The Fountain

 

I saw The Fountain tonight, and my initial impression is that it is a strangely disjointed movie. The first hour and fifteen minutes or so were about as flat as a comic book or a computer game, with hardly any character development, and enough overdone pathos to last for several B movies without adding any depth or richness. While the last fifteen minutes blew me away.

I especially enjoyed the anthropos scene, the conquistador drinking from the Tree of Life and not being able to help allowing a whole world to grow from him. This is an image that is especially alive for me now as it showed up in a dream some days ago. The parallel is quite close, as I in the dream climbed up a mountain, was helped up the last steps by someone already up there, and then became the ground of a whole city and bay area. In the movie, he climbs up a pyramid, meets somebody there who is a gatekeeper, and becomes the ground of vegetation – of life.

And I enjoyed what seemed as a final acceptance of death and impermanence by someone who had been fighting it for centuries, which allowed him to find the real immortality. When we fight impermanence, we remain stuck in the world of form. We are closely and exclusively identified with it, and struggle within it, as one part, our human self, fighting another, time and change. When we finally accept transience and death, allowing it to be, to live its own life, we can find ourselves as the timeless, as the awake emptiness all forms arise within, to and as. That is the true immortality, the timelessness that is already and always here.

First, we need to find true wholeness as all of us, represented by the anthropos image. Then, often much later, we can find true immortality, through awakening as the awake emptiness and form that is always already here.

Of course, the ending also parallels the ending of The Matrix, and the ascension of Christ.

Stream of form flowing through awareness

 

The world is a stream flowing through awareness. The stream of forms and experiences is always new, fresh and different, and with a past and future. Awareness is always here, timeless, allowing anything to arise within and as itself.

And when I try to change this stream, to hold onto some things and push other things away, my center of gravity shifts into this stream. Trying to change it comes from identification with the stream, and it only reinforces the identification, until it becomes uncomfortable enough – or the whole game is seen clearly enough, to release this identification.

I see this daily, even in subtle ways. As soon as there is even the smallest resistance to experience, I know it comes from identification with form – with a fragment of the seamless field of seeing and seen. And in noticing this, there is the invitation to allow it all to be as it is, even the impulse to change it. The center of gravity now shifts back into the witnessing of it all, or even the Ground of seeing and seen, absent of I anywhere.

The curse and the blessing of impermanence

 

Impermanence can be a curse or a blessing.

The curse of impermanence: when identified with the seen

It is a curse if there is an identification with the seen, typically our human self. Then, we are at the mercy of birth and death, illness and loss, getting what we don’t want and don’t getting what we want. Identified as our human self our happiness is precarious at best.

The blessing of impermanence: as a guide to find ourselves as that which does not change

And it is also a blessing, as a reminder to find ourselves as that which does not change. We can notice sounds, sights, smells, tastes, sensations and thoughts come and go. All of this which makes up our human self, which we have been so closely identified, comes and goes, constantly, in our own immediate experience.

Yet, something does not change. What is it that does not change? It is this awake space that all of this comes and goes within, it is the awareness it happens to and as.

Here, impermanence becomes a blessing. It helps us shift out of a blind identification with the seen and find ourselves as the seeing itself. It helps the center of gravity shift our of our human self and into and as the witness.

And here, there is first an intuition and feeling of no separation between the seen and the seeing, both seem to have the same flavor, to be aspects of a larger whole, be born from the same Ground.

Shifting into realized selflessness

Then, there is the noticing of both the seeing and the seen as inherently absent of any I. They are Ground in its seeing and seen aspects, yet with no I anywhere.

The sense of center falls away. The sense of I and Other falls away. The seeing and the seen arises as a field absent of center, absent of I anywhere.

Relative and absolute

Impermanence as a curse or blessing is a relative truth.

The absolute shows us that impermanence is inherently absent of either, so allows both. It allows any relative truth about impermanence, including any and all stories about impermanence that comes up in us, including this one.

Impermanence & That Which Is Free of Change

 

Toward the end of his life, Suzuki Roshi was asked to present his teachings in a nutshell. He apparently answered impermanence.

