3P Random Reflections Blog
One of the regulars who attends the weekly Hangout at the homeless shelter is a lovely sweet soul of a man who despite (and perhaps because of) his many challenges in life, never speaks
about his past, never passes judgment, and never speaks in anger or accusation. If anything, he's only ever curious about the "whys", often trying to understand the sometimes cruel behaviours and motivations of others (which I'm guessing, points to some of
his past and current challenges). He is always full of questions.
He likes to talk about the latest events in the news... the boys trapped in the cave in Thailand,
the construction and development plans for the shelter, the latest weather extremes. He also likes to listen to the videos/audios by Syd Banks. We listen for a bit, and we often stop and chat for a bit, and he shares both his questions and his thoughts. He
has had many of his own insights into the illusory and constantly changing nature of thought and life.
Since his mind sometimes goes in different directions than
mine, I can't always follow his flow of thought or make the logical connection from one expressed thought to the next. But I can eventually piece together some general idea of what he may be articulating. And every once in a while
he says something brilliant that I happen to catch, that allows me to see something in a new way. (I'm sure he says brilliant things all the time, but I'm just not brilliant enough in the moment to notice. )
The other day, while he was melted into the big comfy chair in the meditation/prayer/spiritual room in the shelter, he said,
"We're like water. I'm in this chair, and my body folds into it, to match the form of the chair. It's not like this when I stand up. I'm completely different. I'm rigid."
And I thought, wow, we really are like water. In every brief moment our body and our mind are continually adapting to our continually changing environment. We have these incomprehensibly complex and intelligent systems (physical/mental/spiritual) that
instantaneously and miraculously respond to the form of whatever life presents to us... mostly without any conscious awareness. We sit in the chair and our body naturally slumps in. We stand up and our body knows to hold itself rigid for lack of any physical
support. Someone asks us any question, we recognize it and respond. We put any kind of food into our mouths and our system works with whatever it is. We fall down the stairs and our body responds to minimize the impact and figure out what to do next.
We are amazingly and inherently adaptable.
I thought about how incredibly
helpful it would be for every human being to see the significance in this... to see how much we are like water, and to realize how much we can trust in that adaptability, no matter what is presented. Even for the untold number of unpredictable daily events/thoughts/feelings
for which we've made absolutely no plans or preventions whatsoever, we still have access to an intelligence that always presents us with something to do next.
much more grace would we experience in life if we happened to discover this, not just as a good idea, but as something foundational about the miraculous nature of life, as well as a compelling and profound direction to keep looking in?
This week, after a fall down the stairs, and observing my own creative system of thought navigating life on crutches and improvising with a variety of other makeshift tools and supports to
complete tasks and move around, I'm appreciating and marvelling at my human "like-water-ness". And, with many of these daily tasks and movements now occurring at glacial speed, I'm also finding some amusement in learning new lessons about the illusory nature
of time. I'm like water, but really really slow water. LOL!
We got home, and they were gone.
While we were away on our 2-week vacation, our suffering neighbours renting the house next door, had packed up and moved away. Upon arriving home, several other neighbours that we ran into were abuzz
with the news, and inevitably exclaiming how relieved they were and how happy we must be now that they were gone.
For me, there wasn't any feeling of relief. Instead, I was a little sad.
When they first moved in about
3 years ago, the father, although a little rough around the edges, was relatively chatty and upbeat, enthusiastically introducing himself. However, not long after, the family dynamics became apparent... there was incredible verbal abuse by the father, possible
physical abuse, and mostly fear and cowering by the mother, the two boys (around 12 and 14), the girl (around 8), and the dog.
Over time, one relative and some other kids moved in and out, the father moved out, a boyfriend moved in and
out and back in again, another dog moved in, the home became full of loud and violent behaviours and addiction, the house and property fell into complete disrepair... broken windows and doors, graffiti and gang tagging on the walls, garbage and junk everywhere,
and there were occasional calls for the police and visits by social care workers. More recently as the boys grew into troubled and troubling teenagers, and dropped out of school, the home became a hangout for their fellow troubled friends. Our storybook on
this family is full.
