A Case of Contradictories A case of contradictories, both of them true. There is a God. There is no God. Where is the problem? I am quite sure that there is a God in the sense that I am sure my love is no illusion. I am quite sure there is no God, in the sense that I am sure there is nothing which resembles what I can conceive when I say that word.
by Simone Weil
When Roy Dopson came to our Mountain Valley Retreat to lead his meditation retreat called The One Step Path, I, for the first time, had a glimpse into the feeling that is created when I step behind my thoughts into the perception of the one who is thinking. If ever there is a paradox, it is speaking the unspeakable and teaching the unteachable. Roy did a masterful job.
Here I am, attempting to write about that which has no words.
When the words stop and stillness has not yet arrived, what arises are images and sensations. The images have labels but the sensations can be left nameless and simply experienced. It is in these sensations that I perceive what I call Source.
I have written about “Wild”, that state of my being that existed before I was “domesticated”, and that which I am attempting to return to. As I contemplate this experience of Source through the sensations of my body, I recognize that they are one and the same. Wild is Source. Source is Wild.
To return to Source. To become that from whence I came. To be Wild. I believe this impossible quest is possible. This is the journey of my life.
‘Now I’ll give you something to believe. I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.’
‘I can’t believe that!’ said Alice.
‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.’
Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
― Lewis Carroll
I have been believing the impossible all my life. It seemed like such a bore to stick to only believing the things everyone else did. What are beliefs anyway? Just a thought…just a feeling…and we know those change as quickly as the weather. Everything is relatively impossible until it is done! I would rather attempt the “impossible” and fail, than fail through not trying because I accepted another person’s idea of what is possible. Life is either about risking the impossible or it is no life at all.
I have been practicing meditation. One of the methods I use is to simply watch my thoughts as if they were a ticker tape running across the field of my mind. As I watched my hyper-active thoughts yesterday, I noticed the ticker tape turning colors. As I paid attention and looked for a pattern between the thoughts and colors I discovered an interesting curiosity.
When the thought incites the emotions of frustration or anger, it is red.
If the thought is melancholy evoking sadness or grief, it is blue.
Happy thoughts are yellow. Thoughts of contentment are green.
As I pondered this discovery with great curiosity it occurred to me that perhaps this phenomenon is a two-way street.
I have been practicing changing my emotional weather by thinking of a field of the color that represents the feeling I want to invoke.
My favorite color is green. The color of my contentment. So when I notice I am feeling frustrated or angry, I bring to mind a scene of green. A lush valley of green vegetation is what comes easily…and I immediately notice my anger dissipating as a feeling of contentment washes over me.
I am learning to listen to the whispers.
My body speaks to me. In fact, it never stops.
When I am asleep, it speaks to me through my dreams.
When I am awake it whispers.
It’s not easy to hear the whispers.
It takes quiet.
I have to stop moving and my mind must be still.
But then, dropping in, ever so closely, I hear them.
The whispers of my body are not heard with my ears.
They are felt sensations coming from the deep recesses of my inner landscape.
They speak to me of my heart longings.
They tell the stories of neglect.
I listen in awe, with high regard for what I hear.
I honor the wisdom of this voice.
I have learned to follow this guidance.
For when I don’t, the whispers become primal howling cries.
It feels like my life is a series of practice sessions. I practice painting. I practice playing the piano and singing. I practice meditation and yoga. I practice right relationship with nature. I practice inner, inter and extra-human communication. I practice bodywork. I practice gardening and nutritious food preparation. I practice movement and dance. I practice self-care. I practice self-love. Right now I am practicing writing…
What is all this practice about? Will I practice until I die or will I at some point master something? What is mastery? How does one recognize the moment the practice ends and mastery begins? Does it matter if I ever become a master of anything?
As I hear my questions the feeling that wells up inside is one of relief as I accept the idea of practice as a life-long way of being. I am a “Renaissance Woman.” I don’t just practice these things for a living. I do them for a life—a life that I love.
