Giving up or quitting is the greatest cause of failure for any endeavour whether it's worldly goals in business spiritual endeavours such as awakening to enlightenment.
This story about two tribal communities illustrates the difference between an attitude of perseverance and persistence and the opposite attitude of giving up.
The two tribal communities lived on either side of a mountain range in a beautiful, but wild and remote part of Asia. They were animist people whose gods and goddesses were the nature spirits of sun and moon, dark and light, earth and sky. Their ceremonial practices included dancing for rain. They needed the rain because it was from the rain that life was sustained by growing food, quenching their thirst and growing the forrest.
The tribal community that lived on the east side of the mountain range would ceremonially dance for the rain that could sustain their life. Sometimes it would rain and sometimes not. It was unpredictable. They never knew for sure whether their dancing would please the rain god or not. They were often in a state of anxiety about this.
The other tribal community lived on the west side of the mountain range. They too would also dance for rain. And their rain dancing ceremony had a reputation for being potent and powerful. People far and wide knew of their strong rain magic. When they danced, it rained.
The eastern range tribe whose rain ceremony was kind of hit and miss decided to send an envoy to the western tribal community to see what they could learn about the magic of making it rain with dance. The tribal chief prepared gifts to send with their shaman in hopes it would bring pleasure and release the secrets and mystery to making it rain.
Having made the many days journey over the mountain range the visiting shaman presented himself, his gifts and his request for the secrets of the rain dance magic before the welcoming shaman and tribal elders. The shaman of the welcoming tribal community whose dance always made it rain happened to be a woman while the shaman of the tribe whose dance was unpredictable was a man.
He asked, “Mother, can you teach me to make powerful rain dance magic like you. When you dance it always rains. When we dance we never know if it will rain or not. What is your secret. Please tell.”
She looked at him with a compassionate heart and said, “Yes, I will share the secret with you.”
After a shared meal, song and ceremony it was time to Reveal the Secret of the Rain Dance. The sharmaness spoke in a quiet but firm voice, “Now I will tell you what the secret is. It’s true when we dance it always rains without fail. Our dance is powerful magic. It was taught to me by my mother and taught to her by her mother. The Secret of the Rain Dance has been passed along from mother to daughter for many many generations. It is an ancient and sacred lineage of Rain Dance magic.”
She drew closer and with penetrating eyes looked into his soul saying, “The secret to bringing the rain when we dance is ..... we dance until it rains.”
She spoke the secret. He heard the words but didn’t grasp their meaning. He looked at her with a rather confused ignorance. Stillness rose between them. She’d seen this look before. She knew the Secret was often too simple to grasp. In that stillness she continued speaking.
“We dance until it rains,” she said again. “We don’t stop. It always rains when we dance because we dance until it rains. That’s our secret.”
A smile of recognition came across his face as his lips moved toward a smile. She explained again, “We dance until it rains. We don’t give up. It always rains when we dance because we dance until it rains. We love to dance." He understood.
So this is what you have to do at the Enlightenment Intensive, DANCE UNTIL IT RAINS.
You give up your idea of enlightenment or some goal, some expectation or desire. Just dance until it rains. Open to your partners in such a way that you’re dancing. It’s going to rain. Of course it’s going to rain, it always rains. So you just dance and that dancing is the Enlightenment Intensive Dyad Practice of putting your attention on who you are and on your partner.
When you give the instruction to your partner “Tell me who you are” be open. Keep your cup empty, that is your thinking and judging mind, and allow your partner to fill it. You’re not attached with what they are filling it with; you just love them so much that whatever they fill your cup with, man that’s cool. And when they’re complete you say “Thank you.”
When your partner gives you the instruction “Tell me who you are,” you drop into the penetrating truth. Don’t talk about things. Push aside all that arises that’s not coming up as a result of your contemplation. It’s the surface mind chatter stuff that wants to describe and talk and intellectualise. Avoid that distraction and just get across what comes up as a result of your deep penetration into the truth of yourself. And when you deliver it to your partner as the communicator you get it across to them. You be willing to be understood by your partner. That can be scary to be exposed, naked, vulnerable, to have a vulnerable heart. Maybe they won’t get it. Maybe they won’t like you. Maybe they’ll have a reaction. Okay you do your very best. Just dance. That’s my approach.
