Letters from the Hill (#1)

I like how thought includes thou . . .

In time we have a practice, which is in the nature of attending to a relationship where the relationship is with all that is. In order to fully realize this relationship, we have to learn how to give attention to it, and then give attention to it.

Since it is such an intimate and personal relationship, we can only ever talk about our own experience. It is like saying that I can’t experience or live your marriage for you, nor you for me, but we can talk with one another about what being married means, and sometimes it helps to illuminate our own experience of that essential relationship.

Most students of A Course in Miracles have an intellectual component to their practice. This is helpful in order to unpack or unfold the course’s sometimes overly poetic and Christianized language. I know that is an offensive sentence for some of you and I apologize! I simply mean that awakening has nothing to do with Jesus and nothing to do with Christ. In fact, it doesn’t even have much to do with God, because God is just another idea that we have that interferes with our perception of reality, of life has it is. Even God has to go.

This is not to deny the helpfulness of A Course in Miracles, or of Christian language and imagery, or of metaphysical poetics. I would not have entered into relationship with ACIM had it not been for its semantic tenor and flavor. However, in the course of that relationship, we have to be sensitive to when we are becoming invested in its form rather than its content – snuggling where a bold walk in windy darkness is what is called for.

In a sense, A Course in Miracles is a kind of spiritual proxy, standing in for God until we are ready to let it go and fully realize the wholeness of life on our own. For me, that has involved a very specific undoing of concepts and images – a whole language, really – evolving out of the Jesus tradition. This has been troubling at times, and fucking hard sometimes, but the peace and clarity that subsequently attends is worth it. I can say with complete confidence that there is no idea you presently hold that you will not be happier releasing.

One studies and travels a long time looking for a certain hill to climb. And then they find it, and they sit at its base for years – interviewing those going up, interviewing those coming down. Sometimes gazing at the summit in wonder and fear; sometimes walking far away only to come back.

I have been writing about the experience of looking for the hill, and finding the hill, and not climbing the hill for a long time. But last summer I began to climb it, and the higher I go, the less there is to say. And it is a relief, let me tell you. For one who long substituted wordiness for wisdom, wordlessness is a blessing. I would sleep in its arms forever. Some day I will.

This is a metaphor, of course. There is no hill. There is only the idea that we constitute a self separate from reality, from all that is, and undoing that erroneous idea is simply to look closely at it – to give attention to it – and see what happens. Over and over. Day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. What else can we do?

It doesn’t matter what else is going on. I am still baking bread, still stumbling around in the pre-dawn darkness with an old dog, still reading over my head, still writing a ridiculous amount of words every day, still parenting, still feeling happy about this and scared about that. I am still being an all around half-assed idiot. Life goes on; our job is just to notice, which is to say, to let it be through the gift of attention.

When I wrote recently that it was possible to see the face of God and live, I was thinking of Bob Dylan’s amazing song I and I.

I and I
In creation where one’s nature
neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One says to the other,
no man sees my face and lives

He is riffing off Exodus 33:20 – “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” – and John 1:18 – “No one has seen God at any time” – and 1 Timothy 6:15-16 – “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see . . . ”

Biblical counter-examples abound; I am simply observing a persistent theme of God as an object (with agency) that is distant and incapable of being known. I am asking – as you are asking in your way, and as Dylan asked – what does it mean to be in the world in an attentive way when one is bent only a relationship that seems evasive to the point of impossible?

There is no answer! Or rather, the answer is our awareness of the question itself without rushing to answer it. It is being itself, which is what you are right now, without effort or analysis. You can talk about the hill all you want but your words will never be the hill. They will never be the walk itself. You can get obsessed about maps to the hill – A Course in Miracles, Zoroastrianism, past life regression therapy, Tarot, whatever – but as the saying so helpfully goes, the map is not the territory. Sooner or later you have to face what it means for you to climb the hill and then climb it.

Right now you are looking at the Face of God, which is a fancy and metaphorical way of saying that you are looking at life itself. And you are okay. You are not dead, you are alive. You are meaning looking itself, life reflecting on itself. This is not a mystery. It is not a secret shared only with the worthy. Your natural intelligence and devotion and common sense are perfectly sufficient. You don’t need to learn anything else. You don’t need to buy anything. You don’t have to crawl a thousand miles across cut glass on your hands and knees.

