Category Archives: spirituality

Hacía el universo interior by Rubén González Lillo

 

Hacía el universo interior

 

La vida que he vivido no significa nada.

El cuerpo que yo he sido no es el cuerpo que ahora soy.

Las emociones que he vivido no las puedo vivir hoy.

Los recuerdos del pasado no me sirven para nada.

La vida que he vivido no la puedo vivir hoy.

Las alegrías del pasado no tienen ningún valor.

Los amores que he amado no son el verdado “Amor”.

Los caminos que he transitado no son el “Camino”.

La vida que he vivido no significa nada.

Los dolores padecidos no me pueden dolor hoy.

El pasado no lo puedo vivir hoy.

Y aquí y ahora, sentado en el cojín negro,

Ya no me queda nada.

Sólo puedo mirar hacía adentro,

Hacía el universo interior,

Para darme cuenta de que todo

Se une en la postura del zazen.

 

            Rubén González Lillo

Eckhart Tolle and the Obsession with Economic Growth

 

Eckhart Tolle and the Obsession with Economic Growth

These days the subject of mass-immigration and the Islamification of the West never seems to be absent from our news coverage. While Christians are being murdered and ethnically cleansed from the Middle East and other parts of Asia, our political and middle-class elite want us to accept more and more Muslim ‘refugees’ into our already overpopulated countries even though they know that it puts increasing pressure on housing and social services as well as depressing wages and pushing up rents for the less well-off, causing division within our societies…not to mention creating crime and other associated problems which mainly affect the working-classes.

Recently in the UK, for example, The Daily Mirror newspaper termed as ‘purely racist’ the decision of the BBC to broadcast a documentary called, ‘The Last Whites of the East End’. It’s as if not wanting to destroy one’s own country is ‘racist’ as is implicit in some statements by German, Swedish and other European politicians.

Some politicians say that immigration is “good for the economy”, as if that is all that mattered, and I myself find it difficult to make sense of the decision of Merkel and other leaders to open the flood-gates, for want of a better expression. So, it may be wise to consider what Eckhart Tolle, a now well-known spiritual teacher, has to say.

In his book ‘A New Earth’ [p.26] Eckhart Tolle says, “But we cannot really honor things if we use them as a means to self-enhancement, that is to say, if we try to find ourselves through them. This is exactly what the ego does. Ego-identification with things creates attachment to things, obsession with things, which in turn creates our consumer society and economic structures where the only measure of progress is always more. The unchecked striving for more, for endless growth, is a dysfunction and a disease. It is the same dysfunction the cancerous cell manifests, whose only goal is to multiply itself, unaware that it is bringing about its own destruction by destroying the organism of which it is a part. Some economists are so attached to the notion of growth that they can’t let go of that word, so they refer to recession as a time of “negative growth.””

In a different context, Tolle went on to say: “Every country in the world wants growth every year. That is like saying what goes up must never come down. Every politician and statesman is looking for ways to boost GDP to higher and higher levels. But what would happen if we had economic equanimity? What if President Obama as the head of the world’s strongest economy began to talk about inner peace instead of economic growth at any cost? Did making more money ever bring anyone you know permanent happiness?

We’re not talking about accepting less. We’re talking about accepting. Part of living in harmony with the Universe is accepting its physical laws which include the economic cycles of nations. Regardless of the recklessness of banks and stock traders, the universe cannot sustain continuous expansion. Even the Big Bang, which states that the universe is constantly expanding, also says that in that expansion the Universe will cool down until all the stars burn out. The universe will continue to get larger, but it will be a cold, lifeless, and dark universe bereft of planets and suns.

This too is what could happen to countries obsessed with positive economic growth. The hapless search for profit at any cost bankrupts our values and quality of life.”

Source: http://www.tolleteachings.com/obamas-economy.html

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Pakistan

Total population (UN estimates)

1950: 37,547,000    2011: 173,593,000    2018: 200,813,818

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Bangladesh

Total population (UN estimates)

1951: 41,932,000    2001: 124,355,000    2015: 160, 996,000

It would seem that since 1950 both the above Muslim countries have quadrupled their populations. Should we in the West continue to allow them to continue coming over here? What would the result be?

 

 Why are we obsessed by growth?

By Anthony Reuben, Business reporter, BBC News, 25 July 2012

Source:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18967294

The latest figures have shown that the UK economy contracted more than expected between April and June.

The output of the economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) figures fell by 0.7%, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

It follows a period of small rises and small falls in growth showing the economy has basically been stagnant.

red mushrooms

Why is that lack of growth a problem?

“In the long term, we grow because technology gets better and we get better at producing things,” says Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

“In the short term, growth is an indication that the economy is producing as much as it could be and resources are not being needlessly wasted.

“At the moment we are producing considerably less than we could be because the economy is being mismanaged.”

Creating jobs

One of the resources not being used as much as it could be is labour.

“If the economy is growing at less than about 2% a year then unemployment rises because output is just not rising fast enough,” says Prof John Van Reenen from the London School of Economics.

“With a growing population and rising wages, the economy has to grow to create jobs.”

Having more people out of work increases the amount that the government has to pay in benefits and also reduces the amount it receives in taxes.

That is a particular problem at the moment, given the debt problems currently facing the government.

“Debt matters because it has to be paid,” Jonathan Portes says.

“Growth would make it significantly easier to deal with. If we are growing slowly it gets worse and worse.”

A classic example of what happens when there is no growth is Japan, which has had almost no real growth for the past 20 years.

“Japan has stagnated, although it is not a broken society,” says Jonathan Portes.

“But low growth has been bad for young people who cannot find decent jobs.”

Low growth has also meant that its government debt as a proportion of GDP, which is a key measure, has spiralled.

It currently has a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 200%, which is the highest in the developed world.

‘More and more junk’

But some people think that a zero growth economy could be a good thing.

Brian Czech, president of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (Casse) says that the UK economy has already grown beyond its optimum size.

“There are too many problems caused by increasing production and consumption of goods and services,” he says.

Casse argues that growing the economy further creates social and environmental problems that outweigh its benefits.

“Lots of sacrifices come with growing GDP, such as working too long hours, the depersonalising of workplaces and spending on advertising to persuade people to buy more and more junk they don’t need,” Mr Czech says.

Casse’s position is certainly not a mainstream economic view, although there are strong arguments that GDP by itself is not enough to measure the state of a country or an economy.

On Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics released its latest findings in its measurements of national wellbeing.

Also, inequality in the UK economy means that growth would not necessarily benefit everyone.

But for the moment, GDP growth will remain the focus for analysts and news organisations alike every three months.

“GDP is not perfect and it ignores intangibles such as happiness and the environment, but it is still the best measure of all we produce,” says Jonathan Portes.

John Van Reenen adds: “When GDP grows, the size of the economic pie grows.”

“That allows you to slice the pie to get what you want, be it higher wages, more leisure time or increased government spending.”

Eckhart Tolle on art

 

 

Eckhart Tolle on art

I was recently watching a video of Eckhart Tolle’s Findhorn retreat and found his comments on art very interesting, as they reflect some of my own concerns. Here is an approximate quote:

True art reflects the state of consciousness from which it comes. Art should be a portal or access point to the formless or the sacred so that when we see it or experience it we experience ourselves through it. We see ourselves reflected in it – the formless shining through the form. There’s always more than what we see or hear. However, clever minds are creating pseudo art which lacks something and is totally trapped in form, it’s just manipulating old forms and nothing new has come in and nothing which can lead you back to the formless which is the original reason for all art – the sacred.

Talking about the current state of the arts and culture in general, Tolle  goes on to say in his book, The Power of Now,

“Because we live in such a mind-dominated culture, most modern art, architecture, music, and literature are devoid of beauty, of inner essence, with very few exceptions. The reason is that the people who create those things cannot — even for a moment – free themselves from their mind. So they are never in touch with that place within where true creativity and beauty arise. The mind left to itself creates monstrosities, and not only in art galleries. Look at our urban landscapes and industrial wastelands. No civilization has ever produced so much ugliness.”

What Tolle says is reflected in Douglas Murray’s recent book ‘The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam’ where he says,If that is so and art does indeed make nothing happen, then in the final analysis culture is of absolutely no importance. This is one explanation at least for why the art world currently plays the same games of facile deconstruction that the academy has engaged in. And why the partly New York imported art of tongue-in-cheek, naïve, ironic or jokey insincerity, fills so many galleries and sells for such huge sums of money. The three movements in contemporary art – the parasitic, the haunted full-stop and the studiedly insincere – are not aberrations in the culture.”

When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

 

 

When Death Comes

by Mary Oliver

 

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Benjamin Smythe quotes

amen

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!”

menu-18

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.

You’re perfect!

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.

dragonfly

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.

dragonfly

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.

dragonfly

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!

Documents:

Benjamin Smythe_I Am Life

benjamin smythe a beautiful disaster – April 2014

Lucid Living by Timothy Freke

 

 

lucid living

a book you can read

in an hour that will turn

your world inside out

by timothy freke

*****

Imagine for a moment you are dreaming. You are completely engrossed in  the dramas of your dreamworld when a mysterious stranger appears in your dream. He sidles up to you and softly whispers something extraordinary in your ear: “Psst! Wake up. You’re dreaming.”

You’re disconcerted but keep your cool. You know that the best way to deal with people who are clearly out of the box is to nod politely and hope they will go away. But the stranger is persistent. “I know it sounds mad to you right now, but you’re dreaming.”

You feel irritated: “That’s absurd!” The stranger is unperturbed:  “Is it really absurd? Haven’t you noticed how full of significant patterns and strange  coincidences your experience is? As if there is some hidden meaning? Well, that’s because this is a dream.”

You become angry: “What! Are you saying that this world is just some kind of unreal delusion?  I find that offensive. Tell that to all those people who are suffering!” The stranger is patient: “Of course this world is real. It is a real dreamworld. Its wonders are truly wonderful and its horrors are truly horrible. I’m not dismissing it. I’m simply pointing out that it’s a dream.”

You are confused: “What do you mean?” The stranger explains:  “Right now you think you are a person talking to me.  But that’s just who you temporarily appear to be in this dream. The real you is the dreamer. And this whole dreamworld exists in you.”

You feel stunned: “Are you asking me to believe that I am imagining talking to you? Surely you are not a product of my imagination?!” The stranger smiles kindly: “The person that you seem to be is not imagining this conversation with me, because that person is a part of the dream. But really you are the dreamer who is imagining everything and everyone in this dream.  We appear to be separate people having a conversation, but actually we are both the dreamer.”

You begin to panic: “Now you’re freaking me out. I’m losing my hold on who I am.” The stranger is reassuring: “Don’t worry. You’re just beginning to wake up. This is a dream of awakening. It is designed to progressively make you more conscious, until you’re conscious enough to realise that you are dreaming.”

You are confused: “But I don’t understand. How do I wake up?” The stranger looks you straight in the eyes: “You can wake up anytime you want. You simply have to want to wake up more than you fear it. And there is nothing to fear. Waking up feels good. Knowing you are dreaming is the secret of enjoying the dream.”

Your anxiety becomes excitement. You want to wake up. And the more you want to wake up the more you become conscious that you are dreaming. And that feels good. You are no longer frightened of all the terrors that may afflict you in the dream, because you know that the real you is safe. Even if the person you seem to be were to die it would be OK, because actually you are the dreamer. How marvellous!

Overwhelmed with gratitude you begin to thank the stranger, but he has moved on and is now deep in conversation with someone else, who is looking shocked and intrigued. You call after him:  “What now?” He turns to you briefly and grins: “Enjoy the dream. And help everyone else enjoy it as well, because we are all you.”

For a moment you just stand there and let this awesome realisation sink in. Then you notice nearby a number of anxious looking people hurrying about their business, fully convinced they know exactly who they are and what is going on. You smile to yourself, sidle up to one of them and whisper softly: “Psst! Wake up. You’re dreaming.”

Wouldn’t that be an amazing dream!

But how would you react if this were to actually happen to you right now? Because I am the stranger and I want to make an extraordinary suggestion…

Life is not what it seems.

 

You’re not who you think you are.

 

Life is like a dream.

 

And you are the dreamer.

 

Have you ever been conscious that you were dreaming whilst asleep at night? This is known as “lucid dreaming”. I want to suggest that it is possible to experience an ultra-­awake state I call “lucid living”, in which you are conscious that life is like a dream. But I’m not asking you to just believe me. I want to share with you a way of thinking about life that will wake you up, so that you experience lucid living for yourself.

Lucid living requires a fundamental shift of perspective, comparable to looking at one of those pictures of coloured dots that suddenly turn into a spectacular 3D image. The first such picture I looked at promised me dolphins, but I could see only dots. I didn’t know how to make the image come alive. My friends kept assuring me that, if I just stopped concentrating on the dots and focused my eyes on infinity instead, I would definitely see the 3D image. But the more I was reassured, the more irritated I became at my failure. Then suddenly, for a startling moment, the magic happened.  Dots became dolphins, leaping life­like out of the page towards me. And, just as suddenly, they were gone again. Encouraged by my brief success I kept looking until I gradually got it. Now I can see these 3D images quite easily.

Experiencing lucid living can be like this. At first it sounds ludicrous, but keep looking and eventually you will get it. The trick to viewing a 3D image is to change your visual focus. The trick to experiencing lucid living is to change the way you think. And that is what I am here to help you do.  I want to introduce you to a way of thinking about life that will utterly transform  your experience of living.

I feel privileged that you have invited me into your mind to share these ideas with you.  And I don’t want to abuse your hospitality by wasting any of your valuable time. So, I’ve kept things as concise as possible, by distilling down the simple essence of lucid philosophy. But that makes for rich reading, which means this book needs to be savoured not gulped. Speed­reading may lead to mental indigestion. The more consciously you read, the more likely you are to experience lucid living.

I am going to lead you through seven powerful insights that will work together to wake you up from the sleeping sickness that keeps you unconscious in the life­dream. Some of these insights are deceptively simple. Some may seem familiar and others may seem weird. But I urge you to approach each insight with an open mind and to give it your undivided attention. If you assume you already understand what an insight means, or you have already decided that it’s meaningless nonsense, this will prevent you awakening.

To help you avoid just reading the words and missing the meaning of each insight, I am going to suggest you perform a number of philosophical experiments. In these experiments I will talk you into experiencing lucid living by posing questions and then presenting my answers. Take time to perform each experiment yourself and see if my answers also work for you. Make sure you actually do this. Otherwise lucid living will remain just a bizarre idea.

Before we embark on our philosophical adventure, let me make something very clear. When I compare life to a dream I do not mean to denigrate it as some sort of meaningless fantasy. Life is too wonderful to be called an “illusion”, unless we whisper the word in amazement, as we might when witnessing the most astonishing magic trick. What could be more magnificent than this glorious universe, in all its multifarious extravagance? Its awesome vastness and delicate detail. Its impersonal precision and intimate intensity.  Its harsh necessities and lush sensuality. This dream of life is truly marvellous.

This is a little book with grand aspirations. It will take you less than an hour to read, but it could change your life for good.

I urge you to read it straight through, because you’re more likely to reach a philosophical climax if you take it all at once. Especially if it’s your first time.

I can’t promise to wake you up. Lucid living is like falling in love. It happens when it happens. You can’t force it and you can’t prevent it.

But I can take you on a blind date with some extremely bold and beautiful ideas. And ­ you never know ­ it might be the beginning of something big!

So let me introduce our first insight….

life is a mystery

 

 

 

The idea that life is like a dream seems preposterous because we presume we are already wide awake. But most of the time we are so unconscious we don’t even notice the most obvious thing about existence: It is an enigma of mind­boggling enormity. Life is the mother of all mysteries ­ quite literally! Yet we are normally so asleep that we manage to go about our daily business as if being alive is nothing remarkable.

Join me in a philosophical experiment and let’s examine the human predicament…

Here we are.

Meeting in this perpetual moment we call “now”.

Participants in this bizarre business we call “life”.

Awaiting the inevitable ending we call “death”.

What’s it all about?!

Do you know?

Does anyone really know?

People travel all over the world in search of mysteries and miracles, but what could be more mysterious and miraculous than life itself?

Not just what it is, but that it is at all!

When the Hubble telescope was focused on the night sky each tiny black dot revealed dozens of galaxies, with each galaxy containing millions of stars!

The universe is too immense to imagine and infinitely mysterious. And if you live to be eighty years old you will have just 4000 weeks in which to understand it.

That puts things in perspective, don’t you think?

