Began The Sole Panacea, a book about the Vajra Seven Line Prayer–a main text encountered throughout (Tibetan) Buddhist study. The first encounter with the prayer I remember, was at the Tsoru Dechen Rinpoche group here in Miami, where I later took in-person refuge vows (following remote ones) and began more formal practice. The prayer was one of many texts in a folder I was given a few visits in. Hm, that must have been in 2009! However, it was later, when introduced to Padmasambhava by a friend whose thanka image on a Mac Book desktop sparked my curiosity, that a real relationship with the figure, the prayer, the accompanying mantra began (as much as any idea of beginnings can apply) to form. Lately I notice I’m encountering more expressions of Padmasambhava, suggesting I look even closer.
The Prayer – photo below copied from Sevenlineprayer.com : [The version I practice is slightly different]
I’ve barely left the book’s intro and already have happened upon wonderful angles which when allowed to sufficiently sink in, subdue tendencies toward scattering attention and shallow focus I can’t contend with on my own. The first comes with the line I’ve titled this entry: non dual wisdom-light phenomena. This speaks to that ‘next step’ some humans seek to accomplish during our chance at precious life–a shift which comes not just with add-on spiritual language but indeed with ‘new’ awareness and ways of being, seeing, which means a whole new world of phenomena to be gotten acquainted with. It feels really clear, reading the way the book describes non-duality, that this simply is the practice.
I wonder what it would be like to live the subtle as default. Is that allowed? 🙂
There was a time in which mantras and recitations were keystone of practice, yet after moving into a small apartment, sharing thin walls with others, I, without intention or much awareness have practiced this way less and less. I feel it. Today is Losar, the beginning of a period in which accumulations are said to be multiplied, so would be a perfect time to renew, dedicating with a wish for peace, ongoingly and forever.
For the first time in several years, I am reading many books at once. Or at least, I’m dabbling in many while deeply reading few. Most are fiction, a few are activism-based, and then there is TSK.
Some days I read furiously, as much as possible, as though digging tunnels to make an escape. Others, I delicately sift and brush single sentences at a time, taking care not to lose hints of meaning, content to stay where I am.
Either way, I find that I’m longing for solitude and quiet arts, thus the knitting and memoir writing as well. One book I just re-read was Circe, a superb re-imagining of a nymph out of Greek mythology, recast as a witch drawn to humans, banished to an island as punishment. She finds banishment suits her far more than acceptance in the palaces ever could.
I guess I keep bringing this up, but the more I write about ‘my life’, the more simultaneously confusing and beautiful it seems. The consistent practice of questioning assumptions about the way things are, can make everything I write seem like a lie, every story I pin down, some genre of fiction–which is frightening, quaking, exposing of groundlessness indicative of reality. I’m not uncomfortable in this ghostiness, except when I feel trapped outside looking in.
“Don’t worry, there is nothing real about your confusion.” -Lojong
“You take nothing for granted.” – Something I once heard in meditation
Negative capability is a phrase first used by Romantic poet John Keats in 1817 to explain the capacity of the greatest writers to pursue a vision of artistic beauty even when it leads them into intellectual confusion and uncertainty, as opposed to a preference for philosophical certainty over artistic beauty. The term has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability to perceive and recognize truths beyond the reach of consecutive reasoning. [Wikipedia] (came across as a note-to-self recently)
[[I haven’t picked up the book for a few days, but continue musing on the feeling and notion of the the book itself, even closed(!), as a practice. Why, oh why, is the way I work with things so odd, when compared against what others describe!]]
One of the few notes I have from childhood is from an elementary school teacher at the Playhouse and Biltmore School, who asks my mother to please stop putting barrettes in my hair, because instead of napping I take them out and play with them, distracting the other children.
“Stephanie is disruptive.”
And I’ll admit, there is something disruptive about me, something mischievous I’m always trying to pin down and trim away at to be able to settle down and fit in. Sometimes at work, I call it “puppy dog energy”, hoping others will see me in a playful rather than nervous way when I can’t help myself and say something I absolutely know better than to throw into the mix during simple small talk or break room conversation. Why do I do this?
“Stephanie is disruptive.”
I remember the relief I felt when a friend introduced me to Padmasambhava, suggesting I pick up the book Crazy Wisdom. I wasn’t privy then, to all the stories and controversies surrounding Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, so when the text hit me like a lightning bolt, I had no hesitation letting go into the experience of getting to know the aspects of mind and expression he channels so potently. I read the book quickly, unpacked it longer (and still). To describe that feeling in the context of this post, it was “Ah, there is a teacher who, instead of feeling Stephanie is disruptive for playing with the barrettes in her hair and wanting the attention of other children, would be delighted by these qualities and tendencies!”
