Showing posts with label Toni Packer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toni Packer. Show all posts


Someone asked me if Toni Packer described Maha.

I said,

"This is maha

Toni Packer, The Wonder of Presence:

“When I talk about listening, I don’t mean just listening with the ear. Listening here includes the totality of perception—all senses open and alive, and still much more than that. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are receptive, open, not controlled. A Zen saying describes it as “hearing with one’s eyes and seeing with one’s ears.” It refers to this wholeness of perception. The wholeness of being!
Another Zen saying demands: “Hear the bell before it rings!” Ah, it doesn’t make any sense rationally, does it? But there is a moment when that bell is ringing before you know it! You may never know it! Your entire being is ringing! There’s no division in that—everything is ringing.”"

Excerpt from Finding a New Way to Listen

Before inquiring into a new way of listening, let me just share the joy of walking through the fields and woods on this extraordinary land. Just stepping out of the reception area, closing the door behind me, walking away from the overhang that shields one from the sun and rain, there isn’t any enclosure left—not even a body! All I am is the birds singing and fluttering, bare branches swaying in the breeze, the ground partly frozen yet melting, the pond covered with a thin layer of ice, and the blue hills, sky and wandering clouds within close reach. There is also a throbbing heart and the people walking on the path. Even those who are not here—aren’t we all together this one moment—beholding everything out of stillness?
It is the stillness of not being identified with me—the endless stories of the past and the various images that have represented me to myself and others. Identification with me is a living prison. In it we constantly want to be accepted, feel important, be listened to, be encouraged, supported and comforted in this separate life of ours. But now, here, in the fresh air under the open sky there is the freedom of not needing anything, not needing to be anything—just being this open listening space where people walk, crows caw and ice cracks underfoot.
Why do I feel that listening is so immensely important in living alone or together? It is because listening quietly, passionately, now, without expectation or effort, is the gateway to living in wholeness, without the separation of you and me.
This is our main question: Can we listen in a deep way in a moment of silence and stillness? Or is the mind preoccupied with the 10,000 worries of this world, of our life, of our family? Can we realize right now that a mind that is occupied with itself cannot listen freely? This is not said in judgment—it is a fact. It’s impossible for me to hear someone else while I’m worrying about myself. Birdcalls and the songs of the breeze do not exist when the mind is full of itself. This is within the experience of all of us. So, can the mind put its problems aside for one moment and listen freshly? This moment! Are we listening together? The caw of the crows, the quiet hum of a plane, a dog’s barking, or whatever sounds are alive where you are listening right now.
It is relatively easy to listen happily in nature—the leaves, grasses, flowers, trees, lakes and hills do not think and worry like we do, and therefore do not provoke thinking. Maybe for deer and birds there is some rudimentary thinking going on but that need not engage us in thought (unless we are avid birdwatchers or we worry about the plight of too many deer and too many hunters next season). Thought can make a problem out of everything, but most of us find the beauty of unselfconscious listening much easier to come upon in nature than among people.
Why is it so inordinately difficult to listen to each other? When I am present with the abundant energy of listening, I do not find it difficult to hear what you are saying. Instead of being busy with self-concern, the space is open to hearing, seeing, and understanding the meaning of your words. If I don’t understand, then there is the freedom to ask you for clarification.
Without this open space of presence—energy, the inner tapes of human conditioning press hard to be heard—they do not want to make way for listening to others. How can I possibly hear you when I am dying to say something myself? How can I take the time and care to understand you when I think that I am right and you are wrong? When I’m sure that I know better? When I sorely need attention and resent anyone else getting it?
Can I hear you when I have fixed images about how you have been in the past, how you have criticized or flattered me? Can I listen freely when I would like you to be different from the way you are? Do I have the patience to listen to you when I think I already know what you are going to say? Am I open to listening to you when I am judging you? Judgments and prejudices lie deeply hidden in the recesses of the mind and require curiosity and inner transparency in order to be discovered. Only what is discovered can end.
Do I really hear what you are saying when I take you to be holy, to be worshipped, adored and surrendered to? Will I expect every word you say to be infallible wisdom? Or the opposite: Can I hear what you are saying when I am convinced that you are stupid? Am I listening to you in the same way that I listen to someone else?
We can add more and more to this list, but the important thing is to start fundamentally questioning our listening. The point is not to ask, “How can I achieve pure listening?” but rather, “Where is my listening coming from this moment, in light of all these questions?” Is it hampered by different ideas and attitudes or does it arise from a moment of being truly present?
Many of us sincerely desire to become better listeners and may think that it will only happen once we are free of the me sometime in the future. This is an erroneous assumption. Even though the me circuit is deeply ingrained within brain and body, a genuine desire and interest to understand you allows energy to gather in listening attentively to what you are saying. This attentive listening may empty out the preoccupation with myself. Through listening to your words and truly wishing to understand what you mean to convey, I enter you—your question, your condition, the whole you.
When I’m not really interested in what you are saying, can I pause and listen within? Can I take a glance at what is going on inside? Is it resistance? Boredom? The passing by of words that are not really heard? When there is clear seeing, that in itself is a shift.
Listening purifies itself. It’s not that there is necessarily a new interest in what you are saying. I may prefer to dialogue deeply while you want to relate your story or get my attention. When listening comes out of wholeness, an appropriate response happens. That is the wisdom of listening.
Sometimes, when I’m talking in a meeting and a flock of crows flies by—caw, caw, caw, caw, caw—I raise my hand a bit and ask: “Do you hear that?” The person may shake her head—the listening space was filled up with other things. Are we here right now?
When you hear that question, what happens? Is it simply caw, caw, caw, or are you thinking, “Am I doing it right?” or, “What does she want me to say?” Hear those thoughts like you hear the wind in the trees. It’s the same listening. It’s different things—the sound of wind and trees and birds is different from the sound of thoughts—but it’s the same listening. One whole listening!
For marvelous unknown reasons, once in a while we are completely here. For a moment we hear, see and feel all one. Then the mind comes in to explain it, know it, compare it and store it. This is not an intentional process—it’s habit. No one is doing it. The naming, liking and disliking, wanting to keep something and fearing the loss of it—these are all ingrained mind processes rolling off on their own. If we get a glimpse of that, get a feel for what is purely habitual, then we will be much more tolerant and patient with the so-called others and with ourselves.
When I talk about listening, I don’t mean just listening with the ear. Listening here includes the totality of perception—all senses open and alive, and still much more than that. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are receptive, open, not controlled. A Zen saying describes it as “hearing with one’s eyes and seeing with one’s ears.” It refers to this wholeness of perception. The wholeness of being!
Another Zen saying demands: “Hear the bell before it rings!” Ah, it doesn’t make any sense rationally, does it? But there is a moment when that bell is ringing before you know it! You may never know it! Your entire being is ringing! There’s no division in that—everything is ringing.
So can we learn more and more about ourselves, not by studying in order to increase our store of information, but through asking in wonderment what keeps us from hearing the bell before it rings?

