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Do you think you will automatically go to a spiritual place after death? Will you have the drive and capacity to determine your fate and direction when the body/mind dissolves? Do you know yourself that well? What will you have for guidance? Or will the unconscious desires and fears of today, which you may not be aware of or admit to, control your fate?
After our death, we may not find ourselves in Happy Heaven, as we might wish, but instead in a place formed by our true motivations, whether we were conscious of them or not. Instead of getting an eternity at The Warm-Fuzzies Fun Park, the more accurate scenario may be akin to when we fall asleep at night, letting go of our so-called conscious control and helplessly entering the world of dreams. This could be likened to the Tibetan concept of the bardo, with the experience of lucid dreaming (knowing we are dreaming while in a dream) thrown in to boot. In other words, if you can't wake up to Reality now, what makes you think you ever will? This dream world or bardo you may find yourself in would become the current dream or 'reality' in which you again act out your previously formed nature. Whether any of this is fact or fiction isn't the point. What is being asked is, do you know and trust yourself well enough to face death and what it might bring?
There is a lot of talk of lucid dreaming nowadays, but I have yet to hear of any of it reaching a valid point in terms of true self-definition. Anything we learn or experience in a dream, lucid or not, must be validated in waking life. We might be advised to wake up first from this present dream of life before playing about with states of ego-identification in our dreams. Acting out our fantasies in dream land in a so-called lucid state is not a true awakening, but simply extending into the dream realm our identification with the personality. Even though much of the talk about lucid dreaming is astute and intellectual, providing much theory and heady adventure, rarely does it touch on the big questions of our personal life and death, and even rarer does it take on the question of 'who' is dreaming.
Years ago I learned how to practice lucid dreaming, thinking I would become a hero shaman, weaving magic while discovering deep secrets in the freedom of the dream world, wide awake. When I actually found myself in the dream world, wide awake, the first thought that came to me was "I can do anything I want, I'm awake in a dream!". I must explain that at this time I still believed I was in control of my thinking, that I had thoughts. It was only much later that I came to realize they had me, that all thought is projected upon us. The next thought I identified with was,"Let's do all the things we can't do in regulated society, let the party begin!" I quickly created a fantasy sex partner and off we went, for a brief moment. The fun was rudely interrupted by the realization of how divided my consciousness had become. I was shocked that my true motivations, though unconscious, were not only carnal, but degraded. I was not the hero dream warrior I had imagined but a depraved animal. I thankfully fell back 'asleep' in the ensuing turmoil of emotion. I dropped the experiments, for I realized I lacked the true self-knowledge and control that I had assumed I possessed. This was also accompanied by the intuition I was entering dangerous ground without adequate protection. This example may seem extreme, but it illustrates the point.
In the time that followed, I began instead a simple practice of dream interpretation, designed to help bring the unconscious world within up into the light of day. Thankfully, things were not really as bad in there as I had feared, but many unflattering facts and negative traits were uncovered and eventually faced in waking life. Much help was found in this endeavor, and I'm still grateful for being led back into truth from foolishness. Blindly following our animal nature and its promptings, whether in the dream world or out, only leads us through endless cycles of struggle and misery, desire and fear, with no true reckoning or resolution, forever and ever, amen. Real knowledge of the self is more valuable than any dream adventure, no matter whether we are 'awake' as our daytime ego in the dream or not. Sooner or later we will tire of the fantasy, and perhaps become curious of 'who' is experiencing these endless never-never lands.
True adventure is not in outward grandiose imaginings, whether in waking sleep or whatever, but rather in a steady inward movement, an uncovering of all that is hidden and false in ourselves. It is the greatest expedition we can make, for it leads to real peace and true awakening. This precipitous moment of turning our attention around and looking within is worth more than any bardo of lucid fantasies, for it can lead to real Self-knowledge, to Who we really are. As G.I Gurdjieff said, "Life is real only then, when I am."
- Bob Fergeson
" If a thing loves, it is infinite." - William Blake
Progress on the spiritual path can be thought of in terms of value, or love. What is most important to us is what we value the most, what we really love. The path of self-discovery can be seen in these terms. We observe ourselves, and discover what our true motivations are, leading us to see what we value. Another way to see this is by checking our fact status. What we actually do everyday tells us much about what we value, and perhaps shows us the gap between our personal storyline and our actions. If this fact checking and self-observation are carried far enough, we may begin to get a look at something called our 'self' or personality, and begin to see its illusive nature. We may be forced to admit to its exalted status as our real true love, despite our ego's protestations to the contrary. Using this shock as further fuel for the search, we become a bit more honest in our future assessments. If self-inquiry is carried even further, through this process of elimination we may find something more real to love than this 'self'. Back beyond our mind's motion, something still and silent lies. If you find a love of truth, rather than fiction, it may take you there.
Finding this still-point depends largely on our state of satisfaction with our beloved 'self'. If the state becomes one of dissatisfaction, we have the incentive to look for something more stable. Hearing from others that have gone before that there is something somewhere 'within', and that it is worth any effort to find it, also adds to our incentive. By looking at what we love, we can come to love the truth, and find there is something worthwhile inside us other than mind-motion and change. Let's take a look at how this path might turn out, and some of the pitfalls and signposts along the way from love of 'self', to Love Itself.
We hear of this so-called still-point, called by such names as silence, stillness, the center, the Source, what we really are, etc., and wonder. If our intuition is not clouded by the dissipations of relentless pleasure seeking and the resultant fear, we may discover a longing, a nostalgia deep within that tells us we may have once known this silence, and still love it more than we might know. This longing is fed too, perhaps, by being tired of the jostling effects of life, its traumas and endless no-win scenario, leading only to death and dissolution.
So, we read the books and search the Internet, finding many who tell of the way back to this stillness. They vary from the intellectual work of Hubert Benoit, to the practical experiments of Douglas Harding. We find the paths back to this center also called by many names: 'the inner movement', 'self-remembering', a 'double-pointed arrow of attention, one directed in, one out', 'observing the observer', 'looking back at what we are looking out of'. Many speak of 'silence', and even the many forms of silence. From this information alone, we may not come any closer to really knowing this still-point, but if we persist in looking, we may get lucky and discover much that it is not. We begin to see that it cannot be something of the mind, for we find the mind is motion. We may be fooled into thinking that the stillness is something we can manufacture, that it's found only in ashrams or monasteries, or that we can force it onto the relative world through controlling the environment. Or we may decide to create it within by controlling our mind, forcing it to think only what we have been told we should think, and discover that this too, is folly.
When the still-point is finally reached, even if only for a moment, it is unmistakable. If we have allowed ourselves to hone our intuition and clear our thinking, we will find that this silent place within is not just a concept, but very real. The movement necessary to turn our attention back away from the outer and inner movies of the mind and senses is found to be also something real, and not a thought or concept at all. We find too, that we forget, and are carried back into the mind at every instant. But if our love for the silence is true, it will turn us back into it again and again, provided our previous experience with the mind and its motion has been enough, or too much.
This is where what we value or really love comes in. If our meaning is taken from the changing scene of the relative world, we will keep our attention directed towards it. We will turn away from the silence within, and our longing will be for the excitement and changes of the mind. We may declare our love for the center, but our attention will long for the agony and ecstasy of the world of form. Boredom with silence too, means our value has not yet moved inward from the world to truth, but remains trapped by the colorful kaleidoscope of the mind, and the energy releases of the body.
