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
An Open Letter to the World of Science (1926):
“The Russell Cosmogony with its new concepts of light, matter, energy, electricity and magnetism is a simple yet complete, consistent and workable cosmogony which will enable future scientists to visualize the universe as a unified whole, and will open the door to the New Age of Transmutation.”
This book was distributed to scientists internationally by the author after its writing in 1926, and is now a collector’s item. The Universal One Contains many charts and diagrams. The Universal One is both a historic and present/future treasure illuminating questions about universal cosmogony and philosophical considerations of the nature of the universe.
*The Universal One is Walter Russell’s first expression of his new Cosmogony explaining the Mind-centered electromagnetic universe.
In this 1926 historic volume, Walter first reveals the possibility of transmutation of the elements.
“This is a universe of Mind, a finite universe, limited as to cause, and to the effect of cause. A finite universe, in which the effects of cause are limited, must also be limited as to cause; so when that measurable cause is known, then can man comprehend and measure all effects.
The effects of cause are complex and mystify man, but cause itself is simple.
The universe is a multiplicity of changing effects of but One unchanging cause. All things are universal. Nothing is which is not universal. Nothing is of itself alone. Man and Mind and all creating things are universal. No man can say: ‘I alone am I.’ There is but One universe, One Mind, One force, One substance. When man knows this in measurable exactness then will he have no limitations within those which are universal.” —Walter Russell
Nikola Tesla told Walter to hide his cosmogony from the world for a thousand years. Though a century or more ahead of its time, The Universal One (uniting spiritual Cause and scientifically observable Effect in a seamless whole), is now appealing to the many people—scientists and laymen alike—who are examining the nature of science and consciousness.
Tesla and Walter Russell were active in our [collective] past during the same time period, and in fact they knew each other. It might prove difficult to tell whose genius was more impressive between the two, but then we don’t have much of Tesla’s work publicly available to us in that regard. We do know however, as it was and has been for so many gifted minds of this caliber, that their genius was first absorbed (funded, co-opted and publicly suppressed) by people who had no intention of doing anything other than building bigger weapons and bank accounts with it. This type of greed and technopathy, and the secrecy it engenders, still seek to impede cultural progress and plague us today.
Furthermore, while the bulk of Tesla’s work and understandings may have been confiscated and hidden from the public, this is not the case with Walter Russell’s work. The home study course created by Walter and his wife Lao in the 1950’s can still be found in its unadulterated form. The course is a powerful meditative-study learning experience dedicated to self-transformation, spiritual awakening, and expanded consciousness, leading towards Cosmic Consciousness.
A Course in Cosmic Consciousness is designed for those desiring to increase their inner-sensory perception, unfold their own unique genius, and develop a living philosophy based on ever-expanding, life-transforming knowledge of their cosmic unity and unique destiny as an individual creative expression of Being in an eternally creating universe.
He and his wife opened the University of Science and Philosophy to further his science research and philosophical work. It was founded in 1949 by Walter and Lao Russell to discuss the least-known of all the sciences, the science of humankind. Check out the site and explore the fascinating life and very interesting body of work they left for all to learn from! Universities around the world teach a wide variety of curricula however, until the USP there has been no University that has a course which focuses on who we are, what we are, and the purpose of existence. For this reason, Walter and Lao wrote the [previously mentioned] Home Study Course.
WHAT IS MEANT BY SELF-TRANSCENDENCE?
When viewed from a cosmic perspective, life is a great adventure. Ours is a dynamic, creating universe. Life is not static, but ever-moving, ever-changing, ever-transforming, cyclic in seasons and cyclic in life patterns.
When we know who we are, when we are in touch with the spiritual center of our being, we no longer view ourselves as “victims” of an outer world over which we have no control. Unfolding our understanding from within, we KNOW ourselves as dynamic thinking “co-creators” of our world and our own destiny. We become aware of our inherent genius, be it practical or artistic. We understand ourselves as part of the dynamic, indestructible Life Force of Creation. We become creative participators in life, find the meaning of life, and discover our role in the adventure and drama of living. We see ourselves with fresh vision, in a different light. With strong desire to develop and grow, we become partners in the holistic experience of an integrated world in which we may consciously evolve to experience greater understanding, joy in creative action, and happiness in our participatory experiencing and ordering of our world. Education, from the Latin educere, means to “draw forth from within,” “to lead out.”
The integral learning offered through the University of Science and Philosophy is education in this sense of the word, resulting in the self-transcendence that comes through choice-the choice of conscious learning and growth towards understanding and enlightenment in action.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
- At the beginning of the last century, he was the nation’s foremost portrait painter of children, an author, horse breeder, champion figure skater, and originator of the cooperative housing concept.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr. of IBM was his patron and Adolph Ochs, publisher of the New York Times, his advocate in the media.
- Among his friends were Enrico Caruso, Nikola Tesla, Paderewski, Mark Twain, and the Presidents Roosevelt.
- At age 56 he turned to sculpture, rising to the top rank and producing the Mark Twain Memorial and the Four Freedoms.
- In his scientific treatises he challenged Science to acknowledge the Supreme Being and reform theoretical physics; he urged Religion to accept science and abandon the fossilized dogma of centuries past.
- Knowledge of the natural laws of the universe, Russell maintained, would bring about a “New Age.” To Glenn Clark, he was “The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe.”
Walter Russell (May 19, 1871 – May 19, 1963) was an American polymath known for his achievements as a painter, sculptor, author and builder and less well-known as a natural philosopher and for his unified theory in physics and cosmogony. He posited that the universe was founded on a unifying principle of rhythmic balanced interchange. This physical theory, laid out primarily in his books The Secret of Light (1947) and The Message of the Divine Iliad (1948–49) has not been accepted by mainstream scientists. Russell asserted that this was mainly due to a difference in the assumptions made about the existence of mind and matter; Russell assumes the existence of mind as cause while he believes that scientists in general assume the existence of mind as effect.
*In 1974, in the preface to The Universal One, Lao Russell asserted that “…Dr. Russell’s thought and awareness matured in expression and he clarified and rectified errors he felt that he had committed in his earlier writings.”
He believed mediocrity is self-inflicted and genius is self-bestowed. The content of his public lectures and his writing about living philosophy place him firmly in the New Thought Movement. In 1963, Walter Cronkite in the national television evening news, commenting on Russell’s death, referred to him as “… the Leonardo da Vinci of our time.” After Russell died – which the Russell’s referred to as being “refolded” – his wife Lao Russell kept USP going successfully until she herself was refolded in 1988.
Article resources: Amazon Books, Wiki, University of Science and Philosophy, Walter Russell Books (Spiritual Dowsing), The Secret Lite, Gone But Not Forgotten.
Yes – it’s that time of year again folks. What time is it? Time for the Science and Nonduality Conference in California (starting this week). SAND is one of the best yearly gatherings and this will mark its sixth year. This years theme is “The Nature of Perception” — an exploration of the phenomena of perception from the perspective of modern science, ancient traditions, philosophy, phenomenology and direct experience.
- At SAND13 there will be two days of pre-conference workshops: Wednesday Oct. 23rd & Thursday Oct. 24th.
- Each pre-conference workshop will last four hours & led by an individual presenter.
- The main conference will start on Thursday Oct. 24th at 7pm & will continue until Sunday Oct. 27th 6pm.
- There will be a closing dinner with some of the speakers, organizers & the participants Sunday evening.
What is SAND all about?
The Science and Nonduality conference is a place where preeminent scientists, philosophers, teachers, artists and a large, international community gather to explore and advance the new paradigm emerging in spirituality, that is both grounded in cutting-edge science and consistent with the ancient wisdom of nonduality — the deep understanding of the interconnectedness of life. SAND honors and nurtures the exploration and experience of nonduality as a pathway to greater wisdom and well being in the context of the unique challenges of the 21st century
Ultimately, SAND is a playground where people come together to explore and share insights or simply reflect on what is emerging in consciousness. Knowing defines life, not-knowing reminds us of the mystery and perfection of each and every moment. At SAND, you are invited to stop resisting what is happening right now and surrender to the not-knowingness. Let life and this amazing mystery unfold!
*Science and Nonduality is now a non for profit organization and your support goes directly towards continuing the development and expansion of the SAND community and vision.
Can’t make the event this year?
SAND13 will be broadcasted [streaming live] from the Hayes Ballroom at Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose, California. The broadcast will start on Oct. 24th at 7pm PST and end at 6pm on Oct 27th at 6.30pm PST. Please see detail schedule or to register for the live stream.
Here is a [partial] list of speakers (related to the theme of our site):
- Rupert Spira
- Francis Lucille
- Jac O’Keeffe
- Pamela Wilson
- John Prendergast
- Ellen Emmet
- Igor Kufayev
- Richard Lang
- Gary Weber
- Kenny Johnson
- David Loy
- Isaac Shapiro
- Dorothy Hunt
When the Master creates the sound
The Universe plays
Karmic debt is cleared
Soul shines with golden rays
Fear, Doubt, and stress are gone
Dew shines like a wet morning
Golden sun brings the dawn
“The Gong is the first and last instrument for the human mind. There is only one thing that can supersede and command the human mind, the sound of the Gong. It is the first sound in the universe, the sound that created this universe. It’s the basic creative sound. To the mind, the sound of the Gong is like a mother and father that gave it birth. The mind has no power to resist a Gong that is well-played.”
~Siri Singh Sahib
Drop it! Who are you kidding? Trying to fool yourself that you understand it all or have an incredible piece of insight? Drop it!
I am my guru, you are your guru. Quote another and fail, follow the path of another and fail. Quoting is allowed when it expands your point or when you have personally grasped that same truth and wish to share it, deciding that the version you are quoting is better written. Apart from that you don’t quote.
A wise man once said: “I don’t know” and he was so so right that everyone ignored him as his truth was too high for them, instead they turned to the person whose truth was very long and in-depth and sounded important.
Nothing lasts. Nothing, not one thing has any real importance except nothing. No thing lasts, it is all in a state of change apart from nothing, only that lasts and it does so by maintaining the place no one else wants. All things, all ideas, all insight, come and go. They seem important, then they decay or lose relevance. Have a fantastic moment of insight, write it down, tell your dog, tell your best friend, tell your grand kids, tell yourself the very next day – all responses will be “Huh!? What are you talking about?”
Shut up, shut the fu** up and shut up.
Only have thoughts that are; funny, loving, positive, blissful, short, serve to douse other thoughts, or if you are going to think at all, ignore yourself, let your mind rattle on, but ignore it.
Empty the mind, don’t decide what you are going to do when… what you’ll say to whom when… and so on. Just open to the Wow and be. As things come to you that need to be done you will address them with a perfect emptiness, your response to it will be perfect.
The biggest waste of mind is preparing to protect yourself. Preparing for say; the boss asking you about the thing you did wrong. Just don’t bother with it at all. You have no finer response that to say “yes, I am not perfect, or pretending to be.” Wasting your thoughts on such things are:
1) wasting valuable bliss time
2) preparing for something that will [more than likely] not even happen and if it does, not the way you had it in your mind.
I had a wise old friend who used to say that is was good to be paranoid, he would always fear the worst and prepare for the worst then nearly always be pleasantly surprised that none of the bad stuff ever happened. This sounded like a great method to live by! But I came to realize not long after he died that he had wasted so much time in paranoia and was probably fearing what his wife would say when he got home right at the moment that a bus made him into a new paint job.
Don’t think, don’t worry, don’t bother. Wander through your life, enjoy the bliss and when bad stuff happens, it will, just take it and drop it. Don’t waste time thinking how you can learn your lesson from it or avoid it in the future, you can’t and you already have. If you think you can “think it through” (in your mind) as so to learn then it is also possible, and is in fact the case, that the mind can do it alone without your interaction. You have already learned the lesson by getting though the situation, you don’t need to think about it in words. Just drop it, move on, get back to being blissful again and well, I’ve had enough typing for now…[laughs].
Go and do that nice thing you were planning on doing and stop thinking and reading will you?
For every act of evil, there is an act of beauty.
You Can’t Change the World, Only Your Attitude Towards It.
This is one for all the (500M +) Twitter users out there.
If you’ve ever tried to compose and send at least ten Tweets, then you know it’s sometimes hard to get some words to fit within the 140 character limit. And of course, it’s usually due to fancy words or longer jargon-specific terms that you fancy using. If you’ve ever pulled your hair out and or wished there was a better way to remedy without turning your Tweets into some indecipherable/cryptic mess; I bring you Thsrs…(short for Thesaurus – get it?).
What is it exactly?
- Thsrs is a simple tool to help you find shorter synonyms for words you’re trying to tweet
- With Thsrs, “regurgitate” becomes “disgorge,” and “spectacular” becomes “salient”
- It’s a great way to make your tweets more exciting, not to mention learn a few new words
- Thsrs is the idea of photographer David Friedman
I thought I would try it out and see if it works or at least have some fun with it.
Cherry Red Books (406 Pages)
Meticulously transcribed and edited, the book presents twenty-six expressions of awakening shaped by unique life experiences. Although this book came out last year, it is a collection of various interviews that took place between 2007 and 2009 on Conscious TV.
All of the interviews were conducted by Iain McNay and Renate McNay, in a friendly and informal way. Their relaxed interview style focuses on the background as well as the “present life” experiences of the interviewees.
This isn’t a complicated book advocating any particular spiritual path, rather a great starting point for folks wanting a broad overview and or selection of contemporary teachers or writers.
At four-hundred and six pages, it’s a pretty thick book and offers the reader [both ‘seasoned’ seekers and people who have no previous experience with or knowledge about Advaita] a lot on the subject.
It includes interviews with:
David Bingham, Daniel Brown, Sundance Burke, Katie Davis, Peter Fenner, Steve Ford, Jeff Foster, Suzanne Foxton, Gangaji, Richard Lang, Roger Linden, Wayne Liquorman, Francis Lucille, Mooji, Catherine Noyce, Jac O’Keeffe, Tony Parsons, Bernie Prior, Halina Pytlasinska, Genpo Roshi, Florian Schlosser, Mandi Solk, Rupert Spira, James Swartz, Richard Sylvester and Pamela Wilson.
“From a rich variety of backgrounds, the people profiled here [ordinary men and women from many cultures and from a range of social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds ] have been through extraordinary experiences leading to amazing new perceptions. They all shared a common sense of dissatisfaction with their lives and a longing for happiness, connection, health, love, fulfilling relationships, wealth, and freedom. As they reveal the means by which they each went about achieving an end to their suffering—from therapy to study with gurus, their stories range from funny to moving and tragic to inspiring, but there is a common element in their engagement with nonduality. Here they share their insights and wisdom.”
“Enlightenment is seen “not as the end-point, to be worked towards, but as a continual and continuing process.” ~Eleonora Gilbert
Introduction by Iain McNay
I am sure that virtually everyone drawn to this book can remember the first time they realized that life was not quite what it seemed: that reality didn’t actually appear to be the way it was presented by everyone else. For some of us this will have been a gradual process; for others a significant event or an experience, or a realization that challenged what we had been taught to believe. This can be exciting, but it can also be frightening, even quite terrifying. Structures fall away, beliefs are no longer credible and life is experienced in a radically different way.
Renate and I were always interested in making the most of the interviews. We wanted to get to know the interviewees as people, as much as possible, as well as finding out about the state they were living in. We weren’t really interested in theories and always tried to steer away from that wherever possible. We were primarily interested in how they experienced their life, what it was like to be them, and then in conveying that as accessible as possible for others to hear. Everyone has a ‘story’ which, though part of the picture, isn’t fundamentally who they are, and we didn’t want to ignore either perspective.
Iain McNay Oxfordshire, UK
A word from the editor
“The process of putting this book together, reading the manuscript many times over and absorbing the gems present in each chapter, has demystified the many ideas I have collected along my spiritual path about what enlightenment is. It has taken me deeper into the understanding of the nature of all things and has left me in awe of this constant, unstoppable, dynamic and creative force manifesting through everything.”
~Eleonora Gilbert Buckinghamshire, UK 2011
*DOWNLOAD a sample from the book
It is possible to download several of the interviews on Conscious.TV from i-tunes, Amazon and some other download services. These downloads are audio only.
There are also two DVDs available (which are collections of Conscious.TV interviews)
CONVERSATIONS ON NON-DUALITY – VOLUME 1
Tony Parsons – The Open Secret
Rupert Spira – The Transparency Of Things – Parts 1 and 2
Richard Lang – Seeing Who You Really Are
CONVERSATIONS ON NON-DUALITY – VOLUME 2
Jeff Foster – Life Without A Center
Richard Sylvester – I Hope You Die Soon
Roger Linden – The Elusive Obvious
Conscious.tv – the idea
It was approaching midnight on the 31st December 2006. My wife Renate and I were celebrating New Year’s Eve on the island of La Gomera, in the Canary Islands. As usual, she was drinking champagne and I was sipping my glass of mineral water. I had recently reached my 60th birthday and we were having a lively discussion about the things that we hadn’t yet done in our lives that we would still like to do. “It would be great to have a TV station,” I pronounced. “I could combine all my interests: consciousness, football, music, hiking, make some new programs and broadcast some existing ones. We can get literally hundreds of channels on our TV at home and they are nearly all rubbish. I am sure I can do much better than that,” I declared.
The next day we hiked into the hills behind the hotel where we were staying. Something was definitely brewing in me. The more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it. Life went on, but the idea lingered and often surfaced in my mind. Maybe I could piggy back on someone else’s channel and just show a few hours of programs a week. That seemed much more realistic. I found out that this was called a micro channel and other people were doing it.
It was now late in 2007 and Internet TV was just beginning to be established. By this time I had thought up a name, conscious.tv. I liked it, registered it and decided to make some programs. People were spending fortunes making programs that just weren’t very good, in my eyes anyway. Persisting, I found a TV studio in Acton, in West London that would do me a deal for a day and they would record the programs as if they were live and I could pretty much walk out with the finished programs. This was more like it. This was what I was used to. Something that was more instant.
On November 2nd 2007 I made four programs. I was the interviewer as I didn’t have anyone else to do it. None of the programs were very good (and I have taken them all down now). But I was determined to learn fast. Three weeks later I was back in the studio for another full day of making programs. I had coached myself and was much better as an interviewer this time and I felt I was getting somewhere. And I had also remembered a spiritual retreat that I had attended a few months earlier. We had spent four days listening to everyone else’s life stories. That was seventy stories in four days. It was an extraordinarily powerful few days. I had known all those people for twelve or thirteen years and to hear the detail of their lives was a revelation. It was very moving and touching at times. I realized that with conscious.tv I wanted to create something similar. I wanted people to learn, to be stimulated, to be encouraged and to be touched. I was also enjoying the challenge.
