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.
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.
My yoga class began with meditation. As we sat, I spoke words to facilitate awareness of body sensations. Leading the class with an invitation to simply notice what they felt, I had the sensory experience of my sitting bones resting on the meditation cushion, by feet and legs against the floor. I felt my spine lifting out of my pelvis and felt the relaxation of my shoulders down my back. I dropped my awareness into my chest and noticed my breath. Feeling the rise and fall of my chest and the expansion and contraction of my belly and back, my breath deepened. I felt my throat soften and widen.
As I stayed present to my breath, I began to notice my exhalation getting longer and as I reached the end of the exhale, I saw the portal. There, at the end of my breath, was a small sphere of light. I “stepped” into it and my breathing stopped. For an endless moment, I was in absolute stillness, a void that I have no other words to describe. The feeling was weightlessness, my body suspended in the experience. I heard my inhale as breath flowed effortlessly into my lungs for what seemed like many moments. I followed the breath in and at the end was the portal, and again I “stepped” into it, and as my breathing stopped I was back in the stillness.
It came to my mind that the stillness and the void are one and the same. The stillness contains the breath and I can remain in the stillness even though my breathing resumes. The point between the end of an exhale and the beginning of the next inhale is the portal into the void. Being in stillness is the experience of noticing the container instead of the contents.
The thought that appeared next was like an instruction to “practice staying in the stillness even though you continue to breathe.” So I did.
What followed was a series of instructions: “Once you are able to stay in the stillness even though you are breathing, practice staying in the stillness when you move.” I moved from the cushion, sliding to my back and drawing my knees into my chest all the while remaining in the experience of the void.
“Practice staying in the stillness when you open your eyes and allow the sensory experience of seeing the external world.” So I did… and the room was before me and I was still in the void. For two hours time disappeared and I taught the class effortlessly remaining conscious of being in the stillness.
“Practice being in the stillness, regardless of external circumstances and conditions.” I am here, writing these words, and the stillness is here.
The stillness is always here. It holds all the sensory experiences of my body within it…all that I see, hear, smell, taste and touch is within It. All of my thoughts are within It.
Although I am functioning in a normal way, my experience feels very soft and gentle. My body is relaxed and comfortable. My thoughts are succinct. In between each thought, my mind notices nothing but the stillness. I am experiencing the container, which is holding the contents.
In this moment, my life is a walking meditation. I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for this life I have been given.