Showing posts with label Awareness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Awareness. Show all posts

Friday, 4 August 2017

Reaching Out to Animals, and All Sentient, Conscious Life



www.everherenow.com

How would this change our world?
If everyone understood that all beings, whether animal, insect, bird, plant or even mineral, are sentient and therefore conscious, how would this change the way we interact with them?

If we understood and began to appreciate all living beings as 'sacred' and 'intelligent,' what impact would this have on us, and all the other living forms with whom we co-exist on this planet?

The mind boggles...

www.everherenow.com

I remember as a child that one day my mother asked me to go over to the neighbour's house to find out if they were at home. At that time we were living in Nelson, a small town in the north of the South Island of New Zealand.

Our neighbours were a husband and wife and their two children with whom we young ones often played of an evening. They had not long moved to Nelson and being so nearby, our family had instantly warmed to these new arrivals.

I ventured over the side fence and made my way up the staircase to the front door. Their tabby cat was sitting on the doorstep imbibing the warm noon sunshine. I was already acquainted with her and so gave her a nod as I climbed past to ring the doorbell. I pushed the button a few times but there was no response from within and so, without thinking, I sat down next to the venerable puss and asked her where the family had gone. She looked up at me, made a little feline squeak and we amicably bumped heads and then sat a while in companionable silence.

After some time I slowly got up and made my way back over the fence to tell my mother that the family were, at that minute, away somewhere. When I entered the house a chorus of giggling and squeals of laughter greeted me. Evidently, my mum and sisters had been watching my encounter with the neighbour's cat through the back bedroom window which directly overlooked the neighbour's staircase. They had overheard our conversation.

For some reason, they found it inexpressibly silly and funny that I should have been sitting there verbally interacting with a cat!
I found it equally silly and funny that they did not understand that one could.

I was sometimes reminded of that incident whenever family members would begin to recount stories and memories of our childhood days, yet, from then until now, i still do not see what they could possibly have found so strange or amusing.

All life that is sentient, is therefore conscious. 

It is incredibly important for us to take this statement seriously and give it the consideration that it deserves. Day after day we can witness around us acts of callousness and cruelty of which most people are not even aware. They are not aware because they simply do not acknowledge that other life forms are sentient and therefore feel and respond to energy, moods and pain, just as we do. This is an extremely crucial point to understand if we are ever to come into greater harmony with all other life forms with whom we share this world.

The various forms of sentient life may not speak our language but there is a place where understanding can occur naturally no matter what the outer form may be.

www.everherenow.com

Many who 'own' so-called 'pets' become conscious of this truth by necessity of close association and yet somehow they often continue to exclude other forms of life. If we can ever begin to question our assumptions and reactions towards all living beings we would quickly be forced to change many long-held beliefs. If we want to allow the extraordinary biodiversity of life on our planet to continue to, not only exist but thrive, then a shift must take place in our perception.

At the moment human beings predominantly have the supremely arrogant view that everything in nature, be it animal, plant or mineral, exists for their use and convenience alone.

How utterly arrogant and barbaric is this view?

Thankfully, this is beginning to change, there is something of an awakening in the consciousness of a growing number of people. It is not yet widespread, but there is a shift beginning to take place. Many of the so-called primitive societies understood and lived by the natural laws of respectful and sustainable co-existence. But in recent human history, most of these natural, intuitive qualities have been lost and forgotten.

Awareness does not discriminate between forms. It is the inherent nature of all sentient life, however, and where ever it may appear...

What we begin to see now, even though it is in a very nascent stage, is something of a quiet opening and awakening. At this time it is just a few people who are paving the way in 'interspecies communication,' but their work is sending out ripples, which in time will have a profound impact on the way we view the 'living world' around us.

However, each and every one of us can help to accelerate this process through our every day small deeds and by changing the way we think.

Then, like a shift in the tide, almost imperceptibly but slowly with a gathering momentum it can begin to catch on and start challenging old and previously unquestioned 'beliefs.'

There will come a time when we will look back on current accepted norms and behaviours and be amazed that we could live in such a barbaric and unaware world such as we have been living in for so long. It would seem that the more, so-called advanced today's societies think themselves to be, the more unaware and brutal they actually are. The effect that this mode of thinking is having upon our planet and the lives that we share with is self-evident.

When ingrained beliefs begin to undergo a metamorphosis when we begin to become aware of who and what we really are, we can not help but start to notice that this same 'being-ness' which is in us, also pervades everything else. Everything includes everything, animals, plants, insects, and the planet on which we live, move and have our being.

The inter-connectedness, which binds us all inseparably, due to the fact of our being aware and alive, is vaster and more thoroughly integrating than our mind can ever really comprehend or grasp, therefore we need to move beyond mind in order to begin to really get a sense of the underlying reality from which all of life emerges.

The implications of such a shift in awareness are truly immense.

An appreciation of the unity and sacredness of all life is integral to awakening to our own awareness.

Awakened Beings have long understood the inter-connectedness and inherent divinity in all sentient life forms. From the Buddha to Ramana Maharshi, and countless others besides, great sages have communicated with animals in such a natural way which is completely respectful of who and what really exists. For Them this truth is a living reality, not something to be questioned or doubted, Their experience which moves from the heart in an ever fresh exuberance of being, is a timeless and constant affirmation of unity in diversity.

