Michaël Borremans, Four Fairies, 2003
Some Benjamin Smythe quotes:
These quotes are mostly culled from Benjamin’s talks on youtube. They’re edited, to a small extent for consistency, and may well be out of context. At times they may also be contradictory and Benjamin might not now agree with what’s in print here, so they’re just food for thought…and for your consideration.
Benjamin Smythe mentors therapists, teachers, students and professionals around the island who are “interested in generating less ow! and more wow! in their working, playing and loving.”
Ben’s mantra would seem to be, ’No one is in charge. No one knows. No one is coming. Everything is over.’
He says, “I am the truth. There is no other option. Since I don’t exist without you, you must be the truth, too. Wanna play? I thought I knew something. It turns out I didn’t. My heart explodes into pieces and they rain down everywhere I look. It doesn’t feel as new agey as it sounds, and that ends up being such an incredible delight. Nothing spiritual I have ever encountered has anything to do with the simple Wow I am talking about. It is this plain old life. Wow!”
Benjamin Smythe giving a talk in Milan, November 2015
Everything’s over except this. Can you find it now? Maybe we’re already free of it.
Before language…the body!
The body doesn’t need the hitch-hiker that is the social identity to do what it must do. It puts up with it. This is the opposite of joining a social club or seeking confirmation, validation. The social identity is so expensive.
I’m into the idea of it, circling around it on the periphery, I’m safe about it (it’s guaranteed) saying, “Ah yes, I’m going to get in there…” I’ve got to get down to my motivation – what am I going after really? What am I really doing this for? I’m not actually into it having dived into it with all the messiness etc. – I don’t have to force myself then. I’m sitting there working on it and having fun.
If you’re really looking at this world/the colours you can’t feel fear/anxiety.
No-one’s watching, looking or remembering so you’ve got nothing to worry about. No-one’s listening or cares. Anxiety is caused by thinking that people can see things about you that you don’t like. Do people know what you hate about yourself? You’re a mechanistic machine filled with other people’s ideas. See how full of shit the judging critic is. It’s a comedian! So, experiment & play. There are no rules. No-one asked to be born. No-one’s in charge.
Everything that has ever happened is over. Every experience is over and what’s left is indescribable. Every story is over. Just telling you is after the fact. It can’t be captured in a word.
Suffering is…”that shouldn’t have happened.”
“I” is memory.
Let listening be the default – it’s your fundamental nature. You don’t have to “do” listening – there’s no effort required.
Concerning your major “problems” in the past: See the world you’re in – this I have. This is it. My life’s happening here. Am I willing to pay any price for reality peace?
A ghost is telling another ghost something which will be forgotten about forever: “Do you want to hear my story?” What else can you do except chill out and lay around? Just keep making stuff up – cultural ideas, art and music etc. Just think about all the people that lived two-thousand years ago.
It’s so much more relaxing being like everyone else (it’s beautiful) rather than being or trying to be special. We’re all going to die!
We hate not getting what we want. We hate it! We’re like little kids.
Self-love is the cure to suffering.
No one is in charge. No one knows. No one is coming. Everything is over.
Anxiety runs on memory.
This is what’s happening. This is how it is.
When someone says, “You’re ugly!” and you reply, “I don’t know.” then it doesn’t stick.
Anything that reaches for something that isn’t in front of you, in this kind of lose just enjoying life way…all of that is fear – it’s the fear of future. The future doesn’t come. So, why would you need to believe in heaven if you haven’t seen this yet? All spirituality is, in some ways, the belief in heaven.
Every single one of us, because there really is no God, is an orphan. We’re all orphans here together.
It’s unfortunate that someone would charge money to help bring clarity.
No story of the future is true.
The story of your life is more stressful than your life.
You haven’t made a mistake. You’re just sitting there watching a video, or whatever.
No-one’s going to remember you. No-one’s going to remember all that shit. We’re all going to die. No-one’s made a mistake yet because everything’s gone. Where’s last week?
No matter what I call ‘this’, here we are. I don’t need to believe anything. I don’t need to know anything. I don’t need to have any conclusion to sit here. It’s so amazing! There’s nothing to figure out. It’s okay to not know Jack shit and just be alive. It’s the most beautiful feeling. It’s so peaceful having nothing to sell, having nothing to convince. Total ignorance!
