This is the first day of this December 2023, two day sesshin. And we will be using the text ccalled Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. And I will give a little of his background. Eckhart Tolle is not a Buddhist, in the sense of a card carrying Buddhist, but his understanding of his life, his expression of dharma is totally in alignment. And he would be he is actually 75. Now, he was born in Germany, had a very interesting childhood, fairly nondescript in terms of he wasn't, I think, badly treated, he took himself out of school when he was 13, and studied on his own for many until he was much older. But then he fell into a very profound depression. So bad that he was basically homeless, wandering around, feeling desperate. For those people who suffer from depression, you know, how immobilizing that is and how empty person can feel and also frustrated. And he was sitting on a park bench at the age of 29. Interestingly, the same age as the Buddha, when he had came to a very deep awakening.
And from then on for 45 years, he has been practicing and teaching out of that understanding. I mentioned him because it's very easy to think of profound understanding of something that happened to those grand old boys in the Chan era or in Japan, and we don't think of it so much as meeting one on the street, you know. And so Eckhart Tolle is one of those. Byron Katie, woman from California is another deeply deeply awakened people who don't necessarily, as I say, they're not Buddhists by tradition, but their understanding is such that we can really learn from them. So I'll just read his little blurb from the back of the book. Eckhart Tola is a contemporary spiritual teacher who is not aligned with any particular religion or tradition. In his writing, and seminars, he conveys a simple yet profound message with the timeless and uncomplicated clarity of the ancient spiritual masters. There is a way out of suffering and into peace. He lives now in Vancouver, British Columbia. His other books are the power of now and practicing the power of now
the book begins a true spiritual teacher, excuse me.
Does not have anything to teach in the conventional sense of the word does not have anything to give or add to you such as new information, beliefs, rules of conduct, the only function of such a teacher is to help you remove that which separates you from the truth of who you really are already, and what you already know in the depth of your being. The spiritual teacher is there to uncover and reveal to you that dimension of inner depth, that is also peace. If you come to a spiritual teacher looking for stimulating ideas, theories, beliefs, intellectual discussions, then you will be disappointed. In other words, if you are looking for food for thought, you won't find it and you will myths, the very essence of the teaching the essence of this book, which is not in the words, but within yourself. And it's good to remember that and to feel that the words are no more than signposts that to which they point is not to be found within the realm of thought. But a dimension within yourself that is deeper and infinitely vast than thought of vibrantly alive peace is one of the characteristics of that dimension. So whenever you feel in a piece of writing, the book is doing its work and fulfilling its function as your teacher. It is reminding you of who you are, and pointing the way back home. It's interesting, you know, when we chant for people who are suffering or for disasters and things we end with, may they or may he or she or they find their true home. And that's what this is about the true home.
Just like the ancient Sutras, the writings contained with this within this book are sacred, and have come out of a state of consciousness we may call stillness. Unlike those ancient sutras, however, they don't belong to any one religion or spiritual tradition, they are immediately accessible to the whole of humanity. There is also an added sense of urgency here. The transformation of human consciousness is no longer a luxury, so to speak, available only to a few isolated individuals. But a necessity of humankind is not to destroy itself. At the present time, the dysfunction of the old consciousness and the arising of the new are both accelerating. Paradoxically, things are getting worse and better at the same time. Although the worst is more apparent, because it makes so much noise.
This book, of course, uses words that did the act of reading become thoughts in your mind, but those are not ordinary thoughts, repetitive, noisy, self serving, clamoring for intention, just like every true spiritual teacher, just like the ancient Sutras, the thoughts within this book, don't say, Look at me, but look beyond me. Because the thoughts come out of stillness and they have power, the power to take you back into the same stillness from which they arose. That stillness is also inner peace. And that stillness and peace are the essence of your being. And it is this stillness that will save and transform the world. When you lose, touch, with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. And when you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world, of thought, LIFs shoulds, insurance your innermost sense of self of who you are, is inseparable from stillness, it is the I Am That is deeper than name or form. And if you think about it, I am you cannot not know that right now. We're all aware of I am and there are Indian traditions where I am that is the mantra that they use.
Ramana Maharshi, a great teacher also who died in I guess, 90 in the 50s. His, he said, as he said, the mind is essentially silent, out of which is born words and existence so, it's going back really, really far. Behind all that we know all of the primal void. Primal void is not an empty it's not a nothing. It's the potential for all that exists or doesn't exist.