By April 2008 I felt I had enough interviews to launch the channel on the Internet. People’s response was slow to start with, but I wasn’t going to do any marketing as such. The phrase ‘build it and they will come’ was rooted in me. I felt what I was doing was interesting and different. The word would slowly get out there. And then four months or so after we started, three e-mails came in one week from people I didn’t know who had found the channel and enjoyed it. Something was starting to happen.
Renate started to help me by doing some interviews herself. Although our interview style may look casual, we actually do a fair amount research for most of our interviews, and that takes time. Conscious.tv is an integral part of our own personal journey. Our adventure is ongoing, and while we still enjoy it we will continue.
~Iain McNay Oxfordshire, UK
This exhibit by Kim Schrag was featured at the Community Arts Partnership, ArtSpace, in Center Ithaca, on the Ithaca Commons.
It is with great interest that I feature this work as I think it’s pretty amazing and interesting to see the images with the inquiries [see below]. I was originally going to publish eight individual posts and dedicate one painting and mini essay per feature. However, I feel the overall message is more powerful for the reader/viewer when it is read/seen from the first painting, Self-Centered, sequentially to the last painting, There is No Separation.
I think the introductions are a great way of explaining what the work is about. The text describes the theme of the personal self and its relationship to Life.
Matthew King: So tell us about this project and how it came about please.
Kim Schrag: This group of paintings evolved as an exploration into the attributes of the psychological self. In the first paintings, Self-Centered, Accumulation, Falling Away, and Who’s Looking, I was interested in the nature of identity and the self, and the challenge of creating images that would metaphorically describe psychological (although physically invisible) concepts. I asked myself: How are identity and the self related? What/who is noticing the attributes of the thought structure which is creating the general human identity, as well as the identity of the individual self?
It seems that there is a psychological entity, that all humans carry, which represents their idea of themselves as individual psyches, separate from others and their environment. We could say that this is basic consciousness, the sense impression that I exist in my own mental space and in my own body. Out of this consciousness I recognize other people as separate from me, but also somewhat related to me. I see the space I live in as my space or your space or open space. I feel the boundaries of my body and look for what is beneficial to it and what may be harmful. But beyond this basic consciousness that living beings must have, there seems to be a human consciousness or self, that collects psychological material such as memories, experience and knowledge to differentiate him/herself from others, and who believes this constitutes personal identity. As we become more convinced that this is who we are, we also become convinced that we are separate individuals divided from life. If we do recognize life, there may be a sense that we are individual entities born into life and presently walking on the surface of life, but not Life itself.
Although we tend to divide the field of perception into inside and outside, me and not me, this and that, the earth and the cosmos, God and human, it may only be that way in thought. There is no inside and outside to Life. There are no individual parts, although it may appear that way to us, for it is the nature of thought to analyze and divide. Thought focuses on the characteristics of individual form and particular relationships between forms, but it is incapable of conceiving the relationships that tie all things together. We may insist that life has meaning relative to us, but ignore the possibility that Life has its own meaning that we cannot perceive or know. As this became clearer to me, the paintings Inside Itself I and II, The Great Unfolding, and There Is No Separation were developed.
MK: Tell us about the exploration.
In this exhibit the paintings can be seen as part of the record of an ongoing investigation into the self and Life. As the exploration was taking place, I was engaging in daily conversations with Fernando Llosa, my partner, and reading books and listening to video lectures from people who have been interested in these topics. The ideas that were filtering in from other voices were informing the paintings, but the paintings were also informing the understanding. The paintings are silent but lively and if you give them time to unfold, in the silence of attention, your own exploration may begin.
The psychological self is made of images,
a pile of papers,
books or blocks,
stacked so high
that the structure is no longer balanced and the whole pile starts to fall down.
assumptions and expectations,
accumulated stories of who,
what, when and where.
they might just float away.
no picking up,
no worrying about where they might go,
just an unexpected opportunity
to dismantle and be free
of the accumulation.
There is no division between what is perceived to be the interior and the exterior form.
Inside Itself expresses the love and interconnectedness of the totality.
An element existing within something else, while separate and particular, is still dependent for its existence on the larger form.
The organs of the body can be seen separately with specific and highly specialized functions, but it would be absurd to say that they exist independently from the body.
A flock of birds, a school of fish, and a swarm of bees all move together as if they were a single organism guided by the same mind, and yet the individuals in each group are vitally connected to the environment in which they live.
If you imagine the earth, do you just see the rocky sphere of the planet, or do you include the sky and clouds, the oceans, rivers and glaciers, the soil, the animals and plants? Does Earth end at the biosphere? Could we exist without the sun, the moon, the stars, the universe?
As a human being, do we exist separately from the natural environment or the social connections which sustain us? Physically and psychologically, where do we begin and end?
Who is the one who is looking?
Can I keep stepping back while asking the question until it is apparent
that there is no individual apart from Life?
Is it not Life that is the observer all of the time,
even when the conditioning of thought creates a lens of distortion?
Imagine what would happen if that lens could be taken off completely.
What would Life see?
Would there be a new clarity, a new intensity,
an awareness of relationship that we are currently missing?
We are product,
and one with
the continuously generating source.
Our understanding of life continues
to unfold, with a greater awareness
of the unity of the whole.
This unity denies our individuality, our isolation,
We are able to move beyond both the despair of self-centered withdrawal and the desire for personal success.
As I walk the path from the house to the garden, I can see the bright yellow Rudbeckia blossoms moving with the wind. The bird house that protected a chickadee and her young this spring, is now empty, except for a spider that is busy making its own webbed nest. As I pass through the gate and into the garden, I stop to look at the squirrels chasing each other in spirals down the trunk of one of the many Black Walnut trees surrounding this small garden. The air is full of the sounds of crows, woodpeckers, small song birds, crickets and cicadas. The sun comes and goes under the clouds. I move through the garden in an almost trance-like state, not in any hurry, nor with any real purpose, except to see what is there. It occurs to me that nothing in this garden is aware of its own beauty.
The flowers don’t know their power of attraction, they just attract. Each flower comes from a seed in the ground, unfolds its beauty, petal by petal, attracts and is pollinated by bees and wasps, and eventually drops the seed that it has created so that the next part of the plant cycle will continue.
Are we, as human beings any different from this cycle of life? While we may get caught up in our own vanity and drive for individual identity, are we not carried through each stage of life, our body growing, changing, transforming, without our control or initiative.
Isn’t it true that just like the plants, we must have the sun, water, minerals from the earth, air, warmth, and the interaction between us and other beings, in order to fully develop and survive? Where are the boundaries between the body and nature? Where are the boundaries between the human being and Life?
There is no separation.
The printed version of the Inside Itself exhibition catalog is now available for purchase. It can be ordered directly from the printer, Lulu. You can also see a preview of the book on the Lulu site.
Inside Itself, includes 8 oil paintings and texts which describe the theme of the personal self and its relationship to Life. Introductory essays by Fernando Llosa and Kim Schrag discuss the theme, motivation, and process of developing this collection of paintings.
If you did see the show this is a more relaxed way to spend time with the images and ideas, and if you didn’t get to the show, well here it is!
UNBOUND BLOG [News about Unbound Art Studio]
UNBOUND EMBRACE BLOG [Reflecting Life]
UNBOUND ART [Main Website]
“Our true nature is unchanging Awareness. It is the source and the substance of all things. It welcomes all experiences. Its reality is our shared reality, without limits and universal. However, many of us believe that Awareness is limited and personal. We feel ourselves to be located inside a limited physical body. This deep sense of separation is at the core of all psychological suffering.
Once we realize and abide in our true nature, the body, the mind and the world become our instruments to express and celebrate our innate understanding, our loving nature and our deep sensitivity to beauty. Nonetheless, on the way, many of us are called to embark upon a deep exploration of our most intimate and direct experience…”
Please join us as I have a chat with Ellen Emmet about Non-Dual Therapy, Authentic Movement and The Essence of Yoga.
I see you were invited to speak at the SAND 2012 Conference in Europe. Congrats! Tell us about that please. What will you be speaking about or presenting etc.?
Thank you! I’ll be offering a workshop on the body and non-duality. It will include guided meditation, experiential explorations of the body (yoga) and conversations. I hope these meetings will address this:
- That to become fully established in the non-dual understanding we must take a close look at our experience at the level of feeling, sensing and perceiving.
- The belief in separation lives in unfounded conceptual interpretations of our experience; that’s the level of thinking.
But it also and especially hides in less visible and irrational layers of feeling in the body. Some are simple intimate sensations that create the sense of being located inside the body. Others are more complex or subtler and very effective in giving a pseudo physical and energetic reality to the separate entity.
This level of exploration is often overlooked in the contemporary teaching of Advaita. It seems we are willing to look at our thinking in the light of our true nature but less open to offering our body to that very same light. Yet how can the body-mind be re-orchestrated by this understanding if unseen identifications are still operating at the level of feelings?
Both activities of investigating the mind and the body are sacred and natural. Neither come from a person. They come from the Invisible; they are the beautiful gesturing of Presence back towards Itself.
You state that Francis Lucille was your teacher from back in 2001. Can you tell us about some of the body awareness sessions and the many friendly encounters with Francis during those few years please? How did you find him initially?
Up until my meeting with Francis, I was busy seeking relief from ‘my’ suffering: The intense anxiety that coursed through my body or the heavy cloud of depression that enfolded me in a dark cocoon, expressed themselves through interconnected patterns of thinking, feeling and reacting. They were all I seemed to know or access of myself and they were not acceptable! So most of the time, I seemed to be caught in a repetitive cycle of avoiding, resisting and seeking.
Yet at the same time I can now see that there was a deeper more impersonal quest at work: a sacred quest. This one was motivated by the deep intuition of the Truth, which reached my mind and body in little glimpses here and there: in a meeting with a special friend, through the writings of enlightened beings, through dreams, in the dance…
Eventually this invisible thrust brought me to Francis Lucille. It was a sacred meeting. Through it the light of Presence shined bright and pure. During many years I was moved to spend as much time as I could with Francis, eventually moving to Temecula where he lives. In this company my body and mind seemed to become highly receptive to the highest transmission of non-dual understanding.
Living near him and other friends, cooking, joking, meditating, doing yoga, simply hanging out, returned me to the truth over and over. The transmission was direct and pointed to a permanent establishment in Peace, Happiness and Love.
During the body awareness sessions we were persistently, patiently and repeatedly pointed back to our true nature at the level of feeling and sensation.
The feeling of being a separate limited being was met at that level. It was investigated openly, fearlessly and seen clearly for what it was.
Up until then, the realm of the body had remained impenetrable, irrational, layered by half visible feelings and scary like the dark forest in which the children get lost in fairy tales. But now we were being guided into the darkness with a torch and gentle encouragement. We could discover in our own time that the big, looming shadows were not ogres but trees, and the witch in the hut was just a little old lady. Soon we could see the whole forest in the light of day and the world and the horizon beyond stretching infinitely in all directions. Eventually the body was known as unfolding sensation reabsorbed in its very substance: infinite, open Awareness.
Drummer Drumming only Silence is the drumstick,
only Nothing is
the skin of the drum,
only Emptiness is the infinite Song
Hark to the unstruck bells and drums!
It is the music of the meeting of soul with soul;
It is the music of the forgetting of sorrows;
It is the music that transcends all coming in and all going forth.
This consciousness I am is beating a drum; everyone is carried away by the noise of the drum.
Who looks for the drummer?
Rick Linchitz, true to what he says in this book, has no investment in being a ‘teacher’ and has a busy medical practice. What he says, though, is the most direct expression of the truth beyond the truths of spirituality and religion.
The folks at Non-Duality Press wanted his plain speaking, rigorous and humorous approach to be available more widely, so they transcribed some of his talks and satsangs. The talks are arranged under subject headings, rather than chronologically, so that you can read from cover-to-cover or dip in as you please for inspiration. It is their hope that you will feel the thrill of resonance that wells up inside when something within us recognizes the beautiful simplicity of The Loving Awareness in Which All Arises.
“What you have before you here in Dr.Rick’s book is another delightful and beautiful message that explores the ramifications of his understanding that Consciousness is all there is. Once you really understand that to the point where it defines the every living moment of your so-called life, you are truly home and need look no farther. I do believe that is actually happening more and more these days on planet earth.” – [From the Foreword] by Satyam Nadeen
Please enjoy a sample chapter reprinted below with permission from the publisher. You can also download the sample here [in .pdf format] if you prefer to read that way. I know some have a hard time with white text on a dark background.
Are You Awake?
The Story of Rick
Who you really are transcends all stories. All the stories, all concepts of time and space, all are contained in who you are.
Most of my life I spend talking about medical things because I’m a medical doctor in the United States.
But for whatever reason I show up every year at Baden Baden in Germany, talking about spiritual things, and I have absolutely no idea why that is. And I don’t care. Over the years I found it more and more difficult to initiate, to begin speaking about this. I seem to have less and less to say spontaneously.
The only time I ever talk about this is when somebody else brings it up, so today that job falls to you. Anybody have any questions or anything they’d like to discuss?
Baden Baden Wintertime!
Not everybody knows you. Perhaps you could say a few words about how you came to spiritual topics.
That’s even harder to explain. It seemed very important when it happened and now it seems less and less important to talk about.
All my life, as with most of us, I’d had this precious notion of an individual in control of his life. If things seemed to be going my way I was very satisfied and proud, but when things weren’t going my way, which wasn’t unusual, I was angry, disappointed and generally miserable. But there was always the thought that I just had to work harder or do something different and I could make life go my way.
I would meditate hours every day because I thought that would get me enlightened. I would exercise hours every day because I thought that would get me strong and healthy. And I would work even more hours every day because I thought that would get me rich and famous and successful. Then one day I was diagnosed with cancer and I lost my health, my medical practice and my wealth, and every definition, every way in which I had defined myself, was gone…
Over the next year and a half I sank deeper and deeper into despair. During this time I continued to try to gain control of life; since I still believed it was up to me to get myself healthy, it must have been my fault that I got sick. So I worked harder and harder and I meditated four or five hours every day and I worked out physically harder and I started taking vitamins and minerals and all kinds of things. All of this was surrounding a feeling of desperation.
And then at one point I just felt that there was no chance. I felt like giving up. I was in complete despair of gaining control over everything. In every way that I had defined myself I was finished. I had nowhere to turn and in every way I felt alone. It was in that state I first heard Nadeen.
I had gone down to Costa Rica for a rest; I had never heard of Satyam Nadeen and knew nothing about the place that he owned. He said something that I had heard before—but somehow I had never really heard it: He said, ‘Consciousness is all there is and you are that.’
And in that moment there was the realization that there was no Rick to fix anything, that there’s only one consciousness. There’s no-one outside consciousness to change consciousness. And in that same moment Rick disappeared. And in fact there was a realization that there was never any such thing as Rick. There’s only consciousness unfolding.
And there was complete peace and relief. That peace never left.
In this ‘story’ it seemed that the Rick character had had experiences before that in meditation, there was deep peace and unbelievable ecstasy, but those were always seen as an experience happening to Rick and they were always seen as something that if Rick worked harder he could go get and get back. This was different. This was much quieter, less spectacular. It was a simple disappearance of any belief in the reality of individuality.
It was not an experience happening to Rick, just a disappearance of anyone who could have an experience. I said that these ‘events’ have become less important to me. I used to start out my satsangs sort of introducing myself in that way—telling the story—but truthfully this is a story happening to a character in a play. Not really any particularly more or less interesting than any of the other stories of all the other characters. When the play is seen through, all the stories are equally interesting. There’s recognition that the story has never been that important. Who you really are transcends all stories. And it’s not about an entity in time—it’s outside of time. All the stories, all concepts of time and space, all are contained in who you are. So the story has become more and more vague. It’s more like a memory in the present that has sort of faded.
Are you awake?
Rick is not awake; Rick is a character in the play. There’s no character in the play that’s awake. The concept that a character can awaken is associated with a lot of suffering. The essence of awakening is the recognition of the absence of the character, the disappearance of the character. The realization that the character never was, that he or she never existed in the first place.
“Awakening is your birthright—that’s who you are.” ~Rick L.
Was it because you were sick and going through a very difficult time before?
In the story, there are lots of patterns that seem to be potentially associated with awakening. But they are completely unimportant. There’s no more importance to any one of those awakening stories than there is to somebody who learns to play football or has a drink in a bar. Awakening is your birthright—that’s who you are. The story goes on; the individuals who seem to awaken don’t get any benefit from it, because they’re gone! The belief that there ever was an individual is gone. It’s like winning the lottery and then not being able to be around to collect it.
The moment that it happened, did you notice any physical changes?
All kinds of things happened: sensations, feelings, thoughts—but there was no longer anyone experiencing them. I should add that many of the questions about the specifics of enlightenment or enlightenment experience come from the mind attempting to find a way to judge itself or to find for itself what you feel is missing. So listening to these enlightenment stories is in some ways a trap, because the mind will find a way to start comparing itself: Am I there? Am I not there? This could be awakening, but you know it’s not exactly like his or the other guy’s. And of course it’s a very clever way to continue the need for belief in this concept of an individual.
So when you first realized that you are no-one, did all the parts of the identity that you had before suddenly disappear or did it take a while? Did the habit of them keep repeating so that you would keep examining it and then they started to fall away?
Let’s go back to what I’ve mentioned about time and history, and then I’ll try to answer the question by talking about a history.
First thing: we’ve talked about this in these meetings in the past and I’ve said that we’re talking about All There Is. In talking about All There Is means there’s nothing outside of it and nothing that isn’t included in it. So within All There Is, and arising within All There Is, is this notion of time; it’s just a notion, a concept arising within this All There Is. It is timeless, it’s eternally present, it’s the eternal now, it’s the eternal unfolding in the present. So in this presence, this nowness, there’s a notion of time, but where’s history? How does history develop in this? How is individual history accounted for in All There Is, since there are no individuals, just oneness appearing as discrete individuals?
So in this eternal present, there’s this notion that there are individuals sitting in a so-called room. There’s also the concept of space; the idea of an expanse of space is arising in this All There Is. All There Is includes all that, so it has no size and it has no time; it’s timeless, it’s sizeless, but it appears to be a room. There’s the appearance of a room arising in this oneness and there appear to be individuals sitting in this room. And in this appearance there also appears to be something that is called the past and that something seems to include a history of the apparent individuals in this room, but all of this is being created, constantly created, in the most unbelievable and inexplicable way in this eternal now.
