21st of April 2014
18th in the series, ‘The Striking Snake’
Now, today… today is a magic word, always remember, today, any day, today…is a magic day, it is the only day when anything can happen that is real. Today, apart from being as every day is, a magic day, it is the Queen’s birthday (laughter), my queen, not your queen. You don’t have such a delight as a queen, you guys. It’s not only the Queen’s birthday but it’s also Tyran’s birthday, from the community, who is not well today unfortunately on his birthday, and it’s also the birthday of our son Madi, who at the moment is fast asleep upstairs, wasting away his 17th birthday time.
So, it means that it’s a day we have to celebrate. So I’m going to begin the celebration by telling you all about life – that you think you know about, but you don’t.
There was a Zen master who always did this. (Michael points upwards with one index-finger). If anybody asked him a question, he would just lift his finger. Beautiful answer. One day a young monk imitated him and stuck his finger up, and the Zen master took out his knife and cut his finger off. So, be careful, only it won’t be your finger, it might be your head.
I have read a lot of Zen. I started quite early reading Zen, I’m very connected to Zen and its teachings in many ways, and I started reading about Zen many, many years ago. Of course, as you know, when you read something certain things will stick. When you read a book then maybe a few phrases stick for a while and maybe one or two phrases stick forever. So my memory is full of such sayings from everywhere, but particularly Zen, and one of these sayings that I read many years ago puzzled me for several decades. A Zen master said: “Be mindless of objects!”
What do you make of that? Mindless of objects. Be mindless of them! Anybody want to say what they think the Zen master was pointing to? Of course you are all thinking with your minds, but the point is to understand that you have to be mindless. What does that mean?
(to a participant) With your connections with Zen I thought you would have an immediate insight!
Saicho: Maybe don’t go too much into the material world or the world of objects and so separate yourself.
I like the first part, but what do you mean by ‘separate yourself’?
Saicho: Separate as an object.
That’s very good. That’s part of the answer. Be mindless of objects, because…this object is a clock, finish, this object is a table, finish, and these are flowers: Hello flowers! Finish! And that’s a garden, and there are more flowers and some stones, steps, a shutter and trees.
Now when I came in this morning I walked to the window – you probably didn’t notice because you all had your eyes closed – and this happened: I was going to say: “I did this,” but no. This happened (demonstrates).
What am I doing, or what is happening? Am I pointing at this bush? At the stone steps? Am I pointing at these three flowers here gathered together? Am I saying: “Look!”? No, I’m not saying: “Look!” because if I say: “Look!’… if you say to someone: “Look!”, you are saying: “Look, be a subject and look at this object!”
What’s wrong with that? Because that is a duality and that’s separation. And spiritual work is to mend separation, it is to transcend, as far as you can, duality. So Saicho was on the right track when she gave her answer.
So when I come to the window and do these actions, this way, I’m saying: “The relationship between this human being and what is out there is not captured by my statement that Michael Barnett, a human being, is looking at a garden and seeing trees and flowers and stones.” I am saying that there are all sorts of interactions going on between this person standing here and the nature standing out there that is not anywhere near captured by the statement that a person is looking at a garden, which contains trees and flowers and stone steps and walls.
I’m saying that nobody hardly knows about all these other realities that are going on all the time while we are trying to capture reality in our human systems and to understand the world and reality.
(Michael has someone refill his glass with water.)
Thanks! One glass, one bottle, from the bottle pour water into the object 'glass’, then put the top on the bottle, object, put the bottle on the ground. Take up the glass of water… and pour it over your head. (Michael laughs, then drinks some water).
So now, I drink a glass of water. Michael Barnett drinks from a glass of water. That’s the report. Did you make a note of that, Mishka, what time is it? But you know, I’m not a water-drinker particularly, Mishka drinks a gallon a day, I cannot drink water so much. But sometimes, when I drink water, it feels like the most exquisite thing I’ve ever drunk in my life. Sometimes I have a glass of water here and maybe a glass of wine there, when I’m away, or I have a little bit of liqueur. I drink the liqueur, not much, and I think: “Ah, that is great!", then I go to the water and drink some and I think: “Crikey! That is the most exquisite taste there can be.”
Another time I drink water and think: I can’t drink any more of this stuff. Mishka says: “Come on, you have to drink more, it’s good for your health.” But it seems to come right up to here (points to his throat) and is almost spilling out of my mouth. Mostly I seem to have a very small capacity in my water-space in here, and not much pleasure from it, and then sometimes it’s just fantastic. So how come it’s so different? How come it can be a big task for me to drink half a glass or more – because I’m supposed to, everybody recommends it, and sometimes I take a sip and it’s like I’m in paradise. How come? How come, when we see things in terms of names and objects that it can be so different from one moment to another?
Because when I take a glass of water the whole universe is there! Sometimes! And when I say ‘the whole universe’ I don’t mean the moon and the stars and the sun and the planets and the asteroids and the clouds, I don’t mean those objects I just named. I mean something that is really beyond human conception – but not beyond human experience. My mind cannot say what the difference is between the two times I drink water, for example. It can only say: “It is so!” I told you: sometimes it’s difficult to drink a glass of water and sometimes it tastes like the most exquisite liqueur possible. The relationship between me and water is completely different on both occasions. But the water doesn’t change, it’s not different water, we always drink the same water from the same place and it’s the same body more or less, a few days older, a few hours older, and yet the difference is enormous. So what is going on? Do you know? You don’t know! What is going on all around you? We have no idea. We have, I’m sorry, we do have an idea, but it’s a very puny, trivial idea. So, the energy-work that I’ve been involved in now for decades is switching attention from objects to space. Space includes all these things we call objects. And in the space, when I look out at the garden, I include the space that includes the garden and includes me, and in that space there is a completely different reality from the one that we know about and assume to be the case.
