You Are The Silence

Ali Akbar Khan, the great sarode maestro, said that the quickest way to find God was through music. To take one of his classes at the Ali Akbar College of Music, or attend one of his concerts, or listen to one of his many extraordinary recordings, you immediately got the sense, felt, understood, that he was speaking from experience.

The sounds he produced on the sarode were otherworldly, yet grounded in the full range of human emotion. He could make you feel great pathos, supreme joy, and everything in between. And if you were to look in his eyes, you were drawn into deep pools of stillness, silence, and peace.

As many a musician will tell you, the experience of oneness through sound – the union of body, mind, instrument, others you are playing with, the listening audience – is undeniable. The pulsating rhythm, weaving melody, intertwining harmony, the focus of self and others, all in balance with each other, synchronized, in the groove, reveals the true nature of reality – all is dissolved in oneness.

Try this experiment: Imagine that you are the silence of the universe and that all sounds emerge from your measureless and expansive being. That is, you are the creator of sound – all sounds come from you, are made of you.

Hum a soft note for a couple of seconds . . .

In a moment, do it again, but this time notice the silence before you start, then the birth of the sound as you begin to hum, its resonance and vibration as it increases in volume, and then, as the volume decreases, how it dissolves back into silence.

Try it now . . . first, notice the silence . . . low hum begins . . . builds . . . swells . . . then gradually decreases and . . . disappears like a cloud dissolving back into the sky.

This is IT. From you, I, we, unchanging awareness, comes all manifestation of the Universe – from the profound silence that contains nothing, yet from which everything arises, to the gentle hum of a mother’s lullaby that expresses pure love – in this vibration we are eternally embraced.

Consciousness Stands Alone

            “Either the truth can stand on its own or it’s not the truth.”                                                                                                                   ~ Francis Lucille

Can you truly claim consciousness or awareness as your own? Is consciousness, that which is reading these words, a self-contained, personal attribute of your body-mind? And, if so, can we conclude that an individual consciousness resides in each of the seven billion different body-minds on the planet? This is the common belief, but if we look at the nature of this so-called individual consciousness it doesn’t seem to be our actual experience.

Does consciousness share the limits of a body-mind? Does it have a beginning or end? No. There is never a time when you can say consciousness is not present. It does not come and go like the birth and death of a body-mind – it is beyond time. Does it have an edge or a boundary? No. You cannot find a place where consciousness ends and something else begins – it is beyond space.

Something that is beyond time we call eternal. Something that is beyond space we call infinite. If something is eternal and infinite, where is there room for two?

Consciousness stands alone at the heart of our experience. You can take nothing from it and add nothing to it. It is complete in its emptiness, which makes it absolutely full. It is everywhere in its nowhere-ness.

We don’t need some special knowledge or mystical transmission to know this. A simple, earnest, honest investigation is all it takes to see that within the realm of concepts all there is is consciousness or awareness.

And there cannot be two. No separation between anything, any thing. All made of the same stuff. No self, no other. Just this. And you, I, we, are this – seven billion unique expressions of one consciousness whose essence is love.

And then we smile as even this idea dissolves in the spaceless space of absolute freedom.

AHA!

I am enlightened. I am not enlightened.

I am awake. I am asleep.

I am liberated. I am not liberated.

I am lost. I am found.

All observations of the seeker’s mind mired in the world of duality.

Thoughts, concepts, all bound by the limits of space and time, and therefore, in the truest sense, not real.

The only true reality is that which is ever-present and aware – that which exists prior to, during, and after all thoughts, sensations, and perceptions have come, lingered, and disappeared.

Call it a non-dual or non-conceptual awareness. But these are still concepts, and therefore cannot be real.

It is said that to realize your true nature you must go beyond all concepts, and then ‘go beyond the beyond’.

Asking someone to ‘go beyond the beyond’ is like asking water to flow up hill.

There is nothing you can say or do to realize your true nature. All you can do is be it, which takes no effort whatsoever because you are already that. But to try to be effortless, well . . .

To be nothing is true liberation, but you will never know it because you are nothing to begin with.

And in this placeless place of no action or inaction, of doing or non-doing, of no-thing-ness, is found perfect stillness, perfect silence. The Perfect Peace. It’s too bad that you can never experience this wonderful . . . idea.

Give up if you can.

But you can’t.

