Archive | May, 2017


 Every aspect of our lives is space. We have never been

anything other than vast, boundless, open space. 


As a young man I would engage my friends in long philosophical discussions about the nature of existence. We hammered out philosophies about how we can know what we know. How could we know anything at all?  We finally came to the conclusion that everything boils down to space or awareness, or presence.  When we ask, “Presence or awareness of what?”, or “What is presence or awareness?” we find they cannot be distinguished from space.  These are all terms for one mysterious being.

The great 13th Century Soto Zen master Dogen said traps and cages spring open when you realize there is only dharma here. There is only this moment.  There is only this seeing, this hearing, only the vast fullness and spaciousness of our lives right here and now.  Trungpa Rinpoche said all of our problems arise from our fundamental fear of open space.

Ordinarily we think of space as vacant or dead, with the phenomenal world appearing within this vacancy.  But nothing exists inside space. Things exist as a manifestation of space. The substance of the phenomenal world is the substance of space. This may be easier to intuit if you substitute awareness or consciousness for space. Every manifestation of the phenomenal world is an expression of awareness. The mysterious substance of phenomena is saturated with the mysterious substance of awareness. Every aspect of our lives is nothing but space. We have never been anything other than vast, boundless, open space.  This is obvious when we take the time to investigate truth.

Space allows everything to be as is, friendly and accepting of all its manifestations which we call life.  Space supports and nurtures us in the form of earth, sun, and our parents when we were young.  Yet space is beyond any concept. A powerful way to deepen our inquiry into reality is to imagine how far outer space extends into the cosmos.  This search led me to hypothesize that we find space to be so vast that we’re impelled to try and limit it.  Where do we get this impulse? What impels us to separate, control or measure the vastness by drawing imaginary boundaries?  Alan Watts once asked, “Does a ventriloquist only want to have dinner with his dummy?” However incomprehensible the universe, perhaps separate autonomous beings seem to exist simply because it’s no fun to eat dinner alone.

Contemplative practice can help us plumb the deep question we may have forgotten to ask because of our fear.  Is there a reason we fear space?  We can ask why we are attached to our imaginary reference points–those we create to escape our insecurities.  A powerful aid to our inquiry is to attend to our emotions, whether they are joy, pain, anxiety, fear or elation. By paying attention to what is, we free ourselves from the constructs and boundaries of our crippling habits.

Why does this happen?  By paying attention, we allow natural spaciousness to manifest.  Suddenly, more space surrounds our emotions, and we turn our awareness to them, unbinding our attempts to grasp or manipulate.  Trungpa Rinpoche said “while drinking a cup of tea, we might make the shocking discovery that we are doing it in a vacuum.  In fact, as entities, we are not even drinking the tea! The hollowness of space is drinking the tea.  When we pull on our skirt or our pants, we are dressing space. To put on makeup is to make up space.”

So meditation practice allows us to let go of our rigid attachment to ideas.  Then mindfulness in daily life can help us see we’re acting in a vacuum.  Our precious reference points in space are dissolved. Space holds us totally and unconditionally in that realization.  Perhaps we cannot clearly see there is no need to hold on to anything until first we realize there is nothing to hold onto.

So why wait for the conditions of our lives to improve? Are we waiting for some image of what realization is, or what true nature might be?  Freedom cannot be tethered by any image, feeling, sound or thought.  It is enough to dwell in spaciousness with our wholehearted devotional spirit. It is enough to surrender our self-consciousness to it, to appreciate and enjoy it.  When we are stable in this practice, we will feel more energy for our work in the world to help others along the way.




Opening to Reality

Trungpa Rinpoche was once asked, “What is Enlightenment?” His response was “The vast sky becomes a big blue pancake and falls on your head.” I hadn’t ever been able to fully relate to this expression; there was an air finality to it for me, a sense of wiping out all experience, wiping out all existence. Of course this is nothing more than mere imaginings in my mind.

When I imagine this, a strong sense of aliveness always remains, after the big thud. This peaceful loving aliveness reveals the mere imaginings of all our minds. The life current animating our mind and body is always here before imagining, during expressions of our imaginings, and remains after our imaginings, after all personal experience dissolves. This life force is the only reality our mind and body are, and it remains unaffected by all experience, of past, present, and future. Our living presence is what has always been here and now; it’s the changeless reality that is our innermost lover, our innermost teacher. It reveals its complete saturation of ideas of inside and outside which we will intimately experience if we don’t try to interfere by moving towards or away based on desire and fear.

On revisiting Trungpa’s expression without clinging to any ideas about it, I start to experience a gentle caressing descent of the blue sky that transforms into a gentle rain. The rain dissolves and there is just a vast absence of images between my shoulders where we imagine our head is. The flowing current of our living presence will naturally permeate the empty space between our shoulders with alive fullness, if we allow our resistance to the flow to dissolve. We first need to become aware of our desires and fears conditioning us to rigidly armor and defend our personal identities, so we can feel safe located and enclosed in our bodies.

We can allow the expression of our true self, we can allow a wholehearted  experience of our life force always arriving now as ever new experiences. We can allow it, because ultimately we are completely powerless to prevent it. This is actually everyone’s experience when we’re willing to look through and beyond the conceptual haze of our opinions. When the thinking mind is realized to be empty of any actual content, thinking is realized to be like typing on a typewriter with the ribbon removed. When we clearly see with direct perception that our minds are empty, our hearts naturally blissfully open. As we begin to realize we are a tool for our actual living presence to spread peace and love, we begin to realize we have never been anything else, and nothing else has ever really been happening.



From Zen Master Ryokan

A COLD night–sitting alone in my empty room

Filled only with incense smoke.

Outside, a bamboo grove of a hundred trees;

On the bed, several volumes of poetry.

The moon shines through the top of the window,

And the entire neighborhood is still except for

the cry of insects.

Looking at this scene, boundless emotion,

But not one word.