Those who stayed near Ramana Maharshi and who were honoured to witness His many exchanges and relationships with animals, birds, and at times also the plant life, took it all quite for-granted. The animals simply became a part of the life of the ashram. The Maharshi treated them all as His own children, showing them the same care and respect that He bestowed upon all the people who were drawn to be near Him.

A Jnani can differentiate between the different forms of life, but to Him, all are inherently 'divine.'

All are sacred 'drops' from the same sacred ocean of life.

The changes which can be initiated by humans in their interaction and effect upon the different kingdoms of life, begin in our mind and in our thinking. When the energy of the heart is enabled to speak through the mind anything becomes possible. This is not mushy, sentimental talk, but truth based on a profound and inherent law in nature that always moves towards harmony and balance.

As in all things, we are inevitably drawn back to the one and central tenet, the inherent 'divinity' within all sentient life.

To find out who and what we really are is so vital in reclaiming our true inheritance and in recognising that all living beings have an equal claim in this same inexhaustible spring of life. However we, as human beings, hold a unique position and responsibility within the kingdoms of nature.

We have the capacity to know and recognise who and what we really are and to live and let live by this truth.

www.everherenow.com


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Negativity. We Can Dissolve it at the Core




In these days and times, it can sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by negativity. There is our own negativity; that which
other people convey and also the negativity that we see going on around us in the environment.

Yet, it is said that 'all of our moods and emotions arise from the mind,' which basically means that, to find any peace and happiness in this world, it is essential to understand what the true nature of the mind really is.


To embark upon this huge undertaking, however, requires a high degree of weariness with the trappings and ways of our usual habitual reactions to life and what we perceive to be happening to us and around us. Most people have not quite reached that stage in their dissatisfaction levels, as yet. To bring about the kind of focused enquiry needed for this sort of investigation, it can require nothing short of a massive crisis to rip apart our preconceptions.

We usually need to be shaken to the very depths of our being before we can begin to wake up and look around us and question the reality of all the things that we usually take completely for granted.

Most of the time we just grind along in our little world of preconceptions, routines and general undefined negativity and the years rush by as we dig ourselves deeper and deeper into the mire.

Not all of us, however, are destined for a 'crisis,' whatever the crisis may be... We may instead be fated to the much greater danger of a comfortable, predictable existence which lulls us into the belief that nothing more is possible. With such an attitude we run the risk falling into the zombie-like state of sleepwalking our way through life. 

Even though we all know that one day we will die, nevertheless, like one who has been hypnotised, we continue to walk along the precipice, until suddenly one day we fall off the cliff. In the split second of the resurgence of our awareness, as we are being flung into the abyss, it is all a bit too late.

We can, however, keep certain things in mind, as we go about our daily routines. We need not necessarily rush off to a cave in the desert or in the mountains. A simple shift in attitude can greatly assist us in dispelling negativity while at the same time helping us to generate a far more positive mental atmosphere, which in turn, can make our living environment so much pleasanter for us and all those around us, to live in.

1. Perspective.
In the bad moments and on the bad days we can turn the mind outwards to take in a much vaster perspective. We have only to look up at the sky in order to do this. Remembering that countless worlds are circling around in the universe, we are forced to remember that we are so much more than we can ever think we are.

We may not be able to understand fully what this really means just now, but we can take it on good faith that it is true. After all, how could we actually exist in the first place? This is truly a mystery beyond anything the mind is capable of comprehending!

So turn your gaze upwards and open your heart...

2. Investigate and ask yourself, 'is this true?'
Whatever is happening in and around us is always changing. Our moods and our thoughts are constantly coming and going. Happy one moment and sad the next, how can we trust in any of these transient things. Rather it would serve us better to look into and ask ourselves, again and again, 'is this real? Is this true?' 

What seems true and real in one moment can appear to be quite the opposite in the next.

3. Remember the basic goodness of beings.
We hear about so many bad things in the news, we are constantly barraged with negative advertising and images and such brutality and violence. The media seems to have become a monster for endless negative regurgitation, and it can be such a 'downer.' Yet we have only to look around us to see how much beauty and goodness there is as well. 

In fact, if we are open to it, there are so many things in our environment that can bring us joy and they are simple and free and abundantly available. We have only to stop a moment and notice.

4. Be the witness at the centre of all happenings.
Being a witness of our lives and of our thoughts, we can create a little space between what is 'going on' and how we perceive ourselves to be. This 'space' opens up a supreme opportunity to encounter who and what we really are. As the 'witness' we can be in this world and yet not of it...

5. Give yourself moments of deep quietude. 
If we can give ourselves the gift of  'silence' in the moments when we do not engage our mind in any kind of thought activity then, in the very midst of life, we can experience a deep silence and peace which is profoundly refreshing. Even just a few moments spent inquietude can change our whole mood and perspective.

6. Put aside some time each day to do something that you find uplifting.

Some people get immense pleasure from gardening and in assisting things to grow, others delight in their particular field of work, some are transported by music, still others take enjoyment in swimming, or running or sailing...

Whatever it is that lifts our mind out of the drudgery of daily routines and thought patterns and reminds us that often the greatest joys can be found in the simplest of pursuits, then, we can be blessed with a gift which is far more precious than anything that money can buy.

