|AHYMSIN newsletter, Issue - August 2011|
Meditation, Mysticism, Poetry and Consciousness
by John David Wilson
We are all aware that the one mind has many facets - that we can and do each create many windows through which to view and experience Reality. When we meditate, we calm the mind, we cleanse these windows, we focus body and mind upon nameless, formless Consciousness. Swami Rama has said
Thus, the human endeavor appears to be the creation of names and forms which facilitate both transcendence and connection, which link (yoke) the inner Consciousness to the external experiences with which we have chosen to be present. Mystics through the ages have engaged in this enterprise and have generated volumes of both “scriptures” and poetry in their attempts to share their own experiences and experiments.
What does it mean to be a mystic? My view is that all who believe in “the Eternal”, in some state of Being which transcends the changes of birth, life and death, are inherently mystics. Your focus upon meditation, contemplation and the consequent awareness of transcendence gives you a clearer, more useful, more beautiful experience and perspective. Some mystics felt the need to share the experience and insight of “the Eternal” with those who may have forgotten the Reality from which All arise/dwell/return.
Words are both sound and rhythm: there is a ritual and a sacredness in our attempts to put words together to convey meaning, experience and insight. With words we attempt to connect our minds with others, often in different times and places: we use this ritual of speech/writing to transcend the apparent limitations of time and space. The mystics who have succeeded in joining your consciousness with theirs, in sharing their experience and Being with you, give you a glimpse of Reality through their clear, calm minds. They are teachers and available to you: You have only to let go of the illusions/barriers/limitations which conventional thinking has trained us to operate within.
Is every word we generate a mantra upon our mind, a ripple moving through our samskaras, a bit of energy interacting with both subconscious interactions and superconscious aspirations? Do the words of others inspire, guide and uplift our consciousness? If your answer is “yes”, then you recognize the importance of choosing wisely the words you both put in and give forth. We fuel our karmas with words.
Thus, also with thoughts. We meditate unattached to thoughts, perceiving them as passing clouds upon our perspective of the Infinite. Thoughts arise from our attachments to objects, people, perspectives and words. We learn to choose our thoughts by letting go of unworthy thoughts, by letting go of attachments. Likewise, we choose worthy thoughts, those which uplift our consciousness, which link and identify our consciousness with Infinite Consciousness.
Mystics are unafraid to ride this conundrum, as it is our human condition: Mortal bodies and boxed-in minds endowed with eternal consciousness and an infinite field of expression/imagination. Such is also the experience of the meditator upon opening the eyes and re-immersing one’s liberated, infinite being in the conditioned grooves of external expression. Thus, we develop the skill of choosing external expression which is in harmony with our internal experience. And, if we want further help and insight, the mystic poets have provided the fruits of their growth and ecstasy.
Such is the Path of Love: the words themselves are not the Love, yet they point to the Love. The rhythms are not the Love, yet they bring the heart into the field of the Love. The mystics have known the Love of the Eternal/Infinite, through their meditations, and chosen to share that Love, to radiate that Love, through the transcendent use of rhythm-and-sound which we call “poetry”. Thus, one has to listen with the heart, to feel the Presence of Infinite/Eternal in Life, in the world. Such is also the nature of the Guru-Spirit: those ancient and Present Beings have chosen to share their Love with you because Eternal/Infinite Love is your real nature.
Some may have had difficulty with the expressions “Eternal/Infinite” because they defy the training of materialist thought patterns. Let me note that our mathematics is built on the concept of the infinite; in the calculus, it is the sum of the infinite parts which defines the known. Astrophysicists are constantly pushing our perception of past-time into endlessness. As I interpret Einstein, space and time are qualities which Consciousness knowingly imagines in order to enjoy the material portion of the Universe.
Let us look at my favorite mystic poet’s view. Tagore notes that
How does this vision and knowledge of the Infinite and Eternal change our consciousness? It makes the aspirant humble yet courageous: what is given to each is given to all, should they open themselves to it. And, given infinite resources and eternal time, all aspirations will be fulfilled. One needs only the patience and courage to keep moving in the direction of one’s aspirations. Essentially, some experience of the Infinite and Eternal gives the kind of faith that is based in joy, in the ecstasy which the Universe is. It inspires the mystic poet to write.
