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"This author has experienced directly the complete view of himself as a result of an intense search and a relentless facing into the psychological paradigm created from childhood. He has inspired others to follow the path of "most resistance" in order to arrive at the door to self-realization - which advocates simply paying attention - and listening to what comes from within." - C.R
List of Writings:
The Place of No Concern - An Account of An Awakening
Mind Breakers: Experiments in the Listening Attention
Rebirthday by Douglas Harding
Transformation of Meaning by Maurice Nicoll
Waiting in Line by Nick Penna
"Our aim is to become one, to have one permanent "I". But in the beginning work means to become more and more divided. You must realize how far you are from being one, and only when you know all these fractions of yourself can work begin on one or some principal "I"s around which unity can be built. It would be wrong understanding to unify all the things you find in yourself now. The new "I" is something you do not know at present; it grows from something you can trust. At first, in separating false personality from you, try to divide yourself into what you can call reliable and what you find unreliable." - P.D. Ouspensky
Somewhere in the past, I had the good fortune to learn to fish. It started out as curiosity and peer pressure, but mostly came from a desire to spend time in the wilderness. Since my better half at the time thought it inappropriate for a grown man to just hang out in the woods, a socially acceptable excuse was needed... fishing it was. It went from a part-time habit to a full-time obsession in short order, then vanished as quickly as the marriage. What remains is mostly an inability to come upon a body of water and not look at it with the eyes of a fisherman. As soon as I approach the bank, I notice an immediate change. I become the fisherman and slip into the habits of years stalking trout in countless streams and lakes.
For a few years, this habit was identified with: "I" was the fisherman. In recent times, I've been able to simply sit back and watch this fisherman as he goes through his well-worn act. He's no longer me, for the "I" thought is no longer present in him. The fisherman is no longer in opposition to his environment, but is lost in it. He and the fishing are one, but who was "I"?
On a recent hike, I had the opportunity to see this character in action, this fisher person, and several more besides. I noticed a person who hikes. It was interesting to watch how he made decisions as to route finding, rationalizing the climbing of "just one more peak", how he resisted the inevitable coming of the end of the day; his confidence and skill. Like the fisherman, he was an old friend of sorts, having once been 'me' too.
Later, when the day was drawing to a close, I noticed yet another 'person' in the entourage: the fellow driving the car. This chap was by far the oldest of the group and the most set in his ways. He had been 'me' at times for most my adult life, and behind the wheel during many episodes, some best forgotten, at least by the insurance industry. Now the strange thing about these persons, or little men, is that at some point I had said "I" to each of them. I had even said "I" to them in turns several times over the course of a day, interspersed with a whole zoo of others. Who are these characters, and what is this mysterious "I" which floats with ease from one person to another? And most importantly, why don't most of us notice this?
The truth of the matter is simple. The fisherman is the response to fishing, the hiker to hiking, the driver to driving, or the attempt at driving. They are the insentient response to a particular set of circumstances, just one side of the coin of an event. There is no "I" in them. The only thing that is present in all circumstances, and paradoxically free of them, is our simple awareness. We say "I" to the least and greatest of our response patterns, but never question the apparent absurdity. Instead of remaining fast 'asleep', become the hunter of yourself. Stalk this "I" thought, see where it leads. To be identified with and trapped in the confines of circumstantial response patterns, one after another, without rest, is hell on earth and the cause of our needless suffering. To be free is to reside in that which does not change, yet is aware, and does nothing. Keep watch on this sense of "I", and see where it leads you.
If we wish to find our Source, our True Self, then, as in looking for anything, we will need a direction. As Meister Eckhart admonishes, "if we wish to find God, we should look in the place we left him." We can only find that which is real if we look for what does not change and therefore is not projected from our own minds via memory. If we are possibly eternal, then we must have been before the body and before the brain, and even before our own mind. If God is eternal, and we are as him, then he was there before the mind, too. We left God by going into, and becoming identified with, the body/mind and its ever-changing flux. To find God, or our Source, we must therefore go back, not further out into the wilderness of the mind, the matrix of images. These images are secondary to the mind that creates and projects them, so how can we give them greater meaning than the mind, and even to our observing of them? What is required is a reversal, a retreat, a going within. This will naturally lead us to look in an inner direction, away from images drawn from the memory, and even the image-creating mind itself.
The one constant is that we can be aware of all of the above. This ever present awareness, which is constant and indefinable, is the only unchanging fact. The images can be made to have value which changes according to memory, circumstance, or an agenda of the ego, and as such are on a lower level than that which is aware of them. The fact of this is seen through the process of going within, by retreating from the images themselves, the image-making process and projection, the memory, and even any concept of an individual 'self '. To put our faith in any image, whether of an idea, personage, or institution, is to go out and away from the source. To turn towards the source and leave the images behind, is to turn within and find what remains when nothing remains but that which is aware. This 'still desert ' is frightening, for it means the death of the ego, which cannot live without an image from which to draw its existence. As long as we turn away from our Source, lost in the finite flux of images, how can we come to know we are the Unknown? Look fearlessly within; a timeless field of awareness that is everywhere and nowhere awaits.
The events of childhood do not pass, but repeat themselves like seasons of the year. - Eleanor Farjeon
I was in the midst of a crowd of people, when I realized that everyone's lives were just accidents. No one was in control of themselves. I became very out of it, just like on LSD. I then realized that the answer was sublimation, then transformation. Accident, sublimation, transformation. These three steps were the key. - Bob Fergeson
Accident: Let's take a look at the above quotes and see how they can provide a road map for self-knowledge. Many of us have had the experience or shock of realizing that the patterns and coping mechanisms of childhood are still with us and active, perhaps long after they are needed. As Eleanor Farjeon points out, these events, and their emotional reaction patterns, are still in us, dictating our behavior year after year. If we take the time to observe our day-to-day patterns with a bit of objectivity, over time we may see that we are mechanical, a robot. We may even realize that any reaction we have to change our mechanical pattern is also mechanical, just another reaction to a reaction. This realization can put us into quite a quandary, and is death to certain egos. The removal of these egos is paramount to progress, for they will never admit the need for real change.