I am saying all this because part of being is me saying it and you reading it, where writing and reading are one fluid movement. Do you see it? How could it be otherwise? Can you find the end of life? Not your personal subjective experience of it, which will end naturally enough, but the end of life itself? Did you invent attention? Or awareness?

We are each of us held by life in the way the chickadees are, and the birch trees, and twelve-string guitars, and the Oxford English dictionary, and the southern coast of Ireland, and moonlight. Stop pretending you can stand back from it all – stop falling for the old lie that you are life’s sole perceptive center. If that makes no sense, or if it makes intellectual sense but isn’t a felt experience, then just give attention to it. Just look at what you are – what you are feeling, thinking, believing, seeing, sharing. In the welter you call the self there is a single light, like a star in the far reaches of a dark and tumultuous sky, and it will literally answer every question you have. It will be you.

And that is me slipping into the sugar of poetry, which means it is time for me to shut up. Thank you for reading; keep in touch, please. I need you.

How I love you!

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  1. Because you refused to slip on sugar of poetry, I will. For the sake, *of writing and reading being one fluid movement*:)
    Before my poetic slip, I would like to say that I hear you 🙂 I am having my share of sweetness in the Hill district 🙂 The more we embrace our natural effortless Live*ness and natural live*ability, the more we feel sweet warmth and Love that is passing through. Everything:) More and more it feels like being high (and joyfull) on life. On our own sugar:)

    I find the definition of warm-blooded very interesting. Being warm-blooded is a natural state of mammals (human is a mammal, I don’t really know, it’s what they say:))

    1. Zoology Maintaining a relatively constant and warm body temperature independent of environmental temperature; homeothermic.
    2. Ardent; passionate.

    *Felling warm is feeling alive*

    Warm breath ∼
    always brings ∼ Sweetness.
    Sweet taste in mouth.
    Sweet taste in body.
    Whatever you do, let it make you warm.
    ∼Kissess are sweet
    And so is climbing ∼
    The farther you walk, the sweeter it gets.

    Dear Sean, I wish you and your Loved ones much sweetness in New Year and really all the best and loveliest:)

    Ps. Don’t know if you saw the Moon last night (in your Saphho style), it was amazing. I was enchanted:)

    1. Hey Zrinka . . .

      It’s so nice to hear from you . . .

      Thanks for slipping into poetry. I’ve been reading so much science and philosophy in the naturalist vein lately . . . every time I move towards anything resembling drama or excess of any kind there is an internal check: not this again!

      But then ecstasy seeps through anyway. Resistance really is futile. As Freud said (here paraphrased) what is repressed or denied is not robbed of its capacity for expression.

      I did see the moon; the closer it gets to full the more I insist on it. (It seems to insist on me mostly in the crescent phase.) I am always drawn to the idea that it is the same moon Emily Dickinson looked at, and Sappho, and storytellers and singers older yet. It connect us, somehow, like a luminous comma refusing ends.

      Thank you for sharing the Hill district with me; you know I would be lost without you, right?

      ~ Sean

  2. It was only a few moments ago, when Emily looked at the moon. It could have been yes’terday. yes…:)
    I love Earth and how we have beautiful Skylamps, Sun during the day and Moon*stars during the night. As if it was created so magical and playful just so to make a child happy. Last night I stayed awake all the way through cause I couldn’t take my eyes away from the moon. Taking in∼ not the flat image of the moon∼ but the way it feels to be related and to share a *breathing space* together. I was always naturally called to a waning balsamic crescent (in a melancholic spiritual longing fashion of my disposition, perhaps because of my birth during such moon in May*Pleiades time), but it is something extraordinary exciting to see the Moon face to face ∼ full. It brings a message of wholeness and commands complete intimacy with one’s’self. Like a lover who wants us full*y. Provoking us to express ourselves. Staring at our eyes and soul. No question, – just an offer of life*you*it being all that you want. If you don’t accept that offer, it will still be fine. It always is. But why deprive yourself, it would be so much more fun to give yourself – full – and be blown away by the Love that you are… How -fulfilling- Life actually is, filling the empty cup with morning dew flowers salt and rain… Life *reality that we experience – through thoughts, feelings, people, sensations, books, forests ect- is our Lover. They are the glove we’ve thrown to ourselves, the loving challenge not to be fought but – perhaps to be worn. Fitting perfectly. Dancing in a white dress on a summer night… Or perhaps in Red (check out poem Child in Red by Rilke). Wait… I’ll paste it here, cause it’s lovely to read…

    Child in Red

    Sometimes she walks through the village in her
    little red dress
    all absorbed in restraining herself,
    and yet, despite herself, she seems to move
    according to the rhythm of her life to come.

