following fear into the star-stuff of my cells

Frederick Walker, The Woman in White, 1871 Tate Gallery

 

This post is an attempt to explain why I’m a dedicated follower of fear.  For as long as I can remember (and that’s probably way further than your lifespan dear reader), I’ve been keenly curious and unafraid of a good adventure.  So it’s surprising that I was so slow to arrive at the threshold of my body’s dark knowledge.  Needless to say, the Shadowlands had good reason to be well-hidden from my agenda…
But once the bellyflop into the deep occurred, the implications of the free-fall of fifteen years ago could at last percolate down and settle in the cells.  I am writing this in the midst of another dive – a somatic meditation retreat, which I think of as a pre-death trauma detox.  For the most part I’m avoiding the screen, but this pressed to be posted.


We hear it so often:  To be happy, to be spiritually liberated, to be … (insert personal agenda), we must choose between love and fear.  And the ominously silent insinuation is that choosing fear is definitely not the way to go.

My platitude-sensitive antenna start to hum; a dictum like this is demands scrutiny.

A good place to start is by being clear about what one actually is, i.e. the nature of one who could claim to make such a choice.  If there’s still a belief in a separate, solid-state self, (which is a bit like admitting that you believe the world is flat and climate change is a myth), then you’ll believe there’s someone who can make a choice of this kind.  You’ll believe that this mental object called “me” can adroitly and wisely select between other mental objects (fear and love) in order to become a happier mental object.  To the imagined self – the chooser – love and fear are inescapably conceptual.  And what follows won’t make a smidgin of sense.  (Click X now.)

However, if you’ve sniffed out the falsity of an independent me thing, you’ll find it slightly incoherent that these two concepts, with their inherent duality, are so commonly presented as an either-or option.  It sounds like an invitation to reconstruct a fresh version of a self – one that will either make the right choice (good work!) or get it wrong (see how hopeless you are?).  You’d be right to want to sniff out the truth of the matter.

Let’s start with love.  Having experienced the mind-shattering absence of anything that could exist as an independent ghost-in-the-machine, you’ve already noticed the sweetness, the benevolence that floods into the space vacated by that phantom.  You’ve realised that that very sweetness is the Love (big L) you always imagined was elsewhere.  (Hiding behind the façade of your spiritual teacher, your partner, your lover; waiting at the end of your seeking, your arduous practice-project…)  You’ve woken up to the fact that it’s always been there;  that it’s your inescapable fundamental state and that it has no opposite, only a limitless wardrobe of apparent disguises.

Repeat – Love has no opposite.

Which means: Fear is not the opposite of, nor an alternative to, Love.

So let’s look at fear.  We’re told that humans are born with just two innate, hard-wired fears: fear of falling, and fear of sudden loud noises.  All other fears are learned, and these are the ones I speak of here.  I’m not talking about natural, normal reactions to any kind of physical danger.

I experience psychological fear as a contraction within my body.  It’s a tension, a more or less subtle holding-on – sometimes so subtle that it escapes awareness – those who have encountered the consequences of heart tension know about this.

Unlike the changeless Love discussed above, which isn’t an experience but the space in which experiences arise, any experience will always have an opposite.  If the cramping experience had an opposite, what might it be?  Wouldn’t it be the absence of any contraction triggered by recent or ancient memory?  Wouldn’t it be an open and accepting gesture towards my life?  Towards whatever the universe is throwing in my face right this minute – regardless of how it conflicts with my stitched-together idea of how it should be?

Fear is a re-action posing as a new sensation.  When I learned that after the age of six or seven we never experience a new emotion, but endlessly experience a replay of those established in infant-hood – albeit dressed up in fresh scenarios – I was shocked.  I realised that since I’m well over the age of six, any experience of fear will always be a re-action.  A re-enactment.

Another shocker came with this:  98% of what the body knows is unavailable to our conscious awareness.  Meaning that – for the most part – I don’t know what I’m afraid of and why.  Which makes it tricky to talk about “not choosing fear” – let alone being “honest” with myself.  Gulp.

