“The key to the whole process lies in the fact that there is a fountain-spring of endless guidance and information within every human being. One only has to learn to get out of its way, to let the consciousness generate in a stilled and quiet mind. – The fountainhead lies totally within.” – Jim Burns
One of my favorite songs as a child was ‘Desert Pete’ by the Kingston Trio. The dilemma of the thirsty traveler in the song fascinated me. What would I do if came upon an old well in the desert, and found the bottle of water for priming the pump? Would I pour it into the well, acting on faith that the message in the note was correct, that there was just enough water to prime the old pump? Or would I take the easy path, and drink it?
Our spiritual life poses much the same dilemma. Do we spend all of our time and energy on life and its pursuits? Or can we invest some of it towards future understanding and possible transformation? Do we have faith that our investment will come to fruit? Are we even aware that we have energy and time, and that they can be re-directed, invested towards something higher, rather than living from day to day, spending it all on whatever desire or fear presents itself moment by moment?
The Parable of the Talents presents a similar lesson. We are given energy and life, talents, which we can invest through faith, or we can covet the energy, bury the talent in the ground, and through fear of the higher(the Master in the parable) keep our self-love intact. The servants who invested their master’s money were rewarded for their efforts, while the one who buried his talent(no pun intended) had it taken from him and was thrown into darkness.
The song tells a similar tale. Do we trust in a higher power, and pour the precious water into the well, invest it, or do we take the way of fear and need, and drink it up?
Jim Burns talked about the hidden spring within each of us, and how all spiritual work was designed to re-connect us with this wellhead. To uncover the inner fountain of spirit through faith is, in a fundamental sense, our task. Life’s trials and tribulations can plunge us deep into ourselves, and at the bottom of this dark well, we may find spiritual gold. We come to see there is something higher, that comes from deep within. That the world and its desire/fear system lead nowhere but farther into need and separation. We gain faith through insight and intuition, and one day ‘prime the pump’. We start to question our need to drink all water as soon as we are given it. We are able to resist the world and its promises, the easy bottle, and to stop doubting ourselves. This saves the energy of the moment. It’s invested instead. We are starting to have faith. The pump is primed, the inner connection is re-established. The water of wisdom and love can come forth from our own inner well.
We are given many notes on how to prime the pump, how to have Faith. Teachers and spiritual systems have been presenting this message for centuries.
One day, we may realize we have been investing, priming the pump, through simple acts such as prayer and meditation, seeing others as ourselves, and listening to our heart. The inner connection will clear, the wellhead will have been uncovered. Then the cool clear water of our inner divinity will spring forth, healing our mind and heart, guiding us back to the Source.
The best day of my life – my rebirthday, so to speak – was when I found I had no head. This is not a literary gambit, a witticism designed to arouse interest at any cost. I mean it in all seriousness: I have no head.
It was eighteen years ago, when I was thirty-three, that I made the discovery. Though it certainly came out of the blue, it did so in response to an urgent enquiry; I had for several months been absorbed in the question: what am I? The fact that I happened to be walking in the Himalayas at the time probably had little to do with it; though in that country unusual states of mind are said to come more easily. However that may be, a very still clear day, and a view from the ridge where I stood, over misty blue valleys to the highest mountain range in the world, with Kangchenjunga and Everest unprominent among its snow-peaks, made a setting worthy of the grandest vision.
What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. A peculiar quiet, an odd kind of alert limpness or numbness, came over me. Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down. For once, words really failed me. Past and future dropped away. I forgot who and what I was, my name, manhood, animalhood, all that could be called mine. It was as if I had been born that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in – absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not in a head.
It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole where a head should have been was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything – room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them snowpeaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.
It was all, quite literally, breathtaking. I seemed to stop breathing altogether, absorbed in the Given. Here it was, this superb scene, brightly shining in the clear air, alone and unsupported, mysteriously suspended in the void, and (and this was the real miracle, the wonder and delight) utterly free of “me”, unstained by any observer. Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.
Yet in spite of the magical and uncanny quality of this vision, it was no dream, no esoteric revelation. Quite the reverse: it felt like a sudden waking from the sleep of ordinary life, an end to dreaming. It was self-luminous reality for once swept clean of all obscuring mind. It was the revelation, at long last, of the perfectly obvious. It was a lucid moment in a confused life-history. It was a ceasing to ignore something which (since early childhood at any rate) I had always been too busy or too clever to see. It was naked, uncritical attention to what had all along been staring me in the face – my utter facelessness. In short, it was all perfectly simple and plain and straightforward, beyond argument, thought, and words. There arose no questions, no reference beyond the experience itself, but only peace and a quiet joy, and the sensation of having dropped an intolerable burden.
