Poetry Is Method

Jhana versus the Natural State

I was too high after meditating last night to write about it, although what I’m referring to isn’t exactly the “afterglow” of jhana practice – although, whether jhana and the natural state are the same thing is a question that I continually pound my head against. My friend Barry and I agree that concentration without object does land us in the natural state, rigpa a-flaring, but is that because we have awakened awareness to begin with, or is it that jhana without sign, as they say, is “it”? 

I guess what I’m calling jhana is when I take the jhana factors, or one of them, as object: I’m concentrating on the state as such; therefore it is temporary, special, fabricated, partly conceptual. By contrast, the natural state is always already here, so long as it is merely recognized. The emphasis is different, in fact opposite. As a technical meditator, I used to practice “calling up” the jhanas by number, in different orders, and then I would run insight experiments in them, as if they were little labs.

DreamWalker is adept at that kind of analytical and intellectual approach to “exercises” and their experimental “results.” But it hasn’t been my karma for awakening to unfold by shifts discrete enough for me to analyze individually. In other words, as John says, my journey has been fast.

Tibetan-y Metaphoricity and the Feminine

So here I am: back in the Tibetan-y realm, resting back into the lush metaphors, the evocations of poetry.

John tells the story of Mara, the reification of self, the embodiment of traumas. There is Mara with Mara’s armies of complicated complexity, and John tells how Mara asks Buddha, tauntingly, “Well, who is backing you up – why should I believe that you are completely free?” and Buddha, confronting all that constructed complexity, simply leans forward and touches the Earth, the ground, the mother – to show that he was no longer separate from that, no longer separate from the whole of reality.

That simple gesture, as told by John, the humility, humanity, and dignity of it in the face of towering edifices of greed, hatred, and illusion, always makes me weep. DreamWalker asks, “Why? I must not be emotional.” And I stand perplexed at his shrugging that poignancy off. That story is the meditation. At a certain point, awakening is not about “exercises.” And this difference that is poetry is what John means when he says the feminine is insufficiently appreciated in Buddhist circles.

Just so, in Bon Dzogchen language, there is the infant and the mother, open awareness and open ground. In full embrace, they are the groundless ground. John weaves these metaphors in and out, around and between, our breaths, the birds chirping into silence, the body’s energy fields buzzing and flowing into stillness. These metaphors open the heart, eschewing the intellect. That’s what archetypes do. Mother-infant is the primary archetype of human relationship, of what is relationally based on selfless love. We are the infant gazing into the eyes of the mother; we are the mother gazing into the eyes of her infant. Suffering and the soothing of suffering is intergenerational, interpersonal; it is a matter of love, not a matter of one’s “own” technical meditative skill. Time being empty and all, we heal our unborn children and we heal our sad lost fathers.

We love our enemies as our self.

Love Not Exercises

I understand distrust of religion, especially organized and codified religion. I have that disidentification going on now more than ever before, but that is not because these “Buddhist” or “Bon” metaphors are without potency; on the contrary, it is because they are so potent that they awakened me to emptiness, to the interdependent co-arising of even all these constructed poetic particulars. And that means religion is empty too. I’ve begun disidentifying as a Buddhist for the very reason that Buddhist method works. 

For about the millionth time, I was rehearsing to DreamWalker this evening the four distinct shifts that I had during the Mahamudra retreat. I always make a point of emphasizing to him that the last shift, when the central processor (subject) dropped out, was not because of some mechanical opening of some sense door, but because of something emotional. Specifically, we had sealed everything at the speed of awareness as empty, but then we were read a list of limiting beliefs and asked to listen for the one that caused some “grab” in us. My own was “I must have missed something.” Well, all I “missed” was sealing this doubt, this victim-identity, this lack of faith, this fear that I wouldn’t awaken. And as soon as I saw that doubt and saw that it too was empty – BAM !– subject dropped out. And it hasn’t returned, not for an instant.

Before that point, we had sung with John and were exhausted, high, and weepy, puddles on the polished wood of the shala. He had worn us down over a week’s time to absolute surrender. The final shift was not because of any “exercise.” It was surrender. What opened where trying stopped? Love did. Love opened. Fear fled. Love boomed.

Pure Ghost

I told DreamWalker this story yet again, and he had a sort of aha – that the last shift I had on retreat was the release of the selfing process that is the fight-or-flight system. The aha was that this forms in infancy, or beforehand, as our first sense of self. He said, “Our first sense of this self is a fear of falling.” And I said, “Why do you think John has everyone lie down and rest into the ground/mother?” I asked, “Why do you think he keeps referring to the holding environment?” John is using the lingo of western psychology here – the opposite of falling is being held. This is love. This is love. This is love. And it is trust, faith, poetry, magic, universe, human relationship.