So, that being said, there still is this apparent history that can be spoken about, and so we’ll talk about the history of this Rick character. The Rick character had this precious belief, which, as I said, seems to be universally precious, that there was an individual named Rick who could accomplish things and who could work really hard and achieve anything he so desired if he worked hard enough at it. And it was a given, so when things didn’t go exactly the way he wanted them to, he would just work harder and make sure it happened. And there was a real belief that anything he wanted he could definitely accomplish if he worked hard enough and did whatever had to be done.
So when Rick got sick over ten years ago it was a great shock because one of the things that Rick was sure he could do was to live to 110 or as long as he wanted because he was never going to get sick, never have any illnesses, and that was the case up to age 52 or thereabouts. He gets this illness and it was indeed a shock and a disappointment. There comes with this illness a fear of death and a desire to make sure that this didn’t happen—a very strong desire—and of course Rick attacked this the same way he attacks everything else. I had to learn about cancer, about what makes it tick because I started to realize that there was nothing that conventional medicine had to offer me after the surgery; there was no way to prevent it coming back. The only thing they told me was to keep getting X-rays, which didn’t seem like prevention at all; it just was trying to detect it early enough to be able to treat it again. So I started looking and reading and studying, but all this time there was a fear of death and maybe an expectation that I was going to die. It was a terrible shock to my system that things weren’t the way they were supposed to be—I was supposed to be healthy—I was arrogantly healthy…
You thought you had control over your health?
Yes, control over my health and control over everything else of course. So added to this backdrop of intense working, I worked harder now than I did on anything ever in my life—and I’m used to hard work. My spiritual experience was in the Zen tradition, so I would go to these sesshins in a Zen temple and spend fourteen hours a day for seven days in walking and seated meditation and getting cracked on the back if I was falling asleep. What would you expect of a compulsive guy like me?
All of that was going on, so I was working a bit harder, and somewhere along the line was this conviction that if Rick became enlightened his cells would become enlightened and he wouldn’t die; the cancer was going to leave his body and would never come back. So that was when I started following gurus and going to India and traveling around.
After the diagnosis, about a year and a half into this quest, there was a process that felt like sinking into despair, like really maybe I couldn’t do this, because along with the desire to cure myself there was also an intense disgust about being imperfect. How could this have happened? What have I done wrong? There was self-blame and a lot of stuff going on. There was this kind of paradoxical series of thoughts and emotions going back and forth: trying to get better, trying to make sure my kids wouldn’t lose their father and my wife wouldn’t lose her husband, and on the other hand not wanting to live because I was disgusted with myself and angry.
I was almost like a Zen koan—an insoluble paradox—with these two mutually exclusive kinds of feelings and emotions. Then I went to a retreat given by my friend Satyam Nadeen in Costa Rica where he said, ‘Consciousness is all there is and you are that.’
I had heard it before and it wasn’t anything so outrageous, but now there was a total sense of there being nothing I could do. I was like a wet noodle, like a puddle. Every way in which I had defined myself was already gone. I defined myself as a physician but I wasn’t able to work, I was a husband and father and I was kind of drifting away from my family, I was an athlete and now I was unable to do anything physical. Any way that I had defined myself was gone. Successful no longer, at least not in the way that most people define success.
I had built up a structure, a history that described who I was. I used to talk as if I had a résumé and I was always working on my résumé, trying to add things to it, trophies—psychological trophies. All of a sudden this structure that I had built up with all these hard edges just turned into a puzzle—sorry, puddle, but it was a puzzle too. And this puddle was shapeless and formless; then I hear this: Consciousness is all there is and you are that.
There’s this recognition that, if consciousness is all there is, who is this Rick character trying to change everything? Who is he and what’s he working on? I mean, if consciousness is all there is, then there’s no-one separate from consciousness, it’s just consciousness, it’s just unfolding. In that instant there was a sense of great relief. It wasn’t like fireworks going off or ecstasy—just a deep relief. Like [exhales deeply] phew! And there was a great sense of freedom, because no longer was there anything to do.
At first it seemed like I didn’t have anything to do because that was the only language I had, but it became clear that not only didn’t I have anything to do, but there was no I to do it. There was no-one left, there was no I, there was no you, there was nothing to do, there was nothing separate; it was just consciousness, just oneness. It was just All There Is, just That, and the history disappeared too, because without the individual, what was this past like? What exactly was this story? It was just a story arising in the now, that’s what it is. What’s being discussed now is a story arising in the eternal present of this supposed individual who had a supposed history. That’s why, when I talk about before or after the shift, it’s just figurative, it’s just a story arising in the now.
Given that, it seems that there’s a history unfolding over time, so it seems that there’s a recognition, first that I didn’t have to do anything, and then there was no I to do it, and then there was no history. But there’s also recognition that, every time that some apparent insight occurred, it was always known. In fact there’s a recognition in this moment that there was no time before this now. This was always known, this is known in this room, this is known because this is what oneness is. There’s no individual in this room that doesn’t know this. If there’s a tingle of recognition it’s because that’s what is, that’s who you are. There’s no individual who doesn’t know this.
I can resonate with some of what you say; I can just tell from your story as I’m checking it back with my own situation—I see that I’m invested in that kind of ambition and pursuit of success. Not for its own sake, but because I feel incomplete, lacking or not good enough. Like if I am productive or achieve all the ambitions my life will work. It’s sad to say but utter failure is the big opening door. There’s nothing to put effort into because there’s no-one here actually doing it.
Yes. And the most fascinating side of that is that the apparent life doesn’t stop there. The apparent seeking of success goes on, but there’s nobody seeking it any more. There was a period of time when I was so disabled because of my illness that I wasn’t practicing medicine, but somehow it seemed to start happening again. I don’t know how that happened and there are lots of hours of work and there’s apparent effort. There’s an apparent somebody who cares deeply about his patients and yet there’s a knowing that there’s nobody and there are no patients—it’s just oneness expressing itself that way. There’s no questioning of it—that’s the difference—there’s no concern about it. If there is success it’s enjoyed and if there’s no apparent success in the way that most people define success, it’s also ok. There’s nobody doing it, there’s nobody who can change it and there’s nothing to change.
I have a very different question. I have been at satsang with Satyam Nadeen some years ago, but he is no longer giving satsang. Why?
I don’t know why exactly but I know he said it’s more and more difficult for him to say anything. As it seems that we get deeper into this mystery, as time appears to go on, there seems to be less to say. There’s kind of a recognition that, since everything is perfect the way it is, why bother? He’s living alone now in a house by a river and seems perfectly happy that way. I know for this character it’s become only responding. If somebody seems to pull me to do something in the story, that’s where I show up. In the Rick story, Rick seems to be moving more and more in the direction of just doing medicine as his job and may be less and less satsang. That may change—I have no idea.
Who is Nadeen?
Nadeen is a friend and a spiritual teacher . For those of you who don’t know him he was imprisoned for dealing ecstasy and woke up in prison and taught all around the world for several years. That’s what I tell people when they ask me what my lineage is—it’s a lineage of ex-convict drug dealers.
So dealing drugs leads to …
That why I say that there are so many different stories you just [throws up hands]… You may as well just give up!
Dr. Rick Linchitz graduated with honours from Cornell University Medical College and went on to found and manage an innovative multi-speciality Pain Alleviation Center. After two decades of hard work and achievement he became seriously ill; his career and his life fell apart. He chased cures, both physical and spiritual, and had nearly given up hope.
Then the words of Satyam Nadeen, “Consciousness is all there is”, sparked the realization that there was no Rick who had to fix everything and that brought with it a peace and relief that has never left him.
Rick still works as a doctor, focusing on wellness and integrating conventional and alternative medicine. He occasionally gives satsangs in the New York area and Germany.
No You and No Me on Amazon
*Special thanks to Catherine Noyce for compiling and editing.
*Photo © Baden-Baden Kur & Tourismus GmbH
I am very happy to be able to bring you Part 2 of this post. This is a series of pointers to how the Western approach can assist with one’s self-inquiry. It is less a historical survey, and more a collection of Western views that might serve as tools for inquiry, along with suggestions on how these tools might be used.
In case you missed Part 1, with Greg’s permission, we are serializing an updated version of his book Nondualism in Western Philosophy (which is not available anywhere else on the web for free). Without further ado, here is Part 2.
Materialism is the view that reality consists solely of things having a location in space. Most materialists proceed reductively, arguing that things we take to be non-material are actually material things. We are mistaken, they say, to take things like minds, thoughts, and free will as non-material things.
One prominent kind of materialism is atomism, which holds that the one kind of thing that exists is tiny particles of matter. The earliest atomists are Leucippus (c. 450 BCE), his student Democritus (c. 460-360 BCE), and Lucretius (99-55 BCE). As a theory, atomism has two objectives. One, identify the world’s ultimate ingredient by explaining the complex in terms of the simple, and two, allow for change and diversity. Atomism holds that what truly exists are tiny, solid, indivisible particles too small to be seen with the naked eye. The atoms exist within a limitless field of empty space and are compressed together in various degrees of density. The interplay of atoms and space leaves room for the atoms to move and touch each other. The world, the person and the eye itself are all made of these atoms. The eye cannot see the atoms themselves, but can see their effects as they move, collide and combine.
In his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), John Locke proposes an updated version of atomism called “corpuscularianism.” This is a claim that all matter is made of minute corpuscles which themselves have no observable properties or discernable causal relations to what we actually observe. Locke’s denial of observable properties to the corpuscles makes some sense – for if the corpuscles are too small to be seen, then how can they have observable properties? But this unobservability thesis gets Locke into trouble with George Berkeley (1685-1753), the most famous “idealist.” After Berkeley, philosophy took a turn towards the nonmaterial side, and corpuscularianism became more of an explanatory hypothesis than a metaphysical theory.
Modern philosophical materialism is not necessarily atomistic. It is largely an attempt to solve the puzzle as to why mental things such as thoughts and feelings seem so much different from physical things such as rocks and trees.
Psychologist B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) has been accused of materialism because of his denial of personal autonomy. In his shocking and popular Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), Skinner argues against the notions of a thinking, willing, choosing faculty in mankind. These notions lead to blame and punishment, which Skinner argues do not serve to improve society. Skinner suggests another way to understand human behavior and improve society. This is to think of behavior as completely determined by conditioning, which is made up of genetic background and life history. If we improve people’s physical and social environments, we will improve society. The arguments and emphasis are similar to the teachings of Ramesh Balsekar, Wayne Liquorman, Tony Parsons and others.
More recent philosophical materialisms are explicit attempts to account for mental phenomena in terms of physical phenomena. Psychologist U.T. Place asked, ‘Is Consciousness a Brain Process?’ in a 1956 article, and argued that mental states just are brain states. This is called the “identity theory.” But identity works both ways, and critics noted that mind/brain identity does not do what the materialist wants, which is to show how mental terms are empty and physical terms are not.
In other words, identity theorists wanted to favor the brain by saying, “the brain is what the mind is identical to; therefore the brain is basic and mental terms are empty.” But since identity is bilateral, it also allows the idealist to favor the mind by saying “the mind is what the brain is identical to; therefore the mind is basic and physical terms are empty.” This warranted inference from the materialists’ own premises did not sit well with the them, so they sought other theories that allowed them to eliminate mental terms.
The Myth of Jones: Eliminative Materialism
“Eliminative materialism” does intend to discard the mental model in favor of the physical. It argues that commonsense or “folk” psychology, which speaks of mental states, beliefs and feelings, is simply mistaken about our cognitive processes. Folk psychology’s most important terms simply do not refer to anything, according to eliminative materialism, whereas terms for brain states and brain functions have verifiable referents.
Eliminativists take advantage of the philosophical momentum provided by Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) and Wilfrid Sellars (1912-1989). In The Concept of Mind (1949), Ryle comes down on the physical side of traditional Cartesian dualism. He examines mental concepts, attempting to show how they invariably appeal to the actions and interactions between physical bodies. What we are really talking about, he argues, is bodies, not minds. The notion that there is a “ghost in the machine” or a conscious inner controller directing our actions, Ryle calls a “category mistake.” To think that anger is truly a state of mind is just such a mistake, because the only real category is a body – a body which at the moment happens to flush, speak loudly, move quickly and unpredictably. These are observations about bodies, not minds.
The eliminativist view is an alternative to what could be called the spectator view of the mind. The spectator view is the one that most denizens of the modern industrial scientific world grow up with. It posits an inner spectator within the theater of the mind. This spectator regards all sensory input, feels feelings, thinks thoughts, contemplates alternatives, makes choices and utters speech. This spectator’s job is to accurately represent the outer world in thought, and communicate it accurately to others.
The spectator view is one of the main barriers to nondual understanding. According to this view, the spectator is metaphysically distinct from that which it observes (the world). Inner is cut off from outer, and most everyone, after acceding to the notion of the inner observer, proceeds to identify with it. Eliminative materialism accepts most of the observations that folk psychology accepts, but does away with the dualities between inner and outer, subject and object, and seer and seen.
One of the most subtle and cogent presentations of eliminative materialism comes from Wilfred Sellars.
If bodies exist and minds do not, then how did the notion of mind arise in the first place? This is just what Wilfred Sellars tries to account for in his subtle and influential Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind (1956). Sellars tells a fascinating story called the “Myth of Jones.” Jones is one of our “Rylean ancestors.” Jones and his neighbors can do things and move and communicate, but they do not have or cannot recognize anything called experiences or “inner episodes.” When they talk about what they do, the language is phrased in terms of publicly observable characteristics. Sellars develops the myth by having Jones attribute the same physical states to his neighbors when they are silent and still as when they are talking and moving. To do this, Jones postulates inner states and thoughts and a controlling entity to his neighbors. After a while, talking in terms of states and inner controllers becomes comfortable and efficient, and voila! It’s as though the Ryleans had minds all along!
Early eliminativists might have gotten a boost from Ryle and Sellars, but the most recent weapon in the eliminativists’ arsenal is probably neuroscience. Paul and Patricia Churchland, in a series of publications including Paul’s paper “Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes” (1981) and Patricia’s book Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind/Brain (1986) develop the overall argument that neuroscience is a much more rigid and reliable guide than folk psychology. Further neuroscientific research, they say, will show us what we are really talking about when we use those unreliable folk psychological terms such as ‘beliefs’ and ‘emotions’. Some day, say the Churchlands, we will be able to eliminate such talk.
Daniel Dennett is a well-known prolific writer who could be seen as a “soft eliminative materialist.”
In Consciousness Explained (1991) he does not so much try to negate mental phenomena as argue that they do not depend on a unitary mind. He combines neuroscience with philosophy and psychology in an attack on the spectator theory of consciousness. The spectator theory is another Cartesian legacy – the spectator is a unified inner observer who is aware of ideas being projected in a sort of theater of the mind. Dennett tries to eliminate this unitary observer with a kind of functionalistic artificial intelligence view, in which mental states are the software for the hard wiring of the brain.
The Only Substance There Is: Nonmaterialism
This kind of monism holds that there is only Being, God, mind, ideas or consciousness. It includes the following philosophical varieties: idealism, pantheism (all is God), panentheism (God is the nature of all, but lies beyond as well), and neutral monism (the basic stuff is neither physical nor mental). The more idealistic or consciousness-based monisms are similar to the Eastern philosophies of Advaita Vedanta, Buddhist Dzogchen and Buddhist Yogachara.
Plotinus’s monism is an early example of neutral monism. In his Enneads Plotinus embellished Plato’s notion of the One, or the Good. The One for Plotinus is self-caused, and causes the world as well. How does The One cause the world? Not by setting off a chain of chronological events, but by being what all things are at the simplest level. The One causes the world in the way the ocean causes waves. We can grasp the One not by observing properties of things, but by understanding what it is not. This is similar to the “neti-neti” (not this, not that) approach in Advaita Vedanta.
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)
In his Ethics (1677), Spinoza sets out a number of propositions which lead to his conclusion that God is the only substance. The argument relies heavily upon Spinoza’s characterization of “substance” and “God.” A substance is defined as having its own characteristics, which define just what it is. A substance can also have what Spinoza calls “affections,” which are non-essential characteristics. God is defined as that substance which has infinite characteristics, one of which is existence. The propositions relevant to Spinoza’s monism can be summarized into the following philosophical argument. And for modern readers, the notion of “awareness” or “universe” may be substituted for Spinoza’s “God.” Similar arguments have been made in Eastern teachings.
1. Two substances cannot share any characteristics.
2. God is a substance with infinite characteristics which all express eternal and infinite essence. With such characteristics, God exists, and cannot not exist.
3. Therefore, God is the only substance.
Getting from (1) and (2) to (3) depends on Spinoza’s notion of characteristics. According to (1), no two substances can have even one characteristic in common. According to (2), God has all the characteristics there are, and God exists. There are no characteristics left over for any other substance to have. Therefore, (3), no other substance exists.
Thinking of a Teacup: Idealism
Idealism holds that what we normally think of as physical objects is actually a mental substance. There are points of overlap among idealism, pantheism and the neutral monism of Plotinus.
John Scottus Eriugena (812-877)
In the middle ages, Eriugena gave the neoplatonic monism of Plotinus an idealist twist. Using sources from the Neoplatonic and mystical traditions, as well as from Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Eriugena argued in The Division of Nature that God is beyond being and non-being. With the assistance of Ideas in God, all things emanate from God and return back to God.
George Berkeley (1685-1753)
Berkeley is not a monist, but the reductionist par excellence. He argues resolutely for the nonmaterialist side of Descartes’ dualism in Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous and A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. There are no physical objects, just minds and ideas. Berkeley’s conclusion is so un-intuitive, and his arguments so clever and impassioned, that he remains one of the most famous idealists in the Western tradition. His approach is very similar to the early and difficult stages of the teachings of the great Advaitin, Shri Atmananda Krishna Menon.
Berkeley attempts to refute a widely held view that we now call the “representationalist theory of perception” (RTP), which holds:
(1) Physical objects possess observable qualities, including color, shape, size, hardness, texture, fragrance, etc.
(2) If you mentally strip away all observable qualities from an object, what is left is physical substance as their support and substrate, and it is not observable.
(3) Physical objects exist whether or not they are observed; they exist outside the mind.
(4) These external physical objects are perceived by causing our ideas of them; they do this by impinging upon our senses and then being communicated to the mind.
(5) Our ideas represent external objects by being likenesses of them.
RTP sounds plausible to most people, perhaps even today. But Berkeley disagrees with (2)-(5) above. He argues that rocks, trees and houses exist, but that they are really combinations of ideas. His argument is simple.
(B1) It cannot be doubted that the mind perceives ideas; for a mind to perceive an idea is for that idea to exist in that mind.
(B2) Ideas can exist only in a mind (not outside); also the mind cannot contain anything other than ideas.
(B3) What is not an idea cannot be perceived by the mind because mind has access only to ideas and to nothing else.