When talking to my therapist I once described the need I have to constantly remind everyone and myself “that we are human”. When I feel energy go flat, or find myself in too rarefied a group, I want to stir it up, and am allergic to ego policing. A case can be made that we already feel human most of the time, so spiritual practice should lead us beyond, however we must remember that contemplative practice opens endlessly; what makes sense at one level may be disregarded at the next, only to pick up again yet later. Over time practice becomes fluid the way that working with recipes gives way to more and more experimentation as ingredients become familiar.
I’m learning to knit right now, and I find that I can’t multitask in any way without tangling my project. I need quiet and full concentration. When I see the more experience knitters around me, they chat and sing, watch TV and listen to books or podcasts while knitting. They throw it down and pick it up at a whim! I can’t do that now, but one day, I will. I’ll work with various kinds of yarn and make different types of stitches. The practice will become easy.
So, there’s a way in which I’m in this place with TSK. It is giving me permission and more trust than it did before. As with the “too late” shift I wrote about, it is almost like the book is curious about me, asking more open ended questions. There is intimacy present, a gentle walking-along-together-on-a-beautiful-day conversation. “What do you see?” “Yes, that’s fine.” “Nice.” Since it is TSK asking these questions, already I hear them as coming from the particular and peculiarly bright place I experience asbeingTSK, and feel loved and understood–the opposite of corrected and scrutinized as a troublesome student it is hard to have around.
I’m tempted to write about guru yoga in this context, but will set that aside for now.
As you see, bolder formatting is temporarily gone from this site. I’ve stripped it down while making changes, but also to symbolize my current state.
In meditation this morning, the theme of faith arose. Unkind thoughts were present – an argument I’ve been having with someone for as long as I can remember… feelings of injustice, betrayal, silencing. But, rather than get deeper into the argument, I could see how it had affected my trust levels in relationships, and how much of ‘me’ it had defined.
I would say, “I’d let it define”, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It is more like, my quest to resolve or escape it has, both knowingly and unknowingly, defined key interpretations.
As can happen in meditation, I could experience the argument as an object of attention, one of various, a wheel spinning off in the corner somewhere, bigger or smaller, taking up more or less space. And I could ask, “Help me let this go.”
Who was I asking? Who was the I, asking? Worthwhile questions, but distractions in this context, because more important is the asking itself and the imagining… the feeling of the possibility of that wheel no longer spinning so fast, defining so much.
I think this imagining, at the point at which ‘I’ runs out, or intersects, is faith, and where across religious/spiritual disciplines and schools of thought, there may mustard seed sized agreement. It is a bit like a blank slate itself.
I’ve been rather (overly?) ‘thought’ful in my writing here of late. So much has been on my mind that I’m not sure whether or how to talk about, and until I am sure, I’ve decided to try to work it out in other ways.
Retail work has been the most surprising of those ways… getting on a train I don’t step off of for hours, setting aside worries and all other options/choices. Goodbye, scrolling Twitter until I think, “What time is it?”, Goodbye, “looking for something to watch on TV.” After having a flexible schedule for many years, this structure feels incredibly freeing to me, comforting in the way I imagine weighted blankets are comforting to people who liked to be tucked in at night as children (not me – I always needed a leg or at least foot outside of my blanket).
Choiceless, in a good way.
I’m fairly suited to the kind of work I’m doing, thankfully, at least in most ways, on most days. I can get the sort of ‘hit’ of feelings of youth that I imagine some people get from watching a sport they played in high school.
With this one decision (and the company’s decision to hire me), I solved at least three big puzzles that were fast becoming problems prior: weight gain (I’ve lost 8 lbs. so far and hit my 10,000 steps mark almost every day); eye-to-eye starvation (Most of my daily conversations had become typed or mitigated by social media, which is way too comfortable a zone for me, not being especially verbal); and, putting my ethics into practice.
That last one is hugely important, so let me elaborate…
In the Taoist ox-herding tale, there is seeking and striving up the mountain, and a time of retreat that can look like one has finally arrived. My spiritual life–alongside, but sometimes consuming, the rest–has been a mix of those modes: lots of (almost constant) study, retreat, giving up whatever seemed in the way of devotion–‘working’ to trust the flow and truth of insight and intuition. To that end, unimaginally wonderful friends and teachers have appeared all over the mountain as I’ve wandered … people deeper and happier than any I’d before encountered, sharing similar longings and a language of play-beyond-words… celebrating the enoughness of ‘what is’.
Finding these places, these people, has often felt like validation of my deepest needs and calling, and of course, one would want to stay… would want to do whatever it took to stay, including bring others along. On the mountain I learned of a million bright and open eyes, countless ways of seeing and being seen, and how to find thin places where distance, manipulations and lies, have no meaning at all, present no barrier (“How can a mantis block the road?”).
