Author Archives: Joey Lott
Author Archives: Joey Lott
First, you must understood that this world is a lie. This world lies to you. It tells you that your goal is to win, to “make it”, to gain something for yourself, to be right, to protect yourself, to defend yourself.
Isn’t that true? Take a look and see that this is true. Look right now. See how all your life this has been what you’ve been unconsciously doing – trying to succeed, protect, defend.
And as a result you perceive that the world is out to get you. Isn’t that right? Isn’t that why you walk around with anxiety and fear all the time?
Oh, now I know that some will say, “I am not afraid” or “I am not anxious”. But if you can’t see that you are afraid and anxious, if you are not willing to slow down enough and be honest enough to admit that, there is no help for you.
Help is available instantly right now for anyone who is willing to tell the truth. And that requires radical honesty. It means stopping right now and looking carefully and seeing the truth of what you really are.
Not what you think you should be. Not what you aspire to. Not what you imagine yourself to be.
Stop and look honestly and you’ll see that you’re never more than half a second away from freaking out. Even if you think you’ve got it all together, you’re not fooling me. I can see right through you.
You can prove it to yourself. Here’s how. Tell the truth: what would happen if you lost all your money? What if you lost your eyesight? What if you lost your arms? What if you lost your so-called intelligence? What if you lost your supposed “good reputation”?
What if everybody stopped pretending that they don’t know that you’re a fraud? What if everybody told the truth? What if people stopped pretending to be nice to you?
Wouldn’t any of these things be enough to send you right over the edge into terror, rage, depression, etc?
This is essential. You must see this.
And this will hurt to truly see it. So don’t fool yourself that you’re telling the truth if it doesn’t hurt. It will hurt.
It hurts to discover that everything you’ve ever done was in the wrong direction. Everything you’ve ever done was (unconsciously) intended to prop up a false image of yourself. Everything was to support the lie that you’re getting somewhere or that you will get somewhere or that it is possible for you to get somewhere – preferably somewhere “ahead”.
It hurts to see that every effort has been to defend a false self. Look and you’ll see that you’ve been endlessly defending your pride, your egoic self. You think others should treat you with respect – which is just a made up idea you have. And you get angry, vengeful, spiteful when people don’t treat you the way you think they should.
And it hurts to discover that nearly everyone on this planet has been lying to you.
They don’t care about you. Not really. They only care about their false selves. The same as you only care about your false self.
It hurts to see this.
And if you truly see this, if you stop trying to protect yourself from this truthful seeing for just a moment, help is available. Something truly new can reveal itself because for the first time, you’re able and willing to see it.
Hear this: you cannot win. You don’t even know what winning would actually be! Isn’t that the truth?
Look, I’m not telling you that I have figured out how to win. I have not figured out how to win. I am one of the only people on this planet who is honest with you.
What I’m telling you is that winning is in the wrong direction.
Winning is only a false idea held by a false self. And when we hold to that false idea and allow ourselves to be taken over by that false idea and false self, we suffer. We suffer in the endless pursuit and the endless disappointment of hollow falseness.
We suffer in the compulsive grasping for security when there is no security to be had. What security is available to what does not exist?
Now if you are willing to hear this and actually look for yourself to see the truth of what I am pointing to, then something new is possible.
That something new is outside of everything you think you know.
Consider that for a moment. Wouldn’t that be wonderful to no longer be responsible for getting it right, figuring it out, solving it, fixing it, winning, etc.?
It is wonderful. I promise you. It is truly wonderful.
But not your idea of what wonderful is.
This is very, very important to understand. Your idea of what wonderful is, is based on a failed past. You compulsive strain to succeed in recreating that failed past, all the while lying to yourself that you’re working toward a future in which you will win.
You are lying to yourself and you don’t even know it. But you can become aware of it. And becoming aware of it is essential.
If you still hold out hope that you’re going to win, you’ll only be continuing to lie to yourself. Which means you’ll be compulsively straining to create your misery, all the while calling it the pursuit of happiness.
Or you’ll say that you agree with what I’m saying, but that this thing you’re compulsively doing now – typically in the name of protection – is a pre-requisite. You’ll lie to yourself in this way, telling yourself that true freedom has conditions and that true freedom requires that things be different.
That lie is one of the worst lies.
Stop lying to yourself. If you are serious about freedom and true happiness and true peace, you must stop lying to yourself.
So answer this: when do you want freedom? Do you want it in the future? Or do you want it now?
Hopefully you want it now. Because that is the only time it is available.
It will NEVER be available in the future. If you make it conditional, you’re putting it off into the future. Which means you’re lying. Because there is no future freedom. There is only present freedom now.
Which means freedom – true freedom – is unconditional. It is right now with these conditions. Exactly as this is.
Whatever this is.
Whether you have a million dollars or you’re in debt to the mob with Vinny the Fish coming to break your kneecaps this afternoon.
Whether you are in perfect health or you’re in horrific pain.
Whether you feel what you call happiness or you feel what you call anger, fear, sadness, etc.
True freedom is unconditional.
That is radical. Don’t just nod your head in agreement. Let that in. Let the radicalness of it in. True freedom is unconditional. True freedom is now. True freedom is this.
This right now – whatever the conditions – is perfect. It could not be more perfect. This right now is whole.
Whatever happens is this perfect LIVING freedom.
This is living freedom. That is important to understand.
Our ideas of freedom – always conditional – are DEAD. Look and see that is true. Your idea of freedom is dead. It is some deadness, static. It is simply negation of what is. You think, “I don’t like these conditions, this activity, this smell, this noise, this feeling, etc. And therefore, freedom/happiness/peace must be the absence of these things I don’t like.”
Now see that there is no end to that false pursuit of dead “freedom”. See that never in your life have you been satisfied with your efforts. No matter how successful you’ve been in achieving anything, the results were short-lived.
The pursuit of your false ideas of false freedom are like a mirage. It can never truly satisfy. It is false. We never arrive at the true satisfaction. It is always just out ahead of us.
True freedom is in the opposite direction of your compulsive habits.
True freedom is radical honesty now. It is seeing the false as false.
All the compulsive habits are more doings, more activities, more conditions for future freedom.
True freedom is just seeing it. Watch the ways in which you create so many false conditions. Watch the reactivity. Watch how rage and terror are always just beneath the surface.
See how you compulsively react. See how you compulsively, habitually accept your thoughts, your beliefs as being correct. And see how you are at war with the world and everyone in it because NONE of them truly see it your way – the one way you believe is correct.
Talk about arrogance!
Now again, I’m like you. I’ve got similar conditioning. I’m not proposing to you that I have gotten rid of it and therefore “won”.
What I’m telling you is that there is something entirely beyond that conditioning. And it is instantly and always available.
All that is necessary is to surrender the exclusive claim to rightness, the arrogant claim that “I know”.
And to surrender to this as it is now, now, now.
Now, let me spell this out even more clearly. Because I know the doubts that come and lure one away from the truth, back into the lies of the world.
You’ll have all kinds of thoughts that you’ll unconsciously believe are exceptions to the rule. But hear this: there are no exceptions to the rule. Maybe you’ll recall the Cosmic Rule I outlined recently. That Cosmic Rule is that this right now is exactly perfect and whole and completely free. This right now is already salvation, already fulfillment. This right now is already so without any need for fixing, tweaking, correcting, adjusting, or ny kind of meddling or interference.
You’ll think, “But surely this feeling of what I call [fill in the blank] is an exception!” No! No it is not. In fact, this present feeling – WHATEVER you think it is and WHATEVER you think “caused” it – is none other than the Cosmic Law. In other words, this feeling is already perfect salvation, perfect fulfillment, perfect freedom.
You will think “Joey just doesn’t understand. Joey is only referring to other feelings, other thoughts, other circumstances. But this feeling/thought/circumstance is so extreme, so horrific, so unacceptable that I MUST correct it before I can know freedom.” But that is a lie. I am referring to exactly this now as it is.
The truth has no room for anything else. The truth is one without a second. The truth cannot have exceptions.
If you want truth, you will not make exceptions or excuses.
We ALL think that we are special. We all think that our circumstances are uniquely horrific, uniquely requiring our interference. We all believe that we know better. We all believe that we are right, that we know what is right or good.
That is the lie. To know truth, stop lying. Stop accepting the lies as truth.
No matter what happens. And always.
There is nothing that can interfere with this. There are no conditions. Which means you can absolutely implement this in your life no matter what the circumstances of your life.
You don’t need to set aside special time for this. You don’t need external quiet. You don’t need to feel “spiritual”. You don’t need to think that you’re succeeding. You don’t need to feel better. You don’t need to be a better person.
All that is required is to notice what is and stop lying about it. Stop inserting false conditions. Stop inserting anything unnecessary. Stop the compulsive fixing and protecting.
And stop demanding that you could know what should be.
You don’t know.
