A full lesson (truth) is one that is understood as fully emotionally as it is intellectually. It is known not only in the mind but the heart. I am convinced that most of us are brim full of what I call “half-lessons” (you may call these half-truths). Among other things, life is an experiential process. When we are young we have few experiences to draw upon. This is the time of teaching and gaining intellectual understanding. However, our job is not to remain in the state of rich intellect apart from our heart intelligence lest we reduce all learning to intellectual propositions.
Half-lessons are the things that we intellectually know–but have never experienced–as well as personal experiences we have never fully reflected upon. Sadly, from my point of view, a good part of what we think we know about life is based upon unfinished half-lessons. This would not be so bad were it not for the fact that we treat the “half experience” as though it were the whole story. If we are to live fully–instead of partially, we must add experience to our intellect and learn how to recognize and process the energetic feelings that pass through us as we journey thorough life. Whole lessons are always about what is happening in the heart as much as what is happening in the mind.
In Buddhism, the life journey is composed of the “dharma taught” and the “dharma experienced.” The term “dharma” has many different meanings–but the one that resonates with me most is “the righteous life.” All religions present moral teachings about how one should go about living “the righteous life.” This righteous life is composed of the dharma that is taught and the dharma that is experienced. Both influence the other–but experience that resonates with the heart is the best teacher. Learning how the heart feels as we experience something is the key to learning whole-lessons.
Knowing something intellectually is not the same as fully knowing it. Growing up, I was carefully taught the “dharma” of my faith. The teachings have a beauty about them. As theological doctrines, they have a logical consistency that is appealing to a philosophical mind like mine. They can be ordered, memorized, taught, and expounded upon. I found great comfort in this type of learning and intellectual knowledge. But the knowledge of the mind is a different experience than that of the heart. As the Apostle Paul is supposed have said, “Knowledge puffs up!” There is a pride in knowledge. In our culture, knowledge is as much a commodity as gold or silver. But because what counts as knowledge is mostly incomplete, our culture is in serious trouble as is evidenced by the way we stigmatize foreigners, immigrants, the poor and uneducated. It reflects in the way we police our cities, punish our national enemies, and by declaring corporations as people and counting people as less important than money.
The opposite is true also. I’ve participated in mission projects, Habitat for Humanity builds and other good works–never taking the time to reflect upon the “feelings” that were generated nor its importance overall. No attempts at integration. For instance, there are the teachings about generosity–and there an experience generosity brings about. One without the other is only a half lesson. One day long ago a neighbor asked to borrow some money from me. I loaned it to him without thought but he was very slow to repay. At one point I was not sure that he would repay me. I related my concerns to an older friend who told me that she only loaned money she could afford to lose. She said that she would tell the person, “I don’t have as much as you need but you can have this amount–pay me back when you can.” This was a complete lesson. From that day forward, I’ve learned that generosity is better when it has few or no conditions imposed on the other. I usually give what I am able to give away and experience the blessings that come from openness and sharing.
A life filled with half-lessons is only a life that has been half-lived.
On this very sad day for our campus, I just wanted to send an email to each of my current and former students. Please forgive me if you receive several copies of this. I am using blackboard to communicate and some of you may have had several classes with me.
I just want all of you to know how much you mean to me–and how valuable each of you are. It is my joy to teach for you and my privilege to serve you. All of you are an inspiration to me in your own way.
Today we have learned that life is precious. I know that our journey has its trials and troubles–and at times we may not have any idea of what we should do. But as someone who has had his fair share of sadness and grief, I can tell you that things do get better. Circumstances that may seem impossible today may well be the thing that God uses to take you to that next wonderful place. (I can tell you so many stories of how that has been true in my life.)
Please know that I want to be here for you if you are sad and discouraged. Send me a note, or come by. And I also ask that each of you reach out to those you know and love today to let them know how much they mean to you. As important as college may be, in the end, it is our love that we freely share with others that matters.
God bless you and God bless us all,
No chakras to open, chants to hum, or endless sermons to listen to. No mantras to repeat over and over. No scriptures to memorize or stories to believe, defend, and pointlessly argue about. No clothes to buy, crosses or beads to wear. No creeds to recite or ascended masters to know personally lest we die. No Gods to offend, appease or please. No diets to follow or postures to master. No breath to follow, thoughts to contemplate, third-eye to open or mind to empty. No past to regret or repent from–nor future in which we must place our hope for better things. The search is over and the certainty of past beliefs has ended. All seeking, knocking and struggling is concluded. Now there is only witnessing the here and now of “what is” as one thing arises and another disappears.
