Lyme Liturgy Series 5: Main Practice, Sending and Taking Part 1

The Main Practice, Taking and Sending

Feeling the mother cervical soft spot of kindness, warmth and tender sadness
Touching the raw, naked heart of any feelings, moods or sensations, just as they are, right now…

[Short pause to quickly touch into the feeling heart. Then slowly chant:]

First, with tender-hearted care and calm deliberation, gently and firmly guide the mind
Into riding the regular, alternating furrows of breathing in and breathing out
Softly, gently, barely-there breezes glowing the embers of a silent fire.

Second, on the inbreath absorb constriction, closing – “hot, black, heavy;”
On the outbreath emanate expansion, opening – “cool, white, light.”

Third, starting within the self, then gradually accommodating room, house, neighbourhood
Town, country, continent and beyond, with all numberless sentient beings therein;
This expansive spaciousness gradually establishes a living Cathedral of Sacred Presence
Emanating blazing Awakened Heart Bodhichitta to all sentient beings in the six directions
Seated as gently smiling Monarch on Golden Throne
Kind, luminous, wise, compassionate, noble.

[Practice these three phases of Accommodating and Emanating until expansively spacious.]

Commentary

This section could easily elicit a book-length commentary but we will keep it short. The text is carefully written and in fact gives all instructions needed although it might take a little while for the practitioner to pick up on it. This initial commentary provides a good start. What is involved is far simpler in practice than it is in explanation so this commentary, like the text, emphasizes just explaining what it is that needs to be done and then experience itself will be the teacher in terms of learning to unpack all the many lessons and benefits it may afford the practitioner.

The Title: The Main Practice, Sending and Taking
Main Practice means that this is a meditation practice, differentiating it from the previous sections which were all simple chanting just to get prepared. Note how this practice section is much shorter. This is because the text is really just a series of instructions rather than any flowery contemplation.
Sending and Taking is the translation of Tong-Len which is an old variation of meditation practice developed about a thousand years ago, part of a series of teachings known as Lojong or Mind Training, the idea being that, a little like gymnastics or weight-lifting for example, we can actually train our mind to go in certain directions and/or develop certain skills. Some texts call this technique ‘reversal meditation’ the idea being to reverse the habitual tendencies we have to turn all experience into building up self, or being self obsessed and rather train to make it more about other. The text recommends several phases starting with an initial touch-in:


Feeling the mother cervical soft spot of kindness, warmth and tender sadness
Touching the raw, naked heart of any feelings, moods or sensations, just as they are, right now…


[Short pause to quickly touch into the feeling heart. Then slowly chant:]

Commentary

This short initial section is just to help us switch gears from chanting to practising, in this case going from being rather verbal and a little intellectual to entering a feeling mode. Indeed, the entire sending-taking technique emphasizes feeling, so touchy-feely types tend to enjoy it a lot!
The idea is to stop for a second and feel. The language gives some hint as to how to do it, the notion of cervix being something tender, deep inside, vulnerable, feminine, mothering, personal.
Touching the raw, naked heart of any feelings, moods or sensations, just as they are, right now…
No matter what is going on if we just stop for a second or two there is some sort of feeling going on. It’s a bit like the hum of a refrigerator or the background chatter of birdsong or traffic except in this case it is inside. We are in some sort of a mood, or maybe there is a heavy feeling in the chest, or a headache, or a sense of weariness, or depression, or delight, or anxiety. The words don’t matter, just touching into whatever feeling tone there is. This need take no more than a second or two; don’t think, just do it!

First, with tender-hearted care and calm deliberation, gently and firmly guide the mind
Into riding the regular, alternating furrows of breathing in and breathing out
Softly, gently, barely-there breezes glowing the embers of a silent fire.

Now begins the actual practice except this is preliminary to the actual sending and taking technique. Before we do the latter we need to establish some sense of steady mindfulness, being able to place our mind somewhere and relax with that. So this is an initial mindfulness training session in this case using the breath as object. There are hundreds of different Buddhist and other lineage meditation techniques and the following is not being presented as the only or best. It just fits best with the sending and taking which it is preparing us for. So we follow or feel or pay attention to the inbreath and outbreath, simply tuning into a natural process that is ongoing as we sit quietly in our room or garden, preferably alone and with no distractions.
First, with tender-hearted care and calm deliberation, gently and firmly guide the mind
The tender-hearted care refers back to the naked heart touch-in done before chanting this line, so it is reminding us to bring our feelings into this not only our heads. At the same time we exercise calm deliberation meaning that we are now beginning this practice and deliberately so, moreover will gently and firmly guide the mind in so doing into riding the regular, alternating furrows of breathing in and breathing out.


So we are going to ride the regular alternating furrows of breathing in and breathing out. The breathing is ongoing naturally so all we have to do is pay attention to it and let our mind follow this natural in and out process, forward and backward, a naturally repeating phenomenon.

Volumes have and will continue to be written about meditation of which there are many types. This is a simple mindfulness or placing the mind exercise. Before we can see something clearly we have to focus. Before we can achieve a goal we must see it. Before we can play a musical instrument we have to learn certain basics and become familiar with them. Simply put, before we can do sending and taking meditation which need to gently and firmly guide the mind into riding the regular, alternating furrows of breathing in and breathing out.

There will be a later ‘How to’ section at the end of this commentary with a few tips and tricks but really all you need to know is in the lines themselves already.

Second, on the inbreath absorb constriction, closing – “hot, black, heavy;”
On the outbreath emanate expansion, opening – “cool, white, light.”

Now we come to the actual tong-len sending-taking practice. The “hot, black, heavy” and “cool, white, light” are the feeling tones involved. They are in inverted commas because these were the terms my teacher used the first time he gave instruction for this technique. Basically, on the inbreath we absorb negativity and on the outbreath we emanate positivity. Usually we like to repel negativity and absorb positivity, here we are reversing those habitual tendencies nearly all of us instinctively exercise moment to moment and day to day all life long.


It all starts with feeling. If you can feel a sense of negativity (hinted at by the words ‘hot, black, heavy’) then you can easily switch around to their opposites (hinted at by the words ‘cool, white, light’). Let us say you are feeling terribly tired and depressed on this particular day because once again you only got two hours sleep despite taking CBD oil and camomile tea and all the rest of it. Well, that is a feeling tone, so you just go with it; feel how tired you are, how sluggish the muscles, so many aches and pains, the headache, the emotional sense of despair tinged with looming insanity that insomnia always brings, there is your ‘hot, black heavy’ feeling. No need to analyze each different element just take the whole thing as some sort of hot, black fog and breath it in, take it in, feel it completely without holding back.
And then simply breath out the opposite which is a sense of lightness, relief, clarity. Not with the words, but the feeling. We have already established some sort of deliberate fashion to the breathing because we have been following the regularly alternating furrows of breathing in and breathing out. That regular alternation doesn’t change even as we allow more feelings to come into the process. So we breath in the negatives and breath out the positives in a slow, smooth, deliberate, calm, gentle fashion. That’s sending and taking or reversal meditation.

Third, starting within the self, then gradually accommodating room, house, neighbourhood
Town, country, continent and beyond, with all numberless sentient beings therein;
This expansive spaciousness gradually establishes a living Cathedral of Sacred Presence
Emanating blazing Awakened Heart Bodhichitta to all sentient beings in the six directions
Seated as gently smiling Monarch on Golden Throne
Kind, luminous, wise, compassionate, noble.