Now surrender to the truth teacher. The true teacher is the Cosmic Law. Which is operating perfectly always.
Remember that it hurts to see the truth. The truth that 100% of your misery is self-created. The truth that everything you do is unconscious nd compulsive and only maintains your suffering.
So stop compulsively trying to feel better. Tell the truth. Every effort you’ve made to try to feel better has resulted in misery.
Surrender to this present freedom. And surrender to the perfect teaching, the perfect LIVING freedom here now – the very thing you previously fought against.
What I’m about to tell you should upset you. If it doesn’t upset you, you’re not paying attention.
What I’m about to tell you is also the best news. It is wonderful news.
What I am about to tell you is how to instantly dissolve tyranny.
Do you suffer from tyranny? Of course you do.
The first step is to see that this is true. So as usual, I am inviting you to radical honesty.
Honesty is uncomfortable. Honesty upsets everything you and I can think to be true. It upsets all our ideas. All our attachments. Even (and perhaps most importantly) our so-called positive and spiritual attachments.
We like to think that we are good, spiritual, kind, decent.
True honesty reveals that I am none of those things that I think I am.
You might wonder: “How can I be truly honest?”
Good question. Here’s how to be truly honest. Here is how I can be truly honest. I can be truly honest by simply paying attention. By simply observing and noticing what is actually happening. This is true, radical honesty.
Every moment reveals deeper levels of depravity. And I am simply observing that.
Remember, I told you this would be upsetting. If you’re really paying attention to what I’m telling you, you’re not going to like this.
So hear this again. Honesty is not about what I like. It is not about what you like. It is about what is. It is about seeing the truth, not *inventing* the truth.
Truth is primary. Everything else is secondary.
There is only one. There is only truth, which is primary. What is secondary (everything else) is false, not real, not true.
Everything I can think about is not truth.
Truth is only what is. I cannot think about truth. Because that would be one step out of truth. Even a small step is too much. I want complete synchronization, complete honesty, complete truth.
So I can tell the truth or be honest by simply observing what actually is.
What do I notice? And what might you notice when being truly honest?
Anger, reactivity, hostility, repression, arrogance, resistance, depression, terror, etc.
Now please understand that your mind, my mind, minds all over the world will object to this. Minds will come up with so many objections.
There is no end to the objections…
That is, as long as we attend to them, coddle them, react to them, try to fix them, try to solve them…there is no end.
And now we get to the heart of this message. Which is that conscious ignorance is bliss and the remedy to tyranny.
What is tyranny? Merriam Webster online defines tyranny as “oppressive power”. And it defines oppressive as “unreasonably burdensome or severe”.
Can you see that your mind is unreasonably burdensome or severe?
That is its nature. It is merely a reservoir of ideals, standards, aspirations, rules. And its nature is simply to regurgitate those. Whenever consulted, it vomits these rules.
As a power, as a ruler, the mind cannot help but be tyrannical.
Upon seeing this – and many people see this in a superficial way – many people come to believe that they should go to war with the mind. The mind becomes the enemy.
But what they miss in their rush to war is something very important. So please hear this. This is key to understand this. When we go to war with a tyrannical power, we only empower that. We feed it. And we become it.
Look at the popular revolutions in history. What happened?
In middle school I read George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The farm animals revolt and overthrow the oppressive humans. The animals agree that they are all equal, that none should oppress the others. But then the pigs claim that they are more equal than the others. And at the end of the book the pigs, living in the farm house apart from the rest, are indistinguishable from the humans they had overthrown.
Tyranny depends upon an “other”. Without an “other”, tyranny has no claim. None of us would give up our freedoms unless we bought into the tyrannical claim that we need protection from some external evil.
We give up freedom and accept tyranny when we choose to believe in an external evil, an external threat.
Now hear this. Because this is important. We wrongly externalize all threats.
That is why radical honesty is so valuable. It shines a light so that we see clearly that there are no external threats.
We wrongly externalize our feelings, thoughts, imagination, etc.
We say, “I have anxiety” or “I have depression” or “I get angry”.
Even “I am angry” is a subtle externalization. It places anger at a slight distance from “I”.
Radical honesty – which is simply seeing what is – reveals that there is no other. There is no external. There is no distance. There is no separate I experiencing these experiences.
Do this now. Just observe. See what I am pointing to.
The mind will object. I already warned you. So don’t use that as an excuse. I am telling you that the mind will object. Just observe anyway.
If I wrongly accept the mind’s objections – which are all based on the wrong notion that I am at a distance from my experience and that I can fix my experience to make it safe and agreeable – then I empower this tyrannical force.
And I erroneously identify as a separate thing that is victim to this tyranny.
Don’t take this on as a new belief, a new story. Actually look and see that this is true. See it. That is what will help. You must be willing to see it.
True seeing is unbelievably radical. It completely undermines the tyranny.
Watch the objections. The reactions. The anger, fear, etc.
And just keep watching.
Isn’t it curious to notice all these reactions when nothing is happening? Nothing is actually happening. There’s no gun at your head.
But the mind’s reactions are as if there was.
See how it operates. It practically screams that you must do SOMETHING to fix this, to get away from this, to solve this.
And if you ask why, it will shout, “NO TIME FOR ASKING QUESTIONS! DO SOMETHING!”
A quality of tyranny is that it is volatile. It has no true power of its own, and so it must constantly be in motion, stirring up fear to fuel its false claims.
Conscious ignorance is the remedy.
Consciously ignore the commands of the tyrannical force.
Watch it. Watch it react with greater and greater fear and anger. And consciously ignore whatever commands it gives.
All its commands are vomit from the FAILED past.
That is all it can offer. You must see this. It is not bad. The mind is not bad. It just is what it is. It cannot offer anything fresh because it is ONLY a repository of the past.
The past is entirely failed. See that is true. Nothing from the past satisfied you. Nothing from the past gave you what you truly long for.
If it had, you would not be looking for a remedy now. You would not be susceptible to the false claims of the mind in that case.
So see that everything from the past failed. And the mind is only capable of regurgitating the past.
It will use every scare tactic it can.
Do not move.
Do not obey its false commands.
Do not accept is false authority.
Just watch. See all the depravity you have mistakenly identified with.
And do not try to counter it. Do not say, “I am not angry, I am not jealous, I am not fearful.” Because that is only an inversion, which still is in reaction to the false claims.
Just see it as it is. See the anger, the fear, the hostility.
Don’t try to distance yourself. Don’t say anything about it. Just watch.
If you feel uncomfortable, you’re doing it correctly. If you feel squeezed, crushed, desperate…you’re doing it correctly.
Not that you should seek to produce squeezed, crushes, desperate experiences. No, no, no! I’m just giving you warning that these experiences can and will likely happen, and they are not bad. They indicate success when they happen unbidden.
Everything the world teaches says this is the wrong direction. The world teaches us to build ourselves up. The world teaches us to overcome. The world teaches us to be righteous.
But tell the truth: the world’s way does not work.
Only one in a million people will actually hear this. And only one in a million of those people will test it for themselves.
That one person is the one who will know freedom in a world of tyranny.
Imagine this: a housefly lands on your wrist. It begins to walk around. You feel the tiny tickles of its six tiny legs. You see it as it pauses and rubs its legs together. Then you feel more tiny tickles as it walks up your forearm.
What do you want to do to this imaginary fly? Do you imagine letting it continue to crawl on you? Or do you swat it away?
Next, imagine a horsefly lands on you. And it bites you!
In case you’ve never been bitten by a horsefly, let me tell you that it hurts.
Do you imagine that you allow the fly to continue to bite you over and over all over your body?
Now, we’re told that the man who came to be known as Ramana Maharshi once became so “absorbed in the Self” that he allowed his body to be eaten by insects. The story goes that he was found in a catacomb sitting still as his flesh was being eaten away by insects.
Can you imagine that?
Now, if you have any doubt about what is required for freedom – true happiness, true peace – the story of Ramana Maharshi clears that up.
The story of Gautama Buddha has striking similarities. Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi Tree with a resolution to remain at the tree until his desire to know the answer to suffering was fulfilled. As he sat there, he was presented with three temptations that were intended to persuade him to move. But he remained still.
These stories are instructive. We have doubts, so we need to turn to these kinds of teachings to give us reassurance.
Because in our day to day lives we encounter so many temptations to move, to fix, to solve, to avoid, to escape, etc.
Every time we feel the slightest discomfort or agitation, we doubt and we get caught up in fighting with that doubt.
We doubt what the purpose of my life is. We doubt whether we are in the right place with the right people, etc. We doubt what we should be doing. We doubt whether we are safe.
Can you see this? Pause for a moment and look carefully so you can see this. This is important.
See all the doubts that you wrestle with.
Isn’t it true? Don’t you wrestle with doubts all day? Look and see that this is true.
