Q & A with Dr. Robert Saltzman #3



Dear Dr. Robert,

I am that“I have seen and read Adyashanti for a couple of years now and I like what he has to say. I am also reading Nisargadatta’s book I AM THAT. I find so much comfort with him. . . so simple and to the point. I guess what I don’t have is a personal teacher or support person to talk with and I miss that. I have had several but I seem to have lost them along the way. What you wrote about trying and not trying struck a chord with me. I think I have stopped trying at all because:

1. trying gets in the way and

2. I haven’t known what to try anymore.

I am out of “trying juice” I think. I have, for as long as I can remember, felt the presence of myself inside of me (if that makes any sense at all). When I was little I remember remembering and seeing a light when I would close my eyes. It seems to me like what I am seeking is here right now, not even a breath away. Problem is sticky thoughts still capture me at times and emotions get triggered. Nisargadatta says to always remember I Am That and little by little everything else dissolves”

Could it really be that easy?



Topic: D E N I A L

Sandbag Panic - Bhanuwat Jittivuthikarn

Sandbag Panic – Pic Bhanuwat Jittivuthikarn


We have not met, so this will be the best I can do at a distance. I hope you do not imagine that I have some special magic to dispense. I really do not. If you were sitting here with me, and you and I could go into this deeply, as one does in psychotherapy, possibly I could help more, but words on a page go only so far.

That said, you seem stuck in what I call “mis-identification,” by which I mean that you imagine that “you” are your body, your name, your personal history, your sex, your genderall that stuff. I do not think that reading Nisargadatta will help with that at all, but probably only deepen the mis-identification, since now you seem to think that there is someone who can “dissolve” things by means of some practice, as if you and what needs to be “dissolved” were two separate “things.” But they are not two separate things, and nothing needs to be or can be dissolved “little by little.” Awakening has to be now in this very moment or not at all, and does not consist in dissolving anything.

You say that sticky thoughts still capture “me,” as if you were somehow separate from the thoughts, as if some “me” existed that “has” thoughts. But that is not the case, and that seems to be the root of your difficulty. That separate “me” is simply another thought which cycles through awareness constantly, and which you constantly reinforce in a multitude of ways.


To repeat, there is no me which has “sticky thoughts,” and if she could only stop having them would then be awakened. “Me” is a sticky thought. The stickiest!


The thinker is the thought, not some separate entity which “has” thoughts. As long as you continue to divide the two, you will never see the freedom you desire, because that freedom does not result in leaving anything behind, or discriminating “good” from “bad,” but in surrendering completely and totally, with no resistance whatsoever, to what is seen, felt, and experienced moment by moment as the one and only “reality.” There is no other “you” except in your imagination which is also only thought.

The freedom you desire—and I certainly respect the desire, by the way—is here right now, and consists in being exactly what you are with no idea of improvement or of attaining or becoming anything else. Anything else you imagine you might be or could be “if only” is the impediment. Just stop!

A “you” who becomes awakened or liberated does not exist, never has, and never will. When awakening happens, “you” will not be there to see it, because the awakening occurs in the very instant that “you” is seen for what it is, a total delusion, a complete mis-identification, in which awareness, which belongs to nobody, and which is as empty and pristine as a movie screen, begins to imagine that it is whatever movie (thought) is projected upon it. The screen is not changed one whit, no matter what is projected upon it, and you—the real youare that: the pristine screen, not the movie.

You, as an entity, do not exist. That so-called “myself” is nothing more than thought (the movie). When thought stops, “you” are not there, only awareness (the screen) is there, and the screen is not “yours,” and never has been. That is why Nisargadatta said, “No wonder you are so unhappy. You spend 99% of the time thinking about yourself, and that does not exist.”



The Thinker (Daniel Lynch)

The Thinker – Daniel Lynch


Hi Robert,

“Thanks for your reply. I am just reading it over, and I feel completely nuts reading what you said. Not new to me, but it really hit home like a punch to the gut for some reason. It is like you took a big stick and smacked a hornets nest!”


Well, this sounds good. If anything I wrote hit home at all, I am pleased to hear it. Far better a hornet’s nest than a sepulcher.

The entire spiritual dilemma, you know, boils down to only one problem—denial.

  • Denial that everything which is born will die.
  • Denial that everything I want to keep—identity, possessions, friends, family, lovers, health, life—will be lost.

