4 years ago

What Does True Happiness Look Like?

We all have ideas about what happiness will look like. We imagine that it will look like the perfect circumstances – the ideal body or the ideal job or the dream car or the vacation in the Bahamas. But true happiness looks like exactly this. True happiness is right now. In fact, the pursuit of happiness is the only seeming obstacle to true happiness.

But this cannot be! Surely happiness is dependent on circumstances. Perhaps it doesn’t require a sweet vacation in the Bahamas. But at least it requires relative security and safety. Right? I mean, Maslow tells us of the hierarchy of needs. And that seems sensible enough. So isn’t happiness dependent on some circumstances, maybe even if not the exacting types of circumstances we imagine are necessary? Is true happiness possible when a gun is against your head? What about when your loved ones have just been killed? What about abject poverty? Surely these types of circumstances prevent true happiness.

Well, I’ve not experienced every possible set of circumstances. So I cannot state authoritatively that there are no circumstances that prevent true happiness. But I doubt it. The reason I believe that nothing can prevent true happiness is because in my own experience true happiness isn’t about the circumstances. it’s about meeting all circumstances exactly as they are rather than how I imagine them to be. There turns out to be a HUGE difference between what we typically think about circumstances and what things actually are. And this difference, in my experience, is the difference between suffering and true happiness.

I’ve heard it said that true happiness is not about getting what you want, but loving what you get. Although I think that particular wording can be misleading, I generally agree with this sentiment. Because in my experience true happiness has everything to do with how one perceives what is. I discovered true happiness when I discovered that I am true happiness already – that nothing can be added to that. In this awareness there is no need to improve circumstances in order to achieve happiness because happiness is already present. This doesn’t mean one might not have ambitions and goals and desires for relative circumstantial improvements. It just means that there is clarity about what will be gained or lost in all these pursuits – and that happiness cannot be lost nor gained.

joey_2008This post was inspired by a photo that my friend, Brian Marc Zimberg, sent me in an email yesterday. He must have been searching for photos of me on the internet, and he came across the image to the right. That’s from 2008. I was speaking at a conference in Pittsburgh. In some ways I was on top of the world at that point. At least in terms of circumstances. I had half a million dollars in the bank. I owned my own business. I could write my own ticket most places and most of the time. I was invited to speak at conferences around the world. My circumstances were pretty good by most standards. But I was miserable. And although I contend that happiness doesn’t look a certain way (in that there’s no circumstances that dictate happiness) I will say that true happiness expressing does have a look. And you can see from that photograph that I wasn’t expressing true happiness. I was miserable. I was anorexic. I was obsessive. I was dominated by compulsive rituals. I was fearful. I was terrified of life.

j1Here’s a photograph taken just a few days ago. I lost my business in 2009. I was horrifically sick with Lyme disease from 2010 until 2012. My bank account today is a tiny fraction of what it was in 2008. I’m no longer invited to speak at conferences in exotic locations. I live in a small, one-room house with my partner and our two children and our dog. But you can see, that I’m happy. This isn’t a happiness that depends on anything. This is a happiness that springs forth from the depths of emptiness and nothingness. There is no longer anyone or anything to defend or to gratify. And this happiness allows everything. It isn’t afraid of anger or sadness or sickness or loss.

But don’t be deceived into thinking that any of this means that you aren’t true happiness just because you still perceive that you are seeking for happiness. It just means that seeking is happening, and that seeking obscures clear seeing of ever-present true happiness. Everything that I have written in this post is just words that points to something. The words themselves are misleading. It seems inevitable that this is so. Language presumes a subject and an object and personal experience. But that is misleading. True happiness isn’t something that I have. It isn’t something that I have obtained. It isn’t something that I get to experience, even, despite the fact that I speak of it in this way. In truth, happiness is what is. And true happiness is all-inclusive. it isn’t limited to a particular sensation that you think of as happiness. It includes both that and everything else, including what you think of as sadness or anger. It’s what is present before, during, and after all of that. True happiness is the field of awareness from which all else springs forth. When you cease to seek for happiness then happiness is evident.

Of course, you cannot do the stopping of the search for happiness. Any doing is more seeking. And true stopping isn’t a doing. It’s the absence of doing. Happiness is what is present before, during, and after all doing. To know this directly right now all you need do is stop seeking. Stopping is not an action. It is the absence of action. And when you stop then what is clear is that there never was anyone doing. Doing simply arises in the field of awareness that you are. Doing is not personal. Suffering is not personal. Happiness is not personal. None of it is personal. It is just happening. And strangely, it is possible for nothingness to recognize itself as nothingness. This happens in an instant. And that instant is now. It is always now. When you see this…or rather, when this is seen…then it is possible that clarity remains as clarity regardless of what else is happening – even seeming seeking.

Yeah. It’s confusing. That’s because it’s not something you can understand. But you can experience it directly right now. Just notice right now where your thoughts come from. See how they arise from nothingness. See how this is all always happening right now in this empty field of awareness. Do this right now. It doesn’t require any effort. All that you need do is turn your attention to its source. See yourself as you are. You cannot see this as you normally see. You can see this by resting in the source of seeing. This is who you are.

