Monthly Archives: June 2008

Where you stumble

Once I got fired from a job and my boss told me to go home. I said, “Could I stop and get a sandwich first?”

Wait, I’m going somewhere with this.

The word “stumbling” is often seen in spiritual teachings. Stumbling implies a vertical presence cropping up in the midst of your horizontal walk. It’s like a bolt of lightning. It’s vertical. Or it is like the descent of a dove. It is nowhere in the vision of the horizontal walk. You have to be struck by it, or struck down by it, or experience the descent, whatever is most meaningful. It — this vertical presence, this bolt of Grace — has to be stumbled upon. You can’t say, “Oh here comes the dove. I’ll let it descend on me, but first I’m gonna stop at Quiznos.”

When you get “fired” from your old life, you pretty much have to head straight “home.” Or perhaps it is suddenly realized you are already there. There’s no stopping for anything on the way.

Here are some people who have talked about stumbling:

“Just keep in mind the feeling ‘I am’, merge in it, till your mind and feeling become one. By repeated attempts you will stumble on the right balance of attention and affection and your mind will be firmly established in the thought-feeling ‘I am’. Whatever you think, say, or do, this sense of immutable and affectionate being remains as the ever-present background of the mind.” Nisargadatta Maharaj

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” Joseph Campbell

Emmylou Harris had an album, Stumble Into Grace.

“You don’t find truth as much as you stumble upon it when you have cast away your illusions.” Adyashanti

“I myself do not know how I stumbled into this so how do you expect me to give it to another? My mission, if there is any, is to debunk every statement I have ever made. If you take seriously and try to use or apply what I have said you will be in danger.” U. G. Krishnamurti

“After stumbling, and nearly falling, I stopped, and then, to my delight, I suddenly became the Native American Shaman, Medicine Bear. The change was immediate.” Tyberonn

“Whoever delves into mysticism cannot help but stumble, as it is written: ‘This stumbling block is in your hand.’ You cannot grasp these things unless you stumble over them.” The Essential Kabbalah (last chapter), Daniel C. Matt

How do you know you’ve stumbled? You just know. Let’s put it this way, if you’re stopping for a sandwich on the way to an anticipated stumbling, you’ve got it wrong. Just shut-up and enjoy the sandwich.

Nonduality for the people

Since 1997, starting with the website www3.ns.sympatico.ca/umbada, I’ve been bringing forth a certain brand of nonduality or nondualism. It’s a people’s nonduality because no one is excluded and it doesn’t require academic, religious, guruic, ashramic, or even broad spiritual association.

Four elements describe this nonduality or nondualism, though some will have experienced one, two, or none of the first three.

1. A person experiences a sense, or an intuition, of existence (or God, Truth, reality, etc.). The sense may arise spontaneously, or out of suffering, or out of joy, out of immersion in a spiritual tradition, or out of any number of experiences whether combined or isolated. More mundanely, a person is curious about life and senses there are significant things to be learned.

2. Energized by a deep and persistent valuing of their sense or intuition or inner knowing of existence (or God, Truth, reality, etc.), the person is driven and drawn toward the pursuit of a full understanding or realization of their sense or intuition or inner knowing. More mundanely, a person hungers for all kinds of knowledge, goes to school, studies, reads, observes, develops intellectually and otherwise.

3. The person reaches the end of their journey or pursuit, although they do whatever, for them, is right, and which may include practice and study.

4. The various creative expressions emerging from the life lived within any of the above three phases, or beyond all of them, bear the hallmark of non-separation (sometimes accompanied by the more mystical hallmark of oneness experience). Regardless of whether or not I can associate the creative expression with any of the first three phases, I consider that form of expression one of nonduality. I am likely to bring it to the attention of people. As noted, the hallmark of non-separation is evident in utterances from people who simply recognize reality as nondual, without having gone through any of the first three phases.

No doubt I will be updating this description of a people’s nonduality. Your comments are welcome.

Shift in consciousness

A friend asked whether I had read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. She’s currently reading it herself. I said yes. She asked whether I had experienced a shift in consciousness.

