Saturday, May 21, 2022

Steps Along the Way

If we closely observe ourselves, we'll notice an incessantly recurring sense of uneasiness, most readily noticed while sitting or lying down to rest. For no obvious reason, we quickly feel uncomfortable / unpleasant, and automatically shift our position to one that's more comfortable - but only for a very short while, then repeat, repeat & repeat. Besides such primarily physical bouts of dys-ease, we also notice similar recurring bouts of discomfort which we assume arises primarily from our thoughts or emotions. We assume that these are all due to external irritants eg problematic people, situations, places, etc, so we automatically try fixing or correcting these external irritants, to make ourselves comfortable 'once & for all.'

Our materialistic consumer society spends billions each year to ensure that we continue to 'shop till we drop.' Too many of us actually believe that, "The one who dies with the most toys wins."
can take lifetimes to fully recognize that we cannot control our external environment sufficiently to achieve continuous happiness. If we could, then surely addicts, people with OCD & the wealthy would be the happiest people in the world. But eventually, everyone becomes disenchanted with materialism - disappointed, bored & frustrated with experiencing, consuming, hoarding 'things.'  

Even those seeking awakening / enlightenment initially, & some for decades do so with striving acquisitiveness - using the exact same approach to seeking awakening as they used to achieve success in the material world eg business, sports, outdoor survival. BUT this egocentric, aggressive, adversarial, acquisitive left-hemisphere-dominant approach, which seems to work for some to accumulate things, actually blocks spiritual growth. This inappropriate approach to spiritual maturation - like using a sledgehammer to slice cake - is called 'spiritual materialism.'

A fascinating example of this is chronicled in Harley Rustad's biography of spiritual seeker, expert outdoor survivalist, world-traveler & blogger, Justin Alexander Shetler in, “Lost in the Valley of Death. A Story of Obsession and Danger in the Himalayas.” Justin seemed to understand the meaning of 'the finger pointing at the moon' analogy, “Religion is a very very attractive, alluring, sparkling arrow, and everybody gets focused on what kind of arrow or what it’s made of or what kinds of jewels are on it or what kinds of feathers – and no one’s looking where the arrow’s pointing, which is at truth.” He knew first-hand that, “Traveling is often exploring things that make you uncomfortable: physically, ethically, emotionally, metaphysically.” But he was seriously mistaken about continuous traveling (pejoratively referred to as 'geographic cure') & progressively more severe physical deprivation ('asceticism') being essential tools for awakening. Long ago, the Buddha showed that neither of these were helpful

But then it's human nature to stick to the skills one feels most competent at, and the temptation to use these more & more often, with ever-greater intensity - for every task! Over-reliance on a familiar tool is a well-known cognitive bias: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail." Justin pushed travel & survival in nature to the breaking point. Many of us have to 'hit rock bottom', before we finally drop our favorite approach, & become willing to learn an entirely new, appropriate skill that actually works. With respect to awakening / enlightenment, it's about relaxing our grasping / clinging, & remembering to connect with our silent, still, eternal Self - which we can only experience when our ego is very quiet

"... maybe at the end of the trail, Justin found nothing; that the harder he tried, the more it felt like he was grasping at mist — chasing tendrils higher and higher into the mountains." wondered Harley Rustad in his Dec 13, 2018 Outside magazine article. 

Of course deep self-inquiry reveals that who we truly are - our Self - is no-thing, Noumenon - "knowable only without the use of ordinary sense perception; & cannot be experienced through the senses." Helen Hamilton. "Dissolving the Ego." Balboa Press, 2021

Spiritual maturation appears to be about noticing when we contract around some 'thing' (phenomenon) which feels stressful; we learn to relax our grip on 'things' (phenomena); & remember to return to our true nature - Self, Noumenon, peace, & appropriate perspective on phenomena.

 Helen Hamilton's EXCELLENT 60 min Summary:



Saturday, May 14, 2022

Just A Shift of Perception Away ...

     You, like many others, probably have some fear & anxiety about having dental or medical procedures like fillings, blood tests, colonoscopies etc. You might start worrying days ahead, thinking of worse-case-scenarios, pain, unlikely mishaps, etc and even have some sleepless nights beforehand. When you arrive for the procedure, you're likely tired, stressed & hypervigilant, ONLY noticing & MAGNIFYING any negative perceptions that confirm your worries, while OVERLOOKING or DISMISSING all positive perceptions - "negativity bias." Afterwards, you're exhausted, mulling over how terrible it was, complaining to all who'll listen. 

