“The most satisfying way to be is closer to that of the formless.” – Eckhart Tolle
Following my teaching on water and earth (which you can find here) several events occurred. Listening to Tara Brach speak on papancha – proliferation – which can be seen most simply as “the thoughts after the facts”, or “weightless conjecture”, something stuck with me…
Things happen in such a way which most often causes us to find some form and lock into it. Be it a static opinion or a preferred physical state. Suffering comes when we lock into a position or form and continuously resist further movement thereafter. What happens if tense up your entire body and never relax?
To further illustrate my point, think of ice.
Ice – The solid form of water. Solid ground to stand on but slippery. Solid and dependable. As long as it doesn’t get too warm. Conditions. Ice remains based on conditions. Similarly, we cannot maintain our locked form without certain conditions so we force these conditions to remain. And when they don’t, we scream as things begin to melt. Forever, we are looking for absolute answers and absolute truth. I think that if there really was one absolute truth, it would be that the promise of an absolute static truth is a lie.
Comparable to its liquid state – a gentle yet relentless, unending stream of life-giving energy – ice serves its purpose too, though the form of ice is only temporary. Unlike ice, water has no static form and so is unending. Ice does well, in certain conditions, to preserve the purity of water. As a measure of preservation, this is effective under minor duress. Too much force or impact upon the form and the ice will shatter. As a measure of purification, ice is not effective. All which is frozen within the ice remains upon its thawing. From this we can see many things, not the least of which is that locking into a static form is not the most effective protection against that which seeks to penetrate or instigate reevaluation. The formless does much better in this conditions. That said, for the time in which it is cold enough for ice to maintain its form, it is successful in achieving some aims however limited its scope may be. Ice serves in the preservation of things–food for example. But is there any sense in preserving food on ice if it is never to be eaten?
As such, we can see that taking a form which is static can be beneficial for a time but these benefits are short-lived and the timeless must return once more, always. And once again, we are led back to Wu-Wei, action through in-action. This speaks to the understanding that when we are required to act (to adopt a form) then we will be called into action by the flow of life. And as the tide withdraws into its depths always, we too must return to formlessness.
To see this beneficial oscillation between formlessness and formation – because it beneficial – we can think of life and death. We take our human form for a while – not forever – and then the life-force essence (which is formless and eternal) leaves the vessel – the body, the form – and continues the cycle of adopting a form and becoming formless over and over.
“Nothing lasts, but nothing is lost.” – WIlliam Blake.
In terms of the grief of a loved one passing,I think our suffering comes from a place of longing and knowing we cannot fulfill the desire to have or feel what we are longing for. We miss what we once had and that brings us pain. So we keep the memories alive. But even the memories bring us pain because they remind us that what we want has come to its end. In truth, though, everything comes to an end. Form is only temporary but the formless is eternal. Think of ice. It serves a purpose but is it as versatile as water? Ice is ending, finite. Water is unending, infinite. All things come to an end except the things which are not “things”. And that is essentially what we become when we die.
Another way this water to ice to water transformation is evident is in the ascertaining of the things we like. Money, possessions. We like to have them. These things are comforting but they too obey the flow. We are forever going through the cycle of desiring something (this is when it is formless), conceptualising it in our mind (this is when it begins to take form as a “thought-form”) and then when we finally hold it in our hands and see it as real, it has its form.
“This too shall pass.” – otherwise known as “nothing endures” which can be seen as “no thing endures” and also, “no-thing endures.”
As people we are no-thing. We are no-thing which has temporarily become something. Elements and components, constructed and conceptualised. But the unending, infinite no-thing cannot fully become an ending, finite thing without some limitation. That limitation would be that the form must give way to the formless sooner or later. Ice to water. Flowing and freezing. Wanting and having. Living and dying. All of this is part of an eternal ebb and flow. An expanding and contracting. The lapping of the tides. A game among friends. The dance with the Tao. The breath of God herself.
Keep it real,
Live, love and play