 Aug. 2004, 1(D). 38. The Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1904), 91. 39. Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 195. 40. Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 195. 41. Brugh W. Joy, M.D., Joy’s Way: A Map for the Transformational Journey (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1979), 176. Copyright © 1979 by Brugh Joy. Used by permission of Jeremy P. Tarcher, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 42. Nicholas D. Kristof, “Looking for Islam’s Luthers,” New York Times Week in Review, 15 Oct. 2006, 13. 43. John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions: The Life of a Sioux Medicine Man (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972), 114. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group. 44. Tom Brown Jr., The Journey (New York: Berkley Books, 1992), 25. Used by permission of Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 45. See Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991). The position which Jesus took was liminal. Born in a stable, son of a carpenter not a king, friend of outcasts, tax collectors and women, Jesus lived the humility he taught. Monastic life is liminal in nature. 46. Huston Smith, The Worlds’ Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 174. 47. Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 77. 48. A linguistic anthropologist, Keith H. Basso, recorded placenames at 296 locations in 104 square kilometers in and around the community of Cibecue, Arizona. See Keith H. Basso, Western Apache Language and Culture: Essays in Linguistic Anthropology (Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 1990), 107. 49. Kinsley, Ecology and Religion, 47–48. 50. Duane Elgin, Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich (New York: William Morrow, 1993), 24–25. Copyright © 1978, 1992 by Duane Elgin. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. 51. The Ten Principal Upanishads, trans. W.B. Yeats and Purohit Swami (New York: Collier/Macmillan, 1975), 15. 52. The Geeta: The Gospel of the Lord Shri Krishna, trans. Purohit Swami (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), 60. 53. Narada Sutras: The Philosophy of Love, trans. with commentary by Hari Prasad Shastri (London: Shanti Sadan, 1973), 91. Used by permission of Shanti Sadan, London. 54. These are the first two lines of a Buddhist prayer called ‘sharing the merit.’ 55. Joanna Macy, World as Lover; Word as Self (Berkeley, Calif.: Parallax Press, 1991), 241. Reprinted by permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, Calif.


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56. Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (Navato, Calif.: New World Library, 1999), 58. 57. Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior (Boston: Shambhala, 1988), 102. 58. Trungpa, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, 103. 59. Ironically, ecological disaster could wield the final dominion. A current assessment by the World Conservation Union—whose members include 81 governments, 850+ NGO’s and approximately 10,000 scientists—puts the number of plant and animal species in danger of extinction at 16,000. This number reflects an increase of 530 species since two years ago and points to the human contribution to factors of pollution, climate change and unregulated hunting and logging. See “Conservation Group finds Polar Bears and Hippos at Risk,” New York Times, 2 May 2006, 12(A). 60. Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), 114. 61. Sallie McFague, Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), 77. 62. Feminist theology has been introduced in Jewish seminaries where rabbinical students of Reform and Conservative Judaism are discussing the feminine aspect of Yahweh—Shekhinah—as it appears in the Kabbalah. They are seeking to change the language used in the Torah to reflect gender balance. 63. The Essene Gospel of Peace, Book 1, trans. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely (Nelson, B.C. Canada: International Biogenic Society, 1981), 19. Matthew 5:48 deletes one parent when it purports that Jesus instructed his followers to “be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” 64. See Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era—A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994). 65. A biblical example of hospitality to strangers is the account in the Torah of Abraham and Sarah who minister to two divine strangers who tell the couple they will bear a child even in their old age (Gen. 4:9). The marked Jewish support for the civil rights movement in the 1960’s showed solidarity with African-Americans. Today, the JCUA works to combat all types of racism and bigotry. 66. Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step: the Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life (New York, Bantam Books, 1992), 91. 67. Jonathan Rosen, “The Woodpecker in All of Us,” New York Times, 3 May 2005, 25(A).

Chapter Eleven

Sowing Seeds of Spiritual Revolution

Let us pause. . . . Let us rest in the Self of all. Jesus said: “the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21).” It could also be said that ‘the seeds of spiritual revolution are within you.’ According to Thomas Merton a human being must be willing to undergo a revolutionary reversal in consciousness or metanoia in order to repair the collective damage incurred since Adam and Eve willfully rejected their own divinity. Whether this initial act of rejection is mythic or real is of no consequence because the reality of the transgression is its spiritual outcome: the level of consciousness falls so that humanity perceives and conceives the world as objects to be manipulated by the featured object—ME. The divine self, empty and whole as it is, does not fit into such a world and the divine light is concealed by the mask. Only a radical lift in conscious energy will reveal the eternal Self as the perfect essence of every being. In the Confessions St. Augustine describes his own experience of being imprisoned by the mask. He writes: “I was held fast, not in fetters clamped upon me by another, but by my own will which had the strength of iron chains that held me fast in the duress of servitude.”1 He continues: My thoughts, as I meditated upon you, were like the efforts of a man who tries to wake but cannot and sinks back into the depths of slumber. . . . I had no answer to make when you said Awake, you who sleep, and arise from the dead . . . the only answers I could give were the drowsy words of an idler—‘Soon,’ ‘Presently,’ ‘Let me wait a little longer’. . . . For the rule of sin is the force of habit, by which the mind is swept along and held fast even against its will, yet deservedly, because it fell into the habit of its own accord. . . . It can only be that man’s love of truth is such that when he loves something which is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be 291


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proved wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for the sake of what he takes to his heart in its place.2

In order to turn around and redirect our steps back to the divine center within us the misdirected energy that appears to be a fixed entity—the false self—must be reconfigured. This energy shift to who we are is the revolving and evolving process of spiritual transformation. Being-present awakens the love of truth and feeds it until the love is potent enough to outweigh the habit of self-deception that St. Augustine describes. Ego will try to siphon off energy for its own aggrandizement by injecting thoughts and feelings about the past and future with which to captivate mind-heart; but every waking moment that returns the energy to presence weakens ego. Like a traveler who has trouble breathing in the mountain air of the Andes the ego suffers in the fine atmosphere of sustained presence. Jean Klein explains: Until now your brain has functioned in the pattern of taking yourself for someone, and when this pattern suddenly collapses there is a reorchestration of all your energy, a transformation of your being. The old reflex, which is so deeprooted, may come up from time to time, but you are now aware of it. You ignore it and then forget it. Why put yourself in the cage of a fraction? You are the whole, the global.3

Rest in your own quiet which is the silence that moves the universe . . . Jesus says to his followers “ when thou prayest, enter into thy closet (Matt. 6:6).” This closet is the mind-heart. When we set aside periods of contemplation and allow the mind-heart to rest in silent awareness we begin to experience St. Augustine’s statement that “our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”4 Voluntary solitude enhances this process. Jesus sought seclusion on a mountaintop or in the wilderness to be alone with the All One. Lao Tzu says: Ordinary men hate solitude, But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.5

Marcus Aurelius writes that “nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul. . . . Avail yourself often then of this retirement, and so continually renew yourself.”6 A Hindu story tells of a king who wants to know how to become one with Brahman, the Supreme Lord. He summons a spiritual master who tells him

