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I can talk all kinds of fancy talk. I can know all the right answers. I can understand so many things…
And yet it does me no good at all.
In fact, my actions – the talk, the turning to answers, the dependence upon understanding – reveal where my loyalty really lies.
If I consult my mind, I am revealing that my loyalty is with the past, with self-defense, with fear, with arrogance.
And what will I get as a result? I will be rewarded richly by all that the conditioned mind has to offer. All the destruction, venom, hatred, pity, misery, defiance, righteousness, piousness, and so forth.
Now is the time for radical honesty. That is, if what I TRULY want is freedom. Which it is! I truly want freedom. So I must bring by actions into alignment with that true desire.
To bring my actions into alignment with that true desire requires first and foremost, radical honesty.
And that is the long and the short of it.
Step one is radical honesty. And there is no second step.
Radical honesty requires actually looking for myself truthfully right now.
Looking right now at the truth of what is right now.
Not blanking out. Not creating a new and more desirable state. Not seeking.
But actually looking honestly. And seeing the unthinkable pain and horror that my efforts generate.
That is radical honesty. But again, I have to actually look now and see this now. I can’t fall back on memory of having seen it in the past.
I have to look now.
I have to see how I am trying to defend myself right now. I have to see how I am trying to prop myself up right now. I have to see how I am trying to be right, right now.
If I think that none of these unpalatable things are true, I am lying to myself. I am narcotizing myself with lies.
Radical honesty is to see what is really happening. And that means seeing that all I conceive of myself as is lies and misery.
Everything I habitually do is lies and misery. I dress it up as being a promise of future salvation. I dress it up as hope. I dress it up and being right. I dress it up as progress. I dress it up…
But the deeper truth, the REAL truth is that all those actions produce misery now. They are all lies. They all rest upon the false notion that despite my complete failures to attain lasting happiness, I will succeed at some point in the future.
It is a lie! I must see it as such if I am sincere about freedom.
So my actions reveal my true loyalty. And if I am sincere in my loyalty to freedom, I can only demonstrate that by way of radical honesty.
Again, that radical honesty is the first and only step. There is no step two.
Radical honesty happens now. It means watching every compulsive behavior. Every compulsive turning to thought. Every compulsive grasping at promises. Every compulsive hope. Every compulsive attempt to fix, get rid of, get, solve, etc.
This sounds awful to my conditioned mind.
My conditioned mind thinks this is the stupidest idea ever. It thinks it knows better.
My conditioned mind – despite its utter failure to succeed in the only thing that truly matters – continues to lie and lie and lie. It says, “Sure, I failed all those other times, but THIS time I’m going to succeed. And anyway, my way is the only way there is!”
I’ve been led down that dark alleyway and mugged a million times. Will I do it again? Will I remain loyal to my mugger just because it claims that this time will be diffrent?
Or will I finally get an ounce of true intelligence and remain still?
The false self, the conditioned mind, wants to answer this question. It wants to think about it. It wants to imagine.
But I choose to remain with the question. Open. Unanswered. Alive.
My loyalty is with Truth only when I remain with it no matter what.
I sometimes I think that I feel bad.
By “bad” I mean any experience I think I don’t like. There are many variations on this theme. I might call one anxiety and another anger. Still another I might call physical pain. And another I might call disrespected. Impotence is another possibility. There are dozens or hundreds of variations.
All these different types of feeling bad have a shared underlying nature. Which is that they are all experiences that I think I don’t like.
What I learned from society is that when I think I feel bad, I should try to figure out how to feel better.
For most of my life I followed that conditioning blindly, unquestioningly.
I did that until it hurt so badly that I couldn’t go on doing that.
It hurt really badly. So badly that I stopped merely thinking that I felt bad. Instead, I started thinking that I felt so bad that I wanted out at any cost, even if that meant killing myself.
I hurt physically, emotionally, and psychically. I was in torment. Hell.
And I didn’t see any way out. I had TRIED to get out. I had tried really hard.
