Empty Mind, Full Heart


Photo by Karen O’hern

Four months ago I fell off the edge of an identity called Lori Ann, into a sweet free-fall where each unfolding moment reveals itself as my lover.  Sometimes this lover is rough, riding me hard, bitch slapping me with chaos and change. Other times my beloved kisses me tenderly with the beauty of what is here, from a deliciously full moon to a sleepy puppy sprawled on my bed.

Today my pediatrician friend volunteering in Africa sent a photo of a boy he’d treated at a home for handicapped children. One look at this boy’s face and my lover was there, opening me to myself, in the form of this other halfway around the world.  This heart melted—not in pity but in adoration—at the stunning beauty of this boy’s deformity in contrast to the doe-like, delicate light in his eyes. This is the heart of god, this truth of weeping at the perfection of what is, with no need to change anything.

I’m not saying humanitarian action is not perfect too. What I am pointing at is this human tendency to label what arises in each moment (as good or bad) has left my world. What remains is a deep acceptance of all of it, of every expression, here in this play of god.

I invite you to look again at this child’s face. As you look, notice what thoughts and feelings come up. Now notice:  Are you okay with your own response? In your world is anger is allowed as much as happiness, and sadness along with delight? My experience has been, in waking up, that when perception of right and wrong drops away peace and causeless joy arise. This along with stillness is our true nature. All else is a case of mistaken identity arising from the illusion of individual selfhood.

This lover-god who seduced me from the dream of self (I am Lori Ann’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs) is sometimes called by Zen types the no self. Yet this label misses the completeness of true nature which others have named Awareness, Presence, Consciousness or Source. In fact, for days now I’ve been looking for a way to express this sense that the no-self picture is like a cartoon drawing instead of a realistic oil portrait. Or, perhaps it’s like a head without a heart, this no self on its own. As Advaita master Ramesh Balsekar writes, “The final truth cannot be accepted unless the mind is empty of the ‘me’ and the heart is full of love.”

Last night I stumbled on my battered copy of “Autobiography of a Yogi,” a book I first read more than 25 years ago. And there, underlined in black ink, was the quote that haunted me then, and still now. In the midst of self-realization Paramahansa Yogananda hears these words:  “The relativities of life and death belong to the cosmic dream. Behold your dreamless being, awake, my child, awake!”

As I read this I tried mentally substituting “behold your dreamless no-self.”  Call me picky, but as a directive that wording has so much less potency than “behold your dreamless being.”  The whole no-self movement loves to speak in negation–no one here, nothingness, not this, not that. I am never sure if they’ve misplaced their everyday “I” (like under the sofa cushion) and have yet to realize the vastness of true self. Or if they really are having a delightful time in the vastness, and just naming it the somewhat sterile “no-self.”

You see, in this Paramahansa quote what also stands out is the full heart Ramesh mentions as essential, evident in the affectionate “my child” reference. Poet-mystics like Rumi, Hafiz, Mira and more, all gush a heartfelt love for a divine Beloved who loves back with fierce tenderness. This God/Source/One that we all truly are has a cherishing quality that the empty “no-self” doesn’t quite capture. When the paradox of a God-Self both empty and full is not embraced, is a complete realization of self possible?

It can be argued that by claiming to be a vast-boundless-loving Self called Awareness the egoic mind has staked a foothold as a new and improved me. But it can also be argued that the “I am No-Self” crowd is up to the same game. If there is a litmus test for authentic self-realization, it might be that no matter in which camp you pitch your enlightenment tent, you live from a place of unconditional acceptance. This acceptance includes the okay-ness of every other tent in the spiritual campground, and even the acceptance of your annoyance at the tent of strident no-selves next door.

What I am pointing at here are the two sides of the same coin.  On the one face is the path of wisdom/head (Jnana) and on the other the path of devotion/heart (Bhakti). Even as there are two sides, the coin itself is still One. The mind empty of “me” is inextricably bound to the heart full of love, and both are aspects of the ineffable Great Whatever.

