Monday, December 20, 2021

True Intimacy

     Our ideas of the world, ourselves, others, life itself, are heavily influenced by our past experiences - predominantly early negative / traumatic ones: http://www.johnlovas.com/2021/10/whats-this-all-about.html
     Other powerful influences include current societal trends: "
materialism, hedonism, narcissism & nationalism, as well as a coursing nostalgia for a world that never really existed.” James Hollis

     So our heads are usually crammed with self-talk about all of the above, with little space left to clearly see, & intelligently deal with here-and-now reality! Self-talk is the echo-chamber of the noisy ego. For a balanced, appropriate approach to life, we need to cultivate a quiet ego, so we may approach life with far deeper intelligence. I highly recommend Iain McGilchrist's talks & books on balanced left- & right-hemisphere: https://channelmcgilchrist.com/

     “
A monk asked his teacher, ‘What are you thinking of in that immobile sitting position?’ ‘I think of not-thinking,’ replied the teacher. The monk asked again, ‘How do you think of not-thinking?’ ‘Beyond thinking,’ replied the teacher.
     ‘I think of not-thinking’ is a key teaching of our practice. Thoughts come. We do not try to exclude them. Our effort is to leave them alone as much as possible and let them go on their way. Not-thinking, or zazen, is how the universe thinks. We are this undivided, unfabricated movement of energy in the universe. You can call this ‘beyond thinking.

     Suzuki Roshi told us, ‘When you say, “Yes!” you forget all about yourself, and you are refreshed into some new self. Before the new self becomes the old self, you should say another, “Yes!”’
     When we can see things as they are, we are nobody special anymore. You can’t see things as they are when you have a self. When you keep saying yes and keep finding a new self, it takes you into the unknown. We keep finding a new self and don’t know what that will be. It may feel like freedom.

     True intimacy occurs when we directly experience reality for ourselves. ... Each one must find intimacy directly, not through our thinking mind, but from immediate direct experience prior to the mind’s mediation.”
     Katherine
Thanas. “The Truth of This Life. Zen Teachings on Loving the World as It Is.” Shambhala, 2018.


http://www.centredart.net/marcel-gagnon/



Thursday, December 2, 2021

Transformative Power of Deep Acceptance

      Most of us define ourselves in terms of what we can & cannot accept, and are fairly rigid about these opinions. We all realize, at some level, that deeply meaningful aspects of life powerfully influence us. BUT instead of deeply investigating these via self-reflection, self-inquiry, meditation etc, most of us do whatever we can to avoid such topics, even sliding into nihilism, denying that life has any meaning at all!

     "Existential crisis (existential dread) ... when individuals question whether their lives have meaning, purpose, or value, and are negatively impacted by the contemplation. It may be commonly, but not necessarily, tied to depression or inevitably negative speculations on purpose in life such as the futility of all effort (eg 'if one day I will be forgotten, what is the point of all of my work?')" en.wikipedia.org

      Avoidance is beneficial only when we're too young, or otherwise unable to consciously deal with reality. But avoidance so easily becomes an automatic reaction to challenges, that distraction becomes a way of life. As soon as we feel the slightest discomfort, we immediately try to escape. We rationalize our constant compulsive busyness by blaming external factors, choosing to ignore our fearfully immature inner life.

     Of course the opposite of avoidance & intolerance, is simply accepting life, as it is.

     "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less." Marie Curie

     "In time we hate that which we often fear.” William Shakespeare

     "It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live." Marcus Aurelius

     "Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility." Sigmund Freud

     "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." Joseph Campbell

     "Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire." Dan Brown

     “You take up the spiritual path only when you feel you cannot do otherwise
.” The Mother


      “Most people go to their graves believing suffering is unavoidable. How sad that is. If you turn from the possibility that it could be otherwise, you will suffer needlessly until the day you die. But here is something: the end of suffering would be the least of the benefits, if you become free. The real miracle is not the profound undoing of anguish, but the riches that would flood the freed-up ‘space.’” Jan Frazier, “When Fear Falls Away”

     
Eckhart Tolle had a very difficult childhood & severe depression, however, as a result of acceptance, his life transformed into a lasting, profoundly positive, meaningful experience. His description:

     “In my case, grace erupted into a bad karma situation: unhappy childhood, parents continuously fighting, no harmony in the environment, often lack of money, then my parents divorced which was uncommon at the time & I felt great shame about it, my Dad was like an unexploded bomb that was always ready to & did periodically explode. So the young adult became unhappy. He had absorbed unhappiness from the environment.
     So
all that’s not good karma, and because of that, suffering became unbearable, and then a surrender happened (choiceless acceptance), and then there was an eruption suddenly of grace. The fact that surrender happened in the midst of the suffering, is probably grace. So, surrender happened, and with surrender, grace could suddenly flow in fully. Grace is the essence of who you are, coming through the form (physical body & personality). So in grace then, you’re not the density of the form – the form’s density lessens. As it lessens, grace is able to flow through. The density of the form lessens through surrender or acceptance of the present moment as it is, as a spiritual practice. If you can make that your spiritual practice, you may not succeed all the time. That’s fine. Have compassion with yourself. So you have another level of acceptance behind the non-acceptance. If you don’t succeed in accepting what is, then accept that at this moment I can’t accept what is. Allow the emotion to be there, you still have space then, and grace is space.
     Grace
can enter – grace is the spaciousness of the unconditioned, the divine (primordial) consciousness. The quickest way of inviting grace to into your life is by becoming friendly with the 'isness' of this moment - no matter what form it takes. It already is anyway, so why not say yes? It doesn’t mean you can’t take action, but at the moment, it is. So you ‘go with the flow’ of life. The flow is always here & now. You never go against it. The starting point is the isness of this moment.
     With
that acceptance, the gate is open for grace to come in. If you complain about difficulties or the unsatisfactory nature of this moment, the gate or the shutters are closed so the sunlight can’t come in. It doesn’t mean you’re more powerful than the sun. The sun isn’t concerned about your shutters. So when you are somehow against the present moment, or you treat it only as a means to an end because there’s a more important place you want to get to, grace can’t operate in your life, or you only get a trickle, just to keep you going. Occasionally, for example when you’re in awe of a beautiful sunset, just for a moment the ‘complaining entity’ subsides, and in that moment grace can come in, and you can live on that one sunset for three weeks. But of course that’s only a trickle. To go from form to formlessness, is done by accepting whatever form arises in the present moment, whatever form this moment takes. With the acceptance of form, the formless opens up in you.
     And
the ultimate truth of that is in the image of the crucifixion, which I see as going beyond religion. Some people dislike it. They say it’s all to do with suffering, and it’s unhealthy, and so on. But there is a deep meaning there, that for a long time, perhaps could not be expressed in an abstract way. That meaning is that here you have the image of complete suffering of a human. He is nailed to the cross, which is a torture instrument, and this human is able to surrender & accept, ‘Not my will but thy will be done,’ and then suddenly the torture instrument becomes a symbol of the divine. Isn’t that strange? The torture instrument has become a symbol of the divine. So through acceptance, whatever looks like an obstacle, or even a dreadful thing, becomes transformed.
     Every
situation that’s accepted deeply – and if it’s a very big thing like a crucifixion, there needs to be very deep acceptance – and immediately, there’s a transformation. So grace is hiding also in that which looks dreadful. The dreadful sufferings we see all around us - they are there, but grace is hiding there. And you can only see the truth of this in yourself. I’m not saying anybody should believe in that. You have to find out for yourself that grace is hiding in what the seemingly dreadful things – even in little things that go wrong – but even more so in big things that go wrong.
     And
ultimately you see it’s not wrong, it didn’t go wrong – what it looked like in the moment when you judged it. So that’s inviting grace into your life, through bringing this deep yes to the present moment. Then your evolution accelerates. And the more you do that, the less you need the disasters, because you can operate with the flowering of consciousness. Consciousness wants to flower into this dimension, in this dimension. So it’s really welcoming what is.”
     Above
transcribed from the superb video below:



Tuesday, November 23, 2021

True Happiness & True Self

     “The only way that someone can be of help to you is by challenging your ideas.” Anthony de Mello SJ, “Awareness: Conversations with the Masters”

     “Intelligence is usually seen as the ability to think and learn, but in a rapidly changing world, there's another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn. In our daily lives, too many of us favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn. We surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions, when we should be gravitating toward those who challenge our thought process. The result is that our beliefs get brittle long before our bones. We think too much like preachers defending our sacred beliefs, prosecutors proving the other side wrong, and politicians campaigning for approval - and too little like scientists searching for truth. Intelligence is no cure, and it can even be a curse: being good at thinking can make us worse at rethinking. The brighter we are, the blinder to our own limitations we can become.
     Adam
Grant. “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know.” Viking, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbqqIYTHuwM

     “I feel that the mind is given too much attention by human beings because we’re actually led to believe that the mind represents a 100% of our consciousness, when in reality the mind is less than 1% of our consciousness. It’s just that there’s a misunderstanding about the way the mind functions.
     Everything
we’re always doing, and everything that people are engaged in to try to seek happiness, we’re actually seeking our true nature. We’re seeking the infinite Self, infinite consciousness. To give a couple of examples. For people who enjoy spectator sports, if somebody say goes to a football match, what they’re going there for is to try to experience infinite consciousness. And the way they’re trying to do that is they want to see one of their players performing in a way that just demonstrates that their activity is way beyond the capability of the mind. You see the flow of the way they play. And it creates the sense of awe and this sense of inner bliss. And that’s really true of most of the things people are engaged in. Whether it’s watching a football match or going to the opera, or watching a film, we’re always looking for that sense of heightened awareness which is beyond the mind, which is one’s true nature. And in terms of creative people, the same thing applies. So people who are writers, they like to get into the flow where what they’re writing is totally effortless. And they’re actually functioning from their effortless infinite nature.
     It’s just that they’ve been told that it’s the mind that’s doing it, but it’s never been the mind. And the same is true of musicians, dancers, artists, or poets. We’re always seeking to go beyond the limitations of the mind. And that’s what everybody is already doing, but they don’t realize that that’s what they’re doing. They think it’s because they like this particular football team or because they admire this particular musician or this particular writer. But everything has the same motivation, which is to experience one’s true nature. But the difference between a secondary mode of experience like that and ‘the greatest secret’ (self-realization or realizing our true nature) is that the greatest secret gives you direct access to that, so you don’t need any kind of intermediary.” David Bingham - I HIGHLY recommend his interviews:
http://www.nonconceptualawareness.com/

       “We seek happiness in experience after experience, relationship after relationship, therapy after therapy, workshop after workshop – even ‘spiritual’ ones, which sound so promising but never address the root cause of suffering: ignorance of our true nature.
      ... the
understanding and recognition of our true nature … is the one medicine for everything.” Mooji

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us." Marianne Williamson
 

     “The term 'perennial philosophy' was coined by Agostino Steuco (1497-1548) and refers to a fourfold realization:
      (1) there is only one Reality (call it, among other names, God, Mother, Tao, Allah, Dharmakaya, Brahman, or Great Spirit) that is the source and substance of all creation;
      (2) that while each of us is a manifestation of this Reality, most of us identify with something much smaller, that is, our culturally conditioned individual ego;
      (3) that this identification with the smaller self gives rise to needless anxiety, unnecessary suffering, and cross-cultural competition and violence; and
      (4) that peace, compassion, & justice naturally replace anxiety, needless suffering, competition, & violence when we realize our true nature as a manifestation of this singular Reality.
      The great sages and mystics of every civilization throughout human history have taught these truths in the language of their time and culture. It is the universality & timelessness of this wisdom that makes it the perfect focus for the spiritually independent seeker."
      Rami Shapiro. “Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent.” SkyLight Paths, 2013. 

     “The world is so unhappy because it is ignorant of the true Self. Man’s real nature is happiness. Happiness is inborn in the true Self. Man’s search for happiness is an unconscious search for his true Self … When a man finds it, he finds a happiness which does not come to an end.” Ramana Maharshi

     “Considering all the effort given to bolstering the ego – the emphasis on self-esteem, reputation, achievement, physical appearance, material acquisition – it’s a miracle awakening ever happens at all.” Jan Frazier, “The Freedom of Being.” 