This part of the journey is a journey within. We retreat from our former love for motion and change, and move inwards toward simplicity and truth. After the still-point has been found, and correctly valued, our attention is then turned round, and we begin a new phase, one of our new love being tested. While we continue to hold a part of our gaze on the still-point, it being what we really are, we also turn round and engage in the world of action. This is to test our love, to see if the trials and tribulations of the outer world can knock us off course, and change our point of reference. If we come back to the center, time and time again, during and despite every trial, we find we are becoming less of the world and more of the silence. In any situation in life, no matter how difficult or how often we forget, if we eventually return to the still-point as our anchor, we find we are becoming one with it. We become that which we love.
In spiritual work, we hear a lot about the so-called 'false self'. We may then decide, based on our new found information, to distance ourselves from this 'self', and look for something else we have heard of : the real 'Self'. This splitting of our 'selves', sad to say, becomes just another trap of the mind to keep us lost in the realm of thought. After some honest self-observation, we may see that we have invented a problem so that we might continue unabated in our love affair with thought. Fearing a loss of continuity of thought, which we equate with death, we enter a new 'spiritual' realm in which we can become lost for years, perhaps lifetimes. Let us take a look at this realm of thought and its various selves, and see why we worship it so, this paradox, this trap of mind and fear from which few escape.
Let's take a look at a man involved in ordinary life, and see how the circle of his mind works. He has a bad day at the office, where his boss berates him, causing a loss of self-esteem. He returns home and starts his daily meditation practice, intent on regaining some peace of mind after the trauma of the day. He meditates on things holy, on the words of wise men that tell him he is immortal, infinite and serene, and that it's just that false self thing that is troubled and disturbed. His body calms down, and he finds a bit of energy, feels renewed, and the holy words of how he is Everything and One pump up his deflated ego until he feels he can face life once more. He is now reassured that the self he seeks through his spiritual ambition is the real one, and the false self the one that was deflated in daily life. He has convinced himself that one day he will make the real self permanent, and ditch the false one for good. But come later that night, his wife points out some fault of his, the kids are being kids, and he finds himself back in the dumps again. His resolve to be the better self is forgotten amid the onslaught of circumstance.
Now, if your goal is just to be a better person and get by as best you can, this all might not make sense, but if you've had the intuition that life, in thought alone, is a zero-sum game, let's take a look at the basis of our man's dilemma. He has, first off, become lost in thought, and secondly, believes that more thought will somehow release him. His ego has split itself into several objects. One is the judging, critical man who resolves to change, and dumps all problems on the heads of the others, including his false selves. These unlucky saps are the pairs of polar opposite selves, including the everyday man of action, whom he calls his 'false self', and its twin illusion, the 'real self' he aspires to, projected as innocent, perfect, and always just out of sight. The common ground of this menagerie is thought. All are patterns of thought. In any valid sentence structure we have a subject, an object, and a verb. It is the same in our man with one difference: he is lacking the verb, and changes from subject to object at the drop of a hat. The subject/object is the ego, or self, which splits and changes according to circumstance, and the missing verb is our basic seeing, the observer.
Our man's subject/object thought-patterns can be seen as two movies: one an inner drama of thought, memory and concepts, being basically reactions to the other movie: the outer world of the body. When the outer world, say the man's boss, delivers a negative shock, an affliction to the man's individuality sense, he is then forced to counter this in the inner drama with positive thoughts in order to maintain his ego. This is the real function of his so-called meditation; an attempt to get his ego back on its feet, and reaffirm his sense of existence. This cycle is self-perpetuating and circular; it never ends of its own accord. It is simply thought maintaining a belief in itself, through the fear of thought coming to an end. It is not spiritual, good, bad or even real. It will only end when we no longer fear its end. Only when we can face the moment alone, without running headlong back into the realm of thought, do we have a chance of facing our self, much less actually going within.
This pattern of identification with thought is rationalization of fear and desire; it is not proper thinking. Thinking has been hi-jacked and is now used to keep the idea of our 'self', itself a thought, alive. It is lying to one's self to keep the storyline intact. Thought is used to manufacture a 'real self', which we aspire to, or believe in. We then reject our present state, the 'now' of seeing, the verb, in favor of an illusion that we desire, or an image we are running away from. Thus we are unreal, a thought. A thought endlessly forced to modify itself to avoid the present moment, for that would bring the facts into play and end the continuity of thought, which is seen as death. If we could just look, or observe, rather than thinking about what we think we see, we could 'sit with' or accept what we see. This is to go within, rather than the seeking to bolster the 'self' by thinking our way out of the moment. Thought is hi-jacked through fear, the fear of the end of thought. What a paradox, and what a trap, one in which the only true escape is through the very death of the fear of the end of thought. This dis-identification with our own mind will usually be considered only if it is forced upon us, by utter failure or trauma, baring intense true earnestness. We must uphold our pride in order to avoid facing the end of thought, our basic fear, and thus until our pride, our knowing, is so badly shaken that we can once again see clearly, we will not consider anything outside of our pride in our mind.
As U. G. Krishnamurti points out, we can never return to our natural state of enlightenment by the rearranging of our thoughts: psychological mutation. We must actually change what we are, our basic identity, and thus leave thought aside. We return to our true state, that of seeing rather than thinking. But how? The trap is almost foolproof. Any effort on our part is just more thinking, an unreal self trying to catch it's tail, going ever faster until it flies up its own you know what. Some teachers tell us that earnestness is the key, that we must become so earnest in our search that we become a living vector towards truth. True, but definitely the exception to the rule. For most of us this lies farther down the road, and a little convincing might be in order first.
To gain this conviction, this earnestness, we can do two things. First, we take care of ourselves. We save our energy, however we can, and lead a simple, directed life. This gives our intuition a chance to mature, and our reason a chance to purify. Secondly, and here's the hard part: we learn to look, to listen, to observe. We learn to return our thinking to what it does best, which is running the practical matters of life, such as earning a living and fighting spam. Then, free of plotting and planning our future victory over the universe and ourselves, we instead take up the arduous task of self-observation. Life will give us plenty of opportunities for this, if we are brave, and learn to sit in the silence within. We can't look directly within at first, we would only be indulging in fantasy and escape. But we can learn to look at our sense of 'self', when life threatens this sense. Next time you feel a threat to your basic sense of existence, to the thought of who you are, instead of running away or countering it with another thought, simply look at it. Thus we retreat from thought, backing within, in an oblique manner. This also gives one a sense of direction, of where 'within' really lies. When thoughts arise and the spin of thinking comes rushing back, don't go with it, but sit quietly and just look. Accept the pain of the ego in its fear of death, and look at its root. Look at the fear, the need to run away into distraction and thought. Stay focused, quiet and brave, and allow yourself to be in the moment. After a time, you will come to know this direction, the way within, and will come to look at your troubles as opportunities for further meditation. The sense of being the doer or subject will fade, the attention will be freed, and thought will be seen for the reaction it is. Motion and mind will no longer be your 'self', and listening with attention will be valued more than plotting. This is true meditation, and the road Home.