7. Smile at someone or extend a helping hand.

It is so easy to miss an opportunity to bring a little happiness or ease into another beings life, yet these chances can appear at any time and invariably they require little more than a slight effort. I remember one of my teachers telling me, 'if you see a beautiful flower, take note of it and offer the merit born of your delight, so that all beings may find peace and happiness.' This simple gesture can be practised in a whole multitude of situations and in an instant can transform the ordinary mind into a positive creator for good.

8. Ponder over, and remember impermanence and change.

Our world and everything in it is subject to the law of impermanence and change. This is a fact that we encounter every single day of our lives. Somehow we learn to live on in spite of it and yet how much more beneficial might it be if we could remain alert to this fact with a freshness that would make everyday matter and each moment count.

If none of the above tips really resonates for us then at the very least we can remember...




Which just about sums it all up!

Have a great day and put a smile on yours and someone else's face. Go on, its easier than you think...

Monday, 13 March 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 5 (How we are Affected Spiritually)


Leunig
 Does the digital revolution influence us in a spiritual sense?  It can influence us on every level powerfully but the real point here is that digital devices and all of the uses to which we put them are tools that we have created, they are the manifestations of our energy in action. As such, how they influence us is a direct reflection of how we influence them.

To unravel things a little we need to simplify them. No matter how complex a situation may appear on the surface, when we break it down we find a series of simple guiding posts. In this regard we can speak of two 'sign posts;' relative reality and absolute reality.

From the latter perspective we must remain just as we are. That is, as we really are; the changeless, ever present self from which all of  this 'display' arises.

From the relative perspective things are a little different.

There are all kinds of positive things happening, just as the opposite is also true. Spiritual webinars, on-line guidance, eBooks on all manner of spiritual and religious topics, meditation music, free courses, seminars, consultations, all manner of blogs covering very diverse topics. A vast array of information and self help tools exist for those who want to dive deeper into the world of spirit.

On-line spiritual communities are sprouting up around the globe and in these virtual environments, common interests link people together whether they are in Alaska or down town New York. Your racial background, your gender, even your language are no longer a barrier. There are now so many ways for people to connect and interact.

The potential for reach and influence is enormous but at the end of the day does any of it bring us closer to finding out who and what we really are?

The world wide web has been very aptly named, these cyber fibres envelop the globe in one pulsating, vibrant buzz. But what does all of this 'buzz' actually amount to?

With so many choices available, the need to develop discrimination is imperative. Without it we simply enter another 'reality' of our own creating and the mind can create endlessly, but to what end?

Technology may appear to bring us closer together, it may help us to become more aware of the bigger picture but does it lead us to 'truth?' Does it bring us nearer to the things that matter?

In a relative sense the potential for good or bad is very potent, but as is always the case with the 'tools' that we create in this world, our use of them determines the out come. If we take note of which characteristics are uppermost in peoples minds, and more importantly in our own minds, then we might get an idea of how our future can be shaped and moulded by these developing technologies.

If our thoughts are of one humanity and the development of a global community, of loving kindness between ourselves and all living things, including the planet on which we are living, then surely the outcome could be something quite wonderful. We are the only ones that can prevent such a spectacular global community from forming.

However most people's minds are not far seeing or harmonious, at least not 99 percent of the time, in fact the mental atmosphere of our planet has become quite toxic and this is a human creation. What is in our minds, will in due course manifest itself in the outer technologies that are becoming increasingly a part of the way we live. Ultimately how they are used will be a reflection of our inner state.

Mind is powerful and it creates. This is why simplicity and the importance of getting back to our place of balance is so crucial. The more powerful the 'tools' we create, the greater the potential for good or evil.

If our minds are peaceful and inclined towards higher goals than the mere making of money, getting of power, appearances and greed, then we could be very optimistic about the future, but from all appearances there are still many hard lessons to be learnt and these generally come by way of painful processes. At least this is what history shows us has been the case time and again.

'Turn within. Know yourself,' are phrases that many of us are very familiar with but unless the essence of this is taken into the heart and experienced directly, the power and potential inherent in their true meaning can not manifest.

'Experience' is most likely to visit those who are not dissipated, multi-tasking, imbibing, doing, engaging and generally 'busy' with their spiritual pursuits in what ever form that may be taking.

In the midst of our complex digital world, which can appear at times to be spiralling out of control, there is ever the quiet, still silence. Unaffected and unchanging. Ever present and omnipotent.

To know who and what we really are is  to know un-contrived simplicity. I remember one evening when i was sitting in a corner of my master, the previous Dilgo Khyentse's room.  Sogyal Rinpoche swept in with a number of his foreign students and at one point asked Khyentse Rinpoche, 'how it was possible to recognise our true nature, directly and un-mistakenly?'

Khyenste Rinpoche simply replied,  'you can be certain when it is unaltered.' That may not make any sense to the uninitiated, but once one has had a whiff of the 'scent' of the true 'self' that simple statement will speak volumes and open us to the recognition of what always is.

'Unaltered' refers to what is, to that which knows and exists as 'I Am.'  We become so absorbed in reading the text on a page that we seldom, if ever, notice the page, the paper on which the text is written, without that paper there would be no text, no story, nothing...

It cannot be repeated often enough, because it is so vital that we understand the ultimate purpose of our lives.  Everything that manifests in this world arises because we exist.