I thought of myself as an intelligent person. I had been told by society that I was intelligent. I was rewarded by society for being intelligent. I was told that I was successful.
But I couldn’t solve the most basic problem in my life. Which was that I was in torment. I couldn’t figure out how to get out of hell. In fact, the more I tried, the slipperier the walls of hell became and the more I slid into greater depths of torment.
I tried lots of what I thought were different approaches to curing myself. But I failed. And worse than failed, I had made things worse.
I thought that if I could not use my intelligence to succeed in escaping hell, I stood no chance. And so I genuinely considered killing myself. Not just once, but daily for years did I consider killing myself.
By grace a new thought occurred to me. Since I was fixated on thoughts, this was the way that something new had to enter my consciousness.
This new thought went something like this. “Before you kill yourself, don’t you think you ought to be sure that you’re right in your assessment?”
In other words, killing myself would have been drastic. And I hadn’t truly exhausted all possibilities. I had only exhausted the possibilities within the extremely limited world of me and my supposed intelligence.
That so-called intelligence is not real intelligence, by the way. All it really is, is a collection of ideas and interpretations of past experiences. It has no true foundation. It is like a castle in the air. It could appear impressive, but it is not rooted in reality. And therefore no matter how impressive it may appear, it is almost certain to be based upon wrong assumptions.
My so-called intelligence was based upon a lot of wrong assumptions. And one such assumption was that I knew the meaning of what I felt or experienced.
By grace I saw this. I caught a glimpse.
The glimpse was and is humbling. And humiliating. In my experience, I don’t get to enjoy the benefits of humility unless I am also willing to be humiliated all the way through to complete transparency.
The glimpse did and does reveal that I don’t know. I only assume.
This insight did not deliver me to an eternal free ride on the Freedom Express. What this insight did was show me the way to purchase a ticket to the Freedom Express.
The purchase method and the purchase price is everything. It costs everything that I think I know. Everything I think I am.
When I am willing to surrender everything, I wake up here now to true freedom. This freedom is unconditional. But to discover it here now I must give up my conditions.
If and when I think that I am feeling bad, I am presented with a double-edged sword. I can use it to leap into hell. Or I can use it to reflect the truth.
The truth is I don’t know. I don’t know what this feeling is or what it means.
All my ideas are based on past experiences. If I am dissatisfied with the results of the past, I will do well to admit that and not repeat the same idiocy in hopes of something new.
If I want something new, I have to admit that I don’t know the answer. I don’t even understand the problem. I don’t even know what this experience is or what it means.
When I open to newness that much – so much that I truly surrender my efforts to win even to the point of admitting that I don’t even know where to begin – then something truly new can enter.
This is in the opposite direction of what my conditioning says. It is in the opposite direction of what society says.
But I have to be honest. Honesty is that my conditioning has failed to produce satisfying results. And honesty is that society is a mess and that society rewards idiots, not true wisdom. So I am a fool to take direction from society.
Honesty is that I don’t know and nobody “out there” knows. The only truly honest thing and truly sincere thing I can do is nothing.
Instead of trying to fix my supposed problem (feeling bad), I choose to do nothing.
Doing nothing doesn’t mean zoning out. Doing nothing is very much alive. It is a fully present experience. It means I watch every impulse and I don’t energize it.
My habits, my conditioning, would have me doing a million different things, flailing about in desperate attempts to fix something – to feel better.
So doing nothing means I watch the impulses, watch the conditioned reactions, and rest instead of energizing them.
Sometimes it seems I’m being squeezed or crushed. I think, “This is very uncomfortable!”
But that is just more of the conditioned reactivity. So I watch and rest.
I just keep surrendering every impulse, every thought, every reaction. No matter what.
Because I don’t know the unknown. But I do know that every attempt to fix the problems has resulted in suffering. So I don’t know anything except that everything I think I know is the building material for hell.
And I have had enough of suffering. I don’t want hell anymore. So I refuse to construct it.
In the present seeing of the conditioning as it arises, I rest in freedom.
This freedom is so great, so inclusive, that everything is welcomed. Everything is included. Everything is seen. And everything is seen *through*.
