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Derek Best has contributed to several publications, including Macleans Magazine Canada, and Omni Magazine, USA. He is has also produced many documentary films for Television. For many years, he has been interested in A Course in Miracles, a metaphysical thought system, and maintains the official website for that organization. "ACIM", he says "is central to my personal way of seeing the world." This site is strictly personal however. Derek has an eclectic range of interests, and writes about them here as the mood strikes him.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The End of the Big Apple.

There's an apple perched on the shelf by the door. It's a bright green apple and it's large -- about two or three feet in diameter. It doesn't fit too well up there so it's half on and half off the shelf. I'm not sure what door this is exactly. It seems to be in the corner of a dark room. It is half-open, plain, and perfectly rectangular like those little computer icons for "exit." That's all I can really tell you about the room I'm in. It's dark in here, and other than the area by the door it is all dusk and nothingness. This doesn't seem too unusual: nothing does in dreams. Nor is it surprising that any effort to inspect the door or the apple cause it to disappear from view like Alice's house in "Through the Looking Glass." One thing I've learned about dreams is - I can't direct them. Any effort I make to consciously control my actions results in the dream vaporising. So I have to be perfectly passive, but here's the catch 22 - I have to make a conscious effort to be passive - and that conscious effort always ends the dream. So whenever a dream gets interesting enough to rouse my curiosity that's the kiss of death. There's a very small time window after that in which to explore the image, float across the floor, zoom through the window, finish the piano concerto, ask my mother that question, save the cat from choking on the spaghetti, see her face (who is she?), cram the cherries into the crystal jar and struggle with the lid, and buy the broken-down car from the Indian man who sits in the office - except I'm suing him because he didn't give me the glue to fix the chair and he doesn't know that, but if he finds out he won't sell it to me.

It's hard, very hard, to lie prone at the epicenter of a dream and just do nothing. For one thing the buzzing kaleidoscope of the dream is too attractive. Not attractive as in beautiful but attractive as in gravity. Every little flickering phenomenon dislodges us and we begin rolling toward it like ballbearings on a tray that just tilted. I wonder how might it be - to be completely tranquil? Completely at peace. Completely without concepts. That's the trick, you know... not to ignore the bubbling static of the world, but not to recognize it ... or try to. The Buddha sits in a world of formlessness, formless herself. The Buddha does not say "Ah that is an apple but I will ignore it." The Buddha sees no apple and says nothing. The Buddha sees no green. Apple is a concept. Green is a concept. Concepts are labels we use to assign forms to the formless because formlessness is non-identity, formlessness is fear. Concepts are the atoms and molecules of consciousness. We click them together and rearrange them like Lego for the ego, forever trying to model what we think lies beyond the fundamental dualistic division of me and not-me.

Nirvana is a sanskrit word that is hard to translate. One explanation is - the highest happiness, release from karma - but that is more an outcome than a translation. Another good one is - to cease flickering - like a flame that becomes steady and calm. The best one I ever heard was from Kalu Rinpoche at an Ashram in Toronto in 1976. Was I a seeker in those distant days? Hell no! I was a cameraman. Rinpoche came to Toronto and I went to Union Station to film his arrival, in yellow and saffron robes, greeted from the train by a Buddhist dance troupe ??!?! Then I went to the ashram to hear him speak - through a translator. Someone asked: "What is nirvana?" He answered all questions in Tibetan so the translation is not really his, but his translator's translation ... if you can follow that ... The answer was: "Nirvana is the end of all concepts."

You know, when I started writing this I had no idea what I was going to say. Now I've said it and I've no idea if I said anything. It's all a dream anyway.


Anonymous Wixom said...

Just when you thought it was safe.. I don't know Derek, you get me all charged up thinking about one topic, then you abruptly switch to something else. My son does that too, and we have medication for him (lol). Wixom.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous AE. said...

Derek Derek Derek I think you mean well but if there was a choice between reading this or clicking on an ad that said "congratulations, you're the one-millionth reader and you've won a free laptop" I'd take the laptop. DOn't take it personally, they're both old-hat, it's just that yours is even older hat. Those who believe in it, do it. Those who are just faking sit around and dream up endless clever ways to analogize it to others hungry for harmless pseudo-spiritual cocktail-talk drivel. Every month a new book explains the disappearance of the unverse, but its still here for most of us. Love you. AE.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Hi AE.
How are you? I love you too, you atheist buffoon.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

Although I hate to say it, and I can already hear the whistling of the psychic tomatoes that are flying in my direction from this lively crowd, AE has a point.

This is something I have to remind myself of every single day. There's great pleasure and distraction in talking about the spiritual path, and it analyzing and comparing various systems of saying the same thing. I do it, and I love to do it, and will continue to do it.

But at a certain point one must put one's money where one's mouth is and actually DO it. This involves quieting the mind, quieting the mind, quieting the mind.

Nothing will change and no concept of conceptlessness will make any sense without a daily practice of stilling the internal dialogue, and then learning to do the same thing over and over and over again, a hundred times a day, bringing yourself out of the internal dialogue into the present moment.

This discipline is the basis for learning any system of mind training, like ACIM or the Tibetan mind-training slogans. There's no progress without a quiet mind.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous AE. said...

Derek - To you I am an atheist. To God I am the loyal Opposition. (Woody Allen).

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Marian makes a good point, but then she proceeds to do exactly the same thing, which is talk about it instead of do it. But what are any of us doing here? What could anyone ever do in any discussion? I think sometimes there is more value in the way something is said, than in what is said. Why else would poets keep on writing poetry? Some people have a gift for juxtaposition of images and ideas that jolt us out of our stupor, if only for a moment. And they might be writing about fact or fiction, love, or war, apples, or hobbits, or outer space. Wish I could do it. Enjoyed your thoughts as usual, Derek.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

Robin, how can you be sure I am not talking about it AND doing it, rather than talking about it INSTEAD of doing it?

I'm just saying that talking about it as a substitute for doing it will never end in realization. There's no harm in talking about it—however artlessly we may do so.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

You are absolutely right Marian, of course I can't be sure what you or anyone is doing outside of this column. Sorry if I seemed to imply something else. That's my point really. We can't know anything about what anyone does when they're not writing. All we know is: when they're writing, that's what they're doing. Writing. I checked out your blog and there's no doubt you're a good person who is working hard on yourself. Still you spend time writing. I don't feel that's a substitute for anything. I'm sure it's paartly for your benefit and partly for others' I'm sure. If you didn't write, I couldn't read your thoughts. If Derek didn't write, I couldn't read his. I just finished reading "Strength to Love" again - does anyone want to call Martin Luther King's writing a "substitute" for realization?
The flow of thoughts and words onto paper is an integral part of the process of self-realization, and the two are not mutually exclusive.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous marian said...

Thanks, Robin. I started writing to track and clarify my own process of learning--for myself. Then it occurred to me to open it up for people to read. I knew that I wouldn't be where I am, had not others done the same. It's been helpful beyond measure to me to read about other people's journeys.

And you're absolutely right. I may think I know something about someone's state of mind when they write, but chances are good that I'm incorrect.

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Derek, 'tis been too long... where are you at?

8:53 PM  


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