May be an image of sky and text

Posted by: Stephen Paul | May 2, 2021

Nirvana, the Waterfall

May be an image of waterfall and nature

~ Nirvana, the Waterfall ~”Before we were born we were one with the Universe. This is called “Mind-only,” or “Essence of Mind,” or “Big Mind.” After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated by the wind and rocks, then we have feeling. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the Universe, you have fear.. When the water returns to its original oneness with the river, it resumes its own nature, and finds composure… Nirvana.

We say, “Everything comes out of emptiness.” One whole river or one whole mind is emptiness. When we reach this understanding we can see the beauty of human life. To talk about it this way is quite easy, but to have the actual feeling is not so easy. But by your practice of zazen (meditation) you can cultivate this feeling. When you can sit with your whole body and mind, and with the oneness of your mind and body under the control of the Universal Mind, you can easily attain this kind of right understanding. Your everyday life will be renewed without being attached to [the] old erroneous interpretation of life.. This is Nirvana.”

Shunryu Suzuki

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Posted by: Stephen Paul | April 30, 2021

Simplicity, patience, compassion

May be an image of flower

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion.

These three are your greatest treasures.”

~ Lao Tzu ~

Posted by: Stephen Paul | April 28, 2021

Perceive all from the Mountaintop of your Heart-mind

Mooji | Kripalu

Let life unfold without identity.

Leave space for the unexpected.

Give up the habit of predicting, and projecting.

Simply stay in the neutrality of Being

so that you perceive all

from the mountaintop of your Heart-mind.

Mooji

Charlotte Joko Beck and the search for life's hidden jewel - Tim Madigan

“Most of our difficulties, our hopes, and our worries are empty fantasies. Nothing has ever existed except this moment. That’s all there is. That’s all we are. Yet most human beings spend 50 to 90 percent or more of their time in their imagination, living in fantasy. We think about what has happened to us, what might have happened, how we feel about it, how we should be different, how others should be different, how it’s all a shame, and on and on; it’s all fantasy, all imagination. Memory is imagination. Every memory that we stick to devastates our life.” ―Charlotte Joko Beck

Posted by: Stephen Paul | April 14, 2021

May be an image of sky and text that says '"Being must be felt. It can't be thought." ~Eckhart Tolle'
Posted by: Stephen Paul | April 12, 2021

What is there when there is nothing to be swept away?

Mooji's stream

What is there when there is nothing to be swept away?

That which is here and cannot be swept away, that is your ‘I am’ vibration Self.

Stay with this vibration of presence,

not merely the words ‘I am’ but the intuitive subjective sense of ‘I am’, ‘I am here’.

It is not an object. It is formless subjectivity.

Be one with that.

Mooji

Posted by: Stephen Paul | April 6, 2021

“I wasn’t prepared for this.”–Well worth the read.

Jeff Foster (www.lifewithoutacentre.com) 

“𝐈 𝐖𝐀𝐒𝐍’𝐓 𝐏𝐑𝐄𝐏𝐀𝐑𝐄𝐃 𝐅𝐎𝐑 𝐓𝐇𝐈𝐒…”An update, 5th April 2021.

