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TOPIC: Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal

Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 22 Aug 2013 13:23 #14204

PREFACE: I made the following entries to my journal in the full knowledge that what I was recording should someday be shared. So I had an audience in mind. Therefore, I tried to include sufficient background information and references, and exclude anything that would only make sense to me. -- Mike

September 18, 2007
The ineffable transition came a few weeks ago, in August 2007

I've always admired the first line of Franklin Merrell-Wolff's spiritual memoir Pathways through to Space:
"The ineffable transition came about ten days ago."

The words are pregnant with meaning and promise, of course, but more importantly, they indicate that the transition is so subtle as to be almost unnoticed when it commences. In fact, both FMW and that other, later Franklin (Jones, now calling himself Adi Da) pointed to the same difficulty in trying to pin down exactly when Enlightenment occurred. This is all the more surprising in the latter case, since Adi Da (nee Jones) describes the terminal event in the Vedanta Temple (Los Angeles, CA) as an awareness without any "deepening" (see his book The Knee of Listening) that occurred on the day after a cosmically dramatic coupling with the Goddess in that very same Temple.

How can such a life-changing event go almost unnoticed?

I wondered about that question for years, until it happened in my own case. Now I am in exactly the same situation as the others, knowing that something radical has occurred, but not being able to tell exactly when it began. The closest I can date it is to some time after a Buddhist gathering of Matsuoka-roshi's lineage I attended in Tucson on the weekend of August 10-12, and before the end of that month.

Here is what transpired.

For some days I had been deeply immersed in the Current, the flow of energy that pervades the body with gentle bliss and well-being. Then one morning in late August, before leaving the house for work, I turned my attention to inquiring into the nature of this, ALL this, including the Current, myself and "all and everything." This was not an explicitly worded question, but it was something along the lines of "What is this?"

The next moment was empty. That is to say, there was the briefest time of no experience whatsoever. This was followed by another brief moment of blackness that resolved itself into the ordinary room before me, with the visual resolution occurring in a manner somewhat like a movie scene transition in which a black screen begins filling in from the edges toward the center, with it ending in a black dot that disappears.

At the same time, I "knew" with unshakable conviction the answer. This was tacit, non-verbal knowledge. It was not a voice or a communication from some "other." I knew what all this was and who I Am. Groping for words – my own words, not a quote from another – I then formulated the following thought:

"I am not implicated in my own experience."

This requires some explication. It means that "I" in the sense of True Identity, or the actual Living One, am not implied by (implicated) or limited to or by, the "experiences" that are "mine" by virtue of their having occurred to the body-mind for which "I" am responsible, or with which "I" am associated. All worlds, apparent entities and their experiences are simply modifications of the One with whom and as whom I identified perfectly.

Today is September 18, 2007. I've been aware for a few weeks of my Enlightenment (or to put it another way, knowing that I am Awake). I decided that I had better begin to record the events and experiences that have occurred in my case.

Qualities of the Awakened Life

Last weekend marked the 6th year that I have been attending, more or less regularly, the quarterly meditation retreats (sesshin in Japanese) of the Zen Center where I am a Soto Zen Priest. (I was ordained in December 2004.) It was the first sesshin since my Awakening. And it was good.

Meditation was solid, but not in any way spectacular. In fact, meditation differs little from my ordinary awareness nowadays.

Nothing has changed in my ordinary life. Experience continues just as before. Desires and aversions exist just as before. Pleasure and pain are still with me. What's gone is suffering. What's evaporated is strong attachment. What's here is a constant, tacit feeling of being, of sheer existence. I feel – in fact, I know in the deepest sense, I am – what is foundational to all existence, to every thing and creature that exists, and yet is utterly untouched, unmodified, unsullied, unthreatened and unmoved by whatever happens, and yet which is at the same time the unquenchable source of quiet, flowing joy that pervades all time and space.

In quiet moments – and I do mean moments, such ones as brief as when sitting in my car at a stop light – I can open myself to a deeper experience of this joy, this subtle bliss. I can turn up the volume of it by simply allowing it to be so, by the gentlest act of intention. No effort is involved because it is not something to be reached for and attained. Rather, it is something constant that one simply chooses to allow by attending to it. It's not a reaching up but a drifting in.

This is my constant state, if state is even the proper word for it. I choose to employ the word "state" for simple convenience, even though I know that, technically, Awakening is not a state. States of consciousness exist in a range. The highest ones require great effort to attain. Awakening is realized, not attained. It demands no effort. One simply discovers that one is there, and in truth has always already been there because it has no beginning and no end.

