A Zen teacher once remarked that one of the things we can do to get started on the spiritual path is something very simple: take a walk around the block. Give ourselves a break and some time to think about spiritual things. Take a simple walk around the block, and do some thinking on your feet. Take a few minutes where you’re not being disturbed, turn off your phone, don’t think about work, and let your mind drift towards spiritual matters. Allow your deeper questions to come to the surface, while you’re walking along. Just the simple act of walking can give the body/mind enough to do so it will give us a break to look at higher things. Too often our minds believe spiritual matters to be affairs of the head and the imagination only, not something we actually have to do.
This teacher also said that until we realize we do nothing, we must face the fact that we are what we do, not what we imagine ourselves to be. The simple act of walking while allowing our inner problems and questions to surface for review can lead us into two places. One, a greater consciousness of who, or what, we really are and what we need to work on: our blocks and obstacles that stand in the way of our direct realization of ourselves.
And two, we begin to equate walking or ‘doing’ with spiritual work. We perform the simple act of walking around the block, with the even simpler act of allowing ourselves to take a look at our selves. We may eventually come to see that we ‘do’ nothing, but this is not an intellectual concept or conclusion. It comes after much work and loss of face. We can only become that which is nothing, that which is One, from the position of the doer, not the imagination. We then will walk while noticing that the body/mind (that which is walking) is not us, and we are only the witness of the action. Not in our imagination, just after the fact, but as it takes place in real time. Then, our mind can take a walk, while we rest easy in our Self.
So give yourself a break by ‘doing’ some work: take a walk.
It’s a blade of grass in the summer moonlight
A sprinkler hisses, then a mist and cold spritz
It’s a pastel sidewalk, the colors the child
A jump, a skip, a call and response
It’s a porch, its swing and lantern, the tree underlit
A mother breaking dusk, calling her son back home
A dog sniffing the ground, you can’t help but laugh
While the grasshoppers chirp and the fireflies flick
It’s the town’s outdoor pool, water twirling up and dropletting down
It’s riding at night on a Schwinn Stingray bike
On the small town streets chasing the smoke fog
of the DDT truck, the smell heaven, better than ant subway’s
It’s Wyoming on the farm, going to the Indian dance
The irrigation canals, the alfalfa and manure
Sleeping on a high bed, on soft flannel sheets
The whooshing of tires down the highway before sleep
It’s the trip down Wind River to Thermopolis Hot Springs
My mother and sister, my virgin aunt who eats her Reeses
My virgin uncle driving, he sings in the fields
My grandparents who only speak German and love
The hot soaking pools, my mother really happy
The high dive off the board, the low dive of my sister
The park with the bridges, the sulfur, the steaming streams
And riding the Screaming Mimi down into the pool
It’s Elitches Gardens, the mecca of all yeows!
The Tilt-a-Whirl, the Calypso, the Wildcat coaster
The Skyride brushing the tree branches, the Tropadero Ballroom,
The ponies, the funhouse mirror, and softie twists
The feel of bare feet on hot asphalt, then on cool grass
The slapping of street in Converse All Stars
Levi jeans, white tee shirt, no wallet
The music box rhapsody of the ice cream truck
Music lifting heavy heads behind window screens
In the parks, in passing cars, on the bed table in the dark,
The handle on the radio and the knobs gleaming fake chrome
A spaceship transporting sounds for dreaming the world
The green glow dashboard of the Plymouth Valiant
Cruising the loop over and over with bench seats filled
The Dairy Queen stop, the lime-aid and Mr. Misty
The young girls untouchable but seeable, giggly and gangly
It’s winding down in the cool basement evening
Watching TV shows before there was irony
Flickering blue plasma lava across whitewashed walls
Shirtless back stuck to the emerald green vinyl sofa
Never end day. Never end night, Never end this.
