Dialogs With My Teacher #7

Michael McAlister Blog, Dialogs 1 Comment

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.

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Aug. 7, 2009

Student: Michael, I have a question related to an experience I had when I was about six.

I was in a situation with my brother where I felt like the Infinite was trying to communicate itself to him, or to me … not really sure, but I recognized that the communication was very powerful but couldn’t be talked about in words. When I tried to discuss it with him he didn’t know how to respond, so from then on, I kept everything like that inside. I seem to remember reading somewhere that this type of insight is significant for some reason and yet I bet this happens a lot with children.

Michael: Yeah. Weird, huh. Reminds me of those lines from the Pink Floyd song,
Comfortably Numb:

When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.

Insights happen at all ages. Contexts for insights, however, are
experientially dependent. This means revelation can happen to anyone
at any level of development or openness, and yet its scope can be
quite small if they are closed. At least this is the way it appears from where I sit.

For example, a “born again” revelation that contracts around scriptural dogma of any tradition gives us fundamentalism. At this contracted level of development there is no way for egos to respond to the Infinite in any complete way since the insight points to what’s beyond anything that the ego could possibly manage. This is why egos tirelessly look to attach to a story, a teaching, a person or a community in order to drown out the resonance of Infinity’s call. Whenever this happens, the insight’s revelation is diminished, offering the ego tons of baggage to carry around.

Student: So the insight can keep someone at a certain stage of development?

Michael: That’s what I’ve seen. Great stuff has been written about this. As a teacher, what I see is that major spiritual breakthroughs are really seductive. Egos love seduction and so they personalize the experience and make a claim to whatever truth has become apparent. This means that rather than the ego taking a back seat and letting go, the ego comes in through the back door, clinging to what the insight offered. This short-circuits the offering every time.

Student: So clinging is always a risk? Even if you’ve truly woken up?

Michael: Sure. At the highest levels of practice you’ll find practitioners clinging to non-clinging. Sounds weird, but here again, awakening gets limited by the ego’s tendency to attach. A person in this space might be a great articulator of a particular teaching, but their ability to fully embody the teaching can be stunted. They aren’t able to integrate what their insight pointed out to them since they’re operating, perhaps at a very subtle level, from the forms of mind and body rather than from what is formless and always beyond mind and body.

So, back to your question: while your experience as a little kid pointed to what was beyond what your mind to apprehend with words, it was still offering a pointer to the Infinite. Actually, everything offers a pointer to the Infinite if we’re open to it.

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