To know who it is that knows it exists is wisdom...

We may feel very clever and modern with all our digital technologies and yet it is stated in the Ecclesiastics (1:9) "what has been will be again; what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

The most vital truth of all may seem far from dazzling, yet everything; absolutely everything exists in and of that.

In the midst of the 'noise' of living 
may we all come to know who and what we really are. 
This truth alone is the ultimate problem solver 
and the one single panacea 
and it is closer to us than we can even imagine...

Leunig

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Digital Dilemmas, Part 4 (How we are Affected Psychologically)



Leunig cartoon
Michael Leunig
In previous articles we looked at how the Digital Technologies of our modern world are affecting us physically and emotionally and now we come to their psychological impact. On each level; physical, emotional and psychological the affects are pervasive
and widespread but perhaps their impact on our mind space is in most urgent need of our consideration.

Personally, I think there are few things as gratifying in all of these techno capabilities as the freedom and accessibility of information. To be able to simply click into a page, type a few words in a search engine and instantly come up with a whole list of possible answers to our question or information requirement is truly something of a wonder and it was not there just a few short decades ago.

Instant information, instant access to libraries, archives, books, knowledge of every kind, videos, you name it, it is now all accessible through the technologies that so many of us are enjoying in the privacy and comfort of our own homes.

Anything at all can be 'Googled' or typed into whatever search engine we like to use and a list of responses immediately pop up on our computer screens. The information age has well and truly dawned and in many ways it is amazing and it is incredibly useful and potentially liberating. I have certainly put these technologies to good use in recent years as have lots and lots of other people.

We have created an engrossing cyber world, with many possibilities suddenly available to all and sundry and ordinary people are finding that they are spending more and more time in front of their screens. With the increase of information available on all fronts how do we discern what is really helpful or not? Our ability to discriminate and make good and informed choices becomes crucial when there is so much information available.

Whoever it was that said 'information is power' certainly hit the nail on the head. Information is indeed power and on one level this can be incredibly liberating. But there is always a flip-side too.
So much information is so readily available to us instantaneously that we can quickly feel a bit overwhelmed. There is a sensory overload that can happen. Certainly there is a point when too much information is, well, just too much.

When the mind is always preoccupied and busy,  it can bring on a sense of disconnection and dis-orientation. Unless we monitor our time on the net more closely and work in a structured, planned way with clear objectives and time deadlines, we risk being gobbled up by the sheer mass of information and 'interesting stuff' that is freely and easily available.

There are also other issues which are beginning to emerge as people start to spend more and more time on, for instance, their smart phones. In a very short time, these devices have become not only common place, but indispensable to many, many people. We see a whole new form of addiction emerging. The addiction of needing to be constantly 'validated,' the addiction of needing to be constantly 'engaged,' constantly pre-occupied.

Have you ever noticed how many times you are reaching for your phone during the day, checking this, responding to that? The mind is almost feverishly searching out new stimulation almost all of the time and our smart phones can deliver it.

This incessant engagement can, and is, in turn leading to higher levels of anxiety. There is a compulsiveness in the way that many of us now use our smart phones. When we are separated from our devices, or if we find ourselves outside a wifi or connectivity area a whole different kind of anxiety kicks in. A separation anxiety.

It can also be noted that a new form of depression is arising from the over use of certain digital technologies which are ushering in a whole new set of obsessions along with their concurrant psychological repercussions.

There are also emerging issues arising as we try and keep up with the plethora of updates and developments and breaking news and such. We find that new skills need to be developed to help us cope with the sheer volume and input of on-line information and networking. Multi-tasking is one of these modern day 'skills.' Now we find we are learning to do two or more tasks at the same time. Might we be spreading ourselves a bit thin? How well is any of us really able to multi task?

There is also the question as to what happens if we are separated from this technology for one reason or another? There are numerous reasons as to why this could happen. Amid all this melee how do we reclaim a much needed point of balance?

There is always a fine line at the cross over of, too much. We need to become more alert so as not to be swallowed up. The beauty is, of course, that we can choose when to stop. By becoming aware of the pitfalls and knowing how and when to halt we can regain our control and balance but this requires wisdom in action and a conscious decision.

While we are creating progressively more complex systems of thought which in turn  are creating more and more complex lives we have yet to understand how to negotiate and unravel all of this complexity in a satisfactory way.

There are so many interesting things on the internet. We can easily become distracted and go off on numerous fascinating tangents and all the while our lives are slipping by. There is nothing the least bit complex about that fact. If we are to bury ourselves in this technology what is there to show for it when our mortality finally rises up to claim us?

Take, for instance, those who are into gaming and escapism, who log in to chat rooms and blog carnivals and so on and so forth. Whole days of their lives are spent engrossed in these pursuits.

I stayed a few months at a friends flat in Sydney a while ago and her brother, who was unemployed at the time, was visiting. He spent the whole day and well into the night playing games on the net. He was phenomenal, he barely moved from his seat for hours at a time. That someone should be riveted to little moving dots on a screen for such long periods and with such concentrated intent was actually quite disturbing to see.

We also have privacy and surveillance issues which can have widespread and profound effects on our psychological well being.
Although one can certainly be anonymous on the web, it is becoming more challenging to remain so.