by Toni Packer, "The Wonder of Presence"

Someone asked, “Does it really matter if we ‘wake up’ or not?”

A little while ago I took a walk up the hill. What a delightful morning! Warmth and coolness were present at the same time. Gentleness pervaded the air, and birds were singing everywhere. Wet, sodden shoes passed by the croaking pond where tiny little skimmers crisscrossed back and forth on the surface of the water, leaving their ever so delicate tracks.

On the big upper field several deer were grazing. Looking up at the intruder, their long white tails twitched a little as we looked at each other. Then they kept on grazing. Colors dotted the sun-drenched field, and blooming grasses were swaying in the breeze. The fragrance of wild roses filled the air.

If you had walked along with me this beautiful morning, we both would have laughed at the question whether it matters if we wake up or not.

Had we been caught up in anger, worry, or frustration, we wouldn’t have laughed. We would not have seen the lovely vibrant field.

We have so many questions. Whence do they arise? Are there deeper motives to our question? Can we wonder about it and look? Someone asked, “Is there such a thing as ultimate, complete and total enlightenment?” Are we really asking, “If there is such a thing, can I get it?”

Where does wondering about complete and total enlightenment come from? And from where does wanting it arise? And the frustration about not getting it? Doesn’t it all come out of our deep inner discontent with ourselves, with others, and with the world? Sometimes we can’t even say what it is that causes it; we just feel painfully out of sync. There is an inner meaninglessness, a feeling of hollow emptiness. Not the emptiness of vast open space, but a feeling of nothing of value inside, feeling lonely, cut off from happiness and alienated from people. There may be the fear of abandonment, or feeling unloved. All of these things are going on in human beings.