Sublimation: We will become frustrated with this apparent paradox, and hopefully take our search more inwards. How can we find something in us that is not of the world of accident, something which is not just an endless chain of thought begetting thought? The next quote, taken from an old journal, provides the clue. We must refine our machine, for as we are, we are not capable of moving beyond the mechanics of associative thought. Here we move into the realm of sublimation. Our limited energy must be withdrawn from the associative world of behavior, saved and used for other puposes than the accidental world of desire and fear. This sublimation is akin to a refinement of our observation and thinking processes. We turn inwards and begin to look for the motivations of our actions, to question why we think as we do. We no longer can believe in the ego's story of " I did this because 'I' wanted to ". Try as we might, we cannot find this 'I' we put so much faith in earlier. And thus, through sublimating our energy through the questioning process, we have transformed our thinking and observing.
Transformation: This new level of of observation, one of seeing the patterns of our self and their mechanicalness, is still within the realm of the thinking mind, even though it brings a certain relief from the former sense-based thinking. If we are honest and keep on observing, driven by the still ever-present restlessness, we may come to the realization that we will never find anything Real in the mind, with the mind. If we are lucky, this realization may bring periods when we drop the whole game and become quiet. Here, another quandary with its trauma is necessary, for another set of egos must be dropped. Knowing that all thought is reactive and one step behind the present moment, we may begin to just listen, to observe without reaction. In this quiet, listening mind, something Real has the possibility of entering.
Zen is "Walk, don't wobble." - Richard Rose
Many of us go through life enamored of ourselves to the point of not really knowing where we are headed or why. We refuse to question our decisions in any meaningful way, and only after a severe shock or trauma will we ever admit we may not have been what we thought. One of the dominant features of many seekers of truth is a feeling of superiority which tends to blind the student to his own true life pattern. In other words, we live in our heads, safely hidden from the facts of our real existence.
If we are lucky enough to be clobbered into wakefulness and the truth of our life through trauma or necessity (I have no interest in speaking to those who are convinced they are "ripe souls," needing only to wait in idleness for their coming release), we may find we have been blind to something Richard Rose called our "fact-status." For example, when I first entered university, I was so convinced of my own superiority that I never thought of cracking a book, never bothered to show up for class or take notice of the declining state of my health and mind. After flunking out my first semester, becoming hooked on drugs, and letting my teeth nearly rot, I was forced to re-evaluate my thinking. My fact-status could no longer be ignored, no matter how far I hid in inner fantasy.
The above pattern of self-conflict, while a bit extreme, illustrates the gap between our false image of ourselves and our fact-status. We are continually knocked off balance by this conflict, and instead of facing the truth about ourselves and acting accordingly, many of us simply regroup, re-invent, and continue to live as if the story in our heads were true. The ego refuses to see anything wrong about itself, thus denying that which asserts otherwise, fact or not. We continue to be lulled asleep. Falling off the log into the stream of unconsciousness, we are shocked awake and climb back up, only to succumb again to the ego's song of distraction and desire, wobble off balance, and again take the plunge. This continued stumbling between ego-fantasy and the shock of the facts eats up our time and energy. We can keep up the game when we are young, for a while, but sooner or later we tire, become isolated, defensive, and begin to crystallize. Any hope of finding something beyond the ego fades as the ego becomes all.
The above may sound hopeless. But balance can be obtained if we persevere, learning from our mistakes and those who have gone before us. Rose called the process of using what uses us "milk from thorns." By recognizing the ability of our own mind to delude itself, we can hopefully set up a system of checks and balances to insure that our idea of ourselves is, at least, somewhat related to the facts. This fact-checking can be brought about in many ways: through honest friends and family, co-workers and colleagues. Another one is intuition, learning to listen to the small voice within. Most importantly, we can become more aware by learning to be honest in truly observing ourselves. This use of self-observation, which might be called the opposite of rationalization, is spoken of by every serious system of finding spiritual truth.
Now, there are some of us who say, "Why bother with observing myself, when the great teachers recommend inquiring directly within for the absolute?" To find the truth, or absolute, one needs to be a true vector of inquiry. The above examples of how we are not this true vector, or stable inquirer, show the myriad paths of fantasy in which we become entangled. Let us not presuppose ourselves to be something we are manifestly not. A quick check of our fact-status will show us how we are ready, willing and able to be distracted from inner inquiry at the drop of a hat or wink of an eye. Learning to walk a straight line, upright and somewhat mentally sober, would be a good first step. Developing one-pointedness of mind first, we then turn this beam upon ourselves, now knowing the difference between fact and self-created fiction. We are beginning to have a sense of balance through wielding the sword of discernment.
By developing and using this power of discrimination on our own minds, we come to see how and where the ability to fool ourselves originates. We come to know our minds, and thus become objective or anterior to them. Through this process of separation from our former "self," and through a growing acceptance of our fact-status (things as they are), we find we have been practicing what may be called a practical form of self-inquiry combined with surrender, and have made real progress. When we look back on the delusions we so readily accepted and projected, we have to laugh at ourselves and our previous stumblings about. The value of this progress is not in that we have found reality but in that we have become better able to discern the real from the unreal, and thus have increased our odds of knowing reality if we ever do happen to bump into it. In the words of Richard Rose, "We must desire the Truth, and have a capacity for it else we could not receive it even if it came to us by accident." By learning to walk, not wobble, we keep from continually falling off the log of discernment before we get to the other shore. We become painfully aware of the games we insist on playing, and the fears we harbor, and realize we might not desire the truth about ourselves as much as we thought. We begin to see our true inner motivations, hereto unconscious, and thus have the beginning possibility of real self-inquiry through a stable mind, and real surrender through acceptance of truth.
