During this changing of the seasons, I thought it appropriate to share a letter from long ago, from a sannyasin or monk of the Ramakrishna Order to a student in California.
Letter excerpted from the book, Spiritual Treasures: Letters of Swami Turiyananda (edited by Swami Chetanananda).
I hope you enjoy, and enjoy the season.
17 February 1914
The life of renunciation is the only life that can make us truly happy. No other life can ever do so. It is certain that one day we shall have to give up everything whether we want to or not. It is much better to give it up gladly and freely before we are compelled to do so. But if one cannot do that, the next best course is to turn everything over to Mother and abide by her decree. Know her to be the only guide in life under all conditions. Pleasure and pain pass away. They do not last long. We gather knowledge through experience; and by not identifying ourselves with pain or pleasure we gain freedom. Be always content with what Mother ordains. She knows what is best for us. Such a life also brings peace and consolation; and then the world can do us no harm.
You are Mother's children; you need not be afraid of the world. Be devoted to her and she will take care of you. She alone is Real. All else is vanity and vexation. Did not Jesus say, 'What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose is own soul?' Mother is the Soul of our souls. If we have her we no longer care much for the things of this world.
The world goes on its way and will continue to do so for all eternity. But he who sees Mother in everything and knows for certain that it is all her play will have rest for his soul and peace within. May we see her hand and guidance in everything. May she bless us.
Yours in the Mother,
The subject of this post, I find this to be so important for living, to not try, to not try as we might normally do, to be able to surrender to these moments, for it is in them we find renewal from the efforts we would normally expend, from whatever we have set out trying to do, to spend perhaps wasted energy on moments better spent in this mystery.
We are renewed and made whole in these moments.
We may find answers we were not expecting or awaiting.
We cannot carry on in life without this mystery or what it represents.
Why not honor that which we do not know, or partially know, as if hidden in veils, rather than struggle with the shock of ignorance or cluelessness that continues and always surfaces as a part of life?
Surrender, and honor this mystery.
We may give it names, but the mystery remains, and so shall we, in more peace, in more alignment with our path as we give mystery its proper place and due.
(In the spirit of mystery, I have simplified this site once again, hiding a few menu items, but keeping their references, or at least the elements of their spirit, in these posts.)
Although I had originally intended this blog post to be a recurring one which I would update as the global virus continued to make its impact on the world, I have decided I do not want to continue updating it like that, which would make it always be the entry on top of all others.
I realize in addition to what I've shared below that the fear generated by the virus has had some impact on my life and approach to living it.
In the spirit of enjoying the spring more now, being informed about the goings-on of the world, but not letting specific information about it influence me as it has, I am just going to share my thoughts below as a single blog post, complete unto itself.
Without updating it further, here are my initial thoughts.
I see what is happening as a doorway to true knowledge.
What do I mean by true knowledge? I mean that by which we know all other knowledge. I mean that by which the world shimmers and shines in a way which does not posses us, with craving, with need, with lack, with desire, with anything that grabs hold and becomes a tyrant of need in itself, needing to be fed, or nurtured, or placated, or given energy to, other than just allowing it to be itself, seen as the background of all we experience, seen as the other side of the doorway which has been opened, and continues to be open wider for us, for the time being.
The virus and its fears, which we find hard not to feed, become an opportunity to let go, as we try and cling to previous notions and ways of being, which may ultimately have not been serving us. We find, with perhaps not much effort at all, a way to glimpse what it is like to not have so many complications or created ideas, of what to do, of what we need to do, of what we think we need to do, so many notions.
The doorway becomes a relief from modern life, a relief from the struggles and efforts that may have ultimately been in vain, or perhaps truly are when seen in the light of how life unfolds and ultimately ends.
What really becomes important to you? What do you see as the doorway opens and ways and thoughts of being and living come to an end, if mostly only temporarily now?
What opportunity do you have which may not be so open again, to tap into a more clear and less troubled way, of peace, within peace, dipped in peace, the stillness of this night, from hustle and bustle, of busyness and all its ways.
What opportunity just waits there, coolly waiting, warmly waiting, to touch your face, reach your hand, perhaps embrace your soul, and let you feel a different way of living?
The doorway awaits you right there.
Truly living life.
Step in, and you'll see.
Recently I came across a couple of passages, one each in a couple of books, which reminded me of my intention to more outrightly speak to my spiritual understandings in the work I do, to share with you that I certainly offer spiritual guidance in what I do.
