Whoever among you becomes a child

 

But I have said that whoever among you becomes a child will recognize the kingdom and will become greater than John.
Gospel of Thomas, Verse 48

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
Mark 18:2-4

What does it mean to become like a child?

It can mean a certain orientation of receptivity, curiosity and sincerity in our relationship with God, ourselves and practice, all within a context of don’t know. Shifting into this, and then noticing that these are already here, they are a natural expression of what we are. (When not clouded over by beliefs in images and stories.)

It can also mean to ask questions that seem silly and naive, to leave no stone unturned, to question that which seems most obviously a given and true – and especially those stories I at first don’t even recognize as a story.

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Forgiveness

 

Some things about forgiveness…

Forgiveness comes from seeing that we all are in the same boat, recognizing myself in others. An open heart, kindness, clarity.

Forgiveness comes from investigating stories and finding what is more true for me than an initial belief. 

Forgiveness comes from recognizing that all is already forgiven, all is innocence. When we take a story as true, we have to act as if it is true. All has infinite causes, the local expressions of movements of the whole. 

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Sincerity

 

In exploring my own beliefs, I find over and over that there is a sincerity and innocence there. And finding it in myself allows me to recognize the same in others.

Whenever there is a belief – independent of how it looks when it is expressed – there is a touching and beautiful sincerity and innocence there. A sincerity in following the belief and acting as if it is true. And a sincerity in defending it.

After all, whenever there is a belief there is an identification with a story, and a sense of a separate I getting its identity from that story, so it is only an act of love and compassion to defend it.

Attaching to a story – any story – comes more immediately from fear. It is a way to feel a little more safe, at least on the surface. And behind that is love, and act of love to protect that sense of a separate I and its circle of us.

It is beautiful, and appreciation for the sincerity in it inevitably comes up.

And this can of course easily co-exist with any conventional takes on what is happening, including intervening whenever I or someone else is caught up in a belief, and it is causing suffering for others.

It is actually easier to intervene coming from that appreciation of sincerity and innocence. To the extent the innocence is recognized, there is less or no opposition and instead clarity and kindness.

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Always a beginner

 

I am always a beginner, whether I like it or not. Sometimes I notice, and there is receptivity. Other times, I don’t and am locked into identification with a story and identity.

Here and now is always fresh, new, different. Existence never repeats itself.

And there is always don’t know.

What I am familiar with is always finite within the infinite. I have limited experience. My insights are limited. The stories I am familiar with are limited. (There are always other stories out there that are more functional than the ones I am familiar with.)

Any story is a question, even if I take it as a statement. An innocent question to help my human self function in the world.

What I am – and anything is – cannot be touched by any story. A story can, at most, invite what I am to notice itself.

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Innocence

 

There are many orientations that are very helpful on the path… As they say in Tibetan Buddhism, they are the path and the fruition of the path. They are helpful on the path when we shift into them, and they are what naturally is there within an awakening. 

One of these is innocence. An innocence in the don’t know way. 

Receptivity. Curiosity. Recognizing thought as innocent questions only. 

And this coexists easily with experience, knowledge and anything else that helps our human self function in the world. Within a context of don’t know

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Vulnerable animal

 

One of the things that impacts me the most is the suffering of animals at the hands of humans. Like the cow I saw a picture of the other day, neglected, standing up to her belly in shit, looking back towards the photographer with big innocent eyes. Quiet, wordless, suffering. Not understanding what is happening to her. Complete innocence.

I see myself in those animals, and children and humans suffering in a similar way. I see all of us.

At times, we are all in that situation.

Vulnerable animals, without a clue about what is going on. That is what it all boils down to.

In our daily lives, we are – to a certain extent – in control and do understand. But if we look a little closer, we find that behind that thin surface is complete vulnerability and lack of knowing.

When we find this for ourselves, there is a great deal of liberation. We don’t need to hold onto stories anymore as an ultimate truth or answer. We don’t need to deny our complete vulnerability.

Instead, there can be a more receptive mind and heart. A mind receptive to the limited truth in any story. And a heart receptive to ourselves and others.

(If we have worked with our hara, our belly, we also find our hara more receptive, in this case to a felt trust in existence and life.)

As with other forms of investigation, it is a process of seeing and feeling what is more true for us. It invites in an embrace of (more of) the fullness of who we are, as human beings. And releasing struggle – in this case against seeing that we don’t know, and the vulnerability of our human self – makes it easier for us to notice what we are.

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The benefits of following the chains

 

What are some of the benefits of following the chains back to their initial segments?

For myself, I notice that it helps me get more familiar with and befriend who I am, as a human being. It helps me discover what is going on at my human level.

Said another way, it helps me find and embrace my wholeness as a human being, to find peace with it, to work with rather than against what is there.

It helps me see that it is all pure innocence. No need to fight it, resist it, want it to go away. Just seeing it clearly is enough.

It helps me see what is already more true for me, in who and what I am.