Realizing impermanence does seem sufficient for realizing selflessness. All and any content of awareness comes and goes, including everything that has to do with this human self. And what is left is the Ground – timelessness, awareness, emptiness – which all the shifting content arises within and as.

That which is always changing reveals that which does not change. The timeless present that time and change unfolds within and as.

It seems that impermanence and selflessness is already and always in awareness. Yet, this is temporarily clouded over by attempts to believe in ideas – which makes it appear as if something is permanent and that there is a separate and fixed I somewhere, usually placed on this human self or even pure awareness. And these attempted beliefs temporarily prevents the noticing of what is already alive in awareness: impermanence and selflessness.

The mind is aware of its own nature, yet tries to believe in ideas (which are always incomplete and ultimately false), and experiences stress through this dissonance. All that is needed is for the mind to be aware of what it is already aware of. To bring this already existing noticing of impermanence and selflessness into conscious awareness. To consciously become familiar with it and trust it.

Impermanence

 

Yesterday, I went to an event at Dharmalaya (very different from the Zen practice I am more used to!), and did some sitting meditation for the first time in weeks.

During the sitting period, impermanence came up quite strongly. There was the seeing of everything in the field – sounds, sights, smells, tastes, sensations, thoughts – as very much impermanent. As just happening right now, in this timeless present, with no past or future. And also as highly ephemeral even in the view of time and space.

The room, the people in the room, the landscape outside, this human self, everything comes and goes as guests. What remains is this clear awareness, within and as everything happens.

Resting in and as this timeless, spaceless, clear, brilliant awareness, everything is allowed to come and go on their own, as they do anyway. Only now, that which reacts to whatever happens – tries to hold onto it or push it away, is also seen as part of this field. There used to be an identification with this reaction, being caught up in it, and now it is just part of the field as everything else. It just happens. It comes and goes.

It is one end of a polarity, where both ends are within the field of phenomena – temporary guests.

Anything happening is within this field of phenomena. Ephemeral. Clear brilliant awareness temporarily manifesting in this way.

And when anything comes up, it can be recognized in this way. The center of gravity goes from being caught up in it, from identifying with one end of a polarity and see the other end as Other, to just seeing it, to finding myself as capacity for everything and anything happening, as clear brilliant awareness within and as this all happens.

Polarities and ground

It is simple and unremarkable in many ways.

The world of phenomena arises as polarities. One of these polarities is that of this human self and the rest of the world, or more accurately the likes and dislikes of this personality and whatever it reacts and responds to.

So there is the reactions of this personality, and then whatever triggered (or is the focus) of the reaction.

From here, there are two possibilities.

Typically, there is an identification with this reaction. There is the belief in the thought I, placed on this reaction, which then creates the appearance of Other as whatever is the focus of the reaction. This is where the sense of drama and struggle is created.

The other option is to find myself as that clear timeless awareness within and as it all unfolds. Whatever happens, I find myself as capacity for it as Douglas Harding says. Here, there is a shift in the center of gravity from the phenomena themselves (in this case the reactions of the personality) to either the seeing of it, the Witness, pure awareness (still with a sense of I, now placed on the seeing), or as just this clear timeless awareness it unfolds within and as (absent of any particular I anywhere).

From shifting into Witness to Ground

This seems to be the main secret, hidden in plain view. From identifying with and being blindly caught up in one end of the polarity (the reactions of the personality) to seeing that too as part of the field, first by shifting the center of gravity into the Witness, the seeing of it, and then by noticing the clear brilliant awareness it all happens within and as, absent of any inherent I anywhere.

Whatever happens, there is first the witnessing of it, shifting the center of gravity into the seeing and this timeless pure awareness, that within which time and space and phenomena unfolds. And then recognition of it as this clear awareness, as just a field of clear brilliant awareness taking all these ephemeral forms, absent of I anywhere. Emptiness dancing.

Chanting, dancing and personality

Last night, we did some chanting, chants with movements (dancing), sitting practice, and then some dialogue at the end. During the dancing part, I noticed this personality become slightly uncomfortable and self-conscious. Coming from more of a Zen background, chanting, dancing and waving of hands was just outside of the comfort zone.

