My mystical-spiritual aspirations used to be really grandiose.
I was going to grasp the secrets of the universe; soar through higher metaphysical regions of reality; get drenched in divine light and sound; merge with the Ultimate until there was nothing of me left but One.
Yesterday I managed to pack for a weekend trip and keep my calm. That's what counts as spiritual progress for me now. Call it what you will, it's undeniably real. I could feel the difference between the usual flappable-while-packing Brian and who I was twenty-fours ago.
Thank you, Kosho Uchiyama. I've been trying to absorb your message in "Opening the Hand of Thought," the subject of my last post. Today I read:
There is a koan that asks, "What is your original face before your parents were born?" One might naturally assume that there is some special thing called "original face," but that is not the right approach. When we open the hand of thought, letting go, the original self is already there.
It's not some special mystical state. Don't seek it somewhere else. When we open the hand of thought, what is there, in that moment, is our original face.
When we refrain from grasping our thoughts, we realize that the force that animates our lives and the force that moves the wind are the very same force. Our lives and the force that moves the wind are the same. Our breath and the wind blowing are one.
When my wife and I (plus the family dog) go to our cabin on the Metolius River in central Oregon, we pack heavy for what is usually just an extended weekend trip. We've got the routine down, but it's still a mini-ordeal.
Bike rack. Bikes. Food boxes (health-minded vegetarians that we are, we can't survive by foraging on local fare). Dog supplies. Heaps of unread magazines. Clothes for cool, warm, sunny, and wet weather (Oregon is changeable in the spring).
We usually try to leave by late afternoon. Yesterday, our schedule was side-tracked by a hectic day. No opportunity to pack until I rushed home about 6 pm, figuring that since I'd been gone most of the afternoon and Laurel hadn't, she'd have made a good start on the packing.
But all I saw was that two empty food containers had been taken from the garage and put by the front door. "I'm just beginning to pack," Laurel said as I walked in, frazzled and tired.
Usually I'd feel This isn't right. Yesterday I caught myself before that thought had a chance to get rolling down Mount Irritation. "Okay," I told her. "I'll put the bikes on the car. We'll leave whenever we can."
I'm no Kosho Uchiyama. But maybe I am, just a little bit. He says:
The important point here in terms of the truth of universal self is not to run away from the worse way (hell, unhappiness, or bad circumstances) and turn toward some better way (heaven, happiness, or good circumstances) by discriminating between better and worse using our heads.
Rather, what is crucial is magnanimous mind, with which we take the attitude of living straight through whatever reality of life we are presently faced with. In other words, if I fall into hell, then hell itself is my life at that time, so I have to live right through it, and if I find myself in heaven, then heaven is my life and I have to live right through that.
We pulled out of the driveway about 8:00 pm. Laurel got ready to go as quickly as possible. Me too. It was just the right time. Every time is, really.
We had a late take-out Thai food dinner at the cabin. We were hungry by 10:30. Dog was too. It was just the right time. Every time is, really.
Per usual, we stopped about halfway at Detroit Lake for coffee, a bathroom break, and snacks. Most everything but the little market closes down in Detroit after 9:00 pm. The woman ahead of us in the checkout line asked if any gas stations were open.
"No," she was told. "Oh, no," she said. "We're on empty and we've got to get to Bend."
A local guy heard her. "I know the people who own the gas station," he said. "I'll give them a call. I bet they'll be willing to come out and open it up for you."
Small town friendliness. And an advantageous meet-up at the cash register for the woman who was just about out of gas. It was just the right time. Every time is, really.
Religion is part of life for many people. But for all of us, atheist, agnostic, or true believer, it should be recognized for what it is: just a part, not life itself. Uchiyama:
Instead of looking at the fresh and vivid reality of life with their own eyes, people end up stifling that reality in the name of justice, or peace, or some fixed dogma.
All these memories and myths are produced by human life, so we cannot say they are meaningless. However, all these ideas and beliefs have only a conceptual existence that is fixed within our thoughts, they are not raw life-experience that is alive right now.
We tend to plunge our heads too far into memories and fantasies, into religious dogma and rigid doctrines. When we admire them and believe in them blindly, becoming frenzied and fanatical, we become imprisoned by this fixed and conceptual existence.
We would be much better off if our past experience and wisdom were made to live within the raw life-experience of the self here and now.
…The only true enlightenment is awareness of the vivid reality of life, moment by moment. So we practice enlightenment right now, right here, in every moment.