Adding meaning is optional to any event, because sitting here right now, no meaning is required whatsoever to experience this sound. Life is already happening and the meaning is always going to be after the fact of the obviousness of this. The interpretation of this, whatever it may be, is optional for the experience of it. I can either relax or worry while I attempt to take care of my business [because I’m not in charge]. Either way, the events aren’t going to change very much and the situation is as it is.
It’s up to me how I tell the story about what’s happening, and adding meaning is optional. I can either relax or worry. The amazing thing is that a relaxed place is totally attractive. Who doesn’t want to be around someone who’s relaxed?
Notice that life’s going to keep on happening…really perfectly!
The stigma is imagined. You’re the only one who believes any stigma that comes with any experience. If you can just find the belief like…”this means this about me”…and ask, “Does it?” and ask other people who’re having a similar experience and don’t care.
What if no-one on Earth has any idea what they’re talking about? Does that hinder you in any way in investigating?
When you try to get enlightened, you’ve already decided what it is – you’re trying to get the thing you’ve decided enlightenment is. The seeker has decided that enlightenment can’t be this. It’s got something to do with some kind of payoff for “me.” There’s nothing wrong with making an effort. You can strive for enlightenment for the rest of your life, and the effort you make won’t make an effect on consciousness.
Do I want to be pissed off or not? If I want to get pissed off all I have to do is get an opinion about somebody else’s life. I’m the only one I can bother.
You can either spend your life trying to maximize dependent happiness strategies, or you can spend a year or two… solidifying, deepening, and fully trusting the independent happiness – peace, contentment, quiet love – that’s right here. Which is a better investment? Sixty years of trying to be happy with ‘stuff’ or a year or two discovering happiness that never leaves?
I recommend not making any more players and enjoying ice cream while you watch the firework show we tend to call “sun set”.
Find the contentment that’s independent. You won’t even have an opinion about other people’s lives when you’re at peace because the very act of having an opinion disturbs the peace, and what you want is to have peace.
On not having anything in common with your friend’s friends: Already we’re all connected in the simplicity of not wanting more suffering. The fundamental “don’t want to suffer” connects us all.
You can’t make a mistake. You’re just going to learn how you piss yourself off waiting, wanting and hoping for validation – and joy, happiness and connection – to come from identity, hobby, face. What are you doing? I’m looking for my happiness out there – I’m going to be pissed off now and then because this strategy that I’m employing isn’t the best one – outside happiness!
I wish you all the best. Thanks for your time.
What’s to lose? Give it a shot! You never know the connections you make, or the people you inspire. You never know! Be very clear, what is it you want to do? We’re driven to be passionate/creative. For no reason you change a life – just see what happens! Success or failure happens where? Here? In this incredible explosion? Has the universe succeeded or failed? Just see what happens if you give it a shot. Take the brakes off and follow your guts. It’s not easy and there’s no guarantee…but that’s always been the case.
If I cut off my arm you’re not going to feel it. That’s why I draw the line with the “I am you” thing. Pain isn’t shared. No-one could walk, no-one could get out of bed if pain was shared.
The simplest way to forgive yourself is to realize you’ve been doing the best you could do given the thoughts that were happening at the time. You can look back in the ‘photo-album of your life which can’t be found anywhere in the room. You’re never going to find your life if you look for it. Everything’s over…look for yesterday right now.
There’s no yesterday in the room right now. You can’t find it. So, see the world you’re in. This is all I have. This is it. This is where my life is happening. I see the ‘photo album, the Kodak moments; however if I were to actually look for them – like 30 years of meditation – can I actually find it here? How could you be a victim here if everything is over? Just sitting here. Alive. Everyone on this Earth is doing their best.
Boredom is repressed excitement. If you’re bored put a blindfold on. It’ll immediately make things interesting.
Michaël Borremans, The Pupils, 2001,
If you have negative emotions it means you want to live, because you’re curious, you want to be happy, to feel good. Negative emotions don’t arise if you don’t give a fuck. Learning something I don’t know how to do and showing up to it, even if it’s skateboarding, it’s awesome!
This, right here, is your life. You’re just going to get what you want – and not get what you want…until you die.