In this, there was the noticing of a shift between being caught up in and identified with the reactions of the personality, and just seeing it.

Being identified with it was somewhat uncomfortable. It felt claustrophobic, something another aspect of the personality wanted to get out of – and strategiezed about how to get out of.

Seeing it was… just seeing it – the reactions of the personality, the discomfort, the thoughts of this being weird and how long is it going to last, the tiredness of the legs. All of this happened within the field of everything happening, it was just part of the landscape, no need to be caught up in it. It just happened within this clear awareness, and as this clear awareness, along with everything else.

Changing Constants

 

In a linear and mechanistic worldview, we will typically expect the “laws” and “constants” of the universe – as expressed in current science – to remain constant, unchanging. From this view, the universe appears as a machine. Stable, predictable, the same over time.

But from a more systems, organic or integral view, the laws and constants are often seen as habits of the universe, and they may well be expected to change over time. From these views, the universe appears more as a system, or even organism, than a machine.

A machine does not change, and if it does it tends to break down. But an organism certainly do change over time, in almost every way. In some areas almost imperceptably and other areas more obviously.

One of the universal constants that may be changing is the speed of light. I recall reading that in the early days of modern science, the measured speed of light – as independently reported by several researchers – changed over time. Of course, scientist then “knew” that it was supposed to be constant, so they settled the confusion by deciding on an approximate and stable value for the speed of light. It made calculations easier, but did not quite correspond with the data.

At the very least, it precluded much reasearch into the possibility of the speed of light changing over time.

Here is an article from the Guardian on changing views on universal constants, seeing even these as not neccesarily constant.

Recent

 

Just some random recent things, for the record. Or, really, just for my own sake right now – allowing it to pass through by writing it down.

New body

Recently, there has been many periods of experiencing having a new body, or even a new human self. After my acupuncture treatment Monday, I certainly felt that my whole human self was new and different. And it also happened again last night while watching the Papaji movie, and many other times. All of these have been pleasant experiences, so not anything to resist.

It reminds me that I also have other phases where it feels like a different human self, and not so comfortable – if I am seriously sleep deprived, stressed out, have eaten something my body reacts towards and so on. At these times, there is often some resistance – unless I consciously allow the resistance to fall away, consciously stay with and fully experience whatever is going on.

These are of course just more noticeable variations of what is happening all the time. This human self and everything else is always new and different. Everything dies as it is and is reborn as something else, continuously. The stream of content is continuous death and rebirth.

Seeing and seen

There are also times when the whole seer-seen dynamic switches. From having a sense of seer in/around my human self, it shifts to whatever this human self is looking at. I see myself from the eyes of the person this human self is talking with. I see myself from the plant this human self is looking at. I see myself from whatever this human self is looking at. And that is not even quite accurate. There is just what is, the usual content, although now clearly beyond and including seeing and seen, or distinct and free from seeing and seen – and free enough to allow even that overlay sometimes.

Death

 

Nothing new here either…

I see how doing inquiry on death has a widespread effect, simply because death is everywhere.

If I find peace with death, I find peace with death in its many forms.

In this eternal Present, the whole world continually dies as it is and is reborn as something else. It is always utterly fresh. The whole world of phenomena is flow – continuous death and rebirth. This human self dies. Everything I know and am familiar with in my life will die, every person, every animal, every city, every culture, every idea, every piece of music, this solar system, this universe, it will all die. And it already does, always.

And this includes my attachment to any idea. These attachments which all together builds up an imagined identity, as an “I”, as awareness, as a human, as white, as male, as liberal, as someone liking cheese, as someone appreciating Stereolab, as someone doing inquiries, as someone married to a particular woman, and so on – endlessly. All these attachments to ideas which together define who “I” am as opposed to everything else. All of these, which naturally bring a sense of isolation and loneliness. Which makes the world appear as I and Other. Which create the whole familiar realm of human drama.