Stillness is the inner space are aware enters in which words are perceived and become thoughts. Without that awareness, there would be no perception, no thoughts, no world, you are that awareness disguised as a person. And this is really crucial because awareness is the most essential function of our nature. Bodhidharma who's our patron? grandfather, grandfather grandfather. He says this, you know, awareness is Buddhahood. Now, if Bodhidharma says that, if I said it would be, you could say, what's that? But no Bodhidharma said awareness is Buddhahood. So, what stops us being aware? Anybody want to give it a guess? I should hear a resounding shout what stands in the way of awareness, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, they get tangled up, we get tangled up in everything. The equivalent of external noise is the inner noise of thinking. The equivalent of external silence is inner stillness. Whenever there is some silence around you listen to it. That means just notice it, pay attention to it. Listening to silence awakens the dimension of stillness within yourself. Because it is only through stillness that you can be aware of silence. So people working on what is sound or who is hearing, this listening aspect is is vital. It's really hard in the winter here, because all the windows are closed, you can't hear any ambient ambient sounds at all, you can't hear a bird or tweet or anything but every sound within the room, somebody's coughing, somebody's moving, you can be alert to that you can be awake to it.
And if we're talking about awareness, if you think of animals, the deer that are all around here, their ears are always alert, always up, even when they're eating. And I've actually heard that some deer can starve if they're living in areas that are too close to humans, because they're so alert that they don't have time to eat. But without awareness, an animal could lose its life. We're lucky we don't have to be that aware, unless we live in an area like a war zone or place where as a child were unsafe. hyper alertness is is something that people in tough situations develop. But just being just listening. It's really hard to just listen, I mean, it's much easier to have a response and jump in but just to just to be still.
There's a practice that I know Byron Katie teaches, which is, you go outside and you meet a tree and you don't label it. You don't call it a sycamore or an oak or an ash or a nice tree or ugly tree. You simply embrace the tree Enos of it. So you might try that once in a while just being with an inanimate something. letting it come to you.
He says here when you look at a tree and perceive it stillness, you become still yourself. You connect with it at a very deep level. You feel a oneness with whatever you perceive in and through stillness, feeling the one serve yourself with all things is true love
there is someone I know quite well, who had a very deep experience many many years ago now you in which it was on pod. So, you know this has some parameters around it. But the experience was that nothing exists I and yet everything is suffused with with love. And in our practice here, it's really easy if you're working on Mu or you're working on koans on it's really easy to get into this striving thing you know, wanting to get the prize and and so it's it's very important to be aware that that there is this love that is behind or with us or whatever is all everything.
Silence is helpful, but you don't need it in order to find stillness, even when there is noise you can be aware of the stillness underneath of the space in which the noise arises. That is the inner space of pure awareness consciousness itself. You can become aware of awareness as the background to all your sense perceptions, or your thinking. We might call this witnessing awareness. Any disturbing noise can be as helpful as silence, how, by dropping your inner resistance to the noise by allowing it to be as it is. This acceptance also takes you into the realm of inner peace. I think we're all very familiar with resistance. It arises when things don't go our way we don't. We're confronted with some obstruction. Somebody says something to us or a situation arises and you can feel it it's like a hardening in your in your gut. And this resistance is not being comfortable with things as they are. But when you fight reality, you actually lose every time. So part of our practice is learning to actually be with things as they are rather than as we want them to be. And when we greet resistance with understanding then it transmutes it, it changes and we can we soften up we aren't so rigid.
He recommends that we pay attention to the gap between two thoughts the brief, silent space between words in a conversation between the notes of a piano or flute or the gap between the in breath and out breath. When you pay attention to the gaps awareness of something becomes simply just awareness. The formless dimension of pure consciousness arises from within you and replaces identification with form.
When we first wake up in the morning in that instant before consciousness of the daily life comes in, we are then in in pure awareness but not very easy to to be present for that, but that is pure awareness then. He says true intelligence operate silently. Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found. Science actually has shown that when people have an awakening, or people have a profound discovery, in science or in art or in poetry, the brain registers the change, or the experience before the person could say, oh, yeah, things, you know, I've got it or it's different. So we're not really in control of it, intuition. We, it, it happens when causes and conditions are, are ripe. So this is why teachers like the yoga teacher Sadhguru tell, tells his students to the one thing they must really do is to put aside getting something because as he says, You don't know what it is. So any thing you put on it is coming out of your own past your own experience. It's not open to not knowing. So it is tough, you know, and I mean, we all want to come to deeper understanding, we want to be free, we want to live out of this true nature, but having a goal, you can have a longing, we can have a passionate longing, we can make huge effort. But we have to set aside this idea that we're going to get something. And I think setting aside is a good way to look at it rather than squashing it pushing it. Just, if we can set things aside, we do that in our regular life, you know, if something you can't deal with what you do you set it aside, oh, I'll deal with that later. Or you put it carefully somewhere and address it later. So setting aside this passion for just be passionate about not knowing it's a wonderful space, you know, we don't know, we don't know anything. How could we know the stars and galaxies and the the way a pomegranate grows? I mean, he's just so immense. We don't have to be overwhelmed by it, but we can embrace it as a welcome it not knowing and in Zen, of course, not knowing is the highest truth. I don't know.
