The Privilege to Rest in Being

It’s such a blessing to have a free day, a day in which the movement of Being is unfettered and flowing. Today has been just such a day, off from work, a morning unscheduled. I woke at 7:30 to the bright cold, laid and lit a fire, meditated, ate. I split wood and kindling, ate lunch, brewed and drank coffee. Read.

Recently I read an article in National Geographic about the three happiest places to live. In each, Denmark, Costa Rica, and Singapore, the common denominator was a governing infrastructure that guaranteed physical well-being: work, income, housing, healthcare and access to food. I do not for a moment take for granted their role in personal happiness, my own included, although our government does not guarantee these to us, not in practicality. I have been blessed to work in my field for forty years, to come to a point of financial security and simplicity such that I am now able to support myself working part-time. I have investments that, potentially at least, should guarantee me a fairly secure elderhood. I trust that this will be so.

What I am feeling into today is the way Being shows up when we have the freedom to rest. When our immediate needs are met, and we are able to live in the flow of what arises. Today, it is ease and well-being, physical strength necessary to keep my home comfortable, the food to sustain me, shelter that is able to withstand the weather. I have love, companionship, and a direct line to the Divine Nature that is in everything.

It is not always so, not completely. Some days, I struggle with the demands of earning my living, warming the house, driving the car, being with others. Nevertheless, the direct line to the Divine Nature is always present. Sometimes it shows itself in the natural world; sometimes it is in the kindness of strangers; sometimes it simply arises out of the smoke and ash of my own emotional discomfort. It’s like my heartbeat. I’m not always aware of it, but it’s always there, steadily keeping me alive, upright, awake, aware.

There are spiritual teachings that encourage us to subdue difficulty, to repeat the mantra this, too, shall pass. Teachings that encourage us to find our bliss, transcend the body, to treat death as a non-event, in which grief is a weakness, a belief in an illusion. I know that these sorts of teachings have their place; they made up some of the paving blocks on my path. But coming to the place of Sahaj Samadhi, the simultaneous realization that I AM THAT, and that I am also this body, both awareness of consciousness and its lived expression, has changed all that.

I’m discovering a new and deeper understanding of the nature of embodiment. It’s been slowly coming forward in me as I continue to navigate my embodied conscious awakening. My knowing of it is rooting itself deeper and deeper into my very cells, each one an arising of Consciousness. There is no separation between Me and Myself. I know myself in, as, and through, this body. It is a highly sensitive receptor of stimuli. My yoga training gave me the language of the koshas, the sheaths of the body: Pranamaya kosha, energy; Manomaya kosha, mind; Vijnanamaya kosha, wisdom; and Anandamaya kosha, bliss. They are merged into the skin, nerves, muscles, tendons, organs, bones, and blood of me. In any given moment, I am knowing myself as Consciousness through one or more of these sheaths. When I’m relaxing in the morning sun, I may access most of them; when I’m reactive to slights, disappointments, delays, I may access some. But I am always accessing them; they are the network of my aliveness to which I am fully awakened.

The Dharma of Trillium Awakening is, in a way, a Tantric Dharma. It is an outpouring of harmonized masculine and feminine energies. It is not transcendent. It is embodied. To fully know ourselves, our Dharma says, we must come to a place of “radical embrace” of all of our parts. Radical is the right word for it, drawing its meaning from the word radix, or root. We must come to the root of ourselves, and be willing to not just tolerate, or accept, but embrace what we find there.

This can be a slow process. Everyone’s awakening is different. Everyone’s conditioning is different. The shell that separates us from our true nature may be more or less dense depending on a multitude of factors. But once we catalyze the process, we can be sure that it will take us with it to the eventuality of a deep knowing of all that we are.

If you’re reading this, then you may already be in its embrace. Maybe you are one with it, and maybe you are wrestling. But you know its hold, and you can be sure that it is not going to let go. This is a beautiful thing.

With some luck, you have a good roof over your head, food in your belly, meaningful work. You are free to explore the regions of awakening without worrying about your physical well-being. You can rest in Being and let it unfold itself in you like the kaleidoscope it is. You can become its unfolding, multicolored, infinitely changing self and know it as the Self, your true and total nature.