4 years ago

Putting it on the line…

I know what it’s like. You’re hoping that you’ll become perfect some day. And until then, you’re going to keep beating yourself up for all your imperfections.

But what does it mean to be perfect? It’s nonsense. It’s just more seeking. It’s just a way of putting off true happiness.

Part of the problem is that are allowed to imagine that there are perfected beings somewhere. We imagine that Paramahansa Yogananda never had a wet dream. We imagine that Ramana Maharshi had a completely silenced mind. We imagine that Eckhart Tolle never has a single thought. But this is not a mature way of seeing things. And neither is it a mature way for people to represent themselves or others.

Part of the problem is that some of these supposed perfected beings have organizations built up around them. These people’s jobs depend on the organization being financially successful. That means good marketing and good PR. But it also means misrepresentation. We’re given a very crafted view into the lives of these people. It’s not the whole truth. It’s just a partial truth.

Do I disagree with the essential message that Gangaji shares or that Eckhart Tolle shares? No. But the message isn’t enough. We need a new level of transparency from our teachers. Not that I’m suggesting that these teachers are doing anything wrong. But I’m suggesting that for those who are seeking it is better to find teachers who are more transparent because this helps to clear away the misunderstandings.

If all we see of a teacher is what we see in meetings or events, then we may get a very distorted view, particularly if the events are staged. And again, I’m not suggesting that there’s something wrong with staged events. To some degree it’s inevitable because there’s a certain protocol to an event that dictates that people take on roles. There’s the teacher and the students or the speaker and the audience. This creates a disconnect. The students or the audience then is allowed to imagine that the speaker or the teacher is something special in some way. And in their imaginations they come up with what that something special might be. Because there isn’t greater transparency then imaginations run wild.

So I’m going to let you in on a secret. Every human is just human. Those who are free of suffering are just as human as you. They shit too. They get angry too. They make mistakes. They aren’t superhuman. They’re just human. They are fallible.

The difference between those who don’t suffer and those who do isn’t that one group is particularly special or different. It’s just that those who don’t suffer stopped believing that there’s anyone to suffer. That’s all. And when there’s no one to suffer then nothing sticks. Everything is happening. And none of it is personal. And you cannot get that by emulating their behavior. Because by and large it has nothing to do with behavior. At least not from anything you can observe.

When you’re confused and in the dark about this, when you still imagine that there’s someone to suffer, then you will try to emulate behavior. Even though I tell you not to. You’ll do it anyway. I know, because I did that too. But believe me, it has nothing to do with whether you are celibate or not or vegetarian or not or wear flowing clothing or not or practice meditation or not. Nothing you can do will give you want you are seeking.

The only thing that will give you what you are seeking is the end of seeking. And that is not something you do. It is something that you stop doing. It is not something that requires effort. It is the absence of effort.

But in the confused state you will likely imagine that what is effortless is effortful and what is effortful is effortless.

So let me point you in the right direction.

Right now, notice that things are happening. Your heart is beating. Sounds are happening. Eyes are blinking. Thoughts are arising. Sensations are happening. It’s all happening without effort. This is always already the case.

Notice that you attempt to figure it out and make sense of it. Notice that your attention goes to thought about what it means. Notice that the thought “thoughts are the problem, I must stop my thoughts” is just another thought. Notice that you cannot stop your thoughts. Notice that all of this is just happening. And notice that when you let it all go, it happens all the same.

Notice that the only difference between holding on and letting go is that letting go is real and involves no suffering. Holding on doesn’t create someone to suffer. It just presupposes someone to suffer. There’s no one to suffer. There never has been. There is no one to hold on and no one to let go. But the illusion of someone holding on can let go and discover what is true.

You can’t make sense of this. Because this words attempting to point to what is beyond concept.

There are plenty of teachers who suggest that there is nothing you can do about any of this. After all, they say, there is no one to do or not to do. And maybe that is true. Ultimately it’s all a mystery. But within the mystery it seems as though you can choose. And the choice you can make is to let go of what is not and recognize what is.

Although this makes no sense, I find that the simplest, most direct way to let go is to trick your attention into turning back to itself. See the previous post for the instructions for how to do this.

As usual, if you have comments or questions, I’d enjoy hearing from you.

4 years ago

How to End Suffering. Seriously.

Do you want to stop suffering? Well, I’ve got good news and bad news for you. Which do you want first?

Okay. The bad new is that I cannot stop your suffering. That’s not within my power to do.

The good news is that I can tell you how to stop suffering. I can give you precise directions. And as much as anyone can guarantee anything, I can guarantee that if you follow these precise directions then you will no longer suffer.

In fact, not only will you cease to suffer if you follow these directions. You will discover that you are the true source of joy. But this is not as you imagine it will be. In fact, it is exactly like right now. So the trouble isn’t with circumstances. The only trouble is with what you give attention to. And up to now you’ve given your attention to a very limited part of life rather than remaining with the source of all that is.

