“If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ that will be enough.” Meister Eckhart

Today I will try not to be selective in my gratitude. I will be thankful for it all. Whatever may be; whatever may come.

A Summer “No-Self” Reading List

One of the major themes in Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now is how we live driven by the “little me.”  Our actions, our thoughts, our feelings flow out of this one tap:  the ego tap.  And does it flow!   It keeps us stuck in patterns, it leads us blindly into mindless pursuit of meaningless pleasures, it strips us of our ability to relate to each other.  It plain old makes us miserable.

It’s a big undertaking to move to a maturity of spirit that allows us to put our ego in its rightful place.   Because once we do that–Wait!  There’s more!  We’ re still not done.   We may finally get to the stage where our ego is in our pocket, safely tucked about, to be pulled out to comfort us like a hankie, or played with like a set of keys.  But many spiritual traditions talk about emptying our pockets and moving into that realm of no-self.  In Buddhism, it’s called anatta, which recognizes the illusion of identification with the self.   In Christianity, the goal of no-self is union with God–breaking down the boundaries that separate us from God and merging into the Divine.

I think of an egg, as beautiful a solid as a solid can be, being cracked, broken, and then folded gently into the Oneness of God.

So, here are a few books that I’ve found to be helpful in understanding this a little more.   Maybe not light summer reading, but great reading nonetheless.

No Self, No Problem by Anam Thubten This book is very easy to read–twelve short chapters address such things as Meditation, Inner Contentment, Mindfulness, Acceptance, Transcendent Wisdom.  I noticed I have a few dog-eared pages with quotes I particularly liked:

Liberation is the cessation of all mistaken beliefs.  Mistaken beliefs become obsessions.  Obsessions are ego’s shameless effort and struggle to once again sustain its flimsy existence. Our thoughts are taking us for a ride without our permission We are hiding under this shell of ego, protecting ourselves from that divine rain.  We are afraid of that rain because it is going to destroy all of our illusions.  So we are hiding constantly under the shell of ego, trying to escape from the divine shower.  We are being blessed in each and every moment so we don’t have to do anything ultimately.  We don’t have to go anywhere.  All we have to do is come out o that shell called ego and let ourselves take a break.

 Stepping Out of Self-Deception:  The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self by Rodney Smith I read this book about Insight Meditation earlier this year, carefully and with lot of highlights.  He talks very conceptually, and building these concepts (such as “Primary Intention” and “Secondary Intention”) takes a bit of time, but if you put in a short amount of time to grasp these concepts, you will be paid off in insight.  His writing style does make it hard to find a good sound-bite, but here are a couple of good ones:

Reality is not fixed, but instead changes depending upon the perceiver.  We actively configure reality by what we think about it; we see what we want to see and become what we want to become.

Intention through seeing the absolute necessity to change, which is born from insight.

Insight usually takes a long time to integrate its way into spontaneous action and starts out as something we saw, and therefore something we ‘should’ do.  But the energy of the insight cannot become integrated into the body through a ‘should’ because the insight is being arrested within a mental paradigm.  What integrates insight quickly into consciousness is deliberate action.

The Path to No-Self:  Life at the Center by Bernadette Roberts This book is a road map to the unitive state, in which the endgame goes beyond joining the self to the Source/God to a place where the self ceases to exist.   Once again, this is quite conceptual and dense reading, and in my mind it bears some similarities to St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle.    Bernadette Roberts takes us on her own journey on the mystical path she took, and despite the ineffability of this path, like St. Teresa, she is able to articulate the six unique phases to union with God in the progressive death to self. Her journal entry at the moment in which she felt her self as being gone–absorbed in the unity of God–tells what the feeling is like:

What has happened is more than a union of wills, more than silence and peace; it is the total union of the faculties wherein I am only capable of attending to the present moment.  No thought ahead or behind.  To keep in this state I seem to need only remind myself of what I am doing.  I say to myself: now I am driving, now I am shopping, now I am writing, etc.  My mind seems incapable of wandering.  To wander is fruitless and unnecessary, and to force the mind is a sin.  So as long as I lose myself in the present moment, all is well; but to think of the past or future is like kicking against the goad and causes unnecessary suffering.

