Come as You Are

March 27, 2011 § 12 Comments

Good morning!  How is that for a liberatingly unoriginal first sentence? I’m sitting here drinking a good, strong cup of coffee, watching the sky brighten and thinking about our gathering, Parabola Live, at New York Insight at 28 West 27th Street  in Manhattan this afternoon.  I’m not nervous, or not too nervous, because I’m looking forward tobeing with others and sitting with other people.  I once asked a good friend, the now departed Jon Rothenberg, how we were going to find our way forward into the future. “If we just keep sitting together we’ll be alright,” he said.

Last week, Iscrewed up my courage and undertook the experiment of having nothing with me except a guide book.  It’s not like there are no books in Oxford, but I decided to take advantage of being in unfamiliar surroundings, of being a stranger in town. All week long, I kept glimpsing the true state of affairs, the way I’m a kind of cave with the wind blowing through it, the way I’m always trying to fill the unexplored depths of emptiness with ideas and stories.  The image of Kate and Leo clinging to that spar of wood in the last scene of Titanic comes to mind—the way I was trying to find something solid to grasp to keep me from sinking down into nothingness.   Naturally, I would find certain repetitive thoughts to cling to–I ate my porridge and stared up at the august and ancient portraits of men of substance in the Trinity College dining room, I just let myself sink and know that I was without substance.  At moments I felt quite alone–alone in front of the unstoppable truth of impermanence, of time passing, of Alex growing up and passing on to a new life, and me?   And yet, in the midst of that sadness there were moments of lightening and warmth.  There on my own,  wandering down cobblestone streets in dreamy Oxford, I realized that it is ok to let go of striving to be someone and sink into our common human nature.   In a sense, what we aspire to is rooted in our origins.

Back home again, I happened to find this in The Reality of Being:   “Each of us is alone and in our self must be alone–alone in front of our understanding, in front of the call of the divine and the fact of our human person.  I become linked with others when I begin to recognize my original nature and see that we all have the same difficulty realizing it with the whole of ourselves.  This brings a special energy, which allows the action of a finer, more subtle nature.  The energy has the power to call and to irresistibly attract.  This represents the true help that we can bring to each other.”

Madame de Salzmann was referring to special conditions, but what she says is true on some level whenever people gather and sit together with the intention of consciously giving and receiving.  A special energy can appear, a sense of freedom to be ourselves.  A friend of mine called Parabola a kind of spiritual National Geographic, reminding readers of this truth from Jesus, quoted in the Gospel of John:  “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” (She used the modern translation which substitutes “rooms” but I prefer the koan-like mystery of many mansions being in a house.)  Whatever we think the Truth is, as the Buddha said, it is other than that.  It is larger than any human philosophy–yet it dwells in us.   There is something in us besides thinking, a seeing, a receptivity, an awareness, a bodhi mind, that can relate us to this.

Last week, another friend told me he was very excited to learn that the word Buddha was derived from the word “bodhi,” which in Pali and Sanskrit means “awakening” and also “to Know.”  He said “to Know” as if this kind of knowing was capitalized.  I googled it myself and confirmed that the definition did capitalize “Know.” To my friend, this seemed to confirm that the Buddha was in on the same Gnosis, the same deep knowledge that Jesus and great human teachers from Pythagoras to Gurdjieff knew.  He was excited to think that there is one Truth.   For him this was a hint that there is one Light and one Way.   I don’t know.

But I do know that giving up all hope of escape from my basic human nature frees me.  I know that being with others and sitting with others is a good thing, and sometimes when I sit I feel I am sitting with the ancients.  I know by now that I will never get over my thinking and dreaming and stories.  But sometimes something more real seems to swim up through the dreams.  There is a glimpse of something glittering up from the depths.  Opening to receive it, I become capable of giving.   I think this is what the great photographer and Parabola contributor Minor White was on to, when he said:

“Be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms you presence.”

Come join us if you can!  And come as you are.

§ 12 Responses to Come as You Are

  • Ron Starbuck says:

    Tracy, I wish that I could be with all of you today. It will be a good day, and I will be thinking of you from home. In another entirely different way, I’ll be there too, a mental presence of sorts perhaps, certainly as a blessing or a prayer.

    Let me offer the following please …

    what is belief

    what is belief, what is knowledge
    do you know how to tell the difference

    one from the other
    between the moment of desire
    and the satisfaction of that desire

    do you hear the bells of eventide ringing
    through the soul, marking the time

    do you hear
    the calling of
    a stronger desire

    we are meant to love, not just one
    but many hearts across the years

    the heart calls out
    again and again
    as one desire fades

    and another one arises
    this is the gift life brings us

    each and every day
    the heart calls out
    listen

    Ron Starbuck

  • I was thinking along the lines of Ron. And I wonder if you felt some sort of “unknown presences”? Your post was very powerful, Tracy!
    And I also enjoyed your poem too, Ron.
    I hope you all have a very blessed week as we continue this quest as fellow “pilgrims”!

  • Diane D'Angelo says:

    Lovely post. Thank you. I am feeling deeply alone at present after a dear friend’s death, so your post helps me feel less alone in my aloneness.

