Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on May 30, 2014

The Tibetan Buddhists make a big deal about what they call "gaps," chinks in the seemingly-seamless armor of our self, moments when we time-out from our incessant distractions and come up for air. Without gaps there would be no eventual realization or enlightenment.

Gaps are important because without them we are on an endless subway ride to nowhere – just going along in rapt ignorance of our own mind's actual nature. According to the Buddhists, we have managed to get it just backward and have frozen our gaze looking outward at a world of mostly our own projections. Somehow we have to flip this and learn to also look inward at the projector of all this, our own biases, rather than just outward. For this to happen there have to be breaks or intermissions in this incessant movie of life -- gaps.

There are natural gaps, like the pause at the top of the bottom of any cycle, such as the cycle of the breath, the heartbeat, day and night – what have you. The world we know is all about cycles – returns. If something does not curve and eventually return (bring returns), it is a singularity. We have no way of knowing it exists, much less getting a grasp on it. It takes gaps or breaks in the cycle for this to happen, and we have to learn where they are and how to use them.

If we can be mindful, there are natural cycles and points within any cycle where there are gaps through which it may be possible for us to step outside or away from a cycle and realize it exists. The Tibetan Buddhists are very emphatic about the importance of the points of New and Full Moon in the lunar cycle as gaps, and eclipses only make these gaps more auspicious. As an astrologer I have been studying celestial and terrestrial cycles (and their gaps) for some fifty years.

So there is no lack of gaps out there, only a lack of awareness of where these gaps are and how to use them. I am hoping that any of you reading this have had the experience of waking up or snapping out of some syndrome or cycle you were lost in. Suddenly we are back again, present, but back from where? Who knows? We can be lost in a distraction that entrances us for seconds or for years. I find it kind of scary when suddenly I wake up and realize I have been missing-in-action for who knows how long. It happens to all of us. And gaps are the means or doorway to remembering – waking up.

There are two main ways I have found to use natural gaps to better realize the nature of my own mind, one of which I have just described: studying the nature of natural cycles and their articulation points or gaps, and then learning to use them. This takes a lot of diligence, time, and practice. There is another way which has proved to be more useful in my experience and that is: practical instruction.

Unfortunately, personally speaking, I was unable to get instruction as to the nature of the mind and how to realize it from the teachers I encountered while I was growing up. Our society is just not into that. I first found it during my extensive study of Black musicians and their music. I was fortunate enough to meet and interview scores of great blues players, and I was captivated as much by their state of mind (life savvy) as by their music. Many of them knew their own minds and I did my best to learn from their example. And I did.

Later, when I met the Buddhist masters in the 1960s, and particularly the Tibetans in the early 1970s, I found instructors that I could learn from that not only knew the mind, but had a systematic method that I could actually learn. And I have done my best to do that.

I don't want to go on and on here, so I will just say this. What was needed in my case was to flip my entire mental view from gazing out at the world and trying to draw conclusions (and I was way too young for conclusions) to learning to look inward at the mind itself, as in: my own mind that, without knowing it, I already was more familiar with than I would have thought. It took the Tibetan Buddhists to help me make that flip and provide me with true spiritual sustenance, like a newborn baby finding its mother's breast – a real connection.

It was at that point that gaps became very important in my learning experience, basically with the gradual deconstruction (like the old game 'Pick-Up-Sticks') of my own self-image, locating the gaps in what had been an almost seamless veil of my attachments, and learning to see through my own grasping-ness at the nature of the mind behind my own self, something I had never seen-through up to that point except perhaps those few times that outward tragic events had shattered myself long enough for some transparency to arise.

My whole point here is that gaps or breaks in the endless distractions to which I am subject to (because of my own attachments) are the only opportunities to break through the suffocating cocoon of the self and get a breath of fresh air, to see beyond the obscurations of my own self.

I know. This is old news, but for the most part it still rules, big time. Taking advantage of the natural gaps in our clever self is difficult, difficult to find the gaps, and difficult to know how to use them. This is where a practical teacher is invaluable. I was originally quite upset to read that it is almost impossible for any of us to expect to unravel our own tightly-knit knot of self-preoccupation without someone who can point out to us how to do it. For years I had the arrogance that I could to it all myself, but I finally admitted that I had put together only certain pieces, not any whole-cloth map or route.

I didn't like the idea that I had to seek outside help from a spiritual friend, someone who actually knew how to distract me from my distractions long enough for me to see something in the mirror of the mind besides my own reflection. I found such a practical friend in the Tibetan Buddhists and what is called the "Pointing Out Instructions," not enlightenment (that comes much later I am told), but simple recognition of the true nature of the mind beyond my self's biased ministrations. There is something beyond our own self.

[Photo taken yesterday of a little Crab Spider waiting with open arms for some tiny bee to visit his flower.]