Letter to a young poet
by Michael Colantoni
9 June 2014
Letter to a Young Poet
I have sat down to write this letter several times but I have had to abandon it each time. Hopefully, this current attempt does justice to the intention. I believe the problem is that I have sensed, in your writing to me, a complexity that I rarely encounter. It is a joy to converse with someone with that level of apparent eclecticism and subtlety, but it is also more challenging when attempting to properly address the possibilities. Please, understand that I cannot cover, in one letter, all the things I would like to, or should, say in reply. We will need to let this unfold. Also, if I sound, at times, preachy or didactic, it is not intended as such. I try to share my perspective and my discoveries, but only for your consideration. I do not expect or want you to adopt anything I say without challenge. I simply want you to consider it and to see where it leads. Finally, just because I write something to you, does not mean that I presume you do not already know it. You are obviously an erudite and considered person, but I do not know what it is that you know. I can also learn from you.
I acknowledge your story. I want you to feel free to share whatever of your life you wish to or that you feel will explain whatever we may be discussing at any time. I am, however, focused on possibility. This exists now, and its uncovering projects it into the future. The story that we call our past has no possibility in it. Only now has possibility. The future will be the extension of the possibilities we uncover now. When the future arrives, it will also be “now” and will contain its own possibilities. This is the new that we must find for you.
We are, all of us, at once students and teachers. The conclusion I have reached about our earthly existence is that its purpose requires us to learn and to teach. We must learn what we have not yet understood, and we must teach what we have already realised. Not one of us is the same as another. We all have things to learn, and we all have things to teach. The purpose of this process is for us, individually and collectively, to evolve in consciousness until we transcend the human experience and burst through into the realm of reality where we fully realise our true identity. Everything here is for that purpose. There is nothing else going on here – only that. But it takes on many forms, and the process is progressive along a continuum. As we each progress along that continuum towards the goal, we become incrementally more capable of expressing reality in its beauty and perfection. But until we reach the final goal, our expression remains contaminated by conditioning and a sense of limitation – both of which are not true but appear to be so. We exist within our own consciousness only, filtered through the prism of the mind, and the contents of that mind produce the appearance we take to be reality. This, of course, is only a version of reality – one corrupted by the beliefs, anticipations, memories, fears and regrets that are the content of the mind. Put simply, the world we perceive is actually a projection of our minds onto the perfect reality that surrounds us. We seek perfection because we are born with the memory of it, and we inherently know that it lies before us, if only we could look without prejudice or desire. When we write, for instance, we are performing a spiritual practice, searching for the purest form of expression but never quite achieving it.
I have a sense that you probably already understand much of what I have just said to you. If not, we can discuss this further. It is the most important point to get in life, in my humble opinion. Without it, nothing else makes sense and we drift across the landscape seeking solutions while the truth lies at our feet waiting to be discovered.
The fact is that there is nothing actually to learn. What we must do is unlearn. We must unlearn all the values, conditions, limitations, structures and fears that have been inculcated into our sense of ourselves from the moment of our birth into this human condition. None of these is true. We have forgotten the truth about ourselves and replaced it with a tragedy – the tragedy of human earthly suffering. It is not necessary.
As my teacher said when he was here: “Heaven is the earth correctly understood.”
If we can even begin to understand what this means, we will abandon hope, and replace it with anticipation. This is the promise that has been stated by all the sages throughout human history. They have all told us that the only problem we have is that we have forgotten – and all we have to do is remember. Life in this world is a process of remembering. The sages have remembered, and they report what they have found. That is the opportunity presented to us in this life, the reason we are having this unbearable experience. We are forced to suffer only by our own ignorance. Suffering is not essential, but it is required as long as we persist in our ignorance. It is the prod used by Providence to direct our path away from the ineffectual towards truth.
