The following article by Sandra Gonzalez is from the Summer 2005 Newsletter
When I was asked to write an article for the Newsletter, the first thing that came to mind after sitting and wondering what I would really like to look at together, was: “passion is needed for this work of moment to moment,” a passion with no object. We could also say curiosity or deep interest, an interest for the sake of clarity, for the love of beauty and harmony, for a life that makes sense, and for understanding our crazy wild life: feelings of anger, judgment, isolation, sadness and confusion. Discovering motives and appetites that get in the way of listening to ourselves, to others or to whatever is happening right now — birds chirping, breathing, the churning of emotions, the rustling of leaves as the wind blows, the sound of a plane passing by, seeing the trees and the deer munching fresh green grass.
A memory came to mind of several events that took place at the end of last summer here at Springwater. After several weeks of heated conflict between various residents at Springwater, including myself — both in personal and working relationships — old emotions of hurt began to arise. The old Sandra began to surface: fighting authority by giving the other person a piece of my mind and using old ways of resolving problems in relationship that were making more dust rather than letting the dust settle. And then meeting with each other to re-establish connection through listening to each other — sometimes not really lasting long — and then starting a new/old thing again. All of this was draining the body of energy and leaving it with tension. The physical body was also getting affected with eating disorders and bad digestion. In the end, my mind was not working very well — forgetting things — and all the overlay of emotions and stories was shuttering the listening.
It was an amazing state of affairs — the mind and body was in a complete state of disorder and chaos. There was a clear recognition of the whole situation. It was also clear that this web of thought, this “me” center, is just one movement, not divided into different segments — everything is connected, affecting the whole body-mind. The whole being was saying “enough is enough!” as a cry for caring attention. With this acknowledgment of the factual state of the body-mind came a sense of urgency and deep interest to be left alone, meaning the aloneness of not being swept away by this cascade of story-telling connected with emotions and feelings. But rather staying here, touching whatever happens to be going on — the chirping of birds or the movement of thought.
At this point, the September retreat had already started and the silent weeks were coming up, to be followed by another retreat. So, the opportunity was there to explore the possibility of sustaining the attention that was really needed not to go back into the story. As the retreat started, there was a sudden shift from story-telling to sustained listening, which generated more energy of listening that began to enter into the body-mind, making thoughts more transparent, the body relaxing and restoring a sense of well being.
Words can hardly describe the beauty that was observed in this process, in time, of the mind emptying itself out, or clearing itself out — the clearer being this deep interest that listens/attends. In this process, there was a discovery of the resistance to just being: the strong habit to be in the known, thinking about anything and everything, figuring things out, wanting to be somebody special. And, if there was a period of clarity about something, the need to comment about or make it fit into something that was recently read. You can fill in more with your own findings — they are universal, aren’t they? No one owns them. The whole thought system was going into slow motion, so things were seen because they were there — there was no choice but to see what was in front of the nose. When the mind is not dominant and is losing its ground, one can have a more realistic view of what this mind is made out of — just a bundle of stories about oneself, others and the world around us.
This deep interest or passion is like a light to oneself, that has no dependence on others, that is completely free. We cannot establish it, keep it or manipulate it. When listening is here operating in us, it begins to create space within the tightness and tensions that conditioning produces when it runs inadvertently, making the subtle, running stories more transparent. There is an opening to new and subtler discoveries of movements of the mind which lead to a greater openness, either to seeing more or just being. There is no end to this, is there? There is no finished product.
Isn’t this deep interest, this passion to understand life a natural turn towards the light? Many things in nature move towards the light, don’t they? You see it in trees and flowers. It is especially obvious in the spring, when the snow melts and the sun begins to warm the earth. There is a burst of life: buds forming on trees that later turn into leaves, baby green grass making its way through the old grass, dandelions flowering all over the fields, and the peepers, piping like trumpets, announcing the coming of spring — an amazing manifestation of life. And, when the mind is free from involvement, one can also touch the silence that is beholding it all. Wonder of wonders!