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Wholeness Has No Name

In a sense, names are the way we colonize wholeness: it is the way we try to make permanent the fragmentation that attends our perception. This is a birch tree. This is a lover. This is my dog and that one is someone else’s.

Names – like the metric system, calendars, guitar chords and so forth – are a form of convenience. Mountains do not have names but it is easier to say we will climb Ascutney than not. We don’t have names either, but it is helpful to assume them. How else could we call to each other in a crowd?

The trouble is that we confuse the name with the thing: we assume reality is what we say it is. We think there really is such a thing as an hour or a decade, or Jake the dog, or Emily Dickinson. Really there is just the one thing being itself, which being is not contradicted by multiplicity and variance.

Thus, when A Course in Miracles tells us that the Name of God is our inheritance (W-pI.204.1), “our deliverance from every thought of evil and sin” (W-pI.203.2), and our name, too (W-pI.203.2), it is not really talking about a name but about a kind of wordlessness reflecting an identity that is beyond naming.

Wholeness does not submit to names because it has no parts to name, and no separate self or observer that needs names to manage fragmentation. This fact is altogether beyond our experience as bodies, but very much the essence of what we are in Truth. In bodies, the world readily descends into labels and names and signifiers. But Truth admits neither difference nor the inclination to differ. In that light, identity itself ends. And nothing remains to be named.

Thus, A Course in Miracles is not admitting to a secret name for God, nor suggesting that whatever proper name assigned to the body is thereby assigned to the Absolute as well. Rather, it is inviting us to look altogether beyond names, beyond the apparent sensibility of names, to a Reality in which names do not occur. This may begin as an intellectual exercise, but it is not limited to that. It may begin as a poem but it is not contained by that. It is possible to see beyond the web of language by which thought was colonized to the clear and shimmering radiance that precedes and is not contingent on wordiness.

Thus, our inheritance is emptiness: it is beyond our capacity to imagine or identify but it is real. It is all the reality there is. It is here now and we miss it because we are so busy shoveling language this way and that. We are sewing clothing where nakedness will do. We have to become silent and still, simultaneously passive and alert. We have to give attention to namelessness, we have to slip at last into divine forgetfulness.

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Unfamiliar Tenderness

Wind begets an unfamiliar tenderness: kids coughing after midnight, the dog limping through pasture, and piles of books breaking old shelves. How exhausted one becomes in the field and hollow of metaphor! Snow before dawn hides the stars and I stumble as always, bereft of a useful compass. You can’t weave a quilt from the idea of threads, and wordiness is just a tantrum seen another way. Falsehood by falsehood we reinvent the dark. Thoreau’s delusion remains my fixed North, while Dickinson’s grace is a kind of swallowed yellow. Be my stable, be my salty yes. The nineteenth century still sheds a welcome light. The old river runs its banks, indifferent to monks who confuse themselves with sand bags.


The Directionless Whole

Down below the old homestead I slip and fall – rare enough – and slide down Harvey Road a good twenty feet or so. The dog comes over to check but moves on quickly. We’re all okay, despite so much evidence to the contrary. Rain and more rain and yet cold enough on the gravel that it turns to ice at 4 a.m. Deepening a kind of going down? Or going down a kind of opening? Well, kisses where they matter most, let’s say that. Sometimes it seems I’ve been laying in snowbanks for lifetimes, staring up into the sky, blinking through tears or whatever watery trickle attends those crippled in love. Be my unshakable walking stick, be my naked crutch! Whiskey helps, or helped, and also meeting women I wasn’t supposed to meet, one or two of whom brought their own bottle and sang their own sad songs. There is always a hairpin turn ahead, one that we need to take slowly, and always someone who will tell us a story about what happens to those who don’t. I spent many years waiting on stars, those blistery symbols of the interior lantern, and for what? Travel is relative – east and west contingent inside the directionless whole – and crows will tear any map to pieces, no matter how badly you think you need it. We’re not lost, we’re home. We’re not fallen, we’re floating. You’ll see. After all, you were the one who lifted me.


This Little So Late

so much of this site now
understood as a writing project
the sole point of which
was to slough off
in words
what never needed saying
in the first place

one draft after another
in order to learn that reality
is not an experience –
it cannot be grasped
or released
or witnessed
or named
or anything made
or imagined
or offered
or given
or received

even this little
so late
is too much –

like licking from my fingers
the ashes of a map,
dreaming I taste
the territory


In Life Always

You could ask – and not rush towards an answer but simply inquire and give attention to what emerges thereby – am I contained by life or am I a container for life?

It’s not a perfect question – mostly in terms of all the boundaries implied by containers and containment – but still. I have found it helpful in clarifying certain forms of thought to which I am yet attached.

It moves me into the essence of

I am not a body. I am free. I hear the Voice that God has given me, and it is only this that my mind obeys (W-pI.199.8:7-9).

I think it is clear that when this particular body ends, life continues. I have witnessed this at the bedside of those who die: a last breath, a settling, a lightening. It is an end, yes, but an end within what continues.

And it is also clear that what continues – which is simply life – does not originate in me nor need my consent in order to be. It just goes on. Flowers arise within it, stars glisten within it, snow falls within it. It was here long before eyes emerged to see it and brains evolved to name it and it will remain when eyes and brains are no more.

Everything is accomplished through life, and life is of the mind and in the mind. The body neither lives nor dies, because it cannot contain you who are life (T-6.V.A.1:3-4).

