Each of us is unique in our journey of awakening and in how we express Spirit. Our individual temperaments and varied life experiences make us one of a kind. I once heard Adya say, “In all of history, in all of time, there will only and ever be one of you. Eternity only expresses uniquely as you this once.”
Adya has also encouraged us to question, to ask, “Who or what is living this life?”
One way of approaching this inquiry is to turn toward the foundation of your uniqueness, toward the inner atmosphere of your personal depth . . . whether that be in your heart, your core, or your mysterious body form.
As your inner gaze and attention resides in this atmosphere of depth, become curious: “What is this ‘I am’?” or “What is it to intimately know this depth, this essential being?”
Our essential being registers each unique and sincere call, each whole-hearted offering of devoted attention and present availability. As we carry such attention inward and offer our consciousness to depth, our call or query ripples through essential being, awakening the unconscious to its consciousness in form.
Realization is entering the doorway of your own uniqueness to discover the totality and to be seated in the One. Embodiment is the totality, the One, coming home to its seat in personhood, to be known and expressed uniquely as you. The one and the One return home.
© Mukti Gray 2022
Here in the northern hemisphere, it is early spring—a reminder of the nourishment of renewal. I write to encourage you to receive the energy of spring into your spiritual practice and to renew your dedication.
The spirit of fresh beginning that is associated with spring reminds me of a term used in Zen, “beginner’s mind.” Beginner’s mind expresses much like your open hand when it carries nothing and grasps at nothing, yet is full of readiness to receive or respond. With clearing out and spring cleaning being a custom of the season, why not take time to empty your mind and, with a fresh heart, discover what remains?
I have pointed to beginner’s mind when giving instructions for self-inquiry. One can put down ideas and approach the question, “What am I?,” openly. By not insisting to know the mystery of existence in thought, one can encounter mystery through the intimacy of direct experience. By dwelling in the sense of mystery that is pregnant with possibility, one is dwelling in the ground in which all acquired knowledge is relinquished, and in which all Self-knowledge is born.
The green sprout, symbolic of spring, grows toward the light because it is its nature to do so. It does so without any gaining idea. Being free of gaining ideas is an expression of beginner’s mind. In supportive conditions, below the disturbances of the winds of change, the seed breaks open and the sprout gains momentum.
Outer life is not free of disturbance. We have only to open our eyes to see this in our midst or in the midst of our world brothers and sisters. Inner life is not free of disturbance either, but the innermost life is. As practitioners, we take time to gather ourselves into the seed. Return your consciousness to essential being, so that it might vitalize and renew again and carry forward the perfume of peace that comes from union with the Root.
Spring Equinox, 2022
© Mukti Gray 2022
Excerpted from Mukti’s self-guided course Got Juice (Q&A)
Q: I would like to ask about the nature of love. I think one reason I have felt a disconnection from my heart is that I started dismissing the feeling of love as just a passing phenomenon. In particular, I find myself mistrusting the love that arises in response to directed attention, as if I have manipulated or even manufactured my experience. How does love relate to that which doesn’t come and go?
A: Your question “What is Love?” is one that can be more meaningful without a fixed conclusion, as it invites the questioner more fully into the living mystery (of oneself, another, life, and love). There is a beauty in leaving the question open-ended, so that its response continues to reveal itself over the course of a lifetime. As I speak more to your question and risk “pinning it down” to give context, please remember the importance of letting the response to your question live on.
Your sharing and question, as to how love relates to That which does not come and go, brings forward some tricky juxtapositions along the spiritual path. When one becomes more conscious of the workings of thought, one can see how it can shape experience. There can be a discounting or shying away from any experience that seems created or referenced in thought. There can even be a subtle conclusion (conscious or unconscious thought) that what does not come and go is more important to embrace than impermanence is. Upon hearing or following pointers to That which does not come and go (or the Eternal), impermanence can be rejected. (Like some hear pointers to go beyond ego and then reject ego.)