Hold, as an idea, that there’s nothing inside you but blood and meat. That all you have is vocabulary…words reinforcing words. Realize you’ve collected tons of other people’s ideas and haven’t stopped for a second to realize you’ve collected tons of other people’s ideas and thought about whether any of it applies to you. If you don’t do that you’ll take things as given that aren’t given like the subconscious or levels or energy or whatever.
If I fight with what I have, how does it feel? You don’t deserve nice things, life is a gamble. You’re just trying to get what you want every day, and you’re successful or not successful given the natural way that life works. You could have a playful attitude about it…but I wouldn’t add other people’s ideas to it. That doesn’t make sense.
There’s no way to screw up being you. It’s not possible. There’s just different experiences happening.
Just think about it. You’re playing survivor with all the people you love, and some, by sheer luck of genetic lottery, end up on the right team. This team simply knows how to dominate the game and understands there is no referee or rules. In fact, this team is so good at the game, it makes up invisible referees and rules for other teams to find. They simply do what they want because they understand there are no such things as rights. However, the consolation prize for knowing the campground is puppet-stringed by a small herd of psychopaths, and there’s no one for them to pass the reigns on to. In the end, any evil there is in the universe also dies.
Listening is the default. When you relax, you relax into listening. Not because you get anything, but because listening is your fundamental nature. You don’t have to ‘do’ listening. It doesn’t require any effort.
The program that you run is the particular set of beliefs you have, and those are usually in some form of language or picture or image. So imagine you’re born as potential, and then there’s stuff added. I am. ‘I am’ is pure potential, and then phum!…here comes all the so-called conditioning…all kinds of experiences begin to pile up…there’s that moment of embarrassment, that moment at high school, you’re in love etc, and it goes on and you have this story being developed. Because the story isn’t really who you are, at some point you might discover that you’re really tired. I’m exhausted being me. I’m lonely, sad, bored, angry, frustrated or whatever it is because I’m this limitless potential and I’ve somehow gotten caught or entangled in an entire story about “what I am”. I am x, y, z…and it’s felt as a limitation because it isn’t true. You’re not x, y or z. You are! Pure, creative possibility! Frustration arises because you know you’re not limited in any way. You’re not bound in any way by your circumstances. Every person on this Earth, in this instant, can drop everything and walk across the country. This particular idea that you’re locked into your social position, your community of friends, your idea of yourself, is the belief that isn’t true. You’re no more limited now than you’ve ever been. That is the usefulness of discovering what you are. You are pure potential. You are pure creativity. Tracing the ‘I am’ back to its source allows for a break, a rest…like Ramana Maharshi in his cave. Knowing what you are you can come back into the world…write a new program, create something different until that falls apart, always being able to visit the source of you. The source of you is constant and forever available…now, now, now…this, this, this. Where are you coming from? It isn’t a word…you’re never going to be able to tell someone about it. Self-inquiry is that door…to finding out who you are. What you are is spaciousness itself – you are the one I am.
Anxiety runs on memory.
When you see clearly that you’re just going to die then all this…“Am I doing this right?” or “How do I do this?” …you lose interest in the idea that it’s stressful and you have to figure it out. You don’t have to figure anything out – you just do what you want. You’re ageing, you’re waiting to die, and you’re either doing what you like or you’re not. You’re comfortable or uncomfortable, that’s it! No-one’s in charge, so if you don’t like this you just toss it aside and pick something you like – that’s how free you are! Motivation comes through not having hope. When you have no hope you just do what you want…and you hope it’s okay.
You can actually look at the world, at what’s going on…you can sit there and think about it yourself. That’s beautiful! It’s not about getting together with a group and feeling we belong. We never belong because all the categories are arbitrary. We just make them up.
Some form of “This shouldn’t be happening” is suffering. The cost of believing such and such…is suffering. Taking life personally is what hurts.
Everything that has ever happened is over. A description of the trip, or the event, is an after-thought. The minute the mouth opens it’s a report after the fact. This can’t be held onto or grabbed in any way. There’s no “my life somewhere” here. There’s just this bird flying overhead…the trees…the wind. But even as I try to tell it to you it’s after the fact. Everything I can say…my life…every experience…is over. Every sad, blissful or happy moment, every awakening, every story, is over. What this is, is uncapturable in a word. When yesterday is held as something that actually happened, when the thought forms are being believed there’s a contraction, a density. And when everything’s over, everything’s over! The one thing that isn’t over is what’s left…and what that is, isn’t describable. Incredible! Obvious…and maybe not even obvious!