Enlightenment isn’t so much something to be sought as discovered. It is the ability to see nature (or the universe) apart from our beliefs, judgements and perceptions. It is the realization that self-identification with our bodies and minds—and all that these represent–cloud a greater reality. It’s akin to missing the preciousness of an object made of pure gold because we are caught up in our personal likes and dislikes of the object we see. But our perceptions aside, the gold remains—and that gold is you and me
WE exist and now it is time to accept ourselves as we are—creatures of shadow and light in this beautiful space of consciousness and embodiment. Our preoccupations of what is good, bad, right, wrong, useful or not does not impact the universe in the least nor detract from the fact that we perfectly exist. Regardless of what we think, say or do—or how we are interpreting our experiences—the real universe is breathing, illuminating, creating and experiencing itself through us.
Never there was a thought,
Only consciousness and ITs awareness.
Never there was life or death,
Only ITs eternal and timeless presence.
Never there was war, peace, famine or plenty,
IT has no want, lack or need.
Never there was reward or punishment,
IT is only experiencing itself,
Never there was a past or future,
There is only the eternal now,
Never there was individual accomplishment or effort,
IT is the source and energy of all things,
Never there was a you, me or we,
Only IT experiencing itself as a you and me,
IT is all there is,
And we are it.
All that keeps life from being spacious
I’m putting into a box
And taking to the curb.
Let someone else use it.
The hand-me-down furniture that I never wanted,
Clothes that don’t fit—especially that old robe,
All the old knickknacks and souvenirs from the journey,
It’s all got to go.
Just give me a sunlit room
Freed from all but the essentials.
And from this place
I will view creation anew.
I often talk about the three stages of fear. There is the tangible fear–“I’m scared of dogs.” We can see what it is and we’re scared of it. But there is a more neurotic fear–where we have fear of fear! And often this fear is a by-product of suppressed emotions. This is when we have to ask ourselves “What kind of motion or action am I repressing?” And then there is also an existential fear–when we don’t know who we are. When we are longing to know who we are. This includes the fear of death and the fear of life. Both are existential. We have the fear of death because we do not know who we are. This existential fear can lead to a Dark Night of the Soul.
I’m reminded of the Sufis. They say you come to a state in your life when you realize that the whole of your life is meaningless. At this point you’ll either commit suicide or wake up! And as Warner Earhart says, “If you don’t see that life is meaningless you miss the point.” So the deeper and deeper you go into life, you start seeing that you’re never going to find the meaning of life here! When you see how meaningless life is in a profound way–your mind stops! You stop your desiring–otherwise you will desire into the future all the time. But if you start seeing life for what it is–hopeless, and that it doesn’t lead anywhere–then you can come into an awakening.
I want to tell you an authentic story. I had an old friend who looked around one day and he said, “My God, my life is so meaningless and has been so wasted.” And he felt like killing himself. So he brought a rope and was going to hang himself. And then he remembered that his father had also committed suicide–and thought “I can’t do it!” So he laid in his bed for three days looking at the ceiling. And then it came! His mind stopped! When the door closed and he could think of nothing left to do–his mind stopped. And that is when he obtained his liberation.
I very much encourage you to listen to the Buddha at the Gas Pump Podcasts.
One of the things I’ve always been curious about is how to stop the chatter that’s constantly in my mind. You know, that constant stream of thinking, evaluating, commenting, and back story conversation that’s always going on in the back of the mind? I’ve read many books on the subject and most call this condition “Monkey Mind.” Experts like Thich Nich Hanh stress the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Others talk about present moment awareness. But I think I may have hit upon something that works for me in achieving this goal. It’s nothing new; but like a pre-owned car, it’s new for me. I’m giving up believing in the power of my own mind.
At some point, the real you–not the personality you–must give up believing in the unceasing image streams created by the mind. Instead it must be replaced with an awareness that most everything the mind produces is little more than scenery –like grass and clouds–passing by. Nothing produced by the mind should be taken at face value as real or true. And that’s a new thing for me–this questioning and dismissing of thoughts and ideas. The mind constantly judges people, places and things as good or bad, right or wrong, and useful or not. Upon introspection, these things cannot be logically proven as true–and many, if not most times, can be logically disproven as false. The mind stream appears real. Its information appears certain and true. But if one stops and reflects about most any thought–this certainty crumbles and is easily contested or disproven. Therefore, I’ve concluded the mind is not to be trusted. Consulted yes, trusted no!