Are you confused yet? Good. Because disorientation may well be an essential ingredient to the end of suffering. Why? Because the path you’ve been walking has been leading you in the wrong direction. But you’re so addicted to that path that as long as you can still find the path, you keep walking it. So I’m mixing you up so that you can start to go in the right direction.

So what is your suffering? We all have different names for our suffering. I was OCD and anxious. I was paranoid. I was MCS. I was anorexic.

What names do you give to your suffering?

I’m going to let you in on a big secret that will completely change your life when you really hear this. Are you ready? Seriously. This is very, very important if you want to stop suffering.

Here’s the secret: the seeking for an answer is the suffering.

Here’s another secret that hardly anyone is telling you: it’s all seeking.

Whether you think you are trying to solve a problem like anxiety or pornography addiction or OCD or abusive anger…or if you think that your problem is that you long for God or Nirvana or Brahman or Cosmic Consciousness or whatever your particular flavor happens to be, then it’s all still seeking. Can you see that? In all forms of suffering the seeking is what is common. The objects of the seeking may be different, but the seeking itself is always the same.

Now, you may say that you’re suffering is different. You may believe that your suffering is because of what happened to you as a child. Or it’s because of malnutrition. Maybe you believe your suffering is because of your economic or social circumstances. Well, then keep on seeking. Because I don’t have the answers you’re looking for. In fact, I don’t have any answers. I’ve just got the end of the searching for answers to non-existent problems. And yeah, I know that I’ve just lost 99% of you. That’s alright. Most people aren’t ready to stop seeking for answers.

I remember what it was like to keep on seeking. I know the pain of that. I remember sitting in my apartment in Vermont praying for hours and hours on end that there might be an end to the suffering – an end to the seeking. I would go to sleep every night and pray that something magical would happen in the night as I slept that would change everything so that upon waking in the morning I would no longer suffer. I would no longer seek for the answers.

I had searched and searched and searched. I read Osho and Papaji and Eckhart Tolle. I attended satsang after satsang. I meditated for hours a day. I had to have the answer. I had to discover the truth. I was desperate. I was on fire with the desire for true and abiding peace.

And still, every morning I would wake up, and I would find that I was still me – still the seeking me, the obsessive me, the compulsive me, the anxious me, the fearful me, the separate me. And so it would all start all over again.

Things got worse and worse over the years. I was a mess. I was terrified that if I didn’t wash my hands and rub them together exactly nine times that God (even though I didn’t believe that I believed in a personal God…since that wasn’t very hip in satsang circles) would punish me by withholding spiritual enlightenment for even longer!

This continued for years. I was writhing in pain, unable to sleep at night, sick with Lyme disease in a drafty cabin in the woods of Maine. I was so mentally-constipated that I started flying into a rage at the drop of a hat. I was paranoid. I cannot even begin to do justice to the psychological anguish I experienced. And still I sought after what I imagined to be the truth. I would read Nirmala and Joan Tollifson. I would watch Tony Parsons videos on YouTube. I even bought a phone card to make overseas phone calls to Richard Sylvester in the U.K.

So I know a thing or two about suffering. I know that it sucks. And if I could, I would tap you on the forehead and wake you up. I would end your suffering. But I don’t know how to do that. If it worked that way, then surely we’d all be awake to the truth by now.

But although I cannot tap you on the forehead and wake you up, I can point you in the right direction. And, I can give you guidance. I have traversed the path, and so I can take your hand and show you the way. But whether or not you will hear me or believe me or understand me is not something I get to control. Whether you will actually take my hand and walk this path with me, I cannot know.

All I can do is make the offering.

I hope you receive it. I hope you do because I want to see you know yourself as you are. I want you to know yourself as true peace and freedom. I want this for you because I know how wonderful it is. And I know that it is truly available for each of us when we know where to look. It’s not difficult. It’s not a long process. It’s actually way simpler and easier than you have ever imagined. It’s actually instantaneous. And it can only happen right now.

I can show you how. I just cannot guarantee that you’ll do it or that you’ll understand it.

I understand why you are confused. And please admit that you are confused. Because this is an important first step. If you think you know then you are already full. And true freedom is emptiness. So just for this moment be willing to admit that you are confused.

The reason you’re confused is because you are still looking for the answer “out there.” You think that when you get more information then you’ll understand. But the more you seek, the more confused you get.

Consider for a moment: what is clarity? Isn’t it when things are…clear? Clarity is not a thing. It is the natural state that is evident when you no longer are cluttering your vision.

But don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t about stopping anything. I’m not inviting you to take on a new compulsion of trying to stop everything or get rid of everything. Because that won’t work. That just leads to more clutter. Because now instead of looking for the answer in all the clutter, you clutter your vision with all the attempts to clear your vision.

It’s so much simpler than that. It’s much closer than that.

