My awesome friend and California school teacher Wade Williford periodically sends us books all the way to our jungle paradise. This holiday season I snuggled up with a gem from another era: Alan Watt’s Behold The Spirit.
Fascinating how something written decades ago can feel so relevant to the times; and prescient: “The concomitance of our perilous ecological crisis with the sudden expansion of mass-communication technology does indeed suggest that the world is in an apocalyptic and even eschatological situation, in a period of catastrophic revelation and imminent disaster. At times when the future appears to be failing us it is only natural that there should be a resurgence of religion and of interest in things eternal: it is our only recourse. It may amount to no more than the superstitious comforts of fantasy and magic, or of shrieking in desperation to high heaven. But, on the other hand, it may be something like the overwhelming sensation of release and peace which occasionally comes to people facing death.
“For at such times there is no escaping the fact that in the pursuit of happiness, power and righteousness the human ego, with all its will and intelligence, has come to its wits’ end. Even the solaces of religious hope and belief seem hollow – being no more than refined and fantastic forms of trying to save our carefully fabricated personalities from coming to an end. But the personality is a phantom even less substantial that the body, being an ephemeral work of art like a musical composition that dies away as it is played. But when it comes to silence we hear another tune, for we are reduced to the guileless simplicity of listening to what is – now. This is really all there is to contemplative mysticism – to be aware without judgement or comment of what is actually happening in this moment, both outside ourselves and within, listening even to our involuntary thoughts as if they were no more than the sound of rain. This is possible only when it is clear that there is nothing else to do, and no way back….For here, where there is neither past nor future, the doors of perception are cleansed, and we see everything as it is – infinite.”
This is the aim of yoga: landing in this place of no past no future. It can be found too in surfing, writing, walking, dancing… anything one can practice with full attention and renewable curiosity. The activity, the object of attention, becomes the gateway into the now.
quote from Alan Watts Behold The Spirit xxiii 1971.