There are two aspects to this third section, namely a space awareness element and a self visualisation element. The first space awareness element goes as follows and once you understand the following the text will make better sense. As you are doing tong-len, at first you are self absorbed in that you are working with your own set of self-existing feelings. Now in the process of doing the practice it nearly always happens that the feelings go through changes, each breath involving slightly different ones from the one before. This is natural. No problem. But now we introduce another level, namely to include more than just ourselves in the practice. This involves a certain amount of imagination. So from yourself alone, now include the atmosphere in the whole room around you. Once you are used to including that immediate external atmosphere in your mandalic field of feelings, you then expand to gradually accommodate room, house, neighbourhood town, country, continent and beyond, with all numberless sentient beings therein pausing at each phase. It could be that lots is going on in our neighbourhood and there is so much to work with that you don’t feel inspired to include the town and country and all the rest of it. Fine, just stop there. But at some point you will feel that you have done enough of this – usually anywhere from 3 – 10 minutes or longer – and then even if you have paused at the house or neighbourhood level you still expand out to include something far larger and rest at that level, still following the regular alternating furrows of breathing in and breathing out with negative and positive feelings respectively but now including a large space in that process.
In the How-To section which follows there is a note about different ways of expanding the space as in dealing with particular situations such as family or place-related dynamics.

The second element in this section now kicks in naturally in that you have the feeling that this expanded space feels a bit like being in a cathedral or any other large sacred space. The rest of the text is self-explanatory except for one specific term. The language is a bit flowery here to give a sense of what is being described but the experience is quite ordinary, although often it is very pleasant, even surprising, to feel such spaciousness especially if one has been constricted to very painful, claustrophobic feelings and states because of various vicissitudes, especially those involving chronic disease which this text is specifically designed to address. This spaciousness may bring along feelings of heightened awareness, more vivid sense perceptions, the body feeling less bruised and achy but there is no excitement to any of it, rather spacious calm which is what happens when you absorb the negative and switch to the positive. There is no holding onto either side and the result is some sort of spaciousness that comes from letting go.

Bodhichitta: as with the words Buddha and Buddha Fields perhaps other terms could have been used. For example instead of Buddha we could say ‘enlightened being’ or ‘wise being.’ Instead of Buddha Fields we could say ‘enlightened mandala’ or ‘enlightened atmosphere.’ Instead of ‘Bodhichitta’ we could say ‘enlightened heart and mind’ or ‘awake heart-mind’ because that is what it means. Bodhi means awake and chitta means mind, heart and spirit all rolled into one. It’s not the intellectual mind, it’s not the emotional heart, and spirit is not a ghost but spiritual essence including life force presence. We don’t really have a word in English for all this, though perhaps ‘heart’ sums it up best so we could just drop the word Bodhichitta from the text and say simply Emanating blazing Awakened Heart to all sentient beings in the six directions so if you feel uncomfortable with Bodhichitta just drop it. However, since dropping Buddha and Buddha Fields and in the next line Bodhisattva loses some of the intended sense because English lacks equivalents, the text also here includes Bodhichitta because it is the technical term for the sort of heartfelt awareness and presence that this tong-len practice, especially this expanded aspect of it, engenders.
The text then gives the instruction to practice these three phases of Accommodating and Emanating until expansively spacious after which we will move onto a mantra practice section which involves both stabilizing and relaxing what has been developed by the formal tong-len breath-based practice.

This will be the subject of the next post in this series.

Lyme Liturgy Series 4: Confession, Remorse, Forgiveness and Resolve

Confession, Remorse, Forgiveness and Resolve

We now confess all evil deeds and obscurations wherein through deceit or ignorance
We stray from this pure view of natural basic goodness by creating a convincing Identity
Which actually believes itself somehow independent from the Universal Continuum:

First: stubbornly maintaining the prideful, self-centred territory of Me
That grandiose arrogance of putting first Myself
Seeing all experience always and only through the humourless lens of the ‘I’
Generating no end of external and internal obstacles such as bad habits and chronic illness
The ever-metastasizing cancer of Ego,
The root of all individual and collective ignorance, complacency, anxiety, suffering and disease
The primitive belief in a mechanical universe comprising only lifeless physical particles
The materialist superstition that mind is merely a quantifiable by-product of brain matter
All such engendering abiotic, artificial and overly commercialized cultures
Worshipping false gods of money, fame, science, medicine, material success and suchlike
Along with all failure to listen, to learn, to sacrifice, to give, to serve
To heal, to love, to rejoice, to celebrate, to sing, to dance.

Second, being seduced by no end of lust: lust for self, lust for others
Emotional lust, sexual lust, aggressive lust, ambitious lust, jealous lust, cruel lust
Lust for approval, status, certainty, control, safety, comfort, pleasure, distraction, oblivion
Aggression, slander, betrayal, greed, denial, oath-breaking, harsh habits of body, speech and mind
Siren songs insinuating irresistible temptations to instantly gratify known negative urges
All stirring up self-perpetuating cycles of compulsive conflicting emotion
All inflammatory, all driven, all stressful, all humourless, all degrading, all dishonourable:
We feel deep remorse for any harm from such selfish fixations, sins of omission and misdeeds.

[Say one or more out loud. Brief pause to let them sink in, then continue.]

Commentary

The text starts to encourage more proactive engagement on our part in preparation for the actual practice session which soon follows. That said, it is still written in the ‘passing scenery’ style so all one has to do is follow along with the various suggestions made without having to do too much more, although at a certain point one has to pause the chanting to reflect on some real-life examples of what is being contemplated. There are two initial sections, the first dealing with the issue of egocentricity as ‘the root of all individual and collective ignorance, complacency, anxiety, suffering and disease,’ the second having to do with being driven by ‘lust,’ which might also be called passion or emotion. In some schools of Buddhism they say that there are two main overarching obstacles, namely ‘primitive beliefs about reality’ and ‘conflicted emotions.’ Well, here they are. The text here emphasizes materialism as a concomitant adjunct to egocentricity because this is one of the core, defining elements of our modern age; in other times or cultures it might choose to emphasize superstition or addiction to blood sacrifice or some such.

The second section ends with a statement following these two main obstacles: we feel deep remorse for any harm from such selfish fixations, sins of omission and misdeeds and then the text in [brackets] instructs us to [Say one or more out loud. Brief pause to let them sink in, then continue.]

This is the first actual instruction in the text apart from the unwritten one to chant the entire thing (except for the titles) out loud. The point here is to prepare oneself for the upcoming practice by engaging one’s actual personal history and experience in the exercise.

Is the text implying that we get sick because we have done wrong? Possibly, but if you read through both sections involving primitive beliefs and conflicting emotion you can see that perhaps it’s hinting more at the variety of interconnected and related ways we create general atmospheres of malaise, each of us making, a unique mandala in so doing; some tinged more with passion, others with aggression and others by ignorance. It is that general shape, or atmosphere, which engenders sickness or health. As Pasteur discovered shortly before his death, the germ theory he is now famous for was overly simplistic and rather than the germs being an exogenous enemy it was the terrain we offered them: if we offer a terrain hospitable to their growth and reproduction they will gladly take advantage of it; if no such terrain is offered, then, pathogenic or not, they cannot take up residence. This text simply helps us attune to a more neutral and clean mind-body terrain and in so doing will help balance chronic illness syndromes without having to address them directly. The balancing begins the process of altering the terrain and as the terrain alters so also does the mix of helpful and harmful microbes in the immune system and wider body such that at some point we find the chronic disease beginning to lift, if not entirely than at least a little. And a little is a lot more than none which is a lot more than an ongoing worsening of the various conditions which is what most people suffering from chronic conditions end up enduring. So the text is suggesting that the trajectory can be changed from one of gradual daily worsening to gradual daily improving. It’s actually that simple.