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Exit 0: Coming to the End of Suffering

New Jersey, where I grew up, is bisected north to south by two major highways, the Garden State Parkway and the Turnpike. If you’re a South Jersey Girl, like me, they take you home from metropolitan environs of New York to the rural, marshy farmlands of this small, coastal state. The terminus of the Garden State Parkway, Cape May, the southernmost tip of the state, is Exit 0.

I was thinking of this recently while pondering the frequent refrain of students of spirituality: I want an end of suffering. I was struck by the image, both a little trite and at the same time extremely accurate, of life–especially spiritual life–as a journey. We could say that life is a journey to liberation for, as all life ends in death, with its unknowable terrain, at death we are free from life and all it brings. The ancient Greeks believed, as spoken by Sophocles’ chorus at the end of Oedipus Rex ,”Count no man happy until he dies, free from pain at last.”

For most seekers, suffering is something to be avoided at all costs through a variety of bypassing behaviors. And yet, paradoxically, we cannot come to the end of suffering until and unless we have passed through it, not by it. To evoke my journey metaphor, if we go through life in the express lane, never taking the roads through the small towns of suffering, we have no experience, no understanding of it. We haven’t seen its byways, tasted its flavors, smelled its odors. It’s not possible to live without suffering, so to pretend to do so by avoiding or ignoring it, is to pass through life being only partly alive.

In the work of Trillium Awakening, we teach students how to live fully as themselves. Our tools of greenlighting, holding, and feeling deeply with and as the body, develop our capacity to live the paradox of our limited humanity and our boundless divine nature. Resting in this paradox brings about a Second Birth into a life of authentically being who and how we are. And as we arrive at this portal of embodied awakened life, we continue to integrate our experience of suffering, which has helped to shape us into the human beings we are. We arrive at our destination: a deepening ability to fully feel all that life holds. And yet the journey is not complete.

Second Life is a process, an unfolding, a continually expanding capacity to be with what is. Like Exit 0, which is both a beginning and an ending, Second Birth is a portal, a culmination of one process and the beginning of another. And suffering is part of the landscape we traverse along the way. It becomes a part of our lived experience, more familiar so that we can open our hearts to it with vulnerability, compassion, and trust in the nature of Being. We cannot live and be completely free from pain. To fully awaken as embodied consciousness does not give us a free pass from life’s often unfathomable and painful mysteries, but it does give us more heart, greater sensibility of the nature of our aliveness. It gives us a way to trust in Being.

And to Dust Shalt Thou Return

I just merged my mom’s and dad’s ashes, putting them back together in this plane. I know they’re together on the other.

It’s been her wish since he died. It was deeply relieving and healing to do it, painstaking and requiring full presence. They’re sharing a lovely cigar humidor which has been my dad’s solo resting place for 32 years, and I put just a little of each into a small brass aftaba from India that my sister gave me, a symbol of the larger one that held my dad’s ashes in our mom’s house.

She takes up the lion’s share of the box they’re in, and it’s fitting in a way. She was here longer, and we had a more complex journey. It’s weighty now. Mom’s ballast mixing with Dad’s fine dust. Maybe this is how they’re mixed in me, too.

A few years ago, I had an Akashic Channeling from a lovely woman named Jen Eramith, and I asked about my relationship with my parents. The message rang deeply true for me and came at a time when I was undergoing some deep healing around my relationship with my mom. She said that the soul contract with my father was very brief. We were friends, peers, it was light and easy, and when he died, our work together was done.

My mother was another story. Ours was a long and complex relationship spanning many lifetimes, and we had a lot of work to do in this one. This came around the time that I moved 3000 miles away from my mother, to whom I had more or less promised that I would stay close throughout the end of her life. She was already fairly diminished at this time, but still, she was a far stronger presence than she was in the last year.

I remember going to see her and sitting on the floor at her feet. She had one of those automatic lounge chairs that lift up to help the sitter stand. It was where she spent most of her day–all of her day except for meals. I felt such a pain in my heart to tell her that I had been invited by my partner to join her in Washington State. It was something that she had dreaded and referenced frequently. But at this time, when I told her that I wanted to go, she said “Of course, I will miss you, but I understand that you need to go.”

