Author Archives: Grace

all is well

Big puffy cloudsSome epiphanies are hard to describe. And they don’t “make sense” – cannot really be understood by the thinking mind. They come unbidden, and can blindside you. So much so that tears spring to your eyes. Like the epiphany that came this morning as I was driving into town to run errands, seeing big, white, puffy clouds against the backdrop of a sky so blue it almost hurt my eyes to look at. Did the tears spring to my eyes because of the brightness, or was it something else that seemed to cause those tears? I don’t know, but I had to pull over. Gratitude filled me.

FloodingBut my mind flitted to thoughts of the storm slamming the Carolina coast, flooding, all of the lives in danger. Human and animal. The potential for lasting property and environmental damage. Scenes of the devastation happening all over the planet came to mind even as my eyes were squinting at the sky, tears pooling, and then sliding down my cheeks. My heart was bursting to be witness to such breathtaking beauty.

In that moment of contrasting scenes – the one before my eyes and the other in my mind’s eye – it became crystal clear that there is nothing wrong. Ever. End of story. All is as it is, and all is well.

The mind might exclaim “WTF?” – mine did, and it is of course free to do that – but despite its complaints and arguments (of which there are as many as there are humans walking the earth), it was clear, too, that the truth is that all is well.

This doesn’t mean that I cannot be involved in making things “better” – if I believe there is need of such actions. But beneath all of my actions, if there is even a hint of attachment to my belief that all is not well, unless or until “this” or “that” changes or happens, then I suffer. And I miss  (the word sin, btw, means to “miss the mark”) the incredible peace that passeth all understanding. The peace that is available to be experienced in any given moment, in all moments. That isn’t the result of anything I (or we) think or say or do. It stands alone, independent – not the result of anything – in glorious living color and every shade of grey in between. It is there, evident, in every breath taken, in every beat of my heart and every heart, in all that is – regardless of how the mind interprets all that is.

shit happens

If you are observant, you may have noticed that the last post on this blog was nearly two years ago… dated November 25, 2016. I didn’t know at the time I wrote that post that my 93 year old mother had just had a massive stroke, which left her paralyzed on the left side of her body. I soon flew down to Arizona (from Washington, where I live), to care for her. My 102 year old father was thin, frail and confused. My 65 year old brother was sick with multiple alcohol-related diseases. All three of them were under hospice care, and for much of my time caring for them, I slept only intermittently.

Over the next year+, most of my family died. My mother was the first to go, a week after her stroke, and my father the last, nearly 14 months later. In between them, my three brothers, an aunt and uncle, my son-in-law, a brother-in-law, and a friend also died.

shit happensI don’t share this to garner sympathy, but to state the obvious: shit happens. During the time I was a care-giver and administrator of estates for some of my family members, it was a challenge to find time to go grocery shopping, let alone post on this blog. But a lot of insights came to me, often in the stolen quiet hours of the night when my father was medicated enough to sleep through his Sundowning tendencies and I laid beside him, listening to his quiet, steady breathing. I hope to find time in the coming months to post some of these insights to this blog. Perhaps they will be as helpful for some of you to read about as they were for me to experience. That is my wish, and is – ultimately – the only reason I bother to write.

“The senseless sorrow of mankind becomes your sole concern.”
~Nisargadatta Maharaj

With love,
Grace

this should not be!

“This should not be!” is the battle cry of all humanity. Shouted from rooftops, whispered in bedrooms, hospitals and alleyways. Discussed in a million different ways over coffee, tea or cocktails. Plastered across various media outlets. Humans have been living by this creed for millennia. It takes the form of “stamping out inequality and injustices,” “fighting for a cure” for cancer and intending to “beat to odds” of various other diseases, and “doing the right thing!”

It’s certainly in full vocalized force these days, post election. No surprise, really. Activists are howling rejection and rebellion. But if activism is rooted in “This should not be!” then it’s rooted in resistance and is, therefore, no different than that which it intends to rectify. Donald Trump is not the enemy. Nor are his projected policies. He is a prime example of someone – and a mirror for all who remain – trapped in the egoic sense of a separate self who has control. Cancer is also not the enemy. It’s a label that completely obscures the lived, moment-to-moment reality that is beyond such a simple label, beyond all description.

