Case in point: How Populists Talk
Understanding the movements of the world around us requires understanding what moves what. Politicians, the media, advertisers all use fears and ignorance to motivate. Maybe the words truly resonate with you. Maybe they are just pushing buttons. Maybe you should take a closer look at it all.
Case in point: How Populists Talk
At some point in every discipline the disciple has to leave the nest and venture out. Teaching is a temporary thing, learning is forever. As students, we eventually risk missing the bigger picture and must distance ourselves to some degree from the teacher and the teachings. We don't do this so that we can disregard the teaching, but rather to test it, to experience it in real time, to get our own interpretations, to form our own versions of the teaching. This is not necessarily easy. In fact, I would say it is typically difficult. But if we are honest we will see there is no choice. The teaching can be a living thing or a dead one. What makes the difference is the interpretation and application.
If we, as students, stay at the teacher's feet for the duration of our lives we risk becoming clones. If we look, really look, we will see that the teacher's approach is always a bit different from his/her teacher, who was in turn different from the preceding teaching, etc... Perhaps the ultimate points are the same, but the approach, the form, the constituent ingredients are fresh and innovative. That is the hallmark of a living teaching. At the same time, we are typically indebted to and connected with our teacher(s). That is also a hallmark of a living teaching.
Venturing out has a thousand faces. There is no one way to do that. Many teach in turn. Others just apply and live. There is no template for that, and that is a big reason why it isn't easy. We may also find that we are , in many ways, right back where we were when we began, albeit with more tools and experience. We may find that leaving the teacher brings us back to the world that we inhabited before. This is one of the first real tests of the teaching. The world we left has always been here in our presence. Hopefully we can experience it through various lenses.
It may be the case that one needs to completely move on, leaving the teaching and the teacher behind. If so, we hope the teaching itself was solid enough to support the new reality. In many cases, however, we don't turn our backs on the teaching or the teacher; we do move on but we stay engaged with teacher and teaching as well, forging a new now while respecting the past. Either way, we find ourselves in a brave new world, so to speak. There is no going back. Forget about it. There is only forward. Would that we all walk it well.
I now live in an area that is sparsely populated, especially in the Winter. Here, on New Year's Eve, I look out over my neighborhood at night, most of the houses dark and empty, the rest lit but indicative of little activity. This is the last day of 2020, easily the roughest year in memory. One can sense the anticipation, as if we are actually getting rid of something with the passing of an otherwise random day. The pandemic, the isolation, the divisive and frankly childish politics, the uncertainty and fear. I am aware that we are probably not getting rid of anything, at least not today or tomorrow.
Yes, in a couple of weeks we will have a new president, and new political dramas. One would hope that in a short time we will have COVID under control, and will experience a resurgent economy to boot. But I am also aware that the future, now as always, is unknown. We have no idea what is ahead, just as we had no idea this time last year what 2020 would be like.
We can hope and pray. In fact, as far as predicting and/or controlling the future, that is about all we can do. But speaking of hope, I am hopeful that we can can be flexible, adaptive, and optimistic even if we face dire outcomes. The truth is we never know what lies ahead. But we can always adapt and live into whatever we are given. Perhaps it will be a golden year. Who knows? Either way, we can make the most of it.
Peace on Earth...
"The moment that we remove all of the obscurations that cover our primordial nature, all of the enlightened qualities of a buddha just naturally, spontaneously and effortlessly arise."
~ Chamtrul, Rinpoche
All wisdom traditions eventually say the same thing. Your highest nature, Ultimate Reality, is inherent. It is within us. We don't create it. We can't make it any more obvious than it already is by trying harder. What we can do is get out of the way and let it unfold, or in Chamtrul, Rinpoche's words noted above, we can remove the obscurations that hide it. That is yoga. That is why the yogi lives an intentional, engaged lifestyle. But said lifestyle shouldn't be envisioned as work or even discipline. It's not hard to do the right things and avoid the wrong things. It might not be popular. One might not be familiar with such a lifestyle. But it isn't hard. In fact, given the benefits of yoga-dharma, it is much more enjoyable than not engaging.
