The Transparency of Things

Brad MillsTeachingsLeave a Comment


Cast your mind back to a time when you would repurpose jars for biscuit barrels or storage containers of different kinds.

The most difficult and aesthetically important job was to remove the old label that described many things, the most obvious was the contents, then things like the use by date, the ingredients, perhaps a spiel about the qualities and benefits of using the contents. Sometimes grand claims like “reduce aging” or just “making your day work” with the promise of the coffee within.

The art of removing the label involved soaking the jar in water long enough for the label to soften, as well as the glue that would at first become slimy. Gradually, the label would lift off due to only resting in the essence of the pure water and float to the surface.

Removing the jar before the process is complete would course great suffering and frustration, trying to scrape the tattered ruminant label off with a pocket knife and the even more stubborn bits still being scratched off with a thumb nail well into the life of the repurposed container, a never ending story.

With the effortless soaking the label drifts off and the container becomes transparent, both containing and contained by the essence of water and no longer separated by description. Resting in the stillness revealed what always was.

Following your breath, rest deeply in this moment, sink into the essence of the liquid now. Imagine yourself as the jar with a blank label. You can write on that space what this manifest self is called, what was the date of manifesting and what is the alleged expiry date. Maybe there is a mismatch between the content and what is described.

How have the claims of the content let you down? How critical or grandiose is the description? Has the label lived up to its claims?

Ask, “Is the content ever lasting?”

The empty jar is allowed to soak. Is the water written on the label or does it surround?
Merge with the fluidity of the water and watch the experienced label ever so slowly drifting off, remain still as the glue eases away. There may be a remaining air bubble that escapes to the relative surface. Suspended in the liquidity of the moment, try to find where this awareness drops away. Try to to find the reference point of its beginning.

As any stories of the day or decades become apparent to the awareness keep attempting to find the outside edge of the awareness or a inner reference point and watch those stories drift away. Be the water. What is inside is the same outside, the imagined separate self is neither container nor contained and no longer obscured by a label. Wonder at the transparency of things.

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