Text Continues:

Having confessed and feeling remorse we can now contemplate the provocative truth
That each moment we are either opening or closing
That there is no safe zone of refuge in-between nor any sanctuary in isolation
Feeling the emotional shrapnel and scar tissue tracing the lifetime tales of who we are
Without flinching or denial facing illness, faults and failures honestly
Without even a trace of deceit wiping the karmic mirror clean
Now clearly reflecting the great secret that all such transgressions
Lack any lasting substance like letters written on water
Knowing the heart truly wishing others well invokes healing angels of blessings
Soft petals of peace settling from above like silent snowflakes.


[Pause…]

Commentary

The best way to understand the above section – as with all of them – is by chanting it regularly and letting it resonate over time. The last line is followed by the instruction: [Pause…]. The idea here is to have a feeling of something pure and kind and peaceful settling from above like silent snowflakes. If you have sat outside in the wood as snow falls gently down you know the feeling. In deity visualisation practices there is usually a section after you have imagined a deity – either yourself or one in front of you – when you then empower the deity with a sense of sacred presence by imagining little snowflake-sized deities coming down from above and imbuing it with sacred presence. We all share this innate sense that blessings come from heaven so here there is a sense of having confessed and felt remorse there is a sense of coming clean which invokes healing angels of blessing. The language is a little over the top flowery but the idea is just to let any feelings that resonate with this sort of imagery come up and work their magic.

Text Continues

So no matter how complacent, confused, bewildered or dispirited
We now resolve to clean up our act now and in the future
To let go of clinging to entertaining distractions, self-absorbed fixations and obsessions
Of lifetimes wasted masticating the mouldering cud of preoccupied dissatisfaction
Of navigating through endless shoals, backwaters and sewers of never-ending
Plots, schemes, anxiety-ridden dramas, self-serving beliefs and cultish secrets
Of dragging heavy karmic baggage from the past into the resplendent, ever-opening present
Choosing instead to arouse and relax into ever-present wakefulness

To head into the wind of any pain or challenge with
Openness, gratitude, grace, generosity, discipline, skilfulness, confidence and good humour
Truly gentle, truly kind, truly loving
Taking any chronic illness, pain or obstacle as medicine to open us further
Unreservedly forgiving self and others all and everything
Letting healing spontaneously blossom
Appreciating each moment as Lucid Dream wherein all beings in this very world are
Primordially Awake Buddhas dwelling in primordially Awake Buddha Fields.

Commentary

Again, the text speaks for itself and will yield different layers of meaning and association when repeated over time assuming it is regularly practiced, guidelines for which will be forthcoming. That said, a couple of points regarding the last two lines:


Lucid Dream: the text isn’t claiming that our reality is a lucid dream but it can be likened to a lucid dream in that everyone in our world is fundamentally awake whether or not they know it. A lucid dream is when you are dreaming and aware that you doing so in the dream. As it happens, in dream yoga this state can be used for healing or developing wisdom but the analogy here is that in everyday waking life we are often sleepwalking, essentially unaware that we are aware, just blundering from one thing to the next pretty much on automatic pilot. Being aware of what we are doing including possessing and using awareness to do so is what is meant by mindfulness. Mindfulness is not simply paying attention to an object but being aware that we are doing so. This is known as ‘placing the mind’ which is something done with deliberation. That said, the point being made in these two closing lines is that a refreshed, sacred-feeling world cleansed of guilt and reservations from the preceding confession and forgiveness section is like a Lucid Dream ‘wherein all beings in this very world are Primordially Awake Buddhas dwelling in primordially Awake Buddha Fields.’ Again, the language is flowery but the idea is that when we are awake we create a world of wakefulness in which all beings are also perceived as being awake which, fundamentally, they all always are. Behind the clouds of endless vicissitudes the Sun of our basic buddha nature is always shining whether we see it or not but now at this point in the text we are seeing it by seeing clearly those aspects we hold onto. It is said that the only difference between a Buddha and a confused sentient being is that the Buddha fully sees the nature of confusion. Once any sort of obfuscation is seen clearly for what it is it is self-liberated into wisdom. This is a very profound but also simple thing.

That said: neither is the text saying that our perceived collective reality is NOT a lucid dream!

Buddha and Buddha Fields could have been expressed differently to prevent any sense of this being a text for Buddhists only but the whole world is now familiar with the word Buddha, though admittedly it means different things to different people.

A Buddha creates a ‘buddha field’ just as a brave person creates a mandalic atmosphere of courage and a coward creates a mandala of cowardice. A Buddha creates a healthy mandalic atmosphere of wakefulness, wisdom, kindness and peace.

The text encourages us to feel that way now that we have just gone through an honest self-appraisal contemplating ‘the great secret that all such transgressions lack any lasting substance like letters written on water’ and thus that we are all primordially good from beginning to end, top to bottom, that we are all, each and every one of us, fundamentally Buddha and everywhere we find ourselves is fundamentally a Buddha Field. Anybody from any faith can contemplate this so these terms should not be a problem. At this point the person chanting is engaging with overtly positive emotion and commitment which itself is already stepping out of the dispiriting prison into which chronic disease so often seems to entrap us.

With this sort of mood, atmosphere and perspective, we are now ready to practice a basic meditation to help with any chronic illness, obstacle or challenge. If we have truly taken what is expressed in this section to heart then there will be no need for any subsequent practice; but in case there is more work to be done (!) and because after the ten minutes or so needed to chant our way through the Liturgy a little meditation practice might now be a pleasure whereas before we probably felt too down in the dumps to enjoy any such activity, we can cheerfully continue on to the next Main Practice section…

Lyme Liturgy Series: 3 Sacred Being, the Basis

Sacred Being, the Basis

All beings in this alive and awake self-dreaming universe present aspects of:

Body – some sort of shape or form manifest in location and terrain;

Mind – some sort of consciousness, awareness or intention;

Speech – some sort of communicative expression of meaningful information singing a

Living symphony of ever forming and reforming clouds and waves of Primordial Intelligence

A marvellous holographic self-mothering Song making itself up as it goes along

Saturated in interconnected living presence pervading all and everything

Manifesting no end of self-organizing life forms, living creatures imagined into sentient being

With all their co-emergent elemental and inanimate phenomena

Comprising luminous intelligence inseparably part of the universal background field continuum

Containing, including and pervading all and everything, micro and macro.

.

Flowers in their flowering communicate the lovely enlightened language of flowering being

With manifold qualities of form, texture, colour, temperature, scent, beauty, sensitivity;

As with flowers so with all, from microscopic universes to macrocosmic spiralling galaxies

Multifarious microbes permeating soil and all life forms, primordially awake plants

Majestic trees, incredible insects, fabulous fishes, beautiful birds, marvellous

Animals, minerals, metals, crystals, silver, gold, jewels

Rainbows, sky, stars, ocean, wind, clouds, rain, sunlight, moonlight, thunder, lightning

Mountains, valleys, jungles, deserts, farms, steppes, rural, urban, stormy, placid

Earth, water, fire, air, red, green, blue, yellow, purple, indigo

Visibles, touchables, smellables, tastables, audibles, edibles

Perfumes, spices, herbs, meats, fats, oils, vegetables, fruits, sweets, sours, fermented

Wools, cottons, furs, silks, costumes, uniforms, males, females, dressed, naked:

All such forms together weaving karmic spells of interdependent being

Living languages of meaningful qualities – which some call ‘gods’

Continuously broadcast and received throughout this dreamlike experiential continuum

All basically empty, basically luminous, basically workable, basically good.

