We tend to spend the whole day chasing our brains. The brain has a to-do list that’s a mile long. Every time you scratch off a completed item – or give up on an item when you realize you’ll never get it done – a new items appear at the bottom of the list.
Then we have to go to the trouble of prioritizing. Item number 14 needs to move up to item one by Tuesday. Suddenly item five has become an crisis. So you do number five at the same time you’re doing item one. Now you’re multi-tasking. And the horror of multi-tasking is that there’s no such thing. You can alternate back and forth between two tasks, but even the most buzzing brain can’t focus on two things simultaneously.
This is how we live our lives. The brain just loves this busyness. And when it’s time to take a break from tasks, we put our brain on the treadmill of media where our thoughts spin endlessly on the hamster wheel of psychic energy. Even sleep doesn’t bring rest as our dreams spin wild.
OK, time to go back to Paul Simon’s lyric: “Slow down you move to fast. You gotta make the moment last.”
There is a moment, and it lasts forever. It’s where your true life takes place. You don’t have to go on vacation or off to the mountains to find peace. Peace exists within you. You are peace. The brain is not you, no matter how much it insists it is.
Let the brain rage on. You can’t stop it. But you can slow down your breathing and realize You Are Here Now. And the You Here Now is peace itself. Nothing fancy. The You Hear Now is everything, and no noisy brain can disturb its eternal peace.
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.
What Do We Want? And why is desire such a tricky guide?
Much of what we experience as desire is actually a yearning for connection, and the only connection that truly satisfies is spiritual connection. We desire something we already have: oneness.
As in the line from the country song goes, we’re looking for love in all the wrong places. We look outside ourselves for that which is inside. The connection we seek has always been inside, and it will always be inside.
Our passions and desires can go off the track so easily. Mine have. I’ve followed passion and desire off many cliffs – bad relationships, substance abuse, overeating. It’s not surprising that 12 step programs insist that the connection to a higher power is essential to overcoming the negative effects of desire gone haywire.
Passion is a powerful human force. Desire keeps us moving when all seems lost. Passion is the beating heart of creativity, the force that drives parents to sacrifice for their children. It is also the fuel that propels massively destructive human behavior, from a single brutality to horrifying wars across the globe. All passion.
The same passion quiets and nourishes when we realize we are not apart, we are not alone, and we are not threatened with annihilation. When that realization is true, the body is put to calm. We awake in peace, go through the day in wonder, and rest easily at night.
For the day is eternal and all our needs are met. We have no needs but connection, and we are always connected. We exist in connection because connection is all there is. There is nothing that is not connection. Our passion – once directed – brings us awake to this simple and eternal truth.
There is a place within where there is no fear and no worry. There is a place that sooths the ragged edge of sorrow and takes away loneliness. A place where pain cannot enter.
Our lives are so easily filled with hand-wringing concerns as we dash from one problem to another, never fully solving the underlying anxiety. The worry and fear just moves from one difficulty to the next.
Some of us try to calm these fears and worries with prescription pills or alcohol. Or we try to extinguish the dark discomfort through escape into TV, into food. Some use sex and emotional attachment to find relief. The respite from the pain feels real, but the rough emotions return as the chemicals wear off or the escape comes to an end. The then darkness comes back stronger.
Some try to face these difficulties straight on, believing that problems are for solving, and to some extent they are. But how can you solve regrets, resentments, or the gnawing feeling that something is not right, that some trouble is about to encompass you?
We were not created to live in endless pain and fear. We are created to live in the realm of happiness, joy and freedom. Deep on our bones we know this. And yet the pain persists, leaving us with the bitter conclusion that happiness us not possible in this broken world. We may come to believe that we are what’s wrong and broken in the world.
From this sad place, it can be hard to let go and find the presence within, that place of wellbeing that is not an escape from life’s tangles but rather a returning to the acceptance and peace that is available to all of us. It is the essence of who we really are.
In the next blog, we’ll look at ways to reach the presence.