This is about what I call the "Listening Attention", a meditation technique, if you will, which I've found to be a gateway to our Inner Self. The poet John Davis once said he felt the highest meditation was "listening with the eyes".This is a good starting definition. Another would be to look with attention, but without interpretation: to listen, the attention turned both inward and outward at the same time, with no thought or expectation. No expectation, judging or defining; no thought, no mind. This combined attention uses both the inner ear and eye, and is turned towards the inner heart and the outer world simultaneously. It is passive in that it does not project an image, or thought; it is active for the same reason, in that it is a pure attention, an active not-doing. There is no sense of an 'I' involved, for that would mean the springing forth of an image, which the attention would become identified with. It does not entail a motionless, inert body, for it can be found while engaging in activity.
Before talking about how to find this portal to the Inner Self, let's first explore why it would be a worthwhile endeavor. First, I'd like to clarify that this is not a technique for adding another 'spiritual' behavior to our list. We do not need to put another head on top of the one we already have, but need to somehow get back to a truer state we have lost through years of conditioning. In other words, we do not need another form of hypnosis or new way to put ourselves further to sleep, but to find how to become un-hypnotized, more awake. I have to assume if you've come this far that you have reasons for engaging in spiritual work. Enough time spent digging through the patterns and habits of the mind will eventually lead one to the unflattering realization that one is mechanical, a robot. I like to call this creature we find ourselves to be, a SMAARP, a Self-Maintaining Accidental Associative Reaction Pattern. Most of us start this journey to self-discovery convinced we are smart SMAARP's, and it can take quite a few blows to our proverbial fat heads before we realize we are mechanical, that the mind can never solve the problem of self-definition by itself. We need help. The listening attention is a door to going within, to re-connecting with our inner man, to that part of us which Knows. Once we are convinced of our robotic nature, we may come to see the value of connecting once again with the intelligence that created us.
The silent passage to the inner world is always with us, it does not need to be formed, just found, but we may need years of preparation to see it. A great deal of self-analysis, ' work on one-self ', is usually needed in order to get beyond the ego and its belief that the mind and worded thoughts will lead us to the Real. A lifetime of learned behaviors, emotional blocks, fears, self-doubts, and wishful thinking need to cleared away. We must reach a point where we can slip behind our compensatory thinking patterns long enough to let something real get through. All repressed emotional material and debilitating drains on our energy must be dealt with, too. We will need all our strength to face the unknown, alone and unarmed.
There will be much resistance to the attempt to go within. Our physical needs must be met, giving us the thought that time spent "doing nothing but listening" to be sheer folly. The need for distraction in social endeavors, TV, movies, and other forms of feeding the head, will need to be dealt with. Our family and friends will most likely not share the value we place on finding a connection to the Inner Self, as it does not bring an immediate material reward and is not conducive to maintaining whatever psychological dramas might be in place.
Perhaps the most effective resistance to our inner journey will not come from outside, through society or family, but from our own fear of the unknown. We may find we are both unwilling to let go of our old way of being, and not willing to take a chance on something new. For most of us, some form of suffering or trauma is necessary before we will trust our own inner guidance. Fear can block us at every turn, until we take our meaning from within, from the present, and release our mental hold on the projected past or imagined future.
These struggles of self-discovery are also necessary to find the right individual method for the listening attention. I found that moving about, through hiking and cross country skiing, to be the best way for me. I could not sit still long enough to bring about the inner relaxation needed, or else would simply fall asleep. I know of one man who would drive, spending hours behind the wheel of his car because it would give his outer mind and body just enough to do to allow his inner self the freedom to surface. If sitting in a chair will work, great, it would sure save a lot of time and gas. Knowing what body type and disposition we have is a great help in opening the door.
A good example of how this can happen was during one winter as I was struggling to improve my cross-country skiing technique. I was caught between the technical advice given by instructor friends, and the feeling that I knew what to do if I would just listen to the inner voice instead. I finally decided to go with my instincts, and my skiing quickly reached a new level of freedom and skill. Affirmation was quick in coming, for one day as I was thumbing through a skiing magazine, I noticed an article by a coach on what techniques the fastest skiers used. The system he described was exactly the one I had found, and had been discovered by his athletes in much the same way. While this may hardly seem a momentous step in self-discovery, it gave the clue that trusting my own intuition and inner guidance was a good idea, and that rote learning through mimicking others would not bring me any closer to learning to go within. Everyone must find his own portal into the listening attention through his own experience and faith.
Can we get past the illusive psychology of the flight-or-fight syndrome and the resulting egocentric personality? A discussion on how knowing yourself can lead to greater spiritual possibility. Through becoming objective to our own psychology or personality, we begin to take spiritual work personally, and thus Become.
I've come to see two dominant types of personality, especially in those involved in spiritual seeking or self-definition. These two types, though polar opposites in character, spring from the same cause: our mis-identification with the ego as the real 'I' or Self. These two personalities are the twin modes of action formed from the ego's perceived threat of annihilation at the hands of the Not-self, the environment outside of the body. These types can be defined as the reaction patterns to each half of the fight-or-flight syndrome. What I define as the sleepyhead is the dreamer, the introvert, lost in their imaginations, the somnambulist type. The sleepyhead can be also defined by its opposite, the egocentric type or knucklehead. The sleepyhead flees, runs away and hides from the not-self while the knucklehead tries to control, project and manipulate the environment. Each is relatively unconscious of itself, and thus thinks its manner of dealing with the world is the right or correct way.
The egocentric or knucklehead likes to butt heads with and have control of everything. All has to be done outwardly through the ego to control and force conditions to being favorable to the ego. He stays in the right by learning to fight. The opposite reaction pattern is true of the somnambulistic or sleepyhead, who is lost in dreams and reverie. His reaction, instead of attacking the problem, is simply to ignore it through running away, hiding in dreams, and keeping the ego afloat by living in the imagination. This comes from the passive or flight reaction of the two different halves of the fight-or-flight syndrome.
Sleepyheads and their knucklehead opposites are simply two different unconscious response-patterns to the perceived threat to the individuality-sense by the world or not-self. We don't know we've fallen into identification with a mechanical pattern when we react as a sleepyhead. We may think we're even acting spiritually (being superior), in that our way is the right way. Through self-observation, we can come to see that it all stems from our past and whichever path, fight or flight, we happen to have fallen into.
Paradoxically, in trying to escape the threat of the world, we dive deeper into it by striving to become better and better sleepyheads and knuckleheads. That cannot cure us, since we are trying to solve the problem only on the level of the problem. Through psychology, analysis, and over-thinking, we plot to escape from our pattern, through our pattern, thus the pattern is never ending. The only cure, finally getting well, is in seeing ourselves as we really Are. We may become subtler in our self-delusion and think we're spiritual, but we still have not come to a true understanding. The cure begins when we get to the stage of raising mind, in learning how to stay in the moment: facing the present without self-identification with reaction, only.
We could not do this as children; we were helpless. But as adults, with the help of a spiritually oriented group, teachers and friends, we have the chance to act in self-knowledge and find our way back to innocence and silence. This is often only brought about through trauma, which clears the pattern, at least temporarily, enabling us to glimpse the world from a clear perspective. This can lead into the listening attention, to being able to stay in the moment, without being identified with the animal reaction-pattern.
