the Sun Hermit: “Angels?”

teadreams

I am on a pilgrimage with the Sun Hermit to the Holy Mountain. It’s a bit of a cliche, perhaps. I think in the West we are at times too obsessed with originality. Originality is wonderful, but life thrives by repetition. Repetition, repetition, repetition. We grow by repeating simple patterns that catalyze sudden leaps and shifts. This, to me, is the value of ritual and tradition.

“I’ve been experiencing a recurring world-weariness,” I told the Sun Hermit. It’s an interesting experience that has visited me since I was an adolescent. It accompanied my early contemplations of death.

I have been very fortunate in many regards. I think one of the greatest fortunes I’ve been granted is the innocent honesty of my mom. When I was very young, 5 or 6 years old, I asked her: “What happens when we die?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

What a blessing! So many other parents would have given me some answer to remove this primal uncertainty. But my mom told me the simple truth. I don’t know.

“Maybe it’s like falling asleep,” I said, “and you start to dream…”

“Maybe,” my mom replied, happy with my innocence and imagination.

When I was that age, I had a phrase I would repeat often, to the delight of my family: “Dat weet Tom ook niet.” It translates to, “Tom doesn’t know either.” What a beautiful wisdom, and what an irony that I spent so much of my life trying to become the Tom who does know. This is where I believed happiness lay.

And this is perhaps the source of my world-weariness. A child is in awe of everything, and has no time to be weary.

It is our ideas which make us weary, isn’t it?

When I told the Sun Hermit of my weariness, he said it was time to return to the Mountain.

“The Mountain will rekindle your awe,” he promised.

The creations of humanity can be incredibly beautiful, but the natural world is the creation of God, and brings us closer to the divine source. And perhaps the most potent aspect of the Holy Mountain is the fresh water, which brings crystalline clarity to the mind.

I think of this water like the angels, that order of beings that emanates directly from the Godhead, prior to the accumulation of history, karma, form, matter.

“Teacher, can you tell me about the angels?”

“What can be said? To be in their presence is to know pure Grace. Open your heart to them and steep in their qualities and you will inherit their Kingdom.”

“What are the qualities of the angels?”

The Sun Hermit paused for a moment and I could feel a shift in the energy of the room.

“Timeless, serene beauty,” he said. “A fearless innocence that sees the One Light in everyone and everything. An exquisite, playful dance of Grace. Patience, detachment and compassion.”

They are hidden in plain sight, I thought to myself.

“How can we cultivate these qualities?”

“The first step is to recognize their value, and place them far above material things. This is called ‘getting your priorities straight.’ It’s a mental exercise, but it’s also an invitation. When material challenges arise, we are invited to use these challenges to cultivate our virtues. And then, we can use our virtues to face the challenges. There’s a mental shift–the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity.”

The sublime gift of seeing our challenges as Grace. This is a realization that goes on returning and returning–a shift in perception can change everything. Not that the challenges necessarily become less challenging, but recognizing them as Grace puts us in touch with a vast reservoir of inner power.

Many of my greatest challenges have come through love and loss. I am a romantic, a believer in true love, but the journey of loving another so deeply can be immensely painful. But I have been immensely fortunate to find this spontaneous prayer well up within: “If this is the price for true love, I am willing to pay.” And with it, a great opening came to my mind. A new perspective, a new spaciousness, and I found the power to go on surrendering.

And I believe there is a universal truth here. Our ability to face challenges is proportional to our aspirations, our ability to imagine what we stand to gain. The whole quality of life shifts when we turn from material aspirations to the desire to cultivate inner qualities and virtues.

“Are there more steps?” I asked.

“Associate with those who embody these qualities. They are God’s most precious gift to you. You may find that these virtues awaken in you spontaneously simply by being in their presence. Take full advantage of their company, but be mindful not to become dependent on another. Ultimately it is your own efforts which will serve you most.”

Thus have I heard, once upon a time Ananda, faithful disciple and care-taker of the Buddha, said to his master: “Lord, I have been thinking, and it occured to me that noble friendship must be half the noble life!”

“Don’t say so, Ananda,” reprimanded the Buddha, “Noble friendship is the whole of the spiritual life!”

