"Longing" (excerpt) The Seekers by E. Lesser

---Solitaire Miles

Longing is my fuel of choice on the spiritual journey. Spiritual longing is a sort of loneliness for an unknown yet deeply perceived presence. Some call the presence God; some call it peace; some call it consciousness; some call it love. Its source rests in the well of our own hearts. When we slow down, quiet the mind, and allow ourselves to feel hungry for something that we do not understand, we are dipping into the abundant well of spiritual longing. We have grown accustomed to shutting down or blotting out feelings of longing, loneliness, hunger. It's less challenging to feed the hunger with explanations, concepts, or rules (or drugs, food, or drink) than to rest for a while in the depths of the heart's longing. But if we want to open the doors to life's joy and God's peace, we have to learn how to fearlessly explore the full terrain of our human longing…

To give voice to our spiritual longing is to reveal a side of ourselves that we have become skilled at hiding. We may be ashamed to admit that we feel a kind of helplessness—a need for something that we cannot even describe. We may have grown up thinking that we should always be smart or happy or strong, consistently able to deal with the vagaries of life. Therefore, revealing our mysterious longings is unsettling. We don’t want to be seen stumbling around in the wilderness of our own ignorance and meagerness. Nor do we want to come across as innocent or eager in a world that has elevated cynicism to an art form. Instead we pretend to be fine, strong, smart, hip, amused, or disinterested even when we are not. Most of us have become habituated to hiding our weakness and wonder from each other. We construct brilliant masks to wear over our humanness, until we forget the authentic nature of our true face.

The twelfth-century poet Rumi, called this phenomenon the “Open Secret.” In his poetry and prose Rumi writes of the secrets we keep and the veils we wear so others won’t see our foolishness, our pain, our tenderness. Because the big secret we keep is “none over than the condition of our humanness—the ‘full catastrophe’,” as Nikos Kazantzakis’s fictional character Zorba the Greek called it—it is really no secret at all, it is an Open Secret. Visitors from a another planet would be baffled by the way humans behave. Our daily interactions would look to them as a Halloween party does to us: people hiding their true faces in order to look like someone else.

From - The Seekers Guide


Commentary: Lesser’s intuitive assertions are spot-on. To deny what she's stating is to deny breathing! Granted, there are some who are well aware of an occasional journey away from, and denial of reality. Sadly, there are many more who are “clueless in Seattle” when it comes to personal authenticity.

Do think about what she’s pointing to. Over time, wearing masks gets burdensome on the face and the heart. To be free of them is key to our “liberty of thought” and capacity to “live freely.”

—Bei Kuan-tu



The Tao of Forgiveness by Derek Lin

forgiveness copy
---Painting by Sofiya Inger

How Do We Forgive Those Who Have Offended Us?

One day, the sage gave the disciple an empty sack and a basket of potatoes. "Think of all the people who have done or said something against you in the recent past, especially those you cannot forgive. For each of them, inscribe the name on a potato and put it in the sack. "
The disciple came up with quite a few names, and soon his sack was heavy with potatoes.
"Carry the sack with you wherever you go for a week, "said the sage. "We'll talk after that."
At first, the disciple thought nothing of it. Carrying the sack was not particularly difficult. But after a while, it became more of a burden. It sometimes got in the way, and it seemed to require more effort to carry as time went on, even though its weight remained the same.
After a few days, the sack began to stink. The carved potatoes gave off a ripe odor. Not only were they increasingly inconvenient to carry around, they were also becoming rather unpleasant.
Finally, the week was over. The sage summoned the disciple. "Any thoughts about all this?"
"Yes, Master," the disciple replied. "When we are unable to forgive others, we carry negative feelings with us everywhere, much like these potatoes. That negativity becomes a burden to us and, after a while, it festers. "
"Yes, that is exactly what happens when one holds a grudge. So, how can we lighten the load?"
"We must strive to forgive. "
"Forgiving someone is the equivalent of removing the corresponding potato from the sack. How many of your transgressors are you able to forgive?"
"I've thought about it quite a bit, Master," the disciple said. "It required much effort, but I have decided to forgive all of them. "
"Very well, we can remove all the potatoes. Were there any more people who transgressed against you this last week?"
The disciple thought for a while and admitted there were. Then he felt panic when he realized his empty sack was about to get filled up again.
"Master, "he asked, "if we continue like this, wouldn't there always be potatoes in the sack week after week?"
"Yes, as long as people speak or act against you in some way, you will always have potatoes."
"But Master, we can never control what others do. So what good is the Tao in this case?"
"We're not at the realm of the Tao yet. Everything we have talked about so far is the conventional approach to forgiveness. It is the same thing that many philosophies and most religions preach—we must constantly strive to forgive, for it is an important virtue. This is not the Tao because there is no striving in the Tao."
"Then what is the Tao, Master?"
"You can figure it out. If the potatoes are negative feelings, then what is the sack?"
"The sack is . . . that which allows me to hold on to the negativity. It is something within us that makes us dwell on feeling offended. . . . Ah, it is my inflated sense of self importance. "
"And what will happen if you let go of it?"
"Then . . . the things that people do or say against me no longer seem like such
a major issue."
"In that case, you won't have any names to inscribe on potatoes. That means no more weight to carry around, and no more bad smells. The Tao of forgiveness is the conscious decision not just to remove some potatoes, but to relinquish the entire sack."

