I have a dear friend, or believe that I do… someone I love from afar these days, unable to quite trace the steps back to where we left off. It was probably where the convenience and shallowness of Facebook entered the picture. FB should be renamed Time Suck and Deflection since, as it turns out, there is a cost to connecting too easily, a mirage that suggests it would be easy to start again, which begins to take the place of actual encounter.
My friend is an artist — an abstract painter — and the shifts of her being flow one through another along the ever more impressive walls of her studio space. Just as I’m sure I know her work, understand her, she transforms again. It is not because she intends it necessarily.
Rather, there is a natural process that, when following an artist who is in love with their work over the course of many years, can just be seen.
The nicest quality of abstract art as far as I’m concerned, is that it resists definition. Techniques develop, play occurs; some processes are taken to and repeated more than others, leading and surprising creator too. It is about more than being non-linear; the best work of any sort imparts presence and feeling more so than fixed narrative, so you can take in its company a long time.
Also there are many textures and ways of time. The one who rushes to the beach to see the sunrise experiences sunrise time, but in the very same place, the ocean is time, the sand is time, the atmosphere is time.
As well there is the time that one brings… the resulting interplay of all that has seemed to come before. There is no real dividing line between inner and outer experience, or as my teacher reminds, “Mind and world are co-arisen.”
Thus, I’m learning to allow my life not to be easily understood, even by me.
The water lily you see in the photo was taken in the tended portion of an otherwise now stagnant garden that for most of my childhood had bustled with all manner of life. Bright blue crabs and slippery turtles would scuttle through layers of coral rock beneath the foliage, while peacocks wandered above on the winding banyan covered paths that lead out onto wide fields of intense, uniquely Floridian, light. We would walk along attentively but without deliberate appreciation.
It was home, after all.
It had been years since I visited, so the overall scene that greeted me was a bit of a shock, especially when a volunteer told me they were working to thin out the upper canopies, to circulate the light more naturally. What shocked me is that somewhere along the way, it had been allowed to go to seed in the first place, which I had never imagined happening.
I felt as if my childhood self was standing there, asking for attention.
This blog too, or the intention it represents, has been a bit neglected. So my newly uncovered intention is to decompartmentalize expression, to open chained off passageways so as to allow better flow between the spaces… to extend myself more, and stop trying to get everything right. Even though there will be messy and unfinished areas and many works in progress, my vision is that this will become a more consistently tended to garden.
“There is no order of difficulty in miracles.
One is not “harder” or “bigger” than another. They are all the same.
All expressions of love are maximal.”
I won’t share from A Course in Miracles every day, but although I find many lines and exercises in The Course strange, others resonate immediately, like the quote above. Also:
Miracles as such do not matter. The only thing that matters is their Source, Which is far beyond evaluation
Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle. (snip)
Miracles are a kind of exchange. Like all expressions of love, which are always miraculous in the true sense, the exchange reverses the physical laws. They bring more love both to the giver and the receiver.
[Full list is on Wikipedia]
The miracle is a learning device that lessens the need for time. It establishes an out-of-pattern time interval not under the usual laws of time. In this sense it is timeless.
To this list I will add from my own experience:
Miracles are like dreams. They have no origin as such. They unpack forward and backward, open on all sides. This is why The Course describes them as expressions of timelessness.
Our minds are complex and amazing; a million times in a row, relinquishing anxieties to trust for a clearer way to emerge, works just fine. But there are matters one whittles away at for such long periods of time that the process moves into the background, becoming automatic, less unexamined. Then, like a withdrawal from the bank for a gym one doesn’t go to, it can be easy miss a crucial next step and get trapped on the surface level, failing to reexamine, to ask, “Is this (situation, memory, value, desire) even true anymore?” Energies have been eeking out for along time, to ‘somewhere’.
It is important to tell our stories, and to receive deep validation for doing the best we could at the time. There are few sentences more healing than, “It’s not your fault” or, “That must have been so hard for you all that time, to ___ .” Even one person witnessing personal, often secret, struggles, can give disproportionately magical permission for them to heal, which is part of what humans are to one another.
And I understand this because of what it was like to separate from a partner of many years… reliving the whys and wherefores, answering to crowds of imaginary people in my mind. I found it hard to give the two of us as characters much tenderness, categorizing our mistakes as short-sighted and preventable, with an underlying subtext of blame that leaned slightly more his way than mine. I would stop the looping by sheer will until, going along one day I would realize, “When did THAT come back?”
