No Room at the Inn

During a body awareness and sensing practice this week, thoughts were cascading in and drawing my awareness concentration away from the practice. Trip planning, the president, preparing the apartment for the next tenants, my injured knee… then back to sensing the limbs, or so I thought. 

During practice, I often have this experience of practicing and distraction. Noticing my thoughts as distraction and “coming back” to the practice. This “coming back” is a term that I have heard many teachers use and I use it regularly when I am facilitating a session. There is an effort there that, over time in the practice, seems to lessen and the “coming back” is less frequent. It is an experience of being in the present that has fewer “disturbances”. 

During this sit as I was “coming back”, I had the experience of the distractions being present in the sensing of my foot. The closest description of it is as if the foot was experiencing the thoughts or as if the foot was permeated by the thoughts. And as I continued the sensing practice the thoughts continued, more than usual, and they were not discernible from the sensing. The boundaries between sensing and thinking were ephemeral and in moments indiscernible. The differentiation between observer and observed diminished and it was as if all of the seemingly unique experiences and senses and thoughts were swimming in an ocean of awareness with and simultaneously without distinction. Even the concept of “coming back” was present but not distinguishable as separate from the experience of spaciousness, that I have associated with awareness practice. 

“Expand to include” was introduced to my experience in the mid 90’s by a teacher, Michael Naumer, in his work with relationships. A central theme to Ken Wilbur’s “Theory of Everything” is “transcend and include” though transcend seems to indicate a moving above or outside of so “expand” seems more in line with my experience. I have felt for a long time that I could grasp the concept… but it was just that!, I was grasping at something, an idea, a thought that was outside of myself that I had to search for or “get”. I had developed a construct about “expanding to include” that looked or felt a certain way and it, in itself, was not included in the present experience. 

Another concept in the lexicon from my experiences of practice has been “even that”, as in, “even that is contributing”, or “even that is included”. And though I have had a taste and a memory of a taste or a subtle experience of both of these, they remained as concepts based on a memory or an idea from the past. 

As I write this the concepts and the memory of this morning’s sit rise up and with them all the doubts and desires and graspings and scoffings, and “yesses” and knee pain and garbage trucks in reverse, and ipad, and chilly feet; all swimming in presence, unique but undifferentiated in the ocean of awareness. There is effort there too, in activating the concentration yet, there is also no effort in that. 

In the documentary “My Octopus Teacher“, Craig Foster describes the kelp forest as a being, in and of itself, with all of the billions of distinct manifestations discernible but inseparable form the forest. i.e. The kelp forest is not the kelp forest without the shark, the octopus, the sand, the billions of distinct beings. Yet, it is not a being that oversees, or guides, or leads, or hands down commandments, or is even necessary (in a sense) for itself and any of the billions of distinctnesses to exist. It is as if there is nothing essential there yet everything is essential. 

Now, a few days later as I go in and out of submersion in the events of these times, I find opportunities to check in with the concept of expand to include and to see if the experience of it was a fantasy or is an actual experience that permeates even these most absurd and anxiety filled times. 

And the practices; the mediation practice, the practice of impermanence, the practice of loving kindness, of Tonglen, of openhearted listening, surge forward, not as defenders of the peace of mind, or knights slaying the dragons of doubt, but like warm golden honey-covered embracings, that neither push away or vanish the anxiety but include it in this human experience. Not with naive wishfulness, or judgmental superiority, but with nothing… except an experience of this-ness. Then the mind wanders off on its journey of grasping and attachment and fears of madness and the practice seeps in again like a light dusting of starlit clarity that illuminates the strands of connectivity of, even these uncomforatble feelings and longings, to the whole shabang. Experiences that are, not just included in but, essential to the revelation of the true nature of reality; all inclusive, all contributing, all tending to the balance.

When the blind pyjama shark haunts the kelp forest in “My Octopus Teacher“, I contract and hope, and want the story teller to interfere, to make it go away, to defend against it but the kelp forest is not the kelp forest without the shark just as the shark is not the shark without the octopus and the octopus is not the octopus without the shark, and, in this case, the octopus is not the octopus with out the storyteller and the story teller is not the storyteller without the octopus, and the fear is not the fear without the love and the love is not the love without the fear. 

Which brought me to the title of this mulling. When I reflected more deeply it remined me of the story of the mother and father seeking a place to bring their child forth and there is no room at the inn. Well… there is no stable without “no room” and no “no room” without the stable and there is no suffering without the stable and no stable without the suffering, and no humanness without the suffering and no suffering without the humanness, and no humanness without the awakening there is no awakening without the humanness. I see also that there is no “no room” without the seeker and there is no seeker with out “no room”. 

So it seems to go and I am left swimming in an ocean as ocean, as octopus, as shark, as fear, as anxiety, as love, as Trump, as the kidnapper, as the kidnapped, as no room and as stable, as thoughts and as stillness, as self and as no self.

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