The Tao

The conventional approach to forgiveness, as the sage points out, is focused on striving. There is a poem by Shenxiu, the Zen monk, that describes this precisely:

Body is the bodhi tree.
Heart is like clear mirror stand
Strive to clean it constantly.
Do not let the dust motes land

It is all about constant, diligent practice. The process never stops, because there will always be more dust falling on the clear mirror. Just when you think you've got it perfectly clean, another speck of dust has landed. The disciple noted that as long as he remained at this level, his sack would never run out of potatoes. Similarly, as long as were stuck in the conventional approach to forgiveness, we'll never run out of transgressors to forgive.

But why is there a mirror for the dust to fall on in the first place? And does
it really need to be there?

The mirror in the poem can represent egoism—an exaggerated sense of conceit and vanity. Although it does not exist as a physical thing, we treat it as such. Our language is full of references to this assumption. We talk about the "bruised" ego, or how the pride is "hurt," or how one's dignity can be "wounded"—as if egoism were part of the body, like a limb or an organ.

And yet egoism is nothing more than a construction of the mind. It springs from the false perception that we are separate and different from others. That sense of separation and difference leads us to skewed comparisons, which in turn lead us to a false conviction of superiority. When this elaborate illusion is under attack, the illusory injuries seem quite real. But as soon as we see through the illusion, it fades away, and so do the damages against it.

This is the basis of the Tao approach to forgiveness. Zen Master Huineng's response to Shenxiu's poem illustrates it perfectly:

Bodhi really has no tree
Nor is clear mirror the stand
Nothing's there initially
So where can the dust motes land?

The mirror doesn't really exist. Although the dust motes keep falling, there is nothing for them to land on or cling to, and there is nothing to wipe clean. Egoism is something we created for ourselves, so it is something we can dismiss with a simple decision. Without egoism there is nothing to bruise, hurt, or wound. Without damages or injuries to the ego, pride, or dignity, there is also nothing to forgive.

This is how the sage transcends beyond the ordinary teachings of forgiveness. By recognizing that the true self can never be hurt, and it is only the false projections of the ego that are damaged by criticisms and insults, we bypass the constant striving to forgive others.

Not many people realize this particular realm of theTao even exists, but once we have truly arrived—absorbed the lesson completely—forgiveness for us will require no effort at all. Forgiving becomes an obsolete and unnecessary action, as this Tao takes us through life with smooth, effortless ease and elegance.


"Myth of Myself" (excerpt) The Tao of Philosophy by Alan Watts

309 Earthling
--309 Earthling by Dracorubio

...Generally speaking, we have two kinds of consciousness. One I will call the "spotlight," and the other the "floodlight." The spotlight is what we call conscious attention, and we are trained from childhood that it is the most valuable form of perception. When the teacher in class says, "Pay attention!" everybody stares, and looks right at the teacher. That is spotlight consciousness; fixing your mind on one thing at a time. You concentrate, and even though you may not be able to have a very long attention span, nevertheless you use your spotlight: one thing after another, one thing after another . . . flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. However, we also have floodlight consciousness. For example, you can drive your car for several miles with a friend sitting next to you, and your spotlight consciousness may be completely absorbed in talking to your friend. Nevertheless, your floodlight consciousness will manage the driving of the car, will notice all the stoplights, the other idiots on the road, and so on, and you will get there safely without even thinking about it.

However, our culture has taught us to specialize in spotlight consciousness, and to identify ourselves with that form of consciousness alone. "I am my spotlight consciousness, my conscious attention; that is my ego; that is me." Although we very largely ignore it, the floodlight consciousness is working all the time, and every nerve ending that we have is its instrument. You can go out to a luncheon and sit next to Mrs. So-and-So, and you go home and your wife asks you, "Was Mrs. So-and-So there?"

"Yes, I sat next to her."
"Well, what was she wearing?"
"Well, I haven't the faintest idea."

You saw, but you did not notice. Now, because we have been brought up to identify ourselves with the spotlight consciousness, and the floodlight consciousness is undervalued, we have the sensation of ourselves as being just the spotlight, just the ego that looks and attends to this and that and the other. So we ignore and are unaware of the vast, vast extent of our being. People, who by various methods become fully aware of their floodlight consciousness, have what is called "a mystical experience," or what the Buddhists call
bodhi, an awakening. The Hindus call it moksha, or liberation, because they discover that the real deep, deep self, that which you really are fundamentally and forever, is the whole of being—all that there is, the works, that is you. Only that universal self that is you has a capacity to focus itself at ever so many different here-and-nows. So, as William James said, "The word T is really a word of position like 'this,' or 'here.'" Just as a sun or star has many rays, so the whole cosmos expresses itself in you and you and you in all the different variations. It plays games: it plays the John Doe game, the Mary Smith game. It plays the beetle game, the butterfly game, the bird game, the pigeon game, the fish game, the star game. These are games that differ from each other just like backgammon, bridge, poker, or pinochle; or like the waltz, mazurka, minuet, and tango. It dances with infinite variety, but every single dance that it does—that is to say, you—is what the whole thing is doing. However, we forget and we do not know who we are. We are brought up in a special way so that we are unaware of the connection, and unaware that each one of us is the works, playing it this way for awhile. So we have been taught to dread death as if it were the end of the show because it will not happen any more.

