“He who does not know that he does not know is a fool, avoid him.
She who knows that she does not know is a wise woman, seek her
company. He who does not know that he knows is a saint, love
him. She who knows that she knows is God, worship her.”
Something was breaking and breaking again, over and over, something in my chest, under my ribs, without pain, a flood of emotion, a cataract of sorrow and a tremendous love, bursting from my heart, the breaking of my heart such as I had never felt in forty years of daily meditation, not just an idea of it breaking but the actual sensation of something inside me being shattered, like a vessel cracking apart, waves of a sorrow beyond sorrow and a love beyond love.
Watching it, feeling it, I remembered my darling teacher, inspiration, collaborator, brother-in-law Robert McCrea Imbrie asking me to promise to laugh every morning for five minutes with nothing to laugh at. Twenty years of daily laughing practice had taught me that no matter what I was feeling, toxic or not, I could give it up at a moment’s notice and avoid attachment to feeling, simply by intersecting the feeling with a minute or two or three or five of fake laughter, and then returning to the feeling, if it seemed appropriate and wise.
So I forced myself to laugh for a few moments bringing vividly to mind an image of my wise, wild and loving mentor. Allowing the laughter to wind down, once again my heart smashed apart, flooding, overwhelming my body with a nameless and measureless waterfall of sorrow and love. And then again the laughter, and stopping the laughter, again those two deep currents of sorrow and love.
Where was such sorrow born? And what was this love, seeming to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I let those questions dissipate, and simply allowed what was, with non-judgement, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go. At first I thought the experience was something special; then I knew it was the broken-heartedness, the woundedness in all beings, what Leonard Cohen might have meant when he wrote in one of his lyrics, “There is a crack in everything.”
Later, I wondered if the experience had any connection to the brief but painful moments of humiliation I had felt after seeing the movie “Inception”, when thinking how terribly amateurish in comparison were my current efforts –at the age of 79– to re-edit our first two 22 minute short films. Though some people had been swept away by “Final Gifts”, the ultra-low-budget first feature film my wife Lee and I had created, and though it had been honored at four film festivals, our work suddenly seemed paltry. But the humiliation lasted only moments, because I reminded my non-self that every and any act of creativity cements us into the creation of all the great works of art down through the ages.
Finally, I realized from decades of inner experimentation with Non-Self and Interbeing that this breaking of the heart had innumerable causes, including the scene in the movie “Now Voyager” that had affected me profoundly, when Bette Davis, herself psychologically wounded, embraces the lonely, hurting twelve year old girl who has had no one to comfort her every night when she sobbed her heart out, and the girl begs, “Please don’t leave me!”and Bette Davis stays with her, healing herself as well as the girl.
Perhaps the most rewarding result, thus far, of the heart-in-pieces phenomenon has been discovering a more immediately transformational and gratifying way to think about what I am, not who I am. This new way of thinking came to me from a long appreciation of what Kobutsu Malone– the Celtic zen buddhist priest who ordained my son Michael—once remarked in an interview that he wanted nothing more than to be “a benevolent entity.” My version of Kobutsu’s wish for himself has become: “I am a radiant, compassionate, readiness to heal, fulfill, protect and nurture every being I see, hear, speak to, touch, hold or think of.” Granted they are mere words, but words can make the heart dance, and whenever I rehearse those words there breathes within me a joy beyond joy, a love beyond love, and indeed my heart dances.
Neil R. Selden