– Douglas Harding
This is an extract fromOn Having No Headby Douglas Harding, first published in 1961, available now through the Sholland Trust.
I was thinking this morning of how I have attempted to accomplish control over the fear of death. I saw that I was comparing my efforts to accept death, and the failure to do so, only within the context of what I believed. I realized this could never be accomplished; it was trying to change an idea with an idea, working only in the realm of thought, rather than becoming that which observes thought.
It strikes me that much of what we call ‘spiritual work’, but isn’t direct inquiry, is this phenomenon in one form or another.
Whether it be death, anger, or whatever else we believe we need to make peace with or become, before we awaken.
Awakening is not an accomplishment. Its road is not a series of modifications, but rather a direct seeing of what is.
This is not the same as struggling with thought to ‘remove’ thought. You see thought directly. You are ‘behind’ even thought.
It’s when we believe we see from the same level as thought (that seeing is possessed by an object we take as our self) that we attempt to modify it. We believe this modification will allow a more direct seeing as the object we believe ourselves to be changes.
You cannot see through objects. Thought cannot be made more transparent (a movement to its opposition) or more opaque (a movement towards its reinforcement) and thus solve the problem of identity.
When thought is seen as an object and not as a lens, you may ‘see’ seeing itself and thus be the truth of yourself, even here, in the world.
You can’t accept anything before its actuality presents. This ‘acceptance’ would only be an idea and ideas can only be believed in. They should not be accepted at their own level, the level of ideas. True acceptance comes as the ‘I’ is chased down.
The pride of accomplishment is a sneaky bastard. Be it positive (I did good) or negative (I did bad)
The pride of accomplishment and the pride of ownership are the same pride as that of doer-ship. They occur at the unquestioned level of identity. An identity of thought only pointed at but never fleshed out in what can be directly viewed as actual. Much suffering comes from this.
“Nurturing the now is a way of living in the present with peace and optimism. You must yearn to return…to the living experience that you are.” – Vicki Woodyard
Vicki Woodyard has brought the fruits of her life and suffering into a teaching that is inspirational and a comfort to those in need. She speaks from the heart of wisdom, without pretense, a valuable rare thing in this age of non-duality spin doctors. Her path was one of finding inner wisdom through grief and loss. She has taken this suffering and turned it into spiritual gold, helping others to find their own inner teacher.
The first step should be into silence. Begin with the silent witnessing of your thoughts.
The next step is into surrender. Let the thoughts be there without fighting them.
Thirdly, admit that you need higher help. This will bring in the principle of humility – Vicki Woodyard
Her latest method of passing on her insights is through a series of short videos. This very effective approach can almost immediately drop one down from the head into the heart, as we listen without argument or agreement. Here’s a sample:
She has a couple of Facebook pages she posts to, as well as her web site and a youtube channel:
A fellow Southerner and a teacher of integrity and patience, Vicki studied with Vernon Howard, who imparted his no-nonsense way of teaching to her. I recommend everyone who is interested in finding their own inner wisdom, to give Vicki a serious listen.
This is a fine example of her insight put into prose:
“I am intensely fierce, a warrior. My teacher this lifetime was and is Vernon Howard, who taught the Work of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, esoteric Christianity. Christ was concerned with living the truth and letting the chips fall where they may. He counseled his disciples to shake the dust off their feet when encountering uninterested people.
The Work undercuts the ego at every opportunity, which is why it is never for the masses. The masses settle for church and social institutions, believing that by good works they can save the world. Vernon used to say that if you cleaned up a slum, it would recreate itself before you could turn around. How true that is. Charity begins within.
I believe in the power of the living truth to change me when I am ready to face it. Until I am ready, the truth will wait on me as long as it takes. Love is patient and kind.
It takes a lifetime to make any progress, a total dedication to seeing how bad off you really are. To see it is to be free of it. But no one stays free for long. It is an ongoing witnessing that must take place within one’s own consciousness.
If you are involved in the work of waking up, the older you get the better your life becomes. Why? Because you always get your spiritual gold. Your outer life is a reflection of your inner one, so a simple life is always best.
Simple living and high thinking is the phrase Yogananda used. To be economical on every level is to be simple. Just as you get rid of junk, you get rid of emotional disasters in your personal life. This requires a cutting away of worldly ties. The true way is not for the timid. There is always new ground to break and old ground that falls away.
A warrior, when afraid, remembers the truth within that will never desert him or her. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And we walk on, preceded and surrounded by the light.”