The mystic poet celebrates the Oneness of all Life. Consider Mary Oliver’s “Broken, Unbroken”:
When we separate ourselves from humanity, when we delude ourselves with barriers, our minds create a perception of brokenness. When we connect, consciousness opens to the many connections of life and we know unbrokenness/wholeness. It is our choice and responsibility. Thus, the mystic is empowered to change experience by changing levels of consciousness. Your practice in meditation enables you to do this in your life. Tagore expresses his unity with all humanity thus: “When I try to bow to thee, my obeisance cannot reach down to the depth where thy feet rest among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.” (G.10) The unbroken Oneness transcends all the brokenness of life.
Let us imagine the mystic poet’s mind/consciousness field interaction:
The word which emerges now is “devotion”. The votive which has lit one’s Being, the deity which has lifted one’s consciousness, does not disappear. That which sustains all inner Bliss moves through Compassion, through your sustained devotion, into the physical world. The poet and the meditator become the external expressions of inner states of consciousness. When we let go of our material fixations, the consciousness which the mystic poet has revealed by pointing to it with words flows into, uplifts and merges with the consciousness of the reader.
We have heard and journeyed with many mystics in the series I taught at the Meditation Center: Kabir, Mirabai, Rumi, Hafiz, Tagore, Blake, Wordsworth, Whitman, Yeats, Oliver and several contemporaries to name a few. Whoever speaks to your heart and opens you to further insight and inner experience has aligned their speech with your present capability of consciousness. Please learn to reference these consciousnesses as internal and accessible to you, rather than the conventional external distancing which makes communion with them difficult. They are available to you every day: http://www.poetseers.org/ lists over a hundred of them and links to their poetry. Google gives about 8.8 million search results for “mystical poetry”.
Let’s look at another example, choosing (almost at random) “Any Time” by WS Merwin:
Merwin is touching on deep meditative truths. It is both possible and worthwhile to remember, to think backwards, to follow the chain of manifestation back to the point where one chooses to become and even beyond that to where all that is is but a twinkle in the eye of darkness. I have recommended to several of you that one path of realization is acceptance of responsibility for one’s life; that each has made every choice, including the choice to become a human being. If one can remember that decision, one knows one’s purpose here, as well as where we come from and where we return. For the quantum thinker, this reveals also the truth that we have never left that divine presence: the superposition of consciousness teaches us to function in several states simultaneously. What other meanings and insights do you derive from this poem?
This talk is not about any specific mystic poet, it is about attuning your consciousness to the field of mystic consciousness, about freeing yourself from the limitations of conventional thinking and living. That is what you do every time you sit and meditate: this is about integrating that consciousness with your daily life. Walt Whitman says:
How fully have you made friends with your own chakras?
How well have you gotten to know the energies whirling within yourself?
Have you made peace with, become at one with, the aspects of yourself residing at the center of each of your centers?
Do you take personal responsibility for deepening that inner awareness each time you undertake the ritual external and internal forms of your meditation practice?
Whitman seems to be asking us to “possess”, to take ownership, of our own consciousness and of all the experiences available to us. In order to “filter them from your self”, one must know the self as free from “all sides”. Consciousness holds, considers, listens, experiences and yet is free, transcendent.
The poem points you to your own highest consciousness.
Sharing two of my poem(s):
Within the Radiance
I look out at the world
I have never left
You who look upon all these worlds,
Gaze also into my heart
John David Wilson, 14 May 2011
The only poem I want to give you
How can anyone give to you
We have all been out in the natural world
Only when we stop do we see
Breathe that Being round through every cell
When body, breath and mind
John David Wilson, April 2011
John David Wilson had taught classes on Meditation, Mysticism, Poetry and Consciousness and also poetry writing sessions at The Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA (http://www.themeditationcenter.org/jnana/index.php?)
We invite you to read some more poems written by John at this link