When I was confused, part of my confusion was trying to figure out what to do about the confusion. I tried lots of things, including LSD and meditation and prayer and satsang. I did rebirthing and listened to Alan Watts. I practiced yoga. I did pranayama. I did qi gong. All that I did was an attempt to figure something out. I thought that I could solve the problem through seeking out the answers.

This seeking is the confusion. When you are confused you overlook the real answer. And the real answer is to stop the seeking. When you cease to look for an answer then you realize that the whole premise was false. There never was a problem. Or, rather, the whole problem was the seeking for an answer to a non-existent problem. It’s like a dog chasing his tail. Even if you get the answer, you’ll just end up biting yourself in the ass! It’s not the true answer because there is no true problem.

You find that hard to believe because you have a true problem. I know. I was there. I had real problems. Really. I was on the edge of death. Literally. I was really sick. Not just mental constipation, but physiological sickness. I was so sick I couldn’t stand for days at a time. And still I kept on seeking for answers.

But believe it or not, there are no true problems. There is only what is happening. And what is happening is the totality of what is. This is not a problem. It just seems like it because you’re seeking for an answer. Consider that for a moment: when you seek for an answer you are presupposing that there is a problem.

Now, am I suggesting that you shouldn’t get out of the way of a semi-truck about to mow you down? No. Of course not. Knowing that there are no problems doesn’t suddenly make you suicidal or brain-dead. Actually, in my experience, it’s quite the opposite. Suicidal impulses (I’m speaking from my own experience) are a product of seeking.

But hold on a second. Because I know that the danger here is that you’ll try to take on a new belief that there are no problems. That won’t work. That’s just more seeking. Now you’re trying on for size the new answer: “there are no problems.” But you’re still presupposing that there is a problem!

Are you ready for the secret for how to stop seeking? I’m going to tell you, and then I know what will happen; 99% of you will dismiss this. You’ll think that it is too simple. Or you’ll try it and decide that it doesn’t work because it doesn’t solve all your problems. But I promise you that this is it. If you want to stop seeking and stop suffering then this is the only way to do it of which I am aware. It is so simple that anyone can do it. It is so direct that it produces immediate results. And it will work every time. But it’s not glamorous. It’s not going to produce a spiritual fireworks display most of the time. It’s not going to get you out of debt overnight. It’s not going to make you drop 50 pounds in a week. It’s not going to give you what you think you want. But it will definitely give you what you truly want – true freedom. At least I believe that. Maybe I’m wrong. But the only way to know is to do it. So are you ready?

The secret is to turn your attention from what you think about what is happening and give your attention to what is happening. This is very, very simple. In fact, it’s so simple that it’s effortless. The effort is all in giving your attention to the thinking and the story about what it all means.

Now, I know that I heard this message many times for years before I finally “got it.” So I do understand that if I left you with just that then 99% of the 1% who actually are still reading at this point would fail at this. But don’t worry. I’m going to give you very clear instruction.

Again, much of the problem is that you’re confused. I know because I was confused too for a long time. I heard the message to be with what is directly instead of giving attention to the story, but somehow I never actually understood it. And until you have the experience of being with what is, without jumping to the abstract thought about what it is, then you’ll remain confused. The reason is that once you experience what I’m pointing to, then you will no longer have so many doubts. Because this experience is so direct and immediate and clear that you will know what I am talking about from here on out.

The confusion arises from the fact that you have lived for so long in a very narrow way. You’ve imagined that reality is only knowable through your thoughts. You even think about your emotions and the sensations in your body. Instead of simply being the direct experience of what is happening, you give it a name. You call it sadness or anger. You call it pain or pleasure. But in doing so, you miss out on what is more immediate than that.

What is more immediate than thought is the direct experience. So let me guide you through an exercise that will give you the direct experience.

I call this exercise the Big Chill. You can do this any time, but it tends to be most profound when you are experiencing a “problem.”

The first step is to notice that your attention is on thought. You can notice that your attention goes to the analysis of what this is, what it means, and what you need to do about it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you’ll get a better sense of this the more you stay with this.

The second step is to notice that in your body there is a physical sensation. If you’re experiencing a “problem” then the chances are that this physical sensation is something that you habitually avoid. You probably avoid the sensation by jumping right to the thoughts about it rather than experiencing it directly. So what you are going to do now is meet this sensation directly without going to thought for help in trying to solve the “problem.”

Attention is a funny thing. It likes to have something to focus on. I’m going to show you how to direct your attention to focus on awareness, which is another way of describing the totality of life. The way to do this is not how you would imagine, however. The reason is that awareness is not an object. So if you look for it, you will not find it. In order to have attention focus on awareness, you have to trick yourself to stop looking for an object. I’ll show you how to do this.

The next step is to begin to scan your body using your attention. Move your attention to the top of your head, and begin to scan down your body, part by part, until you get to the bottoms of your feet. At each part, simply notice what is happening. Don’t try to change it. Just notice. Be curious. Notice how you’ve never really done this before. Notice that you’ve usually jumped right to thinking about what is happening instead of actually noticing what is happening.