(B4) Because it exists only in a mind, an idea cannot be a likeness of an external object. What is outside the mind is not available to be compared with what is in the mind. The comparison cannot be made.
Because of (B1) – (B4), Berkeley argues, external material objects cannot be said to exist, because they are impossible to perceive. This conclusion is the basis of Berkeley’s famous dictum “esse est percipi,” or “to be is to be perceived.”
As an example, imagine the burning sensation we feel when our hand is in the fire. This sensation in us is not a likeness of a burning sensation within the fire itself. Therefore RTP’s statement (5) above is false. The other qualities of the fire – color, shape, sound, size, temperature, location – are analogous. They do not exist in the fire itself apart from the mind; they are ideas perceived by the mind. Since we cannot say that the fire, as an external object, is perceived at all, (4) above is false. Because (4) is false, (3) is also false, since nothing outside the mind can be perceived whatsoever. Because external physical objects are not perceived and hence cannot be said to exist, it is mere fantasy to talk about their makeup as composed of an external, unobservable material substance, with observable qualities that exist in the substance itself. So (2) is groundless. But Berkeley does accept (1), and interprets “physical” objects as ideas in combination.
This brings up the question, where do our ideas come from if not from external physical objects? For Berkeley, who was a bishop in good standing in the Church of England, there are only minds and ideas. So our ideas can come only from another mind – the mind of God. This also solves for Berkeley the problem of the continued existence of things. Does the pen on my desk actually go out of existence when I’m not thinking of it? No, says Berkeley, because God is thinking of the pen at all times, even when I am not.
Berkeley is not officially a monist because in the majority of his philosophical writings he accepts both minds and ideas. But there have been hints that he also had a private theory, according to which he applied similar arguments to the notion of mental substance (a thinking mind) as he applied to the notion of physical substance. There is also some indication that later in his life, Berkeley quietly adopted a pantheistic monism.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814)
After Descartes, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) became the most influential dualist. After the revolutionary influence of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1781, 1787), no one, especially in Germany, could write philosophy without attempting to reconcile the gap that Kant seemed to have widened between knowledge and its object. Kant’s Critique argued that the object in itself is totally independent of our knowledge of it. This independence renders the object utterly unknowable. Many subsequent philosophers reacted to Kant’s subject/object gap by emphasizing the subject or knower-side of the gap, and building the world of objects from the knower. This subject-side emphasis became the keynote to German Idealism.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte made the first move. In his Science of Knowledge (1794), Fichte chooses to begin with the subject side because he sees the knowing subject (and not the inert, unknowable object) as the basis of moral freedom and autonomy.
Fichte’s argument is an early nondual tour de force. It seeks to reconcile free will with physical causation, as well as self with other. It is an attempt to explain the world and our experience by using no conceptual building blocks other than the “I.”
Specifically Fichte strives to reconcile two seemingly opposed everyday notions – the freedom of the self vs. the causal necessity which was generally believed in his time to be an intrinsic property of objects in the material world. That is, the will is supposedly free, but an apple necessarily falls from a tree. How can this be reconciled? He begins with the proposition that “the I posits itself.” He then maps the progress of the I’s development. The next movement is “the I posits itself as an I,” followed by “the I posits itself as self-positing.” This latter shows that the I is self-aware, which is the self-consciousness that all consciousness entails. The I is always immediately present to itself, prior to any sensory content. Because the I is unitary, and it exists through and as something that posits itself, the I is both a fact and an act. The I is not any kind of substance, rather its nature is that it self-posits. The I’s freedom is not absolute, rather, it discovers and senses a limitation. This limitation starts as a feeling, then a sensation, then an intuition, and then a concept. Thus is the entire world created from the I. Fichte’s I is not an absolute I like the Brahman or Self of Advaita Vedanta, but a finite, empirical self.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) built one of the grandest monistic systems in all of Western philosophy. In The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) he argues that nothing less than Absolute Spirit (God, consciousness) is the basis of all phenomena. The history of the world is actually the evolution of Spirit. As Spirit evolves toward self-definition and self-consciousness, the world becomes more sophisticated. Spirit moves in a dialectical way. Something is posited. This can be called the thesis. As the thesis undergoes self-development, it inevitably encounters its own limits. These limits also develop and help spawn the antithesis. As Spirit moves to resolve the tension between thesis and antithesis, it rises to a higher level and forms the synthesis, which encompasses and accounts for the two.
This tripartite dialectic can be seen from the human perspective as the evolution of consciousness. In an individual observer, subjective consciousness asserts itself, discovers its limitations, and discovers other people and their activities. By seeing that it is also instantiated in other locations, subjective consciousness realizes its universal characteristics. It therefore becomes objective consciousness. But this subjective/objective distinction is not static as in Kant’s philosophy. Hegel argues that it is actually a movement. The movement is the progress of absolute consciousness (God or Absolute Spirit) as it becomes more developed and self-aware.
The evolution of Absolute Spirit can also be seen, Hegel argues, in cultural progress. Art makes the first appearance on the world stage. It is likened to subjective consciousness. Religion follows. Because of its recognition of the objectified otherness and subjectivity of God, religion is analogous to objective consciousness. Philosophy makes its entrance later still; it encompasses both art and religion; it manifests as the self-conscious recognition of the Absolute’s development.
Philosophical monism of the idealist sort, similar to Hegel and Fichte’s, was taken up by English-speaking philosophers over the next century. British Idealists such as Thomas Hill Green (1836-1882), Francis Herbert Bradley (1846-1924), and the Americans Josiah Royce (1855-1916) and Brand Blanshard (1892-1987) argued during their careers that the Idea is metaphysically basic. The most recent idealist work from these writers is Blanshard’s The Nature of Thought (1939), in which he tackles the traditional problem of the relation between the idea and its object. His conclusion is clever and unique: it’s all a matter of degree. Blanshard argues that the object just is the idea, more fully realized.
*Stay tuned for [the last] Part Three in a future post.
Greg Goode has been a philosophical counselor since 1996 and has extensive experience with online consultation. As a philosophical counselor, Greg is nationally certified by the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, trained by Prof. Lou Marinoff, author of the well-known Plato Not Prozac! and by California State University, Fullerton’s J. Michael Russell —a true pioneer in the philosophical consultation movement.
Greg is a well-known innovator for having combined the ancient “direct-path” method of self-inquiry with modern electronic media. Nondual inquiry includes the powerful teachings of Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhism. Greg studied Advaita Vedanta through the Chinmaya Mission, Sri Atmananda, Jean Klein, and Francis Lucille. He studied the Mahayana teachings of Pure Land Buddhism through Jodo-Shinshu, and studied Chinese Middle-Way Buddhism through the lineage of the pre-eminent scholar of Chinese Buddhism, Master Yin-Shun of Taiwan, P.R.C., author of The Way to Buddhahood.
All text herein copyright Greg Goode, 2007. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this monograph may be reproduced in any manner without prior permission from the author.
This article [based on the author’s dissertation] is about the process of having a numinous experience. Complex issues as to the role of sensuousness; the role of gender; and why Eastern-oriented compared to Western-oriented experiences are so different are also discussed. While Eastern experiencers report a oneness experience, Westerners report a sense of twoness and the phenomena of inner dialogue.
Focusing on the under-reported Westerners’ experience, the study introduces us to Celtic consciousness by describing William Sharp’s experience and his relationship with his inner teacher, Fiona Macleod, which is a compelling example of the strong Western tradition of nondual consciousness in which Western men report female inner teachers. When compared to the more disciplined Eastern approach just the opposite occurs—no inner teacher, no dialogue and no self!
An experiencer of the numinous encounter herself, the author agrees with theorists Michael Washburn and Lionel Corbett that the numinous is best viewed as a healthy and evolutionary growth experience.
The article also invites further research on three major concerns: 1) Do all experiencers go to the same place? 2) Is our physic structure one of a dialectic triggering us to automatically seek what is missing and 3) What role do our senses and our gender play in this nondual/numinous encounter?
The term nondual experience as of this writing seems to be the cutting edge word to describe what we experience when we let go of our ego consciousness and engage the other more neglected aspects of us. The term I am more familiar with is numinous as coined by Rudolf Otto and used by C. G. Jung and other religious studies scholars. As a Celtic studies student I also use the term seduction to describe this initiatory experience into the immortal realm. I will define and connect these terms shortly.
In the winter of 1983 I had a nondual spontaneous experience that I described as a cosmic orgasm. It was a massive infusion of energy that would take three years to integrate with my existing self. While I had studied world religions and philosophies, I had no spiritual practice and was completely unprepared for my encounter with what I am now calling my soul consciousness or inner teacher. However, I did have what Sigmund Freud and the “French Freud,” Jacques Lacan tells us is important: a desire for the adventure into the unknown other.
The purpose of this article is to open up a dialogue or, I should say, to join an ongoing discussion within the psychological community about the nature and impact of this nondual experience. Although I worked alone in trying to understand what had happened to me, I did encounter pioneers like Stan Grof, Larry Dossey and Rachel Naomi Remen and in fact produced a series of national conferences on the topic of consciousness and addictions in the 1980’s. However, it was in the 1990’s my search for answers took an academic turn and I enrolled in a doctoral program at Pacifica Graduate Institute. My dissertation is dedicated to finding answers to what this numinous experience means for me and to identify others throughout history that had similar experiences. What I found, as others are claiming, is that there are different types of experiences, with some people experiencing a oneness experience and others reporting a sense of twoness. In addition, the people experiencing twoness report what I called divine dialogues or inner teachers whereas the oneness experiencers report a loss of self or no self. These types of experiences may or may not equate to experiences of the Eastern oriented compared to the Western oriented tradition. And yes, as I report, believe it or not, the West actually does have a tradition—a tradition of inner teachers going back to pre-Socrates philosophers like Parmenides and Empedocles.
I now give a brief overview of my dissertation identifying the trends I discovered, the issues I identified and resolved; but more importantly, issues I identified but was unable to resolve. In this article I look at the differences between Eastern and Western experiencers, the important role of the female inner teacher and the expansion of my answer to Freud’s question, “What’s in it for me?”
The title is: Celtic Siren: A Case Study of William Sharp’s Seduction Experience In Which The Numinous Other Is Understood And Interpreted. The focus is primarily on one man’s numinous experience, William Sharp, but it soon evolved into not just his story, but the story of the history of the numinous experience itself, at least from the Western world as well as the story of Celtic consciousness. It is a triple biography! This biographical approach is the view from a chronological perspective or the length of it or from across time. The cross-cultural view is the main focus of this article –the nondual dialogues, or as I call them, the divine dialogues.
Before discussing the dialogues, I need to go over definitions as the terms have different meanings to many of the contributors to this discussion. As used in this study, the definition of numinous experience is that it is an experience of an intense energy exchange in which the ego self is transformed into what Jung termed the Self with the capital “S“. I should point out my definition and Jung’s definition is different. Jung took Otto’s term, the numinous, and equated it with archetypal experiences. For Jung archetypes present the same luminosity as described by Otto and as with Otto’s formulation, the archetype can present both positive and negative sides. Consequently, Jung’s definition is much broader than mine and includes dreams, visions and déjà vu experiences. In this article to avoid confusion, I will use, as I did in the dissertation, my definition of numinous.
In his book The Religious Function of the Psyche Lionel Corbett gives the following definition of the numinous from a psychological perspective:
“The numinous experience arises from an autonomous level of the psyche and is either the source of, or the medium for, the transmission of religious experience, empirically, we cannot say which.”
He goes on to give examples by what he means by a numinous experience:
- A dream
- Walking vision
- Experience in the body
- Within a relationship
- In nature
- A synchronistic event
On the other hand, Michael Washburn comes from a philosophical point of view, and basing his definition on Jung’s ideas, he goes beyond them to include the immortal realm. This is Washburn’s definition as defined in his book, Ego and The Dynamic Ground. In order to understand Washburn’s definition of the numinous, we must first understand what he means by the term Dynamic Ground:
The power of the ground . . .is a fundamental reality of the soul. It is true that owing to original repression, the power of the ground is rarely evident within consciousness. Although usually repressed and unconscious, the power of the ground is something that can impinge upon consciousness in many ways. As psychic energy, it amplifies experience across all dimensions, and as spirit, it affects dramatic transformations of the ego and of the subjective life.
For Washburn luminosity is intermixed with sensuousness. His view of the relationship between spirit and soul is dialectic and Dynamic Ground is the fuel that makes the exchange between the two occur. For Washburn the numinous experience relates and is intermixed with all three stages of human growth, so is evolutionary in nature. His definition is:
Mystical illumination is an experience of inconceivable enormity . . .the ground releases a prodigous outpouring of spirit. The aperture of the soul is opened to its widest pore and spirit, in the fullness of its power and glory, graces the ego with the ultimate contemplations, is inherently of the nature of a gift.
I have more to say about the role of sensuousness and dialectics later in this paper. Echoing Washburn’s theory of spirit is personalized and the body is spiritualized, Corbett writes, the numinous experience results from the interaction of soul and spirit, and, if successful, allows more of the Self to embody as soul. Henry Corbin expresses the same dynamic “the body is spiritualized the spiritual is embodied.” I resonate to these theorists’ descriptions as they come closest to explaining what happened in my experience.
Nondual Experience Definition
Nondualism may be viewed as the understanding that dualism is illusory. Many traditions state that the true condition or nature of reality is nondualistic, and that dialectic dichotomies are misconceptions of reality. William James coined the term sciousness or consciousness without consciousness of self. However, it is a term the Eastern schools have used more than the West. For Buddhist the non-self or no self is the goal of their meditations – the practice of breaking through the separation and returning to the oneness.
The experience practitioners describe is not unlike the numinous experience as it includes a sense of energy where formlessness infuses into form and a direct experience of oneness is reported. A leading nondual teacher, Peter Fenner, describes a nondual experience as:
. . .it includes all phenomena and experiences, with nothing left out. If any experiences are excluded or resisted in any way, the state is, by definition, dualistic rather than nondual. This nondual quality inevitably embraces paradox—that is, the possibility that something can be both true and false, good and bad, present and absent. Contrary to the experience of conditioned mind, unconditioned awareness allows us to remain peaceful and undisturbed in the midst of paradox and ambiguity. Our usual preferences for order, structure, categories, and concepts don’t exist when we rest in this nondual awareness.
These are all working definitions. William James was the first to claim the numinous experience is ineffable. However, to communicate we need to use the language we have available.
In addition to the primary case study of this nineteenth century Scottish mystic/writer, I discuss others; namely, Merlin and Viviane, Dante and Beatrice, Boethius and Lady Philosophy, Socrates and Diotima, Lord Krishna, Arjuna, Job and Yahweh and my own nondual dialogue and awakening of the soul’s consciousness. These divine dialogues are used as the mythological approach to understanding the numinous experience. I devote a chapter to the psychological approach utilizing Freud and Jung’s theories, and a philosophical approach with G. W. F. Hegel, Martin Heidegger and Paul Ricoeur. Finally, I look at the research done by religious studies scholars like W. T. Stace, Ninian Smart and F. C. Happold. In essence, Sharp’s experience of the numinous is analyzed from every discipline available to me. From the psychologists, I asked the question “what”, from philosophers the question “why” is answered and from human development theorists Michael Washburn and Lionel Corbett “how” is the focus.
A major part of this article is spent on unresolved issues and my thoughts about them; however, I first feel it is important to give the reader a sense of my own experience and why I was directed by my inner teacher to search out my own Celtic heritage for answers. A heritage I was unaware of when this endeavor began.
My own experience came by way of an inner dialogue. I was in a hospital setting and was in the process of being required to swallow some very unpleasant liquid. I remember reading Alice Walker’s Color Purple where she describes turning herself into a piece of wood when she was being abused. Taking a cue from Alice, I decided to turn myself into a chalice and allow my whole body to absorb this unwelcome substance. It not only worked to avoid immediate pain, the process led to a long encounter with the otherness within myself.
However, having no meditative practice, or knowledge of anything other than the traditional forms of Western medical practice and organized religion, what I experienced was beyond my scope of comprehending. The state I experienced was one of unconditional love, acceptance and a challenge or opportunity for growth. Existing belief systems disappeared, all fear dissolved and a dialogue with the unknown other began. I had a sense I was being called to serve, an image of the French Foreign Legion came to my awareness and I understood the mission was to be somewhat secret and somewhat dangerous. I silently asked questions and “heard” answers. I understood very few people had an experience as the one I was undergoing and when I questioned, the answer came back less than 1% of 1%. I was to play a role as a communicator and take the lost, misinterpreted sacred knowledge and convert it to today’s language and sensibilities. I sensed if I accepted this new life, my old life, as I knew it, would disappear. My sense of disorientation was answered by an image of the old king dying and the new king being greeted with the first traditional words, “God Save the King”. I understood being English, with no spiritual discipline, this was the best my mind could deliver – but I understood a death of part of me had occurred and had been replaced by something new and different.
The only disturbing aspect was that I projected a male voice onto the dialogue. I am thinking this was because my only reference point for anything like what I was experiencing was from my Catholic high school education and thoughts of St. Bernadette and the children of Fatima and remembering they thought they heard instructions from the celestial realm of God.
Following the spiritual path was easy as I just followed the energy. What I mean by “following the energy” is: I became inner directed vs. outer directed. Prior to the numinous/nondual experience, I had set goals based on external conventional cues, whereas subsequently I have based any life choices on what my inner teacher, or as Walt Whitman says, my friendly co-worker, signals me to do. A couple of examples of signals are: books falling off shelves indicating I need to read this and it is important to my path, including in the case of R. J. Stewart‘s book the words The Immortal Hour jumping off the page. Another example of being led was a small advertisement in a local paper for a thirty-hour spiritual retreat at Mt. Shasta literally stopped me in my tracks and I knew I had to be there. This was my introduction to Findhorn’s Game of Transformation and the five participants and two skilled facilitators helped me integrate this numinous experience into my life. From there I followed the trail to my Celtic heritage starting with Sharp’s Celtic renaissance in the nineteenth-century and working my way back to Ireland’s first poet, Amergian. At the time there were many books on American Indian spirituality but none on the Celtic counterpart. Even Pacifica Graduate Institute had no courses on Celtic mythology so I found myself embracing the Hindu cousins in particular in the words of Lord Krishna’s “I am” poems. I was able to piece together a Celtic worldview and identify a path of destiny similar to the one discussed in the Bhagavad-Gita, referred to from now on simply as Gita.
In terms of the religious scholars my experience falls into the category of nature mystics and because it is a twoness experience and includes the body and the senses, it is considered a lower level experience than those reported by the Eastern oriented schools having a oneness encounter. As I said earlier, I follow the energy and the energy was insisting on Sharp and the Celts.