When dualistic thought is still, the choosing of one position over its opposite quiets. In the absence of position, the knowing (in one’s being) of what is permanent and impermanent are revealed to be inseparable. This can set the stage for awareness to wake up to itself as all that it is aware of, to the perspective that nothing is apart from awareness. Such a realization can be called awakening to oneness. From this universal consciousness, That which does not come and go knows itself as the comings and goings and can love itself as them. Love feels to be awareness in relation to itself, through intimately recognizing and knowing itself. This is a knowingness of being, of the manifest made conscious (aware).
Your sharing leads me to believe that you may be interested in my sharing the following: You may have heard Adya speak of head awakening being associated with “freedom from,” heart awakening with “freedom to,” and gut or hara awakening with “freedom from freedom.” You could think of head awakening as freedom from boundaries of thought (especially identification with the “I” thought) and expressing as clarity, and heart awakening as freedom from distance (especially identification with “inside” vs. outside) and expressing as intimacy, and gut awakening as freedom from referencing or identifying with freedom, expressing as fluidity within stillness.
These awakenings may occur suddenly and/or gradually. From my past and current experience, the expression of these awakenings factor in one’s finite, imperfect human expression. Thus, it is helpful to come to love and be at peace with imperfection as another expression of awareness loving itself.
© Mukti Gray 2018
In last month’s newsletter article, “Living Spiritual Autonomy,” [November 2021] I shared that this article would further explore the embodiment of spiritual autonomy. As a point of reference, I again offer Adyashanti’s definition for spiritual autonomy, taken from his “Taking the One Seat” course: To be a simple force of nature, a selfless and creative expression of the whole, possessing an independence of spirit capable of manifesting the enlightened condition in daily living for the highest possible good.
In Buddhism and in Zen, in particular, there is a directive: take the one seat. In this pointer, we have the key to embodying spiritual autonomy. It’s a pointer that conveys simplicity, while also speaking volumes to body, mind, and spirit.
Along my journey, this pointer has been an encouragement to first seek to know the one most important direction for living and then to see that my sense of self and Self is established in that. As I know it, this most important direction has been to align with life, as life. From a more personal perspective, this has meant dropping the arguments about what I want and don’t want, and navigating away from this push and pull toward a discovery of foundational stillness. It has meant that I’ve needed to align “my will” with “God’s will”—and God’s will, simply put, is: whatever is happening. In sensing this alignment with what is, I discovered that what I wanted most was to not want, and to be at home in what is. This discovery and shift helps free vision to see what is, to see the moment, more clearly.
It has meant “my life” and “my being” sync to a greater orchestration of life and totality of being, to the One expressing as beingness. Being or beingness is the primordial expression of what you are and we are, what life is, what the moment is. The more we shift from the mode of grasping at life to fill a sense of internal lack to the mode of giving ourselves to life, joining in the moment . . . the more we know the wholeness of being. This is the human’s journey to awakening and the embodiment of that awakening.
Realization is not just about a person’s journey to awakening. It’s also a journey of immaculate spirit, empty of the qualities and conditions of form, waking up to itself within you, and recognizing Itself as all of form through you. This is Emptiness waking up to its expression as fullness in being. This is spirit’s journey of awakening and its embodiment.
Together, the journeys of spirit and human are: the totality finding Its place—known and expressed through the individual, and the individual finding its seat, its home, in the totality: the One in the one, and the one in the One.
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
This month I invite you to reflect upon and sense into expressing “spiritual autonomy.” Next month’s newsletter will further point toward living this unique autonomy in an embodied way. Adya has defined spiritual autonomy for us beautifully in his Taking the One Seat course. (Please see above.)
Presently, please take a moment to call forward any images, sensations, or orientations of mind and body that come forward as you read his definition and step into its expression—in whatever ways it is known to you. And please continue to sense what you’ve just called forward as you read on.
