A Morning Practice

Be easy about this. Be playful about it. Don’t work so hard at it. Let your dominant intent  be to feel good, and if you don’t feel good, then let your dominant intent be to feel relief.


There is a songbird singing in the distance.  The color of the lake is the same milky white color as the sky.  There is no horizon line yet and the shore across the lake is not visible.  The day almost warrants a fire in the the wood stove; but it feels like too many tasks would  lie between getting the warmth to come out of the stove and now; so i put on a sweater and sweat pants and I feel dressed for the morning.

Coffee is an option, but not yet a necessity.  I can still feel the sleep that encompassed me only a shortwhile ago and part of me is drawn into a semi-meditative trance where my thought flow before me, but none stand out with sufficient pronouncement to get my attention.

I love to sit and write from this state.  My ego is not so awaken to be directing me, and my right brain is not so asleep as to require complete quiet.  The place is somewhere in the middle…I feel somewhat like the milky-white scene before me.  Almost as if I have merged into a stillness and the words that I write are like soft drops of rain.  I can see them through the window and I can see the dark rigid outlines of the leaf-less april trees, but I really have no desire to be anywhere else but right here, gazing out into the world and being entertained by the day that softly dances before me and the soft drop of words that fall into place one after the other like dominoes falling in slow-motion, or the ripples in the lake that seem to forever be moving one after the other toward the shore.

Gratitude is so darn easy from this location.  Everything feels right and when I reach for a thought it is dangling in front of me like low-hanging fruit, ripe and mine for the picking.  I love to watch the words as they stretch themselves into sentences and the sentences as they stretch themselves into paragraphs, and the paragraphs as they become dominant thoughts that are guided by my feeling that all is right and that for the moment I am as much in heaven as I am on earth….

My Peace I give to you.  My Faith, my Hope, I give to you and ask that you treat this fragile human condition with a gentle hand and a gentle mind.  I do not expect it to be easy for you to accept these gifts from the universe that I offer you through the intercession of my own awareness of a larger presence.  I expect that it might even be difficult to read these words in the slow and deliberate way that I am asking you to read them…

I ask you to read them and to read them slowly because there is a cadence, a rhythm that you must follow if you are at all eager to find your own brand of serenity and stillness.  I am not offering you anything that is mine to give, I am simply a channel, a portal through which these moments of solitude are passed on from one human heart to another.

God did not teach this to me.  If he did, he did so by passing it through his creations–the songbird, the milky-white sky that touches down in the horizon to merge with the milky-white lake, and the multitude of friends and strangers who were generous and wise enough to share their essential souls with me.

How much can be said about stillness before you are breaking the meditative silence of truth that resonates like Maria’s cello insisting that I be glad with a love of life.  I pause here–you can too.   Pause…., breath…., pause again…breath again.  Listen &  let your senses direct you to where you store the stillness of the universe inside of you.  Do not feel rushed to end this moment.  Let this moment end itself in a gradual way.  A moment, you know is very different from a second or a minute. Seconds and minutes and hours and life times are measurements of quantities of time.  But a moment is a timeless thing.  It can go on and on, or it can be slashed down to an instrument of time in less than a second.  A moment is a location not a quantity.  As this moment awakens me to a new day, I like to savor the sensation of being here now, of experiencing for one more moment my vitality which lends itself to my psychic energy and blends itself into an emerging day.

At some point soon in time, I will let my egoic self take over–make a list, shower its body, comb its hair and brush its teeth.  At some point, I will be ready to awaken from this wonderfully quiet meditative moment, half past five and a quarter to the hour, still dark from its evening sleep. The day will begin to have a mind of its own.  I will follow it into events, some of which I can anticipate and other which will surprise me with deep feelings of joy, or sadness; or an event will spark a spartan anger that I will let flare into a full pain-body.  I have no idea where life will bring me today.  It may look remarkably like yesterday did, or it may be nothing like I have ever experienced before.

But before I let this awakening moment go, I want to follow it into one more round of stillness.  You can stop reading here, or if you like you can follow me into one other aspect of stillness.  I won’t be long.  I can feel the pulse of life calling me.  My piano is calling for me to browse its keys, my pen is calling me to draw lines and cross-hatches and shades of walnut-brown onto a blank canvas. I am slowly beginning to hear more of the sounds emerging from the world.  Appliances are humming in the background, a scarlet cardinal bird is whistling a conversation to its mate.  (they seem louder, the birds do, in early spring then when it was winter on the pond.)