We human beings influence each other much more profoundly than we typically realize. And I feel that the key insight here is that “energy flows where attention goes.” Are we focused on harmony or conflict? Doubt or faith? Confusion or illumination?

For a master, as far as I can tell, there is no possibility of falling out of the awareness of the perfection of the present moment. They have embodied this fully. And in the presence of such a master, all our projections of imperfection lose their footing and are washed away. Ironically, this is why being in the presence of a master can be deeply uncomfortable. Ignorance will struggle to preserve its illusions.

Our path may be littered with sages and saints, but if we don’t have the eyes to see them, their blessings will pass us by.

“Anything else?”

“Sit by the fire and drink tea!” the Sun Hermit chuckled. “Speaking of which…” He got up to rummage around the cupboards for tea and a pot. I poured some water in the kettle and set it on the fire.

“Choose pastimes which enrich the soul,” the Sun Hermit explained. “Cherish simplicity, as a child does. Be content with simple pleasures that bring peace of mind and a pleasant afterglow. Enjoy and create art that reminds one of the abundant wonders of living.”

We sat watching the water as it slowly came to a boil. “The art of tea is all about timing and patience. It is about moving from dullness to peace, steeping our minds in the emptiness of waiting.”

Life is short. Too short to waste on distractions that don’t bring fulfillment. There is so much beauty and magic all around, but we have to open our hearts to let it in. We have to learn to appreciate every fleeting moment and feel gratitude for the people in our lives. I notice that when I shift my perspective from how I would like others to be to appreciating them as they are, there is an immediate influx of love and joy. So simple and powerful!

I watch as the Sun Hermit pours the boiling water into the tea pot and gives the tea its first rinse. He pours the tea onto the fire and it hisses into clouds of steam. The second steeping goes into our two elegant clay cups. The cups absorb and transmit the memory of the many teas they have held. It’s like they say–the past only exists in the present. In the inexplicable richness of this cup of tea…

Another parable comes to mind. A young man sets off on a journey of spiritual illumination. He goes to the home of one reputed to be “the wisest sage of the land.” To his surprise, the sage lives in a lavish palace with people running to and fro, a center of art and learning. He is led to the master’s hall, who makes a point of personally welcoming every visitor.

The two exchange formalities, and the master asks the young man why he has come.

“I come seeking illumination, sir,” explains the young man.

The master smiles and assigns a simple task. “I would like you to take this spoonful of oil and carry it through every room of my home without spilling a single drop.”

The young man obliges, happy that his quest will be so easily fulfilled. When he returns to the hall, the master sees that he has not spilled a single drop.

“Very good!” he exclaims. “Your concentration is very strong. But tell me, did you notice any of the exquisite Imperssionist paintings we have in the gallery? Or did you take a moment to appreciate the Indian ragas being performed in the courtyard?”

The young man had missed it all.

“I would like you to go out again, and enjoy the sights and sounds of my home!”

The young man went out and marvelled at the many treasures, and basked in the radiant joy of creation that filled the palace. He returned to the master glowing with excitement.

“I can see you’ve enjoyed yourself!” laughed the master. “But what has happened to your spoonful of oil?”

The oil had long since been spilled.

“Enjoy the world, but don’t spill the oil!” said the master. And this was enough.

The young man understood the point of the lesson. The spiritual path isn’t about abstinence or indulgence. It’s about training the mind on inner stillness and harmony, while at the same time enjoying and contributing to the world. The middle way.

Somehow, it seems that the tea draws my awareness inward, to silence and contemplation. Perhaps it is the lingering imprint of the masters who have handled and cultivated this tea, of the patience it took to allow the tea to age for many years.

“Whenever possible, be a guardian angel for others. Forgive them their faults and celebrate their gifts. Grace is so rare… its touch can transform lives. Don’t underestimate the light within you!”

“Thank you Teacher, I have taken your words to heart.”

I steep in the transmission and feel gratitude for the peace and love it has stirred within me. May you feel this as well. A moment to slow down, relax, and listen deeply, coaxing the beauty out of every moment.

Be well, dear friend!

the Sun Hermit: Letters from my Brother

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Dear Teacher,

The wind is high, the day is beautiful, I am at ease. Challenged, but at ease with the challenge. I am open to guidance. I am not jumping to conclusions, I am open to discover.