And as with everything else, every attachment to any idea will die – including to the idea of I – and if they do while this body is still around, it is experienced as peace and liberation

I see that even these attachments to ideas continuously die, along with everything else in the realm of phenomena. And they are typically continuously recreated as well. Until they are not. Until they are seen through. Until they are examined. Leaving just what is.

I did an inquiry on death a little while ago, received a phone call notifying me that a plan of mine would not be able to go through (it died), and I saw how the inquiry on the death of a person naturally transfered to the death of a plan. No surprise, since they both are really just attachments to ideas.

Inquiry :: Death

 

She shouldn’t die.

  1. Yes (Feels true).
  2. No (Cannot know that is absolutely true, nor what is best for her path, my path, or anyone’s path.)
  3. How do I react when I believe that thought?

    Images of all the times we have spent together, how rewarding it has been for me. Sadness of losing it. Grief of losing it, even while she is still alive. Images of me without her in my life, and how empty it will be. Images of everything I will miss. Fear. Frustration of how unpredictable life is, that I cannot know when anyone will die – nor do anything to prevent it. Hopelessness. Feel trapped. Feel that life is unfair. I feel separate from her, from myself, from anyone else – because they will all die from me, and from life.

    How do I treat her?

    I either feel needy and want her attention, or sad and unable to connect very well.

    How do I treat myself?

    I play images of good times together, and of my own grief and loneliness after she is gone, in my mind. I torture myself by playing them over and over.

    What is the payoff?

    I get to feel that I appreciate what she has brought into my life, knowing it is transient. I get to see myself as a “good” person wanting someone else to stay around longer. I get to experience sadness and the depth and grounding in that.

    And the cost?

    Sense of separation – from her, myself, others, life. Sense of loneliness – even while she (and others) are still around. Sense of frustration and hopelessness. Sense of being a victim – of this life and universe where everything is temporary.

  4. Who would I be without that thought?

    Free to enjoy our time together and apart, free from my stories around it. Free to see what is conventionally called her “death” as just being apart, as I am daily even now.

    >> Free to be as I am right now, apart from her, even after what they call death. Free from adding any stories to it.

    Free to play the stories of our times together in my mind, and enjoy it, appreciate it, experience the love through that as I do now. Free to see that she will continue to live in me, as she already does when we are apart.

  5. (a) She should die.

    Yes, we all do. Everything born dies. Everything is transient. There is no renewal without death – stars die and create heavier elements allowing planets and life, organisms die and give space and matter to new organisms, cultures die and give space and nutrients to new cultures, species die and allow space for new species, ideas die allowing space for new ideas, insights die allowing space for new insights, and so on.

    She wouldn’t have been around in the first place if this was not inherent to the world of phenomena. She is born from death, and returns to death – as everything and everyone else.

    I also see how the world of phenomena, unfolding within the eternal Present, is always fresh, always new, always different. The whole world dies as what it was and is reborn as something else, continually.

    Also, when she dies it is as it should be. There are infinite causes to it. It is another expression of the whole.

    I also see that she should die in this memory, because she (most likely) will at some point. She will die in this (my) memory, and be gone from my world. Possibly when this body dies, possibly before, possibly later, possibly never – I don’t know.

    (b) My thinking should die.

    Yes, my thinking that she shouldn’t die is what should die. It is in conflict with what is, and only creates misery for me. It is an unexamined belief only.

    (c) My thinking shouldn’t die.

    Yes, true as well. My thinking about her shouldn’t die. If I want her to not die, she should stay alive right here, in my mind. That is about all I have control over, if that.

    (d) I shouldn’t die.

    Well, don’t know. What I find here is the timeless Present within which the world of phenomena unfolds, and since it is (or seems) unborn it (seems that it) won’t die. Really, I don’t know.

    (e) I should die.

    Yes, if I see “I” as this body/mind, it obviously should die, along with everything else in the world of phenomena. It all comes and goes. It is all transient. It is flow. Everything and everybody are guests, passerbys.

I will miss her and what she brings into my life.

  1. (a) I won’t miss her and what she brings into my life.

    >> That is as true. She will be with me right here, in my own mind, so I won’t miss her. And if she is not present even here, then I won’t know that she isn’t so I won’t miss her then either.

