Here’s another installment in a series of emails that took place between Michael and one of his senior students beginning in August of 2009. May you find the exchange interesting and enriching.
July 14, 2010
Student: Each time you point at infinity, you have to, as teacher, point to a concept which is only a “thing” representing infinity, rather than the whole of infinity itself. Put another way, your words can’t ever sum up what they’re pointing out. Doesn’t this kind of make teaching impossible? For example, saying “you are what was before the first thought” creates a boundary since even the idea of before draws a distinction between itself and an after. Are there any words that aren’t like bricks?
Michael: It might be helpful to look at this from two angles. First, everything, even words, are expressions of the Infinite. The same applies to bricks: sourced from and expressions of the Infinite in every way. Second, and this is where we typically run into trouble, any thing can act as a “brick” if we see it as substantial and fixed. Once we fall into this trap, words used for teaching, even though they may be poetic, can become merely crude pointers for teacher an student alike. Seeing this trap can get us past it. Getting past it we find that we are continually offered an audience with the Mystery where Being and experience are revealed as an expression of this moment; of this immediacy that is prior to thought and feeling… and we are That.
Student: How are Being and experience the same?
Michael: Experience is consciousness that has registered the meaning of any movement. Being, on the other hand, is the infinite, free-functioning availability of a continually choiceless Awareness. Both Being and experience are forever dancing together as stillness that is creatively revealing itself as movement; Emptiness being continually birthed as form, so to speak.
Student: Okay, but if no movement is registered in experience, is this staying as pure awareness?
Michael: Essentially. Letting stillness arise throughout the experience of one’s body offers a felt sense of Awareness.
Student: Is the registering of movement a slight contraction of the Witness?
Michael: No. The contraction of the Witness shows up as an interpretation of whatever is moving. Ego is expressed here at the birth of this contraction. An un-contracted Witness, on the other hand, is like a mirror, reflecting all that arises in the open field of Awareness without any interpretation. This mirror, so to speak, is stillness, and stillness is non-other than a way of describing the fundamental quality of Awareness. And yet it is still, as a mirror, subjective and participatory in that it is expressed as the slightest contraction of Awareness.
Student: So the Witness, isn’t the final stop?
Michael: Technically, no. The Witness is simply the end of the line when it comes to subjectivity. Past the Witness there is only the swirl of what in Zen we call, Suchness; an Infinite grace of no-thing-ness that shows up as every-thing-ness.