Archive for the 'enlightenment' Category


April 26, 2014

Before I started chatting with my fellow Diana in the lobby this morning (see previous post), I was reading “Have You Lost Your Mind?” in The New Yorker.  It’s by Michael Kinsley.

It’s about awareness of dementia and Parkinson’s disease, at least as far as I read this morning (a little over a third of it, I think).  I was really grabbed by the description in the second paragraph of

a comic-book tale about some residents of our three-dimensional world who go through a hole in space, or something like that, and find themselves living in two dimensions.  ‘And nothing’s changed,’ one says, triumphantly, unable to to see what we can see:  that he is now the approximate shape and depth of a postage stamp.  Maybe this is what the descent into dementia is like:  everyone around you knows or suspects you have it, but to yourself you seem the same.

That’s close to how I imagine the relationship between how we think when we are incarnated (the world with fewer dimensions) and how we think when our souls are not constrained by the material world (the world with more dimensions).  Maybe enlightenment is when we become aware of the difference.


Transforming another

January 13, 2014

“Transformed people transform people.”  That’s in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation today (which for some reason arrived in my spam folder).

In my humble experience, with my deceased friend Martin, you become transformed by a transformed person (only) when (1) you have rid yourself of enough ego attributes that you can receive the flow unimpeded, and (2) you give of yourself completely, unstintingly, no holding back, thorough-going willingness — and not willingness for union, but rather, to do that which serves the greatest good.  Then that union happens.  (And for me, we remained distinct persons throughout, and it felt as though I were experiencing “his” joy at the union, in case there are any reporters in the audience taking notes.)

You have to get yourself sufficiently out of the way, but that must be done through a process that accomplishes that indirectly, in a sense.  You can’t want the union, you instead have to be willing in a general way, and I think it actually helps not to be too aware of the possibility of union — that, at least for me, would make me too self-conscious to be sufficiently out of the way — for me, it was easier to stumble into union.

As I write this, sunlight is streaming in on the Standing Buddha statue in my foyer.  The sunlight is coming in from the dining room,  through an angled window there, and it’s especially bathing the Buddha’s legs.

Birds, dinosaurs, and Jonathan Franzen

January 9, 2014

I read this while waiting for a meeting with an accountant this morning:

But I think that really, in the history of the planet, there have been two kinds of amazing animal developments. One is us–in terms of totally transforming things–and the dinosaurs were the other. And the birds are what became of dinosaurs. The dinosaurs retooled instead of lumbering around, crashing around, earthbound. They got all light and they got feathers, truly one of the remarkable adaptations in the history of evolution.

It’s from an interview with Jonathan Franzen in Audubon Magazine from April of last year.

I ought to visit with the number crunching set more often.

Well, I was so excited to read someone relate humans and dinosaurs to each other in a way that makes sense to me (I sometimes think of it myself in terms half-siblings, as if dinosaurs and humans are earth’s children from different marriages) — and then relate it to birds and a (human) affinity or love for birds!   Wow.  We try to become light and airy in our thinking or meditating — in our mental processes — the dinosaurs achieved it physically.

Now I want to read some of Franzen’s work — I am hoping to enjoy the way his mind works in his fiction, too.

The other side of the roast beef sandwich issue

November 28, 2013

I figure if I have had a hang-up about a guy doing me wrong and withholding something from me (see previous post), I (or the person whom I am helping) probably did something that was perceived in a similar way by a guy.  Here’s a spiritual story that shows a fundamental, spiritual version of this part of the paradigm.  (There’s a version involving sex and what turns out to be an underage girl, but we’ll pass over that one.)

A girl is recognized as having potential to develop as a mystic, and her younger brother feels left out and envious of her training and status in the community.  To placate him, she promises to “bring back” whatever she learns and experiences from her good fortune.  Unfortunately, once she has had the learning and experiencing, she realizes they are not something that can be had vicariously or by proxy.

Of course, her brother doesn’t understand, when she is not forthcoming with what she had promised him.  He feels wronged and betrayed, and here we go with a long and damaging feud.

Finding balance

November 27, 2013

I am aware that there are plenty of people who are more spiritually adept than I, clearer than I in trying to explain how someone with one foot in the spiritual realm sees the material world, more perceptive than I in the seeing itself, more effective at working with damaged people who have an aversion to faith and belief.  But with all due respect to Jackson Browne, I do sometimes think I see a reason I am alive (that’s in reference to “For a Dancer,” towards the end, the part about how there may be a reason we’re alive but we’ll never know — I love the song, though, it is so evocative, I can ride its waves to see so many things).