Continue to scan the body from head to toe over and over again. Each time, simply notice what is happening. Simply notice what changes. You’ll notice that what is happening is always different. Thought tells us otherwise. But thought isn’t very sensitive. Thought is rather blunt. We apply names to experience, and we miss out on what is actually happening. Because the truth is that every moment is new and different. What you have called pain or sorrow or frustration or anger or joy or freedom or anything else isn’t the same in the next instant. So stay with what is actually happening rather than giving it a name. Just experience it. Just notice how it changes. Be curious.

What you’ll likely notice is that as you do this, your attention will start to naturally become attracted to something that is even nearer than the sensation, even nearer than the experience. You cannot force this. But you can allow it. Stay with the process because this process starts to turn your attention in the opposite direction from that which it is accustomed to going. And when your attention gets turned in this way, then you can notice this thing that is not a thing. This is awareness. This is you as you truly are. You are formless. You cannot see yourself. But you can recognize yourself. And when you turn in this way, attention naturally becomes attracted to its source.

As I said, it’s not glamorous. I don’t promise you that you’ll find yourself bowing before the Guru’s feet. Nor do I suggest that your mind will unfold like a thousand-petalled lotus. You’re not particularly likely to meet Krishna or Jesus through this practice. But you can discover yourself.

This is unlikely to ever be popular. Because, let’s face it, most people are addicted to seeking. They’re not ready to stop. They’d rather pay $1000 for a mantra and the promises of special powers than take a moment to recognize what is always here already. That was me too. I didn’t believe it could be so simple. But it is. Really. Suffering is complicated. Freedom is simple.

Freedom is the simplest thing ever.

Freedom isn’t glamorous. As I write this I’m wearing the same pants I’ve worn for a few weeks. I’m typing next to my daughter who is taking a nap. I’m next to her because we live in a one-room casita. There are flies buzzing around. My partner and our son are out for the day. My partner is the one who normally picks up around the house, so right now the counter is stacked with dirty dishes and empty food containers.

It’s not glamorous. It’s free. It’s true freedom. It’s the freedom to finally be who you are. This is a real relief.

Freedom doesn’t give you anything. It takes away. It takes away all that is false. It takes away suffering.

So go ahead. Go read the next book. Get the next practice. Seek some more.

But when you’re done seeking, then you discover this.

So now you may have some questions. Post your questions in the comments section below or send me an email at joeylott@gmail.com (I’m very approachable.) When I receive questions, I’ll add them here along with my responses.

 

Q: I’m not experiencing anything like what you talk about when you describe the Big Chill. Am I doing something wrong?

Probably. You need a certified Big Chill trainer to check your practice.

Seriously, though, whatever you are experiencing is exactly what you are experiencing. Just stay with that. Just notice what you are experiencing. Notice how thoughts arise. Notice that “I’m not experiencing anything like what you talk about” is another thought. You have a choice to either jump to the thought or to stay with the direct experience.

At first this practice can be odd because you may be accustomed to always jumping to thoughts. As such, when you stay with the direct experience you may initially think that what you are experiencing is “nothing.” But that’s just from the perspective of thought. Thought cannot know what is. Thought is just thought. It’s not good nor bad. It’s just limited because it is only thought and life is so much more. So from the perspective of thought what is happening may seem “blank” or “boring” or “difficult” or any number of other things. But just notice that those are all just names – which is to say, more thoughts.

In my experience, doing the body scans without trying to change anything (with a curious attitude) is the most direct way to trick your attention into turning toward its source. So my encouragement is that you stay with the process. As long as you are genuinely giving attention to noticing what is happening in the body (without trying to change it) then this ought to turn your attention toward its source. The obstacle may be that you are still giving attention to thoughts about what is happening instead of what is happening.

Q: How can I know the difference between what is happening and thoughts about what is happening?

Thoughts are part of what is happening. So are sensations. So are memories. So are sounds. It’s all what’s happening. So it’s not that you should ignore thoughts. The danger here is that sometimes misunderstand the instruction and then believe that they should try to ignore or deny or stop thoughts. They try to make thoughts bad. There’s nothing wrong with thoughts. Don’t do anything with thought. Let thoughts happen as they do. Just notice that they are happening.

Typically I find that the instruction to give attention to the sensations in the body without trying to change anything is the most effective. I suspect this is because sensations are closer to the source than are thoughts. (Of course this is utter nonsense since there is no such thing as distance from the perspective of totality. But somehow this instruction seems to be effective.) In any case, just become curious to see and experience all that is happening as it is rather than as you think it to be. Start to be curious about what a sensation feels like rather than what you think about it. Don’t even give names to how the sensation feels. Just feel it. And regarding thought, start to be curious about what the actual experience of the arising of a thought is rather than the thought about a thought.

If you’re giving labels to experiences then that’s a pretty clear indicator that you’re giving attention to thought instead of staying with the direct experience. This isn’t wrong. It’s not bad. You haven’t failed. That’s all just more thought. Instead, just stay with the process. Do the body scan and be curious.

Q: I notice that my body seems to relax as I do this process. Is that normal?