Most difficult situations are defined by “I’m not getting what I want.” Everything comes down to desire, to have some kind of control…to get what you want.
Isn’t it funny that we’re just going to move things around or sit still…until we die? That’s all we’re going to do! Part of what we’re going to move around are our ideas about what this is.
Aren’t we silly? We want to know the future. We want to be safe. But none of us make it…we do all we can so that we die later.
All the reports are after the fact. As you list a series of experiences…well, they’re all gone except for this thing here which is the one thing you can’t report on.
If you can just sing and dance a bit each day…you don’t get to get out of here until you die, and you’ve known that from the age of six. All the spiritual stuff is just hocus-pocus.
For there to be freedom there has to be bondage, so rather than looking for freedom just find out if you’re bound. Where is this bondage that I’m trying to get free from?
In this moment sitting here, is there a problem? In this place is there a problem? Obviously you can perceive yesterday’s problem and tomorrow’s problem. But in this place, in the actual world, is there a problem now for you? Yes, you can think of problems all over the globe, but you’re not there. Is there any bondage here?
You don’t want to be lonely? Well, you’re alone, so the fear of loneliness is the fear of yourself. It’s the fear of what you are. You’re alone, you’re here twenty-four seven and everything else comes and goes. You’re standing on this Earth, surrounded by people who are all alone too, that’s why we have communication. We do our best to communicate to each other. Life is for you to do whatever it is you feel like you really want to do. You’re only limited by what you believe and think, and the reality of this place. The external reality is the way it is and you use it the best way you can. We want things we can’t have and we drive ourselves crazy. Like a monkey in a cage in a pet-store or the zoo, it’s running round and round in circles or holding onto the bars and screaming because it’s in a cage. Well, that’s what we’re doing to ourselves when what we want it isn’t here. When we want something and can’t have it we’re like the monkey in the cage. So, we stop by stopping wanting the thing that isn’t here.
What if this is it? This is all there is, and no-one’s coming…and no-one’s in charge…and no-one knows…and everything that’s ever happened is over.
You can do whatever you want, as no-one is in charge. Being violent takes so much effort. It is an option but it doesn’t do anything. It’s exhausting attacking other people, criticizing and having opinions. Oh God, why bother? Who cares? It’s so tiring! And you can have hope that for the rest of your life you’ll figure this out, and that your life will work out for you. You can do that as no-one’s in charge. Motivation comes from not having hope. When you have no hope you just do what you want.
Everything the human being believes is made up…by other people. Everything is made up! The school system, the way you’re supposed to dance, the way your house is supposed to look…is all made up. Somebody dead made this shit up. Whoever made up religion or the different political systems…is dead! We live on a planet where we worship the dead.
Hunger, thirst, going to the bathroom…those things rule. If you get what you want, then you’re lucky… but you’re still going to have to buy some food and drink something. The events you went through, they weren’t your fault. Whatever happened in the last six months, it’s not your fault or responsibility. It’s just the way it went. You don’t have control over the past. It happened exactly as it did, and it wasn’t your fault or responsibility. No-one is that powerful that they choose.
Everyone is serving a life sentence that ends in capital punishment.
It’s the exact opposite of everything you learned in school. You’re going to be working towards your future…well, no you’re not! You’re literally just gonna be experimenting with different shit and how to be happy and eventually you’re just gonna disappear forever and no one’s gonna remember you. So enjoy yourself as best you can.
What does it mean to be yourself? People say “Just be yourself.” and “I don’t know if I’m being myself.” Well, everything after the ‘I’…delete!
Confidence is trust.
Michaël Borremans, The Load, 2008, Oil on canvas, 40 x 49.8 cm
What’s the point in hating someone just to defend an identity that’s doomed? It’s a waste of time. We’re all just trying to enjoy this life, and we’re all going to die eventually, and we’re just doing our best to stay alive…but we’re going to fail. So in the compassion of the absurdity of our situation…all the energy it takes to hate somebody isn’t worth it, ‘cos what’s the point? It doesn’t really make sense. We’re doing the best we can do to survive. It’s relaxing to stop hating. We’re just here. When we take it so personally, asserting our own importance makes life harder for us. Finding everything to be wrong…but this is just the way it is.