That denial, that continual avoidance of this simple, basic, undeniable truth, obscures my true nature by forcing everything I do and everything I think to serve an unconscious strategy—a strategy of denialso that instead of simply living, which means allowing whatever is to be, and whatever arises to arise, I continually attempt to protect myself against the pain of that simple truth: nothing that I think I have, nothing that I think I am, has any permanence whatsoever. It never did, and it never will.

Everything, even my imagined “self,” awakened or not, dies in every moment, to be replaced in the next moment with a new version of what I think I am. Because such total impermanence is terrifying, we paper it over by creating a story of who I am. A story, we imagine, can continue. But that story, which is only a thought-form, obscures what I really am: the endless awareness in which that story, along with everything else, is born and passes away.

In each moment, be honest. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to which you can cling for security. Accept that factfor it is a factaccept that pain, stop telling yourself the story of denial, and all will become clear without any effort whatsoever.



robert-saltzmanDr. Robert Saltzman is a psychotherapist and [non-teacher] of non-duality who lives and works in Todos Santos, Baja California, Mexico. In addition to his therapy practice, he takes questions about psychology, spirituality, and problems of living from questioners world-wide on his website.

The site is the home of ask Dr. Robert, a unique question and answer forum open to everyone worldwide, gratis. The forum is fairly active and has many forum regulars—many of whom bring intelligence, experience, and wisdom to these online conversations.

Robert checks in on the forum regularly and contributes when necessary.


Medicine used to Heal (Soul Wounds)


John Coltrane

If art is magic
If art is to inspire
if art is a weapon
if it is medicine used to heal soul wounds
or if it makes one not feel alone in his or her  visions
or if it serves as transportation to a higher self
then that is where I aspire to live everyday
~Rudy Gutierrez


Artist Statement

Rudy Detres Gutierrez calls his work a “gumbo,” as it includes a mixture of elements or “languages.” He defines it as “great, universal, magic, beyond, order.” Gutierrez’s gumbo is brought to us in layers of reality combined with layers of spirit, which are formed by flat, tonal, real, abstract, raw, and refined figurative “scenes.” Sometimes, it is a deconstruction of the real; at other times, it’s finding the reality in the amorphic. At all times, he stresses, “it is about connecting.”

Gutierrez’s work has been described as “Wall Medicine” – ancient yet contemporary, urban in sense and musical in feel. The intention of his work is to touch people and its ever shifting sofrito combines sophistication and so-called primitivism, refinement and rawness, dancing between ancestors and acquaintances alike.

Pic © Rudy Gutierrez

:: Spirit Seeker ::


Just like the indigenous cultures and societies that Gutierrez says influence him, he sees his art not as a separate action but as an extension of who he is. He is very much an American artist, born and raised in the U.S., yet of Puerto Rican descent, so one can easily see in his work the values of Latin American traditions, where visual contents relate closely to political and social contexts. Gutierrez’s art reflects his deep-rooted concerns about human rights, ethic heritage and identity, popular culture, and magical spiritual manifestations found in everyday life. His pop culture references harken to heroes, angels, kings, queens and spirits both known and unknown.

Gutierrez cites his Pre-Columbian and African influences, which are easily seen as a form of rejection of established values and the constant presence of colonization. It is indeed an affirmation of his own identity. Gutierrez chooses to merge the visual parallels of the African and the Indian with an urban and world musical sensibility, thus forming the “gumbo” that is his painting. The work represents his walk through life as he inspires others to see their own “divinity.”


Pic © Rudy Gutierrez

:: A Musical Journey ::


He believes he has a responsibility with his art to “inspire and uplift others to reach into their spirits to do whatever they do best.” Gutierrez wants to help others conquer the borders, categories and labels that develop into boxes of fear, explaining:

“It is about allowing the magic that surrounds me to infiltrate the surface so that I can humbly translate for the purpose of communicating with and for those who maybe don’t have the ability to do so.”



rudy gutierrezRudy Gutierrez’s art has been described as Wall Medicine, ancient yet contemporary, urban in a sense and musical in feel. His distinctive spirit driven paintings are recognizable for their energy and passion and speak to the ills of inhumanity as well as celebrate the Divinity of us all.

Born in the Bronx, New York City and later raised in Teaneck N.J. Gutierrez attended and graduated from Pratt Institute and lived and worked in NYC for over twenty years before recently relocating to NJ.