And so the Zen master says: “Be mindless of objects”, because as long as you are mindful of objects you stay in the ordinary classification of reality. This is me, this is her, this is him, this is a table, this is a chair, this is a clock and everything is separate. Everything is identified, by a separate person, as something separate from the whole. So sometimes when I come into a room like this, as I am doing all the time in my life, there are 'so many' people in the room – and then suddenly the room is empty. The room is empty because the energy that is where you are, which is expressed up to a point by your physical reality, up to a point by your emotional activity, up to a point by your mind-moving, up to a point it’s as we usually consider it, but only up to a point. And then...
I would like you all, more and more, to know what lies beyond that point. Please look, feel, experience, open, taste, accept, enjoy, relate, communicate, join, join, join, join, what is there, join, join, join, what is there, and then you’ll be part of it. Well, you are part of it, but then you’ll know yourself to be part of it.
You’ve got your eyes closed, most of you, what do you see? What do you see there? Objects? Can you see any objects? You may have an experience, your heart beating, contact with your own body while you sit, contact with the floor, breathing, your experience there. But what’s the shape of things? What is your body? When you look at the body from outside we can say: “Well, it’s two arms, two legs, head and neck, shoulders and so on,” and we can identify it on the physical realm, but when you have got your eyes closed and you are inside, in your interior, what is the shape of your body? Can you feel as you sit there with your eyes closed where your body ends and the space around you begins? Can you really? Even if you look from within to your hands, which is the most active part of you, the most alive part of you, you can feel the vibrations of them, but can you actually say: “Well, my hand ends, my thumb ends, I can feel with my eyes closed, exactly there, and beyond there is empty space.” ? I think not. And if you look at your body now in terms of energy and vibration you will see, well, it can be described as a certain form, it can be painted as a certain form, it can be photographed as a certain form, and the physical form stands out and takes precedence over something else for the time being when I look in that way. But with my eyes closed: “Where have the contours gone? Where is the perimeter? Where is the ‘Me’ and where is the ‘Not Me’? Where is the separation?” Can you see your separation with your eyes closed? Can you say: “Ah, my body ends here and nothing significant to me or connected to me lies beyond that. I am just this ‘monad,’ separate from the universe. Maybe when I die I will join it again in some way, but through my life – here I am, a separate person, a separate being, a separate living being.”
Do you really believe that? Can you justify that? Can you prove that? Can you be sure of that? Are you not just an assembly of different kinds of energy that come together in a certain way? And energy does not finish anywhere. To see yourself as an energy-being is to realize the truth of what I’m saying up to a point, because energy waves do not suddenly come to an end when the contours of the body are reached.
So everything that you are feeling inside you right now does not finish inside you, is not contained by your physical system. Everybody around you can feel it, if they are sensitive. Somebody looks at you from behind you: “Ah,” you turn around, you can feel that somebody is looking at you. How come that that connection can be felt by you? Just a look and you know, just a smile and your whole system responds to a loving smile, and you feel as if you are in joy.
All these things are going on all the time and we take no notice of them or we don’t look into them. The fact is that if you start looking into them, you see things like the smile from behind you that touches you in your neck and makes you realize that there is a contact; this is happening all the time with everything around you.
It’s happening all the time with everything around you! Only, we dismiss it, because we are so focussed on our own reality that we have no time for it, we have no space for it, we have no interest in it particularly, it’s a distraction from our next step in our lives towards our goals, to what we set up as the important thing in our life to reach before we die.
So as you sit there now and consider what I’m saying – you have to be considering what I’m saying because what I’ve said is also an energy and it would have touched you, but I can see it has touched you in your minds too – but if you sit there and experience yourself, instead of experiencing yourself now for a few minutes as a body sitting there containing your thoughts and your feelings and your sensations, see yourself as a local energy activity connected to all the other local energies of activity in the room and the local energy activities in the garden, in the space, in the house, in the neighbourhood, in the town, in the country, in the land, in the world, in the universe.
And if that moves you, allow yourselves to be moved! If opening to what is all around you affects that which you call yourself, then allow yourself to be affected and then in that way you begin to join what is there.
So on that level: how important is your identity? Your nationality, whether you are German or Dutch or English, what difference does it make? Whether you are a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew, what difference does it make? Whether you are tall or short or fat or thin or young or older, what difference does it make?
What difference can it possibly make when energy is eternal? Or as a famous English poet says: “Energy is eternal delight!".That was William Blake.
I’m thinking about a story in the Bible, which I have known for a long, long time, about one of the oldest of the prophets called Elijah, who held his arms up in the air for a long time while the Jews were in some battle, some siege, I think. And as long as his arms stayed in the air, the Jews vanquished the enemy. It is said that at the end of that: ‘he disappeared into space on a chariot.’ And that is a metaphor for what I speak to you about this morning. You don’t have to die to take that journey. In a way you do have to die to what you think you are, but you don’t have to die to your presence on this earth.
You can take that chariot into the sky right now.