Out of the desires to fill up the inner depletion and find lasting contentment may come questions about enlightenment, and with them the yearning to find meaning and not feel isolated from everything and everyone. The brain creates endless concepts and fantasies to alleviate the inner suffering.

If we become increasingly transparent to these movements of thought and feeling, we will realize that inner pain is not dissolved by conventional ways of dealing with it, materially or spiritually. Money, position, acquisitions, or relationships have not brought lasting contentment. Religious beliefs may provide illusions of security and support, but for many of us they simply have not worked. We have wandered from one belief system to another, attracted by promises of salvation, liberation, or enlightenment, but real hunger for truth and clarity can be stilled only with genuine food.

The discursive mind is capable of throwing up doubts and sceptical questions at any time. Maybe we suddenly find ourselves in quiet openness, a profound stillness without any feeling of lack. Then thought comes in and beings to wonder “Will this last? Can I get it back? Was it real? Was this enlightenment or is there more? It doesn’t seem enough.” Thinking about a past moment of freedom immediately sows the seeds of doubt by asking, “Is this all there is? It can’t be! There must be a more convincing experience than what I just had!” Thoughts grow like clinging vines that choke the living presence. Truly being here is being unknown, unknowable, unadorned. Being here is absence of doubting or affirming thoughts about myself. It is the absence of me! Thoughts that arise about me are just thoughts, with their enormous power to obscure clarity.

Is it our task to find out whether or not there is total and complete enlightenment like the Buddha proclaimed? I always liked the Buddha’s saying: “I truly attained nothing from complete, unexcelled enlightenment, and that is why it is called complete, unexcelled enlightenment” No-thing, no one to attain it, spaceless space, no one there to occupy it. Just alive presence with the evening star in the sky. Dying to all the stuff imagined and clung to about oneself – what I am, what I was, what I will be, what I could be, should be...

Can we see all concepts as concepts with deepening clarity and wisdom? Not immediately lurching toward something promised in the future that has its sole existence in thoughts? Can we clearly discern what constitutes thinking and what is actually present right here without needing to think it? Can we discern it effortlessly?

The open windows, fresh air touching the skin, bright sunshine everywhere, all kinds of twittering sounds, crows calling and breathing, pulsating life! Caw, caw, caw, caw.. Sensations throughout the body, breathing, beholding it, not the words, but the aliveness of it all. Can we realize now that “complete unexcelled enlightenment” is a concept?

You may sincerely object, “How can I know for sure that enlightenment is just a concept? Maybe it is real. Lots of enlightened teachers have told and written about it. So – shall we then ask together: “What is enlightenment without all concepts?”

Let us delve profoundly into this question, not asking for other people’s description of experiences, not looking for promises, nor expecting to know for sure, but questioning out of not knowing, inquiring meditatively, deeply, darkly, until we don’t know anymore what is “enlightened” or “un-enlightened”! In silently wondering deeply without knowing, the conceptual world is left behind. Are we going into the question in this way?

All too often our yearning for something to alleviate the inner suffering gets in the way of deep inquiry. Rather than asking, “What is enlightenment” can we question our inner feeling of insufficiency? We have tried to fill it with fantasies of all descriptions, with entertainment, acquisitions, achievements, relationships, spiritual searching, and solemn vows – anything to fill the aching void. But have we ever really explored it directly, unconditionally?

Becoming conscious of it in or out of retreat, can we be with the ache of emptiness ,not calling it by any name? Let all labels fly into thin air and stay with what is here, discomfort without calling it discomfort. Staying here with what’s indefinable. Not resisting, not fighting, not looking for anything else. Just letting what is here be here in its entirety, physically, mentally, totally. Letting it be without knowing. Not becoming the doer for or against it. Just this quiet presence in the midst of the silence of chaos. In this there is an unfolding transparency. It happens when one sits patiently, silently, unconditionally. By “sitting” I simply mean being totally with what is here. Not moving away or toward something else, just remaining with the whole thing – an intense presence that includes all bodily sensations, breathing, wind-storming, raining, sunning, birding, coughing, fans humming – everything right here, all at once, without a seam. Observing thoughts coming up, emotions about to be triggered, physical sensations arising and more thoughts, emotions, feelings, sensations unfolding and abating – being with it all. There isn’t any place to escape to. Everything is here without separation.