The primal imprints of my early experience were laid down in the cells long before there were words to describe anything, and proceed to map out my experience, decade after decade.  Without my conscious awareness having a clue.

And so it goes for all of us.  Until something moves us to inquire.

What moves us?

Since we’ve awakened to our abiding nature as Love, we must concede that Love moves Itself.

There’s nothing personal involved:  It happens by itself.  It happens for itself.  And it happens exactly when It wants to.

It delivers an impeccable invitation to enter into an unabridged encounter with things we’ve been working all our life to avoid because the associated pain was/is unbearable.

If fear is in my face it’s because Love is fishing for a lost child’s pain – a pain unique to this matrix of experience and potential, yet universal to all humanity.  And since Love is inescapably present as the shining awareness that knows my fear, I can turn towards this fear (or grief, or rage) without ever leaving Love.

I say, “Welcome!” to fear.  I plump up a cushion for it in my heart.  I stop.

I notice the instant impulse to act out habitual, conditioned re-actions.  I desist – or at least press the pause button.  I’m interested;  having been informed that we are ignorant of the knowledge hidden in the cells, I’m curious.  Who wouldn’t want to explore?

I turn towards the sensation that is visiting me – in dreams, meditation and daily interactions.  I turn my breath, my awareness, my sensitivity and my curiosity its way.  I don’t give it the label “fear” or spell out a story about it.  I refuse to be tempted to fix it or lean into it or accept it or imagine any outcome.

So here I am, just looking, with the impartial gaze of whole-body awareness.  As though I’m looking through the eyeballs of each of the 37.2 trillion cells in my body.

I watch what happens.  I pay attention when those long-stifled echoes from the emptiness of my body begin to whisper.

Love clears its throat.  And when it knows I’m truly committed (not furtively checking out the exits) it speaks loud and clear.  Its language is felt rather than heard, sensed rather than known.  It reorganises this neurological field and in so doing recreates my relationship to the world.

And further – since it’s evident that my body has no borders – it completely recasts my relationship with and as the Cosmos.  Slowly but surely, I come to view this work as an offering made by the Cosmos for the benefit of one’s fellow-beings, the Earth, and the Cosmos itself.

Out of my mind
and into the star-stuff of my cells
I’ll follow the angel called fear
so resplendent in her costume
borrowed
from Love’s limitless wardrobe.

The angel called fear.

Allons-y!

 


Image: Frederick Walker, The Woman in White, 1871, gouache on paper. Tate London


Gautama saw this star

 

Clifton Mack: Jurlurrunha - Morning Star

 

Woken by a shift

in the Earth’s breath,

I sit in silence –

the pre-dawn hush

and my green tea for company.

 

In the east,

over the Pacific,

a bright star soars,

shaking off the shackles of night.

Its brilliance beggars belief.

 

I blink, I bow, a thought flashes:

Never forget that

more than two millennia ago

Gautama saw this star

and knew

 

{ as do you }

 

that nothing needed to be

understood, learned or believed

felt, integrated or expressed

fixed, healed or overcome

dropped or avoided

actioned or attained,

in order that his body’s naked awareness might meet itself

as the morning star.

 

{ Halleluja! }

 


the morning star rises


Image: Painting by Clifton Mack: Jurlurrunha – Morning Star
Clifton Mack is an elder of the Yindjibarndi people whose country is around the Millstream Tablelands in Western Australia’s Pilbara district.
See www.japingka.com


have you got a minute?

 

I’d like to invite you to sit down
right now,
for just one minute,
and not entertain one thought.

 

Can you do that?

 

Can you feel the coolness
that wafts through your entire
Presence
when you stop thinking?

 

Not “stop … and”
not “stop … then”
not “stop … so that”
but just stop.

 

Stop.

 

Everything you’ve ever longed for
is waiting for you
in that pause.