He believes that the highest honor and fulfillment is to inspire and uplift and is passionate about breaking down labels, categories and borders with the notion that art should also live outside of the Gallery. To this end Gutierrez has used various corporate commissions  and this has led to his highly recognizable presence in the art world.

His paintings have been seen and exhibited worldwide and he has been commissioned for various periodicals, book covers, magazines, records, CD’s, and children’s books. The award winning artist includes the Dean Cornwell Recognition Hall of Fame Award (Since 1958, the Society of Illustrators has elected to its Hall of Fame artists recognized for their distinguished achievement in the art of illustration. The list of winners is truly a Who’s Who of illustration), Distinguished Educator in the Arts Award, International Labor Communications Association Honor and a Gold Medal from the NY Society of Illustrators among his honors. His children’s books have earned him a Pura Belpré Honor, Américas Book Award, and a  New York Book Award. His work has been featured by Communication Arts, Step by Step, Society of Illustrators, Art News, American Artist and Art Direction Magazine.

His art hangs in the private collections of musical icons Carlos Santana, Clive Davis and Wayne Shorter among others.

The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth by Douglas Harding

Douglas Harding cover

New cover

We love the work of Mr. Harding here at NDA, so we were delighted to learn that “The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth” was published as an “e-book/.pdf.” Apparently when Douglas Harding completed the [large] book, he didn’t think it would be published in that [huge] format, so he then wrote a condensed version. This is the version that was first published in 1952, and which C. S. Lewis read and wrote the preface for.

It would be nearly impossible to sum up his work in this intro, yet we wanted to share something about this work.

We thought this passage from the original preface would be suitable to share as it relates specifically to self-inquiry:

“What is man? This is the riddle which everyone, while accepting all the outside help he can get and use, must solve after his own fashion. My solution (if it can be called that) will not in its entirety do for anybody else, and it is offered here more as an incentive than as a guide. In any case I have no complete, self-consistent, well-rounded system, but only the sketch-plan of a philosophy. The nature of man is a baffling and inexhaustible topic, about which I do not wish to dogmatize. While I can say with Thoreau, “I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well”, I have to admit that I am increasingly a stranger to myself. Of the two kinds of men — those who refuse to take the advice” know thyself”, and those who imagine they have done sothe second is perhaps the less wise. Knowledge that is not counterbalanced with knowledge of ignorance is mere dead weight.”

…and [from the conclusion of the preface]:

“Finally, let me emphasize the fact that I carry no stock of patent medicines or labour-saving devices. I can offer no easy way out or in, no short cut to bliss, no philosophy without tears, no brand-new gospel. All I can promise are some ancient teachings in modern dressteachings that are difficult only because they are simple, and must be lived to be understoodtogether with some old recipes for hope and confidence. The merely new-fangled is as useless as the merely traditional. We must go forward to new ideas and back to old ones; we must get down to the facts of science and wake up to those of religion.”


Quotations from The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth

  • How is it that our distance is the making of us, and our nearness our undoing? How comes it that the near view of a colourless, scentless, silent, and altogether poverty-stricken collocation of particles turns out to be a man and a man’s world, with its unspeakable wealth of experience? How does a universe without a whisper, without the palest tint, without a twinge of feeling, become this rich and terrifying place? How does the physicist’s desire to study atoms emerge from them? Latimer was cells, and cells are primitive animals indifferent to moral considerations, yet Latimer’s hand did not withdraw from the flame. Why? From what in electrons and protons does this rather contemptuous reference to them spring?


  • To live is to be the resurrection and the life of others.


  • So thoroughly have we insulated the human from the cosmic that when at last they are brought together the effect may well prove overwhelming, as the pent-up energy is discharged in a flash of illumination revealing undreamed-of beauty.


  • Nevertheless our freedom does not consist in denying all that determines us, and asserting our own self-will. On the contrary, its true ground is our willingness to accept every necessity, so that it ceases to be merely external. We are free in so far as we join our will to God’s. For He alone is by nature free, because subject to no outside influence; yet He lets us share this freedom by uniting ourselves to Him. We have the choice of His freedom or our bondage.


  • The Whole lacks nothing. But even the Godhead needs a photosphere to shine, feathers to fly, legs to walk our earth, fins to swim. Every setting-board is a Calvary, every collector’s pin a crucifier’s nail. Every dust-grain, every electron and proton, every point-instant, is Bethlehem; every nest the manger-cradle; every womb Mary’s.