So. As I tonight rest into the chakras as field, as ground, as mother, I’m opening up to the vast expanse so deep within me. John always speaks of the “primordial youthful subtle body” that is revealed when the body’s energy centers open up. Tonight I especially noticed the second chakra, the sweetness – it flutters and beats just like the third chakra did when I was meditating on it for months. Beneath all the layers, all the constructedness of self-identity, is pure ghost, and that ghost lies contentedly as a perfectly glowing infant in the arms of her beloved mother.

Poetry, you see, is purest method.

Dream of Advancing Text and Opening Door

I woke about 20 minutes before my alarm was to go off this morning. Luxuriating in the hypnopompic/hypnagogic liminality, as usual, I formed the intention to drift back into dreaming, first asking that the retinue show me something I need to know.

Almost immediately, I was dreaming. There was a printed manuscript. I could see that it was in Times New Roman font, but I couldn’t or didn’t read the words. The manuscript kept jumping closer, then closer, then closer to my face, as if insisting on my attention.

Then my viewpoint was in the hallway of what seemed a hospital ward, or psychiatric ward. I was facing a very broad, thick heavy door–like a door to an operating room or to where dangerous patients were kept, a door meant to keep unauthorized personnel out. The door was painted a dull brick red, like the color of dried blood, and had a little square window at eye level. Just as the manuscript had continually hopped closer to me, this door keep perpetually opening, opening, opening, opening, opening. It was beckoning me, inviting me to enter that otherwise forbidden territory.

Then I awoke.

Just Wow

I sat 45 minutes tonight. I meant to lie down for the first half and then to sit up so that I could trace details about the difference I’ve noticed between dull ground when lying, and full-on rigpa when sitting upright. But I mistakenly sat upright the whole time.

I feel powerless to write anything adequate after doing one of John’s sequences: Just wow. And it isn’t the kind of wow I gain from jhanas, which are comparatively crude and coarse. This is the stateless state, an air more refined than a fanciful sprite, the very being.

First there is some concentration, attuning to the sound/silence, the sensation/stillness, and the vision/space. Then there is the mother and the infant. The innocence and complete openness of each gazing into the eyes of the other, resting into the sweet voice of the other, resting into the warm body of the other. 

This effortless innocence, this timeless primordial innocence rests, rests into the ground, the stability. Over and over and over. It is utterly transient, ephemeral; yet it is stable. It is always already found to be functioning as that into which all continually dissolves, melts. I remember when I believed that “just letting go” couldn’t happen; it had to be preceded and triggered by insight of some kind, seeing into one of the Three Characteristics. At a former level of practice, that is true. But that is all over now. I understand what Daniel meant when he told me that the Three Characteristics just disappear.

And so the agent of awakening, now recognized, can take over, do the effortless work of unraveling the remaining subtle hideouts of reactivity, contraction, effort. All I “do” is rest, sit and rest into X as ground, X as mother. Open as innocence, so there is no contamination of effort, of specific agent. Simple, Fresh, Contented, and Uninterrupted. 

Gently, awareness rests into the root chakra, then into the sweetness in the lower belly, which is as delicate as gently spread-open petals. Then there is the energy sponge of the solar plexus, heavy with liquid gold, power, heat, humming.

And then, my eyes now open, all these centers of energy can all be open flow. And the breath moves through the whole field of them, washing through all, as all stay opened, released and therefore further releasing.

Other people who have corrected dualistic misperception will say that this way of living is ordinary. I myself have heard them say so. But ordinary is emphatically the wrong word. This unbounded wholeness is soft and tepid because real, but it is the most wondrous of wonders. Every day that I live now, I am continually in awe that this is even possible, that it has actually happened, that I’m this fortunate. All is magick. All is lush. All is sacred. We are alive, after all, and, as John says, knowing that to be so, knowing separateness to be mere avidyā, is nothing less than spooky.

Reading a Suspected Situation of Deceit

Tonight I was feeling all magick-y, so I bathed in lavender Epsom salts, cleaned my meditation area, brought in the four elements in crystal bowls, called in the retinue and protectors of the dharma, charged a black candle with protective power, carved my name and my son’s name into the protection candle, charged an amethyst, and dropped deep into jhana for a good 40 minutes.

The jhanas were had in King of Samadhi, which they can’t help but being, rigpa flaring, awareness-space roaring high. As with the past three times that I’ve practiced jhana, a strange literal warmth enveloped the front of my body. This is not an interior warmth; it is one that billows onto me from across the way. It is really weird, but I just notice it and go on. I made it to j7, maybe j8 briefly.