Above the door to the ancient temple in Delphi were inscribed the words, "Know Thyself". These words describe the process by which we separate from our false state of ignorance and rediscover true Being. But how do we initiate this process, this grand work of spiritual discovery? What tools should we choose to come to know this thing we call 'ourselves'? If we are to engage in the pursuit of self-definition we will need to use the best tools available. To stalk our 'self ', we will need something above or behind this personality to best observe with, something of a different order. Using the personality to observe the personality simply doesn't work. It's like trying to lift a plank while standing on it. This self we wish to come to know is a constantly changing, moving target, a veritable chain of reactions and patterns, seldom still, but always within our sight. To observe it we will need something calm and constant. Something that looks but doesn't react; a seeing that listens.
Spending time alone, in a quiet environment, can be a good way to start this practice of self-observation. To be free of the routines of work and family and the expectations of society is calming and conducive to beginning the art of introspection. We can let our guard down a bit. Also, our own personality is partially absent. The part of us that interfaces with others is no longer needed and we can relax. This state of lack of attack can be quite useful for sneaking a look at ourselves. Since other people do not have to be dealt with, we can devote all of our energy to watching the only person that remains: our self. The social personality is a tool whose job is to deal with social survival. It has been made to do this, in and by the social context, and is only answerable to that context. To try to use it for examining the self, as we normally use it to examine others, will not work. It may not be the best tool we have to better know ourselves. A hammer is only a fitting tool when combined with nails and wood. To observe the files in our computer, we need something with a subtler touch. A listening attention is needed, a looking without speaking, an interior silence which observes but does not place value.
Eckhart Tolle gives a good example of the type of attention we need. He asks us to try a little experiment, to close your eyes and say to yourself, 'What's my next thought going to be?' then become very alert and wait for this next thought, just as if you were a cat silently watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to pop out? As long as we are in this alert silent watching/listening, no associative thought pattern interferes with our observing. Let's take the experiment a bit further and put ourselves in the context of the hunter or stalker. Our goal is to stalk ourselves. The personality and ego are our game. We wish to observe them, not observe through them. Our game is very smart for it knows what we are thinking, even before we think it, for it has had control over us for years, perhaps decades. The only advantage we have is our simple, pure awareness, something the ego lacks. We must become very still and alert, as if we were in a room with a large beast, which can only grab us if we move, feel, or even think. As long as we observe without placing meaning on our observation, we are invisible, and can watch the beast, freely and calmly. If ever the thought comes to us, "Hey, I'm watching myself" or, "Wow, look what I'm doing", we have lost the thread. We are then reacting, not observing. Watch for this 'I' thought. If the feeling of 'I' and its sense of being the 'doer' come into the scene, the listening attention is lost, and you're off the track.
At first we will only be able to watch ourselves during quiet times, such as meditation. While our quarry is relatively still, we are not confused by its movements and are able to hold our attention steady. Later, we can observe when the personality is more active, and can keep from being thrown off balance. It's good to learn to swim in shallow quiet waters, before taking on the waves. Once the basic feel of the listening attention is found, one can progress from observing oneself in quiet times to watching the body and mind as they perform small repetitive tasks. Eventually the awareness will become free enough to observe the self, or `person', in complex actions such as conversation. As we begin to see more and more of ourselves, we gain a certain freedom. Its value does not lie in the modifying of our behavior into a more efficient, flattering form, but simply in becoming free from the hypnotic identification with our pattern. We begin to see we truly do not do and never have. We only observe.
No matter how determined we are to stalk this strange person we call ourselves, we will continue to fall asleep and be swept back into the state of identification. One tool we can make use of to counter this is what might be called 'alarm clocks'. We create little habits that remind us of our task: which is to watch silently. We place these alarms throughout our day. An example is meditating at a fixed time. The body will become used to this and remind us it's time to turn inward and observe. Another is books or tapes we find to have value. These can serve as alarms by their presence, as well as by their content. One of the best is a group of fellow seekers, who can serve as mirrors of our current state and help snap us back on track. As with anything done with regular routine, these alarms will become less useful with habit, and new ones will be needed.
Another trick is to practice what is called 'inner stop'. Whenever we sense we are becoming obsessed with a thought pattern, fantasy or habit, whether of anger, self-pity or desire, we can say to ourselves, 'Stop!" Just as a loud unexpected noise can stop the conversation in a room, so can this command silence the noise in our head.
One last pointer is what might be called developing 360-degree vision. This is best described as having a two-pronged awareness. One arrow is pointed outwards, towards the relative world and the 'person'. The other is aimed inward, towards our source. Our quarry, or what we might call the person, can only look out. We have a distinct advantage in being directly connected to that Infinite Silence within and its unlimited patience and wisdom.
Coming to know ourselves eventually crushes the ego, in that we find we are not what we imagined ourselves to be. We begin to see that the person we think we are is purely mechanical, a robot. Honesty and courage will be needed if we are to accept what we see, and perseverance when we find our task difficult and wish to retreat back into imagination. This process of dis-identifying leads to ego-death, as we separate from our pattern. The simple act of clearly seeing the person we were for what it truly is, is enough to bring about its death. We find we have become that which witnesses experience, where before we were experience, creating more and more experiences in an endless mechanical pattern. We are no longer the wily animal we have been tracking, which becomes cleverer with every experience, but instead something free, eternal, and indescribable.
1. There is an easy trap to fall into when we first engage in self-observation, and that is to create, or visualize, an observer who observes. We are then back in the same comfortable game we were in in the first place: that of the personality reacting to the environment in an endless pattern. There is no sentience in mechanical reaction. In describing observation, we are not talking about visualization or imagination, but the simple act of looking without reaction, of looking through the personality, not with it. We have been taught since birth to create and then identify with a separate thing we call ourselves. This reaction pattern continually recreates itself as the person who reacts.
