Q: I’ve experienced Presence through music, and it’s a very profound sense of Grace that I feel… I am being ‘played’, in a sense I am an instrument. In a way, what we call instruments are voices. My question is about this connection to the Creative, and the artifacts that come. Does art and music inform the ego of Presence? How does one be part of that manifestation but not get too involved, to keep the distance, so one doesn’t become to obsessed with that process?
ET: On the one hand, you have the creative process - music, or art. And then you have the finished product - the piece of music that is played, or the work of art that somebody contemplates.
When you ask, “Can art or music inform the ego of Presence?” – the ego doesn’t know anything about Presence, so it can’t do that. There needs to be some opening in the ego in order [for you] to be receptive to the power that is latent in music or art, that was created from that deep place.
There’s a lot of music and art that’s not necessarily created from that deep place, but the ego is trying to be clever. Let’s talk about some piece of music or work of art that comes out of connectedness with Stillness, or Presence. To some extent, the work of art or the piece of music still carries that energy field. It can put [a person] in touch with the deeper dimension within. A there’s a little bit of an opening is required. If there’s only the density of the ego, then the transformational possibilities of art or music are not realized. A little opening is required in the viewer, or the listener, and then it can be quite a wonderful thing to listen to music or to contemplate a work of art. You can be transported, if only for a moment, into that alert stillness out of which it originally came. That’s a beautiful thing.
Another aspect is “losing oneself” – going too deep, almost losing oneself in the ground out of which creativity comes. In the creative process, there’s always a balance that’s needed, so that you don’t lose yourself in Being. It could happen to an artist, it can happen to some people who awaken spiritually – they suddenly plunge so deeply into Being that they lose all interest in doing. That happened to some spiritual masters, who spent several years being without doing anything.
For example, Ramana Maharshi in India had to be fed for several years because he would not even pick up food. He was so immersed in Being that he just sat there. People recognized something extraordinary about him – which they would not have done in the West – and they put food in his mouth. But there was certainly a loss of balance, he could no longer function in this world. This of course, is an extreme example. Gradually, after a few years he was beginning to function again, and he was able to regain a balance between dealing with things out here and connectedness with Being. In a slightly minor way it happened to me, when I lost interest completely in ‘doing’ and drifted around for two years. It wasn’t a “problem” to me, it was only a problem to people who were watching me, or who knew me. So there was a loss of balance for a while, but gradually the balance re-established itself. I didn’t have a teacher, as such, so it turned out to be a natural process.
As long as you go within, and give form to that which is resting in the formless, be used by it – so that through you it can come into this world of form. Don’t stay down there and lose yourself in it – that’s not necessary.
Music is a wonderful way of getting in touch with the stillness within.
For the listener, it is important not to become dependent, however, on anything external to enter the state of Presence. Whereas music can be a help, there too needs to be a balance. If the only time you can become still is when you listen to a certain kind of music, then that’s not quite it, because you are depending on something external to get in touch with that. Use it as a help, and this is the same as a spiritual teacher or spiritual teaching – it can be a great help to listen to a tape or see a video, but don’t become totally dependent on that. Every good spiritual teacher will tell you, when the time comes “enough is enough”. The true teacher is within you. What you see in me, that which you find so precious in me, must be in you - otherwise you wouldn’t see it. A good teacher will always direct you back to yourself, and not foster any kind of dependency.
Knowing what is a help, using it, but not becoming dependent. Eventually it is necessary for you to go there without any help. You can still appreciate teachers, and teachings. I love listening to other spiritual teachers if they come from a deep place, I have great joy, and I think “Wow, this is so wonderful”. Or reading a spiritual book that comes from the deepest place – there’s still great joy in that. It has nothing to do with needing, it’s enjoying a slightly different expression of the same deep truth. It’s wonderful.
Also, you can see it wherever it is – no matter in what form it is hiding. You can see the truth shining through wherever it is hiding. It might be hiding in some ancient religion, very deeply. There you see it, shining through – there may be a lot of mythology around it, a lot of cultural beliefs around it, and yet deep down there you can see this is the truth, shining through all the mythology around it and so on. It is who you are.