There was INCREDIBLE suffering going on next door (as well as brief moments of laughter and kindness and love), and as much as I was sometimes an irritated recipient of their behaviours, and a "Gladys Kravitz" to their
ongoing drama, I also felt a great deal of love for them. I knew their suffering, just like my own past suffering, came from an innocent and very common misunderstanding about life, and I held hope for them to see something new.
we'd always say "Hello" to them when we could, we'd always shovel the snow on their sidewalk, we'd sometimes mow their lawn for them, and we'd drop off the occasional banana bread and care package on the holidays. We were never able to make much of a personal
connection with them, other than with a relative (who was fighting cancer) who stayed with them for about a year.
Being human, we didn't always live in a state of understanding and loving kindness for them. We would sometimes feel frustration
over the nuisance and destructive behaviours that would spill over into our lives and onto our property, and we would often be perplexed by their odd or inexplicable behaviours. And one time when one of the kids urgently asked to use our wifi to try to connect
via cell phone with their missing mother, in a bit of a fearful state, we said no.
And now they're gone... perhaps seen as a good thing in our neighbours' eyes, but in my eyes, a problem that our community still holds, simply moving to
a different location. Having a greater awareness of how we are all connected in so many complex and invisible ways, I know deeply how each one of us is intrinsically responsible for our greater community, whether the problems of it happen to be appearing next
door to us or not.
And with that awareness, my husband and I will keep on, as best as our humanity allows us in each changing and passing moment, to live in our community with love and understanding and support, and humbly accept our temporary
limitations whenever we don't. When our much loved neighbour sold his house several years ago, and it became a rental property that brought in a series of troubled and challenged families, we have ultimately been blessed with an abundance of experience, and
an incredible opportunity to learn and grow, and continue to learn to love without conditions.
I don't know who will be moving in next, and whether they will bring more joy or more suffering, but I do very much look forward to whatever
abundance of experiences and life lessons that we will be blessed with, no matter what.
Self-help, hypnotherapy, meditation, exercise,
goal-setting, achievement, accumulation of anything (money, power, fame, things), go-to-habits & behaviours, and the millions of other techniques we use to fix, or change, or control, or feel better, all focus on the form (the illusory, the constantly
changing). We want to change how we feel, and so we “do stuff” that we think will help us feel better. Sometimes the techniques appear to work, an...d sometimes they don’t.
But no matter the technique, they are always working on a moving target.
The Three Principles, and many of the wise throughout
time, are pointing to the formless (the truth of life), that when realized in some way, begins to “support” us in navigating life with more awareness, no matter our circumstances or how we feel. With any type of glimpse of truth, we begin to more
often catch the illusory nature of our thought (form), and more often realize our spiritual nature (feeling of oneness, feeling of common humanity, experience of the unconditional and impersonal).
Despite having had a glimpse of the formless, I still use techniques ALL the time, whether I realize it in any particular moment or not. I sometimes head to the fridge when I’m bored. I sometimes go for a walk when I’m
anxious. I sometimes watch a movie when I’m tired. I sometimes watch a Sydney Banks DVD when I’m feeling depressed, I sometimes explain my side of the story (get defensive) when I’m feeling insecure. Sometimes these interventions appear to
work, and sometimes they don’t. I also sometimes do all of those things when I’m NOT feeling bored, anxious, tired, depressed, or insecure.
from the perspective of the formless (the unconditional and impersonal), there is no right or wrong in what we do in form. And when we somehow get a glimpse of the formless, the form of life becomes more of a game to play, than a problem to be controlled
or fixed, and we get to begin navigating life with less intervention, and ultimately with more love and less fear.
A few years ago I had a 3-day experience of seeing and feeling everyone and everything with what I would describe as unconditional, impersonal love. It was something I had never felt before
in my life, and it was much greater than any of my personal experiences of love for my husband or my family.
It was NOT at all a PERSONAL experience of affection, or warmth, or appreciation, or admiration, or comfort, or attachment, or any type of PERSONALLY loving feeling. Instead, it was oddly detached and completely impersonal, while also being
profoundly immense and all-encompassing and incredibly clear and simple and certain.
at the time were, "Oh, this is what the wise throughout time have been pointing to". This is the experience of the formless, the truth of life, our spiritual nature, and what many define as God... the feeling of the inexplicable energy of nothing and everything,
seeing the perfection of everything exactly as it is, without labels, without adjectives, without conditions. All of a sudden, everything in life made complete sense.