The social media accounts that many people now use, link into so many other areas and now one can simply login using a Facebook, Twitter or Google+ account. This is something i personally find rather insidious. If i want to join a class or study some thing i may not want the whole world to know about it and yet we begin to find that some courses can only be joined via one of these services!

But of course the surveillance issue is not just confined to the internet, almost everywhere we go, almost everything we buy and increasingly almost everything we do is recorded in some way or another. The spectre of 'big brother' is very much alive and peering over both our shoulders.

So here we are, on the one hand we have all this new freedom in the form of information which is easily accessible and available 24/7, but on the other hand this very same technology is moving into our lives in ever more invasive ways. As the technologies become more sophisticated so too are the manner in which they are impacting us.

Artificial intelligence is no longer something which exists only in the realm of science fiction movies. Its out there and there are all manner of pressing and challenging ethical issues to be considered in to regards to its increasing use. Often it appears that these issues are only ever really tackled when they become problems and this brings us in a full circle.

If every spare moment of our waking day is spent with our attention pulled towards some device or other, what impact is that likely to have on our natural sense of inner peace and happiness? Is there any stability to be found in something which routinely throws us right out of our point of balance?

The most pressing need for all of us is to consider how we move forward with the new technologies. They are unlikely to go away because in so many ways they are useful to us. Yet we can be quickly consumed and we might not even be fully aware of it. There is always a fine line between using the tools that are supposed to make our lives easier and being overrun by those very same tools.

There can be no doubt that we have entered the age of useful technology but where do we draw the line between useful and invasive? When does something shift from being helpful and useful to being invasive and controlling...?

Discrimination becomes extremely important when looking at the possible effects of modern digital technologies on the way we work, live, communicate and function. We only have so much time in our day and being disciplined enough to use that time wisely is a very real issue that many of us need to look at carefully.
With all kinds of information available at the mere touch of a button, we potentially open ourselves to a world of mental engagement that leaves little or no room for 'inner space.'

The psychological impact of an information overload can lead to
widespread dissipation, fatigue and confusion. Cyber technologies begin to blur the lines between what is real and what is not.

I think Leunig's cartoon captures the spirit of the current situation rather pithily. Is it time to start asking ourselves how much is too much?  Each of us has to consider and decide this for his/her self. Thankfully we do have these choices. They require a step in consciousness and discrimination. Who among us would loose out by developing these skills of awareness and discrimination when it comes to our use of digital technologies?

The pram already has the baby in it and it is rolling down the hill. Only we can catch hold of it before it gains too much momentum. Very soon, even this may elude us.

'Anyone who isn't confused, really doesn't understand the situation...'

Time to take stock, time to become aware.

Monday, 19 December 2016

When the Lone Owl Calls...


The Un-blinking Gaze of Awareness
 In the year 2011 when I was living in a tiny hut in forests of Lopchu, a wooded area straddling a ridge between Darjeeling and Kalimpong, I had a good deal of time to ponder the realities of life.

I lived less than a hundred meters away from an old village cremation ground and witnessed the unceasing flow of processions, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly. The solemn groups of family, friends and community members who carried the deceased on their final journey to fires of dissolution. All passed by my small abode. 

The cremation ground was an unpretentious open space with a simple platform where a pyre could be built and after all due ceremony, once the final rites had been given, the corpse laid to rest before being consumed by the flames.

Living in such close proximity to the spot where all of this was taking place, it was impossible to ignore or in any way forget the truth of the uncertainty within which we act out our short, distracted lives.

One evening in the stillness and cold, as I sat in my upstairs loft, the power suddenly went out. Being far from a city or even the village lights, everything was plunged into the inky darkness. I was well prepared for these occurrences.

I opened the large windows just in front of me and breathed deeply. I loved those times when the world was bathed in darkness. In the safety and comfort of my loft I could gaze out of the window and see the stars above in their glorious Himalayan splendour while below spread the valleys far far away; mere tiny speckles of light glimmering in the distance like forgotten promises.

Often clouds swirled around in these valleys and one almost felt that one was gazing from the window of a soundless aeroplane.

Such nights were not rare in this part of the world and if a moon had risen one could also clearly see the glittering white flanks of the Kanchenjunga massif, the world's third highest mountain. It seemed to hover like a surreal, yet stationary cloud in the northern sky.

This fantastic location readily gave rise to thoughts beyond the petty trappings of day to day living.

A lone owl called out from its perch in the nearby forest. Mournful, solitary and echoing throughout the hills. That call was so poignant, so haunting in the darkness of those long winter nights.

It was as though the owl's call was inside me echoing the call of my own awareness; persistent, near and unspeakably mysterious.

The following morning I woke to discover that the electricity supply had still not returned. The generator for the mobile tower over in the village was humming away, barely audible, amid the wailing calls of the birds that visited this location every year from Bhutan.

The mournful sound of their cry had an oddly poignant edge on those bright and sunny mornings and drowned out the chirps and cheerful melodies of the local bird life.
It intrigued me that they turned up in this little patch of
forest near Darjeeling, year after year. 

Many families from Bhutan were established along this ridge and within this patch of forest with its few remaining giant Utish trees, dripping with orchids and ferns. 