We must wake in the dream. By this, I mean we must realise the truth about existence while still within this appearance of truth. We are having a nightmare, and as with all nightmares, there is nothing to do for it except simply to wake up. Then you see that it was just a dream. We do not fix the dream – we just wake up and see that it was a dream. People today still talk about going to Heaven or to Hell after one dies. The good news is maybe a little startling – we are already in Hell, this is it. One of the tricks about Hell is that there is no announcement that you are there. It is a devious state that lets you believe you are in some intermediate state called “life”. But where you are is Hell, now. The good news, also, is that Heaven is in the very same place. Your own consciousness determines which one you experience. It is a question of perception. This is the quest: To learn to see reality as it is, in all its perfection, thereby transforming Hell into Heaven. In that process, you will realise much about yourself, including your inherent perfection, abundance and joy. You will learn to see that all the limitations and fears, all the inadequacies and wants, are self-imposed through the contents of your mind. They are not real.
I offer all of the preceding words for your consideration. I do not know whether you agree with any of it, but please consider it and let the picture unfold as this conversation continues – assuming it does. You may have already decided that I am mad and you want nothing more to do with it. That’s alright too. I can only refer to my own research and contemplations for this information. I can, of course, categorically state that every sage has always said exactly this truth about us. This is the central teaching of all uncorrupted religions, of all spiritual doctrines and of all gurus, yogis, avatars and other mystics. It is the “pearl of great price”.
I say all this because it is necessary that I explain the foundations of my paradigm, as it stands at present, so that what I say in the future can be understood by you : a frame of reference, if you like. My life is based on this as the tenet of all tenets. I cannot speak from anything except what I currently take to be the closest thing I have to truth. But we still live in the world as we currently find it. So we must find a way of living until the truth is realised in our consciousness. We will get to that, I promise. In the mean time, please consider what I may be promising, or insinuating, and see where it could lead, if it were true. What does it say about our mundane lives and our perceptions of ourselves and the world, if there is any basis for what I have said above? It is worth considering.
I would like to offer one of my favourite reminders:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot , full of sound and fury,
Human Beings are stories. There are seven billion stories in this world at the moment, all writing themselves and searching, often desperately, for endings. We all of us expect our tribulations to end once we find the solution or the key. Then we expect life, as it was meant to be, to start in earnest – an end to woe and the beginning of happiness. While we run around trying to find those endings, life happens to us – our story is written. When we look back over the landscape that we have traversed on this journey, we see what we call our past. It is the trail of words and feelings and anticipations, of actions and inactions, of hopes and regrets that we own as “our story”. This story is filled with events, reactions and opinions. We study it to see what we should believe about life, and we refer to it as evidence to support our warmly embraced personal paradigm. We are proud of it, or we are ashamed of it. It is used either as support for our self esteem or as ammunition for our self destruction. We take our story personally. It is our trail of glory or failure, of honour or dishonour that we have left in the dust of earthly existence. It points to our presence and activity. We know we exist because we have our story.
As a poet, of poetic sensibility, you are constantly writing to make sense of your existence and of the world that appears to surround and engulf you. You feel – and you attempt to express the truth of what you feel, like a painter uses a canvas and brushes to show what he perceives. But the expression always falls short of the truth. The truth that you feel can never be fully expressed through any form of language, be it words of prose, words of poetry, paint smears on a canvas or musical notes dancing in the air. Even the most ethereal and subtle forms of expression – even touching, smiling, eye contact or lovemaking – none of these can ever fully express the truth that you sense. We are always left feeling bereft and incomplete. This is because truth cannot be expressed. It can be hinted at. It can be pointed at. It can be insinuated, suggested and indicated. But it can not be expressed through modes of communication. Truth is an experience. In fact, it is more than that. Truth is existence itself. You can only be the truth. A flower does not communicate its qualities as a flower. It does not write a book about its flowerness. A flower simply is a flower. To appreciate a flower, you cannot hear about it, even if the greatest poet described it. You must see it, experience it first hand. Then you will understand the beauty of a flower. Then you will know what it is to smell its delicate perfume and gaze upon its glorious petals and subtle colouring.
