{ pure gold }

 
     

It must have been more than 50 years ago.

I was a newbie meditator and yogini when my teacher threw this curved ball:

“Pray for disappointment.
Disappointment is the highest teacher.”

Gulp.  I thought I was signing up for Transcendence 101, not some advanced course in self-mortification.  Please explain, I asked, and she did:

Disappointment will unpick your stories.

It will shatter your certitudes.

It will strip you of hope.

It will lead you to the other side of the assumptions you unknowingly live by. 

(It will be a huge shock to realise that the only free and true choice you can ever make is to stop, shut up, listen and open.)

If you can live with its inevitability, it will deliver you to unbreakable peace and equanimity.  You will understand the real meaning of trust and you will make impermanence your touchstone.  

No fatalism or nihilism involved – no ‘isms’ whatsoever.  
No ideology, therapy or frantic god-bothering required.

 

{ pure gold }

 

Well, as it happened, she was right.

Did I ever offer up a prayer of invitation to disappointment?  
Not that I recall, but I’ve always been a bit contrary, and I was definitely curious.

Everyone was hunting for the enlightenment cookie via his or her own tendencies and patterns – I guess I was too.  In hindsight it’s clear that my fierce wild-maned Cincinnati yoga teacher (who was managing my return to mobility after having my right leg leg severed in an accident) was introducing me to the Via Negativa,
to the ancient Vedic Neti Neti inquiry.

And so far as the gods of disappointment were concerned,
my ingenuous curiosity was enough to catch their attention.  

Off I went, from one knee-grazer to the next.

Sometimes they served up the prompt in the midst of the mishap, accident, heartache, bust-up, betrayal, rejection.  Sometimes it would show up in the aftermath.  But it never failed to arrive, scribbled in gold on the back of an increasingly tattered calling card:

 

What knows this,

ceaselessly, inescapably, 

while remaining entirely unaffected?

 

a h h h h h . . .

s y s t e m – r e s t o r e

 

{ pure gold }

 

I bow before disappointment’s wild grace.

 

Speaking personally, mls.


Notes:

Sometimes a poem calls forth an image; sometimes an image elicits a poem.  I’ve been keeping company with this Kintsugi sculpture by Billie Bond for a while, waiting to see if words might line themselves up in response to its powerful eloquence.  What showed up surprised me.  While I have been blessed with untold good fortune, generosity and joy in my life, I confess that it was the unspeakably harrowing experiences that opened up intimacy with the entire field of experience.  So I’m posting this in case it matches the shape of a wound that needs loving attention.  We all have them. And we are the world.

From September 18, 2013: a love letter to disappointment

Sculpture:
Billie Bond, Kintsugi Head 1, 2014
H32 W22 D15
Black stoneware, resin, epoxy, gold leaf
Unique
http://www.billiebondart.com/kintsugi-sculpture.html

Kintsugi – “golden joinery” also known as Kintsukuroi – “golden repair”, is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken ceramics with lacquer mixed with powdered gold.  As a philosophy it sees beauty in imperfection; it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.


I need to tell you this before it’s too late

 

Jean-Michel Meurice, Urgell 1, 2004

 

The knowing of Knowing

is the sweetest somatic intimacy, the ultimate G[od]-spot.

It’s no wonder poets pen passionate love-notes

to their beloved Beloved.

 

It’s more evident than any revelation,

more obvious than anything observed.

Yet this seamless saturation is neither an experience

nor anything that could be called an attainment.

 

It’s prior to consciousness,

to memory, to perception, to imagination.

(I say “prior to” but I don’t mean a-p-a-r-t from.

Perhaps precursory would be a better word.)

 

How mysterious that it’s completely overlooked, ignored,

while at the same time

hungered for/longed for/searched for/worked for/studied for/meditated for/practiced for/prayed for/paid for, in time, devotion and sacrifice . . .

 

What a joke! 

No GPS can locate it.

Yet it’s inescapable.

 

I don’t need a guru, method, scripture, sledgehammer

to wake up to the fact that whatever I am

is unarguably and precisely whatever I perceive, experience, feel.

I only have to look from a silent mind.