 



 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Never Left Home

     Bruce Springsteen expressed it nicely, "everybody's got a hungry heart." It goes by many other names: "an itch we can't scratch," "ordinary unhappiness," "lack," "seeker," "neediness," "greed," "inferiority complex," "imposter syndrome," "low self-esteem," "desperation," etc. And unless cynicism & resignation have set in, we strive heroically to fill the bottomless hole in our heart with: work, food, shopping, sex, drugs, travel, and all sorts of experiences including spirituality: prayer, meditation & rituals including sweat lodges, entheogenic plant medicines like ayahuasca etc. But too often, we just "can't get no satisfaction."
     N
on-dual methods offer a surprisingly direct approach to "re-cognizing" how we're far less needy than we can imagine. Two teachers have particularly impressed me with the clarity of their teaching: "Sailor Bob" Donaldson and John Wheeler
.
     I
highly recommend listening to their 90min talk - youtube video bottom of this page. The initial (Bob's) portion has poor audio, so the text below will help:

     “I don’t teach you anything, and we don’t tell you anything. What we do is point toward, and ask you to look to where we’re pointing to, to see for yourself, because there’s nothing that you’re going to get, nothing that anybody can give you. We’re talking about non-duality or the nonconceptual present awareness, just this, nothing else. And we talk in concepts. So again, anybody new needs to realize that the concepts themselves are not the introduction, nor recognition of this. And you also realize that if you came from some conceptual point of view, you can pull apart what we recite quite easily – whatever we say, because it’s all conceptual
.
     So
we ask you to learn, if you haven’t learned already, to listen. And when we talk about listening, we’re not saying ‘head-to-head’ - taking what we say into your head, trying to analyze it. So let it wash in, in what we call, ‘heart-to-heart.’ We’re not talking about your physical heart or anything in your body. I’m talking about using the word ‘heart’ as the core of beingness or you can use the symbol of spirit if you like. When we talk about ‘heart-to-heart’ – you know what heart-to-hear is already. How many times when you heard somebody that you’ve really felt close to, heard what they were saying and you realized, ‘My heart opened up to them’? When we talk about heart-to-heart then there is natural communication.
     When it’s 'head-to-head,' you’ve got to put your concepts against the things spoken, and nothing’s going to penetrate. But if it’s heart-to-heart, there’s an openness there, and that’s communication. And it mightn’t be in the words, because the words are concepts. There might be a natural resonance there – a natural recognition of your innate true nature.
     Here we don’t say, ‘it’s only for the few,’ which you’ll hear elsewhere, ‘you have to do this & that, and it will take time & years to get there & understand it.’ In this space, everybody’s right in everybody’s natural state if you like to open yourself and drop some of the conceptual beliefs you’ve held & kept there that have become the blockages that stopped you." Sailor Bob Adamson 

     "In the beginning you might hear a few pointers to essentially get you looking in the right direction. You’ll hear many different types of pointers. If I start sharing my experience or my understanding, I might come out with a certain set of pointers & concepts as how I would frame what is the essence of what Bob was pointing to. I often come back to the basic pointer that you hear quite a lot that, there is this nature of reality or truth that is accessible to us, and if we are curious to where that resides, or how we would look at that, or where we would find that. We also often hear something to the effect that, ‘that is what you are,’ or ‘that’s already what you are.’ So this natural state or reality get’s pointed to, but in a practical way, when you want to notice that, or want to recognize that as an actual direct recognition, where you look for that, where you access that is pointed to be exactly, precisely where you are, because your natural being, your natural state is that reality that’s being talked about. So that’s a way of using pointers, & some words & concepts to try to get us simply to look in the right direction and notice something in our experience.
     Now
once we have a grasp of that, or basic sense of that, then the concepts & the pointers can fall away, and we’re just in the immediate recognition of something that’s not a concept, that is present in our experience. That’s really what this is about. Not so much about what the concept or the word is, or how it’s stated or who says it or anything like that, it’s actually something that’s being pointed to. It’s important to keep that in mind in any of these teachings & pointers, so we can go immediately into noticing what is the nature of what is present in our experience here right now, that isn’t framed by any concept. There’s clearly something here. Each one of us is present, existing, aware, alive, conscious. Whatever that is, whatever that reality is, if you notice that you’ll see that it’s not word, or an object, or a pointer. It’s not even a teaching. There’s really no particular teaching or school of thought that really can capture that, or own that, or kind of have the rights to that so to speak. But still that natural being, that knowing the essence of what we are, is actually present for all of us, even right now in this moment. And I think what we find is that, at the end of the day, as we’re looking at this, resonating with it, that that’s what you recognize at the end in terms of where the pointers are pointing to. So I would say just to encourage you to pause the concept, pause the question, pause the mind trying to grasp some particular understanding, and just simply relax & notice something very simple & available which can be pointed to.
     So
I could call it ‘the fact of your being’ or ‘that innate conscious presence that’s here right now, that’s at the root of all of our natural functioning & seeing & knowing & thinking’ and that’s there prior to any description, word, or label. Once you get that, once you resonate with that, and once you realize that that’s what we can notice, that that’s what really being pointed to, it just goes to an immediate re-cognition, an immediate looking & seeing that in direct experience.
     It’s
quite interesting because what you’ll find, is that a lot of those pointers that are used, turn out to be someone attempting to describe what your natural being is. So just to give a flavor of a few things that I would say, and encourage you to also notice right now that there is that effortless, natural given reality of your being here right now. And that’s not an attainment, and it’s not even an awakening, it’s not a liberation or some kind of spiritual state. It’s actually simpler and prior to that. And in looking at that, and recognizing what that is, you’ll find that it’s not troubled by questions & problems. It’s not divided from anything. It’s not searching for anything. It’s not limited or defective or anything like that. So the amazing thing about this is when you follow that pointer and you actually examine in your experience to just simply be curious about what is the nature of what we are here, you immediately come face to face with this obvious, undeniable fact of your true nature, and it is already having all of those characteristics we might have been searching for.
     So
that can allow us to appreciate some of these pointers, but always knowing that the pointer is not what it is. But in seeing that distinction, you can appreciate the pointers, you can enjoy the pointers, and you can be at a meeting like this and hear this being pointed to and following the pointers, but simultaneously actually directly recognizing, as it’s being discussed, that reality of who you are. And the beauty of it is it starts right now in our direct experience, if we care to recognize what’s being pointed to. And this is something that people I think miss, is that what you find is that we’re not really talking about attainment. It’s not a particular experience. It’s not a particular moment. It’s not a shift. It’s not a penny dropping. Nothing particular needs to happen, which is I think in spirituality we often subtly pick up that kind of idea that, ‘When’s it going to happen?’ ‘When am I going to be there?’ ‘Somebody got it and somebody didn’t get it.’ And subtly the mind is just kind of projecting into the future, imagining there’s something that’s going to happen to me and then ‘this’ will be the case.
     And
it turns out, which is a wonderful understanding, that that’s not the case actually. Even the most rarefied, absolute teachings that you hear, also turn out to be a little bit too complicated. So we often hear ‘awakening.’ And it seems like so and so got something at a certain time. So that would lead us to feel like maybe that could happen to me, or something like that. But that’s all conceptual. That’s all in the imaginary, conceptual picture in the mind, because if you actually look in direct experience, that awake, conscious aware presence is actually already functioning. It’s already completely clear and evident. So there we were waiting for awakening, waiting for the shift or something to happen, not actually noticing that the awakeness or the awareness or that reality was actually there without even needing the shift or the awakening. In seeing it like this, the whole structure of spirituality concepts just glides out of the picture, because you realize you don’t need anything what you already are. All those natural qualities are given by default in what’s already present.
     This
is the kind of thing that Bob pointed out to me, and that he shares. And I was able to listen to what he was saying, and just check it out and find the simplicity of the truth of the meaning of those pointers. But at no time was there some exotic awakening or shift or moment or something like that because it’s too complicated. Then those age-old pointers about ‘you are that’ and ‘your mind is the Buddha’ and ‘this is who we are’ – we recognize that, well this is what they’re trying to say, that you already are the truth of what you are, that you are that. And at that point, the need for the pointers, or the need to understand what it is and where it is and all that – that whole thing is no longer necessary for who we are because there’s that direct recognition for ourselves of the truth of what we are. It’s a simple appreciation & recognizing of something that, as was pointed out to me once, that one of the keys to it was that it’s so incredibly simple, so totally basic, and in a way so clear, so obvious that often we’ve just stepped over it and missed the essence of it. So you hear a lot of these pointers today and if you really follow what’s being said, it’s pointing back again & again & again & again in various different ways to that same basic message. And you don’t need a lot of pointers, or a lot of meetings, or a lot of time, or a lot of chewing over it, because all of that is still missing the simplicity of it. Just one meeting like this, or a discussion or heart-to-heart talk, or hearing just one direct pointer that resonates can in itself be quite sufficient, quite enough for us to notice that. So that’s just one attempt to try to share this.
" John Wheeler