As a listening partner you put your attention on your partner with the attitude “Give it to me, let me have all you’ve got. I’m here for you, so let me have it. Penetrate, deepen into me, I’m empty for you.”
It’s a love affair. This is not a workshop, this is worship. We’re prayers for each other. That’s what we are when we are sitting opposite each other. ‘Tell me who you are’ is a prayer. If you really get who and what you’re sitting opposite, it’s like your mouth will drop open and you’ll go “AAAAAhhhhhhh!” What would it be like to sit with God and you say to God “Tell me who you are”. I wonder what God would say if God spoke. God always answers prayers when you ask God with a sincere heart.
This is my approach. Dance until it rains.
Dr. Herbert Benson, MD and his colleges at Harvard University were among the first modern researchers to conduct scientific studies on relaxation and meditation. His studies of several meditation techniques revealed several key factors that induce the relaxation response which is the physiological and bio-chemical responses in the body to a state of peace, calm and relaxation.
The meditation techniques he studied came from the Indian sub continent and had philosophical, metaphysical and religious overtones. Eliminating these overtones of religion, he devised a simple meditation exercise that reliably induced the relaxation response if individuals practiced the technique or a similar one on a regular daily basis for 15 to 20 minutes twice each day. Thus one could reverse the adverse effects of the fight or flight stress syndrome.
The four key factors that Dr. Benson found for inducing the relaxation response during a meditation period were:
1. A quiet environment free from distractions and interruptions.
2. A comfortable sitting posture, sitting on either a chair or on the floor.
3. A passive mental attitude during the meditation session. A passive mental attitude means that you do not chase any thoughts that arise in the mind. You simply observe them and let them go.
4. A meditation object to focus your attention on during the exercise period.
The Benson meditation exercise used a word as the focus of meditative attention. You can choose any word that elicits within you a feeling of calm, peace and tranquillity. The words, ‘peace’, ‘love,’ ‘joy’ are some common examples. You can also use a word or syllable that has no particular meaning but that has a pleasurable or peaceful sound to you. It might be a sound like, ‘yooo’ or ‘ahhhh’ or ‘mahhh’ or ‘haaaah’ or ‘ommm.’ The word or syllable that you choose becomes the object of your meditation.
It is best to choose a quiet environment for the fifteen to twenty-minute meditation session. Either sub-vocally or out loud, continually repeat the word or syllable you’ve chosen as your focus of attention. Keeping your attention on the repeating word or syllable helps shift your thinking mind from logical, externally based thought to an introverted subjective feeling state.
When you notice your mind wandering away from the object of meditation, gently bring your attention back to the object. Keep a passive mental attitude and do not berate yourself if you find yourself or your mind thinking of other things. Simply bring your attention back to the object or sound. Your continued practise of this meditation technique will calm the mind and will elicit the relaxation response in your body.
I never got the chance to write the blog for Day 5 and 6 of the Easter Enlightenment Intensive during the retreat. It’s now many days since the retreat completed and I’m at last posting the blog for the remaining two days of the Six Day 2015 Easter Enlightenment Intensive.
Here’s a few words, feelings and self realizations typical of what is often shared in those last two days of a Six Day EI.
“I want to take risks and make mistakes but I’m scared.”
“I’m me. Everywhere I go I’m me.”
“I’m confused and trying to find who is having this confusion.”
“I just became aware of trying to control the future and my thoughts. I want to be free.”
“I feel at peace and I just want to stay here.”
“I’m not 100% present.”
“I’m so tired of this dyad process. The relentless nature of getting myself across. I feel resistance.
I never want to do the Enlightenment Intensive again…..until the next time!’
“No bells. No whistles. No Party No noise. I’m just me. I’m everything. I’ve been me all along. Who would have known! It’s so simple.”