2. Right Intent. We can only use the listening attention for gaining self-knowledge, knowledge of our own mind. If ambition, ego, or greed comes into play, we have degraded into visualization and are lost. We must want only to scrutinize the self and observe the mind. We must not, and will not be allowed, to take advantage of or gloat over our success. We can take the example of Joseph Sadony to heart. After using his psychic gifts to provide a friend with profitable information in the financial market, he lost his powers for one year to the day. He never again traded his Connection for profit.
3. We must have a stable and clear emotional state to succeed. Emotional problems cannot be of a level that spin us out of control. The capacity to walk a straight line, without being sidetracked or continually distracted, is imperative. If we attempt to go into inner silence only to find we are full of unconscious emotional turmoil, then these problems must be dealt with first. To take responsibility for ourselves and to support ourselves, to harbor no excuses; this is the good householder, the level from which we begin. No victims or perpetrators are found in the journey through the valley of death. We must first become a healthy moral animal before we become the hunter, or the beast will hunt us.
In the realm of spiritual seekers, many and varied are the conceptions of what the Final Realization will be. Most of these are meaningless discussions of symptoms, rather than any serious attempt at understanding the final state, much less becoming It. The projected outcomes of these students are as varied as the different schools and teachers in which they place their trust. Given this Gordian Knot of thinking and feeling, fueled by ego, and projected by unexamined minds, what can one do, and expect? How can a serious seeker find assurance that they are on the right course, and how can one be sure that they themselves, or someone they know and trust, has had the Final Realization, a Total Answer?
First off, the final judge must be the person themselves. In order to pass beyond the duality of the finite mind, we must be aware of the trap of putting yet one more level above us. This is a never-ending game of the mind. There will always be someone out there who claims to have a higher, more complete, more total realization than what we, or our teacher, may have found. Only in our Selves can we rest. The trap of endlessly judging levels of attainment may be a way to keep our own spiritual ego afloat, but is a dangerous distraction if taken as the quest itself. We must press on within, and leave the fate of others to themselves.
The above said, there still remains the problem of the mind's ability to fool itself with its own projections. Driven by ambition, mental laziness, and fear of the Unknown, we may unconsciously decide to claim realization by virtue of these desires and fears, and take an easy out. How can we check and compare our own level of spiritual attainment and not be misled, by our mind or the minds of others? Let us take a look at the stages of spiritual becoming, and hope that the words herein will serve as a guide to keep our vector moving and on track.
There are three states or levels of being that we find in this search, before reaching what might be called the final or absolute state. The first may be called the level of experience. The second, the level of union. The third, the level of becoming.
The first level, that of experience, may be likened to someone in his room watching a television, and being identified with the characters in the dramas as they unfold on the screen. Losing contact with himself, he has become hypnotized into believing he is a character in the TV. The freedom he began with, that he was (and still Is), the innocent observer, has been lost, traded for the mind-motion of thought and feeling projected into the plastic box in front of him. He places his highest value on the screen-character with the most motion and energy, in relation to his upbringing and education by other screen characters. The more the characters move and are dominant (whether positive or negative does not matter), the more energy is expended, and the bigger the reaction that is drawn from the person. His innocence and detachment have been replaced with the sense of motion and thought, and the thrill of losing energy. Now that he is inseparable from his role in the drama, he places a high meaning on the feeling of belonging, which he now values as part of his very definition. He has fallen deep into sleep, and is dreaming the life he thinks he lives, a mere ghost in a box of motion, emotion and thought. He will evaluate a mystical experience in much the same way. If the experience has much motion, much release of energy, and if the character involved succeeds in his tasks, whether positive or negative, he will place a higher value on him, and claim his identity for his own.
This level is very basic and body oriented, having to do with visions of power and ego, and control over the environment. Any mystical experience or contact with spiritual systems or teachers a person on this level has, will be interpreted from this level. It constitutes no real change, or becoming, in what might be called the basic animal man, who, perhaps frustrated in his ambitions in normal life and society, has chosen a path of lesser resistance through fantasy for the fulfillment of his animal urge to power and dominance. He is the level of the mind and its motion, with which he is wholly identified. Fear and desire drive his every move, and he is firmly engrossed in his dreams.
The second level is only found through the disastrous failure of the first, combined with a serious inner commitment the seeker must have previously made to finding the truth about himself, at any cost. Given this commitment, he will sooner or later be rudely shaken awake from his dreams of fantasy, and forced to face the facts about himself. For a true change to occur, a true failure of the first level's ego must be brought about. His sense of personal identity, which is rooted in the fictional characters in the box, one after another, must be cut away. The resulting trauma will be in proportion to the size of the ego that was created. The symptoms of this collapse, meaning emotional and mental trauma, are individual, and should not be taken as the change itself. The possibility of the inner witness coming closer to the surface is the only important matter. The man then becomes identified with not just the individual character(s) on the screen of the TV as it continues to hold him entranced, but now becomes identified with everything that enters the universe-box from the projecting Light. His sense of self expands to include all the characters in the drama, as he gains a sense of unity with all the many dots in their coordinated dance across the screen. He may feel exalted and full of love for this picture show, and imagine this union to be the end-all of possibility. His very sense of exaltation, of still clinging to a higher and lower, with his remaining sense of being a 'being", give him away. The experience, though of a greater level than that of the first man, is still relative. He still believes himself to be a thing apart, in contact with another, though higher, Thing apart. The very idea of existence, of himself and anything else, is still intact, and unquestioned. His new profound experience is just that, and fades into a memory, though the conviction may remain. He soon finds himself back in the position of the first man, in motion and identified, subject to the environment for his feeling and concept of himself in the moment. Only in his memory and understanding is there a change. His perspective is still that of a man, a human entity, alive and living in a now conscious Cosmos, with which he is united.