  • If the mystic’s progress is hierarchical, and his goal is in any sense a sharing in the divine, then we may look to his account of that goal for light upon the divine nature. And his report is that his outward journey through zones of light and darkness ends, not in the longed-for beatific vision, but in the darkest night of the soul. His quest has failed. He is thrust back to the very beginning. Instead of the enjoyment of God, a virtual atheism; instead of the Whole, the Centre. And this state of utter emptiness is the condition of the final phase of union, when, having ceased to be interested in his own spiritual welfare, he is content to be nothing for the sake of the divine object. Now he returns to serve self-forgetfully all creatures, and to demonstrate to us that the divine is not other than this commonplace world seen in its full hierarchical setting.


  • Here I carry this caput mortuum, this undying death’s head, this empty head which is the fountain-head of all heads, this infinitely old head on young shoulders, this head so high and so primitive that it has never fallen from paradise. Fixed at the mid-point of an endlessly elastic dome, I am the still and invisible Eye which takes in all the dome’s restless and many-colored linings from the firmament down to my eyelid. I am this infinitesimal spot on the cosmic map, with nevertheless the map in my hand; for ever caught in this traffic bottleneck, which nevertheless finds room for the bottle. My world-wide wheels can neither exist nor turn without this unmoving hub; my world-wide body has no organ half so vital as this subvital and indeed sub-physical heart of hearts. Here are key and keyhole and door in one – the central emptiness which is the key of the Kingdom, the keyhole which leads to Wonderland, the needle’s eye which is the gate of Heaven. Through this Point of entry I am in all the world and all the world is in me. And if, having entered, I am capable of many things, it is because capability means room; if I am a thinking reed it is because, reed-like, I am coreless. Cogito ergo NON sum. And common sense, for ever trying to salvage some miserable chattel for me, only breaks the conditions of that universal policy of insurance whereby unlimited compensation is given to those who lose all.



Original cover


Thoughts on The Book

richardlang“I will speak from my heart about this book. This book is the book I would take with me to a desert island if I were allowed only one

It is, so to speak, a modern Bible of who we really are. Most people don’t read the whole of the Bible (or the Koran, or On The Origin of Species, I suppose…) but are nevertheless profoundly influenced by such books. I believe The Hierarchy is of the same order. And (like Darwin’s masterpiece) it is a book that is independent of local culture or religion. It is a book for the modern planet.

Douglas Harding spent at least eight years writing this book (in the 1940s)more or less fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. He saw who he really was and then thought, felt and wrote deeply, consistently, passionately, about what he had foundhow it made sense and what it meant for the world.

C.S. Lewis called The Hierarchy “a work of the highest genius.” I fully agree. Lewis declared that it left him “roaring drunk.” I’ve read both the condensed version and this huge original version (many times) and I am like Lewis. I am drunk with its genius.

I believe the publication of this book in digital form is the equivalent of the moment when the Bible was made available to a wide audience with the invention of the printing press. Now anyone with £20 to spend can dip into, and perhaps even read the whole of!, this phenomenal book. Douglas took years to produce this one book (plus one copy). He finished it in 1950. In 1998 the Shollond Trust (with Crowquill) produced 300 copies. Thanks to the generous work of many volunteers, lovingly managed by my friend Navi Blight (supported by her husband Sam) the Shollond Trust can offer this book to as many people as click the button on our website. Thank you friends, thank you Navi and Sam, thank you Douglas. It is a great achievement.

Douglas once said that although the universe is often a tragic and terrible place, even so, a universe that produces the music of Mozart is a wonderful universe, a beautiful universe. I say, a universe that produces The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth is, in spite of all the terror and tragedy in the world, a wonderful, beautiful universe.”

~Richard Lang

(Richard is Co-ordinator of the Shollond Trust, the UK charity set up in 1996 to help share the Headless Way in the world. He first saw who he really was when he attended a workshop with Douglas Harding in 1970. He is committed to making this Vision as widely available as possible).


Douglas E. Harding (1909 – 2007)

The Myth of Happiness and Why it Makes Us Un-Happy [Guest Blog]

by Nancy Colier

Art: Gabriella Jaya

Art: Gabriella Jaya


Stop Chasing Happiness and Discover True Well-Being

Our lives are an endless search—a search for something we call happiness. We continually gain it and then lose it, again and again. And yet, despite its inherently transitory nature, we continue trying to capture happiness, permanently, like a moth in a cage. Permanent happiness is the goal of our life—a goal that we can never reach, at least not in the way we imagine. What we can reach however is a state of well-being, a deep sense of lasting contentment that can include and survive both happiness and not happiness!

