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December 2020 Musings

Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They’re not only the ending, but the beginning as well.
–Tao of Pooh
We are at that marvelous but arbitrary threshold between a year of extraordinary practice gone by and a year of extraordinary practice to come. Living in the moment provides a unique perspective on the passage of time without robbing us of the ability to appreciate the expanding depth of our intimacy with the “cycle of Wisdom, Happiness and Courage” that comes with practice. 
As practitioners of Awareness we are always training to transform our ability to see with Awareness rather than conditioned mind, a looking that supports us to be present to the vibrancy, aliveness, transiency, and joyful nature of Life as it is. From Awareness, we experience the nature of existence as constant change and are forever in the stream of making the changes that assist us in the realization that Goodness is our inherent nature. It seems appropriate to revisit the steps we took this year in Making a Change for Good.
The practice structure of the yearlong retreat consisted of 27 days of assignments repeated ten times over the course of the year and grounded us in a process of paying attention. Bringing awareness to how suffering is caused not only transforms our ability to be more present to our experience, it provides the freedom to choose something other than the well-worn conditioned groove. Over time, we see past who we’re not and awaken to who we authentically are.  
As this cycle of practice comes to a close, let’s reacquaint ourselves once more with the path we traversed this year…
Nourish beginnings. The blessing is in the seed.
–Muriel Rukeyser
Zen underscores the importance of beginner’s mind, of training to be here for the naked NOW, unburdened by conditioned prejudice, expectation, preference, dread, foreknowledge. The secret to vitality is to be in harmony with the throbbing pulse of the moment. It’s the habitual identification with the ossified monotony of an ego groove, reinforced by unconscious repetition, that strips our experience of the sparkling spontaneity of thisherenow.

What’s your experience of the blessing of being here, now?

A superficial freedom to wander aimlessly here or there, to taste this or that, to make a choice of distractions, is simply a sham. It claims to be a freedom of ‘choice’ when it has evaded the basic task of discovering who it is that chooses.
–Thomas Merton
If we are like most conditioned human beings, ego is “who chooses” and we’re bamboozled into thinking “I” am choosing. The predicament we’re all in is not that we have control issues but that we are controlled by egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate. Life acts, creates, sees, does, without actor, creator, seer, doer. To be one with Life, one must, as a contemporary Buddhist writer put it, “relinquish the ego in favor of acting through the guidance of our inherent Buddha-nature.” Then we experience our True Nature as existence unfolding. 

Take a moment, listen. What is the guidance of True Nature in this moment?

After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can’t give.
–C.S. Lewis
Our inability to be receptive to the still small voice of guidance exists because ego has our attention. Life is always broadcasting, but our receptors are so calibrated to the ego frequency that we tune out the Life signal. Receptivity is to calibrate to the frequency of All, to be able to register and contain the enigmas, the complexity, the paradoxes and subtleties of the Unknown. This is why the cornerstone of Awareness Practice is to empty ourselves of the ego and to become pure receptivity, or in Joseph Campbell’s words, be “transparent to transcendence.”

Jot down what you are receiving from Life’s broadcast now.

Participate in the night leaving, participate in the evening coming, participate in the stars and participate in the clouds; make participation your lifestyle and the whole of existence becomes such a joy, such an ecstasy. You could not have dreamed of a better universe.
–Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
Receptivity to how Life is opens the door to wholeheartedly embrace the particular part we’re being called to play. Participating, defined as taking part in or being part of, is the way to make real to ourselves that we’re essential to Existence. Something magical happens as soon as we say yes to any of Life’s invitations. We are catapulted from separation into engagement. Engagement necessarily implies involvement and involvement generates a sense of connection. Once we feel connected to a person, object, space, community we notice how genuine interest arises effortlessly. We are compelled to care about what we’re interested in. And if we are present, everything is interesting!

Pay attention! 
Enjoy the sense of connection that comes with attention engaged in Life.

Before death takes away what you are given,
give away what there is to give.
Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret,
and in exchange gain the Ocean.

