Waking Heart is a collection of deeply personal essays about love, relationships, and emotion in spiritual awakening. Periods of luminosity alternate with periods of darkness. Both are seen as tools for cultivating love and compassion.

The Heart of All Hearts

Loneliness is not aloneness. Loneliness is a focus on where you are not, a focus on who you are not with, physically, and so it is absolutely not aloneness but a simulation of blocked connection, which is frustrating. This frustration is the essence of the grief and agony of loneliness, but it’s the same sort of frustration that we feel when on a diet, or when we have to refrain from grasping something or going somewhere. Blocked access, blocked connection, blocked consumption, but the pain does not come from the blockage, because we are constantly blocked from an infiniate number of things and places. The pain comes from attunement to a blockage, a focus of awareness on a perceived disconnection.

Aloneness, in contrast, is at its essence that continuous uninterrupted stream of singular awareness around which we wrap our transient, human identies. Aloneness is the consciousness that is never two, never split, and how could it be? Forever perfect union. We are always that consciousness, always that singular awareness. What you identify as aloneness, and the aloneness you identify as loneliness, is none other than the singular, universal consciousness residing at the core of every being, one and the same. Rather than trying to fix it, reinterpret it.… READ MORE

Going Beyond Concepts of the One You Love

The most disturbing thing about loving someone, deeply and wholeheartedly, is that they don’t exist.

The love is real, but while the object of love appears as a lasting individual, a separate human entity with personality traits and predilections, everything about them will change. Even in the present moment, who they truly are extends beyond their skin. While our hearts embrace their true essence, our minds bond to a mere concept of them.

As a result, one of the most transformative love relationships occurs when wholehearted love for the true essence of “another” is challenged by changing conditions in who they appear to be. When that love is naturally far stronger than the persuasiveness of appearances, we are forced to choose our hearts over our thoughts.

The one we love takes us beyond our concepts of the one we love.

Meditation small Going Beyond Concepts of the One You LoveWhen I find a testing ground like this, a relationship that takes me beyond conceptual maps, I find that the last thing I always have to do is give it up.  Otherwise, I simply fabricate a new set of concepts.  Someone shows me the doorway to the realm where there are no maps, and that is the last map I will ever hold in my hands, so as I pass through the doorway, my last task is to drop even the map which led me beyond itself.… READ MORE

Averting the Open Heart Contingency

Think back on a time when someone opened your heart. Perhaps, facing a sudden loss, they let go of the need to look strong and let their vulnerability show, and your heart instantly became an open portal from which light poured unbidden. Perhaps you witnessed an act of kindness completely free of affectation or premeditation, spawned by the instincts of their soul and unobstructed by the noises of their ordinary mind, and your heart vibrated in resonance.

If I watch closely, there is a subtle progression that occurs when someone opens my heart. In the blink of an eye, two things happen:

(1) I want to experience an effect, and
(2) I make the opening my heart contingent on whether I experience an effect.

The consequence is that an unconditional opening of the heart becomes conditional, imbued with subtle, unconscious desires, demands, and judgments.

2012 07 09 14.34.08 e1347547936116 Averting the Open Heart Contingency

Initially, as my heart is opening, there is just a deep, radiant pulsation, as though the blood vessels going to and from my heart just expanded from the diameter of a dime to that of a vinyl record. Life, light and breath flow out in soft but powerful waves.

The sensations are incredibly pleasant, but initially, my focus is not on the pleasure but simply on the sentiment (wanting, desire, thought, or feeling are all inadquate words) that the well being of the other person is supremely precious.… READ MORE

Pregnant with Love

Birth of a Particle Pregnant with LoveLove is never conceived. We are eternally pregnant with it.

Afraid, I have held it in, reluctant for it to begin a life, because every life that it begins has an end. Every going out has a coming back. Every nova, a collapse.

Love in the womb is safe, untroubled, content. No worry or grief befalls it, untouched and unknown, isolated in a pool of silence.

I called love back like a wayward child, scolded it and caused it to revert and shoved it back into the recesses of my being.  I called love back for talking to the deaf and dancing for the blind and painting beautiful souls in their dark costumes. But then, I could no longer speak or dance or paint.

Love obeyed, slowly and reluctantly, and hid again, but she’s too big to live inside for long.

“Here Comes the Sun” is playing in the cafe.


No Place the Divine is Not

I am becoming aware or conscious of the part of me, the deeper part of my heart and perhaps some of my intellect but not primarily my intellect, which actually wanted to lose everything and have nothing. I could have had that thought intellectually, and I think I did at one point, but it does not capture the actual wanting itself. Becoming fully conscious of the part of me that wanted this, destitution, I am literally in a state of sensual ecstasy.

Again, this is not going to make intellectual sense, and if I focus on my intellect, on the intellectual facts of the matter, I’m in a state of genuine, inescapable horror (and have been for far too long). When I listen carefully to my heart, however, and ask myself, What is my deepest, truest desire? I find, illogically, that my deepest desire is exactly what I am experiencing right now: Abject poverty, isolation, chronic pain, lurking dangers, grief, humiliation.

Of course, when I align in this way with what I’m experiencing right now, I don’t see these things anymore. I see simplicity, solitude, challenge, vigilance, release, and humility.

