Here’s another installment in a series of emails that took place between Michael and one of his senior students beginning the Summer of 2009. May you find the exchange interesting and enriching.
August 12, 2010
Student: Do you find yourself working to unlearn stuff on this path and, if so, why? For the sake of clarity? Why is an unlearning step needed at all? Isn’t it more of an allowing clarity to be what it is, instead of letting go of knowledge?
Michael: I’d say “unlearning” is the same thing as letting go. It’s as spontaneous as it is intentional and it’s the natural byproduct of an authentic stillness practice. It’s also worth noting that letting go supports clarity as much as clarity supports letting go. I sometimes refer to this opening as “Knowing” since it is beyond the “knowing” of mind. So it’s true, based on my experience, that our intellectual strengths can become a hindrance if our practice becomes about “getting it.” Instead of “getting” anything, we let go of everything in order to uncover what our interpretations have hidden from us.
Student: Mind, you keep saying, is just another object arising out of the the one subject, awareness. Yet the mind is what interprets awareness?
Michael: Yes. The mind interprets what arises in awareness, but I’m trying to point you toward what is prior to interpretation. Remember that mind is an object. It isn’t personal unless it offers itself meaning through an identity. As long as I, me, and mine don’t arise with any opposing you, they, yours, theirs, it, its, etc. then mind is merely a simple facet of awareness that can’t dominate experience by becoming a reflection of itself; one that thinks it’s somehow separate from the Deep Singularity.
I think, on a side note, that Deep Singularity would be a great name for peanut butter. Don’t you?
Student: What would go well with Deep Singularity in a sandwich? Swiss cheese? Whatever.
Okay, humor aside, so the mind is conditioned because it’s always feeling separate from everything while awareness isn’t because it includes everything. The Witness is still conditioned, isn’t it? Is this where the slight contraction comes from? A totally unconditioned Witness would be pure consciousness?
Michael: In a certain respect, the Witness is conditioned, just like a bridge is conditioned by its opposing shores. On the other hand, the Witness is the mirror that reflects any and all conditions. So it “occupies” an entirely different level of awareness, while at the same time, it is “held” within each reflection of the Infinite. This is why we can refer to it as being an awakened contraction of what is forever beyond contraction.
Oh, and I’m thinking Deep Singularity & Witness… on sourdough.
Student: Sounds tasty. Speaking of tasty, are people attracted to sages like Ramana Maharshi because, as he says, always remains as he is, and is therefore beyond contraction? Is it like he no longer experiences arisings any more, or is like the ocean perpetually without waves? I’m not sure I said that right. He reflects everything, so he reflects nothing. He is perfectly full, so clear. The wisdom he embodies doesn’t need to talk or convey anything because being as it is, is complete. It’s all there, so to speak. There is nothing to give, or get, nothing to exchange in that spaciousness. And yet this isn’t right either, because the Infinite participates in the chaos and choreography of exchange each moment. So, again, why the attraction to Ramana Maharshi?
Michael: Of course it depends whom you talk to, but the “Maharshi Magnetism” arises out of our sense of seeing Emptiness embodied consciously and deeply in a being. It’s as if he and those like him let us glimpse Truth within ourselves when we are in his presence.
On the other hand, swimming in what Hindus call the shakti of the deeply realized beings like Maharshi can often let the ego think that it’s uncovered the totality of enlightenment when it has only tasted a small part of enlightenment’s sweetness. The taste, so to speak, is not the whole desert. The taste does, however, point us toward our own enlightened nature… forever sweet and utterly intoxicating. This probably best describes the reasons behind our attraction to great teachers and great teachings. It’s as if they make us drunk.
We have to be careful of this so that we don’t get addicted. We also must follow the path on our own. No one, not even someone as steeped in the Dharma as Ramana Maharshi can enlighten us. We’ve got to do the actual work of surrendering everything and then re-integrating all that we’ve let go of on our own.
With this in mind, our practice goes to another level the moment we become conscious of the fact that the arising attraction we have for both the sacred and the teachers of the sacred must be seen through in order for any kind of clarity to stabilize. We also, at some point, must break from the sweetness of the teacher for exactly the same reason.
Student: This goes for me too?
Michael: This goes for you too. There will be a point when you’ll see that it’s time for you to leave me and start teaching on your own.
Student: Sounds a little scary. Will I be angry with you or will I just get tired of it all?
Michael: Who knows? But rather than any of it being something to fear, I look at it as exciting. You, after all, will be going past me. In this way, the rhythm of awakening carries itself onward. Pretty cool. Just know that we’ll figure out how to celebrate this event when it comes.