It’s pretty normal. It’s not the goal. But it is a by-product. And a rather pleasant one at that.

When I first discovered this practice I was in a very, very desperate point in my life. Mood swings is too mild of a term. I was suicidal and angry.

I started to notice that physical tension accompanied the emotional distress. During that time I played around with attempting to directly physically relax. It was very effective. But it was also extremely difficult to maintain because I was directly confronting the habit of responding to life with resistance and tension.

So it was years later that I finally discovered this better, gentler, and more effective approach. Rather than trying to relax, all you need to do is notice what is happening. There is a natural intelligence within the body, and typically when you give attention to what is actually happening (rather than what you think is happening) this give the intelligence a chance to produce a relaxed state.

Although being relaxed is enjoyable and the most appropriate response in most circumstances, the goal is not to be relaxed. Because if that was the goal then it would make freedom dependent on relaxation. And that is not the case. Freedom is primary. Freedom is not dependent on any circumstances. You are free whether you are fixated on thought or not. you are free whether you are tense or relaxed.

So physical relaxation is often a rather pleasant by-product of turning your attention to its source. It’s not a requirement. And I wouldn’t recommend giving much attention to it. Just enjoy it as what is right now!

Q: It sounds as though you searched for spiritual enlightenment rather intensely. Do you think that is necessary to discover the true freedom that you describe?

No. I don’t.

First of all, let’s be clear. I think the whole idea of spiritual enlightenment is crap. It’s just another thing to seek after. It’s just another carrot on a stick. It’s not reality.

Reality is the ever-present, unconditional freedom that knows no opposite. You already are this freedom.

So why don’t you know this already? Because you’re still seeking. My advice is that you stay with what is instead of jumping to the thoughts about what it means. Notice that right now there is what is happening. And notice that your attention is going to a very specific and narrow part of that – the thoughts about what it is and what it means.

Stay with what is, which includes the thoughts, but isn’t defined by the thoughts.

Perhaps the other part of your question has to do with understanding what it is that causes someone to be ready to actually look for themselves and stay with direct experience. And that is a mystery. That is why I say that I can give you the instruction that will point you to true freedom, but I cannot guarantee that you will hear it or heed it.

But if you’re waiting for someone to do it for you, then you’ll be waiting forever. We’ve all heard the exciting tales of the people who seek out the guru in the Himalayas who awakens to endless bliss when the guru touches her on the forehead. That’s just another story to keep you seeking. It just keeps you in suffering. The answer is to stop seeking. And the most effective way I know of to do that is to turn your attention to direct experience, which draws attention back to its source.

Q: How can I know when my attention is resting in the source?

You’ll know because you won’t be looking for answers any longer. You won’t have any problems.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that shit won’t still happen. If you live in California then you’ll still be at relatively high risk of experiencing earthquakes. If you live in Florida then you’ll still experience hurricanes. There will still be misunderstandings. Cancer still happens. Nuclear disasters still happen. Shit still happens.

Q: So what do you mean when you say that I won’t have any problems?

What I mean is that you won’t be seeking for answers to insoluble things. This is suffering. Suffering can be of two basic sorts:

The first sort of suffering is suffering that is a complete fabrication. I used to wash my hands countless times every day. (Okay, I probably did count…but that was more of the same problem!) It wasn’t because my hands were dirty. It was because I was afraid not to. So what was the real problem? There was no real problem. It was a complete fabrication. The suffering was real. It’s just that there wasn’t actually a problem.

The second sort of suffering is when you are presented with a situation in which you cannot do anything to change the situation, but you desperately try to change it. As an example, I have breasts. I’m a man with breasts. This used to be a problem for me. Now it’s not. Or, rather, it never was a problem. Now I see that clearly. And it’s much more enjoyable to see clearly.

4 years ago

Now

I’ve been promoting Peaceful Possibility lately – running ads on Google and Facebook. Several interesting things have come from this. For one, I’ve learned that I have much to learn when it comes to marketing. My pages look terrible at the moment – and EVERYONE judges a book by its cover, so to speak. So I’ve got some work to do on that front. I know that the content – the essential message and teaching – is the best in the world. Truly. I believe that. But few people are finding it because it’s not super slick. And while I could lament that people are fickle and that they should want what is offered regardless of the slickness of the presentation, that would be silly. Because the truth is that things are what they are, and if I want to reach people with the teaching, then I’ve got to speak into their listening and image into their visioning, etc. So, no big deal. It’s a process. It’s quite interesting to learn these things and to improve my presentation and marketing skills.

Many other things have come from this recent marketing experiment. However, the one that I want to mention here is the interesting phenomenon of The Power of Now and Be Here Now – these teachings that have by now become part of our language. Some of the ads that I’ve run that got the most clicks (though not necessarily any subscribers since my pages are terrible – though to be fair, they could definitely be worse) were ads mentioning the Power of Now and Be Here Now or suggesting that I will teach people how to be “more in the present.” Now, none of that is explicitly dishonest on my part, because I am genuinely appealing to those with such interests because I know that I can offer them insights that will give them greater peace and freedom in life.