Doubt about what you want. Doubt about what is true. Doubt after doubt after doubt.
But again, let’s look to these instructive stories. What did Siddhartha do? What did Ramana do?
In both cases they remained still. And the main point is this: they allowed their very bodies and lives to be sacrificed.
I’m also reminded of Abraham of the Old Testament heeding God’s instruction to sacrifice Isaac, his son, to God. Abraham loved his son dearly and was tested on his faith when he complied with God’s instruction.
What is required for freedom?
If you don’t know freedom in this very instant right now, if freedom is not crystal clear to you in its entirety right now…you’re not sacrificing everything.
You’re still clinging to some kind of doubt that you’re wrestling with. Doubt about who you are, what life is.
Reality, Truth, Peace – whatever you want to call it – is obvious. It is here now. Presently. This.
Now, you and I can think whatever we want. That’s what you might call free will. You and I are so free we can think whatever we want.
We can think we are victims. We can think about oh poor me. We can think why me? We can think and think whatever we wish.
But whatever we think is irrelevant and always wrong. It misses the point. Always.
Because the point is here now. This.
This that you are fighting with.
This feeling, this thought, this fear, this sensation.
The conditioned thought/belief says, “But surely he doesn’t mean this!”
I do. I mean this. Whatever you think I couldn’t possibly mean.
That’s what I am talking about.
Again, let’s look to the instructive stories. And let’s contrast that with me and my concerns that I think are exceptions to the rule.
The rule, let’s call it the Cosmic Rule, is this: What is happening is revealing to me exactly, perfectly, and fully the pure perfection of truth here now. This is instant and complete here now. I cannot in any way improve upon this by interjecting my conditioned opinions about it.
As you and I go through our days, we find countless exceptions to this rule…or so we think. We excuse them all as necessary exceptions.
For example, if I feel suddenly terrified, stressed, spooked, strained, etc., I excuse it as an exception to the Cosmic Rule. I lie to myself and say, “This is an exception. This problem is a real problem that I must solve. Only once I solve this problem can I be free to invest seriously in freedom. So I must focus on solving this problem now. It is important. This is a prerequisite for freedom.”
Can you see how you do this? This is important to see. Really look and get honest about it.
There are dozens if not hundreds of these exceptions daily. Isn’t that so?
As if your life is constantly on the line.
Now, here should be a big clue since we’ve familiarized ourselves with those instructive stories. Abraham, Gautama Buddha, and Ramana Maharshi.
Lives on the line.
So if I believe my life may be on the line, this is pointing out something essential. It is pointing out that this is the Cosmic Rule…NOT the exception to it.
Do you see?
This right now is not the exception.
It is the rule.
This right now always is the Cosmic Rule. Which is that this right now is revealing pure perfection completely here now. My interjections and distractions are not needed.
Faith is this radical honesty.
Pure and simple. Faith is this radical honesty. It is to remain still and watch to find out if there is any power outside of you that can move you. Watch to find out what is true rather than believing any thought, any argument, any habit, any conditioning.
Do you see how truly radical this is?
And can you taste the freedom now? This is it. This already is salvation.
Salvation is not what you thought.
You thought salvation was making Reality, Truth – whatever you want to call it – conform to your limited and frankly MISERABLE ideas of what should be.
Isn’t that true? Look and see. It is obvious when you look. You have always been striving toward what you think salvation will look like and that search is precisely what defines your misery.
Your idea of salvation is a complete inversion of reality. Your idea of salvation is the formula for hell.
See that and you’re half way home.
Next, just put it into practice. If you can recognize that everything you have ever done and ever will do all in the name of reaching salvation (or call it peace or happiness or okayness or whatever you want) has led only to misery, the next step is this: stop trying to fix it. Stop trying to avoid. Stop trying to numb yourself. Stop trying to get it right. Stop trying to win. Stop trying not to die. Stop trying to protect youself.
Now just watch. Just watch what happens.
Doubt. Doubt. Doubt.
Isn’t it so? Doubt after doubt after doubt.
Let’s go back to our instructive stories.
When God instructed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, do you think Abraham did not have doubts? Of COURSE he did.
But that’s not a story worth telling in and of itself. Because everyone has doubts. It’s so normal it is not worth telling a story about.
What is unusual about the story and therefore makes it worth telling is that Abraham didn’t wrestle with the doubt.
You think Siddhartha didn’t doubt? He did. Of course he did.
You think Ramana didn’t doubt?
Imagine dozens of flies eating your flesh. You would doubt.
These stories are of interest to us and instructive to us precisely because we are like them and they are like us. But we don’t typically really understand that. We wrongly imagine that they did NOT doubt. We wrongly imagine that they had ACHIEVED salvation.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
They doubted. And they did not achieve salvation.
They doubted and remained still anyway.
And that stillness is not necessarily about remaining perfectly still in the body. It does not mean you have to let insects literally eat your flesh. Only the mechanical mind that wants to mimic believes that. And guess what? That’s just more of the same. More doubt, more wrestling, more distraction, more conditions, more future.
And more misery.
What I’m pointing to here is so radical you can’t grasp this. It requires stepping out completely on faith. It means risking everything now.
This is true freedom. This is freedom beyond the mechanical mind. Beyond acquisition. Beyond security and insecurity.
This cannot be had. It cannot be possessed by the mechanical mind.
But it can be recognized.
Which is done only through faith. Only through risking everything now.
I’m not optimistic. I’m not a “think positive” sort of guy.
Some people are built for it. They are good at envisioning a positive future.
Maybe you’re naturally skilled at positive thinking. Maybe you are good at whipping yourself up into a storm of positivity and hope.
But if you’re not and if you’ve tried and tried and tried…and failed…
It may be that you’re simply honest.
Honesty – I mean really radical honesty – is not popular. And for good reason.
Because it removes all hope.
I looked up the definition of despair. It means to have no hope.
So radical honesty equals despair.
There’s no way around it. When we tell the truth, there’s no hope.
I can’t escape into the hope of future salvation. It is obvious that future salvation does not exist. It will not happen like that.
In the mainstream world this is devastating. It is a complete disaster. The mainstream world depends 100% on hope. In 2008 the soon-to-be President of the United States ran a successful campaign with posters that had just one word: HOPE
We have been taught that hope is the way. We’ve been taught that hope is essential.
And so when faced with despair, our conditioned reaction is one of two things:
1. Depression, resignation
2. Working harder to overcome (i.e. building hope)
Now please understand that I am not telling you to try to become hopeless. Please don’t! It is very, very difficult. It is to be stripped bare. It is like being naked and without shelter on the North Pole.
If you have hope, please stop reading this now. I am not joking. Stop now. Please! Stop now.
Really, if you have hope, I can’t offer you anything in this message. If you have hope, you’ll just have to keep hoping until hope falls away on its own.
There is a natural pace at play here. Just as you cannot force a flower to blossom sooner than it is ready, you cannot force despair.
To try to force despair would be the same as trying to force the flower to blossom. It will only result in destruction, harm, death.
So please don’t think, “Despair is better than hope. I’ll force despair. I’ll forcibly cut away all hope!”
That would be a mistake. Don’t do that.
And anyway, I’m not saying that despair is best. There may be other ways. There may be gentler ways.
But if you already despair, if you already have little to no hope, then read on.
Let me validate your despair. It truly is hopeless. You’re not failing. It’s not your fault for not being more positive.
It truly is hopeless.
Hope says that in the future I’ll arrive at a permanent state in which nothing undesirable or difficult or scary ever happens. And it is clear that no such state is possible.
At least not for me. And I’m the one who wants to arrive there and achieve that state.
Isn’t that right? You and I want to arrive at this future state that matches with our idea of what should be.
But the you and I that want that cannot arrive there. The you and I that want that are vacillations. We have ups and downs. We are defined by contrast. What we want is defined by what we don’t want.
You and I will never be satisfied. We’ll never arrive at that fabled future state because like a mirage, it always moves just out of reach. No matter how much we achieve, the goal will be always ahead.
The world around us appears to be metaphorically burning. The promises from politicians and corporations are empty to those who despair.
You and I – those who despair – we can see clearly that the promise of a future colonizing Mars is empty. We can see that despite whatever conveniences Amazon.com will deliver to us by sanitized drones and Tesla vehicles, it will never be enough.
We can see that no amount of legislation and no amount of preaching and no amount of righteousness will fully remedy the selfishness, cruelty, and violence in our hearts.
Now, see what the conditioned responses are to this despair/honesty. As I previously suggested, there are two conditioned responses:
2. Trying harder
See how your conditioned mind reads into the words I write, trying to figure out which of these two strategies I am advocating. The conditioned mind wants to know, “Should I try harder or should I give up?”
But neither will satisfy. And at the same time, *rejecting* either will not satisfy. In fact, we – as vacillating phantoms of dualistic appearance – cannot successfully reject these. We ARE these. The one who is trying to reject cannot succeed because it is trying to reject itself. It is like a dog chasing its tail.
