"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Keeping It Real

"Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove 
the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear...
All that I can, in true humility, present to you is that Truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an abundant sense of humility."
-- Mahatma Gandhi

The truth is the truth, whether or not it is accepted by the majority.” 
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Mahatma Gandhi 
Although I haven't seen him in awhile, and the entire course of our friendship emerges from a few dozen conversations, mostly at an upstairs table at Green Fields Market Co-op, I still consider Gary to have been one of my most valuable teachers.  
A few times during our first conversations, Gary had challenged me to clarify what had slipped out of my mouth -- often as a quip or facetious comment. (It seems I often default to my youthful personality as a Chicago street kid, a wannabe wise guy, the perennial, if not all that proficient, class clown).  
I learned.  
In Gary's presence,  I had to slow down and be more mindful of what propelled my words, what the words may mean, and how they may land.  I'd have to listen deeply to him, feel his energy, meet his eyes.  With an open sense of humility, he was sincerely trying to communicate, to listen carefully, to speak with care.  He did his part to make a true human connection, not just pass the time of day. 
What a blessing!
Whether we were talking Co-op Policies (he sat on the Board), world events, the in's and out's of daily life, or spirituality,  when I was sitting with Gary, I had the opportunity to engage in a sincere, shared exploration about the truth of the matter at hand.  In Gary's Presence, I had to be Present.  I imagine sitting with Gandhi would be something like that.

In one of our interactions, Gary thanked me for the fundraising effort I'd made a on behalf of two friends, codgers like myself, who were facing eviction as a result of ill health and their extended unemployment benefits being cut by the Republican-controlled US Congress.

When Gary first brought up the topic, my first reaction was a subtle feeling of fear in my solar plexus.  The week before, with my heart in my throat, I had bombarded each and every one on my email contact list, google+ circles and Facebook friends with that fundraising appeal not once, but twice. Even though I had feared that some folks may roll their eyes or maybe even get pissed at me for this blatant appeal -- I had done it anyway. Trying to help out a couple of folks in need felt that important to me.

When I told Gary about that fear, that I was set to apologize for bothering him, our eyes met and we Connected, heart to heart.   He smiled and said " It's okay man.  Thanks for keeping it real."
At that moment, there was communion in its true sense. 
And the Truth Shall Make You Free

In our fundamentally materialistic modern society most of us have adopted the world view that there is an objectively existing material reality, and that the only means of discerning the Real Truth is the scientific method.  With this view, if we can prove something through the use of the complex machinery that extends the five senses, and the use of intricate computerized mathematical models that extend our reliance on conceptual logic, it is true.  If we can't, it ain't.  
In the centuries long battle with the distorted and limited view of the universe that organized Christianity presented, one that drew a strict boundary between God and humanity, heaven and earth, Science won. That there was a spiritual dimension to existence,  accessible to human beings directly during their lifetime, was denied by both, and the most of us were born and conditioned into the basic assumptions of scientific materialism and, to some extent, doctrinal Christianity. 
With this worldview, Human Consciousness is just an "epi-phenomenon"of the human brain.  Being embodied creatures with separate brains, we each experience an individual version of "reality." This is just an subjective experience produced by our neurology which is determined by our own unique genetic bio-chemistry and personal history.   In our era, we have learned to exist, as Alan Watts once described it, as isolated, individual, "skin encapsulated egos." As such, we come to believe that all truth is relative. 

I don't buy it.

Although I've always been a science and technology geek (see last week's post), and do appreciate their contribution to the quality of human life,  I believe that science's search for Truth is flawed, incomplete.  Science doesn't recognize that with commitment and effort, we can individually and collectively perceive Truth.  Science doesn't acknowledge that the Real Deal is directly accessible to the human heart and mind.  
The mess on this planet results from having lost our connection to the Truth.  I think that's why along with all the obvious high side of technology there is an extreme low side ranging from the blasphemy of nuclear warfare and our looming environmental suicide, to the existing probability that many of us are addicted to TV or Facebook (and/or Twitter, Instagram,Tik-tok, etc. ), and this addiction tends to disconnect us from our True Self and one another more than connect us.   
As best I can see it, our reliance on science and technology doesn't really cut it.  It begins and ends with fancy gizmos and the limited nature of conceptual  thought.  It doesn't acknowledge that there is a spiritual dimension to our lives.