A little further up the road, the forest changed markedly as huge, Norfolk pines rose up in long, straight lines. Nothing could contrast more with the semi-tropical forests that surrounded the old temple than those towering, pine giants.  

The Norfolks were remnants of British rule and had been planted during the days when they came to these hills to enjoy the views and the cool temperatures during hot summer months. They had never been touched and had grown tall and thick. They were jealously guarded by the forestry officials. Rising up like a line of silent sentinels they marched up the mountainside appearing to gather all the light of the day to themselves.

When I first moved to the small Gompa, which had been offered to my teacher  (Chadral Rinpoche) some decades before, the caretaker was one of Rinpoche's elder Bhutanese students.  He had left Bhutan some years before to settle in these forested hills, bringing with him his two young sons, both of whom were ordained as Buddhist monks.

Pala, we called him. He was a wonderful caretaker. He had a green thumb and the gardens around the compound were always a mass of blooms. He was never idle and seemed always to be busy fixing or making something. He endlessly tinkered and planted and created and during his 'reign' the Gompa precincts were a bright mass of marigolds and everything looked fresh and well attended.

The two sons returned regularly but were often away and busy visiting local villages where they performed rituals and pujas for families who were celebrating births, deaths and marriages.

 However, some years after I moved to Lopchu Gompa, they decided to build a small temple of their own just up the road in a place called Ninth Mile.  This village was little more than a tiny cluster of dwellings and was situated right in the midst of those towering Norfolk Pines. 

Eventually, when the living quarters were completed, the sons moved up there taking Pala with them. He was sorely missed.

 A few months later, after they had settled in, the eldest son, Gomchen, decided to construct a small Mani Lhakang on the road. This would consist of a number of prayer wheels and it was intended that the locals and those passing by could spin the wheels rending the silence and casting the merit of thousands of mantras into the mountain air.

They were large barrel-like objects that spun on a central spire. Each wheel was painted with the syllables of a mantra and contained many thousands of tiny rolls of prayers written out painstakingly on thin sheets of rice paper. They were carefully prepared before being blessed by a Lama and then packed inside the wheels. Each wheel turned in a clockwise direction and the faithful were said to generate a great wealth of blessings and merit thereby extending their lives.

Actually, the idea, to build these prayer wheels had been on Gomchen's mind for quite some time and he had been saving long and hard so that he could begin this small construction.

One morning while he was up on the road, preparing the iron rods for the workers to begin setting that day in concrete, he lifted one into an upright position in order to make a measurement. Unmindful of the wires nearby, it suddenly connected with the main overhead power line. Unfortunately, that day, there was no power cut.

The result was instantaneous. Many thousands of volts of
electricity poured through his body and out of his feet. In fact, the surge was so powerful that it blew holes right through the soles of his shoes.

His heart could not sustain itself under such a sudden and tremendous assault and within moments he was dead.  He was 48 years at the time.

He had been a Buddhist monk since childhood and had completed a
number of long retreats, hence the name Gomchen, which means 'great meditator'.  He had practised and meditated and led a life which by all accounts was praiseworthy and yet he did not see what was coming. 

When he had lifted the rod that morning, his mind was distracted by many competing thoughts, the very least of which was the thought of impermanence. That thought had slipped away into the hazy recesses of long years of repetition and habit.

He had pondered much on death and the impermanence of life, it was true, and yet when death came it was totally unexpected and he was not prepared.

Palla was inconsolable with grief. He too had pondered long and hard on the Buddha's primary teachings. In his eighty years, he had seen a good deal of joy and sorrow but none of it had prepared him for this. 

This was an irony beyond understanding.

Even in the midst of a 'holy life' one may constantly forget one's true nature. If we are endlessly distracted we cannot be prepared for the inevitable, which may tap us on the shoulder at any moment. 

We live our lives as though they will never end.  As though there will always be tomorrow and yet our death is the one and certain thing in this world, the thing none of us can avoid.  

We all know that death can visit us at any moment. We all understand this, we are all aware that this is what awaits us in some form or other and yet we get caught up in the dream of the unfolding cycle of day to day events.

And this is as natural to us as breathing. We have forgotten our true origin. We have forgotten who and what we really are.


Many would say that to remember death as our nearest companion is morbid and depressing.  But there is another side. It can help to wake us from the reverie that enslaves us in our day to day routines. 

Life and death are only two sides of one coin. The awareness from which they are inseparable remains unnoticed.

By carrying this awareness with us where ever we go, each moment and each day becomes a gift and an opportunity.

The thought of death reminds us to open our minds and hearts here and now, not tomorrow, not next year. It prompts us to look further than the tiny circle of our thoughts and our ordinary preoccupations.

May we all remember the inexhaustible spring of our awareness which is our true nature and which is, at every moment, awaiting our recognition. 

When the lone owl calls it is the distant echo of our own awareness.


This very moment, which is our constant yet unheeded companion is our golden key to unlocking the mystery of the eternal present which is ever beyond the vagaries of transient life and death...

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Blue to Remind Us

Blue Mountains, New South Wales


Blue to remind us that even though something may look very old, in actuality its existence is but a blink in the vast and fathomless ocean of life...