We cannot help but to do SOMETHING. And that something will be resignation or it will be trying harder. So stop trying to figure out which is better and reject the other. They are poles of the same phenomenon, which is you as you conceive of yourself.
The spiritually-overeducated among us think we know the answer. We think the answer is to kill the ego, get rid of the self, transcend. But that is just the spiritualized ego trying to get rid of itself. So just give up on that last-ditch hope too.
Here’s the alternative.: Look somewhere else. Look where you have not been looking. Rather than looking to hope – future salvation – or the lack thereof, look in a radically different way.
Look carefully and you’ll discover that all along the polarity of hope/hopelessness was only ever a tiny fraction of reality.
This plane or level or dimension of existence that we take to be the whole is only a tiny fraction.
So when we despair, when we are out of hope, beyond hope, hopeless…we have an opportunity we didn’t have before. That opportunity is to look beyond the limited paradigm of hope/hopelessness.
Before this moment of despair, we were entranced by the hope/hopeless paradigm. That is to say, we were entranced by the story of me and my way and my knowledge and my salavation.
I – as someone I can talk about, someone with a story, a person – am only looking at myself. I am like Narcissus. I can only see myself. Everywhere I look is only myself, my glory, my failures, my achievements, my disappointments, my efforts, my needs.
This is the bubble of me that I mistake for the whole.
Despair is this magical moment in which this bubble is exposed. I see its limitations. I see it’s powerlessness. I see how truly vulnerable I am.
In this moment I see how I cannot succeed. I see that all my efforts are secret or not-so-secret attempts at self-gain, self-protection. I am only seeking to preserve myself indefinitely. All the while, I am only struggling against myself. I love and hate myself only.
Example: I want safety. The more I struggle to gain safety, the more I discover just how unsafe I am. So I struggle harder to become safer. Which only exposes how unsafe I am.
As long as I spin around in this, I suffer. I am caught in a bind. Here’s the bind: I want safety, but I have come to identify as the sense of insecurity. Therefore, to actually find safety is the death of myself. So I both love and hate myself. I love myself in the sense that I want to preserve myself. I hate myself because what I truly identify as is what I struggle to get away from. I fear myself as I have come to conceive of myself.
When I reach the moment of despair, I see this. And as I have already stated, at this moment of despair there are two common responses. Both are ends of a polarity. As such, either serves to maintain the same core problem.
The conditioned reactions are either resignation or trying harder.
Both assume that the paradigm that I have blindly accepted is the truth.
The only genuine alternative is outside that paradigm. Outside the paradigm of me, myself, and I. Outside the paradigm of succeeding, winning, achieving, protecting.
As I stated earlier, this is an unpopular perspective. It is unpopular because it exposes everything we have tried so hard to avoid.
It exposes my helplessness. It exposes my self-centeredness. It exposes my arrogance. It exposes my ignorance. It exposes my viciousness. It exposes rage. It exposes terror.
And it exposes the desperate grasping for something, anything, to help save me. To help protect me. To help me gain a foothold. To help me get my balance. To help me get some control, some power.
And even worse, it exposes that every time I have succeeded in anything, it has only made things worse. It made the day of reckoning so much more painful. It made the fall further, harder.
And still worse, it exposes my complete inability to stop the grasping.
This sounds like the worst possible news from the mainstream perspective. It *is* the worst possible news from that perspective. It completely undoes that whole paradigm. It leaves us with nothing.
Nothing to grasp. Nothing to believe in. Nothing to hope for. Nothing to fix.
And furthermore, no hope of controlling or gaining power over our habits of grasping, believing, hoping, fixing.
What it DOES offer is an opening to what is beyond that paradigm.
What is beyond that paradigm does not include me.
This is so, so, so challenging to truly see. I discover this more deeply every moment. I have never arrived at pure and perfect seeing. I cannot rest on my laurels and say, “I’ve won. I’ve arrived. I’ve succeeded. I’ve attained.”
Which is good news in truth. But since you and I – as people, as identities, as stories – cannot help but want to win, to protect ourselves…we habitually fall into the trap of fighting with this even though the truth of not arriving is in fact such good news! It is our teacher. Impermanence is our great teacher.
So we can’t do anything to help ourselves. But having said that, there is something we can do. It’s just that it’s not a doing in the usual sense.
What we can do is bow to our teacher. Our teacher impermanence is everything and everyone we encounter, including our thoughts, our feelings, our neighbors, our spouses, our children, our parents, our world.
We can bow to this teacher.
Bowing to the teacher is to look elsewhere – not to look to the same false paradigm we have habitually looked to for salvation.
Bowing to the teacher shifts us from our chronic focus on this plane of me, myself, and I.
What do I mean by bowing to the teacher? Well, what I’m going to say is going to rub some people the wrong way. Those who want a pure and perfect teaching they can intellectually perfect (but that does not challenge suffering) will object to this. They’ll claim it’s dualistic and therefore not pure enough.
When I say to bow to the teacher, I mean this: I pause and see my conditioned reaction. I see the arrogance of this. I see how it is based upon the assumption that I know what should be. And I simply watch all the layers of reactivity bubbling.
I don’t try to disconnect or disown the experience. I don’t try to fix it. I don’t try to stop it. And neither do I try to act it out. I don’t try to solve it. And neither do I try not to solve it. I see the reactive attempts to solve. And I see the layers of arrogance, greed, terror, rage, hatred, destructiveness, etc. I see the layers of reactivity and judgment to the arrogance, greed, terror, etc.
And furthermore, I see the teasing apart of myself. I see the fear of losing control. I see the fear of dying. I see the fear of being judged. I see the fear of uselessness. I see the fear of impotence. I see the endless fear.
At each step, the door of freedom is wide open. But at each step we must walk through it by bowing to the teacher.
The teacher knows the way. We do not.
The only thing we can know is that our way is not the way we truly want. We can know that because we can be honest. We can tell the truth that our way has only led to suffering. And so we can then accept that and humble ourselves enough to bow to the teacher.
Bowing to the teacher, I am stepping through the door. The door of freedom is only now. We must be stepping through it now. And the way is to bow to the teacher.
This is the most difficult thing because it offers nothing for me. From the paradigm of me, myself, and I this is death. This is to be avoided at all costs.
But in this magical moment of despair we might unexplainably choose what is beyond ourselves. We might finally admit the truth that my way is hell. And we might risk everything by bowing to the teacher of this present moment exactly as it is – which is completely unprotectable, completely unknowable.
If you truly despair, you know in your heart that what I am saying is true. But you will surely still find it difficult to heed this advice. Which is why telling the truth is so important.
Just keep telling the truth. That means to look sincerely always now to see what is true. And this looking is the bowing. It is the seeing of what is.
It is the most difficult thing. Watching everything I have tried to avoid is difficult.
I mean that. So please hear it. You will want to kick, scream, run, murder. And that’s not an exaggeration.
Freedom takes EVERYTHING.
In today’s message I’m going to share with you a somatics lesson.
When I say “somatics”, I mean direct sensory perception explored through focused awareness on what we normally conceive of as the body.
I like somatics a lot. For one thing, it gives us a practical means by which to explore direct experience. It gives us a focused method for discovering how to let go.
And for another thing, somatic explorations can help release patterns of tension that are physically uncomfortable. So if nothing else, they allow us to feel better.
I often remind us that we don’t need to develop some new skill of freedom or peace. Rather, we only need to see how we are (unconsciously) creating obstacles. We are doing our misery. We don’t need to do okayness. We just need to see how we do misery. That is sufficient.
Skillful somatic exploration offers insight into how to do misery. It reveals to us how we habitually cringe, armor, flinch, deflect, avoid, etc. And through this seeing, we naturally begin to discover what is here all along.
I sincerely hope that you will explore this lesson together with me. It doesn’t work just to think about it. You have to actually dive in and try it sincerely.
Now, let me warn you that you may think this couldn’t possibly be of any value. It is so simple that most people won’t truly give it a chance.
And it’s not an instant miracle cure. It’s not going to instantly make you feel the way you want to feel. What it does is slowly reveal to you how you make yourself miserable.
So this requires persistent application. You have to be willing to slow down and actually do this to get any benefits. The benefits will then begin to reveal themselves. Slowly but surely.
In today’s lesson we’ll explore turning the head.
You may do this sitting or standing. If you can sit and you can stand, try doing it both ways at different times.
If you are standing, let your arms hang at your sides. If you are sitting, let your arms rest either with your hands in your lap or on armrests if that is the only option for you (i.e. if you are in a wheelchair or confined space that makes resting your arms with hands in your lap uncomfortable for any reason.)
You may do this with eyes open or eyes closed. If you are comfortable doing it with eyes closed, do it with eyes closed to start. You’ll likely have an easier time focusing on the direct perception of movement that way. But if doing it with eyes closed is uncomfortable for you, you may do it with eyes open.