AHA!

 

Dead To The Present

If you are living in the past you are not living.

Doesn’t it make sense that when you live in the past you are dead to the present? We’re not talking about a pleasant daydream recalling a special moment in your life, like the first time you set eyes on your true love. In this case, we’re talking about the tendency to dwell on something negative that happened in the past.

There is a wonderful quote floating around the Internet that goes something like, ‘Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past.’ Perfect. When you look closely at what you are angry at or upset about, it turns out to be just a memory, a thought. When you look closely at a thought you find that it has less substance than a cloud in the sky, and comes and goes just as quickly – if you simply ignore it.

Once you start engaging a thought, a memory, you bring it to life and it seems real. But a thought will never be real. The only thing that is real is that which is reading these words, the knowing presence from which all thoughts arise and with which they are known, and, ultimately, made out of.

It’s obvious that the past will not, cannot ever change. It will never become better or worse. It is what it is – a memory, and possibly a flawed one at that. To engage a negative memory in any way is a futile endeavor and will only cause more psychological suffering. It is dead and nothing you can do will change it.

Holding a grudge, bearing resentment, is like having to drag a thousand pound sack of rocks up a mountain. It’s exhausting, defeating, and futile. To drop this sack is to invite a lightness of being back into your life, experience the happiness that is your inherent nature.

And it is so easy to drop the sack. Just see it for what it is – a thought, an image, a ghost, a shadow. It may seem to weigh ten thousand pounds but in reality it is a weightless mirage. When you see the rope as a snake, you are frightened, but when you see the rope as a rope, you smile.

Relax. Let thoughts of the past and future naturally come and go and be your true self, that which exists prior to any belief, opinion, judgment, position . . . or grudge. This true self can’t be named, but is ever-present and aware, the original source of light and love. And you, I, we, are that.

Blasphemy vs. Free Speech

Webster’s Dictionary defines blasphemy as an ‘impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things; an act of cursing or reviling God; irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred or estimable.’ Free speech needs no definition. In any case, both are only concepts, and with any concept you can always find its opposite. Thus conflict is born.

There was a fascinating discussion on blasphemy vs. free speech on NPR (On Point with Tom Ashbrook, January 15, 2015). To quote Ashbrook: ‘Blasphemy can sound like a very old idea in much of the world.  But in the Islamic world, blasphemy is hot and very political.  In Pakistan, you can get a beating or worse in a hurry.  Saudi Arabia just sentenced a critic to 1000 lashes.  Mauritania has sentenced a blogger to death by firing squad for insulting the prophet.  And then there’s Charlie Hebdo.  This hour On Point: the blasphemy charge, inside the Islamic world and beyond.’

For starters, Ashcroft quoted the PM of Turkey saying, ‘Freedom of thought and belief ends where the freedom of thought and belief of others starts.’ Where is the freedom in this? But let’s move quickly beyond blasphemy and the Islamic world and approach it from a global standpoint. As one contributor to the show said, ‘There is no ultimate freedom of speech anywhere in the world.’

It’s obvious that there are an infinite number of opinions regarding the parameters of freedom of speech and what constitutes blasphemy – opinions primarily informed by any given culture’s religious and political views. And given the multitude of opinions, it’s obvious that they can’t help but be broken by someone. It’s like the old sidewalk game of ‘step on a crack, break your mother’s back.’ There are too many cracks.

In other words, the model is flawed – as long as there is a clinging to religious beliefs and political views there will always be conflict among and within all the cultures of the world. As long as there is an ‘us’ and ‘them’, a ‘me’ and ‘you’ mentality, we will forever tread on each other’s toes.

There is a solution: there is no other. When you discover this, understand it in the core of your being, there is never any reason, any desire, or even a way to offend someone else, because, in reality, there is no other to offend.

When you realize that there is only an other from the point of view of an individual self – whom most of us take ourselves to be – and then try to locate this individual self in earnest and can’t find it except as an impermanent cluster of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions, and therefore, ultimately unreal, where is the other?

In other words, if there is no self how can there be an other? We are all considered an other from the point of view of another individual self, and, conversely, everyone else is an other from the limited view of our individual self. When you know, feel, understand, that this so-called opposition of ‘other’ and ‘self’ is just an appearance, where is the animosity, the fear, the anger? Who is there to oppose? Blaspheme?