Our predicament is so profoundly puzzling, it is astonishing that we aren’t permanently perplexed.

Most of us rush around as if there is no more to life than making a living and not thinking about dying.

We never stop to wonder.

We behave as if we know exactly what life is about, even though secretly we know we don’t.

It is as if we are mesmerised by our assumptions about life into a sort of semi­conscious trance, which anaesthetises us to the awesome strangeness of existence.

That is until the bubble bursts and we unexpectedly wake up.

It may be an encounter with death that jolts us back to life. Or the bewildering bliss of falling in love. Or a simple shaft of sunlight through a window.

Whatever form the wake­up call takes, for a marvellous moment we shake off the numbness we call “normality” and find ourselves immersed in overwhelming, unfathomable, breathtaking mystery.

Have you ever had an experience like this?

Be conscious of the mystery of existence right now.

The fact that we normally take life for granted, when it is actually so utterly mysterious, shows how unconscious we usually are.

We are so wrapped up in our opinions about life we mistake our own make­believe world for reality ­ just as when we are dreaming.

Becoming conscious of the mystery of existence is like waking up from a dream.

If you’re feeling mystified that’s good, because it means you’re ready for our second insight…

now is all you know

 

 

 

When we are asleep and dreaming, things are not what they seem. We are so engrossed in our imagination we don’t realise we are dreaming. We believe we know what is going on, but really we don’t. I want to suggest that life is like a dream. And that right now we are so engrossed in the life­dream we don’t realise we are dreaming. We believe we know what is going on, but really we don’t.

Most of us are so completely certain of our everyday understanding of life that this seems ridiculous. But are we right to be so certain? I don’t think so. I want to suggest that all we actually know for sure is what we are experiencing right now. And if we really pay attention to our experience of this moment we will discover that life is like a dream.

Join me in another philosophical experiment and let’s think it through together…

To most people the idea that life is like a dream is ludicrous. I’m a philosopher not an evangelist, so I am all in favour of giving new ideas a sceptical reception.

But I am also in favour of adopting the same sceptical attitude towards our familiar ideas.

Are you open to the possibility that your present understanding of life could be mistaken?

Is there actually anything about which you can be absolutely certain?

Can you be certain of the common sense understanding of reality taken for granted by most people in our culture?

I don’t think so.

History shows that today’s sensible certainties soon become tomorrow’s silly superstitions. We look back at many of the beliefs of our ancestors and find them crazy and amusing. Isn’t it possible that our descendants will look back at our present cultural assumptions and find them equally crazy and amusing?

Can you be certain of your own personal convictions?

I don’t think so.

Haven’t you often felt completely sure about something, only to later decide that you were wrong? Isn’t it possible you will discover your present beliefs are also wrong?

Are you with me?

You can doubt all the beliefs that you have taken on trust from other people, because you don’t know them to be true for yourself.

Do you agree?

You can doubt all beliefs that are based on your memories of the past, because memory is fallible.

That’s a full­on thought, but it’s right, isn’t it?

Is there anything about which you can be absolutely certain?

Yes.

You are experiencing something right now.

That’s indisputably true, isn’t it?

Your experience of this moment is not a belief that can be questioned. It is a self­evident certainty.

Your experience of this moment is all you can be absolutely sure of.

So the only way to really understand life is to examine your own immediate experience of living.

That’s an empowering realisation!

If you want to know what is going on you can’t rely on me or anyone else to tell you.

You must find out for yourself by paying attention to what you are experiencing right now.

And ­ I want to suggest ­ if you do become more conscious of this present moment you will discover that life is like a dream.

Ok so far? Because from here it’s a bit of a philosophical roller­coaster ride. Hang on tight. Or better still let go completely!  Because we are going to be moving fast.

Lucid living isn’t believing the theory that life is like a dream. It is directly experiencing the dream­like nature of reality in this present moment.

I want to point out some clues which suggest life is like a dream, for you to check out for yourself in your own immediate experience.

The first clue is our next insight. But be prepared. It challenges our most basic assumption about who we are…

you are not a person

 

 

 

When you are dreaming you appear to be a character within the dream. But this is only your “apparent identity”.  It is not who you really are. Actually you are awareness which is dreaming the dream. This is your “essential identity”. I am suggesting that life is like a dream. Right now you appear to be a person in  the life­dream. But this is only your apparent identity, it is not who you really are. Your essential identity is much less concrete and much more mysterious. You are awareness which is witnessing the life­dream.

If you are willing to let go of the assumption that you are a person ­ just as an experiment ­ I will point out who you really are…

Examine the reality of this present moment.

You are experiencing something right now.

That’s obvious, right?

So you are an experiencer of experiences.

That’s a weird way of seeing yourself, but it’s clearly true, isn’t it?

Try it out.

Be an experiencer of experiences.

Be awareness witnessing all that is happening right now.

Common sense, of course, says you are a person. But even in everyday speech we say: “I have a body” not “I am a body”. And we talk of “my mind’ as if the mind is something we possess, not something we are.

What is this mysterious “I” which is not the body or mind?

It is awareness which witnesses the body and mind.

Can you get that?

Over your lifetime your body has aged and your mind has matured, but don’t you feel as if something has remained the same?

Isn’t the essential you no different now from when you were younger?

What is this essential you that is constant and enduring?

It is awareness.

Awareness is the constant background of all your experiences.

Awareness is the unchanging witness of all that changes.

Awareness is the perpetual presence that is always present.

Do you agree?

Right now you are awareness witnessing a flow of experiences. This is your permanent essential identity.

Within the flow of experiences you appear to be a particular person. This is your ever­changing apparent identity.

Your apparent identity is not who you are. It is who you temporarily appear to be.

This will become obvious if you consider your daily experience of waking, dreaming and deep sleep.

When you are asleep and dreaming, the person you presently appear to be disappears from awareness and you appear to be a different person in a different dreamworld.

Your essential identity as awareness remains forever the same, but your apparent identity is completely transformed every night.

Indeed, in deep sleep your apparent identity disappears altogether! Because when awareness is unconscious you don’t appear to exist at all.

Common sense says that you are a body within which awareness comes and goes.

But in your own experience you are awareness within which the body comes and goes!

That’s an outrageous thought, but it’s right, isn’t?

Whilst you are dreaming your dreamworld seems very real ­ sometimes terrifyingly so ­ and you believe you are the person you appear to be in the dream.

But when you dream lucidly you know that this isn’t who you really are, because you know you are the dreamer witnessing the dream.

If you want to live lucidly, stop believing you are the person you appear to be right now.

Be awareness witnessing this ever­changing moment.

How are you doing? Grasping unfamiliar ideas can be a bit like trying to hold onto the soap in the bath, so take a mental breather if you need one.

But not too long, because we’re working towards a reality­shift which will ­ quite literally ­ turn the world inside out. And that will require plenty of philosophical momentum.

Ok. Ready to play? Insight number four is…

the world exists in you

 

 

 

When you dream you appear to be a dream­persona in a dreamworld, but actually you are awareness and the dreamworld exists within you. In the same way right now you appear to be a person in the life­dream, but actually you are awareness and the life­dream exists within you.

Let’s look…

Right now you are experiencing your thoughts and the world of the senses.

Do you agree?

We usually think of our thoughts as existing within awareness and the world as existing independently of awareness. But is that right?

If you pay attention to what is happening right now you will see that you experience the world as a series of sensations: visual images, tactile feelings, background sounds, ambient aromas.

And sensations exist within awareness, don’t they?

Everything you are aware of exists within awareness, otherwise you wouldn’t be aware of it!

So what is awareness?

Awareness isn’t something within your experience. It is an emptiness that contains all you are experiencing.

That’s right, isn’t it?

Become conscious of yourself as a spacious emptiness within which everything you are experiencing right now exists.

These printed words you are reading on this page exist within awareness.

All you see and hear and touch and imagine exists within awareness.

The world exists within awareness.

You may appear to be a physical body in the world, but actually you are awareness and the world exists in you.

If that comes as a shock ­ there’s more.

You don’t exist in time!

Look for yourself right now.

Time is the perpetual flow of ever­changing appearances which awareness witnesses.

Time exists within awareness.

Awareness is outside of time.

You are timeless awareness dreaming itself to be a person in time. Far out!

Are you suffering from philosophical vertigo?

Well, stay steady. Because our fifth insight is a very big idea indeed…

all is one

 

 

 

When we dream we appear to be one of many characters in our dream­drama. But actually everyone and everything is being imagined by one dreaming awareness. It is the same right now. We appear to be many separate individuals. But actually we are all different characters in the life­dream that is being dreamt by the one life­dreamer. And that’s who we really are. We are one awareness dreaming itself to be many individuals in the life­dream.

Take a look…

As a person you have different mental and physical characteristics to me.

Do you agree?

Your apparent identity is distinct from my apparent identity.

But is your essential identity as awareness distinct from my essential identity as awareness?

No.

As awareness you are a permanent witnessing presence. And as awareness so am I.

As awareness you are not in space or time. And as awareness neither am I.

We appear to be different, but essentially we are the same.

That’s right, isn’t it?

We share our essential identity as awareness in common.

As awareness we are all one.

We are one awareness dreaming itself to be many different persons in the life­dream.

We are one awareness experiencing the life­dream from the different perspectives of these different personas.

That’s massive!

Are you enjoying the ride?

Don’t be surprised to feel like you’re in the Matrix or Alice Through The Looking Glass. Because in a way you are. Except the life­story is even more full of ironic twists.

Lucid living is realising you are both the hero of your particular story and the imagination which is conceiving the whole cosmic drama.

It is understanding our sixth insight…

you are a paradox

 

 

 

When you dream you are both the source of the dream and a character within the dream. Your identity is inherently paradoxical. In the same way your identity right now is also inherently paradoxical. You are both the source of the life­dream and a character within it. You are the life­dreamer imagining yourself to be a particular person in the life­dream. Whilst you identify exclusively with your life­persona you will remain unconsciously engrossed in the life­dream. Lucid living happens when you become conscious of both poles of your paradoxical nature.

Give it a go…

You appear to be a body in the world.

Now flip it around.

You are awareness and the world exists in you.

Try it again.

You appear to be a person in time.

Flip it around.

You are a permanent presence witnessing an ever­changing flow of appearances.

Try it again.

You appear to be a separate individual.

Flip it around.

You are the life­dreamer experiencing existence from a particular point of view.

One more time.

You appear to be a character in the life­dream.

Flip it around.

You are the life­dreamer and everything is you.

Lucid living is consciously being all that you are.

Waking up to your essential identity as awareness doesn’t negate your individuality. Quite the opposite.

Lucid living is understanding just how important your individuality is. Because it is by dreaming itself to be you as an individual that the life­dreamer is able to experience the life­dream.

Lucid living is feeling truly empowered as a person. Because you know that the creative energy of the whole universe is propelling you forward in your life.

Lucid living doesn’t deny the delights and dramas of everyday existence. It charges life with new significance and meaning.

Everything you experience is a manifestation of your essential nature. So everything is showing you something about who you are ­ like a dream.

You are continually dreaming up new situations that give you the opportunity to become more conscious.

Lucid living is wholeheartedly engaging with ordinary life as an epic adventure of awakening.

Lucid living isn’t withdrawing into some detached state of enlightenment. It is enjoying an exhilarating state of enlivenment!

We have travelled a huge distance in a short time, so don’t be surprised to feel a little dizzy with philosophical jetlag.

Yet, here we are, exactly where se started. Conscious of this present moment.

Nothing has changed. Yet everything has changed. Because waking up fundamentally transforms how it feels to be a person in the life­dream.

Which brings us to the climax of our philosophical reality­check and our seventh insight…

being one is loving all

 

 

 

What is love? We love someone when we are so close we know we are not separate. Love is what we feel when we realise we are one. Normally we presume we are just the person we appear to be, so we feel connected to those we embrace within our limited sense of who we are, such as our friends and family. We are hostile to those who threaten our personal self and indifferent to everyone else. Our loving stops where our sense of self ceases. But when we realise we are everyone and everything, we find ourselves intimately connected to everyone and everything. When we know that all is one, we experience love without limits.

Check it out…

Meet me at this moment.

These words are reaching through time and space connecting us together.

I am conscious of you reading. Are you conscious of me writing?

Here we are.

The one life­dreamer meeting itself in different forms.

Apparently separate. Essentially the same.

Are you with me?

How does it feel to realise that we are not separate?

How does it feel to be one with everyone and everything?

For me it is an experience of communion and compassion.

Being one with all, I am in love with all.

When I wake up to oneness I feel a limitless love which is so deep and poignant it embraces life in all its ecstasy and agony.

I share in our collective joy and suffering.

And I find my selfish preoccupations are replaced by a longing for everyone to love living.

When I know I am the life­dreamer I want to enjoy the life­dream in all my disguises.

I want to alleviate our collective distress so that we can celebrate the miracle of existence together ­ without fear, oppression and hardship.

Don’t you also want that?

Since time immemorial wise men and women have been assuring us that love is the only solution to our problems. And they are right.

Only love can heal the divisions between us, because love is the realisation that we are one.

When we assume we are just separate individuals we act in our limited self­interest, regardless of the suffering we may cause others.

The illusion of separateness leads to selfishness and suffering.

But becoming conscious of the reality of oneness leads to the selfless desire to end all suffering and create universal wellbeing.

When we realise separateness is an illusion we understand that conflict is never between us and them, but always us against us.

This realisation has huge implications.

It means harming someone else is just hurting ourselves.

It means revenge ­ even against the most hideous of criminals ­ is hurting ourselves again.

It means war ­ no matter how righteous ­ is grotesque self­mutilation.

Think of all the needless suffering we are causing ourselves through our mistaken belief that we are separate.

Now imagine how easily we could utterly transform our collective experience of life if we simply lived lucidly in love with all.

Imagine for a moment how good the life­dream could be if we could just wake up!

Lucid living is the simple secret of transforming the life­dream from a nightmare of separateness into the joyous celebration of existence we want it to be.

I am writing these words to you because I want us to wake up.

I see what a wonder you are.

You are infinite potential playing at being a person.

You are the mystery of life made manifest.

I celebrate you.

You are different from me and yet we are one.

And it is only because we are both separate and the same we can love one another.

That’s beautiful!

I want you to see yourself as I see you, so that we can help each other enjoy this great dream of awakening.

So that we can inspire each other when we feel lucid and in love.

And comfort each other when we feel lost and alone.

So that we can walk each other home.

So that when I become engrossed in the collective coma we mistake for real life, you can remind me to live lucidly.

You may be that kind of stranger who will whisper softly…

wake up

At the Altar – On painting and spirituality‏ by Emma Chrichton Miller

 

 

At the Altar

On painting and spirituality‏

by Emma Chrichton Miller

I was in my teens when I first started to really look at paintings. Although I didn’t just look, I bathed in them, and I was perpetually teased by my friends for the tremendous length of time it took me to navigate an art gallery. This pleasure of looking and of being completely absorbed in painting has remained constant; whether ancient or modern, figurative or abstract, and whatever the style, I am prepared to give every work the chance to lure me in.

Going to an art gallery is like going to church — a spiritual experience. But what makes a painting worthy of veneration?

What is so compelling? When art was an adjunct of religion, its power was clear. But from the Renaissance on, painting, at least in the Western tradition, has preoccupied itself as intensely with secular as with overtly religious subject matter, or else with no subject at all. Yet when you are in the presence of an unequivocally great work of art, it seems to open a door to a realm of ideas and emotions not accessible through any other route. It’s a quality that goes far beyond prettiness or great skill, which on their own can numb and irritate, and it transcends the visceral excitement of paint, or the sorcery of summoning life onto canvas. Nor is it just the stories of power or desire, however literal or oblique, that binds us. There is some hankering after truth that drives us to look intently at pictures, some hunger of the spirit as much as the senses.

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Colin Drew, Untitled, 1990, oil on canvas

One way or another, I think, artists themselves have always known this. About 3-4,000 year ago, artists in Ancient Egypt began to use borders to mark off narrative scenes and decorative panels on tomb walls. The great vase-painters of Ancient Greece and the mosaicists of Ancient Rome also understood the power of the edge in transforming our relationship with an image. Rather than being continuous with our mundane world, as is sculpture for example, a framed painting, or bordered image, offers a world apart, transfigured from four down to two dimensions; a window onto an ideal space.