We all want to do better going forward, and to find value in situations we’ve come to know well at such high costs; it is irresistible to come up with a script about it all, and to work that script until shines light on all our best angles. So the first step is self-compassion.
Then what to answer others, for instance my son, when he asked to know more. One hesitates to teach what they are still going through. I began to just describe our way of thinking at the beginning, the plans and visions behind our decisions, the intricate calculations. But also, the values at the core of what we know in retrospect was our expanding too fast. With distance I could see how thoughtful and careful we actually tried to be, banking on the energy of our mutual desires and visions.
I felt… impressed with us, even as I listened to myself describe where we went wrong. And I felt impressed to admit to all those areas. A joyful feeling bubbled up as I described things such as the condition of our house when we bought it – how we put every cent and second in, learning by doing, installing the often complimented kitchen for almost nothing, taking down the horrendous mirrored wall and murals from the 80’s Miami Vice aesthetic. I began to smile a lot.
Eventually, I found myself speaking of us with great affection and compassion, laughing a little. It had been so long since I’d been able to do that. Then I realized: I had forgiven us, without knowing that to be the case. Somewhere along the way there had come softening.
The truth was, is, that I love those two people with their ambitious and energetic dreams. I love their ideals, their well-intended hearts, so deeply. What filled my being was a sense of expansion and, just “Thank You.” “Thank You, Thank You… Thank You, Thank You, Thank You”.
A few nights ago, I was struck with energy of a sort that could be called inspiration, yet didn’t feel particularly special. Rather, it hit like a practical nudge, to write a list.
Probably, this was a build up that started with a question posed during a Brahma Kuhmaris meditation workshop last weekend, about a figure in one’s life who displays admired qualities. I had chosen someone, yet in that choosing had also fathomed others who would fall into that category, then teachers in general, and spiritual friends who have graced my life.
As I began to write the list, a flood of other lists and figures began to appear. A teacher category was soon at 50, then over the next few days, grew to an honest 100. I say ‘honest’ because there were some figures who arose that were not quite teachers, but friends and influencers none the less, and then there was also a darker side of those categories… thankfully, much smaller. A separate ‘friends’ list then formed, grew, and branched into other figures who were ‘neutral-positive’ or neutral-negative due to lingering misunderstanding or discomfort. Then came another list – those on the edges with whom I’d like to be closer.
But it was the teacher list that kept growing, because behind each teacher, were other teachers, and those I’d spent deep lifetimes or love affairs with in books, or who had shown up in various guises or dreams along the way. When I reached that territory – the dream and vision territory – another wave came through. Now, it wasn’t just teachers, but lessons and stories. So I began another list, branching even more.
I have tried to intentionally write out insight stories and dreamy moments before, but they have usually waited for some context to float up, if to be shared. This was different.
Dreams and stories that I hadn’t thought about for very long, began to pour out onto the page, big ones next to little ones next to what had felt at the time to be side thoughts, numbering into the hundreds. I thought about how hard it had been at the end of last year, to write out even ‘100 accomplishments’, and how in contrast, this had all seemed to just appear.
So tired, I kept trying to go to sleep. As soon as my eyes would close, more would come up that I didn’t want to risk losing, so I’d write them, releasing a whole ‘nother wave.
Eventually, I remembered Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk about inspiration and muses, and assured myself that whatever was going on could be continued the next day.
And it was, but only sort of. Rather than adding much to the list, this time my hand went to the list of teachers, writing a word or two about what I felt to have learned from each, whatever came forward strongly. From one – spontaneity, from another – confidence, another the question ofsuchness. With some I had first experiences; some imparted or deepened feelings, evoked emotion, or pushed me over edges at crucial times. Some were not people, but ‘events’.
I made no effort not to repeat myself, yet there were no repetitions; each role was entirely unique and yet, when I would stop writing and see the whole, each also easily flowed easily into another, each other. Longsightedness was also there… to see that there might be more, or a different way of seeing time that I might move into… more comfortable clothes.
It was like staring into a living, loving, mirror. Just openness to openness.
I’m not sure who the teacher was, who first exposed me to the concept of Indra’s Net, but to convey the way this practice unfolded, one would benefit from visualizing:
FAR AWAY IN THE HEAVENLY ABODE OF THE GREAT GOD INDRA, THERE IS A WONDERFUL NET WHICH HAS BEEN HUNG BY SOME CUNNING ARTIFICER IN SUCH A MANNER THAT IT STRETCHES OUT INFINITELY IN ALL DIRECTIONS.
IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EXTRAVAGANT TASTES OF DEITIES, THE ARTIFICER HAS HUNG A SINGLE GLITTERING JEWEL IN EACH “EYE” OF THE NET, AND SINCE THE NET ITSELF IS INFINITE IN DIMENSION, THE JEWELS ARE INFINITE IN NUMBER. THERE HANG THE JEWELS, GLITTERING “LIKE” STARS IN THE FIRST MAGNITUDE, A WONDERFUL SIGHT TO BEHOLD.
IF WE NOW ARBITRARILY SELECT ONE OF THESE JEWELS FOR INSPECTION AND LOOK CLOSELY AT IT, WE WILL DISCOVER THAT IN ITS POLISHED SURFACE THERE ARE REFLECTED ALL THE OTHER JEWELS IN THE NET, INFINITE IN NUMBER.
NOT ONLY THAT, BUT EACH OF THE JEWELS REFLECTED IN THIS ONE JEWEL IS ALSO REFLECTING ALL THE OTHER JEWELS, SO THAT THERE IS AN INFINITE REFLECTING PROCESS OCCURRING. –Wikipedia Indra’s Net
“The fact and the particular character of a temporal series are entirely due to the view that is taken on Great Time. This does not exactly mean that time is a subjective phenomenon, because the ‘subject’ in a lower space is also a result of a particular ‘knowing’ of ‘Time’.
But certainly, the observer’s ego is conditioned by the restrictive view that is characteristic of lower spaces. Insofar as the ego is self-protective and reluctant to surrender itself to permit the expression of a wider focal setting, ordinary time conforms to the ego’s restrictions.”
– Time Space and Knowledge
This chapter of Time Space Knowledge is titled The Presence of Time — Liberating Potency and Compelling Patterns. I sat a while with the title, and the phrases inside of it… Presence of Time, Liberating Potency, Compelling Patterns.I played with the rhythms, rearranging the words, “Liberating Presence of Time, Compelling Potency, Potent Time.”
It was fun feeling the ideas… the glow and empowerment of them… reminders that floated up about life situations, ingrained patterns in my scope of self, family. I asked myself, “What is like that now?” and remembered seasons in which I didn’t think I was making life small, just doing my best to accept the way things were. Then I thought of all my seeming rescues… how often some stroke of luck or genius came through, and how hard it was to remember later, what life was like before that change.
I considered the feeling of intentionally forgetting… how no thoughts are bad in and of themselves, or people bad, and how sometimes if I can forget… forget myself, a way of seeing that I haven’t considered may appear… a new texture, or taste I hadn’t fathomed. How greatly changed everything ‘out there’ can seem. S. has said many times, that dropping could be holding in a different way, and A Course in Miracles calls miracles shifts in perception.
I have mused with strange ways of describing ordinary mind/ordinary knowing/ordinary time, and have asked from different stances and angles, what is meant by kinds of mind or mind streams. It is likely something I’ll never stop asking, but without aim toward answers, since answers could close down an enormously rich exploration. I’m addicted to comparing different descriptions of reality because when they collide, sometimes a new universe opens. ‘Ordinary mind’ is about perception, and ‘Knowing’ about reality.
It was many years ago now, standing in a DSW shoe store, that I suddenly realized that Iwasn’t thinking. To ‘see’ that ‘I’ wasn’t thinking could be a thought, but it was certainly a different kind of thought than I’d ever experienced before. I felt held by the thought, rather than compelled to follow it along some line. There was revealed a way of mind I didn’t realize I’d been beset by, until relieved.
Before retreating in Nova Scotia, I’d experienced only the purple water lily blooms common to our gardens in Florida, which are indeed glowy and beautiful, but small. This photo (left, below) was my reward for balancing precariously at the edge of a pond in the middle of wild overgrowth at Windhorse Farm.
On the right, is a photo of my first encounter with a giant lotus in Kyoto, which until that point I’d believed to be the stuff of myths and fairy tales. We happened upon this bloom when peeking through a crack in the gateway of a smallish, I think, temple (there are so many that it can be hard to know which structures are still operating as temples).
Although the photo isn’t is insufficient to capture the awe, tales with magical proportions of deities born from lotuses, made much more sense to me upon this encounter.