O.K.  my eyes are closed, my fingers are punching keys and my mind is reciting words that I am processing onto the page. Part of me regrets that it is not my fountain pen that is capturing these words, but it would never handle the speed that the words are rolling out onto the page.  I hear the words coming from a voice inside of me.  I think it is my voice, or at least it is that voice which I have always heard in the background of my mind.  But now I give those words their due diligence.  I pay attention to what is being said and I let those words see the light of day.  They are partially my words, but they come from an accumulation of life times some of which were not mine.  I am not at all concerned with who the words are coming from–they could be all mine or they could belong to a god.  But regardless,these words speak a different tone then they have ever spoken before.  I am allowing them to be gentle, to be soothing.  I am thinking of these words as a morning prayer.  The kind you might imagine a monk or a nun praying before breakfast.   They are words that belong to a devoted soul.  They belong to a soul devoted to discovering the truth of stillness not so much as a means to an end, but more as an end in itself.    I speak them with caution and they ramble from me with no particular goal in mind.  The words are streams of consciousness emerging into a world already brilliant and resplendent with gems. They take their rightful place at the right hand of god.  They are words of salvation because they savor the essence of life by contributing and guiding me, & you if you like, toward whatever it is that we call sacred.

The moment is still but fading and the world that my ego is use to is coming back into form.  The noises are more clashing and clanging then they were just a moment ago.  I am aware not only of my breath but of the limited breaths that we each are given by who ever it is that is doling out these moments in time.  As the stillness gives way to the world we live in, I surrender to giving thanks for one more day in earth’s paradise, and I hope that when I run into some situation that threatens to make my blood boil, I hope I have the presence of mind to recall this one everlasting moment that I had a chance to savor even before the coffee was brewed.

It is as equally important to know where you left your stillness as it is to know where you left your keys.

The Myth of Sisyphus: regression in service of the ego

_1010421I awoke with my mind already in high gear.  Even before stepping out of bed my thoughts were scrambled and my feelings were in a state of chaos.  Nothing appeared right.  And everything appeared tinged with a sense of fear that I would not be able to do my life correctly. There was no one specific thought that dominated the noise in my head; but rather, a series of thoughts that each had me grimacing with fear & worry.  My energy was entirely out of touch with my being.

Mostly it sounded something like this:  if I am this miserable now, how bad must I have been earlier so that this awful NOW is my Karma.  I have a frown on my face and I am reluctant to allow myself to smile. Often, when the ego is so rapidly moving to a tune of urgency, I am unable to stop the process or slow down the merry-go-round enough to get off.  In those times, I have to deliberately awaken to a separate reality.  I need to regress, if you will, in service of the ego.

I might for example try to listen to some music, or listen for the silence at the end of a Zen chime or gong.  While listening to eight minutes of cello and piano music that I had previously composed and recorded I am bombarded with egoic thoughts  My ego might drift in and out of telling me that I have to rush through this exercise because I am wasting time becoming relaxed.  My ego might threaten me with phrases like:  this music is embarrassing, what would so and so think if he saw you listening to this childish exercise, & you are being ridiculous, do something productive.  I have to battled each one of these phrases with a simple nod and a smile that I am noticing just how eager my ego is to disturb my peaceful state of mind.

In short time, I find that I like the sensation in my body.  It is becoming comfortable and none of the previous thought and feelings of worry are present.  And if one of these thoughts do crop into consciousness, I simply smile at it and say, sorry, I am not going there.  It really feels like a struggle between my being–my consciousness, and my ego.  If I stay comfortably ensconced in the lullaby of being, I discover that if I do not need to engage in a fight with my ego, my ego backs down.

I might compare this to road rage.  When I use to feel that a car was encroaching on my territory I would engage with that car in a battle of who is the strongest, the most persistent.  Through out these bouts of road insanity, I was carried out of my stream of consciousness into a location in my head that demanded I fight and stay the course and above all stay deeply involved with the thought that I was right.