My brother has asked, “What are sanskaras?” How better to understand mindfulness, equanimity and non-reactivity, in the realm of thoughts, sensations and emotions?

As for myself, I am inquiring into my work, this new project venture I am contemplating, and what it means to be a guide. Is there anywhere to guide others? Is it arrogance to present oneself as a guide? Or at least, is this truly my path, or just an idea I have taken on? Where is my creative joy taking me? What is my next step?

I pose these questions not expecting immediate answers, but as avenues into contemplation, into deeper wisdom, into deeper serenity and strength both. I hold my accumulated knowledge lightly. I am indebted to it, but I can also transcend it if need be. Teacher, please open the door to communion with you!

Yours truly,
Tao

The Sun Hermit reads my letter silently by the light of a flickering fire. He folds it and gestures for me to join him.

I sit next to him by the fire.

“Close your eyes,” he tells me. “Touch the silence within.”

happyzen

My life is centered on a great joke. Tea as dark as earth, secret societies and esoteric knowledge, real cloak-and-dagger type stuff… all these are the perfume of a great joke.

Keys… keys to what? A key to a book of keys to doors that were never locked and cannot be closed. A key to more keys. A key to a mystery that is always opening into greater mystery! A journey that leads to blissful nowhere. And all swirling around this question, “Who am I?”

Do not rely on your work to bring you a sense of self. Mystery is mystery is mystery! Being, clarity… is a flower mysterious? When a child sees a flower, is the flower mysterious? Or is mystery colored by a sense of danger, fear of the unknown? Mystery, seduction, beauty, innocence…

Spirit is at work, always in all ways.

Who am I? The wandering fool? The friendly and humble counselor? The mystifying mystic? The father, the son, the holy spirit?

Do I long for greatness or do I long to disappear into the unknown, hidden nooks of the world?

And at the end of the day, which is the greater blessing to the world, questions or answers? So many wars have been fought over conflicting answers, but questions lead a soul away from war, into the quiet spaces of life that offer themselves for contemplation.

I will share with you the doctrine of sanskaras as I understand it. It is a doctrine which comes to us from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, and approaches life in terms of Mind and experience, rather than matter and physical laws. The science of sanskaras, then, is a science of how a particular experience gives birth to more experiences. It is intimately tied with the notion of karma, though the contemplation of sanskaras leads one to a more impersonal perspective.

Here’s how it works: An experience rises in the field of consciousness. This experience is composed of sensory awareness and mental awareness. The conditioned tendency of the Mind is to react to these experiences, through either craving or aversion. With craving, Mind judges the experience to be pleasant and wants more. With aversion, Mind judges the experience to be unpleasant and wants to get rid of it. So long as Mind is caught up in craving and aversion, there is no balance, because the ephemeral, impermanent nature of these experiences keeps unbalancing the mind and keeps it seeking after a permanent state of pleasure that is not actually possible.

Each instance of craving and aversion also creates an impression in the Mind, and over time builds up a conditioned set of behaviors that the Mind identifies with as “me.” Any time these beliefs and behaviors are challenged more suffering arises. And, acting out of ignorance, the Mind will attempt to solidify its own illusion to protect it from what the Mind perceives as threats.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this vicious cycle of disharmony and suffering. When the Mind rests in its true nature as an empty, dispassionate vessel for experience, no new sanskaras are accumulated and old sanskaras begin to unravel.

Now, whether an experience is pleasant or unpleasant, Mind sees its true nature of impermanence and emptiness of self or identification, and simply allows the experience to come and go. As this process deepens, even decision-making and acting are seen as impersonal experiences that rise and pass away in harmony with the totality of the field of experience.

In this way, the notion of separation dissolves, and Mind remembers its true nature as the underlying source and reality of all that is.

Many great sages of the past gave us techniques to begin to cultivate this awareness, such as meditation on the breath or bodily sensations. Identification with beliefs and emotions runs so deep that it is usually necessary to begin by challenging our identification with the body, which is where the unconscious roots of our beliefs and emotions actually lie.

From this perspective, the goal of life is not to have pleasant experiences, but to learn detachment from experiences such that the Mind can return to its original state of peace, bliss, and universal love. To remember what Zen calls “choiceless awareness.”

“Will this knowledge help my brother?”