“There is tremendous energy flowing through my body. The judgements that usually cloud my mind and my contemplation are gone.”
“I feel so happy to be me. Just me. I AM HERE and there is no better place to be.”
Do some of these words and sentiments sound familiar to your own experiences during an Enlightenment Intensive?
Enlightenment has never been an easy state of consciousness to attain. Just ask Siddartha Gautama. He became the Awakened One, the Buddha, Before Siddartha became the Buddha he spent years doing various forms of yoga and practising asceticism. He’s said to have nearly died from his extreme deprivations. At about the age of 35 according to Buddhist texts, he realised that focusing his attention or meditation was the right path to awakening and that extreme asceticism didn’t work. Following this realisation he began meditating under the Bodhi Tree and vowed not to stop until he attained the Truth. Forty Nine days later he attained Enlightenment.
Siddartha’s level of commitment to Total Awakening is not a choice everyone makes. But if you are willing to put yourself in the fire of Awakening for just a few days at the Enlightenment Intensive retreat then you may find within you some of the same Truth that the Buddah found.
Yes there are few barriers to enlightenment that you will have to overcome, just like the Buddha. One of those barriers is guilt or karma. That is thinking you don’t deserve the Truth. You think you’ve done such bad things to others in the past that if you open to the awesome energy flow of enlightenment you will lose control and injure others. Some people have impressions in the mind of injuring others through sexual mis-conduct. Others through anger, greed, jealousy or other passions. But those impressions in the mind are experiences which may have occurred for you in the past and not in the present moment and in the sacred space of the Enlightenment Intensive where you’re fully supported to not criticise, blame or abuse others. In such a sacred environment you can take that last step into what some call, Christ Consciousness or Buddha Nature and let go of control. Taking that Last Step allows you to abandon the ego, surrender wilful control and recognise who you truly are. It’s a paradox that the mind does not understand: letting go of control gives you more control. It allows more of you to be present and available to serve the Truth in yourself and in others. It allows more of you to be who you are: Infinite Ability, Love, Compassion, Joy, Peace and a Friend to the world.
The world needs more enlightened individuals. It needs more Buddhas. I encourage you to take that next BIG step of Awakening if not for yourself then for the love of others.
For many years now I've noticed that it often takes a few days of intense focus and contemplation to detach from one's daily habit routines. At the completion of a three day Enlightenment Intensive all the work required for a detachment from the daily biological, emotional and psychological habits are in place and then the retreat is over.
I call this detachment from those daily habits, Escape Velocity. It's the term that physicists use to describe the velocity or momentum that it takes for a rocket launched on earth to escape the gravitational forces of planet earth.
In a similar way there is certainly also an emotional and psychological gravity that we carry in our life as human being. It's a gravity that holds a sort of seriousness about life. This gravity is our attachments to people, things and ways of being that we grow fond of. After a few days of contemplating and meditating upon the Who AM I riddle or koan, those attachments begin to dissolve through honest communication. It's at that point that we reach a palpable spiritual Escape Velocity from the gravity that's associated with the mental and emotional attachments.
It's about the fourth day that I relate what Charles Berner said in one of his longer Enlightenment Intensives. "I have already told you the importance of presenting yourself as you are. When contemplating, you are trying to directly experience the Truth. To experience it directly you just set out to experience it directly. Truth has nothing to do with existence, so ignore anything that is. You see pictures in your mind, you see hallucinations in your brain, you have feelings in your body, ignore them. You are far enough along now that you can do that. At first you’ll just describe everything, but later on you just want the closest leap you can make to the Truth. If you are working on self-enlightenment it is pointless to reach. If you reach out, you are away from yourself. So only work on that which is you. You intend to directly experience you and ignore everything else. So when your partner says, “Tell me who you are” or “Tell me what you are,” set out to directly experience who or what it is that you are.