There is no such thing as separation, to say nothing of a separate self that has control. When this is seen, well, all problems cease to be problems – including who is president and the symptoms of cancer. What is, is. Period. End of story. The thinking mind – the one that thinks it has control, or can at least figure out the solution to life’s problems – will never understand this. It will go on screaming its battle cry, “This should not be!” until the last breath is taken and the body becomes lifeless. That the body becomes lifeless doesn’t mean that you die… quite the contrary: You were never born; you never die. Only the thought of ‘you’ (the one who has control) dies. Even this isn’t accurate. The thought of ‘you’ is seen for what it has been… a kind of hypnotic trance, a movement.

It’s best to just give up trying to understand any of this and see, instead, that you misunderstand. Then, at least, there is a chance that the thought of ‘you’ will die before the body becomes lifeless. And if that happens, let the trumpets sound “Hallelujah!”

Do Not Misunderstand

all that remains is Awareness

When the I dissolves, so does the body. All that remains is Awareness, without an I, without a body, without thought. This can be known, and seemingly ‘afterwards’, described as one would describe an ‘experience’ of oneness. But it isn’t an experience that the I has – the I ceases to exist. It ‘dies’ (never really did exist… ). That, and the body in which it ‘appears’ to reside, arise simultaneously in object consciousness (Awareness is ‘prior to’ object consciousness). Objects/object consciousness arise simultaneously (as ‘the ten thousand things’). They exist (it seems) ‘in’ Awareness. Awareness IS… independent of / prior to consciousness. But really there is no independent of nor prior to.

You may wonder how ‘I’ know this. I don’t, and therefore can’t tell you. Because there is no I. But it is known… here… and attempts like this, to describe it such that the thinking mind can understand (even the thinking mind that seems to be ‘here’), are futile.

So be it.

thoughts are sticky

Thoughts are sticky. Trying to rid oneself of thought is like handing a feather to a baby whose chubby little fingers are smeared with honey, and expecting that child to be able to put the feather aside.

Don’t waste energy trying to not think or get rid of thoughts. Just watch them pass through, in the quiet way you might observe clouds passing overhead. You don’t raise your fist and rail at the clouds, nor do you make any effort to get rid of the clouds – because you realize you have no control whatsoever over the clouds.

So it is with thoughts. You have no control. Knowing this truth, you are finally able to give up the illusion of control and just watch them arise and disappear. You recognize that each thought is unique – is born and dies, even as it appears you are often thinking the same thought over and over again.

Thoughts are sticky, but left alone they dissolve, just as honey eventually dissolves on a baby’s warm, chubby fingers, allowing the feather to simply fall off.

end of life considerations

As we age, memory chips start to fail. Cognition, strength and balance all tend to diminish. Often people are aware of this decline and are sad and discouraged by it (as they are by many things). It’s as if they believe this decline means that they are less than they once were. On one level this is true, of course – the physical body grows weak, mental acuity diminishes – but on another, nothing could be further from the truth. The body is weak. So what? You can’t remember something, even your phone number or, heaven forbid, your own name. So what? Those things – labels, memories – aren’t who you are.

Know this: the mind, the one you think of as ‘my mind’ isn’t, in fact, yours, and its preservation is far less significant than you – the mind that you think of as ‘mine’ – think it is. But the thinking mind is incapable of thinking it’s not very important, and so it goes on thinking that… until one day it might actually fall silent and allow a profound recognition that without all its interpretations and opinions about everything under the sun, life is actually very sweet – much sweeter than it was with a mind saying that “this is good” and “this is bad,” “it sucks to grow old,” or (the battle cry of all humanity) “this should not be!”

The following is a snippet from an article written by Roger Ebert’s wife, after his death:

“The one thing people might be surprised about—Roger said that he didn’t know if he could believe in God. He had his doubts. But toward the end, something really interesting happened. That week before Roger passed away, I would see him and he would talk about having visited this other place. I thought he was hallucinating. I thought they were giving him too much medication. But the day before he passed away, he wrote me a note: “This is all an elaborate hoax.” I asked him, “What’s a hoax?” And he was talking about this world, this place. He said it was all an illusion. I thought he was just confused. But he was not confused. He wasn’t visiting heaven, not the way we think of heaven. He described it as a vastness that you can’t even imagine. It was a place where the past, present, and future were happening all at once.”

This vastness Ebert described isn’t in some other place. It’s right here, right now, available to be recognized by anyone, anytime, in an instant. That we miss this vastness is because we live almost entirely in the confines of the thinking mind. (The thinking mind is useful, of course, but when it never shuts up, there is no opportunity to experience this vastness, the “peace that passeth all understanding.”)

