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People make such a big deal about experience. Good experience. Bad experience. Ecstatic experience. Horrific experience. And we seek out the good and the ecstatic while trying to avoid the bad and the horrific.
But this is the mistake. Because there’s something much closer than experience that you can seemingly (thought not truly) miss out on when you’re seeking to get and get rid of certain types of experience.
The reason that this has been on my mind lately is that I’ve been reading more than usual about so-called “spiritual awakenings.” (I’ve been researching to find good places to publish some of my writing, and I’ve read bits and pieces of what appears in these publications.) And frankly, I think that many of these accounts, are still deluded. Any time there is an emphasis on the experience of oneness or the experience of peace or the experience of wholeness – complete with the dissolving of boundaries and the flow of love and the profound sense of stillness and all the fireworks then at the very least these sorts of stories are misleading.
They are misleading because they speak of extraordinary experiences. The sorts of experiences that we are conditioned to seek out. This is why LSD or MDMA is so great – because they can provide these types of experiences. But if you’ve ever come down off of LSD or MDMA then you know that there’s an end to the trip. It’s an experience.
There’s nothing wrong with experience. It’s happening all the time. And I sure as hell would rather pleasant psychedelic grooviness to, say, a fork in the eyeball. So we naturally have preference for what we perceive to be pleasant or at least neutral experience instead of what we perceive to be unpleasant experience. If you have followed this blog long enough then you already know that I’ve had my share of unpleasant experience. And by no means do I actively seek out those unpleasant experiences.
But the idea that experience is “it” – the answer, the solution, the thing to end all suffering – is deluded. The end to suffering is not about experience. It’s about what is closer than experience.
And that is why so many of these so-called “spiritual awakening” stories are just rubbish. It sets up the “spiritual teachers” as someone special who has attained something you want. But what you most want isn’t a thing. It’s not something that anyone has. It’s not about being special. It’s about the utter lack of specialness. It is completely ordinary. It is this. Already this.
If you want to see visions and be blissed out then there are plenty of ways to do that. A good strain of cannabis perhaps? Bhagavan Das kirtans that last all night? An ayahuasca ceremony?
But just because something produces visions and feelings of bliss doesn’t mean it has anything to do with recognizing the simplicity of what is – which is the end of suffering. It doesn’t even mean that it’s good for you!
So the question is: what do you most truly want? Do you want blissed out feelings and visions and extraordinary experience? Or do you want true peace and freedom.
Because they’re not the same thing.
Then again, they are. Because all that is is true peace and freedom.
But as long as you are seeking some extraordinary experience, something other than this, something for a special you to experience, then you’re overlooking what is closer.
What is it that is here regardless of experience? What is it that is here regardless of whether you are feeling special or not? What is here regardless of whether you are even aware of yourself or not?
This. This is always here. Not this that you can give a name to. Not this special experience. Not this idea of who you are. Not this place. Not this vision.
It’s so simple. Whatever is, is it. High as a kite or bored out of your mind. This.
My upper back and neck feel like shit. My hands and fingers ache. Sounds. Kids crying. Dog wants to be fed. Feel of air on the nostrils. Saliva. Eyes blinking.
Whatever this is.
It’s never what we call it or imagine it to be. It’s not upper back and neck feel like shit as an idea. It’s the direct, immediate meeting of whatever it is that then gets called something.
It’s not a thing.
This is not special. There is nothing other than this. You cannot compare it to anything else. All comparisons are just this.
You still want something special. You want something other than this. You want psychedelic grooviness. You want great orgasms all the time. You want to never be constipated or get hemorrhoids. You want to never get cancer. Just endless bliss and goodness.
You’ll keep searching. Until you stop. And then there is just this. And it is clear that this is all that ever is. And this is true peace and freedom.
What a relief.
I don’t remember when it happened. Sometime after the initial phase of Lyme disease. Some time after moving to Parsonsfield, Maine and living in that drafty cabin.
Somehow I slipped into depression.
If you’ve never actually experienced depression then you’ll not be able to fully appreciate what it is. If you have experienced depression then you know intimately the complete inability to feel joy or hope or happiness.