“It will help anyone who takes the time to really digest this teaching. It is beautiful, profoundly beautiful. It is the way out of suffering. It might seem technical and dry, but there is a magic inside it that is always ready to be born. There is no yearning of the Mind so great as to return to its true nature. Within every experience, it is always seeking itself.”

“Is there anything you would add or take away?”

“Much has been said regarding the value of finding a teacher. I would speak to the value of love and surrender. It’s a necessary step. Once you begin to understand your goal, you must surrender to a path or teacher who can challenge your ego and keep you going until you reach the final goal.

Without this it’s easy to remain stuck in a comfortable cycle that keeps you from breaking through deep unconscious layers of attachment and identification. We must dare to fall in love with something or someone that allows us to taste the nectar of wisdom and freedom, and then we must surrender to the fire that burns away all falsity.”

I can attest to this from my own experience. I have seen how love and devotion change everything. A teaching from someone you have not surrendered to can easily fall on deaf ears, but when the same teaching comes from someone you are devoted to it goes right to the heart. We have to be true to ourselves. If we are following a path or practicing a technique without genuine love and devotion, it can only take us so far. Realization always requires surrender.

For many of us I think surrender is probably the most difficult aspect of the path. Our over-analytical nature makes it difficult to trust. Our ideas of will-power and individuality make it difficult to fully open up to something we perceive as being outside ourselves.

“Teacher, what is the greatest service we can render to the world?”

“Love the Truth above all else, and dare to give it a voice, a medium to dance its way into the hearts of your brothers and sisters. This is the only service, and whether its forms are small or large doesn’t matter. Every manifestation of love is a manifestation of the One.”

Unity.

To bear testament to the reality where all paths meet as one.

May my voice sing this gentle reality for all who seek it…

Love and salutations
to Lord Jesus Christ

Love and salutations
to Lord Buddha

Love and salutations
to Lao Tzu and all sages of mad wisdom

Love and salutations
to all contemporary teachers of insight and inquiry

Love and salutations
to you and me and the place where we meet as one

Love and salutations to all beings!

i am

i am prosperity

abundant perfect peace

love

and i must sail

the seas of danger

to kindle the fire of my

perfect immortal knowing

i must release the titans

to restore balance to the universe

i must

ride the hydra and unleash

its power

within myself.

i am becoming

i am the unfolding

i am the florescence of the world

as worlds themselves

are flowers

of different shades and harmonics

and the background

consciousness

blossoms

as good and evil and yet

I AM

this is the only answer

that lurks behind all questions

and all seeking

the hand of GOD

is a hand that draws

lines

in the sand

and washes them away

with the love of the Ocean

KNOW THIS THEN!

your holy scriptures

are only

lines

drawn in the sand

as you approach

the Ocean of Knowing.

your beliefs

and your

experiences

are only

the waters that

prepare you

for not-knowing.

your annointments

are only the sweet

fragrances

that relax your mind

with memories

of your mothers.

but here

you will go beyond

even the most

intimate

relations

to that which

is

altogether beyond

relating.

before

relation.

because the world of form

is pure

relativity,

perceptions birthing their

inverse

reflections, and here

you move

into

the nowhere plane

of the mirror

itself.

you are not on the side

of Earth or Heaven,

God or man.

you are within,

in the vanishing point

of the real–

the real that steals

the footing

of all illusions.

The Magic of Tea

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The magic of tea.

T is a letter of the alphabet. It is a junction, an intersection, a cross and a crossing. Two ley lines intersect and create a node where energy contracts and funnels into a vortex of introspection, across the event horizon and then… lost forever?

Moments are like this–intersections of dynamic energy that create a point of relative stillness, a space that is an opening for arriving home to here-now-ever-now-here. The magic of tea.

In the beginning there is emptiness. An empty pot, an empty kettle, an empty cup. The vessel is prime yin, the mother’s womb, the castle in the clouds. It is pure potentiality.

Then there was water and tea leaves. The tea leaves are in the pot. They are the raw material, the clay from which Adam was fashioned, the crude matter that must be awakened to its divine potential. This is the unrealized self, which has not yet released the fragrance of its divinity. The water is the life-force, the tao, that swirling, uncontrollable energy that takes the shape of whatever vessel it inhabits. The water is in the kettle, which is the mind and the heart.