For those of us who love painting, this is the key to the medium’s hold over us. Be it traditional, figurative painting, or abstract; Byzantine, or cubist, and whether from the 12th century or the 21st, the core pleasure of any painting is that of moving into another world, where time is stilled and passage for the eye is swift and free. This is as true of the blue depths of a landscape by 16th century Flemish artist Joachim Patinir as it is the complexity of character, wrought in swirling oils, in a portrait by Frank Auerbach. Of course, a great deal of the experience of a painting is aesthetic and even intellectual – you enjoy the structure of forms, textures and colours and you respond to the story, or ideas, or emotions the artist is eager to communicate.  You go to painting eager for a new vision of this world.  But you also go very often with a hope, too, for a glimpse into another.  Perhaps it is this illusion of a threshold that enables painting to so readily serve as a gateway to another psychological or even spiritual domain.

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Colin Drew, Untitled, c 2005, 18 x 34 ins., oil on canvas

One painter who understood this potential very well was Balthus. In many ways a fantasist, with an unsettling fixation on young girls, he was compelling in his commitment to the power of painting to put us in touch with a spiritual dimension.  I have always been drawn to his landscapes, with their serene nostalgia for another world, and to his quiet interiors, in which a figure often stands against or looking through a window. These paintings conjure explicitly the pleasure we gain from looking through a frame at a painted landscape, as much as the pleasure of looking at the landscape itself.

It is the psychological power of the framed space that has long made painting, in particular, a natural ally of religion

According to Semir Zeki, professor of neuroesthetics at University College London, our pleasure is a neurological aptitude built into the visual system of the brain, whereby we are drawn to window-like, frame-like structures. For Zeki, Balthus is the quintessential painter in his ability to generate maximum excitement in our brain. But whatever the neurological source of the pleasure, there is no doubting the lively sense of communication, even of communion, that lovers of painting experience when they spend time in front of a great work. You have only to think of the hushed awe in the Sistine Chapel, despite the cricked necks, or the reverential queues of people wishing to pay homage to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Even the crude vandalism of Vladimir Umanets, who scrawled black paint on Mark Rothko’s painting Black on Maroon (1958) at the Tate Modern in October, is a perverse recognition of the painting’s power.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones commented at the time: ‘It is a horrible fact that people who for whatever reason feel compelled, in an art gallery, not to stand and look but to scribble, or throw acid, or pull out a hammer, tend to pick the most potent and authoritative works of art for their assaults. It seems there is a psychic force in truly great art that draws the attacker.’ Jones gave the example of Leonardo da Vinci’s Burlington Cartoon in the National Gallery – that soft sensuous deeply moving evocation of motherly love which portrays Mary and her mother Anne, with the infant Christ and the child St John the Baptist – which was shot in 1987 by a man with a gun. Likewise, in 1985, Rembrandt’s radiant and alluring Danaë in the Hermitage so provoked a visiting Lithuanian, later declared insane, that he threw sulphuric acid over the canvas before slashing it.

Setting aside the provocation of their subject matter, these works are obvious emblems of established value. The institutional apparatus of the museum – the velvet ropes, bullet-proof screens, priestly attendants and hushed whispers – all conspire to guide the alienated and angry to the most revered works. In just the same way, such scene-setting  encourages the homage of those more inclined to worship at the altar of art. These trappings of cultural value contribute to what the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, in his essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936), defined as the specific ‘aura’ of the unique work of art: they shore up our dwindling faith in the unique.

But I would argue that it is also the psychological power of the framed space that has long made painting, in particular, a natural ally of religion. Tradition holds that Saint Luke the Evangelist, as well as being a physician was also a painter. Legend has it that he painted the Virgin Mary from life, which perhaps, is the source of his status as the patron saint of artists, capturing with his likeness the power of the Virgin to heal and forgive. From the earliest Christian paintings in the catacombs of Rome, painting has proven to be a forceful tool of evangelisation, depicting on the walls truths too dangerous to speak, while reminding those persecuted for their beliefs of the glorious otherworld of grace to which they aspired. From the conversion of Emperor Constantine, religious art came above ground, with the icons of the Byzantine Orthodox Church standing as a passionately defended aid to devotion.

If part of the allure of great painting is its capacity to draw you into another world, to make an elsewhere tangible, the icon painters hoped in turn to be channelling a sacred power – one that would flow out from the image into the beholder.  It was the fear that the populace might take this transfer of sacred power too literally, might ascribe to the image the holiness reserved for the spiritual subject of the image and so fall into the sin of idolatry, that led to the fierce debacle of iconoclasm in the Orthodox Church of the eighth and ninth centuries. At two pivotal Church Councils, in 754 in Hiereia and 787 in Nicea, the use of sacred images was first condemned and then defended, but not before the destruction of many images.

It was not until 843, after yet another wave of vehement iconoclasm, that Theodora, widow of Emperor Theophilus (829-842) and regent for Emperor Michael III, was able finally to restore the use of images in the Orthodox Church.  She is supposed to have said: ‘If for love’s sake, anyone does not kiss and venerate these images in a relative manner, not worshipping them as gods but as images of their archetypes, let him be anathema!’ Theodora raises an argument as old at Plato: are images to be condemned because they are merely delusional copies of the shadows of reality that surround us; or are they rather to be celebrated as bringing intimations of the ideal world beyond?

Theodora drew heavily on the writings of the theologian St John of Damascus, who suggested that the Old Testament ban on graven images applied only to God, who is ineffable and invisible. St John argued that the act of incarnation was in itself an argument for the holiness of representation, since Christ was in a sense a representation of God in human form. To condemn religious imagery was therefore to refuse the miracle of Christ’s birth and the salvation he promised for the whole created world. From the point of view of art history, this was the decisive point where Christianity departed most completely from the monotheist traditions of Judaism and Islam, with their ban on religious imagery.

By the 12th and 13th centuries, sacred images had, in Western Christendom, become a powerful means of ensuring the flow of a potentially radical and passionate piety into orthodox channels.  The earliest painted borders, those first demarcations between the sacred and the profane, had become entire altar pieces – the elaborate architecture of public piety, where the sacred image was protected, honoured: separated out from our fallen world with gilded carving, but also made available to us for our contemplation. Our communion with the infinite was focused tightly through the lens of Christian mythology.

Then, on the threshold of the Renaissance, in the frescoes of Giotto and his followers in the 14th century, the membrane between the world of the Bible and sacred fable, and the day-to-day world grows thin. Giotto’s use of three dimensional modelling and naturalistic detail invited us to find eternity on our doorsteps, just as the earliest humanist philosophers encouraged us to trust our own enquiring intellects and all five senses in exploring a created world that was no longer opposed to heaven, but shot through with divinity. In the magnificent decorations in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, accomplished around 1305, which consist of 37 frescoes of the life of the Virgin Mary and the life of Christ, Giotto explores the manifold hopes, fears and dreams of humanity. Though expressly Biblical, these theatrical scenes are played out on a stage that seems tantalisingly adjacent to our own.

From then, the conversation between painting and religion has never entirely gone away, although the portal to the sublime has become wider, encompassing landscape, portraiture, and, latterly, in the 20th century, abstraction.  But whether these doorways lead anywhere except to a wall of paint, has become a central question for both artists and audience.

Colin 3

Colin Drew, Untitled, 1990, oil on wood

In the second half of the twentieth century, Mark Rothko’s dark, intensely layered abstract paintings – which promise depth and invite introspective reflection – became emblems of a contemporary art of transcendence that avoided the discredited symbolisms of both Christianity and Romanticism. In conversation with artist and critic Selden Rodman, Rothko defended himself against the claim that his abstract colour works were merely decorative and formalist.  He said;  ‘I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on, and the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions…. The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!’

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants to the United States, Rothko’s reading of Friedrich Nietzsche, Freud and Jung inspired him to search, in paint, for an alternative language of spiritual expression to that offered by traditional religious imagery.  He acknowledged the difficulty of doing this when, in 1947, he wrote: ‘Without monsters and gods, art cannot enact our drama: art’s most profound moments express this frustration. When they were abandoned as untenable superstitions, art sank into melancholy.’  Rothko saw his increasingly abstract art as an attempt to overcome this melancholy: ‘I do not believe that there was ever a question of being abstract or representational. It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing and stretching one’s arms again.’

Is it enough that what we find when we plunge in might be no more than an aura, or a trace, or a scent of the sublime?

In 1959, en route to Europe, after having embarked on that great sequence of murals for the private room in the new Four Seasons restaurant at the Seagram Building in New York – nine of which are now housed together at Tate Modern, and one of which was vandalized this year– Rothko explained in an interview that he had been deeply influenced by Michelangelo’s walls in the staircase of the Medicean Library in Florence. ‘He achieved just the kind of feeling I’m after,’ Rothko said, ‘he makes the viewers feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up, so that all they can do is butt their heads for ever against the wall.’

In this light the Seagram Murals might be understood as a punitive refusal of transcendence for the restaurant’s privileged clientele, or else an admission of his own despair.

In the final six years of his life, before his suicide in 1970, Rothko dedicated himself to the creation of what is now known as the Rothko Chapel, in Houston, Texas, commissioned by the Texas oil millionaires John and Dominique de Menil. Initially conceived as a Roman Catholic chapel, Rothko intended this to be a place of pilgrimage for those seeking, as he did, a contemporary religious art.  Now non-denominational, the small, windowless building houses 14 large canvases, arranged in a series of triptychs, together with five individual canvases, all built up with impenetrable layers of chestnut brown, brick red, mauve and black. At the chapel’s dedication in 1971, Dominique de Menil, spoke unequivocally about her understanding of the significance of Rothko’s work: ‘We are cluttered with images and only abstract art can bring us to the threshold of the divine.’  Whether it is indeed to the threshold of the divine, with room to breathe and stretch one’s arms again, or to the blank end of some dark tunnel, where we can only butt our heads, is for the viewer to determine.

Rothko

A portal onto the divine? Mark Rothko; Orange, Red, Yellow 1961.

What is certainly true is that there are many very wealthy individuals who are prepared to pay for the experience of owning, and, presumably, contemplating a Rothko canvas. His glowing Orange, Red, Yellow (1961) shattered all auction records for post-war and contemporary art, when it sold for nearly $87 million (£54 million) at Christie’s in New York.

It is within the context of the near-veneration of Rothko’s work, both by the market and by the priesthood of art critics and museum curators, that we arrive at a contemporary cliché.  Art, we are told, has become the new religion.  In the godless West, where the churches are empty and theology is dismissed as a fairy tale, we seek spiritual nourishment in our temples of culture, and find in art the sublime we once sought through it. So when a small group of pilgrims reaches that great masterpiece of Marian devotion, Piero della Francesca’sMadonna del Parto, in its quaint wayside chapel, the tiny Museo della Madonna del Parto of Monterchi in Tuscany, it is the painter’s intercession with the beyond through paint that we beseech, rather than Mary’s mercy.

To follow the argument further we need to turn to another late-20th-century master, the German painter Gerhard Richter. Richter began his artistic career in Dresden in East Germany, painting murals and portraits, but he escaped to Düsseldorf just before work began on the Berlin Wall in 1961. In Dresden he had absorbed the priorities of Soviet Realism but also (under the influence of Dresden’s former resident, the great German Romantic artist, Caspar David Friedrich) the capacity of painting to invite the viewer to share the artist’s own subjective, spiritual communion with nature. In the West, Richter was stirred by American Abstract Expressionism, then Pop Art, and he began to work consistently with photography and found images, as well as paint. His oeuvre deliberately crosses between abstraction and realism, photography and painting, as if searching for the truly authentic image. Whether through a richly coloured portrait of his daughter; a painting of a bare flickering candle; a monochrome painting derived from a black and white newspaper clipping; a many-layered abstraction, hinting at a landscape just beyond; or simply through his veiled, questioning politics and refusal of obvious emotion, his work invites a profound engagement.  Perhaps it is for this reason that Richter, like Rothko, finds himself at the very top of the art market.  He became the most expensive living artist when his Abstraktes Bild (809-4), a vast haunting abstract canvas, created in vertical bands of colour with a squeegee, sold at Sotheby’s auction house in London for £21.3 million ($34.2million).

‘The church is no longer adequate as a means of affording experience of the transcendental’

Born in 1932, in Dresden, into a staunchly Protestant household, Richter grew up beneath the twin tyrannies of Facism and Communism. Consequently, dogma has been anathema in his work, but the relationship between the search for meaning in art and the search for the divine has always been central to his thinking.  In 1962 Richter wrote in his notebook: ‘Picturing things, taking a view, is what makes us human; art is making sense and giving shape to that sense. It is like the religious search for God.’

Richter

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild, 1987, Catalogue Raisonné: 627-4, oil on canvas, 52 cm x 72 cm

By 1964, he had grown bolder:  ‘Art is not a substitute religion: it is a religion (in the true sense of the word: ‘binding back’, ‘binding’ to the unknowable, transcending reason, transcendent being). But the church is no longer adequate as a means of affording experience of the transcendental, and of making religion real – and so art has been transformed from a means into the sole provider of religion: which means religion itself.’ This, surely, is the nub of our desire to tumble in imagination headlong into the spiritual depths (or heights) of a painting.  But is it simply enough that what we find when we plunge might be no more than an aura, or a trace, or a scent of the sublime?  That painting might indeed bind us back, but only to our own unknowable selves?

Richter’s insistence on the equivalence of art and religion reminds me of the French writer, art historian and mystic Romain Rolland, as quoted by Sigmund Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents. Freud had sent Rolland his book, The Future of an Illusion (1927), which as Freud cleanly puts it ‘treats religion as an illusion’.  Rolland had written back describing ‘a peculiar feeling, which he himself is never without…..a sensation of “eternity”, a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded – as it were, “oceanic”.’  Rolland was clear that this feeling was a purely subjective fact, ‘not an article of faith’.  But he also argued that it was the source of the energy that all the world’s different religious systems channel to their own ends. Freud’s gloss on this perspective was characteristically insightful: ‘One may, he thinks, rightly call oneself religious on the ground of this oceanic feeling alone, even if one rejects every belief and every illusion.’  The question we confront is whether the oceanic feeling, which for so many people is part of the pleasure of looking at certain paintings, that sense of time stilling to allow boundless  contemplation, amounts to a religious experience, or more properly to an experience of art’s own peculiar solace, which is not necessarily religious.

For Richter, himself a professed atheist, the status of art and the experience of art continues to be both a puzzle and a driving force. Even the gorgeous, stained-glass window he created for Cologne’s Roman Catholic Cathedral is a question rather than an answer. This is the Cathedral of the city where he lives, and where his three children and his third wife, Sabine Moritz, also a painter, were baptized. It is where he sometimes attends worship. And yet the window, far from some all-confirming assertion of Catholic teaching, is made up from 11,500 squares of glass in 72 colors, randomly organised by a computer to resemble pixels. The dazzling shower of multi-coloured light can lead one’s thoughts and emotions in many directions and can be harnessed to almost any orthodoxy – including an embrace of the pure chance of our existence. In fact, so outraged was the Archbishop of Cologne by the window’s stubborn refusal to give specific doctrinal shape to the emotions it stimulated that he found he had a prior commitment elsewhere on the day of its unveiling.

Perhaps there is no more to be said about painting’s seductive offering than Richter’s tentative statement to the American curator and critic, Robert Storr: ‘A painting can help us think something that goes beyond this senseless existence’.  In doing this it offers both the painter and the viewer a kind of salvation. And perhaps this, as Rothko said, is the miracle that every artist strives to achieve: ‘Pictures must be miraculous; the instant one is completed, the intimacy between the creation and the creator is ended. He is an outsider. The picture must be for him, as for anyone experiencing it later, a revelation, an unexpected and unprecedented resolution of an eternally familiar need.’

IMG_0758

Colin Drew, Untitled painting, acrylic on canvas, 101 x 105 cm, September 2015

The miracle, in other words, is creative resolution. While our desire to look at a painting might be powered by the same eternal, spiritual need that drives us to the desert or the temple, the revelation we find there is of a different order. True, we continue to seek in art, among many other things, a correspondence with those oceanic feelings, a soothing of our hunger for transcendence, but the salvation it offers is without substance or destination.

Perception, Cognition and Authentic Creation by Judith Chandler

 

 

Perception, Cognition and Authentic Creation

by Judith Chandler

I have often wondered if there is a sequence of development to undergo before transformation into ‘an artist.’ Before I began to call myself an artist there seemed to be an abyss, a huge impassable distance, without direction or guidelines, where many who take up art work but few actually do the art. An attraction to art-making may be connected to the human imperative to create, and, it seems, that there is a natural human desire for a method of enquiry that offers a way to make visible things that cannot be seen. Yet, if we embark on trying to express thoughts and feelings truthfully, the path is riddled with arguments between the significance of perception and cognition along the way. How we perceive may be the key to understanding what function, if any, art really serves, and to defining what it is we are in fact creating.