To express spiritual autonomy, you must fully occupy your own life, even consciously consent to inhabiting your incarnation. And you must intend to align with life as a whole. Engaging these actions (occupying, consenting, aligning) begs several questions, such as those below. As you sense into expressing spiritual autonomy, see if exploring any of the following questions shift or deepen your sense of it.
To express spiritual autonomy, it is not necessary to be perfect, but it is necessary to consciously reside within your own person and within being. Being is the primordial expression of what you are, what life is, what the moment is.
Autonomy in general, spiritual or not, is expressed well by those who have a healthy ego, or a quiescent ego—certainly one that is free of a sense of inflation or lack. When lack is sensed and believed, a person is often under the illusion that lack can be put to rest by acquiring from the outer world—whether the acquisition be material or emotional (as in the seeking of love, attention, and approval). Inflation often occurs when one presumes or takes undue personal pride in possessing or outwardly displaying strength, wealth, or social position. Often simultaneously their inner life (where true power, wealth and identity lie) is being dismissed or avoided. In each case, the person is disconnected from their inner worth and is preoccupied externally.
When you assume that you are “more than” or “less than,” you will feel a push-pull relationship with life. Whether in overly asserting or displaying yourself (push) or grasping to fill yourself (pull), to be enslaved in a push-pull relationship with the external world for your happiness is inherently dissatisfying. Freedom in spirit as well as fulfillment arise from a deep connection with your self, especially with the inner peace that develops from withdrawing from the overdrive of push-pull and turning your interest and consciousness toward primordial being. Such peace makes it possible to perceive and know the real. Without this peace, perceptions are forever filtered through what is to be acquired and displayed. With this peace, autonomy expresses as spiritual autonomy.
If not peace, what do you experience when you suspend belief in lack and suspend movements to reject or resist? What remains? Whether it be quiet, stillness, openness, clarity, or even disorientation . . . how might you encounter what remains? How might your steady, intimate attention touch into, even fall into what arises?
What I now speak of does not sound like the independence typically associated with autonomy; it likely sounds and feels more like joining, like orienting toward unity. I propose that unity be one of the aims and hallmarks of spiritual autonomy, differentiating it from other expressions of autonomy. In such a union, the separate self may give way and be fundamentally changed by its return to and recognition of the ground of being. This ground, which is the space from which all things arise, upon which all things take shape, and to which all things return, may then become conscious of Itself through you—through your senses, your body and mind, and your heart and soul.
In this union, realization of the interrelated self that is conscious of the oneness of reality becomes possible—perhaps even dominant . . . until it integrates with its co-arising expression of the autonomous, individuated self. In this integration of the One as wholeness as well as specificity, autonomy of the individual is established in spirit. Such establishment in the Way of things, offers a “place” so primary it has the power to subplant ego-centricity and to bring division and lack to a remembrance of wholeness, to true healing.
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
From the time we are small, we are told that plants need light and water to grow. To grow in spirit and wakeful, conscious being, we need engaged attention and true intention very much like plants need light and water. In fact, I associate attention with light and intention with water.
“How might intention be associated with water?”, you may ask. True intention is born of the deeper waters within us, arising as wisdom that guides us in form. It acts as an organizing principle of energy that guides the direction of growth—for oneself and one’s life. If, for example, your intention is to be loving, then it becomes possible to learn love and grow in living love, within and out. The stronger the intention, the more powerfully one’s life flows in its direction.
As powerful and important as true intention is, my intent for this article is to focus primarily on its power partner: attention.
In spiritual circles, there’s lots of talk of awareness. Attention is simply directed awareness. Your mind’s eye functions as a lens of consciousness with its light’s direction determined by placement of your attention. Attention has great power; it brings life to form. What was unseen appears, and what is latent comes to life.
I imagine you have observed how much a child lights up when they are given loving attention. Adults perk up too! Clearly, it helps us thrive. Focusing your attention gathers your powers of perception so that you become more conscious of what you are focused upon, while what you are focused upon can shine more brightly.