    She runs a bit, hesitates, stops,
    half-turns around…
    and, all while dreaming, shakes her head
    for or against.

    Then she dances a few steps
    that she invents and forgets,
    no doubt finding out that life
    moves on too fast.

    It’s not so much that she steps out
    of the small body enclosing her,
    but that all she carries in herself
    frolics and ferments.

    It’s this dress that she’ll remember
    later in a sweet surrender;
    when her whole life is full of risks,
    the little red dress will always seem right.

    Rainer Maria Rilke

    It is this very passion*desire and hunger for the fullest expression of being (united) that puts pressure and propels us into complete honesty and acceptance of our being. We must accept all of ourselves if we are to get what we want.
    Someone’s yes to being naked and whole, can inspire and awaken the child within. Sun does it every day, giving example to children who forgotten to play*fully:) I love how you paraphrased F, ‘what is repressed or denied is not robbed of its capacity for expression’. I repressed myself a lot, trying to sculpt my being into something solid, making less sound, less mess, less drama*excitement, less emotion, less thought, less philosophy, less passion, less trouble, less being, less everything. I ripped myself of my ecstasy because I was afraid that it will get me hurt (again). I needed to experience cold, distanced and solid. Just imagine, ∼ How it is to make stone from sand (storm)? My sand hardened through this alchemy, so it become more solid, but still… I am of made of such stuff that slips and seeps… through glass and time… After all, there is no perceived end to this luminous comma, And one will desire to dance with the wind again, luminously in the Sun… Why deny oneself of such beauty and ecstasy? Repression is a temporary state, like a cocoon, perhaps it serves for refinement, bringing more synchronicity, new awareness and opportunity for new age of your being. It’s same stuff, just rearranged. More subtle. But equally passionate. How could one fly without drive…How could one commit to life without ecstasy, when ecstasy is the* message received*, message saying something like this: *Wonderful! So you are doing what makes you happy! Keep doing it, keep giving attention to whatever makes you feel so Good and so grateful for your life:)* It feels like the new way of being is simply a refinement of natural expression, – not tossing away the being (and its uniqueness). After all, Where would it disappear? It is where it wants to be. Ecstasy seeps through anyway, it is in our nature:)
    Huh… I wrote A LOT. So it will perhaps seem odd, this thought on writing I wish to share with you. One of the things I denied in myself is writing. Words were always valued and loved part of my expression, but in time I got exhausted with myself, so I got exhausted with my words*opinion*experience*perspective also. I didn’t like myself, I found my waterfally desire for relating in poetic idealistic manner – disturbing – because I saw it as a reflection of my sensitivity and desire for togetherness, so I started to reject it because I could no longer bear to be vulnerable, sensitive, easily disturbed and easily hurt. I still was of course, but I had to try something else, something safe, if I were to inspired again. So I turned to silence (for protection and love I could find elsewhere in myself) and grew this strange resistance to communication and expressing with words. As if I embraced this idea (which is so often repeated in spiritual circles) that something is more holy than other, that somehow silence is more truth*more eternal and words are illusion. I really love silence but aren’t words equally holy, isn’t everything holy? Could it be that it is never about the thing, but about the way we handle it. So… my soul yearned for peace of silence, and my lovely ego saw this as a new opportunity for identity. Because when in silence, I am safe, I don’t have to be afraid of life, afraid of living*accepting*living my unique expression and perspective on Life. I still haven’t fully let go of my resistance to Words (I know, one would never tell seeing what and how much I wrote here:)), resistance to Life (because in a way, Words*passing are Life as we perceive it..Also they say that in the beginning there was the Word:)) and resistance to my*Self*Expression, but I am opening to a space where silence and words live together joyfully. Without making- a differance. D rr d…You know what I mean:) What really shook my perspective, was reading a quote from Hellen Keller in which she described what she felt when she witnessed the birth of Idea for the first time. Honestly, I think this quote is a love poem to Creation. One hand held by her teacher and lovingly carresed into golden opportunity of relation communication and creation, while cool water ran over her other hand, symbolizing the idea of “water”. I once loved this quote so much, but I forgot it. I was schocked, it came from the perspective of a child who lived in darkness and silence, so when she was introduced to ideas and words, they seemed so beautiful and meaningful, her perspective was fresh and her heart excited to be able to express and create the self. This freshness of perspective, this seeing for the first time, with open heart, without resistance… When I was a child, I thought the same (I felt so privileged to be able to read and talk and write), but in time I associated my pain and failure with over-using words and thought. I guess it’s about (re)discovering yourself being in that space where you are in awe of both silence and words, where it all embodies rapture of living.
    ∼Once I knew only darkness and stillness… my life was without past or future… but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.∼