I have long had one of Bernadette Roberts’ quotes on my bulletin board in my home office.  It says to me so assuredly that “all shall be well,” in Julian of Norwich’s words.  This quote is actually from a follow-up to The Path to No-Self, called The Experience of No-Self:

Until we go beyond our notions regarding the true nature of life, we will never realize how totally secure we really are, and how all the fighting for individual survival and self-security is a waste of energy

Beyond the Self: Teachings on the Middle Way by Thich Nhat Hanh  If you only have a long weekend at the shore and you don’t have time to get into Bernadette Roberts, read this little discourse by Thich Nhat Hanh. In it, he focuses on a couple of core Buddhist teachings like The Sutra of the Middle Way and Dependent Co-Arising,

Dependent Co-arising is sometimes called great emptiness (mahasunyata). The word ’emptiness’ means free from all notions, ideas, and attachments. You can’t’ say phenomena don’t exist, you can’t say they do exist, you can’t say they’re born or they die, you can’t’ say phenomena are the same, you can’t say they’re different; all phenomena lie in their nature of emptiness and cannot be grasped.

If we look carefully into the twelve links of Dependent Co-arising, we will see the teachings of emptiness. The Buddha said, whoever sees Dependent Co-arising sees the Buddha, and whoever has seen the Buddha has seen Dependent Co-arising. In our daily lives, we may ask, “Wo am I? What am I doing here? Where did I come from? Where will I go?” These are philosophical questions. The Buddha said the reason we ask such questions is that we are caught in the idea of self, in the idea of me and mine. If we can see Dependent Co-arising, we will not ask these questions anymore.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse  Great classic, great “long weekend” book, and great if you’re really in the mood for fiction, because profound spiritual truths are conveyed in the form of a story of the life of Siddhartha. I just re-read this recently and it was like good leftovers–much  more satisfying the second time around.

Think on These Things by Jiddu Krishnamurti  Back to some mind-bending ideas. Krisnamurti was well-known as a spiritual teacher and writer in the 20th century. He had a “conversion” experience in his youth which brought him to a place of mystical union. From that point on, it was difficult to see division in anything. He said the “truth is a pathless land.”  Here are some of the notes I have highlighted in this book:

The mind that dies every day to the memories of yesterday, to all the joys and sorrows of the past–such a mind is fresh, innocent, it has no age; and without that innocence, whether you are ten or sixty, you will not find God.

If your heart is full of love, then you never ask to be loved, you never put out your begging bowl for someone to fill it.

The man who is joyous, really happy, is not caught up in effort.

There is fear as long as you want to be secure.

There are a few more I could mention, like Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, and Cutting through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa, but alas, I’ve run out of time for today!

Happy reading!

The Parting Words of the Mystic Anthony deMello

How do you get a person from Point A to Point B? You give them a map. If you’re the mystic Anthony de Mello, you might be more like a mountain sherpa, leading people up a road that forces you to pay attention to your steps, breathe the air deeply, look around and observe the view in awe, and make it as wordless an experience as possible.

Those who know of Antony deMello probably know of the circumstances of his death. Born in India, he became Jesuit in his teens. As a priest, he developed his calling as a retreat master, teacher, and writer. As such, his popularity grew tremendously in the eighties.

His talent was his ability to zero in on spiritual truths that transcended dogma, culture, and even words. People were simply drawn to “Tony” because he clearly was walking the walk. As a pied piper of mystics, he implored his followers to come on the journey to awareness–to leave the sad, confused, world behind and wake up!

From May 20-25, 1987, Tony delivered a seminar in Pune, India, to an estimated 300 priests and nuns. He expected to deliver it a few days later in the United States. Sadly, that seminar never happened. Tony passed away very unexpectedly in New York the night before he was to deliver it.
His brother Bill de Mello, who has authored Tony’s biography, The Happy Wanderer, was able to collect detailed notes from the participants of the Pune sessions and put together a transcript of that last seminar–the same one that the US participants were robbed of by his untimely death. So this book, Swansong, is a true blessing to be shared! It’s our last chance hear what he had to say–to hear the words that wound up being his Swansong.

The book is short and organized by the days in which the presentations were delivered. Each day had an overarching theme, with a progression from awareness through love, holiness, the ineffability of God, “living” with God through meditation, and finally, release of ego.

Many mystics have provided a similar road map, which often start with the opening the heart and end with the abandonment of self. This short book is not a long, daunting tour through seven mansions, like St. Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle; nor is it a pedantic treatise on the mystic way, like Evelyn Underhill.

This mystic journey more like a fun adventure–a road trip with a sherpa who had a darned great time pointing out the scenery. This sherpa tells jokes, he tells you how wise you are to have embarked on this trip and he tells you to put away the guide book and just see and hear and experience and be.