Attention is not only expressed through seeing or hearing, it also functions through the whole body. Think of how the whole body attends to recognizing the activity of a busy mouse in the house. Mouse or no, when we cast our attention into our surroundings in a global manner, we attend to the larger body of life, engaging boundless awareness as well as local body awareness.
A harmonization of boundless awareness and body awareness can occur, especially in peaceful environments. This harmonization does require the stewarding of attention, as energy and attention are intimately linked. Think of times you may have been on a beautiful walk in nature but caught in thought. Once your attention shifts from its narrow focus to the beauty of your surroundings, energy is freed up, and opens and harmonizes.
Energy and attention just go together. From the simple annoying clock tick or alluring “me” thought to great suffering and yearning, when attention arises from a place of wrongness or lack, energy becomes resistance or desire, fueling the push-pull of division.
When engaging attention free from division, it furthers clear seeing. When we turn such attention within, it energizes the intelligence of being. This intelligence can present as wisdom and intuition, which can inform intentions that help you steward your actions and powerfully engage in life.
Engaging the outer successfully, frequently starts with engaging the inner. Inner magic happens when energy and attention come together. That’s the basis of healing, of liberation, and of conscious action. Healing happens when you turn attention within to an emotion that’s been calling, waiting for its trapped energy to be allowed to take the lead and express and release in the light of awareness. Peace comes when you turn attention into the felt sense of yearning (e.g., for spirit), and lead attention to the root of sensation, to yearning’s beginnings in a place that is free of want. One-pointed attention has the capacity to rectify; the stillness within such attention, when attending to strong energetic movement, can calm and pacify. Or, the power within one-pointed attention can further energize the movement toward spontaneous expression, release, or completion.
When identification as “the one doing such things” is at rest, abdicating itself to the whole offering of attention, attention can join with what or who it is focused upon. Separation disappears and union expresses. These disappearances and appearances are what we love about magic, are they not? I hope so. May you come alive for the magic show and enjoy wearing your magic hat ;-)
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
When I consider Adya describing the sense of “I am” as a doorway to the essential, the universal, and the sacred, I am reminded of some powerful self-inquiry questions he has given instruction on. In particular, he has suggested different variations on the question “What am I?”
Before I recount these inquiry variations, I would first like to share one foundational approach to engaging in any self-inquiry question, an approach that Adya has taught. That is to drop a question into one’s system such that it registers not only in mind and intention, but also in one’s body and in one’s whole being. He has used the image of one’s body sitting still in meditation, presenting as a calm lake, and the question being imbued within a smooth stone that could be dropped into this lake of being.
Here’s how I would put it: As the stone, or inquiry, moves from one’s head (mind) to below the neck, into the dark waters of stillness (when the body is settled), it can ripple in the unknown, thereby illuminating mystery, while also expressing one’s intention to know, illuminating curiosity. Curiosity causes one to metaphorically “lean in” and “hold forth” with attention as the inquiry evokes the mystery of being, causing it to come forth as well. The sense of mystery may come forth primarily as the questioner shifts into sensing and receptivity.
While sitting quietly, engage the question, “What am I?” Drop it into “the lake of your being,” letting it slowly descend from head to chest to lower belly: “What . . . am . . . I?” (Pause indefinitely.) Let the question carry your consciousness and orientation to silent sensing, to being, to resting in being as being.
After a time, you might also drop the question in reverse, “I . . . am . . . what?” (pause indefinitely) into the silent sensing and mystery. Or, in the spirit of Adya’s article, The Doorway of I Am, and his specific encouragement to focus on the sense of “I am,” you might instead ask, “What . . . is . . . I . . . am?”
This last variation of “What is this ‘I am’?” can be more of an evocation than a simple inquiry—though you are asking the felt sense of being/existing, or the felt sense of mystery (the first perhaps feeling more essential and the second perhaps more sacred) to reveal itself and become more conscious in body and mind—as if to say, “What are you, ‘I am?’ Reveal yourself.” The important thing is to go with what resonates for you, and to make the question your own.