    • tracycochran says:

      Thank you, friends. It can feel so counter-intuitive, to just let go and let yourself sink into your basic, undefended, inarticulate, vulnerable human nature. But there can be such a soft landing. Into the world as it is–with the soft but certain knowing that we are accepted just as we are.

  • amanda says:

    Love this line Tracy; ” In a sense, what we aspire to is rooted in our origins.” I agree, sometimes we get sooo caught up with life that we forget to just live for the moments that are subtle and beautiful.

    Grief is a powerful, and almost blinding emotion. It’s during these times that I personally find solace in my music, and in all the more simplistic things life has to offer. Reconnecting with nature, driving a long peaceful road and listening to music, taking a long bath with candles lit – taking a break from life in general makes you think, and helps you to appreciate the finer things that life has offered, the people and the love it’s given you.

    Be well, and keep creative🙂
    Amanda Ashley

  • Barbara H Berger says:

    Tracy, thank you for giving voice to a subtle feeling: “I just let myself sink and know that I was without substance. At moments I felt quite alone–alone in front of the unstoppable truth of impermanence, of time passing…” and “…I realized that it is ok to let go of striving to be someone and sink into our common human nature.”

    I have felt this too, and while it comes with uneasiness, a sense of loss and sadness, there are also those “moments of lightening and warmth” as you say. An expansiveness and hint of freedom.

    The feeling you describe is always humbling. You let yourself “sink” into that awareness, and there is a shared root deep in the dark, below where we usually think we are. I love the wisdom embedded there, even in the etymological kinship between our words humus (soil), humble, and human.

    bhb

    • tracycochran says:

      Thank you for this response, Barbara. There is a connection below where we think we our, up here on the surface. I love remembering that kinship between humus, humble, and human.

  • Nick_A says:

    Hi Tracy

    I hope all went well. I was thinking about what you wrote:

    Back home again, I happened to find this in The Reality of Being: “Each of us is alone and in our self must be alone–alone in front of our understanding, in front of the call of the divine and the fact of our human person. I become linked with others when I begin to recognize my original nature and see that we all have the same difficulty realizing it with the whole of ourselves. This brings a special energy, which allows the action of a finer, more subtle nature. The energy has the power to call and to irresistibly attract. This represents the true help that we can bring to each other.”
    *****************************

    There is an essential contrast that can apper as a contradiction in all this, Yet if Simone is right and such apparent condtradictions are really doors, I have to be open to experiencing it. On the one hand we have:

    “Be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms you presence.”

    And then there is Simone Weil’s observation:

    “A test of what is real is that it is hard and rough. Joys are found in it, not pleasure. What is pleasant belongs to dreams.” — Gravity and Grace
    ******************************
    Be honest dear reader. Does something feel “right” about the fine and “wrong” about the rough. If Simone is right, maybe it has something to do with “dreams:” preconceptions and interpretations.

  • tracycochran says:

    Well this reader found joy, not pleasantness, in the midst of the rough. I trusted the experience.

  • Nick_A says:

    As you know Tracy I am very concerned with the eventual unification of science and religion. Part of this includes becoming aware of the distinction between the words pleasant and joy.

    Simone Weil helps me here and I’m trying to grasp the depth of what she asserts. The idea is included in the abstract to this linked article. What is the joy of the real when the real isn’t always so joyful? I can only grasp this intellectually through my appreciation of levels of reality. But to experience it as pleasant and open to what can experience joy is something else.

    http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI8526788/

    Simone Weil: Contributions Toward A Critique Of Science is an exposition of Simone Weil’s thoughts on science. Her thought on science is scattered throughout various works. A comprehensive exposition requires a focus; in this dissertation the focus is provided by Weil’s notion of the human good. A human being’s relation to other human beings, to the world, and to God are all capable of analysis on the basis of the human good which is, for Weil, the joy of the real. Human experience of the joy of the real is a function of genuine liberty, a fundamental liberty in which the human being’s faculty of thought is united with desire in the act by which he takes possession of the world. Much of this dissertation is devoted to discussing Weil’s idea of liberty. Science can be a means of uniting thought with desire. The extent to which science enables ordinary human beings to experience the joy of the real is the extent to which it contributes to fundamental human liberty and, thus, the extent to which it is an authentic science. Authentic science cannot be in conflict with authentic religion. Part of this dissertation is devoted to saying what counts as authentic science and authentic religion for Weil. Ultimately, authentic science is a faithful companion to authentic religion. Religion and science both have proper roles to play in directing each other towards authenticity. There are difficulties in Weil’s critique of science. An effort is made here to show the nub of these difficulties. In sum, Weil’s idea of science is comprised of a Pythagorean/Platonic view of the universe joined with an appreciation of labor as man’s ordinary, primary contact with reality.

  • Jim Stevens says:

    Stay in your heart.
    Stay in your heart.
    Stay in your heart.

    Follow your heart messages
    and every day is joyful.

    You do not use your mind.

  • Constance says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    “I know by now that I will never get over my thinking and dreaming and stories.”

    Maybe, maybe not. Who can tell?

    But sometimes something more real seems to swim up through the dreams. There is a glimpse of something glittering up from the depths. Opening to receive it…
    hmm, stay with it~

    with metta, Constance

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