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 25th, 2010
Student: Why does it seem as if I phase in and out of clarity? I mean I’m getting increasingly clear about who “I” am in the biggest sense, and from this perspective there is a noticing of the ego wanting to cling, then there’s an awareness of the ego fading into the background and foreground is all infinite, I don’t know, sky-like depth. But then comes an awareness of the ego attempting to reemerge along with the whole arrogance of it all. Is this normal? Did you go through this? Once one is clear about who one really is, shouldn’t everything fall into place naturally and effortlessly?
Michael: My experience has been one where “I” continually surf between the world of form and the formlessness of Emptiness. But in that space between there is no surfer. There is just awakened spaciousness. That’s the best way I can describe it, I guess. I get mad, sad, glad and even bad (ha!) but nothing really sticks. Stuff just keeps stabilizing at seemingly deeper and deeper levels that are way past a “me-sense.” Then again, stories are still written and they are also unwritten. Loss and gain both arise as do praise and blame. As we’ve discussed, stuff hurts more and yet matters less. It’s all there… but, oddly, it’s also not really there. Experiencing this unfolding perspective offers a tremendous freedom.
Student: But did you ever notice the ego jumping back into position, calling the shots?
Michael: Sure. I still do. But for years I noticed a great, increasing stability in my practice after my initial series of blasts. I got a little lazy once this happened though. Looking back on it, it seems clear as day that the ego was still at work in just very subtle ways. This subtlety became totally obvious with the advent of children. The kids brought about an increase in work as well as a decrease in time I could dedicate to sleep and meditation.
In a weird way, this slip, so to speak, deepened the practice in that attachments were experienced viscerally as well as mentally. I don’t recommend it, but sleep loss does wonders for this.
Student: So how’d you “get it back?”
Michael: I never “had it” to begin with, but the practice kept putting the light of awareness on what the small self wanted to remain in the dark. It’s as if forcing the meditation practice, even when all I wanted was a nap, kept showing the small self that it could no longer expect to be the boss any longer. It would have to sneak around in the shadows of consciousness hoping to find an opening into which it could assert itself. It’s as if there is a Knowing that the damage has been done, and yet I’m still always surprised at how delusion still pops up.
Student: So the moral of this story is to practice regularly.
Michael: I think so. Practice always shows us, regardless of our position on the path, that there’s a deep awareness that continually shows us that we’re never finished; that any “I” can always enjoy the thrill of a tremendous failure or success even after realization. But this is what makes life so much fun; we can always relish delusion’s subtleties. That I can be really, truly normal enough to cheer when the Giants win, and cry when I’m moved by love or loss. That good cigars and good wine and good food always thrill only a little bit less than the sight of a beautiful women dancing. That I can die well, knowing I’ve touched lives by showing less and less “I.” That I can die old and happy, with grandchildren who what the hell I’m talking about.
Then again, this is all just a series of stories that I’m not really attached to, nor am I clear on any of it really. It all dissolves into an ever collapsing Witness of everything that ever arises.