 

To acknowledge this Knowing –

to abide as it, to act as it

restores me to the all-inclusive immensity

I knew all along.

 

All along.

 

Since breath #1 was gasped on a summer’s morning in 1944

and these innocent eyes first opened

onto the mindscape

before

words like suffering and salvation were sown there

sprouting addictive fantasies

about enlightenment, transcendence, escape

before

I was thought-washed to believe that

the embodiment of this Knowing

would erase every discomfort and dysfunction from my experience

before

the dark net of distinctions descended

before

I learned to be clever.

 

– miriam louisa

 


 

Artwork by Jean-Michel Meurice
Urgell 1, 2004
Acrylic on fabric, 215 x 215cm
More info HERE

I love the way this work portrays the richness of our circular existence, the dance of the dreamer around the still, silent core. It’s a wonderful example of contemporary Tantric art.

 


 

It’s been a year of farewells: a brother, an artist comrade, and now another old buddy from my peer-group has gone.
Again I meet the temporality, the impermanence of this experience of being alive.
Again something rises to state the actuality of my experience – not to comfort or console, but to remind myself that everything appearing is a window onto the everlastingly unaffected.
So what?
So that whatever life dishes up has some small chance of being met with honesty and presence. So that I might be sane enough to remember that my wishes – no matter how profound – have nothing to do with what-is. So that I might see directly, act appropriately.
I’m ok with old age. The need to change anything falls away. Candles in the wind.
Yet (occasionally) (rarely these days) I’m moved to share a confession. You never can tell, it might be the last one. And there are things I want to say before I go.
Thank you for reading.

 


on popping the pink pill and dissolving into aware space

Alan Perriman, Fog

 

This is what I love about fog:

space is rendered opaque

so I get to see

Creation’s cauldron,

to see the emptiness I ordinarily move through

oblivious

to its strange solidity.

 

I had it all back to front –

assuming my solidity and its, well, nothingness.

One night a few months ago I asked how

Dōgen’s “aware space” *

might be made evident, physically perceivable,

experience-able beyond conceptualization

and next morning I woke up to thick fog.

 

I thought, OK let’s color it pink

to make it even more evident

– no problem for a visual mind like mine –

but then I noticed that my hands,

the exhalation of my breath,

my table, my room, my coffee,

everything was permeated with pinkness.

 

In high school science class I was taught:

An atom consists of 99.9999999999996% “empty space”

and should all the “empty space”

be vacuumed out of one’s body

the solid matter remaining would fit

on the point of a pin.

(Along with all those dancing quantum angels.)

 

And I lost it, almost wet myself laughing . . .

“You mean . . .?”

I’m leaving it to you, dear reader,

to join the dots for yourself.

If you do, you’ll never again be puzzled

by the paradox of the Prajñāpāramitā.

 
– – –
 

That’s how teachings arrive for me:

a question goes out

and the universe serves a set-up

perfectly calibrated for comprehension

by this old cow’s unique version

of craziness.

Mu!

 


Painting by UK artist Alan Perriman, Fog – one of a series where he sets out to express in visual language a short Japanese poem.

Because fog engulfs
the house where I am
I feel as though
I have floated into the sky
– Myōe
1173-1232

alanperriman.co.uk


* Dōgen’s “Aware Space”:
I was sitting with a commentary on Dōgen zenji’s Being Time, given by Anzan Hoshin roshi.

He said, “Dōgen is pointing out the way Aware Space embodies itself as each of you, and how each of you unfold yourselves as each other and as all things, as all beings, all times, all worlds.”

Gulp.     God I love Dōgen.

White Wind Zen Community, Ottawa.


how a few moments of empty-mind spiked with questions of the unanswerable kind can deliver you to your effulgent nothingness

Edgar Degas, Woman, Seen from Behind, Drying Her Hair, c.1905 - 1910

 

I take off my clothes,

lift them to my face,

inhale the fragrance of my skin.

By what alchemy was that unique odour created?

  

I soak in the bath,

submerged to my chin.

Wetness, warmth: what registers these sensations

yet never gets wet?

  

I towel-dry my mop of silver hair.

I marvel that it grows, it falls out;

more grows, automatically.

