I am at a Buddhist retreat. I’m not a Buddhist, and except for my fascination for Tibetan Buddhism in my late teens (come on, who hasn’t heard of that book “The Third Eye” by Lobsang Rampa?), I really never experienced much more than a passing interest in the philosophy. Only the artwork and some of the music forms and instruments have kept me engaged with Buddhism. Even saw the Dalai Lama once, although that was a mixed bag. Liked the humour and humility, and felt completely underwhelmed by a treatise on a meditation technique from the 14th Century. Not my cup of tea.
“The Third Eye” had metaphysical adventures that you seldom hear about anymore. Astral travel, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and precognition were the things that got me going. I really wanted to explore meditation too, and I did so with gusto (is that an oxymoron?). Once, after I had been meditating and attempting astral projection in my bedroom for about three months, I got it into my head to place a compass on my bed, just about where my solar plexus would be when I was laying there. I got a shock…my first lesson about energy and mind over matter. Instead of the compass dutifully pointing to magnetic North, it pointed due to where my head would have been. Ahh, I thought, I am making progress!
Now that I’ve passed into my sixth decade in this incarnation, I look back at my intrigue with metaphysics and spirituality, and can really begin to acknowledge all that has guided me along my path. Many positive experiences, and even the negative experiences turned out to be positive. The one thing that kept me going was passion. Passion to know more, remember more, absorb more, and experience more. I was spiritually ambitious I suppose, but never greedy (I hope!).
One of Buddhism’s major tenets or teachings is about the desire nature, or how the attachments to desire limit our access to enlightenment and peace. Desire can be very distracting, very tempting and pernicious. Is desire the same as passion, or is passion an aspect of desire? Does the Passion of The Christ fall under the same definition, or is it somehow elevated above earthly desire? To answer my own question, I think Divine Passion and earthly passion can be entwined in some way. As Jean-Yves Leloup, translator of “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” notes that “unless the sensual is completely experienced it can never be redeemed”… or something like that.
Yet, it is my current passion and desire to move deeper into my interior realm, and so I use the tools of limitation to discover the numinous and ineffable spaces inside. To fully commit to the awakening of the senses, by using them consciously, we can create an opening into Consciousness. You might think of it as a metaphysical form of leverage. It is much easier to move big stones with levers that with brute strength.
The body is, I feel, a gateway to the aliveness that is in the in-between, or the ‘nous’. The ‘nous’ is the subtlest of realms between spirit and matter – the stillpoint. The particular form of Buddhist meditation employed where I was staying emphasizes using the body and the breath as a way to still the mind. If the body is seated in the proper posture, if the breath is mindfully engaged with, then stillness of mind happens without forcing. This does work. Breathing meditations and therapies have been gaining recognition in recent times because of their simplicity and effectiveness. Simplicity defuses complexity every time, rendering the complex mental noise that passes for thought most of the time, virtually powerless.
When we can enter these states of stillness and awareness, what happens to the senses? What happens to passion? The senses actually become quite elevated and more, well, sensitive (and sensible). The passions are quieter, but not dissipated – more intense and quiet. It changes character, becomes more subtle. Now the passion is for more of this stillness, more of this full body, full sensory, full consciousness experience. What is missing now is the struggle and the neediness…trying to fill the hole inside. The passion for unification is the infinite wave of Consciousness; the wave comes ashore, then moves away again, but is inexorably drawn to the shore again. Somewhere in the middle of this movement, the truth is found, and comfort along with it.
Humans are striving for comfort, yearning for it in fact. In western societies the passion for comfort has resulted in an endless parade of products or experiences promising comfort or ease in some way. A simple quilt or blanket can impart the remembered comfort of childhood naps in a way that the 6-way electric adjustable bucket seats in a luxury automobile cannot compete with. Snuggling with a lover has no equal to any form of modern living room furniture. Dozing with a cat on your lap is always supreme to any form of footwear, or ergonomically-designed sunglasses. We are exploring the edge of the envelope when it comes to material comforts, but do not recognize the deeper passion, the real hunger we are attempting to satisfy. Along the way we have created an entire world economy based on the attainment of comforts, and still we are uncomfortable. This situation is a passion-killer.