Commentary

This next section after the Preamble is entitled: “Sacred Being, the Basis.” We started off in a desert reflecting how things that seem solid and permanent (like chronic illness for example) may not be if we take the time to drill down a little, so that was a contemplation of what things are not. Now we contemplate a little about what things are. They are part of a continuum, a field, moreover one in which everything is always speaking something and everything is sacred. The text – again meant to be chanted out loud offering up a passing landscape – is self-explanatory but a few points to clarify:

Flowers in their flowering communicate the lovely enlightened language of flowering being

Mahamudra is a tantric term which is translated in a bewildering number of different ways. One of the earliest I learned was ‘Great Symbol.’ Great means that it spans everything, is the opposite of petty, is superior, special; Symbol means that in the Mahamudra state everything is ‘a symbol of itself.’ What does this mean? It means that a flower expresses the nature of ‘flowering being;’ a scorpion is scorpioning and its form and actions perfectly express the nature of scorpioning each and every second. A smiling woman perfectly expresses the nature of Woman Smiling. A cloud expresses clouding and cloudness. Everything is a perfect expression of its essential nature. All such expression is a type of speech. We have body, speech and mind. Body is the form. Mind is the awareness quotient without which no bodies would be perceived or come to being. Speech is the field of limitless different qualities expressed by such forms and experienced by such mind(s). These qualities express the combination of mind and body – which is why a flower is so lovely and flowery and a scorpion is so scorpion-ish and why both communicate qualities of our own and everybody else’s minds since such qualities exist within the same continuum in which we all exist.

So the purpose of this section is to playfully ruminate over how everything is continuously broadcasting and receiving qualities, indeed our entire universe is an unending multisensory symphony of qualities. And underneath all that there is a sense of sacredness in that all such forms and minds are knitting together a shared reality and the cooperative mutually interdependent nature of this is primordially good for creation – or poesis – of any sort is fundamentally creative, positive, glorious on some level. And any experience of primordialness involves a sense of sacredness, something we all instinctively know and reverence but too rarely acknowledge.

The text now continues looking at all this from an ‘inner’ point of view, the realm in which we feel things, experience things.

Text continues:

When we pay close attention and relax into any unfolding inner feeling like

Joy, love, wonder, anger, courage, peace, sadness, grief, disgust, fear

– fetid cesspool, putrid sewer, whispered moan of pain or pleasure

– chronic fatigue, exhaustion, ache or anguish, a simple touch, taste, sound or smell

– blue jungle butterfly fluttering aslant golden sunbeam

– white daisies of detail in willowing green meadow of awareness –

Through the portal of any such particular we plunge into an ocean of experiential infinity

Where one is many, all are one, where we are all each others’ undying and unborn ancestors

All we think, say and do echoing throughout eternity, an ever-present lineage of

Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, lovers, teachers, allies, enemies, leaders, followers

Friends, rivals, predator, prey, masters, slaves, warriors, cowards, saints and sinners

So many shapes and colours, large and small, coarse and fine, fangs, teeth, claws and fingernails

All inseparable from innate wisdom, all fellow poet dreamers.

Commentary:

The key sentence here perhaps is: When we pay close attention and relax into any unfolding inner feeling through the portal of any such particular we plunge into an ocean of experiential infinity.”

The very act of paying attention immediately creates some sort of vortex, or portal. When we tune into a flower petal it speaks directly to us and there is an interchange of qualitative awareness ‘which some call gods.’ So this section is about appreciating our limitless inner realm and rather than belabour the point, we can let the journey of chanting the text explain it all for us.

When casting an I-Ching the resultant hexagram is traditionally divided into lower and upper trigrams, the lower being the inner aspect of the subject of enquiry and the upper being the outer aspect. In our lives there is always inner and outer, literally what lies beneath the skin and what is outside it being two very different but co-existing realms. We don’t really know how we breath and digest, how we are conceived and grow, age and die; moreover we are in a continuous state of experiencing, reacting, feeling, imagining, emoting and so forth whilst the world outside with which we are bound has its own trajectories and imperatives, its seemingly solid forms, shapes, textures, sounds, bodies, beings and so on. In terms of consulting about a business venture, for example, the inner guidance may have something to do with playing it cool, being humble, not being too pushy or arrogant whereas the outer reading might indicate that this is going to be a very powerful venture influencing people far and wide. There is no conflict between these two approaches but they are different because they deal with different spheres of the same overall mandala. So this section is about inner.

The portal observation is important for it’s about how we use illness, specifically all its related and mainly unpleasant feelings as medicine. By simply paying attention we dive into them and in so doing find they become a portal into vastness or greatness which in turn helps put the illness and those feelings in a somehow uplifting context which helps us begin to passage out of the dark, dreary tunnel in which protracted illness often seems to imprison us.

All fellow poet dreamers: The word ‘poet’ here refers back to the root meaning of poesis which has to do with creation, so this links back to the initial marvellous holographic self-mothering Song making itself up as it goes along.

(From an online etymological dictionary: “from Greek poēsis “composition, poetry,” literally “a making, fabrication.””)

Dreamers is the notion that reality is like a dream, it is a collective dream of all beings sharing a space time dimension with various forms in common – like the planet – but which are woven together by our shared perceiving of them. This is in accord with various philosophical schools from long ago who rejected ‘atomist’ or other materialist explanations and rather posited that both the outer and inner worlds we experience derive essentially from some sort of mind, space or consciousness principle – which in the West we call ‘God.’ So the idea here is that our experience of reality, and indeed reality itself, is part of a collective dream, something all beings involved are making up together moment to moment which the text celebrates in the final part of this Sacred Being section.

Text continues:

Superior or inferior, accomplished or flawed, inner or outer, sick or healthy, us or them
All beings, thoughts, experiences and moments are
Equally and primordially lovely, equally and primordially sacred
As we ever keep learning to hold this view during all phases of life
Waking, dreaming, sleeping, growing, learning, loving, struggling, aging, ailing and dying
Dwelling in this Kingdom of Infinite Present whose razor knife symmetry
Reflects in the Cosmic Mirror of perpetually simultaneous Birth and Death
The ravishing, raw beauty of the ever-fertile fearlessly Naked Feminine
From whom we were, and are, and ever shall be, inseparable.

Commentary:

The text is letting loose a little, perhaps reflecting how the chanting is now enjoyable and free-flowing, the passing landscapes stimulating and raising our spirits despite ourselves.

The fearlessly naked feminine: naked means utterly real, utterly honest, utterly uncontrived, which is bedrock reality we all come from and dwell in together; feminine gives birth, is the self-mothering principle mentioned earlier; fearlessly is because there is no artifice, shame, hope or, therefore, fear. So we all come from and ultimately are ‘the fearlessly naked feminine.’

In Western art for a long time you would see paintings and sculptures of naked women everywhere. One can argue this is just eroticism masquerading as respectable ‘art,’ and indeed this is no doubt partly true, but the erotic is something more than mere libido-arousing. The naked female form stops the mind, instantly triggering some sort of awareness of a primordial Kingdom of Infinite Present. That heightened sense of presence blending various quotients of beauty, awareness, tenderness, creativity and so forth is called ‘sacredness.’ The female form immediately summons this and as such is one of the most powerful and immediate living symbols of Mahamudra we can ever witness.

Below is one of the oldest Asian tantric deities, Vajrayogini, who is said to have been practiced over 18,000 years ago in the Western Himalayan regions and also around Ur and Swat. She is the mother of wisdom awareness, the mother of all, the space which gives birth to all forms and that space is red, passionate, fertile, sacred.