Can I spin one thread of hair?

  

I trim a toenail.

How does this perfect toe-guard

know how to grow?

Is there a how-to manual for nails (and hair and cells)?

  

My scissors slip.

I watch my bright blood slowly seep,

congeal, clot (or not).

Can I control a clot?

  

I listen to the ambient sounds of my environment.

By what miracle can I hear

the kettle boiling urgently,

and those rowdy Kookaburras?

  

I make coffee and slowly savour the flavour,

asking myself,

(eyes shut)

Where exactly is ‘taste’ located?

  

Then, uninvited, the mother of all questions shows up:

Where’s my world viewed from?

I gaze undistractedly

at my coffee cup.

  

I can’t find a point of perspective.

So then I try to find a viewer.

Can I find a fixed point,

a “me”?

  

Almost 75 years of wondering, checking for myself,

what can I report?

Well, as the saying goes:  All the lights are on but

no one’s home.

  

I imagined myself into existence,

only to find I am unfindable.

What I find is inescapable space.

Space that’s unimagined, and unarguably aware.

  

Space – ceaselessly birthing

all experience in, and as, time,

including this tricky two-step called

BE-ing.

  

Aware space, dancing

as every sensation, feeling, thought,

every belief – questioned or not,

every thing and every no-thing too.

  

And I, hobbled and hollow-boned,

know its fancy footwork as my own.

  

  

Don’t you just love the way a few moments

of empty-mind

spiked with questions of the unanswerable kind

can deliver you to your effulgent nothingness?

 

– with a deep bow, ml


Art – Edgar Degas, Woman Seen from Behind, Drying her Hair c. 1905 – 1910.
Public Domain.


 
 

the birds come to my birdbath

 

Philip Sutton, The Tree, 1958

 

emelle says:

I’m a fool with little need of company.

There’s no one deemed respectable here,
so how could I demand respect?

When recognition only brings busyness,
how could I not love invisibility?

Knowing that mind is the slayer of silence
why would I want “the last word?”

Saturated by streaming aliveness
how could I be lonely?

I cherish the extraordinariness
of ordinary suchness
but few know what that looks like,
so I’ll tell you:

The birds come to my birdbath.

The dogs wag their tails
when I open my door.

My luna-lover beams at me
without reproach or expectation.

My cup runneth over
and the ants make the most of it;
they even cart off my toenail clippings.

When the tide of breath runs out
they will claim every scrap of this body
and have a banquet with the worms.

And their scats will feed the earth;
new grass will grow in the summer,
sap will rise in the trees
and they will exhale my smile.

I will be breathed back
into the fecundity of space.

Just like that.
And that’s enough for me.

 


Image: Philip Sutton, The Tree, 1958
philipsuttonra.com


 

stalking the numinous niche

This confession was originally posted on my blog this unlit light in 2011.  Recently I’ve been reminded about the little cache of my writing that quietly rests over on that blog and it’s been suggested that I share some snippets here for readers.  I figured that when the time was ripe to do so, I’d get a prompt.

It came a few days ago, over lunch with a couple of dear friends.  We were talking about the way humans seem compelled to “find their tribe.”  To join forces with those of like mind, to feel a sense of belonging and validation.  I had to admit that I’d never found a tribe or group that didn’t end up either disappointing me, or spitting me out for disappointing them.  If I had a tribe it would be in the league of the Rank Outsiders, the Solo Fliers, the Holy Rejects.

The conversation got me reminiscing about my mid-life preoccupation with finding where I fit.  It wasn’t so much about finding a tribe as finding my so-called niche.  It went on for the first half of my life and only disappeared (taking the need for company with it) when the split between the niche-less one and her experience zipped itself up. It had a lot to do with acknowledging what she loved to do (play with colour, texture, visual language), because in that encounter she unfailingly disappeared into the unknowable: into her numinous niche.

I have no idea how it happened. Love has a mind of its own; it slowly seeped out of the studio and into the everyday encounter with all-that-shows up.  The niche I had imagined to be my ‘place’ was none other than this numinous now.