And it starts always now with admitting the truth. When I think anything, when I believe anything, when I cause myself pain of any kind. Right now. Simply seeing what is happening as it is happening.
And recognizing that I don’t know what this is. I don’t know what this means.
I *still* have thoughts that simply seeing is inadequate. I still have thoughts that I need to jump in and fix things.
For me, freedom is not about getting rid of those thoughts. Neither is it about getting rid of the feelings that I think I don’t like.
Because that freedom is conditional. That is freedom that is always in the future or in the past. That is not a freedom I can actually taste now.
The only freedom I can taste now is unconditional freedom. If I place conditions on it, it vanishes.
Any label or judgment about this present experience is a condition. If I say “this is good” or “this is bad”, I am making this conditional.
Let me make that clearer. If I say “this is good”, I am generating anxiety. Because I know that this so-called goodness wasn’t always the case. This so-called goodness is temporary. So I know that it will go. And I experience anxiety about when it will go and what it will be like when the so-called goodness goes.
If I say “this is bad”, I am struggling to change this.
Either way, I am not at rest. I am suffering either way because I am not tasting present freedom. Instead, I am calculating. (Thank you to my friend, John Veen, for sharing something with me recently with that word “calculating” in it, because that is the right word.)
I can only taste freedom here now. And I can only be present here now when I drop the conditions, which means dropping the foolish arrogance that I know.
The miracle that I experience every time I choose to surrender is the miracle of present unconditional freedom.
This miracle is complete here now. It is completely fulfilled here now. There is nothing to attain in the future. No conditions need to be met.
And in this surrender I discover clarity. Simple clarity. Obvious clarity. So simple that it is shocking that I overlooked it.
The simple clarity is this: This present unconditional freedom is what I was always looking for. But I overlooked it because I was injecting a false separation. I was generating a falsely separate sense of self whose job it was to judge and critique every experience. I wrongly had believed that it was my duty to judge rightly what is good and to pursue and attain that.
And in so doing, I habitually practiced misery. Therefore I was experiencing misery…because I was doing misery.
It is that simple. I was miserable because I was practicing misery.
And the radically simple discovery here now is that instantly when I cease to practice misery (i.e. judging every experience as good or bad from the false position of separation), unconditional freedom is revealed.
I don’t have to earn it or attain it. I don’t even get to have it.
But when I cease to practice misery, I am instantly welcomed home to unconditional freedom. All falseness is made transparent.
My only job in this is to observe and rest.
Whatever happens, I observe and rest.
Even when thoughts that I am being harmed arise, I observe and rest. Even when so-called bad feelings arise, I observe and rest.
And I observe and rest not because I am virtuous. Rather, I observe and rest because I cannot tolerate suffering.
As I have said, I sometimes perceive this observing/resting/unconditional freedom experience as crushing, squeezing.
These moments are the true test. After all, it is easy to do nothing when my conditioning says, “This is great! You’re doing well! You’re feeling good! You’re successful!”
But when my conditioning says, “You’re dying! You’re in danger! It’s not okay! You’ve got to do something!,” that is when I must be deeply truthful.
I observe and rest.
I don’t have a rule that says I cannot act. That would be restraint and only more suffering. So observing and resting does not preclude action.
But I observe and rest and tell the truth.
Telling the truth means acknowledging that my past efforts have only resulted in hell. I means acknowledging that I still don’t know anything for sure. It means acknowledging that I am not going to succeed in my efforts to gain perfect security, and if I cannot succeed in that I am only practicing anxiety and unhappiness. Therefore anything I can do *with attachment to outcome* will only produce present anxiety and unhappiness.
Seeing this and doing nothing, I discover unconditional freedom here now.
Years ago I read something attributed to Nisargadatta Maharaj, an influential spiritual teacher of the previous century. It has had quite an impact on me. And I want to share it with you in hopes that it may impact you too.
