Wake Up Now

The river was so still and quiet this morning. Even the air was still. There seemed to be no discernible movement - except for my many passing and wandering thoughts...

As I sat on the rocks, I reflected on how my relationship to the river has changed now that I have actually been in it - floating upon it in my vessel called Grace - sometimes seeming to sink into it as if I am being engulfed by the surrounding waters. The river is no longer as mysterious to me.

I was however, concerned by this green stuff growing inside the river which literally seems to be choking it. A couple of weeks ago there were some scant evidences of it particularly when I was in the water. But now I could look out and see it everywhere. Yesterday I was slowed down at times by the density of it - whatever it is - as I tried to avoid it. I hope this is something seasonal. Then it came to me, that many of my own thoughts slow down spiritual progress much like this growing underwater grass-like substance slows my own movement through the water. At times, I felt a passing fear of being trapped or engulfed by these very large and thick strands.

Images and feelings connected to a conversation I had with a dear friend struggling with clinical depression arose and weighed heavily upon me as I thought of the beauty and fragility of life so evident. We talked of how things can sometimes appear to be so bleak in the midst of so many blessings.

I also reflected on a book recommended by a colleague and friend that I have been reading - Wake Up Now: A Guide to the Journey of Spiritual Awakening by Stephan Bodian, because so much of what I am reading in there ties in to things I have read recently elsewhere. Still, I wondered why the implementation and the realization and the embodiment of these essential spiritual truths were so difficult to learn.

For example, many of us believe that knowledge is power. Yet the spiritual master Nisargatta Maharaj once extolled that "all knowledge is a form of ignorance."

Bodian observes the following in his book:

"Concepts of any kind only serve to separate you from the rich, intimate, juicy experience of this moment right now. Once you label the flower or the insect, psychoanalyze your partner or friend...you no longer really see them as they are, but only as the mind understands them to be, trapped in an intellectual framework that freezes the river of constant change into a single frame and leaves out the flow that makes the river what it is. This conceptual overlay separates you from life and leaves you feeling estranged and disconnected...

But if you set aside your ideas, you have the potential in each moment to experience life directly, intimately, without any division between knower and known...

As the mystic William Blake put it, 'If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.'"

Ah! But to cleanse the doors of perception! Is this not easier said than done? And so much easier for some than for others! Is there not an easier way to learn this lesson?

"In spiritual illumination the apparent separation between knower and known dissolves into pure, undivided knowing, which is simply existence itself...

Radical spirituality teaches that your ideas and stories are the only things that separate you from the truth of your essential nature. Once you stop taking them as a reality and see them for what they are, mere thoughts, you have an opportunity to fall back into the vast, spacious, luminous, thought-free presence that is always already who you really are - the living reality that no thought can possibly touch. 'Realization is not the acquisition of anything new or a new faculty,' says Ramana Maharshi. 'It is only the removal of all camouflage.'"

So many of us are prisoners of our thoughts and minds. Buddhist lamas have often observed that Westerners live too much in their heads and are held captive there. It seems we spend a lifetime learning - we acquire knowledge and learn to analyze - and yet this is what spiritual traditions say we must leave behind. Yogananda once wrote that suffering occurs in the mind.

A therapist wisely suggested recently that we must turn off the various layers of our being - like a car key - the physical first, then the somatic, and finally our thoughts...

I often come to the river full of thoughts. But in the stillness and through meditation practices, some of them drop away, perhaps transmuted by the river. But oh, there is still so far to go!

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