For the man of union to Become, he must again suffer a complete disaster, and have an impossible bit of good luck, to boot. Through somehow seeing the still remaining dual nature of his mind, he may find the hint within that there is something of the intuition that led him this far, still in contact with him. He may see from time to time that he senses he is somehow behind himself, apart and unconcerned with the 'thing' that he previously called "I". He may even experience moments of "headlessness", in which he looses his usual sense of 'self' and instead sees the world without the noisy filter of his mind. He may even have the intuition that the secret to Becoming lies in this detachment, and not in the blissful union he values so much. This detachment has yet to become a steady factor in the present moment, but he begins to sense that the unaffected yet somehow aware screen, the very capacity for existence, and not the mind-made images that run across it in an ever-changing flux, is his true nature. That the Light and the screen it illuminates are but two different aspects of the same thing: Himself. Intuition now plays the bigger part, with reason and logic now only functions of the practical aspect of his environment.
Many little hints may come to him now, and if he is lucky enough to place a value on them, and follow them, he will continue to move. Most of these hints are along the lines of what has been called 'headlessness', or the" listening attention". He may find he is observing without labeling or judging. That he is now free, for a moment, to gaze upon the world without knowing what he sees. These moments may be accompanied by a strange feeling of peace or silence, which he may come to know as the quiescence of his mind. Here, the former work on fear and desire come to fruit, as one cannot look into the Unknown if any vestige of fear or worldly ambition are still dominant. The site of the world without the minds' interpretation can be frightening for those still attached to its false security. By continuing to look within, he may sense that the Light he feels, is not only healing him, but has a direction, a Source. If he travels back far enough to merge with this Source, he may find It to be the opposite of the 'world', and hence come to the possibility of triangulating the difference between Samasara and Nirvana, and so coming to Himself, as that which contains, and simultaneously is, All.
This return to our original nature extracts a high price, but only to the ghost in the plastic box. The ego, which has evolved from identification with the character on the screen, to that of the ego of the spirit united with its source, now has died. For the original awareness, this is release, yet it finds itself to be unchanged and knows it has never been any different. To friends and family, the symptoms of this final ego-death may, or may not, be visibly dramatic. The trauma of release is indicative of the size of the ego that dies, rather than of the nature of the underlying Reality. Any value we place on the size or spectacle of the resulting trauma of others may be due to our own need for distraction, and longing for continued sleep in our pride as sincere seekers. Facing our own coming headlessness is much more difficult than ruminating about the possible symptoms of the decapitation of others. Much of what may have happened in another's becoming may not have been made available for our personal viewing, and consequent judgment.
The worded description of this final state is something that has caused much consternation in seekers and teachers alike through the centuries. Perhaps the best that can be said about it, is what it is not. It is not an intellectual conclusion reached through deduction, no matter how astute. It is not a feeling-state, not matter how sublime. It is something we receive, though we give it to ourselves. We become It, rather than 'get it', and then know we have never not been It.
In most schools, words such as 'awareness', 'witness', 'absolute', and 'void' are used to describe the causeless state, which we seek to become. An aware witness, void of any other qualities; an unbiased, empty Observer, having no cause, but being the cause of Itself, alone. A conditionless yet aware state that is itself unconditioned and not witnessable by other than itself, there being nothing other than Itself. Any description one hears which adds a word or words after "I am", is not a description of the Self, but at most, a description of a symptom or view. Be very wary of those who claim unending Bliss and Peace, for any relative state calls forth its opposite, and is subject to change. You, and only you, will come to know what your final state is, and then, later, will struggle to find words to describe it.
Disciple: But how shall I comprehend this Ungrund (this naked Ground of the Soul, void of all Self)?
Master: If thou goest about to comprehend it, then it will fly away from thee; but if thou dost surrender thyself wholly up to it, then it will abide with thee, and become the Life of thy Life, and be natural to thee." - Jacob Boehme
As spiritual seekers, we should become at least as aware of how we are built inside, as we are of our anatomy. Our mind and its workings should be as familiar as the wiggling toes on our feet. Sadly, this is seldom the case. Let's take a look within our machine and see what's really happening in the inner realm of thought and feeling.
To start, let's perform a simple experiment. Ask yourself the question, "How do I feel?". Then, take a good look at what happens, inside. You may answer in different ways, in the positive or negative, and then perhaps wonder if you're right or wrong. This is all not going to help, no matter the answer, and is what most of us do, seekers or not. Instead, try looking a little deeper, and quicker, at what really happened. When the question is first asked, a strange thing occurs. The mind projects an image of what it currently believes "I" to be. It holds this image up in the attention, so that the feeling center can get a good look at it. This feeling or emotional center then has a reaction to this image of "I", of what you take yourself to be, at the current time and circumstance. Then another strange thing occurs. The mind that created the initial image modifies it according to the emotional signal it receives from the feeling center. (If you're feeling-oriented, the process could be reversed, with the feeling reaction noticed first, then the projected image.) This brings us to the question of where did the mind get the original image it projected? It was just the most current version of this created image, brought on by the endless and fully automatic cycle of thought causing feeling, causing more thoughts. From this, we can see the importance of discovering our own dominant moods, chief features and states of mind, which all fuel and mold the above process of creating an "I" which we then identify with. We unquestioningly believe in this "I", till death do us part.
Now we have to back up a bit and get into this business of identification, and the observer. Most of us are predominately identified with either feeling or thinking, and our main sense of "I" is in one of these functions or the other. The weaker of these is usually negated, and the brunt of much abuse by the ego centered in the dominant function. The trick is to bring both of the functions into full consciousness, and to get behind them. To observe them rather than just identify. To unconsciously identify with the mechanical reactions going on in the mind is to stay asleep, believing in the dream we're unconsciously creating, which is based on the previous dream, ad infinitum. Direct contact with the inner self or higher power is impossible when this chain of mechanical reaction is running rampant. Not a good way to live, if you think about it.