Ravishing raw beauty of the fearlessly naked Feminine

Lyme Liturgy Series: 2 Preamble

Preamble

All of us unknown strangers known as ‘me’
We find ourselves in a desert, empty horizon stretched out in all directions;
Here there is no time or place…

Commentary

As mentioned in the first post, the text is initially verbose in order to lasso an exhausted or dispirited mind into the practice of chanting which gently helps synchronize body, speech and mind preparing one for the simple meditations which follow. When extremely exhausted or dispirited it is often too hard to just sit down and meditate.

Preamble: the idea here is that it is just easing into a meditation session and the act of chanting various words which throw up various ideas and scenarios help one to do that. In the background also grew during the composition process, which involved about one month at the beginning until the full text took shape from beginning to end and then about two years of little edits here and there as I used the text daily for its intended purpose, the notion of trying to include all of life’s many experiences in these first two pages, perhaps the idea being to include everything into the resultant practice session.

All of us unknown strangers known as ‘me’

The idea here is that any individual is part of everyone in the human race and we all think of ourselves as ‘me’ and at the same time each ‘me’ is an ‘unknown stranger’ in a way if we stop to think about it. None of us know how we are born nor when we are going to die or what happens afterwards. We think we know who we are but the deeper we look we realize the less we know. This is a way of setting things up for the meditation by clearing the air, sweeping the space clean, getting rid of any unnecessary bric a brac.

We find ourselves in a desert, empty horizon stretched out in all directions;
Not only is ‘me’ a bit of an ‘unknown stranger’ but also we find ourselves in the middle of an unknown somewhere likened to a desert which has very few distinguishing features. Again, clearing things away.

Here there is no time or place…

So we have a fresh situation in front of us, so fresh that we don’t even have to bring time or place along into it. And now we begin.

Next Section of Text:

A present moment sandwiched between infinitely sub-divisible past and future moments
We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.
Any object or place exists only in relation to other objects and places
All spinning and swirling in space: there is no ‘where’ there.
Without place, no thing, without thing, no place;
A definable object in a definable location
We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.
As with object and place, self and other are not two:
There is no time, no duration, no place, no thing, no self, no other, no ‘me,’ no ‘you’
Only eternity permeating non-existing past and future moments
Only infinity accommodating any and all non-existing places.

Commentaries:

We begin with a kind of deconstruction of habitually held conceptual frameworks. That’s a mouthful and ‘headful.’ Again, there is no suggestion that we need to think through all this deeply, just let it run its course. But to explain just a little so that it can run more effortlessly perhaps (!):

A present moment sandwiched between infinitely sub-divisible past and future moments
We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.

Imagine a series of moments, say the one now then one exactly a minute later. You can divide the time interval into half making a 30-second instead of the initial one minute interval. Any interval between the first and the second moment has a duration which can be similarly divided and so on ad infinitum. So what? This simply means that no moment really exists because there isn’t really any duration because any duration can be divided and therefore there really isn’t any time per se, at least not in the sense we conceive of it as being one moment following another. You can’t find any such moment making time itself not a thing which can actually be weighed and measured even though our watches create the illusion that we are doing so. The same is about to be proposed with space or location, although the text does so in a slightly more complicated way.

Any object or place exists only in relation to other objects and places
All spinning and swirling in space: there is no ‘where’ there.
Without place, no thing, without thing, no place;
A definable object in a definable location
We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.

To tell one object from another you have to distinguish it from other objects in other locations. But in terms of those locations, or ‘places,’ we know everything we see on this planet is spinning through space so though it might seem that we and our table and chair are still, in fact we are speeding faster than the fastest bullet. This means that all location is relative to other objects speeding alongside us, just like different cars and trucks on the highway whizzing along at 70 mph if they all do the same speed keep the same distance and seem to be unmoving relative to each another. Going further, since everything is whizzing along through space, the same actual place never happens just as one moment never happens. The chair is in one place now and the next microsecond it has moved even if it doesn’t appear so to us and that realtive configuration of objects in space will never again reoccur and nor will the seeming location either. So the chair might seem to be in the same place but it isn’t, meaning that the place the chair seems to be in doesn’t actually exist, hence: a definable object in a definable location We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.

As with object and place, self and other are not two:
There is no time, no duration, no place, no thing, no self, no other, no ‘me,’ no ‘you’
Only eternity permeating non-existing past and future moments
Only infinity accommodating any and all non-existing places.

So object and place are relative reference points that seem to have definable locations and dimensions but don’t really if you stop to think about it; which also means any notions we have of a permanent self or permanent others we relate to – in other words ‘me’ or you’ – don’t really exist as such. In time there is just an endless non-moment moment which we call ‘the present’ and in terms of location really all we have is fathomless space, neither of which are divisible or measurable nor therefore even existent at all.

All of the above being a somewhat intellectually more elaborate way of saying ‘we find ourselves in a desert… here there is no time or place.’

Next Section of Text:

With everything changing moment to moment, nothing is permanent, nothing lasts:
Youth and wealth diminish, beauty fades, ardor cools, life forms end;
Human life is brief, a shooting star blazing across an eternal night sky with
Continuously ever-changing feelings: love to estrangement, hot to cold, pleasure to pain

Our lives leaving a trace no more lasting than the imprint of a bird in the sky.
Truly Impermanence, Insubstantiality and Suffering are
The perpetual and only partners in this great Dance of Life
This so-called Reality no more than Dream
This so-called ‘Me’ no more than an imagined projection within this
Magnificently alive, self-organizing jungle of intertangled self-dreaming life forms.

Commentary:

This is more self-explanatory but worth noting that there is more poignancy and less deconstruction of concept. This is a natural progression in that once we stop thinking so much we are more open to feeling. Then the text points out that what is being reviewed here is good old Suffering, Impermanence and Egolessnes (or Insubstantiality) and further if it is true that nothing is permanent or solid then in a way what we call Reality is close to being what we call Dream, and also as was pointed out in the interdependency post each event is a result of a virtually limitless number of causes and contributes to a similarly measureless number of events (aka the ‘net of Indra’). So this section is just a rhythmically pleasant way of rolling past those sort of contemplations as well – again without making any fuss.

Next Section of Text:

As dream-beings wandering through any seeming progress or obstacles such as
Success, failure, praise, blame, loss, gain, pain, pleasure
Habitual patterns, negative attitudes and conflicting emotions
Vicissitudes of chronic illness like pain, fatigue, physical and cognitive impairment and so forth – being suddenly sucked down into a nightmare quicksand of insomnia-induced despair –
Hell denizens tortured in self-imposed prisons plagued by endless hot and cold pains
Ghosts hungering for the person they long to or used to be, haunting regret-stained corridors of isolation

Animals bound by corporeal limitations no matter how intelligent, skilled and powerful
Humans struggling, striving and suffering, speeding from one hopium-contrived state to the next

Titan-Asuras consumed by fiercely ambitious undying envy striving self up or tearing others down
Gods indulging in seemingly unending perfection of exquisitely continuous bliss and ease:
All such endless journeying through painful hells and pleasurable heavens
All such appearances being impermanent, insubstantial: how can we be bound to them?

Commentary:

Continuing further in our experiential dream realm, we now contemplate the six realms of being according to ancient Hindu cosmology some of which Buddhists later kept using. But before we go into the Realms, first we rapidly survey what are known as the Eight Worldly Dharmas which you can read about here. (Unfortunately the excellent Buddhist Encyclopedia I used in a previous post has gone dark. Here’s another one, but not nearly as good: Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia.) Basically they are passion for and fear about the loss of four things: success-failure, pain-pleasure, loss-gain and praise-blame. These are the eight worldly concerns or obstacles which we can get hung up on whilst in this our existential Dream. They only take up one line here, but many volumes over the past two millenia have been written about them.

