Bahiya

“Everyone is gifted–but some people never open up their packages.”  This quote, attributed to everyone from Anonymous to the late, great rocker Kurt Cobain, points towards the truth that each of our lives is a gift–and that gifts of perception, connection, love and insight are constantly coming to us–except that at least some of the time most of us miss the forest for the trees.   How do learn to open up and receive what’s constantly being offered?  What does it take to open up?  When the ascetic Bahiya asked the Buddha for the way to liberation, the ultimate opening up to the unfolding of creation (It might seem like I’m mixing religious idioms, but I do think liberation is surrender…and surrender opens the door to grace).   Anyway, the Bahiya, who had been the local eccentric, going around in bark clothes and otherwise making a huge big deal out of being a wild holy man, way different than the rest of us, was told by the Buddha:  “When seeing, just see; when knowing, just know; when thinking, just think.”   In other words, don’t be lost, be open to what is present here and now.

As I was writing this, my daughter Alex emailed me an article on how to be lucky.  Unlucky people, the researcher discovered, tend to have fixed ideas and routines.  They see only what they are looking for.  Lucky people are more open and relaxed. They listen to their intuition, not just reason.  They spot chance opportunities–indeed, they can even see the gift inside tough breaks.

I realized as I read this article from the Telegraph in the U.K. (Alex loves British stuff) that many religious practices–from the Buddhist Metta or Lovingkindness practice in which a person practices wishing another person well to Jesus’ admonition to treat others as we would be treated–is actually a way to open the heart and mind to the unexpected quality of reality.

A couple of years ago, for the “Silence” issue of Parabola, I interviewed Robert Kennedy, a Jesuit priest and a Zen Buddhist Roshi.   We spoke of that point where prayer and meditation meet.   We spoke of that moment on the Christian path where one accepts their inner poverty, where one gives up hope.  At that moment, said the priest Roshi, a person can stop seeing God as a gift-giver, separate from ourselves:  “They discover the great gift of God’s own Self to us.   This is one meaning of the Incarnation, the unity of the divine and the human.   It doesn’t just apply to Jesus, it applies to all of us.  We are one with the Absolute, one with Christ who was one with the Father.  And everything is given to us.  At the moment of Creation, everything is poured out.”

How open can we be?  Can we see and hear and know that the miracle of creation is here and now?  Most days, no, I can’t.   Especially on these winter mornings, I can sit coffee in hand feeling like I’ve been consigned to the cold margins of life.  But I can work on it.  I can take that practical British advice and crack open the door of my mind, my perceptions, and my expectations  just a bit.  Can I possibly tie this in to Avatar one more time?  Wait for it…yes I can…try on a new body and assume new attitudes…leave your old paralyzed body behind for a time and move through the world like it’s a wondrous new Creation.   Receive it like a gift.

Comments

  1. Ah yes! I remember it is true “When seeing, just see; when knowing, just know; when thinking, just think.”

    B u t; it is so, so very difficult; especially in human relationships whether with acquaintances, fellow voyagers, family or total strangers. My emotions ‘kick in’ and before I know it I’m swept down the river that leads to the nether worlds, the involutionary stream – and one not of my creation.

    I have the memory of seeing. That I do not forget, and with ongoing efforts ‘seeing’ seems to return.

    Do I dare to hope that the stark reality of always ‘being taken’ will finally bring me to be more often here?

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  2. “bu I do think liberation is surrender…and surrender opens the door to grace”.
    Another way of saying that surrender is the way to liberation, or grace…”gift”.
    The other day I was going to post a comment on facebook, and when I tried to type, a sign came up:”Error, go home”.
    Granted, I probably misread what it said, omitting the “to”. However, I took as a gentle, sychronotic sign.
    My thoughts usually rule me, and I am not “home”, but in a state of unawareness, and not fully present. I surrender to this fact. I need help!
    As my Lord said,”We have eyes that see not,and ears that hear not.” So, when I “go home” and wake up to this fact, I can try again, and again, and again………
    Sometimes I can see, and sometimes I can hear,and if I begin with prayer and meditation, I have a far better chance of “Going Home”..even if for only a brief moment of peace and tranquility.
    I try to remember that “I can’t. He can. Let Him/Her.”
    Your post is beautiful!

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  3. I read that article also, via the Lifehacker blog. Great stuff.

    Years ago I read “The Sacrament of the Present Moment,” by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Wonderful book. I remember most his admonishment to be patient with yourself. Just come back when you come back, even if it takes a week. Call it a gift, latch on and stay as long as you can. The practice consists of trying to reduce the “time away” a bit at a time.

    For me, the greater challenge has not been to cultivate mindfulness. It’s been how I treat myself when I slip. For me, it has been far more fruitful to practice self compassion. Mindfulness seems to flow more easily from that.

    I think this is the key to growth of any kind. A punishing attitude does not teach. At best it creates a veneer of behavior, like a costume, which invites rebellion. If reentering the present is characterized by involuntary self punishment, or disappointment, or frustration, it’s harder to form the habit.

