May 25, 2006

Roll in Ecstasy

Just become quiet, still, and solitary, and the world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

Franz Kafka

May 23, 2006

Aware of the Sacred

"Here life goes on, even and monotonous on the surface, full of lightning, of summits and of despair, in its depths. We have now arrived at a stage in life so rich in new perceptions that cannot be transmitted to those at another stage - one feels at the same time full of so much gentleness and so much despair - the enigma of this life grows, grows, drowns one and crushes one, then all of a sudden in a supreme moment of light one becomes aware of the sacred."

- May Sarton Journal of a Solitude
Portrait by Polly Thayer

I was touched by this quote, and considered it most of the afternoon.

It would seem that in May Sarton's experience, she was pushed through the doors “without the use of her hands,” as you like to say. However, this truth that May Sarton found, this supreme moment of light, was undoubtedly always present. This realization could be more like a turning, an inward turning to bring the sacred into sharper focus. Nothing new or different, just a crystal clear view of what is right in front of us all the time. All the experiences of our lives, the monotony, the lightening, the summits and despair are lively and rich in their textures, but they are what is coming and going, coming and going, not what is unchanging and eternally present. This element that Sarton notes as sacred, this is always present. She opens her eyes, and for the first time, she sees what has been there all along. Sarton peers through her own persona. And there, in that light, is pure freshness, an awareness that is beyond her individual ideas or experience.

After sharing this with my teacher, my teacher replied, "You were present to the May Sarton quote. You went beyond the experience described by May, beyond her own particular path and passage; you did not get hung up on the form or process that is unique to her, or to any individual for that matter. May Sarton "peers through her own persona." Every individual tends to describe their realization through their own persona, personality, emotional registration. The expression of their realization will be unique as it shines though this persona, body, mind and emotion. There is a "grass is greener on the other side of the fence" trap there, comparing your own experience of realization to someone else's. This is the mind seeking validation for some conceptual understanding of the experience of awakening. You do not fall into this trap. Instead you recognize that this Presence, the sacred source, "what is unchanging and eternally present" is realized from an infinite number of approaches. The ultimate peak is one, the paths to it are many and varied. You get that standing on the peak the view is the same, oneness, whole, the "sacred, this is always present." Yet it is described differently from culture to culture, poet-to-poet, and person-to-person. Even with this tremendous diversity, it is easy, looking freshly, to see the common thread.

Existence, God is very generous and open, and allows access to realization from any door. When the eyes are purified, when the eyes of conditioning are purified, one looks with the eyes of the Unconditioned, realizes that one is looking with the very eyes of God as Meister Eckhart said:

The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God's eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.

May 20, 2006

Into the Open Sky

There is a poem somewhere
I no longer search for it
only one word remains
- a leaf, all filigree
hardly recognizable
that it came from this maple
this tree of love
but we recognize it
this word
it stirs and moves
in us, turning round and round
we turn in the same way
reminiscent of that leaf
turning on its last flight to the ground
it does not resist
the gravity that guides it
down and down and down
it does not regret the letting go
into open sky
grateful to its friend gravity pulling
and pulling, "come fly"
turning in blue
an artifact pointing at something
that one word
suspended outside of time
in the warm air:

May 16, 2006


When I look inside and see
that I am nothing,
that is wisdom.

When I look outside and see
that I am everything,
that is love.

And between those two,
my life turns.

Sri Nisagardatta Maharaj

May 15, 2006

Turning Toward the Whisper

The morning sunlight on the water glimmers, bouncing rays onto the trees. What energy reflects this glimmer and moves it? Pale pink blossoms of the dogwood are so delicate, fresh, fleeting… From where do these arise? What will they dissolve into? In the morning air there is a fragrance…hinting of grass and fresh air and cedar bark. Fragrance carries a mystery; the ethereal nature of fragrance can never meet the eye or be fully understood with mind. Little everyday miracles greet us each morning, delighting our senses, dancing with us, circling us, whispering our name. Turning toward the whisper, our very lives begin to wake, soften, reflect, glimmer, and our fragrance is carried, beyond, without control. We cannot understand this with our minds. The questions have dissolved. Concepts renounced, judgments soften – good and bad, distinctions blur. Wakefulness is openness to just what is, in this moment now, with deep acceptance, profound appreciation, and letting go.

