The first peace, which is the most important,
is that which comes within the souls of people
when they realize their relationship,
their oneness with the universe and all its powers,
and when they realize that at the center of the universe
dwells the Great Spirit,
and that this center is really everywhere,
it is within each of us.
— Black Elk
What is the spiritual journey other than realizing this first peace? It is easier for many of us to see the Great Spirit in majestic mountains and towering pine trees than to see it in ourselves, so inured are we to a self-image of ego identity. If we don’t actively cultivate a relationship with the Great Spirit within/without, we reinforce through our attention the more familiar experience of feeling adrift in the vastness of an indifferent world. The dualistic orientation of the mind keeps the world in the realm of the “other than me.” This alienation from the center everywhere translates into a lack of reverence, respect and stewardship for our internal and external landscapes. Instead of the first peace, we have discord, dissatisfaction, destruction.
There is a life-force within your soul, seek that life.
There is a gem in the mountain of your body, seek that mine.
O traveler, if you are in search of that,
don’t look outside, look inside yourself and seek that.
In the Zen tradition, actively cultivating a realization of our one-ness with the universe and all its powers is a specific practice called Kanno-Doko, or mystical communion. Kanno means to intuitively receive a response from Buddha Nature. The Buddha Nature which broadcasts this response is of course our True Nature. But trapped in conditioned mind, we’re cut off from this wisdom. In the practice of Kanno Doko, we acknowledge that our receiving station is not tuned to Life and ask for guidance. When we turn attention from small mind in the form of a prayer, a request for support or an offer of incense, we step into the stream of conscious awareness opening the gates to insight and revelation. While an answer might come to us at the level of content, it is the reestablishment of our connection to Buddha Nature itself that is the true resolution. When the veil of ego drops, “I” am no longer an isolated individual with a problem that is up to me to solve. Identification switches from the ego-I to the Great Spirit. As part of the mighty fabric of existence itself, a “problem” is simply a blip in the field of all possibilities. The switch in context from small mind to whole mind is a transformation of perspective which eliminates the suffering of alienation and re-contextualizes “my” content problem. In that movement, we experience Bankei’s teaching: “Everything is resolved in the unborn Buddha Mind.”
There’s a flame of magic inside every stone & every flower, every bird that sings & every frog that croaks. There’s magic in the trees & the hills & the river & the rocks, in the sea & the stars & the wind, a deep, wild magic that’s as old as the world itself. It’s in you too, my darling girl, and in me, and in every living creature, be it ever so small.
— Kate Forsyth
The wisdom of the Buddha comes to us mostly as intuition, but its guidance can reach one in many forms—the plaintive squawk of a blue jay recalling us to presence, a book falling open at the right page, the kindness of a stranger that is a balm to a weary spirit, a snippet of a radio show that answers the question in one’s heart, a tug of intuition to look someone or something up that resolves what is weighing us down. The synchronicity and appropriateness of the message delivery is truly magical. We might experience this involvement of the Buddha in our lives as random occurrence or Grace, but we can also cultivate a conscious connection to it. In the abyss of despair, at the crossroads of doubt, in moments of intense anguish, “Ask and you shall receive” will be unfailingly true. For those of us who become enthusiastic R/L practitioners, the wisdom of Buddha Nature speaks reliably, consistently, reassuringly, whimsically at the press of a button on a digital recorder.
Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagoner
This relationship with the Mentor is an important practice to establish that we are not alone, that we can summon to our side the entire wisdom of the Universe. It is the antidote to the illusion of being an individual disconnected from All Being. In seeing ourselves through the eyes of Love, we cultivate the vision to see the world and everything in it through the very same eyes. From that perspective we cannot but be awed and enchanted by the Intelligence sparking in every formation of existence. We begin to see the world as alive, sentient, friendly. The very air we breathe is constituted by particles of consciousness—impish, whimsical, wise, helpful, impersonal, curious, ready to share their gifts of insight with us. We develop a relatedness to All That Is as a consequence of which it calls to us even when we are deeply entrenched in identification. We begin to experience our lives not just as seekers but as those that are sought. How else would it occur to us to pick up the recorder, to take a walk on the beach, to stop and tune in to the silence of the forest when we feel lost or alone? A reciprocity of call and response becomes imprinted in awareness, becoming a beacon for attention, replacing the mental ruts that propel us into the endless cycle of karmic suffering.
Zen is the very awareness of the dynamism of life living itself in us—and aware of itself, in us, as being the one life that lives in all.
— Thomas Merton
In mystical communion, it isn’t that there is a Buddha out there that responds to me. There isn’t a Buddha in me that responds to a Buddha out there. What really happens when intention/aspiration/request meets response is a deepening of a subjective awareness that Buddha Nature is all that is. When the ego doesn’t disrupt the flow, question and answer, call and response, within and without, arise simultaneously. This realization is a profound experience of non-separation. We are always being called to this first peace by the Great Spirit from everywhere, in every instant. Will we say yes to this invitation?
Willingness is the name of the key to the gate of awakening, for even to awaken from deep sleep and face the new day there must be the willingness to do it. Here in my hand is the opportunity, and the way is clear beyond the gate of thought and desire. There is no self and other as the awareness of pure undisturbed consciousness slips into all consciousness.
— Daily Recollection
The first peace, which is the most important,