One of the dangers facing the sleepyhead is that when he hears a talk on effortlessness, mindfulness meditation, or the various schools that say there is nothing to do as we are not the doer, it sounds great. He jumps on this subject of effortlessness because it fits his ego pattern. He thinks he understands what they're talking about. It's only until after he comes to know himself, through hard practice leading to a realization, that he comes to understand that he did not know what effortlessness really was, that he had no idea of the Void, true detachment, or of not being the doer. He didn't have the true sense of it. All he had was a pattern of blocking things out through distraction, imagination, fear, pride, and laziness, being in the reverie of the sleepyhead. He mistakes being hypnotized, by dreams, reverie and moods, for doing nothing or no-mind. Habitual reverie is usually a sign of this mistake. Some people, being in reverie much of the time, may get quite defensive when it's called to their attention. A period of time in a group that practices confrontation might do wonders for pointing this out, if they can stand the tension.
Our society and home environment are our first teachers, forming the basic personality. Where did our basic reaction of either fight or flight come from? It was a sane reaction to madness. We ran away from the moment because it was unacceptable. Thus, our innocence was lost, and we eventually became what we were running from. The fearful or aggressive reaction to life and its tensions led to the destruction of innocence and removed the ability to stay in the present. Through cunning, we learned to escape the present, and eventually came to be asleep with our heads in the sand. All that we were left with is that very cunning, operating through fear or violence. Eventually, we became that which we despised.
A pivotal moment in my own loss of innocence came about at a young age one morning in my grandfather's backyard. I was playing with the gardener's son; we were fast becoming friends as the rapport deepened. I suggested that we should get together and spend the night at one of our houses and have dinner together. This was a relatively normal event at that age with other friends. He agreed, and we went to the gardener, his father, and proposed the idea. The look on his face when hearing of our idea is something I will never forget. Until that moment, I had not realized that he and his son were black, and that I was white. That he was the servant, and I, the grandson of his master. He told me in no uncertain terms that his son and I could never be friends. I then had a very clear moment of realization. I saw that the world of the gardener and my grandfather, and that of all adults, was insane. It was based on rules of behavior that were false and contrived, and yet somehow functional. I resolved then and there that I would never enter the adult state of mind. Decades later, I had the equally clear realization that this decision had somehow led me into the very state of mind I had sworn to avoid. I had become that which I despised: a fearful adult living in a false paradigm of isolation and ignorance.
This second realization and the circumstances that precipitated it, lead me to the further realization that there was a way out of the action-reaction trap. I began to see that there was a third possibility, above and beyond that of child and adult. I had taken a small but sure step within. The subjective world of mindless action-reaction was replaced with a compassionate intelligence that had no interest in the ego games of the sleepyhead-knucklehead dichotomy.
We can't receive from the Higher or Inner Self if we are mechanical and asleep, emotionally and mentally, projecting an unreal 'self' of unconscious psychology. To make contact with something Higher, we must find ourselves as observers rather than pattern-projectors. Raising mind, through focused attention in the present, leading to the listening attention, is a way to wake up for sleepyheads. Learning to listen, to have a passive but attentive reaction, can help knuckleheads to become objective. This listening attention, alertness without past or future worries, gives both types the possibility of receiving from the Inner Self. A rigid pattern-reaction solely based on the past is devoid of real intelligence, much less Being.
Being aware of who you really are in the moment, or the listening attention, is a wonderful paradox in that it's how we may stop the ceaseless mind chatter of the internal dialogue. Instead of stopping the mind chatter by force, by thinking other thoughts through an act of will, all we do is simply listen. You may find that there's something within that wishes to start conveying information, to tell you something that maybe you need to pay attention to. This quiet inner voice, our conscience, can only be heard when the mind is relative quiet. Then, you can start seeing what your real problems are, why you're running from the present, and perhaps thus discover your deeper motivations, freeing your attention from the self-survival obsessions long enough to take a deeper look within. While you're in that state of listening, you can turn the attention inward and look within at what you're looking out of, and perhaps come to a startling discovery.
We're not going to make contact with the Inner Self, the source of wisdom, and find inner peace and stability, without setting up the right conditions. Now these right conditions are not as much an effort or trying to control something as much as a returning to what we might call innocence. We need to have a quiet mind, a stillness in the animal body. Overwhelming desires and obsessions must be faced and dealt with, cleared out of the picture. This doesn't mean we fight or control them, or runaway and ignore them, as much as become aware of them and see the difference between them and us. Then we can come to the point of focused attention in the moment, and possibly, the listening attention.
The daily remembering and clear admission of our internal angst is key to the eventual ability to face the moment. It gives us energy and incentive to separate from being identified with the psychological manifestations of personality in the drama of the sleepyhead-knucklehead, and how this misidentification traps our attention in the illusions of the mind. Once relaxed, we can jump straight into the still, aware silence: the listening attention. In other words, we go straight from personality right back up to what we really Are. We go from being a very complicated psychology, to being a very simple two-way seeing. We learn how to listen, to just look at the facts always in front of our vision, while simultaneously looking back at what we really Are. Psychological work is used only to show us that we don't have a quiet mind, no freedom of attention, and thus cannot tell the real from the false. Once we realize that having a quiet mind is something you simply find, it's always there just under the surface, you no longer have to think about it, put effort into it, build it up. It's a retreat from complicated error and projection back to the simple truth of ourselves as aware capacity, indescribable and real.
After we come to the psychological realization and self-admission that we're misidentified spiritually, that we have become our own enemy, even that which we despise, we can come back from psychological theory and find what we need to do; to take action rather than talk and analyze. We must say to ourselves: "now that I realize I do not know the truth, I also realize this way that I am does not work, that it has not brought me happiness or peace, power or fulfillment; that there has to be some other way." Then we can begin to look within, and find what we really are through the listening attention. We see the value in being able to receive perceptions without the filter of our errant psychology. We no longer take our sense of "I" from the active personality-self, the psychological part we play as sleepyheads and knuckleheads. This sense of 'I' has moved within, into our very seeing. We now take our lead, or our feeling of who we are, from farther within, rather than from a changing reaction-pattern to the world without. Now, 'looking back at what we are looking out of' has a chance of becoming something more than clever words.
The point of all of this is not to make ourselves into more efficient persons, with better, more flexible personalities, though this may be the case. The point is to separate our inherent, basic awareness from the world of action or mind. Awareness and action are not mutually destructive. They can co-exist without interference. The problem is in the placement of our sense of 'I'. When the sense of 'I' is lured into identification with the ever-changing picture show of action in the mind, the movement hypnotizes it and we are lost, separated from our Source in motionless aware silence. Through self-knowledge leading to pure observation, we can return to our true Home in simple awareness, no longer lost in the drama of movement in mind. Paradoxically, the play may continue, with the outer man remaining fixed in his pattern, whether a sleepyhead or not, but he will no longer be us.
The Gnostic's tale of the Demiurge, the arrogant ruler of the material world, gives us a clue as to the nature of our own prison, and how to escape it. Being himself created, a creature, the Demiurge's belief in his own infallibility is a lie in basis, and so must be continually bolstered. To accept the true nature of his existence would be un-thinkable, for it would mean his demotion from absolute ruler to mere manager, a caretaker of sorts, rather than the True God. This he sees as death, and rightly so. Let us take a look at how we as ego, a reaction-pattern created from thought, make the same mistake, and how we can become free of this prison of projection and delusion.
When we lose contact with our true Self and become identified, we do not become identified with the world or the body. We actually fall asleep to the world or body as well as our true nature, and become identified with the mind; meaning we are identified with thought and feeling. We may believe we are seeing things as they are, for we have never bothered to take a look at how we see, or what we are really seeing. The self-reflecting consciousness sees just that: a projected reflection of its own experienced consciousness. This inner mind-world is a superimposed projection, built of thought and feeling formed throughout a person's life, the process of which he is completely unaware. We do not see this projecting process, for it is instantaneous and automatic. We only see the end result; a world made of thought, removed from the eternal Now through a gap of time. (see footnote 1.)
