Surfaces and Depth – Part 2


Jul 09

Again T.S. Eliot:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope. For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

This passage from Eliot’s “East Coker” is not just pretty poetry but an accurate description of the interior journey, of the inner work. We must be still and wait. There can be great activity both emotional and intellectual as we “Be still,” because being still does not mean freezing the universe, it means holding it in the greater context of emptiness and pure awareness. Imagine a wiggling bug on the surface of a vast, still ocean. From fifty thousand feet looking down on the ocean we would say that the ocean is still indeed, even though our little bug is shaking all over. In the context of emptiness, this vast endless spaciousness, no matter what the ego or mind does, it happens in stillness: the Witness is always still. (Or as Ken Wilber says, “Emptiness is simple—it has no moving parts.”)

To further look at this, imagine you are a hundred meters under the ocean in still, calm water. There could be a tsunami passing over your head and at that depth all will be still. In our daily meditation, as we plunge ever deeper into this vast spaciousness that is our true Self, we are less perturbed by the disturbances on the surfaces, the peripheries. This does not mean that we ignore the surfaces either, but we can, for the first time perhaps, become really effective in dealing with these surface manifestations. Now we can hold them in their true context, and we can do so with lightness, wisdom, and compassion. We can dance the dance of life with beauty, skillfulness, and grace, because we have seen and know our original face: the vast consciousness from which all arises.

We don’t “hope” or “love,” because we have “faith” in the waiting. Because as emotions, thoughts, and feelings arise in the vastness of our true Self, they will release and self-liberate, and the understanding and wisdom that arise from this waiting is of a nature and order that seem to be from a different altitude and magnitude than our formerly contracted state could have grasped. This is just one of the reasons that “cultivation through repetition,” or daily practice, is so vitally important to our future as individuals, as a species, as a planet, and so on. Because from these states of expansion and transcended awareness, a creativity and intelligence that we are perhaps just beginning to realize can burn through the fog of our separate, isolated, little self-dreams and can allow us to truly create the world anew in all quadrants, lines, stage, states, and types.

“We wait without thought, for we are not ready for thought.” Not yet. When I plunge into these depths I cannot stop my mind from doing what it does most of the time. That is, think. I do, however, bracket my thoughts, not believing the fictions and stories that it spins about what is arising. They are just stories that my little mind creates and they will keep me stuck if I pay them heed. After I go through the darkness or whatever is arising, through the surface into the vast stillness, then I am ready for thought. In that darkness comes the light, and in that stillness the dancing. Again, the problems that we have created are not solvable from the level, state, or consciousness that created them. At the level on which they were created, we just create more problems, more karma, more knots. To undo the knots and problems we have created on our surfaces we must go through our surfaces into the depths of our true being. From that depth we can cultivate the ability to release, unwind and untie the traumas and dramas and fictions that keep us prisoners and asleep.

Let me introduce a question that I often use in teaching that functions something like a Zen koan. It is a question that, if we struggle with it and find the solution in ourselves, leads us to a new level of understanding of the deepest essential levels of reality, and provides us a glimpse of our true self, our “original face” before our parents were born, before the Big Bang. This is the question: How could a Jew forgive the Nazi? Given these Nazis had murdered your children, wife, husband, parents, family, friends, indeed your whole world and culture. How could you forgive this? Stop reading. See and feel this. See the doors being kicked in, in the middle of the night. Feel and smell the stench of the cattle cars, the claustrophobic horror. See the Nazi SS guards, look at them, feel their arrogance and their cruelty. See the attack dogs with them as they open the cattle cars and force your family out, separate them and strip them, and prepare them for the “showers,” the gas chamber… See your family dying in the gas chamber, slowly, horribly, obscenely. Feel it. See it. Smell it. Hear it. And ask yourself, “How could a Jew forgive the Nazi?”

It is not humanly possible. It is too much, way too much. Some people say, “Well, you can realize that you have the same potential for hatred and cruelty inside yourself.” Maybe. But you did not do it. You made choices that did not lead you there. It simply doesn’t wash.

How does the Jew forgive the Nazi, or the Shia the Suni, or the Palestinian the Israeli, the Indian the white man, the slave the enslavers, and vise versa on and on through our whole bloody history. Can it be done? Is reconciliation possible? Can we forgive?