Heard Mentality | The straight and Narrow | The Paved Road | Against the Flow | The Pathless Path?
Are you ‘doing’ or BEING…
A Philosophical reflection on what we really are.
“Here is a tribute I made—to SAND2013, and especially Rupert Spira.
*Also available in Swedish. 13 minutes long.”
For this Guest Blogger post we have a selection by Joan Tollifson. Our dedicated readers | subscribers will know that Joan contributed a very popular article for our site called: Is India More Nondual Than Chicago? Joan is consistently posting great content on her main website and more recently a Facebook page. We highly recommend that you check out both of those sites (see links below).
An excerpted version of one of her new writings appeared just a few days ago in her 2013 holiday newsletter. We really liked the simplicity and directness and decided to share it in its entirety with you. We’re confident that many of you can relate to some—if not all, of the “life as it is” scenarios or descriptions below.
Enjoy the piece and Happy Holidays! ~MK
My last FB post ended with an invitation to simply be: “To hear the traffic, the wind, the silence of the falling snow. To see the beautiful bird on the branch and the bright yellow car in the street…To simply be alive, right here, right now.” I can hear someone reading this and then saying, okay, that sounds nice, but when I try to do that, my mind just races around like crazy and pretty soon I compulsively grab my phone and start checking for messages…and what about people in war zones, or what about when I’m in horrible pain or my kids are screaming in the supermarket or I’m suffering from severe depression…what then?
When we feel that fundamental sense of unease, restlessness, boredom, overwhelm, unhappiness or dissatisfaction that drives so much of our human behavior, is it possible to pause before turning on our phone, biting our fingers, lighting a cigarette, pouring another glass of wine, eating too much cake, mindlessly turning on the TV, desperately grabbing for a comforting spiritual book, or whatever our favorite compulsion happens to be? Is it possible to pause, even for just one minute, and fully meet these unpleasant and unwanted sensations with an open heart—to give this disturbance the same kind of nonjudgmental and loving attention that we would give to whoever or whatever we hold most dear? Instead of turning away, can we turn towards this unpleasant inner disturbance and open to it completely? What exactly is it?
That question invites a non-conceptual meditative inquiry rooted in curiosity and love, a way of being with something that is entirely different from analytically thinking about the situation and coming up with labels, stories and explanations. Instead, can we pause the thought-machine and drop down into the body, feeling this disturbing and uncomfortable mix of sensations and feelings non-verbally, without commentary, exploring it all with the light of awareness, and also hearing the accompanying thoughts and stories without believing in the veracity of the messages they deliver, seeing these thoughts as impersonal, conditioned outpourings, allowing the whole disturbance to unfold and reveal itself? Instead of pushing the unpleasant or frightening sensations away, can we open to them and perhaps go right into the very core of them with awareness? Can we give up the search for escape or improvement—not forever, but in this moment? Can we be still in the midst of the storm, fully awake to however it actually is Here / Now?
Sometimes we can’t do all that. Sometimes the force of habit and the urge to escape is too strong, and we find ourselves momentarily lost in the plotline an old movie, caught up in stories of failure, lack, unworthiness, shame, depression, anxiety, or perhaps numbing out or behaving in compulsive and sometimes destructive ways. For awhile, this behavior continues and this unhappy or fearful movie plays, and we are a captive audience, entranced by the drama, lost in the emotional upheaval or numbed out in some dissociated daze, hypnotically following the dictates of our conditioning. But eventually, every movie comes to an end. We wake up again to a bigger context. Is it possible at that moment of waking up to begin anew, to start fresh, without instantly getting lost in a new movie of guilt and regret over having been engulfed in the previous movie?
Again, sometimes it isn’t possible. Sometimes we do get caught up all over again. And again. And again. But the great miracle is that no matter how lost we have been, or for how long, or how many times, there is always the possibility of waking up and starting freshly right now.
And in a bigger sense, we are never really lost. So when the weather seems stormy or cloudy or hazy, and we fall into old and destructive patterns, is it possible to simply be aware of them as they unfold, to notice as best we can how they begin, how they seduce us, what they promise or give us, what stories they tell us, how they feel in the body-mind, how they affect those around us? And not doing all this in the spirit of judgmental self-criticism and berating ourselves, but in the spirit of recognizing that this too is how life is. This is part of the human situation, an aspect of how life moves. So can we give it space? Can we see it clearly? Can we not take it personally? The spiritual life isn’t about perfection or achieving some imaginary ideal or always feeling calm and peaceful. It’s about being awake to life as it actually is, not as we think is should or could be “if only.”