In actuality, it informs all I do, and I want to share that with you.
I know, and want you to as well.
From the 1994 book by Vine Deloria, Jr., God is Red: "The severance of medicine and psychology from religion has only been a recent event in the histories of religious people."
Introduction by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos to the 2013 book by Laleh Bakhtiar, Rumi's Original Sufi Enneagram: "From its inception through the events of the so-called Enlightenment that occurred in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, modern psychology has fundamentally repudiated its roots in the spiritual domain."
I feel this and know this, and believe those passages to be true, and am careful in what I take in with modern psychology, what I may apply from it, never dismissing what helps from it in the process, but having an understanding considered spiritual as my foundation, that will always be my guide, and helps in my guidance of others.
My understanding, ironically, seems to be beyond any sense of me, but there is no way to prove this except to point to this experience of understanding or suggest ways to experience this yourself.
Understanding, real understanding, comes from a place deeper than we can be taught, so again, providing words and guidance to this understanding, using these very words, helps in trying to uncover this for you, but does not do it alone.
I cannot get outside of this limited sense of self, or remove it from your experiencing, when trying to communicate that there is something outside of us that preciously exists and is there for us.
Conceptually, you will always, or can always, take note that here is one person sharing his thoughts in the form of words, so how can I ultimately know that what this person says is not limited to this one person and this person's view?
Precious. Everything. God. Jesus. Kali. Buddha, with Heart and Mind. Tantric journeying. Not Neo-Tantra. Space. Peace. Love that just is. Insanity without. Sanity with, and beyond.
Behind all the work I do, I am led by a different understanding, a different reality, that to me has become the most precious understanding anyone can ever come to know.
I often involve others in creating space for themselves, and in this space, the fruits of this understanding emerge. They start to come forth, whatever descriptors or words you want to use about or around them.
Meditation thins the ego to the shimmering half-reality that it is. This undercuts all reality as we know it in everyday life. If we all perceive through an ego, then what to see beyond this, when it starts to thin?
This is what has always been and will be.
If psychology simply addresses the concerns of the reality known as ego, then this is a never-ending journey for lack of success. We want wholeness, in our bones, experienced, dare I say, in our souls.
Answers are beyond the ego; are beyond the ego.
If you think a brick wall with the thought of sunlight behind it is the reality you are working with psychologically, is the reality you are working towards in your process, and you never question the necessity or reality of the brick wall to begin with, then perhaps this is a crude way to describe to you the fruitlessness of psychologically working with only ego, or even ego so much as a reality in itself.
I am saying and always trying to share that the sunlight beyond this brick wall always is, always will be, and our thoughts of our own brick wall are part of the problem, maybe even the very problem itself, in reaching for this understanding.
What if I were to say to you that the brick wall has never been there like you thought it was, or may not have ever been there in the first place?
This is where psychology honors or begins to honor the roots of itself.
This is where you find that place of peace and deeper understanding within you, beginning to go down this path.
When working with others, I am not sure I can ever uncover a better reality or truth together with you.
I am offering this post as a comfort for times of discontentment and difficulty. I am sharing my understandings for what I feel I know, to a large extent, reality to be. If you find yourself relating to these descriptions, then take comfort. You have been brushing with reality, or ultimate reality, and you may not have even known it.
This post presupposes an underlying layer of the universe which helps make up all of its parts, its possibilities, its every conception conceived of or yet to be conceived. You may call it truth, reality, God, or simply the universe even.
Does there exist an unchanging background to all we see and experience, can experience? Does it provide value to speculate on this, think about it, or come up with reasons for seeking such an understanding in the first place?
Let me share my understanding of what this reality may be, or is even. Then I may elaborate on the value of this, or let this come to you through your own considerations.
If we conceive of an ultimate reality, one which underlies all we experience, then for me I have not found a better explanation for this than in Hindu thought and philosophy, namely, in Advaita Vedanta, as put forth by Swami Vivekananda, in alignment with his teacher, Sri Ramakrishna.
What follows has been shaped largely by their understandings.
First, let us take up the consideration of this world, where we experience the phenomena of the senses, this world which we may consider to be our most easily understood version of reality.
Vedanta calls this a world of duality, a reality of duality, not ultimate reality, which I will refer to later.
We know everything in the context of at least one other thing. We see because one thing is next to another. If it were not, how could we see it to begin with, because then we would experience seeing only one thing?
