Cup of Nirvana Philosophical and Contemplative Explorations

The Boundless Ocean of Experience

It has now been since six months since I moved into Jikoji Zen Center.  People often ask me what I’ve learned since being here. I prefer to speak of what I’ve experienced. Yes, there is an experiential understanding, but it often resists being neatly articulated.  Everything comes back to experience, and while the contemplative engagement with experience is wonderful, it remains difficult to fully articulate.
The past sixth months have been a powerful period of transition for me on multiple levels, precipitated by the collapse of life as I had known it for the prior three years. I came to Jikoji for healing, to cultivate what I called “compassionate knowing,” and to find the openness where I could believe in love if she should ever speak to me again, though, as Kahlil Gibran so eloquently wrote, her voice had once shattered my dreams.  But love takes many forms, and it’s the one you weren’t seeking that reveals itself and sets you free, allows you to fall joyfully and with surrender into the Boundless Ocean of Experience. . .
The experience of just observing, which tends to illuminate the inner compulsion or need to do something with a situation.  What is watched here in both the outer and inner aspect of experience. On the inside, it’s a watching of thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations, including observing the “inner compulsion” to do something with what arises in the mind, e.g., creating a narrative, rendering a judgment, and so forth.  On the outside, it’s the observation of what is happening “out there,” e.g., a leaf falling, car moving, dog barking, etc.  Everything is seen as it is happening, distinguished from mental story telling about what is happening.  If I could only see the apple as it is, my self conception would shatter into a million pieces.  Of course, the idea here isn’t to end mental phenomena, to cease story telling and seeking, much less to retreat from action.  The thing is just to see it clearly and to understand that there is more present here, in this moment of my experience, than me, than this body, than this mind, that is, these thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
The experience of being OK with myself as I am, and the inevitable corollary of this, namely being OK with whatever feelings or thoughts arise in me.  Perhaps anger arises in me.  Perhaps blissful feeling.  Or maybe there is sadness present. No need or compulsion to get rid of what is unpleasant, nor to cling to what is pleasant.  Just to let everything be as it is, this is to treat everything you are in this moment as an expression of the Absolute.  Any consciousness that can hold all the opposites is inconceivably vast, and it’s clearly seen that this “I” is, in the words of Gibran, a “boundless drop to a boundless sea.” This is why acceptance is always a revelation of our largeness.  And by “acceptance” I do not mean something the mind does or may not do. Whatever is experienced has already been accepted, otherwise it would be no part of your experience. The deepest acceptance is just the abiding presence of awareness that conditions each moment of any experience.
The experience of silence, not just verbal silence but the silence that is experienced inwardly when one falls into the nothingness that separates the rising and falling of one thought, feeling, or sensation. This is the collapse of mental phenomena into the nothingness from which they emerged, just as waves collapse into the sea that gave them birth.  Beneath the anger, there is fear. Beneath the fear, there is pain.  Beneath the pain there is tranquility. Beneath the tranquility, if you’re lucky to get that far, there is nothing at all.  This nothing is awakening. This awakening is wherever silence is. And wherever you find the silence, you find your most faithful lover and kiss the face of God.
The experience of nothing “special” happening at all: just watching a deer eat plants outside, listening to a Blue Jay’s screeching voice, mopping the resident kitchen floor, lighting incense in my room, striking a slab of wood hanging outside the zendo in the pouring rain at 5:45am, making an egg and cheese scramble for breakfast, listening to Black Sabbath, driving my car down a dirt road, playing guitar, remembering my pain, watching rain fall, recalling a blissful moment, buying a shirt, writing a blog post. These are truly the moments to live for because ultimately there is nothing happening but this, and this is love all around us.  Dive into this boundless ocean of experience.  Realize with each blink of your eye, whether you open to the height of bliss or the depth of despair, this is as good as it gets. This moment now is the home to which you return again and again, and it’s the greatest gift of all.



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