Here are some of my favorite quotes for each Day:

Day One. 20th May 1987

We humans have scriptures and all we do is feed on words. It’s like going to a restaurant and eating the menu.

The finest act of love you can perform is not an act of service but an act of contemplation, of seeing. When you serve people, you support, alleviate pain. When you see them in their inner beauty and goodness, you transform and create.

Day Two. 21st May 1987

In a conflict between Nature and your brain, back Nature; if you fight her, she will eventually destroy you. The secret therefore is to improve on Nature in harmony with Nature. How can you achieve this harmony?

Think of some change that you wish to bring about in your life or in your personality. Are you attempting to force this change on yourself through effort and through teh desire to become something that your ego has planned? That is the serpent fighting the dove. Or are you content to study, observe, understand, be aware of your present state and problems, without pushing, without forcing things that your ego desires, leaving reality to effect changes according to Nature’s plans, not yours? Then you have the perfect blending of the serpent and the dove.

We are here, not to change the world but to love the world and in that love, change may come. If I try to change you and you don’t change, I have resentment. And if I think I have change you, I take pride. Remember – Love is – clarity of perception, accuracy of response.

Day Three. 22nd May 1987

Life to those who have the ears to hear is a symphony; but very, very rare indeed is the human being who hears the music. Why? Because they are busy listening to the noises that their conditioning and their programming have put into their heads. That and something else–their attachments. An attachment is a major killer of life.

Once you pick up these attachments you become a slave to them. Then comes the tension and anxiety which are the very death of love and the joyful freedom that love brings. Love and freedom are only found when one enjoys each note of a symphony as it arises, and then allows it to go, so as to be fully receptive to the notes that follow.

Day Four. May 23rd 1987

When you drop your illusions, you get a sense of space and time. Mystics get this sense of timelessness; of eternity, of everlasting joy; because they have dropped their illusions.

Once a projection is screened before us, we make it a concept–static. When we create concepts we bring out our paintbrushes. We pain things good or bad, according to the concepts we have created. The Mystic does not paint it. The mystic sees everything with a clean slate and experiences what he sees in present moment freshness each and every time.

I can’t put into words what I’ve seen. But now I make a formula and instead of seeing what I am pointing to, I cling to the formula. Therefore your biggest obstacle to finding God is the concept: ‘God.’

Day Five. May 24th 1987

Reality cannot be known through concepts; much less, this reality we call God. He is not virtue and not vice. He is not light and He is not darkness. What is wrong is the use we make of the Bible. Don’t believe that reading the Scriptures will do you any good, unless you start working on yourself. You will not understand the Bible unless your mind, heart and eyes are clean; or else, you give it all sorts of interpretations to suit your own fears.

In order to meditate, you do not need to read the Bible. Instead examine your body, the five senses, the functioning of your mind.

I often hear, ‘I have no time to meditate.’ This is like saying ‘I have no time to breathe.’ Are you awake the entire day? Are you aware of your being, your surroundings? Are you aware of the sounds around you? The colours of nature which beautify this earth we live in? Of the melody of birds singing in the early hours of the morning or late evening? Of the sound of the breeze rustling through the branches of a tree? Staying ‘awake’ and being ‘aware’ for the entire day is meditation. Then you will realise that life is useless, worthless, not worth living, without consciousness. When walking in the jungle, you keep your eyes open to keep your feet from getting hurt. Likewise in life, in your relationships, find time to take the blindfold off.

A man comes regularly into a bar and ‘driving’ an imaginary car he ‘parks’ it in the bar. One day someone tells the bartender to tell him his bar is not a parking lot. ‘Why should I?’ says the bartender. ‘He gives me 10 dollars a week for parking here. If your illusion suit me, I don’t  mind stringing you along.

Swansong–Day Six, May 25th 1987

Remembering is an obstacle to seeing.  ‘Now’ is another name for love.

It isn’t as if God is the big dancer and you are the little dancer. You are not a dancer at all. You are being danced!

Dissatisfaction sets in when you cling to a thing, an event or a person.

If you really enjoy life and the simple pleasures of the senses, you’d be amazed. You’d develop that extraordinary discipline of the animal. Think of your body and compare it with the body of an animal that is left in its natural habitat.

It never eats or drinks what is not good for it. It has all the rest and exercise that it needs. It has the right amount of exposure to the elements, to wind and sun and rain and heat and cold.

