The following are the most recent selected posts from my Facebook author page:
The posts are arranged chronologically with the most recent on the bottom:
March 24, 2021:
Meditation: What Is It?
The word meditation is used to mean many very different things. Because of that, I always hesitate to use the word at all. But as I mean it, meditation is nondual, meaning no meditator at the center of it, no observer, no one standing apart from what is. In this kind of meditation, there is no technique, no method, no goal, no intended result, no purpose, no prescribed form. It is marvelously useless, and can happen in any location, in any posture, formally or informally.
In my sense of it, meditation simply means being present here and now. It isn’t about getting into any particular state, getting rid of anything, or having some kind of transformative insight or experience. It accepts everything and clings to nothing. It is the natural activity of awareness.
Meditation might be described as a movement of curiosity and wonder, like a baby exploring the world, or a lover exploring the beloved, a movement in which lover and beloved are not one, not two. Meditation might be described as devotion—not to a guru or a god—but devotion to what is, a kind of unconditional love that allows everything to be just as it is. It might be described as enjoyment of what is, enjoyment of being.
It’s true that it may apparently bring many useful rewards (e.g., clarity about how the mind operates and how suffering happens; calming of the nervous system; direct discovery of the fluid, interdependent, ungraspable and indivisible nature of reality; direct recognition of the boundless Here-Now that is immovable and ever-present; increased ability to be present with unpleasant experiences; and so on), but these are not goals. There is no such thing as “good meditation” and “bad meditation.”
Meditation is open, free, unconstrained. It is nonconceptual, based in sensing and awaring, in simple being, not in thinking and analyzing. Of course, thought may (and almost certainly will) arise, but it is not the primary mode. Meditation invites a dropping away of the grasping-seeking mind and the habitual tendency to dwell in the conceptual map-world, inviting instead a falling open to the nonconceptual actuality of this moment.
Meditation is ultimately not knowing what meditation is. It is fresh and new in every moment.
Response to a comment:
Meditation is the openness that includes contraction and resistance. It's not about always feeling open or being in any particular state of mind or getting rid of anything. If the mind is busy, the body tense, and/or the emotions roiling, then simply be busy mind, tense body, and/or emotional turbulence.
I'd add, beware of believing thoughts such as "This is my current situation." Such thoughts are always over-generalized abstractions and often become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Response to another comment:
Hmmmm. I would agree that the word usually implies a particular activity of some kind, but I would have to disagree with you that it necessarily, or always, "implies a sort of ritual or technique that we do from time to time." The meditation that I was exposed to, and that I have offered, would not be described as either a ritual or a technique, although certainly many forms of meditation could be described that way. And while I agree (as I hopefully conveyed in my post) that the boundary between "meditation" and "the rest of life" falls away more and more, so that (at least in one sense) everything is included, I'd also have to say that meditation, at least as I mean it, is not quite the same thing as watching television, watching a movie, reading a novel, or being completely absorbed in a daydream or a mental story. In one sense, maybe it is, but that pretty much renders the word meaningless. I mean, yes, all of those things appear Here-Now in awareness, and yes, they are all expressions of this indivisible and all-inclusive presence, so in that sense, no difference. But at the same time, in those activities, there is a complete absorption of attention in a kind of fantasy world, which can be totally wonderful (I love movies and novels, so I'm not disparaging them at all), but it isn't quite the same as what I would mean by meditation. Of course, one could potentially be deliberately "meditating" while watching a movie, but that's not a very good way to fully enjoy the movie. The enjoyment depends upon the suspension of disbelief and a surrender to the imaginary world being created. And when this same kind of absorption happens around the self-stories we tell ourselves, it can be quite destructive. So, I think there is a place for meditation as a kind of particular activity (or non-activity) that involves simply being present and aware in this moment, but not watching television. Anyway, as I said at the outset of my post, the word means many different things and many people have done widely varied versions of it.
March 29, 2021:
Chasing some idea of awakening or enlightenment is a great way to ignore the living actuality that is presenting itself right NOW, from which “you” are not in any way separate. This present experiencing or awaring presence is obvious and unavoidable. You are not observing it, authoring it, or being pushed around by it. You are inseparable from it, like the waving in the ocean. Being awake right now is nothing mystical or complicated or exotic—it’s THIS, what is, here and now, before you label it, think about it, or try to figure it out and grasp it. It’s the sound of traffic, the bird flitting about in the tree, the taste of tea, colors and shapes and movements, breathing, the sensation of hunger, a conversation with a friend, the check-out line at the grocery store, a pile of dog shit, a good movie, a cup of coffee, a child’s laugher, the caw-caw-caw of the crows, a chocolate truffle, the airplane flying over—just this. The aliveness, the presence, the ungraspable mystery, the unrepeatable wonder that is right here. Sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet. Inconceivable, impossible to pin down, and yet utterly unavoidable and fully present right now.