What I remember reading was that Nisargadatta said that his teacher had told him to attend only to the sense “I am” and *nothing else*. And that he, Nisargadatta, believed his teacher and thus followed the advice. He attributed his success in discovering unconditional peace to his discipline in following his teacher’s guidance.
In my life there is always something apparently happening. And I have conditioned reactions to most if not all of it.
In other words, I have countless excuses. Countless excuses to suffer. To blame, to regret, to worry.
But my saving grace is that I believe my teacher. My teacher – life – tells me to attend only to what is and nothing else. I believe my teacher and follow my teacher’s advice.
And by this grace alone do I discover unconditional peace.
For me this is essential. Everything else is a condition, an excuse. Everything else is suffering.
I am completely responsible for my suffering. If I suffer, it is my doing. It is because I am not heeding my teacher’s advice. It is because I am attending to something other than the immediacy and purity of what is as it is.
Again, I want to emphasize that it is by grace alone that I discover unconditional peace. I do not attain it. I do not earn it. I don’t win. I don’t overcome.
It is by grace alone. It is by surrendering.
Nisargadatta’s words are particularly helpful because he was a householder. He lived in this world. He had a family and a business. He was like me in that respect.
With many other teachers, I can invent excuses for why they were special and why their advice does not apply to me. But Nisargadatta chain smoked cigarettes and died of throat cancer. This makes him more approachable. More in this world. Less “ideal”. More like me.
Years ago I had the fantasy that I was going to “pop” out of suffering. I imagined that enlightenment would be a wonderful event, after which suffering simply would stop without anything further needed of me.
But look at this fantasy with me through the lens of Nisargadatta’s teacher’s advice. Look at it through the lens of what I am proposing to you in this message – that I am completely responsible for my suffering.
This fantasy maintains suffering. This fantasy projects freedom into the future and makes it conditional. This fantasy creates the illusion of separation – that I might get to have this wonderful experience in the future.
This fantasy is at odds with the advice that life offers me. Life offers me the instruction to remain with the truth of what is, who I am prior to any conditioned thoughts or reactions. The promise is that when I follow this instruction I discover unconditional freedom/peace NOW.
And this is true in my experience. This promise is absolutely fulfilled.
But there is no room for me and my suffering here.
Which is the “catch”.
Because in the fantasy version of enlightenment I imagined that I was going to get to have enlightenment. I thought that I would get to enjoy my fantasy self minus suffering.
What I discover in the light of following this simple instruction given by my teacher – life – is that what I have believed myself to be IS suffering. There is no possibility of that false self getting to enjoy non-suffering. It is suffering.
That false self that I wrongly believed myself to be is composed entirely of suffering. It is made entirely of worry, anxiety, spite, jealousy, deceit, hatred, etc.
And it is constantly spinning around trying to win. Trying to escape itself.
Like a dog chasing its tail.
The remedy that Nisargadatta’s teacher proposed is the remedy that works for me.
The remedy is to remain with the immediacy and purity of what is prior to any conditioned reactions. To remain with this immediacy and nothing else. Following this advice I remain free as I always am.
The temptations arise. Again, I am living still living in this world. I still have a family. I still have this body. So the temptations arise.
The essence of the temptations is that “this should not be like this, and I should get involved to fix it.”
If I indulge the temptation, that is suffering.
Freedom is instantly discovered the moment I cease the indulgence and remain with the immediacy of this as it is prior to any conditioned reactivity.
It really is that simple.
It is so simple, but it is radical. Radical means it goes right to the root. And the root of suffering is false identification.
If I identify with this false self, which is only a bundle of conditioned reactivity, I am identified with suffering.
From this false position I can try to solve this problem. But every solution I can come up with (that maintains the false position) is only reinforcing suffering.
The only real remedy I have discovered is the remedy Nisargadatta’s teacher offered. This remedy is, as I have said, radical.
This remedy goes in the opposite direction from all false “solutions”. All false solutions seek to prop up the false (suffering) self. All false solutions seek a future enlightenment in which the false self gets to enjoy some fantasy bliss.