A woman I met recently when she attended a yoga class I was teaching stayed after class and we visited for a couple of hours sharing ourselves with one another. As we walked around my little retreat center looking at the tipis I had painted she said to me, “Chery, you are eclectic!”
I thought about that for a moment and said, ” Thank you. That is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.”
I am a Renaissance Woman. I am coming to accept and appreciate that I’ve always been a seeker. Seeking is my thing, and it’s served me quite well.
One of my favorite Steve Jobs’ quotes is this: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Mountain Valley Retreat just finished its first four-day retreat. I invited Roy Dopson, a Canadian man I met years ago, to come and share his experience of life with us. Being with Roy has helped me to remember what is important to me. It has helped me to realize that I want to move in the direction of contentment. I understand that contentment is not dependent on any external condition or circumstance. It is within me. Happiness is within me. The path to happiness, to pure contentment, is through the letting go of thoughts that drive me to action, always seeking happiness through some external event or condition.
Thoughts arise. They are random. They are meaningless. They are simply chemical firings of the brain creating the experience of the senses. Thoughts are the mind’s attempt to prove its existence to itself.
Every movement of the mind, every thought, is a movement away from the Self.
Notice movement of the mind and ask yourself, “Who is doing the moving?” “Who is doing the thinking?” “Who am I?” “What am I? “I am.” “I.”
The “essential Self” is only found in the stillness of mind. The “essential Self” is before thought, before mind, the nameless, the potential that is “prior to” movement of mind.
“Step” in and out of stillness. Stepping out of stillness of mind is the engagement of mind for the purpose of serving the body. Serving the body is acting on movement of mind. IE: I want this…I don’t want that…I like this…I don’t like that…the mind measures everything it perceives. The mind is our sixth sense. It craves focusing on something, anything. For in that focus on something outside of itself, it affirms its existence. I am not that, therefore I am this. I think, therefore I am. The mind is constantly trying to prove its existence by comparing itself to everything it perceives through the five senses.
When you stop the movement of the mind, the mind turns in on itself. It moves from the duality of “I am this and you are that” to the oneness of “I am that.” Oneness is the source of all existence. Oneness is the essential Self, All that Is. Oneness needs nothing for it is Everything. All seeking stops. The experience of Pure Contentment arises. Bliss. Nirvana.
Practice sitting in stillness. Notice what is arising. Let it go. Invite the mind to stop. Notice without judgment. Give no thought any credibility. Remember that no thought has any value to the Self. Thoughts only have value to the ego and the body. They feed the belief in separation.
In the experience of duality (everything that is more than one) is polarity. For every yin there is a yang, for every high there is a low, for every happy there is a sad. There cannot exist one without the other. Living in duality is a constant roller coaster ride. It cannot be anything but this. We are up and down, in and out, pushing away, pulling toward, constantly in flux between this and that. As long as we allow the mind to run loose, life will be this way.
The other choice to become master of the mind. Choose when the mind is allowed to think and when it is still. When I gain control of a muscle through exercise and strengthening it, I choose when to engage it and when to relax it. Exercise and strengthen the mind through the practice of sitting in stillness and observing the mind. Choose when the mind can think and when it will be still. In stillness, experience the blissful state of pure contentment as the mind stops chasing the highs and running from the lows, endlessly seeking what can only be found when it stops seeking. The final paradox. Stop seeking and find that you have within you what you have been seeking. Liberation from suffering. Freedom.
As I experience through my friends and family as well as my own, the many walks of life, I am constantly reminded that life is a thin thread, precious, complicated, impossible to make sense of. Beyond our reasoning mind, our personal journey offers opportunities for growth and the development of a compassionate heart. At the end of the day, it seems to be about surrender. Surrender requires deep trust in the unknown and a willingness to let go of control of the details of our experience. It feels to me at times like falling off a cliff and at other times like being swept down a swiftly moving river… and then there are the landings…the pause in the eddy, the floating to the ground, and my trust is validated. As I learn to stay in Spirit, laying my ego on the altar and trusting the flow of life and death, I am at peace.