April 3, 2021:
red-tailed hawk circling for days,
George Floyd being killed
over and over
from every imaginable angle
in the trial videos.
the officer’s knee on his neck,
the little green leaves unfurling
a rich emerald green
in the store video,
George is bouncing around,
happy and high, totally unaware
that in less than an hour,
he will be dead.
like that poem by Charles Bukowski
that I love, called
“the circus of death,”
where he says,
(speaking of death):
from the beginning, to the middle, to the
there from light to darkness…
consumes names and nations,
squirrels, fleas, hogs,
the bullfighter, the bull and
all those killers in the
it’s the red mark on the black widow.
it’s the mirror without a reflection…
it’s in the eye of the hen…
it’s moving as the sun
as you put your shoes on for the last
the red-tail circling again,
the knee pressing down,
the whole world watching
green leaves unfurling
an ant crossing the pavement
a foot descending
lover and beloved meeting
a gopher sprawled out in the sun
enjoying the spring day
while the man in the store video
is bouncing around, happy as a clam,
that the hawk is about to dive
the mirror about to empty,
that he has put on his shoes
for the last time.
“we’re clearly at the edge,” Bukowski says
could be our last.
the sun rising again
the days getting hotter
announcing the fires
that you know are coming,
the end of the world,
and you know it’s all okay,
the beginning and the end,
the hawk diving,
the shoe descending,
all the countless things
you thought were wrong
and shouldn’t have happened
but they did.
the wounds we carry,
the terrible pain
the unfathomable injustices
and the way it all vanishes
without a trace,
leaving only this traceless
from my April Newsletter to my mailing list:
Spring is bursting forth here in the Northern Hemisphere. Little green leaves are unfurling. The hillsides are greening up. The frogs are chanting, the birds are singing. The crucifixion has morphed into the resurrection. I’ve had my second COVID vaccination, and exciting new possibilities are emerging: having friends into my home again, hugging them, going to a movie theater, seeing a play, eating out, getting some bodywork.
At the same time, paradoxically, I feel myself moving deeper into a form of solitude and quiet that involves pulling back from talking and writing (and reading) about nondual spirituality, activities that have been at the center of my life for at least three decades now.
Talking and writing about nonduality involves explaining, pointing out, and formulating—activities which seem to necessarily engage, at least to some degree, the grasping mind that endeavors to pin things down in order to formulate and convey them clearly and accurately. Writing and talking about nonduality has been a part of how I have explored and clarified things for myself (as well as for others), so it’s been helpful to me in many ways (and apparently also to others). But it has also perpetuated in me the deep-seated need to get a grip, and has been, at times, a way of holding on to the known and pulling back from the openness where there is nothing to grasp.
I’m feeling a deep urge to allow that openness more and more, to fall into nonconceptual, nonverbal, wordless inconceivability. I’ve been turning down more and more invitations to speak or engage in events; there is no sense at present of another book in the works; I’m listening to more music, especially Gregorian chants and work by the minimalist composer Arvo Part. I’m wanting to be less engaged in thinking and conceptualizing and more engaged in the sensory-somatic realm, aware presence, nonconceptual being. And when I do write, I’m finding myself more drawn to the poetry I’ve been playing around with recently (I’ve shared some of these poems on my Facebook pages and on my website Outpouring page blogs). These poems seem to emerge from a different place than my expository writing. They feel freer to play, less tied to particular meaning, less pin-downable, truer in some way to the inexplicable flow of actual experiencing. They emerge from awake presence rather than being about it.
Over many years, since I was quite young, I have read and listened to many spiritual teachers and authors, both in person and through books and recordings. Much of this has been a wonderful supplement to my own direct exploration. But over the years, and especially as time went on, some part of it has felt addictive in nature, stemming from self-doubt. It has been at times a form of grasping, not fully trusting my own direct experiencing or the simplicity of what is, looking to others outside myself and trying to arrive at some kind of final certainty or confidence that they seem to have, and that I seem to lack. At times, I reach for a spiritual book or video in much the same way I once reached for a cigarette or a drink, to fill some emptiness.
I want to face that emptiness more fully, let all the authorities go, even let go (at least for a while) of the whole focus on spirituality and nonduality, and simply be alive as this inexplicable and unresolvable flow of experiencing, without needing to put it into any box or make sense of it so that I can talk or write about it. I want to abide more and more where there are no names or categories for what is.
This is not an entirely new project, but it seems to be calling me in a new and deeper way. I’m wise enough to know that I’ll almost certainly have slips back into the old familiar patterns, so this isn’t in any way about achieving some purified version of myself, dwelling in wordless silence forever after, fully surrendered and dissolved into the Infinite. It’s more a kind of general direction or aspiration, letting go (at least for a while, and to whatever degree I can) of talking and writing and reading about all of this, and opening more fully into simply being. And in the process, finding out what emerges from that.
So you may not be getting another mailing for a while. Then again, you never know. Life is full of surprises. I could begin writing another book tomorrow, or find myself a month from now moved to give talks, hold Zoom retreats and make podcasts. Who knows? If that happens, I’ll let you know. But if you don’t hear from me for a while, you’ll know why. I may soon be taking a break from my Facebook pages as well. As of now, I am still holding private meetings if people ask for them, and I will still respond to (brief) emails. I have one long-scheduled interview coming up on a podcast later this month. But otherwise, for who knows how long, I’m wandering off into the hills.
Wishing you all a beautiful, healthy and enjoyable spring, or if you're in the Southern Hemisphere, a beautiful, healthy and enjoyable autumn. Until we meet again, with much Love and deep gratitude for all of you,
-- copyright Joan Tollifson 2021--
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