“Pity the self that is, not the world that is not.
Engrossed in a dream, you have forgotten your true self.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj

It is such an odd thing that while we live we simply cannot imagine that death will come for us and for those that we love one day. Our life and our ‘story’ become so engrossing that we completely lose all wider perspective. We live inside the drama that is unfolding for us day by day and become so enslaved by it that we are not able to see the screen upon which all of it is being played out and which makes the enactment possible in the first place.

We don’t need to fear death or be morbidly preoccupied with its inevitability but keeping an awareness of it in mind can give us quite a different perspective on life. By remembering it often, we find cause to celebrate the time that we have now and to live that time fully and deeply.

When we dream in our sleep we eventually wake up and we know that we dreamed while we slept. But when we wake up from our living dream the whole basis of the illusion that we once believed to be true, starts to unravel. We begin to die to the ‘little self’ and are reborn to the greater. A crack opens up in our mind and things no longer seem quite as real as they had before. The tight grip of our preoccupation begins to loosen and with that loosening, come moments of lucidity, moments of peace.

The late Khyentse Rinpoche sometimes used to liken people to little children. He spoke of how they would get so swept away by their lives. Like a child busy making a sandcastle near the ocean. He becomes so engrossed in making the castle that he does not notice that the tide is coming in and that the sun is sinking lower on the horizon. Eventually, when the water is lapping right at his heels and the sun is about to disappear he suddenly looks up and begins to cry. He calls for his mother and weeps for the sand castle which is being dissolved by the incoming waves.

Are we not like this? Utterly preoccupied with what is happening in our mind and in our immediate surroundings.

We have all watched sad movies and later felt relieved that it was only a movie and not something actually going on in our own lives. We were happy to return to our familiar life and world. Yet the slings and the arrows of misfortune can jolt us so strongly that they provide the very impetus we need to step back from the living dream and see it for what it really is. Without these jolts we might continue on indefinitely, absorbed with our game, unaware of the passage of time.

In the midst of a happy life are we likely to stop and ask ourselves; what is this all about?’ But when sorrows blight our existence nothing is more natural than that we should step back and question our existence. We need not shun our mind or our emotions, because, in time, they can become our greatest motivators and our staunchest allies. From out of the fire of our suffering and pain, is born and arises the Phoenix.

Iron ore may think itself senselessly tortured in the furnace and yet,
When the blade of finest steel emerges, it knows better.

Rampa

All our suffering is tied up with the belief in a separate self. When that ‘little self’ ceases to exist, the world is seen clearly for what it really is; a fleeting drama. If we can see beyond the illusion of a separate identity we can release ourselves from the fascination of the 'living dream' once and for all.

Pity the self that is, not the world that is not.


Engrossed in a dream, we have forgotten our True Self.

*****


Excerpt from the book; Who Lives? Who Dies?


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Seeing Beyond









We look outwardly
into the world and then get
caught up
in the unceasing dance of life.


When we turn the mind inwardly

we perceive what it is that sees
the dance...

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Supreme Simplicity



Life is an uncharted series of 'events.'





We think we are standing at the helm of our own private 'boat' and steering our course through the shifting, changing ocean currents.

But, in actuality, who and what we really are is motionless, changeless and un-shifting.

Behind all 'events' there is the awareness from which it all arises...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Am I Dreaming You?

 Am I Dreaming You?

When someone we know and have moved with through life suddenly disappears from this world forever it can give us a huge shock. As a friend recently pointed out to me; 'Death is the least surprising thing in the world and yet when it strikes without warning it is the most surprising.'

Life is indeed dreamlike. So dreamlike that we often cruise through our days barely aware of what is really going on. Then suddenly someone we have known, someone we have loved or loathed or someone who has in some way touched our lives, even if only the fringes of it, is suddenly gone. They are no more; phoof!

Are we so numb that we only look up for a brief moment before snapping back into our distracted world? Or do we get enough of a jolt to 'pause'?

The 'pause' is crucial. It is our ticket to something so much bigger than the petty concerns and preoccupations of our day to day life.

The following excerpt is a continuation on the theme we have been following in the previous two posts from the book; Who Lives Who Dies?

"When I was around thirteen years of age, I used to cycle to school with a girl who lived quite near our house.

Jessie was a little older than me. She had gorgeous, healthy, long blond hair that always seemed to fall in perfect folds around her face. She was not beautiful but she was certainly attractive. She was not one of my closest friends, nor was she a confidante, but I enjoyed her company on the long cycle rides to and from our school and over the years we developed an easy going and pleasant friendship.

Every day we had to traverse many miles of roads to reach our college. We often found ourselves pushing into a strong head wind which made the journey seem that much harder and longer. Cycling together, Jessie and I would chat and joke about all sorts of things and the trip felt less tiring. Near the end while on our way home, we would push our heavy cycles together up the indomitably steep, ‘Tamaki Street’ which stretched up the hillside on the last leg of our journey. Alone, this last climb seemed interminable, but when there were two of us it didn’t feel quite so bad.

We made these trips five days a week, month after month over a period of several years and because we shared this routine so regularly I seldom thought anything of it.

Then suddenly one day she was gone. I got the news from my sister, who heard it from a friend of hers. Jessie had been instantly killed when a motorbike, on which she was a pillion passenger, somehow missed a bridge, flew off the side of the road and crashed into the riverbed below. It had happened two nights before word had reached my ears.

