Archive | June, 2016

Meister Eckhart on Holding On


I watched the movie Jacob’s Ladder again the other day. It’s about a young Vietnam vet suffering from the trauma of war and fear of hell and death. Towards the end he’s receiving a healing treatment and asks his doctor if he’s dying, telling him he’s deathly afraid, and that he’s seen hell. His doctor tells him he should read some Meister Eckhart, the great 13th century German mystic.

He says, “Eckhart saw hell also. He said the only part of you that burns in hell is the part of you that won’t let go of your life. Your attachments, your memories, they are all burned away. But the burning away is not punishing you he said, it’s freeing your soul. So the way he sees it, if you’re frightened of dying and you’re holding on, you see devils tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth. So it’s all a matter of how you look at it.”

Meister Eckhart also said: “The eye with which I see God, is the eye with which God sees me.” Is there really a seer and the seen? Or is what is actually here the whole of seeing itself, which includes but isn’t bound by any ideas of the seer and the seen? We can’t find the seer, because we and God are always already the seeing itself. Deep down we all want to realize the ‘eye’ or the ‘Supreme I’ that is our true nature, that is what we actually are.

Of course, we need to learn to make our peace with the trials of our everyday life before we can make peace with the depths of the source of our desires and fears that are trying to hold onto to our personal identities. Just as all of our sensory experience is always dissolving, everything we see, hear, feel, and think is continually arising and passing away faster than we can comprehend. Eckhart’s teaching isn’t just about the actual death of our physical bodies, it’s also about surrendering to the ever changing flow of our experience. In this way we’re being freed from the confines of our trials while still living through our physical bodies. What is being burned away are our attachments to our life, freeing us to deeply live as the life of God’s spirit.

Zen master Yasutani Roshi said the reality of our true nature isn’t attained. It simply flows into view, when we allow it to. Making peace with our everyday life allows our true nature to flow into view on deeper and deeper levels. These deeper levels are the gradual realization that the painful trials of our life arise and pass as expressions of our own minds. And the ‘I’ with which we see our trials, and allow them to be transformed, is the ‘I’ with which God sees and transforms them. As we surrender and release our hold on our ideas about our pain, the pain and the trials begin to transform from punishments to lessons freeing our souls. We begin to fully realize that the devils are really angels freeing us from the confines of our earthly life.

Yogananda offered a powerful prayer, embodying the spirit that recognizes surrender itself as a mighty prayer:


O Mother Divine, I have learned to love Your dance of destruction! For I see, now, that what is destroyed is my own ignorance and folly!

You have shattered again and again with Your war-dance of destruction my fragile cage of bones and flesh, and consigned it to crematory flames. You have done so smilingly, to show me and everyone that our souls are ever free, and cannot be burned or broken.

With Your mercy You have stripped away – sometimes, seemingly with harshness, but always with loving purpose – the countless hardened, mud encrusted covers of delusion that coated us.

I now appreciate Your dance of devastation, Mother! Together let us cremate all attachment to my every desire, fraility, weakness, and finitude, forever and ever. I’ll join You, laughing, in Your dance of evil’s destruction.

O Mother, since nothing more is now left of my confinement by finiteness for You to destroy, dance in me Your Dance of infinity and of cosmic love!


We Don’t Have to Feel Good

Throughout the ages, many great teachers have used parables to powerfully illustrate the spirit of our true nature acting in the world. One story I told my kids is the scorpion and the frog. The scorpion talks the frog into giving him a ride across the river and he promises not to sting him because then they would both die. As they are both drowning after the frog is stung, the scorpion says I stung you because it is my nature to do so.

In Ram Dass’ book Be Love Now, I read an alternate version of this story. A saint is standing in a river while a scorpion is floating by. He thought to save its life and picked it up from the water, but it stung him with its tail, causing him immense pain. He couldn’t bear the pain, so his hand recoiled, and the scorpion fell back into the river.  Again, the saint picked it up, and the same story repeated itself. Someone asked the saint why he kept doing this, when the creature was causing him so much pain. The saint said, “It is following its nature. When such a creature does not leave its nature, why should I leave mine?” The moral of the story is that discomfort shouldn’t cause one to leave their true nature.

I wrote the two preceding paragraphs earlier this morning, and an hour later while driving out to the highway, I saw a turtle in the road. I stopped to pick it up and remove him from the danger, but as I leaned down, she tried to snap at me. My hand naturally recoiled, and this happened several times. Then I just thought anyone will see her there, and she’ll be ok. So I left her there and drove off. It wasn’t until some minutes later that I simultaneously felt and realized the synchronicity of what I’d written earlier.

I wrote earlier about deep prayer, and asking for what we really need to awaken from the dream of separation. I keep getting the same message again and again: I really need to be shown how I’m holding onto a sense of self protectiveness based on the deeply conditioned belief in separation, born of desire and fear. Sometimes we need to be shown the power of synchronicity showing us there are higher forces than we can conceive of guiding us on the way home. To me the lessons are revealing that even my willingness to surrender and be guided in this way, isn’t my willingness. It’s a gift from higher forces, it’s a gift given from the freedom to deeply feel anything and everything.

More and more I’m realizing painful sensations of themselves don’t cause suffering, no matter how intensely they are experienced. It’s our holding onto desire for pleasure and fear of pain that are so unacceptable in the midst of all painful sensations. Our agonizing traumas show us that we by ourselves are powerless to bear unbearable pain. But the presence we actually are, the open and all pervasive awareness that is the source of all experience, can endlessly absorb and bear what we conceive of as unbearable pain.

When we allow the willingness to become one with the pure witnessing of our deep suffering, our identity begins to shift to the all embracing awareness itself, and away from our confined ego-self. There is no longer the need to bear the pain alone, our true nature bears it with us. The invitation is always here to enter this bearing of the deepest suffering. Allowing the idea of unbearable to dissolve, we don’t have to feel good. No matter what our experience is, it is already being borne.