That is because the animal listens to its body and allows itself to be guided by the body’s wisdom. Compare that with your own foolish cunningness. If your body could speak, what would it say to you? Observe the greed, the ambition, the vanity, the desire to show off and to please others, the guilt that drives you to ignore the voice of your body while you chase after objectives set by your ego.

Religion is not ritual, not intellectual, but purification. From that purified heart and mind, action will come.

You do not possess the wind, the stars, and the rain. You don’t possess these things; you surrender to them. And surrender occurs when you are aware of your illusions, when you are aware of your addictions, when you are aware of your desires and fears.

Faith, my dears, is the readiness to change in order to follow the truth.

What’s missing here in the words is the soul behind them–Tony’s charisma and presence–and so, I would encourage you to watch one of the many videos that are available for viewing.  Here’s one place you can go for that.

Tony’s passion in life was to get people to Wake Up! He repeatedly quotes Thomas Carlyle:  “The great tragedy of human life is not so much in what they suffer, but rather, in what they miss.”  Swansong is Tony’s last invitation to avert this tragedy–to follow this Mystic Sherpa on the path to a bird’s-eye view of awareness and joy.

Richard Rohr on Non-Duality

For those who are looking for writers in the Eckhart Tolle vein, just a quick post to mention that Franciscan priest and mystic Richard Rohr’s daily email meditations (which are well-worth subscribing to) are starting a series today on Non-Duality. Here is today’s meditation, as a teaser. If you wish to sign up, you can do so here. This meditation is from one of his wonderful books, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

Growing into Contemplative Seeing           
Monday, June 29, 2015
Dualistic thinking is the well-practiced pattern of knowing most things by comparison. And for some reason, once you compare or label things (that is, “judge” them), you almost always conclude that one is good and the other is less good or even bad. In the first half of life, this provides ego boundaries and clear goals, which creates a nice clean “provisional personality.” But it is not close to the full picture that we call truth.

Dualistic thinking works only for a while to get us started, but if we are honest, it stops being helpful in most real-life situations. It is fine for teenagers to think that there is some moral or “supernatural” superiority to their chosen baseball team, their army, their ethnic group, or even their religion or gender; but one hopes that later in life they learn that such polarity is just an agreed-upon game. Your frame should grow larger as you move toward the Big Picture in which one God creates all and loves all, both Dodgers and Yankees, blacks and whites, Palestinians and Jews, gays and straights, Americans and Afghanis.

Non-dualistic thinking or both-and thinking is the benchmark of our growth into the second half of life. This more calm and contemplative seeing does not appear suddenly, but grows almost unconsciously over many years of conflict, confusion, healing, broadening, loving, and forgiving reality. It emerges gradually as we learn to “incorporate the negative,” learn from what we used to exclude, or, as Jesus put it, “forgive our enemies” both within and without.

You no longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally right or totally wrong, for or against. It justis what it is. This inner calm allows you to confront what must be confronted with even greater clarity and incisiveness. This stance is not at all passivity. It is, in fact, the essential link between true contemplation and skillful action. The big difference is that your small and petty self is now out of the way, and if God wants to use you or love you, which God always does, God’s chances are far better now!

June 2015 in America: It’s a New World. Love.

In the early sixties there was a satirical TV news show called “That Was the Week That Was.” Well, this week is The Week that Is and Will Be. It feels like a turning point week.

  • The ruling of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the federal tax credits for all Americans under the Affordable Care Act–effectively saving “Obamacare” from being gutted. Obamacare is not perfect, it’s been criticized, and even vilified, but its flawed effort for equal access to healthcare for all citizens has been at least a big step in the right direction. This is really big because we can’t now go back to business as usual, healthcare-wise. Now we can move forward to fixing up the flaws, reducing healthcare costs, and ensuring that as many people as possible can be eligible for, and get, healthcare in this country.
  • The Supreme Court ruling that guarantees the right of same-sex couples to marry, no matter what state they live in. Wow.  As many have said on Facebook and in the media and on Twitter, this is huge because it means that #LoveWins.  It also redefines marriage. Marriage is an institution that is foundational in society and has been for a long time. In some countries and cultures, men can marry more than one wife. In some countries and cultures, marriages have been arranged by the families. Some marriages are business propositions; some are political pairings. But essentially, most believe that marriage is about love and devotion. In the play “Fiddler On the Roof,” Tevye’s daughter opts to defy custom and marry the man she loves–and Tevye, confused and wistful, says to Golde, “It’s a new world. Love.”
  • Then–Then!–there were the black families of the 9 victims of the Charleston shooting standing before the white racist assassin and publicly forgiving him for taking the lives of their loved ones.  And then, President Obama ending his eulogy for the pastor, Clementa Pinckney, with a heartfelt, soulful Amazing Grace.  Wow.