 


 

Lawrence Carroll, Untitled, 2015

 

My Niche is The Unknowable – April 22, 2011

About thirty years ago I confessed to a kindly iridologist that I felt I had failed to find my ‘niche’ in life.  He peered into my bright blue eye-maps and remarked that it was strange, because everything he could read there indicated that I was a highly capable person who could find a niche in many avenues of expertise.

It worried me, that feeling of being niche-less.  I was in awe of those who seemed, from a young age, to know exactly what they wished to do in the world and set about achieving it.  And it wasn’t helped by those who knew the potential here and kept asking when I was going to fully explore (exploit?) it.  I was in my mid 40s and still wondering what I would be when I grew up.

I had all the right tools: a reasonably sane brain, a good education, some skills as an educator as well as in the area of art and design, but my life-path seemed like a meandering groping from one neti-neti to the next.

I tried being a teacher, a broadcaster, a fashion designer, a wife, a lover, a wandering yogini, a ‘professional’ artist.  All those niches ultimately failed to fit. The role that held the most promise was that of the artist, but the funny thing was that whenever the flow of genuine creating was going on in the studio, I wasn’t there.  I mean, ‘artist-me’ was AWOL.  In its place there was a spacious, ownerless activity unrelated to all my small ideas of what should be happening.  And the moment the ‘artist-me’ tried to examine this mysterious activity it would vaporize.  It was ungraspable and unknowable.

Later I would find a philosophy that made sense of this mystery – it is spoken about by sages and artists alike as the movement of pure nondual Awareness. But back then it was a total enigma to me; it put the fire under a lifetime’s exploration of creativity. And it eventually delivered me to the niche I had given up any hope of finding.

My niche turned out to be that ineffable intimate Awareness itself.  And the amazing thing is that it always had been!  It had been my preoccupation for decades, yet I had failed to recognize that it was a valid contender for the niche stakes.  I had conceptualised the niche-notion, irrevocably keeping it at arm’s length and ensuring the survival of a niche-less seeker trapped in time.  Truly, I can be quite slow

When the penny dropped, a lifetime’s worth of seemingly incoherent bits of ridiculousness fell into place.  I fell about laughing like a lunatic.  The absurdity and awesomeness of it!  The beauty and simplicity and grace of it!

Like … landing on a bed of rose petals … sinking into their silken perfume … resting, at last … knowing that this simple at-one-ment always runs below the surface of experience, ALL experience … knowing that you never have to leave … even if it were possible!

– miriam louisa
(With minor editing to accomodate a further seven years’ worth of lightbulb moments.)


Artwork: Lawrence Carroll Untitled, 2015
Artificial flowers, pigment, stain, housepaint, dust
7,5 x 218 x 185 cm


memo to mind

Dear team-member:

 

It has come to our notice that you’ve been indulging

in speculation, prediction,

definition and generalisation

about

what it will be/is like after “awakening” occurs,

how to recognise an “awake” human being,

and even the degree of your own “awakening.”

 

 In other words, you’ve been snoozing on the job

and entertaining yourself in an indisious dream

in which you assume some kind of god-identity

and dish out judgement.

 

Not good teamwork, comrade Mind!

 

Speculation only serves to separate,

and we all know this team is a seamless unit;

seamless, spacious and silent.

 

What is your life about, anyway?
Nothing but a struggle to be someone.
Nothing but a running from your own silence.
– Rumi

 

We note that you get very edgy around silence.

(Your earnest claim of being no one

shatters silence as effectively as any “struggle to be someone.”)

 

Arthur Boyd, Sleeping Woman with Dragonfly and Watching Figure, c.1964

 

Dear comrade,

have you noticed

the iridescent miracle

hovering at the window of wonderment?

 

Are you aware

of the Beloved’s presence,

eyes bloodshot from its sleepless lifelong vigil?

 

Have you marvelled

at the way the life-stream flows on, inevitably,

without minding (without minding).

 

– – –

 

Please reconsider your function and report back.
Thank you.  You are a valued member of the team.

 


Arthur Boyd (1920 – 1999), Sleeping Woman with Dragonfly and Watching Figure c.1964
Pastel on paper, 48.5 x 63.0 cm


Apologies to Arthur Boyd for hijacking his artwork for poetic purposes.