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  4. In reading Peter’s comment I am, again, touched by our lack of a common language..which Gurdjieff says does exist.

    Peter says Mindfullness. I say Presence, Attention, I AM, Seeing. For me all these words refer to the same. But in speaking I, now, feel that I need to speak in a way which conveys something that does not depend solely on the generally accepted meaning of words.

    Perhaps Tacy’s words are a step in that direction.

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  5. Yes, I agree. And self compassion was a hard thing for me to do for many years. (I think I’m better at it now, but never perfect.)
    But, as you said, self punishment (involuntary) does not teach.
    In fact, I think it also keeps us out of the present, because it is a form of self -pride and the “little ego” playing tricks on us!(Keeps us out of the present again) Then we begin ruminating on our “failure”, when in fact, it’s the intention that counts.

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  6. I like the word “presence,” too. I also like the word “available.” Tracy’s post uses the word “open.” It’s interesting to notice these choices, why we use them and when. They are like hues of the same color.

    Tracy’s post also highlights the loving aspect of being present. To be loving actually carries with it a practice of presence, because we cannot be loving except in the now. To Elizabeth’s point, a lack of self compassion is actually a barrier to presence.

    A bible scholar I once read (William Barclay, maybe) commented on Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek. He said that Roman soldiers had the right under their laws of occupation to slap anyone across the face for any reason at any time, but just once, in the interest of keeping order. This was well known at the time. The problem was they did it so often they basically forgot it was people they were hitting. To turn the other cheek would force the soldier out of the numbed safety of the law, back into the moment where he would have to look you in the eye and see you as a person. So, according to this scholar, Jesus was prescribing an act of compassion that gave the soldier the opportunity to experience you, even for just a moment, as a fellow human being.

    It takes great humility to survive for long in the now.

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  7. Presence, stillness, mindfulness, being, ground of being…

    “And then comes the sense of Presence. The Eternal now breaks through the time-nows and all is secure. A sense of absolue security and assurance of bing linked with an overcoming Power replaces the old anxieties about the Kingdom. It is a security regarding the individual and regarding the group and regarding the race of men. Then we say, “How could we have been so blind?: For surely all things of value are most certainly made secure through Him! Faith, serene, unbroken, unhurried world-conquest by the power of Love is a part of peace.

    For the experience of Presence is the experience of peace, and the experience of peace is the experience not of inaction but of power, and the experience of power is the experience of a pursuing Love that loves its way untiringly to victory. He who knows the Presence knows peace, and he who knows peace knows power and walks in complete faith that that objective Power and Love which has overtaken him will overcome the world.

    But what is the content and aim of this yearning Love, which is the Divine Love loving its way into and through us to others? It is that they too may make the great discovery, that they also may find God or, better, be found by Him, that they may know the Eternal breaking in upon them and making their lives moving images of the Eternal Life.

    Thomas R. Kelly “A Testament of Devotion”

    Stillness opens us up to God who longs to be in communion with us, a God that wishes us to know that we are safe in his arms of love. If we can be still, we can be available to his Grace, the Grace that shapes us and changes us so that we can move ever closer, step by step, to the image of his Son. And in this shaping, we begin to put on the clothes of Christ and begin to carry the Kingdom with us so that others may see and, in this way, others may be brought into communion with him.

    As we put on the clothes of Christ, we die unto ourselves and become new bodies, a first step for us into a new Creation. A Creation that is better than we can know, a Creation that is better than Eden because we have fallen and learned and come back to a new place, broken, scarred, healed and so much wiser. It is Pandora after the Invasion, after Evil has been vanquished and cast from the garden and all Creation has worked together to overcome and become what God has ALWAYS intended.

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    • “Be Still and Know That I Am God.” And then we are safe and the madness is revealed as madness and falls away.

      It’s amazing to think just daring to be present in an “ordinary” way–that this simple practice of tasting coffee and toast this morning and feeling the cold air on my skin as I walk the dog–that this practice may be a way to prepare for that Presence, that Eternal and Everlasting Now. For me at least, the movement of letting the thoughts go and standing open can feel like taking off a heavy disguise and putting on new clothes.

      Thank you everyone! Wonderful proof that we need one another–we need exchange–to remember who we were always meant to be.

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  8. I was reading my scripture this morning, and it made me ponder how I really do see people, my God, and yes, also myself!
    If I had the eyes of Scott, and the humility that Peter and artxulian speak of, my eyes would be wiped clean, and I would see even myself more clearly.
    Your words make my heart sing! And the reason is because I know that all that you say (everyone’s posts) is true!
    Today I will walk a little more humbly, but lovingly, as I go to teach some junior high children.
    I am blessed by Jesus, His words, and grateful for the encouragement of this group.
    Many thanks!

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  9. I have been reading some of Meister Eckhart’s quotes, and they fill me with hope.
    For me, I think I must surrender to the fact that I am a simple woman, full of love for God, but quite incapable of reaching perfection. However, quotes like “All God wants of men is a peacful heart” soothes my restless soul.
    Also, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thankyou’, it will be enough.”
    To me, this is profound!
    I have heard people say,”Oh, my wife and I say we are thankful for (and they think of something that starts with all the letters of the alphabet.)…I think, what about all that you have left out?
    So, today, I will try to stay peaceful admidst all the busyness of the day, and sometimes I will become aware of my in and out breath, and I will say, “Thankyou”, for all is well, truly, all is well.