So A Course in Miracles teaches us that we are life. We are that which remains when eyes and brains are no more. We are that within which time and space emerge.

Of course, the nomenclature is potentially problematic (as nomenclature tends to be). We say “life,” but sometimes we say “love.” Sometimes we capitalize “life” and “love,” as if they are proper names or to emphasize that they aren’t just run-of-the-mill nouns. God, Source, What Is. The Divine Et Cetera. Lately I am inclined to simply call it “awareness,” in the tradition of Sri Ramana and the various teachers that have followed in his wake, but still. The name is not the thing. It’s important to remember that.

The problem with calling it “life” is that we are so attached to life as a personal phenomenon. It seems to be a process – a series of events – that happens to us in these bodies in this world. All the senses assure us this is so, and our brains are addicted to a narrative – to a habit of thinking – that reinforces the belief that we are separate from everything else. There isn’t life – there are just a bunch of forms of life all running around doing their own thing.

So in essence, we believe that we are containers for life – to revert to the original question – and we act and reap accordingly. Grief and conflict abound as a consequence of this belief in separation. But as I have said, the evidence – and the weight of various scriptures and spiritual teachings – argues that all this isn’t true. It seems true but it’s not. We aren’t separated, no matter what perception argues. And there is one life, no matter what we call it.

So it is to this which I give attention now.

The tendency is to think that the world and our bodies need to be improved – or even disproved. But this isn’t true. All that is required is that we give attention in order to see – actually see for ourselves – that we distort and complicate life which is always clear and simple. Fragmentation is a mode of apprehension: it is not itself reality. In a way, it’s analogous to listening to Fur Elise. Our ears “hear” – they are the mode of apprehension – but they are not thereby the music.

It is helpful just to see this: we don’t have to do anything to or with it. We don’t have to enshrine the insight, or commercialize it, or celebrate it. Just see that the way we see is the problem, and that when we straighten seeing out, everything clarifies.

This clarification happens within time, which is to say that it’s a process. Sometimes I use the metaphor of traveling to Boston: we all have different modes of travel that make different demands on us and so forth, but we are all going to Boston.

But then one day we see Boston on the horizon! And so it’s no longer about the journey, or the mode of travel, but actually being in Boston. And this is what the clarification is: it takes us a while to groove on Boston, to accept Boston, to be in Boston. We are so used to traveling, so used to projecting the future in which we arrive in Boston, and now we are here. And it takes some getting used to, that’s all.

Awakening is like that. We are already awakened, and so as we become aware of this fact, there is often a sense of: “this is it?” Because it is very ordinary, because it is all there is, and we have always been experiencing it. We just didn’t know that. But now we do and it’s kind of . . . not what we expected.

I don’t know how to have this non-awakening awakening other than return over and over again to the gift of attention: to just see – without judgment or reaction – the ways in which fear and guilt and hurt drive the way in which we see, the way in which we live, the way in which we are. We are very casual, in the sense that we slip readily into old habits of thinking that are shaped by our grief and pain. But seeing this is what undoes it: errors dissolve in the light of understanding, the light of willingness, the light of attention.

It’s funny. Most of the people who read my site in a more or less regular way are basically done with reading. That’s my sense. They know – implicitly usually – that there is nothing left to learn. Whatever I write, they say: yes, I know that, it’s exactly what this person says and that person says.

So the question becomes (for all of us): why not bring it into application? Why not become the awakened expression of life that we know we are?

The whole point of me writing is simply to see for myself that there is nothing left to learn, no crosses left to be crucified on, no Bo trees against which to lean while taking milk from lovely women, no books to read or write, and no teachers before whom to genuflect.

It is not easy to break these patterns of dependency and addiction and thus discover what we might call patternless seeing, but that is what the lessons of A Course in Miracles are for. That is what our internal teacher is for. And that is what our sense of resonance is for. Altogether they demonstrate that there is nothing we need to do but give gentle and sustained attention to what is, which always demonstrates that we are ourselves sustained by what is.

Really, giving attention is the easiest thing in the world because it happens of its own accord! All we really do is notice it’s happening and then keep on noticing. And it will do the rest as always.


Further Becomes A Habit

What a hill remains to be climbed! And thank Christ! Or so I think a few hours after midnight, stopping every few feet to enjoy joy, clouds muting the faroff sky, the dog staying close, her hind legs trembling. You go so far and then further becomes a habit. As my dead drunk uncles would say, “the seeker dissolves in cheap whiskey.” Or in the very search itself, lit by faint moonlight and attended by old dogs who maybe don’t need to travel anymore. I survived this much, might as well endure a little more. When you bring me coffee I can’t stop staring at your shoulders. My broken heart reassembles every noon and sings a plaintive song called “I Wish I Knew A Plaintive Song.” Division abounds until we perceive that within which it divides and then it doesn’t. It was always thus – it just took me a while to see it.


What Remains

attention is the action of pure being
forever seeking its own reflection
in that which is external:
hills at dawn,
the idea of God
as a loving director

yet mirrors only function
in the presence of light –
they do not bring
the light themselves

the one who remembers this
gives attention only
to being itself,
patiently setting aside
both attraction and distraction
regardless of form
regardless of intensity

seeking is only possible
and as response
to what already always is

attention is simply awareness
becoming briefly aware
of itself

thus, what passes, passes,
and what remains,
remains –

what remains?