I see myself as figuring out how, in a sense, to walk and chew gum at the same time, to rub my stomach and pat my head simultaneously, while at the same time, adding in the third piece of having a conversation.  The first two activities are maintaining a spiritual connection while living in the material world, the “conversation” part is talking about it without losing my coordination and failing at the primary activities.

And then there’s the piece about keeping my balance.  That can be a balance between taking care of others and taking care of myself, between focusing on their needs and paying enough attention to my own.  It can also be about finding a helpful balance between having a message worth expressing to others and spending energy on making that expression effective.

There is a balance that needs to be struck, I think.  The irony is not lost on me that some of the people with the best bully pulpits have fundamentally flawed messages, from my point of view.  It’s as if the universe requires through its impersonal laws that we find a balance between attending to the messenger and attending to the message.

People have tried, consciously or not, all different ways and ratios for combining these elements.  For me, this life has been about letting go of the version of collaboration.  I really thought the most effective way of combining medium and message would be for one person to develop the delivery apparatus and for the other to develop the content.  But it doesn’t seem to work out, the delivery person tends to try to do both, in my multiple experiences of trying to collaborate.  Even when the delivery person pays some attention to the message-gatherer, they tend to distort the message that has been gathered through an inability to really see it.

I spent some time thinking this constituted some sort of failure to get something important and necessary to work, but now I don’t see it that way.  I figure instead that that way of trying to arrange things doesn’t work for a good reason.  (Trying to resolve the issue by having the message person spend more time on developing a delivery system just doesn’t work, it changes the person so much that they lose their ability to really see the message.)  The reason I see is that people need to come to discern the message themselves, not hear it from someone else.  If we can facilitate this process, maybe that’s something we should do, but that facilitation is more effective when it is indirect, I think.  I’ll invoke Jackson Browne again:  sometimes words are not enough (see “Late for Sky”).

I’m aware that this interpretation includes an assumption that the correct explanation is not that I am doing something wrong, which, interestingly, is often my first go-to explanation.  But this understanding about why collaboration isn’t the answer comes from that deeper place within, and it’s tied to the understanding that however interconnected we are, “in the end there is one dance [we] do alone,” even if that dance isn’t, in my opinion, the dance of death but rather the dance of enlightenment.

Forgiving those who disagree or don’t want to

October 29, 2013

Organized religion, including Christianity, may do this already, but I think forgiveness must be accepted as including forgiveness of the person’s not wanting to become enlightened or even believing it’s possible or a good idea.  I think it includes acceptance of people as a group, and individuals we know in particular, as they are.  And most of them aren’t interested in becoming enlightened or undertaking the process of becoming enlightened.  They won’t give it a try.  I think we need to accept that, and accept the apparent fact that they won’t, and maybe never will, no matter how often they are given the opportunity, and no matter how hard or well we try to teach them — or even no matter how much we encourage them, to do so, including with a foretaste of what it would be like.

We forgive them and we forgive the universe that the way things may play out may include that the potential we see in the world may never be realized, that the solution we see may not be implemented, that the way things could work out well won’t happen.  And that that is as “correct” a playing out of the human condition as anything else — if that’s the best we can do, humanity is still beloved of God, to use traditional language.  God is not angry or resentful about that, but neither can God change the consequences of all that, I don’t think.

I read Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation this morning and I wondered about all the preachers who forgive their audiences for not wanting to follow what they teach.  When they forgive that, do they go on teaching, or does that acceptance reveal to them it would serve the greater good if they did something else?

Log jams

October 21, 2013

All the discussion in the media about the technological problems with the federal website for buying health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act got me thinking about other situations in which a system was overwhelmed by more users than it can handle.

In the spiritual context, this can involve trying to achieve enlightenment, or even just basic connection to God, in order to take in fresh spiritual oxygen, through someone else, or it can involve trying discharge our spiritual detritus through someone else, looking for a place to discharge our carbon dioxide or worse, as it were.

Systems are overwhelmed, conduits become clogged.

These things can be fixed.