I had never known depression before that. And the nature of experience is that it is precisely what it is. It’s impossible to know it until you’ve experienced it. It isn’t the name. You know, the whole “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” thing. So you can call it whatever you want. But it is what it is.
The interesting thing is that looking back on it now, it is evident that I hadn’t actually been meeting it. I had been still giving it names. Attempting to avoid it. Attempting to get rid of it. But more on that in a moment.
Depression went something like this: “Is this it? This is all there is? Is there nothing else? Fuck! I don’t think I can handle this. Is there any way out? What can I do? I don’t feel up to it. Is this it? This is all there is? Is there nothing else?…” Rinse and repeat.
I was trying desperately to figure it out. To make it better. To stop the suffering.
What’s interesting is that depression was just more of the same thing that had already been happening. Life had long been a pursuit of something better. Something greater. Something to end the suffering.
What differentiated depression from what came before was the sense that I had reached a dead end. Everyone might have different metaphors. Maybe for some it’s a bottomless pit. For some it’s feeling that it’s the end of the world. The metaphors simply reflect our individual models of the world – who we are, what this is, and what we do with all of it. More on this in a moment.
But the bottom line is that depression was the end of the fantasy that there was somewhere better to go or something better to do or someone who could do it.
Depression turns out to be a fascinating gateway.
I struggled on for another two years. Every once in a while it would ease up just a bit. I would feel that perhaps things were getting better. Perhaps I had figured something out. Perhaps I was on my way again. On the path. The journey. Getting somewhere.
Only to once again discover myself at the end of my rope, in the pit of despair, feeling stuck, feeling that I just couldn’t go on, etc.
Finally, I truly couldn’t go on. I had had enough. I was done with the struggle. The search. The journey toward something better. For something else. For something more.
And here is this meeting of what is directly. What a discovery!
All along here it is. I imagined it was something else. I had given it names. I had called it depression or stuckness or suicidal impulses or deep sadness or sickness or any number of other things. But it turns out not to be a thing. It’s simply what is.
All the seeking for something else and something more and something better was the “problem.” Meeting what is reveals an endless discovery of myself as I am.
Everything that I had previously called “joy” or “hope” or “happiness” was the by-product of a temporary blip in the journey of seeking for something else. Like a mirage.
Here, through the gateway of direct experience what was seen as depression is now seen as true joy and true happiness. Hope is no longer needed. There is nowhere to get to. There is nothing other than this. And this is endless.
This isn’t something else. This is this. Right now. This sensation. This thought. This sound. This vision. This. Just as it is. Not something else. Not the idea of what it is. Not what it means. Just this.
Do a Google search for “what is the meaning of life.” You’ll find that people seriously want to know. Heck, some day someone might even find this post because they Googled “what is the meaning of life!”
The trouble with the question is that it presupposes that there is meaning.
Right now, do this simple experiment. Notice that there is something before thought. And then notice that there is something before that. And something before that. Until you cannot go any further “back” – until you cannot get any closer to what is immediate, direct, and unavoidable.
What is this? This is before thought. It is before sensation. It is before experience. It is before anything and everything. But it is not a thing.
Can you find anything else? Is there more than one of this no-thing?
Can you find a boundary?
This is the only “thing” that you cannot deny. This is completely unavoidable. This is completely ordinary. It’s not something that you have to reach for or work for or hold on to. You cannot get rid of this. Because this is yourself.
And what is the meaning of this?
Notice that in order to search for meaning you have to compare. You have to search in thought. You have to look to the past.
But where is all of this happening? Isn’t it happening in this that you are?
Everything is this. This is the “one without a second.”
A dog can chase his tail. But there is only the one dog.
Alan Watts wrote of peering through a slit in a fence and seeing a cat walking by. From this perspective it may appear that there is a head, a body, and a tail. You may then wonder if the head causes the body and the body causes the tail. But it’s one cat!
In direct experience there is just this. All seeming separation is merely thought arising as this present wholeness. All seeming meaning is merely thought arising as this present wholeness.