Dear Friends, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the overflowing love and support you’ve shown me these last months since I announced I was taking time off to focus on my health. Your messages, your emails, your poetry, your artwork, your heartfelt words of encouragement and support have truly touched me. And again, to those of you who have sent donations, I just feel so deeply grateful, moved and honoured that you would help me out at this challenging time in my life. I know many of you are going through hard times at the moment, so it makes me feel even more thankful, and humbled, to feel your care.😭😭As promised, I want to update you about where I am, and share some of the realisations, experiences, struggles and insights I’ve been having, as I move through the heart of this health challenge. I know I’m not the only one on the planet suffering right now. I don’t want this message to be all about “me”. But hopefully, through sharing my experience, I can be of some benefit to you all. That has always been my wish – to inspire and encourage through sharing lived experience. “IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD” – TO BE SICK AND TO BE BELIEVEDI know so many of you out there have struggled – or are currently struggling – with health conditions, both acute and chronic. As I’ve spoken with you over the years in meetings and retreats, you’ve shared with me your tender, inquisitive hearts, the places in you that ache, your longings, your yearning for the light, for love. You’ve shared with me the shock, the sense of disorientation, the frustration, anger, grief and feelings of despair that come with illness. You’ve shared with me your sense of loss and the challenges of daily physical pain. Sometimes what makes things so much worse, is the loneliness of illness. The sense of “missing out” on life, being disconnected from community. The sense that your body has somehow failed you, or that you did something wrong, or that you ‘deserve’ to be ill in some way. That you have failed in some way, as a human being, as a spiritual seeker, as a student, as a child of God.The shame. The guilt. The sense of failure that’s tied up with the story of “being sick”. These things can be hard to bear, too.On top of all this, we are called to deal with other people’s reactions, opinions, judgements and advice. Their empathy and understanding for us… or their lack of it. Don’t forget, people can only offer us love and understanding to the extent that they can offer it to themselves. Not everyone is going to be able to meet us in our deepest, most painful, experience. Some true friends and supporters – including doctors and healers, from both conventional and alternative approaches – are truly able to meet us where we are. They validate our feelings and our symptoms. They cry with us. They believe us. They stick around when we are a mess. They validate our pain and don’t make empty promises. Around people like this, we don’t feel crazy. We feel seen, heard, validated. Our suffering is real. Our ache is valid to them. They meet us where we are. They don’t dismiss us. They know when to offer advice and help, when to pull back and just listen, and when to take our hand and lead us when we cannot lead ourselves. When we feel understood, seen, valid, safe in such a presence, we relax, and we open. Other times we encounter people – doctors, healers, friends, even close family members – who are not able to meet us, not able to validate our experience, and we are left feeling worse when we encounter them, more crazy, even more sick. They may tell us things like, “it’s all in your head”, or “you are ill because you want to be ill”…. or tell us that we “manifested” our illness, or our “egoic resistance to life” created it…. or they may diagnose us with an anxiety disorder or mental illness when we KNOW there’s something physically wrong with us, or misdiagnose a physical disorder when we KNOW we really need help with our emotional life. They may offer us quick fixes and solutions, (which are not really quick fixes, or solutions) then shame or blame us, or even bully us, for not trying “their” way, the “right” way. Family members and friends may not believe the actual diagnosis we were given, or they may try to force their own diagnosis upon us. Others may move towards us, or move away, when they find our we aren’t what they thought we were. Everyone is dealing with their own trauma, their own disappointments, their own pain, their own fear of death and change and mortality. We are called to stay true to ourselves. To follow our gut, our intuition, to listen to that quiet voice in our deepest heart that knows what’s right in the face of the advice, the judgements, and the gaslighting. Not “what’s right” in absolute terms. Not “what’s right” for everyone. But what’s right for us. Today.