 


 


Thursday, November 11, 2021

A Splendid Mystery

“We are part of a mystery, a splendid mystery
within which we must attempt to orient ourselves
if we are to have a sense of our own nature.”     Marilynne Robinson

“Why should things be easy to understand?”     Thomas Pynchon

"We are stars wrapped in skin
The
light you are seeking
has
always been within."               Rumi

     North American surveys repeatedly show that most of us have mystical experiences, but due to family, societal & other pressures, we tend to downplay, discount or suppress these powerfully meaningful events, to conform to today's materialistic orthodoxy.
      Nevertheless, more & more of us are taking direct experiences seriously, investigating, integrating, & sharing them. David Bingham is an example of someone who underwent a major shift in consciousness, referred to as 'awakening' ('enlightenment') or directly experiencing one's 'True Nature' - who or what we actually are:

     "The main thing that happened, and this is true for most people I’ve spoken to where there’s been a similar shift (in consciousness), is that seeking stops. Because up until that point, we’re convinced that we really are this human being bound in time & space, moving through time towards something that we want. That can be a spiritual motivation. It can be trying to find the perfect relationship; it can be trying to find somewhere to live that you like; trying to have children; trying to have a good job; trying to make money. All of those things are all forms of seeking. Spiritual seeking tends to come after those have been exhausted, but really, there’s no pattern to it.
     But
in terms of the integration, what took place to me is that the seeking stopped, because having seen clearly who & what you are, there’s no possibility of any seeking. So then an enfoldment takes place, because you realize that actually you’re already where you need to be. And then there’s a kind of fine tuning where one’s own inner knowing, one’s own intuition becomes much more clear. ... much more reliable. So even though there’s a desire to kind of share this, because consciousness is at the helm, it can only be shared when consciousness gives you the nod. So there isn’t anything you can do about that.
     I
n terms of personal life, the integration that took place is that actually, because there is only present awareness, then everything takes place within present awareness, so the unfolding of life, all of the stuff that continues: it appears that time’s going by, it appears as though there’s an aging process, that things are changing on the surface of life. It’s all from the point of view of completely stable knowing of who & what you truly are.

     There’s a line in the Bible where Jesus said, ‘The lilies of the field neither toil nor spin.’ And what happens in the development of consciousness is there’s a certain point that’s reached where seeking comes to an end, and then life begins to go by itself almost. So there’s a knowing of what to do in certain situations as they arise. Because there’s no motivation to do something in order to get somewhere, then everything is purely for what it is. So for instance, being here is totally about just being here with you. There isn’t anything else that actually matters. So it’s actually giving full attention to everything. So whether it’s in terms of a relationship, or whether it’s in terms of a perception, or an experience, everything is just seen purely & totally for what it is – and you’re just fully present with that.
     The state before that (ie our common, shared sense of reality), is that there’s something missing, that this is incomplete, this can be improved on, that actually I can do something to be in a better situation than this. So full attention is not something that’s available to you.