Now we come to the six realms which is a way of describing the virtually limitless permutations of pain and pleasure as they manifest in how beings take on various forms in various environments; their desire for experience fuels them along with an emerging dynamic which makes them favor that which makes such existence thrive and feels good but disfavor that which harms them and feels bad. This could be regarded as an (admittedly sketchy) alternative to Darwinian evolution theory but mainly serves as an interestingly helpful map of the many psychological, environmental and cultural states we go through over time, be that moment to moment, day to day or lifetime to lifetime.

Hell is, obviously, extreme pain. There are said to be many different ones but two main types: hot or cold, i.e. tortured by others or frozen in isolation. Hungry ghosts are said to have huge bellies and tiny mouths: they are eternally frustrated because they cannot satisfy their desires or they long to experience that which they no longer or never can. Animals are trapped in no end of extraordinary bodies, their natures and minds essentially determined by their physical and genetic programming. Humans are tricky and go both ways being able to experience everything emotionally from the deepest hells to the highest heavens and all states in between such that there are – in the realm you and I experience every day – no end of human gods, human asuras, human animals, human hungry ghosts and humans in hell. Animals have a range like this but far more limited. They suffer but not so extremely and they don’t go from agony to ecstasy as fast we humans. Asuras or titans are striving to be gods; they trample on those they perceive to be beneath them and fight to tear down those they perceive to be above them; they are highly gifted and intelligent and often end up running the world though if left unchecked their cruelty ensures it all ends badly; history is littered with examples of asuras left to run amok; we are going through such a time now, I suspect. Gods live in a state of mental and physical bliss which doesn’t change much until it finally ends and then – oh no! – usually it’s straight down to the agony of hell as the loss of such exquisite pleasure which lasted for so long hurts so intensely and of course hell is the realm of intensity.

The six realms are a lot of fun and worth serious contemplation – indeed have often considered writing a whole book about them. Meanwhile, the six lines in the text merely take you on a lightning tour just to remind you of the context of the situation we enjoy as living human beings. The text then concludes by pointing out that given this is all such a dreamlike phantasmagoria – including our current ills and travails – ‘why should we be bound to them?’

Food for thought, but now we chant on to the end of this Preamble section:

Next section of Text:

This seemingly solid outer realm, like the living inner dreamscapes we call ‘music’
Neither does nor does not exist, nor any disease with its pains, symptoms and pathogens;
No matter what seemingly happens, through sickness and health, living and dying
Our basic nature, like the Sun behind clouds, remains unchanged.

Commentary:

This short concluding paragraph sets us up for the next Section of the Liturgy, entitled ‘Sacred Being, the Basis,’ which has to do with appreciating some of the special qualities of this dreamlike continuum in which we journey through the six realms as living beings. It’s only been a page so far and thus only a minute or two of chanting but the landscape has been moving along rapidly displaying quite a few different terrains. And it ends with a point: things aren’t as real and solid as we often take them to be so that goes for any chronic disease vicissitudes as well, no matter how challenging and painful they might be.

How To Notes:

Again: just chant in a regular sort of rhythm more or less monotonally, no big deal but definitely out loud and preferably on your own in a place that is private and without distractions. The long form liturgy takes a little while to chant out, but once you have gotten used to it and can move to the Brief form the whole thing doesn’t take long at all so it’s worth investing the time to become familiar with the general landscape and meaning of the text which leads into a simple meditation practice that can be surprisingly helpful, even when confronting an end of life terminal disease. In any case, don’t stop to figure out what it all means or worry if you don’t, just let it all flow by, like sitting at its bank watching the river flow.

The Liturgy texts can be found on the Lyme Liturgy page in the top right menu above.

Lyme Liturgy Series: 1 The Title

The Title is:

LEARNING FROM LYME LITURGY

A Liturgy for taking Chronic Disease, Affliction or Obstacle as Medicine

The Daily Form

There will be three types of commentary, namely ‘How to’ and ‘Explanation’ and ‘Related Observations;’ sometimes these will be clearly separated, sometimes not.

Commentary

The Title is fairly self-explanatory though here follow some explanations of most of the particular terms used.

Liturgy: could also be called a ‘Chant’ or a ‘Sadhana.’ The ensuing work is a meditation text designed to be chanted out loud, something which immediately joins body, speech and mind in an easy, effective manner.

Learning from Lyme: This is the thrust of the text. Though meditations may later be involved the main way to get through illness is to learn from it so that illness itself becomes both teacher and medicine. Of course this is on the personal, spiritual level and has nothing to do with which sort of doctor you choose to work with or which sort of medicines. There is no implication here that doing this Liturgy is a substitute for doctor-patient care. But the fact remains that Lyme is a very effective teacher. Probably there will be a post soon on this point alone.

Chronic Disease, Afflictions and Obstacles: when beset by difficulties this meditation text will help you handle them. From the point of view of this text, there is nothing all that special about disease beyond that it is difficult to deal with. In the case of Lyme, for example, which is similar to a wide variety of chronic disease syndromes, you might find yourself beset by various combinations and intensities of chronic: insomnia, brain fog, digestive disorders, muscle pains or even paralysis, organ inflammation, emotional instability, depression and so forth, all of which end up with the same overall condition of ‘being sick sucks!’ For an idea of Lyme in particular, you can watch the youtube entitled ‘Under our skin’ which tells the story of a young woman tormented by it. There are many other videos and countless books and articles. This series will not delve into Lyme Disease except insofar as it represents a mild to severe chronic obstacle to be dealt with, one which often requires your full attention and resources to overcome. Marshaling the motivation and force to address it represents some form of life-altering learning process, hence the title ‘Learning from Lyme,’ though you could substitute ‘chronic disease’ for Lyme. I like the alliteration for one thing, and for another it was the original title since that was the specific condition I was dealing with.

But what about ‘chronic obstacles?’ The point here is that if you have any sort of chronic, i.e. long-term, difficulty then no doubt you have chronic issues to address, probably bad habits, an unfortunate situation or whatever, but in any case it has become a part of your life, moreover a problematic one most likely a source of ongoing suffering. Even if you don’t have a specific chronic disease diagnosis per se, if any sort of chronic malaise is allowed to continue year after year, say, most likely you will find yourself coming down with something that can be given a medical label in the near future. Ultimately, it makes little difference what the label is or what medicines you are (or are not) taking for it: the chronic difficulty can be helped with simple meditation practices which burn away the fog of confusion or raise the spirits above any sense of doom and gloom which chronic disease tends to engender in anyone so afflicted.

Medicine: Medicine is usually a physical substance our doctor tells us to take in order to cure whatever ails us. But going to the beach for a week can be a medicine too, or finding a new faith which provides an invigorated sense of purpose in heart, mind and body. Again, this is not to suggest that sick people don’t need to see doctors, just that there are other forms of medicines than those found in pharmacies. The medicine offered in this text is to use meditation as a way to enter into the suffering and confusion of chronic illness and use it as an object of meditation which in turn changes it into something workable, valuable even hence in the title it says to ‘take’ any difficulty as ‘medicine.’ We could also say as ‘teacher’ or ‘blessing’ but medicine works just fine since this Learning from Lyme Liturgy is specifically designed to help those struggling with chronic illness to find a way to raise their spirits and in so doing, hopefully, also help diminish the condition or if not at least diminish the suffering involved with enduring it.

The Daily Form: What follows is the full version of the text which was composed in a particular way in order to address the needs of the author who had been enduring over two months of very serious chronic insomnia such that he was no longer able to practice simple sitting meditation. The exhaustion, the scattered mind, the brain fog were all too much. So the initial part of the text is deliberately a little verbose, the intention being to lasso the mind just by the simple act of chanting something for about ten minutes before attempting any form of meditation whatsoever.