Many people seem to imagine that meaning is what gives life beauty. But I find that, in fact, meaning does not give beauty to life. Beauty is inherent in life. Beauty is spontaneous. Beauty is evident in the absence of meaning. Notice that some of the most beautiful moments are those in which the moment utterly defies all attempts to saddle it with meaning.
So discover a life without meaning. Just be curious to find out for yourself. It’s not about belief. I’m not suggesting that you take on a new belief. Just see what life is like beyond belief.
I was at the grocery store yesterday and I picked up a copy of a free copy of a publication called EnergyTimes. This is one of those sorts of publications that fronts as a magazine with genuine, unbiased articles. But actually, it’s just a collection of advertisements.
I was attracted to the magazine because it has a big picture of Jim Carrey on the cover. I don’t pay any attention to politics or Hollywood, generally-speaking, so I missed out on the fact that Jim Carrey had a massive public spiritual awakening (whatever that means) with Eckhart Tolle a few years ago. A friend of mine recently kept making reference to Jim Carrey and spiritual awakening, which I thought was odd because I had missed out on this bit of information. But in a few seconds the whole thing was explained to me, and now I’m caught up.
So I was curious to see what was the magazine had to say about Jim Carrey. But then I saw the advertisements. And that (the content of the advertisements) is what the remainder of this post is about – not Jim Carrey.
When I picked up the magazine and turned it over I saw a full-page advertisement for so-called “cleanse” products – capsules of herbs that are promoted as “cleansing” the body of all kinds of toxins and “build-up”.
Walk into any natural food store and you see plenty of these sorts of things. Candida cleanses. Colon cleanses. Liver cleanses.
The problem with these products is that they are marketed to people for whom the last thing they need is a “cleanse.” These products are meant to appeal to people who are trying to lose weight and/or become more “pure”. In other words – people with eating disorders.
And, by the way, if you think that you’re the exception, then think again. If these products appeal to you then I’m willing to bet that you’re dealing with an eating disorder, even if you don’t know it.
The body is terrifically good at cleansing on its own…when it gets adequate nutrition and opportunity to de-stress.
Really. Under these conditions of adequate nutrition and the opportunity to de-stress your body will be perfectly healthy.
These cleanses have been around for a long time. They used to target the most neurotic among us. I know, because that was me. They used to (and presumably still do) target potential clients with scare tactics – absolutely disgusting advertisements in alternative publications claiming that if you have ever eaten flour or sugar or meat or dairy then your colon is undoubtedly coated in a thick “mucoid plaque” that is slowly killing you. But miraculously, when you cease to eat anything other than raw vegetables and fruit and (most important of all) take the “cleanse” pills then you will shed this life-threatening toxic build-up and be cured of everything from diabetes to cancer to migraines.
But now the market is ripe. Everyone is primed. The magazines and TV shows and the medical establishment has convinced everyone and their mother that they are fat, have life-threatening high cholesterol, eat all the wrong things, and need to “cleanse.” But this is utter bullshit.
All the dieting and starving and over-exercising and undersleeping and over-stressing is the problem, and the “cleanses” are just more problem, not a solution.
Trust me. I know from personal experience.
The digestive system, including the colon and the liver and all the other organs supposedly “cleansed” by these products, doesn’t need more irritants and laxatives and purgatives and less nutrition. It needs more nourishment. It needs adequate quality protein and fat and carbohydrates. Including meat, dairy, sugar, and so on. Not just raw broccoli. Seriously. And no amount of rhubarb root or psyllium husk or senna leaf is going to solve the problem caused by inadequate nutrition. And, by the way, 1600 calories is likely far too little unless you happen to be about 3 1/2 feet tall.
And adequate de-stressing and rest is also absolutely necessary. So if you’re sleeping 6 hours a day or going to the gym every day or running every day or if you’re still hanging on to hurts and anger and resentment and shame and trauma…even just a little bit…then no amount of rhubarb root or psyliium husk or senna leaf is going to solve that problem.
Try sleeping at least 8 hours every single night. Try leaving off the gym and the running for a little while. And learn how to let go of all that emotional baggage. (I recommend that you check out the 100% free training at Peaceful Possibility for this. It’s the very best!)