Let's ask the question again, and see what happens. "How do I feel?". Be quick. You have to be awake and watching before the process gets moving. Can you see the image you project of who you think you are? Now, watch the feeling center have a reaction to this image. Then the resulting modification or acceptance is applied to this image of "I". If you try this in a very relaxed state, free from stress or worry, desire and fear, you may get lucky and see nothing. You may see nothing but an attention or awareness which looks within the quiet mind, sees nothing but silence, and then looks to the now silent feeling center, and sees nothing. No reaction, because there is no unquestioned belief causing the mind to project an image, which you then identify as "you". Now, wait until you are under stress or in a bad mood, or excited and feeling good about yourself, and ask the question again. The feeling center will be sending out a constant emotional signal to the mind, which will be obliging enough to create the appropriate image. Teamwork at its best, eh? Both of these reactions, the image-making apparatus and the feeling reaction, are mind. But where are you in all of this?
The impartial observer is not found by simply denying one half of the mind-team, and thus claiming the death, or victory, of one's ego because you have ceased to have emotions; or to think you have stopped thinking, and entered 'no-mind'. Such sophistry will soon enough be put to the test. The solution lies in the trap of identification, in the misplacement of the "I". Lead the attention farther and farther within, until you have fallen behind your self, behind the mind. In this back of beyond lies Nothing, Boehme's Ungrund, pure Silence. From then on the images and emotional reactions of the mind will be seen as simply as one sees those wiggling toes.
In the winter of 2000, something happened to me that answered my questions as to who I am and my relationship to life and death, the questions that had somehow haunted me, consciously or not, for most of my adult life. Soon after this event, I wrote in my notes, " I was taken beyond myself into the place of no concern". The years of wandering, of alternating between pleasure and misery, came to an end, along with the searching and longing it generated. Paradoxically, I saw that in all that time I had never really moved. Rather, I simply woke up.
At the time of this occurrence, I was participating in an online confrontation group, my interest in spiritual matters being at a peak. A period of despair had thankfully passed, in which I had mostly given up hope of ever finding anything more than a little peace of mind, and perhaps something to do to pass the years. The online group helped provide the tension needed to push my spiritual interest back to the forefront.
I had been getting glimpses of how the mind works in dividing the personality into opposites, such as the parent/child, ego1/ego2, and God/Charlie Brown, and was determined to somehow transcend this trap. One of the members of the group artfully confronted me, suggesting that something I should look at was how I was in love with my self, the very thing I was trying to separate from. Realizing I was being fooled again, trapped in yet another duality, I came to a dead end. I can't remember the details of the exchange, but it dropped like a depth charge into my mind. Acting as a catalyst, it soon caused a change. This change was something I could not have foreseen, for it was a total change in being, rather than in thought.
I remember sitting on my bed, looking toward the mirror in the bathroom, and suddenly noticing I was no longer the same. It's still very difficult to explain this. It was not a change in thought or feeling, but rather a change in place or perspective. I was no longer 'in the world', but back beyond some inner boundary separating the formal from the informal. It was not traumatic, but rather curious. One of the first things I noticed was that I could see 'Bob', but he could not see me. I thought this strange, and wrote in my notes that he seemed to be asleep or hypnotized, so involved in the world that he could not look back. I soon discovered that he was entirely of the world, being solely the product of experience, and thus incapable of seeing anything else. (The poem below, The Little Man, came to me at the time in an attempt to describe this first event)
This state continued unabated for a couple of weeks. I spent the time watching Bob, the Little Man, as he went about his day-to-day business, marveling at my newfound lack of concern or worry, though Bob clung to his with his usual fervor. There was no change in the field of emotion coming directly from this change, or answers to any questions, only an interest in how strange it was to find myself completely unattached to thought, emotion, the world, and anything else one might call existence, even though it was all there for the seeing. My attention had been freed from its fixation on and in the personality, though its direction was still outward turned, only. This too, was about to change.
One day off a couple of weeks later, I was out cross-country skiing. I was climbing a long ridge. The slow, easy ascent would take a couple of hours, freeing my thoughts to go where they may. I was relaxed, being in familiar territory where I felt safe, free from worry or concern. As I continued up the hill, I felt that something was trying to get my attention, that perhaps there was someone behind me. I turned around, but was alone on the hill. Still, I could not shake the feeling. It grew steadily though quietly. I soon came to see that it was not in the surroundings, but somewhere within the inner field of the mind. It was as if a still voice were saying, `turn round and look within, and all you seek will be answered'. So, I did. As I looked within at whatever this silent prodding was, a dam burst, and my long pent up questioning could no longer be contained. Over the next couple of hours, all my questions were answered, as my attention was now free to go into the mysterious unknown source within from which all springs.
I saw, without a shadow of a doubt, that whatever looked out from my eyes, was the same in all men. There was no individual, but only Universal Man. Now this was traumatic. It ran counter to the dualistic belief I held that I was either better than, or worse than, everyone else. Not only was I the same, I didn't even exist! As the stream of false notions I took as my `self' came to the surface, they were burned away in the light of truth that was so obviously present, but had been hidden within. I became more and more shaken, and soon found myself laying in the snow, weeping. I came to see that everything was in the same place, at the same time. That everything is One, contained in Nothing. All was possible, all was available, depending on what the Heart desired, and the Heart desired nothing but Itself. Nothing was separate, for no things existed.
At this point, something inside me stopped the process. At the time I thought that `something' saw that something was about to break, and this must not happen. The journey within was halted. I slowly came back to the senses and noticed I was becoming a bit numb from lying in the snow. I shook myself off, got back on my skis and began the long descent to the highway and town. On the way more energy knots, as I've come to call them, were unloosed, as long held beliefs were seen through and discarded. By the time I got home, I was able to reflect on what had happened. I know knew what I was, though I still cannot describe it very well. This `seeing' is still available, though the `oneness with the One' has receded to a faint thread or feel. I can't see how one could function if it were otherwise. Whenever I return to that place in the woods, something of the feeling of what happened still returns.