The radical remedy looks for this supposed (false) self and finds nothing but a bundle of habits, conditioned reactivity. The radical remedy finds something shocking. The self I have been defending does not exist.
This truly is shocking. It is shocking every time.
In this world we are taught to avoid the shocks. We are taught to seek comfort.
But the suffering of avoiding shocks is too great for me. The promises of comfort are empty to me.
So I choose the shock. I choose peace NOW at any cost.
And the cost is everything. The cost is every false image or idea of myself I can come up with.
That includes both the “good” and the “bad”.
So if I believe “I am a good father” that is suffering just as much as believing “I am a bad father”.
The remedy for me is to simply see what is beyond doubt, beyond belief. What is actually truly real?
Before any idea arises, before any conditioned reactivity there is this as it is now.
I don’t know anything about this. I cannot say anything truthful about this.
And this is the death of everything that I can imagine myself to be.
Shocking, like I said.
This is not an idea. A mere idea cannot shock like this.
This shock takes everything instantly now.
My conditioned mind comes up with lots of excuses. I live in this world. My mind says I should think about and do so many things. It seeks comfort and familiarity at any cost.
But I see that is suffering.
So I let go even as I reach to grasp. And this is peace beyond imagination. This is freedom beyond any concept. This is truly unconditional. This is now.
I fought under the delusion that I needed to win. I fought under the delusion that winning was the only option. I fought under the delusion that if I failed, I would suffer. And I thought that suffering was to be avoided at all costs.
And *that* was pure suffering.
I just looked up the word “irony” in the dictionary. And what I’ve just described is the definition of irony.
I was struggling to avoid suffering…and that was suffering.
I have been using past tense to describe this irony. And it is true that it is past tense. But it is always past tense (or future tense…but never now). It has always been past tense (or future tense…but never now). It is past tense (or future tense…but never now) for everyone, including you.
Suffering is past tense. Or future tense. But never now.
But it is not LONG past. It is immediate past tense. And it is always immediate future tense…just waiting to pounce in the next second.
Seemingly sandwiched between the immediate past suffering and the immediate future suffering, here I am. Here is my life, being squeezed between these two immediacies.
Like a hunted animal…like a *trapped* hunted animal…here I am. Me and my life squeezed between these two immediacies.
Now, in the past I fought. And in every future I can imagine I am fighting.
Here now being squeezed, I am in a unique position.
Here now I can choose to maintain the unbroken fighting streak, to carry it through from the immediate past to the immediate future.
Or I can choose to tell the truth.
The truth is that my life is too much for me.
I look honestly at all my struggles, all my fears, all my reactivity, all my conditioning as it shows up here now, and I tell the truth. I am a trapped hunted animal.
And now here’s a question I never asked in the past and I’ll never ask in the future. But I can ask it here now. That question is: what will win if I win and what will I lose if I lose?
And the honest answer is that I don’t know.
This is where I find peace. In the most unexpected place and in the most unexpected way. It is a surrender to the unknown.
Surrender isn’t safe. It is not arrival. It is not winning.
Surrender is unknown. Which is simply the truth.
My life is too much for me.
I find peace here now surrendering to “my life” as it is, as it “unfolds”.
I don’t find peace in the pursuit of winning. I only find suffering.
My life is too much for me. And the invitation here now is to stop carrying the burden.
What a relief.
I have dozens if not hundred if not thousands of hopes each day. These hopes are imbecilic ideas I grasp at, as I call out “Save me!”
Each of those imbecilic ideas involves some fighting, some struggle, some method of overcoming what is hunting me. Each is based on the false notion that I will escape my trap.
I am not a winner. I have not arrived at victory.
My only salvation is found here now in admitting defeat *and* receiving defeat.
I can’t just use empty words or rely on some hollow memory of some supposed insight. I can’t fake true defeat. Any fakery is suffering, which is pain.
I can’t afford to fake it. I’m bankrupt. I’m completely without any further resources to draw upon. I’m a trapped hunted animal.
I have to be sincere in my honesty. Anything less is not true honesty. And only truth can deliver me from suffering.