Seriously. Don’t be duped by these products, the marketing, or anything or anyone else. There is nothing dirty or unacceptable or wrong with you. You are a perfect, beautiful, amazing, radiant being. No one and nothing can take that away from you. That is who you are.
When I speak of truth, I’m not talking about relative truth. I’m talking about what cannot be denied – what we might call absolute truth. If you turn to your thoughts to try and find real truth then you’ll convince yourself that there is no such thing. Either that or you’ll become a convert to a fundamentalist religion.
But truth is utterly simple. It is so simple that it cannot be denied. There is absolutely no way to argue against truth. That’s why it is truth. It is the only thing that is incontrovertible. Truth is that this is. That is it. Not that this is something-or-other. Just that this is. Not what this is. Not the name of this. Not what this is not. Merely that this is. Merely that I am. Merely that you are. Before any thought or idea or concept about what any of that means. Truth is before meaning.
This is not a secret. It is obvious to everyone. We all are. None of us can deny that we are -that being exists. This is the one thing that we all know and that we all experience endlessly.
Sure, you can try to deny this. You can try to raise objections. You can create convoluted philosophical arguments. But while you’re doing all that, you are.
And the simple fact that you are is the one thing that you repeatedly dismiss and overlook. Why? Because being is meaningless. It has no meaning. It is before thought. It is before meaning.
So if you haven’t yet, just check right now and see if you do, in fact, exist. I’m not talking about the you that you think you are – because that you doesn’t exist. That is merely a fabrication. But you cannot deny that you are. There is presence, being, existence here right now.
You cannot capture this in thought. But you already are this. So there is no need to capture it.
The simple fact is that the only truth that is, is something that each of us already is. We cannot ever not be. You can only imagine that you could not be. But that is just a thought arising presently in this that you are. You can argue that once you’re dead then you won’t be. But since you’re arguing that right now it is completely irrelevant. Argue it when you’re dead.
There is only being.
Because we all are already and because this can never be taken away (because it is not a thing and because this is all that is) then this is not something you can sell to people. If you can sell it then it’s a thing. You can sell spirituality. You can sell enlightenment. You can sell therapy. You can sell (the idea of) happiness. You can sell all kinds of things. But you cannot sell a no-thing.
You can only be. Finally, this is the relief that you’ve wanted. This is even better than the most restful sleep. But not as you imagine it to be. Simply as it is.
I used to imagine that I had to be someone – that I had to have a coherent identity. And then I realized that there is no such thing. It’s all an illusion.
For one, there is no central thing around which a supposed coherent identity would form. Take a look. Where is this person that you imagine yourself to be? Can you find this person?
Still, I had this funny lingering notion that I had to have a coherent message at least. And this led to some strange sense of inner conflict. Here on this blog I express lots of different ideas ranging from physical health to mental health to emotional health to what we might call non-dual awareness as well as anything else that I want to write about. And especially in light of the fact that so-called non-duality is ultimately the realization that there is only this, there has only ever been this, and it is not happening to anyone, then writing about things such as physical and emotional health may seen incongruent. After all, if there’s no one for these things to happen to and no one to do anything about any of it, then why write about the health of the (non-existent) individual?
Plus, I’ve recently completed work on the first phase of a project over at Peaceful Possibility. And in that video training I suggest that there may be specific practices that one can do to discover true freedom (which ultimately is awakening to non-dual perception – the simplicity of being.) So this also may seem incongruent. And yet it’s not.
The recognition of the simplicity being is the clear seeing of what is as it is – which is one wholeness happening here and how. Congruence requires more than one. It requires a comparison. Clarity reveals that there is only this.
And here is peace. No split. No divide. No separation. Nothing to defend.
I see so many teachers and politicians with tremendous PR efforts working overtime. Trying to craft a coherent, congruent image. I understand that this is popular. But it’s not honest.
And we all seem to follow suit. We all seem to imagine that we have to present a coherent image to the world. We dress in a consistent fashion. We style our hair in a consistent fashion. We speak in a consistent fashion. We behave in a consistent fashion.
But it is all just an illusion. Where is the person that all of this supposedly refers to? Where is the central figure? Where is the one who can be liked or disliked or approved of or disapproved of? It’s all a fiction.
