News from Nerdville: Or the Process of Absolute Happiness



It’s a big day here in Twisp.  The couple of miles of Route 20 that comprises “town,” is clogged with foot and vehicular traffic.  The weekly market ran two extra hours from 8 to 1 instead of 9 to 12. The parking lot at Hanks, the local supermarket, is packed, and gas prices seemed to have inched up a bit since mid week. Wonderful. Twisp is an idyllically scenic town that thrives on tourism, and Memorial Day weekend, as in many such places, is the real start of the season.  It’s great to see our local community benefiting from summer tourism.

It’s a big day here, inside me as well.  Yesterday, a long time dream came to fruition with the offer of a job that makes it possible for me to finally join my beloved here on a full time basis and more or less support myself.  I’ve been praying for this daily for the last year: please provide the means.  A number of doors in the maze of job seeking opened and led to dead ends.  Each one was a short lived thrill of expectation and then an equally short lived disappointment. As I wrote in an earlier post “Has God been Co-opted?” patience is trusting in God’s timing, trusting in Being.  Each of those potential positions was showing me something about myself, how far I was willing and able to stretch, to lean out from my safe and reliable perch as a tenured college professor and pick the higher hanging fruit of change.  The job that I’ve been so lucky and happy to get is just such a plum.  I haven’t signed the contract yet, so I’ll keep things a little vague for the moment.  But suffice it to say that it’s a job in private sector elementary education in a school that is well established as a provider of what I’ll call “whole being” education: inter-disciplinary, collaborative and life based with lots of space for exploring the vast and ever changing outdoors in each season.

When I applied for this job, I had a completely incorrect expectation, which I know is a redundancy.  I made the usual projection my own ideas and sentiments into and onto the unknown reality of the job.  I applied for it as one more opportunity to get here permanently, and even though I got a response from the Board a couple of times before I left Pennsylvania, I had no real “expectation” that I would get an interview let alone get the job. And yet, here I am.  It’s as if the job was waiting for me.  The school, the board, the children were waiting for me.  At the first interview with two board members, I fell head over heels in love with the reality of the position, with its numerous challenges and uncertainties and with its radiant possibilities.  Love at first sight even at a little less than half my previous salary.  No problem!

The reason I’m home here today on this spread of land that backs up to countless conservancy acres in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains is that my partner is away in Seattle at a two day retreat with our beloved Guru and teacher Mata Amritanandamayi Devi known as Amma, “the hugging saint.”  Even though Amma’s organization does what it can to keep down the cost of attending the retreat, which is not for profit, it nevertheless still costs money to produce, and it was money that I thought it better not to spend. It’s not that I don’t have the money; I do.  It’s in my savings account biding its time until I need to buy a ticket to fly east in June to see my family and get my car and winter clothes and then drive the 2300 miles back home.  It’s waiting for the final course in my Waking Down mentor/teacher training, Advanced Mutuality Skills in August.  Its waiting for need to arise, which is different from desire.

Daniel Odier says quite a bit about this in his commentary in the Yoga Spandarika.  He says that the Tantric masters asked about the “whole of human passions . . . How to make it so that all is used, nothing is denied, nothing is rejected . . . so that we will not find ourselves one day face to face with our own demons, who always come back in hordes to destroy the quest?”   He says that for the Tantric, there is “no place for sublimation.  There is simply the act of looking deeply at what is there and of allowing whatever has remained buried to come up out of the ground and open like a budding flower.”

So not going to the Amma retreat is not a renunciation and does not feel like a sacrifice.  It’s an opportunity for me to look at an old pattern, one that says, “oh, what the heck!  I’ll just spend the money and go,” and  let it breathe freely and find expression in the comfort of staying home.  He says “One day, confidence begins to bloom, then flowers.  We then lose the idea of separation, and we get a taste of totality, space . . . a process that never stops evolving over the course of a life . . . process that is this absolute happiness.”

This process is deeply alive in me these days.  Today in particular I feel a simultaneity of excited joy, spaciousness and expansiveness. I have no needs.  I hung a closet rod and put my shirts on hangers.  I moved my altar from one side of the room to the other. I made and drank a smoothie.  The birds are singing.  It’s otherwise absolutely quiet, and the hills are at work being hills.  There’s a way in which they anchor me, drop me more deeply into my body.  Slow me down.

One more quote from Odier:  “When we talk about awakening, it is nothing other than . . . to discover , in a more or less permanent manner, [the] comprehensiveness of the universe, which is wholly contained in our consciousness . . . infinite fluctuation . . . never a beginning, nor an end.”  This is the process of absolute happiness. Be still and know that you are God.


Controlled Burn

Yesterday, the forest service started a controlled burn somewhere in the Okanogan Forest that surrounds the western end of Twisp River Road where I live.  It was a high moody sky already yesterday afternoon, a little muggy with the smell of rain in the air.  By the time I finished having coffee with a friend at Blue Star, cool winds were tousling the pewter clouds, and the smoke from the burn was a concentration of grays tinged with black up over the hills.  It did rain a little, and the temperatures fell back down into the 50s by night fall. This morning, the air smells like Gouda cheese or a wet camp fire, or a little of both.  It’s not unpleasant, but it’s different from the sweet clear spring fragrance of lilacs and greenery that usually greets me.

Controlled burns are essential to forest management.  They take out what would be fuel once the dryer weather and fire hazards of the summer season start.  This morning, this feels like a good metaphor for spiritual work.  I’ve been reading the Yoga Spandakarika: The Sacred Texts at the Origins of Tantra with commentary by Daniel Odier. The Spandakarika, which translates to “The Song of the Sacred Tremor,” says in verses 4 and 5: “All the relative notions tied to the ego rediscover their peaceful source deeply buried under all the different states.  In the absolute sense, pleasure and suffering, subject and object, are nothing other than the space of profound consciousness.”  

In his commentary, Odier says “For a Tantrika, an emotion–for example, sadness–is a prelude to joy. The idea that the world was created and that one day it will be destroyed is unfathomable because we see the creation/destruction process as a perpetual cycle.”

Over coffee yesterday with my friend, we were talking about relating with difficult people, and she said “it’s all just patterns.”  And my whole Being nodded vigorously with this.  What’s so beautiful about the Spandakarika is its focus on the spherical nature of things, what Odier describes as “the manifestation of any emotion and its withdrawal.” The way the world is always being created and destroyed over and over in the vast imperceptible ages or yugas described in the Vedas.  Or the geological and biological history of the earth.  Or look at the film from the Hubble telescope trained in on a piece of “blank space” the size of a grain of sand.  You’ll see a mind-blowing illustration of “the space of profound consciousness.” Focus your own inner Hubble on the vastness of your consciousness, and see what worlds it contains.

When we commit ourselves to a deep and ongoing investigation of our nature, we’re bound to discover the need for the occasional controlled burn.  The old patterns that are still with us, lurking under the upswept branches of our highest selves, are fuel to both fire change and inflame our emotions.  While we’re still in this relatively moist spring, before the dry heat and volatility of summer, turn the magnifying class of investigation on the twigs of your unresolved issues, and let the burn clear some space for new growth.