To The Zoo Fence: I just wanted to say thanks. I am seventeen, and I owe my three years of development to zoofence. You saved my soul in some manner. On behalf of myself and everyone else attached to my life, and for everyone who is attached to your website, thank you.
Posted at The Blog
Editor’s Comment: We are delighted to know that The Zoo Fence has been a genuine help. Thank you for telling us. Please know that you are not doing this alone. We wish you well, and always love.
To The Zoo Fence: Several places on the website, you say you live contemplative lives. If it is not inappropriate for me to ask, can you tell me what it is you are contemplating, what do you contemplate on?
Editor’s Comment: Your question is perfectly appropriate, if difficult to answer precisely.
In a word, “the I that I am”.
Everything we know and think about and dream of and experience is a phenomenon of the mind. Our entire universe is perceived by us through or in the mind. In effect, even perhaps in fact, we live in our mind.
The question is: “Am I a product of my mind, or is my mind a product of what I am?” Clearly, there is no point in asking that question of the mind, because the mind can know only what is in it, and if the mind’s creator is outside the mind, then the mind cannot answer.
In order properly to answer that question, we must, in Nisargadatta’s words, go beyond the mind.
We start with what we know, that we are. “I know that I am; what I do not know is who or what I am, whether I am in the mind or the mind is in me. To know that with certainty, I must discover the source of the mind, and with that the source of the I that I am."
So, we focus on “the I that I am”, for now not exactly certain what precisely that might be, and we follow where it leads us.
Editor’s Comment: Your question goes to the heart of it all. Our answer, in a word: To know God. Which requires, to know one’s self. Which, in our experience, is to become a seeker, to undertake a spiritual path, a sadhana.
What path to take will vary with each of us. It may be active or contemplative; for example, in Christian terms “Mary” or “Martha” (about which, please see here), and in the Hindu tradition karma yoga or jnana yoga or bhakti yoga (please see here), and so on. Whatever it is, do it with enthusiasm, confidence, and earnestness.
But, and here’s the inevitable paradox, do it without purpose.
That is, be a seeker “simply because I am a seeker”, not for any other reason, not with any anticipation of accomplishment, not for any expectation of reward. To do otherwise reinforces our current separative egoic condition (”I am me, and you aren’t”), the sense that we would rather be at some “there” than “here”. And in a Universe in which God, the Infinite One, is all there is (about which, please see here), any sense of preference (”better me than you, better that than this”) clouds our knowing.
Thus, to achieve our purpose we must commit ourselves to it while at the same time we must abandon it. Seek without seeking any thing, know without knowing any thing, be without being any thing.
In the end, your question elicits a koan: What is the purpose of a purposeless purpose?
To The Zoo Fence: I have heard and read terrible things about what is happening to many of the children left orphaned, homeless, and alone after the earthquake and tsunami in South Asia. What can one person in America do to help?
Editor’s Comment: As undoubtedly you are aware, there are various funds being generated to provide financial support. For example, at Amazon.com’s home page, there is a link to the American Red Cross Tsunami Disaster Relief effort. Likewise, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is actively involved. A visit to their website might suggest how you could help. If you belong to a religious group, a church or a temple or a mosque, you will surely find ideas there.
While you are doing all of that, try this, too. Sitting quietly in your room, bring an image of the children into your mind and into your heart. Do this with as much determination as you can, until what you see there truly is real to you; feel the children, hear them, smell them. Then, with enthusiasm, bless the children. See them bathed in light, happy, and nourished. Whatever you may believe, heartfelt thoughts are a very powerful phenomenon.
Much foolishness is spoken and written and sung about love, so that it becomes a cliché; but the fact is, even though most of us do not understand the least of it, love truly is the most powerful force on earth.
Will your one effort fix the problem? Maybe not. But believe this, the love and the light-filled thoughts you project from your most inner self may reach one child, even just one child, and he or she will feel it, a chill up the spine, a sudden unexplained warmth, and that changes the whole world. Not by giant steps, to be sure, but bit by bit. In the end, that is probably the only way that truly fixes anything.
The answer may not always be what we expect, and it may change shape as we grow and mature along the way, but always the answer will be provided.
Consider these lines from one of our favorite Teachers, Sri Nisargadatta, whose name appears frequently on The Zoo Fence: “Life itself is the Supreme Guru; be attentive to its lessons and obedient to its commands. When you personalize their source, you have an outer Guru; when you take them from life directly, the Guru is within. Remember, wonder, ponder, live with it, love it, grow into it, grow with it, make it your own — the word of your Guru, outer or inner.”
Or, in the words of another favorite Teacher, Sri Ramakrishna: “God alone is the Guru”!
As you proceed along your own way, please remember to do so with devotion, joy, and enthusiasm. Doing so, you will succeed.
To The Zoo Fence: I wonder if you would offer me a bit of personal advice. I live in the south of England. An elderly brother lives in Scotland. He is older than I, almost half again my age. He is well cared for, but not by family. His health is failing. He is not willing to move closer to me, and I cannot move closer to him as I am proprietor of a restaurant. I travel to my brother two or three times a year. While I am there, I perform errands and chores and similar duties for him, and we visit. When it is time to return to my home, I feel that I should do more than I have done or stay longer or come more often. I seem unable to escape the sensation of guilt.
Editor’s Comment: The circumstances you describe arise in the lives of us all, sooner or later in one way or another.
These kinds of issues are particularly evident when dealing with family members, and there particularly with elderly family members. Like you, we have a couple of those, and they, like yours, live a far distance from us.
Here is what we do. When we feel moved to visit them, we ask Mother (God) what it is She wants us to accomplish there. Then, we go, and we do it, with as much love and joy and enthusiasm as is in us. And when the task, whatever it is, is accomplished, we withdraw and return home and … await further Instructions.
As we write in our essay The Simple Way, we earnestly seek to live our entire lives that way, and it is why we consider ourselves to be monks.
Mind you, it is not always easy. On the contrary. Like you, we often feel we should do more. But usually, if we sit still quietly, and honestly measure the visit (or whatever it may be, for we apply this procedure, if that is what it is, to everything we do), we realize that what needed doing has been done, and we hear Mother telling us so.
To be sure, this raises the question, how can we be certain about what God wants us to do. And the answer is, we cannot. But we do the best we can at listening, and then, when we think we know, we say so, like this, “Mother, this is what we think you are telling us to do, so we are going to do it. If we have misunderstood, please get in our way or otherwise detour us”.
Consider this, too. You cannot give what you do not have. In order to offer your brother affection, interest, attention, and so on, you must replenish your own inner supply of those energies. We once heard one of our favorite Teachers, Jack Schwarz, say, “You have to re-charge your battery from time to time, or you will be of no use to yourself or anyone else”.