In the coming weeks, the two incidents began to make sense. The first, the separation of the attention from its fixation in the personality, was the becoming. I had heard this term for years, but always interpreted it as becoming something manifest, some `thing' in the world of thought or mind, such as smarter, bigger, more subtle, wiser; the Big Man. Never would I have seen it for the complete change it was. Never would I have seen that to become, I had first to unbecome, to recede into non-existence. I remember thinking at the time that whatever I had become, it was something unhuman, meaning that I could no longer find any attributes in what I now was, other than what might be called awareness.
The second event was the dissolving of the emotional attachments, or energy knots, which held the attention tightly bound to the unreal assumptions I had taken as reality. I saw that I had taken my very meaning, and placed my highest value, on inherited beliefs, from top to bottom. Now, nothing was my own, for there was no longer anyone to claim anything. Thus, I had freedom to simply see and listen. I no longer had to place my very sense of being in the world of thought and mind. I Was, and that was All. Paradoxically, `Bob' is still pretty much the same. Perhaps a bit more relaxed, but still in and of the world, a reaction pattern without any real existence of his own.
In hindsight, I cannot say I know how all this happened in detail, except to say that I had a bit of luck, a few good friends, and could not rest until I knew what I was and had some real understanding of what was going on in terms of life and death. I had a mantra that expressed the inner angst I felt at not being defined: " I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to find out". I also cannot express the gratitude I feel to several persons who were part of this. Nothing in the search is more valuable than those whose honest concern for your long-term peace takes precedence over the pettiness of your ego. As the years go by, I still find that my home is in the Place of No Concern, as is yours. Will you use the life you have as a return ticket?
From early morning coffee
to late night herbal tea,
We lived for near forever,
the Little Man and me.
When first I came to travel
in this classroom wide and grand,
I knew nothing of the coming
of this lonely Little Man.
But parents, teachers, doctors,
the whole damn Helping Herd,
Soon created him inside me,
As their ancestors had insured.
He has no real existence,
None that I can see.
But could and should and would!
Screamed the Little Man in me.
Soon I hid myself in pride,
Found that fear blocked every door.
I was now what I despised!
Just as those that'd gone before.
The hypnosis worked it's magic,
No peace had I, no stand.
Just a mis-identification,
I became the Little Man.
I took him for a person,
Hell, I thought that he was me!
He sure could be convincing,
that Little Man in me.
Then one day it happened,
I know not really why,
I looked out there below me
From some Great Eternal Sky.
He didn't even notice,
So busy as a bee,
He just kept right on sleeping, but
that Little Man ain't me!
One day looking in the mirror,
From my bed as I did stand,
I receded back behind him,
that sleeping Little Man.
He didn't even notice,
Just a grain lost in the sand,
He can't look back and see me,
that lonely Little Man.
I watch him and his pattern,
How he blends right in so well,
That his life and his surroundings
are no different from himself.
He has no greater vision,
Desire and fear are all he sees.
An actor in the TV,
that Little Man in me.
It's a sad but true short story,
I cry a tear, and so does he,
He won't survive, he lives to die,
the Little Man in me.
" The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitude of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives." - William James
When we first start out in this business of finding the Self, the Truth of who or what we really are, we are forced to use the only tools at hand: our thinking and feeling. After a few years of trial and error with emotion-based cogitation, we may stumble upon the intuition that there's another tool available: direct seeing, or the listening attention. Our personal heredity, environment, and karma, will lead our thinking and feeling around and around in a never-ending circle of ego-fueled projections. This mechanical tail chasing may become more and more astute as we grow older and more crystallized, but never leads us to Truth. How can we blow a hole in this armored box of mind and emotion? Is it possible to perceive without coloring the perception?
Let's get to really know ourselves by playing some games. Drop the heavy learned pose of knowing, and instead return to the lighthearted innocence of simple seeing. Take the sense of "I" from your thinking and feeling, and allow the ever-present inner silence to be your center. We will now become, as Douglas Harding says, headless, alert idiots. Like taking a mini-vacation from yourself, drop the "you" you try so hard to be, and just listen and look. Does it sound like fun? You bet it is.
Put your conceptual thinking, precious feelings, and clever intellect aside and try the following trick: pick an object in front of you, say the tip of your finger. Where is this object in relation to you, as awareness? Now pick one behind you, the same finger if you like, and see where it is (the memory or feeling) in relation to you. Now, close your eyes, and scratch your nose. Where is this happening, in relation to you? Now, scratch the back of your neck. Look closely. Where is this taking place, in relation to you, as awareness? (Hint: having a double arrow of attention is imperative: one pointed outward towards the object, one inward towards the Unknown.)
Now, let's play a modified version of the same little game. Close your eyes, and, while looking inside with your inner eye, scratch the back of your neck with your finger. In your mind, which do you label as "me," and which as "object": the finger, or your neck? If you'd like, you can try switching the subject/object relationship. If you see the finger as object, and the neck, or body, as "me," try becoming the finger, and let the body be the object.
Let's revert back to thinking for a bit, a relapse, so to speak, and see what just happened. The feeling of "me," and the feeling of the "world" or "objects," is an arbitrary designation brought about by what we call learning, another name for hypnosis. It is not a fact of our own seeing, based on present evidence. If we look a bit closer, with our eyes closed, we see that what we call the finger and body are simply tensions in the field of our awareness. They are both what we call objects, mind-made, whether we have been induced to call them "me" or "I," the body or the world.
To illustrate this even further, let's try this trick. Remember to keep focused, in silence, out of worded thought and the internal dialogue, and only watch what you're seeing with the mind's eye, on present evidence. Try and remember a moment when you were offended or hurt by someone. C'mon, this isn't hard, we all have many such moments, I'm sure. Relive the event just as it happened. Now, on present evidence, what is it in you that is hurt? And what is the form of the offending party, right now, as you see it? Remember, this is all now only in memory, so you can look clearly into your mind, and simply watch. What is the make up of the subject/object relationship in this play of victim and perpetrator? Who is doing what to whom? Where are you in all of this?