Her blessing was important to me. I knew that I was leaving her as she was entering the last of her days. I continued to call her daily and visited twice a year. I had undergone a healing in our relationship, letting go of the story I had lived with in which my mother was somehow to blame for my discomfort in life. There’s a way, of course, that our stories are both true and untrue. We are born into families and social, economic and cultural situations that shape our experience. We may be a disappointment, an inconvenience, a challenge. And yet, in all but the most extreme circumstances, we are still loved.

My mother grew up under Hitler. She was born in 1929 in Bavaria. She came to consciousness under Hitler, and she embodied the German style of child-rearing that is so well dissected in Alice Miller’s book The Drama of the Gifted Child. She was not one for coddling, cuddling or compliments. It was not her nature.

She gave her love in very tangible ways; she was fierce and she was always working, both in the home and out, to provide for us the best that she could. And yet, the parts of me that needed to be seen through my own lens remained invisible to her, or at least unrecognized.

Longevity is a gift in so many ways. If we live long enough, we mature out of the various stages of our own development to a clarity and wisdom . In my fifties, I found my way onto the path of awakening through what was then called Waking Down in Mutuality. I fell deeply into the wounds of my childhood, which are the doorways to freedom. I fell into various circles of hell-fire experiencing and burning away my attachment to the shadow story of my life. I was a disappointment. I was a freak. I was an outsider. I was unloved.

I don’t remember my mother ever saying that she loved me. Once, early in my spiritual path, I confronted her about his (over the phone–not recommended), and she said “I love you but . . .” at which I cut her off.  “There is no but after that mom.” She was stalwart: “I love you but you’re different.” Back and forth we went. It did not help either of us to feel closer.

As she aged, like me, the shells of her personality fell away. What was left in the last few years was a sweetness, a presence and relaxation with what was. Sometime in the last year, when I said, as I sometimes did at the end of our call, “I love you,” she said “I love you, too.” And once, only a few months ago, when I told her I was coming to see her before Easter, she said it unprompted.  It was pure nectar.

In April of this year, at a workshop with Trillium Awakening teacher Rod Taylor on “The Personal, Interpersonal and Impersonal Dimensions of Love,” I spoke this truth from the core of my being: My mother has always only loved me.

What a great blessing and relief.

When it became clear that she was declining, I flew out to see her the week before Easter. She was already turning away from the world of the living. Two weeks later, we signed her up for hospice care. And two weeks after that, going on my intuition, I flew home to stay with her until her passing. My sister had told her just the day before that I was coming. Hours after I arrived, the facility called to say that she was laboring–shallow breath and apnea. Laboring is my word. The vigil we sat with her from 3:00 Saturday morning until her passing the following Monday at 8:30 am was so like a birth. The long slow waiting for revelation, for transition.

It was a gift and a blessing to be with her, to share those fifty hours with my sister and her. We slept in chairs with our heads on her bed, our hands and arms holding her the best we could. We ate our meals, checked our emails, told stories, talked to nurses and family visitors, cried, slept, watched, waited.

And then, as Yeats said in a different context “A terrible beauty was born.” Her breathing fell into troughs of stillness.  It was only a touch to feel her pulse that would start her up again.  Ten seconds, fifteen, twenty. Touch. Breath.  Then she took one gasp, paused another half a minute, took another one, and that was the end.

I don’t know when I have felt such pure tenderness and compassion as in those fifty hours. I don’t know when I ever touched my mother so much or so lovingly, like a child, both her and me.

It took me sixty years to come to know the dimensions of her love, which are the dimensions of all Love. It is all encompassing, multi-faceted, sometimes painful and sometimes blissful. It is the nature of God, the absolute. There is nothing that is not part of it.

Grief is a natural part of the death process. It comes over us, comes out of us in the face of death’s mystery. It has its own rhythm, its own logic, its own mystical healing powers. It’s a force to be surrendered to. It’s part of the transformation, the ongoing cycle of integration and disintegration that we may see what is ahead of us and embrace it without fear.

She is at rest, and she is at source. She is mingled in the ashes of my father, and mingled in the air. Remember, o man that thou art dust, and to dust shalt thou return.  It’s a useful remembrance. What lives in us is eternal.

