Thursday, September 3, 2009

Space & Mystery: paths to the Zen

In A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle gives us some tools for moving into our present moment, into Presence. One of the tools is the contemplation of space. This is actually the contemplation of nothing, the unnameable. As soon as we start putting labels on things we move out of the present and into comparison with thought and time.

As I was finishing my Tai Chi form, I rested and looked at the moon through the leaves and branches of the red bud tree next to my patio, and I felt a moment of mystery, the mystery of the tree itself.

The other day I was walking along and began to contemplate the mystery of gravity, the way we are drawn physically to this ball of rock and water. I thought about the fact that I am being pulled toward this mass, the wonder and awe at the balance of our universe. It amazed me that the gravitational pull comes from all the atoms in the Earth; the ones close to the surface in the soil, the crust of the planet, the magma center. The gravity that I feel is determined by the entire planet, and creates this balance of me walking on the surface. This gravity of every atom of this planet is holding me down by the attraction it has on every atom of my body.

That wonder and awe at the mystery of this principle that has created our physical universe is the space that I can fall into, the entry to Presence.

As I looked at the tree, and the moon glowing through its branches, I dwelt on the mystery of the tree, its growth, the fractals that produce wood and leaves, the amazing evolution of this species. I felt the world slip away and become massively present, all at once.

When he had asked where he would find the Zen, the Buddhist student was told by the teacher to listen for the small stream in the distance, and through the effort of listening to what underlies the sounds that are present, the student was able to step out of his thoughts and into the moment. As he was struck by the awe of Presence, he said, "Yes, now I hear it," the teacher said, "Enter the Zen from here."

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