I watched a panel discussion on YouTube with Eckhart Tolle and Ram Das that was recorded in October 2011 on Maui. The discussion by was great, but a funny thing happened at the beginning – the first question posed to these NOW gurus was about love.
The response was awkward. You can’t answer a question about love until you define the term, and that’s not easy. Tolle and Ram Das managed to get through the question, but it was not an easy navigation.
Love is such a troublesome word in spirituality – it comes with so much baggage. The notion, “all you need is love,” is fraught with misunderstandings about what love actually is.
So many times I’ve heard this statement by spiritual teachers: “When you strip away everything and get to the core of our true being, what you have is love.” What the heck does that mean?
Spirituality discussions work best with words like acceptance, presence, peace, well-being, or contentment. We have a general notion of what these words mean. Not so with “love.” Part of the problem is that love is commonly used as an action, such as “I love you” or “I feel loved.” Probably the closest synonym for love in spirituality is acceptance.
When you experience oneness, it is often described a feeling of acceptance. There are aspects of “love” that include acceptance, but a mother’s love or a father’s love is not necessarily acceptance. Romantic love with all its varieties, its passion, its insecurities, is rarely experienced as unconditional acceptance. Romantic love nearly always comes with a list of conditions.
When spiritual teachers use the word, love, they usually mean acceptance, for acceptance is a large part of our experience of the presence within.
What is the presence that we feel during spiritual moments? I’ve experienced this presence while using hallucinogens, while meditating, during spiritual meetings, out in the mountains, during marathon runs.
While it’s hard to explain the feeling of a presence, I’ll try. It can feel like a hum that is both inside and outside. A warmth. A sense of well being. Connectedness with – I don’t know – spirit, the divine, whatever you call the ethereal that seems more real than real. Connectedness with everything. Calm. The absence of anxiety. The absence of emotional pain. The absence of fear. Peace.
For many years I only experienced the presence in rare moments. Then, I reached the point when I could feel it pretty much whenever I meditated for more than five or ten minutes. My breathing would reach that place where it didn’t feel like breathing. My thoughts would grow quiet or go away altogether. And I would feel the presence.
For a very long time, I believed I was connecting to spirit (God, higher power, the angels, whatever). For a very long time, the feeling of the presence was proof to myself that the divine is here on earth, at hand, with us, available.
What I came to realize much, much later is that the presence was me. The real me. Not the little me walking around in the world bumping into stuff, hurting and getting hurt. The presence was who I was. Who I was was the presence. Going on and on and on and on.
That ended the intermittence. The presence elongated into everything. You are the presence, and I am the presence, and my dog is the presence, and this laptop is the presence. When I think that something is not the presence, my thoughts are mistaken. And on and on and on and on and on.
Making things simple can take a long time. We have pored over books, attended metaphysical services, classes, and workshops, met with advanced leaders only to discover that we are one with spirit and that spirit is here right now. The only special knowledge we need for that realization is the simple awareness that it’s true.
Be still and know that I am God. Or, be still and know you are one with the presence, and that presence is here now, always, and you cannot help but be one with the presence. There. No more books, no more services. No more classes, no more workshops.
Perhaps not quite so fast. In our daily lives, we can fall into the great forgetfulness. But lucky us, we can wake ourselves up again and again. A friend asked me, “How do you wake up? What’s the process?” We can use whatever brings up to awareness: meditation, prayer, chanting, stopping what we’re doing and paying attention to our surroundings, taking a walk, altering the pace of our breathing.
We experience peace in the wakefulness. I don’t know if our walking-around life gets better as we move to more wakefulness. I like to think it does, but that doesn’t really matter.
We can be of more use to others if we’re more conscious of the presence. In awareness, we can be of more use to ourselves in the world. Thankfully, drama dissipates – both the drama stirred up by our own little selves, and the drama of the world around us.
As we awaken, the world around us calms down. That makes it easier to be still and know that only the presence is real and I am one with the presence.