 

The cogs and gears of the “me project”
grind to a halt.
The engineers maintaining the scaffolding of the self
take a smoko.
The universe itself sighs,
so gladdened to see an earth angel
hold the claws of thought apart
for even one minute.

 

And every cell in your always-fully-awake body
lights up with a smile: “Now, at last,
we can bow before our own experience
and dance our destiny!”

 

You can do it.

 

It’ll only take a minute.

 

One thought-free minute equals one minute of full wideawakeness
or, one minute of intimacy with what the Buddha knew.
(Did you know that?)

 

You just need to want to meet the Truth of your life
more than you want to entertain a thought about it.

 


[entertain: v.t. Maintain (correspondence, discourse) Concise Oxford Dictionary]


Calligraphy by Jakusho Kwang, Roshi

it was a damn good deal

Ceramic sculpture by Haejin Lee

 

Until I woke up
to my unconscious insatiable insanity
it was the tireless weaver
of the fabric of my life.

It wasn’t enough to have mentally unpicked
and clearly seen-through
the myth and mirage
of the solid-state ‘me’ story.

Unconscious residue of that ‘me’
I thought was done and dusted
remained, and so, another unpicking began
– a second-level unpicking if you like.

Waking up to what one isn’t is utterly mind shifting.
It’s tempting to rest in the inevitable sweet relief;
it’s tempting to assume one has attained
the ultimate wisdom.

Yet, although thought likes to tell itself otherwise,
the thrust of cellular conditioning forges on
below the limn,
obvious to everyone but oneself.

I am driven by curiosity –
especially concerning creativity and freedom.
What might I not know about this multi-layered energetic playground
called my life? An investigation was called for.

I saw how the old unconscious imprints
ran deep; how their effects can’t be denied
yet are avoided, by-passed, rationalised
by a self-idea facing sure extinction.

Have you ever unpicked knitting?
You take the single thread responsible for the fabric’s form
and simply pull. The stitches unravel with ease.
If there’s a knot, you tease it free.

Just like that: I grasped the master lie,
and pulled. Stitch by stitch the network of neurology
unravelled. Each stitch was an imprint of pain:
fear, anger or grief.

Separation ceased as each imprint was fully felt
without one word being brought to the alchemy.
(Commentary, analysis, explanation
are neither required nor helpful.)

The howling insatiability that fuelled
my craziness was slowly sated. An incomprehensible
fulfilment surfaced that has no idea what words like
sanity or insanity might mean.

These days I find it absurd to claim that I am
anything – even “That”, or “Life”, or “Nothing”.
To say “I am” is a lie, yet as a sage once observed,
“the universe is myself”.

The universe chuckles to itself:
“It was a damn good deal – an imaginary ‘me’ for an immensity!
It only cost me everything … and everything
came back, marked perfect, wondrous, eternal.”

 


“I am not, but the universe is myself.” – Shih-T’ou, A.D. 700-790


Ceramic sculpture by Haejin Lee


 

wholly whole and holy

ma deva padma - existence

 

So.  Here we are.  Sitting upon our lotus-leaf

pondering the paradox

that there is no inner and outer to this experience

of exist-ing.

Not only is the fabric of our being

felted from the Primordial Awareness we can’t

escape,

but every appearance we consider

‘other’

is similarly ex-pressed from that source.

And if there’s no inside/outside,

no this/that

no me/other

it means this:

there’s nowhere to hide

 

We love to think that our quiet denial

of the pain too unspeakable to countenance,

is safely hidden from view.

 

Or, and this is more common,

we are no longer aware of it

as it vibrates below the limn

of our consciousness.

 

Perhaps we stitch together satisfying stories about

our awakened understanding.

(Or the absence thereof.)

Yet in moments of self-honesty we can see:

our scars go before us

laying out the trajectory of our lives.

 

Every stitch in the tapestry

of our magnificent ‘me’

is displayed across the cosmos.

 

All is known.