The egoic presence is a warrior ever standing guard and waiting for the moment to engage.  It is forever scanning the world to look for something to judge badly and by so doing think that it has the upper moral hand.  The ego, the part of me that i mostly know by my first name, Al, is confusing what it needs to stay dominant with what my organism needs to stay content and peaceful.  The ego grew with the same pace as my physical development.  It was the perceiving, organizing, protecting, defensive aspect of me that kept me safe, that is, kept my identity safe.  As the chore of keeping my identity safe became confused with the chore of keeping my organism safe, my ego developed its current practice of keeping my identity, my thoughts and emotions and opinions safe from encroachment.  In other words, it became engaged in keeping my ego identity safe and forfeited the job of keeping my organism safe  There is a phrase we use in psychoanalysis called, “regression in service of the ego.”  This phrase was developed in 1952 by a then prominent psychoanalyst, Ernst Kris.  Essentially he talk about a feeling of elation that is used as motivation in the creative process.  He speaks of this sensation as feeling as if it comes from outside, from an as outside agent.  His thought was that this was some kind of psychotic regression to some pre-egoic condition.  I have a different take on it. My feeling is that it feels like it comes from outside the self because it is coming from the wider consciousness that is actually outside the prevue of the ego…Or, I might say it comes from the soul of the self rather than from the rational ego.

There are many folks who feel a need, so desperately, to keep their identity in tact that they lose all contact with the higher principles of peace and contentment and happiness.  The ego in its uncanny fashion differentiates  itself from the wider sense of self and  diminishes the value of contentment in the face of maintaining its own righteousness and place of permanence in the psyche.

Creativity and sensitivity to one’s experience of freedom and joy are activities that are built, or discovered, outside the agency of the ego.  In that way we often hear people talk about channelling another source, or being inspired by a muse.  In fact the source of creativity is the self, but the self that lives outside the ego.  The ego need not be dismantled in order to tap this source.  It is just that one needs to learn to NOT rely on old egoic positions and instead be ready to capture ideas that are free floating and less tied to convention. The source is the divine in us.  It is the great “I AM” of creation and we exist as co-creators.  It is not up to the universe to bring us joy.  It is our task, indeed our purpose in life, to bring joy to the universe.  We live in the paradise that we create by flowing down stream, or we are condemned like Sisyphus  to be rolling the bolder of life  forever uphill.


_1010156I am not the content of my consciousness, I am not the thoughts and emotions that arise in my consciousness, I Am the
consciousness–itself.  I Am the aliveness of the consciousness.  I am able to look at the thoughts and the emotions that arise in
consciousness.  That part of me that can look at my thoughts is my aliveness looking at my ego’s content.  I am not that content.  I am the larger entity in which the ego emerges.  I call that larger entity the self as a way of differentiating it from the ego.
The Self is a greater consciousness than the  activities of the ego.  Moreover,  much to our delight, the ego can be witnessed by the Self, by the greater consciousness.  It is in this witnessing of the ego by the Self that we become aware to the concept of the duality in the human psyche.  If I can say with some conviction, “I am so mad at myself,”  I am witnessing that there is an “I” observing the “Self,”  an “I” which is mad at a separate object which is the Self.

I AM alive and present in this moment.

I AM the persistent awakening,  that comes from an abandonment of  identification with  thoughts and with  opinions and with  feelings.  I have to abandon identifying with the content of the ego in order to experience My self.

We are not talking about a denial of affect, but rather,  about a keen awareness of thought & feeling,  followed by a Consciousness that although these sensations arise in me, these sensations are not me.  They are not me any more than the obsessive ramblings of a narcissistic mind is me.  A deceptively simple but definitive advance in analytic thinking came about when the concept of the Self as separated from the ego was born.  The ego and its location in the psychic apparatus along with the id and the super-ego constitute the location or the psychic place in which the identity is created and maintained.  Thought & feeling emanate from here.  But Consciousness is greater than what arises in it.  I Am the consciousness in which the ego arises.

This duality of identity within the mind of the human being is either the source of great joy or the source of tremendous consternation and conflict.   Because as long as we are not aware of this duality, the ego has nearly total control of our thoughts, our actions and more importantly maintains a  deep and complete identification with these thoughts and feelings as if these are the totality of us.  In this condition the human mind remains “contained” in the ego and this containment is the source of great narcissistic injuries as the individual passes through life thinking that he or she is the sum total of his or her thoughts.  The danger in this narrow vision is that we begin to protect our thoughts as is they were us and in so doing we enter into conflict not only with Others, but we remain conflicted with the greater potential that remains untapped, unknown, undiscovered.  In other words, the Self is hidden or more accurately disconnected from the ego and it exerts no influence in our lives.  We conduct ourselves “as-if” we are our egos.  As such, we wander through life with this life size cardboard cut-out of ourselves in front of us and leading at all times.  Our ego becomes a persona of us and the Self and its magnificent connection with all sentient life is missed.

The very witnessing of this duality is the opening in the wall, the crack in the narcissistic shell, the glimpse that allows us to eventually experience the eternal, cosmic stillness, the ethos from which The Creator manifests through you.