We’re full of shit when we think we can change our emotions like there’s a dial. No-one has choice.
Like two people fighting for the last deckchair…on a sinking ship. We’re all fucked anyway!
When everything around us is dying, decaying, changing, transmuting – and we’re accepting that and seeing that – we can’t help but love, deeply so.
Love so much – that hate becomes impossible. Accept – feel the wonder of everything. There’s so much uniqueness in everything.
You’re sitting in a waiting room, so play! Try everything.
Adding meaning is optional to any event. You can relax or worry. The interpretation or meaning is optional to the experience of it, and comes afterwards.
The greatest limitation on the spiritual path is the lack of imagination. You’ve got to have imagination!
Focus on what you care about, not on what’s not here or doesn’t matter to you. Be adaptable and enjoy the situation you’re in at the moment.
Since life is short and the world is wide, the sooner you start exploring it the better.
We live, we die. We laugh and we cry. Life!
Some people might say: I had to suffer yesterday and tomorrow.
So, try something today!
No, because I’ll fail, because I failed yesterday, and I’m gonna fail tomorrow so I’m not going to try anything right now!
So what do you want?
I want yesterday to have been different. I want tomorrow today. No, I can’t do anything today.
I’m just alive. We have to call bullshit on ourselves every time we think we can go backwards or forwards. This is where I’m gonna die, this is where I’m going to live, this is where it takes place! What do we want? We’re smart enough to know that we have to do certain things to get certain things in this world. You gotta wait a little bit. You can’t have it immediately.
They say you’ve got to have a meaning or follow a path in your life. There’s not two things here. The whole story of what we’re doing is either shit we hate or shit we like. This life isn’t a lesson – it’s the dance-floor. What do you want to do? What do you really want to do? You’re smart enough and are able to learn and adapt, so what would you like to do? There’s nothing to make up. This is your life. This is it! Right here is where the artistry takes place. All we ever have is the story we think is happening. You never have a life – that’s possession. There are people who give it their best shot, people who’re terrified of doing that…and people who don’t give a fuck either way. I’ve been reading books for thirty years – dead sentences when I could be having living conversations. I find it’s not it’s actually not that interesting …reading something compared to being on the street talking to somebody or just chillin’…but there’s always this! What you’re looking at is a kind of skipping stone, and you’re one of those. That’s what I’ve found – it’s all right here! The so-called ‘path’ doesn’t exist.
Thinking, “I could have done something differently” kills the joy of life.
Hatred is blame. What or who’s to blame for life being the way it is? Follow the hatred back to the delusion that someone is to blame. Everything’s over…except memories.
You want ecstasy only…without ceasing? That’s silly! …you’re addicted to a memory!
Just think about it. You’re playing survivor with all the people you love, and some, by sheer luck of genetic lottery, end up on the right team. This team simply knows how to dominate the game and understands there is no referee or rules. In fact, this team is so good at the game, it makes up invisible referees and rules for other teams to find. It simply does what it wants because it understands there are no such things as rights. However, the consolation prize for knowing the campground is puppet-stringed by a small herd of psychopaths, and there’s no one for them to pass the reigns on to. In the end, any evil there is in the universe also dies.
Wanting to stay in bed and sleep is a form of suicide.
You’re totally confused? You’re here! Life is strange. We’re all here for the first time. There’s no path…there’s just this…stepping-stones, and you’re a stepping-stone.
Psychology is just nineteenth-century spirituality.
Growing up is really about overcoming anyone else’s disappointment in what you are, or who you are and what you do. That’s what growing up is, and when someone says “You can’t do that!” you go… “That’s cute!” …and you think you’re in charge.
People just fight over their certainty: “I’m right. You’re wrong.” It’s weird!
Fear has no creativity – it’s reactive. Once the resistance is gone, once you’ve reconciled “Oh fuck, this is the way it is!” then any change, any creative endeavor can happen with full participation because the one thing that keeps that from happening, that is now out of the way, is the belief that something is at stake. You cannot move effectively, efficiently and intelligently to create the situation you would like to have as long as you believe that if you don’t then you’re fucked because fear has no creativity – it’s just reactive. When you allow yourself to say, “Oh shit, I’m fucked up dude! Everything here is temporary.” When you know that everything is hopeless. When that can honestly and completely enter into the vibrancy of your experience – when it becomes the fundamental truth of the reality you operate in, then inspiration, child-like wonder and creativity is available.