Sowing Seeds of Spiritual Revolution


that the only way to unite with Brahman is through silence. “But how,” asks the king, “is silence achieved?” The master says, “Through meditation.” The king then asks, “What is meditation?” The master replies, “Silence.” The pause and the mini-pause are a gateway to this silence. From the very moment the octave of spiritual evolution begins with the sounding of the initial Do—the arousal of the Divine Energy lying dormant within us—the route towards Self-realization at the top Do is foreshadowed. Each step in between manifests an increase in the power of conscious awareness that allows our innate wisdom and goodness to manifest as impediments dissolve and fall away. This evolutionary process is facilitated by external factors: books, teachers, good friends, and life crises arrive in a synchronous fashion to deliver lessons that the mind-heart needs and will absorb if it is open to instruction. These external factors work symbiotically with the internal guidance of intuition. Each evolutionary step is a rite of passage into Self-knowledge. Just as bodily health depends upon a daily metabolic process in which elements like good food, clean air and pure water, exercise and sleep must be provided in appropriate measures, so spiritual health requires a spiritual metabolism without which consciousness devolves and the person forgets the reason for human birth: Self-realization. True principles need to be remembered, absorbed and digested through conscious practice while habitual patterns of thought and feeling that breed spiritual toxins are excreted from mind-heart. As this purification process reconfigures energy in the individual so a sacramental life is born that benefits the entire Earth community. Below is a description by Teilhard de Chardin of a meditative experience that accelerated his own spiritual evolution by revealing levels of identity that had to be penetrated in order to see the Mystery that pervades all beings. He writes: And so, for the first time in my life perhaps (although I am supposed to meditate every day!) I took the lamp and, leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my inmost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further away from the conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came—arising I know not from where—the current which I dare to call my life. . . . Stirred by my discovery, I then wanted to return to the light of day and forget the disturbing enigma in the comfortable surroundings of familiar things—to begin living again at the surface without imprudently plumbing the depths of the abyss. But


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then, beneath this very spectacle of the turmoil of life, there reappeared, before my newly-opened eyes, the unknown that I wanted to escape. This time it was not hiding at the bottom of an abyss; it disguised its presence in the innumerable strands which form the web of chance, the very stuff of which the universe and my own small individuality are woven. Yet it was the same mystery without a doubt: I recognized it.7

Rest in your own quiet which is the silence that moves the universe . . . According to the Mayan mathematical/astronomical calculations of cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, the human experiment is now completing a final cycle of worlds. Whether a lifting of consciousness—an emergence of Earth into a fifth dimensional frequency—will permit the continued evolution of humanity is a subject that the Mayan calendar or Tzolkin does not address. Perhaps it is up to the present generation to determine the interlocked future of human and planetary evolution. The current devolution in conscious awareness fits in with the Vedic prescription of cosmic cycles that places humankind in the early stages of the Iron Age or Kali Yuga. A dense, tamasic energy is pulling at the fabric of the world soul as if to tear the threads that keep it whole. Those threads are the spiritual principles of the perennial philosophy that animate every religion. Although it may appear that the regenerative impulse of this perennial philosophy is threatened this is not the case, for the perennial philosophy is exactly that—perennial. It is we human beings who have lost touch with its healing vibrations. Nevertheless, a renaissance can occur in which an entire culture is lifted into a higher plane of consciousness even as the Kali Yuga unfolds. This promise of an accessible Golden Age here and now stirs one’s resolve to plant seeds of spiritual revolution in the soil of the world’s mindheart and fertilize those seeds with the fine energy of presence. In every age, the legacy of the perennial philosophy is perpetuated by an awakened remnant who, in sowing seeds to Spirit, reap the harvest for everyone. Members of the remnant realize that, to heal the world, they need to give up certain notions, desires and beliefs that have become precious to them. Like the creature Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, the selfishness in me wants to cling to the false Precious. Only the practice of being-present will unveil these endearing thoughts and feelings as ego’s food and the sole author of my suffering. Thus is the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed, transformed into a tree where the birds of the air can nest. In 1992, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, Chief Oren Lyons spoke of ‘the law of the Seed and Regeneration.’ He said: We can still alter our course. It is NOT too late. We still have options. We need the courage to change our values to the regeneration of our families, the life that

Sowing Seeds of Spiritual Revolution


surrounds us. Given this opportunity, we can raise ourselves. We must join hands with the rest of Creation. . . . We must understand that the law is the seed and only as true partners can we survive.8

The laboratory of spiritual revolution is the mind-heart. Here is waged the ultimate jihad as the soul struggles to regain proximity to its own Divine Presence. If we would transcend ordinary consciousness and follow the insights of heightened consciousness we have to be willing to do the dismantling work at the strait gate of attentive presence. Pausing is a key practice in this revolutionary work. Each drop of mindfulness, like clear water bubbling up from a spring, checks the devolution of consciousness by illuminating knowledge that benefits everyone. A Hindu story illustrates the perseverance that is needed to accomplish this seemingly formidable task: There were two birds whose eggs were washed away by the sea. In their grief the birds decided to punish the sea by drying it up with sand. They picked up grains of sand in their tiny beaks and dropped them in the sea. This went on for some time. A sage, who was passing by, asked the birds what they were doing. The birds told him their sad story. ‘Do you really think,’ asked the sage, ‘that your work will be successful even if you labor without ceasing for your whole lives?’ ‘No’ said the birds, ‘but we are determined to dedicate this life—and a thousand lives if needed—to complete this work.’ The sage, impressed by their determination, wanted to help, so he addressed the sea, saying ‘I will dry up your water by the spiritual powers that I possess unless you return the eggs to these faithful birds.’ The sea was frightened and the eggs were returned, unharmed.9

Rest in your own quiet which is the silence that moves the universe . . . What is the conscious mechanism by which a Golden Age arises like a phoenix from the fiery ashes of the Iron Age? Scientist Rupert Sheldrake proposes that an organizing mechanism he calls the morphic field of resonance is responsible for the mystery by which change is subtly recorded, remembered, and passed on to future generations. Not only are species-specific biological adaptations absorbed and remembered, resonating in a collective energy field over the millennia, but also mental and cultural innovations are transmitted as vibrations of extended mind over time and geographical distance, becoming habits impressed in the shared energy field. Morphic resonance is a scientific way of elucidating the esoteric Principle of Vibration and Law of Attraction. When people begin to awaken and practice being-present they create a non-local morphic field of resonance to which other people who desire spiritual change tune in and are attracted. P.D. Ouspensky, pupil of legendary teacher G.I. Gurdjieff, uses the analogy of two energy circles of human beings to explain this phenomenon of vibratory attraction. The


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vast majority of people occupy an outer circle that is lost in Self-forgetting— the mechanical circle of the confusion of tongues. The inner circle is occupied by people who practice Self-remembering and are thus attuned to higher spiritual frequencies. This inner circle acts as a magnet to attract and awaken those in the outer circle who are ready to learn the language of conscious awareness.10 Of this magnetism Jesus spoke when he said of the power of the crucifixion that was to come: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (John 12:32).” This vibratory coalescence obeys the highest law of cosmic interconnectedness—the Law of One. As habitual vibrations of ignorance yield to the illumined energy waves of attentive presence a new cultural norm is created and a new age of spirituality that favors the enhancement of all life is ushered in. The revolutionary work of a critical few—humanity’s spiritual genome—is the leaven for this renaissance which some have called the coming of the Aquarian Age.11 The ability to remain still and awake, to be in the world but ‘not of the world’ takes time to develop (John 17: 14–16). Like children learning to walk we fall many times; but like a child, who perseveres because he or she instinctively knows that walking is an inevitable human trait, we continue to get up and try again. It is good to know that other souls—fellow spirit travelers— are also falling and getting up again. A verse from the Atharva Veda reminds us of the initial wholeness that is everyone’s nature. This verse reads: ‘Unified am I, quite undivided unified my soul, unified my sight, unified my hearing, unified my breathing – both in and out, unified is my continuous breath Unified, quite undivided am I, the whole of me.’12

In reality there is no me and you, me and God, human and non-human, male and female. There is only Love embracing Itself. When enough people realize this truth, and live by it, a spiritual revolution takes place. The ‘second coming’ arrives. Earth disrobes and shows her heavenly self. According to Hopi Indian prophecies, this new age is not heralded by a visitation from an otherworldly God but by an alignment of energies between humanity and the rhythm of Mother Earth so that the Oneness of Creation is realized. We are in the process of becoming our true inner Light; we are the ones we have been waiting for.