To highlight this point, I use the example of Tolstoy’s famous (but highly questionable) definition of the process of art:

‘To evoke in oneself a feeling one has experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then by means of movement, lines, colours, sounds, or forms expressed in words to transmit that feeling that others experience the same feeling – this is the activity of art.’

Tolstoy’s perception of the function of art was the expression and communication of feeling (usually ennobling), I am certain that if he were around to view some of the work of the past fifty years, this would not be his explanation. The artist Mark Quinn, for example, using his own blood to fashion a bust of his head, relies on the modern understanding that all observations depend on the observer to consider anything a work of art. In other words, a private experience can only be accessible to a public sharing if the perceiver is willing and able. While the artist’s emotion may have an effect on the audience, it cannot, as Tolstoy thought, direct the collective mind (as has been the presumption of much Sensational art).

‘The Expressionist view of Tolstoy and many others declares that an artist, on having profound life experiences, should be able to express this in his work, and evoke it in his viewers, the function of art may be to transmit feelings, that is, to embody them, but not to evoke. In other words, so that others can interpret or understand them, not so that viewers also feel them. The trouble with accepting expressivism as the mark of ‘proper art’ is that it ignores the value of the imagination. When viewing a work of art, the beholder is invited to add his/her own interpretation, creating a unique experience of the picture. Feelings that the artist experiences, although connected to life, are not consciously intended to arouse a specific emotion in the way that speeches or horror movies do. ‘To be aesthetically effective the feelings expressed must reflect more that the personal idiosyncrasies of the artist:  what is expressed must be shared, the feelings must be held in common, the particular must reflect the universal. In this sense art is able to disclose truth about our shared life of feeling.’ 

[K. Dorter in Conceptual Truth and Aesthetic Truth]

A further element is that, although what I experience when creating is essentially private, it is quite possible that others also feel and relate the same feelings to the object. This happens so often that art provides a fundamental way of gaining insight into the human condition. That is, there is a logical connection between the object and the receptivity of the viewer, not only does the object express human feelings; it is quite possible that the viewer sees in the object express human feelings which he/she has longed to express. This is a matter of perception and not of cognition as expression theory suggests.

If I attempted to analyze or describe how I make art, at best it is a kind of looking at it from the outside, requiring the scalpel of scientific investigation, rather like analyzing the behaviour of cats at play and trying to describe it in a meaningful way.

‘… in its exuberant purposelessness, seems close to the heart of the whole business of life. Play is the opposite of Management by Objectives, the current creed which rightly screens out spontaneity, imagination and surprise as parts of the creative process.’

[Richard Maybe in Nature Cure]

Indeed play, in common with art-making, is not a means to an end outside itself. For although it can be analyzed in intellectual terms, the practise of art-making is an imaginative one, directed and formed by an exclusively instinctive process. While observing the process of painting, of composing and arranging forms and colours, can look like play it has more to do with the nature of perception and with things remembered in the body. And perhaps as a result of this, art is essentially productive, while play is not.

Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home is a portrayal of Bob Dylan’s refusal to be pigeonholed into folk singer, protester or icon because his music stands for itself, in the same way that the poet may not fully understand what he writes until it is finished. In it, Dylan says ‘I just write ‘em, man.’ It isn’t necessary to be fully conscious of the work of art in the process of creation. What is more, I know that the ultimate experience is to paint: the deepest form of knowing and the deepest form of truth are – in the actual act itself – devilishly difficult to express and often evading conscious description.

There is a post-modern opinion that anything can be a work of art because the living body is an expressive medium, and every conception, every action or feeling is a work of art. Against this background, how is it that there is a conflicting view that in creating art a deep human need is answered, that the aesthetic, rooted in materials and fired by feeling, has the ability to take our ordinary experiences and transform them into an understanding of the meaning of those experiences? The question is this: is drawing a waste of time, can one ‘draw’ with a camera, or by leaving something to the weather, or does drawing serve a more basic purpose? Expression characterises the outward demonstration of an inward feeling. The human connection, the individual touch of the artist, has the capacity to embody mystery and feeling, and defines an intuitive aesthetic the moment a personal mark is made. Drawing joins observation with imagination, perception with physicality, and the mind with the hand. It is fertile territory for making visible the things that cannot be seen – states of mind, ideas – and processed.

The imagination is a legitimate alternative to rational thinking to arrive at truth; the difference is that the imagination does not grasp casual or universal principles in the way that reason does, although it does have direct access to feeling, or intuition, which Schopenhauer called ‘understanding.’ Herein lies the connection: that because art is essentially creative, we can understand or grasp what is transmitted without the interference of concepts. It is not the subjective experience, but the experience of being in the world itself – the sensual qualities that we experience and that are inaccessible to conceptual thinking that enable art to move us, for psychological, and not philosophical reasons.

Our experience always points beyond itself (to other patterns and memories), evoking and bestowing meaning on events, regardless of whether we have any way of knowing whether this is what the artist intended or not. The truth is that there is a natural human tendency to interpret, to assign meaning and significance to events, to relate a single example to the whole of society. Paul Crowther calls this phenomenon:

‘…antological reciprocity – the dynamic action of embodied subject and phenomenal world upon one another… which has (explicitly or implicitly) assigned philosophical significance to art.’

[Paul Crowther, Art and Embodiment: From Aesthetics to Self-consciousness]

There is a sense in which, as an artist, the truth of the thing is in the practice. This truth is akin to, but not identical to the pleasure found in doing art; it is the satisfaction of discovering something that is essentially connected to the human imperative to create.

‘The dancers claim to follow “truth” or claim to seek “reality,” but the Wu Li Masters know better. They know that the true love of all dancers is to dance.’

[Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters]

I’ll mention one more aspect to truth: when the perception of the past becomes linked with the present and with historical pastness, when the compulsion felt by a painter to paint the human figure (for example) resonates with the whole of art history, so that the practice of now communicates with other existences. In Burnt Norton, T.S. Eliot writes:

‘What might have been, and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.’

The issues of creation and the authenticity of doing are in the actual act of doing the work itself. Perhaps the seemingly impassable abyss I found was as E.M. Forster famously said, ‘How can I know what I think until I see what I say?’ Applied to art-making, perhaps one could say, How can I know what my unconsciousness feeling/state of mind is until I make something? The self-reflective action of making is the creative process.

Bittersweet: Schizophrenic Beauty by Roy Exley

 

 

Bittersweet: Schizophrenic Beauty

by Roy Exley

“There is no science of the beautiful, but only a critique.”

Immanuel Kant

Beauty is a stimulant that is only efficacious in limited doses, taken at arbitrary and infrequent intervals we can only take so much before it pales or palls. The parameters for beauty, as intangible and elusive as the mind that attempts to capture its slippery essence, not only change from moment to moment, but also from generation to generation, as values, expectations and fashions shift and change. Our current generation prefers to pretend that beauty is extinct, an anachronism, a whimsical irrelevance – unless there are commercial implications but to which beauty are they referring? Romantic or aesthetic, kitsch or sugary beauty usually spring to mind, but the springs of beauty are not always so pure or syrupy, rarely so up-front and unsullied by the clutches of subterfuge. Beauty might strike from aesthetic regions which previously seemed alien to us, whose domain conjured up other sensations, such as horror, repulsion or revulsion.  Whatever the object of beauty, whether familiar or bizarre, seductive or sinister, our perception of it as being beautiful elevates it; suddenly it transcends its previous state, it assumes a certain aura. To ask why would prove fruitless, almost as pertinent as asking when or where.

The seductive power of beauty is like an exotic language, its nuances can be translated in so many ways, but the subtlety of these nuances is often obscured by the blinding brilliance of its aesthetic pull. We are dazzled by the obvious, by the spectacular, as the explicit stifles the implicit in a perceptual polarisation process. We are seduced as the sensational eclipses the rational. One of the principal reasons that beauty has fallen out of favour as a motif in contemporary art is that it engages the feelings, we meet it emotionally rather than intellectually. Since the effulgence of conceptual art in the 1970s, contemporary art has been increasingly theory-driven. Philosophical discourse around, and as exegesis of art has become an inseparable part of its raison d’être, and progressively a part of its process. This phenomenon was corroborated by Theodor Adorno, when in 1970 he wrote, in his book, Aesthetic Theory, “The very idea that enjoyment is the essence of art should be thrown overboard .. what works of art really demand from us is knowledge.” Does this then mean that beauty can only be equated with the mindless, and only be appreciated by the dreaming aesthete? I think that current trends in contemporary art can only negate this interrogative proposition.

If seductive beauty is life affirming, where does sinister, transgressive or uncanny beauty take us? Like the exotic but ominous Gold Bug in Edgar Allan Poe’s story of the same name, is it going to take us on a rough ride, or is it merely the other, unexpected, side of a familiar coin, initially a surprise but ultimately assimilated. This darker beauty certainly engages different emotions, sounds a different chord, less major, more minor, qualifying something more subversive, less wholesome. But at what point does this change of demeanour occur, where is the boundary between the sweet and the sinister, from where or what does this transformation spring? If beauty has the capacity to be repulsive as well as seductive, are these two aspects of beauty merely at the opposite ends of a continuum or are they dissociated, poles apart? No hard and fast answers can be supplied here, each viewer, from his or her own, unique vantage point will bring a different set of answers. To bear these questions in mind, however, while viewing Bittersweet will help to inform any perceptual response to the range of works here which are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and occasionally both at once.

Now that beauty no longer informs critique, now that it has become elusive, gone underground, it tends to surface unannounced and to demonstrate its resilience in the most unexpected ways. One of the reasons that beauty cannot be pinned down is that ultimately it is imaginary, fabricated by the nostalgia of memory – a fantasy compensating for loss. Those darker, more melancholic connotations of beauty are picked up by Julia Kristeva writing in her book on depression and melancholia, Black Sun, where she comments on the transience of beauty when she writes, “A denial of loss? It can be so… fading away from memory at the very moment of its appearance.” So it seems that the chimera of transient beauty has displaced the overt and effusive beauty redolent of Romanticism. Beauty is ultimately to do with expectations and if those expectations are driven by pluralistic disjointed and polypolar culture, then consequently beauty  will assume chameleon-like characteristics to adapt to the swirling maelstroms of change that operate in that culture. As the threshold of jouissance slips back further into transgressive perversion, the parameters for beauty implode into the recesses of an ever-darkening imagination. Jacques Lacan emphasized in his teaching that desire is ultimately tragic as it can never be truly consummated, but merely metamorphosed into succeeding desires. In a similar fashion, beauty can never persist as it needs to constantly transmute in order to maintain its seductive power.

To feel beauty is a better thing than to understand how we come to feel it.”  – George Santayana

From Here To Here: Turning Toward Enlightenment by Gary Crowley

 

 

From Here To Here: Turning Toward Enlightenment

by Gary Crowley

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Understanding What Is

Chapter 2 – The Science of What Is

Chapter 3 – Illusions of What Is

Chapter 4 – Illusion of Conscious Will

Chapter 5 – Understanding Made Good

Chapter 6 – Re-Orientation: I Am Awareness

Chapter 7 – Re-Integration: Awakening to Enlightenment

Chapter 8 – From Here to Here

Afterword

 

A Note to the Reader

 

Dear Reader,

This “little book on enlightenment” is intentionally concise. Yet, many past readers have urged that I might encourage you to make sure and read the entire text. The slight sting of facing what is in the first half of the book lays the necessary foundation for the joy and freedom that is realized in the second half of the book–I wouldn’t want you to miss out.

Yours,

Gary Crowley

 

 

 

Chapter 1:  Understanding What Is

 

Enlightenment is devastatingly simple. Although questions regarding enlightenment often become complicated, the answer always remains simple: enlightenment is the direct result of freedom from the illusion of a separate self. A profound understanding of this ultimate simplicity provides all that is required for an awakening to enlightenment.

Enlightenment is what we are. There is nothing to gain, only its recognition. Enlightenment’s simplicity has been expressed in many ways:

 

I am, but there is no ‘me.’ Wei Wu Wei

You are the perceiving, not the perceiver. Ch’an

You are looking for what is looking. St. Francis of Assisi

That which is seeking, is the sought. Buddhic Scripture

 

The above quotations all express enlightenment’s simplicity. The possible examples are endless; I just happen to like those that do it in seven words. As you will soon discover, understanding the essence of these statements is all that is required for the spiritual seeker because you are always already enlightened.

Your illusionary self is never the same once it is seen through. After decades of spiritual seeking, I read one footnote by Wei Wu Wei that changed everything:

Free, we are not the number One, the first of all our objects, but Zero – their universal and Absolute Subject.

This footnote caused a shift in orientation that cannot be shifted back. It was devastatingly simple and understanding was the only requirement.

Understanding is recognition, clear seeing. It is not the same as knowledge. In daily life, the words “understanding” and “knowledge” are often used interchangeably, but throughout this book “understanding” refers to a direct recognition of what is.

We all can think of times when we had knowledge of something in our head, but it was not integrated, and therefore, was only a theoretical notion. As a child you may have been given knowledge that fire was hot, but until you ran your hand over a flame, no true understanding could exist. Now, whenever you see a fire, an understanding occurs, a direct recognition that fire is hot, without any need for abstract concepts about what is.

Without understanding, enlightenment’s simplicity is missed. With understanding, enlightenment’s simplicity cannot be ignored. The poet Rumi expressed this sentiment as:

 

I lived on the lip,

of insanity, wanting to know reasons,

knocking on a door. It opens.

I’ve been knocking from the inside!

 

Awakening to enlightenment is a journey from here to here, not from here to there. There is nowhere to go and nothing to be attained. Enlightenment is simply an awakening to what has always been the case. There is only the seeing through of our own ignorance. The journey becomes a circle because it finishes where it started, but at the finish, one experiences the same world from an entirely different perspective. As a result, your case of mistaken identity effortlessly dissolves.

The release of an illusionary separate self occurs effortlessly through understanding what was never really there. The false self, though not ultimately real, is thereby devastated. In its wake remains only what we are, which is enlightenment.

What if awakening to enlightenment requires only understanding? What if this understanding causes the release of an illusionary self, something you never even were? Would you be willing to let go of something you never were if it allowed an awakening to enlightenment?

The masterpiece of enlightenment is already here. There is only the awakening to it. Innumerable masters have affirmed it is so. Upon awakening, one sage purportedly exclaimed, “Is that all it is?” He then laughed and went about his daily business.

Seeking enlightenment is like searching for a pair of glasses that are perched on top of your head. All efforts to find the glasses are seen as ridiculous once one understands the situation.

How humorous it is to discover what was there all along!

What if the only complicated thing about enlightenment was noticing what had been there all along? How could one not be amused after all the searching? Perhaps, laughter will result when you realize that enlightenment has been “perched upon your head” all this time, patiently waiting to be discovered.

Look at the graphic of the black cube below. Can you see the black cube securely tucked into the corner?

b1

Now look at this same graphic, but see it as a large white cube with the front corner cut out. What was once a small black cube tucked into a corner is now a large white cube with the front corner missing. Notice too, that at any point in time you can see the image only one way. The image offers an either-or proposition in any given moment and cannot be both at the same time.

Awakening to enlightenment is like realizing you are not the little black cube tucked in the corner, but are instead the large white cube. Everything is completely different, yet everything is exactly as it was before. The difference is orientation. Understanding allows a different way of seeing what already is.

The required understanding is ultimately very simple, but unravelling your case of mistaken identity still requires precision. Human beings have an uncanny knack for self-deception when it comes to discovering their own essence. Ironically, spiritual seekers seem naturally conditioned to look in the direction opposite from where their awakening lies.

Like a child chasing the end of a rainbow, most spiritual seekers are forever almost there because they chase an illusion that will always remain just out of reach. With understanding, chasing the illusion ends as you realize that what you have been looking for is already right here, right now. This is why only a clear and unambiguous understanding of your illusion will steer you through self-deception and into an awakening to enlightenment.

Enlightenment may well be in an entirely different orientation from where you’ve been searching. All your efforts until now may have been like pulling on a door that needs only to be pushed for it to open. Once again, such situations are usually met with a chuckle when understanding finally occurs. Please remember this as you read the chapters that follow.

