Twenty Questions with Chuck Hillig
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.
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