A JOURNEY INTO PROFOUND UNCERTAINTY

It’s been humbling, the last few months. It truly has. I’ve been trying to navigate through the hundreds of perspectives people (all of them well-meaning, I believe) have been offering me. Over the last months I’ve spoken to many doctors, healers, therapists and well-meaning others, and every single one of them seemed pretty certain about what is going on in my system! One healer told me that my body was experiencing the Fall of Atlantis (for the third time, no less), and that event would explain all my symptoms. One doctor told me that what I have is “unfortunately incurable” and I will be “very disabled” for the rest of my life. One therapist told me that the symptoms I’m experiencing are caused at the root by unresolved birth trauma, and once I have truly met my abandoned child, “all my symptoms will disappear”. One energy worker told me that I just needed to rest, and be still, and my symptoms would subside on their own. (I have been inviting people to rest for years, and meet their deepest feelings, and to lean into the present moment, but I have never, ever made such promises, or promised quick fixes or panaceas, and I would never do that. I find it cruel to make such promises).I don’t have a fixed position about all this. There is no doubt that body and mind are intimately connected, and repressed emotion and unhealed trauma contribute, at least in part, to the disease process, though suppression of the immune system, in ways that modern science is only beginning to understand. There is no doubt that some people are helped by “Fall of Atlantis” healers. There is no doubt that for some people, symptoms subside after ingesting certain chemicals or plant substances, or doing certain healing and trauma work, or experiencing love or the placebo effect, or just resting and letting their body heal on its own, with no intervention at all. But… there is also no doubt that what works for someone else may not work for you. All I’m saying is, stay close to your discernment. This is what I’m learning. The path of healing is mysterious and may (or inevitably will) take you to places you never thought you would go. There is a deep knowing in you. Deep down, your body knows if someone is safe, your very nervous system knows if something they are saying is deeply true for you, or not. Your body knows whether this is your path or not. You are not necessarily “in resistance” if you say no. And you are not crazy for saying yes to a treatment option that feels right for you. Healing is a messy business, full of ups and downs, wrong turns and dead ends, days of hope and days when hope seems a million miles away. In time, you will find people – healers, therapists, friends, even strangers – who can truly hold you, and, most importantly, believe you, listen to you, as you heal, or at least, as you take the next steps on your courageous path. You will find a community of people who know, very deeply, what you are going through. And maybe you will learn to lean in, just a little bit, to the great Uncertainty of it all…WHAT ILLNESS TEACHES US. All of us will suffer ill-health at some point in our lives, perhaps become disabled, and all of us will die, at least in this form. This is a fact of life that we must never turn away from, if we are to be truly human, which is also truly Divine. If we turn from death, we turn from life. If we turn from suffering, we close our hearts and disconnect from the vastness and Mystery of the Universe. Through contemplating death, the strangeness of our own mortality and the fragile mortality of those we love, we may realise the utter holiness and preciousness of this life. We may stop taking our days for granted. We may stop assuming that we are in control of everything. We may awaken to the sacredness of existence itself. I have written and talked extensively about death and pain over the years, but through this experience, through this crisis, life is bringing me even closer, and closer still to my own fragility, vulnerability, and ultimately, mortality. It strikes me that illness is a form of death. It’s not what comes before death. It is a death in itself, and preparation and practice for dying. It is the collapse of our dream of “perfect health”, our dream of tomorrow, such happy and care-free dreams! It is the disintegration of some hope of how our future was going to turn out – our plans, what we wanted, where we were going, what we would be capable of as we aged, how we were going to live.It is – if we can work with it this way – the death of our old beliefs, opinions, dogmas, of how life is “supposed” to be, of how we “should” feel and look, think and talk, even walk or breathe. It is the death of unconscious habits, an opportunity to really slow down and take stock. Illness shatters our fantasies and forces us to look at ourselves, penetratingly, honestly, look at the ways in which we abandon ourselves, in which we hide from life, in which we run away from the unwanted in ourselves and others, in which we shame ourselves and beat ourselves up and mock ourselves and dishonour ourselves, perhaps the way we were mocked or shamed when we were innocent children. We can begin to see the ways in which we push ourselves too hard or don’t push ourselves hard enough, make ourselves wrong for being “less than” what we could be; the ways in which we turn away from the present moment itself, the ways in which we distract ourselves from discomfort. Illness is a wrathful, penetrating, but ultimately compassionate teacher, a teacher we perhaps never expected or asked for. We can fight and rebel against our present reality. We can protest and scream out to the heavens, “This is unfair! Why did this have to happen to ME?”. We can deny what’s happening, rationalise it, distract ourselves from it. But at some point, maybe, we come, exhausted, to a place of surrender. We are called to stare our illness in the face. And let all our outdated dreams crumble, dreams of how our life was “going to be”. We face “what is”. No separation any longer. We take a brave step into the groundless place…And perhaps there we start actually listening to the body and its aches and pains and yearnings, listening to the discomfort itself and asking it, “What have you come to reveal to me? Do you have guidance or wisdom or anything to show me? What happens if you stay with me for days, weeks, years? What happens if I never get “better”? What then? Can I open to that possibility, that devastation?” “What happens if… I can just be here, now. Today. What happens if I can just live this day…?”This is a place of utter humility. We are on our knees before life. We find ourselves not in control. (Were we ever in control?). We prostrate ourselves before the Unknown. We bow to all that is “Out of Our Hands”. And maybe, just maybe, in that place of death, death of the old life and the old dreams and the ego’s certainty and domination over life, something new, something creative and unexpected can grow. From the ashes of the old reality, we can perhaps start to appreciate the little things in this new reality, come closer to the ebb and flow of the living day: the taste of tea, the feeling of the morning breeze on our face, the way our shoulders or feet or hands feel right now. The fact that we have been given another 24 hours on this precious Earth. To accept what is… or to run away. To feel… or to not feel anything at all. To notice… or not notice what we notice or do not. To withdraw from life or to expand into it. To be kind to ourselves, or to realise that we are not being kind to ourselves at all. To lean a little into the ache of Now, to notice a brief respite from pain. To feel ourselves recoiling from pain, in resistance to tightness, which is so, so natural. To have courage or to have no courage at all today. Don’t be hard on yourself, my friend. It’s not easy. It’s really not. This is what I am discovering. When the physical health one took for granted falls away so quickly, it is not easy. This is humbling, and after all these years of meditation, resting in awareness, meeting my deepest feelings, learning into the aching places, I was not prepared for this. How can we ever be truly “prepared”? Let yourself fail, let yourself fall, my friend, let yourself get caught up in the story. Let yourself want to be somewhere else, someone else, ANYWHERE ELSE BUT HERE. Let yourself be exactly what you are, where you are, how you are. Human. Imperfect. Fallible. Fragile. Hurting. Afraid. Utterly loveable, yet sometimes feeling utterly unlovable. Facing the unwanted. Sometimes unable to face the unwanted. Sometimes longing for the end. Let yourself break today, on the altar of life itself.“ I WASN’T PREPARED FOR THIS…”Yes, even after all these years of practising (and teaching) presence, acceptance, mindfulness, allowing feelings, “being with what is”, it’s just not easy, when the body is so darn uncomfortable, when the system is so foggy and achingly tired, when you are dizzy and shaky and out of breath, when the old dreams have shattered, when the life you knew has changed so profoundly and so fast. Yes, perhaps we can never be truly “ready” for life and what it throws at us. We thought we were prepared for her changes, and we weren’t. And that brings a certain sense of humility. Humiliation for the ego, yes, but maybe then a sense of humility. Life is so much bigger than anything we ever knew. The ego has no hope in understanding the vastness of it all. I have been diagnosed with a rare – and as yet incurable – chronic condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (abbreviated as POTS). It basically means that my body struggles to pump blood up from my legs to my head and brain. There are days where I struggle with symptoms that I find quite disabling, physically and mentally. Days where I feel too fatigued to get out of bed or move around for very long, days when I can’t walk for more than 10 minutes without having to sit down, dizzy, panting, out of breath (I am becoming very intimate with my breath!). Days my brain is so foggy and cloudy that I can’t remember where I am, what time it is, whether or not I’ve had breakfast. It’s been about 6 months now and it’s still a challenge to get through each day of this new reality. It took me about a week to write this email, when it would normally take only a few hours. As I mentioned before, several doctors and healers have given me their often conflicting perspectives on what this condition is exactly and what triggered it, and the search for relief and healing goes on. There is a lot of uncertainty. A lot of “I Don’t Know”. A lot of cultivating patience. A lot of medical testing and waiting for results. Trying to hold onto hope, while not getting lost in false hope. I’ve been doing a lot of meditating too on my fellow brothers and sisters around the world who are struggling with ill health these days, through no fault of their own. I’ve been realising once again, more deeply than ever maybe, that we are all on this human journey together. That somehow, in our deepest, roughest rawest, ruined, ripened humanity, we are so connected. Sometimes spirituality makes it all sound so easy. Sometimes even my writings do. “Just be present! Just accept! Just be with what is! Trust it all!”. But, sometimes… it’s really f****** hard. It just is. And you know, that is life, too. The hurt and the struggle and the ruin. That is also ‘what is’. As a friend recently confessed to me, “Jeff, I feel like sh*t today, and I don’t want to spiritualise it away. I don’t want to be aware of it. I don’t want to accept it. I don’t want to meditate it away. I want to dive into that feeling, know what it’s like to feel really sh*tty, so that there is no more war inside….”To accept where we are, sometimes we have to begin by accepting that it’s hard, maybe impossible, to accept where we are. We accept our struggle, our non-acceptance, our resistance, that little child in us that cries “I’m finding this so, so damn difficult and I don’t want to be here and I want things go to back to the way they were!”. Sometimes that’s where we have to begin. At the beginning. At the painful, raw, disappointing, shattering, but truthful beginning. The truthful beginning … that is where life is. It’s where we all meet. It’s where healing can happen. Perhaps that’s what “death” is, too – the ultimate, ultimate beginning. A place where we feel lost, and yet somehow strangely found. It is the ache of Now that points us home. Now is a new chance to let go of what we thought life was going to be, and turn towards the way life is. To let go of old dreams, and dream and hope anew. Or… to just be without dreams or hope today, and live in the raw, wounded moments. Thank you once again for your love, your encouragement, your beautiful words and hearts, my friends, as I, we, all of us, march through these moments, alone, together, finding courage to bear the unbearable, finding the will to keep going, to keep healing, or perhaps to keep learning to lean in to the unhealed places…Breath by breath, moment by precious moment, I love you,