To awaken the blessing deep within the tea leaves, we must heat the water. How hot the water needs to be depends on the quality of the tea leaves. With the tea we drink today, we must go all the way. The water needs to boil. This is purest magic, then the water is in a bardo state, between liquid and gas. Between the material and the immaterial. This is our gateway to nirvana.

The kettle is the mind, so we begin with awareness. We shift the attention away from the ego-personality and focus instead on the life-force. We observe intently its dynamic nature. We see that it is impermanent and impersonal. Water goes on changing. It follows the course of gravity. It takes the shape of its container. It does not have preferences or judgments. It simply goes where it goes. And as we fix our awareness on the water, it begins to get warmer. It approaches its immaterial nature.

The kettle is the heart, so we move into love. We surrender to the life-force. We move into gratitude, peace, and giving. Water gives itself to all beings, and all beings are composed of water. Water connects all life. Water is essential, and we learn to honor what is essential above all else.

We reach the depth of surrender, where life itself begins to evaporate. Now the water is boiling, and we pour it into our pot. The tea does not burn… another tea could have burned, but this tea appreciates boiling water. The tea begins its transmutation, as it releases its essence into the water.

The first steeping is a gift back to the source. The second steeping goes into the cup–it is for the world. We will let it cool for a moment so that it becomes palatable. And now, the work is over. Now there is nothing left to do but enjoy the fruit of our efforts. And share, share with all the world.

The magic of tea.

Being blossoms, ecstatic radiance, finding stability in universal love. Moving on the currents of grace, majesty is realized in awakening forgiveness. The all-seeing master IS! Exquisite.

An exquisite cup of tea does not wait for tomorrow. It is here-now-ever-now-here. Ceremony uses time to demonstrate the timeless. Tea is the magic of the mundane. The spiritual practice of enjoying nothing-doing.

Ahhh…

The Sun Hermit ~ Desert Ruminations

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And then there was the desert. The desert is a mystical place, where things are put in context. It reminds me of reverb, delay pedals and “The End” by the Doors echoing into the big sky. The desert teaches you the value of water, about survival and surrender.

The Sun Hermit & I have spent many lifetimes together, and I still remember meeting him in the desert. He offered an invitation to me then that I turned down. The desert can be oppressive, overbearing. The desert can be bleak and unforgiving. But there are few things as sweet as a warm desert night as the setting sun paints the big sky red, orange, pink and violet.

I remember walking through the sand and feeling it between my toes, the intoxicating sense of nakedness and intimacy with nature, sun and silence throw you into an altered state where you experience yourself not so much as a person but more as a body–a sweaty, vulnerable body driven by a deep survival instinct that knows to just keep walking.

It’s liberating, for a while at least. Your ordinary cares seem less important when it’s just step, step, step, step. Or I’m reminded of that America song, “Horse With No Name.” The line, “In the desert, you can’t remember your name / cause there ain’t no-one for it to give you no pain.” Or is it shame? I like that sentiment. You lose your social identity, your handle that opens you to praise and blame. In Buddhism they call blame and praise two of the “worldly dharmas.” You practice to transcend them.

And now I feel called back to the desert. The Sun Hermit lived in a little adobe home, way out there on his own. He would sit out in the hot sun and drink tea and play his slide guitar. From lifetime to lifetime, some things do not change. There is always tea, music, and my guru. And my love. She’s always there too.

When I met the Sun Hermit in the desert I thought I might end up like him, content to my solitary existence, content to my smallness under the big sky, but with a mind as vast and open as any expanse I had ever known. There was an appeal to this lifestyle, but also a fear–what would I miss out on? And I think this fear always exists within the seeker, the fear of ending the quest and losing the seeker. The sage has found everything and has reached the end of the path. But I think sometimes that finality frightens us.

What is the greatest achievement of a lifetime? What is worth striving for, dying for? What vision does not end, leading us right back to where we started?

This great and terrible vision of the wheel of samsara sometimes comes to me. It is an image that was imprinted in my mind at a very early age. I sometimes feel that memories of past lives return to us in childhood through books, video games and movies. Well I can vividly remember walking through that deserted Tibetan monestary and studying the engraving of the “wheel of suffering” on the wall. It was mystifying, but I knew there was something terribly important about it.