This past Sunday, March the 20th, I was privileged to talk with Regina Dawn Akers from Awakening Together. We discussed many topics relevant to the spiritual search, a good evening that I hope will be informative to those longing to look within.
The audio of the interview is available on their web site through this link:
Ever wondered about the connection between Zen and self-knowledge? If you have even a glimmer of interest in these matters, this book can open a new dimension for you. This much prized knowledge is delivered via the friendship that develops between a lost young man and a Zen master.
Nostalgiawest photographer Bob Fergeson has just released a new book, set in the swamps of Louisiana. Bob couches Zen lessons and a methodology for spiritual development into a simple story that allows the teachings to shine through. This book has something to offer the complete beginner and the more seasoned seeker – simple explanations of profound truths.
The book is available on amazon, in both print and Kindle editions. The Kindle version has full color photos taken by the author in southern Louisiana.
To receive answers to important spiritual questions, questions that concern the inner self, such as ‘who am I’, ‘what should I be doing with my life’, we will need to use the appropriate method. Big questions such as these shouldn’t be put into the emotionally based associative thinking we habitually use, the kind of thinking we use to balance our checkbook or schedule the day. In answering higher questions associate thinking gets us nowhere. Being cast into the wrong realm, these questions endlessly spin around the brain in a negative feedback loop, tying up our mind.
For great questions, we need a different level of mind, something patient and insightful. There is a gap between our associative spin thinking, and the place of tension that can contain the great question; a quiet space in which to ponder. We find this space through meditation; practicing methods to strengthen and calm the mind. People who are really busy, with kids and careers, will tell you they don’t have time to ponder. If you were as busy as they were, they insist, you’d know this. But would they meditate 2 to 3 times a day, conscientiously, they will find sooner or later that they do have time to ponder. Most of our so called thinking, is actually an emotionally based form of worry, guilt, or anxiety; it doesn’t serve a valid function. Once you see this through self-inquiry and meditation, the worry and anxiety will begin to evaporate. You find you do have time to ponder. You begin to understand how to put spiritual questions to the inner self, the unknown.
We find great answers by putting our great question up against the unknown, and holding it there with attention. We wait patiently for the unknown to respond. It requires true patience and courage, for the answer may not come immediately, it’s not associative. The process takes a while. Maybe a minute, an hour, maybe a year, even longer. Sooner or later, if we keep the tension there, against the unknown, the Inner Self will be stressed to respond with the answer, bringing resolution.
This tension-based thinking is hard to do, for there’s often no immediate satisfaction. It requires being able to both hold tension and be patient. The tension and waiting serve to break the associative loop, putting the question instead to a higher source, something not in space and time. Emotional thinking and rationalization are on the mundane level, and have no access to matters beyond.
One caveat is that we may find we’re getting answers in this tension based thinking, but not to the questions we expect. Instead of our present question, questions in the background can be suddenly answered, for the tension, once created, will jump to the next question on our list, whether we’re conscious of it or not. This can happen because the questions we’re putting to the unknown may not interest the inner self, or we may not have put them in in the right form and need to rephrase and clarify them. Or, we may not be ready for the answer, we might refuse it.
Questions held with tension in a quiet mind draw to them the corresponding answers; a process of resolution. Patience, courage, and humility are key. Remember, we ask a question because we do not have the answer; we are admitting our ignorance, and are asking for release in a determined and humble manner.
The purpose of meditation isn’t to make us feel good or to continually inspire us, so that we feel emotionally motivated in our life. It’s also not about changing our feelings; to make us feel good, and not feel bad. It’s about leading your feelings and thoughts from a higher perspective. In other words, we meditate in order to generate a spiritual quantum or spiritual direction, a vector, which can help us to act over and above our feelings and thoughts. If we don’t feel like meditating, and this tells our thoughts to look for reasons to cop out, the spiritual direction can help us to meditate anyway, regardless of how we feel.
This is why we need to meditate on a regular basis, to develop a routine, whether we feel like it or not. Meditation will provide the energy and incentive for meditation. It’s not about “I don’t feel like meditating and need instead to lay around until I figure out how to get to where I feel like it”. It’s not about adopting ‘thought disciplines’ that make bold directives and use the guilt trips of ‘should of’s’ to force us to meditate. It’s about generating a spiritual quantum, which is over and above feeling and thought. This will enable us to act, and meditate, without the ego energy. We’re so used to acting only through ego energy, feeling good, feeling bad, and their accompanying rationalizations, that we don’t know there’s another way. Proper meditation and connection with a higher power is what gives us this ability. This is what we’re striving for, not for endless bliss, endless inspiration, or some trick to help us get high, to distract us. What we’re looking for is something above and beyond this; a change in character, a change in being.