When sleep finally comes, it comes easy at first graze
Of warm skin on cool cotton, head surrendering to pillow
Dreams no more magical then life, as innocent as mornings
Children of summer, dancing and yard running
We were all awe, we were the sun god revolved ‘round
I could sing you until I couldn’t breathe anymore
Even now, knowing it was never made to last
I passed through a deep crevice at twilight,
And I saw a narrow vista of trees,
Magical in the mists-
Vocal to the hush of meaning,
Whispering to the wisdom of shades,–
Before the backdrop of eternity. . . .
And I had a friend. . .
Whose dust with mine was not the bond,
Whose love with mine was not the bond,
Whose teaching with me was not the bond,
Both of us had been to this same place,
To the twilight in the narrow crevice,
And because of this place, we are eternal.
For using nostalgia in meditation in a practical manner, I see it like this: Richard Rose used to say that guilt is a mixture of fear and nostalgia, fear being we’re afraid of being punished for the act that brought on the guilt, and nostalgia being the longing for the relatively innocent state we were in before the act. Think of it in terms of a lifetime. We may feel guilty about having lived what we come to see as a meaningless life, or an unfulfilled one. The fear manifesting as the fear of being punished for our life asleep, of not being awakened, of wasting our chance. We will die, and not know why we lived, perhaps have to pay karma for our mistakes, and just the plain old fear of death, the unknown. The nostalgia would be from the longing for our innocent state before life affected us, such as the innocent state of a baby. We didn’t have problems or even an identity then, and sense it was better. Especially if we have children or have been around babies, we can pick this up.
Nostalgia is the key to using emotion to find our way back to our original state. If we only use the mind and the imagination in our search, it becomes dry and hollow. The emotional element is brought in by the nostalgic mood; it lends a direction, a practicality, and a motivating factor missing from the head only approach.
” If a thing loves, it is infinite.” – William Blake
Progress on the spiritual path can be thought of in terms of value, or love. What is most important to us is what we value the most, what we really love. The path of self-discovery can be seen in these terms. We observe ourselves, and discover what our true motivations are, leading us to see what we value. Another way to see this is by checking our fact status. What we actually do everyday tells us much about what we value, and perhaps shows us the gap between our personal storyline and our actions. If this fact checking and self-observation are carried far enough, we may begin to get a look at something called our ‘self’ or personality, and begin to see its illusive nature. We may be forced to admit to its exalted status as our real true love, despite our ego’s protestations to the contrary. Using this shock as further fuel for the search, we become a bit more honest in our future assessments. If self-inquiry is carried even further, through this process of elimination we may find something more real to love than this ‘self’. Back beyond our mind’s motion, something still and silent lies. If you find a love of truth, rather than fiction, it may take you there.
Finding this still-point depends largely on our state of satisfaction with our beloved ‘self’. If the state becomes one of dissatisfaction, we have the incentive to look for something more stable. Hearing from others that have gone before that there is something somewhere ‘within’, and that it is worth any effort to find it, also adds to our incentive. By looking at what we love, we can come to love the truth, and find there is something worthwhile inside us other than mind-motion and change. Let’s take a look at how this path might turn out, and some of the pitfalls and signposts along the way from love of ‘self’, to Love Itself.
We hear of this so-called still-point, called by such names as silence, stillness, the center, the Source, what we really are, etc., and wonder. If our intuition is not clouded by the dissipation’s of relentless pleasure seeking and the resultant fear, we may discover a longing, a nostalgia deep within that tells us we may have once known this silence, and still love it more than we might know. This longing is fed too, perhaps, by being tired of the jostling effects of life, its traumas and endless no-win scenario, leading only to death and dissolution.
So, we read the books and search the Internet, finding many who tell of the way back to this stillness. They vary from the intellectual work ofHubert Benoit, to the practical experiments of Douglas Harding. We find the paths back to this center also called by many names: ‘the inner movement’, ‘self-remembering’, a ‘double-pointed arrow of attention, one directed in, one out’, ‘observing the observer’, ‘looking back at what we are looking out of’. Many speak of ‘silence’, and even the many forms of silence. From this information alone, we may not come any closer to really knowing this still-point, but if we persist in looking, we may get lucky and discover much that it is not. We begin to see that it cannot be something of the mind, for we find the mind is motion. We may be fooled into thinking that the stillness is something we can manufacture, that it’s found only in ashrams or monasteries, or that we can force it onto the relative world through controlling the environment. Or we may decide to create it within by controlling our mind, forcing it to think only what we have been told we should think, and discover that this too, is folly.