Truth is not something I remember. Truth is something I recognize. I must look here now and see this freshly now. I must see that my life is too much for me.
And I see that by watching all the impulses to fight, to struggle, to win. Just watch them. Just watch their complete impotence.
And then watch the rage and terror just underneath the surface. The instant the veneer of being someone, having something, or knowing something is seen through, there just beneath is the rage and terror.
This is what I have attempted to avoid. This is what I thought was suffering.
But I must see clearly here now that the trap that I am caught in is 100% of my doing. It is 100% made of attempts to avoid suffering.
My suffering is only my attempt to avoid suffering.
And seen more clearly, my suffering is only my attempt to avoid the rage and terror just beneath my complete impotence.
My life is too much for me. And the only things I can grasp at for protection are rage and terror.
When I see this clearly, I discover peace.
No, let me rephrase that. When I experience the truth of this, I discover peace.
True seeing is the same as experiencing the truth of this. That is the same as surrender. That is the same as defeat. That is the same as not knowing. That is the same as telling the truth.
This peace is not mine. I don’t get to have it.
And isn’t that good news? I may not be the smartest person on the planet, but I can spot an obvious truth such as this one: I cannot be trusted with peace. I would only mess it up.
So fortunately, I don’t get to have it.
But I do get to surrender to it. I do get to admit the truth: my life is too much for me.
Do you want peace?
“Of course I want peace!,” says the conditioned mind.
The conditioned mind knows the right answers to just about everything. It knows that peace is the right answer.
But the conditioned mind is a fraud. You are a fraud.
And if you don’t believe me, just watch what is happening within yourself. You say you want peace, but what are you doing right now? Are you at peace? Or are you at war?
You’re at war. Tell the truth. You love war. You’re so in love with war, you don’t even recognize peace. You are so in love with war that you call war peace and you call peace war.
You have it all inverted.
And just watch what is happening. You’re getting agitated. You don’t like what you think are accusations coming from me. Accusations such as “you don’t want peace” and “you’re a liar”. You don’t like it.
But these aren’t accusations. These are truth. And the truth will set you free if you allow it.
Now, hear this. If you really allow this truth to seep in, you discover the truth of peace. You discover it now.
But you have to surrender. You have to allow the truth of peace to take you over.
Here’s a story. Once upon a time there was a large extended family that lived together near a lake. Like all families, they had disagreements. But they depended upon the lake. They needed the lake for life. So they did the intelligent thing. They recognized the greater truth and did not worry about disagreements.
Now, among the people there was a man who began to speak out loudly. And here is what he said, “This lake is a holy lake. And only those who are holy should be allowed to approach it. There are some among us who are unholy. And they should not be allowed access to the lake. Those of us who are on the side of what is holy must do our duty and chase away the unholy. We must keep the lake clean and pure and holy as it should be.”
At first most of the people thought he was crazy. But little by little they began to be persuaded by his arguments. And soon enough there was a large enough group that they began to make war on the others.
First they protested. They put up signs. They chanted “Unclean people go away from the holy lake!”
Then they began to form barriers. Human barriers at first. Then a great wall that they guarded so as to allow only the “holy” access to the lake.
Well it didn’t take long for this to come to blows. Hitting and kicking started. Then someone threw a rock. Then the first arrow flew.
And once the first person was murdered, both sides felt justified in continuing. One side would murder someone on the other side for retribution.
Both sides were certain they were right.
One side was certain they were holy, doing the work of God. The other side was certain they were acting only in self-defense and therefore it was justified.
Both sides said they wanted peace.
But both sides continued to make war.
This continued for many generations. And so it was that children grew up knowing nothing but war.
Eventually there was a child who grew up seeing war day in and day out, but this child did something no one else had done before. He sincerely wanted peace.
When he got to be old enough that he was expected to fight, he simply would not.
He had grown up on the “holy side”. Those who considered him to be their brother first tried to “bring him to his senses” by talking to him. They tried to persuade him to do his duty, to fight for a just cause.