And the same approach applies to difficult situations such as our child having a temper tantrum at the supermarket, or even to horrific events such as wars, famines, genocides, rapes, murders, school shootings, child abuse, and so on. Can we meet the difficulties and the pain and the atrocities that occur in human life, however horrible they may be, with an open heart? Can we see the suffering of everyone involved including those who seem to be the perpetrators? Can we feel the immense sorrow that may arise in response to suffering without falling into cynicism, embitterment, despair or hopelessness, and without being swept up in rage, self-pity or destructive tendencies? Can we meet physical and emotional pain with curiosity, interest and love? Can we wake up from the thoughts and stories about it and give our attention to the bare actuality of it?
Sometimes we can’t do all that. And when we can’t, can we forgive ourselves for being imperfect? Can we see that our reactions are impersonal, conditioned weather events, as unavoidable at times and as much an expression of nature as a tornado or an earthquake? Can we recognize that the stormy weather is as integral to this happening as the calm weather, that there are no one-sided coins in existence and no pearls without the grit, that in some way, all the dissonance is in perfect harmony from a larger perspective? Can we allow the weather of this moment to be as it is, knowing that it is ever-changing, letting go of how it was a moment ago (or for the last thirty years), and starting anew Here / Now?
This is the challenge of a life dedicated to being awake. It is not always an easy challenge. Life presents us with everything from the “bourgeois suffering” of running out of half-and-half for our morning coffee to the profound suffering of having our only child gunned down in front of us. We never know what the next moment may be like.
I’m definitely no stranger to the dark places in life. I know depression, restlessness, despair, addiction and compulsion very well. For me, the awakened life is not about never having a bad day or never getting lost in delusion or compulsive behavior ever again, because as far as I can see, that’s a fantasy. For me, a life dedicated to being awake is about waking up now—not once-and-for-all, not perfectly forever-after, not yesterday or tomorrow or someday—but now. Being this moment, just as it is—discomfort, restlessness, unease and all. And sometimes that means being willing to be lost in confusion, or caught up in finger biting, or overwhelmed by despair. It is the willingness to be imperfect, the willingness to be this moment, just as it is, not as I would like it to be.
Waking up is not about having the right philosophy or holding on to some comforting idea that “Everything is perfect” or that “It’s all one,” or that “All there is, is Consciousness.” What really liberates us is coming back again and again to the realm of sensing and perceiving and awaring, rather than getting lost in thoughts and concepts—and seeing directly through the mirage of solidity, permanence, limitation and separation, seeing through the self-image that is at the center of our concern over whether “I” am enlightened or not, seeing delusion as delusion when it shows up, seeing through our ideas about perfection and imperfection. We can’t find the truth, we can only see through what is false. What remains is truth, but it’s best not to call it anything. It’s not far away; in fact, it’s right here, right now. We may be ignoring it, but we can’t ever truly avoid or escape from it. It simply requires a shift of attention, a relaxing of our ideological grip, a letting go, an opening of the heartmind, a dissolving or melting, not moving away.
What liberates us is to stop running on the mental treadmill chasing after the imaginary carrot or fleeing from the imaginary tiger, and instead simply being alive, right here, right now—waking up from the trance of self-concern. Discovering the listening silence at the heart of this moment, the vast space in which there is room for everything to be as it is. And from this, intelligent action follows.
And when we can’t seem to stop running on the treadmill, then maybe just see how it feels to chase the carrot or to flee the tiger. Can we give this habitual, conditioned activity our full attention, without fighting against it? Is it possible to simply be this moment of running on the treadmill, without judging it, without trying to correct it, without viewing it as a personal failure? Awareness is the great transformer. Awareness is another word for unconditional love, total acceptance.
This isn’t a mental process, which is why I value meditation so highly, although we don’t have to call it meditation and it doesn’t have to happen in any formal or traditional way. What I mean is making time and space to be still, to be silent, to listen openly, to drop out of the thinking mind and into the body and the senses and the naked experiencing of this moment. When we do that, we may discover directly that there is no body—that there is only this vast field of boundless emptiness: the red fire truck streaking past, the cry of a bird, smoke rising from a chimney, tingling sensations of cold on the face, the warmth of a fire, the dancing flames, a child’s voice—this vast ocean of no-thing-ness that is vibrant and rich and alive.
There is a value in seeing how spiritual awakening and being human meet in an ordinary Life, in relationship with our partners, kids, families and friends, with our busy lives, in illness, transitions, death, careers and in every area of our lives. This book is a call to awakening and embracing and transforming our humanity. It is a radical guide to spiritual awakening in the modern world. Not written from the monastery or ashram, but from someone who has lived in the pain of samsara, from someone who after years of seeking and meditation found surrender in the depths of pain, while life was falling apart around him.
Craig Holliday is both a nondual teacher and a therapist. He teaches in a way that instructs us to not run from life, but to face life head on through embracing every moment as it is. Through this absolute embracing, we are given the gift of discovering that our Beauty—our innate Divinity is right here within us; that our very humanity is the doorway to our freedom.
We hope you enjoy the excerpt and info below that Craig has shared with us. Check out the book!
