It is said that before entering the sea a river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled, from the peaks of the mountains, the long winding road crossing forests and villages. And in front of her, she sees an ocean so vast, that to enter there seems nothing more than to disappear forever. But there is no other way. The river cannot go back. Nobody can go back. To go back is impossible in existence. The river needs to take the risk of entering the ocean because only then will fear disappear, because that’s where the river will know it’s not about disappearing into the ocean, but of becoming the ocean.
John Sherman left his body and became the ocean on September 29, 2021. He was 79 years old.
Today I would like to share with you the recording of the Celebration of Life Memorial Service we had here in Ojai on November 20, 2021. There will be an online gathering to celebrate John’s life. The date is not defined yet. The link to the online meeting will be in a special issue of our newsletter.
A Meeting with John Sherman in Ojai, California on April l4, 2007.
Ramana Maharshi was born in 1879 and when he died, on April 14, 1950, he was 71 years old. Ramana brought to us an incredible, simple insight. Many saw him as a saint, an ethereal being who somehow came down from heaven to transmit and bestow upon us the experience of silence, peace and the vastness of being. But, as far as I know, this is not the way Ramana saw himself.
A Meeting with John Sherman in Boulder, Colorado on June 28, 2007
There really is a problem, a shortcoming, a sense of a false promise that afflicts us as human beings and, no matter what practices we engage in, this sense of life as a false promise, of things falling short, remains in the background.
A Meeting with John Sherman in Ojai, California on July 14, 2007.
The meditation that I speak of is the very simple meditation practice that I received from the Buddhists, I think it is called Shamata meditation. And it is just a matter of watching your breath. You sit comfortably, close your eyes, and watch your breath as it comes in and out of your nostrils. What you are after is to get a one-pointed, attentive experience of this physical sensation.
In this episode, we discuss how the search for enlightenment or self-realization is a search for an escape from life and its difficulties. The longing for awakening is actually a desire to go to sleep, to escape from the reality of your own mortality. What is possible is to free yourself of that which keeps you searching for an escape from ordinary life into an imaginary state where everything is perfectly safe and unchanging.
Have you ever noticed that whatever you think might give you peace and satisfaction fails to do so when you get it?
Why is it that even when we achieve all the goals we set out for ourselves in our lives—the perfect partner, a beautiful family, lots of money, a good job, etc. —none of that eliminates the sense that there is still something lacking?
In this episode, we discuss how your thoughts are yours to understand and to use, but they are not you. If you have negative thoughts about a present situation and there is something you can do to change it, you are free to follow those thoughts and use them to solve the problem. But if there is nothing you can do in the moment, it is safe to ignore those thoughts and put your attention on the sensation of the breath.
Gaining control over your attention may seem to be the hardest thing you have ever tried to do in your life. After all, you are turning it forcefully in the opposite direction it is accustomed to going.
During the recovery period, certain situations may trigger the appearance of fear-generated thoughts in the mind. Old patterns of reaction to circumstance may reappear and catch you by surprise. You need not be discouraged. These are merely old soldiers of fear trying desperately to keep their grip on your mind. They are just trying to protect you based on the false idea that you need protection from life itself.
The practice of Self-Directed Attention allows you to develop deep control of your attention and enables you to choose for yourself what is worth paying attention to and what is not. Over time, you increase your ability to decline to attend to thought forms that are harmful or simply irrelevant in the moment.
When you look at yourself directly with the firm intention of getting a taste (a feel, a whiff) of what it feels like to be you, the unconscious ground of fear upon which your mind developed over your lifetime dissipates. Just one look with your inner eye at the raw sense of me before any names, definitions, understandings, and emotional states eliminates that underlying context of fearfulness.
The idea of enlightenment as a magical event that makes everything perfect is a fairy tale, a misunderstanding of what it really means to be free.
If you have been on a spiritual path for any length of time, this may be a hard pill to swallow. We know. We walked a spiritual path for many years ourselves once, and taught it to many others believing that our deep understanding of spirituality had brought us home.
We live in dire times. Children are being gunned down in their own classrooms and countries with thermonuclear weaponry are threatening to use them for fear that others might use them first.
It is true that many non-profit organizations are making admirable efforts to solve localized problems around the world but they stop short. Their efforts are commendable but they do not address the root cause of all our problems: the fear of life.