In deep contrast, I could then see how all my past (and current) experiences of PERSONAL love had some level of what I would describe as "pain" associated with them... I was attached to them,
there were needs and expectations associated with them, there were personal conditions and fears related to them. I wanted to be loved in return by those I loved, and I would feel loss or hurt if the person or relationship was lost. I had also applied all
sorts of conditions to any love I may have had for myself.
Prior to this experience, I had
no idea of the difference between the understanding/feeling of the personal & conditional (illusory) versus the impersonal & unconditional (truth). I had no idea how ALL my personal feelings of love included this illusory, personal-self, ego-based,
fearful, painful attachment, and that there was something “other” yet to be experienced. I had no idea that I was already the love that I had needed or wanted (and so was everyone else).
And so I now see (for me) that "learning to love yourself first" is simply a metaphor, pointing to realizing this truth of the impersonal nature of life...
discovering what is meant by "looking within". When we get a glimpse of it in any way for ourselves, we then live and love from some level of awareness of it. We begin gaining less attachment to the personal illusion, and we begin leaning with more faith or
interest toward the formless truth (experiencing the feeling of love without conditions and awareness of the incomprehensible intelligence of the formless energy of life).
On a day-to-day basis, I live entirely in the illusory personal, with only rare and brief glimpses (felt awareness) of this truth of the impersonal & unconditional. BUT, I now know the
truth of it, and I know which direction it's in, and I know the difference in feeling of whether I'm closer to it or further away from it. I can now feel the physical constriction and weight of my personal experience (my personal thinking) versus the complete
freedom and weightlessness of the unconditional.
Personally, my preference would be to permanently
hang out in the feeling of the impersonal & unconditional LOL! But then what fun would that be?! Instead, I get to continue to uncover the infinite levels of my personal craziness (the personal suffering that this human form seems to love sending my way),
and see the joyful humour in it all, and take it all a lot less seriously. The infinitely entertaining roller coaster ride of life!
FOLLOW-UP QUESTION FROM KATHY MARSHALL EMERSON:
I am curious where today you might say you find a passage from any of Syd's writing that is most like what you have experienced and said about
this universal impersonal love.
After having this experience, along with the realization of the illusion of all thought, most of everything I then read or listened to by Syd just made complete sense
to me. I could relate almost everything he shared back to my 3-day experience in some way.
I'm not sure which of his writings would best compare to my attempt at describing the difference between personal love/life
(the illusion) and impersonal love/life (the truth), but this passage from “In Quest of the Pearl” probably comes closest…
“Now, there is a far greater Truth that is impersonal. This impersonal Truth is
found within one's soul and is as steadfast as life itself. This is the TRUTH the wise have spoken of since the beginning of time. This is where they make their stand against all falseness of life. This TRUTH that I speak of is before the formation of thought
or form, and when digested, it starts to unfold the mystical qualities of the world we live in.”
I also related to many of the times when Syd spoke about the impersonal and neutral. He used those specific words, but also
used Mind, the formless, God, oneness, wisdom, the spiritual, the soul, purity, one divine source, the essence, the now (no time, space, or matter), truth, love (Note: I couldn’t find him anywhere saying unconditional love), peace, pure consciousness,
divine mystery, the secret that cannot be told, and many more. From my perspective (based on my personal experience), all of these are simply labels and metaphors pointing to the same formless energy of life that I felt as impersonal, unconditional love, and
realized as “truth”. It’s interesting that all of these labels and metaphors tend to be ones that have less of a concrete form, that are somewhat undefinable, and that are generally without conditions, without judgments, and without parameters
The other day, an older, heavy-set woman with a cane,
dressed in a mix of distressed clothing, boarded the bus with a motley collection of bags that appeared to be full of her recent purchases. She didn’t board quickly, quietly, and calmly as the angry looking driver and many of the passengers would probably
have preferred, but instead boarded with some awkwardness and loudness (in movement and voice) as she paid the fare, got to her seat, and arranged the bags around her feet.
During the ride, she spoke a few times, loudly and aggressively to the driver, and also to the other passengers trying to navigate past her bags.