Who is William Sharp/Fiona Macleod?
What is unique about Sharp is that he not only identified with an inner female teacher, he presented his teacher to the public, literally, to the world. For thirteen years Sharp wrote under the pseudonym of Fiona Macleod and his many books on Celtic myth were translated into several languages, the most popular being The Immortal Hour, an adaption of an Irish myth about Etain and Mider.
For Sharp, having an experience before Freud’s and Jung’s time, he believed what happened to him was a mystery. In an effort to communicate the Fiona mystery Sharp gives us a beautiful allegory.
All the formative and expressional as well as nearly all the visionary power is my friend’s [meaning Fiona]. In a sense only hers is the passive part, but it is the allegory of the match, the wind and the torch. Everything is in the torch in readiness, and as you know, there is nothing in the match itself. But there is a mysterious latency of fire between them [. . .] the little torch of silent igneous potency at the end of the match—and in what these symbolize, one adds spiritual affinity as a factor—and all at once the flame is born. The torch says all is due to the match. The match knows the flame is not hers. But beyond both is the wind the spiritual air. Out of the unseen world it fans the flame. In that mysterious air both the match and the flame hear strange voices
What is Celtic Consciousness?
My introduction to Celtic consciousness came by way of Sharp. From my own inner teacher I understood what Sharp had done to reclaim Celtic consciousness in his era through his writings under the pseudonym of Fiona Macleod, I was to do for my time through the available media of the twenty-first century. In order to understand Sharp’s numinous experience, it was necessary for me to understand the Celtic worldview in which he lived. To me Marie-Louise Sjoestedt best captures the Celtic worldview. Celtic consciousness is different from both the consciousness of the Greek and Roman counterparts of their day and from our own dualistic consciousness of our times. To quote Sjoestedt:
A discussion of the mythological world of the Celts encounters at once a peculiar difficulty, namely, that when seeking to approach it, you find that you are already within. We are accustomed to distinguish the supernatural from the natural. The barrier between the two domains is not, indeed, always impenetrable: the Homeric gods sometimes fight in the ranks of the human armies, and a hero may force the gates of Hades and visit. . . But the chasm is there nonetheless, and we are made aware of it by the feeling of wonder or horror aroused by this violation of the established order. The Celts knew nothing of this.
I imagine during the Celtic era that a significant percentage of people were experiencers of nondual consciousness, compared with less than 1% today. This is supported in my study by the evidence of the inner source for all their creative expressions.
French anthropologist, Lucien Levy-Bruhl coined the term participation mystique to describe the relationship between the indigenous people and nature. French philosopher Paul Ricoeur and others have referred to this same symbiotic bond as the first naiveté. I am not sure about all indigenous peoples but I did research the Celtic tribes of Britain around the time of Pythagoras and I found evidence based on their poetry, myths and art that tribes like the Iceni in East Anglia experienced nondual awareness.
Figure 1 Iceni Coin 1 A.D.
It is well documented and accepted that the Celts revered nature. What is less known is that according to Ammianus Marcellinus, they followed Pythagoras‘ teaching. More importantly, art critics Andre Malraux and Ruth and Vincent Megaw claim their intricate abstract designs on the sacred stones, on the backs of mirrors and on coins are inner directed.
In addition, the Celts embraced the feminine and held rituals to balance the opposite elemental forces. French philosopher George Dumézil’s research on the ancient balancing rituals supports this claim.
Figure 3 Castlestrange Sacred Stone
County Galway, Ireland
My point here is that although it is fragmentary, the West did have its own heritage of experiencers of nondual consciousness and as I proved in my dissertation,
Celtic consciousness equals nondual consciousness. If no other myth makes the case, the story of Etain and Mider clearly tells us Etain forgets who she is and thinks she is merely a mortal until Mider reminds her that she, like him, has an immortal element to her being.
For the title of my doctorate work I purposely chose the term seduction, as this reflects the Celtic teachings through the myths like the Scottish Thomas the Rhymer and the Elfin Queen, the Welsh Shepherd of Myddvai and the Faery Maiden and the Irish Ossian and Niamh. In each story the feminine “seduces” the male seeker and takes him to the immortal land of tir n’og. As Stephen James wisely points out “we do not go to faery, we become faery.” Here I am reminded of W. B. Yeat‘s poem of Ossian’s seduction experience. A few lines will help convey the sense of a mortal being swept off their feet.
And Niamh calling: Come away, come way.
Empty your heart of its mortal dream.
The winds awaken, the leaves whirl around,
our cheeks are pale, our hair is unbound,
our breast are heaving, our eyes are agleam,
our arms are waving, our lips are apart,
and if any gaze on our rushing band,
we come between him and his dead of his hand.
we come between him and his hope in his heart.
by Matthew King
Anyone who has come through the friendly confines of NDA will know that we welcome (with open arms) the diversity of voices that are now speaking about nonduality. The flowering of expression that is taking place is nothing short of amazing — especially with Western audiences! We highly value openness and inclusion and hope that you will continue to share this spirit with us.
So what is Non-Duality?
There are a million words being written about it daily — online, published via many books, You Tube videos, live events, meetings and retreats, yet many people seem to be somewhat confused about what is being talked about.
I decided to track down six key authors/teachers or speakers in this seemingly rather “tight-knit” community to help shed some light on various topics and I asked them some unique questions in the process. I suppose some of these questions could seem “challenging”, but they are not about challenging the “teachers” just for the sake of challenging. These are the types of questions that get sent to NDA HQ from readers spanning the globe and examples of questions that teachers themselves are often asked during meetings, live events, retreats and or Satsangs.
Who were the participants, what about those questions and what is a “round table” style discussion anyway?
A round table discussion is typically a form of small group communication and is really useful when it comes to learning. The group is usually focused on a single subject and group cooperation and or participation is key to the overall success of the group. Our version is more like an “interview”. I asked the same questions to all the participants. That way you get some rather in-depth explanations and hopefully many of you will resonate with their responses. The goal was to get the discussion going in the COMMENTS section at the end of the post.
This is the début post which concentrates on DEFINITIONS and features: Rupert Spira, Scott Kiloby, Nirmala, Gary Crowley, Randall Friend and Greg Goode. There will be six different posts (i.e. “rounds”) with these six participants covering six main topics. If you would like to ask these gents any questions then the COMMENT SECTION is the place to do it.
Round One Questions
What is Nonduality?
RUPERT SPIRA: Non-duality could be said to be the experiential understanding that experience does not comprise two parts, a perceiving subject and a perceived object, but is rather one seamless whole. In this revelation the distance, separation or otherness between oneself and all objects, people and the world is seen to be and to have always been utterly non-existent.
Love, peace and happiness are some of the names that are sometimes given to this experiential realization but are usually misinterpreted by thinking. In conventional dualistic thinking we feel, “I love you.” In the living experience of non-duality, the I and the you dissolve, leaving only love.
SCOTT KILOBY: A seeing beyond or through separation in all its forms.
NIRMALA: Nonduality is simply a word and a concept. And like all words and concepts it can be more or less useful depending on whether it helps point someone to a direct experience of something, or if instead it catches them up in pure conceptualization.
In my experience, the word nonduality is sometimes confusing for people because it implies that it is either the absence of duality or the opposite of duality. Perhaps a better word would be “totality”. This points to the totality of existence, and of reality, which includes all of what we call duality and more. In this view nonduality or totality is not something apart from or opposed to duality or any aspect of our everyday experience. Instead it is simply pointing to more of the truth about our life and our existence: that everything is really one thing appearing as many.
GARY CROWLEY: “Nonduality” is a label that attempts to describe the non-separate experiencing of living. “Non-separate” is a label that attempts to describe your unique experiencing of this-here-now as the everythingness of what you are.
RANDALL FRIEND: Nonduality is an expression which attempts to remove duality as reality. It points away from the false towards what is true. Yet the false IS the true also. What does this mean?
Duality is what we know – the opposites – thing-ness… That is our idea of the world – duality is the template upon which our reality is built. We live in a world of “things” – many things – each possessing it’s own existence. When a thing arrives, it EXISTS. To us, that means it takes on it’s own existence. That means the thing is a thing of itself, standing alone – it’s existence began with the arrival of the form. It’s existence will end with the ending of the form.
Nonduality points out that this viewpoint is not the absolute reality. The world of things is only an apparent reality. We take appearance as absolute, as if we had the premium view of what IS. As if our view of “things”, our view of the “universe” is the Absolute Viewpoint – all others are less-than, less correct, less accurate. We miss that our limited view of what-IS is just that, limited.
But we are measuring what-IS. This is where so many so-called “teachers” miss the boat. Duality isn’t the enemy. Duality IS reality, only known with limited means. When the means changes, the view or appearance changes. With no means available, there is only what-IS without anything to say, without any way to describe. There is only existence as it is – oneness – wholeness – the Absolute nature of existence or Brahman. A form is a form OF THAT. When a form is gone, nothing happens to existence, to that from which that form arose and that to which that form returns.
We aren’t trying to do away with duality. We only see that duality is the play of existence itself – forms OF emptiness – expressions of one intelligence. This person you take yourself to be is just an expression of the whole – therefore what you are isn’t that expression but the whole itself – the intelligence which IS duality and nonduality. Then both duality and nonduality fall away as irrelevant.
You are the whole itself. The world is an expression of what you are. You have no opposite – this is the true meaning of “nonduality“.
GREG GOODE: In the last few years I’ve encountered more and more people who don’t resonate with the usual teachings in which nonduality is explained as singularity, unity or awareness. They feel a deep yearning to realize that they aren’t limited to an objective, pre-existing body or mind, but don’t have the intuition that the basis of everything is awareness. The idea can seem arbitrary.
So for these folks, I’ve used the emptiness teachings descended from Nagarjuna. There has been great and intuitive response where the awareness teachings didn’t hit the spot. Since these are fairly different from the teachings on awareness, I’ll switch gears here and discuss these round-table questions as from the emptiness teachings. The awareness teachings are already quite well represented here on NDA!
For more on the background to the emptiness teachings click here.
In the emptiness teachings, nonduality is a mode of existence. It’s how things exist. They exist like the jewels in Indra’s Net or like a magician’s illusion. Things aren’t substantial and they aren’t lacking. Things don’t exist in an independent, self-powered way, and they don’t utterly lack existence either. Things are contextual; they’re present in a way that can perform functions. Emptiness-style nonduality avoids both of these extremes. Things exist in a sort of pragmatic way. When I was in the Army, we said we were done with a project not because it had an absolute, fixed endpoint, but rather when it was “good enough for government work!”
The direct realization of emptiness is a non-conceptual nondual experience in which subject and object don’t appear, not even in the most subtle way. After this experience, the self and world of phenomena return, but forever changed. There are no more afflictive emotions, no more metaphysical or cosmic yearnings, and no more gestalt that says things are really truly there or truly missing. Instead, things are free, light, and joyful.
Is nonduality another word for consciousness —how would you define consciousness or awareness? Are these words you use, if so, what are they referring to? Please take the reader into a direct pointing to what these words are pointing to.
RS: I use the words Consciousness and Awareness synonymously. Are you present now? Obviously, yes. We may not know what we are but we know that we are. That is, we know ‘I am.’ In order to answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Am I present?’ (and it is not possible to legitimately answer that question in any other way) our own presence or being must be known to us. In other words we must be aware of our own being.
Now what could be aware of our own being? Our own being is not known by something other than or outside of our self. It is I that knows or is aware that I am. In other words, the ‘I’ that I am, is both present and aware. The suffix ‘–ness’ means the presence of. Therefore, Awareness means the presence of that which is aware.
In other words, the word Awareness denotes the simply knowing of our own being, more commonly known as ‘I.’ It is the most obvious, intimate and familiar fact of experience. It is never not known although sometimes overlooked.
SK: Nonduality means no separation in any way. Awareness is the borderless, nonlocatable, timeless cognizing space to which all phenomena come and go. Awareness or Consciousness is sometimes confusingly associated with the term “nonduality.” One can recognize awareness as that space to which all appearances come and go and still be buying into duality as real, for example, believing that there is a real line between awareness and what appears to awareness. That’s still dualistic. I use words like awareness, but always with the caveat that it’s just a teaching tool. In the end, when the belief in separation in all its forms is seen through, awareness and the world are seen to be inseparable.
N: I use these words and a lot of other words to point to the mysterious Being that we all are. There is a funny thing we do with language where we use a quality or function of something or someone as a name for that object or person. For example we call someone a teacher when that is something they do. Teaching is a function they do, it is not what they ultimately are because they still are themselves even if they stop teaching. And similarly, we call plants greens or greenery when again that is a particular quality of their nature. There is a lot more to plants than their green color.
So we use words like awareness of consciousness to point to the mystery of Being because these are such fundamental qualities of the mysterious Being that cannot be completely described or contained in the words we use to point to it. Other fundamental qualities of Being are things like space, presence, aliveness, existence and oneness. At times Being also expresses the particular qualities of peace, joy, love, compassion, and clarity. So at times any or all of these words can be used to point to this bigger mystery, but what is also being pointed to is the mysterious source of these qualities.
GC: I prefer to use the term “experiencing” or “experiencing this-here-now.” It reduces the confusion and the tendency for people to go off on tangents of abstraction that end up being a distraction.
Excessive abstraction is the surest way to distract from the simplicity of that which is being sought.
RF: There are many ways to point this out – and these words are used in different ways. The true “I” is that aware-ness or conscious-ness, that present activity of knowing – but this still asserts “I” as a thing – an awar-er or know-er, subtly. We must see that this “I-ness” has no objective qualities WITHOUT trying to give it objective qualities in imagination. When we see the obviousness that this “I” has no content, no appearance, no objective attributes, we naturally try to give it some.
That’s the nature of identification – it is fear – it is the unknown. We can find ourselves objectively so we apply that “subjectivity” to some “thing” – to the concept of a body or mind or person. In spirituality we do the same thing – we might begin to recognize that the “I” has no appearance or qualities, but we assert that it is some “blue light” or supreme blissful state that I haven’t reached yet or some feeling. It’s almost impossible to NOT do this. But when we’ve truly had enough of it, we simply rest in our own absence, in the lack of anything objective – we recognize our fullness as the present activity of knowing.
Then there are no conditions or resistance – the world simply arises within this absence or “container” – we might be happy there but there is still the subtle duality nipping at our ankles. There are still objects in the world which oppose “what I am”. Therefore we look a bit deeper and notice that this activity of knowing we call “I” and the experience we call “world” are truly the very same reality. We notice the irresistible compulsion to divide in order to communicate, to describe, to make sense. It’s a natural and innocent expression, an expression of the whole – it isn’t wrong – it doesn’t need to be done away with. It is simply recognized for what it is.
GG: The notion of consciousness hardly plays a role in emptiness teachings. Taking cues from Buddhist psychology, the Madhyamika emptiness teachings posit many different consciousnesses in a person. There are eye consciousnesses, ear consciousnesses, tactile consciousnesses, mental consciousnesses, and more. Each consciousness is clear and knowing and empty. Consciousness is not treated as a global substratum of existence or knowledge. Things aren’t said to be made out of consciousness. Consciousness is merely said to be a subject that knows an object. And even then, the consciousness is empty because it depends on the object known.
During my childhood in the 1950’s I remember thinking that my parents were really self-formed, truly just like that, inherently existent. They seemed perfect and invulnerable. I never saw them have a severe problem, get hurt, go naked, go to the bathroom or have sex. Any of these things would have shocked me.
Many years later, and slowly, these images of self-formed perfection and stasis began to crack. My parents argued loud and into the night. Or my father got mugged one day and had to go to the hospital. Or I came home from school and saw my mother sitting at the dinner table, crying. I came to realize that they were just people, with human problems, trying to do the best they could.
Amazingly, this gradual lessening of immaturity on my part led to my loving them more. How precious! A fragile, delicate pair of human beings setting out a family and helping others, dependent upon a wide variety of conditions. The utter fragile sweetness of this can bring tears to my eyes even now.
The Buddhist heart sutra says, “Form is none other than emptiness and emptiness is none other than form.” What is that referring to, in your view?
RS: To begin with we may say that the mind, body and world (form) appears in or is known by the transparent, luminous empty presence of Awareness (emptiness). This understanding is a half way stage in which the belief that ‘I,’ the body/mind, knows the world is replaced by the provisional formulation that ‘I,’ Awareness, knows the body/mind/world.
However, this is still a position of dualism albeit subtler than the one to which we previously subscribed. On looking more closely at experience we find that the body/mind/world is made only of knowing and that the only substance present in knowing is Awareness. In other words, the distinction between Awareness (emptiness) and its object (form) is seen to be non-existent.
This collapse of all apparent separation or otherness in experience is what the Buddhist Sutra is referring to but is more commonly known as the experience of love, peace or happiness.
SK: We start out in life believing that things exist in their own right, apart from whatever makes them up, apart from our cognition of them, apart from thoughts, emotions, and sensations. When we go looking for “things” that exist in this way, as separate things in their own right, we don’t find them existing that way at all. We find that things lack an independent or separate existence. Things exist only conventionally, like little stories we tell. They don’t exist in a vacuum, which is how we normally perceive them. For example, think of yourself. What appears is a separate object, as if that object, “self,” can exist separately from the air, from the earth, parents, culture, from the body and mind, from the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that make it up, and from others and the world itself. When we look for these things that seem to exist as separate things, we find only their emptiness.
But this emptiness is not a substance or substratum. It is not a thing. In the way I view emptiness, it points to a lack of an object existing in the way we think it does—as its own separate thing. It’s the emptiness of things that allows things to arise in the first place, and to change and flow. If things existed as solid, permanent, separate things, we would not experience the miraculous, seamless flow of changing forms. It is the emptiness of forms that allows life in all its glory and mystery to be, move, change, and flow. What a celebration of life it is to see that emptiness is none other than form and form is none other than emptiness. It leaves nothing out. Emptiness and form are totally dependent upon one another. A form is needed in order for us to find its emptiness. And its emptiness is realized through the form, through seeing that it doesn’t exist as a solid, separate, permanent thing. These two—emptiness and form—depend upon each other, leaving a seamless, ever-changing existence.
N: This is a wonderful quote because it is so impossible to hold the truth it is pointing to with our mind. Trying to understand this quote with the mind is like trying to put a whole lake into a teacup. Instead we can simply touch or feel our way into emptiness itself, and into form itself. What is this empty space in front of me right now? What is this body and the object I am sitting on right now? How are the space and the objects really different? Where does one really stop and the other begin?
Words do not contain the truth, they only point us to it.