And as I got older, I began to have these moments where it felt as though I was rising above the clouds of my life, seeing the big picture of life and all lives, interwoven in inextricable feedback loops. It was all a great circle. I could see my own life rising and falling on the tide of eternity. And I could feel all life breathing and experiencing as one vast organism, in awe of the tremendous fact of being alive. Of being life! Life as life as life, ever one, eternally here and now…

And I began to know, also, my own forgetfulness. How easy it was to slip back into living life as Tom and identifying with a limited perspective. What a strange, funny and tragic game! My own belief is that remembering is not about the desire and effort of the ego, but an impulse born in spirit to remember itself, which then moves through the ego… perhaps as sustained effort, perhaps as deepening effortlessness. This is how I have understood my own experience of attaining without effort, the strange dynamics of forgetting and remembering.

But that’s just how it is with exalted states. There is still a rise and fall. I do not feel that attaining is really about achieving some permanent cosmic state. Even in the simplest, most mundane activities, there is no self. Chop wood and carry water, as they say. There is no Tom when Tom is meditating and there is no Tom when Tom is filling out his taxes. There is no Tom in writing, no Tom in dreaming, no Tom in drinking tea. There is only the wind.

Like a cool breeze in the desert. Everything changes with that cool breeze.

the Sun Hermit: “Money and society?”

It was a grey and cloudy day, rain fell gently every now and then, tiny drops of water kissing blades of grass and rolling to the soil. I was in an interesting mood. I had just witnessed a fight break out in front of a tavern, two men yelling obscenities at each other and quickly everyone began taking sides. The police, fortunately enough, got there before things became too violent, but I was still shaken by the episode.

I have hope and faith for humanity, but sometimes when I look into the depths of our aggression toward one another, I have to wonder what our fate will be. It does, at times, seem that we keep making the same mistakes over and over. We’re such an emotionally volatile species, so quick to judge and blame and attack. There are so many arbitrary distinctions and labels we use to divide and categorize each other and our attachment to these divisions is so strong. I know how long it can take to break an identification with such deep roots. But I also know that revolutions and rebirths are inevitable, sudden tidal waves of light illuminating the mind and breaking through even the darkest clouds.

I can understand the desire to run away from society. On a collective level, human society looks like a barely constrained chaos, perpetually tearing at the seams. And on a personal level, society so often presents itself as an insurmountable wall, an endless maze of red tape where any idealistic hope of accomplishing anything is inevitably crushed or eroded to little pebbles of hopelessness. And at the same time society is this endless pressure to accomplish something, to be somebody, to save the world without posing as a messiah, to be a genius without pushing anyone out of their comfort zone.

The more I think about it the funnier it gets. I know how easy it is to be overwhelmed. But there is also an innocence to the insanity, and clarity opens up the doors to freedom.

In any case, at the time I had my own concerns. I had run out of money. I was lucky enough to have certain benefactors, but I didn’t like relying on them too much. In theory, I wanted work that I could enjoy, that would help me cultivate my God-given gifts and also serve humanity. I just wasn’t sure if that was a realistic desire, and I wasn’t sure how idealistic I could afford to be.

It was with all this in mind that I made the walk up the hill to the Sun Hermit’s cottage. I could see the smoke rising from the chimney, and the sweet smell of squash soup flooded my senses as I made it to the door.

“Come in,” he said, before I had even knocked. His voice was like a gentle rumble of thunder, or the sound of distant rain on this bleak day. Deep and familiar, comforting. Soft and melodious.

I opened the door and walked in. He continued to stir his soup without turning to greet me. Why should he? For us there was no coming or going. I joined him by the fire and warmed my hands. He hummed quietly as he stirred, and it seemed that he was imbuing the soup with his holy voice. I loved to watch the way he lived. A detached and easy celebration of every moment, simple and humble and loving.

My concerns were already drifting away on the smoke through the chimney, but I had made up my mind to seek his council so I drew them quickly into words.

“Teacher, will you speak to me about society?”

As I made this conscious connection to his wisdom, it felt like a little sun ignited inside him and began to shine on me.

“Mmm… society. When you mature in wisdom you will be able to love every person fully without falling into any traps. They won’t have any bait left to catch you.”

“How can I serve humanity?”