But to do that in the spiritual realm, religions need to become more flexible than many of them are and make corrections as needed, in my opinion.  And I am leery of systems that rely on using conduits — spiritual development requires everyone to get up off the couch and learn how to do it for themselves if they possibly can.  Accommodations are available for the truly disabled, but most people are not truly spiritually disabled, they are more like I was when I had a speech impediment and was using the wrong part of my vocal apparatus to make sounds.  It’s about finding that part of the self that comes to the fore when we pull aside the part of ourselves we identify with most of the time.  That’s kind of like the getting pregnant part of the process — it’s not the entire shooting match, but it’s a huge and necessary part of developing a spiritual life, that is, finding the part of the self through which this can actually be done.  And it’s where philosophy and other secular systems seem to me to fall down, whether or not that is a necessary result of their axioms, and where even many religions do not, in my opinion, place enough emphasis.  And don’t get me started on books in the popular press that overlook this issue.

Evening out the highs and lows

September 20, 2013

I don’t disagree with the idea that suffering and love, and great suffering and great love, are related.  I read about that in Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation.  I agree that great suffering can break open a human heart, and that as a result, that heart can encounter, and access, great love after.  It’s quite a roller coaster.  Lots of drama.

I don’t, though, think that’s a helpful place to rest ourselves for too long, in that stage.  I think we need to even out those highs and lows, through detachment.  I think Buddhists talk about this a lot.  I got cued to this piece (by Pema Chödrön) recently, and I really liked the idea of “no big deal.”  She writes,

This was one of the biggest teachings from my teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche: no big deal. I remember one time going to him with what I thought was a very powerful experience from my practice. I was all excited, and as I was telling him about this experience, he had a look. It was a kind of indescribable look, a very open look. You couldn’t call it compassionate or judgmental or anything. And as I was telling him about this, he touched my hand and said, “No . . . big . . . deal.” He wasn’t saying “bad,” and he wasn’t saying “good.” He was saying that these things happen and they can transform your life, but at the same time don’t make too big a deal of them, because that leads to arrogance and pride, or a sense of specialness. On the other hand, making too big a deal about your difficulties takes you in the other direction; it takes you into poverty, self-denigration, and a low opinion of yourself. So meditation helps us cultivate this feeling of no big deal, not as a cynical statement, but as a statement of humor and flexibility. You’ve seen it all, and seeing it all allows you to love it all.

I think it’s what I’m getting at here.


September 10, 2013

I was reading about how every incarnation is related to God in the same way, and while that is true, we don’t call it enlightenment for nothing; a person’s awareness of their relationship with God is not the same in every incarnation.


June 12, 2013

I don’t see how people who don’t see ourselves as reincarnated beings deal with the fact that some of us appear to “get” spiritual teachings in a fundamental way, and shift their consciousness as a result, while others merely process the information through their intellects and superficial behaviors.  For me the explanation is that some of us have already been through other stages in previous lives and that these stages have made us ready for a next step.

Which brings me to a further point:  some teachings produce damaging results in people who have not yet gone through some of the previous stages.

I don’t think compassion is awakened through learning at the feet of a teacher.  If the teacher’s compassion seemed to be awakened through such an experience, or if the teacher’s compassion seemed to be awakened through the practice of techniques, such as prayer and contemplation, then I suspect the teacher already had had their heart broken open (through difficult experiences?) in a previous lifetime.

I know that what I “know” I myself didn’t learn all during this lifetime.  I am quite sure it is the same for others, whether or not they recognize it.  We create all kinds of unfortunate spiritual knots in people, and in the world, when we encourage them to take steps that are not the next ones for them.  And in doing this, we are also enabling, if not encouraging, people to avoid some of the more difficult stages of spiritual development, I think.  You gotta break a few eggs to make that omelette at some stage of the process.  Nobody can experience that brokenness for us, and if we do try to experience it vicariously, we will not undergo the changes necessary in ourselves for subsequent steps.

It’s my personal belief, no offense intended, that some spiritual and religious teachers and leaders throughout history have been impatient with this aspect of spiritual development and the limits of teaching.  And I think some of this group ended up overwhelmed themselves by their frustration.  We can only do so much.  It’s a group project — a BIG group project — over time and across geography.  We do our piece and then we cede the stage.  The concept of reincarnation I find helpful for understanding and accepting this.  If there are other ways to do this, great, but I am concerned with worldviews that facilitate a sense that it can all be done here and now, through one person, through a set of teachings.