Practise is Just Like the Horizon

sent by: CLARKE SCOTT |

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Contemplative Life.

In this edition:

  1. I talk about my experience of solitary retreats.
  2. A sneak peek at the article on the dream of my teacher’s death.
  3. And I share extracts and my thoughts on a new book by Thomas Merton on his travels to India and meeting with the Dalai Lama in 1968 only weeks before his death. And I provide a link to the book and give my opinion on who really killed Thomas Merton.

(5 min read)

What I’ve Been Thinking

In stillness there is movement…

Subtle but it is there if you look closely. It is a different kind of movement; more like energy than the movement we are used to when we hear the word. Some might call this the energy of Shunyata; others the Holy Spirit. But names are just that. Don’t look out, look in. Can you feel it?

When I look back through my life there has been a thread that runs through it. A thread of searching, and in all my confusion over the years, this searching led me astray many times. Some might say too many times. I might say, far too many times. I did not know what it was or what I was doing. Just an endless itch to seek without knowing what the itch was seeking.

With time comes perspective. So I’ve come to understand that the destination of this searching, like the horizon, cannot be reached. It is an illusion of the mind. The searching tricks the mind into all kinds of adventures, thinking just one more [insert vice]. Adventures that distract from what breathes true meaning right into life.

In the past I would often say, I’m searching for freedom when answering questions of why I was doing what I was doing. Freedom to do whatever I want. To read and meditate, nothing more. And to get this freedom I would overwork and have no freedom as a result. The ego can rationalize just about anything, and it did for me, for far too long.

Stillness is the key. And stillness can be had, right now. No need to go someplace for it. No need to go searching for it. It is right here; right now in my mind. And in it, is everything I have been searching for.

Stillness has a depth too. That is why we say things like, she has real depth to her. Or his wisdom is deep. And in the depths of this stillness is not only wisdom but also love, compassion, and power. Yes, power. Spiritual power. Not the power of “The Machine” but the power of stillness.

(In the next edition, I will expand on these ideas so that each edition of the Numinous Life builds on the previous. I think this style will make for good reading, and at the same time give me a chance to explore these ideas as they evolve over time without having to “be right” from the very beginning!)

What I’ve Been Reading

While I continue to work through the gnostic gospels, I picked up the Asian Journal of Thomas Merton. What a fascinating look into the life of a Christian American in search of a deeper understanding of his own tradition. A search that led him to the Tibetans including the Dalai Lama, only to die weeks later. The “official” explanation of Merton’s death was a heart attack due to accidental electrocution. People close to him suspect the CIA. I’ve read a little bit about this; particularly what Father Matthew Fox had to say, and I am leaning toward a politically motivated assassination. Sad if that is the case but show the lengths The Machine will go to increase its influence over us.

But I also believe (hope) Merton will be canonized by the Catholic church at some point. His openness to seeing through the veil of tradition and into the heart of awakening is something I aspire for. And if he is his work will be read by even more people inside his tradition than before.

Back to his Indian trip…

Here are a couple of extracts I found interesting and or funny.

“Dr. Loksesh Chandra offered me a mandala, one of his reprints. I picked on, the general pattern of which attracted me as being very lively. On close, inspection I find it to be full of copulation, which is all right, but I don’t quite know how one meditates on it. It might be a paradoxical way to greater purity.” p.67

It is indeed a “paradoxical way to greater purity.” His intuition was correct. And his honesty and openness, I find, such a delight to read. And his response to seeing deities in union made me laugh out loud. There is no heavy piety in his interactions with other traditions. This is rare. Very rare.

And in an exchange with HH Dalai Lama, Merton writes,

“But how does one concentrate on the mind itself? There is a division … the mind as object of concentration … observing the concentration … all three one mind. He was very existential, I think, about the mind as ‘what is concentrated on.’

It was a very lively conversation and I think we all enjoyed it. He certainly seemed to. I like the solidity of the Dalai Lama’s ideas. He is a very consecutive thinker and moves from step to step. His ideas of the interior life are built on very solid foundations and on a real awareness of practical problems. He insists on detachment, on an ‘unworldly life,’ yet sees it as a way to complete understanding of, and participation in, the problems of life and the world.” p.115

This, I believe, many misunderstand about The Numinous Life I know I have. To be in the world, not of it, is the way of the Bodhisattva. For you cannot help others if you are not with them in their struggles with life.

The word detachment is troublesome though. There is a coldness in it I personally do not like. I prefer non-attachment, as I believe this gets at the issue at heart – be in the world but not attached to the things of the world.

What also struck me about this was that the problem he was having when meditation on consciousness itself, is the exact problem I had. And given the number of emails I received about this exact issue, I dare say many others too.

We get ourselves all tied up in knots by thinking about how to, rather than allowing the practice to come to you so to speak. But we humans are an impatience bunch, ain’t we?

I’m looking forward to sharing more in these fascinating interactions.

You can buy the book yourself here –

What I’ve Created

I am not entirely sure why, but the article on the dream of my teacher’s death has been extremely difficult to write. I have been overwhelmed with emotion several times, wiping tears from my eyes as I write. It has brought up a lot of memories as I sifted through everything.

So I want to share some of it with you, in an unedited fashion, because I keep mentioning it and yet it never appears, and as this is for premium subscribers, I feel far more comfortable sharing it in an unfinished manner for you as a “behind the scenes” look so to speak.

“I was wearing an oversized cowboy hat, and as I stretched my neck to see who it was sitting in the seat, and saw it was him, I took the hat off and thought to myself, he is still alive. I was in shock. The idea that he had died was all a bad dream. I moved around to side the of the lounge, still in shock, so he could see me. Geshe-la, I said without speaking. He looked up and smiled like a loving grandfather. I should have known it was not real as he rarely smiled at me and I spoke to him without words. But at the time I was convinced he was really alive and I was really with him. Interestingly I’ve had several dreams where upon waking I remained confused as to whether or not he was still alive and I took me to full wake before. I imagine a mother that loses a kid might know what this can feel like. It is the weirdest experience where you genuinely feel as if the person is still alive and yet at the same time you know that feeling is not true. It’s a sad mix of sad fondness.”

“It is difficult to find the words to describe the impact he had on my life. When I left the monastery for Tasmania, I wrote him a letter and I wrote it by hand. In that letter, I said, “You have been more than a mother, more than a father, more than a best friend” and this sums up well the degree to which he has and continues to influence all that I do.”

I do hope to have the article completed within the next week for you.

So it feels like a privilege to share what I have learned from my own journey, and hopefully, that journey is far from over, and therefore, you will be able to ride along with me from this point on.

My promise to you is to be radically honest, thoughtfully transparent, and conscientious in creating valuable content that is enjoyable to read and that you can take some of what I offer into your own life and practice.

See you next week.


Clarke Scott

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