Sowing Seeds of Spiritual Revolution


peace mandala /Dominique Medici, used with permission

To prepare for our own arrival as perfect incarnations only one thing is required: being-present to the oracle of this moment. The Self does not desert us; it is only we who think we can desert the Self—until we wake up to who we are and say with the Psalmist: Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. (Ps. 139:7–10)

Let us pause. . . . Close the pause by resting your attention on the Peace Mandala.


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NOTES 1. St. Augustine, Confessions, trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin (Baltimore, Md.: Penguin, 1976), 165. 2. St. Augustine, Confessions, 229–230. 3. Jean Klein, Open to the Unknown: Dialogues in Delphi, ed. Emma Edwards (St. Peter Port, Guernsey, C.I.: Third Millennium Publications, 1992), 28. 4. St. Augustine, Confessions, 21. 5. Tao Te Ching, trans. Stephen Mitchell (New York: HarperCollins, 1988), 42. 6. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, trans. Maxwell Staniforth (New York: Penguin, 1964), 63. 7. Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), 76–78. 8. Chief Oren Lyons, address to the United Nations opening “The Year of the Indigenous Peoples (1993),” 10 Dec. 1992. (21 Aug.2007) 9. Adapted from Good Company: an anthology of sayings, stories, and answers to questions by His Holiness Shantananda Saraswati 1961–1985 (London: The Study Society, 1987), 100–101. 10. P.D. Ouspensky, The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution (New York: Vintage, 1981), 104–105. 11. The late Father Wayne Teasdale argues that an ecumenical effort he calls interspirituality will create the necessary ‘horizontal’ dimension that reaches out in spiritual communion to all people. In order to solve global problems there needs to be a global vision of spirituality and a willingness to seek out and incorporate insights and practices from many religions The revolutionary implications of Teasdale’s vision and its promulgation exemplifies how the energy of a spiritual morphic field is fed. See “Wayne Teasdale: 1945–2004” in The Golden String Vol II, No.2, Winter 2004–5, 2. 12. In Ajit Mookerjee, Ritual Art of India (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1985), 132.

Appendix One

The following breathing exercises allow us to expand our understanding of breathing as a spiritual exercise that also tones body-mind-heart. 1. TONGLEN: This Buddhist practice transmits the energy of maitri or loving kindness and facilitates the development of bodhisattva, the noble heart. Bring to mind someone in need, even someone with whom there is conflict. On the in-breath, take in the suffering of that person. On the out-breath, consciously give healing love and relief. Taking on the sufferings of others (as, for example, Jesus did) and giving love in exchange is a kind of spiritual recycling based on the laws of reciprocity and interconnectedness. If one practices tonglen correctly there is no danger of subtly ingesting negative energies. The intent of mind is important. The suffering of the other is consciously received yet the intent is that this energy be transformed into positive vibrations. The mind-heart does this work, leaving the practitioner, a vessel of change, untouched. Tonglen displays a law of physics whereby energy is never lost but can be transformed. 2. ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING: The function of this ancient yogic method from the Hindu tradition is to balance the two halves of the body, including the right and left hemispheres of the brain cortex. The cosmic energies of the moon and sun are stimulated in the body in their subtle form as Ida and Pingala. Sitting in the natural posture, place your right thumb on the right nostril, closing it. Turn the head towards the left side and exhale through the left nostril to a count of 6. Breathe in through the left nostril to a count of 6. Gently bring the head to a level position facing forward and close both nostrils by placing the right forefinger against the left nostril. Count to 3; then gently direct the head now to the right side. Release the thumb from the right nostril, breathing out to a count of 6. Suspend the breath for a count of 3; then 299


Appendix One

begin slowly breathing in through the right nostril to a count of 6. Bring the head to a level position again as you close off both nostrils by placing the thumb against the right nostril. Start the whole process again by turning the head to the left, release the forefinger and exhale through the left nostril. Repeat for 5 to 6 cycles. Staying present, let relaxation deepen. The benefits of alternate nostril breathing stretch from the dispelling of a sinus headache and congestion to the energizing of the brow chakra with its promise of clarity of mind. By balancing the two sides of the body an interior equilibrium is restored regardless of external circumstances. 3. TAKING DOWN THE FLAME:1 This exercise is found in Donna Eden’s Energy Medicine. It is designed to produce tranquility by removing excess fire from the energy field. It also clears and connects the chakras. Breathing has a central role. The first position is illustrated. Verbal instructions will take you through the entire exercise. Standing, breathe deeply. Feel the excess fire energy drain down your body and into the Earth. Feel the firmness of Earth beneath your feet, grounding you. Place the hands above the crown chakra (about 3 inches) in a triangle-like position, fingertips touching and thumbs pointing down to the crown chakra. Breathe in and out slowly, one full breath. Eden suggests exhaling to a ‘haaaa’ sound. Shift the hands downward to point to the brow chakra. Again, breathe one full breath. Continue downwards, pointing to the throat, heart, and solar chakras. Place your thumbs at the navel and, flattening your hands against your belly let the fingers form a diamond-like shape stretching downward towards the two lower chakras (sacral and root). Still breathing slowly and fully, let the fingers of both hands travel down the inside of the legs to the floor. As the body bends ‘Taking Down the Flame’, over exhale and let the arms hang loose for a first position/Dominique moment; feel tensions being released. Then, Medici, used with permission

Appendix One


breathing in, let the body straighten, hands rolling over themselves, passing each chakra in turn as they move up the central line of the body. As the hands move past the crown of the head exhale and let the arms make a wide arc, coming to rest at the sides of the body. Note (variations): As the hands arrive at each chakra I visualize the color of that chakra. I also move the hand position in a clockwise motion in front of each chakra, mimicking the spinning chakra within (remember, ‘clockwise’ is determined by looking at the body from the front). After taking a deep breath at each chakra I also invoke the particular divine power enshrined in that chakra with prayer words. You may wish to use these words (see below) or compose a litany of your own. Let the movements of breath, body and speaking co-join in a natural, comfortable way. Prayer (as thumbs point down to crown chakra from above the head; see illustration) Mother/Father of the universe keep me present to your guidance this day, and bless all creatures, particularly those in need. (as thumbs point to brow chakra) May I think your thoughts (as thumbs point to throat chakra) May I speak your truth (add as appropriate, eg. write, teach, paint) (as thumbs point to heart chakra) May I give your compassion (as thumbs point to solar chakra) May I shine, the sun of my true self (as fingers point to sacral and root chakras) May I connect to all beings in love (as hands travel down the legs and arms hang loose) May this body be strong and resilient (as hands ‘gather’ and lift the gifts from Mother Earth, rolling over each other up the body, and arms make a large arc around the body, distributing gifts to all) May peace be everywhere.

NOTES 1. Donna Eden, Energy Medicine (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999), 220–221. Used by permission of publisher and Donna Eden. In paraphrasing Donna Eden’s instructions I have incorporated also her remarks about this exercise from notes recorded at a workshop I attended given by Donna Eden at Unity Church, St. Petersburg, Fl., 20 Jan. 2003. Variations that have emerged from my own practice are offered.