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  10. There is a legend that a man came to the apostle John on the island of Patmos. John was at the end of his life and his disciples carried him out of the cave in which he dwelt so that the man, a pilgrim, could see the last living member of Christ’s inner circle. John, on a stretcher, was set on the ground before the pilgrim. This wanderer asked Jesus what the message of the gospel was (the good news) and John opened his eyes, looked at the pilgrim and said, “Love, it is all about love.”

    And that is it…God loves us in a deep and profound way. We can know this love in many ways. God knows us better than we know ourselves and he will come to us in the time and way that is best suited to who we are. Our responsibility is to be open, to be listening for his approach. It is said that with those who have not known God before that he often comes in bold and unmistakable ways…such as you experienced Tracy and I have experienced. As we grow in our love for him, these approaches get quieter and subtler and often disappear for long periods of time…the Dark Night of the Soul. In his withdrawal, God is training us to be patient and breaking us down with the removal of his love so that we can come back to him, healed and stronger, just as a healed broken bone is stronger than the bone before the break.

    Through all of this, we must learn to be increasingly quiet, patient and silent. This is our best chance to be with God, to listen and pray unceasingly…to look for him within and in nature and in the others we encounter in life. This stillness is not the only place where we can find God but it is the best place to listen and learn and to become more sensitive to his presence in the world.

    I have learned another truth lately…that gratitude is the great antidote. Gratitude breaks down self-centeredness. Gratitude shatters victimhood. Gratitude is the sister to love and peace. Gratitude reinforces and strengthens all those fibers that vibrate with God’s grace.

    So, in our silence, every day, every hour, let us be grateful for God’s love, for the gifts of old friends that have been reborn as if new, grateful for the gifts of children and parents and a creation that is wild, wonderful and dangerous. And let us be grateful for kindred spirits who reinforce and are present with us in our deepening relationship with the One who loves us beyond all others…Shalom!

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  11. It is a joy to have found this blog and to read all of your thoughts. Elizabeth, I am grateful to you for reminding me how important it is to be grateful. Without this we cannot be humble before anyone, least of all our God.

    I went to a 12 Step Meeting today (AA) and heard a speaker give his lead (his story of the bad old days, when his life changed and what life is like today). So much pain and lost time. His was a life dominated by alcoholic blackouts so that he was living a life that he literally could not remember. Imagine that, existing but with no memory of it. Reminds me of the movie Momento, the main character writing everything done on paper or his skin because he had not memory of the past. His life was totally lived in the present (something we strive for) but he had absolutely no context because he had no memory. Bizarre…

    But this speaker had finally admitted he was powerless over alcohol and gave in to God and the need to fully live live one day at a time, a life where he was grateful for sobriety, memory and purpose, a life no longer filled with literal emptiness and shame.

    So, I am grateful for all of you, for my children and the incredible beauty of the sunshine and the snow…I am grateful for friends laughter and the depth that comes from saying that I am broken and only in God can I be whole.

    Shalom!

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  12. Scott, funny you should mention the power of gratitude. I went on a little trip this weekend with my family which ended, literally, with a smashed rear windscreen and a smashed rear side window. Nobody hurt, but what a drag.

    Gratitude for the following things helped clear the frustration: My 8 month old son was unscathed and unfazed. It was a sunny day in the 40’s after weeks of cold and snow. A good friend was on hand with duct tape, painter’s plastic, and a shop vac. And we got a parking spot right outside the house at 7pm on a Sunday.

    Glad I checked back on this post. Not sure why I did.

    Grateful for that, too!

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    • Good morning, Peter. Shocks like you had do have a way of, well, shocking a person into a larger awareness…I’m just writing about that coincidentally. In the midst of a similar kind of smash up, I found what Scott talked about, a willingness for surrender, and also for exchange. May your windscreen soon be restored. May we all be as resilient as your baby boy!

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  13. Peter, so happy to hear that no one was seriously hurt! Yikes!
    Just brings home to me how “powerless” we really are…over people.places,and events.
    I love 12 Step meetings, Scott. there is so much humility and faith at the meetings.
    I remember one time when I was in a philosophy class, and the professor wanted to visually demonstrate how much power there is in “surrendering”. So, he brought another student up to the front of the class. Then he drew an imagirnary line between him and the student. He told him and the the class that the goal was to see who could make the other person cross over the line. Then they both put their hands out, pushing on each other’s hand with all their might. Suddenly, the professor relaxed his hands, and the student came forward, crossing the imaginary line!
    Ah, the power in surrendering!
    (Peter, another case of the “coincidence of opposites?:~)
    I, too, enjoy this blog, and am thankiful to all who participate.
    Yes, we are all blessed, and I give thanks! .. the cornerstone of spirituality in any religion!
    Goodnight, my friends.

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