When the still-point is finally reached, even if only for a moment, it is unmistakable. If we have allowed ourselves to hone our intuition and clear our thinking, we will find that this silent place within is not just a concept, but very real. The movement necessary to turn our attention back away from the outer and inner movies of the mind and senses is found to be also something real, and not a thought or concept at all. We find too, that we forget, and are carried back into the mind at every instant. But if our love for the silence is true, it will turn us back into it again and again, provided our previous experience with the mind and its motion has been enough, or too much.
This is where what we value or really love comes in. If our meaning is taken from the changing scene of the relative world, we will keep our attention directed towards it. We will turn away from the silence within, and our longing will be for the excitement and changes of the mind. We may declare our love for the center, but our attention will long for the agony and ecstasy of the world of form. Boredom with silence too, means our value has not yet moved inward from the world to truth, but remains trapped by the colorful kaleidoscope of the mind, and the energy releases of the body.
This part of the journey is a journey within. We retreat from our former love for motion and change, and move inwards toward simplicity and truth. After the still-point has been found, and correctly valued, our attention is then turned round, and we begin a new phase, one of our new love being tested. While we continue to hold a part of our gaze on the still-point, it being what we really are, we also turn round and engage in the world of action. This is to test our love, to see if the trials and tribulations of the outer world can knock us off course, and change our point of reference. If we come back to the center, time and time again, during and despite every trial, we find we are becoming less of the world and more of the silence. In any situation in life, no matter how difficult or how often we forget, if we eventually return to the still-point as our anchor, we find we are becoming one with it. We become that which we love.
“It is absolutely essential that we actually get in touch with the eternal Child.” –William Samuel
I’ve found dreams to be a valuable source of self-knowledge through the years, and a great trick to get around the ego’s ruthless tactic of editing out anything truly useful in our search. The following dream is no exception. I was inisolation, a spiritual retreat, and had a curious dream. I wrote it down, and later, when back from the retreat, took the time to research the information. Even now the dream stands out, for it describes a fundamental aspect of us all, one that I continually find described by others in their own words, too.
The dream revolved around a character called the ‘gumb ‘. This term was accepted by me, as witness to the dream, being part and parcel to the world the dream presented. Only later in so-called waking life did I find the term curious. The character it described was an ordinary sort of fellow, of average height, build, and appearance, but his manner was most unusual. I was shown a series of vignettes where these characteristics were illustrated, as the dream narrator filled in the details.
In the first scene, the gumb was attacked with spears by a swarm of meanies. Being outnumbered and with no visible means of defense, I was flabbergasted at the result. He was able to simply wave off the spears, and continue on his way unharmed. Next, his bug-like adversaries built a series of walls from cement blocks in attempts to hem him in. Again, he simply waved his way through, never breaking stride. He never lost his cool or reacted emotionally in any way to these situations. He didn’t indulge in having his feelings hurt or stop to place blame, he just kept moving. He did not attack or retreat but held to his way, without hurry or delay.
While I watched in amazement, the narrator filled in the story. He told me the man was called the gumb. The reason he could not be hurt or stopped was because he did not carry a watch, and was not afraid to gamble. I remembered these words, and later, back in the world of organized information, I wrote them down and began the search for this word ‘gumb’.
While later on I found several different versions and roots of the word, the initial search was by far the most informative, and I believe, the most accurate. It resolved the dream for me. I found the word ‘gump’ in a large dictionary, and was surprised at the result. The word was Scottish in origin, and originally meant fishing in the dark, to search for with the hands, to grope and catch fish under banks or stones. It was said it later came to mean searching for insights, having no fear, and not being overly concerned with the outcome. To muddle through difficult situations thanks to a series of lucky chances. It is the root of the modern term ‘gumption’, meaning the courage to act, and the practice of common sense and presence of mind. The meaning of not wearing a watch and not being afraid to gamble began to make sense.