What about? I don't know, I really don't. But there's wondering that too, so that you're not closing it off saying? I don't know. Because we've done that too, right? Somebody asks you something and you don't want to bother with it? I don't know. But this I don't know, it's an opening a kind of vast space. After all, look at the sky, you know, contains vastness. And we have to trust this whole whole thing. He says true intelligence operate silently. That's intuition. You will ever we all have intuition. Now it can be it can trip us up sometimes. But it is this inner feeling it's in your body. Something you know, something you absolutely resonate with.
He says it's stillness, just the absence of noise and content. No, it is intelligence itself, the underlying consciousness out of which every form is born, and how could that be separate from who you are? The form that you think you are, came out of that and is being sustained by it. It is the essence of all galaxies, blades of grass, flowers, trees, birds and all other forms. Stillness is the only thing in this world that has no form. But then it's not really a thing. And it is not of this world. The second chapter is called Beyond the thinking mind. I mean, we're always being told you know, how to settle your thoughts, thoughts and thoughts and thoughts. But the truth is that awareness is only clouded by thoughts. It's only clouded by this narrative this. And it doesn't mean of course, that thinking is not valuable. We need it for, you know, if you're doing a PhD, you'd better have, you better be thinking. But we are mostly living in this cloud. And he starts the chapter with the human condition, lost in thought. Think it's worth saying here though, that as mammals or as beings, we are programmed for survival. So a lot of our thinking and planning and worrying and even creating things comes out of a need for survival. So we have to be careful about judgments. I don't know if it's true for all nations. But I think certainly, in this country. Low self esteem goes along with the along with the patriotic, whatever, people feel very small and, and we're, we have a society that's based on getting to the top one person better than the other all these comparisons which are really against our true nature. So we have to set aside our instinct for self preservation. He says most people spend their entire life imprisoned within the confines of their own thoughts. They never go beyond a narrow mind made personalized sense of self that is contained conditioned by the past. In you as an each human being there is a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It's the very essence of who you are, we may call it presence, awareness, the unconditioned consciousness. In the ancient teachings, it is the Christ within or your Buddha nature. Finding that dimension frees you and the world from suffering you inflict on yourself and others, when the mind made, the to me is all you know, and runs your life. Love, joy, creative expansion, and inner peace cannot come into your life except through the unconditioned dimension of consciousness. And if you can recognize even occasionally, the thoughts that go through your mind as simply thoughts. If you can witness your own mental, emotional reactive patterns as they happen, then that dimension is already emerging in you as the awareness in which thoughts and emotions happen. The timeless in a space in which the content of your life unfolds. The stream of thinking has enormous momentum that can easily drag you along with it. Every thought pretends that it matters so much it wants to draw your attention in completely. Here is a new spiritual practice for you. Don't take your thoughts too seriously. My first teacher, PK capitalism, he used to often say that we are used by the 24 hours but in, in Zen practice, we, we learn to actually use the second we're not used by we use the conditions and the 24 hours that are given to us.
Another thing we can do with our thoughts, though, is to also question them, we never do we rarely do. You know, I'm thinking about something and no, of course that's true. You know, I'm and then I might ask is this is true. And in the Byron Katie method, of course, the answer to that question when you have your thought that's troubling you and you ask it Is this true or not? The answer can only be yes or no, you cannot have well, this and well that so. But when you really look at yes or no. And you really investigate that, you'll begin to see all other kinds of dimensions around your, your, what you're believing. And then she would say, Well, what happens when you believe that thought, well, you feel terrible. And if you didn't have that thought, how would you be? Well, you'd be just fine. And then of course, she has a twist in the tail where you have to turn the thought around and see it for what it is and try to work with it. But at least questioning our thoughts is, it can be very valuable. Okay, the human mind in its desire to know, understand and control mistakes, its opinions and viewpoints for the truth. It says, This is how it is. You have to be larger than thought to realize that however you interpret your life or someone else's life, however you judge any situation, it's no more than a viewpoint, one of many possible perceptions. It's a bundle of thoughts. But reality is one unified whole, in which all things are interwoven where nothing exists in and by itself, thinking fragments reality, it cuts it up into conceptual bits and pieces. So here, he's really talking about dependent co arising with everything depends on everything else. We are, we are actually the subject, we're not objects to a subject, hard to get around that. But the thinking mind is a useful and powerful tool, but it's also limiting when it takes over your life completely, when you don't realize that it's only a small aspect of the consciousness that you are. Wisdom is not a product of thought, deep knowing that is wisdom arises through the simple act of giving someone or something your full attention. Wisdom arises through the simple act of giving someone was something your full attention. Attack attention is primordial intelligence consciousness itself. It dissolves the barriers created by conceptual thought. And with this comes the recognition that nothing exists in and by itself, it joins the perceiver and the perceived in a unifying field of awareness. It is the healer of separation
