Fwd: A Glimpse of the Goal - George Fowler
--- In AdvaitaToZen@yahoogroups.com, Jan Sultan <swork@m...> wrote:
A Glimpse of the Goal
When meditation finally worked for me, it wasn't what I'd
been taught to expect. The contemplative experience wasn't what the
books I'd read on the topic prepared me for, or even what spiritual
directors and father masters had promised me in a silence-bound
Trappist monastery hidden away in the mountains and dedicated to
nothing but the contemplative life.
The difference is this. For years I had been working doggedly
at the front door of my spirit, preparing for an eventual, sublime,
marriagelike union with an intimate, but separate, Divine Being. One
day, to my astonishment, I found that the Object of my search had all
along been patiently waiting for me, unrecognized, at the center of
The One I had been seeking wasn't a separate Being at all.
God not only wasn't somewhere off across the universe, he wasn't even
separate here inside of me. God, my Source Being, was present and
expressing Itself as me.
The One with whom I eventually recognized my oneness, my
union, was not the separate God -howsoever loving and attentive-
about whom I had been taught since childhood. Instead, and exactly as
world mystics and spiritual masters like Plotinus, Meister Eckhart,
Paramahansa, Jesus, and the Buddha have been reporting for millennia -
something which I and millions like me had obviously not understood-
the Supreme Being turned out to be the Eternal Existence present and
expressing Itself as my own deepest nature, what some spiritual
traditions suggested I call my "Higher Self."
To use a metaphor of Meister Eckhart that cannot be repeated
too often, when I was searching for God, I was like a person riding
an ox while looking for an ox to ride on.
AS THE CONTEMPLATIVE STATE ADVANCES, it becomes increasingly
difficult to explain either the process of how we got where we are or
exactly what the experience itself is like. This experience differs
so significantly from what the rational mind and human logic expect
that neither mind nor its logic can understand or explain it. They
have none of their customary points of reference on which to build.
Not the least cause of this confusion is the fact that the
contemplative experience itself is substantially simpler than that to
which our minds are accustomed. It's easier to use metaphors than to
try to describe contemplative union with God explicitly. Eventually,
however, we do have to try to get beyond metaphors and discover their
meanings. If this high state cannot be shared exactly, we must at
least tell something about it and about what it feels like.
What is the contemplative state like? It's finding yourself existing,
be-ing, in a totally different kind of awareness than you've ever
known. You have become aware, for the very first time, that you are
an eternal "expression" of Existence, or, translating the Latin roots
of that word, an "out-pressing" of Eternal Existence, of God. When
this astonishing realization registers, it becomes at that moment a
dance in your spirit, a laughter somewhere inside, a clarity of the
mind that is at once the most profound and simplest experience you've
ever known, and at the same time the least specific. You feel an
overwhelming sense of lightheartedness that sometimes, literally,
makes you short of breath.
If what I have just written makes the contemplative state
sound unrealistic, then I have expressed myself poorly. Once this
state is possessed, it is no more mysterious or strange than meeting
an old friend. And it's just as comfortable. It may seem elusive at
first, but that's because it's too close for conventional scrutiny.
It may make us ill at ease briefly, may even scare us, but that's
only because it's unfamiliar.
IT'S HELPFUL TO UNDERSTAND from the beginning that there are
variables along the route to spiritual breakthrough that should not
be given too much attention. How well you can concentrate, for
example, is not critical -despite a frequent misconception- or how
well you can whip up inner images, or how long you can sit without
fidgeting. Visions don't matter; nor do warm feelings, flashing
lights, or even, as some report, attending angels. When, in great
delight, you are finally aware of the reality of your deepest Being -
and of everyone else's- you'll see clearly that all else about your
life, by comparison, is incidental.
In the contemplative life and the practice of meditation,
beginners will do well not to long for visions, levitations, or any
other unusual events that tradition calls extraordinary phenomena.
Such happenings are simply not important. If they do occur, the
sixteenth-century mystic John Yepes suggests that we move on quickly,
for whatever good they were intended to effect was accomplished the
moment they happened. Any dalliance over them will be a distraction
at least, a service to vanity more probably.
YOU WILL KNOW that you have arrived in a contemplative
experience when one day -effortlessly and usually unexpectedly- you
realize that you chop your wood and carry your water (or, replacing
those ancient Zen images with ones of the twentieth century, you
balance your checkbook and negotiate your commute) exactly as you did
before, but now with the joy of knowing that it is the Source Being
doing these things as you. When it dawns on you that the stars are
doing your twinkling, you've got the point. When you see it is
impossible that you'd ever again take even the subtlest part in
bigotry, sexism, or any other illusion of competitive and fear-driven
separateness and insecurity, you'll know you have become a meditator
and a contemplative.
This is not talk about a passing poetic moment, but about a
deep, abiding, and transforming realization, one that is
significantly more overwhelming because of being experiential and not
just cognitive. When that day comes, you will be astonished at the
simplicity of what has happened. You will ask, as everyone with the
experience does, how could you have previously viewed something so
simple as if it were difficult? You will then realize that if you
needed help along the way to find your bliss, it was not so much to
learn what to do, but to learn what not to do: not so much where to
look, but where to quit looking.
There will be times en route when you will be profoundly
absorbed in the spiritual process and will find delight in
understanding things more clearly than ever before. Be grateful for
these insights, but push on. Don't call them the goal. Call them
recollection, insight, progress, consolation, but don't think they
constitute contemplative enlightenment. That state is not a thing of
the intellect, but of the heart and spirit. It's not an insight, but
When you feel deep peace, call it peace, not bliss. All
meditation is peaceful, but not all peace is the sublime experience
of contemplation. Sometimes, after all, our bodies and minds react
blissfully over nothing more sublime than a good cheese sandwich, a
new twist of logic, or a winning at the racetrack. We must keep our
sights elevated, for if we truly want to meditate and to achieve the
contemplative experience that is enlightenment, we must be convinced
that it is significantly different from any happiness that comes from
any kind of fortunate turn of material events.
You are successful at meditating when you experience your
absolute security and abundance and bliss, and your complete
identification with all people and all things. You will then
confidently know, without the possibility of a doubt, that the
contemplative experience is yours.
In that day your heart will dance, and you will no longer need this
book to help you know what to do, or even what not to do.
from: LEARNING TO DANCE INSIDE
by: George Fowler
--- End forwarded message ---