    Helen Keller

    I never see you lost. How could you be lost, when I see you? I see us all together, having the time of our life and being in love forever:)

    ps. I know it’s a bit silly, but I am big SF fan and I love this video and its message. Perhaps you saw it. But still.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU2ftCitvyQ

    1. That’s a brilliant video!

      All of the becoming that we force on ourselves when being itself is sufficient . . . perhaps all ideals are mischievous or even a form of violence, given the perfection that is naturally and utterly inherent . . .

      Sometimes I think we get reflection backwards, confusing the source of the light with the object bearing its radiance, or maybe we are only ever perception itself. I say it and I say it and what good does it do to say it? Life asks nothing, not even that we praise it! And yet . . .

      Rilke is light reflecting too, naming for us – reminding us – the joy that attends inventing and forgetting little dances within which life passes . . . in relation with the moon as a lover is in relation with light as movement as it passes through us which I think it must do, because we are illuminated from within, and sometimes – some ways – the light reaches me from another’s wordiness, across ten thousand miles and even all the years that seem to lie between now and the nineteenth century . . .

      I may have written you about this already but in her last illness Emily Dickinson – in deference to her siblings mostly – consented to allow a doctor to “examine” her. She opened a door part way and walked slowly before it; the doctor stood at a distance and observed her: a glimpse only, no more. How confused he must have been, this healer faced with a woman who knew that even a sliver contains the whole.

      And I think of that grace – which was both love for those in pain who didn’t want to let her go – but also simply knowing what was sufficient and not needing to cling to it. Nothing is ended; nothing begun. Moonlight, moonlit gardens, poems at a little table after dark that the world might or might not read . . .

      How softly and surely we become the light we long for . . . You are my radiant glimpse of it, Zrinka, for which my gratitude is boundless.

    2. Hello Zrinka (via Sean :))

      How I love your beautiful, open dance with words that whirl everywhere but never get lost. You are such a bright light.

      I hope you don’t mind, but I am going to think of the spirit me wearing a red dress and not only ready, but welcoming, toward whatever comes along.

      The first Rilke to find me, some years ago, was this:
      “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

      It is still my favorite. So here’s to living the questions, out loud and in silence. Here’s to you, z, may your year be as beautiful as you are. 🙂


      1. Dear Sean and Cheryl… thank you *always* for being this gentle and generous with me, it literally makes my heart sing celestial music 🙂 You are both so beautiful, wise and poetic, – and it is so nice to be on the receiving end of your Light*shine. How could we ever be lost, when we shine so brightly and tenderly for each other…
        Word *Shine* came whirling in my spirit all day long, I could hear it in myself, also I found it in my dream, it was inscribed in golden earth when I removed the water that was covering it… I hope it will be a wonderful new year! Let it be fun… Luminous light hearted dance in sunrise, feeling whole and giggling like a child… Why not?:)
        Love you both and everyone:)

        ps. Cheryl, you would look wonderful in a red dress:)

  3. Sean, I do appreciate your words. They give form to things that lie beyond for. But I also appreciate your growing attraction to wordlessness, something I’m beginning to allow myself to see as well. It is a “journey without distance” after all.

    1. Thank you, Michael . . . “growing attraction to wordlessness” is the very thing, the very essence . . . I feel sometimes as if I am wading into a river, going a little further each time before returning to shore and reporting on my adventures in the flow . . . I suppose soon enough I will let go and just topple along with currents not of my making . . .

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