GC: It points to the fact that our mind divides “wholeness” by forming concepts. “Form” and “void” are concepts, and are never that toward which they point. Concepts are dualistic and thereby always have an opposite. It points to the minds tendency to create dualistic concepts, such as a perceiver and that which is perceived. It is wholeness (nonduality) that results from their mutual negation. Ultimately, there is no perceiver separate from that which is perceived. There is only the perceiving of this-here-now, which is what you ultimately are, continually.
“That’s all it is!” said the sage, upon awakening to enlightenment. He then laughed and went on with his daily business. Now you can go about your usual business, as the perceiving of this-here-now as what you are. Do notice that everything has changed and nothing has changed, since it’s what you have always already been.
RF: Appearance is essence, essence is appearance. Not-two.
GG: By itself, this verse has several profound meanings:
- Form and emptiness are inseparable. You never have one without the other.
- Specifically, there is no emptiness unless there is form. You don’t have emptiness existing beyond the realm of form. Form does not arise out of emptiness or subside back into emptiness. Rather, form is of the nature of emptiness, which is that there is no nature.
- Emptiness itself is empty, because it does not exist apart from form.
Right after this verse, the Heart Sutra goes on to say basically that everything is like this, and is beyond dualistic opposites:
Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form.
Sensation, thought, impulse, consciousness are also like this.
Shariputra, all things are marked by emptiness -
not born, not destroyed,
not stained, not pure,
without gain, without loss.
It seems a lot of ND authors/teachers refuse to use the term EGO because of the differences of meaning among seekers. How do you define ego, if you use the term? What is the relationship between the ego and non-duality?
RS: Ego is not an entity. It is an activity of resistance and seeking.
There is no relationship between that which is not and that which is. The activity of resisting and seeking that is sometimes called the ‘ego’ appears to veil the non-dual nature but in fact does not. Therefore, the ego is only real from the point of view of the imaginary ego.
From the point of view of reality, if such can be said to have a point of view, reality is never veiled. Therefore ego, separation, ignorance or whatever we want to call it, that is, the apparent veiling of reality, is non-existent as such.
Therefore ‘ego,’ as such, is unreal and there can be no relationship between something that is unreal (and therefore non-existent) and that which is.
However, any appearance of the so-called ‘ego’ is the shape that this very reality is taking. As such, there is still no relationship because reality (or non-duality) does not have a relationship with itself. It is itself.
Again, it is like asking what is the relationship between the character in the film and the screen. There is no relationship, because there is no character. There is only the screen.
SK: I like Paul Heddermans word “selfing.” Instead of thinking of ego as a noun, it’s like a verb. There are movements of selfing (like blaming, complaining, being greedy, clinging) but they aren’t happening to a self, as an object or noun.
Nonduality is seeing through all separation, so it would include seeing that there is no separate self. There is only selfing and even that tends to quiet as it’s seen that the selfing is not an object at all. It’s just movement, thinking, feeling, etc.
You can never find the actual object “self” or “ego.” You only find the movement that seems to refer to an ego.
N: Ego is another word where we have given a noun or name to something that is actually a verb or function. Ego is the function of identification and also suffering. Since we never actually become the limited identities we form, we are always having to do the identifying over and over again. And we do this mostly through trying to change, get rid of or keep our experience.
We never succeed at changing, getting rid of or keeping our experience, so we just keep trying. It is this movement of effort that I call ego, although again there are probably as many definitions of this word as there are people using it.
GC: My work defines “ego” [quite clearly] as “the illusion of free-will.” Period.
But don’t be fooled, this illusion is the most prized of all human possessions. And it’s a very enticing illusion, or else it would be easily discarded. Thus, all ‘round and ‘round.
The illusion that there is some magical entity with a separate independent volition, whose experiencing is not bound within the unwinding chain of cause and effect like everything else in the universe, is all that the ego is.
RF: Ego is the constant self-image that needs to be propped up, inflated, added to, constructed, like a storefront. The bushes need to be trimmed, the sidewalk should be swept, the awning must be perfectly pressed. That assertion comes with a mutual belief that there is something outside your “self”. The ego is the expression of individuality.
There really is no such “thing” in existence as an ego. It’s just a word, like all others, used to describe. It is the very description itself which asserts the separation – the ego is just a name applied to that idea of separation, that sense of being separate, the manifestation of the belief.
GG: This is a good point. I’m not sure why others don’t use the term “ego,” but for me, it’s pretty vague. It ties in to all kinds of psychological assumptions and associations. It suggests Freud and Descartes, with their notion of the self as separate, independent, walled-off and contained in the body. I don’t see how I would use the term “ego” as part of an explanatory language without encouraging and validating these assumptions. In fact, these assumptions are an important part of what you become free of in nondualism.
Instead of “ego,” the emptiness teachings have the notions of the “mere I” and the “inherently existent I.” The mere I exists conventionally, in a transactional, everyday sense. The inherently existent I doesn’t exist in any way at all. We only feel that it does.
The mere I – This is the one that goes to the grocery store, eats dinner, gets attracted to nondualism, and finds freedom from suffering. The mere I is said to exist conventionally in an everyday, pragmatic way, as something that can perform functions. The mere I exists by imputation, agreement and convention, and as such, it is empty.
The inherently existent – This is the one that seems like it has to be more than just imputed. This is the I that we feel and think exists as a pre-formed, independent and self-sufficient entity. This is the I that makes us feel that the universe sucks if we get insulted. This is the I that seems to be individual and independent from the mind and body.
The idea of emptiness meditation is to untangle the mere I from the inherently existent I without falling into extremes. Affirming the inherently existing I would be the extreme of eternalism. Denying the mere I would be the extreme of nihilism. Realizing emptiness is freedom from both, and brings great love and joy.
*This was quite the undertaking. From organizing, to creating the questions, to contacting folks or “rounding up” (pun intended) all of their answers and then compiling into some sort of “organized chaos” for your reading pleasure. I had a blast though, and if you enjoyed this special feature [and are still reading this post] then please share it with your friends and by all means, feel free to post your comments and jump into the “discussion” below.
Special thanks to all who participated and to Sarah Pollak for the late night photo frame and Ernie Resendes for the NDA thumb.
Stay tuned for Round Two, where we will be talking about EXPERIENCE…coming soon!
There’s just something about Chuck Hillig that draws you to him. Maybe it’s the warmth of his voice or the twinkle in his eye. Or maybe it’s because he can explain the mysteries of the universe in such a simple way that you have to nod you head and say, “Well, of course. I knew that.” It’s almost tempting to say that he’s part Ram Dass, part Alan Watts, part this sage or that guru. But that’s just not fair. He’s just all, well…Chuck Hillig. He knows who he is and, because of that, he knows who you are, too. And because he really knows it, he transmits that knowledge in his books and his talks and, truth be told, just in his being around you…if you’re open to it.
He’s a fascinating Speaker whose talks leave your soul singing. He’s a compassionate counselor who has a gift, not so much for taking your burdens from you, but for showing you, as you travel along the path of your life, how to set them down and leave them behind. As with all good teachers, (and that’s maybe the best description of Chuck, though not one he might choose for himself), Chuck doesn’t jam the information down anyone’s throat. He lovingly beckons awareness from where it’s been hiding inside of us. He doesn’t tell us what we don’t know; instead, he reminds us of what we’ve forgotten.
He’s one of those rare individuals who can do that with a smile or a glance. And for those who don’t get it from just that, he has written some truly extraordinary books (now in five languages), gives enlightening talks and is available for professional consultations. ~Laren Bright
POINT OF DEPARTURE
When Consciousness pretends that there’s a separation between what It says It is (the I), and what It says It isn’t (the not-I), then the world mysteriously reappears. But It’s not really going anywhere. Remember that the purpose of a song is not to arrive at the final note. The purpose of a song is found in the joyous singing of It. So it is with Consciousness. In other words, It’s just singing!
1.) But Chuck, It really can’t be that basic. Aren’t you simplifying this whole thing a little bit too much?
A: How can you oversimplify something that is, by It’s very nature, simplicity Itself? In fact, because Its simplicity is absolutely complete and pure, It can only manifest Itself by pretending to be complex. In other words, when the indivisible Consciousness pretends to be divided into parts, It creates an illusory world of polarities. And you already are that very Consciousness, Itself!
2.) Yes, but if I’m really this so-called It, then why don’t I have a direct and personal experience of being It right now?
A: This “you,” (the illusory ego-self that you think you are), can never personally experience Its own true, fundamental nature. You can only be what It already is (i.e., It). In other words, you will never be able to get It simply because It already is It! Or, to put It another way, how can you ever arrive at a place where you are already dwelling?
Believing that you’re not really there, however, provides the cosmic momentum for It to, seemingly, go out looking for Itself.
It’s this purposeful misidentification that sets the entire drama of your life into (e)motion.
3.) Well, if any of It is really true, how can I actually use this philosophy in my everyday life?
A: You can’t use It in the usual sense because, actually, It will only be using you. At one level, though, you can stay more aligned with It by consciously choosing exactly what It appears to be choosing for you.
In other words, practice saying a resounding Yes! to whatever shows up for you. And, even when you feel like saying no, then just say yes to the fact that, at least for that moment, you’re saying no.
It’s best, though, to always make Yes! your default position in life. Don’t reject anything, not even your own rejections!
Remember, however, that you, (the historical ego-self) are only pretending that you’re able to manipulate or control It. Consciousness will always get Its own way in the end, simply because, no matter where you think your ego-self is going, It is already there, waiting for you.
4.) Is this why you say that It is always directly in front of me in Its absolute totality?
A: Yes. I mean, where else could It possibly be? By definition, there can’t be some of It here and then some more of It around the corner, too. That would be implying that It could, somehow, be divided from Itself. But, if It’s absolutely simple and complete, then It can’t really have any parts at all. It can only pretend to have parts. The you that you think you are is only one of the many parts that It is pretending to have.
So whatever is in your experience at this very instant is absolutely all of It. There’s really nothing and nowhere else. Or, to put it another way, through Its own I’s (your I’s), It sees 100 percent of Itself, 100 percent of the time. None of It is ever missing simply because none of It can ever be left out.
It’s right there in front of you, in Its absolute totality, all of the time.
5.) But where does our idea of God come in?
A: As I said earlier, God really doesn’t come into It at all. God actually comes out of It. The word God (or the Self, Allah, Yahweh, Spirit, etc.) is simply the ego’s attempt to give a more formal name to the unnamable It-That-Is.
It’s like a movie actor who’s trying to name the underlying screen that he believes is necessary for his unfolding drama to be made manifest.
The greatest obstacle, though, is the actor’s ego based wish to be a personal witness to his own awakening to this truth.
However, that’s completely impossible. Why? There can’t be a separate person present at the so-called awakening, because there isn’t a separate person present right now, who’s not awakened.
In other words, there’s nothing for this actor to get. There isn’t a separate actor present who’s available to be getting It or, not getting It in the first place! In short, all that there truly is, is the seamless and unbroken Screen of Pure Consciousness, Itself, this mysterious It. After all, It is all One.
6.) Yes, but what does that do to this whole idea of choice? I mean, doesn’t free will really exist?
A: Before addressing that question, you need to determine if there are separate individuals out there who are truly present and real.
You see, if all separation is an illusion, then any discussion about some illusory self having a free will or not would be as useless as arguing about the probable water temperature of a lake mirage out in the desert.
Just like there’s no real lake out there with a water temperature, there’s also no real separate self present which could have (or not have) a so-called free will.
7.) But what does that notion do to the idea of karma, reincarnation and the law of cause and effect? Are any of those ideas real?
A: Well, yes and no. At one level, karma and reincarnation do exist, but neither of them is actually real. These two phenomena persist as long as there continues to be the illusion of a separate and an individual self who believes that he is the so-called do-er.
Here’s how It seems to work: If you consider yourself to be setting up causes, either good or bad, you’re automatically implying that, sooner or later, you’ll have to be experiencing their effects either good or bad. Cause and effect always arise simultaneously.
But, if all separation is illusory, then exactly who is actually experiencing the phenomena of cause and effect?
In other words, who, specifically, is all of this life and death drama involving karma and reincarnation happening to? Who’s the “who?”
If all there is, is Consciousness, then exactly who is being reincarnated here?
Or, for that matter, who really died in the first place in order to be reborn?
8.) So are you saying that all of mankind’s past history is only part of this great illusion, and that none of it ever really happened!?
A: There’s only One so-called movie playing on the Cosmic Screen, and It’s always the very drama that’s surrounding you.
So, did mankind’s history ever really happen? Consider this: When you watch a movie, did the off-screen events that are referred to by the characters in the film really take place at all? No, of course not. But the dramatic story on the screen is greatly advanced (and enhanced) by the viewer’s willingness to pretend that those off-screen events being referred to did, in fact, actually occur.
But It (the Cosmic Movie) is always fully present in Its absolute totality, right there in front of you. Nothing is ever being left out.
In short, this really is It, and It’s all happening just for you in this very precious moment of Now.
9.) Yes, but what about the future? It almost sounds like you’re saying that I shouldn’t try to do anything about it.
A: No, I’m not suggesting that at all. For example, if It moves you to save the whales, help the poor, stop the spread of HIV, etc., then go ahead and throw yourself into It 100 percent. Don’t hold anything back! Go ahead and do It.
The you that you think you are, though, is not really the do-er or the true source of any of these actions. Consequently, this same you need not concern Itself with the results of any of these actions that It’s feeling compelled to do.
Remember that Consciousness is only sourcing Itself. So, by playing out all the so-called parts, Consciousness is the only One that’s really doing any of It. It’s the only game in town!
In truth, there’s nothing else (and no one else) present at all. You are not really here. Only It is here. And, although It uses different mouths, It’s only been having a monologue.
As strange as It sounds, It is totally alone!
Or, to put It another way, It is All One.
10.) But are you saying that I shouldn’t really care about how things work out?
A: Actually, I’m just suggesting that you play out your role in the cosmic drama with gusto and passion. Remember, though, that you can remain truly detached from what shows up for you only if you give up your idea about what working out looks like. In truth, things will neither work out nor will they not work out. They will only be whatever they will be.
If you overlay what you think should be happening on top of what actually is happening, that’s only a manifestation of the ego-self pretending to be the do-er of what’s unfolding. But, in truth, It is doing It all.
The irony here is that, even though it doesn’t really matter what you do in your role, It’s still very important that you go ahead and do It anyway.
After all, the dance is best honored when the dancer (It) dances the dance, even if It means that, sometimes, It’s going to be stepping on It’s very own toes!
It’s all only a dazzling display of colors in a cosmic kaleidoscope. The nature of the Consciousness that you are is to be what It is, by pretending to, seemingly, become what It’s pretending to not be.
11.) Are you enlightened?
A: Well, if all divisions on the Cosmic Screen are illusory, then how is individual enlightenment even possible?
In other words, what separate being is ever really there to be enlightened (or, for that matter, to be unenlightened) in the first place?
12.) But isn’t any of It real?
A: No matter what activities are happening in the movie, the fundamental reality beneath It all is still only the unbroken and seamless screen that’s supporting all of the dramas that are being played out upon It.
Although the world appears to exist, the only thing that’s really real is Consciousness Itself.
So, as the historical ego-self that you think you are, you’ve always been looking directly into the cosmic mirror of life Itself, and beholding the wondrous and multifaceted face of God.
The incredible miracle is that It’s always been your face!
13.) So, then, why is everyone seeking some sort of enlightenment, this It?
A: In truth, you already are who you are looking for. Enlightenment is not the attainment of anything new. Instead, It is more like a discovery of the essential truth about what actually is. Your personal drama, though, will continue to magically unfold around you exactly as It does. You won’t really awaken from the dream as much as you’ll awaken to the dream.
But, in this awakening, the Dreamer has to disappear entirely. If not, he’ll just substitute one dream called once I was asleep for a newer dream that’s called now I am awake! And here’s the great cosmic irony: The self who is asleep is also the very same self who is awake. After all, there’s only one self. Only one Consciousness. Only one It.
The mesmerizing seductiveness of the dream is seen in the longstanding belief that, someday, if the Dreamer only plays his cosmic cards right, he will eventually awaken. But, in truth, the enlightenment bus that he’s been waiting for will never show up for him. Why? Well, by expecting that some future awakening may occur for him somewhere in time, he’s only reinforcing his belief that the very same Consciousness he is seeking is not 100 percent fully present for him, right here and right now. But It always is.
14.) Isn’t there some kind of objective reality in the world? What about the idea of good and evil? Don’t they really exist, even as a small part of this universal Consciousness?
A: It might help you to consider that Consciousness (It) is a kind of context or space that appears to contain a world of polarities. But, at the very heart of truth, there’s really no success or failure. There’s no right and no wrong; no good and no bad; no victors and no victims; no heaven and no hell and no life and no death.
All of these polarities only appear on the subjective spectrum of opposites that It creates for Itself in order to play out Its cosmic drama.
In a sense, these opposites appear to radiate out in all directions from the point of view that you (as your historical ego-self) think that you have. It, however, contains It all.
15.) What can I do to improve myself spiritually? Don’t I need to change in some way?
A: But how can who you are really change? Your basic nature is pure Consciousness. Essentially, you are infinite, omnipresent, impersonal, omniscient, and immutable. As such, there is nothing that you need to remember, to learn about, to realize, to strive for, to pray to or to meditate on.
In fact, It’s the very belief that real change and spiritual progress is possible that provides the momentum for you (as the historical ego-self) to want to propel your story forward and out into some kind of illusory future where you can, hopefully, become satisfied, sanctified, or made more whole.
But, in truth, you can’t ever become any more of who you already are.
Because you already are whatever It is that you are seeking.
16.) What about all of the current interest in metaphysics? Won’t It help me to study things like astrology, ESP, tarot, crystals, channeling and so forth? Why wouldn’t my growth in those esoteric areas be a very positive sign of my spiritual progress?
A: Although the study of metaphysics is neither good nor bad, It often proves itself to be a time-consuming diversion for many people. When you’re spiritually seduced by the promise that you can attain special knowledge or powers, It’s easy for the seeker to become unwittingly distracted from his true inner quest.
Consequently, these esoteric and pseudo-spiritual practices often give the seeker something else to get attached to or, even worse, to feel superior about, instead of helping the seeker to look inside, to discover the truth about who he really is
Playing the game of spiritual one-upmanship is a subtle ploy that’s often used by the ego to avoid the possibility of experiencing personal annihilation in the face of Its own infinite vastness.
17.) So how do you suggest that I learn to live with myself being this infinite Consciousness?
A: Does an ocean wave really need to find the ocean? You already are whatever It is that you’re seeking. So, just commit yourself 100 percent to doing whatever It is that you’re doing, but do It consciously and with an open-hearted sense of detached compassion and total love.
