Living a spiritual life

Coo Coo Ca Choo

We talk about spiritual experiences, we talk about spiritual awakening, and we talk about the differences between spiritual experiences and a spiritual awakening. We talk about different forms of meditation, and we talk about non-duality and oneness and how it’s impossible to talk about non-duality and oneness without revealing hidden tells of separateness and duality.

We all have our little takes on all the different terms of spirituality.

We think we know, but we don’t know what we don’t know. Or, we think we don’t know, but we actually know and just don’t know we know.

There’s nothing like spiritual confusion over the cornucopia spiritual terms.

In the end, it’s all spiritual. While it seems we can’t help but stumble, in reality we can’t help but find oneness – because oneness is all we have. Oneness is all there is.

Let the battles rage over New Age versus New Thought, Lao Tzu versus Confucius, Hindu versus Zen, The Grateful Dead versus the Moody Blues, Alan Ginsberg versus Ram Das, Richard Alpert versus Timothy Leary.

In the end, John Lennon said it best: I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. Coo coo ca choo.

Most creative people have experienced the sensation that they were being used as a tool by something outside themselves. So many times I’ve heard the exclamation, “Whoa, where did that come from?” Whether it’s a piece of writing, music or visual art, some of the effort seems to comes from another place.

As a writer I’ve experienced the sensation countless times. In prose, it can come in the form of seeing insights on the paper that I didn’t know I had. In poetry, whole portions, sometimes the entire poem will show up seemingly out of nowhere. The phenomenon is often called inspiration.

I went through a year-long period where I tried to conjure that flow daily. I would lie in bed with a pencil and a pad of paper and try writing with no idea what might show up. Sometimes something showed up, sometimes nothing showed up, but the meditative process was very satisfying.

As I moved forward in spirituality, I began to gain a different understanding of the phenomenon that is so common in creativity. Maybe the work wasn’t coming from somewhere else. Maybe it was coming from the true self, the connected self. Maybe the “other” was the self holding the pencil in hopes of something showing up.

The uninspired thinker – the me, the ego – is the really the strange part of the equation, not the inspiration. The inspiration is what’s natural, what’s true, what’s real, and what lasts. The thinking me, the ego me, will go away at some point, leaving only the connected self, the inspired self that knows exactly what needs to be said and exactly how to say it.

Just to Be Here

Just to be here is all the reason. Just to be here is all of your breath. To be apparent and to be aware. Aware of just being here.

You have seen to it, and you have seen how. Just to be close to it. And then it envelops you.

For a long time you were not sure you were here. You thought you were someplace dangerous that repelled you. You were not fit for where you were, and you couldn’t find anywhere else. When you can’t find anywhere else, there is nowhere else.

You were here all along and didn’t know it.

When you awoke and found yourself here, your sails billowed with freshwater air; your ship finally came about. You pick the metaphor.

There is nowhere else to be but here, and you were here all along. You were here even when you were lost. For you have always been here.

There is nothing to say about it, and so I am saying nothing about it. There, I said nothing.

Yet everything is here, right here.

Just to be here is the reason. Just to be here is home. Just to be here is the escape from death. Here is where death has come to rest.

This is where you have come to rest. This is where you are revitalized. This is where you can find what you were searching for all this time, even when you didn’t know you were searching.

This is for you. This is where you meet your everyone. This is where you meet your self. This is where you bid your self farewell.

This is where the inside reacquaints itself with the inside. This is where you knew you were headed all these years. And now you are finally here.

A Vacation from the Self

A vacation is a time of respite, recharging, and reflection – a time to shift from the laptop to the whitewater rapids. For my daughter and me, last week was a time to leave the gold-brown hills of New Mexico for the dripping green ponderosa pine and white-barked aspens of Colorado’s western slope. A road trip for dad and daughter.

Most of all, it was a vacation from the self.

The self owns the working week and the self runs the weekend. Needs, obligations, and commitments. Chores, connections, and meetings. This is how we live, this is how we serve, this is how we grow. This is our life as we take care of each other, serve the needs of those who need, and practice the reaching out again and again.

The self is the thread that runs through it all even when we’re unselfish. The energy is not mine, the energy flows through me. I’m the one who must put myself to the work, to call on the powers that I don’t possess, and direct them to the good at hand. Not my good, but the good at hand.