Michaël Borremans, Everything Falls, 2012
Focus on what you enjoy or care about, and remove resistance to what you dislike or don’t care about so there’s no charge in that thing anymore. Don’t give something more attention than it deserves, because you won’t get that time back.
How much time would you like to waste knowing people have fun without you? Oh my God, don’t leave me please! You don’t get to possess anyone anywhere. It comes down to self-confidence, and which really comes down to maturity. You can pretend it’s not the case but you’re alone with your death and nobody can help you, and there’s a joy in knowing that.
You can’t go backwards, there’s no time machine. You didn’t know. You didn’t. You were doing the best you could. You can’t do anything yesterday. It’s impossible! This is where you’re alive. Everything you can do, you do here. You were a jerk before, but the past is over – don’t be a jerk today. You’re alive! Everyone’s doing their best and they’re not going to make it. If you can relax and have some fun, relax and have some fun!
I’m gonna sulk ‘cos I want yesterday to have been different. I failed yesterday so I’m gonna fail today, and I don’t know what tomorrow’s gonna be like.
Not being able to express yourself the way you want to is a challenge. It’s a challenge to be yourself – it’s not easy to be yourself because you don’t know your real voice. You were controlled from a very young age…it’s like…sit still – be quiet – listen to this shit – eat this – go to sleep. It’s no wonder we grow up to be adults not really understanding who we are or what we want. We can’t go backwards and get what we want – it’s just not the way reality works. It’s too simple. We think if we just think about it enough back in the past we’ll figure it out. It’s not true. It’s impossible – it only works for detective cases involving murders.
Everything that has ever happened is gone – it’s over. It’s physically over, and then the language has the ability to echo it as if it’s still taking place and that creates a nervous system of a kind which would just mean a reactive system. You can almost see a pattern of reactions.
How do you find passion in your life? You want to know what you are. That is your passion. You may have to wade through the appearances of the world, wade through the piles and piles and piles of objects to discover that none of them have anything to do with you; and when that obviousness is your experience then the search for passion will be over because you will know what you are. What you are is not swayed by a need to look any particular way. When you know yourself very naturally the appearance of expressions will happen. You will no longer be concerned how it works out because you will know what you are, and what you are is not something that can be bound by working out or not working out. If you want to find your passion, desire to know yourself as you are more than anything else in this world – even more than remaining alive.
Focus on what you care about to such a degree that you don’t focus on what you don’t care about, as you’re too busy focussing on what you do care about. I care about what I say I’m going to do – like having fun at the skate park. I can focus on the things I wish weren’t here and thus give it all my energy, or focus on things I care about. Notice how much attention what you don’t care about is getting, like the religion example – by focussing on that I’m giving it more attention than it deserves. So, just forget about it. Too busy even to have a conversation about it, and there are so many things that can fall into that category…like spirituality…what do I care? I’ll never get that time back. Believe whatever. I’m not going to focus on it. Become busy doing the things you really love to such a degree you don’t have time to lament and give energy to the shit that doesn’t matter to you. I’m tired of stressing myself out with things that don’t matter. No shit! It’s tiring because it doesn’t matter to you – of course you’re tired because it doesn’t matter! So the only obvious solution to that is to focus on the things that matter to you, and the negative stuff goes into the trash can. Direct your attention to the things you really appreciate and enjoy, like partying, dancing, or having fun, sex, or all kinds of things.
How could you be a victim here (just sitting here, just alive) if everything is over?
We live in a universe where there’s no time machine, and the haunted house is literally a photo album of images collected from an endless series of yesterday’s that cannot be found anywhere. Don’t believe me – look for your life in the actual world. Go look for these traumatic memories in the actual world. You can’t find them here. Look for them here where your life is – don’t tell a story if you can help it. Don’t tell a story about having somehow fucked it up.
We really want the haunted house to at least be true because then it will justify why we feel miserable, but the haunted house isn’t true. There’s no yesterday anywhere in the room right now. You cannot find it, so before you do anything, see the world you’re in. Oh shit, this is all I have!
Benjamin Smythe_I Am Life
benjamin smythe a beautiful disaster – April 2014