We smell something in the absence of that smell in what came before, and another smell, or the lack of that first smell, occurs in what comes after.
Whether you speak of before or after in an experience of time, or in an experience of any of the five senses, there has to be a different experience before and after the experience occurring, or else there would be no experience at all to begin with.
Take the example of touching someone's arm: there is a moment of time before you are touching and experiencing this person's arm; there is the experience of touching this person's arm; and then there is the experience after you have touched this person's arm when you are no longer touching it. You need the experience of not touching it to begin with to experience the actual touching of it at all.
This illustrates how an experience of before and after sets up these two types of experiences, the experience of touching, and not touching, and how the experience of touching cannot exist without the experience of not touching before it.
All experiences depend on this duality, if you will, of time-related experiencing. We cannot have one experience without the experience of its absence as well, or without another and different experience being experienced right before or after the experience we are referring to.
We experience phenomena because there are different ones to experience, not just because there is no experience and then there is one. We know black because we know other colors besides black. We need just one other color to be experienced to be able to experience seeing the color black. If there were no other color to be experienced, ever, then we would not experience black, because there would be no understanding of color to begin with, and we would not be able to experience seeing anything different.
If you think about any one of the five senses and any possible experience of it, you will find that any single experience of that sense depends on the absence of that experience, or the experience of something different with that same sense right before that experience.
This then becomes the explanation of living in a world of duality, a reality in which nothing alone can said to be all-pervasive or eternal, in which nothing can be experienced which does not rely on another experience to begin with.
Where does it all come from though? Does this seem a valid question? What would an ultimate reality underneath all reality be like?
If an ultimate reality were to be speculated, it would seem to me to be not dependent on any other. No other experience should be required for it to be there.
In other words, ultimate reality is non-dual, without duality.
Qualities you may experience when reaching this understanding: your sense of self disappears, you are dissolving experience away from a separation of yourself and that which is experienced, one form of duality--you are beginning to lose a sense of separate identity as you approach this ultimate experience of reality underlying it all; your sense of time disappears, you are experiencing reality not dependent on another, where no sequencing of before or after is required since you are approaching the one experience all-pervasive, by definition one without a second, no time required for two or dual experiences; your sense of worldly concern vanishes, you experience that which allows all reality to be, where you are not present and time no longer matters, or exists--in your experiencing of this, ironically when your sense of self is not there, you are not separate from anything or anyone, you experience truth underlying and informing all existence, existence that ever was, will be, or is.
Meditation helps bring you to this understanding, and if you take notice of or recollect past meditations, you may find these qualities having been there or started to emerge.
Devotion to your own understanding of your higher power, or God, or even some general sense of the universe, which we may emotionally feel a connection to within ourselves, devotion can play a role in bringing us to these experiences of dissolving into something greater than ourselves, beyond us.
Reasoning, as briefly begun above, or even in the realms of science, quantum physics coming to mind, our minds are our pathways to these experiences of such an understanding as well.
I believe in these experiences. I have had these experiences.
I imagine that you at some point have come across these experiences in your own life too.
These are what set us on a different path of living life.
These are what give us glimpses of ourselves beyond the everyday world, of limited duality.
I think the value in all of this, you can come to explore.
I know the value in all of this informs the work I do.
May they ever be of comfort and of curiosity, such non-dual experiencing for you.
I consider this a follow-up to my previous post, where I spoke of darkness and light being a key to fuller understanding of oneself. They are the negative and positive aspects of and range of experiences of oneself, both within and without us, or outside of us.
When darkness occurs, when we experience what may be called a negative experience, we may be quick to shut off and shut down the memory and recollection of what happened. Much of this may be natural for psychological reasons, for containing a sense of self in the face of a perceived or real threat to what happened.
I spoke of embracing the mystery of life, allowing it to unfold naturally, or more naturally, as a way to work with the darkness of experiences, and by inference, the darkness of oneself.
When a negative experience occurs, part of us will always or naturally be led to wanting to understand more fully what happened, and to know why, what are the reasons it occurred.
We can come to understanding ourselves in relation to what occurred, but to understand beyond this, I might suggest the approach of embracing the mystery of life, of embracing the mystery of what occurred.