1. Slowly turn your head to the right. Turn your head as slowly and smoothly as you can. And intend to feel the sensations as clearly as possible. Only turn your head as far as you can do comfortably. The goal is not to turn your head as far as possible. The goal is to be aware, to move with smoothness and confidence. Even if your maximum turn is just half an inch, that is fine. Don’t strain.
When you’ve turned the head as far as you can comfortably to the right, pause for a moment. Notice if you can become aware of any unnecessary effort you may be making. Perhaps clenching the jaw, tensing the neck, squeezing the eyes, pressing the tongue in the mouth, etc. Just notice. Scan gently for any unnecessary effort. And see if you can simply allow yourself to become as gentle and restful in this position as possible. Don’t TRY to do anything. Don’t attempt to become relaxed. Just notice, soften, allow. And don’t worry about getting it right.
Slowly turn the head back to center. Turn the head as smoothly and slowly as you can comfortably. And as you do, gently be aware of habits you have of making unnecessary effort. Don’t try to fix anything. Don’t overthink it. Don’t plan for or try to figure out the “right” way. Just move slowly and as smoothly as possible, softening and gently.
When you have reached center or neutral, pause and rest similarly to how you do when the head was turned to the right. Gently scan for unnecessary effort. Soften and release without trying. Just let gentle awareness be your guide. Don’t think about it. Just feel and notice.
Repeat this sequence of turning to the right several more times. Move slowly and smoothly. Can you be aware of the experience continuously?
2. Again, slowly turn the head to the right. This time, as you turn the head to the right, simultaneously move the right shoulder forward. Aim to bring the right shoulder to the maximum comfortable forward range in sync with the head reaching the right-most turn. This may be awkward and uncoordinated at first. It will become easier with repeated exploration.
As before, when you reach the maximum comfortable movement, pause and gently scan for any unnecessary effort. Notice if you are squeezing the eyes or forehead, gripping in the throat, etc. And without trying to get rid of anything, just gently soften and allow for release of whatever you don’t need to hold.
Slowly return the head and shoulder to neutral. Don’t pull either the head or shoulder back to what you think of as the correct position. Slowly release them to neutral.
When the head and shoulder are returned to neutral, pause and observe for any unnecessary effort. Soften.
Repeat this sequence several more times.
3. Repeat the preceding sequence several more times. This time, have awareness of the left shoulder as you do the movement. Notice any habits of moving or tensing the left shoulder as you move the right shoulder.
4. Slowly turn the head to the right. Simultaneously, move the right shoulder backward. Aim to move the head and shoulder smoothly and in a coordinated way so that each reaches the maximum comfortable range simultaneously. This will be uncoordinated at first. It will become smoother with repetition.
As before, pause at the maximum comfortable range and observe any unnecessary effort. Soften.
Slowly release to return to neutral. Pause and observe for unnecessary effort.
Repeat this sequence several more times.
4. Repeat the preceding sequence with awareness of the left shoulder. Notice any habits of moving or tensing the left shoulder as the right shoulder moves.
5. Repeat #1-#4 turning the head to the left and moving the left shoulder.
6. Slowly turn the head to the right. Slowly turn the head to center. Slowly turn the head to the left. Slowly turn the head to center. Allow the shoulders to remain restful throughout.
That’s it for this lesson. On the face, it is quite simple. However, if you do this sincerely, you’ll certainly find many challenges.
Many of the challenges will be what you may conceive of as physical. That is, movements will be jerky and uncoordinated. But if you are observant, you’ll notice that the so-called physical challenges can reveal emotional and psychological challenges. You may notice what you might call impatience, frustration, disappointment, anger, irritation, etc.
Remember that the goal is not to reach some perfected state. The goal is to simply attend to the direct experience. Just notice. Observe. See.
You’ll see habits of reactivity. You’ll see how you try to fix, protect, hide. And that SEEING is what is most important. So for what it’s worth, I suggest giving thanks for that seeing when it happens – even if your initial conditioned reaction would be to curse, cry, or run.
This is a very gentle and simple exploration, so you can feel free to explore it once a day. Don’t overdo it thinking that will somehow be better. Keep it simple and light and gentle.
Holding on is what hurts.
It’s so, so, so tempting to blame something, someone.
The whole world “out there” is based on blaming something, someone.
The whole world out there is based on cause and effect. Someone or something did something that causes you pain, suffering, hurt.
We’re so accustomed to seeing through the lens of something or someone causing our hurt, pain, suffering…that my suggestion that it is not true may seem ludicrous.
After all, SURELY if someone hit you, they caused your pain. Right?
And notice how quickly the conditioned mind leaps to these edge cases, these worst-case-scenarios, these things it is CERTAIN of as a way of dismissing anything that challenges the status quo. It wants to do away with anything that could radically alter the habit of misery.
I’m like you. My conditioned, habitual mind says the same kinds of things. It says that this claim that I’m making is wrong. Insane. Dangerous. Possibly even criminal.
But here’s why you read what I write. I don’t believe my conditioned, habitual mind. I simply look for myself and tell the truth. And when I do that it is abundantly obvious that my conditioned, habitual mind is…how to put this delicately…wrong.
And I’m encouraging you to do the same. I’m not encouraging you to believe my radical claim. I’m asking you to to look for yourself.
Look sincerely. Look now.
Look to your actual experience.
Don’t look to memory. Don’t look to projections into the future.
Look now to your actual experience.
The conditioned, habitual mind will object. It will say that looking is a waste of time. It will say that it already knows the answer.
It will say that CLEARLY someone or something causes your pain, suffering, misery, hurt. It has a long list of things it knows for SURE cause these problems. War, rape, medical malpractice, car accidents, abusive relationships, heavy metal toxicity, birth trauma, etc.
But do you want to live under the oppressive rule of your conditioned mind’s certainty?
I see bumper stickers that say “love is greater than fear”. Well, let’s test it out. Let’s find out for sure, for real. Right now, let’s find out.
To find out, we have to first recognize fear. We have to see that the mind’s rule is entirely fear-based.
Looking honestly now is not a true threat to anything real. But the mind will put up such a fight. It will do anything to try to prevent sincere looking.
Why? Fear. Isn’t that obvious? It is fearful of looking.
Why? Well, take a look and find out.
Look sincerely now at your actual, direct, unmediated experience.
That means you don’t think about your experience. You just stay with the immediacy of it as it is. There’s no time for thinking here. Thinking is too much. So just stay with the immediacy.
Now, what happens?
If you’re honest, you’ll have to admit that what happens is totally unknown, totally fresh, totally free.
Is there any holding on in this moment of direct perception?
No. Of course not.
Look again now and see this clearly.
Holding on – or we could call it grasping, gripping, tension, thinking, worrying, solving, fixing, figuring out, getting somewhere, getting rid of, etc. – is only an IDEA that happens after the fact.
In this moment now of pure seeing, there’s only this pure seeing.
This is truly radical. If you think you know what I’m saying, be willing to drop that idea. Because even I don’t know what I’m saying. I can’t because that would only be an idea based on some past conclusion.
But what I’m pointing to here is way more radical. It is always here now. It is not something that will give us anything. It is not something that will fix our problems. It is not something that will make us invulnerable. it is not something that will make us more spiritual, more gentle, more loving, or anything based on our ideas of what that should mean.
It is not something that we can understand in the mechanical way we are used to.
Sooner or later you catch a glimpse of this. Hopefully now. Just look now. Look purely, simply, effortlessly now.
And if you can honestly say, “Gee, I don’t know what this is,” that’s what I’m talking about.
It’s just simply this. Not something special. Not some “spiritual experience”. Not something that you think is a better or more desirable experience.
It’s just this as it is, unmediated by the conditioned mind.
Don’t try. Don’t try to get rid of thoughts. Don’t try to achieve a different state. Don’t make any effort. Just drop it all for a moment and see as you already see before all the complications.
Now, once you catch a glimpse, you’ll probably wonder “How can I get more of this?”
Well, you can’t. But what you can do is just watch for the holding on that happens. Watch for it. See it. See the gripping, grasping, tensing, figuring out, solving, worrying, etc.
And don’t try to get rid of it or fix it. Just see it.
As you do this, you’ll eventually see that you’re seeing at more subtle levels. And eventually you start to recognize a great cosmic joke. Which is this: You’ve only ever just been simply seeing.
We humans suffer. Isn’t that your experience? Don’t you suffer? Don’t you find yourself somehow tortured, seeking for a remedy, a way to find relief?
We know we suffer. We experience the anguish. We know it is real. Whether we suffer physical pain, psychological pain, emotional pain, or whatever else. We know it is real.
But I challenge you to successfully identify the actual suffering. Can you pin down the suffering itself? Can you find it?