Just wow.

It’s just one week among many. News ebbs and flows and life goes on. But this week felt like a shift: it affirmed the efforts of millions of brave activists who have stood up for equality and love over the years. It affirmed that we are able to live with one version of accepted belief for centuries and then realize when it’s time to change. It raised a looking glass to the future in which we can be hopeful that we just might be able to overcome walls of hate, fear, and self-interest with love for each other–family, friends, strangers, fellow citizens.

America done good this week.

81 days for Peace, Justice, and the Environment

Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House is conducting a wonderful novena starting today: 81 days of intercessory prayer, reflection, and action for justice, peace, and creation.

I am a long-lapsed Catholic, and haven’t prayed a novena for decades, but this is a novena I am compelled to do, and I will be working it in with my daily prayer and meditation.

I really like how each novena is dedicated to inspirational social activist leaders and saints: the first being Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. I also love how there is an ecological “Caring for Creation Action Step” for each 9 day set: the first one is to pick up trash in a public place:

..often we think only of our selfishness and do not take the time or the care to do the right thing by Creation and reduce our impact on the planet by recycling. Examine your conscience! Do you sin against God’s Creation by your casual attitude towards waste?

OSHO: What moving into silence is like and why we avoid it

OSHOToday’s meditation: Today I practice stillness, moving within and listening to the sounds of life.

I am following a wonderful 21-day audio meditation by OSHO called Meditation for Busy People. I recommend it highly–it is provided by Mentors Channel. This is Day 15, but you can still listen to the last six days for free, and of course, continue to hear the next six.  Sign up here.

In today’s meditation, OSHO explores many themes related to outward silence and inward silence. Today’s meditation was particularly enlightening: it talks about

  • How fear keeps us engaged in busy-ness,
  • The one thing you need to do to learn how to meditate
  • What you will find if you are patient enough to work through the meditative process
  • How listening can be a bridge between the outer world and the inner world

The description of moving inward, and why we avoid it, is very similar to what all mystics and practiced meditators report–it starts out difficult, almost impossible. You resist, you become impatient, and if you accept the challenge you are accepting a confrontation with yourself. And so busy-ness becomes a diversion–an escape–from meeting yourself. If you’ve ever read  St. Teresa describes in the first and second mansions in Interior Castle, you would find that the 16th century Spanish saint and this 20th century Indian guru say exactly the same thing!

There are souls so infirm and so accustomed to busying themselves with outside affairs that nothing can be done for them, and it seems as though they are incapable of entering within themselves at all. St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, translated and edited by E. Allison Peers

People are busy without business. People say they would like to rest but nobody wants to rest because if you rest really it automatically becomes a meditation, you start falling inwards. You start moving toward your inner center and fear grips. You become afraid.  OSHO

The set-up for the daily meditations are such that OSHO’s meditations are bookended by an introduction and a meditation exercise which is available as a pdf, and which in itself is very helpful. Today’s exercise was in “Listening Cheerfully”:

Even if you are listening to something that you have never thought of as worth listening to, listen to it very cheerfully – as if you are listening to a favorite melody –and suddenly you will see you have transformed the quality of it. It becomes beautiful.
And in that listening your ego will disappear. Whenever the body and the soul are really together, in any act, the ego disappears…and with this “listening, cheerfully” there is no distance left between the body and the soul.
So today, just stop and listen for a couple of minutes. Stand on that bridge between the outside world and the inner one. Listen to the symphony of life.

This morning I wished I had a camera

I wished I had my camera this morning. Spring was aborted in the Northeast by a winter encore performance. This event was very annoying, frankly.

I dragged out my boots and hats and mittens out from the landing spot for the “off-season” bins and left the house with Nessie for our 6:30am walk.

Standing on the bridge crossing the creek I wished I had my camera. It was that time after a snow storm when the sun first reveals the skyfall of snow, but hasn’t had time to dismantle it yet. The tree branches are outlined with white. Sounds are muffled. The grey creek lies still waiting for the ducks. My footprints and Nessie’s are the only disturbances in the snow.

And then I go and wish I had my camera. Yup, I still haven’t learned.

Silence is when you don’t need a camera. You let go of the disappointment that you can’t take the gussied up trees home. You let go of the desire to make what is impermanent permanent. There is no digital copy for this moment in time, and there can’t be. I’m slowly learning that.