Enlightenment is readily available for those with the ability to face what is. This book attempts to clearly and concisely assist in this endeavor by wholly uprooting the cause of your suffering. Be forewarned: once the roots of suffering have been exposed, they are forever changed.

Suffering results from maintaining the most prized of all possessions, an illusionary self. The illusionary self is the ransom that must be paid by the spiritual seeker. When the arrow of understanding hits its mark, your illusionary self is its casualty. If this does not sound like an appealing proposition, then this book is not for you. However, if this description sounds intriguing, then let us begin the journey from “here to here.”

 

 

 

Chapter 2: The Science of What Is

 

Throughout history, science has assisted the earnest spiritual seeker in understanding more clearly the miracle we all experience each moment. While some may cringe at the notion of peering through the lens of science to enhance spirituality, only dogma suffers from this lens. Those seeking truth have nothing to fear. The following pages could potentially begin the profound spiritual awakening.

 

Pre-Conscious Decisions

 

Our journey from here to here begins by examining how your neurology creates the linchpin of your mistaken identity, an illusionary conscious will. Here and throughout this book, the word neurology refers to how your entire nervous system functions due to its structure and programming. Conscious will refers to your ability to consciously choose, of your own free-will and volition, how you are in regard to the world you encounter each day.

From a scientific perspective, it is your neurology that senses, interprets, and consciously perceives the world and makes the choices of how you will be in the world. The brain itself will be our primary focus because it serves as both the primary and final physical filter of your experiencing, and because without the brain there is no conscious awareness to be examined. As you will see, understanding how our neurology functions will make clear the direction our journey must take.

Most people would agree that you had no conscious choice in the DNA received from your parents at conception. Any reasonable scientist would also agree that this DNA provides the blueprint for your body’s general physicality. Your eye colour, skin pigmentation, potential height, predispositions for certain diseases etc. are set in the DNA that is filed away in the nucleus of every cell in your body.

That same reasonable scientist would also agree that your DNA (which you had no conscious choice in) contains all of the intellectual, psychological, and emotional predispositions that will be expressed through your inherited neurology. The range and tendencies of all these attributes are hardwired into your genetic code.

Furthermore, you did not consciously choose the environment in which your neurology continuously developed as a child. The family and culture in which you were raised were very much inherited, just like your physicality. Thus, you had no conscious choice over the early environmental factors that moulded and fine-tuned your rapidly developing neurology.

So far there is little to disagree about. We inherit certain individual tendencies, and our environment moulds them. Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize recipient who discovered the DNA that makes up your unique genetic code, says it well:

 

Suffice it to say that genes….appear to lay down the broad structure of the nervous system, but that experience is needed to tune up and refine the many details of its structure; this is often a continuing process throughout life.

 

The environmental conditioning of your neurology occurs throughout life, but it is important to recognize that our conditioning began the moment your parents DNA united, creating your unique genetic blueprint. Your mother’s biochemistry immediately affected your neurological development. If she was joyful or depressed, angry of anxious, her chemistry played a part in how your neurology developed, which affects how you experience the world to this very day.

For instance, suppose your mother was abnormally stressed during pregnancy. High levels of a certain stress hormone (norepinephrine) have been shown to permanently affect the embryo. Too much norepinephrine can make two deep structures of the brain (hippocampus and amygdala) oversensitive and hyperactive. These two pre-conscious parts of the brain decide when fear is an appropriate response. When they are overly active, your entire neurology will habitually react more fearfully to life than that of others. This type of neurology is constitutionally frightened. The pre-conscious structures of the brain are simply wired that way. There is no conscious choice involved at all.

The opposite can also occur. These two brain structures can be under-aroused in development, resulting in a constitutionally bored neurology that seeks continual stimulation. Conscious choice plays no part in these constitutional settings. Most of us have a neurology that is neither constitutionally frightened nor constitutionally bored, but rather, lies somewhere in the middle. Of course, we also had no conscious choice in the matter.

To say you are not conscious of most of the brain’s neurological activity is a profound understatement. Even your memory storage is pre-conscious. You do not consciously pick which memories get stored and which get ignored. It is the limbic system in your brain that determines which memories are important enough to be stored. Thus, the only “reality” a neurology remembers is a perception based on memories you had no conscious choice in retaining.

But it gets even better: Your interpretation of the present is also based on the memories stored in that neurological database you had no conscious choice in filling. Basically, the DNA that holds ancestral memories and reaction patterns, along with your personal memories, are the prism through which the world is interpreted. Whether that prism results in a perception of the world that is rose-coloured or some darker shade is not up to you, yet it is the prism through which your interpretation of reality is filtered.

Most lay people and scientists would agree that neurological development as an embryo and a child involves no conscious choice, no conscious will. The question we must now face is the following: Is there any conscious will involved in the apparent choices made as an adult?

The rest of this chapter will show that your hard-wired genetic patterning and soft-wired environmental conditioning are not just the filters reality is perceived through; they are also the neurological dictators that order our reactions to any situation on a physical, mental, and emotional level. You have no conscious choice in the reaction patterns it perceives as possible. The reaction to laugh or cry, feel frightened or safe, be angry or elated are pre-conscious reactions in the brain, based on memories that you have no conscious choice in prioritizing, arising from an inherited and conditioned neurology you had no conscious choice in building.

Howard Bloom’s Global Brain provides a great illustration of the pre-conscious decision making process in the human brain. You can ignore the brain anatomy. Just enjoy the tour.

 

By now it should come as no surprise that said “mind” is actually a committee – let’s imagine it as one which meets in a basement strategy room in the White House… The meeting is kicked off by the prefrontal cortex…which has been sizing up the situation for quite some time and now presents several strategies… The anterior cingulate…weighs the pro’s and con’s of the prefrontal cortex’s game plans and passes a directive to…the motor strip – who shuffles through a sheaf of motor memories (that is, behavioural memes), holds a whispering session with – the superior parietal region – then quickly lays out a detailed action plan. At this point the president walks into the room, totally oblivious to the proceedings, takes the empty chair at the tables head, and is told the final conclusion. The president then strides out, holds a press conference, and takes full credit for deciding what to do… Consciousness and its theories are so far out of the loop that often we don’t have the foggiest idea of what’s going on…

 

What you consider a “conscious choice” is determined by pre-conscious mechanisms in the brain. Thus, by definition, the choice is not conscious. Let’s be honest: It would be a bit like the old Soviet leaders claiming they were elected by the people, when actually only one candidate was listed on the ballot and the people had no say in who it was. Just saying something exists, does not mean it actually exists.

Howard Bloom’s analogy of the committee meeting is a wonderful prelude to understand the pre-conscious activities of the brain. However, we must also acknowledge the immensely complicated workings of the brain to fully grasp how “out of the loop” we, as conscious thinkers, are.

Any conscious awareness we have of the workings of our brains is not even the tip of the provincial iceberg. Your brain has over 100 billion cells. Each cell links to 100 thousand other cells by way of synapses. These synapses constantly relay information. At a conservative estimate of one transaction per second, the brain computes one quadrillion operations per second. This is one thousand times faster than the fastest supercomputers, which means its capabilities far exceed any computer we can currently imagine.

Each moment of our awareness involves a massive “funnelling” of neurological interpretations that end up getting filtered down and “tunnelled” into our conscious experiencing. Imagine many, many streams of neurological interpretations all winding together, or funnelling, down into a finely filtered perception that we consciously experience. The interpretation of each moment is the result of a sorting through of all the opinions from countless committees. Each life situation is compared and contrasted with our ancestral and individual memories to decide what information is most relevant.

To give you a bit more perspective, take Howard Bloom’s analogy (which is a great one!) of one committee and multiply it by 1000. Picture a round stadium filled with 1000 different committees trying to interpret a situation. Each committee communicates within itself and also has members running back and forth relaying information between committees. Some committees are specialized and some are generalized, some focus more on the past while others are concerned with the future, but they all funnel their interpretations to executive committee members, who filter it all and ask for more information from some groups and tell other groups they’ve heard enough for this split second, but to check back in one or two seconds with more information.

Some committees forward information about how the current situation relates to recent events. Other committees note how this situation is similar to other situations in the distant past. Still other committees focus on the consistency of the present interpretation as it relates to past interpretations. Consistency is a very high priority for your neurology. Certain data will even be ignored at times for that sense of consistency to be maintained. Lastly, decisions must be made so that the interpretation makes sense as a whole, so there is also a strong desire for completeness. The brain will even imagine things (i.e. make things up if need be) to create a sense of completeness.

Finally, the parts of the brain that are responsible for the final decisions filter this massive amount of “funnelled” information and send it into the stadium “tunnel” for our conscious experiencing. These committees analyze and cross-reference each situation before presenting a scene to be consciously experienced.

Thus your conscious experiencing is determined by an active, constructive, pre-conscious process and is not just a simple mirror perception of what is occurring. It is constructed by committees working in back rooms hidden from sight. They are pre-conscious, and you have no say in the decision-making process. There is no conscious choice in the matter, no conscious will involved at all. You experience what your brain decides you will experience, not necessarily what is actually happening.

Your experience at all levels is due to the workings of your inherited neurology and its subsequent conditioning through the firing and wiring of neurons as you encountered life situations. Both function at a pre-conscious level and neither involves conscious choice of any kind.

 

Nature Conditioned by Nurture

 

The classic debate of whether nature or nurture makes us who we are misses the most obvious point: both nature and nurture shape our neurology, which shapes everything we experience. Geneticist Matt Ridley sums it up well:

 

Inherited tendencies permeate everything we do, and they are flexible. There is no nature that exists devoid of nurture; there is no nurture that exists devoid of nature. To say otherwise is like saying that the area of a field is determined by its length and not its width. Every behaviour is the product of an instinct trained by experience.

 

We all inherit massive amounts of genetic tendencies, which govern how we interpret and react to situations, which then govern how our neurology is conditioned, which further governs how we interpret and react to situations, over and over again. How we are as individual human beings comes down to our ancestrally based, inherited neurology being conditioned by the life we encounter. It is that neurology (which lies outside the grasp of any conscious will) that determines your individual experiences and reactions in life.

When considering human nature, I am often reminded of the classic scorpion and frog story:

 

A scorpion needed to get to the other side of a pond, but could not swim. He spotted a bullfrog sitting on a lily pad and asked for a ride to the other side.

“I’m not giving you a ride,” the bullfrog said. “You’ll sting me with your tail, and I’ll die.”

But the scorpion convinced the bullfrog he would never do such a thing. He hopped on the frog’s back, and off they went. Of course, halfway across the pond, the scorpion stung the bullfrog in the back.

As the bullfrog was dying, he said, “Why would you sting me? Now we are both going to die!”

The scorpion replied, “Because it’s my nature.”

 

It is futile to blame the scorpion for doing what it does. That’s what its neurology does! That is what is. Denying the nature of what is does not change the nature of what is. Human beings also have a nature. Looked at from the proper orientation, it shows itself quite plainly. In Candide, Voltaire wrote,

 

“Do you believe,” said Martin, “that hawks have always been accustomed to eat pigeons when they came in their way?”

“Doubtless,” said Candide.

“Well then,” replied Martin, “if hawks have always had the same nature, why should you pretend that mankind change theirs?”

 

Human neurology can and does certainly change with new conditioning. And our range of behaviour patterns is much wider than the hawk mentioned above. However, the illusion of conscious will over such changes is just that – an illusion.

Each neurology’s general nature as a human and as an individual is what it is, and each person’s nature is truly not within the reach of any illusionary conscious will. In the chain of cause and effect, there will always be consequences for the way our neurology reacts. If your neurology takes you east, it gets the conditioning from going east, but will not get the experience and conditioning from going west. If going east becomes too boring or painful, then your neurology may seek out a different direction. Some consequences will fire and rewire enough neurology that it will shift your neurological tendencies; other consequences will not. That simply is what is, and it is not consciously up to any of us.

 

The Illusion of Choice:

Experiments in Social Science

 

It certainly does seem as if we make many conscious choices in life, but there is a huge difference between choices we are conscious of and choices that are consciously made. We may seem to have chosen to get an education, to not be criminal, to not hurt others intentionally, and so on. However, upon investigation the appearance of such choices being consciously made falls apart as an actuality.

In the 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel and two collaborators did what I call, “the famous marshmallow experiment.” It tested the impulse control of a group of four-year-old children. The scientist took each child to an observation room and handed the child a marshmallow. He then gave the child two choices: 1) The child could eat the marshmallow right away and not get another, or 2) The child could wait 15 minutes without eating the marshmallow and then receive an additional one. If the child could wait, he or she would then have two marshmallows. If the child could not wait, there would only be one.

About one third of the children waited until the experimenter returned and received the extra marshmallow. Another third could not wait and ate the marshmallow right away. The last third held out for a little while, but not long enough to get the extra marshmallow.

These children went on with their lives and were revisited by the scientist 12-14 years later. He wanted to see if any differences arose between those with strong versus weak impulse control. The results showed that those with strong impulse control at four years old did far better psychologically, socially, and academically as young adults. The tendency was already there at the age of four. The supposed “choices” these children would make along the way were already very heavily influenced by their inherited and conditioned neurology up to that point in life.

The amount of impulse control a neurology possesses has real effects on the decisions it makes throughout life. All those decisions made to stay in school, not be a criminal, etc were pre-consciously made by your inherited and conditioned neurology. Just because you were fortunate enough to inherit a decent neurology that was conditioned reasonably well by the environment does not mean that you did it consciously.

Does your neurology make decisions? Yes, your neurology makes decisions. Does this mean you have true conscious choices? No, it does not. The decision-making structure of your neurology is pre-conscious. Reactions to situations occur, which we call decisions. But true conscious choice is not part of the process.

The billions of neurons in your brain have fired and wired themselves together in response to life in a way that makes your neurology truly one of a kind. Even identical twins with the same DNA will have absolutely unique neurological development. Our neurology ranks our values, needs, and wants for all levels of experiencing on our own individual scale according to our inherited neurological tendencies and how our neurology has developed through life.

You react according to how your neurology’s pre-conscious perception of a situation meets the pre-conscious rankings of needs and wants for your completely unique neurology. If your neurology ranks “satisfaction in the moment” higher than “more satisfaction later on,” your neurology goes for immediate satisfaction. It eats life’s marshmallows, even if you become conscious of them later on.

If a neurology receives more conditioning that changes its rankings, then the neurology reacts differently. If being a bully ranks higher than being nice, then the neurology reacts like a bully. When the bully gets punched in the nose, the rankings may change. It’s all genetics and conditioning, cause and effect. It’s nature and nurture, and there is no conscious control. Just because a neurology gets punched in the nose and changes does not mean there was a conscious choice to change, even if they eventually became conscious of the decision to change.

In the 1960s Stanley Milgram did a now-famous experiment that vividly reflects the neurological tyranny we live under. He took 40 normal people and told them they were part of a study on how “negative reinforcement” affects learning. In fact, it was all a set-up. The scientists were studying how the 40 volunteers would respond to a perceived authority.

The 40 people were required to electrically shock a student (an actor who was not really being shocked) when questions were answered incorrectly. The person doing the shocking and the student were in adjoining rooms. They could hear each other through an intercom, but there was no visual contact between them.

During the experiment, the voltage of each shock was increased with every wrong answer. With each increase in voltage came increased cries of severe pain, heart problems, and agonizing pleas to stop the experiment by the one being shocked (the actor). Yet, not a single person stopped shocking the student with these initial signs of distress.

 

“…not one of the forty subjects in this study quit his job as a teacher when the victim first began to demand his release; nor later, when he began to beg for it; not even later, when his reaction to each shock have become, in Milgram’s words, “definitely an agonized scream.”

 

Every one of the 40 subjects knowingly shocked the student all the way up to 300 volts. Ouch! Your outlet at home is only 110 volts, and that hurts a lot! Two-thirds of people kept right on shocking the victim all the way up to 450 volts as long as the perceived authority (some guy in a white lab coat) encouraged them to continue. Fortunately, the shocking of the people was all faked. However, these “normal” people doing the shocking did not know this. Many of the subjects agonized over pulling the lever as the voltage increased; yet, they still did it. All they knew was that someone they perceived as an authority was telling them to continue.

All of us like to think we would act differently. Relate this study to virtually anyone, and without fail they feel they would somehow be the exception. The truth is that the odds are against us. This experiment has been repeated in Australia, Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland, and Jordan with the same results. There is a pre-conscious neurological response when we are in the presence of a perceived authority over which there is no conscious control.