    (b) I will miss myself and what I bring into my life.

    >> Yes, that is also true. If I believe that I will miss her, there is a sense of separation even from myself, so I will miss myself and what I bring into my life. In believing the thought, there is separation, and a sense of loneliness. I am in her business, and nobody is here to take care of me.

    (c) I will miss her and what I bring into my life.

    >> Yes, also true. I will miss her, and what I bring into my life through (my story of) her. She serves as a catalyst for things in me, as a mirror for myself. I get to know myself in a different way through her.

I won’t have her as a mirror (for myself).

  1. (a) I will have her as a mirror.

    Yes, my stories about her will still serve as a mirror for myself. It may take a different flavor, but still be a mirror. And the role she served as my mirror will be taken up by others. There is a whole universe whose job it is to serve as a mirror for me, so if one part of it goes away there is plenty left to take up the slack.

    (b) I will have others as a mirror.

    >> Yes, that is true. It sets it in perspective. She may be gone in a certain way, but there is still the whole rest of the universe there – faithfully doing its job as a mirror for me. Mirroring me back to myself in innumerable ways. There is an infinite richness out there, even without her.

    (c) I will have myself as a mirror.

    Yes, I mirror myself – through my stories. My stories shows me what I need to see about myself to find who I am without any stories.

Inquiry :: I can lose something

 

Within the same topic, there are not only several angles that beliefs come in at, but also several layers and levels of beliefs.

There is the level of specifics, such as I shouldn’t make mistakes. And then there is the level of more core beliefs, such as it is possible to make a mistake or mistakes exist.

So here is a deeper belief for me, underlying many particular beliefs I have worked on the the past…

I can lose something.

  1. Yes (That definitely seems true. I can think of many things I can lose – such as my life, my health, relationships, opportunities, on and on.)
  2. No (I cannot know that for sure. I appears that way to me, right now, but that is all. I also don’t know that loss is not exactly what is needed in certain situations.)
  3. What happens when I believe that thought?

    Fear of losing my life, health, relationships, opportunities, insights, awakenings, realizations, money, house, certain possessions, supportive circumstances, my wife, parents, friends, teachers, books, music, sense of connection with God, anything familiar to me, and much more. The list is endless it seems. There is always more that I can fear loosing.

    There is also dread coming up, from anticipating loss. Fear, dread, horror, terror, sense of something horrible will happen, fear of the unknown happening. Fear of not knowing what may happen or when, of not knowing what I may loose at some point in the future and when.

    There is a wanting of holding onto what I have, as much as I can. Of not wanting to let it go. And then of guilt of not being able to hold onto it, and even of trying to hold onto it. Guilt and shame, for not being able to hold onto and of wanting to hold onto.

    There are images coming up, of everything I can loose, the many ways I can loose them – again apparently endless, and of what may happen to me if I loose them – again an endless parade of images one more horrible and terrifying than the other.

    I also go through lists of the range of things I can loose, and again the many ways it can happen, the many ways I can try to prevent it from happening, the many ways it may impact me, and so on.

    How do I relate to others when I have that belief?

    I view them with suspicion. Can they help me hold onto something? Or can they take something away from me, or even induce me to let go of something? I am guarded. Watchful. Suspicious. Holding them at bay until I can discern these things more accurately, which I never can to my own satisfaction.

    What is the worst that can happen if I let go of that belief?

    I may not mind loosing things, to the point of not even trying to hold onto anything. I may just become a mindless vegetable, allowing everything to fall away from me – even things that I could have taken care of better and hold onto better.

  4. Who or what would I be without the belief I can lose something?

    I would be free from fear of loosing something. I would be OK with things coming and going, as they do all the time on their own, largely outside of the sphere of my influence. I would be clear. OK with what is. Even able to enjoy the comings and goings of everything.

    And I see that I would be perfectly able to take care of things as well, maybe even more appropriately and effectively – without the turmoil coming from holding that belief. I would be clear to take care of things – health, relationships, objects – in a more appropriate, effortless and effective way.

  5. (a) I cannot lose anything.

    How is this as or more true than the initial statement?