The prison of your mind is a fiction. It’s not real. Just meet what is as it is in this moment. Right now. Let go. See yourself as you are. Formless.
I’ll admit that I hadn’t read or watched The Secret until yesterday. I already knew the premise. I used to live in Southern California, and I attended Michael Beckwith’s church (Agape Internatiional Spiritual Center) in Culver City more than once. I was a regular at the North Hollywood church of Religious Science where I studied for a few years to become a practitioner within the organization. And I grew up, more or less, attending a Unity church. I’ve read Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer. I’m hardly new to the secret of The Secret. So I had just felt that I didn’t really need to read or watch The Secret in order to catch the drift.
What I discovered years ago was that no matter how much I succeeded with the so-called Law of Attraction, I would never be truly fulfilled so long as I was seeking something. I saw that the seeking itself was the real problem. (Strangely, I didn’t take the direct route and just ditch the seeking right then and there!) Eventually this realization led me to years of misery still seeking through what I considered to be more pure forms of “spirituality” such as non-duality or advaita. But honestly, I don’t recommend such a path if you can avoid it! As I said, it was miserable. I was a mess before non-duality. After non-duality I got much worse. Before non-duality I was merely unhappy and anorexic with mild OCD. After non-duality I became absolutely terrified of everything. My days were absolutely packed full of suffering and anguish. My thought tubes got so clogged up and constipated that I couldn’t even sleep. I would just sit in “meditation” – which really meant that I was trying to calm down.
So whether you’re a Law of Attraction genius who is somehow still dissatisfied with your experience or your a non-duality nut, I’ve got some potentially useful insights for you that can save you a great deal of unnecessary suffering if you can really receive them.
As I said, I hadn’t watched The Secret…until yesterday. I found it on YouTube. It’s 90 minutes. And frankly, there’s no way I’d sit through that much bullshit. But the good news is that I have a little utility called Enounce MySpeed that lets me playback video at up to 5 times speed. So I was able to watch the video in under half an hour. Even sped up, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the whole thing. I admit that I left off the last 15 minutes or so.
The production of the video is over the top. It’s totally nuts. And it is way too overly complicated. The so-called Law of Attraction is a fabrication. But there is an underlying principle that the Law of Attraction exploits unknowingly (and inefficiently.) That underlying principle is what i intend to reveal to you.
When I was a kid there used to be arcade-style video games in the entrance ways of many stores. Grocery stores. Walmarts. Even some convenience stores. They cost a quarter per play back then. I didn’t often have quarters. But I could often have fun just standing there and pretending that I was playing the game. The displays would typically run sequences that simulated game play while not otherwise in use. So I could move the joystick and press the buttons and pretend that I was controlling the game.
Sometimes it even seemed like I really was controlling the game.
But I wasn’t. It was just happening.
The underlying principle that I want to share with you is that everything is happening. It is one happening. There is nothing apart from this. And you can know this directly right now, in an instant. Simply give your attention to your direct experience instead of turning to thought to give you meaning.
The way in which the Law of Attraction exploits this principle is this: when you focus on what you think you want, really feeling it and imagining it as if it is already true, then you shift your story. You begin to see new patterns. You necessarily are NOT focusing on other things. And so this can have the apparent effect (though really there is always just this) of letting go of some (unwanted) patterns and habits. The focusing on what you want is actually incidental to the benefits that you may seem to receive from this practice. It is the letting go that is the true benefit because this tunes you in to the actuality that what is happening is all that is.
The pursuit of what you want merely sets up this vicious cycle of unfulfillment. The reality is that life is always happening. It is one happening. It is happening always in this ever-present moment. There is nothing else. And so pursuing something, seeking something, is futile. And this is a recipe for suffering.
The mistake that people can make is turning this whole thing into a false dichotomy – imagining that if pursuing something or seeking is bad (which it is not…I didn’t say that) then having no ambition is good. But you cannot have no ambition. And the opposite of seeking isn’t living in poverty.
What I’m pointing to is that much like the arcade games I “played” as a kid, life is happening. When you let go of the illusion that you are doing it then you discover that it is simply happening as it always has been. And all the meaning that you’ve given to all of it is seen for what it is – illusion. There is no meaning. There is only joy.