Recently, a small situation within a bigger situation arose. I have reason to believe that the key person of interest involved in the small situation assumed a false identity, an alias, and deceived some other people I know. It is really no big deal in the scheme of things, but I despise lying and was intrigued with the extent and oddness of this person’s suspected ruse, so I did a reading to look into the matter.

Here is the spread: 

  1. Bottom: basis of the situation; Queen of Wands reversed
  2. Middle: what I need to know about the situation; Emperor reversed
  3. Left: what is in the back of my mind that I need to remember; Knight of Disks reversed
  4. Right: what I need to learn; King of Swords reversed
  5. Top: Outcome based on advice of the other cards;Two of Disks

Basis: Queen of Wands Reversed

This basis of the situation is a court card, Queen of Wands, so it likely represents a person, likely me. In reverse this card indicates a woman of goodwill who is in a situation not permitting her to exercise it. I think this means that I, although a party to the situation, have no direct power over the outcome and cannot even speak my truth about what I know and suspect.

What I Need to Know: Emperor Reversed

What I need to know about the current situation is that it is being fueled by patriarchal wrath, vengeance, abuse of power, jealousy, and shaky boundaries. The deceit I suspect is to deflect attention away from owning these feelings and dark motivations. The Emperor reversed represents to me the father who failed to protect me and who didn’t observe appropriate boundaries with me. In general, this card also represents a mother-son relationship. The Emperor, although behaving tyrannically, is really ruled by and organized around a woman, or several women, mother figures.

What I Need to Remember: Knight of Disks Reversed

What is in the back of my mind that I need to remember is that the person involved is emotionally stunted. The painting is of the Buddha as a little boy, astride the tiger of his destiny, which is enlightenment, but here that picture-perfect destiny is reversed, meaning the boy’s potential has not been realized. He is full of doubt and is projecting his weakness and smallness onto someone outside himself instead of looking within. It is projection on steroids. There is instability now, and it is producing fear. I need to remember that this person is like a child, that no more can be expected than of a child. In fact, a certain axis of development was clipped and cauterized in literal childhood.

What I Need to Learn: King of Swords Reversed

What I need to learn from this situation is that the deceiver is a dark enemy who is indeed to be completely distrusted. This is immature male air. His throne has been toppled, and he has consequently spun out of control, exploding in multiple directions. A wonderfully intellectual mind is twisted by anger, dysfunctional, and hellbent on merciless revenge. Callous, rigid brutality. Power has gone to the head and cut off the heart. The heart is stone cold. Possibly there was abuse in childhood. No appeal will get through. Deeply traumatic anger burdens this person all the time so that he does not know how to function in the normal world. He projects this burden onto others, as if they are the ones who have it and bring it. High intelligence mixed with a deprived background spells injustice: secrets, extortion, underhanded means.

The advice is to walk away from the situation. Hands off.

Outcome Based on Advice: Two of Disks

This is the outcome for me, based on the advice of the other cards, and it is the only upright card in this spread. The coins on the eyes suggest not only a kind of death, or ending, but also riches, compensation, pay dirt. One coin shows Athena, goddess of law, reason, and battle; the other coin features the Roman god Janus. Janus presides over gates, beginnings, endings, transitions, and time. He presides over the beginning and ending of war and other conflicts.

Athena looks out at the sun; Janus looks within at the moon. Looking within, I can see in the dark and illuminate secrets, like the High Priestess. This card, like the High Priestess, is about matter, the mother, the thin veil of flesh that separates us as mysterious individuals. I reside on this boundary, in and as the liminality, what separates yet joins mother and child, mother and rigpa, ground and awareness. 

This card advises, in literal terms, that I assume that my suspicions are right. My vision and stance have been and are correct. Others are mediating for me, and I should assume I’ll take the prize and receive compensation, payment for my trouble.

There is much in the way of earth element, Mother Earth, in this reading, which is Ratna energy. I’ll need to research that aspect further.

Awareness and Dreams Lately

For months now, I’ve been waking up within moments of my alarm clock’s sounding. This is not a matter of diurnal cycles, for it occurs even when I vary my sleep times wildly.

Something else I’ve noticed in just the past few weeks is that I’m often thinking I’ve lain awake all night, or all naptime, only to realize, I guess, that I must have been sleeping and only dreaming that I’m awake. Hmm. For example, I came home in the early evening today from a Medicine Buddha workshop and wanted to take a nap. I was aware of every minute in that bed, and was certain I had not slept. I could hear Kurt walking around and cooking downstairs. But then when I awoke I found that he also had just awakened from a nap! I asked him if he hadn’t just been downstairs cooking, and he said no, that he just got up.

This sort of reminds me of the state of matters for weeks after the July Mahamudra awakening: I would find myself dressing for work, but It wasn’t clear exactly when I stopped sleeping. I began the process of dressing apparently while still actually asleep.