Something else that can be very helpful is to rest in meditation with a sense of general, global awareness, as well as settling in your specific local body. This pairing of universal awareness and body-awareness offers insight for both types of awareness, as the self-inquiry question is at work. So inquiry is then not just about the sense of one’s person engaging in a personal inquiry, but is also about the sense of a global, unbounded awareness being anchored in the question, such that it becomes embodied as the inquiry “stone” drops into the “lake of being,” harnessing awareness that is without specific location to know itself in form, in your body-mind-being, as “I am.”
There are other ways to work with “I am,” but these are ways I have taken Adya’s pointers about inquiry and worked with them myself. Each variation has its own power, and one may resonate for you uniquely. I encourage you to listen within to stirrings of curiosity and to hold forth and call forth.
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
One of the great koans of a spiritual life is “What is a spiritual life?” Such a question can take form in one’s being before such words even register, often on the heels of a series of other questions. As I mentioned in last month’s newsletter (May 2021), Adya has often spoken of putting first things first in our questioning, one example being, “Instead of always asking what to do and how to live your life, might you ask, ‘Who is it that is living this life?’”
Some of the earliest questions about life and living that I began asking as a child in Catholic school revolved around the notion of God. I had been told that God is within, and I also had been told that God is everywhere. I was even told that God walks by our side, as the great Comforter. The very notion that there was not one orientation toward God left me disoriented, and thus I fell upon my first koan in life, the “God koan,” if you will. At the time, I had no idea that koan practice had existed for centuries in the East, to purposefully disorient and push one beyond concepts and orienting references.
That was my first blessed push deeper into being, although I didn’t much care for my confusion at the time. It was likely the beginning of my spiritual life, a life in which conceptual discomfort yields to a comfortability with not knowing and then to even greater comfort in the great unknown, the great mystery of being. What kept me going may have been the confusion itself, but also some overriding sense that God was of paramount importance and that I must therefore orient toward God, even as I had little satisfactory understanding of what God is. How does one proceed when they don’t understand? With our confusion, yes, but also with our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open, to the best of our ability. Which is exactly what I did.
Looking back, I believe that my disorientation in the God koan paradoxically gave me a tremendous orientation, an orientation toward God. The notions I was given of the great significance of God, something greater than any one individual, instilled a desire to know God and to serve God, to serve something greater than myself. From there, over years, I began to see what in that desire was born of egoic coping, and what was a call beyond myself altogether.
The story of the unfolding of any spiritual life has layers that give way to other layers, above and below, inside and out. My story is too long to go into further here. But in its moments of disorientation fraught with insistence upon orienting, there has always been comfort to be found in stopping, a comfort born of encountering the living moment with an open heart.
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
When Adya first began in his teaching role, I decided to attend his evenings of instruction. Little did I know that my meditation practice, which had been largely oriented inward in techniques of concentration and intimate listening and sensing, was about to change dramatically.
He spoke on many of the topics he does today, including “awareness,” “letting everything be as it is,” and of essentially putting first things first. I clearly remember an example of the latter when he said, “Instead of always asking what to do and how to live your life, might you ask, ‘Who is it that is living this life?’”
With each topic, I was learning to ease my way out of identifying as the one in the driver’s seat, as the one at point A focusing on and steering to point B. I became more cognizant of a sense of awareness that did not identify as the driver or the seeker, meditator, or doer. And as significant and foundational as all of this was, I believe what may have been the most revolutionary to my meditation practice and spirituality as a whole were his simple instructions on global listening.
Are you familiar with global listening? Really familiar? The kind that begins with a listener listening to sounds and gives way to non-separation, to a seamless being of existence? If you feel that auditory skills are not your strength, not to worry, for global listening is more of a global sensing and engages all skills of being actively present. Unlike many other inward approaches to meditation (sitting, standing, or living meditation), global listening also avails itself of an outward approach.