    This is not immediately clear to me. I need time to allow it to sink in. I cannot lose anything… Hm… I can see that everything that I lost externally is still alive in my memory, at least that which I can still remember! That is one way it is true. It is still with me, as a memory.

    Also, things are not really lost – only transformed. The world of phenomena is a seamless process, always forming itself in new ways. Everything dies as what it is and is reborn as something else, all the time. In a way, everything is always lost, so it is not really possible to lose anything in particular in addition to this. At the same time, it is never really lost – only transformed.

    Also, it is all God manifesting in various ways. The same essence, or whatever we want to call it, is there in everything. It is all the play of God, and I have experienced and do experience that to varying extents.

    (b) I cannot lose some things.

    Hm… Are there things I cannot lose? Well, the only “thing” I can find that I cannot lose is awareness. When there is any sense of seeing, there is always awareness. If not, then there is no seeing either, so no experience of loss. This is all I can find in my immediate experience, and what seems indisputably true.

    When there is awareness of anything, there is at least awareness. And if there is not even awareness, then there is not even awareness of any loss of awareness.

    (c) Some things cannot lose me.

    Again, awareness is the only “thing” that comes up. Awareness can never lose me.

    (d) I can lose nothing.

    Well, this comes back to the initial turnaround. Nothing is really lost in my memory, as long as I can remember it. And if it is lost both in the external world and in my memory, there is no awareness of loss.

    This is actually quite interesting. Looking at it this way, I see that no real loss is possible. Either, it remains alive in my memory, or it is gone completely to the point of no awareness of loss. I see here that life is quite merciful in this way.

    It is only the idea of loss that is torture, when I believe in it. If I am with what is, what is real in my own experience, there is either no real loss – or no awareness of loss. Either way, life is mercifull.

Death Calculator

 

I came across Dr. Demko’s Death Calculator, and it is pretty interesting.

It brings up many things…

It is a reminder for me that although my days are numbered (limited), the exact date of my death is a mystery to me. It can be today. Or it can be in many decades, possibly five or more.

It is a reminder that although my date of death is a mystery, I can do quite a few things to increase or maintain my health and well-being – which may (or may not) also prolong my life.

And it is a reminder that none of these things are particularly mysterious. They all involve nurturing a variety of relationships: To other people, nurturing nurturing relationships. To my mind, keeping it active. To my body, eating a good diet and getting some excercise. And to my body/mind, allowing it to unwind, relax, and find some resolution to challenges in my life.

And finally, the death calculator is a reminder that things like death calculators can be very useful. They serve as a reminder of all these things, a gentle kick in the butt.

Maybe the very last reminder is to not go into complacency, even if the number coming out of the calculator is pretty good (90 to 100 or more in my case). It only works if I am actually doing all these things, maintaining engagement with all those relationships.

Impermanence & No I

 

Two of the core insights of Buddhism is impermanence and no “I”, and the two seems intimately connected.

When we more fully realize impermanence – fully allow it to sink in and be brought into awareness – then we have a chance to notice that which is not changing, which is ourselves as formless awareness, the Witness, or – going further – the ground, emptiness dancing, what is with no “I”.

And it is only when we find ourselves as formless awareness – or the ground – that we can fully allow impermanence into awareness. Otherwise, if there is an “I” there and we have not yet awakened to the ground, it is just too difficult to fully acknowledge, it seems to threathen our very existence as this “I” – placed on something that itself is impermanent.

So to fully bring impermanence – of the whole world of form and phenomena – into awareness, we need to have fully awakened to/as the ground, to emptiness dancing, to no “I” anywhere.

Contemplating impermanence then, or more simply just fully bring whatever the impermanence which is inevitably here in our lives into awareness – including all the fears and other reactions it brings up, may be one of the faster ways to a realization of the ground and no “I”.

And more generally, we can allow whatever is experienced more fully into awareness. Experiences always change, and being with this change allows us to more easily notice that which is not changing. First, ourselves as the Witness, as pure awareness, stainless, timeless. Then, what is – often the same content as before – but with no “I” anywhere, with an immediate realization of it all as emptiness dancing.