Jeff xxx ❤️❤️

Posted by: Stephen Paul | April 4, 2021

Emptiness becomes love

Adyashanti Gathering ~ Bozeman Dharma Center

In your humanity, there’s the natural expression of joy and love and compassion and caring and total unattachment. Those qualities instantly transmute into humanness when you touch into emptiness. Emptiness becomes love. That’s the human experience of emptiness, that source, that ever-present awakeness. For the humanness to lay itself down—your mind, your body, your hopes, your dreams, everything—to lay itself down in the same unconditional manner in which awareness is ever present, only then is there the direct experience of unity, that you and the highest truth are really one thing. It expresses itself through your humanity, through openness, through love. The divine becomes human and the human becomes divine—not in any “high and mighty” sense, but just in the sense of reality. That’s the way it is.

Adyashanti

Posted by: Stephen Paul | March 30, 2021

This body is not me.

Thich Nhat Hanh Dharma Talks - TopPodcast.com

This body is not me. I am not limited by this body. I am life without boundaries. I have never been born, and I have never died. Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, manifestations from my wondrous true mind. Since before time, I have been free. Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey. Birth and death are a game of hide- and seek. So laugh with me, hold my hand, let us say good-bye, say good-bye, to meet again soon. We meet today. We will meet again tomorrow. We will meet at the source every moment. We meet each other in all forms of life.

Thich Nhat Hanh

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