Whilst ever we hold on to our stories, we cannot be the truth. We are, then, only a version of ourselves as told to us by the world. But we clutch our stories and protect them as if they were our very selves. We love them or despise them as if they were us. Our stories inform us as to who we seem to be and they determine who we will be tomorrow. We believe the stories as if they were true, as if they were concrete and existent in the present moment. They are just a memory having no presence in this moment except through mind. We fear that the future will bring more of the bad experiences and we hope that the future will contain more of the good experiences. Because of this, we are unable to let the future unfold as it might. We constrain tomorrow because we do not believe it. We refuse to see the unlimited potential of the next moment because we filter its possibilities through the contents of our minds, as dictated by our stories.
And yet, in reality, the stories are untrue. All our stories are untrue. They are the perceptions of a consciousness that has since moved on and changed. That earlier consciousness no longer exists. It has transformed into the consciousness that observes its world today and, however subtly, sees its world differently, thus precluding the repetition of those perceptions and, therefore, of that story. The story cannot come into the present. It died in the moment that it was created. Nothing ever actually happened. It happened in our experience, but experience is a perception. It is the layer of perception that we paint over reality. Reality is unchanging, perfect, harmonious and gentle. We do not experience it because we insist on the apparent truth of the conditioned view of reality that we have taken on as members of the collective human mind. We see and experience what we have been taught to see and experience – not what is actually there. Our heritage and our future, as consciousness, is to return to our original, pure state and to experience that which we actually are. This true identity remains in wait for us to uncover it. It is unblemished by our experience. It is as pure and good and perfect as it was at the beginning of time, and we will find it again one day – then we will recognise ourselves and be grateful for the reality of who we have always been. But we are that reality now. The possibility exists now. This is true about you in this moment. It is you that is preventing yourself from seeing who you really are because of what you have learned and experienced. You must unlearn.
Can you imagine yourself letting go of your story? Do you think you could ever see the story of your life so far as just a story? Is it possible to not take the story personally? Can you see the past as a perception that is no longer true? How can it be true? You are not what you were even yesterday, let alone five, ten or fifteen years ago. As we let go of the past, we free up our perception to more closely reflect the truth of the present moment. As we learn to unlearn, to release our presumptions about life, ourselves, the world and our relationship to all that is, we become free to see. We must strive to see what is, rather than what we have been taught. Nothing can be new as long as we hold onto what is old.
What the world thinks of us cannot be controlled by us. It will think what it chooses to think. We are who we are, and we can do that which we are suited to do and equipped to do. That is what we must pursue. The only opinion that is meaningful is your own. Act with integrity – act in a way that is consistent with your talents and potential, honestly and earnestly – and the rest is none of your business. Be the flower. Express by being. You are a poet. You channel the sensibilities that manifest as the writings of a poet. What more can you do than that? Write. Write some more. Then write, and write and write. Do not be concerned about the future or where the writing will go. Listen to the promptings of your heart. It will instruct you as you come to a crossroads. It is your silver cord connecting you to your soul, the resting place of your true identity. In listening to it, you will always be guided towards your proper destiny.
We do not know with the mind. The mind is the source of all our troubles. The mind contains what we call facts. These are not truths. Facts are collections of information about a world we do not understand and about the self we presume to be us. None of it is true. Its value is only relative to, and within the bounds of, the false perception that we take to be our lives. We can know only through our hearts. Knowing is not a process of intellection. Knowing is a feeling. It is this feeling that dictates our behaviour. We do not choose our holidays or our careers or our dinner based on a purely intellectual process. We do not think our decisions. Yes, we collect information, and process it with our minds, but in the final analysis our decision is made with our feeling. This is seated in the heart. That is where knowing comes from.
If you listen to your heart, you will find that it knows nothing of your story. The heart knows only possibility. It is unreasonable. It is irrational. It is non-linear. It contains potential that is in no way proportional to its effort. There are no limits, constraints or compromises in the heart. It has no fear or doubts. Fear and doubt are products of the mind. Life comes from the heart. All possibility resides in the heart. This must be your guide. This must be the only voice you hear, the only whisper for which you turn to listen. What does it say to you?
