The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, June 02, 2006

What Are We?

Focus your mind on 'I am', which is pure and simple being.
Be with it all the time you can spare, until you revert to it spontaneously.
There is no simpler and easier way.
-- Nisargadatta Maharaj

Over the last weeks, you’ve watched me get distracted from my path with considerations of human relationships, race, health, and emotion.  It isn’t that I expect my tolerant readers to do anything about the demons that devil me.  This blog is a way of expressing the things that arise as I deepen my personal practice.

There is a knot in my psyche that has been plaguing me for months now.  I may speak of it soon—at the moment, the content doesn’t matter as much as the fact that I can feel it raging in my mind, running around and around in a circle like a trapped rat. 

Let’s just say that I am engaged with a puzzle that has no obvious solution.  That very fact makes me suspect that the answer cannot be found on my current energetic level—that I actually have to evolve as a human being just a little more before I’ll be able to glimpse the true nature of my dilemma…let alone a solution.

This morning, I awoke at 4:15 and got out of bed at 5:06.  I dressed, and drove twenty miles to Pasadena for the martial arts class taught by my old friend and teacher, Tim Piering.  What kept running through my mind was that I needed to talk to someone, someone who knew me and my struggles, who has the wisdom to operate at a higher level on a very consistent basis.  Tim is a man who reminds me of Coach Sonnon in some ways—he’s gone beyond martial arts  (four black belts, former All-Marine Judo Champion) to embrace a spiritual path.  If I could speak with Tim, I thought, he might help.

I sat in the parking lot of the Japanese community center until 5:55, thinking that perhaps no one was coming, when the other guys pulled up, and then Tim himself.  I mentioned that I’d like to have lunch with him to discuss some things, and he graciously agreed.
Then…during class, something happened.  Tim teaches in an odd, eclectic fashion, moving back and forth between physical technique, sparring, theory, breathing exercises, and philosophical discourse quite fluidly.  The movement is different enough from my beloved Silat that it forces me to ask questions about pure motion, pure intent, the nature of personal and conflict interaction—without fixating on technique, which is far less important than the mental state of the combatants.

And Tim did some work with what he calls the “I Am” verses, a simple and direct way of attaining great mental clarity, perhaps a doorway to the quality or state known as enlightenment. 

What I can say is that we were reciting verses, and I had commented to one of the other students about how my brain is running in circles on a certain issue, using up valuable compute cycles I should be investing in my work.

We sparred a round, and then recited, and then sparred…and something broke open inside me, and I almost cried, right there in class.

And the answer was this: the devils currently plaguing me may be correct.  The problems I perceive may well be real.  But my only option is to learn to clarify my own perceptions, to rise to the level of resolving dualities.  Whatever problems I face, my ability to face them will be dependant on the amount of my true capacity I bring to the battle.

Or to put it another way, I must be as authentic as I am capable of being, without withhold.  God, it is so hard.  Right now, in some very critical ways, I have no guides, no mentors, am walking in territory not merely unknown to me, but to which there are no explicit guides. 

I’ve been brought to this place in my life by my ambition, my loves, my drives…and coming along with those things were, of course, my wounds, confusion, dishonesty, and cowardice.   All of them whisper in my ear.  Some of them scream. And the only way to sort my way through that forest is to become calmer, deeper.

What am I?  My belief is that I am a spiritual being having a human experience.  It is so, so hard to remember that.  So easy to believe that I am defined by my external realities.  Sigh.  Arrgh.  All right. 

It was a bit spooky the way Tim cut right to the heart of what I needed.  But that’s why I was willing to get up at five in the morning to play with him.  He’s that kind of guy.

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