Your thoughts will probably come up. “Well, what if I am not doing it right?” “Am I going to get it this time?” That is not doing it. Ignore that. It is not going to help. Just ignore it. It is just another existence. Just experience you. Get as close as you can to that experience and express that to your partner. You can leave everything else out now. Just experience that. Don’t put your attention on your body. Don’t put your attention on your mind. Don’t put your attention on your thoughts. Don’t put your attention on hallucinations. Don’t put your attention on your brain. Don’t put your attention on your partner or on the environment. Put it on you."
The morning dyad this time began with the enthusiastic sharing of the dreams that occurred during sleeping contemplation. Words were flying this and that way as participants related their dream experiences. Then the room dropped into silence as the last of the dream worlds dissolved into the vastness of space.
It's been a very good morning with much progress made by all participants some of whom have been climbing, clawing and clamoring to the Mountain Top of Awakening. Another seeker of Truth came back from the morning walking contemplation all aglow. She found her way to the Mountain Top and to her Home. She beamed as she related her spaciousness and open heart.
Everyone is making their way through a variety of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual landscapes. Some have found tears of sadness, neglect and loneliness. Some are exploring and exposing long held secret fears of being who they are. Others are finding an uncertain pleasure and sometimes pain in having a body. Others still are laughing their way hysterically to the Mountain Top. And everyone is deepening their contemplation on Truth and telling the truth about who and what they are.
The Enlightenment Technique is really not a complicated practice though the complicated and confused mind does make a struggle out of it. It's that way for most of us when we begin the practice. But certainly for those that persist making progress is a certainty.
I invite you to join us at home and share the journey to the Mountain Top of Awakening. Here's the practice.
"Tell me who you are." Take it to heart…receive my genuine request.
Now set out on the journey of intending to directly experience who you are. Be open to a direct experience. And while being open continue to keep your intention to directly experience yourself.
Oh, by the way, drop any preconceived ideas of who you are or aren't. Just stay open.
The room was filled with a deep, quiet self reflection that began late last night. The dyaders, both those listening and communicating were immersed in a profound silence. The kind of silence that pervades all of existence. It was beautiful. On the second day that same sort of quietude continued with voices weaving in and out of the silence.
And then shortly before the morning walk…POW! A lightening-like bolt of Awakening energy shot up the spine of one of the participants. She got it! She proclaimed in a joyous surprise, "I'm everywhere. I'm the Absolute Presence Now." Yes, she certainly got it. Put a smile on my face to see the living example of the Yogic prayer, "Lead me from darkness to light and from ignorance to wisdom."
The journey up the Mountain of Awakening continues as dinner contemplation on Day Two begins.
The 2015 Annual Easter Enlightenment Intensive has begun here in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. It's day one.
For many the trek to the Mountain Top of Awakened Consciousness is an arduous journey. It can sometimes feel that it can't be done. Or that it's only for a Buddha or a Jesus. But the journey does get much easier if you let go of the stuff you are trying to drag along as you climb the Mountain of Awakening. Many don't even realize all the stuff they are dragging along. Some try to hide all the stuff both from themselves and from others. They try to make the climb pretending all that stuff isn't there. But you can see it in their face and disposition. They look exhausted and want to quit.
Seng Tsan, a 6th Century Zen Master gives some wise counsel about this state of affairs when he says to "follow your nature and flow with the Tao. Enjoy yourself and stop worrying. If your thoughts are confused and tied in knots you will spoil what is genuine. A wise person doesn't strive. It's the ignorant person who ties himself up. If you work on your mind with your mind, you won't avoid an immense confusion."
The Enlightenment Intensive dyad practice is built upon the principle that honest communication can lesson your heavy load as you climb up the Mountain Top of Awakening. It's communication to a receptive listener who understands without evaluating or judging that empties the mind and lessons the load you are dragging up the mountain.
Charles Berner, the originator of the Enlightenment Intensive said that: "presentation is the secret to greater consciousness, and consciousness is proportional to the degree of interchange between you and others. That is why we set you up an interchange situation called a dyad. But you must interchange in it. You have to take your chance. Maybe others will hate you. Maybe your reputation will be ruined forever. So what? Your passion for the Truth should be more valuable to you than your reputation and your ego. Presentation is the secret to greater consciousness."