So what is my message to people seeking to be “more in the now?” My message is simple: anything that you imagine to be other than the now is only imagination (that is happening right now.) This is not mere a factually obvious statement – this is a very powerful truth when you begin to live it rather than just think about it. How can you live it? Well, you already are living it. But you can begin to experience this more intimately when you become aware of the choice of this moment. And that choice is, will you hold on to what is not or will you let go? When you start to look closely, you notice the obvious truth that there is nothing that you can actually hold on to. Oh, sure, you can hold on to a potato or a Big Mac or a iPhone. But even that gets tricky when you take a closer look because it starts to get obvious that there are no such things. But that’s not even what I’m talking about. I’m talking about thoughts, ideas beliefs, identities, and so forth. These things don’t even exist. They are only of the past, and there is no past other than what is imagined to be, and that takes place right now, always now. So again, the choice in this moment is will you hold on to what is not, what never was, what never will be? Or will you let go? The fear is that if I let go then I will lose something. But notice how ridiculous this is? What will you lose when the only things you could hold on to are not! Or, I guess, you could lose something, but the only thing you could lose is the belief that there is something to lose.

And again, the choice of the moment – to hold on or to let go. Did you hesitate? Then the choice is gone. It’s now in the past. It’s now no longer. But the great news is that now there is the choice of this moment – to hold on or to let go.

No matter what has happened, there’s always this choice in this moment. I’ve had several conversations with a friend of mine lately in which he has made some rather odd comments about creating new habits. He implied that forming a new habit takes time. But truly, right now is when the new habit gets formed. It’s always right now. it doesn’t take time. It’s always happening right now. And this isn’t just some theory. This is the direct observable reality that we all experience every moment. It is the only truth. Anything else is fantasy – which is in the past and therefore is not.

4 years ago

The Ethics of Therapy/Energy Work/NLP/Tapping/et al

My partner, Sarah, has a table at the Santa Fe Artist Market on Sundays. I often drop her off in the morning, and I pick her up in the afternoon. This most recent Sunday Sarah told me of her new acquaintance she’d met during the market – a woman who now uses a wheelchair to get around because of multiple sclerosis. This woman confided in Sarah that over the years she has been approached by numerous so-called healers who have duped her into using their services because they promised that they could heal her. And none of them succeeded. But all of them took payment for services rendered.

So here’s my message to those who claim to be healers and engage in this sort of unscrupulous behavior: STOP IT because you’re hurting people. And I’m not just talking about those who take advantage of people in wheelchairs, either. I’m talking about Reiki practitioners who are suggesting that they have special powers beyond simply offering some relaxing time. I’m talking about those who offer channeled healings from the Ascended Masters. I’m talking about anyone who oversteps the clear bounds of what they can actually offer.

I think much of the problem may come from the fact that many so-called healers are, frankly, clueless as to what they are doing. Some of them may get some hit or miss results with clients. But the fact of the matter is that placebo is powerful. Relaxation is powerful. Hope is powerful. And perhaps even in many cases it’s just a matter of luck or Divine Intervention – depending on your religious persuasion.

It just seems deeply unethical to seek out potential victims for your “healing art.” I understand that we’ve all got bills to pay. But there’s a more ethical way to go about it. You can still sell your Reiki services or your Ascended Master channeling or your tapping services or your NLP services – because these services all likely have some honest value. But it’s unethical to misrepresent your services and then charge people for something other than what you claimed. Instead of promoting yourself as a Reiki Master Energy Healer Who Can Cure Everything, maybe it would be more honest to suggest that you offer a deeply relaxing space and intention that can facilitate the client’s innate healing powers. Because that is probably true. Relaxation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which means that healing potential is greatly increased. So that’s a valuable thing.

Or, let’s say you want to sell your tapping services. Well, no problem there. If you understand what you do properly then you can represent your services honestly and still offer something of genuine value. Tapping (EFT, etc.) creates a paradigm shift for most people not because of meridians or because of some special power in affirmations or even because of the tapping process itself. Rather, it offers a new way for a person to relate to their problems, and a new way for a person to understand themselves. Just by using a different strategy for a moment than one is used to can create profound changes. So a tapper could advertise that he or she uses a funny process to create changes in perspective than can offer the client unique insights that may result in profound changes in life. But, you see, that’s different than suggesting that you’ve got a cure-all for everything because of a special way of activating meridians and energy flow.

If you consider yourself to be a healer, then please take the time and invest the energy to truly understand your offering – not just a fantasy of your offering. And then represent yourself and your services honestly. Remember that these are real people you are dealing with. And how you treat them can have a lasting impact on their lives. And remember: do no harm.

4 years ago

Traumas Into Triumphs in Winnipeg

If you’re in Winnipeg, Manitoba and you’ve experienced any sort of trauma that is still burdening you in your life, then I’m happy to let you know of an event happening this November 13 in your city. My friend, Bernie Bowman, is holding an event called Butterflies by Bernie: Transform Your Traumas into Triumphs.

