10.8.18 Monday Night Class: “Speak only that which is kind, true, necessary, and at the appropriate time…”

Blue Waves

10.8.18. THE DHARMA OF SPEECH. SPEAK ONLY THAT WHICH IS KIND, TRUE, NECESSARY, AND AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME.

I’m still getting over a very bad cold so will keep this post brief. This week’s class centered around one of my favorite teachings, The Dharma of Speech. And went on from there to encompass the beautiful Tara mantra, om tara tuttare ture swaha; a verse from Mary Oliver’s astonishing riff on the 145th Psalm; a particularly luminous verse from the Tao Te Ching; and a story from Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power. While at its root this story is the antithesis of the dharma of speech, still, it makes a fun complement to our contemplation…

Here’s the opening dharana on Tara:

 

Here’s my dharma talk:

 

 

And here are the readings:

Tao Te Ching, Verse 21

The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao;
that is what gives her radiance. 

The Tao is ungraspable.
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn’t cling to ideas.

The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it.

Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.

*  *  *

On Thy Wondrous Works I Will Meditate(Psalm 145)
Mary Oliver

7.
I know a man of such
mildness and kindness it is trying to
change my life. He does not
preach, teach, but simply is. It is
astonishing, for he is Christ’s ambassador
truly, by rule and act. But, more,

he is kind with the sort of kindness that shines
out, but is resolute, not fooled. He has
eaten the dark hours and could also, I think,
soldier for God, riding out
under the storm clouds, against the world’s pride and unkindness,
with both unassailable sweetness, and consoling word.

published in Devotions, p. 137.

 *  *  *

from The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene

Down on his luck, the screenwriter Michael Arlen went to New York in 1944. To drown his sorrows he paid a visit to the famous restaurant “21.” In the lobby, he ran into Sam Goldwyn, who offered the somewhat impractical advice that he should buy racehorses. At the bar, Arlen met Louis B. Mayer, an old acquaintance, who asked him what were his plans for the future. “I was just talking to Sam Goldwyn…” began Arlen. “How much did he offer you?” interrupted Mayer. “Not enough,” he replied evasively. “Would you take fifteen thousand for thirty weeks?” asked Mayer. No hesitation this time, “Yes,” said Arlen.   [p. 32]

December 4, 2017, Monday Night Class: “Not-knowing is true knowledge. Presuming to know is a disease…”

SuperMoonBlue

March 11, 2018.  A week ago, it seemed like Spring. And then a wild crazy nor’easter blew in. The Mother of All Storms. Thick heavy snow coming down a mile a minute. Thunder and lightning adding to the show. Trees down, power out, and the time that rules the dance of daily life stood still. Truth be told, I rather like these times that are, in their way, outside of time. In the space between…

Years ago I was in a meditation retreat with Baba Muktananda. He was teaching the ham-sa mantra. Part of the practice was to focus our awareness on the space between the breaths. To remain in that spaciousness for as long as we could, Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, maybe ten seconds. He showed us how in that space between the breaths, we touch eternity, poised outside the limiting constructs of time…

One of the curious experiences I had during that weekend retreat was excruciating pain in my left hip. Which began in the Saturday morning session and continued through the closing on Sunday night. Ardent yogini that I was, I soldiered through. And here’s the thing. At the end of the retreat, the pain was gone. Gone. And has never returned…

Was the pain — and I am talking about 48 hours of non-stop physical agony — a kriya, an illusion, something burning up? I will never know. But it did teach me that what I perceive and what is actually happening are not necessarily the same. That when I think I know, or as the Tao Te Ching verse quoted above says, when I presume to know, the odds are, knowledge is not happening….

It’s a tricky business, this knowing and not-knowing, this “I” with all its presumptions, agendas, associations, projections, and attachments. It really does close up the space. And I won’t say I know this. But I sure do feel it in my bones. The spaciousness of that space between the breaths, that’s where it’s all happening. Or not-happening. That is where I want to live.

Here’s my dharma talk from Monday, December 4th. It could be called, What we are is so much more interesting than what we think we should be…. This is a rather freewheeling talk with a handful of LOL moments.

AUDIO OF DECEMBER 4, 2017 DHARMA TALK

AUDIO OF ON TARA TUTTARE TURE SWAHA OPENING OF CLASS

AUDIO OF NAVARNA AND OM NAMAH SHIVAYA MANTRAS

THE TEXTS 

We were reading this text back-to-front but this verse called for a front-to-back context so I also read the two preceding verses. I’m copying them here in that order…

72.
When they lose their sense of awe,
people turn to religion.
When they no longer trust themselves,
they begin to depend upon authority.