The gumb’s way of living contrasted heartily with my own, for I was fear-based and living from a state of mind handed down through generations having lived in fear and desire as their basis, too. Now, don’t get this wrong, no one in this line of misfortune is to blame, for no one was aware. They were not aware that they were identified with a particular state of mind. This state of mind called the shots, and even defined perception at a basic unseen level. It gradually covered over the innocent perception of the children of each succeeding generation with a fog of fear, judgment and desire, and transformed them into identified, reactive-oriented robots, each with a pride-based ego that they were aware individuals with a handle on their lives, and the meaning of it all. What a trap, and what a joke. No wonder the image of the gumb and his way of action was so appealing.
As time went by, I discovered this path or way of being in the writings of others, and in the actions of a few. William Samuel’sChild within, Richard Rose’s between-ness, Douglas Harding’s headless seeing, the Puer or Intermediary ofMaurice Nicoll, and many other examples of this pure state of being. While this listening attention, as I’ve come to call it, is not the final state, it is the door. It is the timeless portal between the manifest and the unmanifest, the gateway to within. It is how to live in the world, but not be of the world. The ego state of mind may be good at managing the world of daily affairs, but it cannot go beyond. The child within us transcends the world, being our link to the formless. We then see why the ancients called it the Son, and that the Son and the Father are One.
The path to becoming the listening attention begins with self-observation. The hard work of ‘seeing’ what we really are, and what we are not. Later, we may find that we were the Child all along and had just become lost, but without this journey into time and space, we would not value our true state. To begin the homeward journey, look quickly, subtlety, without the editing of states of mind. In the moment of perception there lies a door, an attention that does not define, but simply sees. The nostalgic longing we feel at times for a better life, a real home, is a thread back to this child within. Follow it, and discover your own inner child, the gumb.
In Dan Sutera’s article on John Wren-Lewis, a very important point is brought up, that of forgetting. This problem of forgetting gets little mention is most esoteric circles. Wren-Lewis tells us of two forms that this forgetting of ourselves can take. The first he calls a “slipout” and is caused by focusing the attention on and through the mind. Usually this does not lead to a complete forgetting, but occasionally one forgets “eternity” and the slipout occurs. The return occurs when one remembers the “Dazzling Dark” and returns to the “correct “seeing, or eternity consciousness. This forgetting is relatively minor, as long as the attention, or value, placed on the mind is minimal. The second forgetting, that he refers to as “screening”, is much more severe in that it is a complete loss of the Dazzling Dark, his own dark night of the soul. This has occurred rarely and comes from intense stress. Let’s take a look at these two types of forgetting and see how they occur in daily life.
G.I. Gurdjieef remarked that we need tools to remind us of ourselves, he called these ‘alarm clocks’. Little mental
mechanisms we can put into play to remind us of our aim to ‘remember ourselves’ or to reconnect to the Dazzling Dark. These alarm clocks are necessarily of a personal nature, and serve to pull us back from the outward mind, reminding us to ‘go within’ once more. Sooner or later these alarms will lose their effectiveness by becoming habit patterns and will need to be changed. One of the best methods of remembering the need to staying awake is to take advantage of our fellow seekers. Nothing serves to remind us more of when we are slipping into the mechanical mind than a good shock from a friend or fellow group member. They may know us better than we know ourselves.
The more severe form of forgetting can be caused by becoming engrossed in the first until we have become so hypnotized by the problems and demands of the outward mind that we become wholly identified with its self-madness. Wren-Lewis refers to this madness as “some kind of inflation or hyperactivity of the psychological survival-system.” The ego/mind becomes wholly concerned with its own personal brand of self-survival and we no longer have any freedom of attention. We have lost the ability to go within and listen to the Dark. At this point, Grace and surrender may be our only hope. Again, our fellows can help us see the pattern of ego-infatuation and help us to relax and turn the inner head back towards its source.
One of the best alarm clocks we can have is to remind ourselves of the three lines of spiritual work, as taught by Gurdjieef/Ouspensky. These simple reminders can help us to remember that we are not alone in our struggle, that there is help to break the spell of the outer-directed mind.