“If you want to learn from a Guru or master or saint go elsewhere; I am simply a normal ordinary human who has struggled with life, who has been pulled in every direction and who failed totally at life; and yet, this failure lead to a deep surrender to Reality.
From this place of surrender, I write about the ineffable. If you want to examine with me, what it means to be awake and how to work with a huge amount of karma and egoic conditioning—read on. If you want to know how to work with repetitive difficult emotions, with anxiety and pain, with a career, kids and relationships read on. If you want to examine what life before, during and after awakening is; what enlightenment is beyond ancient mythological or a dogmatic understandings read on. If you are compelled to examine with me, what it means to be human and Divine—not in some philosophical sense, but in the context of a down to earth awakened practicality, join me in this.” ~Craig H.
For over twenty years I have been deeply investigating what it means to be free in this world especially in regards to the direct experience of Reality and how we relate to being free and being human. In my book I wanted to convey both, the direct experience of our overwhelming Divinity and Beauty, and an investigation into what it means to be free and human. From an immature perspective it seems as if being human and being divine are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but what I have discovered is that fully embracing our humanity is the most powerful doorway to fully embodying the nondual realization that we are one with all of Life—that we are Divine in every aspect of our self. Because through the very act of embracing our humanity on every level, we become deeply liberated on every level of existence. Through this first book, I offer an invitation to the direct discovery of our overwhelming Beauty and Divinity, through embracing every aspect of ourselves…
If we want to change, grow and awaken, we have to be willing to meet our pain and every aspect of ourselves that we avoid with a total unconditional loving presence. To do this, we must first be willing to see all the difficult parts of ourselves with honesty. Not only do we need to be able to see them, but we also need to be willing to be fully open to them. We need to be open with all of ourselves, which includes being willing to feel these difficult parts. Most people are somewhat ok with seeing a difficult emotion or painful aspect of themselves, but when asked to actually feel and experience that emotion, they turn away and find anything else to do. But if we want an emotion or some deep pattern within us to change or transform, we have to be willing to give it our full attention. To be free means that we do not hide from anything—especially the difficult and painful parts of ourselves. To be free in this way, we have to be fully willing to meet them with our own love and compassion and acceptance so that we can attend to what’s here and not turn away. We practically, do this through being willing to feel what’s here even if it is uncomfortable. When we fully feel an emotion in this way it naturally begins to heal and release. But if we continue to ignore it, the pain will simply simmer below the surface, until one day when we can no longer repress it, and we are forced to feel it and acknowledge what is still within us and attend to our healing work. We can choose to do this work consciously through meeting what arises in each moment or unconsciously deny what’s here, while living in fear of that which is uncomfortable.
Being free does not only mean that we are able to be open and honest with all the difficult parts of ourselves. It also means that we are willing to see our own Beauty and Spaciousness as well. And a funny thing happens when most people look at their own Beauty and Spaciousness; they become scared—scared because they never knew this to be themselves. Or scared because they know this is the Truth of themselves, and if they are going to live from that place they must give up all the silliness of their own minds (all their thoughts and opinions about themselves and others). Or perhaps, scared because of knowing themselves as something totally new is so foreign to them and they would have to give up their old identities. Most people are really scared of something new—especially being something new and unknown; which means we may have to be willing to be uncomfortable for some time as we adjust to being a greater and more expanded version of ourselves. The biggest fear that most seekers face is that in embodying this Beauty, they will somehow die. It is true in a sense that there will be a death. It is a death of the ego as the forefront of our consciousness. The ego will certainly still be there, but it will take the back seat to this Beauty and Spacious Consciousness that we are. Our constant invitation is for us to be willing to walk into the unknown, and embrace whatever arises, as we discover once again our own Radiant Self.
The above excerpt was taken from Fully Human Fully Divine Awakening to our Innate Beauty through Embracing our Humanity. This work explores deep questions such as: what does it mean to be awake and human, how do we work with our emotions and thoughts, what does it mean to be embodied, is there a permanent self, and what happens to our mind and ego after awaking, and how is our relationship with life and our perception of Reality affected post awakening?
Fully Human Fully Divine is available in e-book or print form at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Kobo and GooglePlay.
Craig has spent 20 years intensely seeking, meditating and studying with some of the world’s finest nondual teachers. Beyond his spiritual training, he has also bridged the gap between eastern spirituality and western psychotherapy. After years of trying to transcend his humanity through meditation and spirituality, his search brought him to the study of psychology and the emphasis on working with our humanity instead of simply trying to transcend it. Through this combined work of psychology and nondual spirituality, Craig offers a seamless transmission of nondual spirituality which fully acknowledges our humanity and our overwhelming Beauty and Divinity.
His work is dedicated to the discovery of our innate Divinity in every aspect of our lives. He works in a way that addresses our everyday human suffering as a doorway to our inherent freedom.
Craig offers Satsang, workshops, retreats and meets with individuals from around the world via Skype.
For more information about Craig visit: craigholliday.com