During the ride, I wasn’t giving any significance to her aggressive behaviour, since I was aware that she
was simply acting out from the incredible power of insecure thought. Instead, as I reflected on her situation, I was thinking, “It’s too bad I couldn’t get her access to a portable wheeled cart so that she could navigate her bags more easily”
And then I caught what my own creative insecure mind was up to, and I kind of chuckled to myself.
I realized how the idea of getting her a cart would be “MY” solution if I was in her situation,
and would not necessarily be her solution. I amusingly remembered how often I think I have the answers to what I have personally deemed as other people’s “problems”, as if I'm more aware or as if know better than they do.
It’s soooooo easy for our minds to define things as problems, and then to begin looking for solutions to
something we’ve just completely made up. How do I know that she wasn’t perfectly fine navigating her bags exactly as she was? Perhaps there were much more pressing problems she was concerned with and could have used help with. After all, I am not
living in her head. I’m ONLY ever living in my own.
And it’s not that it wouldn’t
have been a perfectly lovely idea to find a way to get her access to a cart, but here’s what is significant about my thoughts/feelings in that moment…
When I’m trying to fix what I see as other people’s problems, or I see them as "less" or as incapable or a nuisance in some way (whether to themself, or myself, or others), it
is a warning bell indicating some sort of insecure thought/feeling passing through my mind. In that moment, it helps me see that I am NOT feeling unconditional love, or unconditional acceptance, or warm connection, or admiring and appreciating their own natural
resilience. Instead, I’m feeling separate from them, and judging them or their situation, and identifying what I see as “their” problems.
And so, the “solutions” I will tend to come up with will be entirely influenced by my own personal perceptions about life. And that’s a helpful thing to be aware of. After all, every
one of us knows the difference between getting advice or help from someone who’s judging us based on how they see and experience the world in their own mind, versus getting advice or help
from someone who’s coming from a place of neutral connection or unconditional love, and not currently wrapped up in their own personal thinking.
At the stop where this woman was to get off, there was a younger woman leaving at the same time. The two of them had a bit of interaction in order to navigate their mutual departure. The older woman
eventually encouraged the somewhat impatient younger woman to just go ahead, although she said it with her aggressive sounding tone. Heading out the door, the younger woman made some sort of sarcastic remark directed toward the older woman, followed by the
driver’s loud laughter in agreement. The older woman heard it and snapped at the driver, asking him what the younger woman had said about her.
I immediately found myself angry and judgmental toward both the younger woman and the driver for not seeing what I was seeing… an older woman struggling though life, doing the best she could given her thinking
in the moment, and likely with many less resources in life than they had.
I caught what my own creative insecure mind was up to, and I kind of chuckled to myself again.
Although I appeared to be in defense of the suffering (being on the side of compassion for the suffering older woman), I hadn’t immediately noticed that I had absolutely no compassion for the driver or the younger woman. Their behaviours were
just as driven by the momentary flow of insecure thought passing through their minds (their own personal suffering). If they happened to be experiencing a secure flow of thought, and were feeling their intrinsic connection to life and each other, they would
have acted differently.
See how tricky our thinking can be?
In the moment, it occurred to me to offer the older woman help with her bags. She said yes, and asked me to grab the green garbage
bag that was still left for her to pick up. After I carried the bag off the bus and left it next to her, she said “God bless you”. I wasn’t looking for that appreciation, but it was lovely to have affirmation once again, of the truth that
anyone, no matter the circumstances, can regain their intrinsic connection to the world, and respond in kind.
With the understanding that our thoughts and feelings aren’t “caused” by the circumstances of life, it means that we can thankfully navigate life with a lot more understanding of why individuals (including myself) innocently
and often unknowingly act the way we do; that our insecure behaviours are simply a reflection of the belief in the momentary flow of insecure thought/feeling passing through our minds, temporarily losing our felt connection to life and humanity. And that’s
As a result of knowing this, so much less of our mental resources end up being
spent on judgement, or the need to fix, or the need to figure out why, or the need to judge/justify/defend/reason anyone’s behaviours. It makes the understanding of everything in life so simple. And so, we get to spend less time being in our heads, and
more time just being.
And despite how deeply any of us know this, we can still (and will frequently)
lose our connection to humanity, and get temporarily lost in the belief in whatever insecure flow of thought is passing through our head. And once again, that’s just human. Fortunately, we then get to notice this happening, and have a good chuckle about