Let thoughts come up, let them reveal themselves for what they are and disappear. It all is the stuff of dreams, traces from the infinite past. Thoughts may trigger fear, but fear too can become transparency. When it arises, here it is. Let it be. Don’t call it by name – labels attract memories and reactions from the past. No need to have any feelings about it – they too are empty. Fear is an unavoidable occurrence in our habitual self-centered consciousness. We cannot possibly live the illusion of a separate me without experiencing fears about what may happen to it. But illusions and dreams can also be seen as just dreams and illusions, even though they can arouse tremendous inner turbulence in the form of horror, agony, or pleasure. It is all part and parcel of human consciousness manifesting as separate me and you.

Sitting quietly, watching things come up time and time again, a tape may be playing: “Is that what meditation is all about? I don’t want to spend the rest of my meditative life watching endless repetitions of garbage.” But the important thing is not what is seen but the quality of seeing. When a person asks, “Is watching the comings and goings of thoughts and emotions all there is to meditation?” I say that it all depends on the quality of the watching. Is it consumed by judging, by feeling guilty, ashamed, or impatient? As those mental movements occur, see them for what they are and don’t be disturbed by them. That is choiceless awareness – no separate watcher occupying center stage. The inner show is simply displaying itself on its own and needs no particular audience, no applause or rejection . Let it all happen as it is happening in the infinite space of open presence.

Is “choiceless awareness” just another dream, a new illusion? Thought can turn anything into a concept by thinking and dreaming about it. See it when it happens and don’t be fooled by it. Choiceless awareness is not an illusion. It is here for human beings like you and me. Transparency unfolds on its own, revealing all there is as it is, in utter directness and simplicity, without need for a director.

Actually, awareness is here even during times of darkness. Presence never goes anywhere. This is not a dogmatic statement but a simple fact that each one of us can come upon. See the cloud, the darkness! Hear the wind! Feel the breathing! Smell the flowers! Touch the swaying grasses! Clouds, wind, thoughts, breathing, fragrant flowers, and grasses change all the time, but seeing is here without time. Even though doubts may obscure it, it is here the instant the mind stops and every cell of the body opens up to hear and see and be.

No need to bother one’s head about what has been said. Being present is all of oneself, not just the head! We are this entire living creation from moment to moment without a break. Walk innocently through the fields, into the woods, along the ocean beach or in the city streets with the sheer joy of aliveness, its infinite movements and sounds and fragrance – the love of it all without making a thing out of it!

Are we here?

What Is The "Me"?

The following article was adapted from a talk by Toni Packer on Day 4 of the August 1997 retreat.

A somber day, isn't it? Dark, cloudy, cool, moist and windy. Amazing, this whole affair of "the weather!" We call it "weather," but what is it really? Wind. Rain. Clouds slowly parting. Not the words spoken about it, but just this darkening, blowing, pounding, wetting, and then lightening up, blue sky appearing amidst darkness, and sunshine sparkling on wet grasses and leaves. In a little while there'll be frost, snow and ice-covers. And then warming again, melting, oozing water everywhere. On an early spring day the dirt road sparkles with streams of wet silver. So — what is "weather" other than this incessant change of earthly conditions and all the human thoughts, feelings, and undertakings influenced by it? Like and dislike. Depression and elation. Creation and destruction. An ongoing, ever changing stream of happenings abiding nowhere. No entity "weather" to be found except in thinking and talking about it.

Now — is there such an entity as "me," "I," "myself?" Or is it just like the "weather" — an ongoing, ever changing stream of ideas, images, memories, projections, likes and dislikes, creations and destructions, which thought keeps calling "I," "me," "Toni," and thereby solidifying what is evanescent? What am I really, truly, and what do I think and believe I am? Are we interested in exploring this amazing affair of "myself" from moment to moment? Is this, maybe, the essence of retreat work? Exploring ourselves minutely beyond the peace and quiet that we are seeking and maybe finding. Coming upon clarity about this deep sense of separation which we call "me," and "other people," without any need to condemn or overcome.

Most human beings take it totally for granted that I am "me," and that "me" is this body, this mind, this knowledge and sense about myself which so obviously feels separate from other people. The language in which we talk to ourselves and to each other inevitably implies separate "me's," and "you's" all the time. All of us talk "I" and "you" talk, we think it, write it, read it, and dream it with rarely any pause. There is incessant reinforcement of the sense of "I," "me," separate from others. Isolated. Insulated. Not understood. How is one to come upon the truth if separation is taken so much for granted, feels so common sense?

The difficulty is not insurmountable. Wholeness, true being, is here all the time, like the sun behind the clouds. Daylight is here in spite of cloud cover.

