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What follows is a quote from my book Yield. Part of it is a quote I used from June Dunlap’s book Exploring Inner Space. I quote it all because I believe it sums up our Way. It starts in the middle of June’s experience of living through the process of evolution, and ends with a realisation of a great truth.
“In what seemed billions of years since the first amoeba washed up on shore, I was a caveman, cringing in darkness against a back wall of a cavern. I felt insignificantly small and as terrified, as were the prehistoric animals. Then I was all cavemen, leading lives of utter misery. For a moment I was a Cro-Magnon, carving on cave walls, somewhat less frightened now. The aeons sped by, and I was primitive men of every sort: a lake dweller living in a flimsy hut built on stilts, my surroundings so vivid I could hear the lapping of the blue water which sparkled in the sun; a brown-skinned woman near a grass hut village; an Australian bushman; a cliff dweller with a hubbub of children playing around me; an Eskimo eating frozen meat in an igloo. As each I felt the restless, driving, God force which knew no quieting. As each I was terrified of the elements, ferocious animals, starvation, sickness, and other tribes.
“Then I became every variety of more highly evolved man, feeling with astonishing keenness and even accuracy, I suspect, what each must have felt. I was a tiny black baby nursing at a pendulous breast, its mother holding the infant with exquisite tenderness; a Chinese coolie, hunger gnawing at my guts; a prescience scientist, immensely proud to be the first to discover that babies resulted from intercourse; a Korean woman with aching back, weeding a rice paddy; a fat Turkish sultan sitting cross-legged, arrogant and cruel.
“Then I was Socrates, feeling that to die was as nothing compared to forsaking a principle; a Moslem worshipping Allah; a monk in a cold, miserable cell copying a manuscript. As a composite of thousands of persons who lived during the Middle Ages, I died of cholera, the plague, the Black Death, leprosy, and hundreds of other diseases. I was all murderers and all murdered; all lovers and all beloved. I was all beggars, palms outstretched; all givers of alms. I was Columbus watching the fires on shore, proud and thrilled. I was the Mayans, building their temples; Navajos dancing in frenzy around a sand painting.
“Without an instant’s relief I became a mountain climber falling to my death; a sobbing Chinese mother, feeding her children mud during a famine; each of hundreds of people celebrating the rites of spring by having sexual orgies in the fields. All of these persons and more I was many, many times, and each reliving caused me to sob in anguish with the terrified, the sick, and the dying.
“Abruptly, instead of raw ugliness, sheer beauty lay before me. I was Toscanini, conducting an orchestra of hundreds of instruments. At the same time, I was the millions of ears of humanity, listening to the first strains of the celestial music which rose in crescendo – until it saturated my being and absorbed me, egoless, into itself.
“Soon I was again a great variety of persons, lost in a gamut of intense emotions. This time it occurred to me that each of them had experienced the same feelings, struggles, and victories as had the animals in the marshes and jungles. Ever present had been the pull of the life force. This inborn urge to reach God had caused man to evolve until he was capable of love and other positive emotions, a recurring thought which invariably left me overcome with awe.
“Suddenly I felt overcome with compassion. An instant later I became Mary, filled with joy and peace as I rode beside Joseph toward Bethlehem. I was the wise men, bearing gifts, and the shepherds gazing at the star, more brilliant than anything I had ever seen before. We left our flocks and, walking over crackling snow, followed the star; as each of the three, the joy of being with the infant Jesus tore my body with shaking sobs. I was with the child Jesus in the temple; followed Him with His disciples, and with joy in my heart, waved a palm branch as he entered Jerusalem.
“Then I was Jesus, hanging on the cross, felt excruciating pain as nails pierced living flesh, and uttered his words, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ As Mary I sobbed at the foot of the cross. Then He died, was buried, and lived again.
“Suddenly His resurrection seemed shockingly unimportant. It was the same story told already thousands of times. Always after death there had been life. ‘The fact that He rose from the dead is considered important,’ I concluded, ‘only because we have forgotten what each of us really knows deep inside: all life dies and lives again.’
And in different words, Constance Newland’s tells of the same wonder: “Gradually it became clear what had been causing the pain. In every human being, I seemed to be told (from within), there is a fire that burns, a creative fire. When that fire is permitted to burn freely, the human being is healthy and creative, whether he be farmer, artist, mother, workman. But when the fire is blocked, as it is by this pain, then the person is crippled, just as I had been crippled for most of my life.