If you think about this for a moment, it’s not so mysterious. We were all raised as children with parents and teachers whose authority helped us navigate the world; ignoring their dictates often led to negative consequences. We bow to authorities called doctors, policemen, and accountants all the time when it comes to physical and mental health, personal safety, and the IRS respectively. It’s quite frequently a beneficial thing to do, so our neurology often makes the pre-conscious decision to lead us down the path of acquiescence, even when it might not serve us.

Thirty-nine professional psychiatrists and psychologists were asked to predict the results before this shocking experiment was performed. They all grossly underestimated the percentage of people who would continue the shocking despite the cries of the person being shocked. These professionals felt only an abnormal person would continue the shocking. They could not have been more wrong. Your pre-conscious neurological functioning determines your reaction patterns. The illusion of conscious will runs deep, but it is still an illusion.

Another famous study sent its subjects in opposite directions by putting the subjects in an environment that they were fully aware was fake. A Stanford University Professor, Phil Zimbardo, enrolled normal, well-adjusted college students in a mock prison experiment. It all seemed harmless enough, but the results deserve our attention. Professor Zimbardo’s website states the following:

 

What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph? These are some of the questions we posed in this dramatic simulation of prison life conducted in the summer of 1971 at Stanford University.

How we went about testing these questions and what we found may astound you. Our planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.

 

The experiment had to be stopped half-way through because the guards were abusing the prisoners (their classmates!). The (pretend) prisoners were stressed enough to begin conspiring against the guards. The environment very quickly took on the qualities of a real prison. The environment triggered reactions that are pre-programmed into our neurology. Apparently, their conscious will was out of town for a spring break.

One of the students in the Zimbardo experiment jokingly wore mirrored sunglasses like those worn by a vicious guard in the movie, Cool Hand Luke. The student later stated that he was surprised and ashamed how much he became like the guard in the movie. Once his pre-conscious neurology had made the decision, he had very little conscious choice in the matter.

The concept of conscious will ignores the neurological tyranny under which bodies live. No medical professional or layperson in the Milgram or  the Zimbardo experiments predicted how pre-programmed our neurology is. For a spiritual seeker, the importance of this understanding cannot be underestimated.

If, despite the evidence, you do not believe our inherited and conditioned neurology determines our interpretations and reactions to situations, then I seriously ask you to consider what does determine it. Is it divine intervention? Is it something else that we are not conscious of? Please note that neither of these alternatives brings conscious will back into the equation. Sorry to be a stickler, but if we are not conscious of it, then it cannot be conscious will.

The understanding you have just been given of your neurological functions has shown that your experience of conscious will is, in actuality, an illusion. The next chapter explores how the illusion works.

 

 

 

Chapter 3:  Illusions of What Is

 

If conscious will is an illusion, as claimed, then it is important to understand how illusions work. As the human brain goes about interpreting the world, it operates primarily as a pattern-seeking machine. For both survival purposes and practicality, it naturally seeks continuity. Imagine for a moment what it would be like if your brain did not do this. Every situation you encountered each day would be a brand new experience in every way. Just think how long it would take to get ready in the morning! The sense of continuity is such a high priority that our brain will often do what the average person would find hard to believe: it makes things up. Our brains frequently form concepts and see patterns that are totally illusionary. The human brain prioritizes consistency and completeness over accuracy in order to maintain an illusionary continuity.

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The image above is called a Kanizsa Square. It is a good example of your mind seeing a pattern what is not really there. There are really only four black pacman shapes, but your mind imagines a square. The square even appears more luminous that the same shade of paper around it. The square is “not really there,” as they say. If you cover one or two of the pacmen with your thumb, the illusion of the square disappears.

Throughout life, your nervous system senses data, but your brain makes the pre-conscious decisions determining what will actually be experienced or perceived. It is the same with your illusion of conscious will. Your neurology has decided to interpret the experiencing of the world in a certain way, but much of it is “not really there”

The variety of images like the Kanizsa Square is endless. Your neurology is capable of imagining many things that are not really there. Look at each of these shapes below for a moment and notice the illusions your neurology creates. Then cover a segment or two of the image with your finger and notice happens to the illusion.

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Conscious will is just another imaginary pattern that gives the body a sense of continuity, when in actuality, it’s not really there. It is a way for your brain to make sense of experiencing the world through time. This way of experiencing the world is typical of most human neurologies. Seeing conscious will for what it is, an illusion, it the first step toward living as you truly are. As the glue of the illusion is dissolved, your case of mistaken identity can be naturally resolved. For the spiritual seeker, seeing through the illusion of conscious will is the fulcrum of awakening.

Pay attention to what happens as you look at the image below.

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Most neurologies will see concentric circles coming out from the centre of the image. They will also see white dots at the intersections of the lines. The illusionary concentric circles and white dots are just an example of what is called “good continuation.” Your brain tries to make sense of the information by tying all the points together. It does so by imagining things that are not there.

The graphic above has too many separate points of intersectin for your neurology to process. It makes more sense to imagine circles and dots over the actual design. The separate points of intersection can be connected by the illusion to make the actual design more palatable. All those imaginary lines and dots are like your illusionary conscious will. They are not really there, even though you experience them.

The actions of all human bodies are really just neurological reactions to situations. If the black lines are like the situations your neurology has encountered, then the intersections are where your neurology reacted with a thought, feeling, or action. The imaginary concentric circles are like the story you imagine about all the conscious choice you had regarding the situation. The imaginary dots are like the illusionary “conscious choice” you made.

You can see and sense the white circles and dots. But when you pay close attention, you understand they are an illusion. Those concentric circles and dots are just like the conscious will you move through life with. They only seem real.

Conscious will is not really there, yet we experience it. Quite simply, conscious will is a phantasmagorical imagining! The neurology that was inherited and was fine-tuned according to life experiences pre-consciously manufactures your thoughts, feelings, and actions. No conscious choice occurs anywhere in the process. Please read this paragraph again!

Your conscious will is an imaginary steering wheel placed in front of you on the train ride called life. You may be under the illusion that you can steer in any direction you like, but your neurological tracks determine where the train goes.

Look at this next picture for a few seconds. Really look at it.

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The static image seems very active to your neurology. It pulses and shimmers. It looks like a three-dimentional sphere, and if you look at it long enough, petals on a flower appear and continue to change.

The illusions that occur when viewing this static image are examples of what is called “optical distortion.” The neurology that interprets your visual data is especially sensitive to edges, but there are too many black and white edges for your neurology to deal with. In your neurology’s continual quest for continuity, it deals with the overwhelming amount of data by creating the illusions of movement, three-dimentionality, and flow, but it’s really a neurological misinterpretation. Perceiving yourself as an entity moving through life with a constantly flowing conscious will is also a neurolgoical misinterpretation in name of continuity. If you had to deal, on a conscious livel, with all the “edges” of cause and effect for every situation in your life, it would be overwhelming. Your pre-conscious neurology does its best to pick out the pieces that give you a sense of continuity and ignores the rest. The illusion of conscious will is merely an overall sense of continuity that our neurology creates.

It’s much like the blind spot in your field of vision caused by the presence of your optic nerve. Where the nerve attaches to your retina, there are no photoreceptors, so your neurology takes a guess and fills in the blank area as best it can. You never notice the ever-present blind spot because it’s covered by an illusion. So too, your illusionary sense of conscious will is just an illusionary filler for all the pre-conscious decision-making processes of your neurology.

Look at the above images again. The illusion does not disappear just because there is an understanding of it. In the movie, The Wizard of Oz, the curtain is pulled aside to reveal an ordinary man working a machine that is projecting the image of a wizard. Dorothy can see both the illusion and the reality, but the illusion does not have any power to fool her anymore. Everything changes once you look behind the curtain, even when everything appears the same.

The illusion of conscious will is very strong. Many spiritual seekers have such contempt for the concepts presented here that it prevents authentic investigation. In the end, all the awakend can do is point out the illusion of conscious will for those inclined to look. Keep in mind that the investigation is worth it. Only when you discover what is, are you able to reside in what is.

 

Mental and Emotional Reflexes

 

Just as our bodies have physical reflexes, our minds have mental and emotional reflexes. The only difference is that with mental and emotional reflexes, there is an illusion of consciously choosing them.

There is a carnival game from the Old West you are welcome to try. First, find a large jar made from very thick glass. Second, place a large, angry rattlesnake in the jar. Third, place your hand firmly against the outside of the jar and stare at the rattlesnake. Fourth, keep your hand pressed against the jar as the rattlesnake strikes.

For those who may not have a rattlesnake handy, I’ll tell you what happens: everyone pulls their hand away as the rattlesnake strikes. In the Old West, one cowboy after the next would watch his friends bet their money and fail. Then he would try and fail as well. It’s a physical human reflex to pull your hand away from the jar. The body just reacts. No choice is involved.

The carnival worker understood that the reaction of  the cowboys was not a matter of conscious will. When it comes to a physical reflex, most of us would concede that no true “choice” or conscious will is involved. The reaction pattern is deeply embedded within us, so when we encounter a situation, our bodies just follow the program.

The illusion of conscious will simply masks the fact that our mental and emotional ‘choices’ are neurological reflexes, just like our physical reflexes. They are just more idiosyncratic. The cowboys who decided to gamble away their hard-earned money did not really choose to do so in the way most people think. Their mental and emotional neurological patterns were just walking through the carnival as they ran into a man who offered them a chance to win some easy money. Some took the bet; others did not. It all depended on the thoughts and feelings that arose upon encountering the carnival worker, which were pre-consciously decided. The situation then played itself out according to each cowboy’s inherited and conditioned neurology.

Now here’s the fun part: Our neurology can change if there is new conditioning. Your neurology is part of the chain of cause and effect like everything else. Many cowboys who lost their money the first time would not take the bet a second time. This is new conditioning. Yet, other cowboys had their neurology wired in such a way that a change did not occur, and they kept betting until all their money was gone. Either way, they may become conscious of their choices, but they were not choices that were consciously made.

 

Our Loopy Nature of Our Neurology

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If human beings had conscious will, they would be capable of going against their own neurology. Yet, our neurology is all we have to interpret and react to a situation. The functioning of your neurology is like riding on the “mobius loop” pictured above, which can only continually wind back into itself. Your neurology constantly interprets and reacts to situations through the prism of its past inheritance and conditioning; the consequences of those interpretations then become more interpretations for your neurology to shape and be conditioned by. There is no way to get ahead of, or outside of, the loop, so there is no place for conscious will to exist. You are forever looking at the present through a lens of your neurological past because it’s the only tool you have. Our illusion of conscious will is supported during those times when we appeared to choose what was already manifesting in the chain of cause and effect. The neurological pattern-seeking machine we call a brain ignores the times when what we choose does not manifest, so the illusion of conscious will continues. “Continuity at all costs,” is the daily mantra of your neurology. At this point, some of you may attempt to go deeper into your human physiology to uncover this phantom called conscious will. You may be intrigued by the anterior cingulate, basal ganglia interactions, or other deep-seated anatomical elements. However, the deeper you go into your physiology, the more unconscious the mechanisms of your reactions become. For example, how conscious are you of your pituitary gland? You are not conscious of it at all. That is the entire point. For those of you still hoping to salvage your illusionary conscious will, I ask you to again consider, if it’s not our neurology that is doing the interpreting and reacting, what else is there?

The Sufi mystic Gurdjieff said people are simply “bags of chemicals.” Nobel Laureate Francis Crick said “you’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” People are walking, neurologies. Period. In the perpetual chain of cause and effect, which is our world, you do not get to consciously choose the links in your chain, nor does anyone else. Like spokes appearing to move backward on a forward spinning wheel, conscious will is an illusion your neurology creates to make sense of its experiencing of life.

Your neurology exists in  the tide of destiny and is tossed by the waves of circumstance. A separate individual with conscious will is the illusion I refer to as the “me,” and the “me” is what most people consider themselves to be. There is no conscious will, so there is no “me.” The “me” is a myth, an imagining. When you identigy so strongly with an illusionary “me,” there can be no awakening to enlightenment. You have been pounding on a wall that is not even there.

 

 

 

Chapter 4: The Illusion of Conscious Will

 

Once it can be clearly seen that the technique of “me,” the habit of viewing the world from a position of an independent entity with conscious will, is a case of mistaken identity, then all the hard work is done. This chapter aims toward a final “seeing through” of the illusion of conscious will, so you will be free to embrace the eternality of what you are in the chapters that follow.

Let’s take a look at an often unexamined assumption that the illusionary “me” carries with it everywhere. It’s the illusion that “I and others can control what we think.” It’s very simple to see past, yet people use it to interpret their daily human interactions all the time. For example, try the following experiment:

 

Now grab a paper and pen and write down every thought you have for the next ten minutes. Notice how many thoughts pop into your head that are not about your topic. There will be a lot.

Oh – and this is very important – whatever you do, do not think of a pink hippopotamus while you do this exercise.

Oops!

After the exercise, answer this question: If I cannnot control my own thoughts, why would I think other people can?

 

Thoughts and feelings are no different that other processes of the body. The circulation of blood, cell replication, digestion, and so on, all occur without us consciously controlling them. We may become conscious of our thoughts and feelings, but we still do not control them. Although this may be shocking, it simply is what is.

Has your neurology ever been in love with someone and not wanted to? Or has your neurology ever disliked someone and not wanted to? Wouldn’t everyone simply choose to enjoy the job they go to each day if they had the conscious choice to do so? If conscious will was more than an illusion, wouldn’t both your physical body and psyche be better served? Seriously, wouldn’t a lot of things in your life be very different if conscious  will actually did exist?

Is it really valid to believe that people consciously choose to be the way they are? If an addict, a depressed person, or even a continually remorseful abuser could actually choose to become more functional, don’t you think they would? Do you think they consciously choose to be unhappy and ruin their lives? Even the ones who have actively sought help? Seriously, if conscious will exists, who yould consciously and willfully choose to ruin their lives when they could simply stop what was causing harm and do whatever was required to make their lives better?

Some of you will answer the questions above by saying, “Ok, fine. If you are going to be a stickler…I guess they do not consciously choose to be miserable.” That leaves only the pre-conscious mechanisms of the brain doing the deciding!

Many spiritual seekers valiantly attempt to salvage their fading conscious will by introducing some version of the grand exception such as, “but what about the poor, inner-city kid who decides he’s going to create a better life and does so? Isn’t he an example of conscious will at work?”

The grand exception only proves the point that it’s not about conscious will. I will often reply with another question, “What about the hundreds of other children that do not get out of the inner city? If they had conscious will, wouldn’t they choose to live a better life as well? Or even better, “What about all those children who also chose to get out and didn’t make it? They made a choice, and it didn’t work out.”

The notion of competing conscious wills pokes even more holes in the illusion. How much conscious will is there if your conscious will can be canceled by someone else’s conscious will? If you have ever experienced being mugged, violated, or had a loved one leave when you did not want want them to, you can sense that we really do not have control. How does it work for this illusionary conscious will when someone else’s conscious will runs over yours? It usually leads to a great deal of suffering because your entire identity is based on this one illusion.

However, keep in mind that this question about the clash of separate conscious wills  is like asking who would win a fight between The Incredible Hulk and Spiderman. Neither superhero exists! This, again is the whole point.

 

The Shell Game

 

A separate “me” chasing enlightenment is the classic “shell game” of spiritual seeking. As the magician moves the three shells round and round, he hides the ball between his fingers. No matter how earnest your search, the illusionary ball never appears under the shell you choose, because it’s not really there to be found! A “me” with its illusion of conscious will can never win at the “shell game” of enlightenment.

There is no “me” with conscious will that does anything! Human beings are nothing more that puppets whose strings are made invisible by the illusion of conscious will. Pretending the strings are not there causes suffering. Seeing the neurological strings begins the turning of awareness toward an awakening to enlightenment.

Jolly Charlie’s Amusement Park, or “Jaalee Chaalee’s” as neurologies from Rhode Island pronounce it, had a great ride when I was a little boy. It consisted of a series of little boats attached to a track that ran beneath the water. Although the path of the boats was predetermined, we were all completely fixated on steering our boats. We madly turned the steering wheel to avoid crashing into the stationary buoys that appeared in our path and were so pleased with ourselves as we barely escaped disaster. We had a fantastic time waving to the parents each time we would pass. What could be more fun at that age than captaining a boat?

Of course, for the adults, the boat ride was a completely different experience. The adults understood that the steering of the boats was all an illusion. They could not step back into the dream of a small child. Seeing through the dream forever changes the dream. Yet, the adults did not go out of their way to ruin the illusion for their children. There came a time in the natural course of events when the child had enough life experience to understand the illusion. With understanding, the child became an adult.