What makes up the clouds?

Can we begin to realize that we live in conceptual, abstract ideas about ourselves? That we are rarely directly in touch with what actually is going on? Can we realize that thoughts about myself — I am good or bad, I'm liked or disliked — are nothing but thoughts — and that thoughts do not tell us the truth about what we really are? A thought is a thought, and it triggers instant physical reactions, pleasures and pains throughout the bodymind. Physical reactions generate further thoughts and feelings about myself — "I'm suffering," "I'm happy," "I'm no good." Feedback that implies that all this is me, that I have gotten hurt, or somehow feel good about myself, or that I need to defend myself, or get more approval and love from others. When we're protecting ourselves in our daily interrelationships we're not protecting ourselves from flying stones or bomb attacks. It's from words we're taking cover, from gestures, from colorations of voice and innuendo.

Just now words were spoken, ". . . we're protecting ourselves, . . . we're taking cover." In using our common language the implication is constantly created that there is someone real who is protecting and someone real that needs protection.

Is there someone real to be protected from words and gestures, or are we merely living in ideas and stories about me and you, all of it happening on the stage of the on-going audio/video drama of ourselves?

The utmost care and attention is needed to follow the internal drama fairly accurately, dispassionately, in order to express it as it is seen. What we mean by "being made to feel good" or "being hurt" is the internal enhancing of our ongoing me-story, or the puncturing and deflating of it. Enhancement or disturbance of the me-story is accompanied by pleasurable energies or painful feelings and emotions throughout the organism. Either warmth or chill can be felt at the drop of a word evoking memories, feelings, passions. Conscious or unconscious emotional recollection of what happened yesterday or a long ago surge through the body-mind, causing feelings of happiness or sadness, affection or humiliation.

Right now words are being spoken, and they can be followed literally, intellectually. If they are fairly clearly and logically put together they can make sense intellectually. Perhaps at first it's necessary to understand what is going on in us intellectually. But that's not the whole thing. The words that are spoken point to something that may be directly seen and felt, inwardly, as the talk proceeds. And as we go along from moment to moment, now and after the talk is over, (and after retreat) can we experience freshly, wakefully, directly, when hurt or flattery are taking place? What is happening? What is being hurt? And what keeps the hurt going? Can there be some awareness of defenses arising, fear and anger forming, or withdrawal taking place, all accompanied by some kind of storyline? Can the whole drama become increasingly transparent? And, in becoming increasingly transparent, can it be thoroughly questioned? What is it that is being protected? What is it that one thinks got hurt? Me? What is me?

It is amazing. A spark of awareness witnessing one spoken word arousing pleasure or pain all over. Can the connection become clear? The immediacy of it, and no I-entity there directing it, even though we say and believe we are doing all that. But we also say that we don't want to do that. Words and reaction proceed along well-oiled pathways and interconnections. A thought of loss comes up and the solar plexus tightens in pain. Fantasy of love-making occurs and an ocean of pleasure ensues. Who does it? Thought says, "I do!" To whom is it happening? Thought says, "To me of course!" But, where and what is this I, this me, aside from all the thoughts and feelings, the palpitating heart, painful and pleasurable energies circulating throughout the organism? Who could possibly be doing it all with such amazing speed and precision? Thinking about ourselves and triggering physiological reactions take time, but present awareness brings the whole drama to light instantly. Everything is happening on its own. No one is directing the show!

Right this moment wind is storming, branches are creaking and leaves quivering. It's all here in the listening — but whose listening is it? Mine? Yours? We say, "I'm listening" or, "I cannot listen as well as you do" and these words befuddle the mind with feelings and emotions learned long ago. You may be protesting that "my hearing isn't yours. Your body isn't mine." We have thought like that for eons and behave accordingly, but presently, can there be just the sound of swaying trees and rustling leaves and fresh air blowing through the window cooling the skin? It's not happening to anyone. It's simply present for all of us, isn't it?

Do I sound as though I'm trying to convince you of something? The passion arising in trying to communicate simply, clearly, may be misunderstood for a desire to influence people. That's not the case. There is just the description of what is happening here for all of us. Nothing to be sold or bought. Can we simply listen and test out on our own what is being offered for exploration from moment to moment?