I find that when there is a sense of being a separate I, there is fear behind just about any emotion, motivation, desire and action. I find that behind that fear is love, filtered through my circle of us. I find that behind the sense of a separate I, and everything that comes with it, is a belief in the story of a separate I, and stories that flesh this identity out.

Exploring the chains

 

It can be very helpful to explore the chains leading up to reactive emotions, rigid views, and desires.

One at a time, asking the question and waiting for an answer to come up.

When I do this, I find that whatever beliefs are there, whatever stories I am identified with, go back to the central belief, or sense of, a separate I, an I with an Other.

I find that whatever reactive emotions are there lead back to fear. Fear for the survival of this human self. Fear for pain and suffering.

I find that whatever surface desire is there leads back to a desire for happiness, and freedom from suffering.

And I find that all of this goes back to love. Love for this human self and whatever is within its circle of us.

And I see that all of this is pure innocence. An innocence in adopting beliefs from my surroundings. An innocence in the fear that is there naturally when there is a sense of a separate I. An innocence in the desire for happiness and freedom from suffering. An innocence in the love we already are, filtered through the boundary of us. And an innocence in where this boundary of us is placed, coming from culture and maturity.

The risk in writing this is that this too becomes another belief. Another place we go in our stories to create a sense of security, of having figured it all out.

And one remedy is in taking the time for the questions to sink in and the answers to surface. Going through one at a time, not knowing where it will lead. Trusting what comes up.

Sincerely exploring this for ourselves, inviting in curiosity and receptivity. Inviting in an open heart. Inviting in a bodily felt sense of the questions and the answers that surface. Allowing experience in a wholehearted way.

Seeing that any answer is really a question, even if the question mark initially seemed to be left out.

And also investigating our beliefs around all this, including the belief of I know, through The Work or another form of inquiry.

Milarepa: Magician, murderer, saint

 

milarepamovie.jpg

I was fortunate enough to see the new Milarepa movie tonight, made by Neten Chokling who was one of the actors in The Cup and assisted with Travelers and Magicians.

Since I have been exploring the early part of the chain behind “deluded” actions lately, that was one of the things that came up for me.

Especially, how, when we unravel what is behind motivations, the ones stemming from a sense of an I with an Other, we find first fear, and then love.

In his case, fear of losing his mother (she threatened with committing suicide if he didn’t take revenge on the village), fear of what may become of him (they had lost their family fortune), fear of not getting his girl (he was poor, she more affluent). When I look for myself, I find that these types of fears are often behind ill considered actions, and also reactivity and reactive emotions. (Anger, frustration, despair.)

And going behind that fear, there is love. In his case, love for his mother, his father, his sister, himself. Love for those he included in his circle of us, which probably shrank due to how his family was treated by most others in the village.

And of course, behind the fear and reactivity, we find beliefs. A sense of being a separate self, beliefs in justice, in wanting a good life, and so on.

And mixed in with it all, pure innocence. Pure innocence in believing certain thoughts, just because most people around do it. Pure innocence in acting from fear, because this fear is inevitable when we take ourselves to be an I with an Other. Pure innocence in this fear taking the form of anger, hate, despair and wanting revenge, because that is inevitable when we resist the experience of fear, and also when it gets mixed up in typical beliefs. Pure innocence in the love that is behind it all, because that love is what we are. Pure innocence in filtering that love through a boundary of us and them, because that is inevitable when there is a sense of a separate I. Pure innocence in where that boundary falls, because that comes from culture, family and where we are in terms of maturity.

The story, as any other story, is a mirror for myself. Can I find what I see in Milarepa, his path, and in the people around him, in myself?

Where do I find the confusion? Being caught up in a sense of a separate self, and everything that comes from that? Where do I find the turning point? The situation or situations where I went far enough in acting from confusion, reactivity and beliefs that it stunned me, invited me to see if there is another way.

And in the sequel, which is about his training and awakening process, where do I build up stone towers just to have to dismantle them again, or having them dismantled for me?

Ego as love

 

I don’t often use the word ego, and when I do, it is mostly to show that it is not very useful.

Or it could be to differentiate the two meanings of the word: In a western, psychological sense, where we want a healthy and strong ego. Here, it refers to the “operating system” for our human self, that which helps it orient and function in the world, and we want it in as good operating order as possible. And in an eastern philosophical sense, where it just refers to a sense of a separate I and whatever comes along with that.

In the second sense of the word, as a description of a sense of an I with an Other, and whatever goes with it, it sometimes has a sinister tone to it. “The ego” as some evil entity lurking somewhere, with no good intentions. (Which is why I don’t like using the word.)

But really, the ego in that sense is just from innocence, an innocent belief in stories, taking them as real and substantial, and temporarily overlooking what we already are.

And beyond that, the ego is pure love. A love for this human self and whatever is within its circle of care and compassion. It is pure kindness, pure compassion behind it. No matter how it may look on the surface.

Ego, in both meanings of the word, is pure innocence, pure love.

And, in the second sense of the word, pure – temporary – confusion.

