Elephants carrying Buddha's relics—detail
Coping stone from the Bharhut Stupa Railing
2nd Century BC
National Museum, New "Delhi
Becoming One's Own Teacher- Part 6 of 6
—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works
After jotting down a series of essays that outline my impressions and understanding of this idea of becoming one's own teacher, I've slept on the matter and contemplated it a bit more.
This idea of Meister Eckhart's, that God can be found in any way and in all things, is a whole and complete teaching — as he indicates at the beginning of the passage.
Yet the teaching is not a teaching of the intellect; it is comprehensive, that is, it grasps all things within a single moment of attention.
The inhabitation of one's life, in such a way that one becomes a receiver of it, without the constant interference of the evil-commanding ego, the self that grasps — this is what he speaks of. And it is the ego, I think, that excessively complicates everything we do.
At the recent annual All and Everything conference, I was engaged by individuals of considerable experience and practice who were nonetheless quite interested in getting into technical arguments.
This type of focus takes me away from the foundational practice of Being, which is what inner work is for in the first place. I'll offer my opinion on the matter: one ought to make an effort first to be, and then see if one needs to argue; not first to argue about whether one can be or not.
The instant I become identified with such technical arguments, I forget my inner work. The work is not in the technicalities, it's in the details; and these are two different things.
The details are my impressions; these are the exact, precise, and objective contents of Being and life. Gurdjieff made this clear when he explained to Ouspensky that if the flow of impressions ended, life ceased. In this sense, impressions and life cannot be separated.
When I inhabit my life within the direct and organic experience of my inward and outward impressions, and the way that they meet and blend, I live within the Kingdom of Heaven, to the extent that I exercise an attention and a conscious awareness of this.
Such life provides a constant food of great quality, so that every small event is extraordinary and valuable. It may turn out that the external configuration of events is in fact humdrum, mundane, and boring; but the inflow of those events into Being is a constant and relentlessly miraculous practice, an intersection of awareness with life. You know that word people use, enlightenment? It consists of inhabiting this intersection consciously.
It is in inhabiting this place that the teaching-of-life-into-Being (I would call it Daseinslehren in German, that is, roughly translated, existence-teaching) takes place. This is a reciprocal teaching, since existence is both the teaching and what is taught; it is both the teacher and the student at the same time. In other words, it is existence itself that comprehensively both perceives, grasps, and engages in relationship with God, who is, as Being, resident in these details of impression — not technicalities whereby they are assembled or analyzed.
As our life flows into us, so it teaches.
God, after all, exists within the impressions of life before there are any technicalities to consider. And so our awareness needs to get there first, before the considering, to abide within all things equally, as Meister Eckhart urges us to understand.
Of course this is an organic practice of Being, grounded in sensation and in relationship with the higher energies that one consequently receives. If one doesn't understand precisely what this means, one needs to work through practice to make one's connection to sensation more organic; more permanent.
It strikes me, after many years of inner work, that most folk will flop around like fish out of water in every direction imaginable rather than just come around to this fundamental understanding of sensation.
If this question was the only thing that folk worked on, things would change quite quickly in them and they would discover how nothing is actually understood in the absence of this. But human beings are powerfully distracted by technicalities and arguments, and thus walk right by the simple faculty that could change the nature of Being on the ground floor.
A note to readers:
Beginning today, the Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff blog will adopt a reliable publication schedule of every third day.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.