You cannot. I know you cannot because no one ever has.
I have not. And I’ve been looking and looking and looking for decades with great intensity.
But it’s not only me who reports not being able to find the suffering. Every sage, person of wisdom, true teacher, authentic guide, or whatever you want to call them has reported the same.
They have all pointed us to look for ourselves. They say, “Look and find the problem. Look and find the boogieman.”
But most of us keep thinking that we’re going to actually find it. We settle for an assumption that the problem exists. And so we keep on suffering.
So let’s look together now. Let’s look to see what the actual nature of suffering is. Let’s see if we can find the cause, the thing that does this to us. Let’s be bold, courageous, and relentless. Let’s be serious.
Look with me now. Don’t fall for your usual traps and habits. Don’t numb yourself or lull yourself to a stupor. Look soberly now. Look fiercely now.
Ask yourself what is the core of this suffering. Look for it. Feel into it. Follow your direct sensing to the heart of the misery, the pain, the nightmare.
Don’t lie and say it’s not a nightmare. Don’t lie and say it’s not so bad. Tell the truth. Remember those sober moments in which you have seen clearly that there is no escape, no hope. Remember those moments in which you have acknowledged that it truly is worse than you’d ever let on. And stare directly into the darkness you’ve avoided with your hopes and dreams and ambitions and fantasies.
What do you find?
Can you name it?
Can you provide a reference for it?
Do you know what this is?
Do you know its intention?
Do you know anything about it?
Can you truthfully say anything about this?
Now tell the truth. You have no idea what this is. You simply assumed this was a problem. You assumed it was here to harm you. You assumed you needed to move away from it. You assumed you needed to protect yourself.
All assumptions. But now when you look clearly and tell the truth, can you see that you don’t know? Can you see that this is unknowable? Can you see that your assumptions can’t hold up in the reality of this as it is?
Now, let’s look again at the nature of suffering.
In light of this clarity, look again at what the actual experience of suffering is. And you’ll perhaps see more clearly what suffering actually is.
It is you trying not to suffer. Suffering is recursive. It begins with you trying not to suffer. Which produces suffering, validating the assumption that there is something to avoid. So you seek not to suffer. Which simply produces more suffering. And so it goes…
Until you see it and stop.
Stop now. And let it unwind.
You must have the courage to let it unwind. That is essential.
Freedom is for the courageous.
Courage is the willingness to sacrifice everything. To lay yourself bare and find out what the truth is *directly*. Not theoretically. Not second-hand. Not intellectually.
Stop now and let it unwind.
Stop. Look. Don’t move.
There are many ways that people IMAGINE that they should go about not moving. But most of those involve more movement, more tension, more trying, more avoidance.
There is only one way to truly not move. And that is to rest and watch for the habits of movement.
Don’t get hung up on judging your movements. You can’t help it. You’re afraid. You’ll move because you’ll get spooked.
But just see it. And then stop and be still.
The more you stop, look, don’t move, the clearer it becomes.
It was only ever your habit of trying to avoid that was the suffering.
The clearer it becomes, the subtler your vision. So don’t dismay when you start to see more and more of your subtle habits of avoidance/movement/tension. Don’t dismay when you start to see just how much you get spooked. Don’t dismay when you start to see how angry, fearful, and reactive you are.
Just stop, look, don’t move.
This is so simple. But the most difficult thing.
And the most rewarding.
The word God may make you uncomfortable. If so, good. Let yourself be uncomfortable.
Whatever makes you uncomfortable, when it happens, let yourself be uncomfortable.
Notice your habit of avoiding discomfort.
Now ask yourself these questions: What about this discomfort is so terrible? Am I sure that I will be better off avoiding this discomfort?
I have asked these questions hundreds if not thousands if not tens of thousands of times. And no matter what – no matter how seemingly terrible the discomfort is, no matter how horrible and scary the stories I might have may be – when I tell the truth I have to admit that I cannot find what is so terrible about this discomfort.
The truth is it is only my habit of believing that the discomfort is terrible that I can point to as evidence that it is terrible.
That is hard thing to admit sometimes. So if you find yourself struggling to admit that fully, that’s to be expected. But just be honest. Keep being honest. Because honesty is your ally. Honesty is what liberates.
Truly I tell you that honesty is what liberates. It is not the desired outcomes that liberate. In fact, the desired outcomes (i.e. attachments) are what BIND you to suffering.
So have courage and tell the truth. Don’t stop short of the truth. Don’t settle for a belief or habit. Look unceasingly with courageous honesty. Tell the truth about what you discover now and now and now.
I cannot find what is terrible. There is only discomfort. It is nothing more, nothing less. It is what it is. Nothing needs to be added to it. And this is honesty, and it liberates.
Secondly, am I sure that avoiding this discomfort will be better? My habit is to avoid discomfort. The whole external world, the world of thought and objects and beliefs and social contracts says: “Avoid discomfort because that is the way to salvation. That is the way to relief. When you succeed in avoiding discomfort you will find comfort.”
But look honestly. Is that true?
No matter how many times I look, I find over and over and over that avoiding discomfort delivers me not to salvation but to suffering.
Avoiding discomfort is the way to hell. It IS hell.
Even when the discomfort is great. Even when the discomfort seems unbearable. Even when it is crushing. Even when it seems that I cannot possibly go on even another second. Even when it is beyond excruciating, beyond what I thought was the worst possible torture.
Even then, avoiding discomfort is the way to hell.
Now, of course, your mind will look for exceptions to this. It will seek to argue for when this is not true. It will ask questions that start with ,” Okay, but what about…?”
All of which is designed only to maintain the status quo. Which is hell. Which is suffering.
So we have a choice. Just one choice as far as I can tell. And I have looked so many times for any possible alternative. Because what I am telling you would appear to the conditioned, habitual mind, the conditioned, habitual identity, to be the worst possible way. So of course I have looked for alternatives.
But I’m telling you truly that this is the only choice I have found. The only true choice. And I’m going to tell you this choice in a very loaded way. So be prepared for your eyes to involuntarily roll and for your hackles to be raised.
The choice is this: Choose God consciously or choose the Devil by default.
God is the truth. God is beyond your habitual, conditioned ways and beliefs and identity. God does not conform to your ideas. God does not care what you think or want or believe.
God is unerringly perfect. And God is the ONLY truth.
I’m using the word God exactly because it is such a loaded term. I want to address this head on. Because if I use another word – spirit, life, wholeness, etc. – your mind will translate that as God which it already has an idea about. And if we don’t address this head on, you’ll allow yourself to keep lying to yourself.
So let’s address this directly. What do I mean by God? Do I mean a man in the sky? Do I mean a benevolent creator? Do I mean someone you can have a personal relationship with? Do I mean the judge of moral correctness?
I mean the truth that is. The truth that is beyond concept. I mean what is beyond understanding. Beyond you. Beyond reach. Beyond grasp. Beyond attainment.
You can choose God. But if you don’t, you default to choosing the Devil.
The Devil is your habits. It is what is known. The Devil is the promise of control, attainment, and self power.
The Devil is the belief that “I am responsible for what is. I need to fix it. I need to get it right. If only I had enough power, enough control, I could be okay.”
The Devil is the illusion that salvation is found in this world of attainment, objects, thoughts, etc.
The Devil is the belief that self protection is my number one mandate. That’s an important one. So re-read that. The Devil is the belief that self protect is my number one mandate.
The Devil is what you have identified with. The Devil is attachment. But not just attachment to things, to wealth, to people, to status. It is also attachment to the idea of non-attachment. It is attachment to being good, pure, spiritual.
The Devil is like a hall of mirrors. It reflects back to you distortions of what you project. It gives you what you think you want until you are nauseous and dizzy.
And if you succeed in escaping the hall of mirrors, the Devil has other forms. It is the entire carnival, feeding you cotton candy and putting you on rides that spin around until you vomit.
Most people never even learn that there is something outside of the Devil. Their idea of God is the Great Big Carnival Boss who can grant them big prizes and help them win lots of games.
The Devil is all about winning.
The truth of God is all about losing. Which makes God the least popular attraction.
Most people will not choose God. They’ll choose the Devil and call it God. And they’ll keep seeking comfort through avoiding discomfort. And wonder why it never works out well.
Choosing God offers true comfort. But here’s the catch: true comfort is Gods nature. True comfort is BEYOND you. It is not your idea of comfort.
Your conditioned mind, my conditioned mind, anyone’s conditioned mind will reject God’s true comfort because it is beyond our idea of comfort.
Our idea of comfort is another carnival ride, another prize, another cotton candy, another time through the hall of mirrors. It has to be that way. We can only know what we have already known.
The mistake we make is in deceiving ourselves into believing that is God or that God can be had so cheaply.
God demands much more. God demands everything.
You and I are like fussy babies held at Mother’s breast. The fussy baby is tired, hungry, worried, uncomfortable.