When you let go of the illusion that you are doing it, then you get to discover life as it truly is. And this doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily fall into poverty and become a crack addict. It just means that you get to see that it’s not about you. It never has been. There is no you for it to be about. It’s all one happening. And “you” are that happening.
It is possible that the happening will look like you as a crack addict. It is possible that the happening will look like you as a billionaire with a happy family. But just start to notice how your beliefs about life cloud your vision of what is. You don’t see what is. You just see what you believe. The Law of Attraction teaches you how to change those beliefs. (At least to a degree. There’s always a limit within belief.) But why settle for changing beliefs? True abundance, true love, true happiness is already here. And it becomes obvious when you stop looking for it elsewhere.
Here’s a related video I did on the Law of Attraction. In the video I approach the subject slightly differently, but ultimately I’m pointing to the same thing – that there is just this, and that it is evident when you cease to search for something else.
I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful place close to the natural world. This is the way I like to live. After having been in cities for much of my life, I intentionally have chosen to live close to the natural world.
I live in a small anyon surrounded by juniper, pine, and rabbitbrush. There’s a creek that runs outside my front door.
Just a few minutes ago I went outside for a short walk. I walked along the creek, and stopped next to a juniper. Turning to the juniper, I received this wonderful communication on the simplicity of being.
You know, it’s interesting, because somehow, I used to imagine that one day in the future I would suddenly reach a final destination – something called awakening or enlightenment. But in my experience, awakening to the simplicity of being is merely the recognition that there is nothing final. What is, is eternal and timeless. There is no end to it. And even the end of suffering isn’t so much an end as it is merely the recognition that there never was anything other than this.
So in my experience every moment is an endless discovery of what is – of being myself. And it is lovely how everything and everyone becomes clearly a messenger of the simplicity of being. So I turn to the juniper, and I see the naturalness with which juniper expresses. There is no inhibition. There is no fear of judgment. There is just pure, raw, aliveness.
Cut a juniper and the juniper keeps growing as best it can. Juniper will grow out of the rocks and out of the sides of the wall of earth cut away by the creek.
The natural world (of which we are not apart) is unashamed of being.
Lately I’ve been working on figuring out how to reach to people who will be receptive and who are seeking for the message that I have to share. This is an interesting process. Through this I have encountered many of the old habits in which I have held myself, imagining that there is someone to defend or protect. As if I need to be concerned about what others think of me.
This is a fun process because it is about meeting everything as the perfect stillness of being that welcomes home every splintered aspect, every notion of separation. And it is effortless.
There are 7.2 billion humans on the planet. How often do you hold yourself back because you’re afraid of what a handful of them might think about you? What about the many people who would benefit from your wisdom and your message? All the people who don’t hear your wisdom or message because you hold yourself back?
So my message for you from juniper is to be unashamed of being. Be yourself. Let them chop you down. Let go of all your pride and arrogance. Just be. And let being move you and shape you and give you strength. Share your light and your wisdom by being yourself.
We all have ideas about what happiness will look like. We imagine that it will look like the perfect circumstances – the ideal body or the ideal job or the dream car or the vacation in the Bahamas. But true happiness looks like exactly this. True happiness is right now. In fact, the pursuit of happiness is the only seeming obstacle to true happiness.
But this cannot be! Surely happiness is dependent on circumstances. Perhaps it doesn’t require a sweet vacation in the Bahamas. But at least it requires relative security and safety. Right? I mean, Maslow tells us of the hierarchy of needs. And that seems sensible enough. So isn’t happiness dependent on some circumstances, maybe even if not the exacting types of circumstances we imagine are necessary? Is true happiness possible when a gun is against your head? What about when your loved ones have just been killed? What about abject poverty? Surely these types of circumstances prevent true happiness.
Well, I’ve not experienced every possible set of circumstances. So I cannot state authoritatively that there are no circumstances that prevent true happiness. But I doubt it. The reason I believe that nothing can prevent true happiness is because in my own experience true happiness isn’t about the circumstances. it’s about meeting all circumstances exactly as they are rather than how I imagine them to be. There turns out to be a HUGE difference between what we typically think about circumstances and what things actually are. And this difference, in my experience, is the difference between suffering and true happiness.