In this day and age there are end-of-life considerations that weren’t required in the past – and still aren’t in some cultures. But in western culture, in our ‘modern civilization’, aging, illness, dying and death have become an industry. So much so that our medical institutions are capable of keeping old people alive long past what would be considered humane (were they a beloved pet). In this, we are displaying an incredible ignorance about what it really means to be alive.

So, in case someone reads this and isn’t aware of this little tidbit of information: Advance Directives are legal documents that determine (to some degree) what happens to your body when you are on your last legs, so to speak, and are no longer able to communicate your desires. You might have a Living Will and all the forms you think you’ll need to be properly cared for during your last days. But if you don’t have Advanced Directives, things may not go as you had hoped (or planned) for them to go. End of life considerations Advance Directives allow your loved ones to know just how you want to be cared for, and give them the ability to back up their requests (to do, or not do, certain things with you) with the medical authorities – who might otherwise, at great expense, plug you in, shove a feeding tube down your throat, poke needles into your veins and fill you with fluids until there is only a shell of a human body taking up space in a bed.

Last but not least I will add this wish for you: if you find yourself in that situation – or a loved one ends up sitting by the bed day after day as your blessed body fades to nothing – may you, and they, be able to surrender to the situation, to touch into that vastness and not be imprisoned by a mind at war with what is.

Bowing…

what remains?

When all around you is falling apart, what remains whole? When the mind’s madness will have you believe that what is, is unacceptable and must be changed, what remains accepting, sane? When pain and grief and sadness seem your constant companions, even as those feelings come and go, what remains constant? When you feel overwhelmed or unloved, what remains love itself – untouched by those transient feelings? When you are certain you cannot possibly deal with what appears in your life, what is always present – with you / within you – embracing every unfolding moment?

Even as this whole, sane, constant, untouched presence may never be noticed by you as you place your attention everywhere but on it – it remains. Just because you think that you can’t see or sense it doesn’t mean it isn’t here. It’s always here. It was never born and never dies. It does not arise, nor does it leave. It has no where ‘other’ to go, has nothing ‘else’ to do. Call it God or Consciousness, the Holy Spirit or Universal Love – the name is irrelevant – this presence That You Are cannot be defined by words alone.

go for the gold

Buddha Quote

The profundity of this statement is lost on all who remain angry, depressed, insecure and afraid because they believe the thoughts that give rise to such feelings. Meditation is a useful tool to help one come to the realization that there is nothing to fear (more accurately there is actually no one to be afraid).

Ramana Maharshi’s form of inquiry – asking oneself, “Who Am I?” – and Scott Kiloby’s Natural Rest and Living Inquiries are also useful tools to get to the root ‘problem’ – a busy mind that believes all that it says. One cannot stop the mind, but only learn to witness it in action without judgment to finally experience the joy of its eventual silence in the face of inquiry and, ultimately, no attention to its demands. In silence one discovers freedom from anger, depression, insecurity, and fear of death.

Don’t seek silence. The one who seeks it will never find it. Instead, let that seeker within you NOTICE where attention is: on the busy mind, or the gaps of silence between all the thoughts and images generated by that busy mind. Those gaps are gold. Go for the gold.

every moment sparkles with freshness

Bee pollinating flowerMost of us don’t realize that we’re not actually in control of our lives… nor of anything at all. The very thought of being out of control causes alarms to sound in our heads, accompanied by a physical sense of dread and panic. But ‘That’ which is in control of our body is the same ‘That’ which is in control of the body of a loved one or neighbor, the birds flying overhead and the bees that pollinate the flowers, the grass in the fields and the evergreens in the forest. ‘That’ creative, animating force animates ALL.

The thinking mind can’t grasp this fact, and never will. But when it ceases believing that it can understand, when it gives up trying to have, or BE in control, then ‘That’ which is in control reveals itself in glorious clarity. Every moment sparkles with freshness, decisions arise spontaneously, life unfolds without resistance or effort.

Blessed is the dawning realization of this paradox: What we think we are is utterly insubstantial and illusory; what we truly are is powerful and real beyond measure or comprehension.

you cannot know…

You can project “into the future” all you want, imagine various paths that might be available to you, possible scenarios that might unfold, outcomes that might transpire. But the truth is this:

You cannot ever know what lies ahead.
The future does not exist outside of your thinking about it.
You can only know what is, in this moment, as it is.
And that is all the knowing you need.