“Once again I found myself submerging into the sparkling black, which was no longer buzzing, nor frightening, but filled with pinpoints of light. – - and I was dissolving into those pinpoints of light. – - yes, I was dissolving out of the matter which was my body into the energy of those pinpoints of light which grew brighter and brighter, obliterating the blackness and be coming a light which was all Energy.
“I dissolved into the Nothing which is Everything. Transcendence. In the transcendence, revelation:
“There was no climactic moment of release. There was no shattering or explosion. There was only further expansion and further fulfilment. It was as if I had become the expanding universe, spreading further and further in every direction, and through the universe of me there flowed a mighty force, the Life Force, which was like an inexhaustible fountain of fire or air or water, a fountain of eternal replenishment. That must be why the ancient cities of Europe have so many fountains. To show their people this eternal replenishment.”
“Unconscious Me had said that – and now, one after another, the fountains I had seen in European cities rose before my eyes. One in particular stood out more vividly than the rest: the tiny Mannequin – Pis of Brussels, the little boy who has been flowing without stop for almost five hundred years.
“That image too disappeared into the Energy which was sparkling, foam white, endlessly replenishing, refreshing.
“How long did I bathe in that exquisite Energy? Was it hours or minutes or seconds? Time had no dimension in this fountain of fire-or water or air.” (3)
‘And lo, I saw, even with my eyes closed, I saw!’
‘But what did you see? I have done all you have said, and believe me, nothing happened?’
‘Then you have succeeded. What more do you want?’
‘But I still don’t understand you. Nothing has changed. I am the same as I ever was. I have no insights, no greater intuition, no closer awareness of God. It’s all as it was before, so what is the point of my doing anything? After all, everybody, child or grownup, whatever they believe, whatever they do, happy or unhappy, religious or otherwise, they don’t have anything happen either if they just sit down. I suppose what I am trying to say is that my discipline of surrender has not made me any different to millions of others. I sit down, as they might do, and nothing happens.
‘Precisely. Why should anybody be different? The sun shines on all alike. God is interwoven with all.’
‘But you talk as if I am experiencing something wonderful; as if I am now aware of God. This makes me terribly confused, because as far as I am concerned, nothing at all has happened.’
‘Yes, you are experiencing God. Something wonderful is happening. It is alike for every being on this globe. And yes, you are also confused, but that is because you bring so many hard and ready-formed opinions to what you are experiencing. You bring image after image to the formless; conception after conception; and hopes, plans, ambitions and desires. These are your restlessness. These are your sense of failure. After all, have we not said that the central experience of self is Nothing? Well, you are experiencing it. But look what you are doing to it. You bring expectations to it. Perhaps you have read that God is Light, so you expect to be immersed in light. Or else you believe the Absolute takes one away from all sensory perceptions. Maybe you wish to help others, or be a healer, or find some great wisdom here. You bring all these and more to the experience of Nothing, and cloud it over, feel unsatisfied with it, run away from it. Your self cries out to get away from it, to deny it, to belittle it, to say it is not what it is.
‘If instead, you had visions, or heard a voice, or had some great revelation, or felt bliss, or were immersed in a huge awareness lost to the body, then you would say, “Ah yes, this is it, something has happened”. But I tell you, these are all things that emerge from Nothing, and are not the centre itself. Your being, your consciousness, your all, are such emergings; but you are constantly also aware of the Centre from which they emerge. In fact, that with which you are aware, is that Centre. Therefore, why be unsatisfied with what you are experiencing?’
‘I see a little more clearly what you mean, It is nevertheless very difficult to believe that my own common experience of nothing happening is the very thing I seek – God. Also, you said that God is Nothing – and Everything.’
‘Well, that is true, but you must pierce the confusion of your own emotions and thoughts, before you experience this clearly. All your expectations and preconceptions; all your inbuilt dreads and disconnected urges and strivings, act like a cloud or irritant. It is like yourself, never having met me, but wishing to, and yet having an idea that I have short blonde hair, looking for me in a crowd, and never finding me because I have long dark hair. It is, you see, not because I was not in the crowd that you did not find me; but because you came with a wrong conception, the wrong expectation and image. And this is what we do with God. It would be better if you simply stood in the crowd and kept calling my name, without moving.’