So I suppose if I look closely, perfect acceptance is here of this two-faced lover–a god who demonstrates through radical understanding that I am nothing and with pure devotion reveals I am all that is.

Awareness Is Here! (and nobody is home)

Lori Ann

 

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19 thoughts on “Empty Mind, Full Heart

  1. Pingback: Why Shakti Matters | The Awakened Dreamer

  2. thirdobservation

    Hi,

    I love reading this, I just found it.

    What about the third side of the coin of karma yoga? You can’t do that if you aren’t there, maybe they just aren’t “all there”. I tend to think of it as if the body is “immaterial”. Not that it is not-material but in the scheme of things it is simply immaterial.

    Nothingness and everythingness are the two sides of the three sided coin (there’s always a third side). It’s easy to only see one or the other when it falls to the ground. Reality is both everything and nothing and neither. What a great playground. I also find that the personality doesn’t dissapear but the essence of the person formerly known as Lori Ann is still there and your essence is shining through. It’s kind of like – the hot tub’s warm and bubbly – come on in. Wonderful. Thanks.

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  3. Ingen Findes

    “One look at this boy’s face and my lover was there, opening me to myself, in the form of this other halfway around the world. This heart melted—not in pity but in adoration—at the stunning beauty of this boy’s deformity in contrast to the doe-like, delicate light in his eyes. ”
    Do you get the same feeling when seeing a picture of a not-as- good-looking deformed guy, or when looking at pictures of Hitler, Stalin or the like?
    Just curious.

    Love, Ingen

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    1. awarenessishere

      Sweet question. I don’t know the answer to that particular example Ingen, of an image of Hitler, or a “villian” but I see what you are pointing at. You are asking, does this heart fly open and is there this deep acceptance, when the presenting reality is not so pretty, or so easy to love.

      I can only speak here of what I know, so to this question of loving what is, when the isness is what world would label “bad” I would say the test will be in the acceptance of a very challenging event or person arising in the lifing of Lori Ann. The way this waking up happened, I was confronted with the circumstance shortly after, of my partner being very angry and wanting to leave the relationship. The acceptance of this choice and the allowance for his upset (anger and sadness) was simply there–it did not require an over-ride of an impulse to defend or attack, or argue or be angry back. And my heart opened, to his clear pain.

      This kind of acceptance without effort, this natural allowance for reality to be as it is, remains one of the most profound shifts on this awakening. Like everybody, I have a real life with a hormonal, agrumentive and emotional preteen, and daily stuff, like being in traffic and wondering where the guy in front of me got his drivers liscence, or the puppy nipping my heels (ouch), and annoyance can arise. What does not happen, is the annoyance is not sticky–it does not cling with thougths of what should be happening, or what might happen next.

      There is not repulsion or attraction in the way there used to be. And this just might be what an full heart is about–the simple loving of what is, with no need to move toward the good and pleasurable and away from the percieved bad and unpleasant.

      Thank you for your curiousity,

      Lori Ann

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  4. Paul

    Some small tweaking is all. You wrote: “It can be argued that by claiming to be a vast-boundless-loving Self called Awareness the egoic mind has staked a foothold as a new and improved me.” [Wholeheartedly agree.] “But it can also be argued that the ‘I am No-Self’ crowd is up to the same game.” [Would substitute the word “But” for “And”, then read.] “If there is a litmus test for authentic self-realization, it might be that no matter in which camp you pitch your enlightenment tent, you live from a place of unconditional acceptance.” [Although “unconditional acceptance” is a noble aspiration, it should not come at the cost of dispensing with wisdom, since another’s awareness of the deeper nature of reality may still be undeveloped. Therefore, a modicum of discrimination (vivek) is always needed, otherwise one’s “awareness” may simply be floating in another type of romantic reverie which has all the appeal of seeming like being “awakened” given its attractive quality. Hence the ‘bitch slapping’ you refer to in the opening of your piece, not so?] “This acceptance includes the okay-ness of every other tent in the spiritual campground, and even the acceptance of your annoyance at the tent of strident no-selves next door.