The idea was to present something a little like landscape passing by a train or car window, something interesting to watch passing by without requiring any intellectual heavy lifting so even when certain philosophical issues are raised, as the ensuing commentary will show, the idea is not to delve into them deeply, just let them pass by gently without applying the slightest effort.

How To:

The title is not chanted out loud. The text which is chanted begins after the next heading: “Preamble” which will start with the next Post on this blog.

Learning from Lyme Liturgy Series: Introduction

In upcoming weeks will be commenting on a text written a couple of years back designed to help the author through a difficult bout with the chronic disease known as Lyme believed to be caused by pathogens received from tick bites of which the author has had several over the years including a rather nasty one last March in Mexico.

As far as is known, this is the only such text composed specifically for Lyme Disease or Chronic Illness by a westerner using classic Buddhist view and techniques albeit in a more or less secular presentation. In other words, you don’t have to be a Buddhist or even all that ‘spiritual’ to give it a try, and it shouldn’t conflict with those of any other face. There are a couple of Buddhist-specific terms (like Buddha and Bodhisattva and samsara) but these can be replaced or just tolerated without the text and meditations being negatively impacted.

The texts will be kept on a new page which has a menu link in the top right, but commentaries about the text will appear regularly here on the blog. Some of you will find this of interest and no doubt some won’t so each one will have Lyme Liturgy in the title.

Note that although it is entitled ‘Lyme Liturgy’ the practice can be used for all sorts of chronic illnesses, acute illnesses, periods of intense struggle, crises and so forth. The purpose behind the text is to encourage the practitioner to take the blow, so to speak, and then find a way to be generous in mind and spirit no matter how bad one feels. That’s it in a nutshell. I have found it surprisingly helpful including this week when, after about two months of not quite recovering from an ever-morphing ‘cold or flu or whatever this is,’ it occurred to me to give it another go with the text.

Have toyed with the idea of publishing these two texts (a Long and Short form of the same thing) along with commentary as a book but have never quite settled on how best to present it all. This blog will be a somewhat bumbling attempt, perhaps, to muddle through that process after which perhaps it will indeed be published. Comments or questions are warmly invited either in the comment section or via direct email at baronash@fastmail.com. The new page is up with both Long and Short form texts, but no commentary as yet has been presented. One step at a time!

Going through the text will overlap with the Buddhism 101 series idea in which case there will simply be a Buddhism 101 in the Tag list so that those interested in that series can pick up related material that will be published in this Learning from Lyme series.

The Lyme Liturgy page is at: https://baronbrasdor.art/learning-from-lyme-liturgy/ but again you can see it in the top right pages menu.

Invisible powers of the Good

The following is an email (now lightly edited) sent this morning to a friend who had sent me a link to an article entitled ‘Reflections: Beside Still Waters’ by James Harpur. The article describes, among many other things, how a daoist rainmaker caused snow to fall in a drought-stricken area by simply remaining for three days in a hut until he felt his inner harmony restored at which point Nature in turn restored the outer harmony of the situation which had been thrown off kilter by the human activities in that region. My response:

What a good article, thank you (though given current events, his ‘no longer … fearing influenza’ doesn’t exactly hold up!).

Though limited by being a prose novel essentially telling a mythic tale, the older I get the more depth I find in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings which I suspect will remain as part of the Western Canon of Classic Literature for as long as such a thing exists, up there with the Great Bard himself. Of late especially I’ve found the fundamental notion of hobbits and hobbitry increasingly apropos in that it is in ordinary folk that true goodness is found, the sort of goodness not easily corrupted by the machinations of the Great. Moreover, this bedrock decency has the power to topple the Mighty. Sauron was psychologically unable to even imagine that anyone coming in contact with his One Ring power would elect to cast it away for the benefit of others. Smart as he was, he could not figure that one out so Aragorn was able to deceive Him into believing that he was an upstart challenger for the Dark Lord role.

From this perhaps have come to believe in what I tend to call ‘the invisible power of goodness.’ Increasingly, I find the world today mirrors the world in LOTR in that there are – very broadly speaking of course – forces of Evil arrayed against forces of Good, albeit Evil is the one that tends to organize its forces and Good tends not to organize as such at all. Like the Elves, perhaps, such force as Good might have tends to remain invisible, unseen by Evil. Further, it often seems like ‘we the ordinary people’ are arrayed against Mighty Behemoths, the great machinery of the Modern World whose gears never cease churning, whose capitalist spells of perpetual growth, progress and consumerism are a Saruman-like manifestation trapping us all in some sort of primordially existential dead end akin to being strung up in Shelob’s lair, or to being pod people in the Matrix’s machine-run dystopia. But we the ordinary people are represented in LOTR by two little hobbits who don’t give up despite being entirely overwhelmed and outmatched and not even really understanding the vast scope of power, influence and malevolence which they are standing up to, tottering in despair, wounded, starving and without hope of survival, inching their way to the cracks of Doom where Frodo’s final capitulation to Evil ends up magically ensuring that his mission is fulfilled as he pushes Gollum – the last Ringbearer – into the Fiery Abyss in whose Hell the Ring was forged and with its dissolution therein the long international nightmare is finally over.

Well, that is all very dramatic and externalized, but my notion of the ‘invisible power of goodness’ is that each and every one of us has an effect on the larger world, including all those various Great Powers now seemingly arrayed against us as Intelligence, the World Bank, Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Ag, the Military-Industrial complex, the World Economic Forum, the Great Game’s Eurasia and Atlantia, the Banksters of The City and BIS in Zurich and so on ad infinitum. If you pay attention and view it all very quietly, you can actually feel this presence of ordinary goodness in that it is precisely against this invisible field that the Evil Matrix continuously exerts pressure. They are pushing, pushing, pushing. Why do they need to push? What is it that they need to overcome in order to create their New World Order? They need to persuade the ordinary and good, the hobbits if you will, to buy into their Bullshit and willingly submit to becoming slaves of their Brave New World Order.

This too happened in LOTR in ways that were not depicted in the latest films (the first of which was pretty good, the last two of which were awful in terms of revealing the depth of the story and most of the key players therein such as Saruman, the Nazgul, Sauron, Aragorn, the Elves to name but a few). After the great victory, the four hobbits returned home to a Shire being ruined by a diminished but still harmful Saruman, ever casting nasty little spells creating hierarchical slum cultures of those closer or further away from his corrupt Authority similar in structure to the GroupThink friends and followers created in Facebook favoring those addicted to ‘Likes’ and banishing those who read or write WrongThink.

But the point is that if we the little people don’t buy into any given spell then its power is instantly diminished for ultimately such power resides in mind and speech, not body, realms. This starts, as the article rightly intimates, within ourselves; and then perhaps it extends to what we express directly to friends and family and later with various already established public figures mirroring similar perspectives – though perhaps no such extension is necessary and the rest is confirmation, the resultant snow as it were.

So I have come to believe that we ordinary people have greater influence on world affairs than we might think. The main front is not organized resistance, forming ourselves into outer world armies either as actual soldiers or swarms of twitter-likers or even voters for that matter but simply on our own level as ordinary individuals on our particular journey from cradle to grave. Although each of us is born and dies alone, the journey always always involves others; starting with the initial passage through our mother’s birth canal our entire life involves constant interaction with others every step of the way. So how we relate to ourselves in turn affects all others in our sphere of influence or mandala no matter how seemingly inconsequential or hobbit like that sphere might seem. Indeed, as the rainmaker story tells, a wise man sitting alone for three days can influence an entire area albeit in ways that cannot be externally seen or measured except by the fact that at some point it snowed. In our case, we may not be able to make it snow but a societal equivalent might be more laughter, both from simple enjoyment of life and also from occasionally ridiculing the Pompous High and Mighty bent on world dominance as if they are not mere mortal hobbits such as ourselves.

Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to turn into an essay! But it did!

Shrine in the Mind

.

Rainbow bands charging headlong
into solid stripes of curving streets
taking the bend and folding back
like curling candy
on Brighton Rock
Plymouth ploughshares tilling the earthbound
lyming loam, crumbling comfort
redolent goodness, rocky road regalia
shining in the mind
living angels of imagination-shaped presence
one sets out in front
so they marvelously reflect back
the universal luminosity
found within
mirroring outer realm’s Sun
and outer realm’s Moon.

Majesty for all
and for all
a
good
night!

The above is a spontaneously composed riff from the arising thought that shrines, like deities, are expressions of inner luminosity and as such can be described as angels. Everyday life can appear humdrum. Or it’s essential brilliance can be appreciated. A shrine encourages us towards the latter. Either way, this living dream we call ‘life’ is a “wonderful world,” as Louis Armstrong so beautifully sang in farewell to a world he had graced with his irrepressibly joyful presence.

The song itself can also be regarded as a shrine, as can any uplifted work of art which every true work of art should be for otherwise, why bother? In certain spiritual traditions the art of living simply involves experiencing sacredness all the time which, like any shrine, means seeing the inherent brilliance and luminosity in each and every outer and inner experience.

Note from the Secretary: we will now probably do a little less labelling of poetry offering such as ‘haibun’ or ‘haiku’ or ‘poem’ or whatever as the author settles back down into his customary modality of spontaneous verse. During times of strong meditation probably haiku will be favoured for they are the quintessential expression of that sort of awareness state. But since most of the time the Baron is blundering around through the under-brushes like everyone else dealing with everyday life so haiku won’t always be the form of choice. For example, this post could be described as a haibun but so what? It is what it is, namely a poem with a little bit of commentary or accompanying prose, and as such needs no label other than its title.

Seed Syllables Take Two

Playing around with the notion. Again, it’s an arcane spiritual term often used by specialists of Tibetan Buddhist tantric deity visualisation practices but the underlying concept – rarely explained in plain language – is that every mandala has a core, essential character which is what makes it unique. This is just like how the kitchen mandala is different from the bedroom mandala, or Fred is different from Mary. This core particularity permeates the entire mandala which includes no end of different interdependent elements. For example, kitchens all have stoves, garbage cans, cupboard, shelves, foodstuffs, ornaments, pots and pans and so forth; and yet each kitchen is unique. Every mandala is like this, sharing much in common will all mandalas of that ilk (like kitchens or persons) and yet also being unique. Catching the essence of that uniqueness is the art of glimpsing the seed syllable, penetrating to the heart of whatever. If you can name it you can use it to cast a spell.

Here follow some playful riffs taking a subject from the conventional world and writing out a quick ‘seed syllable’ paragraph. We’ll start with the last photograph from the previous post ‘Where are we all headed?’

Tuxed up old bard

.

General impressions, the cluster: tussled hair in touch with the gods, rams horns, tacky Las Vegas shades with cheap frames, loose-fit collar, slightly cynical turn to the lips which are still full-blooded, double frown lines indicating frustrations – cloud cover obstructing full illumination, downcast gaze, tux looking cheap like a leather jacket and jeans outfit in a formal board meeting, reserved, inscrutable.

Seed syllable: Wrinkled goat god wearing shades.

7 time Superbowl Champion

The Team: Buccaneers are pirates so they raid, surprise, break rules, cut through expectations and convention, are a little bad, daring, aggressive, deadly with ruthless captain.

Brady: successful but clean-cut. In the photo we see someone seemingly joyful but it looks phony somehow. The trophy is no more impressive than his pewter-coloured sport shirt outfit – a gap between myth and reality. Brady can be admired for many things but he isn’t much of a bad boy pirate; that said, his fierce competitive drive can be regarded as a little piratical though his predilection for hard core practice, study and discipline is not all that swash-buckling.

Seed syllables:

Bucs: dangerous and bold in attack and defense; a little crazy.

Brady: disciplined team leader, fierce competitor who is driven to and knows how to win.

Prognostication: Brady doesn’t seem to be in sync with the ideal TB Bucs gestalt. Similarly, the team doesn’t seem to fit it’s own seed syllable which has, obviously, pirate nature at the fore. A pirate ship is held together by its ruthless and super-skillful captain. Brady is going to have turn this team into a fierce band of pirate raiders in order to win again this year but based on his phony-looking smile last year at the crowning achievement of his career, I suspect his heart is not really in it though perhaps he doesn’t realize this yet because for so many years it has been. And now it’s doubly tricky because both the team is not true to its core pirate nature and because although he is arguably one of the best team leaders in the history of team sports, he is not a pirate captain type leader. This does not bode well.

Pirates don’t rest on past glories and are bent on plundering whatever treasure presents itself now. They have to take it from someone else rather than hold one to what they have got which in this case is last year’s title. Perhaps if they now begin to falter for a few games and have to come from behind to plunder the trophy from another prematurely crowned pretender that will suit their spoiler nature. Tom is going to have to get more nasty and desperate; and interestingly there were hints of that in their terrible loss to division rival Saints last week wherein Tom started smashing tablets and shouting at the opposing team’s coaches.

In sum: unless both their captain and the team can invoke a convincingly dangerous pirate mandala in the playoffs they will not be in sync with their team seed syllable principle and will fail to seize the crown for a second time in a row.

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More might be added later, so check back from time to time!

Where are we all headed?

Rolling Thunder Review 1976 Fort Collins

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How to put it all together
Dylan bleating in the background
the ghost of the century we yearned to be
bard of a dying civilisational breed
the eternal brooding outsider Jew
master of the medium, massager of the message
murderer of true meaning
messiah without muttering mammaries
stammering laments in octagonal monstrosities
crawling the walls, batting his eyelids
lost to the purpose wide awake crying
howling at the moon a werewolf for the ages
singing ‘where do we all go from here?’ *

We have lost more than we have found
we have cried more than we have danced
we have abused and battered lamented and lost
and now we are stumbling not counting the cost.

Is Art no more than vanity or can it spark a spiritual purpose?
In the dark a single flame burns bright
in the dark a single candle shows the way
in the dark the soul expands softly
a moth to the flame
a butterfly to the flower
after break of dawn
to blossoming day
in warmth and light and burgeoning pleasure.
Where are we headed today?

We have seen ‘the best minds of our generation’
sacrificed on the altar of the franchised profit margin.
How cliche but how true.
How maudlin and how blue.
And to think I was Allen’s G’s meditation instructor
and decades later Peter O’s too –
a sad and noble lover waiting to follow his beloved
into the great beyond, gently and oh so sweet.
How to handle being put in authority over Dylan’s ‘bard and mascot?’
By not thinking about it that way – but that’s another story….

Deliberation is the key.
Precision in practice
between you and me
with stars all around
swirling and extinct and bright and remote
mysterious, unfathomable
like winter’s worn coat.
I put on my boots, and put on my hat
step out in the void thinking ‘well, that’s that.’
where are the days of glory and fame?

When will we see such splendor again?
Time out of mind is time without thought
and thought without purpose is bird on the wire
is hawk swoop and plunder is eagle’s lament
until love’s labours lost and all labour spent.

All tuxed up!
  • * As far as I know, Dylan never wrote this line, but for many of his young listeners in the early days he seemed to be almost prophetically answering the question. Though if you ever asked what that answer was, probably there wouldn’t have been much more than a shrug or a laugh in response.