Similarly, the “ride” of a body with conscious will is nothing more that an illusion, a childlike fantasy. Once this understanding occurs, everything is different. Yet, everything also remains the same. The body is still on this ride of life, but with no ability to consiously steer the boat, we are left as the awareness of the ride. We are left totally free to be the experiencing of each moment.

Conscious will is nothing but a false rumour. This false rumour, this nonexistent phantom, has been causing all your suffering. The illusion of conscious will is the culprit that holds back your spiritual awakening, but like all illusions, it is only supported by a lack of investigation and a desire to believe what is false. Believing in conscious will is like a child who imagines there is a monster in the closet. The child is genuinely frightened, but a simple investigation quickly resolves the problem. Adults just open the closet door and look.

As a spiritual seeker, it is your nature to be curious about what is. This is not the case with everyone. Most human beings are fully immersed in the illusion and do not yearn to understand it. Your curiosity has brought you to a precipice. There is now only one question: Is there a desire to look over the edge?

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“But Master, there is much we still do not know.”

“Come to the edge,” he said.

“But Master, we require more practice.”

“Come to the edge,” he said as he pointed, “And just look.”

They looked…They understood…They flew.

By investigating the illusion of conscious will, the following becomesclear:

 

  • No conscious will was involved in choosing the body’s inherited neurology. No conscious will was involved in how that inherited neurology fired and wired itself together as if it encountered life situations.

 

  • Interpretations and perceptions of life occur due to the pre-conscious funelling, filtering, and tunneling of neurological input over which there is no conscious control.

 

  • Based on the limited options determined by our pre-conscious neurological mechanisms, certain thoughts, feelings, and reactions are selected to be consciously experienced. The conscious mind then takes ownership for the experiences it subsequently becomes conscious of, yet which are not consciously chosen.

 

  • Whatever the consequences of these pre-conscious interpretations and reactions to a situation may be, these new effects further condition your neurology (outside of your conscious control), and the game continues.

 

When viewed from this perspective, can one honestly believe any actions taken are based on conscious will? In the end, conscious will never was – it was all an illusion. It’s now time for you to discover how this illusion causes suffering and to experience the freedom found it what is.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5: Understanding Made Good

 

 

Sailors understand that a boat’s velocity alone is not an accurate

measure of actual progress. The wind may allow them to go very fast

in a certain direction, but it may not be the direction they wish to go.

Velocity Made Good is what matters in sailing. It is the

actual progress made toward a destination.

In a similar way, Understanding Made Good is what ultimately matters to the spiritual seeker. It is the actual progress made in seeing through the illusion of a separate self. Keep in mind that a genuine illusion is not just an obvious absurdity. It has aspects that are very plausible. That’s why it’s an illusion and why apparent progress can often be a deception for the spiritual seeker.

Thus, the true value of any spiritual teaching is measured primarily by the degree to which it liberates us from the illusion of a separate self. Realizing there is no “me” who is “doing” means “I am done” (note the double meaning!). There is only the realization that you were free all along.

Honestly investigating what is, at the most basic levels, is what ripens understanding for the spiritual seeker. The letting go of false premises will happen naturally as understanding deepens. What is, is always here waiting patiently to be discovered. No struggle is required. Your inherent spiritual curiosity is enough. Honest investigation simply aims that curiosity in the appropriate direction in order to maximize your Understanding Made Good.

A question: “What would you have to do to get out of a hole you never fell into, but thought you did?”

“Nothing,” Is the common response, but this misses the point. There would have to be an understanding that you never fell into a hole for you to stop trying to get out. The spiritual seeker asks the awakened how to get out of the hole of separateness and suffering. The awakened points to the fact that they never fell into the hole in the first place. “Thank you,” the seeker replies, “but do you think I should use a ladder to climb out of the hole?” The awakened points again to the fact that there never was a hole and they never fell into it. “Thank you,” The seeker responds, “so perhaps a rope would be better to get out of this hole?” The awakened than points again to the fact that the seeker is not in a hole.

This is what the conversation is like for one who has awakened. Yet, the awakened continues pointing with great compassion. One day the spiritual seeker understands that “the hole” was all an illusion. The seeker and the awakened can then both laugh at how simple it all is.

 

Investigation

 

As stated earlier, the broad structure of our neurology is inherited and is then fine-tuned by the experiences encountered throughout life. The tendencies inherent in our neurology often choose consistency and completeness over accuracy. Yet, for the earnest spiritual seeker it is accuracy that is of penultimate importance. It is only understanding what is that is required for awakening, but precision is required for such an understanding to arise.

The investigation that follows is just another experience, but it will assist in undoing the habitual way your neurology tends to view the world. Each repetition of the investigation is like snipping a few threads on an illusionary straight jacket that has kept you in imaginary bondage. At a certain point, enough of the fabric has been snipped away and you are effortlessly released. All that remains is the actuality of what you are.

There is still no “control” over your neurology, but this investigation shifts the tendencies of interpretation that occur at the pre-conscious level. This investigation simply tosses a different orientation into the chain of cause and effect. An increased sense of well-being from Understanding Made Good is a common result.

What follows is a short series of questions. The answers are obvious for those who have read the previous chapters, and one version of an answer is even written below each question. The questions are asked to deepen your understanding and thereby re-orient your awareness. Ideally these questions will help you to see through the narrow tunnels of perception that allow ignorance to persist.

Read, genuinely consider, and answer the following questions. Doing so in writing or out loud deepens understanding most effectively for some. For others, walking while doing the exercise is profoundly effective. Understanding through experience is the aim.

Much like plunging into a cool mountain stream, many of you will find this investigation quite refreshing. The benefits can be profound, so indulge in this inquiry as often as the desire to understand arises.

Remember, thinking one knows the answer is never the same as discovering the answer. Hopefully, you have already realized that freedom often lies in the un-investigated details.

 

 

Exercise

 

This is a several-part process. Begin by identifying an event and then go through the subsequent steps to re-cognize that event. This exercise is a gentle way to understand what is and to experience the peace and freedom that comes from Understanding Made Good. The exercise requires no struggle, only your genuine spiritual curiosity.

 

1) Think of a situation, past or present, where negative thoughts and feelings still arise. Write it down or say it aloud. Allow the intensity of those images and feelings to arise once again. Experience them as much as possible. Bring up all the judgemental “should haves” and “should be’s” your mind can muster. Acknowledge consciously how the body’s neurology reacts to that situation. Write all the reactions down or say them out loud. It is important to let your neurology experience fully the current perceptions about this situation, so don’t hold back.

Rate the overall intensity of these feelings from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most intense.

 

2) Answer the following questions as best you can. Compare this to the answers proveded in italics following each question.

 

Is there any conscious will involved in how my neurology senses, interprets, constructs, and perceives this or any other situation?

No, my neurology does what it does. There is no conscious will.

 

Is there any conscious will involved in choosing the thoughts and feelings that arise within my neurology?

No, my neurology does what it does. There is no conscious will.

 

Is there any conscious will involved in my neurology’s reaction to this situation or ony other?

No, my neurology does what it does. There is no conscious will.

 

3) Now consider any other person(s) involved with this situation and answer the same questions.

 

Is there any conscious will involved in how their neurology senses, interprets, constructs, and perceives this situation?

No, a neurology does what it does. There is no conscious will.

 

Is there any conscious will involved in this person(s) choosing the thoughts that arise within their neurology?

No, a neurology does what it does. There is no conscious will.

 

Is there any conscious will involved in their neurology’s reaction to this or any other situation?

No, a neurology does what it does. There is no conscious will.

 

How would it feel if I were that person(s)?

I would feel exactly the way do because I would have their neurology that reacts exactly the way it does.

 

4) Now returning to the original situation consider these questions.

 

Was it possible to use conscious will to control my thoughts, feelings, and reaction patterns in regard to this situation?

No, my neurology does what it does. There is no conscious will.

 

 

Was this situation any fifferent for the other person(s) in being able to use conscious will to control their thoughts, feelings, and reaction patterns?

No, a neurology does what it does. There is no conscious will.

 

What is it like to experience this situation with the understanding that there is no conscious will available to my neurology or the neurology of others?

There is only the experiencing of a neurology doing what it does. I am left as the experiencing of neurologies doing what they do in a world that is what it is.

 

How does this situation feel when I see through the illusion of conscious will?

I am free to experience what is, as it is, not as an illusionary conscious will wishes it was.

 

5) Bring up the situation again in your awareness and rate the overall intensity of feelings from 0 to 10.

 

What is the experiencing of this situation like now with a deeper understanding?

Has there been a shift in regard to the illusion of conscious will in this situation?

Can you feel compassion arise for your own neurology and that of others?

 

Repeating this investigation with this situation or other situations can be very enlightening. Notice the shift that takes place in your sense of well-being as understanding deepens.

 

6) Now, coming back to the larger picture, consider this final question.

 

Do I understand that the wiring and firing of all neurologies is not open to conscious will?

Yes, neurologies just do what they do, i.e. people do what they do.

 

 

7) Repeat this exploration as often as the desire arises.

 

 

 

The point of the above exercise is for you to understand, through experience, that the story of a situation viewed through the lens of an illusionary conscious will is what creates suffering. What you have yearned for as a spiritual seeker has always been right here, right now, residing in the actuality of what is. These first five chapters have given you a taste of the freedom that occurs by seeing through what you are not. The final chapters will give you a taste of the joy found in discovering what you ultimately are.

 

 

 

Chapter 6: Re-Orientation: I Am Awareness

 

Seeing through the illusion of conscious will can be very threatening. Odds are that most of your experience has been interpreted through the filter of a “me,” a body and mind with conscious will, so seeing through it brings into question what you fundamentally are. The core of your previously presumed identity immediately begins dissolving, and without a “me” orienting your experience, it would appear that there is nothing left to be. The point of this chapter is to show that you are exactly the no-thing that remains, an unconditined awareness of experiencing.

 

I Am

 

“I am” to the average person means, “I am a separate body and mind with conscious will that perceives through the senses.” They do not see through the illusion of the separate self, so they suffer. This confusion is why so many seekers continually ask who they are instead of what they are.

Realizing the body has no conscious will drastically changes the interpretation of the statement, “I am.” “I” is no longer a personal identity “I” becomes an impersonal awareness of existing, and when “I” is impersonal, everything changes.

Spiritual seekers instinctly know that what they ultimately are is eternal. Eternal means timeless. All the major religions point toward this eternality. Any belief in an afterlife or other life is an intuitive attempt to understand this eternality. Your body and its neurology are not eternal. They are in time. Thus, it is not what you ultimately are.

When we grasp that all the previous perceptions of what human beings are has been a massive misinterpretation, what we are left with is each person as an eternal awareness of living and nothing more. One is then able to be their own eternality as the pure subjectivity of awareness.

Being the pure subjectivity of awareness may sound quite esoteric, but it is just the awareness of the experiencing that is happening all the time. The illusion of conscious will just blocks the conscious experiencing of it. Anyone who has been in a flotation tank can usually relate to what it is like to be pure awareness. As the body becomes weightless in the salty water and the mind relaxes into the darkness, our physical sensations of separateness are lost. When this occurs, it becomes clear that we are more an awareness of this flowing “river of thought” than we are a thinker. One forgets the body for moments at a time, and out thoughts just float by like clouds in the sky. It is clear that thoughts rise and fall of their own accord. The awakened simply understands that this is true for all of our experiencing.

With no objective qualities of any kind, awareness is best described as a no-thing. Thus, all the confusion! Truly grasping the zeroness of “I am awareness” is the critical intuition. Only then is there peace.

The Awakened: How many are here?

Seeker: I count two.

The Awakened: I count only one.

Seeker: Is this because you are one with everything?

The Awakened: No. It is because I am no-thing to be counted.

 

Re-Orientation

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Look at the image above. What does it say? To most folks, the image looks like an empty crossword puzzle that does not seem to say anything. Now raise the image up so it is at about eye level (higher than the tip of your nose). Tilt the page away from your eyes and look across the page. The page should be almost parallel with the floor as you look across it at eye level. There is a word spelled out that can be seen when looking across the image.

The first vertical line on the left that runs the length of the image along with the bottom left block make the letter “L.”  The second and third vertical lines from left and the two blocks between them make the letter “A.” The letters “U,” “G,” and “H” all follow in the same manner.

When looking at the above image in one way, it looked like an empty crossword puzzle. When looked at another way, the word ”LAUGH” clearly appears.

Like the image above, the realization of “what” you are requires only a different way of looking. It’s a reorientation that allows for a simple recognition of what has been there all along, but from a perspective that most are unable to discover. Looked at one way, you are a separate being with conscious will, a “me.” Looked at another way, you are the pure subjectivity of awareness. As the unawakened, you are the “me-ing.” As the awakened, you are the be-ing (as a verb).

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The image above is called an ambigram. Regardless of whether is right side up or upside down, it appears the same. However, being right side up or upside down is very important for everything else on the page. Your mistaken identity as a separate “me” leaves everything else in life upside down, and this is the cause of your suffering.

The tragedy of the spiritual seeker lies in their anbiguity. Zero ambiguity in regard to an illusionary separate individual living life with conscious will is all that is required to awaken. Zero ambiguity regarding the illusion leaves everything else in life right side up. Through a simple re-orientation, you move through the world experiencing what is.

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makes all the difference!

 

Shifting orientation is the master key that the spiritual seeker has been looking for. The shift effectively occurs through understanding what is. However, there is an ancient exercise where one imagines “having no head” that can give you a temporary glimpse of what this orientation is like. Take a moment and give it a try.

 

Imagine the thing above your shoulders we call a “head” has been removed. It its place imagine only “the pure awareness of being.” “I am awareness” is all that is left where your head used to be. It helps the experiencing if your eyes are opened extra wide.

 

Notice there is only the awareness of a body and all that surrounds it. Having no head leaves “I am awareness” as the experiencing of everything encountering that point of awareness that sits on top of your shoulders.

There is only the experiencing of impersonal awareness as it is being lived. There is no illusionary consciousnes will to be found.

 

(Douglas E Harding, On Having No Head)

 

 

Driving while “having no head” can also be fun. As you drive, imagine that instead of moving through the world, the world is moving through you. In this case the you is “I am awareness.” As “I am awareness,” you become the focal centre for all of your experiencing. It may take a bit of playing to make the shift, but when the shift occurs, your experiencing changes, and with it comes a temproary letting go of the false notion of a “me” with conscious will moving through the world. This exercise gives a wonderful glimpse into the world without the illusion of “me,” yet only with understanding is the “me” seen through and forever changed.

Take a moment and imagine a person in the middle of paradise standing behind one simple row of prison bars. See this person gripping the bars with both hands and pressing his or her head between them. There is only one row of bars, so this is not a cage, but it surely seems like one from the perspective of the person railing against them.

The one who struggles is imprisoned only by a lack of understanding. Freeing this person from the illusion of being imprisoned requires only an honest inquiry into the actuality of the situation. All it takes is a simple re-orientation. Awakening to enlightenment is no different. It is only a different way of looking that allows one to see through the illusion of conscious will. It is only this illusion that keeps us believing we are imprisoned in separateness. As we will see in the next chapter, only with this re-orientation can re-integration occur. Only then can you (as awareness) embrace this-here-now as what you phenomenally are.

 

 

 

Chapter 7: Re-Integration: Awakening to Enlightenment

 

There is a scene in the movie, The Bear, where a little bear cub is about to be attacked by a mountain lion. The little cub stands on its hind legs in an attempt to look intimidating. He is very impressed with himself when the mountain lion turns and runs away. What the little cub does not see is his 10-foot tall, 1200-pound father standing upright behind him. The illusionary “me” with conscious will is very much like the bear cub. They both ignore the massive weight that other causes and effects play in how any situation turns out. The “me,” like the cub, is pleased when things turn out as desired, but suffers when they do not because of an inability to see what is.

Most individuals ignore any clues that the “me” might be deluding itself, so their experiencing of life continues as a “me.” As a spiritual seeker, there is a natural curiosity that something else might be going on. Yet, for most spiritual seekers, letting go of their somebodyness is a bit like the following joke:

 

Lawyer: I’m suing you for malpractice on behalf of John Smith.

Psychiatrist: But why? He was completely cured by my treatment.

Lawyer: My client says before your treatment he thought he was Jesus Christ. Now he feels like a nobody.

