So today is the first day of Autumn, just when I thought she was in the past. But Autumn always returns, and I’m learning to embrace her presence afresh each time with an open acceptance, whether accompanied by joy or sorrow. She’s just a season, though Keats perhaps thought she was a goddess. Like the waves upon the sea, the breath upon my lips, the rising of a craving, the blooming of a flower, the passion of a lover, Autumn comes and goes. Impermanence. That’s the basic truth. That’s the deal. And yet she remains my beautiful teacher, and my love for her abides. She nails this painful truth into my heart. I let her cut me and bleed me into gratitude and peace, and then I am free – the sweetest freedom.
(1) My pursuit of personal healing was suspended the moment my attention was drawn to the deer outside my window. In the clear seeing of the deer, the clear hearing of a Blue Jay, or the clear tasting of a piece of chocolate, all seeking stops, if only for a moment, because it’s known in that moment that nothing, absolutely nothing, is in need of repair. This is the sweetest freedom.
(2) It’s difficult, if not impossible, for my mind to accept that there is no “me” at the center of my life. Indeed, even in the confession of this, it’s assumed that there is some “center,” that there really is something there called “my life.” In fact there isn’t. There is just life happening. And in the clear seeing of this there is nothing left but surrender – the sweetest freedom.
(3) In these moments when we are the silent surrender, the nameless, formless watcher, our personal story dissolves and we are utterly present. There is a clear seeing of life as it is, free from “should haves” and “could haves.” It’s seen that there is life happening all around us – fish swimming, children laughing, waves crashing, seasons changing, sun setting, despair rising – a dynamic unfolding that is veiled by the mind’s self-propelled drama. It prevents us from seeing this beauty and dancing with it, and yet the dance continues. Our personal story is but one movement in life’s eternal song. Play on and be free – the sweetest freedom.
(4) The mind will be utterly disturbed by the possibility that its pursuit of “healing” or “recovery” is just the addict re-appearing in a new form. The core psychological element in all addiction is the compulsive seeking of happiness, completion, or satisfaction in something outside oneself. The path of healing or recovery is often simply another form of this. Identity-seeking under the guise of “personal healing” often reproduces, howbeit in a more subtle form, the intrinsically anxiety-ridden project of making life OK. So I just relax. I hold on to nothing. I let go of nothing. Everything is exactly as it’s supposed to be. This is the sweetest freedom.
(5) Strive for your freedom, but then simply stop it. Work for your personal healing, but then just stop it. Do the 12-Step Program, but then just stop it. Practice Zen, but then just stop it. Pray to Jesus, but then crucify him. Chant Hare Krishna, and then jump into the ocean and swim. Whatever you’re doing, especially whatever you’re doing for attainment, just stop it. I want you to see your search as a lie, your quest for psychological wholeness as a deep delusion, your god as really the devil, and ‘Zen’ as just a word. I want you to throw away the japa beads, incense, holy books, daily affirmation cards, and murtis When the curtain finally falls on your little drama, there’s only one thing left to do. It’s what you’ve been doing all along. It’s what you’ve been looking for all along. Breathe – this is the sweetest freedom.
(6) What’s in a breath? A child playing in the sand. A young woman singing to her cat. The philosopher deconstructing arguments. The gardener planting flowers. The lover laughing. Cook cooking. Actor acting. Dancer dancing. Poet writing. Tear drop falling. Lover leaving. Gods dying. Devils being born. What’s in a breath? Your redemption. Your Self – the sweetest freedom.
(7) Everything you are in this very moment – your love, your hate, your joy, your sadness, your health, your addiction – it’s all an expression of the Absolute – the sweetest freedom.
(8) Recovery and healing take no effect until you reach the other side of nothing. And having reached the other side of nothing, everything – music, therapy, cooking, and even your deep delusion – is a celebration and exploration of the beauty that has always been your nature. There is nothing to recover, only the present to discover. This is the sweetest freedom.
(9) Ride upon the wings of the seagull as it soars through the air and then crashes into the sea. The bird that carries you also drops you into the deep. And there you sink into the cold frigid depths and die in the silence of a perpetual unseen night. Your final moments pass, not in fear or rage, against the ocean or the sky, or against the feather that dropped you like a stone. No. Your final moments pass in the warmth of your lover’s embrace, for the last thing remembered is the first thing known, God’s loving kiss: the memory of having soared the skies with birds, indeed having seen your face upon the waves of yesterday’s tears into which you passed and eternally dissolved. You are free – the sweetest freedom.
(10) The darkness is one man’s suicide; the other man’s salvation. But it’s undeniably everyone’s nature. This darkness, whether appearing as sorrow dipped in chocolate or joy rising into a night sky, is the sweetest freedom.
(11) Sometimes truth appears as a gentle butterfly. Sometimes truth appears as a raging hurricane. Sometimes truth appears as a butterfly in a hurricane. Sometimes truth appears as the realization that the butterfly and hurricane are non-different, just as ocean and wave, singer and song, lover and beloved, life and death, samsara and nirvana are one. This is the sweetest freedom.
(12) Now dear Autumn, having taught me these fundament truths, I kiss the night into which you passed. I closed my eyes and entered silence. I opened my eyes and you were there. I now see you as you truly are. You are emptiness in which longing has taken form, but you must ever change the color of the leaves. Form is emptiness, and so form can be reborn, form into form, emptiness dancing. Change is the thing. So kiss me one last time, like a butterfly that lands upon my nose. Sing to me one last time, as the music stops our minds. Give me your frigid breath, which chills me to life and then to death. Like you, I too dance as emptiness taking form, form into form, dependent and yet independent, eternal shapeshifter perpetually reborn in karma’s trembling hand. Dance with me or dance but not with me. Either way, you’re a lover, and I’m a lover. And every lover is essentially a dancer. This is the play, and this is how the drama plays out. This is life happening. This is the sweetest freedom.