This split-second from when we receive a percept and then react to it with thought and feeling is this gap of time. This gap, though it be only a split-second, is a chasm wide enough to separate us from our very Self or Source. It is also wide enough to allow us to live in a world of reaction; a world of judging, thinking, and assumption. This dualistic realm is never stable, ever changing, and ruled by a tyrant whose very existence is after-the-fact. This tyrant is called ego, and is the very thing we have come to be. Our very sense of self has become identified with a reaction-pattern, removed from the present through time. This sad state of affairs is not only unreal, but patently dangerous. All of the world's ills spring from this illusion.
This illusion can also be called mind, or the inner drama. We live in this self-created drama, and must continually re-create it to keep our false sense of self somehow stable in an unstable world. Now, in our struggle for self-survival, our first reaction to hearing this is to dig in, to insist more than ever that we are in charge by deciding to take immediate action and remedy the situation with our new knowledge. We may decide to root out this egoic ruler who has deluded us for so long, and never again make the same mistake. Or, if our pattern is based in fear, we may decide to run farther into distraction and thought, hoping to be safe in sleep with the covers pulled tightly over our heads. Both of these reactions would be laughable if they weren't so common. Through our very effort to free ourselves, we trap ourselves even more. Through the arrogance of 'deciding', the Demiurge has simply affirmed its self-declared infallibility. We have made the same old mistake, again. As the reaction-pattern, we have only reacted. Nothing has changed; the dream goes on. (see footnote 2.)
How then, can we escape this prison of thought and time? Our very effort to escape binds us more tightly, and even the world of distraction and sleep provides no rest, being subject to drastic change through ever-reacting thought. The answer lies not in affirming our ignorance through thinking we now know what to do, but in our admission of the problem itself. Through the simple admitting that we do not know, we begin the homeward journey to freedom. If we start with this surrender; then our attention has the possibility of freeing itself from the drama of the mind in time.
This surrender is a not a passive giving in to our identification with the world or thought, but an acceptance of the facts. We realize that we do not know ourselves. We do not know how we see, much less what, and are thus freed to start looking. This admission frees our attention from the hypnotic trap of conceptual thought, stabilizes it in silence, and returns the mystery to awareness. To find the possibility of moving this attention within to find out who we really are, as the True Self, means that we must free this wandering attention from identification with thought and knowing, and allow its gaze to be turned back within, across the chasm of time and projection.
When we can actually view the world without association, meaning we are finally capable of admitting we know not what we see, we have found a valuable clue. We have now become an observer, capable of turning our gaze within. No longer lost in time and the projection of the associative mental world, there is now the capacity to move within. We have this new freedom because we are no longer locked in the after-the-fact reaction-dimension of thought and feeling. This is how honest self-observation gives us possibility to become, to become a real Observer. In the world of thought, there is none. We step out of our own way, and are freed from our personal demiurge as we allow the True Consciousness, the mystery of our being, to come forth.
1. "In The Nature of Consciousness, you can read of an experiment conducted in 1985 by Benjamin Libet. Electrodes of an EEG machine were placed on the scalps of subjects to detect the onset of mental activity. The subjects were then instructed to spontaneously flex their hand, and to note the time of perceiving the urge to do so according to a clock. The results of the data collected showed that the brain began action, referred to as mental potential, about half a second before the subjects experienced the urge to flex, and three quarters of a second before the flex occurred. I have heard of similar experiments which produced the same result. What subjects experience as a conscious urge to act was shown to be an after the fact product of previous, usually unconscious, mental activity. Who is the actor?"
- Mike Connors, Effortless Meditation: Starting with the Goal, http://tatfoundation.org/forum2005-12.htm#5
For more information:
Benjamin Libet, Mind time: The temporal factor in consciousness, Perspectives in Cognitive Neuroscience. Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01320-4.
The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates http://www.amazon.com/Nature-Consciousness-Philosophical-Debates/dp/0262522101
Ned Block, Editor
2. Why do we seem to have a hard time incorporating Douglas Harding's experiments or Tolle's Power of Now into a lasting awareness? If we have an early success with one of Harding's experiments or realizing the power of the moment, it could be the worst thing that could happen to us, because we can turn these realizations into a fabricated memory, later used in projection. At any point from the moment the realization is turned into a memory, when we think we're in the power of now or remembering a Harding experiment, we will be referencing that created and stored memory, and fabricating it into a projected 'moment'. That's our mechanical mind's way; it's easier and we're used to it. Trying to go back into the power of now or the moment, looking at who you really are, is very antagonistic to the ego to say the least. We have to realize this trick; otherwise we just go on looking for the next guru, the next teaching, the next level, since we've got that merit badge, and are feeling once again the need to assert our feeling of knowing. The mind is geared to find another problem, and solve that, ad infinitum. No change in being is possible if we do not realize how our mind creates and projects images, and then fools us into thinking they are somehow in real time, rather than after the fact. But the actual seeing of how we create our lives and our moments every moment as we go, this takes being new each moment, rather than an act of projected memory and agreement all taking place unconsciously. It's hard work, a mystery, to stay a step ahead of our mind. Not only do we create what we're looking at, objects and things, through this process of creation and projection and then only seeing the finished product, but this created projection is what we are, as individual personalities. Our initial percepts and our reactions to them create a fabricated memory, and eventually a fabricated projection, which is us, as well as our world.
"We are cowards, and what we witness about us is a dynasty of fear in a play house of desires." - Richard Rose
Most of us go through life with no clear awareness of our limited time and energy, but instead continue to plan and plot our way along as if nothing will ever really change. We live to have fun, known as the pursuit of happiness, making our forays into the world of pleasure from a base of imagined security. Driven by the fear that our security is tenuous at best, we rush to have even more fun, before the circle of our dissipation and paranoia collapses in on itself. We never question our motivations or bother to define what we mean by happiness, perhaps because of an inner intuition that that would take the fun out of it. Let's take a look at what this pursuit really is, and how it can be turned from a struggle downhill into frustration and bitterness into a change of being.
This pursuit of happiness can best be defined as the pursuit of a fading memory, a memory of a time when some outside agent gave us a thrill of such magnitude we can't forget it, or else it relieved our anxiety so well as to leave us in a state of unusual peace. Being creatures of habit, we try repeating the same sequence of events that gave us the previous result. This cycle is sooner or later found to be one of ever-decreasing returns. We find the thrill or release lessen, while the inducing agent is needed in ever greater quantity. We never question the process itself. We never wonder why we even need an outside agent in order to feel happy, at peace, or complete. Only when the agent turns on us, and becomes the deliverer of pain and misery instead, do we stop. Even then, we still seldom question the process, but think we can beat the system by getting a new, improved agent and becoming cleverer in its application.