Therefore the Master steps back
so that people won’t be confused.
He teaches without teaching,
so that people will have nothing to learn.

70.
My teachings are easy to understand
and easy to put into practice.
Yet your intellect will never grasp them,
and if you try to practice them, you’ll fail.

My teachings are older than the world.
How can you grasp their meaning?

If you want to know me,
look inside your heart.

71.
Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move towards health.

The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.

Prepping for this class which happened to fall on a Super Moon evening, this poem from Lex Hixon’s Mother of the Universe, jumped out off the page.  This book used to be my go-to text. As I’ve grown simpler with age however, Lex’s versions of Ramprasad strike me as being a bit too thick. I want everything pared down to its essence. Reading this poem over and over though and typing it out just now, well, let me say that myriad adjectives not withstanding, it’s a rather potent map. And quite soaring.

I am a child reaching out to catch the moon
Ramprasad/Lex Hixon 

Who in the world can know what Mother Kali really is?
She is beyond the reach of every scripture,
every system of philosophy.

As the radiant blackness of divine mystery,
she plays through the lotus wilderness of the sacred human body.
The practitioner of meditation encounters her power
deep in the blossom of primordial awareness
and within the thousand-petal lotus
that floats far above the mind.

Kali is the conscious core,
shining through every awakened sage
who delights in oneness.
This has been demonstrated by countless realized beings.
Ma Tara is the queen of freedom within all hears.
She reigns timelessly and tenderly.
Planes and dimensions of being
more vast and subtle than anyone can imagine
are found within her womb of encompassing wisdom.
The Goddess alone knows the extent of her power.
Who else could possibly know?

Laments the singer of this mystic hymn:
“Everyone will laugh at my attempt to swim
the shoreless sea of her reality,
but my soul belongs to her
and my heart delights in longing.
I am a child reaching out to catch the moon.”

As usual, the final word goes to Mary Oliver. This poem is vast. We can read it over and over again, and always discover something new…

The Mockingbird
Mary Oliver

All summer
the mocking bird
in his pearl-gray coat
and his white-windowed wings

flies
from the hedge to the top of the pine
and begins to sing, but it’s neither
lilting nor lovely,

for he is the thief of other sounds–
whistles and truck brakes and dry hinges
plus all the songs
of other birds in his neighborhood;

mimicking and elaborating,
he sings with humor and bravado
so I have to wait a long time
for the softer voice of his own life

to come through. He begins
by giving up all his usual flutter
and setting down on the pine’s forelock
then looking around

as though to make sure he’s alone;
then he slaps each wing against his breast,
where his heart is,
and, copying nothing, begins

easing into it
as though it was not half so easy
as rollicking,
as though his subject now

was his true self,
which of course was as dark and secret,
as anyone else’s
and it was too hard—
perhaps you understand—
to speak or to sing it
to anything or anyone
but the sky.

November 13, 2017 Monday Night Class: Being in Reality as Opposed to Being in Whatever We Think Reality Is…

Winter_Light_Burst_by_AngelzTears

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there…” 
                                                                                                              –Rumi

It’s been quite a month and I am way behind posting classes here. Fortunately the wisdom teachings have no expiration date…

November 13’s Monday Night Class continued our immersion in the deity field personified as the goddess Saraswati, who in “her” most sublime possibility might be understood as that field of which Rumi sings.

This is a field we all do well to live in….

The Tao Te Ching verses for this week were 75 and 74. However, since neither struck me as being rooted in that field, I found I could not speak about them with integrity or authenticity. Two more qualities we can associate with Saraswati. Rather than go against the dharma of speech, I spoke instead about why I could not speak about them…

DHARMA TALK

SARASWATI AND OM NAMAH SHIVAYA MANTRAS

SG SOLO SARASWATI AND ONS MANTRAS BEFORE CLASS

Here are the Mary Oliver poems I read.
These are from her collection, Blue Horses.

SUCH SILENCE

As deep as I ever went into the forest
I came upon an old stone bench, very, very old,
and around it a clearing, and beyond that
trees taller and older than I had ever seen.

Such silence!
It really wasn’t so far from a town, but it seemed
all the clocks in the world had stopped counting.
So it was hard to suppose the usual rules applied.

Sometimes there’s only a hint, a possibility.
What’s magical, sometimes, has deeper roots
than reason.
I hope everyone knows that.