Yet, so few really follow the path. As a famous teacher said, this path is narrow and the gate straight, and only a few will follow. Yoga-dharma is no mystery. There are infinite volumes on the how and why of it, but they mean no more than the words I'm writing now. It's just ink on the page. It isn't understood until it's directly experienced. We can read, write, and talk, but it doesn't mean a thing till we walk the walk.
This is the way.
This morning the sky was clear and blue, a reflection of mid-winter. The water in Currituck Sound was as still as glass. It was almost as if the world was on pause. The thing that came to mind was Wuji.
Wuji is undifferentiated, non-conceptual, pure potential. This gives me hope. At a time of massive pandemic, political uncertainty, economic unease, and general social confusion it is reassuring to know that the Universe doesn't care about all that. The Universe does what it does, it endlessly creates, it unfolds, it is. Here, between the Yang of the heavens and the Yin of Earth, as still as they sometimes appear, is the creative force of impermanence, creation, endless change. What we see as the reality of today is nothing less than the seeds of tomorrow. And we really have no idea what that will look like.
And that is a good thing.
I feel very fortunate that in the two internal arts that I practice I have been able to study under competent down-to-earth teachers with solid lineages. However, what has proven to be even more important as I continue to mature in practice is the insistence that each of them (Roy Eugene Davis; Yang Yang) has on simplicity. And by that I don't only mean the virtues of living a simple life, but additionally, the virtue of foundational practice.
On the surface, this can appear to indicate a lack of deep teaching and/or exposure to the deeper aspects of their respective arts. Not really. Rather it is a focus on the possibilities inherent in and the eternal strength of the foundations. In my experience, each of my teachers has exposed me to possibilities beyond my grasp at the time, but still within grasp ultimately. At the same time they emphasized the very thing needed to reach these new heights was more focus on the basics.
Teaching of this type is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it makes it easier to relate to newer, less experienced students but at the same time possibly boring and not challenging to older long-term students. Negotiating is a skill for teacher and student alike. The teacher must challenge the older student with the depths of the basics all the while acknowledging the lack of limitations. And when appropriate, giving the student the next thing they need. At the same time, the student needs to forgo the flashy for the basic, to do the necessary work. Still, I am forced to admit to at times wishing my teachers would reveal secret invincible fighting skills or mind-altering pranayama exercises. Instead they gave me hours of simple Qigong and Zhan Zhuang (Taiji), and basic meditation and listening to Om (Kriya Yoga). With time I have been able to understand and appreciate the ultimate value of their intentions. And I am now eternally grateful to them for their teaching discipline. In a nut shell it's wax on/wax off.
I recently listened to a fitness podcast where the guy being interviewed was a strength and conditioning coach in the NBA. He told the story of how when he was first getting started he met Kobe Bryant and witnessed his morning training routine. He noted that he was flabbergasted that Bryant spent a large part of this precious time going over basic footwork and movement drills--the same things that are taught and reinforced to young kids and high school players. So naturally, one of his first questions was why did this guy, the best basketball player in the Universe, spend so much time going over basic drills. Kobe's answer was that constantly reinforcing the basics was exactly why he was the best player in the Universe.
Further to the point, it is my impression that in the internal arts--at least the ones I practice--this is where we find Gong Fu and enlightenment. It's not really all that difficult. It is right here in our midst. We are that. When you get down to it, it's really quite simple.
"Never underestimate the long-term consequences of your actions. For as long as the mind has the obscurration of grasping at an inherently existing “me”, then there will be karma. No matter how far on the path one is, no matter how realised one is, no matter how many miraculous powers one has attained, for as long as there is even a subtle trace of this obscurration, karma is there.
That is why Padmasambhava, an enlightened being not even affected by it, had skilfully told ordinary beings, 'My realization is higher than the sky, but my observance of karma is finer than grains of flour.'”
~ Chamtrul Rinpoche
I have been going to back to the basics and working on the subtleties of Taiji form. I feel like a rank beginner. What seems so simple is in reality very deep and profound. The more we refine, the clearer the energetic presence, the deeper the healing. By going deeper in Taiji we get closer and closer to Wuji. But it is work. It is work that is basically never done. It takes time and practice. And it takes beginner's mind, which of course takes work.
