This is adapted from a Dharma Ocean podcast of a talk given by Dr. Reggie Ray at the BlazingMountain Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado. Dr. Reginald “Reggie” Ray is the Director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation, dedicated to the evolution and flowering of the somatic teachings of the Practicing Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibetan tantric Buddhism, called the “Vajrayana,” tells us that the life force resides within each one of us in a complete and totally pure way. The entire spiritual journey is about awakening to that fact, not as an idea but as a direct experience. The idea that reality has to be mediated by something outside us, whether a person, a religion, an institution, or ideas, is literally dead because there’s no life in it. When we put our faith and reliance on the outside, we are dealing with dead matter. This means when we approach meditation, we come with bright eyes and bright hearts, and our only task is to let go of all the things that get between us and that utterly sacred foundation of our being.
When we commit to meditation as our way, we are already holders of the meditating lineage, the lineage of life. The only question is whether we are willing to admit it to ourselves. We have constructed all of these identities that obscure this burning, brilliant fire inside us, and they’ve never really worked. We’re being invited to dismantle them, but are we willing to be a star burning in space? Are we willing to be a sun blazing with light and love for everybody around us? There is a price to pay, which is all of those things that we’ve accumulated — all this heavy baggage that only obscures the truth of our own inner brilliance. But it’s not a price. It’s actually just a journey.
It’s very comforting to think that we’re small people, that we can’t really do much, that we have all these issues and traumas and problems. There is a certain amount of comfort in it. But, the problem is, it’s not who we are. It’s way too small. You do have to be alone and let go of looking around to find out you’re okay, trying to get other people to say you’re okay. I mean, it’s very lonely, but a star burning in space can only be itself in space.
The Vajrayana way, which is what this lineage is and was from the moment I started teaching, isn’t to gradually work from the outside in—taking our issues and thinking about them or telling people our story, and gradually understanding that this particular story isn’t really necessary. That’s the gradual path, and it’s not a bad thing, but that’s not our approach. Our approach is to tap directly into the life force in us. We tap directly into our beauty and our brilliance, and we do it through the Somatic Meditation practices.
In the Vajrayana, it’s said that you don’t really have to “think” about anything. We don’t even have to really have some kind of sophisticated understanding of the practices. You just do them. In Somatic Meditation, you work mostly with your body. Then this thing begins to shift in you. Things begin to change, and you don’t even know why. That’s good because if you know why then you’re creating another story. The journey is much more abrupt. It’s not that you “die,” it’s that all of a sudden, you discover there’s a kind of life in you. It is completely immaculate and utterly powerful, and it’s bursting from the inside out.
Where does the life force come from? This utterly sacred basis of our personality is born out of nothing—of space. Space gives birth to life: it’s true in a geophysical way, it’s true in a psychological way, and it’s true in a spiritual way. Nothingness gives birth. And this is the strange, sometimes shattering fact that space has given birth to life and life has given birth to us. And we are rooted in empty open space, which is the same as awareness that goes forever.
So what we’re doing on this journey is just trying to align ourselves with who we are. When we talk about who we are, we have to become who we are, and sometimes we think of that in a very individualistic way, or we think of it in a kind of psychological way, “Well, I have to be this particular person with this unique situation and these gifts,” and so on, but actually it’s much more profound than that. To be who we are is to be rooted in space which, for example, in our lineage, we do with the earth practice, where we open ourselves to the infinite space of the earth, and somehow we feel, “That’s really me, I’m home, that’s my primordial home. It’s the only time in my life I ever feel utterly safe and secure is when I’m resting in space.” I mean, that’s very strange.
The reason it feels that way is because that’s the way it is. That is our foundation, empty open space. And out of that comes this wild passion to live, which all humans have, whatever their situation. We want to live. And “living” doesn’t mean just breathing or walking around with a heartbeat. There’s much more. When we say “I want to live,” there’s something so sacred about that. We want the fire of our life to express itself. And we want to experience the world that we’re in. It’s so spiritual, this urge we have to live completely, fully, including the feeling of abandoning ourselves to the boundless energy of life.
Becoming who we are means learning how to rest in empty space when we need to replenish ourselves. When we hit a wall, we have to go back to space, and we hang out there until something happens. It takes a lot of discipline and practice, but it’s doable. We hang out; we wait. And then, all of a sudden, there’s something that starts moving and arising. It doesn’t have anything to do with who we think we are. It is happening completely outside of the ego and its endless machinations. And then we express that energy in our life, and that’s our journey. And there’s no sense of constructing an identity anywhere in there—it’s a completely natural process.
We get to the point where we understand that what we think we are is just a big obstacle and a lie. It’s a big nothing, and it’s basically pointless. It just gets in the way of the person that we think we are, the person that we’ve been trying to be, the person that we feel bad because we’re not. All those judgments circulate around some kind of idea about ourselves. We start to realize that it is an impediment. But to do that, we have to touch the emptiness, which is what we’re working on here in our meditation practice, and we have to learn to trust what comes out of it. The inspiration arises, the warmth, the word that comes up that we need to say. Becoming who we are is not knowing who we are and being willing to trust what happens with us in a very natural, spontaneous way.
And pretty soon, we just become a flowing river of life, and we touch other people from that space. We meet people in a completely different way. You meet someone, and you love them as much as you’ve ever loved anybody in your whole life. The intimacy with the world becomes so shattering, it shatters what we think and our former sense of self. So strangely enough, when we sort of lose all of our sense of who we are and what we should be doing, the experience of life becomes so brilliant and intense and beautiful. Each one of us is going to make this journey in a unique way. Each one of us is a sun in the center of a solar system, and that particular solar system is in the center of a galaxy in the center of the universe and in the center of everything, actually.
About Dharma Ocean
Dharma Ocean Foundation is a non-profit global educational organization that focuses on somatic meditation as the way to help students – of any secular or religious discipline, by teaching them the importance of embodiment in both meditation and their daily lives as taught in the “practicing lineage” of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The foundation was established in 2005 by scholar, author, and teacher Dr. Reggie Ray, and is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Southern Colorado.