When we’re HERE, fully present to Presence, engaged and participating in existence, we feel grateful, whole, complete; that identification with Gratitude wants to give; it gives from fulfillment not from deprivation. Nothing is given up or given away in a true act of giving, except the ego! Because we’re conditioned to believe that we should give of “ourselves” unstintingly, we’re susceptible to the voices that drive us to give beyond our means, to give at the expense of the life that we’re here to steward (ours), to give when we’re depleted and have no reserves. This is lauded as selflessness, while any act of caring for the human being or any pursuit of the transcendence of the “self” is characterized by the ego-voices as selfish.

Give yourself the gift of yourself by giving up an ego orientation.

The Universe is activity. There is no such thing as inaction. Since there is no such thing as an individual apart from the Universe there is no such thing as individual action, just a totality of action everywhere. The Universe acts impersonally and we are simply the activity of the unfolding universe. 
–The Bhagvad Gita
Giving up the ego, allows us to be unfolded by the activity of the Universe. It’s not a leap for those who have been practicing for a while to “get” that when we cease to identify with the ego, all action is Life doing rather than “my” doing. Doing produces suffering only when we identify with the doer and whatever ego beliefs we subscribe to about doing!

In this moment, cease to be the doer, just be…

Here, in humble submission, in order to experience this most perfect now, I deeply bow, and sacrifice all thoughts, all tensions, all pressures, and desires.
– Daily Recollection

Letting go ego is the joyful and arduous work of spiritual practice. Letting go might feel like a surrender of what defines “me,” of what “I” love, and what makes “my” life worth living. Because we’re told that attachment creates suffering, we confuse letting go attachment with giving up the places, people, things, ideas, feelings, and experiences that we are attached to. Letting go is not giving up the objects of attachment. Letting go is freedom from attachment itself. Through sustained practice we arrive at the clarity that attachment is a poor substitute for the love we experience through letting go ego.

What would you let go to experience Unconditional Love? 

Unconditional love really exists in each of us. It is our deep inner being. It is not so much an active emotion as a state of being. It's not 'I love you' for this or that reason, not 'I love you if you love me.' It's love for no reason, love without an object.
—Ram Dass

Love without an object is not easy, not because loving doesn’t exist without an object. Love without an object is not easy because we’re so conditioned to project love and receive it by reflection that we’ve lost the capacity to identify as being the source of love from which the projection arises. “I love you” really means I’m in touch with the love that animates me.
When attention is turned inwards on the Love that Is Us, we experience Being which is Loving. It’s an alchemy of being, more of “Seeing with the Eyes of Love.” What is seen is Love. What is seeing is Love. And from this center of being, we can be loving, inclusively and impersonally. Instead of looking for love, we can experience Love by being loving.

What do you see now through the eyes of Love?

By acceptance I mean embracing, owning, and expanding beyond one’s closely held and defended personal limitations. It is the deconstructing of one’s illusions of understanding such that one is left with possibilities previously unimagined. It is nothing less than the complete transformation of what one has believed to be one’s self and one’s reality.
–Cheri Huber
To see ourselves through the eyes of Love is to transcend self-hatred. Many of us are conditioned to believe “there is something wrong with me,” that if “I” could somehow be different or fixed, my life would work better. Self-acceptance is not “Yes, there are all these things wrong with me, but I accept myself anyway and I will continue to strive to better myself.” Self-acceptance is the process of recognizing and dropping the conversation in conditioned mind that maintains a false sense of “self” and obscures the awareness of our authentic nature. The joy of Intelligence knowing itself happens when we choose to accept what we truly are, in the face of the conditioning that is constantly providing “evidence” to the contrary.

Make a recording of what is true about you that cannot
 be contested by the voices of self-hate.

So amazing this choir of
socks, shoes, shirt, skirt, undergarments,
earth, sky, suns, and moons.
No wonder I too, now, sing all day.

When we’re here, present, and paying attention we cannot but be worshipful, grateful, respectful, and awestruck at experiencing Consciousness Being Bliss.  By celebrating all of Life as it is in each moment, we grow our capacity to include everyone and everything in unconditional love and acceptance. How glorious it is to consider that our training as Awareness Practitioners is really to welcome each moment as a celebration! Instead of letting ego dictate how, when, and what we celebrate, we can choose to extol the Magnificence that is experiencing it all.

And so…
Let’s stop for a moment to acknowledge and celebrate
the Magnificence That Is

…and welcome another cycle of celebration.

In gasshō