     Interviewer: People are always trying to find happiness. The human mind is always trying to move towards what it perceives as pleasure, and away from what it perceives as pain. And you go through this process where you get money, and you get material things, and hopefully you have your health and a good relationship, beautiful children and whatever, but still this feeling ‘it’s not enough.’ So we all try in our own way. It may seem unintelligent in what we’re doing, but most of us are actually trying to move towards what would appear to be an intelligent place of happiness, but unfortunately happiness on a human level doesn’t really contain the magic missing ingredients, does it?

     No, it doesn’t. And that’s part of the incentive in a way, or that’s part of the way consciousness unfolds. Because it’s that incompletion that allows the game to be played because as there really is only present awareness, then everything is already home, so there isn’t anything to find. But the way consciousness plays the game is that most of the stuff in the manifestation, is actually in contrast to its own essential nature. So it’s the idea of not being home. It’s the idea that there’s something missing. It’s the idea of incompletion. It’s the idea of impermanence. It’s the idea of imperfection. So all of the things that are actually the polar opposite of one’s true nature, are apparent in the manifestation. And in one respect, the reason it’s like that is to allow consciousness to know itself fully, because it’s by the contrast of the imperfection that perfection can be known.
"
     David
Bingham interview: http://conscious.tv/single.php?vid=4480053001

     Using terminology with which you might be more familiar, we are BOTH frightened children desperately seeking safety & unconditional love (often "in all the wrong places"), AND wise elders who are the very source of safety & unconditional love. The Zen version of this is "not one, not two." The left-hemisphere of our brain is all about looking after the noisy frightened child & discounts & tries to drown out any other approach. Our right-hemisphere recognizes the important, restricted role of the left-hemisphere AND is aware of & values a FAR broader, FAR wiser perspective.

“As a man is, so he sees.” William Blake

 

Luis Del Rio Camacho - cover photo, Orion Magazine, Autumn 2021

 

Monday, November 1, 2021

Chopped Liver or Human Being?

     “Albert Einstein called the intuitive or metaphoric mind a sacred gift. He added that the rational mind was a faithful servant. It is paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine.”
     Bob Samples. “The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness.” Jalmar, 1976.

     Einstein was pointing out how our society is becoming increasingly materialistic & hyper-rational. As a result, for many, the only satisfaction in life is: "The one who dies with the most toys wins." Our current dominant worldview, whether we fully realize it or not, is that of "scientific materialism" or "physicalism," according to which, life & consciousness is purely accidental & our life has no meaning!

     This dangerously unbalanced, nihilistic worldview has been around before our own increasingly troubled civilization, leading to the collapse of the Greek & Roman civilizations. Iain McGilchrist, former professor of literature at Oxford University, psychiatrist & author, worries that our civilization is also speeding towards demise - watch the excellent (49min) video interview at the bottom of this blog.

 

      Below, a brief transcription from a recent conversation about why there are those who firmly believe that consciousness ends with physical death; while many firmly believe, based on far more than wishful thinking, that consciousness continues beyond death:

     Rick Archer (RA), host of batgap.com: “In my own experience, and I’m really not just making this up like I’m hanging onto beliefs, but I just feel it so viscerally & so intuitively, that life is such a continuum, and it far exceeds the life span of this body. And whether this body dies tomorrow or thirty years from now, it’s obviously not in my hands, but I really trust in the sort of divine wisdom of things, the divine orchestration, and I fully feel that I’ll continue. What was that song from “Titanic” – “my heart will carry on” or something like that. I’ve interviewed so many people, I’ve read so many books and so on about near-death experiences, and I just feel that life is a continuum that just goes on and on and on. I guess the reason it’s worth dwelling on this that, although we don’t want to make too much of a fuss about beliefs, it seems to me that if a person has the orientation that I’ve just described versus the orientation that this is me, and when this dies, that’s the end of me, it seems to me that that would make a big difference in how they’d view their life, and what they felt about death. It would be a very different orientation, don’t you think?
     Connie Zweig (CZ): “Yah! It is a different orientation. I have a psychologist stepson who’s a scientist, and there’s only the material world for him. That’s all there is. And I look at it as a level of consciousness. That is a stage of development. Where there is nothing beyond the material world – that is a stage. And many people go through that stage. Some people get stuck there. But rather than sort of devalue it, I look at it as a stage.
     RA: I wouldn’t necessarily say that he’s at a lower level of consciousness than somebody who believes that there’s life after death. It’s really hard to judge levels of consciousness.
     CZ: No, it’s not beliefs, it’s experience.
     RA: I see, right, he hasn’t experienced a lot of transcendence**.
     CZ: Right, or any.
     RA: I guess that’s why you and I feel the way we do. If you add it all up, we’ve spent years sitting in the transcendent, over the past fifty. I know I’ve calculated it’s been at least six or seven years for me sitting there with my eyes closed. And that definitely grounds you in something. that you can’t shake – that you wouldn’t want to shake.
     CZ: Yah! And people who haven’t had that experience have no idea what we’re talking about. They’ve no idea. It’s like, ‘Have you eaten curry?’ You’ve eaten curry or you haven’t eaten curry. You can’t imagine it if you haven’t eaten it
.
     I
believe that a lot of the craziness we’re seeing in the culture right now is about consciousness. In some ways it’s a regressed stage that’s happening now. It’s an earlier, more primitive stage of consciousness that Trump elicited. We don’t know what’s going to happen as a result of that. But it’s all out of the closet now."
     A
very short part of an excellent (1hr 55min) interview: https://batgap.com/connie-zweig/

      **Transcendence refers to going beyond what we commonly admit to being able to think & clearly describe in words. The most deeply meaningful aspects of life - such as love & mystical experiences - which we can directly experience fit this category!

     Directly related to this, I highly recommend: Mark Gober. “An End to Upside Down Thinking: Dispelling the Myth That the Brain Produces Consciousness, and the Implications for Everyday Life.” Waterside Press, 2018.