What makes this event particularly wonderful is that Bernie has transformed her own traumas into triumphs, and now she is sharing her wisdom. I have had the honor of working with Bernie, and I’ve seen the remarkable transformations in her life. She is the survivor of traumas in which she lost three family members to violent crimes. She suffered for years until she developed the skills and the insights to turn her life around. Her story is remarkable and truly inspiring to those who presently suffer from traumas. She stands as a testament to the possibility of true transformation and living a life of peace. Plus, she is now sharing not only her own experience and her own transformation, but also he recently-certified skills as a TFT practitioner.

So if you’re in the Winnipeg area and you want to change your life for the better, check out this event. It’s totally free, and Bernie promises that you’ll learn some skills to change your life.

You can learn more about the event, including contact information and RSVP details by viewing the flyer.

4 years ago

What People Think (About You)

Tell the truth. Raise your hand if you let your fear of what other people might think about you constrain you and limit you. Well, there you go. At least you’re not alone!

So lately I’ve been reflecting upon this. And then, in a very timely fashion, an acquaintance of mine shared with me some writing she’d found on the subject. And when I she’d read that to me, a light went on in my head: it’s not worth it to care what other people might think…not even just a little bit. Not even just once.

This, of course, may seem easier said than done. But I’m convinced that it’s actually much easier to be free than to live the rest of our lives in fear of what others might think. Or, at least, the latter sounds so awful that I wouldn’t even care how difficult it is, I’d do whatever necessary to be free!

I lived for twenty plus years without taking my shirt off where anyone could see me – even with lovers if I could get away with it. Why? Because I was terrified of what people might think. And then, I realized that the true pain wasn’t the fear – it was the layers of control and censorship and vigilance that I had grown to accept as normal.

In this article that my friend read to me, the author suggested that what we think of ourselves is more important than what others think of us. And, perhaps, I can see that there is some truth in that. Because, after all, if I can think good enough things about myself consistently, then it may give me courage to take my shirt off even if people laugh or point or snigger. But what about when I can’t muster up the positive self-thoughts? What about when the doubt creeps in? What about when I’m tired or having a bad day? Then will I have to shroud myself and run in shame?

But what about this instead? What about not giving undue importance to what anyone thinks – including yourself? In my experience this is the essence of true freedom.

So what are the ways in which we limit ourselves out of fear of what other people may think? And what do we hope to gain from that? Will it give us happiness? Peace? Love?

What is it that we really get when we live our lives according to our fears of what others may think? We get surrounded by people who “love” us for what we’ve projected. We get anxiety of being found out. We get loneliness. We may get anger or sadness that “no one truly understands us.” And we may feel that we’re missing out on life.

And what about when we live our lives according to what we ourselves may think? How we may approve or disapprove? We become both prisoner and guard in our self-made prisons. We are constantly watching ourselves. We are judging ourselves Condemning ourselves. Policing ourselves.

And what occurs to me is that when we give undue importance to what others (or ourselves) may think then we perpetuate this painful cycle of prostituting ourselves for the love and acceptance of others so that we subject posterity to more of the same.

Yet on the other hand, we have the possibility of being authentic in every interaction (or at least as often as we manage it…no reason to try and make it an all-or-nothing sort of thing) so that we begin a new cycle of true freedom and true love. Then our children and our children’s children and so forth get to be born into a world of more sanity. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful gift to give to them?

But mostly, truly, I just want to live fully – to be fully and completely alive in every moment, no exceptions. And if I give any of my attention to concerns about what anyone thinks about me then I feel that I’m missing out on the magnificent mystery of life. Of course, that’s not quite right. But then again, no words ever truly capture the essence of what is meant.

So let me try to say it again, although equally futilely. What I mean is that I’m certain that each and every one of us has unique and important gifts to share with the world – simply by being ourselves. We needn’t try to do that. We needn’t try to be ourselves. We are that when we let go and show up in life as we are – warts and all. There is no other you. You are needed. This is so obvious that it couldn’t be any more obvious.

Here’s my challenge to you (and to myself): be fearless. Be courageous. Trust that you are exactly as you should be – including the way you look, the way you talk, the way you act, and all that you are. Have the courage to be yourself without trying to be yourself. Just you, as you are, warts and all. No attempts to be better, more likable, more acceptable, or anything of the sort. Just you. And trust that this is enough.

4 years ago

New Videos About OCD

I’ve started a new series of YouTube videos about OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and how to recover naturally and fully for life. I’m passionate about this subject because I suffered tremendously from OCD for decades. It started out slowly and then grew worse and worse until by the time I was 30 I was performing rituals such as washing and counting (plus lots of strange mind games that are impossible to even describe) most of my waking hours.

I plan to keep adding more videos to this series, and I’ll post here when I do that.

Here are the videos I’ve just added:

What Causes OCD?

Is Recovery from OCD Possible?

Is It Possible to Stop Obsessive Thinking?

How Long Does Recovery from OCD Take?