 

Psychic Surgery

For the last few years, I’ve been experiencing what, to work a metaphor, I’m going to call “symptoms” of a psychic wound from my childhood.  It’s a wound around sex and sexuality that has been deeply bound in psychic scar tissue.  This scar tissue has acted as a deadening agent, a protection from accidental re-injury or activation.  The last fifty years allowed a lot of scar tissue to accumulate, for the psychic body to develop a somatic relationship to the wound in which it has been as if asleep.

Then came awakening.  With awakening as consciousness came the slow awakening of many parts of myself, countless and previously unknown parts.  Some of these parts brought ecstatic enlightenment to my Being.  Some brought quiet joy. Others brought pain that radiated out from the essential wound of incarnation, of being in a body.  Some of these parts are small and mundane, others are large and consequential.

About two years after awakening as consciousness, I took a long and quite activating telecourse with Waking Down in Mutuality founder, Saniel Bonder called “Let’s Talk Sex.”  For me, the course opened the door to the way sex and sexuality have been shadow parts of my Being, parts that are acting on me without my awareness.  My Trillium Awakening teacher Sandra Glickman has said “we are governed by what we can’t see.”  How true that is.

I’ve often used the metaphor of a splinter in talking about psychic woundedness.  It’s as if early life events, conditions and patterns lodge in our Being, some of them quite deeply, and once their trajectory inward stops, and they come to rest, they begin a trajectory in the other direction, back out toward light propelled by the body’s psychic antibodies that form a pocket of pus around them, sometimes with swelling, irritation and pain until they work their way up to the surface level where they can potentially be removed.  Sometimes they shoot out on their own accord, like a birth.  Even if they come out on their own, they leave a trace of their passing, a trail, a residue of awareness.  But sometimes they are obstructed and require the assistance of a skilled practitioner.

My wound material has been under the skilled care of a team of practitioners.  I first spoke of the wound with my core teacher, Allan Morelock.  He’s both my spiritual GP and a highly skilled specialist. He held the revelations without judgment and offered a salve of love and acceptance.  The Let’s Talk Sex course community was a collective massage team that prodded around the wound awakening its field of feelings: pain, distress and confusion.  Over time, the confusion gave way to a pressure to acknowledge the nature of the wound, which for the first time in my life, I spoke to my Beloved partner, revealing the people, places and actions that caused the wound.  Since then, the scar tissue of the wound has softened, parts of it have been metabolized into my Being.

But the deeper parts have been more stubborn.  They have required a commitment from me, welcoming them forward.  I say it’s been a commitment from me, but of course, it’s not been me at all; it’s been the flow of Being, bringing around events and realizations, revelations that have created space around and shed light on what has been buried for so long.  It has brought me into the transmission field of teachers whose skills with healing are both mysterious and effective.  The Shamanic healers Cielle and Jeffrey Backstrom peeled away the layers of dead and decaying matter between the wound and its healing.  They’ve created the space for and called in those who are the wisdom keepers for my life.  These keepers have revealed some of the conditions that led to my wounding and as importantly the patterns that caused it to fester, darken and limit.  They’ve brought me to readiness for surgery.

Last night, I entered the operating theater via a Skype session that brought me face to face with the psychic surgeon, Allan Morelock.  There’s a way that being in the transmission of these deeply embodied spiritual teachers, Sandra, Cielle, Jeffrey, and Allan, slices through my resistance to exploration.  In their loving, laser-like gaze there is neither a need nor a place to hide. My relationship with these teachers, especially Allan who mid-wifed my awakening, is deep.  The trust is bedrock.  The loving care, the truth telling, are utterly reliable and inescapable.

Meeting Allan last night, entering his transmission field stripped me down to the deepest, ickiest place in my wound. Through conversation, we unpacked it and bathed it in light.  He guided me into a meditative state in which we could lift out each piece of the wound, both the “story” of what happened, and the ways in which the conditions and patterns of my life have caused it to fester over decades.  He held it all in the light of loving investigation, of forgiveness and release.  He drew the whole gaping wound out of my body, left a large, tender spaciousness in its place.  In the hours to follow, in recovery mode, I rested in the pain of healing.  I was exhausted with the work of Being more fully alive.