    What I am pointing at here are the two sides of the same coin. On the one face is the path of wisdom/head (Jnana / Gyaan) and on the other the path of devotion/heart (Bhakti). Even as there are two sides, the coin itself is still One. [Concise, beautiful and helpful. Would only add: The Wisdom of Compassion, and the Compassion of Wisdom, for one emerges out of the ground of the other.]

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    1. awarenessishere

      HI there Paul–thanks for the tweaks!

      Unconditional acceptance for me simply means that whatever arises, there is no resistance–in thought, or feeling. Yet of course, this non-resistance (which simply is here, not a trying) has nothing to do with action. For instance, I have a chronic hip pain in right hip. Unconditional acceptance looks like simply feeling the pain, when it arises. (resistance would be complaining, worry, story making around the pain). Action (and wisdom), looks like remedial common sense–a physiotherapist appt, in this case, and lots of stretching. Does this address your commment?

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  5. Tina Crumpacker

    Lori,
    What a beautiful culmination of awareness. After my near death experience I realized that the no-self was thousands of times more powerful and complete as the egoic self. Seems silly that I keep striving to attain what is always there inside me but my Journey has been to experience that no-self while I reside in the world of humanity. When I just let myself BE, I AM. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Christine

    Nice post 🙂 The “no-self” types 🙂 that you mention are not only Zen – but Advaita, Neo-
    Advaita and the contemporary form of “Non-Duality” currently in vogue. In fact I find the “Zen types” less offensive in their View – more inclusive and less negating of Life in their expression of Being.

    I recently extricated my’self’ from non-dualisms and the conceptual framework of “Non-Duality”, which has just become another belief system. Somehow, as you mention, the Heart seems to missing from these “types.” No-self types seem to emphasize non-dualistic language more, as if that is a litmus test of one’s “awakening” – as “acceptance” into their elite group – finding the need to correct other’s use of words – thus creating separation again. 🙂

    I feel this same Truth that you do, that non-dualists somehow get all caught up in this *concept* of no-self, and *miss* the Vastness Beyond “no-self.” In reality, a belief in “no-self” is just as much the ego as belief in a separate self…

    I too am feeling this sense of devotion, an opening of the Heart to the ineffable *Mystery* of Being. Learning to just live LIfe (or that is, be lived by Life 🙂 beyond *all* conceptual frameworks – including non-duality.

    Nothing is Everything! 🙂 All there is is Life!

    Christine

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    1. awarenessishere

      Christine, lovely to hear your wisdom here. And yes, if you listen to Tony Parsons on BATGP (Buddha at the Gas Pump) the whole interview becomes a kind of vehment parsing of language, vs a heartfelt sharing of truth. I dunno….I am just here, in this, just this. 🙂 But also, knowing the just this is pretty damn cool, more juicy than just empty of me, because it is full of God.

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  7. Lisa Kathleen

    Love it. The 2 sides of the same coin really whomps on it for me, Lori Ann… my experience has been right there. Wisdom plus devotion…. and somehow joining them in the fun is the lack of a me.
    It’s a party!

    Love,
    Lisa

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  8. Kate Street

    God, this is beautiful, Lori Ann! And oh, the term “fierce-tenderness” ~ thank you for putting to words the love I’ve been feeling lately, especially with my children. My baby feels like a piece of Divinity that I get to carry in my arms all day ~ how lucky am I?

    I also want to say that I’m in a much more beautiful place than I was last week as I ranted away on your post. Your post brought out an anger in me that I was able to turn into something wondrous…and I’m never looking back.

    And the pic of that beautiful boy ~ the minute I saw it my automatic thought was “now THAT is a higher dimensional being.” That is a TRUTH for me.

    Love and Sparkles,
    Kate

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    1. awarenessishere

      Hi Kate! I must of missed your rant! But rants are welcome as is cheers. I remember once upon a time, Lori Ann preferred one over the other. Now, every voice is invited to this party.

      Thank you for reading. I know this boy’s face has touched a place in many that brings up the deep knowing of the connectedness of all of it.

      Lori Ann

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