Sermon for June 29, 2019
There is a kind of pulsation, vibration, that is our existence. Our heartbeat, our breath, life and death, our sleep cycle, day and night, and even our thoughts, the ‘stream of our thoughts’, themselves, pulse in an on and off rhythm. Music is also very illustrative of this up and down, on and off, sound and silence. The silence between the sounds are as much a part of music as the actual notes we tend to focus on. Our thoughts operate much the same way, we focus on the thoughts and miss the gaps between them, much like watching a movie that appears continuous, but when slowed, is just pulsating still images moving so quickly that our mind fills in the blanks.
In our experience of the world as individuals, we are sometimes taken with the vibration of our lives. Even something as simple as a good song can make us feel like we lose ourselves to the moment. Many call this the ‘chill factor’, that goose bump, quick shiver feeling we get when a type of music seems to affect us physiologically. We may feel great pleasure, a feeling of really flowing with life, knowing our purpose, when we feel that we are almost unconsciously matching the vibration of our lives. Life can take on a kind of musical ‘chill factor’, a place where we experience, and almost, lose ourselves all at once. Falling in love, a peak experience in sports, a spiritual breakthrough- there are many kinds of experiences where matching our vibration with something greater feels like some kind of breakthrough.
With pulsation, however, there is always the ‘other’, the Yin and Yang, the on and off. The ‘chill factor’ came because it came from something else. Before we heard the music that so profoundly affected us, there was the state prior to that feeling. Neither could exist without the other. Our different states arise in contrast to one another, and in so doing, allow us to experience them. Without this contrast, we would not recognize any experience.
Our thoughts themselves operate this way also. While they may appear to be a continuous stream of consciousness, they are actually pulsating, arising and falling, with gaps of pure stillness between them. We are experiencing thought in much the same way we watch a movie, filling in the gaps so that everything appears to be a smooth, continuous stream. We experience who we think we are because the speed of the arising and falling of thoughts, combined with memory, gives us a sense of continuity and time. We begin to strongly identify with this sense of being as a real and constant thing, a separate and individual person living in a world. This, however, is not our true identity.
If we are not our thoughts and experiences, then who are we? We are THAT which is there before you ask the question. We are Adam before he became a self conscious, knowledge seeking, apparently separate, entity. We are the eternal moment just before any idea of ourselves as an object to be considered, any seeking begins.
The pulsation, in the ultimate sense of reality, is not real. The contrast, the cycles, are only the mind’s interpretation of God, Absolute reality, ‘I Am That I Am’. The process is somewhat like a prism that creates color from clear light. Our minds impose our version of reality onto the Truth because the bare intensity of God, when not veiled with our cloak of what reality seems to be to us, cannot be experienced by an entity that believes it is separate. You, as an individual, have no capacity to experience God, to become enlightened. The reason for this is because your idea of “I”, being separate from God in the first place, is a total fabrication, a fallacy.
Even our attempt to ‘understand’ all this is a crafty way of keeping the game of seeking alive, of continuing to ignore that we are already what we think we have to seek. Whatever understanding we think we might have, or get, from this or any other teaching, is only a creation, an interpretation based on an individual who sees themselves as ‘other’ looking at ‘something else’.
We have all been told that we are our individual identity, this person witnessing and somehow separate. Many insist identity and individuality gives us some kind of freedom, that we must ‘be ourselves’ at all costs. Not only do we not truly know what that means, but we begin to believe in that thing which we really don’t even understand. Our identity becomes not a source of freedom or understanding, but a jail cell we created. Our essential assumption that we are a separate entity living in a world is false.
This is very subtle for our ‘everyday mind’ to see. Words can’t directly point it out because words themselves create separation for our idea of ‘us’ and “It’. It is like trying to surrender to Christ. The very act of trying to surrender means we are not truly surrendering, but just choosing a particular desire to surrender. The act of surrender has nullified true, selfless, surrender. There can be no selfless surrender because there never was one to begin with.
Seeing this, if we then decide not to surrender because we have corrupted the process, we are still acting in our own self interest. Soon, being totally stymied by this conundrum, a door opens for true transformation, stillness that is spontaneous. In much the same way, experiencing the pulse of life, finding that we are not what we thought we are, being totally helpless and lost, is the doorway to transformative Grace.
We will, if we are reading this with sincere seeking, feel beat up by all this. A kind of spiritual whiplash comes to mind, the idea of individual identity being beaten and battered about by glimpses of things words can never touch. There are moments of peace and clarity interspersed with not understanding and frustration. Even writing this myself, attempting to go between the anchor of identity, the one doing the ‘pastoring’, and the ultimate Truth of no path, no identity, no anchor in the tide of the Grace of Christ, is a kind of riptide of self, God, and experience that wouldn’t exist if I just stopped swimming.
Be patient with yourself, let things happen. We can only lead our individual self to the point of not knowing, of a kind of paralyzed ‘what now’ moment that is totally unlike any other moment we’ve ever had. Unlike the act of seeking, the act of surrender, this moment has a quality of happening to us, not by us. You cannot make it happen, be worthy of it, achieve it, or any other conventional ways we tend to think of becoming or getting things in our lives. Perseverance takes you to the doorway, Grace dissolves it entirely.