"As incredible as it sounds, an unhappy man does not realize that happiness is better than unhappiness. Knowing only his own concealed anguish, he worships it, which is the same as self-worship. " - Vernon Howard
This unconscious trap of worshipping our own weakness keeps us from becoming strong. We fail to realize that the tensions we feel, as anxieties or promptings, are the very things that will free us from all need, if we stand up to them. By giving in to every prod and poke that comes into our consciousness, we give away our time and energy to nothing, and keep nothing with which to build our mental strength and intuition. Through resisting these daily irritations and promptings, we save our vitality and time, which can then be put to use on the spiritual path. We also become something, something that has a greater capacity. We can think clearer, have more time for study, and come to have a resistance to the inner noise, which used to send us running for distraction or numbness. We will have increased our capacity for storing tension dramatically, much like putting our money in a bank that pays high interest, to be used for something of true value when the time presents itself, rather than spending every dime in our pocket, and relegating ourselves to living paycheck to paycheck. Eventually, we will also have gained enough inner quiet to possibly hear something from within, giving our intuition a chance to be heard.
"Be very careful that you do not unconsciously assume that nervous tension is power. This is vital. Watch yourself the next time you work toward some goal. Look very closely to discover tense feelings and nervous thoughts whirling around inside. Do not let them deceive you into assuming that they are creative forces; they are not. They are thieves of genuine powers. As always, your awareness of their thievery is your first fine step toward casting them out. " - Vernon Howard
The energy we feel as excitement or thrills, is not the energy we are after. This is just the frenzy of a nervous mind, of thoughts and needs wanting to take advantage of us in exchange for a brief moment of peace when our stolen energy is gone. True strength and peace is in an increased capacity for tension. By increasing this capacity, we increase our resistance to the effects of life. We become calmer in the face of stress, and can think clearer under pressure. By virtue of our increased intuition, we may even begin to see through many of the traps we formerly succumbed to. Our patience will increase, and we will not panic and run when unflattering truths about ourselves come into the light of day. We will be able to sit and meditate for the lengths of time necessary to gain insight into these truths about ourselves, no longer giving into distraction, fear or pride.
Through this reversal of the trap of dissipation into the discipline of containment, we gain a chance at freedom, and have become something more than a utility of forces unseen. We now have the possibility of using our limited time and energy in real ways in the pursuit of self-discovery. Our imaginary life of having our cake and getting to eat it, too, becomes instead a life with a true direction, towards truth and self-knowledge leading to real happiness. The Kingdom of Heaven is truly within, and we will not find it by taking our pleasure and meaning from without, from the world and its ceaseless change and pain.
The next time you feel an inner prod, an urge, an itch from below which you know can only be scratched at the price of your peace of mind, do not think that relief is in doing what it wants. Try resisting, turn away. We graduate from crawling by gaining enough strength to stand up and walk. Walking upright depends on having enough capacity for tension to resist falling down. Be patient, and learn to walk without wobbling. The view is better and you can cover greater ground. By this resistance, become something greater than the world, and take your meaning and definition from the silent strength you then find within.
ďTo avoid action, thou must first determine for great action.Ē - Richard Rose
"What I suspect we need is not any kind of path or discipline, but a collection of tricks or devices for catching the Dark at the corner of the eye, as it were, and learning how to spot its just-waiting-to-be-seen presence, combined with strategies for stopping the hyperactive survival-programmes from immediately explaining the perception away. D.E. Harding's exercises for discovering one's own essential "headlessness" are the best ideas I've yet come across for the first half of this process, but, by his own admission, most people "get it but simply don't believe it." - John Wren-Lewis
The above quote by John Wren-Lewis points out a common conundrum seen often nowadays in seekers of the Truth. Many of us can recall times when we were strangely indifferent to our usual pattern, and the world seemed new and alive, with the noise of the mind blessedly absent. Then, the thought-pattern of personality took back the reins and the world became once more known and dimmingly familiar. Even the startling effects of Douglas Harding's exercises can become relegated to memory, for in our everyday world the miracle of "seeing" is soon lost, replaced by the usual fog of "knowing." Why is this? Why doesn't something so startling as seeing without one's own head last? Why is the ego's hold on us so complete that its survival is the paramount fact of our very life, robbing us of seeing without warning?
We may think that the problem lies in emotion. That if we were just a bit more enthused about it all, we could retain the clarity through thick and thin. We come away from a seminar pumped up, making inner promises to never forget what we've seen, and to try harder at every turn. Here, we may be misled once more. The act of seeing is not one of emotion, anymore than it is of thought. The memory of seeing is not the act, any more than the memory of the emotional reaction is. I can remember once listening to an intense emotional sermon by a sincere preacher. Everyone in the church came under the same spell, convinced that they would go forth from that moment on and be a better person, worthy of the glory of eternal life. Then, an even stranger thing happened. While in the parking lot after the service, I realized I could not remember anything the preacher had said, not a word. I couldn't even remember what I had been so enthused about. By the time I got home, the mood was completely gone; the thoughts and business of the day had totally replaced it.
Now, there is nothing wrong with becoming inspired. It's a necessary part of the path. But, it is not the goal. Seeing is not a state of being in perpetual bliss about our seeing. This is again the trap of living in the reaction, not the state. This trap of reaction is a clue to why no matter how intense or startling a state is, we soon lose it. We are trying to get back to seeing by looking at the reaction. We forget to see, by trying to remember to see. We look at our previous emotional or mental reaction to seeing, while our seeing, always there in the moment, every second, is overlooked.
Let's back up a bit, and go back to the start of the problem. When we were first brought into the world, we were taught by people, well meaning but asleep, that we are a thing, an object, living in a world of things. We were taught that some of these things, our thoughts, were more real than our very being, meaning our seeing was secondary to our thinking about our seeing. This trick was played on us until we could do it ourselves. Once we were well trained in fooling ourselves, we became "thinking." The world of thought became our new home. We lost our innocence, as we slowly lost sight of our seeing. We traded it for knowing, the unquestioned belief that our thoughts were more real than our seeing of our thoughts. Soon enough, we could no longer see our very seeing, and began to believe we were our thoughts.
Here then, lies the problem. We have become a collection of thoughts, an entity which treats every new moment as if it were already a memory, basing each new moment on only the past and the reaction this past has to each moment. We are so wrapped up in this thought-collection, this "knowing," that we even treat a moment of seeing as if it were another memory, reacting to it as if we already know all about it. A reaction can never be in the moment, for only seeing happens now. This trap of living one step behind ourselves cannot be explained away with conceptual thinking or fought with reactionary emotional thrills. It cannot be gotten rid of by changing our behavior, such as going left instead of right. What then can be done?
Franz Hartmann gives us a clue when he says, " There is nothing more difficult to find than one's own self." There is also nothing more valuable. It is our own "self" that is the problem. Any plan of escape from the trap of thought-reaction is simply this self trying to survive, even if the plan is one of perpetual seeing. The self will see seeing as yet another tool to perpetuate its own continuity. This self is a collection of thoughts, an inventory of all reactions, which seeks only its own continuity as a thought-pattern. The only way to deal with such a thing, is to see it. To observe it.
Simple observation, unbiased and without reaction or judgment, i.e. seeing, will take us farther than any clever plan or emotional outburst. A return to innocence, the initial stage of not-knowing, will give us an edge, open a crack in the ego's armor, and return the value of our very existence to that of seeing, rather than to the reaction to seeing. By beginning to watch what we do, we start a pattern of return to the state of a free attention. Once we are able to watch our "selves" as we go about our daily tasks, we may soon see that we can watch our thoughts as well. We all have moments where seeing is spontaneous and personal. If we come to value these moments, we begin to switch our meaning from the world of thought back to that of awareness. We can take the tricks we learned at meetings and seminars and put them to use in every moment: while driving, working at our desk, and even while watching TV.
