Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Being and Doing

We believe there is so much to do, so much to accomplish and so it feels given the pain and suffering in the world. But what if you stopped. What if you stopped trying to get somewhere or trying to obtain more of something you felt you did not have. What if you stopped trying to solve the world’s “problems” What if you just simply stopped? Who would you be? Who would you be without the constant movement of action? Would there be something still present that animated you? Could it be the basis for a different kind of action? This action would not stem from someone trying to enhance a self image of himself or come from a self trying to obtain salvation. It might come from a place of total surrender. It would come from a place where there was perhaps only the movement itself and less, if any, mover.

More and more at work I find myself “taking” a moment to simply be. I just listen. Around me I hear the hum of the air vents, the rattle of typing keys, the chattering of voices near and far, the rustle of tin foil from someone’s lunch, the padding of footsteps on carpet, the running of water, and underneath it all, a silence from which this all emanates and into which it all recedes. Is that not life? I mean that both metaphorically and literally. It is metaphoric in the sense that it points to how everything that comes into existence will eventually return to nothing in much the same way that we are born, live and die. But it is also literal too because if you think there is more to life than the very simple hum of air vents and the rattle of typing keys, then perhaps you are overlooking the incredibly proximal, inherent beauty and magnificence that exists in everything without exception. You are divorced from life in a sense. Life at it very most profound is in the smallest of things: the cough of your cubicle partner, the scraping of the fork on the glass plate, the closing of filing cabinets -- if only you are able to end the search for "it" to be different. It's taken the universe billlions of years to produce this very moment you are experiencing, why not embrace it. Truthfully you cannot really be divorced from life anyway because you are life but in those moments when you are searching for something more than what is simply here, right now, you are off in a fantasy, and while fantasies can be a lot of fun, and have a place, ultimately they cannot deliver. They leave the taste of longing.
What we each want and which many spend most of their lives looking for unsucessfully is closer to us than anything we can ever imagine. We couldn't be without it if we tried but we can easily obscure it or dampen our ability to contact it. Always it is there. We are never without it because it is who we are in our essence. It is our own felt sense of being. I am reminded of
Psalm 23: which I finally understand.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.

I have a friend who is taking a few days off from work to go to Haiti. I think it's amazing and celebrate her compasssionate decision. She was saying that it had been difficult to talk to people about her decision to go because people expect that her focus will be on the medical aspects of the people's suffering but really she was going to "bear witness" to the suffering. She spoke of an image of being in white robes and simply sitting with people in pain. This struck me as so incredibly powerful. Yes, people need medical supplies and clean water and food, and new homes. Any "enlightentenment" or "awakening"or so-called spirituality that does not acknowledge and address the real conditions and suffering that bodies experience forgets its roots in compassion and is missing an essential part of what is ultimately the foundation for the transcendent: the grit of sweat, tears, dirt, disease, pain etc. At the same time however, it is folly to demean the power of simply being with suffering as it presents itself in these bodies. Being the space for suffering as it shows up is incredibly powerful. Being - truly being with -is a powerful action in its own right. As passive as it might appear and whether or not it generates any words, gestures or physical action - being is capable of wonders. We are far more than our physical bodies. Presence reminds us of that. The mind will say that unless this happens or unless you do that you cannot be happy. It would have you believe that peace is achieved exclusively through political action. The mind will flit and float, jump from topic to topic, give all kinds of reasons and counterarguments and act as if it can sort all of this out if only it had enough time or energy or intelligence. It cannot. It cannot solve the problem because what it needs is something beyond itself to see itself. It's like you cannot see your own face except through mirrors or reflections. The mind is not capable of seeing itself either, but consciousness or awareness can. That which is able to witness the movement of the mind is not the mind. It is beyond the mind. And it is there that peace resides. The peace I am talking about here comes from the stillness of resting your mind. It comes from tuning in to what is present so superemely that all else falls away. We often approach life like consciousness is a tool of the mind - We act act as if we can find the answers to the most profound questions of our existence, or cure the wrenching longing and hunger that plagues our souls by simply finding the right algorithm or imitating the right behaviors of our saints and saviors but that will not "save us". The mind is a wonderful tool through which consciousness expresses itself. Peace is always present. We need only tap into its stream and we become moved by its current. How do you tap into the stream?

The meaning of life is always as close as your own nose. But you have to become very quiet inside to hear it. What does that mean?


Find a quiet room and sit or lie comfortably. Become very quiet inside - what happens if your ears listen for the sound of the cells moving around inside your body? What happens if you try to listen to the component parts of the cells, like the mitochondria or nucleus? What happens if you go even smaller to the coming together of the chemical compounds that constitute your body? Focus, can you "hear" your atoms or their protons, neutrons, and electrons? Can you "hear" a silence beneath those things? What happens if you expand outward to the sounds of the room? Beyond the room? Into the house or building you are in? All the way up into outer space? What happens if you listen for the Andromeda Galaxy our nearby cousin? You don't have to force anything. Let the sounds come to you whatever they may or may not be? Is there a silence beneath any of the sounds? Lastly, pull out a favorite piece of music. Instead of listening to the actual notes, listen for the arising and falling of the notes and to the rests, and silences in the music.

How do you feel? What has happened to your sense of self? Who are you? Where are your boundaries? Did you feel the same when you were listening to the miniscule as you did when you listened to the vast? -- How do you feel after listening to the music? Was listening to the music the same as usual? As always there are no right or wrong answers, only observations.

Being is the god-thread that runs through everything, constitutes everything. In fact the vastness of being is so great that it cannot be expressed or even truly contemplated - it can only be pointed to in its beauty. However, if you are still, you can tap into it and you realize that though the forms of this world appear different, at their heart they are the same. This is not something conceptual. It is not something you do with your mind. It is something that must be felt/experienced/realized. Tapping into it you recognize that only love is real. What would happen if you let life live you? What would happen if you gave up trying to be anyone? What would happen if you gave up controlling your world and simply enjoyed the ride? Who are you anyway? If only love is real then is there anything really to fear? If only love is real is there really anything else to "do" then just sit and smile at each other?

1 comment:

Yvonne said...

Ohh, I would SO like to sit with you and smile together!
This text of yours mirrors a process of the last few weeks in my life so well.
It is a pleasure to read it!! Thank you!