What then?

As Gandhi and countless others have reminded us, we human beings have an inherent ability to discern Truth without any fancy gadgets! We don't need a computer.  We actually have the on- board equipment to discern Truth, to sense what the Real Deal is.  It's our birthright as human beings. 
In our "heart of hearts" we have access to the spiritual dimension of being.  It can be experienced as an infinite sea of clear, loving awareness.  This awareness is transpersonal.  It's shared.  It's our common sense.   It permeates everything.  You and I are immersed in it at this very moment.  It's what Buddha and Jesus were pointing towards through their lives and teachings.

Mindfulness Practice offers us the opportunity to "remove the cobwebs" and progressively get in touch with that place within us that perceives Truth.  With Practice, we refine our ability to pay attention to our own experience beyond the limitations of discursive thought, reactive emotion, and mere imagination.  With Practice we come to see that he human heart is an organ of perception.

As we learn to expand our attention beyond the thoughts we think, to clearly hear what we hear, see what we see, feel what we feel, other realms of knowing emerge. With Practice, subtler energies come into view.  What was previously subconscious becomes conscious. Our intuition operates freely. Over time  -- -- or perhaps beyond time in this very moment -- we come to know that Truth is always ringing like a clear bell within a vast ocean of boundless space.  When we are Present with an open heart and a clear mind, it's Presence is self-evident.  

On the Other Hand

On the other hand, with a deep bow to the Zen tradition,  I can also say, quite emphatically, that I really don't know anything!  As moment flows into moment, it is quite apparent that Truth is much vaster, infinitely more beautiful and mysterious than I can fully comprehend or express.  Paying attention to our moment to moment experience, it's clear that reality is infinitely open, and expansive. In the vast web of being, there are an infinite number of interactions that operate within time and space.  What may appear to be True this moment, may not be the next.


As we come to the present moment of our actual experience, with all senses operating fully, we come to see that Truth isn't an itIt's an is. It flows.  It's a verb, not a noun. Any attempt to grasp it and lay claim to it will fail -- and cause suffering as well. Truth is much vaster than any one ego --or collection of egos -- can encompass.  One has stay open and curious, moment to moment. 

This is where humility comes in. 

To stay humble, to be gentle, kind, open, curious, and respectful of others isn't just the "moral" thing to do. It's keeping it Real.  As each fleeting moment cascades through the infinite pool of eternity, a deep humility reflects the nature of our actual situation as human beings. 
We each are "dust in the wind" -- and each of us is inseparable from the One Truth that embraces all that has ever been, is now, and could possibly ever be.  There are many names for this Truth.   (With a bow to Bob Marley, I've settled on One Love. )

At this point in human history, when even religions that give lip service to love, forgiveness, and compassion can incite and/or support genocide, warfare, and exploitation, we need to be keeping it real. We each are capable of  is having it wrong in any particular moment.  Humility is crucial.
Today, with warfare now raging in Europe, with nuclear weapons being brandished by both sides, we humanoids desperately need to be sitting down to work this all out -- or there will be hell to pay.  
Yet, like Gary and I sitting at the Co-op years ago, Connection can be made. I believe that if humans meet -- without putting on airs --  they can see their way clear to connect deeply.    If more of us have the sincerity and courage and humility to meet heart to heart, eyeball to eyeball, mind to mind, we may be able to, collectively, figure this out.  
I pray that some folks in positions of power have the good sense to get their act together before we self-destruct.  We need to be keeping it real. I believe it's still possible.  

Anyway, that's the way it looks to me at the moment.

But who knows?  Maybe you?


Unknown said...

I wrote a piece years ago on the topic of truth that involved "listening to you heart." I'd love to share it with you sometime. I share many of the ideas you present so well here. Thank you!

Lance Smith said...

Hey "Unknown". I'd love to read your piece.

Anonymous said...

I’d live to read it too. Find me on messenger - Julia Winter