We may soon notice a strange thing happening in our head, while we watch our watching. We may see that as soon as a moment of seeing fades, a familiar mood or state has returned, which is in fact the reason for the cessation of the seeing itself. This vaguely familiar pattern is our own state of mind. The collection of thoughts we feel to be "us" has slipped back. The old pride in "knowing" as reactive thought, our personal dogma, will slide in like a fog bank, and then we are our old self again, and the seeing is now incorporated into this "self's" inventory. "It" has survived, and we are back asleep.
Only through the simple process of self-observation can this thing called the "self" be seen. We may need years of looking at it, seeing why it does what it does, thinks what it thinks, until we know it well enough to cease to believe in it. All of our energy, for all of our life, has been poured into this thing: our personality, the little self, the ego. A few moments of seeing, while of monumental importance, will not cause its complete demise. This demise is what we fear most; for it is seen by the thought-pattern we call "us" as death. At some point, the initial joy of seeing will turn to the pain of ego-death, as the Truth becomes known. It will not be pleasant. In fact, the pain and horror felt by the ego as it faces its own death, will be felt as yours. Hartmann's words again ring true: "Conquer the pains resulting therefrom." While all this may be just words to you for now, know that after you have gone beyond this realm of thought, beyond this self-surviving collection of reactions seeking nothing but its own continuity, "seeing" will still be there. You will then have no more need of thought or reaction to give you meaning and value, as the simple act of seeing will once again be enough. The world of thought will no longer be your home, having become a movie, a dream, as much a comedy as a drama, wherein the bit character you used to call your "self" is merely another player. Your interest will be only in a pure amazement at your own unknowable Being Ö and perhaps the need to help another find freedom from the trap of reaction, the world of "self."
The Cathars believed that their soul became trapped in the world, reincarnating over and over until they were once again free from identification with this dimension and could return home to pure Spirit. They saw how our attention becomes easily trapped in this dualistic universe. Snared by the temptations of the outer life, the mind creates an inner thought-based world to match, and by these very thoughts, reinforces the outer world of matter and the senses. Seeing how thoughts and matter became intertwined, creating a net nearly impossible to break, the Cathar Perfects labored to save themselves with great earnestness. A little serious introspection will show us that we too are trapped in a net of two worlds interwoven of mind and matter.
The first of these worlds, and the primary projection, is the physical world of matter and the senses. It is basically neutral, having no emotional or value-based characteristics in and of itself, and separate from us, being a view. This world includes our body, also. The second world, our personal inner drama, is entirely in our heads, and is reactive, less real, and layered upon the first world like icing on a cake. It too, is only a view. The only reality in either of these worlds is our attention, which, when it comes into contact with this dualistic mess, soon becomes trapped.
These two worlds, or movies, let's call them, are so intertwined that we come to see them as one. We are taught from birth to accept what we see in front of us as real, and soon learn to accept our inner reactions, or thoughts, as valid also. Most of these early thoughts are colored by the psychic atmosphere of our home environment, and are never questioned, being so close, and us so young. Soon enough, as the play of life unfolds, we have blended our thoughts and the scene before us into one big drama, which we call our life. This so-called life oscillates between heaven and hell, depending on how the two movies are interacting. Barring a catastrophic failure, trauma, or mounting misery, we never question any of this. Any attempt at escape usually consists of simply rearranging one of the two movies to better fit the other. Let's take another look at each of these dramas, and see if we can find any holes in this net; the trap of movie madness.
The first movie, the world 'out there', is the universal projection we are all, as humans, subject to. It functions according to universal rules, and can be taken as good or bad, right or wrong. Hardly anyone sees it clearly, in and of itself. To illustrate this, simply pick an object and try to look at it without association. If you could see the world as it is, without benefit of the inner drama's projections, you would not know what the object was, nor care. As soon as 'knowing', or memory, kicks in, you are looking at the inner movie as it layers itself over the neutral world of the senses. For most of us, many years of inner work are necessary before we can gaze upon the world without attachment. This can be a startling revelation, to look about at a world created new every moment, full of wonder and possibility. This listening attention can only be had in a quiet mind cleared of emotional baggage, a mind unconcerned with voices of judgment and fear, desire and greed.
The other drama, the inner movie, is the world of thought, both personal and impersonal. It is reactive, associative, and entirely in the head of the individual, regardless of how it may or may not correspond to the heads of others. It is what separates and confines. Again, to get a look at this, pick any familiar object, and take a look. What you tell yourself you are seeing is your inner movie at work. If you see the object as separate, with associations in memory, no matter how valid, you are looking at your own head, not the object. As you go through your day, look at how everything you see is colored with memory, expectation, and judgment, trapping your attention into a dualistic dream world of your own creation. And it all happens automatically, as if by magic. And magic it is. We weave and spin the net that binds us into our own heads with every thought we identify with. How can we free our trapped attention, and perhaps turn it back in the direction of our Source, towards something non-associative and changeless, something Real?
The devil is said to be in the details, and this is where we can start. Simply look at your thoughts, your reactions, as they automatically fire every second of the day. There are many holes in the net, if we but look. By a constant passive attention, a listening, a looking without thinking, we can spot the many little clues that show us how we project the inner movie onto the outer, and how we can break the chain of relentless association. Once this listening attention is familiar, one can learn to turn it, to move it from movie to movie. We may eventually find it can be turned around and focused within, behind the inner movie to the formless realm beyond all experience. This freedom of movement of the attention doesn't happen by willing it, for that would be just another ego-character playing about in the inner movie. It simply happens, once we've paid the price.
If you're not lucky enough to have paid the price of losing your own head through the grace of trauma or disaster, then the freeing of your attention must be bought with austerity, conviction and earnestness. The Cathar Perfects gave us a hint on how to get started freeing the attention through their lives of abstinence, discipline, and peace, which set them free from the cares and temptations of the worlds of matter and thought. This lifestyle develops the intuition and clears the head of desire and fear based thinking. Then, by paying constant attention, coupled with intuition, one can see little tricks, gaps in the net, that build on the conviction that things are not as they seem. The inner presence of one who has already lost his head can also help. If felt, this presence may trigger a revelation, a conviction that there is something beyond the apparent. As for earnestness, this cannot be bought or faked, but again can be bolstered by intuition, clear reasoning, and the facing of the fact that life, as it is in appearance, is a zero-sum game.
The everyday world of paying the bills and getting by will not allow itself to be questioned; it will not help you of itself. If you have read this far, you must have seen enough holes in your own net to start questioning your worlds, inner and outer. If so, make a move. Find your true companions, the ones who too have had enough of the dream world of living alone, in the movie theater inside their heads. They're out there in the lobby, waiting for you, these soon to be headless souls. Help each other, clear a path through the tangle of thought and form. Find the exit, the door to daylight and freedom, and walk away from the movie madness of shadows and dreams. You may discover, once you are outside in the daylight, that you and your companions are One.
I'm often asked how a seeker can increase their progress along the path. Sometimes the person may feel stuck, or simply wants to know the most expedient way to increase their vector. Looking back over my own life, I've found that one factor stands out. When I became a conduit for realization, passing it along to others, things took off. It's as if we agree to become a link in a chain, and pass on down the line that which was handed to us from above. This is not only a theory, but something we can, and must, actively do in our day-to-day lives. One may argue that if all is one, then this is just another illusion, but the rationalizations of the ego come easy and keep us stuck in our own mud, while active work may put tension on us in a way the ego can't handle.
