2024, January, Issue 78
Don’t ever expect to feel safe.
You should have turned back!
What appears to be insanity lies waiting for you here.
It is already too late!
A poem from, The Frog: A Spiritual Autobiography, Spanning Many Lifetimes, pg. 77, © 2021.
Our lives are always built upon premises and beliefs that give us comfort. The unsettling aspect of this is that our beliefs really don’t make a difference when we are confronted with our ineffable condition in light. We can believe whatever we want and it won’t make the slightest bit of difference.
Where I live in Northern Minnesota, we’re dealing with record high temperatures this year. In past years, by this time, ice on our lakes would naturally be over a foot thick, making playing on the ice quite possible, as this is the custom. This year we have people going through the ice, needing rescue; and, even a few people have died when they plunged into the icy waters, thinking that the ice was thick enough to support them. Belief did not come close to matching reality.
A person can have blind faith, believing that the ice is thick. A person can drill a few holes through the ice, then use that evidence to form a belief about an entire lake. Or, a person can observe the nature of the ice, look at cracks forming, shifting plates, temperatures above freezing, currents near rivers coming and going, then rest in that knowledge before taking action.
The person who blindly crosses the lake on foot may break through. The person who drills a few holes in the thick ice may discover thin ice as they confidently march across the lake. The person simply observing will not jump to conclusions or be suckered in by their own impulsiveness or wishful thinking. Belief does the first two in, and it has no effect on the other.
This is the difference between belief and contemplation. When we are in contemplation, we don’t cling to various notions, hoping that they will be true, forming belief around what we wish. Even with great intellectual capacity, we can test things a little bit without looking at the big picture, only to meet with tragedy. Our intellect isn’t enough. We need to see things as they are, not base our beliefs on something that only takes us part way to the truth.
When we contemplate the certainty of our own death, we should never be hasty with our beliefs, merely because we want to feel comforted about our own situation or about those we have known. When we sit in contemplation, we’re not in a hurry. We let our mind gaze at our own circumstances, seeing things as they are, not as we want them to be.
To be certain, my words do provide a great deal of comfort to many people. That is not, however, why I do what I do, write what I write, say what I say. In reality, there is undoubtedly far more to be disconcerting than there is to provide us with reassurance. We have to develop our own resolve by looking at mind, seeing things as they are. This is our task when we become determined to awaken.
Being trapped in cyclic existence is very much like being perpetually in a nightmare. When we find ourselves in a moment of peace, we forget how truly awful it has been. When things are horrible, we have no way of awakening. The trap is held together by our own complacency, our own beliefs that have nothing to do with reality. Since we seek reassurance, rather than the truth, we avoid awakening. Since we avoid awakening, we venture out onto thin ice, not knowing if we will plunge into icy depths, slip and fall, or remain unharmed—for now.
As I have said many times, Dharma is in all that appears. We can use any of it to awaken. Simply observing natural phenomena, remaining at ease in that observation, will teach us a great deal. By being busy, by letting our thoughts run in an overactive way, clinging to belief or delusion, we create situations of great suffering.
If we wish to awaken, we need to come to terms with the fact that religion, or even science, is there to reassure us. We need to go beyond religion, beyond science, beyond politics, beyond philosophies of every sort. Awakening is beyond obstacles.
Our Real Nature is found by being present in awareness itself. In order to do that, we need to develop a realistic attitude. We’re not trying to pound reality into our tiny little beliefs. We’re opening ourselves up to what is, as it is, with full acceptance. We’re not trying to hinder anything. Belief becomes useless, when we rest into our Real Nature. Now, that takes real faith.
When we become devoted to discovering who we really are, by developing and resolving to awaken, we’re not clinging to belief. We’re simply resting in the notion of discovery. We find ourselves becoming fully at ease, which, by the way, is the proper attitude we must have if we want a rewarding death experience.
By remaining at ease, we aren’t trying to change reality. We awaken to who we are.
Blessings in Light,