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.
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.
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:

       “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."
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
light you are seeking
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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.