For me, and for I believe the experiential reality of others, life seems to expand and resonate more richly, be full of more light, and begin to be full of possibilities again, if we are able to allow the unknown of life, the unknown about why anything might have occurred, if we are able to get in the spirit, allow the spirit, of the vastness of the universe to be with us, as if looking at the night stars, away from city lights, into the seemingly infinite blackness of the starscape before us, where we feel small, but somehow comforted, knowing our place in the universe in this way, feeling content within ourselves, allowing a resonating and perhaps vibrating sense of energy within and with the universe, ourselves feeling peaceful and curious, perhaps spiritual and connected, not without alignment with what we see, feeling a part of this vastness, full of its space and perhaps uncommon beauty.
Darkness, in ourselves, in events that occur, contains a natural beauty, but only in the context of letting go into the unknown, into the unknown of why anything might have occurred, into the unknown where answers are not forthcoming, but we are able to tap into an understanding beyond the event, larger than the event itself, where we may get our self-referential answers of understanding, where we may feel embraced by a loving universe, the comfort and nurturing presence of it being felt as there, being felt as always there.
We are embraced in the vastness of the universe in these moments.
This we can know.
Some may align more, or try to, with the cold light of truth.
I feel it is time to speak of the love of the unknown of the darkness, however, of the love of the ongoing mystery of life, where we can feel out the answers, come to an understanding, where what we can know may never be enough for a rational and searching mind, but we can rest easy and at peace in knowing ourselves in the context of this larger scale of understanding.
We are embraced in the universe, in the night, peace, and darkness of it, in the unknown of it, where the answers of whether we are supported or not, of whether we have a place in it or not, become revealed as the mystery unfolds.
We do have a place in it, each and every one of us, but this does not come from knowing all the answers.
We must proceed unknowingly, trustingly, allowing the ever enveloping mystery of life, of the universe, to unfold. We will not know a love, on both this intimate and vastness of scale, if we do not.
Embracing the mystery of life, we allow the universe to unfold.
Sitting where I usually sit to do a certain meditation every now and then, I spied two cardinals out the back window on a slanted beam of the deck. They seemed to be playfully with one another, one of them seemingly feeding or pecking into the mouth of the other.
Standing up to confirm whether it was a couple, as in mating or mated birds, I did indeed see the colored male cardinal, and the more neutral-colored female cardinal.
In this meditation, I always hope to, and usually do in some way, uncover that sense of connection to what I believe in about life, what I know of it, a spirit of life that nourishes, contains a true peace, feels full of possibility, and has an exchange of love with me in all of these areas.
I did begin to feel this just as the two cardinals alighted on the beam.
I thought this fitting, as I confirmed it was a playful couple, and was smiling as I intuited a sense about this: whenever we are just relaxed and enjoying our connection to life, feeling a love about it, this is not unlike a subtle but present feeling of a give-and-take, a subtle exchange between the universe and ourselves, between life and who we are.
Everything became or was all right in those moments.
That is what I hope from the meditation each time.
That is what I hope for you, for each of us.
We can find our moments of relaxed peace and love.
As summer starts heading into fall, maybe we can start to thoughtfully set some time aside to allow these moments to happen.
As winter approaches, it may feel good to stretch into this time of year, lean into it, feel its quietness, solitude, and peacefulness, such peace.
I encourage you to find solace in the silence, make that happen for yourself this time of year.
I am including many inspirational quotations about silence below.
True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.
Silence is the true friend that never betrays.
An inability to stay quiet is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind.
Silence is a source of great strength.
Silence is the universal refuge....
~Henry David Thoreau
Accustomed to the veneer of noise ... society is suspicious of those who value silence.
I have often lamented that we cannot close our ears with as much ease as we can our eyes.
In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.
Silence is a fence around wisdom.
Silence is as deep as eternity; speech, shallow as time.
Silence is medication for sorrow.
Silence was never written down.
Silence is exhilarating at first - as noise is - but there is a sweetness to silence outlasting exhilaration, akin to the sweetness of listening and the velvet of sleep.
Nature and silence go better together.
You can hear the footsteps of God when silence reigns in the mind.
~Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Not merely an absence of noise, Real Silence begins when a reasonable being withdraws from the noise in order to find peace and order in his inner sanctuary.
Silence is more musical than any song.
Nothing is more useful than silence.
~Menander of Athens
Silence is a sounding thing, to one who listens hungrily.
Silence is the mother of truth.
Her hearing was keener than his, and she heard silences he was unaware of.
We must have reasons for speech but we need none for silence.
Silence is the secret to sanity.
There are times when silence has the loudest voice.
Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.
~Margaret Lee Runbeck
Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mark Newlon, feeling the embrace of the sacred feminine daily!
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