Avoid judging or discriminating against anyone in any way. Other people are neither bad nor good. They just are as they are. Period. After all, doesn’t an author love his villains every bit as much as he loves his heroes?
Touch life softly, and live each moment as if you’re arriving at It, and departing from It, at the very same instant.
Consciousness will appear to tease you, seduce you, scare you, amaze you, and, from time to time, even try to overwhelm and destroy you. Oftentimes after It scares you to death, It thrills you to life. But learn to fully embrace It as who you are because It’s just doing the incredible dance of the divine. After all, It’s the very play of Consciousness, Itself!
And, remember that all of It is being staged for your own delight and edification! Welcome It all joyfully, with a sense of deep gratitude and profound wonder.
Your being able to play in the world is a miraculous gift that Consciousness is giving to Itself, so be sure to be an appreciative audience to your own melodrama. All of It is just for you.
Let everything happen to you because It’s really all okay, right here and right now, being just as It is!
Remember, the so-called purpose of any dance is not for the dancer’s body to end up in some final, frozen position. The real purpose of any dance is only found in the actual dancing of the dance, Itself!
Since you can’t get out of It, then just get further into It.
So, whatever happens to show up in your drama, just keep on dancing, right where you are!
18.) Won’t I need some kind of dance teacher to help me with all of It?
A: Yes. A teacher is necessary, but you need to give up your idea about what this teacher might actually look like. The guru may not show up for you as a physical human being.
However, the guru (It) is ever-present, and It’s always appearing directly in front of you as everything, and everyone, that you’re pretending you’re not. And, since the experiences that show up for the historical ego-self are, in fact, the guru’s deepest teaching, you can’t get lost.
You need to trust that this grace will slowly begin to awaken you from your delusion of separation. Whatever’s happening in your life at this very moment is the golden path that It has chosen to lead you to your awakening. The drama unfolds when you’ve forgotten that you have chosen It being exactly as It is.
And so here is yet another very strange paradox: It turns out to be Its own guru!
19.) Well, does this philosophy have some kind of special name?
A: Yes, It does. This is a taste of the cross-cultural perennial philosophy that has appeared in all societies and cultures. In India, for example, It’s known as Advaita, the ancient path of direct insight and knowledge. It’s really the way less way because the seeker is not focused primarily on the ritualistic devotion, surrender or outward activity that’s usually found on many of the other paths.
The emphasis here is to use the power of self inquiry to seek out the source of the belief in I by asking yourself the ultimate, primordial question: “Who am I?”
All of the answers to that mind stopping question slowly drop away. You awaken to find yourself in a place in the heart that you never really left.
At that pointless point of awareness, your ground of being becomes, quite simply, I am, and you recognize the very essence of who you really are: Love. Loving Itself!
20.) Okay, but quite honestly, how can any of this strange stuff help the real world?
A: Well, is it the so-called real world that’s asking this question, or is it only the “you” whom you think you are?
Your spiritual work lies in discovering for whom this question is arising.
As Ramana Maharshi said, “The answer to life’s problems is to first see ‘who’ has them!”
And so, It is.
Before he retired in 2006, Chuck Hillig worked professionally as a state-licensed psychotherapist in California for 30 years. During his long career, he has helped thousands of people deal with a variety of both worldly and spiritual issues: depression, anxiety, communication, stress reduction, relationships, grief work, anger management, parenting, addiction, life transitions and re-discovering spirituality.
Over the years, Chuck has presented hundreds of lectures, seminars and workshops about both psychological and spiritual subjects to a wide variety of audiences from teens to seniors. He has been invited to speak at churches, hotels, libraries, high schools, universities, hospitals, retreat centers and military bases in more than a half a dozen different states. Chuck is a Life Member of Mensa and is a regular Speaker at both their local Regional Gatherings on the east coast and at their yearly Mensa Annual Gatherings across the country.
Because of his formal training as a psychotherapist, Chuck is able to effectively combine the spirituality of eastern philosophy with the practicality of western psychology in powerful ways that clearly speak to the Heart of who we really are. Chuck has appeared as a Guest on dozens of TV and radio shows in California, Illinois, New Mexico, Colorado, North Carolina, Utah, New York and Canada. Chuck was also interviewed about his books and philosophy by the producers of the powerful movie, Leap! Finale.
Chuck Hillig makes his home in Locust Grove, Virginia, and has one heck of a good time living life. Chuck is available for private sessions either by phone or by video Skype. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Please forward or share this post to any family or friends who may enjoy reading it.
In this essay, Rupert Spira explores three of the most common topics raised by students of non-duality: deep sleep, death and reincarnation. As Rupert explains, thoughts, sensations and perceptions do not take place in a waking state, a dream state or an after-life state. The waking, dream and after-life states are only made of the always-now thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions which all appear in the same timeless, placeless, here-and-now of Presence.
On the subject of death, Rupert asks, What is Consciousness’ experience of death? It has none. How could Consciousness experience its own death or disappearance? It would have to remain present to ‘have’ such an experience. In order for Consciousness to disappear, its substance would have to disappear into something. What would Consciousness dissolve into? There is nothing present other than itself into which it could go. We, that is Consciousness, have never and could never experience our own disappearance. The death of what we are, Consciousness, is therefore simply an idea – never an experience.
We invite you to join Rupert Spira as he explores these topics in-depth and offers a glimpse into That which is dimensionless, present, luminous, alive and awake. -Jeff Keller
Deep Sleep, Death and Reincarnation
Q: On waking up after dreamless deep sleep, identification continues with the same set of bodily sensations. Does that mean identification still remains at a subtler level while in deep sleep? If so, does this tendency of identification continue even after the death of physical body? If so, this would imply that mind survives death?
Identification is always in the form of a thought. For instance, the primary identification is a thought that goes something like this: “I, Consciousness, am located in and as the sensation called ‘the body.’”
RUPERT SPIRA: The only substance to that identification is the thought that thinks it, although it is further substantiated by feelings in the body. Consciousness itself is not actually implicated by this thought any more than a screen is implicated by an image that appears on it.
Consciousness is always only ‘experiencing’ itself, in the sense of being itself, just as the screen is only ever being itself.
The identifying thought is known as a ‘thought’ only to thought itself. It is only thought that says it is a ‘thought.’ Consciousness only knows ‘it’ as itself.
The same is true of all sensations and perceptions. Only thought knows them as ‘sensations’ and ‘perceptions.’ Consciousness is too close to all experience, too intimately, utterly ‘one with’ all experience to know it as something other than itself.
Only thought seemingly steps back from experience and labels one part of it ‘thought’ or ‘mind,’ another part ‘sensation’ or ‘body’ and another part ‘perception’ or ‘world.’ Without this ‘stepping back’ of thought, there is only the utter intimacy, directness and immediacy of Consciousness being itself. Experiencing is another name for this.
However, thought can never really ‘step back’ or ‘out of’ experience itself. It seems to ‘step back’ or ‘out of’ from its own imaginary point of view.
Now, having seen that the identification of Consciousness with anything other than itself never really happens, that is, it is only imagined to happen, let us consider deep sleep. We can look at deep sleep from two points of view: 1) from the perspective of the waking state, that is, ‘on waking up,’ and 2) from the point of view of experience itself.
From the perspective of the waking state, deep sleep appears as a vague memory of a blank nothingness, which apparently lasts for an undetermined period of time. This memory, like all memories, comes in the form of a thought, which, like all thoughts, irrespective of whether they are about the past, present or future, take place ‘now.’
The ‘deep sleep,’ to which the ‘memorising-thought’ refers, is utterly non-existent at the time of the memorising thought. In other words, the only evidence, in the waking state, for the existence of an experience called ‘deep sleep’ comes in the form of a thought.
That thought refers to a period of deep sleep that is not present at the time of the thought about it and can therefore never be verified. Therefore, the memory of deep sleep in the morning does not prove deep sleep. It proves nothing but itself. In fact, it doesn’t even prove itself, because it (the thought to be proved) vanishes as soon as it appears. So truly, thought, be it in the form of memory or indeed any other form, indicates nothing but Consciousness.
Waking-state-thought imagines that time exists independently of its being thought about. As a result of this presumption thought imagines that deep sleep (which is conceived as an absence of mind) lasts for a period of time.
In other words, thought ‘forgets’ that time is a creation of its own imagination and imagines it to be present even when thought is not, that is, in deep sleep. As a result deep sleep is imagined, from the point of view of the waking state, to have lasted for a period of time.
However, the state of deep sleep that the waking mind imagines is never actually experienced as such. Nor could it even be imagined, for to imagine something, some apparently objective quality would have to be present. Therefore thought first imagines deep sleep and, in order to conceive of it in its own language of apparent objectivity, it superimposes onto it the qualities of blankness and duration.
From the point of view of experience itself, which is the only valid point of view, what is known as deep sleep, is simply the presence of Consciousness without the appearance of mind (taking mind here to include all thinking, imagining, sensing and perceiving).
Prior to the arising of mind there is only Consciousness knowingbeing its own self. However, there is no appearance of time or space ‘there’ let alone any of the objects that are imagined to populate time and space. And therefore, of course, there is no ‘prior to the arising of mind’ because without mind there is no time. In fact, even with mind, there is no time, but there is at least the illusion of time ‘then.’
Therefore, what is known as deep sleep is only ‘deep’ and only ‘sleep’ from the point of view of the mind. By ‘deep’ the mind means, deeper than its usual surface thinking and by ‘sleep’ the mind means ‘the absence of itself.’
In its ignorance the mind conceives this absence of itself as nothingness, because all it knows and values are apparent objects. It does not know and cannot know the presence of Consciousness and hence it conceives of deep sleep as a dark, blank nothingness.
But from the point of view of experience, which means from the point of view of Consciousness, there is no experience of a dark, blank nothingness. Rather, there is only the ‘experience’ of itself, which means only the presence or being of itself. This is neither deep, dark, blank or asleep. It dimensionless, present, luminous, alive and awake.
Consciousness is not the opposite of un-consciousness. For Consciousness there is no ‘off.’ It is always ‘on.’ It never ceases to know/be itself. However, to say ‘always’ or ‘never’ already brings in imaginary time in which Consciousness is imagined to reside. Consciousness does not reside in time. It resides in itself, as itself, alone.
What is considered to be deep sleep from the point of view of the waking mind is ‘wide-awakeness’ for Consciousness. There are three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping only from the imaginary point of view of thought. For Consciousness there are not three states. There is only the one ever-present reality of itself alone.
The three states could be likened to a film, a document and a screen-saver appearing on a computer screen. The differences are not for the screen, they are for the mind.
Consciousness ‘never’ ceases to be this ‘wide-awakeness.’ The term ‘deep sleep’ is a misinterpretation of the reality of experience from the ignorant point of view of thought, that is, from the point of view that ignores the reality of experience.
The ‘dream’ and ‘waking’ states are two other interpretations or names that the mind gives to the reality of Consciousness, when it (Consciousness or experience) is imagined through the limiting and distorting lens of thought.
When we watch television we say that we are seeing a ‘film,’ the ‘news’ or a ‘documentary.’ Each of these labels is only a different name for the same screen, just as the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states are different names that thought gives to the reality of Consciousness.
For the screen there is always only itself, just as for Consciousness there is only knowingbeing itself.
It takes something outside the screen, one who imagines they are not the screen, to see the ‘film,’ the ‘news’ and the ‘documentary,’ just as it takes an imaginary entity who has seemingly separated itself from the seamless totality of experience to apparently see something other than Consciousness.
For Consciousness, there is only its own ever-presence. The categories of ‘waking, dreaming and deep sleep’ or of ‘mind, body and world,’ that is, the apparent multiplicity and diversity of all seeming things, is for the mind, not for Consciousness.
We could say that in this ever-present wide-awakeness, which the mind calls ‘deep sleep,’ the dreaming and waking minds arise, project a world that is seemingly outside Consciousness and ‘then’ subside.
However, the adventure of the dreaming and waking mind is for thought alone. It is not for Consciousness. Consciousness is always ‘at home,’ resting in its own being. It never takes the journey!
At no time is there ever an entity that falls asleep, that dreams a dream, that rests unknowingly in deep sleep or that subsequently wakes up. Such an entity and the states in which it considered to operate are all made only of the current thought that thinks them.
Now, with that as background, we can look more closely at the question as to whether identification remains at a subtler level in deep sleep.
Identification is simply a thought and a thought does not last in time. Time ‘lasts,’ or rather, is imagined to last, only with the thought that imagines it.
It is only from the point of view of thought that identification is considered real at all, let alone that it lasts in time. In other words, it is thought alone that imagines identification to be real and then imagines a duration of time in which it is supposed to last.
Why then does identification re-appear on waking? It doesn’t. Nothing re-appears. Even if we concede provisionally that ‘something’ truly appears, then, when that ‘something’ disappears it disappears absolutely, never to appear again.
It is only a thought that claims that the current appearance is a reappearance of an old appearance. However, every appearance, including the thought that imagines re-appearance, is brand new.
Identification and re-identification are as substantial as the thought that think them and all thoughts are paper tigers.
If identification was real and if it had lasted for countless millennia through innumerable births, we would have a real problem on our hands. Fortunately that problem is only real for the imaginary one that imagines it. For Consciousness, there is no identification, no bondage, no liberation and no problem.
All that is ‘required’ is to stand knowing as That, which simply means to notice that That is what we eternally are. In due course the mind and body are gradually realigned with this ‘new perspective,’
Now, does the mind survive death?
Let us consider what is meant by ‘death.’ Death could refer to the body, the mind or Consciousness.
In the conventional model of experience, it is believed that the body is born into a ready-made world and contains the mind, which in turn contains Consciousness.
We have seen, however, that it is truer to say that Consciousness contains the mind and that the body, made only of sensing and perceiving, is ‘part’ of the mind.
That is, we have seen that there are, in experience, no physical bodies or objects. We have seen that the apparently perceived object, body, other or world is made only of sensing/perceiving. In other words, we have seen that all so-called physical objects are made out of mind.
Therefore, it no longer makes sense to speak of the death of the physical body. Any theory of death that takes, as its starting point, the reality of the physical body and, therefore, its subsequent death, is flawed from the outset.
A truer (but not completely true) statement would be to say that the body is simply the current sensation or perception ‘of the body’ and that that ‘body’ disappears or dies every time that sensation or perception disappears. We have seen that a body, or indeed any object, does not last in time and that the ‘lasting body’ is a concept, not an experience.
In other words, every time the current sensation or perception of the body disappears, the ‘body’ dies, so we have experienced countless ‘deaths’ of the body. In fact, the ‘body’ is being born and dying ‘all the time’ and each appearance of the body is a brand new body.
Does the mind survive these deaths? In this question the mind is conceived not only as a vast container of all thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions, but also as a vast generator of such. However, no such mind has ever been experienced. Such a container/generator is simply a concept. It is imagined with the thought that thinks it.
The mind, in the broadest sense of the term is simply the current thought, image, sensation or perception. Like the body, it is born with every new appearance and it dies with every disappearance. It neither survives or continues.
In other words, there is no mind, body or world, as such, so we cannot meaningfully speak of their possible survival. The mind, body and world are simply the names that thought gives to the current thought, sensation and perception, respectively, and there is no continuity of thoughts, sensations and perceptions.
At a deeper level the mind, body and world are the names that thought gives to Consciousness and consciousness does not continue. It is ever-present.
Either way, there is no survival or continuity. There is only the ever-presence of Consciousness.
* * *
However, this does not mean that when a sensation/perception (the body) disappears, it will not be ‘followed by’ a thought. In that sense there is nothing to suggest that the mind does not survive the death of the body. Thoughts keep coming after the ‘body’ has disappeared.
In fact, that is exactly what happens at night. When we ‘fall asleep’ the body, that is, the current sensation or perception vanishes, but dream thoughts and images appear. This is the experience of mind without a body. In fact, mind is always experienced without a body. The body is just one of the possible ‘shapes’ of the mind.
In a dream a new, seamless body/world-image appears. Dream-thinking subsequently identifies the ‘I’ of Consciousness with the dream body, thereby apparently separating the new dream-body/world-image into two ‘things’ – the ‘dream-I’ and the ‘dream-world’ – creating the illusion of duality in exactly the same way that waking-thinking does in the waking state.
Dream-thinking then wonders whether its thoughts will continue after the death of the dreamed entity, without realising that the dreamed entity, the dreamed body and its dreamed death are themselves simply thoughts.
What is also interesting to notice is that the thoughts and feelings of the waking state tend to become the environment of the dream state. In other words, what was on the ‘inside’ during the waking state becomes the ‘outside,’ in which the dream seems to take place. Hence the value of dream analysis in psychology.
There is nothing to suggest that this pattern will not continue after the ‘death’ of the waking body, which as we have already seen, is simply the disappearance of a bodily sensation, but not necessarily the cessation of mind. In other words, there is nothing to suggest that thoughts and feelings that ‘continue’ to arise after the death of the body will seem to derive their content from the previous thoughts and feelings of the now apparently deceased entity, just as dream images seem to derive their content from the waking state.
In the new ‘after-death’ dream, the imagined entity may again imagine that its thoughts and feelings are a continuation of a previous day or a previous life and hence the myth of the reincarnated entity will forever perpetuate itself in the dream of the imaginary entity.
Therefore, what for the imagined entity is life after life after life is, from the point of view of reality, dream within dream within dream all ‘taking place’ timelessly, placelessly.
However, even if we provisionally accept the above model (and it is only a half true model, truer than the conventional model but not completely true) it is important to remember that the mind, as it is normally conceived, is also only the current thought or image. Every time a thought or image ends, the mind dies.
So, having first seen that the body is, as it were, a subset of the mind and that the mind ‘continues’ to ‘produce’ thoughts, images sensations and perceptions, after the ‘death’ of the body, we can now see that the mind is equally fragile, that is, it never survives, as such. It is always vanishing. In other words, thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions do not take place in a waking state, a dream state or a after-life state. All thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions take place in the same timeless placeless here-and-now, and the waking, dream, deep sleep and after-life states are all simply made out of the thought that thinks them.
Now what about Consciousness?
Consciousness is all that is conscious or knowing and all that is truly present. What is Consciousness’ experience of death? It has none. How could Consciousness experience its own death or disappearance? It would have to remain present to ‘have’ such an experience.
In order for Consciousness to disappear its substance would have to disappear into something. What would Consciousness dissolve into? There is nothing present other than itself into which it could go. We, that is Consciousness, has never and could never experience its own disappearance.
Therefore death is never an experience. It is a concept. The entire dilemma about death originates with the thought that mistakenly identifies Consciousness with a limited body. In other words, the idea of death is only possible when Consciousness is seemingly ignored or forgotten.
