A documentary of women’s spirituality by Poetry in Motion Films.
Meetings With Remarkable Women explores women’s spirituality and the divine feminine through the spiritual paths of five women from varied backgrounds:
- Linda — an Australian spiritual teacher whose discipline of meditation led to a profound spiritual realization.
- Anima — whose childhood in India steeped her in spiritual traditions, but it took a journey to America before she realized her true desire was to find enlightenment.
- Jem — who lived the roles of wife, mother, engineer, musician, and writer before discovering Reiki and A Course in Miracles; paths that eventually led her to a spiritual awakening.
- Heather — from Christian to Atheist, Buddhist to free-form seeker of self-knowledge wrestling with meditation, self-inquiry, and prayer.
- Deborah — who, after the tragic loss of her husband, launched a years-long spiritual path through ancient Buddhist texts and the practice of Yoga that culminated in the discovery of a deep and lasting inner peace.
*You can now purchase a DVD or watch via streaming or download options.
What Are People Saying Since It’s Release?
“A most welcome initiative that can help support women engaged in contemporary spirituality. Meetings With Remarkable Women beautifully informs the viewer of how the experience of women called to inquiry differs in subtle and specific ways to the patriarchal representation widely available. It is a joy to watch how consciousness redresses this balance. This production offers a forum to women who speak openly and honestly about an inner pull towards what is beyond all conceptual thought.” ~Jac O’Keeffe
“Meetings with Remarkable Women is a dive into the lives of some delightful women, wonderfully reflective. They tell their stories well, and we are drawn into their lives and insights. For someone, especially a woman, who is curious about what else is there, what else can we find that offers meaning and value, this movie is a gem. Through their compelling stories of struggle and discovery, each woman tells an inspiring tale of change and revelation that is worthy of viewing time and again.” ~Robert K.C. Forman, Ph.D.
POETRY IN MOTION FILMS [Mission]:
To create “documentaries for the soul”— inspiring and challenging films that explore the spiritual, philosophic, and metaphysical dimensions of life.
Call it spiritual cinema, spiritual documentaries, or spiritual films, we’re engaged in examining the perennial questions: where did I come from? what has meaning? why am I here? where am I going? what is this place?
Through small films about big ideas, Poetry in Motion Films hopes to expand your possibilities for a life well-lived.
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.
I am spontaneous simplicity
Mind, heart and feeling,
A whole being, absolute fullness
Love in action.
Reveals itself naturally;
When the mind is awakened,
All becomes One.
The past melts away
In the light of all-encompassing Attention;
In emptiness, the Sacred reveals itself
In its natural brilliance.
Experiencing the moment,
The personal mind is dissipated
Expanding into Infinity
As Universal Mind.
Each such encounter
Transforms us radically,
For in each sparkle of consciousness
We are newness, Divinity, Reality!
“As human beings we are all capable of inquiry, of discovery, and this whole process is meditation. Meditation is inquiry into the very being of the meditator. You cannot meditate without self-knowledge, without being aware of the ways of your own mind, from the superficial responses to the most complex subtleties of thought.
I am sure it is not really difficult to know, to be aware of oneself; but it is difficult for most of us because we are so afraid to inquire, to grope, to search out. Our fear is not of the unknown but of letting go of the known. It is only when the mind allows the known to fade away that there is complete freedom from the known, and only then is it possible for the new impulse to come into being.”
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.
We thought this event [daylong workshop/retreat] hosted by East Bay Open Circle was something many of our readers might be interested in. We get excited when we see different communities and perspectives being integrated such as at this event as there is no one definitive path.
If you are in the Berkeley (California) area and are able to attend, this event will take place on October 8 from 11am to 5 pm.
Exploration will be through dialogue, talks and meditation (and perhaps a little music)…the topic of an emerging spiritual paradigm for modern times. Topics will include:
- a cross-traditional exploration of the nature of awakening
- the true meaning of non-dual and integrative practices
- the role of practice and meditation and
- how to live fully engaged with our busy and troubled world
Please join us and show your support as we continue to co-create an emerging spiritual paradigm for modern times [grounded in direct experience], rather than belief systems, and the collective shared wisdom traditions of the world.
For more details visit: East Bay Open Circle
*Click here to download a .pdf flyer for the event
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.
Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change
This book is one of the best explanations of what the separate self is, what it does, and how being free of the static sense of a separate self benefits humanity, leaving us “peaceful yet engaged.” It reminds us of why awakening is not just about personal freedom, but also compassion, ethics, action, and care and concern for all sentient beings. These elements are sometimes missed in our modern attempts to translate Buddhist texts in order to “rush to a personal awakening.”
“I wrote Living as a River because I’m fascinated by the Buddhist Six Element Practice and I wanted to communicate my explorations. But my book isn’t really about the Six Element Practice (which is really just the framework for the explorations it contains). It’s a way of letting go of our clinging so that we can, eventually, lose our clinging and find freedom. But that’s not a very adequate description of the book either” says Bodhipaksa.
Living As A River contains a great balance between explaining awakening and giving direct injunctions to the reader to bring about the awakening. As Bodhipaksa explains, like a river —life is dynamic, vibrant, ever-changing. The static, fixed views of ourselves, others, and the world freeze us, stifling our creativity, and turning us away from the inherent love within each of us.
*Bodhipaksa adds: “I could describe the book in just two words: “Embracing change.” So that’s what the book’s about. It uses the structure of the Six Element meditation in order to face up to the reality of change, and to help us let go of clinging so that we can embrace impermanence.”
This book perfectly illuminates the real purpose of awakening, which is not to just talk about that river or even enter the river, but to realize we are it —fully.
Product Details: Softcover Book (364 pages)/ Publish Date: Oct. 01, 2010/ ISBN: 1-59179-910-4
Bodhipaksa was born Graeme Stephen in Scotland, and currently lives and teaches in New Hampshire. He is a Buddhist teacher and author who has been practicing within the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order since 1982, and has been a member of the Western Buddhist Order since 1993. He runs the online meditation center Wild Mind, whose mission is to increase awareness of the positive effects of meditation.
*excerpt from his Living As A River site.