Appendix Two

A Practice in Sounding

A simple introduction to sounding is found in the practice of the three primary vowels: AH, EE, and OO. Open the throat so that you feel the home of the AH as a circle at the back of the throat. This naturally happens in yawning. Feel the AH as the unsung center of that circle. Inhaling lightly, listen to the AH emerge gently on the breath using any pitch that is comfortable. Lightly pulse the sound to hear a smooth transition from pure breath to sound riding on the breath. Keep the attention focused at the still yet moving center of the sound and be attentive to that measure of ‘effortless effort’ needed to manifest the sound and sustain it for a few moments without strain. You may hear irregularities at first—scratchiness, harshness, fogginess, breathiness—but with attentive, non-critical listening these impediments will fall away as the sound gradually reflects its center of natural clarity, ease and beauty. Follow the AH with the EE and OO. Note how the circle in the back of the throat and the center of the sound remain the same as with AH; the difference comes by way of a change in the palate area for EE and the lips rounding for OO. Return to the AH, which most likely has refined in tonal quality. Conclude the sounding session by sounding OM. The vowel O is a double measure consisting of AH and OO combined; M is the labial nasal. Sound two counts of O and one count of M. Repeat three times. Surrender the practice to Self.



Adam and Eve, 5, 51, 171, 179, 258; fall in consciousness, xii, 6, 204, 273, 291 Advaita Vedanta. See Hinduism ahimsa, 6, 14, 47, 53, 280–83 air, 77, 80, 81, 259 alchemy, xi–xii, xvi–xviii, 4, 98, 141, 181, 188; of work, 216–17; of spiritual evolution, 190, 261 Alexander technique, 73–74 Alice in Wonderland, 1, 79, 108 anima mundi, 93n22, 169, 201, 294 Arendt, Hannah, 200, 204–5, 207–8, 256n41 art, 112, 142, 198, 216 Atman. See Hinduism attention; 99, 112, 237–38; dysfunctional use of, 40, 56–57, 130, 136–38, 151, 240–42; and labor contractions, 153–54, 239; and love, 126, 217, 238, 251; mind-body synapse, 39–42, 97, 130, 159, 184, 237, 240; multitasking, 203, 240; open/focused, 160–61, 238–40, 239; and working, 160, 199, 203, 205, 210, 215–17, 221–22, 242 Augustine, St., 37, 291–92 aura. See chakras

Aurelius, Marcus, 100, 269, 292 Aurobindo, Sri, 236 Babel, Tower of, 180, 182 Bandler and Grinder, 81 bardo, 131–32, 142 Benson, Herbert, xviii, 91n6 Bernard of Clairvaux, St., 190, 196n43 Berry, Thomas, 27, 170, 213–14, 261, 283 Berry, Wendell, 205 Bielecki, Tessa, 17–18, 30n38 Bhagavad Gita, 4, 232–33, 280; action, 62, 150, 209; sacrifice, 117–18, 209 black hole, 10, 289n37 body, 54–55, 150; being fully in, 37, 39–44, 155, 213; body-soul dichotomy, 38, 65n15; as intelligent, 149, 151, 153–55, 156–58; as musical instrument, 153, 186–87; self-heals, 25, 55, 81, 161, 187 body-mind continuum, xviii, 39, 70, 73–75, 139, 149, 151, 155, 161–64, 208, 228 Boethius, 45, 58, 67n37 Bohm, David, 12–13, 29n28, 268 Brahman. See Hinduism




brain, 125, 135, 287n14; laterality, xviii, 79, 246–47, 256n34, 299–300; and meditation, 187, 299; cortex, 96, 98, 251 breathing, spirituality of, 34, 83–89, 90, 93n31, 174; practices in, 85–89, 299–302 Brennan, Barbara, 24, 91n3 Brother Lawrence, 215 Brown, Jr., Tom, 82, 106. See also Grandfather Browning, Robert, 3, 7, 229 Buber, Martin, xii Bucke, Maurice, 10–11 buddha-nature, 2, 53, 104, 131, 159, 178, 254, 261; compared to Atman, 68n53, 258; no personal self or god, 62, 68n53 Buddhism, 8, 70, 136, 173, 261; Dharmakaya, 11, 160, 280; engaged, 180, 211, 280–81, 285; enlightenment 2, 8, 34, 62, 103, 105, 245, 247; meditation, 34, 88–89, 247; original mind, 244–46; tanha and ego, 53, 101, 244; Three Noble Truths/8–Fold Path, 53, 184, 211, 254, 285. See also mindfulness Calvinism, 65n15, 266, 269. See also Protestant Ethic Campbell, Joseph, 8 cancer, xv, 271 Castaneda, Carlos, 112, 159 Catherine of Siena, St., 104 chakras, 71, 81–82, 300–301; and aura, 22, 31n46, 58, 76, 113, 157, 174, 190; as energy system, 19–25, 20, 31n42, 31n43, 82, 157, 161, 188; heart chakra, 23, 31n47, 101, 104, 181, 186, 193, 273; higher chakras, 92n12, 102–3, 181, 188, 194n11, 234, 287n11; and meditation, 71, 85, 87, 190, 194n11, 195n38; as mystical ladder, 19, 22, 175, 189–93; solar chakra/self-image, 55, 188, 194n11;

tonal frequencies of, 19, 31n48, 186, 194n11, 195n38 chambered nautilus, xiii–xiv, 1 Chardin, de Teilhard, xii, 13, 109, 170, 215, 282, 293 ch’i, 5, 14, 23, 223, 250; flow of, 60, 86, 118, 128, 245, 258; t’ai chi ch’uan, 38, 118, 161–64. See also Taoism Chinmoy, Sri, 31n47 Chodron, Pema, 47, 65n26, 132, 152–53 Chopra, Deepak, xvii, 214 Christianity, 117, 118, 180, 206; Celtic, 37–38, 222, 259, 265; ecotheology, 282–83; and industrial/colonial paradigm, 266, 273, 278, 288n20; and love, 18, 262, 284. See also Jesus; prayer; Protestant Ethic clairsentience, 80 clairvoyance, 19, 106 Cloud of Unknowing, 66n37, 105 community, 280–81, 284–85; of Earth, xii, 7, 18, 170–71, 261, 276, 279, 283, 293; as relationships, 251, 271, 275–76 compassion. See ahimsa Confucianism: chuntzu, 211, 276; education, 27, 124, 276; Golden Rule, 5, 124, 258, 273; hsin/mindheart, xviii, 104, 234, 250, 276–77, 292–93, 295; jen, 27, 117, 211, 276; li/relationships, 117, 126, 180, 276 consciousness, xiv, 28n2, 84, 123, 131, 132, 228, 258, 260, 293. See also energy Csikszentimihalyi, Mihaly, 221–22 Cummings, E.E., 144–45 dance, 156–58 Dante, Alighieri, 41, 193 Day, Dorothy, 159, 167n26 daydreaming, 44, 48, 57–59, 139, 151, 228; and faulty perception, 41, 96, 242; and posture, 73, 74, 92n12; while pausing, 136–38, 227–28


