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.
Student: I’m confused in that so much of what I seem to be learning from this teaching, or unlearning, or whatever, centers around how things are at once part of a great union and yet, at the same time, they are also different. Does this make sense?
Michael: It does. You’re hitting on one of the most fundamental aspects of the teaching; that being our recognition of the simultaneous difference and sameness of all things, all the time.
Student: How does this recognition play out?
Michael: At first we see the two realities, form and formlessness. Then we see the unity of form and formlessness. Then we actually integrate the division and the union, simultaneously living as a conscious expression of both.
Student: Is this like the Zen proverb that says: first, mountains are just mountains, then mountains are not mountains, then mountains are mountains again?
Michael: Yes. But there’s a huge adjustment of perspective from the mountain at step one to the mountain of step three. First, we see the mountain as a gross form that falls in line with what we’ve always called “a mountain.” Next, after some time with a meditation practice, we see that the mountain is nothing more than a beautiful co-mingling of sub-atomic spin and space. Just like us. This object we used to see as just a mountain now arises as an interdependent, temporary expression of infinity within our awareness. Just like us. Once this happens the mountain takes on decidedly un-mountain-like qualities that allow for us to see through, if you will, its form. Instead of being a mountain that is fixed and permanent, we see the mountain as a series of relationships that are decidedly fluid. Finally, from here, we start to appreciate the mountain, in all its majesty, as a divine expression of Spirit. Just like everything else. Consciously seeing the mountain as both something solid in our awareness as well as something that is more than its concrete appearances lets us integrate the form with the formless. Emptiness, so to speak, becomes full and the mountain is at once itself, and beyond whatever our definition of mountain has ever been.
Student: And this same principle applies to anything that we can see, hear, feel, taste or smell?
Michael: Or think.