July/August, 2021

What is Your Original Face Before You were Born?

More About the Mystery….What is your Original Face before you were born?

Zen masters ask students to consider the following koan.

“When you're not thinking of anything good and anything bad, at that moment, what is your original face?”

Having had several enlightenment experiences in the 80’s and 90’s, I agree with Stephen Levine’s description that, no matter how grateful I remain for the high energy and hyperbole, these experiences have not been necessary for liberation. In fact, sometimes, they have proven themselves a distraction.

But there was a time I was gob smacked with the mystery, where I remained speechless with awe and an inability to comprehend a “me” experiencing a “you,” and I stumbled around, day after day, a drooling fool, realizing deeply that the deepest truth cannot be spoken. The mystery had nothing to press its tongue against. It could not speak. Only the illusion could be described.

Stephen Levine describes his experience this way:

“Just before my face fell off, I looked back at my life as though it were my own. I was possessed by memory…
The day I awoke with no center of gravity, my heart knew it had blown its mind.”

He went on to describe one kundalini experience after another, accumulating over years, terrifying and mysterious. These experiences are not for the weak of heart. Stephen was one of my first teachers of mindfulness, in the 70’s and 80’s, a student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. This is true mindfulness, Shambala Buddhism, not the watered- down mindfulness concept spoken of today.

Forty years of shedding one identity after another for me. Wife, daughter, woman, actress, author, mother, therapist, sister. Seeing how attached I am to these labels at the cost of all else, especially love. Seeing however, with compassion and mercy for myself, that the personality, as ill-fitting as it has seemed, has been essential to this stage of evolution.

Our personality is the shape of our grief, the manner in which we deal with our pain. A coping mechanism. A driving force from life to life that benefits greatly from the teachings of the heart.

Once able to see it was not my personality but the personality, it settled down and stopped taking itself so seriously. The personal unites with the universal. “We must dance, and we must sing, we are blest by everything,” says W.B. Yeats.

Oh mystery, what bliss ensues. Even the sun and moon dance and sing.

Love, Gopita

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