I can best relate how this works along the lines of my hobby with photography. I've spent a lot of my time in the great outdoors, and for years refused to share this experience with others due to a certain ego. I felt that if I took pictures of my trips, it would somehow cheapen the experience, take something away from the purity of the pristine settings. Somehow this changed, thank goodness, and I became willing and inspired to do the work to bring a bit of what I was seeing back with me to share with others. I broke down and bought a digital camera, and the magic began. Some inner part of me that had been denied came back to life, and with it a better relationship to everything involved. The entire experience of hiking was somehow changed for the better.
At about this same time, I also bought my first computer and entered the world of email and the Internet. I was able to stay in touch with fellow seekers from around the country, and to share my experiences in the search for definition, as with the photography. Somehow this changed the belief that spiritual work was a solitary affair only, and opened doors of opportunity I had never dreamed of. I started a web site, and became involved with an online confrontation group. I began to move within, the connection was made.
William Samuel talks about much the same thing. He describes getting answers from within as Glimpses, and stresses the importance of sharing these. It's a double-sided coin, much like the chicken and the egg dilemma, in that we must get answers in order to share them, in order to get answers. But the process is not that complicated, if we just make a move. We become a conduit, a transmitter of realization, and the more we give, the more we get.
One trap worth mentioning here is that of keeping this all in one's head. We may think that by getting a few answers in the beginning of our search, we are on the path and need not put out more effort. Being comfortable in our life, we may not wish to rock the boat of our habits, and thus keep whatever intuitions we receive to ourselves, thus miring our spirit in a dream world. Our intuitions bear fruit when they are put into action and tested in life, and when found sound, passed along to our fellows.
All of the above is what might be called a law of manifestation, an equation as Samuel calls it, and it will work for whatever desire applies it, spiritual or otherwise. If one wants money, success or security, this formula will work as well. This leads to a dilemma for some us in that we may not consciously know what we really want, until we test ourselves by putting the formula into practice. This can be a paradox. If we believe we want enlightenment, and put it to the test through actions in our day-to-day life, we may find that what we really want is freedom from fear or a desire for power. While we have temporarily fooled ourselves, we have at least come to know ourselves better, and have thus made a move along the path of self-discovery. We may eventually uncover an intense longing for home, for something stable and real, which was only allowed to manifest as the mundane patterns of fear and worldly desire. This was long buried, and is what will provide the necessary pull to carry us farther within. To get real answers, we must come to have real and pressing questions.
One thing is for certain, if we do not make a move, a commitment to action, we will not leave the head-in-the-sand false safety of our dreams. A man asleep in his bed in a burning house may dream of oneness and ease as well as anxiety and need. On the other hand, waking up may take effort, be difficult and even unpleasant, but is most necessary, too.
There is a place of Quiet
back beyond your hopes, fears, your dreams.
Don't listen any longer
to those thieves.
as they keep you gazing stupidly at the patterns
bouncing about your fevered mind.
Listen instead for Silence,
quieter than a tiny bug crawling through dry leaves somewhere
behind your fear.
Listen to your Self,
answering your own prayers back beyond thought,
in the silence behind your head,
before your memory, after your death,
beyond your dreams and desires,
and your anger at their coyness.
Be still, there's no need to hurry.
We will all meet again,
in the quiet peace before our names were born ...
back of beyond.
The best day of my life - my rebirthday, so to speak - was when I found I had no head. This is not a literary gambit, a witticism designed to arouse interest at any cost. I mean it in all seriousness: I have no head.
It was eighteen years ago, when I was thirty-three, that I made the discovery. Though it certainly came out of the blue, it did so in response to an urgent enquiry; I had for several months been absorbed in the question: what am I? The fact that I happened to be walking in the Himalayas at the time probably had little to do with it; though in that country unusual states of mind are said to come more easily. However that may be, a very still clear day, and a view from the ridge where I stood, over misty blue valleys to the highest mountain range in the world, with Kangchenjunga and Everest unprominent among its snow-peaks, made a setting worthy of the grandest vision.
What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. A peculiar quiet, an odd kind of alert limpness or numbness, came over me. Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down. For once, words really failed me. Past and future dropped away. I forgot who and what I was, my name, manhood, animalhood, all that could be called mine. It was as if I had been born that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in - absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not in a head.
It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole where a head should have been was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything - room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them snowpeaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.
It was all, quite literally, breathtaking. I seemed to stop breathing altogether, absorbed in the Given. Here it was, this superb scene, brightly shining in the clear air, alone and unsupported, mysteriously suspended in the void, and (and this was the real miracle, the wonder and delight) utterly free of "me", unstained by any observer. Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.
Yet in spite of the magical and uncanny quality of this vision, it was no dream, no esoteric revelation. Quite the reverse: it felt like a sudden waking from the sleep of ordinary life, an end to dreaming. It was self-luminous reality for once swept clean of all obscuring mind. It was the revelation, at long last, of the perfectly obvious. It was a lucid moment in a confused life-history. It was a ceasing to ignore something which (since early childhood at any rate) I had always been too busy or too clever to see. It was naked, uncritical attention to what had all along been staring me in the face - my utter facelessness. In short, it was all perfectly simple and plain and straightforward, beyond argument, thought, and words. There arose no questions, no reference beyond the experience itself, but only peace and a quiet joy, and the sensation of having dropped an intolerable burden.
This is an extract from On Having No Head by Douglas Harding, first published in 1961, available now through the Sholland Trust.
When I see a familiar thing without associations it looks strange. I see it in a new way. Its meaning is altered. If I can look at my friend without associations he seems strange. I see him in a new way. It is not perhaps too much to say that I scarcely recognize him for the moment. In the same way, walking down a corridor with an undetected mirror at the end I may not recognize the person walking towards me. He seems to be a stranger. I see myself without associations for a moment. Ordinarily when looking in a mirror we see ourselves through the veil of associations that we have about our appearance. The point is that when momentarily the veil of associations is stripped away, something happens. What happens? Everything becomes alive. If you can by sufficient practice relax from the Personality, which is where the network of associations lies, and from, let me add, the wrong feeling of 'I', you find yourself in a different world - a world of another meaning. Actually the world is the same, but your reception of the impressions from it is different and so it's meaning is different. When you are relaxed from Personality and Imaginary 'I' things are close to you. They speak to you. You are then truly taking in impressions. Impressions are falling on Essence. The level of Essence is higher than that of Personality. We understand that a higher level receives greater meaning. Now when you are blessed - that is, when you are relaxed from the Personality - you feel the intimacy of everything around you, as if things realized they could go on playing and you would not be angry. If you get angry you cannot relax from the Personality. Or it is as if you and everything around you felt quite suddenly at ease and something could creep out from each object and show itself alive to you. ~ And then suddenly life slams the Personality back into its place and everything is dead.
- Maurice Nicoll
Waiting in Line by Nick Penna
When you listen you reach
into dark corners and
pull out your wonders.
When you listen your
ideas come in and out
like they were waiting in line.
Your ears donít always listen.
It can be your brain, your
fingers, your toes.
You can listen anywhere.
Your mind might not want to go.
If you can listen you can find
answers to questions you didnít know.
If you have listened, truly
listened, you donít find your
copyright 2006 by Robert Fergeson