Embodying The Mystery: Centering as a Spiritual Practice


When we center we become present, here and now, to the direct, immediate experience of our livingness, to the life that is moving through us and around us, to the life that organizes us. We do this by first moving our attention to our sensations, the building blocks of life. We transit from the thinking self to the feeling self. Doing so we come in contact with temperature-warmth, tepidness, coolness; shape-of our feet on the ground, the relationship of our head to our torso, our teeth touching, a contraction in our low back; movement-shakiness, vibrations, tingling, streaming. Then we may become aware of a mood such as resignation or curiosity; or an emotion that reveals fear or happiness; or a thought such as clarifying our purpose, or evaluating a particular professional role. This increased awareness increases choice. We are no longer miles apart from our life, watching it as a remote spectator but in it, as it is. We awake to the endowment of choice, and the formidable task of accounting for our choices. This is one of the covenants of life in the human body. Presume it is all pre-ordained, still we choose, even in our non-actions. There is mystery here as well.

In a conversation with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the venerable Tibetan meditation master, he remarked that yes he was familiar with what I was saying and, “The nervous system where these sensations and feelings originate is like a switch board. But what about the energy that comes into the switchboard? That is what we should become acquainted with.” If we are relaxed and curious in this feeling state it will pull us, like a tide, through a border of consciousness into…into what? A land where our rational mind begins to lag behind and we fall into an ineffable ancientness that seems to have little personal regard for us (is this because the “I” so familiar to us is nowhere to be found?), yet it’s complicit in awakening this part of the journey. The mystery is not a mysterious place or a known state of being, or such, but simply a Mystery. It may even be that which is most obvious, what has always been right in front of us, like the energetic muddle in the middle of the room that the conversation circles around, the scrawls on a napkin that reveal a long withheld hope, or the life and death moment when the field cat suddenly runs in front of your car after desperately sprinting away from it moments before. Life has a mysterious quality about it that is immune to reasoning.  It’s not a simple task to not know, to live in uncertainty, to reside in the unknown, but it’s a worthy endeavor. After watching a number of us practice kyudo, Japanese archery, on a bluff over the Pacific Seung Sahn, the Korean Zen Master shouted to me, “Make don’t know mind!” On the next hanari I paid more attention to my breath, thought about making a don’t know mind and the arrow sailed ten feet over the target and disappeared into the ocean. He threw up his hands gleefully and laughed, his head nodding affirmatively. The moment in which we have surrendered our personality to something larger, the mystery may reveal that the target we thought we should aim for was the wrong target all along.

To deepen into the life of the body, which is a deepening into the direct experience of life we will ultimately find ourselves engaged in this mystery. The deeper waters of awe, wonder, love, timelessness, a knowing without understanding, the sacredness of life, a direct perception of what is, and a suffering that births compassion begins to emerge from the luminous, potentized, profound emptiness of this mystery. Allowing the mystery is to embody a different shape in which the personal self becomes less central and our mutual interconnectedness becomes more obvious; the small “I” is eclipsed by a greater belonging. It appears as a paradox that the deeper we descend into the body the less we are attached to it. We find we are many bodies. We realize we are no body. Awakening wisdom, compassion, and skillful action we begin to trust the mystery’s guiding hand as we fulfill our sacred obligation to serve life. This service to the world is based on a shift in consciousness. A mystery not for it’s own sake, although we may be drawn to it by a deep inner yearning, but to build a world where individuals and communities become self-healing, self-educating, and self-generating.

It’s better not to believe this, but more powerful to try it

Take It Easy But Take It


Advanced Students are invited to further explore the dynamic tension of cultivating the self and embodying the mystery during the Cultivating Mastery: program, April 24-28, 2017 in Petaluma, CA