Delsa, Sophia, 161, 163. See also t’ai chi ch’uan Descartes, René, 248–49, 256n41 Desert Fathers, 66n37, 117, 181, 182 desire, 16, 53, 66n35, 100–101, 109, 136, 200, 229, 244; and captured attention, 136–38, 240–41; for results, 100, 139–43, 220 detachment, 47, 53, 100, 153, 216 devolution. See evolution dharma, 139–40, 142 discrimination, 39, 97–98, 101, 116–17, 180, 242–44 Dickinson, Emily, 207 Donne, John, 79 earth, 114, 270. See also community; ecosystem; Mother Earth; smell Ecclesiastes, 96, 200, 206, 236 ecospiritual paradigm, 269–85 ecosystem, 79, 115, 159, 252, 269–71; disturbance of, xii, 26–27, 213, 269, 271, 278, 283 Eden, Donna, 24–25, 214, 300–301, 301n1 education, 25–28, 250. See also Confucianism ego. See false self Egyptian mythology, 102, 106, 174 Einstein, Albert, 12–14, 77, 123, 229–30, 268 Elijah, 134 Ellis, Albert, 236 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 76, 78, 92n15, 96, 97, 265 emotional intelligence. See Daniel Goldman Emoto, Masaru, 172 energy: and chakra system, 19–25, 188; conservation of, 17, 60, 139, 216; conscious use of, 7, 11, 16, 17, 82, 188, 199, 229–30, 242–43; as divine attribute, xi–xiv, xvii, 1, 13, 15, 79, 201, 209; energies of intelligence, 243, 246–47, 249–53, 257n44;


energy medicine, 24–25, 273, 300–301; misuse of, 2, 6, 57, 126, 150, 152–53, 179, 185, 235–36, 245; and pausing, 41, 44, 148, 279; and spiritual transformation, 15–18, 212–13, 221–22, 291; transmutation of, xi, xvi, 4, 15, 19, 28, 33, 46, 52, 106, 192, 217, 292–93, 296; trapped, 6, 16–17, 75, 136, 167n10, 232; universe as, 11–15, 112, 135, 149, 169–70. See also ch’i; healing; kundalini; prana enlightenment, 102–3, 105–6, 234, 245, 247. See also spiritual transformation entrainment, 187, 195n34 Erigena, Johannes Scotus, 265 Essenes, 64n9; Essene Gospels, 36, 38–39, 209, 282–83 evolution, spiritual, xiii–xv; and chakras, 19–24; vs. devolution, 207–8, 212, 293–95; individual and collective, 18, 213–14, 255n20, 261, 293–94; as waking up xv, 46, 261, 293. See also mystical ladder; octave; revolution fairytales. See myths false self/ego, xii, 66n37; construction of, 6, 16, 49–55, 151, 187, 220; and desire, 51, 100–101, 209–10, 220–21, 260; in posture and movement, 56, 74, 150–53; as separate, 6–7, 18, 51, 100, 128, 136–37, 141, 259, 291–92; and speech, 171, 174, 180, 182–84; and thinking, 227–28, 230–31, 237, 243, 249, 259; and work, 209–10, 215. See also Thomas Keating; Thomas Merton; sleep feng shui, 146n21, 245 Ficino, Marsilio, 206 fire, 101–2, 104, 106, 181 flow: as heightened consciousness, 190, 221–23; as life, 49, 60, 136, 149, 154, 239; as timeless Now, 136, 166, 168n39 focusing, 167n10



Francis of Assisi, St., 283 Franck, Frederick, 112 Frantzis, Bruce, 162–63. See also t’ai chi ch’uan Freeman, Lawrence, 15, 30n33, 187 Gaia Hypothesis, 271 Gandhi, Mahatma, 6, 8, 63, 280 Garden of Eden. See Adam and Eve Gaynor, Mitchell, 187 gender, 157, 250–52, 257n44, 257n46, 262–63, 279, 282, 290n62 Genesis, Book of, 83, 102, 149, 173, 204, 258, 265, 273, 284; Gen.1:28 (‘dominion’), 266, 288n20, 273, 282, 290n59. See also Adam and Eve Golden Rule. See Confucianism Goldman, Daniel, 251, 268, 287n14 Goodall, Jane, 261–62 Gospel According to Thomas, 87–88 Graham, Martha, 156–58 Grandfather, 82, 106, 253, 274 Great Turning, 266, 281 Greenpeace, 272 Grey, Alex, 112 Griffiths, Bede, 192 gunas, 76–77, 92n14, 100, 106, 171, 175, 194n11, 294; rajas, 136, 148, 150, 152, 215; sattva, 76, 106, 135–36, 148, 215, 238 habit: habitual movement, 150–52; habitual thought patterns 7, 16, 27–28, 33, 97, 105, 214, 222, 227–28, 244, 291, 293; of mental absence, 42, 47, 56–57, 153, 205 Hammarskjold, Dag, 259–60 Hanh, Thich Nhat, 29n30, 74, 126, 285; and compassion,14, 63, 126; and mindfulness, 17, 116–17, 150, 159–60, 171, 214 Harner, Michael, 106 Hatshepsut, 42, 43 healing, xvi, 86, 87, 261; Alexander technique, 73–74; alternative

modalities, xvi, 24, 81,115, 213, 273; and chakras, 19–25, 186–88, 273; and energy flow, 3, 5, 7, 15, 44, 63, 161–64; and sight, 82, 103–4; and sound, 171–72, 186–88, 195n34, 196n39, 294; and touch, 78, 82, 160. See also healing touch; health; reiki healing touch, 24, 81 health: and chakras, 19–25, 161; through heightened awareness, 31n48, 57, 63, 74, 214, 235; as wholeness, 2, 7, 24, 28n3, 45, 122, 154, 249, 251, 257n44 Heraclitus, 50, 136, 149, 228, 236 Hermes Trismegistus, 2, 97, 119n6 hermetic metaphor, 2, 19, 45, 179, 246 Heschel, Abraham, xv, xvii, 34, 79, 227, 247–48, 256n41, 263 Hildegard of Bingen, 46–47, 107–8, 107 Hinduism: Advaita Vedanta, 26, 54, 219, 231; ahankara, 54–55, 242; Atman/Brahman, 1, 54, 124, 142, 212, 258, 280; buddhi/manas, 242–44; karma, xvi, 23, 54, 140, 194n13, 273; levels of speech, 180–81; maya, 48, 124, 218; sanskara, xiv, 23, 140, 194n13; Sat Chit Ananda, 1–2, 3, 54, 208; Vedas/Upanishads, xxn9, 84, 124, 134, 296. See also meditation; prana; Upanishads; yugas holistic perspective, xviii, 249–50, 253–54, 268 holon, 42, 65n19; holarchy, 93n22, 268–69, 288n28; hologram, 79, 206, 246 Holy Trinity, 262; in Hinduism, 7, 194n8 Hopi, 6, 31n42, 85, 175, 296 hozho, 3, 171, 213. See also Navaho Huxley, Aldous, 110–12 Ida-Pingala, 85–86, 299 identification, 54–55, 150–51, 232–33, 235; two kinds, 242, 260 identity. See false self; true self


ignorance, 5–6, 26, 48, 263, 296; ignoring Self, xii, 6, 50, 55 indigenous spirituality, 9, 265, 272–73; animism, 14, 149, 179, 274–75, 277–79; chanting, 178–79, 187; ceremonies, 117–18, 158; and energy, 14, 17; Lakota Sioux, 26, 32n58, 35, 83, 94n32, 274; Mayans, 173, 268, 294; and prophecies, 272–73, 294, 296; solidarity with the land, 35, 101, 117, 179, 278; and tribal community, 9, 203, 275. See also Hopi; Mother Earth; Navaho; rites of passage; shaman; web of life industrialization, 200–202, 256n41, 260, 265–66 Ingerman, Sandra, 213 interconnectedness/interdependence: as biological law, 12, 187, 267, 271–72, 299; as spiritual law, 2, 14–15, 18, 78–79, 203, 213, 258–59, 261, 266, 296. See also web of life Isaiah, 52, 102, 105, 134, 159, 180, 188, 261, 269 Islam, 3, 50, 182, 273; Five Pillars, 50, 176–77, 206, 211, 285; jihad, 5, 295; Qur’an, 105, 117, 177, 273; Shari’ah, 117, 285. See also Muhammad; Sufism ivory-billed woodpecker, 285–86 Jainism, 281–82 James, St., 171, 179 jen. See Confucianism Jesus: ‘be ye perfect,’ 1; ‘before Abraham was, I am,’ 124; ‘blasphemy against Holy Ghost,’ 6; ‘Blessed are the pure in heart,’ 23, 181; body as sacred, 38; challenging elite, 6, 130, 201; and desire, xiv, 100, 101; ‘find rest unto your souls,’ xvi, 151; ‘foxes have holes,’ 128; on giving, 5, 210, 242, 284; ‘he that hath ears,’ 129; as healer, 28, 78, 206–7, 245; ‘kingdom of God,’ 291;