it's really hard to give full attention to something, especially something that may not seem to be very important. But that's one aspect of guests of mindfulness practice it is giving your full attention somebody told me today a very moving thing really troubled by many things, difficult childhood. Lots of barriers and things to overcome. But when that person puts up his wallpaper, which he does, he has no thoughts at all. It's just doing the doing that task. When we're setting up for a machine you know, when you're fully in it, it's in there is something that just dissolves everything else and you're right there. This is a good one. Whenever you're immersed in compulsive thinking you're avoiding what is you do not want to be where you are here and now. dogmas, religious, political, scientific beliefs arise out of the erroneous belief that thought can encapsulate reality, or the truth, dogmas or collective conceptual prisons. And the strange thing is that people love their prison. cells because they give them a sense of security and a false sense of I know. Nothing has inflicted more suffering on humanity than its dogmas. It is true that every dogma crumbles sooner or later because reality will eventually disclose its falseness. However, unless the basic delusion of it is seen for what it is, it will be replaced by others. What is this basic delusion, identification with thought and spiritual awakening is awakening from the dream of thought. When you no longer believe everything you think you step out of thought, and see clearly that the thinker is not who you are. The mind exists in a state of not enough, and it's always greedy for more. When you're identify with mind, you get bored and restless easily. Boredom means the mind is hungry for more stimulus, more food for thought. And it's not being satisfied. When you feel bored, you satisfy the minds hunger by picking up a magazine making a phone call, switching on the TV, surfing the web, going shopping, or transferring the mental sense of lack and its need for more to the body, and satisfying it briefly by ingesting more food. On the other hand, you can stay bored and restless and observe what it feels like to be bored and restless. As you bring awareness to the feeling, there is suddenly some space and stillness around it a little at first, but as the sense of inner space grows, the feeling of boredom will begin to diminish. So even boredom can teach you who you are, and who you are not.
Thinking that is not rooted in awareness become self serving, and dysfunctional cleverness, devoid of wisdom is extremely dangerous and destructive. That is the current state of most of humanity, the amplification of thought as science and technology. Although intrinsically, neither good nor bad, has also become destructive. Because so often, the thinking out of which it comes, has no root in awareness. The next step in human evolution is to transcend thought. This is now our urgent task. It doesn't mean not to think anymore, but simply not to be completely identified with thought and possessed by it.
Feel the energy of your inner body. Immediately mental noise slows down or ceases. Feel it in your hands, your feet, your abdomen, your chest, feel the life that you are the life that elevate meets the body. The body then becomes a doorway, so to speak into a deeper sense of aliveness underneath the fluctuating emotions underneath your thinking. I'm going to stop here because we have to address body awareness and trauma. So many of us come to Zen out of deep distress, deep suffering deep trauma. And you can't just wish it away by saying, Well, I'm not going to have any thoughts. So and getting into your body can be very risky, too. So this is high minded in a way. But let's not ignore the practicality of what what we're all dealing with. It's, that's a whole other. Trauma is a whole other subject. And there are wonderful movements in therapy to help people deal with that. So many people on the mat have found that trauma comes out for them because as you get still so this is the this is the other side of he's talking about stillness, and it assumes that, you know, we may be in a good place to recognize that, but so much. I have a wonderful friend who did 17 says Sheen's seven day sesshin jeans before his trauma of his childhood came up so things will come up in Zen and it's wise to share with your teacher if that's happening and to get appropriate help. I mean, the antidote for if you want to call it an antidote for suffering, years of abuse, and, and not being recognized and, and loved and wanted or even appreciated, is to is, is compassion, you know, but if you never were shown it, you can't know it very easily. So finding your way to self compassion is is extremely difficult. But because you have suffered you, you do understand suffering, and you can then offer help to others. And you can give because by giving the self and even the suffering self even disappears when we're fully engaged in the task, say it's helping somebody this small self is not around, which is a good thing, it can go away, you know, we're not stuck with it. That's the other problem with lifetimes of bad treatment. It's hard to escape your the view of oneself. So I wanted to say that because it's great to hear all these wonderful things about from the Enlightened perspective, and we need that but you know, we have to also deal with whatever is coming up for us and allow it and meet it with understanding if you meet your suffering with understanding. It can, it can. It can be something you can be with and use for the benefit of others. So I'm going to stop here, and if anybody has any questions, this is a Dharma talk. So if you have a question, I don't presume to be able to answer it, but if there's someone else who can that they're welcome to chime in as well. So anybody got a question?