‘Through our eyes, the Universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the Universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the Universe becomes conscious of itself.’ [Alan Watts]
POSTCARD #83: London – Delhi flight: Clouds cover the landscape, with openings here and there where I can see the ground below. England is a patchwork quilt of very small fenced enclosures, little houses built with brick and stone that last for hundreds of years. Concrete bulwarks along the coastline, the idea of the sea engulfing the land is psychological. A united Kingdom huddled together on land space so small it’s almost not there at all. Travel across from East to West and in a few hours you come to the sea again. Geographical aloneness, an island mentality, the idea of ‘self’, marooned, I am contained, separate from everything, surrounded by water, the world is out ‘there’. Not much room, just enough space for everything, a smallness, memories are close by and everything is near at hand. The buildings and the land were all here before I was born and will be here after I’m gone. Children learn about the everlasting ‘soul’ living in an objective world; belief in a ‘self’ yet… seeing only the lack of it, a lifetime spent looking for an answer to this puzzle – it must be… over the horizon somewhere.
Somewhere far away from not ‘being’ but being busy doing things. Somewhere distant from the default settings the world of money and power depends on. The system hijacked the Jesus Teachings and now there’s no place in society for a contemplative spiritual life. Nothing to encourage children to look beyond sensory gratification and see through perception because it works better to have an unknowing population addicted to television and consumer goods. Living with an intensity fueled by greed, hatred and delusion, instead of generosity, loving-kindness and insight. The worship of self rather than selflessness.
In a discussion with one of the monks at Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery in UK the question came up, what does the word ‘contemplation’ actually mean? Contemplating contemplation… the state of mind where everything is seen as an awareness of present experience, circumstances which can’t be explained in any terms other than what they are. Thinking stops and the mind opens up to experience as it is – not as it’s verbalised. Sometimes language just gets in the way. Like waking up after a good night’s sleep and there’s the solution to the puzzle I was thinking about before I went to sleep. No words, no memory, no markers in the mind for thought to attach to and somehow everything falls into place.
We call it a grain of sand,
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine, without a name,
whether general, particular,
incorrect, or apt.
The window has a wonderful view of a lake,
but the view doesn’t view itself.
It exists in this world
soundless, odorless, and painless.
The lake’s floor exists floorlessly,
and its shore exists shorelessly.
The water feels itself neither wet nor dry
and its waves to themselves are neither singular nor plural.
They splash deaf to their own noise
on pebbles neither large nor small.
And all this beneath a sky by nature skyless
in which the sun sets without setting at all
and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.
The wind ruffles it, its only reason being
that it blows. [Wislawa Szymborska]
The header image source: Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery.
Poem source: superaalifragilistic, View With A Grain Of Sand.
The Alan Watts quote source: Zen Flash, Through our eyes the Universe is perceiving itself
– G R A T I T U D E –
Thank Heaven’s there are places like your blog for those of us holding on to living a contemplative spiritual life. These thoughts are powerful and I thank you for this beautiful poem, and the image is perfect with the introspection your ‘view’ helps us ponder. Namaste. Gina
Thank you so much Gina, I’d been thinking about this curious aloneness about blogging and yet there’s a connection with others all over the planet. I find it encouraging to think that blogging provides a space to ponder, introspection and the contemplative spiritual life.
All separate but connected. Being is enough. The answer that was always there. Your words are my inspiration for today.
It’s like this, too much focus on ‘doing’ not enough on ‘being’. Most of us are so caught up in looking for the answer, we can’t see it… surprised to discover it was always here. A oneness rather than diversity. Thanks for these nice words.
It’s I who should be thanking you.
Your support is valuable…
thank you, and Ireland is smaller still, with smaller fields, and many crumbling ruins of old homesteads in the rural areas that may perhaps have crumbled further and back to earth when I die, like me. lots to be grateful for in your words and those you quote, as usual 🙂
Thanks Liz. I went to Dublin many years ago, by plane from London. Coming in over the small fields and ever-present rainfall, I understood the term: ‘the forty shades of green’. It was quite wonderful to see, after being in the city. The kind of place to get old in, maybe…
Lovely post Tiramit, wonderful image and words, and so very very true. Age has made me far more aware of ‘just being’. Each moment is precious wherever we are. Travel safely.
Thank you Jude, just as I begin to understand how it works, time starts to run out – life is too short to contain it all. The journey went well and now I’m in Delhi, nice to be back
Thanks, it’s a shared software…
‘Like waking up after a good night’s sleep and there’s the solution to the puzzle I was thinking about before I went to sleep. No words, no memory, no markers in the mind for thought to attach to and somehow everything falls into place.
This is an area that fascinates me. I have a book called ‘The Mathematician’s Mind’ by Jacques Hadamard [subtitle: ‘The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field’]. It explores how the mind incubates tentative thoughts and opaque ideas, sometimes over great periods of time, only one day for an insightful new vision to spontaneously arise and which resolves the need for all further enquiry.
Many thanks for this article.
Thank you Hariod for the idea of tentative thoughts and opaque ideas the mind incubates over great periods of time that spontaneously arise like seeds in the earth sprout when the rain comes. It’s fascinating and reassuring somehow; everything of value is treasured.
It’s easy to get sucked into playing what Joseph Campbell referred to as “the obvious game…” Thank you yet again for your insight. Jeff
Thanks Jeff for your reference to Joseph Campbell and “the obvious game” which I couldn’t find… but surmise the meaning. Browsing through my very old copy of ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ in the hope of coming across it, I rediscovered many other references to the Mystery that’s right there in open sight. I’m so glad you pointed it out, I decided to read the book again…
Welcome back to Delhi… It does seem the world is heading in a bad direction in every way. I love the poem– oh to just “be,” perhaps like a child, un-self-conscious. Perhaps… “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” I don’t usually go around quoting the Bible, especially since I lean more towards Hinduism than Christianity, but have been thinking about this teaching for awhile now. And it seems to relate to the poem you quoted, if somewhat tangentially. Always enjoy your posts!
Thanks Ellen for reminding me of the teaching: the kingdom of heaven lies within and to understand and ‘know’ this, we have to return to the un-self-conscious childlike state. I feel sure the same thing is expressed in Hindu texts, it would be interesting to search for a parallel. Yes, I’m back in Delhi again, the extreme heat has gone, some rain and all kinds of blossoms on trees in the three weeks I’ve been away.
Oh, thank YOU, for making me think more about this. Yogananda has a daunting, massive two volume text in which he draws parallels from the Bible to Kriya Yoga and vice versa. I have looked through it. Will have to find this verse. I am still pondering the context/content explanation you wrote. Glad the heat is over in Delhi. Enjoy the coolness and rain blossoms!
had to re-read this a couple of times. mind says it’s beautiful.
Thanks Bert for taking the time to study this, in a way it’s the poem that motivated me to write the post…
A very beautiful poem, and a very beautiful introduction to it … very much worth contemplating 🙂
To the Watts quote I would humbly add, we are the players as well as the witnesses. 🙂
Thanks for this addition, Eric. Maybe Alan Watts didn’t think to put it that way because of the presence of ‘identity’ that seems to come with it. Interesting, I’m not sure, it could be another sense through which the universe is perceiving itself? Or maybe it’s all the same anyway 🙂