    

 


 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Levels of Peception & Understanding - A Deep Dive

     “It’s fascinating to see how Empedocles and Parmenides explain things just as clearly as (9th century Taoist / Chan poet Hanshan), but scholars have mistranslated and even altered the Greek texts because they have no frame of reference, either intellectual or experiential, for understanding what they are saying. This process of mistranslation is incredibly significant because it’s on the basis of such misunderstandings that our Western civilization has been founded.”
     “Common Sense, An Interview with Peter Kingsley.” Parabola, 11/1/2016 https://parabola.org/2016/11/01/common-sense-an-interview-with-peter-kingsley/

     Below is imho, a priceless interview by C.S. Soong of Peter Kingsley, author of "Reality." For optimal clarity, you may choose to both read AND listen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZFdOt78lXM) to this interview

     “We – you and I and pretty much everyone – live under a kind of spell. We are spinning around in a daze, deaf & blind to what’s really going on, to what can liberate us and truly fulfill us and make us effective participants in life. Sure, we’ve got our plans for accumulating this, and attaining that, and changing him or her, but that’s all part of our self-deception, our misunderstanding of what’s essential. So often we try to convince ourselves we are living a full, contented life, but there is always pulling at our heart. Ambition and restlessness are just its shadows, and it will go on tearing at our hearts, until we start to acknowledge what is missing.
     I discovered that Parmenides & Empedocles, these two Greeks whom I knew nothing about, were on the main line. They were right at this nerve that lies at the very beginnings of Western culture as we know it. And it was the people after them, in the century or two after Parmenides & Empedocles, who realized how important they were. But then gradually, the renown, fame & reputation of Parmenides & Empedocles was eclipsed by the reputation of the people who came after, and really in a way, to my mind, weren’t doing something quite as important or fundamental at all
.

Interviewer
: ‘So let’s take Parmenides, the founder of logic, as you say in this book, considered the father of rationality, rational discursive thinking. What did you find about that legend of him and whether it was accurate?

     Well, there are many, many problems. I guess I’d always been, since I was very young, looking for something authentic, feeling there has to be something authentic, even offered to us, even in our own Western civilization, which has dismissed so much with its materialistic, rationalistic attitude, especially in today’s post-modern deconstructionist era, as passe & finished. I knew there must be something hidden at the beginning of this culture, because it didn’t make sense to me the way things have been going. And with Parmenides it was really a matter of stage-by-stage looking, looking. Now here we have a guy, supposedly according to all the histories of philosophy & history textbooks, who is a rationalist – not only a rationalist, but the founder, the father of Western rationalism, the originator of logic – but to begin with, he wrote a poem. And that’s a bit weird, because how many logicians nowadays would write a poem? It doesn’t really add up. And then, when I started looking at this poem itself, and getting enough knowledge of ancient Greek to be able to really work my way around it, I realized first of all that he isn’t the bad poet that he’s sometimes, in fact really all the time made out to be nowadays, and the incredibly skillful uses that Parmenides made out of poetry, which had effects that eventually I was able to track down and say, ‘Yes, these effects tie him in with religious traditions, spiritual traditions, mystical traditions, incantatory magical traditions. That they’d been put aside and totally ignored because people just want to look at him as a philosopher.’ If you look at a philosopher for philosophy, you’re not going to see anything else. That was the beginning. Then the other very, very important thing which wouldn’t leave me alone was the very beginning of this poem describing the origins of so-called logic. Parmenides describes how he was given all the knowledge that he presents in the rest of his poem, as the result of a journey into another world. Specifically, he describes (this ‘world’) in all the language & terminology of his times, as the journey into the world of the dead, which is where we go when we die, and also, for the Greeks, this world of the dead – Hades, and even beyond Hades – this is where traditionally, the physical world came out of. So he’s been taken to a point which nobody basically, except for a couple of heroes: Hercules, Orpheus, Odysseus, is allowed to get to while alive. So that already puts Parmenides in a very, very special place. He’s an initiate.*** But this world gives him the secret of what is beyond life as we know it. And of course immediately, that opens up the whole area of what is the purpose of life, and how does it exist, what does it mean in relation to death, which we tend to ignore and push aside as much as we can

[*** A spiritual journey is a calling. It is something initiated from somewhere beyond the ego, from a depth within the psyche that the ego has no access to on its own.” Adyashanti, “The Essence of Spirituality
     In
today's language, an 'experiencer' eg NDE: Bruce Greyson. “After. A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond.” St. Martin’s, 2021.]

Interviewer: ‘And when you talk about things like the purpose of life & meaning of death - this seems so far away from the conventional understanding of what ‘logic’ is, what it constitutes.’

     Not at all. This is one of the strange, strange paradoxes for us in the West. We can go back century after century and look at the history of philosophy to see why. It’s a really strange story, but for us, logic has come to mean a justification basically of the rationalistic worldview that we live in. This already goes back to Aristotle. Logic is used to confirm certain perceptions essentially. It’s based on certain rational rules which have been invented to justify and substantiate the way that we see things. Now if you look at say Buddhist logic in the East, which I came to know after discovering the same principles in Parmenides’ logic, you see that their logic plays a very different role. It’s actually a tool which is designed to undermine our ordinary perceptions & our ordinary values. First of all, it’s designed to not only make us question, but to make us see that this physical world doesn’t quite add up. And this is something Parmenides, and also his successor Zeno, talked about very, very beautifully. They basically say, ‘Let’s take this world on its own terms, but when you take it really seriously, and look at it truthfully, honestly & carefully, it doesn’t make sense.’ 


     “Reality is rife with paradox. Only the mind can’t figure it out.” Stephan Bodian PhD

Interviewer: ‘In what way would he characterize the human condition - the way we tend to live our lives?’

     This is something Parmenides & Empedocles go to quite a bit of trouble, right at the beginning of their respective poems, both of them, to describe the human condition specifically. And here I have a few lines from Parmenides, where he describes humans, all humans, as ‘knowing nothing. The helplessness in their chests is what steers their wandering minds, as they’re carried along in a daze, deaf & blind at the same time. Indistinguishable, undistinguishing crowds.’ It’s not a very flattering way to describe people. And it’s funny also to see how century after century of scholarship has tried to deflect this criticism away from being a criticism of humans in general, because that would include even academics & scholars, God forbid, and put it somewhere else. But this is Parmenides’ way, and also Empedocles’ way of saying, ‘Look, life as it is lived is aimless. And however much you think you’re achieving, it’s insubstantial, it’s just like leaves in the wind. It’s going to blow away and before you know it, it’s gone, and so are you.’