I’ve heard it said that true happiness is not about getting what you want, but loving what you get. Although I think that particular wording can be misleading, I generally agree with this sentiment. Because in my experience true happiness has everything to do with how one perceives what is. I discovered true happiness when I discovered that I am true happiness already – that nothing can be added to that. In this awareness there is no need to improve circumstances in order to achieve happiness because happiness is already present. This doesn’t mean one might not have ambitions and goals and desires for relative circumstantial improvements. It just means that there is clarity about what will be gained or lost in all these pursuits – and that happiness cannot be lost nor gained.
This post was inspired by a photo that my friend, Brian Marc Zimberg, sent me in an email yesterday. He must have been searching for photos of me on the internet, and he came across the image to the right. That’s from 2008. I was speaking at a conference in Pittsburgh. In some ways I was on top of the world at that point. At least in terms of circumstances. I had half a million dollars in the bank. I owned my own business. I could write my own ticket most places and most of the time. I was invited to speak at conferences around the world. My circumstances were pretty good by most standards. But I was miserable. And although I contend that happiness doesn’t look a certain way (in that there’s no circumstances that dictate happiness) I will say that true happiness expressing does have a look. And you can see from that photograph that I wasn’t expressing true happiness. I was miserable. I was anorexic. I was obsessive. I was dominated by compulsive rituals. I was fearful. I was terrified of life.
Here’s a photograph taken just a few days ago. I lost my business in 2009. I was horrifically sick with Lyme disease from 2010 until 2012. My bank account today is a tiny fraction of what it was in 2008. I’m no longer invited to speak at conferences in exotic locations. I live in a small, one-room house with my partner and our two children and our dog. But you can see, that I’m happy. This isn’t a happiness that depends on anything. This is a happiness that springs forth from the depths of emptiness and nothingness. There is no longer anyone or anything to defend or to gratify. And this happiness allows everything. It isn’t afraid of anger or sadness or sickness or loss.
But don’t be deceived into thinking that any of this means that you aren’t true happiness just because you still perceive that you are seeking for happiness. It just means that seeking is happening, and that seeking obscures clear seeing of ever-present true happiness. Everything that I have written in this post is just words that points to something. The words themselves are misleading. It seems inevitable that this is so. Language presumes a subject and an object and personal experience. But that is misleading. True happiness isn’t something that I have. It isn’t something that I have obtained. It isn’t something that I get to experience, even, despite the fact that I speak of it in this way. In truth, happiness is what is. And true happiness is all-inclusive. it isn’t limited to a particular sensation that you think of as happiness. It includes both that and everything else, including what you think of as sadness or anger. It’s what is present before, during, and after all of that. True happiness is the field of awareness from which all else springs forth. When you cease to seek for happiness then happiness is evident.
Of course, you cannot do the stopping of the search for happiness. Any doing is more seeking. And true stopping isn’t a doing. It’s the absence of doing. Happiness is what is present before, during, and after all doing. To know this directly right now all you need do is stop seeking. Stopping is not an action. It is the absence of action. And when you stop then what is clear is that there never was anyone doing. Doing simply arises in the field of awareness that you are. Doing is not personal. Suffering is not personal. Happiness is not personal. None of it is personal. It is just happening. And strangely, it is possible for nothingness to recognize itself as nothingness. This happens in an instant. And that instant is now. It is always now. When you see this…or rather, when this is seen…then it is possible that clarity remains as clarity regardless of what else is happening – even seeming seeking.
Yeah. It’s confusing. That’s because it’s not something you can understand. But you can experience it directly right now. Just notice right now where your thoughts come from. See how they arise from nothingness. See how this is all always happening right now in this empty field of awareness. Do this right now. It doesn’t require any effort. All that you need do is turn your attention to its source. See yourself as you are. You cannot see this as you normally see. You can see this by resting in the source of seeing. This is who you are.