Please join me now, as I point to global listening as I have come to know it. See how you come to know it in yourself, as your Self. To begin, I recommend you find a comfortable seat and invite your body to come to rest. Briefly observe your body, as it shows you what it inherently knows of settling.
Now, let your attention widen into the room and become more acutely aware of the sounds around you. At first you may notice thoughts, and the labeling of sounds such as “fan,” “breath,” “cat.” See if you can settle into listening in a soft, receptive way. You may pause to invite your body to settle once again. As your body relaxes and softens, and holdings of energy and tension settle downward creating greater ballast, you may notice that your attention in the space of the room becomes receptive more easily. The functions of tracking and labeling sounds relax further. Mind and attention become clearer. This phenomenon is much like silt in the body of a pond settling and the pond water becoming clearer.
As attention softens, you may also become aware of life beyond the room, perhaps hearing “car,” “bird,” or “wind” even without the mind labeling them . . . more bubbles, more notes in the song of the moment. Continue on in this way, listening to life, not only with your hearing but with a global sensing, a being with, much like when your senses settle into harmony with nature when you lie down on the beach or grass at your leisure.
Now pausing this guided exercise, I want to point out for this article that what I call “spatial mind” often assigns location to sounds in different areas of the room (and beyond the room) when globally listening and sensing, especially at first. Spatial mind also often places your sense of physical self or your sense of separate ego-self at the center of its spatial map. As you continue to be receptive to sounds in the room and beyond the room, less attention and energy will go to the separate ego-self at the center. (Wink. Don’t tell the ego, but this is much like a parent, skilled in the art of distraction, who eases a small child from distressed self-concern by pointing out wonderful things to see and hear in the environment.) The sense of self at point A listening to sounds at points B, C, D, etc. gives way to a sense of self locally listening to the outer world as a whole. This may initially feel like point A, bounded by the physical body, listening to the larger body of life, free of edge or boundary—a global point B, one could say. Yet, as the tensions and energies of one’s physical body settle downward in the system, the local physical body becomes more still, like the earth. One’s mind becomes more clear, like the sky. The inner body harmonizes with the outer, larger body of life.
If a remaining sense of the observer or meditator remains at the center of experience, you can ask if it might too recognize its arising as another arising in the song of the moment, that it too might soften and receive the harmony of life’s unfolding, appearing as arisings in movement and as settlings in stillness (point A giving way to B, and B to A).
In closing, I encourage you to continue to discover the power of global listening and sensing. We are never more present than when we are deeply and intimately listening, and yet, curiously, our sense of ego is never more absent. Intimate listening, sensing, and being allow the distancing of ego, with its grasping toward and pushing away, to come to rest and yield its hindrance to the vital, clear expressions of life and living.
Copyright © 2021 Mukti Gray.
Mukti originally wrote this piece for Open Gate Sangha Gathering groups around the world,* but is extending it here to you and to all as an invitation to join others in nurturing realization of universal being.
“We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us,” I have heard Adya say when speaking of spiritual lineage. His words conjure connection to sincere practitioners throughout history who have nurtured and embodied spirit, keeping it alive and well in themselves, each other, and in the coming generations.
Attunement to their dedication and its fruiting can bolster each one of us—as we practice together or in seeming solitude—and can knit us into universal consciousness as it echoes within and beyond us as individuals. The great mystic and sage Paramahansa Yogananda, one of my beloved teachers, puts the following words to this echo in his poem “I Am He”:
I am He, I am He, blessed Spirit, I am He!
When we gather together to attune to Spirit in its expression as “I am,” with sincere intention to recognize and embody this as our essential nature, the “I am” echoing in each individual reverberates more loudly, joining a chorus of “I am” to carry in greater strength and transformative power. Such transformative power is no small thing, for it liberates separation and division, ushering in wholeness.
In stopping and abiding as aware space, the Spirit that animates the silent room, the brook’s burble, and the bird’s chirping can ever more deeply be known as the “I am” that animates our essential being.