We are perfectly capable of envisioning and manifesting a world in which all basic physical comforts could be supplied. First, the quest for comfort needs a reorientation towards the inner Comforter, the inner parent if you will. It has already been postulated that we already possess that necessary finances, technology and know-how to supply every being with the essentials, without undue environmental or planetary stress. Obviously, this will require a leap of consciousness to shift from a consumer-oriented perspective to a quality-of-life paradigm. It may also require the reclaiming of the machinery of finances and other institutions and systems from the control of the current oligarchies.
In Christianity, the Comforter is first mentioned by Jesus to his apostles in regards to his pending death, resurrection and ascension. He said He would send the Comforter to them after all these things had happened. The early church philosophers felt this was a reference to the Holy Spirit, the power that came through Mother Mary to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. However, I feel that Jesus may have been referring to the Divine Mother, the archetype that encompasses the sense of love and loving kindness. It also seems that this ‘comforting’ aspect actually imparts a sense of passion, and perhaps a type of spiritual courage to do what must be done, even in the face of what seems like a lost cause. This Comforter is what gave the followers of Jesus the surety of their mission and message, and caused many of them to surrender their lives without resistance when opposed.
In Buddhism there are many divine beings and archetypes that correspond to the Comforter, and one can find parallels in all the major and minor faiths. Avalokiteśvara, Quan Yin, Mother Mary and many other archetypes display the quality of spiritual comfort and reassurance in times of adversity and trial. Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be” illustrates a simple trust in the comforting presence of Mother Mary. Mary Magdalen offers us a glimpse into an icon that demonstrates the qualities of comforter, companion and fierce teacher in one image. Some may feel that the dependence on these archetypes is a form of denial or martyrdom, a reliance on salvation from another realm in the face of earthly suffering. My current insights have shown me the wisdom of allowing for the communication with the ‘above’ in order to obtain assistance in removing not only the causes of suffering, but the means through which we become fully human and fully sons and daughters of the divine while still enfolded in physicality. Even the Master, Jesus, saw the metaphysical and spiritual truth of the power of Infinite Love responding to the call for comfort when he stated, ‘if I be lifted up, I shall lift all beings unto Me.” Our colloquialism of ‘all boats rise together’ describes this metaphor well.
Why is it that we need or yearn for this sense of Source, a divine parent? And why is it that we continually create the suffering and crisis’s that precipitate our crying out for comfort and guidance? Reportedly, men mortally wounded on a battlefield always call to their mother. Is it their physical mothers they call to, or their spiritual mother? What, pray tell, is the difference? Perhaps no difference to the being who is facing the unknown. We seem to need the shock of experience in order to propel us to grow and reach up and out to something beyond ourselves, something safe and sound that is instinctively reliable. If everything was comfortable, or we were comfortably numb, then no movement in consciousness seems to occur, and we are still beset with feeling the distance between ourselves and our Source. The gulf is then traversed, as the bridges burn behind us. We let go of our wounds and our attachments to our comforts and come face to face with our true nature, prodigal sons and daughters are welcomed home.
In a personal sense, at times I have felt or directly experienced both Marys; Mother and Magdalen. Sometimes there even physical signs of their manifestation in the form of profound scents of rose , lilies, or jasmine floating in the airs around me. Sometimes others who were present with me also experienced these fragrances, which assured me that I wasn’t ripe for the mental ward. Perhaps it is not so unreasonable to ask for comfort, or to ask for it from a place of ‘above’ within our own hearts. Everyone can explore in his or her own way what seems to work, or what experiences might come forward. Just start where you are, even if you don’t believe it. Use your passion, your desire for peace and comfort. Sitting still long enough to know a moment’s peace is a beginning, an opening to something greater within. Can it be so easy to just ask that the Comforter is sent to you?
I feel it is just that easy.
“Whatsoever you shall ask, believing, my Father in Heaven will give you.”