When that did not work, they locked him up in prison to teach him a lesson. They forced him to undergo therapy to correct his way of seeing life.
None of that worked.
It came to pass that the “unholy side” heard rumors of this man, and they began to talk among themselves. “Maybe he will fight for our side!”
So they worked hard and broke the man out of prison. They stole him away. And they treated him like a king.
They had a great feast for him. They gave him all the best things they had. And then they demanded, “Now fight for us!”
But he would not.
And so they turned on him. They beat him. They imprisoned him. They tortured him.
But still he would not fight.
Because he wanted peace. And he knew the secret to peace which none of the others knew.
Everyone else wrongly thought that peace could only be had in the future…once the conditions they had invented were fulfilled. They all believed that peace was only possible in the absence of conflict, in the absence of unpleasantness, in the absence of discomfort, in the absence of fear, in the absence of doubt. They all wrongly believed that peace could only be when their side was victorious.
But he knew the true secret to peace. Which is this: peace is now. Peace is unconditional. Peace is this.
And he did what almost nobody does. Because most people talk about peace but don’t choose it. He chose peace. He remained with the truth of peace.
Choosing peace is a radical act. To the world – the violent, warring world both inner and outer – the truth of peace looks insane.
But the truth is that the violent warring world (both inner and outer) is insane. And if you take that to be truth, you are insane.
The good news is there is a remedy. And the remedy is peace. And the remedy is available to all who sincerely choose it now.
Choose peace. And don’t betray it.
Now, let me spell this out even more clearly. Because I know the doubts that creep in that try to persuade you to keep making war. And I want to be clear about this so you don’t make the mistake of furthering warfare in the name of peace.
You will have doubts. You will believe that you have a special exception to the Cosmic Rule. You will believe that you must just fight this one last battle before you can choose peace.
And the “one last battle” will never be enough. There will be endless “one last battles”. Every one will seem justified.
You will think that you must defeat this feeling, this pain, this circumstance, this disrespect, this injustice, whatever, on and on.
You will find endless exceptions. You will say that you have to because you must be responsible and good. You will lie to yourself over and over.
Don’t believe the lies. If you want peace, choose peace now.
If you want war, choose war…and be honest about it. Tell the truth that you are choosing war and that it is only war and not peace. Tell the truth that war only begets war and never peace.
And in this way, by telling the truth of your violent, reactive, hostile, fearful, LYING conditioning, you start to see the truth of it more and more deeply. You start to see that truly peace cannot be had through war.
You start to see that war only begets war. And you start to see all the lies that you’d believed until now.
You start to see that you cannot be responsible or good. You don’t even know what it means to be responsible or good. You only have your conditioned ideas about responsibility and goodness, and those ideas were inherited from a sick and warring society. They lead only to war. They are nothing more than propaganda. You start to see how everyone is walking around lying to one another.
You start to see just how sick you have been. And you see the complete hopelessness of ever fixing the problem…because you ARE the problem. Everything you can come up with to fix the problem is only more of your conditioning – all of which was inherited from this sick and warring society.
Now you start to see how radical peace truly is.
This world – this warring sick world (both inner and outer) – will not tolerate peace. It will attack you.
You must know that every attack is a lie. Every attack is war, which is not what is true.
If you want truth, peace, you must see this and HAVE FAITH. Faith is to remain still so as to reveal the dream-like illusory nature of war.
It was only a bad dream. But only living faith can prove it.
Allow the so-called attacks. Allow the so-called rage, terror, depression, hatred, squeezing, crushing, disrespect, humiliation, failure, and all the rest of it. Allow your fearful imagination.
Make no effort to fix any of it. To fix is to make war. Which is to continue the lies, the bad dream.
To wake up, you must recognize the dream as a dream. You can only do this if you make no effort to defend, protect, or offend. Only then can you have truly living faith in which you know the true nature of reality. Only then can you know that the dream is a dream. When the dream attack does not harm you EVEN THOUGH the dream may insist otherwise…when you find that you remain despite losing everything…you know the dream is a dream.
That is peace.
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.