I should say at this juncture that the real reason that Awakening is said to be "ineffable" is because every statement I have just made about it is only an approximation of the reality. Every one of my previous statements could be qualified with another, slightly different and somewhat contradictory statement. And the same could be done for that second statement. The only way to truly understand Enlightenment is to Awaken.

Stress-Testing the Awakened Life

One of the teisho (Dharma talk) topics that I sometimes address with my students is human gullibility. I tell them "Each of us is born with one and only one super-power: the power to fool ourselves. As the Spider-Man movie says, 'With great power comes great responsibility.' We are responsible for learning not to use that power. We must free ourselves from delusion."

So how do I know that I am not fooling myself when I claim to be Enlightened? How do I know that I am not deluded?

Believe me, I wondered the same thing for a while. Fortunately, I had two things going for me. First, I was intimately familiar with the Awakening narratives reported by, or about, individuals whose Enlightenment is deemed genuine by every credible expert. Second, I was willing to test myself and, if my experience did not comport with those previous credible reports, to simply assume that what I was undergoing was a lesser stage of spiritual development. I knew all about those, too, from the same credible sources (not to mention by my own prior spiritual work, which includes many remarkable experiences).

The key quality to test for was constancy: Would this state change over time in any meaningful way? That is to say, could it be modified by conditional events, such as food (or the lack of it), sex, pain, danger and other experiences. This is different from my previous mention of how I am able to magnify the bliss associated with this state merely by attending to it. What I was testing for was something like imperturbability.

The state did not change. Events changed. Experience changed. I had good moments in ordinary life and bad ones. I felt sexual desire. I felt disappointment. But the feeling of being never left me. The deep joy was always accessible.

Sometimes, when I would get out of bed in the middle of the night, or upon arising in the morning, I would enquire of myself "Am I different now than I was before? Am I Awake?" Despite the fogginess of coming out of the sleep state, I was. And I should report that this fogginess is relatively less than it used to be. Even in the normal states of being asleep and waking, my state of being Awake could be known in a pronounced yet subtle way.

This is also true of the dream state. I have dreams just as before. But I am Awake even in dreams. This is not quite the same as lucid dreaming, which I have also experienced many times, over many decades. This is being Awake in a different sense, of knowing the ground of being while the story of the dream unfolds in its usual crazy logic.

And this is also what daily life is like. It's all a dream. It's a much more logical and consistent dream than the ones I have in bed, but I know it's a dream nonetheless. The really important difference is that in this dream of ordinary life I will make my contribution to the betterment and Awakening of humanity. I live my Bodhisattva life in this dream.
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 22 Aug 2013 15:08 #14207

Mike LaTorra wrote:
I tried to include sufficient background information and references, and exclude anything that would only make sense to me. -- Mike

It definitely doesn't only make sense to you. Thanks for the post.
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 22 Aug 2013 16:00 #14209

Would you call this stream entry, Mike, or something else?
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 22 Aug 2013 17:23 #14210

Tom Otvos wrote:
Would you call this stream entry, Mike, or something else?

Something else.
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 22 Aug 2013 17:31 #14211

Russell wrote:
Mike LaTorra wrote:
I tried to include sufficient background information and references, and exclude anything that would only make sense to me. -- Mike

It definitely doesn't only make sense to you. Thanks for the post.

Thank you, Russell. I am always ambivalent about sharing this self-report.
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 23 Aug 2013 02:20 #14215

I'm glad you shared it. Thank you.
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 23 Aug 2013 07:20 #14216

Very moving, Mike. Thank you.
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 23 Aug 2013 08:26 #14217

Mike, thank you for posting your experience here!
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 23 Aug 2013 08:42 #14218

Thank you, and a few questions.

Mainly: are there things you desire? Do you, for example, want to travel, think longingly about getting a new car with leather heated seats, feel a pull towards anything at all other than what is right in front of you? I hanker after the retreat I had with Leigh Brasington on Cloud Mountain last summer. When I want o go to my "happy place," that's it. I also am missing our happy time in Boulder.

So: Do you miss people who aren't there, in a visceral way, to the point that you feel as if a limb is missing? Do you get killer headaches or any other kind of pain that makes you wish you were out of your misery?

I'm being specific, but I am not asking idly, or trying to pry. Personally, I still have hankerings and aversions, but they are much less intense than they ever were. I have dark night stuff but I can let it come and go. That's me. I'm wondering about you. Thank you!

P.S. I still have monkey mind and ADD type stuff, mainly distractibility. I still cruise the Internet looking for dopamine fixes. I heartily wish I could stop. I'm looking forward to the day when it is no longer a problem. I know--it isn't a "problem" now, or ever! :P
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 23 Aug 2013 13:27 #14221

Good questions, Laurel.