 

This-Here-Now

 

The awakened understands that the no-thingness of awareness, a pure subjectivity, a perfectly unconditioned receptivity, cannot experience itself – after all, it is not a thing. The pure subjectivity of awareness requires the phenomenal world as its complement for the dance of experiencing to occur. One without the other would make experiencing any thing impossible. The awakened understands and celebrates that what they are is the experiencing itself.

As the no-thingness of awareness, devoid of any phenomenal qualities, what you are can only be experienced phenomenally as this-here-now. Your re-integration back into the phenomenal world automatically occurs when experiencing this-here-now. As you re-orient into the no-thingness of awareness, you are re-integrated as the everythingness of experiencing this-here-now.

What you are is not just the awareness of all your conscious experiencings (i.e. thoughts, feelings, emotions, images, memories, sensations, etc.). Ultimately what you are is the awareness as the entire experiencing of this-here-now. I am awareness experiencing myself as everything in my awareness.

As awareness, I am realized to be no-thing, zero, zip, nadda, neti-neti, which leads to the experiencing of this-here-now as what “I am.” In an odd way, there is no one to become enlightened! There is only the nothingness of awareness and the everythingness of experiencing this-here-now. Accepting your “zero-ness” is where suffering ends, because there is no-thing to suffer. Embracing your everythingness as the experiencing of this-here-now is where celebration eternally begins.

The eternal “I” is not a phenomenal self; it is your continual, eternal phenomenal experiencing. As the nothingness of awareness, a pure subjectivity, you appear as whatever you are.

As complicated as this may seem at times, rest assured, this is not a complicated understanding. One morning while showering, I recalled how the Sufi mystic Rumi had summed it up in just three words. I took out my shower crayon (yes, I use crayons) and wrote on the shower door,

 

Seeing, Seeing, Seeing…

 

Rumi

 

When I returned that evening, I found my girlfriend had jokingly written beneath the Rumi quote:

 

Beeing, being, being…

 

The Hive

 

“Fantastico!” I thought (I had just returned from Italy); the bees are “being lived” as bees. The bees are “being beed” as part of the greater hive. So too, our bodies are “being lived” in an even greater hive. Bees do not have enough consciousness to have an illusion of separateness, so there is no suffering. They are not aware of being aware and thus have a dissociated sense of awareness. The average person has a differentiated sense of awareness and suffers. They are aware that they are aware, but they have an illusion of separateness. The awakened has an integrated sense of awareness and no longer suffers. They are aware that they are aware, but have seen through the illusion of separateness.

As the eternal “I am,” there is only freedom. The “I am” is not freed when awakening happens because it was never bound. There is only an awakening to the understanding that as awareness, “the experiencing of this-here-now is what I am,” which has always been free.

Separateness between self and others has disappeared for the awakened. In a sense, there are no others. As awareness, there is no separation, and thus, no desperation. They are not a separate entity in an ocean desperately resisting the currents and tide. They are the continual experiencing in an ocean called this-here-now. They are no longer a separate perceiver, but are the perceiving.

Years ago I was reading a new book devoted to the Buddhist concept of “one taste.” I put the book down and went to run an errand. Oddly, upon my return the book was missing. However, there were two little black and white puppy butts sticking out from under the couch. I knew what this meant. I peered under the couch and saw adorable tenacious terrier puppies fully engrossed in destroying my book. Anger arose, but quickly passed as I laughed at my puppies literally taking a taste of “one taste.”

I was reminded of the monk whose satori experience involved the ringing of a temple bell. He said, “There was no bell, and no me. There was only the ringing.” So too, with my precious book. There was no book and no puppies chewing it. There was only the joyful tasting of the entire experience.

The awakened recognizes that this-which-in-eternity-we-are is always this, always here, always now. Enlightenment is what we are.

 

A king and a sage died at the same time and ended up facing God together.

“When you said, ‘I am God,’ it angered me,” God said to the King. “I cannot allow you the highest place in the afterlife.”

“When you said, ‘I am God,’ I felt loved,” God said to the sage. “I’m granting you the highest place in the afterlife.”

“Why are you treating us differently if we both said the same thing?” asked the King.

“When you said, ‘I am God,’ you were talking about you,” sighed God. “When the sage said, ‘I am God,’ he was talking about me.”

 

The King and the sage in the above story have one major difference. The King believes himself to be a separate, independent entity with conscious will. The sage has seen through the illusion of conscious will and the illusionary separateness it brings. The sage has re-oriented as the no-thingness of awareness and as a result is re-integrated as the experiencing of this-here-now, continually.

 

Only More So

 

The world after awakening to enlightenment is exactly as your world is right now, only more so. With no illusion of separateness, the awakened is now the entire experiencing of whatever is. Awakening to the actuality of what is makes everything exactly as it is, only more so.

For the awakened, everything is different and everything is exactly the same. Thoughts and feelings continue to arise of their own accord just as before. Family and friends remain as they are. The history of every body is absolutely the same, down to the smallest detail. If there is a memory of dropping an ice cream cone at age five, that memory remains. The only difference for the awakened is that they are no longer distracted by the illusion of separateness. This leaves everything exactly as it has always been, only more so.

The awakened rests in the understanding that there is no conscious choice over the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings that arise within us. There is understanding that each human being is a unique pattern of neurological development and adaptation that functions outside any concept of conscious will. Each neurology simply encounters life situations and reacts in its own idiosyncratic way. The already established neurology just does what it does. After all, how could it not?

Being linked in the chain of cause and effect does not confuse the awakened. There is no struggle and strain as the chain unwinds. Everyone and everything still does what they do within the chain. There is an understanding that no one in the physical world acts as pure causality. When investigated, our experiencing is understood to be a long chain of linked effects, each prior effect becoming the cause for another effect as the chain unwinds. This understanding allows the awakened to effortlessly be the experiencing of life itself.

 

Enlightenment

 

Awakening to enlightenment occurs directly through freedom from separate selfhood. “Freedom from separate selfhood” means that what is considered as self in not separate in any way from any thing else. Any illusionary separate self would be understood as a case of mistaken identity.

Humanity’s case of mistaken identity lies at the core of its suffering. It leaves you as an illusionary separate object. Separate objects suffer. Period. “Freedom from separate selfhood” not only ends suffering, but leads to a natural living of the Golden rule, which promotes treating others as you would like to be treated. It arises naturally out of the non-separateness that occurs as the experiencing of this-here-now as what I am.

A natural shift occurs when what “I am” is no longer considered the “me.” Before the shift, the “me with conscious will” trembles at walking the high-tension wire of life all alone. Naturally, there is great fear of the separate “me” falling to its death. The re-orientation to being awareness allows fear to disappear. Walking the high-tension wire occurs without the gravity of the illusionary “me.” Re-integration brings with it the joy of the entire high-wire act as the experiencing of what you are. The view is breathtaking. The crowd is spectacular. The body is amazing in its own right. The same experience is entirely different. Realizing that what you are is the experiencing of life adds the joyful seasoning to awareness we have come to call “enlightenment.”

Enlightenment is merely an awakening to the unambiguous understanding of what is. That’s all it is. It is seeing through the illusion of the way this world seems to operate. It does not mean that a body organism, an “earth suit,” becomes perfect. There are no sudden psychic powers attained by a body upon awakening to enlightenment. One is not suddenly able to transcend the laws of physics and perform miracles. There is simply an awakening to the continual miracle of the experiencing that is happening right here, right now. The spiritual seeker yearns for something extraordinary, but what is extraordinary is seeing the ordinary as extraordinary and the extraordinary as ordinary.

Seeing through the illusion of the “me” as an independent entity with conscious will is all that is required for this awakening to enlightenment. Once there is a full realization of your no-thingness, the only thing left to be is the everythingness of experiencing. The body then continues to live in this world as part of the experiencing of this-here-now. Thus, the saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”

The body and its neurology will continue to do what it does. It still functions in the world because it is part of the world.

 

There was an awakened Master who, as a spiritual teacher, was continually pointing out to his students that the world, as they knew it, was an illusion. One day a messenger arrived during a lecture and announced the death of the Master’s son. Naturally, the Master began to weep.

Upon seeing the Master weeping, one student raised his hand and said, “Master, you lecture day after day that this world, as we know it, is illusion. Yet, upon hearing of the death of your son, you weep?”

“Yes,” said the Master, “And there is no greater illusion than having your son die.”

 

Upon awakening to enlightenment, there is still joy and sadness, pain and pleasure, love and compassion. The experiencing of life does not stop. The experiencing is simply not resisted by an illusionary “me.” As awareness, “I am” the experiencing of this-here-now as what “I am,” continually. That’s all it is!

 

Who Gets Enlightened?

 

Many masters have uttered, “You are already enlightened.” Confusion results if there is not a distinction drawn between the “me” and what you are as awareness. When it is said that “you” are already enlightened, they are not talking about a “me” that interprets the world in a manner that is personal. They are not talking about the illusionary “me” with its false concept of conscious will. As a matter of fact, they are talking about anything but that small illusionary “me” which prevents the seeing of what is.

It would be more accurate to say, “The ever-present ‘I am,’ as the continual experiencing of this-here-now, is already enlightened.” This leaves awakening to enlightenment as simply a re-orientation to that which you already are. The illusionary “me,” as an entity with conscious will, can never reach enlightenment. No separate self gets to be enlightened. That is the cosmic joke!

When the spiritual seeker finally understands what is, the formula is much like this:

 

“I Am”

Zero-ness (awareness)

Experiencing

Two-ness (duality, separateness)

as Oneness (this-here-now).

 

As we will see in the next chapter, in realizing the zero-ness of awareness we pass through the “gateless gate,” the illusionary problem disappears, and our journey is complete.

 

 

 

Chapter 8: From Here to Here

 

In, Through the Looking Glass, the Red Queen has the landscape move along with her as she runs, so no progress is ever made. The Red Queen is the perfect analogy for spiritual seekers, who must understand that none of us ever progress beyond the landscape of this-here-now. There is nowhere else to look. Enlightenment is always here, right now. It is what we always are. Enlightenment is only the realization of what already is.

The spiritual seeker’s progress begins when they stop running and understand that they need only see the current landscape for what it is. To awaken, they only need to see through their illusion of separateness.

Enlightenment is simply an awakening to “things as they are.” The landscape does not change; what changes is the way it is seen when free of the illusion of conscious will.

 

The Illusory Problem

 

His most clever student presented the awakened with an “unsolvable” problem.

 

“If a small gosling is kept in a large glass bottle and fed until it is full grown,” said the student, “how does one get the goose out of the bottle without breaking the bottle or killing the goose?”

The awakened paused for a moment as everyone in the room contemplated this perplexing problem. He then tossed his small cup of water into the student’s face and shouted, “Wake up!”

As the student sat in open-mouthed shock, the awakened gently smiled and said, “The goose is out”!

 

The goose in the bottle was only an imaginary problem. It existed only in the mind. The only problem of the spiritual seeker is his or her inability to see through the illusion of an imaginary separate self. The separate self is only in your mind. It’s not really there. The goose is already out!

This is why awakening to enlightenment is referred to as “the gateless gate.” This is why a letting go of what never existed requires no effort, only understanding. In actuality, there is no “me” to become extinct. There is only the falling away of an illusionary “me” that never even existed. How much simpler could it be?

Spiritual awakening is a simple process, but also a subtle one. Most spiritual seekers are like a man who faces west each morning with the hope of witnessing a sunrise. His orientation makes seeing a sunrise impossible. Until he understands that what is being sought lies in the other direction, there will only be frustration.

A typical seeker desires the joy of being non-separate awareness, but also wishes to maintain an identity as a separate individual with conscious will. This is like vigorously rowing a boat that is still tied to the dock. All the “rowing” is for naught if there is a lack of basic understanding. With understanding, the illusion of conscious will is untied, and awareness as the experiencing of this-here-now does all the work.

Your case of mistaken identity as a separate identity with conscious will is an inherent part of the human experience. The illusion of conscious will is just part of the game. Like a child pretending they are Superman, it’s all good fun. No one is hurt when they tie a cape around their neck. It’s when they jump off the roof that the suffering begins. It is moving through life believing in the illusion of conscious will that results in human suffering.

If enlightenment were any thing, it would be a wonderful beast that swallows whole your illusion of separateness. Thus, the saying of the Buddhist monks, “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.” “Kill” means to see through the illusion of separateness, regardless of what that illusion is. It is only the illusion of separateness that prevents an awakening to enlightenment.

 

The Journey Complete

 

The journey from here to here is complete when there is an understanding that with no conscious will, we are left as the awareness of living. As awareness, I am the experiencing of this-here-now as what I am, continually. This is enlightenment.

Enlightenment is what we are. Each and every time this understanding deepens, a little more of your false identity relaxes itself away. Seeing through what is false is all that is required.

When your mistaken identity has been pulled out from under you, like a chair taken away in the game of musical chairs, there is no hard crash to the floor; there is only the blissful fall into enlightenment.

 

So, let’s break it down one last time:

 

Conscious will makes non-sense when actually investigated. There is no conscious choice in the wirings and workings of your neurology. There is no conscious choice in what you think, what you feel, and ultimately what experiencing occurs in your life. In the end, the perception and reactions to life’s infinite situations are neurologically based and pre-consciously determined. They are not consciously willed.

Belief in a body with conscious will, labelled the “me,” is the lynchpin of separateness and suffering. However, the “me” has been exposed for what it is and is now like a magician who continues doing tricks in front of an audience that knows how they are performed. It’s never the same once you understand the illusion.

Understanding there is no conscious will leads directly to the ultimate understanding of the “I” as “I am awareness.” As awareness, I am pure subjectivity, an absolute receptivity, a no-thingness, “I am” the experiencing of this-here-now, continually. As the experiencing of this-here-now, which is all I can ever be, I am always already enlightened.

 

Absorbed in the magnificence of experiencing this-here-now, you are at peace without reason. Understanding has erased any illusion of separateness and you are left as pure experiencing.

 

The journey from here to here is complete. All that remains is a celebration:

 

I am this!

I am here!

I am now!

 

That’s all it is!

Are you laughing?

 

 

 

Afterword

 

Upon reflection, there are two questions that occasionally arise for readers who have completed From Here to Here: Turning Toward Enlightenment. The two questions and responses are as follows:

 

Can people change?

 

Yes, people can change. However, neither the desire to seek change, nor the change itself, is consciously willed. People’s reactions to situations, on all levels, are based on their genetics and conditioning.

People can and do change with new conditioning, but mere exposure to new conditioning is not necessarily enough to manifest change. The new conditioning must be uniquely appropriate in its type, timing, and strength to override already established conditioning.

Most people can relate to having a long-sought change occur when these three factors “finally” came together. The reason the change did not occur sooner is because these factors cannot be consciously willed into being. If personal change were under the conscious control of people (a.k.a. neurologies), then the world would be a very, very different place.

Also, the more firmly established a neurological pattern is, the more difficult it is to change. For instance, personality traits are relatively fixed by genetics and early conditioning. Thus, it generally takes very strong conditioning to change them.

Neurologies simply do what they do without consciously choosing their reactions to the situations they encounter. Recognizing that change cannot be consciously willed results in a natural flowing of compassion towards those that are suffering. How could compassion not flow when there is true understanding?

This understanding is critical for the spiritual seeker because if changes in neurological reaction patterns are assumed to be consciously willed, then captivity within humanity’s primary illusion will not end. It doesn’t matter if the changes in neurological patterns are large of small; they are still outside conscious control. Seeing through the entire illusion of separate selves with conscious wills is what makes way for residing in what you always already are, the experiencing of this-here-now continually – a miracle.

 

What is the point of life if there is no conscious will?

 

The point is that you are the miracle of experiencing each moment. You are the continual, miraculous experiencing of this-here-now. A separate, illusionary experiencer continually misses the miracle precisely because their perception is based on a misinterpretation, the illusion of conscious will.

You have spent your entire lifetime thinking that you were steering your neurology down the road of life. Now, you recognize that there is only a child’s plastic steering wheel in your hands. The illusion of control is gone, but in its place is the freedom to be in the breathtaking experiencing of each moment. The road still twists and turns because that is what roads do, but now the experiencing itself is what you are.

Lastly, the question, “What’s the point?” can only be asked from the perspective of a now infamous illusionary self with conscious will. The question itself may best be viewed as a futile attempt at “false-self preservation,” the parting gesture of an illusion with only a memory of its former prominence, the sigh of resignation from a con man whose ruse has finally been exposed for all to see. Perhaps a gentle and fond wave goodbye is in order, for things will never be quite the same.