Interviewer: ‘And this knowing nothing reminds me quite a bit of Socrates and the dialogues he had with people, and of course you write about it in your book “Reality” – this idea that he would keep asking questions and eventually the person, who was holding & trying to justify a certain opinion, would realize that that opinion might not have any justification, and Socrates would maybe leave them, and they might be confused and a little bit dismayed. Is Socrates part of this lineage of “you think you know, but you really don’t know”? ’

     Very, very much, and … somehow through many hundreds & thousands of years, we really have forgotten, we’ve lost the sense of what Parmenides, Socrates & these people were actually doing. We get into very, very difficult water here, because we in the West, especially with democracy, we all assume that we have the right to our own opinions. And of course, on one level that is absolutely, 100, 150% justified & necessary. That’s how a democratic society works. But what’s actually been forgotten is that Socrates for example, and Parmenides wasn’t just coming in with more opinions, he was coming from a depth of awareness inside himself which he had earned, which he had discovered. And I have to emphasize there were very, very specific ways & practices in Greece in that time for coming to that state of consciousness and become stabilized in it. And the point about that state of consciousness is it’s not actually a state of believing. It’s a state of knowing. And that’s very, very difficult, because if you come into a democratic setup, whether it’s ancient Athens or modern San Francisco, the question is going to be, ‘Well, why do you say you know something that I don’t? Why do you have something to contribute that’s any better than my opinions?’ And this is a very, very delicate area, very, very delicate and very wonderful to look at, because Socrates really wasn’t putting out new opinions, new beliefs. He was aiming at, and he succeeded, in undermining peoples’ beliefs about themselves – the superficial beliefs. And of course he got into great deal of trouble – so much that he was put to death


     “We are human beings, endowed with an incredible dignity; but there’s nothing more undignified than forgetting our greatness and clutching at straws.” Peter Kingsley, “In the Dark Places of Wisdom
 
Interviewer: ‘Let’s talk about thinking and rational thought. There’s something that both Parmenides & Empedocles were trying to convey about its deficiencies, what it doesn’t accomplish for us, how it’s perhaps counterproductive to getting to real meaning. You point out how thoughts lead to division & separation. You write that “our minds are like a dog’s bladder.” Could you elaborate?’

     This is again a huge, huge area because we live here in a world of thinking, not just of opinions, but all the time with our selves where we think & think about everything, and everything is done on the basis of thinking. And what Parmenides said was, you can’t understand thinking unless you get beyond thinking. I mean this is actually impossible. You can’t understand thinking by thinking about it. And I think that a lot of modern philosophers get caught in this trap of thinking about thinking about thinking. And it just doesn’t work. And this is why when Parmenides describes, at the beginning of his poem, being carried to another world, which is the origins of this world as we know it, which lies behind this whole visible universe, he’s also talking about getting behind the structures of perception that actually maintain this world and keep it intact. And so this is the path of initiation, that you have to get behind thinking, you have to get past this world that we exist in, in order to understand it. It doesn’t mean leaving anything behind. It doesn’t mean that you have to leave thoughts behind after that. You have to come back and do the best you can in this world of thinking and in this physical world. But actually, to be able to experience another state of consciousness which, I have to say from my experience, is quite objective. It’s not a matter of, ‘Well different mystics, or different people in different traditions say that.’ There is something that exists. And I know many people would like to disagree with that. But it’s just something very, very simple. And once you experience that simplicity, then you can come back and do the best you can in this world of complexity, and continual thought & division. And I can just say one thing which for me is very, very beautiful about the teaching of Parmenides & Empedocles in particular, and I really have to emphasize that Parmenides as well as making this journey into another world & coming back with a very, very strange formulation – the earliest formulation of what logic actually is – he also was presenting extraordinary scientific discoveries in his palm, which hadn’t been talked about or mentioned or even known about by the people when he was writing. So the point I’m making is that for Parmenides & Empedocles nothing is excluded. Thinking always tends to exclude things. When we think, we have an opinion, and that automatically excludes someone else’s opinion. And this is why it’s very difficult trying to convey what someone like Parmenides was talking about. Because there is always room for the opposite. The opposite is always included, and this why it’s so beautiful how in the first half of his poem, Parmenides will say, “This logically is the way things are. This is the reality.” But then in the second half of his poem, he will actually go on and say, “Well that’s the truth, now I’m going to deceive you, and I’m going to talk about this world of illusion.” He doesn’t leave it out
.

     “The ability to appreciate paradox and doubt is a sign of spiritual maturity.” Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Interviewer: ‘There is quite a bit of discussion, particularly in the section on Empedocles in this book about the consciousness, the awareness that you were talking about. What’s there asking us or inviting us to do in the way of sensing things, of being aware of perceptions? What are they inviting us to do on a concrete level in terms of where we focus, & how we focus our consciousness?