I sat on the bench, waiting for something.
An angel perhaps.
Or dancers with the legs of goats.

No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because
I didn’t stay long enough.

WATERING THE STONES

Every summer I gather a few stones from
the beach and keep them in a glass bowl.
Now and again I cover them with water,
and they drink. There’s not questions about
this; I put tinfoil over the bowl, tightly,
yet the water disappears. This doesn’t
mean we ever have a conversation, or that
they have the kind of feelings we do, yet
it might mean something. Whatever the
stones are, they don’t lie in the water
and do nothing.

Some of my friends refuse too believe it
happens, even though they’ve seen it. But
a few others—I’ve seen them walking down
the beach holding a few stones, and they
look at them rather more closely now.
Once in a while, I swear, I’ve even heard
one or two of them saying, “Hello.”
Which, I think, does not harm to anyone or
anything, does it?

FRANZ MARC’S BLUE HORSES

I step into the painting o the four blue horses.
I am not even surprised that I can do this.

One of the horses walks toward me.
His blue nose noses me lightly. I put my arm
over his blue man, not holding on, just
   commingling.
He allows me my pleasure.
Franz Marc died a young man, shrapnel in his brain.
I would rather die than try to explain to the blue horses
   what war is.
They would either faint in horror, or simply
   find it impossible to believe.
I do not know how to thank you, Franz Marc.
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
   is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
Now all four horses have come closer,
   are bending their faces toward me,
      as if the have secrets to tell.
I don’t expect them to speak, and they don’t.
If being so beautiful isn’t enough, what
   could possible say?

New visitors to this blog wanting to read more about Saraswati, please scroll down to the previous post. And, if you’re curious to read the verses I did not read 😉 here they are…

75.
When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.
Act for the people’s benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.
74.
If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve.
Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the master carpenter’s tools,
chances are that you’ll cut your hand.

October 30 Monday Night Class: “When there is a great task ahead, one should befriend even enemies…”

Beginning this month, we’re having an all-chant class on the fourth (non-holiday) Monday  of each month. Daniel Johnson will be accompanying chanting on tabla. These evenings will not be recorded. You simply have to be there ❤️ The first class of this new offering was on October 23. Which is why there is no blog post for that week.

the-vehicle-of-goddess-lakshmi-goddess-of-wealth-monnar-baldemor

OCTOBER 30 MONDAY NIGHT CLASS

77.
As it acts in the world, the Tao
is like the bending of a bow.
The top is bent downward;
the bottom is bent up.
It adjusts excess and deficiency
so that there is perfect balance.
It takes from what is too much
and gives to what isn’t enough.

Those who try to control,
who use force to protect their power,
go against the direction of the Tao.
They take from those who don’t have enough
and give to those who have far too much.

The Master can keep giving
because there is no end to her wealth.
She acts without expectation,
succeeds without taking credit,
and doesn’t think that she is better
than anyone else.

This week’s class wove the above verse with my telling of the Hindu myth of the birth of Laksmi.  Both are profoundly relevant for us 21st century moderns. And together they pack quite a punch.

No poetry this week but here’s an essential quote from the Laksmi story:

“Go and make peace with your enemies the demons,” he told them. “When there is a great task ahead, one should befriend even enemies. Cast into the Milky Sea potent herbs, then take Mount Mandara for a churning-stick, the serpent Vasuki for a rope, and churn the ocean for the dew of life. For this you need the demon’s aid; make alliance with them, therefore, and engage to share with them the fruit of your combined labor.”

Opening chanting for this week’s class combined Laksmi and Tara mantras. Alas, a technical glitch so no audio. I do however have the dharana. Which offers a lovely way of holding these two mantra/deity fields. A small note on the goddess Laksmi, who, because of “her” association with material abundance is looked down on in some ascetic yogic circles. From my perspective this is really really really wrong understanding.

Dharana on Laksmi and Tara

Dharma Talk

Laksmi Murti and Dhumavati Bija

October 16, 2017 Monday Night Class: “Therefore the Master remains serene in the midst of sorrow…. Because he has given up helping, he is people’s great help.”

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78.
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it. 

The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.

Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is people’s great help.
 
True words seem paradoxical.

This is such a great verse we stayed with it for two weeks. As I wrote in my last post, it’s an elegant articulation of the Sacred Feminine. For visitors to this blog who are unclear about what exactly is the Sacred Feminine, the simplest way to get this is to think of the feminine as the realm of being and masculine as the realm of doing.