Yes, like visiting Heaven, or, more comfortable imagery for me: a land of Buddha fields.
As I traveled though, I always suspected there might come a time when my go-to’s would no longer work… when I wouldn’t be able to retreat and study myself into a blissful mind palace state of grace over and over again. Truth be told, as much as I have loved and desired that, I have also wanted to be drawn from… to serve… to pour myself out completely so that I could really rest, “one day.”
And lately, I simply show up to meet the moment. I don’t control where I am or who I encounter, for hours of most days, and often can’t fully classify a good day from a bad. I am ‘snapped out’ of my story-telling and ruminating, over and over again until that movement works its way into my body, giving my mind to whatever the apparent situation may draw out. It isn’t exactly that I’ve come down from the mountain nor left the quest behind, but that all those books and sutras and sessions and endless audios have become a kind of inward architecture… more perhaps, Rumi’s Guest House.
“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
(Coleman Barks translation)
There may be a shift here, from reading to being read, which I like to think may be a true culmination of practice, moving into living lucidly, spontaneously as true default… inhabiting a certain quality of mind. I’m still a little concerned I’ve managed to find just a new way of avoidance, but it seems to be where/how the aliveness has moved, sweeping me into a new phase of exploration.
I even feel some of that here, coming back to my fingers. Dare I hope?
And dare I hope that just situating myself where Life seems to want me, might also matter to ‘the world’ – a ‘coming back’ gesture of belief in Basic Goodness… a better collaboration?
So, I’ve been doing shadow work–contemplative work which includes intentionally going into the emotional places I’d rather (and usually do) avoid, and searching around in there to see, “What still hurts?”
Basically, it’s a check up.
In the same way, I have a shoulder issue which bothers me occasionally, but only when and if I’m doing certain things. I can go a long time without thinking about it, but when I see my doctor, we move the shoulder this way and that to find out whether improvement has taken place.
It simply isn’t useful to check it all the time, because part of healing includes not aggravating the injury. Obsessing would in fact be a sign that it is in need of something further in the way of intervention.
Same with the emotional body. If you neglect these appointments, you can have flare ups of what some have deemed “the pain body”, who will emerge from a blind spot and wreak havoc in your life!
The feedback I’ve received during the tests and prodding included in this emotional check-up has been mixed. On the one hand, general inflammation is nowhere near as debilitating as it has been at various points in life, and specific discomfort areas have proven manageable enough to ‘get on with the show’ so to speak.
Yet, there is still deep pain in some areas, things that need addressing, people who present as enemies or obstacles to happiness in one way or another. There are memories that still hold the patterns and frequencies of fear.
I’m fortunate to be able to schedule this work… to have learned how to mostly do that, and now, I need to map out and schedule the follow-up treatments, which include spending direct time with those people and memories. Most can be addressed out of my home first-aid kit, with technologies like EFT Tapping, what I’m calling prayer, lots of walking, and nature bathing… tangibly moving through.
At a deeper level, all can be addressed by tapping into a sense of timelessness. Meditation is the only way I know of there, or some ‘flash moments’ of writing and/or painting.
But the timelessness I mean is different than one might suppose – timelessness that would allow one to relinquish their need for validation or justice or understanding, or even improvement at all. Rather, the timelessness I’m turning to is active, fulfilling, not invalidating any need, including for justice, as less important than ‘cosmic viewpoint’ or some such.
This timelessness is compassion, is the nectar of Bodhicitta, the promise of transforming experience of life in ways beyond even cosmic fathoming.
I feel I’ve been prescribed a deep-dive exploration, and surprisingly, it isn’t one that requires getting rid of so-called baggage to undertake.
Why Citipati, above? I’m not sure. Somehow I have the sense that these graveyard dwelling wrathful deities can impart some key. They seem to be the guardians of this first leg of the journey…
“I wasn’t doing magic anymore… was just talking about doing magic.”
The above is a note I jotted to myself several months ago, and ran across today. It was something I saw up ahead as I wrote it, as though spoken by a me reflecting on that time, once through it. There was a sense of things I was struggling to identify then… a flatness to everything I suddenly became acutely aware of.
I think I’ve arrived at that point now, of understanding what I said to that previous me.
There’s a book that I love so much that I’ve recommended it to almost every dear friend, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. There are just so many excellent things about the book, starting with the distinct language and the mood that it sustains (like a mixture of many great writers in the Dickens and Austen vein), but what hooked me, was the very idea of the scene Susannah Clarke started with: a meeting of magicians.
These magicians were meeting together very regularly and debating quite vigorously over texts about previous magicians and the times of magic in which they lived. Most of those devotedly present were in total agreement that magic no longer occurred in England, which made for quite enjoyable meetings that ultimately fell into the same patterns as any other hobby group might. Two of the group however, were longing for more. They knew they were missing something.