Therefore we are conditioned to be afraid of all the things that might bring about death: pain, sickness, suffering. If you are not really vividly aware of the fact that you are basically "the works," chances are you have no real joy in life, and you are just a bundle of anxiety mixed in with guilt.




"In the Absence of God/Dwelling the Presence of the Sacred" (Excerpt) by Sam Keen

---"Sacred Mountains" Marina Petro

At first the path leading to an oasis is nearly imperceptible. A slight veering away from the arid landscape and the painful disciplines of self-examination, doubt, and asceticism. A turning toward the promise of transformation— the redolence of green fields and flowering trees coming from a yet-unseen wellspring of life.
The transformation that begins in the desert occurs in the inner spiritual landscape and does not immediately alter the facts of our quotidian existence. A wide variety of metaphors have been used to describe the experience.
It is as if:

the darkness becomes luminous;
we are surprised by joy;
anxiety gives way to courage;
we are healed of our dis-ease;
we are fully alive although we are still destined to die;
our defense mechanisms are disarmed, and we dare
to be vulnerable in a dangerous world; we regain an innocent eye; we are born again; a chrysalis is emerging from the cocoon.

These metaphors of awakening, enlightenment, and metamorphosis point to momentary peak experiences of transcendence. But William James warned us that, while it is notoriously easy to have religious experiences, it is difficult to create a religious life. So, before considering how we craft a religious life by re-owning our elemental emotions, learning to speak in poetic ways about G-d, and practicing justice, we turn our attention to those largely fleeting experiences in which we have premonitions that we are encompassed within a sacred web th; includes all sentient beings. These minor oases are memories of Edenic moments of childhood; a sudden fee of being quickened or enthusiastic (possessed by a god); momentary epiphanies and visions.


I remember a time when my world was magical and every moment was charged with a sense of the numinous. Twice upon a time, long ago and far away, I inhabited a garden of innocent delight and sacred pleasure. Before my fall into Presbyterian religion and modern profanity I lived in a seamless world, with no clear boundaries between time and eternity, self and other, sacred and profane. I was six years old and there was only Now and Forever.

I remember staring into the mirror, seeing the stranger's eyes of my reflected self and asking, "Who are you? Where have you come from? Why are you here?" I knew even then that I, the knower, could never be known to myself.

I remember sitting on my father's lap, secure forever, beyond the realm of death, feeling the vibrations of his rich baritone voice singing "Danny Boy," keeping time with the beat of my heart.

I remember lying on my back outdoors on moonlit summer evenings, watching the endless drift of cloud castles, formed solely for my amusement.

I remember waking on dark nights when the chorus of cicadas was suddenly interrupted by ominous rustling sounds in the backyard. Bears? Burglars? (As it turned out, it was only the insomniac next door, Mr. Traylor, wandering in quest of elusive sleep.)

I remember rearranging rocks in small creeks to produce an elaborate symphony of water music—babble, ripple, gurgle, whoosh.

I remember perfectly ordinary mornings when everything seemed charged with anticipation, a kind of pervasive Christmas spirit, as if some extraordinary surprise awaited me around every shrub and tree.


"Is This One Word Keeping You a Slave?" by Braden Talbot

---“Pirate” by Sean Covernton

It’s one of the most insidious words in our vocabulary.
It’s stifling, stagnating, and a complete lie.
What’s the word?
I complain that I should do something for myself (or others):
  • I should Get that project done.
  • I should write more.
  • I should be more present (heh).
  • I should eat better (I am guilty of saying this one almost every day and my wife is sick of it).
Even worse, we think society should do something about it:
  • They should fire him.
  • They should fix that.
  • There ought to be a law (one of my favorite clever forms of should).
  • Damned Democrats! (Or Republicans, if you prefer.)
Nothing screams “poor, helpless, little me” like a should.
A lot of parents tell their kids, and with good intentions, they
should eliminate can’t from their vocabulary.
What if we taught them and ourselves to bring awareness to all our shoulds?
We might sense an awareness of choosing helplessness. We might notice our selective inability to do nothing about it.
Of course when someone catches us in a futile should, it’s quite embarrassing:
“Someone should clean that up.” “Then grab a broom and do it.”
Should is the language of the hopeless and helpless. Eliminate the should and you leave yourself with a mind that might look for a way to solve a problem, or at least see it in a different light.