When the separation between self and other dissolves in understanding, in the knowing of our essential nature – which is that which knows all appearances, yet itself is not an appearance –all that remains is true freedom, or love.

Why Does Happiness Come and Go?

Happiness doesn’t come and go. Our essential being, some call it our original nature, is what comes and goes, or at least that’s how it appears. In fact, our essential being never goes anywhere and happiness is a quality of essential being-ness, so happiness always is.

So why are we often unhappy? Again, happiness is not a state that comes and goes. It is merely veiled by our identification as a separate individual, which is subject to the whims of cause and effect, to different states of mind and feelings – the separate self that thinks it gets its happiness from objects, relationships, substances, and activities.

But this isn’t our true experience. Happiness reveals itself in that moment of stillness when all desire ceases. For example, you covet a jacket and order it online. It arrives in the mail, you put it on, and you are instantly happy. Not because you have the jacket, but because in that moment, you, the individual self, are not seeking or desiring anything and in this emptiness the true self is revealed. But desire quickly rises up again in the separate self, which once again sets out to seek happiness in objects, relationships, substances, and activities.

Why does this happen over and over again? Because we place our identity in an individual self, which upon examination only exists in the form of a thought, feeling, sensation, or perception, which are all temporary, and thus illusory objects.

Lasting happiness can never be found in any kind of object – states of mind come and go; feelings, sensations, and perceptions all come and go. All things come and go except for that which knows the coming and going – that which exists prior to any manifestation of phenomena, during its existence, and after it has gone. Just as the sky exists before, during, and after the cloud has appeared, lingered, and dissolved back into the sky.

It is a simple misidentification with a separate self – an illusory being made of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions – which causes all suffering and, at best, sometimes finds fleeting happiness.

To find lasting happiness, you must first investigate deeply the one who seeks happiness. Find this so-called individual self, this ‘I’ we call ourselves. Isn’t it just a thought? Set it aside for just a moment and, in the stillness, peace and happiness are revealed. As Buddha said, ‘There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.’

Something Else Is Happening

Something else is happening, but you’re not quite sure what it is. You have moments of absolute clarity, brilliant flashes of understanding, of the incredible oneness, fullness of all things, and then, just as quickly, the moment vanishes and you are left scratching your head, to muddle through your day, your life, as Thoreau said, in ‘quiet desperation.’

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could hold on to these moments, catch lightning in a bottle? It’s entirely possible. Not only is it possible, this pureness, this brilliance, this fullness, is our true nature, there for the taking if we, you, I, can just get out of the way. Actually, no taking or getting out of the way is required. We are already that.

Just stop.

Just stop stopping.

Realize that there is nothing to do, nothing not to do.

There is no question, no answer.

There is nothing but this everything.

Everything but this nothing.

No inside. No outside.

Just this.

And with this realization that there is nothing to realize, the fullness explodes, bursts wide open and spreads throughout the boundless, limitless, embracing emptiness of eternal and infinite space.

This experience, which is happening right now, always right now, overwhelms, takes over, dominates all senses, all thoughts, all perceptions of what was once a human being and reveals a shimmering, pulsating light of pure vibration, and this pure vibration vanishes in the blink of an eye, and all that is this nothingness is left suspended in profound silence, and this silence is you.

Can’t Be Both

“We can be free, or we can be right, but we can’t be both at the same time.” – Fred Davis

Simplicity of Being

It takes a monumental effort to maintain one’s identity as an individual self. First, you have a body-mind to care for, to manage and control. Then you have your ideals and beliefs to formulate, uphold, and defend.

It’s a non-stop effort in futility as body-mind’s ideals, beliefs, opinions, etc., are constantly changing, pulling and pushing, coming and going.

There is nothing real to grasp, just shadows and phantoms. It’s a madhouse, really. An unending ride on the merry-go-round at the circus of the absurd.

On the other hand, resting as awareness, abiding as consciousness, takes no effort whatsoever. No Maintenance required. Our true nature reveals itself when we come to a full stop.

When we realize that the ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ is false, that we are, in the simplicity of being, purely an I with nothing extra added, even then, this wonderfully delicate final state of identification with this separate self – the final thought, I – vanishes in the absolute wonder of the moment.

Pascal

“Nature is an infinite sphere of which the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.” ~ Blaise Pascal