What is the "me" that gets hurt or attracted, flattered, time and time again, the world over? In psychological terms we say that we are identified with ourselves. In spiritual language we say, that we are attached to ourselves. What is this "ourselves?" Is it feeling myself existing, knowing what I am, having lots of recollections about myself — all the ideas and pictures and feelings about myself strung together in a coherent story? And knowing this story very well — multitudes of memories, some added, some dropped, all inter-connected — what I am, how I look, what my abilities and disabilities are, my education, my family, my name, my likes and dislikes, opinions, beliefs, etc., etc. The identification with all of that, meaning, "This is what I am." And the attachment to it, meaning, "I can't let go of it."

Let's go beyond concepts and look directly into what we mean by them. If one says, "I'm identified with my family name," what does that mean? Let me give an example. As a growing child I was very much identified with my last name because it was my father's and he was famous — so I was told. I liked to tell others about my father's scientific achievements to garner respect and pleasurable feelings for myself by impressing friends. I felt admiration through other people's eyes which may not even have been there. It may have been projected. Perhaps some people even felt, "What a bore she is!" On the entrance door to our apartment there was a little polished brass sign with my father's name on it and his titles: Professor, Doctor Phil. The Phil impressed me particularly, because I thought it meant that my father was a philosopher, which he was not. I must have had the idea that a philosopher was a particularly imposing individual. So I told some of my friends about it and brought them to look at the little brass sign at the door. This is one meaning of identification — enhancing one's sense of self by incorporating the ideas about other individuals or groups, or one's possessions, achievements, transgressions — anything — and feeling that all of this is "me." Feeling important about oneself generates amazing, addictive energies.

To give another example from the past: I became very identified with my half-Jewish descent. Not openly in Germany, where I mostly tried to hide it rather than display it, but later on after the war ended, telling people of our family's fate, and finding welcome attention, instant sympathy, and nourishing interest in the story. One can become quite addicted to making the story of one's life impressive to others and to oneself, and feed on the energies aroused by that. So that's a bit of what identification and attachment are about. And when that is disturbed by someone not buying into it, contesting it or questioning it altogether, there is sudden insecurity, physical discomfort, anger, fear, hurt, whatever.

Becoming a member of the Zen Center and engaging in spiritual practice, I realized one day that I had not been talking about my background in a long while. And now, when somebody brings it up — sometimes an interviewer will ask me to talk about it — it feels like so much bother and effort. Why delve into old stuff? I want to talk about listening, the wind, and the birds. [Laughter] Are you listening too, interviewer? Or are you more interested in identities and stories?

At times people bring up the question about why I don't call myself a teacher when I'm so obviously engaged in teaching. Somebody actually brought it up this morning — the projections and mental as well as psychological associations aroused in waiting outside the meeting room and then entering nervously with a pounding heart. The images of teacher and student offering themselves automatically like clothes to put on and roles to play in these clothes. In giving talks and meeting with people the student-teacher imagery is not there — it belongs to a different level of existence. If images do come up they're in the way like clouds hiding the sun. Relating without images is the freshest, freest thing in the universe.

So, what am I and what are you — what are we with- out images clothing and hiding our true being? It's un-image-inable, isn't it? And yet there's the sound of wind blowing, trees shaking, crows cawing, woodwork creaking, breath flowing without need for any thoughts. Thoughts are grafted on top of what's actually going on right now, and in that grafted world we happen to spend most of our lives.

And yet, every once in a while, whether one does spiritual work or not, meditating or not, the real world shines wondrously through everything. What is it when words fall silent? When there is no knowing? When there is no listener and yet there is listening, awaring, without any separation?

A moment during a visit with my parents in Switzerland comes to mind. I had always had a difficult relationship with my mother. I was very afraid of her. She was a very passionate woman with lots of anger. But also love. Once during that visit I saw her standing in the dining room facing me. She was just standing there, and for no known reason or cause I suddenly saw her without the past. There was no image of her, and also no idea of what she saw in me. All that was gone. There was nothing left except pure love for this woman. Such beauty shone out of her. And our relationship changed, there was a new closeness. It just happened.

Someone said that seeing a shattered image caused grief. But the shattering of self-image need not cause suffering. Truly seeing that the "me" is nothing but a habitual mental construct is freeing beyond imagination.

Toni Packer began studing Zen in 1967 with Roshi Philip Kapleau at the Rochester Zen Center. In 1981, she founded the Springwater Center for Meditative Inquiry in Springwater, New York. From The Wonder of Presence and the Way of Meditative Inquiry, by Toni Packer.