I know what it’s like. You’re hoping that you’ll become perfect some day. And until then, you’re going to keep beating yourself up for all your imperfections.
But what does it mean to be perfect? It’s nonsense. It’s just more seeking. It’s just a way of putting off true happiness.
Part of the problem is that are allowed to imagine that there are perfected beings somewhere. We imagine that Paramahansa Yogananda never had a wet dream. We imagine that Ramana Maharshi had a completely silenced mind. We imagine that Eckhart Tolle never has a single thought. But this is not a mature way of seeing things. And neither is it a mature way for people to represent themselves or others.
Part of the problem is that some of these supposed perfected beings have organizations built up around them. These people’s jobs depend on the organization being financially successful. That means good marketing and good PR. But it also means misrepresentation. We’re given a very crafted view into the lives of these people. It’s not the whole truth. It’s just a partial truth.
Do I disagree with the essential message that Gangaji shares or that Eckhart Tolle shares? No. But the message isn’t enough. We need a new level of transparency from our teachers. Not that I’m suggesting that these teachers are doing anything wrong. But I’m suggesting that for those who are seeking it is better to find teachers who are more transparent because this helps to clear away the misunderstandings.
If all we see of a teacher is what we see in meetings or events, then we may get a very distorted view, particularly if the events are staged. And again, I’m not suggesting that there’s something wrong with staged events. To some degree it’s inevitable because there’s a certain protocol to an event that dictates that people take on roles. There’s the teacher and the students or the speaker and the audience. This creates a disconnect. The students or the audience then is allowed to imagine that the speaker or the teacher is something special in some way. And in their imaginations they come up with what that something special might be. Because there isn’t greater transparency then imaginations run wild.
So I’m going to let you in on a secret. Every human is just human. Those who are free of suffering are just as human as you. They shit too. They get angry too. They make mistakes. They aren’t superhuman. They’re just human. They are fallible.
The difference between those who don’t suffer and those who do isn’t that one group is particularly special or different. It’s just that those who don’t suffer stopped believing that there’s anyone to suffer. That’s all. And when there’s no one to suffer then nothing sticks. Everything is happening. And none of it is personal. And you cannot get that by emulating their behavior. Because by and large it has nothing to do with behavior. At least not from anything you can observe.
When you’re confused and in the dark about this, when you still imagine that there’s someone to suffer, then you will try to emulate behavior. Even though I tell you not to. You’ll do it anyway. I know, because I did that too. But believe me, it has nothing to do with whether you are celibate or not or vegetarian or not or wear flowing clothing or not or practice meditation or not. Nothing you can do will give you want you are seeking.
The only thing that will give you what you are seeking is the end of seeking. And that is not something you do. It is something that you stop doing. It is not something that requires effort. It is the absence of effort.
But in the confused state you will likely imagine that what is effortless is effortful and what is effortful is effortless.
So let me point you in the right direction.
Right now, notice that things are happening. Your heart is beating. Sounds are happening. Eyes are blinking. Thoughts are arising. Sensations are happening. It’s all happening without effort. This is always already the case.
Notice that you attempt to figure it out and make sense of it. Notice that your attention goes to thought about what it means. Notice that the thought “thoughts are the problem, I must stop my thoughts” is just another thought. Notice that you cannot stop your thoughts. Notice that all of this is just happening. And notice that when you let it all go, it happens all the same.
Notice that the only difference between holding on and letting go is that letting go is real and involves no suffering. Holding on doesn’t create someone to suffer. It just presupposes someone to suffer. There’s no one to suffer. There never has been. There is no one to hold on and no one to let go. But the illusion of someone holding on can let go and discover what is true.
You can’t make sense of this. Because this words attempting to point to what is beyond concept.
There are plenty of teachers who suggest that there is nothing you can do about any of this. After all, they say, there is no one to do or not to do. And maybe that is true. Ultimately it’s all a mystery. But within the mystery it seems as though you can choose. And the choice you can make is to let go of what is not and recognize what is.
Although this makes no sense, I find that the simplest, most direct way to let go is to trick your attention into turning back to itself. See the previous post for the instructions for how to do this.
As usual, if you have comments or questions, I’d enjoy hearing from you.