In the book, this sets the stage for the two men of the title to appear. These men are not among those in the meetings, rather they are twoactually practicingmagicians quite different from one another, each intense and daring in their own ways. They seem to be brought into view by the context of the times. One, an older book and formula hoarder, resource-guards against those he deems unworthy. The other, more lighthearted and generous, is reckless at times.
Both continually endanger those around them.
I could elaborate further, but suffice it to say that the contrasts between the magicians’ group, the two curious men, and the two daring practicing magicians, are something I’ve never been able to shake when examining my own life. I ask myself, am I really IN this that I’m doing right now, really ALIVE in it? Or am I playing it safe because of A, B, C? Where am I indeed out on the edge? Can I give something more to that effort?
Things have started flowing again, taking on new dimensions as my intentions and attentions become less divided. There had been a missing road connecting distinct sensibilities I think, linking knowing about with stepping into that knowing.
I’m thinking of having the Kena Upanishad tattooed onto my body, but the text is a little long:
“Not that which the eye does see, but that by which the eye does see…”
Which has the feel of being inside the storm. Come to think of it, there is another character in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – a disturbing figure in many ways, covered in tattoos. Maybe I’ll take a bit longer to think about it. 😉
So I’m driving along when it hits me: “Belief systems are effects, not causes; everyone has the wrong end of the stick.”
The paradigm of the last decade or more has been to think in terms of belief systems (programming packages from childhood and current environment), then to examinine, expose, and consciously replace outdated thinking with new. But lately I notice a lot of us giving up on overtly changing others’ thinking by reasoning and argument, aware that thanks to media filters for one thing, we are truly living in entirely separate worlds. Words, even words communicated in the same language, often mean completely different things.
Yes, I do worry that resistance fatigue in itself is part of authoritarianism creeping in.
Perhaps one thing left to do, is go even deeper. When I think about my own belief systems, they often are much more about resonance than something I was convinced of. Or, if I was convinced, I was already drawn into listening. I’m drawn to teachings that feel like good music to me, that affect me energetically. I’m drawn to people who remind me of what I want to be, and be doing… people I feel sparked by. It was a tiny photo of people sitting at a small make-shift desk in an airport, embedded in a random article about deportations, that sent me back to school for paralegal training, for instance.
Beliefs are not irrelevant, but there has always been a sense of not quite hitting the right spot when trying to get at things by working with past traumas and limitations in some logical way. This must be true on a larger scale as well? Things like EFT Tapping and Myofascial Release have shown me how much more effective it is, to go deeper than thinking, then deeper than even ‘patterns of thinking’. Then, the screwy thinking comes up and shows itself and you can deal with it, or say goodbye. 🙂 Meditation has always been about this, but personally I was too disconnected from BODY for a long time.
Anyway, just some thoughts this Saturday morning as I get ready to move my body outside into the uncharacteristically GORGEOUS weather.
The Play-as-Being book group is finishing up its reading of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century today. It’s been an interesting ride, but as I write this, I have the feeling that the book is already outdated. Which is scary, because I don’t think enough people are thinking yet about the range of questions he brings to the fore. The only thing I feel sure of (inasmuch as I feel sure of anything), is that he ends the book in the right place, with what individuals can do.
I’m a big big fan of the ‘free will or no free will’ question and discussions that come up around that question within both science and contemplative circles. Free Will belongs to a self that doesn’t exist in the ways our systems tend to program toward, so Harari’s angle is a technological one, drawing attention to the role algorithms have in our lives already, then imagining the directions they are heading in. Importantly noting that they are not heading in these directions on their own, but at the direction of ever more consolidated powers.
He touches on but doesn’t fully address (how could anyone?!) the role of the unexpected in all this. Would any of us have imagined the scenarios we’re in right now, a decade ago? At any second, massive changes can and will occur.
So what CAN individuals do?Harari says, “Get to know yourself as well as ‘they’ do.”
You can tell by my posts perhaps, that this is what I’m working on: meditating more, leaning on and relearning what ‘intuition’ is in light of changes in complexity as a person, but also as a person within a family and friend network, as a member of larger society in my country, and within the world/cosmos.
I don’t have the capacity to mentally encompass all that! Indeed any of those categories when combined with any of the others can shut down my feeling of ‘free will’ about anything and be quite paralyzing! “No wonder that Hindus and Buddhists have focused much of their effort on trying to get out of or off of this wheel (entirely)” says Harari, of fathoming the myriad posited schemes of meaning.
My question is then, how to take it all lightly and keep perspective, while not distracting nor entertaining myself away from the questions or buying into one scheme or another. The PaB group I mentioned above is the closest thing to a community that can embrace so many contradictions that I’ve ever come near, yet Life seems to be kicking me out of that nest too.