This morning, in meditation, the palliative care of body, mind and spirit, I rested in the ongoing healing of my wound.  I rested in awareness of its long history, our long relationship, the dance of accommodation.  I acknowledge the way that relationship is changing through the healing process.  Sandra Glickman has famously said “wounds formed in relationship can only be healed in relationship.”  And in my experience this is true of all healing.

There’s a way that the depth of wounding is matched by the length of healing.  What we bring in with us when we enter this fleshly experience of our Being, what we accumulate from the early days can take the rest of our days to integrate.  There’s a way in which being alive in this human body is the core wound of experience.  When we awaken as embodied consciousness, we enter into the dance of healing, of mediating the distance and dissonance of Being and Body, which are both one and separate.  Like Michelangelo’s iconic depiction of the outstretched fingers of God and Man, these bodies are a constant ache toward the eternal.

Has “God” been Co-opted?

“Patience means trusting God’s timing!”  These words are currently emblazoned on the sign in front of the Calvary Baptist Church in Twisp.  It really struck me today driving past how closely aligned they are to my own tag phrase “Trust in Being.”  In fact, I find myself quite frequently nodding my assent to the signs they have posted there, resonating with their deep truth.

Not surprisingly, there is a vast ideological landscape between me and the Baptists.  Or me and any organized religion.  I’m what retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong calls “church alumni.”  And yet, as time goes by and I undergo my own deep internal healing around the nature of the divine, the ideology moves further and further from the map, at the same time closing the driving distances between me and other “believers.”

I grew up in a beautiful Episcopal church in Glassboro New Jersey, St. Thomas’.  The church dates back to the end of the 18th century.  It’s a charming stone building with stained glass windows and old style wooden pews with remnants of graffiti dating to its early days. The church sits in a grove of old growth trees and has a small cemetery, and I can easily conjure up the feeling of the place in each season: midnight mass at Christmas with its candle light and incense, Easter’s altar piled with lilies, its cool interior in summertime and the clusters of fallen leaves in autumn.  A lot of important things happened on my inner journey in that church, things for which I had no language in childhood, nor really any support.

It wasn’t until my awakening that I rediscovered my devotional nature.  At a workshop with Waking Down teacher, Krishna Gauci, after a gazing exercise, I felt a profound and familiar awareness in my chest as if my heart had enlarged and with it the volume of blood it pumped so powerfully; it wracked my chest, and my shirt visibly rose and fell with each beat. It was the same feeling I used to get at communion. Feeling into this, the tears poured forth bringing with them a slew of embodied memories of my childhood devotion. When I was in high school, my family took a vacation to Bavaria where my mother had grown up, and her uncle took us to every church in driving distance.  There, I met many forms of the crucified Christ including one in chains that was said to bleed once a year on a holy day.  I hung postcards of nearly every one in my basement bedroom.  There was an eros to it, a feeling of what I now see as mystical communion, a desire to be one with His suffering.

By the time I graduated high school, church became optional, and my attendance fell away.  As I moved through college and into graduate school, I found myself at odds with the doctrine of organized religion particularly around sexuality, which severed the ties that had been so conscientiously nurtured.  They lacked the depth of feeling and discernment to continue to seek within the bounds of Christianity for succour.  Instead, like many of my generation, my gaze turned to the east, to yoga, and west, to “sex and drugs and rock and roll,” so that by the time I landed in middle age, I was suddenly aware of a spiritual hunger so deep and unexplored that it could no longer be ignored.

In spring, Waking Down founding teacher, Saniel Bonder offered a telecourse called Christing 2.0 that drew heavily from the book The Meaning of Mary Magdalen by Cynthia Bourgeault. And one night’s discussion addressed a variation onthe question I raised in my title: has Christ been co-opted?  Many of us were feeling a renewed ownership of Christ and as a result of Christianity.  It’s given me a new vigor for this old love, a new language and relationship with the Christ as a central figure of western spirituality.