There is no geography in the heart. It knows nothing about circumstance or location. It carries the entire universe within itself. All manifestation has its origin in the heart. Do not confuse emotions with feeling that is felt in the heart. Emotions are of a different origin. Learn to see the difference. We react emotionally to our circumstances. Geography and our sense of being lost and far from home is emotional. The heart is never lost. It is home. By all means pursue comfortable and sympathetic surroundings, those which promote and sustain your creative impulses. But do not confuse that with your potential for creativity. That exists wherever you may physically be. Circumstance in no way impacts on the heart’s ability to guide you and to nurture you. You are always at home in your heart.
I know very well what you describe when you talk about home. You do not know where it is, but you desperately want to find it. I still seek it. I have done so for many years. But I know why I cannot find it. It does not exist in the physical universe. That impulse and yearning we feel that prompts us to search for our home, that makes us nostalgic for the home of our childhood, is actually the heart’s call to us to look for our true home. This lies in our consciousness and is reached through the heart. We will find it when we learn to unlearn sufficiently that we uncover the truth about ourselves. It is our true self calling out to us to come to it. It is waiting.
You are perfect. You are unblemished. You are pure. Nothing can change that. But if you cannot feel the truth of that, it might as well be a fiction. I know it is true. It is true about you, and it is true about me. It is true about all of us, and always has been, and always will be. But we need it to be our experience – we need to feel it as true. We cannot feel that as long as we insist on living in our story. It cannot be felt until we accept that which is always offered. We reject it because we have been taught the opposite. We believe rather than know, and what we believe is not true. So we must abandon our beliefs and find out for ourselves. We will find out by letting the moment unfold in its own way. We will find out by surrendering our cherished views, our fears and desires, and by being fully willing to see what is as it actually is – without interpretation or judgement. Then we will know who we are and what the world is. Then the world will curl up at your feet and the angels will whisper the words you need to write.
But I must bring this down to more specific, everyday considerations. What do we do if we take all that to be true? How do we live, and what do we think that would be consistent with the paradigm I have just outlined. Hopefully, you have not completely rejected my explanation, and even more hopefully, you can see some theme or essence that we can use as the main ingredient in living. So, how should we inform our mundane life to be in tune with this as the truth that powers all possibility?
We must extract the useful points that can be applied directly.
You are living in a world made up of your perceptions.
These perceptions are functions of your mind.
Your mind is a faculty of awareness but it contains all your beliefs.
Beliefs are untruths about the world and about yourself.
These beliefs were given to you.
Your beliefs create your perception of yourself and of the world.
You cannot see reality as it is because you filter it through your beliefs.
Reality is not a belief system. It is an experience. It is what is left when all beliefs have been purged.
Reality is perfect.
Reality is harmonious.
Reality is permanent.
Reality is gentle.
We must learn to see reality as it is. This occurs progressively, through unlearning.
We learn to see reality by unlearning what we believe – by not judging or desiring, but by being willing to just see.
You are that reality.
Therefore, you are perfect, unblemished and permanent.
The experience you have of life is the experience created by your mind which is contaminated by the beliefs you hold as true, as supported by your story.
Your story is not true because the consciousness that experienced that story no longer exists. It is not about you, now.
Your beliefs come from, and belong with, that story – in the past.
The past does not exist in the present, and therefore its facts do not apply.
Holding on to the story only continues the sense of limitation and imperfection that is represented by that story.
The present is only a possibility. It has not yet been written.
Limitations are not true. They are presumptions based on facts given to you by a world that is deluded and which you have incorrectly perceived.
You have no limitations.
You have nothing but possibility.
All of these points are true about you. You do not believe it. You are limited by your beliefs. I know this about you because you are a human being. You have yet to realise your true identity. When you do, you will smile.
You must act in spite of your limiting beliefs.
You are possibility.
That is what you are here to express. Choose your method and listen to your heart – that is all you need do.
The proof of all this will not come by thinking about it, or by waiting for evidence. It will come by seeing the result of acting as if it is true. We start in a small way, and progress from there.
First we commit to the outcome. Then the means will appear. We step into the void.
“Come to the edge, he said.