At the same time, the mind is always ruminating about the past and future. It is uncomfortable in the present moment and looks often to the future as a means of escaping present unpleasantness. The mind resists attempts at being presently focused–because when this happens the mind is essentially turned off–or at least uncomfortably (from the minds point of view) paused. This pausing of the mind happens as one gives single focus to the people, places, and things before it. Mind (Ego) does not like to be stripped of its power and authority–it seeks full control of the consciousness. This must be gently resisted again and again until the mind’s insistence is silenced.
It now makes sense why Buddhists insist upon present moment awareness–which includes paying attention to the breath, mantras, or whatever. Focus in the present moment stops the reliance upon the mind. As the false and unreal messages of the mind cease, peace begins.
Let those who have ears to hear–and eyes to see–listen and read these stories of administrators and learn. May you have the courage of interpretation!
Once there was a powerful Administrator who served an even more rich and powerful king. (This Administrator was so powerful that he could command that his title always be capitalized.) This Administrator called in his lowly wage earner (but faithful) servant and said:
“Bring me a rock!”
The servant replied, “Oh great and powerful Master, what kind of rock do you want me to bring you?” To which the Administrator replied,
“Just go and bring me a rock!”
So the faithful servant went outside in the cold looking for just the right rock. When he found a suitable one, he brought it before the Administrator who looked at it and said:
“That’s not the rock! Go once again and bring me a rock!”
My understanding is that the servant is still bringing the Administrator one rock after another and has been doing so for several years. (I told you that you would need ears to hear what is being said!)
Once a vacationing family was traveling in the back woods when they happened upon an old retired administrator sitting in a rocking chair upon the front porch of his cabin with a three-legged hog laying prostrate on the porch in front of him. The visitor began speaking with the old man and asked,
“What happened here? How come this hog has only three legs?”
The old administrator said, “Now this here hog ain’t like no other. Once when we were asleep in the cabin, the stove caught afire and if it hadn’t been for the screeching of this hog, we’d all have been burned to death!”
“So, did the hog lose his leg in the fire?” asked the visitor.
“Naw” said the old administrator, “He didn’t lose it in the fire. But there was a time when all of us were in the car when the motor stopped leaving us on the train tracks. The train was bearing down on us and we would have surely died if this here hog hadn’t butted the car off of the tracks. Yes sir, if it t’weren’t for him, we’d all have died!”
“So,” asked the visitor, “Did he lose his leg to the train?” ”
Naw,” said the old administrator, “He still had all his legs after that.”
In exasperation the visitor asked, “Exactly how did this hog lose his leg?”
“Well now.” replied the old administrator. “A hog that good–it wouldn’t be right to eat him all at once!”
Fable 3: The Devil and the Administrator
There was once a failing administrator who was worried about losing his job. He was staying late on the job one night and reminiscing in his mind about the times when he had been successful and no one dared to question his power or authority. As he pondered losing it all he said in a heavy sigh, “I’d give anything to be the successful administrator I once was!” As soon as he said that he heard a giant POOF sound. As the smoke cleared he perceived a familiar figure. The devil asked, “Did you say you’d do anything? It just so happens that I can help you” “How?” said the administrator. “Well, it will cost you your soul, the soul of your wife and the soul of each of your children.” With a puzzled look the administrator looked at the devil and said, “I don’t get it, what’s the catch?”
So good reader, take heed for there is much to learn before one can hope to reach these sublime heights.
The other evening at a lovely lady’s house one of the guest spoke of going to a concert and suddenly getting caught up in the glorious tingling thrill of joy and delight. Her eyes sparkled and she told of it. Everyone could see her tears of reminiscence and knew what a genuine joy she spoke of. Then she fell silent, her eyes closed, and I heard myself saying, “That’s it! That’s the joy of the experience everyone calls enlightenment.” Some speak of it as illumination–sparks from the child within. First we recognize those fleeting moments and acknowledge them for being the Light of Life they are. And so acknowledging them, we are faithful to the pennies of such moments and eventually find ourselves trusted with the dollars of them. Greater moments come. And greater. We look around one day to find we are living in the continual confirmation of the Joy we have faithfully anticipated. (excerpt from The Child Within Us Lives! A Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Metaphysics by William Samuel)