The cycle of desire and fulfillment may seem a trap of monumental proportions, but as all traps built in the framework of the mind, it has no inherent reality. Let’s take a look at this cycle of desire, fear, and fulfillment, and how an ache of the heart turned within is our release.
We see that if we want something and then get it, we feel better. After years of this cycle, we fall for the trick of believing that getting what we want is what life is about. And what would make us happy would be getting what we want, when we want it, all the time. We fail to look closer and see what has really taken place. Fulfilling desire simply puts it to sleep, and leaves us in the state of no-desire. It causes no fundamental change, and sows the seeds for our future discontent. If we saw behind the circumstance, we would see that the state of no desire, or pre-desire, is what we long for, and would no longer move from it out into the dual dimension of pleasure and pain, the so-called reality of life. This state of peace has been there all along as our true nature, lying much closer than any pleasure object of the world. But this peace is not peace of mind. The mind is motion, and does not manifest in stillness. This state of no-desire is stillness itself, beneath and primal to mind, and is our rest.
This trap of desire and its fulfillment also involves forgetting. We forget we are fulfilled as we really are, within, and thus move away through temptation and trickery. Not from being pushed, but from being fooled. We have become mesmerized by the world and its sensations, and have forgotten the peace that lies within. A potent cocktail, equal parts faulty memory and a profound propensity towards fantasy and projection, mixed with fear of unfulfilled desire and death, topped off with a passion for grabbing onto everything that feels good, keeps us on the endless loop of turning our attention out into the world for fulfillment, coming back into ourselves to rest, and then going back out again. We have become identified with the world and it’s dual nature, and have forgotten we are complete and forever in the state of fulfillment within, our true home. We are not an animal at heart, though we have come to believe this.
This leads to the longing of nostalgia and how we confuse the circumstances of our childhood events with a purer state within that was also present at the time. It is innocence and lack of guilt that we truly long for, a state before temptation and the chasms of the mind led us out into duality. We long for our childhood or nostalgic scenes, not because these props and times can provide peace, but because our inner state at the time was one of peace. We paint this inner state onto the scenery and confuse the two, fooled again. We mistake the event for the feeling, much as we do the act of fulfillment of desire with the state of no-desire. Nostalgia in its pure spiritual state is not the desire to live in a root-beer commercial, which might be nice, but the longing of our heart for its true state of oneness. Our inherent inner peace passeth all understanding, for to ego and mind, it’s completely unbelievable.
In the morn of my soul the track was smooth,
freely would I glide, skis on nothing flew.
I had come from Still and Quiet,
I knew just what to do.
Come the afternoon of mind, so came the Spindrift,
blown by the winds of mind, of experience,
to slow my feet, even to stumble.
Stale clouds darkened the path, Spindrift rumbled.
I became obsessed with the track itself,
obsessed with skis, with motion.
Feel of flying, of gliding free, gone, only
trudging, the means itself, the notion.
I no longer felt of flying, no longer the morn of my soul.
It was afternoon, and things had slowed.
From what and how did spindrift-knees-stiff
The fine granules catch my skis, sandpaper,
holds me back, turns the glide to waver.
Is it Spindrift, my mind to slow, my soul to feel anguish?
or attachment to the exact circumstances of the track,
which now leads me nowhere from nothing.
I find the pattern Spindrift, has caused a pattern smothering.
It accuses: ‘you created me’.
I’ve surely now become thee.
Now when skis catch, I catch.
When feet stick, mind sticks.
The pattern evokes a pattern prick,
the pattern’s pattern, anger.
For these reactions happen still, even when the trail is smooth.
It’s echo haunts my mind,
Spindrift, not there, yet binds.
The pattern begets pattern, I became the pattern fine.
Through blowing lines of
Spindrift, floating dreams of mind,
my soul in the floating haze doth see,
a steady distant sign.
Nostalgia speaks of earlymorn,
to ski and trudge no more,
of Home, peace and faith instilled,
Still and Quiet, as before…
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