We are afraid, they replied.
Come to the edge, he said.
So, what do you want, specifically? Tell me, in detail, what you want and why you do not have it already. Tell me what you would like to have and do, and why you are not already there. Tell me your dearest dream, your worst fear and your greatest ambition. But look for all this in your heart. By all means list the objections that your mind will speak of. Tell me who your mind thinks you are, then listen while your heart tells you who you are. Can you hear a difference? Tell me about those differences.
If your life was exactly the way you feel it should be, what would it look like? Describe where it is, and how it works.
We will start there and find our way.
I know that what I have written appears highly hypothetical. It is not. It has been reported, not hypothesised, by all the sages that have awakened in this dream and remembered what they really are. They speak from direct experience, not doctrine, and when they speak of reality they are in that reality.
The importance of this is that, if it is true, surely we must use it to inform our lives, to direct our behaviour and to support our actions. We must break out of the shell that confines us by realising that the shell is of our own making. We can strive with confidence because the explorers have returned to tell us what we really are and of what we are capable. They have told us of our inherent perfection and of our unlimited possibilities. They tell us that reality is alive and powerful and embracing. They tell us that there is nothing in the universe but love. We are loved. We are complete. There is nothing we need. Nothing can hurt us. We are already that which we secretly hope is true, that which we dream of and strive to accomplish.
If we base our lives on this as truth, we may see outcomes that will surprise us. If we ignore it, of course, we will see nothing but continued limitation, failure and loneliness. We will continue to suffer as Providence nudges us towards reality, and we will continue to see that suffering as more evidence of the inherent ugliness and tragedy of life on earth. But if this is not necessary, if the above is true, do you want to ignore that, when the promise is that your suffering is not necessary?
It is worth thinking for a while about how this, if it is true, could impact on your life. Then experiment by acting as if it is true. The first step is to doubt – doubt everything you have ever been taught. Doubt everything you have ever experienced and the conclusions you have drawn from your experience. Doubt even what you see around you. Doubt your own story. Leave the story where it is and move forward free of the baggage of history, a free and unencumbered being willing to express truth and to see reality as it actually is. Nothing could be more practical. Nothing holds more potential for newness than the possibility that the next moment is entirely free of the moment before it.
Take this on board, and let it mull in your consciousness. See what effect it can have on your world view and, particularly, on your view of your self. Then listen to the true source of knowledge that is your heart. Act on its promptings without fear. Just see.
True change, true progress, does not come about through the continuation of old ways of being, or even from the supposed improvement of the old ways. True change requires a revolution of our sensibilities and a surrender to possibilities. We must turn our backs on the past so that we can see the future. If you can see your shadow, you are facing away from the sun. Turn and see the sun.
That is enough for now. I must abandon this letter or I will never send it to you. I will never be satisfied that I have properly expressed the ideas I want to share with you, but the reader must also make the effort to try to see what the writer is attempting to convey. Please do that. Please consider what this limited language is trying to indicate. If I wrote an entire book, it would still be inadequate to satisfy all objections to the presentation of this truth. But without the attempt, no progress can be made. I sincerely hope that you find a place for this. Then the conversation can continue.
Forgive me for the inadequacy of my words. Listen to your heart.
A friend (mfc)
“What does it mean to die? To give up everything. Death cuts you off with a very, very, very sharp razor from your attachments, from your gods, from your superstitions, from your desire for comfort, next life and so on. I am going to find out what death means because it is as important as living. So how can I find out, actually, not theoretically, what it means to die? I actually want to find out, as you want to find out. I am speaking for you, so don’t go to sleep. What does it mean to die? Put that question to yourself. While we are young, or when we are very old, this question is always there. It means to be totally free, to be totally unattached to everything that man has put together, or what you have put together, totally free. No attachments, no gods, no future, no past. You don’t see the beauty of it, the greatness of it, the extraordinary strength of it – while living to be dying. You understand what that means? While you are living, every moment you are dying, so that throughout life you are not attached to anything. That is what death means.”
– Krishnamurti, The Future is Now, Chapter 10