The question surprised me. My first response was that I read so much stuff like Tolle’s, and material far more powerful, that there wouldn’t be a shift in consciousness from reading anything.

The question is whether there is ever a shift in consciousness. There is. There are. They include

1. The shift from confusion and disillusionment to the intuition that there is Truth.

2. The shift from the intuition of Truth to the realization that you exist and that the world exists.

3. The shift from the realization of existence to a valuing of existence such that you study your existence — your thought patterns — through spiritual practices.

4. The shift from erratic success in your practice to stability.

5. A shift from stability in practice to effortlessness with practice.

6. A shift from effortlessness to oneness, no attachment, still with practice.

7. A shift from oneness to non-separateness. All arises as mind. No one to practice. The final shift. Sciousness.

8. The world recognized as “this.”

9. Selfless service; the natural playing out of “this.” Steps 8 and 9 describe the disposition of neo-advaita.

The steps are a very abridged version of the Ten Oxherding Pictures. You could awaken directly and apparently spontaneously to any of these steps.

Some would say you experienced the previous steps in former lifetimes. That may be your understanding, but with step 7 the idea is another arising within a mind that is no one’s and gives rise to the apparent truth that there are separate minds. The perception of separate minds gives rise to confusion and disillusionment, which might lead to the first step above: the intuition of something beyond, which is known as Truth, God, Reality… .

Nonduality: a show about nothing

I’m reading Dennis Waite’s book, Enlightenment: The Path Through the Jungle, which makes a strong case for traditional advaita studies. Traditional advaita is the long, slow, involved path to enlightenment. It’s one path.

In the world of nonduality, what is there to hang one’s hat on? What path or teacher should one follow?

Consider that you don’t have to do anything other that sit down and do whatever is in front of you waiting to be done. It could be the laundry. That’s a path. The dishes. That’s another path.

An exchange on Seinfeld comes to mind, the episode where Jerry and George are pitching their idea for a TV series to execs at NBC. George states that the shows would be about nothing. The exec at NBC asks George what kinds of stories they’d write for a show that is about “nothing.” George responds by asking the head exec of NBC, “What did you do today?” The exec says, “I got up and came to work.” George says, “That’s a show.” Of course the TV exec comes back with, “Not yet.”

The point is that in your life of nonduality, everything’s a show, everything’s a path. Getting ready to go to work. A conversation. The current book you’re reading. Reading this. That’s your nondual path. There’s absolutely nothing else.

Eventually you will come to see that this intimacy with each event or moment is enriching. It keeps you appreciative, grateful, and focused. But that’s not the goal or the end of it.

At some point you come to sense that there’s an atmosphere in which all this stuff you’re doing plays out. It’s the atmosphere in which laundry is done, in which gratitude happens, in which the moment is experienced, in which you become a more real person, in which you perceive you are awakening, in which your spiritual life plays out.

You suddenly realize that you are that atmosphere. You go back to doing the laundry, the dishes, the nonduality book, but now it’s different. Those events could be said to be happening, but there is no one doing them. Atmosphere is doing them. The sensed atmosphere is awareness.

Back to Seinfeld for a moment. The “nothing” theme in which all of the Seinfeld episodes play out is like the atmosphere I’ve been talking about. It’s the overall awareness of the Seinfeld show. Seinfeld is about nothing, therefore the show can — and did — bring almost anything into play: the placement of a shirt button, the need for a spatula, the crunch of a candy bar. When “nothing” is the backdrop, like a blank movie screen, anything goes.

Understanding the atmosphere of “nothing” or awareness, suddenly everything has great meaning, and not one more than another. It is all awareness, all nothing. So go read a nonduality book. Or do the laundry. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you realize it plays out in an atmosphere. But you have to truly have that realization, otherwise it does matter.

As far as morality, law, ethics, manners, traditions, and customs, it does matter what we do. That’s because while everything is nothing, it still has a reality which must be respected.

Traditional advaita teaches about that reality in the process of leading you gradually toward enlightenment.

If you don’t want the gradual teaching, if you want more immediate knowledge about action and the atmosphere in which it plays out, read the books of neo-advaita.

For a fuller picture of nonduality as presented in books, read both traditional and neo advaita.