While we can work with the personifications articulated as gods and goddesses, I think it’s way more helpful and relevant to understand that these are energies of consciousness within ourselves.

Think of the Goddess, aka Devi, aka the Sacred Feminine as the great interior well of being, ocean of the unconscious, ground of being, source of everything we are. It’s the mysterious inside of us. That which we don’t see. It’s what we sense and feel and intuit. And it is the content, to put it in more modern language contained within the vehicles, (which are of the masculine), of our actions and words…

So again: feminine = realm of being; masculine = realm of doing…

It’s helpful to think of the masculine as the bridge function; that which carries the energy of being into manifestation. For instance: creative inspiration arises from the feminine and is interpreted and developed (or denied and ignored) through the masculine faculty of thinking and creating. Great things happen when masculine and feminine work in loving harmony. The masculine stays connected to the feminine, understanding that this is its ground. Problems arise when the masculine (doing/thinking/individuating) function dissociates from its feminine source. The story I tell in this week’s dharma talk is a lovely illustration of this….

Here’s that talk.  It’s a good one 😉
Enjoy.

 

Here’s the story:

“Once Vishnu was riding through the air on the sunbird Garuda. Both of them, filled with their sense of self, saw in Vishnu the highest most irresistible and universal being. They flew past the throne of the Great Goddess but gave her no heed. “Fly on, fly on,” said Vishnu to Garuda. Then the Great Goddess poured rigidity upon them, and they could not stir from the spot. Vishnu in his rage shook her seat with both hands but could not move. Instead he fell and sank to the bottom of the world ocean. Unable to stir, he lost consciousness and became rigid, defenseless, and lifeless. Brahma went in search of him and tried to lift him, but he also fell under the same enchantment and grew rigid. The same fate befell all the other gods who tried to raise them from the bottom of the sea. Only Shiva understood what had happened and led them back to do homage to Her and obtain her grace… Then as they worshipped her, the Goddess revealed herself in the flesh and bade all gods drink of the waters of her womb and bathe therein. ‘Then you will be free of imprisonment in your ego…’ ”

 

Here are the two quotes, both cited in Edward C. Whitmont’s 1986 book, Return to the Goddess. The first is from Elucidations, Prologue to Chretien de Troyes’ Percival. The second is the verse I often recite from John C. We’s 1962 version of the Tao Te Ching. The above story is also told by Whitmont…

1.
The land was dead and desert
So that they lost the voices of the wells
And the maidens who were in them.  

2.
The spirit of the fountain never dies.
It is called the mysterious feminine.
The entrance to the mysterious feminine
Is the root of all heaven and earth.
Frail, frail it is, hardly existing.
But touch it; it will never run dry.

 

Here is this week’s chanting:

 

Here’s the opening chant and dharana:

 

And the final word goes to Mary Oliver. This is from her 2006 collection, Thirst. This is the poem I did not have time to read!

 

Messenger
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth, with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

October 9, 2017 Monday Night Class: When we realize that we are the flow, everything is possible…

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This week’s verse from the Tao Te Ching is a beautiful articulation of feminine wisdom; of the understanding that softening and yielding, of embracing rather than turning away, is a powerful stance for living.

78.
Nothing in the world
is as soft and yielding as water.
Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible,
nothing can surpass it. 
The soft overcomes the hard;
the gentle overcomes the rigid.
Everyone knows this is true,
but few can put it into practice.
Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is people’s great help.
 
True words seem paradoxical.

It’s a deep and important lesson, especially in a culture that venerates doing over being. Which from the perspective of feminine wisdom has it upside down. Put being first. Let doing serve being. That’s the understanding referenced in the title of this post. When we realize that we are the flow, everything is possible…

And the thing is, we really are the flow. We are not separate from it. Much as the mind and our wounding try to convince (and dissociate) us otherwise. Which is why every time we allow ourselves to breathe deeply, stretch into the moment, stop rushing, start listening, make friends with silence, and simply be with what is, we discover more space inside. And that spaciousness is the secret of possibility.

Here’s this week’s dharma talk:

 

Here are the poems I read. These three are Robert Bly’s versions of Kabir.

5.
Inside this clay jug there are canyons and pine
mountains, and the maker of canyons and pine
mountains! 

All seven oceans are inside, and hundreds of millions
of stars.
The acid that tests gold is there, and the one who
judges jewels.
And the music from the strings no one touches, and
the source of all water.

If you want the truth, I will tell you the truth:
Friend, listen: the God whom I love is inside.