I still have preferences--desires and aversions--yet at the same time, at a deep level, I feel indifferent to experience altogether. This is rather paradoxical. On the one hand, I could give you a long list, in rank order, of things I would like to have or to happen. And another list of things I would dislike, including physical and emotional pain. But the thing of it is, when I actually experience such dislikeable things as severe pain (for example, during the painful, sleepless nights and exhausting days before I entered hospital for gall bladder surgery last year) I had a certain degree of equanimity about it all. In hospital admissions and while I was in my room there, the doctors and nurses remarked on how well I was taking all of this, and on my sense of humor about it. No one in their right mind would wish for such an experience. But someone who has seen the source of mind and world (or self and experience) cannot take it all too seriously.

Similarly, I have experienced a lot of emotional pain over my divorce 3 years ago, and then after that, in the ending of the only post-marital romantic relationship that really mattered (it was a LOT more than mere dating). In fact, that latter relationship was orders of magnitude more intense than any other I, or my then lover, had ever had. She referred to it as "the epic love affair." We were madly in love. Living thousands of miles apart, we could only manage to meet every 2-3 months. And we kept that up for a year. Every day we sent email and text messages on our cell phones at a frequency that only teenagers are supposed to do. (Each month we exchanged thousands of messages.) We spent hours on the phone. A typical phone call lasted 1-2 hours. Afterward, I would get a message from her saying "But...but...but...It wasn't enough!" And the sex...well, I've never known better. When this epic love affair ended (because we had conflict, too, quite often, and neither one of us was going to move to the other's area) the emotional effect was more painful than the physical one I mentioned previously.

And yet, that too was not crushing. My heart was broken, but my fundamental "feeling of being" was the same as it always is. Unlike Gary Weber and some others, I believe that it is important to love and to be loved, and to feel heartbreak, and to feel it fully. I do agree with Gary that such emotions are not the be-all and end-all that many people suppose. We are embodied beings in a world of terrible threats to life and limb and love and everything, which we must feel and transcend, not dissociate from and pretend not to care about. This I firmly believe. Feeling through heart-break and loss while practicing the spiritual path that includes and transcends all of that is the way I have chosen.
Laurel Carrington wrote:
Thank you, and a few questions.

Mainly: are there things you desire? Do you, for example, want to travel, think longingly about getting a new car with leather heated seats, feel a pull towards anything at all other than what is right in front of you? I hanker after the retreat I had with Leigh Brasington on Cloud Mountain last summer. When I want o go to my "happy place," that's it. I also am missing our happy time in Boulder.

So: Do you miss people who aren't there, in a visceral way, to the point that you feel as if a limb is missing? Do you get killer headaches or any other kind of pain that makes you wish you were out of your misery?

I'm being specific, but I am not asking idly, or trying to pry. Personally, I still have hankerings and aversions, but they are much less intense than they ever were. I have dark night stuff but I can let it come and go. That's me. I'm wondering about you. Thank you!

P.S. I still have monkey mind and ADD type stuff, mainly distractibility. I still cruise the Internet looking for dopamine fixes. I heartily wish I could stop. I'm looking forward to the day when it is no longer a problem. I know--it isn't a "problem" now, or ever! :P
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Ineffable Transition-excerpts from Mike's Journal 23 Aug 2013 14:47 #14224

PREFACE: This quote from my Sat-Guru, Adi Da Samraj, pretty well sums up my present attitude to this thing called life. ~ Mike

“Life, rightly lived, is an intentional freefall. You cannot at all prevent your death. You cannot call the hour, the day, the moment of it -- it could happen at any time. Even right now, while we are talking. Anybody could drop dead at any time. You cannot prevent it. You can build your life on trying to prevent it, but it is an illusory effort, a terrible philosophical ordeal, because you cannot prevent it. You can indulge in illusions that desensitize you to this, and that is what most of ‘religion’ is about. That is what exoteric ‘religion’ is, for most people. It is a way of desensitizing them to the facts of existence in this conditional life. One cannot blame them for the fear -- and their clinging, then, to consolations. But there is no Truth in it. The true renunciate knows there is no Truth in it, and relinquishes those consolations, and allows the freefall. Then you make great discoveries. That is what the esoteric life is about -- the discoveries in freefall. You cannot control the ultimate thing you fear. That freedom from fear is about allowing the freefall and relinquishing consolation. Your right relationship to Me is not a matter of consolation, it is a matter of the embrace of the Beloved, the certainty of the Absolute, under circumstances in which you are utterly bereft of certainty otherwise, in which you allow the overwhelming force of conditionality to be the way it is. It is only in that disposition that you discover the Truth of Existence.” from Adi Da Samraj: A Gathering in June 1980 © 2013 ASA (www.ConsciousnessItself.org/)
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