I have to ignore the opinions of others, analytical conclusions, and cultural ideals.… READ MORE

Hidden Perfection, Lasting Gifts of Broken Love

In the Tibetan Bön tradition, two people can see the purpose of a relationship and precisely how it will unfold, including its beginning, middle, and end, upon first meeting that person.  In Tibet, they make a point of honoring this. They make peace with how the relationship will unfold, before it even begins, and they aim to fulfill its purpose. Then, if and when they part, they part with a sense of peace and warmth.

When I first met my ex-boyfriend, I told him this. After the words left my mouth, I looked deeply into him.  I was lying on my bed, and he was sitting on the carpet near my bookshelf.  Though we had only just met, I saw everything. The deep love, the intensity, the closeness, and also its strange short-lived nature, the unexpected turn of events, the loss and sadness. I saw a paradox of co-existing opposites: profound contentment and intimacy running as deep as marriage, coupled with terrible anxiety and a sense of alienation. I saw the whole thing, as if there were two of him, or two very different relationships with the same person, and I shuddered, and I could not look him in the eye.… READ MORE

All is Right, Even if All is Not Right with the World

In this moment, in every moment, the goal is peace not perfection.  This is something I tend to forget no matter how many times the moment cracks open and shows me that the past does not matter.

When hopes come to fruition, there is a sense of perfection.  When outcomes seem right and meaningful, whether expected or not, there is a sense of perfection.  Things don’t have to be good.  They don’t even have to be pleasant.  They just have to be perfect, right?

to create imperfection
take a table spoon of perfection
and add a pinch of expectation
~ John Weeren, About Zen

When outcomes seem all wrong, on the other hand, and nothing can make them right again, there is a sense of imperfection, one of the most intolerable, unbearable perceptions I know.  Memories and regrets can populate this present moment like a swarm of ants ruining a picnic… or zombies breaking in and eating your brain.

I recently stumbled across a novel that caught my attention, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.  So far, on every page I have either laughed out loud or nearly dropped the book in sudden contemplation. Charles Yu writes, “Within a science fictional space, memory and regret are, when taken together, the set of necessary and sufficient elements required to produce a time machine.”

In his novel, a time machine repair man is called again and again to scenes in which grieving souls attempted to return to right what went wrong in their past.… READ MORE

Being Enlightened and Being Alive

What does it mean to be the vast, singular awareness while simultaneously living in a physical body?  In innumerable physical bodies, apparently, each with the subjective experience of being one singular awareness?  My sights are on awakening, as they’ve always been, but my attention is often jerked back to my physical experience, either pleasantly through passion and sensuality, or very unpleasantly through severe health problems and economic challenges.  Lately, it’s mostly very unpleasant, which is compounding the dichotomy.  At the same time that I must acknowledge being a human being, I feel like less of a human being.

I’ve noticed that as my health problems consume my attention, my posts become less coherent, less about awakening and love, less about the collective and more about myself.  I’ve wanted to let that happen, to speak authentically.  Nothing is more precious than the truth.  As I allow that contraction, watching it happen, my personal health issues seem to get swallowed up the vastness again, and I no longer care what happens to me or what I experience.  Not only is my personal pain a drop in the bucket compared to global tragedies, but pain is just pain.

There is a fine line, however, between that expansion of perspective and resignation, like the fine line between the pursuit of awakening and the neglect of the physical. … READ MORE

Hidden Tsunamis

One of my old friends in my old town, a dear soul with horrifying psychosis, recently wound up back in the hospital.  One year ago, I accompanied her to the emergency room after a particularly damaging bout of inner trauma and spent an exhausting twenty-four hours arguing with doctors, nurses, and government workers to admit her (see Full Circle, March 22, 2010).  They finally grasped her situation.  After a week in the psychiatric ward, they placed her in transitional housing with a case worker and medication.  I watched the side effects of medication turn her into a veritable infant, drooling and shaking and shuffling, but she nevertheless walked nearly a mile to my house for some kind of comfort.  After many weeks, she was evicted from transitional housing for inability to pay rent and ended up in a women’s shelter, I think it was.  She applied for disability and was denied.  She struggled to find work, but even on medication, she suffered the effects of extreme stress and chronic illness, and she still couldn’t think straight.  Over the course of a year, she was bumped from one shelter to another and lost every menial job she found.

She struggled to survive, against such pain and anguish, I doubt anyone I know would last two days in her shoes. … READ MORE

The Body Fragile, the Heart Strong

Last night, following the advice of the acupuncturist I dated last spring (one of my incarnate angels), I made a hot bath of baking soda, canning salt, and ginger to help clear my body of infection.  As I soaked in the water, I watched the movie Synecdoche.  Perfect timing!  An aspiring Zen priest and good friend once highly recommended it after seeing it three times in the theater.

The movie begins with a man obsessed with a fear of dying.  He watches his body deteriorate in a hundred unusual and painful ways.  He feels extremely fragile.  His life falls apart, and solace is eternally elusive.

Logically, the movie should have intensified my feelings of horror about everything.  Dark and disjointed, it is not a feel-good movie, which is what I was looking for.  But it didn’t make me feel worse.  Paradoxically, it lifted my fear.

What if your entire existence occurred in that space between living and dying?  What if this predicament that evokes the most horror, suffering the failure of the body but not quite dying, watching everything that ever mattered disappear as a result… what if that was one’s eternal existence?  And there was no escape?

Then, struggling to keep it all together is not the name of the game. … READ MORE