‘legion…of unclean spirits,’ 55; and light, 76, 102, 103; and man blind from birth, 105; parables of, 4, 35, 51, 156, 201; and prayer, 292; Sacred Heart of, 23, 234; ‘seeing they see not,’ 33, 104, 105; and speech, 171, 179; transfiguration of, 22; as way, truth, and life, 33, 48; ‘watch and pray’, 48; ‘when you make the two one,’ 87; ‘where your treasure is’, 101; ‘whosoever will save his life,’ 52; as Word, 170, 174 jihad. See Islam Job, xvi John of the Cross, St. 48, 106, 132, 196n43 John Paul II, 199–200 Johnson, Will, 75, 151 Joy, Brugh, 273 Judaism, 129, 183, 188, 190, 206, 290n62; and communal responsibility, 2, 284, 290n65. See also Kabbalah Julian of Norwich, 249 Jung, C.G., xixn5, 152, 166n9, 250 Kabbalah, 92n14, 102, 117, 119n15, 188, 190, 290n62 Kabir, 1, 5, 28n1, 84, 122, 188 karma. See Hinduism Keating, Thomas, 52, 66n37, 137, 156, 259. See also prayer Khan, Inayat, 171 King, Jr., Martin Luther, 6, 212, 264 Kirlian photography, 113 Klein, Jean, 30n34, 187, 218; listening, 123, 125, 126; living in the global, 254, 292; seeing the false, 16, 100; thinking, 229, 232, 238, 247 knowing/knowledge: and intuition, 79–80, 82, 293; and non-thinking, 228–32; of Self, xiii, xiv, 231; and sensory awareness, 35, 40, 79, 100, 113, 115, 134 koan. See Zen



Krishna, 4, 62, 114, 117, 142; action as necessary, 150, 209; practice and renunciation, 233. See also Bhagavad Gita kundalini, 23, 85, 190 Lakota Sioux. See indigenous spirituality Lame Deer, 274 Lao Tzu. See Taoism law: of attraction, 295–96; of consonance, 189, 271–72; of One (Unity), 174, 189, 231, 246, 250, 259, 261, 278, 281, 296; of regeneration, 86, 294–95; of Seven, 189–93; of Three, 262–63, 287n11; of the whole, 11, 80, 149, 154, 223, 254 Lawrence, D. H., 237–38 Leopold, Aldo, 270–71 Lincoln, Abraham, 260 listening, 125, 129–30, 135; in mindspace, 123, 130–34, 186; unified field of awareness, 123–27 live oak, 251–52 Lord of the Rings, 294 love, xvi, 37, 234–35, 238, 291–92; absence of, 254, 256n41, 280, 284–85; and chakras, 23, 31n47, 287n11; dissolves duality, xvi, 18, 114, 118, 192, 259, 260, 262, 264, 296; and healing, 264, 273, 282, 287n14, 299; and heart, 23, 78–79, 101, 254, 257n44, 258, 268. See also ahimsa; attention Lusseyran, Jacques, 99, 255n31 Luther, Martin, 266 Lyons, Oren, 3–4, 160, 294–95 Maathai, Wangari Muta, 279 Macy, Joanna, 281 magic, 15, 245–46, 281 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 91n6, 92n13, 124, 145n5, 232 Maharshi, Ramana, 63, 231–32

mandala, 45, 107–10 mantra, 23, 31n48, 45, 83, 85, 181, 188, 194n11, 232 materialism, 2, 4, 133, 279 maternal thinking, 251 maya. See Hinduism McFague, Sallie, 282 mechanical action. See habit Mechthild of Magdeburg, 18 medicine, 23–25, 135, 256n43, 288n27; Chinese, 23–25, 195n34, 250 meditation, xviii, 5, 8, 15, 184, 219, 256n43, 293; and breathing, 34, 86–89, 93n31; effects of, 91n6, 92n13, 135, 141, 184, 187, 188; and chanting, 178–79, 188–89, 190, 195n38; types of, 45, 159–60, 161–63, 181, 214, 231–32; generates Creation, 174–75, 178, 193; kundalini, 23, 85, 190; pausing as, 42, 263; and posture, 69–72, 75 meridians, 23, 86. See also chakras Merton, Thomas 16, 30n35, 51, 71, 128, 291 metanoia, 51–52, 291 mind: and brain, 131, 253; and innate wisdom, 102, 129, 228, 236, 243–45, 293; movements of, 41, 136–38, 151–53, 216, 232–37, 242, 256; as space, 130–35, 232, 253–54; status quo of, 7, 33. See also attention; thinking mind-heart. See Confucianism mindfulness, 17, 88–89, 116–17; brings clarity, 38, 97–98, 244, 245, 295; and compassion, 14, 53, 184; and desire, 53, 101, 150, 153; and detachment, 47, 53, 180. See also presence; Thich Nhat Hanh mini-pause, 164–66, 168n39, 216, 293 Mirdad, xii, 17 Mitchell, Edgar, 15 modesty, 116–17 Montaigne, Michel de, 216, 242 Montessori, Maria, xviii, 220


morphic field of resonance, 295, 298n11 Moses, 5, 103, 183, 259 Mother Earth, 75; and Essene Gospels, 36, 38–39, 209, 282; as incarnate Spirit, 114, 203, 272, 296; indigenous belief, 35, 175, 277–79; needs healing, 159–60, 179, 213, 271, 279, 281, 294. See also Nature Mother Meera, 82, 93n29 Mother Teresa, 27, 37, 69, 129, 210, 284, 285 moving: from habit, 150–53; in presence, 153–55, 217; from rest, 155–58; t’ai chi ch’uan, 161–64; walking meditation, 159–60 Muhammad, 5, 105, 117, 273 Muir, John, 269 music, 122, 153, 169–70, 171, 182, 186; in healing, 187–88, 196n39; Mozart, 61, 135; rests, 165–66; types of, 67n49, 146n22. See also Inayat Khan; octave; Pythagoras mystical ladder, 19, 31n45, 190–93, 196n41; Christian, 48, 190–91, 196n43; sefirot, 119n15, 190, 191 mysticism, xviii, 8–10, 14, 282; and mystical experience, 10–13, 105–10, 141, 258, 261–62, 272, 293–94 myth: Brahmā, 84, 174; Gaia, 271; rainbow warriors, 272–73; Rama and Sita, 251; Samburu ladder, 196n43; Snowwhite and the Seven Dwarfs, 53; Theseus, xiv; The Three Wishes, 200–201; Tum/Atum, 174 Nature, 2–3, 37, 84, 133, 149, 236, 251; abuse of, 14, 171, 209, 213, 260, 263, 265–66, 268, 271, 273, 278, 282–83, 290n59; connection to, 101, 159, 204–5, 222, 259, 264, 279; as inspirational, 78, 135, 207, 265, 269–73; and native peoples, 266, 278, 282, 288n20 Navaho, 3, 38, 178–79. See also hozho