‘Why would I not have to move?’
‘Because the crowd is really the mass of your own thoughts, past experiences and emotions; your whole surging soul. If you do not know me, then neither do you know whether I am far or near. If you move, you may be moving away from me, perhaps just as I was about to reach you.’
‘On the other hand, maybe you are out of hearing and do not notice my calls.’
‘That is the chance you have to take. In fact, God hears all, and as soon as you call and wait, tries to reach you through the surging and difficulties of your own thoughts and emotions. It is a matter of waiting.’
‘Okay, but we come back to the point that I do not seem to feel God has reached me, despite my waiting. I have read that when a Master meditates on God, his body and his thoughts disappear, he is lost in the absolute. Nothing like that happens to me.’
‘You see, you are coming with images and expectations again other people’s photographs of God. But I am not taunting you, I am simply trying to help you believe in your own experience as it stands now. You do not have anything else, and making yourself discontent with what you have will only add further turbulences to be dealt with.
‘Let us be very clear. The only thing which in fact worries you is the feeling that something other should happen. If there were no such feeling or thought, you could sit all day without discontent. It is this discontent which makes you long to achieve something other than you have. But where does the discontent arise from? Is it from your Centre? Is the Absolute discontent? If it is not from your Centre, then it is from the complex of hopes, expectations, fears and dread you have built into yourself. Yet these are not what you seek. You recognise these as your problems, as your fears, but you let them advise you and ruin your relationship with your Self, your Centre.’
‘How do I alter that, though?’
‘Let me finish what I was saying.’
‘When you close your eyes there is nothing. Perhaps images, memories, colours, impressions arise, but each in turn subsides or gives way to others. Behind all this emergence, subsidence or giving way is Nothing. It is God. It is your Centre. But you have denied it so long and hard; you have taken the images and emotions, the drives and fears, the colours and dreams that arise from it as the Reality of life, and have ruined your relationship with it.
‘Can you not see, with a-little perception, that even your socalled meditations are a denial of this central fact of your being? Can you not see how you struggle and thresh about to avoid it? See how you keep trying to fit names and desires and ideas and anything else on to it? In so doing you cover it up – you deny it – you mistrust it – you crucify and bury it. But it rises again every time you sleep; every time you die.
‘By all these acts, that relate you so badly to it, you keep separate because you will not dive into that absence trustingly and lose yourself in it? How can it be Everything while you are putting a manhole of disbelief, doubt, desire and ambition on it? While you are running away from it? I tell you that when men work a miracle of healing, or telepathy, or some manifestation of materialisation, it does not come through effort. It comes out of that Nothing, without any thought or planning on their part. They are probably as amazed by it as anyone else. It happens for them because they are doing nothing, because the manhole is off their Centre, and it flows out spilling creation as it wishes. Or it draws souls into it and annihilates their darkness and separateness. These men are just holes through which Nothing can express everything.’
‘I still find myself confused; and what you say hard to believe.’
‘Do you find it confusing or hard to believe that memories of your distant past can arise out of your inner darkness and nothingness? Or that poetry or music can call forth from it a spectrum of feelings and moods, associations and ideas? And what is it that blocks these ideas and memories, emotions and moods, from even greater depth and intensity? Is it perhaps your own fears and limitations?
‘If memories and emotions arise from this dark pool of mind what is to stop other people’s emotions, memories, longings from arising therefrom also? It is done by many, why not by you?
‘What, I ask you – mysterious pool that you are – is stopping God himself from being known there? Is it yourself?’
This from Bill Stimson says it all.
A few years ago I dreamed Guo Yuan Shi, my favorite of the three monks then at the Ch’an Meditation Center, was teaching me the highest method.
Next morning, I arrived early at the Center to set out the cushions for our Saturday sitting group. The street out front was uncharacteristically quiet. I stood on the sidewalk that chill morning and knocked softly at the double gray door. No response. I rang the door bell and waited. The door opened. Guo Yuan Shi’s cheery face greeted me. I bowed.
“I had a dream about you last night,” I said as I stepped inside and removed my shoes.
“I dreamed you taught me the highest method.”
“The highest method,” he said, beaming from ear to ear, “is no method at all.”