In time we discover something that has been there all along but hidden so well. It is a coming together of familiar existences, a remembering if you will. But what happens at these deeper levels of energy work is hard to express adequately. However, the more it happens the easier it is to access, to remember, to engage at will regardless of where we are, what we are doing. As Erle Montaigue once said, we practice Taiji so we can always do Taiji, even when we aren't doing Taiji. So, like Padmasmbhava sifting through fine grains of karma, we can always look closer, go deeper, walk the long road.
Ultimately it's all the same thing; Winter, Summer; Night, Day; Asleep, Awake; Dead, Alive. We do ourselves no favors bemoaning change. Yet we do anyway as if there were an alternative, as if everything wasn't already change, as if change were irregular, temporary, and negotiable. We see and experience the world in relative terms, in terms of Taiji. But underlying the world is Wuji. And Wuji doesn't differentiate--anything. Wuji is soothing, reassuring, dependable. At the same time though, Wuji births Taiji which is ultimate differentiation. And this is the stuff of our relative experience. We live in this world of constant unrelenting change, but it is girded by pure, infinite potential. So, it gets cold but only because it was once warm and will be warm again. The sun sets only to rise again tomorrow. Someone dies, someone else is born. It really is all the same thing. Believe it or not, like it or not, Wuji is ultimately Taiji, is ultimately the ten thousand things, which are ultimately Taiji, which is ultimately Wuji. This is the way.
At some point we need to let everything go and just be. In doing that we are relieved of the sense of responsibility that never needed be assigned us, that we assigned ourselves, and that is totally unjustified, unnecessary. Life lives itself. We are not directors nor pawns. We are life itself being lived. Understanding that is huge. The red pill doesn't lead to bliss anymore than the blue pill relives one's suffering--or vice-versa. Our experience of Nirvana is an experience, and therefore is still that much more Samsara. Coming unplugged of the Matrix doesn't mean the annihilation of illusion, it's just different, a new and improved illusion. The experience of life living itself is also illusion because it is experience. That's not a bad thing, or necessarily a good thing. It has no value. It is.
Consider: At the point the prodigal woke up and decided to return home, he was still in the Kingdom, as he was at his lowest point tending pigs and even after he returned and was welcomed in glory. It's all Kingdom, bliss and ignorance, suffering and saturation. Perhaps the path home took longer and was filled with even more danger and adventure than scripture reveals. Perhaps the path didn't end at home. Perhaps there never was a path after all. Perhaps it is all path. Perhaps returning home is no more or no less than the end of conflict--conflict with the source of family, with the source of pleasure, with the source of pain, with the inevitability of return, with the path itself, with the source of source.
I feel that any true path ultimately leads us back to where we started. I have found there is nothing to find that wasn't already. That doesn't mean the searching wasn't worth it. It doesn't mean we know everything, or anything. It doesn't mean we stop wandering. It means we can always rest at home, having never really left. And if anything is to be gained from it all, it's the eternal ability to always rest at home.
So, one morning I woke up and realized I had lost interest in most everything. And it was the most enlightening moment of my life. I hope I never go back. The truth is I feel it's impossible to go back. I wouldn't recognize myself there mainly because my 'Self' was covered in distraction and impression management. And if I did go back and were to remove all that I would find no self there at all. And that is the greatest of all fears and the thing to be avoided at all costs. Hence the fascination of Everyman with distractions and impression management. However, the reason I lost interest is due to the realization of no-self anyway. It's like all the running around was for the sake of running around. No, it's not "like" that. That's how it was, how it is, how it will be.
Of course that doesn't make sense, right? And it's not supposed to--unless it does. And if it does then you get it. If you don't get it, that's OK too. It's perfectly fine to write this all off as the ramblings of a madman. That fits perfectly within what I'm saying.
The thing is, all the passion and drive over such seemingly important things as religion, politics, sports, news, and weather are only just that much more of the dog chasing his tail. The real trouble starts when the damn thing actually catches it.
Rodney J Owen