Saturday, February 4, 2012

The most intimate part

"Please cherish your skin, flesh, bones, and marrow.
 Knowing each other, intimate friends grow
      even more intimate.
 When someone asks the meaning of coming from the West,
 [Bodhidharma] faces the wall for nine years,
abiding at Shaolin."

—Dogen's extensive record, Eihei Koroku, p. 313, Leighton & Okumura, Wisdom Publications 2004

I speak about intimacy because unless this question is understood, an inner work can't develop.

 What is it to understand intimacy?

First of all, we need to get away from all of our ideas and attitudes. We mustn't think about intimacy. Intimacy has to be sensed; it is tactile, textural, organic. Our essence—the innermost part of our being, the part that has not been contaminated by the outside world—is intimate. It has delicate connections to the higher centers in man. If essence develops, these connections express themselves more readily.

Folks in meditative disciplines enjoy meditation because going inside helps these connections to develop. Nonetheless, just being silent or entering the stillness isn't enough. There has to be an organic process that feeds one's work. Jeanne de Salzmann spent years emphasizing the need to receive a higher energy because she knew that this was part of what fed essence. If essence is not fed from a higher level, if it is only contacted from what sees—from the bridge between the inner and the outer, which is another essential part of this question—it isn't properly nourished.

The nourishment must come from our conscious effort, the part that sees, and it must also come from above. One can say that essence stands in relationship between the higher centers and the lower centers— in the same way that what sees stands between essence and personality. The similarities are more than a coincidence; essence acts as a bridge in this case. This can be directly studied, but only if one receives influences intimately, understands how they function, and sees the role played by essence.  It is this living, immediate quality of work that needs to be experienced. There needs to be an urgency, but an urgency born of affection and even love, not desperation and grasping.

 To receive intimately is to consciously submit and intentionally suffer. By now, if you are in this work—or even just interested in this work and starting out—you have read a great deal about intentional suffering. The difficulty is that the words themselves produce an impression that is at best inaccurate. Intentional suffering does not have anything to do with our conventional understandings of suffering. It is related to this action of allowing, which is in turn related to developing a part in the feelings that has the capacity for humility.

 There has to be a much greater attention to the feelings—not to the emotions and to sentiment, which regulate the vast majority of our impressions about these questions. Those two functional parts are firmly attached to them and belong in the realm of personality. Attention to feelings, which is part of this question of intimacy, resides in the organic sense of being, in essence.

All of the actions related to essence and intimacy relate to the Kingdom of Heaven. It's worth considering these words, which Christ used on a number of occasions. I ponder them frequently, because they do not allude to some ephemeral or ethereal realm out there in the cosmos somewhere. The Kingdom of Heaven is an inner quality that a man can know. He can't know it, however, without working for a long time. Cases where it is understood spontaneously are very rare. Yet even if one receives something quite high, this inner quality may not be understood. A material transformation has to take place.

When one attends in an intimate manner to one's inner being, one lays up one's treasures in Heaven. The places where "rust and moth corrupt" are located in personality; the outer force of being. The intimate attention—this very fine, very precise attention, which is not some grand gesture, but rather the tip of a very fine sewing needle, applied with care and love to the smallest but most alive of inner places—is where a man begins to form a connection to the Lord, the Ruler of the Kingdom. The essence is where this action begins; this is where we string pearls of understanding which should not be shown to others.

There is one other very important point in regard to this question— the inner meaning of one of Christ's aphorisms.

The swine that we must not throw our pearls in front of live within us, not out there in the world of others.  And some who think they'll become lords of the estate have not even learned to be swineherds.

Only an intelligent action of being present in the body, sensing the inner self, and inhabiting the outer self at the same time will help. Such inner work is eminently practical, and it needs to be practiced at every moment, beginning not with a thought about practice, but with the intimate sensation of practice itself.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care.

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