observation, 36, 78, 97–98, 143, 181, 215–16, 232 octave: as diatonic scale, 186, 188–89, 193; of spiritual evolution, 19, 189–93, 293. See also mystical ladder Oh, Sadaharu, 223 Oliver, Mary, 118 OM, 174–75, 176, 194n11 Ouspensky, P.D., 295 Paul, St.: body/soul dichotomy, 38, 65n15; corruption/incorruption, 98, 101, 234, 255n20; enlightened heart, 104; faith by hearing, 129; ‘let no man seek his own,’ 210; ‘let us not sleep,’ 48; ‘singing with grace,’ 188; ‘study to be quiet,’ 148 pausing: in action, 148, 151, 156, 180, 184, 222; and communion with elements, 45, 135; connects to Silence, 171, 238, 293; as reminder of true self, 233, 249, 263, 295; as rest, 142, 151, 165, 207; as sensory awareness, 41–45, 57, 138–39, 238; steps of, 42–44; three obstacles, 59, 136–43, 227 perception/conception. See seeing perennial philosophy, xi, 9, 294 perfection xi–xii, 3, 105; as innate, 1–2, 3, 5, 16, 34, 50, 190, 291, 296 Philokalia, 44, 117, 182 physics, new, 77, 158, 168n39, 175, 268; electromagnetic field, 11–12, 13, 82, 149; Pauli exclusion principle, 128, 149, 268; relativity, 14, 123, 268; unified field, 79, 123–24, 145n5, 253, 295. See also Bohm; Einstein physics, Newtonian, 14, 17, 24, 212–13, 230, 299 Pilgrim’s Progress, 138 Pirsig, Robert, 217 Plato, 65n15, 66n35, 136–37, 230–31, 233–34, 250



play, 218–19; and ego, 218, 220–21, 227–28; playing the work, 197, 219–20, 221–22; tao of sports, 222–23 Plotinus, 84 Poe, Edgar Allan, 48 posture, 56, 69–76, 92n12, 151; and meditation, 69–72; relaxation, 69, 75–76, 83, 100, 139; sitting positions, 70–73, 92n9; urge to move, 138–39 practices: ahimsa, 283; alternate nostril breathing, 299–300; bardo, 132; circles of relationship, 277; complete breath, 89; contemplating a mandala, 109–10; eating consciously, 118–19; giving attention, 242; in identity, 275–76; let’s pretend, 220; listening, 125, 184–85; mini-pause, 165–66; moving with awareness, 166; pausing, 43–44; ‘quickie reiki’, 81, 93n28; saying only what is necessary, 185–86; seeing energy, 112–13; sensory contemplation, 143–44; sounding, 188, 303; speaking from awareness, 181; taking down the flame, 300–301; tonglen, 299; vichara, 231; walking mindfully, 160; ‘where am I?’, 126; wu wei, 216 prana, 14, 23, 26, 84–85, 155 prayer, 50, 129, 155, 178, 191, 210, 214, 215, 280, 301; centering prayer, 66n37, 181, 183, 233; Hindu prayer, 2, 98; Jesus Prayer, 34, 181. See also meditation presence, xvii, 59–63; and attention, 39–41, 130, 146n29, 152, 238, 295; and awakening, 1, 9–10, 33–34, 141, 150, 190, 192, 196n43, 264, 295; as a choice, 48–49, 153, 171; as costeffective, 57–59; and creativity, 20, 61, 67n49, 112, 156–58, 198, 221; as power of Now, 16, 26, 112, 281; as protective shield, 45, 58; and sattva,

76, 106; as sensory awareness, 34–46, 49, 55, 69, 110–12, 129, 137–38, 251; transmutes energy, 7, 11, 15, 23, 28, 33, 41, 52, 59, 292. See also mindfulness; pausing progress: material, 159, 200–204; spiritual, 18, 44, 141, 190, 192 Protestant Ethic, 201, 224n7, 266, 269 psalms, 1, 18, 26, 60, 105, 117, 139, 169, 174, 229, 297 purgation, 106, 132, 190, 192–93, 214, 293 Pythagoras, 153, 169, 186, 189, 193 Rabi’a, 50 Rampa, T. Lobsang, 71 reciprocity, 36, 117, 124, 203, 204–5, 213, 261, 299 reiki, 81–82, 93n28 relating: dissolves duality, 180, 259–64, 268; bonding, 18, 114, 118, 171, 217, 236, 242, 260, 266, 279; ecospiritual perspective, 269–74; law of three, 262–64; living/non-living, 266–67; to Mother Earth/creatures, 14, 114, 159–60, 203, 213, 277–83; ‘my brother’s keeper,’ 284–85; world as web, 274–85. See also interconnectedness; web of life religion, xi, xvii–iii, xix, 9, 259; corruption of, 8–9, 273. See also science; spirituality resting: in awareness, 44, 135–36, 206–7, 292; mini-pause, 165–66, 293; in motion, 149, 151, 155–58, 161–63, 206–7 revolution, spiritual, xiv, 291, 294–96; and evolution, 2, 4, 10, 27, 292; spiritual revolutionaries, 4, 6–7, 33, 294, 295, 296 Rilke, Rainer Maria, 49 rites of passage, xiv, 132, 192, 275, 293 Rohr, Richard, 234–35 Rosicrucians, 31n46


Rumi, Jalaluddin, 115, 192; awareness, 34, 50, 153, 184, 249; speech, 181, 183, 186 Sabbath, 206–7 Sacks, Oliver, 56–57 Sandburg, Carl, 36 sanskara. See Hinduism Sanskrit, 124, 175, 257n47. See also speaking; sound School of Practical Philosophy, xv, 65n20 science, 71, 98, 230, 232, 246–49, 268, 287n14; and intelligence, 253, 266–68, 271, 288n24; and religion, 12, 230, 266, 268. See also physics Second Vatican Council, 66n37, 284 seeing, 95–113; and insight, 11, 13, 102–4, 111–12, 253, 285; mandalas, 107–10, 120n24; perception/conception, 39, 56–7, 95–99, 111, 113, 174, 205–6, 246–47, 260–61, 291; seers and shamans, 82, 106–12, 280; what we are not, 55–57, 100–101, 259 Self: as Larger, xvi, 3, 18, 56, 78, 160, 211, 242, 272; realization of, xiv, xvii, 6, 15, 84, 128, 175, 188, 190, 219, 231–32, 293 senses: aligned to mind, 39–41, 228, 237, 240, 251; and elements, 36, 45; interplay of, 138, 143–44, 246–47, 261–62; and sensitivity, 35–36, 79, 172, 259, 284; as spiritual conduits, 34, 37–39, 249, 261–62 sensory awareness. See presence; senses Serpent Mound, 85, 86 Shakers, 17, 71–73, 91n7, 210 Shakespeare: life as play, 218–19, 221; moving reflects divine, 148; speech, 184, 186; thinking, 228; true vs. false, 52–53; waking and sleeping, 47, 218 shaman, 13, 106, 117; enlightenment, 106, 112; enters spirit world, 38, 79,