I’m the one who must caution all that is yearning to go haywire. As I put my shoulder to the work – with energy I’m able to muster from some place not me – I’m the one who wonders if it’s me that yearns for chaos and collapse even while I work to keep things steady.

And so, a vacation from the self. I’m with my daughter, but this week, I’m not dad. We’re equal beings in this astonishing world. We’re in the green, skin glistening with the morning mist of the high mountains, amazed we’re here at all, tossing stones into a glassy lake and listening to the crisp splash thunder across these granite hills.

A friend of mine was suffering – old wounds from childhood violence were opening. The pain she said was unbearable.

I told her I understand. I do understand. She was absorbed in the details, and in those details, what she experienced has never happened to anyone before. Nothing has happened to anyone before.

I understand that. I stayed in her presence and she stayed in her pain, not understanding how there can be so much pain.

I wanted to tell her, “You are not who you think you are.”

I wanted to say, “You are something else.”

I wanted to say, “You are the one who sees the one who suffers.”

I wanted to say, “You are not the one who suffers.”

I decided to not want.

I stayed in her presence, and her pain began to subside. The pain will return, perhaps less strong if she is willing to stay in the pain and feel it again. But who knows, maybe stronger.

I wanted to tell her, “The pain is not yours. It’s just pain.”

I decided to not want.

I am not the one who wants. I am not the one who decides.

The pain is hers, and the pain is mine, and the pain is alive in the one who suffers.

She is not the one who suffers, and I am not the one who wants or decides.

The pain is an instant, the pain is an endless road, the pain is a memory of a person who once lived but lives no longer. The pain is the entire world, and the world is nothing.

 

 

What time is it? It’s now. What times is it now? It’s still now. How about now?

Everything is now. Life seems linear. We’re young and then we’re older, and then we’re older yet. Or so it seems. That’s the story we live by. But in reality, the past doesn’t exist and the future doesn’t exist.

I’ve often thought our lives may be like the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five. In the tale, Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. He continually shifts from one moment in his life to another with no apparent reason. One day he’s a boy, then he finds himself in mid-life, and then he’s a child.

Vonnegut may have been on to something about how we actually live our lives – in a scattershot of time rather than a linear progression. Yesterday, I may have been five. Today I’m in mid-life. The only continuity is now. Right here, now.

When I was a teenager – which may have been yesterday – a friend challenged the notion that we die. He was unconvinced. I said, “Of course we die.”

He shook his head and asked, “Have you died?”

I replied, “Not yet.”

He said, “Then how do you know you’re going to die? You think you’re going to die because people told you you’re going to die, right?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“How do they know you’re going to die?”

“Everybody dies,” I replied.

He laughed. “That’s just what you’ve been told, but you haven’t died. So you don’t know?”

At the time I thought it was a crazy conversation. Yet it haunted me. Now it doesn’t haunt me because I’ve come to see what he meant. All I’ve known is a constant now. I believe in the now, and what’s there to believe in anything else?

 

Paul McCartney tells an interesting story about the writing of “Hey Jude,” one of the Twentieth Century’s great love songs. Shortly after he wrote it, he played the tune for his songwriting partner, John Lennon. When he came to the line, “The movement you need is on your shoulder,” he said, “I’ll fix that bit.” Lennon asked why, and McCartney answered “It’s a stupid expression; it sounds like a parrot.”

At the time, McCartney thought the line was filler that needed refining. Ever the great song craftsman, McCartney knew awkward when he heard it.

Per McCartney’s telling, Lennon’s response was, “You won’t be changing that, you know. That’s the best line in the song.” So McCartney left the line in the song, and to this day, he says he thinks of Lennon when he sings that line.

Many years later, McCartney was asked what he believes the line means. He responded that it means we have the wherewithal to face and overcome life’s challenges. Bingo. And maybe the most awkward line ever in a great song is also its most meaningful line.

The line could be translated to: what we need is within us. “Hey Jude” is my favorite love song. It’s also the favorite song of my 18-year-old daughter, and she loves all of the contemporary music. “Hey Jude” is a song of immense hope and encouragement that transcends time and place.

The final answer to the song’s insistence on turning to love and away from fear is that we have what we need to “take a sad song and make it better.” It’s on our shoulder.

Great song, great line, awkward though it may be.

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