Student: I’ve heard you say many times that we can end suffering in this lifetime?
Teacher: Yes. It is the possibility that the Buddha offered us.
Student: So how do we end suffering?
Teacher: We learn to say yes.
Student: We learn to say yes?
Teacher: Yes. Suffering ends when we say yes to what is.
At the entrance to the Monastery garden stands a smiling statue of St. Francis of Assisi. (Yes. St. Francis! We do mean it when we say we practice “Everything (and everyone) is the Buddha!”) This statue has been an inspiration recently for many lively group discussions around the topic of “non-separation.”
“Non-separation” might sound like an esoteric subject to discuss, but it is the Holy Grail for Awareness Practitioners. To be with Life, to be completely one with all that is, to embody unconditional love and acceptance, to be empty of the ego process that creates the illusory world of opposites, preference, something wrong and not enough is what we spiritual aspirants ardently long for.
St. Francis serenely models (even in stone) what it means to have “achieved” spiritual bliss. One can project that he’s so in tune with inherent goodness, so profoundly still, so completely full of Life and absent of ego that he poses no threat to any form of life. As if he were a tree (a gorgeous expression of the Intelligence That Animates), birds and squirrels, butterflies, ants and bees nonchalantly alight on St. Francis, responding to the open invitation of his outstretched arms.
As we pause before this statue on our way to the Monastery garden, or when we stop in front of anything in our lives that calls us to a longing for this mystical experience of union with the Divine, however we might say that –
“When the sweet glance of True Love caught my eyes,
Like alchemy, it transformed my copper-like soul.” - Rumi
“Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.” – Ryokan
“And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts;
a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns” – William Wordsworth
“I wish I was safe enough for a sparrow to land on me.” - An Awareness Practitioner at the Zen Monastery
…we become aware that longing stands in the way of having this experience of oneness.
In the moment we notice the longing to be that quality we so respect and admire in St. Francis or the Buddha or Jesus or Gandhi or Mother Teresa, we are actually being it. Our direct experience of that state of being is projected onto the person with whom we are associating the quality.
When we say:
“Oh, she is so kind and generous. I wish I could be that loving,”
what we are really saying is
“My present experience is kindness, generosity and love.”
We’re experiencing awareness being aware of kindness, generosity and love in that moment. We are experiencing these qualities NOW.
We are seldom, if ever, allowed to stay with an awareness of oneness, with a deep recognition of a quality of True Nature. Attention is immediately hijacked by conditioned mind and
union (belonging, connection, acceptance, joy, peace, compassion, love) are believed to be experiences we desire but rarely have.
How absurd it would be if the sun, instead of basking in the life-giving radiance of the light that it is, hung around in the universe longing to be like the silvery light of the moon?
This is the way with us…until it’s not.
We spend our lives seeking to be something we already are and we suffer terribly as a result
…until we come to Practice.
Practice assists us to awaken to Authentic Nature.
As we practice cultivating the skill of paying attention, we notice the movement of attention that mutates an experience of “what is” to an illusion of “what is not.” We can then train to simply stay with what is, whatever it is.
Whatever it is might be a mosquito and not a butterfly.
As far as we can tell, St. Francis did not say no to the mosquito and yes to the butterfly. All the heroes that have gone before us on this spiritual path have reported that
an unequivocal and universal acceptance of All,
a peaceful surrender to Life’s terms,
an attitude of “thy will be done”
are requirements for spiritual bliss.
If there is even an iota of attention going towards wanting something to be different than it is (I wish it were a butterfly not a mosquito), we are attending to “what is not.”
There is nothing wrong with preferring a butterfly to a mosquito. It’s simply a missed opportunity. We cannot be attending to a preference and also be here for what is—the wonder of the mosquito.
To be St. Francis is to achieve that state of surrender from which whatever arises in life is welcomed and gratefully received.
This is why many in our Practice enjoy the mantra “Yes, Please, Thank You, I Love You.” It is the practice of ending attention on “what is not.”
Yes = Acceptance
Please = Surrender
Thank You = Gratitude
I Love You = Unconditional Love
When we can live from the perspective of “everything in life is a gift, everything in life is for me,” we have ended suffering.
In practicing acceptance, surrender, gratitude and unconditional love, we are no longer indulging the illusory belief that another reality where “this is not happening” exists. There is no resistance to what is, no rejection of what is so, no desire for what is not. We embody the empty teacup open to seeing what Life is offering because it “has been sent as a Guide from beyond.” (Rumi)
Saying “Yes” is peacefully surrendering to the possibility that we might have to train with ants, mosquitoes and flies first, before we train with butterflies and birds. (Insert any content for ants and butterflies!)
This attitude of “Yes, please, thank you, I love you…” frees us up to be with all expressions of the Intelligence That Animates, painful and pleasurable. What we learn in the process of “being with” is that “all of it,” whatever “it” is, is divinity itself and is always changing. Contrary to what the voices say, we discover we can stand the anguish of endings and the exquisite delight of beginnings. In fact, it is in the awareness of the trembling transiency of the moment that we feel intensely and joyously alive. In that moment, we embody “spiritual bliss.” We are St. Francis, the butterfly and the mosquito, and “non-separation” is no longer simply a subject of discussion but an immediate and vivid experience.
In that moment… there is no longer longing
there simply is…
For the next 48 hours, practice receiving everything arising in life as a Life offering. Greet the offering with the mantra of “Yes. Please. Thank You. I Love You.” Stop and ask the question “How is this a gift for me? What can I receive from this gift?” Let Life reveal the answer. Record and Listen.
Note: This Musings Article was inspired by a recent interaction with the Guide. Click here to listen to this group.