When we gather in the spirit of “I am,” we make it a priority to allow oneself and others to be as they are. Moreover, we can endeavor to recognize essential being in each other and to nurture it by offering wordless listening, open seeing, and intuitive sensing, which are all essential expressions of being.
Expressing in these ways could be summarized as “recognizing,” but also “realizing.” In other words, when we truly see, hear, and know another, it is not only immensely valuable to them and to the vitality of their expression as Spirit, but it is also tremendously beneficial to oneself, especially to one’s own realization—a realization that can be nurtured through actualizing our nature as essential being by expressing its capacities.
In time, the “I am” can more firmly take up residence in the heart, animating its capacity to more keenly recognize life’s movements of great intelligence, resilience, beauty, and love. This recognition nourishes Spirit, keeping it alive and well—and even more so when we gather together and stand in recognition, not only on the shoulders of our prior lineage, but also side by side in the present.
Bless you in your gathering, for your gatherings in themselves, like each of you, are a true blessing.
Copyright © 2020 Mukti Gray.
From the May 26, 2020 Mukti Teaching Series Re-Visioning Suffering, Part 4.
When I speak about optional suffering, I’m speaking about our relationship to difficulty and hardship. It’s largely the inner narrative and stance, like an energetic posturing with what is happening. It can manifest as a push and pull of resistance and aversion, a kind of organizing dualistically with respect to what should or shouldn’t be—this is right or this is wrong, this is good or this is bad. At one level, that perspective may have relative value. As it concretizes in our system, these narratives or conclusions can often become rigid or be on overdrive to a point where they start to create a great sense of division with life or others, or division within ourselves and different parts of ourselves.
That concretization goes counter to our movement toward well-being, our movement to embrace life and to really live life to the best that we can in a vitally engaging, embracing way. That inner division can also bring about a sense of separation and isolation, and a kind of forgetting of our nature that is of oneness, that is indicative of the whole of humanity. Even larger, our nature is the whole of this play of consciousness that we see before us, which includes the seer and the seeing itself—not only through these eyes that have been bearing witness to our whole life, but also through the seeing eyes of the heart, and that which would want to always say yes to the embrace of life.
Some of the optional suffering is based on two primary movements. One is the forgetting of our nature as Spirit, especially in times when we concretize around events in our lives and move into dualistic positions that are for or against, pushing and pulling, toward right or wrong or good or bad. This forgetting can feel like it leaves us bereft of the inherent fullness and repleteness of our nature as the divine, and it can lead to greater entrenchment in an ego identification that’s really founded upon a sense of lack and something being wrong, and our view being that of problem.
In large part, one of the two movements that this optional suffering revolves around is this forgetting of our Self that is always and ever okay, that nature of what you are that is eternally present. It’s been eternally present, bearing witness to your whole life, but even more deeply to become known and realized is this nature of the eternal that has the capacity of the unconditional that is present and shows up, you could say to personify it, for every expression and event of our lives. It has never been harmed at that level of our essential being. It’s sometimes called the unborn or the undying, the uncreated, in the sense that it’s not defined by our narrative of birth, life, suffering, death.
This forgetting of our nature is not your typical forgetting, like forgetting your keys or something of material value. It can be an entering into the identification of our nature as a separate ego or as something that’s lacking, and it can be a departure from being firmly rooted in our essential being that has never been lacking.
There have been parts of this teaching series where I’ve been pointing back and back and back to the sense of what is prior to the narrative, the words—what is even behind the sense of witness, or that sense of witness softening its position into a general awareness. As our bodies become more still, inquiry or meditation may seem to open and fill out our body awareness, the awareness of our entire being, and in a sense, anchor this pure unboundaried consciousness into boundaried form and give it a home here in our incarnation.