Beliefs as protection

 

protection.jpg

I talked with a friend yesterday about how beliefs seem to be created as protection… and it certainly seems true in several ways.

Ultimately, beliefs protect this separate self. They flesh it out, define it, create the boundaries separating it from the wider world, protect its identity, shoots down what puts these boundaries and identities in doubt, and do so as a continuous process. Beliefs protect the sense of a separate self against changing too much, and also from not existing (which is a very real threat, since it really doesn’t).

But what about that core belief of a separate self? Is that too a defense against something? I am sure there are many theories and models, and even accounts of direct perceptions, of how and why this belief forms in the first place (and sadly, I am not aware of that many of them). And each of these probably have some good points.

But to me, it seems simple: for most of us, when we were infants, everyone around us believed in a separate self. So we too, innocently, did the same. We too created a belief in a separate self, because that was obviously and clearly the thing to do.

So the primary belief in a separate self may have been formed since it was the thing to do. And the secondary beliefs (an attachment to any other story) aids in bolstering the primary one.

And it all comes from innocence. Although the results, in our own experience, may not appear so innocent.

Inquiry into what I really want

 

There are so many forms of inquiry that reveals the complete innocence of anything about our human selves. The Work is one.

And Adyashanti suggests another…

Adyashanti’s inquiry into what you really really want

  1. Make a list of what you want. Don’t hold back. List everything, including or maybe especially those things that seem patently unspiritual, immature and embarrassing: money, sex, fame, eternal vacation, beach, hot women/men, the adoration and love of others, power, the ability to eat anything at any amount without getting out of shape or sick.
  2. Then go through each one on the list and ask: what do I really hope to get out of this? What is the best possible outcome? Again, be sincere. Find what you really want to get out of it. What do you think and wish you will get from it? When you find it, ask the same question again: what do you hope and wish to get from this one? Then repeat, and repeat, until you arrive at something that seems irreducible to something else.

The results from my inquiry

For me, when I do this, I find that each one – no matter how unspiritual and immature they may seem to be in the beginning, end up in freedom from suffering, and happiness. That is where they all lead. The real motivation is revealed as completely innocent.

And it also happens to be the explicit and essential motivation for practice in several traditions, including Tibetan Buddhism.

What started out as a clearly wicked wish ends up as a completely innocent wish, and the most sincere motivation for practice.

Deep seated suspicion of our human self, unravelling quickly when we look a little closer

Yet, as Adyashanti points out, there is the myth that our desires are inherently flawed or will lead us astray. There is a deep seated suspicion of our human self in so many traditions. A suspicion that unravels as soon as we scratch just a little bit under the surface.

Ego

 

Although less than before, the word “ego” is still used in some teachings, often talked about as something substantial, something that resists change, something that functions as a straitjacket. Even – sometimes – as something that is implicitly or explicitly bad, evil, holding us back, to be overcome, and so on.

Belief in the idea of I

When I look at it, all I find is just a belief in an idea. A belief in the idea of “I”, and placed on something finite – usually part of our human self, or placed on something that is not really finite, but certainly just a segment of what is, the seeing, the witness.

And from this belief comes all the things we associate with “ego”: sense of separation, sense of being an object in the world, resistance, narrowness, self-centeredness, protectiveness, rigidity, stuckness, blind attractions and repulsions, and so on.

Innocent mistake

There is just an innocent and temporary mistake, resulting in a wide range of phenomena in our human lives – most of which creates a sense of drama, and of suffering.

It all comes from an unexamined belief. A core belief, which forms our whole outlook on life and the world, and how we live our lives. I does have dramatic consequences. But it is still an innocent mistake. And not even a mistake, it just is. It is part of being human today, and has been for generations.

Falling away

As soon as we see through this belief, as soon as we realize that no phenomena – no segment of what is, has any inherent “I” in it, then we drop it as a hot coal as some say. There is no struggle. Nothing to resist. Nothing to fight. Only the seeing of it. Then the rest happens on its own.

Process

Before this happens, here is a habitual sense of self, and it is unexamined. It seems very real, very substantial. I believe in the idea of “I” and place it on some parts of this human self. I am an object in the world. I am here, everything else is out there. From this, the whole human drama is created and plays itself out.

Then, there is an intuition of selflessness, a hunch, a glimpse, a taste of it. And we cannot really believe in it any longer, although the vague habitual sense of self may still hang around for a while. It is a habitual pattern, after all. Here, when I look I find myself as that in which the whole world of phenomena plays itself out, including my human self.

Finally, after more exploring, more glimpses, more tastes, it shifts and comes into the foreground. Now, there is no doubt, no question, nothing more to explore. It is clear. There is no “I” inherent in any forms, no “I” in any phenomena, no “I” to be placed anywhere. There is just what is, with no “I” anywhere. Just the field of what is. Just the groundless ground, forming itself into these myriads of temporary forms – this human self, these sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, focus, awareness, and this world, these trees, buildings, cars, people, plants, clouds, stars, galaxies.