24.
Let’s leave for the country where the Guest lives!
There the water jar is filling with water
even though there is no rope to lower it.
There the skies are always blue,
and yet rain falls on the earth.
Do you have a body? Don’t sit on the porch!
Go out and walk in the rain!
The fall moon rides the sky all month there,
and it would sound silly to mention only one sun —
the light there comes from a number of them.

26.
The darkness of night is coming along fast, and
the shadows of love close in the body and
the mind.
Open the window to the west, and disappear into the
air inside you.

Near your breastbone there is an open flower.
Drink the honey that is all around that flower.
Waves are coming in:
there is so much magnificence near the ocean!
Listen: Sound of bells! Sound of immense seashells!

Kabir says: Friend, listen, this is what I have to say:
The One I love is inside of me!

 

Here’s the Mary Oliver from A Thousand Mornings.

LINES WRITTEN IN THE DAYS OF GROWING DARKNESS 

Every year we have been
witness to it: how the
world descends

into a rich mash, in order that
it may resume.
And therefore
who would cry out

to the petals on the ground
to stay,
knowing as we must,
how the vivacity of what was is married

to the vitality of what will be?
I don’t say
it’s easy, but
what else will do 

if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

So let us go on cheerfully enough,
this and every crisping day,

though the sun be swinging east,
and the ponds be cold and black,
and the sweets of the year be doomed.

 

Here’s music audio. The first clip is opening chanting of Om Namah Shivaya and Namo Kuan Shih Yin P’u-Sa.

 

This clip is the Laksmi Murti Mantra with Dhumavati Bija leading into slow Om Namah Shivaya.  There is also a bit of commentary at the beginning and a dharana at the end…

_________________________________

Finally, if you’re interested in my thinking about the relevance of the Sacred Feminine and why I believe it’s crucial to do the internal work of balancing, you might like to read this piece I wrote in 2009.  This link will take you there.

October 2, 2017 Monday Night Class: Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be liberated?

NicholasRoerich

This week’s verse from the Tao Te Ching offers an exquisite teaching on the ripple effects of blame. If you pay attention to your own blame response, you’ll discover a many-headed demon masquerading as self-righteousness and truth. Insidious really. And hiding in the unconscious.

Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame. 

Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.

The blame response goes deep. And its ripple effect always ends in pain. It often starts with expectation. Which then morphs into blame. Blaming gives rise to shame, hurt, and anger. This separates the blamer and the blamed, creating a sense of isolation and alienation so that connection and the possibility of empathy are destroyed. And since underneath the dramas of daily life, a sense of connection and empathy are what we most long for, one can see how the blame project takes us nowhere we really want to go.

And then of course, there is self-blame. Which is often at the bottom of the whole mess. When we really examine our blaming response, we discover it is fueled by projection. I blame you for what I refuse to see in myself. My own laziness, indulgence, self-absorption, bad habits, arrogance, bullying, forgetfulness, etc.

79.
Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame.

Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.

The answer of course is simple: fulfill our obligations, correct our own mistakes, do what we need to do and demand nothing of others. This doesn’t mean we roll over and play dead. This verse is telling us to wake up, to pay attention, to live in the space beyond right and wrong. Do we want to be right? Or do we want to be liberated…

Here’s my dharma talk from 10.2:

 

Here are the two poems I read.
From Mary Oliver’s, A Thousand Mornings.

POET OF THE ONE WORLD

This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water

and then into the sky of this
the one world
we all belong to 

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

GOOD-BYE FOX

He was lying under a tree, licking up the shade.
Hello again, Fox, I said. 

And hello to you too, said Fox, looking up and
not bounding away. 

You’re not running away? I said. 

Well, I’ve heard of your conversations about us. News
travels even among foxes, as you might know or not know.

What conversations do you mean? 

Some lady said to you, “The hunt is good for the fox.”
And you said, “Which fox?”

Yes, I remember. She was huffed.

So you’re okay in my book. 

Your book! That was in my book, that’s the difference
between us.

Yes, I agree. You fuss over life with your clever
words, mulling and chewing on its meaning while
we just live it.

Oh! 

Could anyone figure it out, to a finality. So
why spend so much time trying. You fuss, we live.

And he stood, slowly, for he was old now, and
ambled away.

We chanted the Gayatri Mantra to open this class. There’s no audio of the chanting, but here’s the short dharana I gave on the mantra.

 

Finally, class chanting of Om Namah Shivaya with closing dharana.