Ever turning toward the whisper the un-tethered kite sails with the wind; this spirit is free.

May 12, 2006

The Great Wall

A much-awaited highlight of my China journey was climbing and walking along the Great Wall. This wall dates its beginnings back to 214 BC, though the portion of the Great Wall near Beijing where I climbed are remains from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). I overheard one visitor on the Wall ask his guide, "How long did it take to build the Great Wall?" The guide replied, "We are still building it," referring to the constant process of repair. The Great Wall is not a continuous wall but rather a collection of short walls that often follow the crest of hills on the southern edge of the Mongolian plain. Overall, the wall extends about 1500 miles (2400 kilometers).

The Great Wall is very rich with history and lore, especially if you enjoy stories of ancient Chinese dynasties. This military history is lost on me, but realizing the age and sheer size of the wall is awe-inspiring. There is an air of excitement walking along The Great Wall with people from so many different nations who also recognize this landmark as a man-made wonder of our world.


Since returning, I have been contemplating the significance of the Great Wall and the metaphorical Great Wall in my own life. I see that we build our own Great Wall to separate ourselves, possibly for protection from threat, real or imagined, just as the warring Chinese dynasties did centuries ago. Walls separate us from others, and even from the truth about ourselves. Sometimes, on the journey of opening, we hit our own 'wall'. We can't see through it, and we can't seem to get around it. We may feel stopped, stuck, or trapped. The wall may seem as solid as one built of bricks and mortar, or invisible, only to be bumped into in the dark. I see that even on the "safe side" of the wall, we are not free. This wall is not removed with our hands, nor with our minds. This wall is shattered with the opening of our hearts.

May 6, 2006

Smiles from Tibet

Potala Palace

For the past two weeks I traveled throughout China, Tibet, and Taiwan. The trip was wonderful - so many sights, fragrances, sounds, landscapes and faces, so many experiences that deeply touched me. In Tibet, the old temples, aging and yet so adored by the people were amazing. I will never forget entering these temples and monasteries, and inhaling the penetrating fragrance of incense and yak butter candles. Unfortunately, these traditions have cast a dusky film on the colorful murals and adornments inside. The interiors appeared dingy and worn, disintegrating before your eyes.

Tibetan Child

This child greeted us as the Potala Palace with a spontaneous warm smile and "Hello!” one of a few English words she knew. Faces like hers, with such freshness and innocence, are tremendously uplifting. Yet, beyond the smile, the faces of the Tibetan people tell a story of a fascinating culture and simple way of life spiritually inspired, and of a recent history with so much political pain and strife. Tibet tradition is fading rapidly, as the aging monasteries and influx of another culture into this region attest. This is a living lesson in impermanence.

Yamdrok Yumtso Lake

Juxtaposed with this reality is the surrounding panorama of mountains – high and strong and beautiful, with gloriously clean blue-blue lakes and skies. There is an enduring and rugged timelessness in this stunning landscape that is contrasted in the fleeting moment of this little girl’s tender smile.

There is a subtle bliss just underneath or beyond the poignancy and sadness of impermanence. As I continually experience, impermanence is all around, everywhere, inherent in form, all forms. Realizing this I instantly realize ... the unborn, undying, uncreated, unconditioned, permanent and naked consciousness - the awareness-that-is-awake that you are. And that smile of subtle bliss fills the sky. Yes, it entirely fills that vast, impossibly blue sky over the Tibetan plateau.

May 5, 2006

Prayer Wheels

These are a few of hundreds of prayer wheels found in the Jokhang Temple, in Lhasa, Tibet where I visited last week. Each day, hundreds of Tibetens circumambulate the temple several times, carrying malas and hand held prayer wheels. There is a feeling of deep spirituality in Tibet, an everyday way of living.