I'm not cheating here--I took this picture last week! I needed SOME picture for the blog post, didn't I?

I’m not cheating here–I took this picture last week! I needed SOME picture for the blog post, didn’t I?

Silence is simply deep seeing the simple beauty of the snow; deep listening to it crackling on the branches, deep being, with no desire to shove the moment in my pocket with my camera.

It’s the wanting things to last that breaks the silence.




Silence in the Vertical World

Here is where 99% of us live 99% of the time.


This is the horizontal world, according to Rodney Smith in Stepping Out of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self. This is a great book, by the way–one of my favorites.

Anyway, signs you are living in this horizontal world are:

  • You think about the past
  • You carry emotions from the past, like regret, pain, or nostalgia
  • You think about the future
  • You carry emotions about the future, like expectations, hopes, and fears
  • You frame your beliefs according to your experiences in the horizontal world
  • These beliefs, or concepts, are the “right” ones, because you’ve rationalized and compartmentalized them
  • To you, the present is simply the chronological spot between the past and future

Here, Rodney Smith says “you go on excursions through time.” Getting to work, checking to-do lists, checking bucket lists, reliving past accomplishments and embarrassments, conversing, spectating, jumping from distraction to distraction.

What else is there?

The vertical universe.


The vertical universe is more than a spot on a timeline… it’s like a doorway to timelessness, and that timelessness is huge. It’s the place where we don’t leave the horizontal world–we bring those suitcases with us, but we live fully in that “4th dimension” of space. I can’t really interpret it, but I have found that others do a pretty good job:

Rodney Smith:

The vertical perspective of the here and now is very different. Since the moment is not being squeezed between the rock of the past and the hard place of the future, it is open and expansive. In fact it is infinite and total, encompassing all rings including thoughts about past and future, because all thoughts are occurring here and now. So the vertical universe actually encompasses the horizontal universe. Nothing could possibly escape the moment or ever be outside it, so the vertical universe is always abiding and hover moves. Things move within it, but it never moves. Moment after moment we are taking birth in the vertical universe; the problem is we think we are in the horizontal. Occasionally we pause sufficiently to see the intersection of these dimensions and not merely think our way past them. It may be in a moment of wonder, mystery, beauty, or a moment too precious to deny. –From Stepping Out of Self-Deception, Shambala, 2010: pg. 27

Thich Nhat Hanh  speaks of it:

I have arrived. I am home. My destination is in each step.

The environmentalist Derrick Jensen enters that vertical space, I believe, when he talks to the trees:

 I’ve been stuck in my writing for several days. Each paragraph I write goes nowhere, and then nowhere again. I ask the trees for help and they give me words. Did they enter my mind, or did I enter theirs? I ask my muse for help, and these words come. Who is writing? Am I possessed? Are my fingers writing on their own? Is my mind  writing on its own? –From Dreams, Derrick Jensen, Seven Stories Press, 2011

Perhaps the vertical universe is inhabited by the Third Eye, that mystical place that goes beyond ordinary perception.

Perhaps it is experienced through what psychologist Abraham Maslow calls “Peak Experience.”

William James has spoken of the vertical universe

The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist, and that those other worlds must contain experiences which have a meaning for our life also; and that although in the main their experiences and those of this world keep discrete, yet the two become continuous at certain points, and higher energies filter in.From The Philosophy of William James, New York: The Modern Library, pg. 232.

Perhaps St. Teresa of Avila introduces the way in to the vertical universe when she teaches her sisters:

For we ourselves are the castle: and it would be absurd to tell someone to enter a room when he was in it already! But you must understand that there are many ways of ‘being’ in a place. Many souls remain in the outer court of the castle, which is the place occupied by the guards; they are not interested in entering it, and hove no idea what there is in that wonderful place, or who dwells in it, or even how many rooms it has. You will have read certain books on prayer which advise the soul to enter within itself; and that is exactly what this  means. –From Interior Castle, translated and edit by E. Allison Peers, A Doubleday Image book, pg. 31.

The point is: many have spoken of this vertical universe, but because it is a still place, how can it be defined? It is bound to be, in a sense, an individual experience and in another sense, a completely universal one.







Pico Iyer Speaks on Stillness with Oprah today

Today at 11am EST, essayist and novelist Pico Iyer is on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. If you miss it,  you should be able to watch the full episode for a short period of time on her website.

This is a tie-in with his book and TED talk, The Art of Stillness.  I have not yet read the book, but if anyone else has, I’d love to hear comments.