Because there’s nowhere for anything

to hide.

 

This is exquisite.

It’s a realisation that throws open the possibility

that the wound we have spent a lifetime

avoiding, can become the catalyst

for an unimaginable new View.

 

How come?

 

No inside/outside, remember?

No separation, remember?

Only One immeasurable inconceivable Whole is happening.

It’s like an eyeless eye.

 

It

knows Itself

intimately, lovingly

in all the discarded, denied details

of our every wound,

every misdeed and regret,

every choked-back emotion,

every failure to love…

 

and still It loves us

nourishes

holds

and

lives us

 

so

 

how could we not be safe?

we can come out

we can stand up

we can own up

we can shine

 

wholly whole and holy

 


 

Sorry to shout.   But this matters.  Evidence of unintegrated primal pain is displayed for all to see across our world at this time.  Imagine what the scene would be like if emotionally mature grown-ups were carrying the best interests of humanity forward, rather than beings frozen at the age of three?  This is probably as close as I will ever come to making a political statement.

 


Image copyright Ma Deva Padma, Existence, from the Osho Zen Tarot


the ultimate conundrum

 

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893
(OMG – another think coming!)

 

Contemplating the savage wisdom of one of my major mindshifters

 

If you can forget it or remember it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can experience it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can know it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can be it, it is not you therefore discard it.

 

… I find myself scribbling some lines that say pretty much the same thing, but employ some of the more common jargon spinning around the contemporary seeker’s scene:

If you can surrender to it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can invite it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can activate it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can practice it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can lean into it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can rest in it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can embody it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can point to it, it is not you therefore discard it.

If you can master it, it is not you therefore discard it.

 

If you think you can discard anything,

you’ve got another think coming.

 


 

It cannot be invited; it is quietly present when you are absent.

 


The opening words are from Nisargadatta Maharaj. I have heard that when the realised teacher sees the efforts of the student towards their ’emptying’, they are filled with delight. Niz was not known for his patience with fools; would my application of some of the common lingo that shows up in the spiritual circus these days get his nod? Thank god it doesn’t matter.

The final words are not a quote, but my paraphrasing of the way my teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti would address the ultimate conundrum.


The image needs no introduction: Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893 – I am solely responsible for the sub-title, “OMG, another think coming!”


For those who might not be familiar with colloquial English usage:
“Another think coming” is the original form of the colloquial phrase aimed at someone who has a mistaken view. It comes from the old comical expression, “If that’s what you think, you’ve got another think coming.”


 

how could you not love something like that?

I was poking around one of my favourite poetry sites recently and found some of my own lines. They had been sourced from one of my other blogs.
(Sincere nods of gratitude to the curator.)

I had quite forgotten these lines (unsurprising, since you didn’t write them, says Emptiness), and reading them again delights me. Unashamedly. So I’m sharing them here.

 

Echoes from Emptiness: how could you not love something like that?

 

how could you not love something that

never leaves you
regardless of how often you ignore it?

that’s always self-shining –
never needing flint or switch or fuel?

that never changes
regardless of the vicissitudes of your daily experience?

that never takes sides
whatever person, team or nation you’re supporting,
whatever idea or opinion you hold?

that never breaks apart
even though your life appears to?

that never minds
n-e-v-e-r   m-i-n-d-s
that you spend your life running around looking for it
while it’s in your face the whole time?

how could you not love something like that?

something you can never escape,
and that’s so immanent
you are forced to accept it
as your own true identity?

how could you not then love
Y O U R S E L F ?

and everything arising
– thoughts, perceptions, memories, feelings –
within that inconceivable Self?

how could you not love that immensity which precedes
and includes all existence?

how could you not kneel at your own feet
in awe?

 

how could you pretend that your enlightened
heart-driven passion
was not the Great Passion of That
which holds the planets in their orbit?

 

how could you ignore the urge to pour
your energy and attention
into whatever opens your heart?

 

how?

 

– miriam louisa
August 2013