     Well to begin with, there’s the quality of silence, of inner silence. And they (Parmenides & Empedocles) both made, as it were, a condition for coming to these practices the need in an individual to be aware that something’s missing in their lives. And if we just come to this in the same spirit that we think we can accumulate some other experience, it’s not going to work. There has to be some sense of a lack in one’s life. There has to be somehow a sense of just a little place somewhere inside us for something that’s missing, something that doesn’t quite add up, something’s that not right, maybe a sadness. And Empedocles states it very beautifully where he describes how there’s actually a place we need to come aside to inside ourselves – it can be inside or outside – which is different, which is a place apart, which is somehow outside of this perpetual round of acquisitive existence. Because if we just come to this with the same acquisitive mentality, we can get all the different black belts in martial arts and in meditation techniques, but it’s not going to be going into the right place inside us as human beings. So this element of silence was very, very important. Somehow it’s important for there to be a pause, so we can actually hear that something’s missing. It’s like if you are silent, you can actually hear the silent voice of something inside us, asking for something else. And we usually smother that call. What is so beautiful about the practices themselves, and I really feel I need to emphasize that this is something quite unknown
.
     We in the West are now in a situation, thanks to the opening-up of the world in so many ways, I have to say not in new ways, because the world has always been open, there’s always been a tremendous amount of travel, 2,000, 3,000 years ago, people were already traveling from Tibet & central Asia down to Greece and the other way around. I have to emphasize that there have always been these connections. Certainly the Western world, the Mediterranean, was not closed off from the rest of world, as people try to say before Alexander the Great and so on. This is all untrue. There were always the paths, and people did travel, remarkably fast as well.
     But what has happened now in the West is that somehow there’s a very, very deep mindset which has become very, very concrete. It’s there underneath everyday thoughts, everyday ideas, our politics so much, and that is this notion of Western civilization as something materialistic, something rational, and so what has happened for the last 200 years in particular, is when people get a spiritual craving, when they feel something is missing in their ordinary, everyday life, they look to Hinduism, Buddhism, and then to more esoteric traditions, theosophy, and recently to the wonderful Native American traditions, South American traditions, and really, if you like, the nerve of my own work, the core of it, is that there is a sacred tradition at the roots of our own Western world. And that it’s really fundamental for us now, at a collective level, to get back to that sacred core of the Western worldbehind all the misunderstandings, behind all the rationalizing, the materializing, to get back to the sacred core. Because otherwise, there really isn’t much of a future for this Western civilization. We have to somehow get back to the beginning. And so, the reason why I’m prefacing what I’m going to say in this way is here we have at the roots of Western civilization a so-called philosophy, the very birth of Western science, not just a series, but a whole system of meditation techniques. If you like you can call them yogic techniques, because they include breathing practices, and so on. And this is really quite extraordinary, that the founder of Western logic, the father of many, many aspects of science even, and with Empedocles cosmology and so on, was giving meditation techniques, yogic practices as a prerequisite for understanding teachings that would come later. And there is now remarkable archeological evidence which cannot be denied, that has been very, very strangely silenced for the last fifty years, demonstrating Parmenides, the father of logic, was in fact a priest of Apollo, and he was involved in very, very specific ecstatic practices to do with dreams, dream-interpretation, so-called incubation rituals. And these are the real foundations, these are the background of Western logic, not what we like to believe.
     But these practices, to get on to the techniques themselves, what do they offer if you want to come to them? Again, they offer everything, because nothing is excluded. On the one hand they offer techniques for going into this other state of consciousness, this other world that Parmenides described, this world of tremendous stillness, of physical stillness if you like, of meditation, certainly of mental stillness. But they didn’t just ignore the world of the senses. As I said earlier on, they also gave the most remarkable techniques, especially Empedocles, for really becoming aware through our senses, and for realizing for the first time – and it’s quite a shock when you start to do this – but normally, we are not aware. We go through the day, we drive our cars, we make breakfast, we talk with people, go out to dinner, watch television. But when you start to do these practices, you actually start to realize that that is not being aware. We don’t know how to see or listen. And this is something we believe we do, but it’s like we are sensed, we don’t sense. We don’t really sense to see, it happens to us. There’s a whole level of waking up, which brings the world together and gives it a much, much deeper meaning through these practices.

Interviewer: ‘What is reality and how does it relate to my internal state, my sense of being independent and separate from other things? How would you begin to answer this? How to Parmenides & Empedocles begin to answer that question?’

     Well we’re not separate. This is the problem. We start from the apparent sense of separateness, which really we Westerners have; Native American people don’t have that. We are not separate. And this eventually brings with it a rather beautiful realization. One can start off doing practices, by if you like, meditating. And I have to say these meditation techniques are very specific – remember, they’re being given by the founder of logic. These are not airy-fairy other-worldly techniques. These are very, very specific. You can begin by saying, ‘I am meditating,’ but then after a while you start to realize that you are being meditated, because everything is one, and everything is connected. So it’s very difficult for me in a way to start off as it were from this assumption that we are separate, because it doesn’t really work. It’s part of the illusion we were talking about earlier.

Interviewer: ‘Are there similarities between the Tao and what Parmenides & Empedocles are trying to tell us about?’

     Very, very much. And one of the principles I find so beautifully similar in Parmenides and in Taoism, is the more we try to get something for ourselves, the less we end up with. It’s this very, very strange paradox that by trying to accumulate things for ourselves, we diminish ourselves. And by somehow becoming nothing, and of course there are many misconceptions that can come up around that idea or reality of becoming nothing, then everything is given because you do become a part of everything, which is what we are in our essential natures anyway. So yes, and there is the flow. This is something that I again find so beautiful, there is this constant sense in Taoism and in Parmenides’ & Empedocles’ teaching of something natural, something organic. We tend to think of spiritual practice as often somehow unnatural, needing sacrifices, asceticism, abstention, giving up this & that, but again they say there’s nothing to give up. It’s a matter of including. But it’s a matter also of including our deeper needs, our deeper longings, our deeper urges, and not leaving those out, which can so easily happen.

Interviewer: ‘I’m going to read something from the book, Reality: ‘There is nothing left to grasp or learn. All we need has already been given and lies quietly within us. And there will be no separation, no loss, unless you are careless enough to let it go.’ So the nub of the idea is that everything we think we want or think we need or are attaching to is already internal? 

     Is already internal, and we really don’t have to struggle for it or fight for it because there’s something so clear and definite inside ourselves, that we don’t need to struggle for it outwardly. Just to give one very, very brief final example maybe, that I find so interesting, these people – Parmenides in particular, and many others from around his time and before & after in the Mediterranean two & a half thousand years ago, they were law-givers. And it’s very, very strange that for them, laws were actually given from this other world. And this is something really inconceivable to us now, because we think that if someone was to come along now and say that they were given some laws in a dream, you’d say, ‘Yeh, and what leg are you trying to pull? What are you trying to get away with?’ But these laws that were brought from this other state of consciousness, they were selfless. They weren’t concerned with what my party can get, with what I can acquire. And it’s wonderful because again, at the democratic level, with the thinking process which is absolutely beautiful & fine, you can work out laws. But there’s this other level, where laws can come through, which I have to emphasize were laws for a whole society, laws for cities, and also laws for the individual – laws that we have to live by."

      Rationality is simply mysticism misunderstood.” Peter Kingsley, 'Reality'

     See also: http://www.johnlovas.com/2020/02/maturing-beyond-ordinary-happiness.html