The second movement that I believe largely contributes to this optional suffering isn’t so much a forgetting of our essential nature and that knowingness of being of our nature as Spirit, but it’s a tendency to not act upon our knowingness of being, our inner knowings, those tugs on our conscience, those tugs at our heart that are guiding us or trying to get our attention to attend to things that we’re not attending to. Some of this optional suffering is a kind of pushing aside or giving second place—or third or fourth place—to some of these things that we know are deeply important, and yet we might be choosing other things first.
It can be just daily things on the smallest level. Let’s say it’s physical suffering that we might be going through, and there are those little tugs on our conscience to get up and stretch in the morning, or hydrate more, or not eat this particular thing, or not be on our devices so much, or to connect more with people, or whatever it might be. We may have many knowings of what would bring us greater physical well-being, for example, that we may keep setting aside and not paying heed to. And that can bring about a lot of unnecessary difficulty that could be avoided if we acted on what we are conscious of—even if it seems to be just outside the forefront of our consciousness—when there’s a commitment to listen more deeply in life and to act upon these movements to guide us. Then things can go a lot better.
This is not only something that plays out on this basic simple level of self-care, but also, navigating in this way really leads us to a greater sense that when we care for ourselves, we’re caring for the whole. And when we care for things outside of ourselves, it also is supportive to our own nature, in its myriad of levels of expression—of Spirit, of soul, of purpose.
Copyright © 2020 Mukti Gray.
From Toronto Silent Retreat Day, April 2018
Here we all are, being exactly who we are. And yet, there’s this opportunity to discover and know it ever more deeply. It’s not that we don’t know that at some level, but the deeper knowledge of being, our nature as Spirit, or Spirit incarnate in human expression, is sometimes more hidden or less conscious. This is an opportunity to bring that into consciousness, a consciousness that registers not only in our mind, but also in our body, in our heart, and in our whole being.
You could think of this as an opportunity to really nurture the fullness of all that you are and bring that forward, especially with respect to the quality of being that cannot be contained in ideas or notions. Who we are is not beholden to our structures of memory, of who we’ve taken ourselves to be through the narrative of our life, or who we might hope to become. The essence of being that I’m pointing to and supporting is something that can’t be contained in such notions, yet it has been present throughout the entirety of our lives—bearing witness to our life and noticing all of the various chapters unfolding, both the highs and the lows.
You might call forward a sense of that observing quality that bears witness to all of the unfoldings. Maybe you can have a sense of yourself that’s been present from as far back as you remember. Maybe at times you recall sitting at the playground or on the beach, or just being out in nature when you were young. Sometimes it’s easier to access, from those memories, some sense of taking life in and observing and bearing witness to it all, with the mind not jumping in too much—creating conclusions, ideas, narratives, and interpretations—but an open seeing that carries through the whole range of senses.
There is a kind of open listening, open sensing—an innocent vantage point that’s not layered over by the conditioned learnings that we have. One of the opportunities is just to let that sense of pure being shine and come forward more, in whatever ways it might work its way forward, to help us return to a sense of greater wholeness and connection with ourselves and life. In this way, our nature as Spirit can have the capacity to come forward and recognize that it is, in a sense, the true residency of our person and the true resident inherently imbibing all of life and giving it vital expression.
The more we become at home with that aspect of life that orients toward stillness or silence, the more that can really be present to complement the birth and movement of Spirit more fully incarnating. So when realization is spoken of as a path of union, it’s really the joining of the movements of coming to rest from the ego identity. It’s as though that energy transfers to Spirit and vitalizes its birth into this world and into incarnate expression more fully. The more we can feel that as an integral expression of life, of all that we are, paradoxically, the more vitalizing our spiritual path can become. And the more Spirit can be incarnate.
Some people might say about this, “Okay, I’m just getting out of the way for Spirit to come through.” And you could say that, but it’s not necessarily this kind of either/or. It’s really the joining of the human and Spirit together in a way where the business of relinquishing and actualizing becomes more aright in our whole personhood.
From Toronto Silent Retreat Day, April 2018