Mother offers the remedy.
The fussy baby rejects the breast. The fussy baby effectively communicates, “No, that is not what I am wanting. I want to do it myself. I want to fix this.”
God is like Mother. We can find true comfort by choosing God.
But we can’t then claim victory. It will not be on our terms. It won’t be how we thought it had to be. And we will not win. We will not arrive there and be able to say, “I did it.”
God demands everything. To choose God is to choose this now as it is. To choose God is to truly surrender. To surrender so deeply now, now, now, unendingly now that I am humbled beyond what I thought was possible.
It is not to “surrender” momentarily to win a bigger prize. It is not to bow down but keep one eye open to see what is forthcoming.
It is surrender all the way. It is to fully admit the truth by SEEING it truly: that I am powerless to help myself. That in fact all my attempts to help myself are only the Devil.
Now again, the conditioned mind will look for exceptions. And the conditioned mind will seek to understand this and formulate a plan. The conditioned mind will say, “Yeah, but does that mean I should not work to feed my family?”
And what I am saying is let go of that. Don’t look there. That is choosing the Devil. The Devil says “You need to understand. You need a plan. You need to find loopholes. You need to have certainty in advance.”
And tell the truth. The Devil is the hope that you can find the escape plan that gives you permission to leave your family, leave your responsibilities, leave this world, leave all the difficulties and complications…with impunity because *God* mandated it.
The Devil is the promise of the easy way.
But it is a way. Always a way. A way to the promised land. Always in the future.
God’s perfect comfort is now. Only now. Always now. Immediate. And unconditional.
Well, except one condition. Which is to choose God.
Choose what is beyond yourself. Beyond your seeking. Beyond your grasping for self protection. Beyond your aspirations to escape the struggles and complications. Beyond your hopes of finding the truth and salvation in this world of understanding, thought, objects, attainments, time.
Whatever happens, I promise you this is available here now. Choose God now. And see what I am pointing to.
The Devil whispers in our ears that we have to get right first. We have to be good enough. We have to be pure enough. We have to FEEL right. We have to think right. We have to understand right. We have to behave right. We have to forgive right. We have to earn it. We have to win it.
That just keeps us spinning around on carnival rides. Always with the promise of salvation *just* ahead. Just after the next attainment. Just after the next effort. Just after we get it right.
God is Mother. We are the fussy baby. We don’t have to get it right. We only need to stop fussing.
Just stop now. Just stop. Stop.
Don’t try to stop. Don’t plan to stop. Don’t have a plan for stopping.
This here now is perfection. This is God’s perfect comfort.
You don’t think so. But so what? Stop believing your thoughts. Stop lying to yourself.
How do I know that this discomfort is terrible?
Or here’s another question. What happens if I simply stop trying to avoid this discomfort?
Now find out.
I used to think that I wanted transcendence. I thought transcendence would be the answer to all my problems.
To be honest, I never really, really, REALLY got clear on what exactly that transcendence would be. But if I had gotten really clear on it, I’d have discovered that what I was actually after was Supreme Avoidance.
In other words, I had dressed up something rather unattractive by giving it a more desirable name of transcendence. Or I could use other words in place of transcendence – other fancy sounding, highfalutin words like enlightenment, awakening, etc.
In reality, all my actions revealed the truth of what I was actually pursuing.
Because all my actions were based on a single (assumed) mandate: “Get rid of this terrible, horrible, unbearable feeling.”
I assumed that the goal of my life – not only my life but LIFE ITSELF – was to “transcend” (i.e. get rid of) what I didn’t want.
I didn’t want the tense feeling. I didn’t want the scary feeling. I didn’t want the dull feeling. I didn’t want the sharp feeling. I didn’t want the bad feeling.
I STILL think I don’t want many feelings.
Case in point. This morning was cold. Cold to me, that is. Maybe not cold to a polar bear. But to this hairless animal it was cold.
And that cold provoked all the cold-provoked conditioning in me. The fear. The anxiety. The worry.
My wife and my kids and I are effectively camping as we are building our housing in preparation for the winter. So I had nowhere to go to get warm.
This feeling – the feeling I am calling cold – seems undesirable to me.
Find something in your recent experience you can relate this to. What recently have you felt that you think is undesirable? Maybe a bodily sensation. Maybe anxiety seemingly about money or world events. Maybe awkwardness or tension in relationship with other.
And follow along with me so we can explore this together. Me with my cold feeling and you with your feeling. Whatever we think is undesirable.
Now when I have a feeling that I think is undesirable, I start thinking about how to solve the feeling.
Isn’t that funny? A feeling isn’t a problem. It’s not something that needs to be solved. But that’s what happens. I start thinking about how to solve it.
In order to try to solve a feeling, I have to take a step away from the direct experience and instead start to imagine that some CIRCUMSTANCE is CAUSING my feeling.
So I start thinking about things, events, circumstances, people, situations, etc.
Do you do this too?
Of course you do. This is what humans typically do. It is so commonplace that most of us don’t even notice it. Even when someone points it out, we often don’t see it.
We mistakenly believe that our feelings are caused by something outside of us.
In order to remain entranced in this way, we need to allow ourselves to believe that if and when we solve the problem-feeling, all will be well.
But let us stop and tell the truth! We have done this before. Countless times we have done this. And what happened?
Every time, without fail, the next feeling-problem came along. And what’s more, 99.9999% of the time, the next feeling-problem is fundamentally identical to the one we supposedly just solved.
It’s like a game of whack-a-mole. Except that we don’t recognize it. We’re so entranced that we believe that this next feeling-problem is different.
Until we wake up. When we wake up – which can happen now – which IS happening now if we tell the truth – we see the truth. The truth is that all that has ever been happening is that we were trying to avoid the same essential feeling.
We told all kinds of stories about it. We created big dramas about it. But at the heart of it there is just this bare naked, raw vulnerability here now.
Everything I do – no matter how I dress it up otherwise – is an attempt to fix or solve or get rid of this feeling-problem. My friend, John Veen (“Hi John!”), will remind me that in Shin Buddhism this is called “self power”. I’ll just call it “everything I do”.
And I’ll differentiate “everything I do” from another possibility. That other possibility is what I’ll call “what actually is”. John Veen will remind me that in Shin Buddhism this is called “other power”.
“What actually is” always trumps “everything I do”. This is plainly obvious for all of us to see…if we only stop and tell the truth now.
So let’s stop and tell the truth now. Can we see this now? Let’s look sincerely. Let’s let it be simple and light and effortless. Let’s just drop all the pretense that we’re getting somewhere and figuring it all out and winning (or losing or whatever our particular trance-du-jour is). And let’s just see this plainly as it really is.
Everything I do is based on habit. It is nothing more than a repetition of the conditioning from the past. It is unconscious, by definition, until I stop and see it.
The moment I see it, something miraculous happens. Everything I do stops and what actually is becomes clear. “Everything I do” and ‘what actually is” merge into this now. (Or, perhaps more accurately, I see that there never was two.)
And moreover, I am unburdened of all suffering.
Because suffering – by any name we choose to call it – is nothing other than “everything I do”. That is to say, my habitual, unconscious attempts to solve my feeling-problem.
Because suffering is simply that. It is the arrogance that somehow I know what this is. The arrogance that I can know that this should not be as it is.
The arrogance that I know that this present feeling means problem.
Which is perhaps why I really like the story of the Chinese Farmer that I learned from Alan Watts and recount to you often. In summary, the Chinese Farmer story illustrates that whatever happens, we don’t know its meaning or value.
Or look at it this way. I woke up this morning – on this cold morning – and saw a sliver of a crescent moon and maybe 10 degrees to the west, Venus. These are two of Earth’s nearest neighbors. But both are so far away that I will never visit their surfaces in this human lifetime.
The Sun, which warms this planet and allows my human life to be is so far away that it takes 8 minutes for light to travel from it to me.
Lately in the evenings on clear nights I see Jupiter and Mars. Both – you guessed it – really far away.
And then there are all the stars. Those in the Milky Way are nearest, and most of those are unthinkably far, The rest are so far that they are beyond unthinkably far.
And beyond those that are visible to the naked eye, more stars. Those so beyond beyond unthinkable that we can’t even begin to think of them.
And my human animal life is certain to come to an end. Fifty billion years from now it will matter so little that no one will even know to think that I existed. In other words, I will be to them like the stars so distant from me are now.
In fact, we don’t even need to go fifty billion years into the future for my life to be so insignificant. Just a few generations and I will be forgotten.
But on cold mornings I have the arrogance to think that I know better.
This is not just about cold. This is about all of the things we worry about. All the feeling-problems we try to fix. All the energy we squander trying to figure out how to get ahead or get more comfortable or even to survive.
We can’t help it, of course. So let’s not make the mistake of trying to fix that! Which would be only more “self power” trying to fix the supposed problem of “self power”.
