“A man meets his life most poignantly in moments of painful contraction and expansion. At those moments he senses the difference between being present and being taken. If he keeps himself open to the question, he will move in what he believes is a fruitful direction.
Many roads will beckon: art, studies, perhaps drugs — other pursuits. He may not find the answer to his fundamental question but he senses that a reality is escaping him; perhaps that something within himself can change existence. Maybe he has a fleeting feeling while listening to a passage of music, or is struck by a word, by nature. Perhaps some flash appears in the midst of love, of sorrow, or joy — a moment of ah…! Something is here, strange, wondrous.
And at that moment, a door opens. He may or may not go further. The chances are that the pull of gravity will close the door. He will be shut away from his ever-present possibility. Back to the office and workplace, to vacations, to family, to having a good time/bad time, getting and spending. The door may never open again — or will it?”
“The Ancients weighed the achievement of an individual by the sum and substance of his actions. Most of Plutarch‘s biographies–for example, of Themistocles, Alcibiades, Pompey, and Antony– are heroic assortments of virtues and vices, clear renderings of the psychological diversity and paradox which seem almost indispensable components of historic greatness.
We moderns, on the other hand, influenced by our religion, qualify all our estimation with a surgical standard of moral purity.
For the ancients, virtue was action, accomplishment, contribution; for us it is an essence so pure and fragile in nature that a beaker of goodness can be ruined by a dram of sin.
Dante makes his beloved teacher, Brunetto Latini, a sufferer in hell, because all his memorable virtues were combined with a single serious vice. Francis Bacon is almost never mentioned as a historical figure without reference to the single act of malfeasance which, deftly exploited by an enemy, ended his political career. The grievous and numerous faults of Winston Churchill are expounded upon interminably by the beneficiaries of the free institutions he fought to save.
And this stubborn altruism, often so extreme as to constitute a conspiracy against nature, extends beyond our histories into our daily lives. Shunning peccadillos, we suffer infamies. Anxious to avoid even appearing to do harm, we lose touch with the necessarily hazardous practice of goodness. We use rectitude to mask our envy of achievement.”
I like how Blavatsky uses the word ‘wish’ when she describes the opportunity that awaits each of us at the start of a new year. A wish is different from a desire, or an idea in the mind about what we think we want. The word wish connotes a blending — not exactly a desire, not exactly a prayer — but something in-between. A silent ceremony that occurs between one’s soul (the personal experience of presence) and one’s Being (one’s existence and presence as the divine).
The fascinating fact about Being is that Being is not intrinsically involved with wanting, desiring or wishing. It’s much more immediate, beyond the confines of time and space. It is simply Being. As presence that is fully present, Being is simply being. Although our soul can register Being as being involved in the process of thinking about the past, registering the present and looking towards the future — objectively, Being is only about being. All the beauty, fulfillment and freedom that the ego dreams about ‘someday achieving’ is all contained, now, within the present-time experience of Being. So there’s nowhere to venture, nothing to get. This is very disturbing to the usual, conventional, ego-based sense of self.
The start of a new year is often a trap for us, because there are such high expectations for experiencing opportunities to do or be something new and different. Resolutions are made, lists are written. The habits we want to lose are noted, the skills we want to develop are highlighted. But within all of that resolving and planning we miss the most important part of what the new year symbolizes — what it is really about. Namely, the opportunity to partake of another cycle of the earth moving around the sun, from solstice to solstice. Another year to experience the mystery of Being. Read more
“Why does death catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking. We should amass half dressed in long lines like tribesmen and shake gourds at each other, to wake up: instead we watch television and miss the show.”
– Annie Dillard
I’m back on Vashon after visiting the island of Kauai for a ten day Diamond Approach retreat. Having lived in Hawaii for twenty years, I feel slightly immune to the tropical wonders most folks find so beguiling. I do appreciate Hawaii’s beauty, but the rigors, schedule and excitement of ‘retreating’ leans my attention to the material we’re working with — not the beach. And holds it there.
Of the archipelago, Kauai is the oldest, the wettest and the furthest removed, the most northern. In a word its geography is eerie. Approaching the craggy coastline and tremendous, towering sea cliffs, from air, I’m always hit with a distinct sense of the otherworldly, or you could say the other-timely. Landing in Lihue I almost expect to see dinosaurs roaming around the airport’s parking lot, gnawing the tops off of palm trees.
The teaching centered around time, change and the now. This was the first time a retreat coincided with A. H. Almaas‘ (the school’s founder) latest publishing project The Unfolding Now. A book that outlines an understanding very different from Eckhart Tolle‘s teaching in The Power of Now.
Tolle’s view, based more on the shock of revelation rather than an empirical experience of a specific process, as is Almaas’, resurrects erstwhile New Thought concepts regarding the nature of the mind, an incomplete understanding that pits the ego against the desired experience of ‘living in the now’. The equation is simplistic. Ego/mind/emotions not good. Being in the now very good.
I’m not doubting Tolle’s personal experience, I’m just saying it’s extraordinary and not the norm. Given that his awakening was discontinuous — following a condition of near-suicidal hopelessness, I consider it a freak happening, akin to winning the lottery. Read more