“Live simply and honestly and see the beauty in everyone you meet. Speak your vision.”

“What about money? How can I support myself and those who depend on me?”

The Sun Hermit put a lid on his soup and quieted the fire. “Let’s take a walk,” he said.

The light outside was soft and beautiful, as though the dissipating clouds were illuminated from within. The breeze brought fresh air and cooling moisture. The plants danced and swayed to a silent music. I imagined that the Sun Hermit could hear it, and that it carried the answer to my question.

“Is this question your own, or is it another’s?” he asked me softly. “Have you ever truly asked this question? Has your heart cried out for money, the way it has cried out for love or wisdom?”

“No… it hasn’t.”

“Or even when your body cries out for food, haven’t you received it?”

“Yes.”

“And love and wisdom?”

“They have arrived, in their own way, in their own time.”

“God supports all things. Money is a little devil of man’s ache to be self-sufficient. Who are you to foster faith in little devils? You are a man of God, of greatness, of the self-birthing light… you walk in the grace of miracles. These concerns are always opportunities to allow your mind to expand to the greatness of the path that has found you. Even in the most ordinary, mundane and cloudy days, you walk the path of royalty. The path of spirit. The path of illumination and salvation. Don’t allow the confused voices of society to distract you from who you are.”

The self-birthing light… my mental faculties stumble and stutter on the paradox that offers no resolution, only the unfolding of wonder and awe and celebration… Why should I value myself by money when my Creator is value itself, ever expanding and self-revealing, and I am an extension of His majesty? Or Her majesty, if you prefer. Mother and Father both, this tender power that births all worlds, imminent and transcendent…

“All little doubts are roads back to the glory of God,” says the Sun Hermit. “Faith is salvation as believing becomes knowing.”

The Sun Hermit had not directly answered my question, but pointed me back in the direction of my own wisdom. This is why I have such faith in him as a Teacher. Beyond this, it is because I see something of divinity through him. It’s not just a belief, it’s a feeling. And it’s not just a feeling, it’s an opening… an opening of perspective and mystery and wonder. I am so grateful for his company and his guidance.

“You are wondering if you should be making more of an effort,” he said. “If you should be trying harder.”

“Yes, that doubt shows up from time to time.”

The Sun Hermit remained silent for a while. We were standing in the wet grass, looking out over the hills, as the sun came and went between the slow-moving clouds. Just as grace seems to come and go, the sudden flashes of insight that inspire a course of action, but then seem to leave us in darkness, so that we wonder if perhaps they were just a dream, a figment of…

“Imagination?” asks the Sun Hermit. “Trust your imagination. Go on feeding it. The imagination has its own momentum that will carry you. Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember reading books about the Buddha? Already you were imagining a great story, already the seed of awakening was there. Your vision calls out to you, and you cultivate it by believing in it. Don’t try to create what isn’t there. Nurture what is there.”

I could feel what he was saying. Nurture isn’t so much about effort, though it sometimes requires hard work. “I have to trust that what has been set in motion has its own life, and will cry out when it needs attention, and also that it will help support me as it becomes mature.”

“Exactly. Your art continues to develop even when you don’t seem to be consciously working on it. It develops through your spirituality. Your devotion to the path feeds your creativity and your love. Your love feeds your devotion. Your devotion magnetizes your art. In every moment, trust what is there, because it’s all interconnected. Everything you do is an opening to your inner world, your sense of self and awakening.”

“When I think of money, often there is just this emptiness and sense of detachment.”

“Money is not real. It’s an invention of the mind. Your mind is just a means, it doesn’t have substance in itself. The body is real, although it is impermanent. When you are hungry, you don’t ask ‘Should I eat? Should I care about eating?’ Hunger speaks for itself. And spirit has its own hunger. It is hungry for awakening. Feed the spirit and allow the mind to remain empty.”

Inspiration comes when it comes. I remember how necessary it is to allow life to have peaks and lulls, and continue to trust. I will allow my life to flow along the river of faith. I believe in the path and I believe in myself. I will not invest my energy in struggle, but allow these tension to push me inward. And whatever wisdom blossoms within, I will allow it to move outward, in its own time.

The sun is shining now, and I feel renewed. I walk with the Sun Hermit back to his cottage. We walk silently, happy to simply be.