Instead, here is a possibility. This is just one possibility. I am not saying it is the best. But it is one possibility.
Non-duality purists, hardcore hardliners, will be deeply offended by this possibility. It won’t be pure enough for them. But then, nothing is.
But this is a possibility that I believe is valuable. And it is true to my heart.
This possibility is prayer.
The prayer that I will propose is a prayer of thanksgiving.
There are as many variations on this as there are stars in the universe. You will find your own authentic variation. Your own song-prayer.
Here’s something to riff off of.
Oh Lord, thank you for this perfect moment. Thank you for this gift of discomfort that offers the opportunity to wake up from the trance of winning and losing.
Thank you for the possibility of humility and the discovery now of my inherent innocence.
Though I notice my impulses of reactivity – the lashing out, the writhing, the despair, the anger, the fear – I choose to stop now. I choose now to receive your Grace.
I see in this moment of Grace my arrogance in believing that I knew better when in truth I know nothing at all. I confess that I truly know nothing at all. And I look sincerely in my heart of heart and see the truth of this confession.
I give thanks for the miracle that is occurring right now. This present miracle is the revelation that what I had wrongly imagined was my enemy is in fact none other than Grace. What I had worked so hard to get rid of is my most perfect salvation.
It is a salvation so perfect and so instantaneous that it is completely beyond all concept and all striving. Your perfect Grace in this moment now reveals inescapable humility.
With gladness and thanksgiving I bow down and receive this Grace now.
Like I said, this is something you can riff on. Allow an authentic expression to come forth from your heart.
You can substitute words if my words offend you too much. Maybe words like “Lord” and “God” and “Grace” are too charged for you. Fine. Do what you need to do.
But hear me on this. Don’t think you know better. Don’t believe that you have some pure and perfect way that transcends this simple, innocent way.
Be willing to be humble and to receive the Grace that is so freely and endlessly offered every moment. All it takes is to soften your heart enough to allow your authentic prayer-song to express.
Just the word “fear” probably triggers a fearful response.
Because it’s always there. If not overtly, it’s just below the surface, ready to bubble up at a moment’s notice.
Most of us think our goal is to extinguish fear. We think we are to get rid of it once and for all. And then we’ll be spiritually victorious!
Isn’t that so? Isn’t that the goal of most so-called spirituality? In fact, we don’t even have to be so lofty as to reach for spirituality to have this goal. It is the goal of most of human activities, isn’t it?
It’s why we try to amass more and more wealth. It’s why we try to “better ourselves”. It’s why we try to be healthy.
We want to defeat fear.
And what happens? Have we won?
Tell the truth. The more we try to defeat fear, the more it grows. It looms large in the shadow that grows ever larger as we try to ignore it.
Let’s switch gears for a moment to a biology lesson.
There’s a guy named Stephen Porges who is a fancy professor at some fancy college. I don’t remember which. It doesn’t matter.
He has a theory. He calls the theory the Polyvagal Theory, which sounds fancy.
His theory says that organisms on this planet have evolved three layers of strategies – specifically within the vagus nerve – for dealing with possible threats. Each layer can be conceptualized as being more evolved (i.e. more advantageous) than the others “below” it.
The first and least advantageous is the freeze response. Possums demonstrate this well.
When a possum is threatened, it is well-known for “playing possum”. That is, it appears to be dead. It becomes motionless. Its vital signs diminish. Poke it, prod it…it is dead as far as you can tell.
But it ain’t playing when it “plays possum”. It is in a freeze response. It is a biological reaction. And according to Porges, this is mediated by the lowest layer of the vagus nerve.
For you and me, it doesn’t matter whether this is mediated by the vagus nerve. We don’t care. I’m only mentioning it just because of the context of this explanation. But you really can ignore that part if it sounds too complicated. Just know that this is one possible reaction.
Possums do it. They don’t have a choice. That’s their biology. And I think that Porges says that reptiles do it and many fish do it. Lots of animals that have vagus nerves that aren’t highly evolved do it…and don’t have a choice.
You and I could also “play possum”. This happens to people. But we have a choice. We have other options available to us.
And for us, freeze is the least desirable option.
Why? Because it is very, very stressful. It’s not “play”. It’s for real. The body actually mimics death.
And sometimes possums and reptiles and fish…and humans if they do it…actually DO die from it. Because it is the body trying to get as close to death as possible without actually dying. Which is a fine line.
This is useful if, for example, you’ve been pinned to the ground by a 200 pound angry mountain lion who mistakenly thought you were trying to hurt her young. You aren’t going to outfight the mountain lion. So maybe your best bet is to appear dead. Maybe she’ll leave you alone then.
But otherwise, it’s not what you want.
The next more evolved option according to Porges is the fight-or-flight response. Animals with less evolved vagus nerves can’t do this (so says Porges). But you and I can.
Which means we can try to protect ourselves. We can even try to protect others.
This is great…if there is a real threat.
But 99% or more of our perceived threats aren’t real. And while this response is useful for real threats, it comes at a cost. Because it is distressing. It exhausts us. And it conditions us to expect threats, to become paranoid, to be on guard. When we are conditioned to be on guard, we are constantly churning, never truly at rest. Never actually enjoying life.
Stop now and take an honest inventory of the perceived threats in your life. Tell the truth. They are almost entirely imaginary.
Yes, they *might* come true. Of course, of course. But are they real RIGHT NOW?
Clearly they are not. No actual harm is coming to you now. No TRUE threat is upon you right now.
99% or more of your perceived threats are entirely in your imagination.
And this is why you should be glad to know that as a human you are gifted with a wonderful capacity for what Porges called the soothe response. This is (according to Porges) the most evolved response.
It doesn’t matter if Porges is right about any of the biology. We can actually just observe this in our own experience. Just observe what happens if you start to worry, get uptight, react fearfully, keep up your guard, etc.
And then observe what happens if you choose – yes *choose* – to stop that. Choose peace. Choose to acknowledge that your perceived threats are imaginary. Choose to acknowledge that you truly don’t know.
At first this may seem difficult. It may seem impossible. Because you’re not practiced at it. You may be practiced at freaking out.
But don’t give up just because it’s challenging.
This is why in spiritual traditions there have been many who have reported that they simply had to trust their teachers.
You and me, us mere mortals, us flawed and imperfect humans…we have to choose to trust out teachers when they assure us that something greater is real and true and possible.
We have to choose to believe that and to continue to choose and act in accordance with that. Because if we don’t, we will only repeat what we’ve always done.
And you know what you’ll get if you keep doing that. More of the same. In other words, more fear. More choosing fear.
So trust me. I have trusted my teachers, and I have glimpsed this truth that I tell you.
I tell you from actual experience that fear is a choice.
And peace is a choice.
When the reaction occurs, let that be a reminder. Let it wake you up.
In the moment of the reaction is a powerful opportunity to wake up now.
Wake up now and CHOOSE peace now.
The habitual mind will throw a fit. It will churn up all the images and memories and reasons why to continue to choose fear. It will scream about how there’s not enough good and life is unsafe and nothing ever works out and you’re a failure and blah blah blah.
If the reasons sound familiar, that’s a really good indication that they’re just repetitive untruths passed down from countless generations of unhappy people.
Don’t choose the same.
Choose to wake up now.
It’s not hard. It’s easy. Waking up is easy.
Choosing peace is the difficult part.
Not impossible. And not unpleasant. But I won’t lie to you…it is difficult sometimes when the habitual mind is churning up all the reasons to choose fear.
But you and I can tell the truth. Telling the truth is our great tool that gives us victory.
Simply tell the truth by looking honestly and relentlessly. Is there a true threat now? Is the mountain lion about to pounce? Is the gun to your head now? Is this your last breath now?
If not, choose peace now.
Choosing peace does not mean the intensity goes way. It does not mean the feeling goes away. It does not mean the situation suddenly looks the way you think it should.
Choosing peace is choosing to tell the truth. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know.” Is the truth.
You can’t make that mechanical. You have to see the truth of it deeply now. Always now.
Seeing the truth of that now is peace.
It means that even if I am down to my last penny, even if I don’t know where my next meal is coming from, even if I have made terrible mistakes, even if I am in pain…I don’t know what this means, I don’t know if this is bad, I don’t even know what good or bad truly is.
Again, it doesn’t work to make this mechanical. This is not about applying some dead philosophy to try to anesthetize ourselves. It is not about getting rid of anything.
It’s about opening our eyes and hearts and minds to what is actually here and telling the truth deeply, which is that I don’t know that this is a threat. I truly don’t know.
And if I don’t know – if I can see that sincerely – then I also see that remaining with not knowing in this alive and open way, in this fully feeling way, is peace. The truth of peace. An alive peace. A peace of total possibility. A peace that knows no opposite.
This is to be completely alive.
And you can choose it.