The nature of God is unfathomable.  It doesn’t care what we call it: He, She, It, God, Being, the Absolute.  It contains everything and is contained by everything.  In this moment and these days, I feel a continual deepening of trust in that which is.  Call it God. Call it Being.  But call It.

Doing and Being: Facing the Day of “No”

Today, I taught my last yoga class for the summer at Yoga on Main in Manayunk, PA, where I’ve taught a weekly class on Thursdays for a number of years.  It was a particularly sweet class, well attended (for a Thursday morning) with two of my regulars, one new person, and two women who came “to hear me talk.”  It’s a beautiful thing whenever, as the Bible says, “two or more are gathered” in the name, the search for the truth.  I always open class with a silent meditation followed by a brief open eyed meditation, “gazing” with each person for less than a minute, meeting them gaze to gaze, Being to Being.  And then I give a short talk, just whatever’s been up for me recently that in some way illustrates the nature of Being.  Today it was the intersection of a few threads that came together in a recent experience that I referred to as the day of no.

For me, this day of no manifested itself in a jarring realization that the way I perceive myself is not always the way I am perceived by others.  As it happened in the personal and professional spheres at the same time, it felt like quite a combination punch.  A regular one-two to the psyche.  It felt like hell.  It felt like the way I know myself was so out of kilter with the way I was being perceived, or the way I was being perceived somehow missed the core of who I am.  I don’t mind telling you that it knocked the stuffing out of me and laid me low.

One of the women at class this morning, Julie, had some good questions about this.  “What do you do when that happens?” The beautiful thing about this sort of experience, for me, is that I no longer resist it.  Even though I felt contracted around the experiences, I didn’t try use the contraction as a way to muscle through it.  I just let it be there.  It was a soggy day out side, and I let the sogginess infiltrate to the inside of my Being.  I stayed in my pajamas.  I sighed.  I said out loud, “I feel like shit.”  I was aware in this feeling state that there was something to be learned.  Whenever there is dissonance of this degree, Being is really trying to get my attention.

I thought back to the experience I had over the weekend at the Transitions and Transactions conference about my name.  And I got that this self perception is always just that, a perception.  I can continue to refine it, to hone it more and more close to the Truth, and yet, because I am in this embodied form, this physical entity with her various, numerous names, no matter what I call myself, I am essentially nameless: the way that can be named is not the true Way.  My teacher, Allan Morelock (read his two beautiful books, Nothing Other,  and Raindrops Falling on the Ocean) has said “personality is impersonal.”  And that, I know, is the truth.

Julie’s other question was about decisions, and this is one that can take a very long time to parse out, but still I was delighted by her asking it.  For me, there is only Being.  Being is writing itself in and as and through me as My Life.  There’s never really a time when I decide to do something.  I just do things.  It sometimes feels like there is a decision, or a choice, but really, where does that choice come from?  Whether I sit around until I move toward food, sleep, drink, reading, walking the dog, or whether I respond to an invitation with a yes or a no, or whether I decide to go out or stay home, there’s a way in which it’s all the same.  Sometimes what we appear to “choose” to do appears to work out well and feels good, and sometimes what we appear to choose to do works out badly and feels bad.  Sometimes it’s neutral. But good, bad or indifferent; intentional, unintentional or accidental, it’s still Being that’s making it happen.

The Trillium Awakening teacher Rod Taylor told me once that all the stuff we feel like we keep hitting our head against is just Being showing us the core wound.  In Trillium Awakening, the core wound is a way of speaking about the edge between our finite and infinite nature, a place we’re always rubbing up against.  We’re infinite: everything is occurring in consciousness, there’s no separation, no other, and at the same time, we’re in these finite, limited bodies with their complex layers of differentiation, their needs, wants, dislikes, stories, patterns and conditions.

You can always count on Being to show you where you still have something to learn.  Sometimes life is like a rock tumbler, just knocking off the rough edges to polish you to your true shine.  The best and truest way to live is to just let come what may.  Rumi says:

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

You don’t have to love them.  Welcoming awareness can be anything from a simple act of reception to a deep bow of surrender. Doing and Being are but two sides of the mobius strip of experience. The more we come to trust in Being, to get out of its way, the more easefully we can ride that edge and fall, finally, our true home.