Of course, Consciousness cannot ignore or forget itself. It can and does only ever know itself. It is only an arising thought, which imagines that Consciousness is not present, that seemingly obscures Consciousness’ knowingbeing itself and, as a result, posits as a reality, death and the attendant fear of disappearance, which is the hallmark of the apparently separate entity.
What has been said thus far is based upon the idea that thoughts, images, sensations and perceptions appear and disappear within Consciousness.
This idea is useful in that it overturns the conventional view that Consciousness is located inside a mind, which is located inside a body and which is, in turn, born into the world, and replaces it with a model that is closer to experience, where the mind, body and world are all seen as spontaneous arisings or appearances within Consciousness.
However, this new model should also be abandoned in due course because if we go deeply into experience itself, we find that it is not accurate.
In experience we do not find a succession of appearances. A succession of appearances can never be an actual experience because it is only possible to experience one appearance at a time. In other words, a multiplicity and therefore a diversity of appearances is never a current experience but rather only the current thought about ‘multiplicity and diversity,’ which refers to something that is never actually experienced.
In other words, multiplicity, diversity, appearance, disappearance, birth, death, time, space, causality are all paper tigers. They are made only of the thought that thinks them.
Our actual experience is that experience itself is ever-present. And the only substance present in all experience is Consciousness itself. Therefore we can say from our own intimate direct experience that all we know is Consciousness’ knowingbeing itself, that is, all Consciousness knows is itself.
Nothing ever appears or disappears. The same is true, relatively speaking, in a film. It seems as if people, objects, places, events and situations are appearing and disappearing but actually there is always only ever the screen. It doesn’t come or go. It does nothing. And because the screen is the only reality of the film, nothing can be said to truly come or go. What or where would anything come from or to where would such a thing go? It would have to come from outside the screen. But there is nowhere in the film outside the screen.
The same is true of experience. There is nothing outside Consciousness. There is nothing inside Consciousness. Consciousness is ever present and dimensionless, always knowing its own being. Nothing new comes into it. Nothing disappears out of it. There is nowhere from which or to which such a ‘thing’ could come and go and nothing out of which such a ‘thing’ could be made.
Consciousness is timelessly, placelessly, ever-present knowingbeing itself alone.
RUPERT SPIRA is an artist and Non-duality Teacher. Check out his website here, where he shares his views and experiences related to Non duality, Ceramics, Meditation, Advaita, Vedanta, Consciousness and Awareness.
*All ceramics above by Rupert.
*this excellent blog post is from: OprahEckhart
“If you just listen to the tone in which he is speaking =
This week Americans will elect hundreds of legislators for both houses of their Congress. In the American press there has been much interest in whether President Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, will be stopped by the opposing party in Congress. And the media has further commented on the enormous amounts of money being spent on attack ads —which do not inform voters but simply slander the other candidate.
Some Americans have asked, “What does this have to do with me and my standard of living?” For those of us on a spiritual path, a more important question is, “What is this doing for my state of consciousness and what does this have to do with the Present Moment?”
In a word, the problem is the ego, for the ego always stands by its intractable position, “The Present Moment? I’m against it.” The real party of “no” in American life is not the Republicans, but the ego with its incessant rejection, criticism, self-absorption and non-cooperation. Doesn’t that describe the tone and intent of this campaign season?
What can we do to improve the quality of our consciousness when the news media is showing us people from opposite sides shouting at each other? It doesn’t matter if it’s Republicans and Democrats in America or protesters on the streets of Paris criticizing changes in the French retirement age. All of it comes from ego, who’s mantra is: “I’m against it. What ever it is, good, bad or otherwise,… I’m against it.”
If we are to build a better world representative of the Power of Now, we must realize that world is created moment-to-moment in the Now. The Now has no agenda, the Now has no opinions, the Now is direct access to Truth and the evolutionary impulse of the universe. If we want true representation in our governments, we must first embody those qualities which build consensus, cooperation and progress.
*As long as we’re “against this” or “against that”, we are doomed to the suffering of the ego as expressed in the pain body of attachment to the past and idealizing the future. Inside the infinity of the present moment lies infinite possibility. Let us all help each other from the inside out to create nation states of consciousness that resolve the dualism of opposing forces. Let us celebrate and seek repose in what is inside the power of silence that dwells in each conscious being. That still, quiet voice has all the answers, including how to govern.
We will change our nations, our governments and the world for the better by a slow but steady process. The agent of this change is consciousness itself. Your consciousness. Improving the quality of your consciousness, by living more and more in the present moment, is the most powerful act of social activism you can offer to your community, your country, to humanity.
On election day, and every day, be a beacon of Presence. It will make a difference, not only within you, but around you.
~ Eckhart Tolle
- did you hear it?
(It takes two to vibrate)
by Peter Francis Dziuban
That just about sums up the Science and Nonduality Conference for 2010.
Whose conference was it, really? The One who was really present, the One whose show it truly was, definitely showed up! There weren’t really many of “us” all experiencing Presence at a conference called SAND. It’s the other way around. Presence was “doing its thing”—which appeared as a lot of people at a conference.
That was the most noticeable (and beautiful) thing about SAND —a pervading Love or Oneness, despite the many perspectives being offered.
*“The Science and Nonduality Conference was created to provide an arena where various aspects of nonduality can be explored, discussed, and experienced. Part seminar, part festival, part conference, this event explores how science combines with meditation, philosophy, art, music, dance, and entheogens to point the way to nondual experience. Also to aid in integrating nonduality into daily life and to deepen the understanding of a fundamental nondual reality.”
At times there were differences of opinion (between science and nonduality, and even within each group), but for the most part they were mutually respected. SAND is growing (and it’s to be expected that the very bringing together of such seemingly diverse groups results in lots of viewpoints. That’s the whole idea. That also makes it a word-fest. There were so many perspectives at the conference, at times it seemed “all over the place.” But it was as if no one really cared because the Love underlying all the words was so full, so simple and beautiful.
The instant there’s an attempt to express Presence in words, it opens the door for differences of meaning. Particularly when it comes to the “c” word (consciousness), the differences really kick in—not only between science and nonduality, but even among nondualists. Perhaps at upcoming conferences there could be more emphasis on meaning or definitions. Maybe even a panel discussion. This has come up before, but it’s an ongoing issue, and at a very basic level it would really help—especially for those who are new.
Without getting overly intellectual or conceptual, what might help is just a simple, “Whaddya’ mean specifically, when you use the word ‘consciousness’?” It keeps everyone on the same page and prevents misunderstandings—all of which helps to minimize the “I’m right, you’re wrong” syndrome.
A few concrete examples: At conferences, emotions and enthusiasm can run high, so it’s easy to be enthusiastic when there may not always be a valid reason for enthusiasm. One of the more well-known speakers was A.H. Almaas, who gave a sobering (but honest) assessment in his closing talk. He pointed out that scientific terms such as nonlocality and interconnectivity (which refer to atomic particles) are sometimes hazily linked with nonduality. In other words, Almaas is being very specific by what he means when using such terms. Linking those terms together implies some sort of relationship, a sort of intersection between science and nonduality. But does such a thing really exist?
Anything in the so-called realm of interconnectivity or nonlocality involves energy, which is essentially vibration. However, it takes two to vibrate. Non-duality ain’t two. When you stop to consider it, non-duality really is another way of saying non-vibration! What’s more, all vibration occurs in time. Almaas aptly pointed out that a basic notion of nonduality is that it is “outside” of time. So if you agree with what Almaas means by nonduality, then energy, interconnectivity and nonlocality aren’t really part of nonduality—though it may appear as if they are.
Meanwhile, isn’t it great that Love goes right on being Love. Presence goes right on being Presence.
Now for the “c” word. One well-known scientist, Robert Lanza, spoke about his new theory (and book of the same name), called Biocentrism. This is oversimplifying, but basically he’s addressing the issue of which came first—the universe or consciousness. Traditional materialist science says it was the universe that came first, and that life and consciousness then gradually evolved on earth. Lanza’s theory is pointing to the reverse; there’s enough evidence to consider the possibility that consciousness, life (bio) came first, and everything else is centered around it.
Some scientists are now willing to equate matter with what is called “consciousness.” What Lanza and perhaps (some of the other scientists) mean by the word “consciousness” is what many nondualists would call “body-mind.”
Whaddya’ mean by consciousness or body-mind? It is an experience that is inseparable from the five sensations (or mentations), as well as thoughts, emotions, and other phenomena. But that kind of phenomenal experience is very different from what some nondualists take pure consciousness or awareness to mean.
If you push it further, anything said to be in the matter/mind realm is finite. It involves time, constant change, form, energy, cause and effect, observer and observed, etc. Even if something is understood to be only a mental form instead of a physical form, the very fact that it can be observed as a mental form means it’s finite. It is not formless, timeless, changeless, infinite—which is how consciousness is often defined in nonduality (same as Being). So, again, they’re very different things. Needless to say, some nondualists might have a hard time calling this “consciousness” or awareness.
Maybe the topic of “which came first” is going down a wrong path—asking cause/effect type questions based on an old “model” that is fast becoming obsolete. And here’s where a nondual perspective can offer science new insights. Some nondualists would say Awareness, Being, is timeless, thus not in the realm of cause and effect. From this perspective, it’s clear that neither the universe nor “body-mind” came “first”—but that both seem to arise simultaneously. And this seems to hold true from a deep investigation of direct experience.
The arising universe is like a coin with two sides. Look at the coin from one side and it seems to be material. Look at it from the other side and it can just as readily be called mental. But both sides of the coin are there simultaneously—so “first” is a moot point—both are equally valid if one is talking about finity. And again, either way, material or mental, it’s all finite (call it the coin of finity). Only when “seeing” from an Infinite perspective of nonduality, is one completely “off the coin” of finite arisings, and able to see both sides for what they are. Imagine trying to see both sides of a coin clearly when looking from only one of the sides, from finite mind or finite matter. Can’t do it.
This is not to imply that there’s anything “incorrect” with finity or body-mind. It’s not only a big part of everyday experience—it IS everyday experience! It’s also the workplace of science—so it’s simply a matter of recognizing and appreciating the difference in perspectives.
Meanwhile, Love goes right on being Love.
Then, from a strict Advaitan perspective, one might say, “Wait a minute. Being is not an arising. And to Being, when is it the case that Being is not all that is being? Never. So, to Being, do finite arisings whether called material or mental, really even occur? No. To NOW, does not-NOW ever occur? So does time and its finite arisings ever really occur?
And from the perspective of some nondual Buddhist Emptiness teachings, one wouldn’t even necessarily agree there is something called “Being” or “Awareness” as if it were some underlying permanent state.
It’s fine (in fact, unavoidable) to have the many perspectives—but let’s all put clarity to work for us. The beauty of whaddya’ mean? is that it’s an asking for further clarity, it’s remaining open—rather than a rush to judgment in disagreement. It forces a closer looking by everyone, to see what common ground there really may be—or not. And if not, well, at least we know. So the quest for a common ground continues…regardless, Love goes right on being Love.
*excerpt from the SAND website.
Peter Francis Dziuban is the author of CONSCIOUSNESS IS ALL - Now Life Is Completely New. He was a speaker at the recent SAND 2010 conference. Peter also lectures and holds meetings regularly on nonduality and the Infinite, and is available for personal consultations.
For more info please visit: Consciousness Is All
What we have for your reading pleasure today is an exclusive “sneak peek” inside Joan Tollifson’s forthcoming book entitled Painting the Sidewalk with Water: Talks & Dialogs about Nonduality. In this, her third book, Joan points to Here/Now, the simplicity of what is (whether that’s traffic sounds, the smell of coffee, the humming of the refrigerator or sensations in the body) and it invites direct exploration, not taking on new beliefs. Joan simply questions all the various ways that thought attempts to conceptually grasp and frame the movement of life.
She talks about seeing through the thoughts, stories and beliefs that create our human suffering and waking up to the boundless, seamless reality of this infinite, ever-new present moment!
I love Joan’s open and explorative (not overly methodical or dogmatic) approach —she is a “straight-shooter” and always invites the reader to look and listen for themselves! Painting the Sidewalk with Water invites simple awareness of whatever is showing up, without doing anything to change it and without seeking a result.
*I especially like how Joan is able to reveal the perfection in the apparent imperfection (with great subtlety and humor I might add) and the extraordinary in what appears most ordinary.
The book, Painting the Sidewalk with Water, is a collection of talks and dialogs about nonduality based mainly upon transcriptions of meetings Joan held in Chicago between 2004 -2006. The following excerpt, ”Is India More Nondual than Chicago,” is a complete chapter. Enjoy the preview and please remember to “look + listen for yourself!” -Matthew
-By Richard Miller
Beyond the moving mind lays a background of Stillness that never changes.
The mind must come to know the Self as this pervading background of Stillness.
Realize that nothing observed or experienced is you.
Nothing experienced binds or obscures you.
Take no notice of what is not your Self.
Nothing observed is ultimately who we are.
Be aware of being aware.
Be aware deliberately and consciously.
Broaden and deepen this field of awareness.
You are always conscious of the mind.
Now be consciously aware of yourself as being aware.
In this there is no separation of observer and observed.
Look upon the objects of the world.
See that all objects are extensions of Awareness.
There is only Awareness.
There is only Presence.
There is only God.
*Pic Shane Ricketts (White Rock Lake)
*Words Richard C. Miller
Nonduality is the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental intrinsic oneness. For thousand of years, through deep inner inquiry, philosophers and sages have came to the realization that there is only one substance and we are all part of it. This substance can be called Awareness, Consciousness, Spirit, Advaita, Brahman, Tao, Nirvana or even God. It is constant, ever-present, unchangeable and is the essence of all existence.
The Science and Nonduality Conference has been created to provide an arena where various aspects of nonduality can be explored, discussed, and experienced. Part seminar, part festival, part conference, this event explores how science combines with meditation, philosophy, art, music, dance, and entheogens to point the way to nondual experience, to aid in integrating nonduality into daily life, and to deepen the understanding of a fundamental nondual reality. The mission is to bring these ideas to a wider community through conferences, an ongoing workshop series, films, DVDs, and podcasts.
In the last century Western scientists are arriving at the same conclusion: The universe does indeed comprise of a single substance, presumably created during the Big Bang, and all sense of being —consciousness, subsequently arises from it. This realization has ontological implications for humanity —fundamentally we are individual expressions of a single entity, inextricably connected to one another, we are all drops of the same ocean.
Science and Nonduality is a journey, an exploration of the nature of awareness —the essence of life from which all arises and subsides.
Speakers and Bios
*we will be highlighting six speakers in each post
From an early age Rupert was deeply interested in the nature of Reality. For twenty years he studied the teachings of Ouspensky, Krishnamurti, Rumi, Shankaracharya, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta and Robert Adams, until he met his teacher, Francis Lucille (twelve years ago). Francis introduced Rupert to the teaching of Jean Klein, Parmenides, Wei Wu Wei and Atmananda Krishnamenon and more importantly, directly indicated to him the true nature of experience.
Rupert’s first book: The Transparency of Things subtitled Contemplating the Nature of Experience was published last year by Non-Duality Press. He is presently working on his second book It is what I am. www.rupertspira.com
STEVEN LEHAR, P.H.D.
Steven Lehar is an independent researcher with a radical new theory of mind and brain, inspired by the observed properties of perception. These observations are confirmed by some peculiar anomalies in phenomenal perspective that appear to have escaped the notice of one and all. The implications of these observations are that the foundational assumptions of neuroscience are fundamentally in error , and that an alternative paradigm of neurocomputation will have to be formulated to account for the properties of consciousness and perception.
Nassim Haramein’s lifelong exploration into the geometry of spacetime has resulted in an exciting comprehensive Unification theory based on a new solution to Einstein’s Field Equations. This groundbreaking theory, which incorporates torque, Coriolis effects and the nonlinear mathematics of fractal systems, has been delivered to the scientific community through peer-reviewed papers and presentations at international physics conferences. His research into a variety of fields including theoretical physics, cosmology, quantum mechanics, biology, chemistry and ancient civilizations has led to a coherent understanding of the fundamental structure and model of the Universe. This new view leads to an in depth change in our current perception of physics and consciousness.
Weaving together the sciences of advanced physics, cosmology, chemistry and biology as well as the wisdom and codes of the ancients, Haramein creates an exciting unified tapestry of spacetime which may prove to be one of the most important scientific, philosophical and technological discoveries of our time.
Haramein is the Director of Research at The Resonance Project, a 501(c)3 public charity dedicated to the exploration of unification principles and their implications in our world today. The foundation is actively developing a research park where science, sustainability, green technology and permaculture come together.
Jeff Foster graduated in Astrophysics from Cambridge University in 2001. Several years after graduation, following a period of severe depression and illness, he became addicted to the idea of “spiritual enlightenment”, and embarked on an intensive spiritual search which lasted for several years. The spiritual search came to an absolute end with the clear seeing that there is only ever Oneness. In the clarity of this seeing, life became what it always was: spontaneous, clear, joyful and fully alive, and Jeff began to write and talk about “nonduality” (which he often calls “the utterly, utterly obvious”). He holds meetings and retreats in the UK and Europe, clearly and directly pointing to the frustrations surrounding the spiritual search, to the nature of mind, and to the Clarity at the heart of everything. His uncompromising approach, full of humor and compassion, shatters the mind’s hopes for a future awakening, revealing the awakening that is always already present, right in the midst of life. www.lifewithoutacentre.com
ELISABET SAHTOURIS P.H.D.
Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D —internationally known as a dynamic speaker and media personality —is an evolution biologist, futurist, author and consultant on Living Systems Design. Dr. Sahtouris shows the relevance of biological systems to organizational design in businesses, government and global trade. Her books include A Walk Through Time: from Stardust to Us, Biology Revisioned, co-authored with Willis Harman, and EarthDance: Living Systems in Evolution. www.sahtouris.com
CASSANDRA VIETAN P.H.D.
Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, a Associate Director of Research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, co-director of the Mind-Body Medicine Research Group at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, and co-president of the Institute for Spirituality and Psychology. Her research focuses on spiritual practices and health, and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the State of California, and several private foundations. She is co-author of Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life (New Harbinger/Noetic Books 2008), and author of the forthcoming “Mindful Motherhood: Practical Ways to Stay Sane During Pregnancy and Your Baby’s First Year” (New Harbinger/Noetic Books 2009).
There will also be some excellent workshops taking place:
2 DAYS PRE CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS
Selected presenters offer an exciting opportunity to engage and discuss their ideas in an interactive workshop setting.
Thursday afternoon, October 21, 2010
Santa Rosa room
The essential discovery of all the great spiritual traditions, is that experience is not divided into a perceiving subject, an entity known as ‘I,’ and a perceived object, other or world.