     You have everything to gain if you try this very simple experiment. Decide ahead of time to focus all of your attention on radiating kind wishes to the people who'll be treating you: dentist, assistant, physician, nurse, etc. Instead of agonizing, worrying & scaring yourself, remember to be the continuous source of kindness & good wishes towards those looking after you. FEEL the warmth, love, good wishes, radiating from your chest, as when watching a sleeping beloved child, partner, or pet, and radiating loving energy to them. As soon as you feel fearful contraction, let it drop, and focus on being the open-hearted source of love, kindness, encouragement, gratitude towards these folks who are helping you. Notice also how you feel when it's all over, compared to how you usually feel.
had advised someone, who was very apprehensive about dentistry, to try the above intentional shift from fearful contraction to being the source of nurturing kindness. He just reported to me that he
had 3 excellent experiences using this technique for his last 3 dental appointments, which included a root canal & an implant placement.

     This shift from fearful contracted self-concern / frightened child to wise, loving elder is a natural evolutionary step we will all make sooner or later, AND it has to & will eventually involve not just dental/medical visits, but every aspect of our lives.

     “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” Mother Teresa

      Our son, Mike Lovas, pointed us towards Charles Eisenstein's 70-minute interview - an intelligent, realistic overview of our present global situation:

      "To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things." Zen Master Dogen

      "I was born
       when all I once feared
       I could love.”                        Rabia Basri

      "Once we are willing to be directly intimate with our life as it arises, joy emerges out of the simplest of life experiences." Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara

      “If we really were in love with the planet, and incorporated that love into all of our systems, into our money system, we would not have an ecological crisis.” Charles 
If an economy is operating outside of ecological limits, then the inevitable conclusion is that it’s going to completely erode the resource base until it implodes or collapses. So really, the choice that we have is to design and develop an economy that operates within ecological limits. That’s our only safe bet. It’s our only bet at all.” Shane
        Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future (2018) – Watch this EXCELLENT, INSPIRING 86-minute Documentary:




Monday, May 2, 2022

Awakening Awaits

     Imho, we all have one of 3 dominant worldviews:
The world's a mess & getting worse, we're all going to die anyway, end of story - nihilism
          2) Things aren't too bad for me, I'll get by, my goal is to be happy with as little stress as possible - self-centeredness.
          3) Things are perfect AND could use some improvement - awakening.

     Many people are nihilistic - they've given up all hope because they realize that self-centeredness cannot make them happy. The vast majority of people are self-centered because they still haven't realized that self-centeredness is a dead end. Self-centeredness just morphs into nihilism.
     Increasing numbers of people are awakening to the realization that we are far, far greater than what our usual state of mind ("egoic rational mind") is capable of understanding. In fact, this liberating realization is qualitatively beyond, & is therefore strongly opposed by our ego. It can take a lot of meditation practice, & sometimes challenging circumstances that defeat the ego, before the ego becomes quiet enough to allow us to see "outside the box."

      "Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor.
      Perhaps, in a way, that's where humanity is now: about to discover we're not as smart as we thought we were, will be forced by life to surrender our attacks & defenses which avail us of nothing, and finally break through into the collective beauty of who we really are." Marianne Williamson

     "The perennial philosophy, which lies at the heart of the great religions and is increasingly said to represent their deepest thinking, suggests that consciousness is central and its development is the primary goal of existence. This development will culminate in the condition variously known in different traditions as enlightenment, liberation, salvation, moksha, or satori.
     The descriptions of this condition show remarkable similarities across cultures and centuries. Its essence is the recognition that the distortions of our usual state of mind are such that we have been suffering from a case of mistaken identity. Our true nature is something much greater, an aspect of a universal consciousness, Self, Being, Mind, or God. The awakening to this true nature, claimed a Zen master, is ‘the direct awareness that you are more than this puny body or limited mind. Stated negatively, it is the realization that the universe is not external to you. Positively, it is experiencing the universe as yourself.’ … Typical is the claim by an Englishman that to realize our true identity is to ‘find that the I, one’s real, most intimate self, pervades the universe and all other beings. That the mountains, and the sea, and the stars are a part of one’s body, and that one’s soul is in touch with the souls of all creatures.’ Nor are such descriptions the exclusive province of mystics. They have been echoed by philosophers, psychologists, & physicists. ‘Out of my experience … one final conclusion dogmatically emerges,’ said the great American philosopher William James (1960). ‘There is a continuum of cosmic consciousness against which our individuality builds but accidental forces, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother sea.’
     From this perspective, evolution is a vast journey of growing self-awareness & a return to our true identity. Our current crises are seen as expressions that arise from our mistaken identity. But they can also be seen as self-created challenges that may speed us on our evolutionary journey toward ultimate self-recognition.

     Roger Walsh. "Human Survival: A Psychoevolutionary Analysis." ReVision 1985; 8: 7-10.

   Only when we recognize our true Self can we start to find peace, real happiness, & effectively help ourselves & our world. There are excellent contemporary guides - one of the finest imho is Helen Hamilton.

Helen Hamilton's EXCELLENT talk on recognizing our true Self :