84, 108–9, 108, 179, 213, 253; healing, 124, 179, 187, 213, 267 Shantananda Saraswati, Sri, xxn7, 219, 226n43, 298n9 Shekhinah, 190, 290n62 shenpa, 152–53 Shiva, 158, 175, 177, 194n13, 244; and Shakti, 85, 157, 250–51 Silesius, Angelus, 55 sin, xii, 5, 6, 38, 51, 115, 138, 271; vs. original goodness, 52, 119, 283; purgation of, 190–92; negative thoughts/feelings, 101, 178, 184, 282, 291 Sivaraksa, Sulak, 211 sleep, 41, 44, 260; as forgetting Self, 47, 49–51, 170, 218, 220; as habit, 5–8, 33, 41, 46–49, 138, 150, 263; as inner chattering, 179, 205, 291 smelling, 113–15, 251. See also earth; relating Somé, Malidoma Patrice, 275 Sontag, Susan, 35, 116 soul, 25, 100, 131, 270, 292, 295; as Christian concept, 38, 51, 65n15, 90, 118, 132, 190–92, 196n43; as indigenous concept, 26, 83, 94n32, 149, 179, 274; retrieval, 187, 213 sound: Creation as vibrational matrix, 11–13, 169–70, 289n37, 294–95; as inner noise, 134–35, 151–52, 178, 182–83, 185, 227; seed sounds, 4, 91n3, 174–75, 181, 194n11, 294; singing, 179, 188, 286; as therapeutic, 179, 186–88, 195n34, 303; from underlying silence, 122, 135, 171, 173–79, 185–86. See also octave; speaking space, 122–23, 126–34. See also bardo; listening; mind; stillness speaking: calling Spirit, 176–79; cleansing of, 184–88; pollution of, 179–84; from silence, 130, 171–72, 185–86. See also sound spiral, xiii–xiv, 12, 157–58, 158



spirituality, 33, 42, 296; ecospirituality, 273–86; and religion, xviii, 8–9, 294 sports, 113, 222–23 status quo, 5–8, 33 Steiner, Rudolf, xviii, 92n12 stillness, 73; and pausing, 45, 49, 83, 136, 139, 148, 151, 238; and space, 122, 134; beneath movement, 151, 171, 229, 239 stopping, 1, 9, 39, 45, 164–66, 180 stories: angry man, 62; arrowmaker, 216; banquet, 285; blind men and elephant, 96; Buddha and distraught man, 184; camel and load, 228; dead donkey, 137–38; devotee and goddess, 183; ‘Every Minute Zen,’ 7–8; gluttonous frog, 51; jilted lover, 186; king and pomegranates, 101; Lincoln and pig, 260; lion cub, 55; Luzhin Defence, 220–21; man with lantern, 243; man riding horse, 57; man standing on hill, 59; man and strawberry, 62–63; marriage vow, 182; meditating thief, 141; meditation and silence, 292–93; monkey and cherries, 52; ordinaryman, 245; peaceful warrior, 216; priest’s visit to tribe, 9; race around globe, 26; Shwetaketu and banyon fruit, 127; spider and bee, 232; St. Francis and wolf, 283; straightening the hair, 244; taste of Banzo’s sword, 140; tea master and professor, 245; thirsty donkey, 280; two seabirds, 295; two traveling monks, 53–54; Zen nun and snakes, 97 student comments, 46 Strand, Mark, 154 stress, 2, 28, 46, 58, 75, 89, 100; and balancing yin/yang, 87, 163, 275; and meditation, 42, 71, 83, 91n6; and work, 199, 201 Sufism, 29n19, 84; dhikr, 50, 177; singing, 188, 195n38; whirling

dervishes, 19, 31n44, 158. See also Islam; Rumi sukha-dukha, 57–58, 153, 260 Suzuki, Shunryu, 69–70, 73, 245 Symeon the New Theologian, 154–55 synchronicity, xv, xixn5, 14, 79–80, 120n24, 149, 187, 253, 269, 293 t’ai chi ch’uan, 38, 118, 161–64 Taoism, 60, 222; ‘Cutting up the Ox’, 128–29; Lao Tzu, 5, 60, 161, 229, 259; tan t’ien (hara),70, 86, 91n3, 139, 163; Tao, xvi, 38, 87, 105, 128, 163, 236, 254, 258; Tu Mo Jen Mo, 86–87, 88; wu wei, 216; yin yang, 87, 94n35, 106, 163–64, 164, 250. See also ch’i; t’ai chi ch’uan; Tao Te Ching Tao Te Ching: ‘can you coax your mind,’ 237; ‘the Master allows things to happen,’ 61; ‘ordinary men hate solitude,’ 292; ‘spirit of play’, 222–23; Tao as mother, 169, 250; unmoving Tao, 9, 60, 134, 161, 163–64; ‘world is sacred’, 260 tasting, 115–19. See also discrimination; modesty Teresa of Avila, St., 17, 77, 190–91 Terese of Lisieux, St. 37, 192–93 thinking: as attention, 236, 237–39; buddhi and manas, 242–44; as integrative, 230, 249–54; and knowing, 228–32; logic and beyond, 246–54, 256n41; mechanized vs. real, 228, 233, 242, 245, 256n41, 268; mental commentaries, 131, 134, 151, 170, 179–80, 182–84, 185, 216, 227–28, 255n31; misuse of mental energy, 185, 235–36, 240–42, 281; ‘original mind’, 244–46; watching habitual thoughts, 232–37, 243 third eye, 102–4 three worlds, 11, 76, 78–83, 208 Thomas, Lewis, 266–67


Thoreau, Henry David, 59, 142, 208 tikkun olam, 2, 188, 284 Tolle, Eckhart, 30n36; ego as illusion, 56, 123, 238; pain-body, 16; presence power, 34, 58, 136, 138, 281 touching, 77–90; conscious vs. mechanical, 77–78; being in-touch, 78–83 transformation, spiritual, xviii, 8, 10, 261; and chakras, 23, 190; as conscious use of energy, 15–18, 171, 292; through sensory awareness, 34,78, 83, 105–9, 114, 117–18 true self, xi–xii, 1; forgetting of, 47, 49–55, 170; remembering of, 47, 50, 52, 57–59, 187, 233 Trungpa, Chögyam, 18, 31n39, 131, 281 unity in diversity, 13, 126, 128, 163, 174, 210 Upanishads, xxn9; desire, 9, 49, 140, 223; omniscient Spirit, 5, 9, 13, 18, 84, 102, 115, 126, 127, 280; Selfrealization, xvii, 9, 35, 49, 178, 223, 244; senses and mind, 35, 244; ‘Unmoving, it moves’, 13, 26, 136, 149 Vedas. See Hinduism vichara, 231–32 vipassana, 101, 244 vision quest, 106 Vivekananda, 78, 92n19, 175 voluntary simplicity, 279, 281 Vonnegut, Kurt, 203 waking up, xii, xv, 7–9, 46–48, 57–58, 205, 261, 296; and sensory awareness, 89, 155, 243–44


water, 60, 118, 172 Watts, Alan, 26, 61, 123, 253–54 web of life, xii, 1, 3, 6, 12, 269–70, 270; as circle of relationships, 126, 258, 274–77, 295–96; vs. hierarchy, 268, 269. See also ecosystem; interconnectedness; Larger Self Weil, Simone, 215 whale songs, 110, 120n24 whirling dervishes. See Sufism Whitman, Walt, 24, 198–99, 267; and being-present, 26, 34, 143; and body, 11, 159; and chakras, 24; and fellowship, 3, 149, 260 Wordsworth, William, 66n33, 90, 272 world cycles. See yugas world-soul. See anima mundi working: and attention, 199, 205, 214–16; costs of mechanization, 204–8; five qualities of true work, 209–17, 224n22; pramādi, 215; what work is not, 199–204; as play, 197–98, 214, 220, 221–22. See also play Wright, David, 125 Yeats, W.B., 265 yin yang. See Taoism yoga: bhakti, 183, 190; hatha, xviii, 23; jnana, 190, 231; karma, 38, 117, 150, 177, 209 yugas, 4, 84, 212–13, 294–95 Yunus, Muhammad, 211 Zen, 128, 168n31, 217; garden, 141–42; koan, 62, 68n52, 79, 102, 128, 247; zazen, 34, 247; Zen Mountain Monastery, 178 Zinn, Jon-Kabat, xviii, 91n6, 184–85