“Stop thinking, and end your problems….I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.”
[excerpt Lao Tzu, Tao Te Chin, verse 20]
A Cup of Tea
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
How often have you experienced a revelation, had an “aha” moment or had a new or startling thought? It is absolutely necessary to empty the mind (take out the trash?) regularly in order to create space, most importantly, to just be a being. A being doesn’t need thought to be. It simply is. An infant doesn’t need to learn how to be or to think about being.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about
Genesis 2 says that God created Adam out of the dust of the
earth. World myths (Greek, Sumerian, Egyptian, Chinese, Babylonian, Hindu,
Maori, Inca, etc.) depict people, male and/or female made from clay. Even
Wonder Woman was sculpted out of clay by her mother Hyppolita! A Jewish Talmudic legend portrays Adam as a golem (clay figure–a body without a soul) for
the first 12 hours of his existence.
It is safe to say that we all have proverbial “feet of clay” even before we left the Garden of Eden. If we were already clay or dust were we of heaven or of earth?
A long time ago I surmised that the
reason we Earth beings left the Garden of Eden was because the divine actually wanted
us to go—a reason and a purpose. Perhaps we had developed enough that it was
time; or perhaps we hadn’t developed enough and needed a challenge course for
So, as the Genesis 2& 3 goes, an apple tree was planted in the midst of other fruit trees in Eden and the young’uns were told you can eat the fruit of any tree except the fruit of the tree of knowledge. As any parent knows, if you put something where the child will regularly encounter it and then say, “don’t touch”, the temptation is irresistible. But even then Adam and Eve didn’t eat the fruit, so a serpent had to be devised to seduce them. And, voila! Success! Humans who lived in an eternal state of BEING fell into BECOMING. Birth, biography, death.
“What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good?”
A Course in Miracles
Not knowing its source, I kept that quote on my refrigerator for years so that I would see it often. And, because I am aware that BEING is “One”, I concluded that I was an integral part of the planning.
“Is willing to accept that she creates her own reality except for some of the parts where she can’t help but wonder what the hell she was thinking.”
Story People, Almost New Age
Is our world is a virtual reality of our own design? This idea is closely aligned with the ancient spiritual tradition of India that we are living in “maya” (roughly translated as “illusion”). There is the beautiful maya of the natural world that is there to appreciate it and to meditate on its many mysteries, to teach us and help us grow spiritually. But it is the human maya that becomes our role play—our charade–and leads us into believing that this Earth life is our only true identity. However, it is not. It is a merely temporary reality.
: “Reality is an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
Any cursory exploration of quantum mechanics reveals that modern Western science has met ancient Eastern tradition.
Wordsworth captured this knowledge and the inevitable destiny of ego development in Ode on Intimations of Immortality. An excerpt:
“Being is always there; it is what we are in the most fundamental way”. –
A. H. Almaas, The Pearl Beyond Price
I see no reason why spiritual awareness or self-realization must be incompatible with a personal human life or that being an ordinary human, flaws and all, must be a hindrance to self-realization as an illumined human. Embracing humanness may very well be essential to spiritual awakening.
There was three year old child who kept insisting that she had to be alone with her newborn sibling. The parents, concerned that the older child through sibling rivalry or just lacking awareness might harm the infant, refused the request. But the child kept asking, insisting over and over again on time alone with the infant. Finally, relenting, the parents stationed themselves outside the closed door, having set up video and sound monitors in the room. Not being a religious family, imagine their surprise when they saw their daughter lean over the crib, put her head close to the infant’s head, and say:
“Please tell me about God. I’m starting to forget.”
Most people cannot remember anything prior to age three. Sense of self, or self-concept, is something that develops with time and experience. Children become self-conscious (showing signs of embarrassment or shyness) around age two to three. Also until around the age of three the child often doesn’t understand the concept of “I” and speaks in the third person (e.g. “Sharon want toy”).
The splendid innocence of the infant is that physical birth marks only its bodily separateness but not its differentiated psychological self. Over time the personality evolves through enculturation, experience and increasing levels of choice into a separate sense of itself—a self-concept. Self is constructed. As that self continues to grow and become stronger, it creates a kind of amnesia of the Essential Being, its spiritual home. Veils descend that allow the ego to assert and sustain itself.
Time & Space: Relative Existence
Many who have experienced a near-death experience report that time does not seem to apply to reality. As one experiencer, Jeanie Dicus, put it, “Before we’re born, we have to take an oath that we will pretend time and space are real so we can come here and advance our spirit. If you don’t promise, you can’t be born.”
The tale of Er in Plato’s Republic gives us the image of souls returning to Earth drinking from the River Lethe (Lee-thee), the “River of Forgetfulness” that ran through the caves of Hypnos, so that they would forget from whence they came. The implication of the Greek myth is that we are hypnotized out of remembering our true nature so that we can adopt a new human identity. This would suggest that developing that identity is actually important.
Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity explains that time is subjective. An amusing anecdote, wrongly attributed to him, is supposed to explain this theory:
“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”
While this is relatable and generally subjectively true, in this case time has not changed at all, only the perception of it is different, as can be measured by a clock.
The actual theory is that in the space-time continuum time does not move or flow. All of time is now. Time just IS; and passage of time is a result of limited human awareness.
“People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”.
Albert Einstein, 1955
If the spiritual world is timeless, the physical world is not. Not only is time called into question but so is space or locality. We have an awareness of solidity, and yet we are both wave and particle. We occupy a location, but exist in a quantum state of non-local entanglement. Another way to say this is that we merely appear to be here. There are fundamental contradictions between what are scientifically understood as proven realities. The cognitive dissonance that this creates—that existence itself is a paradox—can only be resolved by accepting that two (or more) contradictory realities can and do exist simultaneously.
The material/spatial/temporal world is real. Deal with it. Study it. Understand its laws. Be in it, grow and learn with it. Embrace the experience of being fully human. Later, you will be mature enough to learn that it does not define you.
The spiritual/non-local/timeless world is real. Deal with it. Be with it. Understand that this is a larger, truer you. Your earthly biography, like a story, has a beginning and an end. Don’t believe that the story of you is you. But don’t allow that awareness to prevent you from having a human life.