Lately I have been pondering this question of understanding as opposed to knowledge. Knowledge, to me is the practice of acquiring information, through books or what have you. Understanding, on the other hand is something a little more fluid; more organic in nature. I would even say that understanding is the embodiment of knowledge. I see that every time I come to a new understanding it is because I have been given the gift of glimpsing a new level of being. This new understanding does not belong to me. I don’t own it and so I need to willingly let it go.
It is inevitable that I will descend from this level and along with that my clarity of vision. My understanding will diminish and I will soon forget. I can try to recapture that vision later, maybe in a poem or a story but I find that it has faded almost entirely from view. I may try to speak as though I have understood something, but if I am sincere with myself, I must admit that I don’t know much of anything. I am no longer connected to that level of understanding.
This isn’t hopeless. I think that something remains of these experiences. They are like seeds, living deep below the surface of the earth; in the very roots of my being. But I must be very careful. There is a danger of mixing these sacred experiences with the mundane and cheapening them. They are not on the level of everyday conversations over cocktails.
My mind has a tendency to think linearly, it believes that if I devote X number of years to a particular practice then I will get that much farther down the path. I entertain the false notion that all my experiences add up and collect towards some imaginary thought of attainment. It is much larger and far more mysterious than that. We need to believe in the search, not the certainty.
Can I smoke a cigarette without thinking about another one immediately afterwards?
Can I abandon my reliance on ordinary thought just like the sharp crack of the drapes when a breeze suddenly enters the room through the open door?
What if I slowed down my usual morning pace and actually tasted the coffee that I am drinking, experienced the smell penetrate my nostrils, felt the sensation of warmth in my hands? How can I approach a feeling of gratitude for this new day?
Can I try to have a fresh perspective and to refrain from being overcome with emotions like a car plummeting over a cliff? Can I become aware of my rigid viewpoints and hardened attitudes that inscribe themselves in the form of tension in my body? Am I capable of practicing the art of relaxation in order to become more malleable, so that I can allow something to happen?
Can I step outside of the whirring projector of ‘my story’ and see myself from a different place?
“There’s a river not far from here,” the Master said. “Can you hear the sound of the water gurgling over the stones, you can start from there.”
I strained to hear it, but I heard nothing.
“Well, then you start from there,” he said.
I have everything I need, right here. The question lies in how to be more sensitive. I need to include more of my life so that it seeps right into the marrow of my bones. I need to be close to the breath. Maybe the air itself contains some kind of magical property, that when it is ingested consciously, it could feed me in a different way; connecting me to the energy of life itself, right down to the inner vibration of cells in the organism.
Enough thinking about it.
There must be an entirely new relationship, one that is transparent to everything. Establish a contact with an inner space that is stronger than the tyranny of your thoughts.
Allow the sky to look into you as you breathe in the world and participate in this mysterious exchange.
Live forward into mystery.
Photograph: Dead Methods, Let Go