Perhaps more than any other idea in our culture, the idea of happiness is most burdened with myths and expectations. It is these myths and expectations about happiness that lead us not to more happiness, but rather to unhappiness and suffering.

When we use the term happiness, we are generally referring to a state in which we like the contents/circumstances of our life; we find our life to be pleasing or pleasurable.


With regard to happiness, we are taught to believe the following: 

• I am supposed to be happy

• I am supposed to be happy all the time

• Happiness is the goal of life

• There is something external that will bring me lasting happiness

• I am in control of my own happiness


The most damaging aspect of these myths is that they encourage us to believe that there is always a better moment than this one, a better experience that we are supposed to be having. Our obsession with happiness leads us to imagine that this moment is not enough, not the moment that we should or could be living. The demand for happiness causes us to constantly chase some other now where we will be happy, where it will finally be okay to be there. The problem is that it is never and can never be this now.

We have a billion-dollar self-help industry, which supports these myths—professing techniques that will allow us to always like our life circumstances. We can learn to:

1. Control our life so that we always have what we want (the attraction principle)

2. Control how we feel about our life circumstances—make our feelings consistently positive regardless of whether we have what we want (cognitive re-framing/positive thinking).

3. Transcend the entire not happy experience by detaching from the person who is experiencing such feelings.

What is rarely addressed is how to be okay when we are not happy with our life, when we cannot make our circumstances pleasurable and cannot convince ourselves that it is a good thing that our circumstances are not what we want. What is often omitted from self-help is how to be okay in this life as it is, with its uncontrollable ups and down and contradictory feelings . We keep demanding that life be something other than what is and designing more and better programs to work with that imaginary life. What we are not taught, sadly, is how to inhabit not happy, and even more importantly, how to be well AND not happy. These are the skills that we need for life as it actually is.

The main reason that we so fiercely need to stay happy is because of the myths we hold about not being happy. If we do not find our life pleasing, our very identity is threatened. As a result of our not being happy, we are a failure, our life is a failure; our very identity is transformed into something negative. Not being happy has the power to make who we are something undesirable. Such myths about not happiness create tremendous suffering.


With regard to not being happy—not liking the circumstances of our life—we are taught to believe the following: 


• I am to blame for not being happy

• I am a failure if I am not happy

• I am missing out on the life I am supposed to have

• I am being deprived of the life that everyone else gets to have

• I have not found/created the thing that will make me permanently happy


Here’s the bad news:


• We cannot always control the circumstances of our life (no matter how hard we try)

• We cannot always control the way we think or feel about our circumstances

• Everything will eventually change

• There is nothing external that will bring us lasting happiness


Here’s the good news: Re-read the “bad news” list.

Why is the bad news also good news? The truth is we really do not want another plan for how to achieve and hold onto happiness, another better place to get to. We want a place where we can stop chasing, stop getting and losing. We want a place where we can simply be where we are, and most of all, stop searching—for happiness.

And there is more good news! We can be well, regardless of the circumstances of our life. Well-being is not about changing the circumstances of our life so that they are pleasurable; it is not even about changing the way we think or feel about our circumstances. Rather, it is about changing our relationship with our thoughts and feelings—with our own experience. Ultimately well-being is about being able to experience our life, right now, without turning that experience into an identity, positive or negative. Well-being is about being free, not from the experiences we do not want, but within the experiences that we do not want.

There is a state of well-being so infinite as to be able to include even not happy. When this is discovered, we can stop chasing a better moment, better life and better self, and stop blaming ourselves for not being able to capture the wind. At last, we can meet this moment and land here—the only place where well-being and true contentment can actually exist.


*From the book, Inviting A Monkey to Tea: Befriending Your Mind and Discovering Lasting Contentment (Hohm Press)


Nancy-ColierNancy Colier is a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, writer and public speaker. A longtime student of Eastern spirituality, awareness practices form the ground of her work.

She is a writer for the Huffington Post, the author of, Getting Out of Your Own Way: Unlocking Your True Performance Potential, (Luminous Press) and her latest book, Inviting a Monkey to Tea: Befriending Your Mind and Discovering Lasting Contentment (Hohm Press).

In addition, Nancy spent 25 years as a top-ranked equestrian on the national horse show circuit and serves as a performance consultant to competitive athletes and professional artists. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters

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