Now, for all you intellectuals, pick up a pencil or pen, and take a good look at it. Give a thorough, verbal description of the object before you. You may even list any associations the pen/pencil has for you. Now quick, who was talking? Who was listening? Who was being spoken to? Remember, this internal dialogue is happening inside your own head. Look carefully: in which voice is the "I" usually placed?
Now, let's finish up by giving ourselves a break, and get up and get a drink. But before we go to the kitchen for our drink, let's prepare ourselves. First, let's take a look at our aim, simple as it may be. We wish to get up, go to the kitchen and get a drink. This is our desire of the moment. You might even call it our longing. Now, without thinking, but by just observing in the present moment, watch what actually happens as we allow our longing to unfold. As we begin, the desk with its computer swings back and out of the way, and the view of our desired destination, the kitchen, swings into view. As our longing continues, the kitchen magically gets closer and closer. Realigning itself to our vision, it eventually presents itself to us, even if a hallway or another room has to first pass by. The water glass we need comes into view. A hand reaches out and picks it up. Then, the glass and the hand go under the faucet. Another hand appears, and turns on the faucet. The water appears and fills the glass. A hand puts the glass to a mouth and the water flows inside, becoming a feeling or tension somewhere within our mind's field of view. Somewhere, desire is replaced by satisfaction.
Now, what did we really have to do with any of this? Nothing. It just happened as an answer to our longing. The only part we actively played, in truth, was that of observer. The ever-still awareness we really are was witness to a play of desire and fulfillment. The play was created from nothing, out of nowhere, to miraculously appear in the aware space that is Us.
All spiritual work relies on the same basic principle. Our true longing eventually brings us to that which fulfills. We can now also see how the simple aim of reading this paper was not interfered with by the smaller aims of conducting the individual experiments. The end goal was achieved by progressing from one small goal to another, with our longing as the guide. As long as we didn't cater to a conflicting desire, and thus were not distracted, we came to the goal.
Any question asked with absolute sincerity, honesty, and commitment will be answered. If we want the world of form and images, along with its corresponding pleasure and pain, we will have it. If we wish to gaze upon the miracle of existence right before our eyes, created from nothing, moment by moment, we may have that, too. If you want to know what your true desire is, look truthfully at the life before your eyes. There is your true longing, playing out before you in the events of your day-to-day life. If there is static and pain, worldly desire and anxiety, then find out why you long for it. The answers are there, in the present moment. Bravely clear your vision, and turn the subjective world of your unconscious desires and fears into a simple clear longing for Truth.
"We are what we do, not what we think we do."
"The fact that you don't act means you don't have conviction.” - Richard Rose
I've found as I get older that some of the seekers I meet are getting long in the tooth too, and suffer from a lack of conviction (inability to act) brought on by a combination of age and success in life. They have time and money relative to their youth, but are reluctant to use them towards their spiritual path. Perhaps this is not done consciously, but could be that a life-time of work and struggle, not only in the outer world but also in the realm of personality, vanity and ego along with the effects of aging, have left them almost unable to act any other way. The strange thing about them is their 'conviction' of commitment to the spiritual path, and the simultaneous lack of ability to act in that direction.
The following is a list of characteristics peculiar to this type of fellow and some questions for him in the hope he will see, and resolve, his paradox:
You have heard that all is One and there's nothing to be done, and have used this to cleverly rationalize your inability to act towards spiritual work.
You have heard that one must work on oneself even while going about daily activities, but have used this too as a rationalization to avoid actual involvement in spiritual work, especially with others.
You find the view pleasing from resting high on the shoulders of those seekers who have gone before. Why do you refuse to carry someone yourself, to continue the chain?
Your spiritual work consists mainly of reading and ruminating, along with some so-called self-observation while going about your business. Seldom does it involve actual work, even less work with others, and never work for the Work.
Your comfort zone has been made secure by years of effort. Do you think you will make the trip within to the Truth by this continued comfort, both mental/emotional and physical?
Any suggestion of change is met with cleverness, for you have become averse to anything that might rock the ego from its throne.
This vanity of being always right even extends to your ideas about the ego itself, as evidenced in your insistence that you will 'destroy the ego', thus entering further into dichotomy.
Most of this occurs because of a deep-seated vanity that you are special, and thus have no need to involve yourself with the struggles of the less fortunate.
When facing confrontation about your lack of action, you put on a polite yet knowing smile. Your sense of superiority carries over into spiritual work, and is defended by very subtle yet effective masks.
You gravitate towards those that flatter your vanity, and if the going gets tough, you get gone.
This vanity is your biggest block, and keeps you from your inner self, though you think just the opposite.
When your superior attitude is pointed out, it is rationalized by declaring that underneath you still suffer from a feeling of inferiority. While this may be true, it is seldom worked on, and never resolved.
If a meeting or retreat is attended, it's usually only once, for if there is no immediate profit from it, you feel there is no reason to go again.
The idea of work being profitable only after years of constant effort has somehow slipped your mind. Possibly because your vanity says you have 'been there, done that', now it's time to relax and reap the rewards.
You have found in business how to work smarter rather than harder and this gives you an edge over the competition, but what is it you actually do with this new found time?
You expect teachers and fellow students to cater to your schedule and seem to have no sense of how much actual work and effort they have sent your way.
Do you have an understanding that they are actually working, in actions as well as words, to get you to do the same?
Do you think you could reverse the habit of feeling you deserve something for nothing, and start paying, with your actions, for what you take from teachers and fellow seekers?
Something for nothing is a valid method of work, but only if it involves between-ness. You trade your 'something', the vanity of the ego and its suffering, for the inner self, which knows its own nothing-ness.
All material - copyright 2006 by Robert Fergeson