Today I’ve got four emails to respond to.
Space, Awareness, Depression
The first email says:
Since researching non duality and becoming familiar with space and awareness I actually become really depressed because when i realised space is all we are I kind of lost hope for some reason and have not slept well and my stress levels have got worse. A close friend of mine who attends tony parsons satsangs told me he has had similar thoughts and emotions.I am wondering if this is normal?
Here’s my reply:
Yeah, somewhat unfortunately, it seems to be common. I think it comes from finally realizing on some level that the fantasy we’ve chased after is not going to happen – or if it did, it would be empty.
But at the same time, I have to say, I think it’s the result of still holding on to an old model of reality instead of just letting go entirely of models of reality and acknowledging that reality doesn’t need a mediator.
I’ve told this story before, but it’s probably worth telling again.
I became enlightened once upon a time. It was really delightful. And to those of you readers who have been reading my blog for a while, stop snickering. I’m serious. I really did become enlightened. At least I thought I was.
It lasted for a couple of months. And then one day suddenly it vanished.
And it was hell. I was crushed. I was horribly depressed because I had several months of being enlightened during which I knew that I would never suffer again. Suffering was impossible because everything was so clear.
At least I thought it was all so clear.
But blessedly – and I really mean that, it was really blessed that this happened – I had this insight that clinging to enlightenment was suffering. So I let go.
And to me, that is the real “enlightenment”. It’s not about permanent bliss. It’s about allowing everything. Or, rather, it’s about discovering that everything is allowed.
It’s hard to believe from the perspective of the one who is seeking for enlightenment that ordinariness would be preferable. But that’s my experience.
Why am I telling this story?
Because I think this whole business of becoming depressed because of “seeing that we’re only space” is still clinging to a story of self – like the story of the enlightened self. It’s not true and it is a form of suffering that is unnecessary.
The story of awareness or space is just a story. It’s not “the truth”. The only truth there is, is unmissable. This right now is the truth. Not “the truth”. But this is truthful. It cannot lie because this has no pretense. It is just what it is and doesn’t need to be and cannot be interpreted or understood.
So my suggestion, for what it is worth, is this: let go of the story about all we are is space. And let go of the story that any of this means anything – including depression and insomnia. Instead of trying to understand it, just notice that this is what is happening. This is already the truth.
Another person wrote me asking for my opinion about an article about free will in The Atlantic.
The article presents different arguments for why we should get rid of the superstition of free will versus why we should continue to perpetuate the superstition even though there is no free will.
But here’s was my main takeaway: it seems like there are a bunch of religious zealots masquerading as intellectuals and philosophers, trying to convert us to their religion so that we can collectively save the masses from their sins and ignorance.
At least for my part, I don’t want to start a movement. I don’t want to form a philosophy or religion. I don’t want believers. I don’t want any of that. Because I’m not trying to save the world or save individuals.
I don’t perceive that anybody needs saving.
And I see that all the attempts to save everybody haven’t worked out so well.
Scientific experiments to find out if there is free will or consciousness or matter or whatever may be the case are, frankly, dull. Because all that these things can bring about is more understanding – which misses the point.
When we think we understand, we are placing understanding as a mediating force between ourselves and life.
But what good comes from it?
All we get from the deal is some self-satisfaction for having understood something and a whole lot of sense of lack, aloneness, and isolation.
Whereas, what is freely available to all of us at all times is our actual experience. And if we simply let all the clutter of trying to understand settle for a moment, we may notice that our actual experience turns out to be ALL that is available.
But don’t turn that into a religion. Don’t post that as a quote on facebook. Just look for yourself. And see what you find. Don’t try to find what you think I’m telling you to find. Just look for yourself. That’s all.
Free Love and Utopia
Another emailer wrote me asking some questions inspired by a German community in Portugal (really) that advocates for free love as part of a plan to create a utopia.
Specifically, the emailer asks if free love without jealousy would be possible in the context of understanding that there is no separate self.
She also writes: “In the site they talk about the issues of sex and love, left unresolved mean we can’t generate peace in the world. I wonder what you think of this idea?”
And she adds, regarding a utopia: “I wondered what you think about this and what you think might be better for humans – to organise such a society or to realise they are not what they believe.”
I think we all experience fears that we desperately try to avoid. And so we will do just about anything other than meet them fully. We will remain monogamous when we don’t want to, we will engage in risky deceptions when we really want honesty, we will go to war, we will chase after utopias. All kinds of stuff.
The expression “the grass is always greener” comes to mind. Our avoidance of fear allows us to deceive ourselves into believing that the grass is always greener. If I’m unhappy in any way now then when I hear of a free love commune in Portugal I will think, “Hey, that sounds like the answer.”
But how many times do we have to do this before we realize what is going on?
Utopia is only necessary because we are trying to avoid what is happening – our fear right now.
At least my experience is that once I meet fear, I am no longer driven to solve all the problems. Because the problems are trying to avoid fear.
I’m not trying to suggest that anybody should strive to meet all fear and never avoid any fear and never have any interest or hope in utopias. I’m not sure that’s realistic. Nor am I saying that polyamory is wrong or that people shouldn’t be polyamorous…I think whatever floats your boat is great.
But we can at least look and be honest. We can see that moving to Portugal and having sex with Germans won’t solve our problems.
Yes, polyamory challenges us to face fears. So there’s that. I don’t think anybody can be successful in polyamory and avoid the fears specific to that. But it does seem naive to me to propose that polyamory will solve all the world’s problems and the lamb will lie down with the lion.
And the proposal for a utopia sounds so noble. But first we should look to see if we need it. Are we really so sure this isn’t already it?
Think about this for a moment. Polyamory challenges us to face specific fears. True. But so does life more generally. What if we face the fear of not being enough, of being wrong, of failing, of dying, or being shamed, of losing, of being alone, of being hurt? What if we face the fear of this being it?
Fourth email asks about spiritual bypassing. “Is spiritual bypassing like the ego, something lots of apparently enlightened people agree exists, but really doesn’t?”
My response is: yes.
I first heard of spiritual bypassing three years ago from a friend of mine who was once my “spiritual teacher”.
He told me that a lot of people are spiritual bypassing.
To which I say, “Bullshit.”
Nobody needs to achieve anything or arrive anywhere. You can’t get more enlightened. You can’t win at life. Nor can you lose.
What I will say is this: I have observed that life involves much less suffering when I am willing to allow everything, including the stuff I want to avoid such as fear, anger, boredom, etc.
You can’t screw up life. But you can waste a whole lot of energy trying to avoid life.
In a sense, the whole spiritual bypassing thing hints at this – that you can use all kinds of excuses, including so-called spirituality to justify ongoing, painful attempts to avoid life.
But the reason I don’t like the spiritual bypassing idea is that it implies that you should be doing something and that you could fail and that there is a purpose to all of this with you, the chooser/decider, at the center of all of it.
And that is counterproductive.
So forget about that nonsense.
Instead, my proposal is that if you truly let go of the spiritual bypassing idea and ALL ideas that suggest to you that you can somehow win at life if only you get it right, you’ll be left with all the stuff you were trying to avoid by clinging to ideas such as spiritual bypassing.
It’s often uncomfortable to really see that you can’t win. Because it means you can’t avoid discomfort and fear.
But that’s life.