I was utterly stunned. Then, as that sensation began to wear off, a seeping, painful sense of having been betrayed swept over me. I thought of all the days that we had cycled to and from school together. I thought of all the hours that we had spent in our respective classrooms. I could not think of anything that she or I might have done in these past years that could have in any way prepared us for this.

I could think of nothing in my school life or my home life that came even near to addressing the fact of ‘death.’
The things which I had spent all my time doing suddenly appeared superficial and irrelevant. I wondered that I could have slipped into such absentmindedness.

All the days, months and years that we spent in our college, doing our lessons and then all the hours spent after school doing homework, suddenly all of that seemed like some kind of bad joke.

Despite my previous experiences, nothing I had done up until this point had really addressed this issue.

My life suddenly felt very empty. There was something about it that made it seem unreal.

That life could be snatched away suddenly was something I had brushed against much earlier, but ‘I’ had gone on, life had gone on and once the old routines recommenced I had been lulled back into that shadow land which engrosses all of our energy and attention with things that we are somehow made to think are important.

In this new situation, someone I had seen and shared time with almost every day for several years simply was no more and there was nothing that anybody could do to change that.

That very day I made the cycle ride to school alone. It was a cold Monday morning. Never will I forget walking into the classroom and having to endure the silent stares of the entire class. No one knew what to say, no one knew what to do. Something unspeakably ‘mysterious’ had happened right in our midst and yet we all just sat there doing our lessons hour upon hour without even alluding to it.

In those days there was no pupil counselling to help students through any kind of crisis like this, there was no support at all.
One was simply expected to get on with it; with the same useless, meaningless grind, as though nothing at all had happened.

Somehow, when Jessie died, everything felt different in a new way. I had reached an age when my mind was beginning to question and inquire. In earlier years I had simply accepted whatever came along, but now I felt no longer able to do that.

Her death left a completely unexpected, gaping hole in a day-to-day ritual that we had shared for several years. I found it impossible to accept that she had simply ‘ceased to be.’ The sense of absolute mystery about her disappearance from the world threw me into a contemplative mood. I found no comfort in the words I heard in church.

I urgently needed to know what it actually means to ‘die.’ I did not want to hear some secondhand stuff that had been pulled from a book. I wanted more than that.

During that time, I discovered one thing that could bring a sense of relief and perspective to my life. I took to sitting outside at night and gazing up at the sky.

When I did this I could feel the ‘mystery’ and the ‘something’ which is so unfathomable about our existence. To look out and see countless stars and universes helped me to bypass my questioning mind and feel directly something which I could not name. When I looked into the vastness of infinity I could feel at once that there is so much more to our existence than the petty day to day concerns that ate up all our time and energy. This helped me to cope with my grief and frustration.

I suppose that is when I understood that the society I was growing up in would not be able to satisfy the deeper, inner questionings that this event triggered.

The intense and actual mystery of so-called ‘death’ loomed up before me as a huge and solemn unknown.

How was it possible to continue on with the daily routines knowing that we all faced this and that one day we would die? Surely there was something more which we needed to know.

Western societies are not known for prolonging their mourning. In fact, the feeling one gets is that as soon as the loved one is buried or cremated, as the case may be, it is expected that there should be a sense of closure or, at least, the expectation of closure and everyone then goes on with whatever it was they were doing before.

I felt that ‘death’ was not being given its full due, it was being brushed over in a way that seemed superficial and inconsistent with the fact, that each of us would have to face this at some point.

Why was it that no one seemed to wonder where she went or what actually happened to her? Why was it that people were able to believe, so unquestioningly, what they had merely been told? I knew that could never work for me.

It takes some unravelling to get to the bottom of the complex feelings that can accompany the loss of someone who has touched our lives. Most of the time, these feelings are glossed over, ignored, or buried beneath a load of distractions. There are endless ways of not confronting the reality of loss and death directly.

We avoid the confrontation by filling our time with self-centered and artificial distractions. Very often we are preoccupied with all manner of things that are not in the least bit vital and this is primarily how the days, months and years of our lives are filled. All the while, we know very well, that the ‘clock is ticking,’ that our time is running out, yet we are no closer to understanding what it’s all about.

Inherently we are so much more than we are led to believe. There is a mystery in that. A mystery far beyond the confines of what our day to day ‘thinking mind’ is willing or even able to comprehend. We can get a striking sense of that even very early in life.

The fact is that we cannot escape ‘ourselves’, where ever we go, whatever we do, we are bound to be confronted, sooner or later with the mystery of our own existence.

This is why it is vital to look deeper now in the midst of so-called ordinary life, with all its cares and distractions, because the ‘now’ is itself filled with immensity and holds the key to the deep, disclosing recognition of who and what we really are. The now is all that we really have!

Jessie’s life came to an early and abrupt end and she did not know herself beyond the body and mind and the routine day to day needs and preoccupations of worldly life. But it can be different for us. We have the chance to look inward and discern beyond what appears to be true to what actually is true.

Life gives us a push and in some instances a sharp and hard slap, forcing us to look further and more deeply. We are not bound to believe all that others would have us believe, we must discover the truth for ourselves and the signposts that rise up on our individual journeys are often unique and perfectly tailored to help us do just that and thereby, wake up.

May the inward journey for each of us begin now; fresh and renewed with each passing moment! "

Page 50: Where Did She Go? from the book;