Joshua Tree, California, USA.
Today I woke up for the second time in Joshua Tree. Today I also learned that the typical cactus that I can see everywhere in the desert from my bedroom and that I photographed yesterday is actually called a Joshua tree. So now I understand why they named this town Joshua Tree. Sometimes things are simpler than you think.
It is also the second day of this more or less formal private retreat that I am leading. With ‘more or less formal’ I mean that we meditate on fixed hours but the schedule is not as fixed as in the zen centers I visit. The previous time that I did something like this was in Lembongan with somebody whom I already knew and I had worked with before. This time it is with somebody who found me online and has been following me for a while. So she has the idea she knows me and I didn’t have much of a clue what I was getting into.
It is quite a challenge and it is humbling too. First thing that needed to be addressed were all the projections and fantasies my client was bringing to the table. Somewhere there was a hope that I would have all the answers and – as she eloquently put it – we would be having this enlightenment party. But I don’t have all the answers and if I learned anything is that nobody can ‘give’ the answers. We all have to find our own answers by ourselves. And I am not an enlightened guy and not a formal spiritual teacher. I am just a guy that worked through a lot of his own delusion and is not afraid to talk about that.
We are now sitting in a Starbucks because the remote bungalow has neither wifi nor cellular reception and to get me started with this post I asked her if she had a question. Well, she had one. She asked me ‘what is truth?’ “Jeez, couldn’t you give me an easier question?”
My answer: I don’t know.
I don’t know the definitive answer to that question; that is the first part. I feel young and immature on the path, I am still a beginner in spiritual practice. And the second part is that I really don’t know; I feel or have felt I found truth when I embrace that not-knowing. When my thinking mind, the one that tries to understand, grasp and figure things out, for some reason surrenders, gives up or collapses I find that my truth is that I don’t know and I don’t understand. The ‘I’ that wants to understand is the problem. When that is seen, the grip dissolves, the struggle disappears and something real is found. And that feels like a massive relief. It is a physical experience. It feels like connecting with the ‘I’ that doesn’t understand, interfere, control or grasp. The ‘I’ that just is.
The thinking mind tends to dominate our lives. Of course the ‘I that wants to understand’ is not somebody else then the ‘I that just is’. But the part of us that want to understand is just a part; it is not the whole picture. The thinking mind can take us through endless loops of similar thought patterns. It can numb us, make us feel bitter or self-righteous to name a few. When we for some reason find (through some sort of experience) or accept (because it makes sense) that the thinking mind is not boss we can start exploring outside of the thinking mind. We can experience first-hand that there are many different mind-states. I might have felt a handful, the Dalai Lama might be aware of dozens or even hundreds states of mind, I assume. As far as I know it, it feels like an endless and limitless path. It feels like a continuous unfolding, which means that what feels true is also travelling. The truth is always under way.
The key words are ‘feeling’ and ‘experiencing’. I can’t tell you what ‘the truth’ is but I can tell you that when you find, you will know. You will feel it in all your cells, in your flesh and your bones. And after you have found some truth don’t think (don’t trust the thinking mind!) that you have found a conclusive answer. Whatever you have found; it is not the last thing that can be found. Actually, it will always feel like a new beginning.
PS: The pic is taken in Joshua Tree National Park. It is me in non-thinking pose, being all philosophical and shit.