Blah-Blah-Blah: Moving Beyond Jibber Jabber.

social influence

There is much talk, many words written, not only in an effort to describe an “indescribable experience,” but also in an effort to point the way towards the indescribable. Perhaps we have heard the words, “who you really are,” or “you are neither the thinker or the doer,” enough times. Are these oft-repeated phrases doing the trick? We presume to know, or not know, because of the lulling tone of a familiar language. Presumption is approximation, like having a berth on an ocean liner that is eternally headed toward an ever-disappearing coastline. Thus at this juncture, the language can become a hindrance, a conveyance that fails to deliver.

Do you know who you really are? No? Then begin there, in that “no.” (If yes, no need to read further.) This is usually the point at which the neti-neti, or via negativa, dialogue begins. Do you know who you are not? A well-versed nondualized mind knows the answer straight away. Does that help? Not this, not that, and so on, but still, “who am I?”

Beginners mind–fresh, unencumbered by shoptalk–is a good place to start. First off, no one else actually has an answer to that question, and no one ever will. There is only the asking. This is why all the best books, satsang, retreats, and even trips to India, rarely provide the answer to this mysterious question. But they are fun to read and attend on occasion, so in all seriousness–let us read, go, do, practice, find a sangha, discuss. It’s all great fun, and life might as well be that, even in the absence of knowing our true identity. It’s not all that different from joining a traveling theater troupe. Revel. Enjoy. That’s all most of us are really after isn’t it? A life enjoyed, lived fully, with no regrets? Do it all, and regret nothing. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s a waste of time if you’re having a good time, following teachers, getting to know some of them, having great flashes of insight, bouts of peace and clarity. It’s just life. There is no correct way to live. There’s no folly bigger than another when its a folie à deux world.

Keep the question close to your heart, and be immensely curious. Let everything you do be an open-ended question, and everything that happens becomes the benevolent response. Life is a call and response kind of activity. Be a lover, not a worrier of things. And when you just cannot love, let your annoyance and your distrust steer you towards new beaches and alleyways. Catastrophes and disappointments are nothing if not serendipitous detours to wholly new terrain. Is this not the promise of world travel, Gypsies?

I write this because there is a weariness with nondual blah, blah, blah. Yet the moment the language ceases to appease the mind, and reason fails, there is a very clear window of opportunity. When a natural curiosity replaces the habitual tendency to conform to industry standards, the answer is here in plain view, unfettered by conceptual jibber jabber. This is the strength and the promise of the inquiries–questions are posed rather than answers given. The experience is the answer, and it is beyond even Advaitic and nondual terminology. It is a wordless knowing, related to no perceptual framework. “Oh,” is the most appropriate, immediate response–or simply laughter.

Beth Bellamy and I are offering another Deepenings Course beginning in late January/early February. Neither of us will provide second-hand answers, but we may attempt to disabuse cherished beliefs. And as always, if you’re interested in inquiring one-on-one, contact me for further details. We have only our most obscuring and possibly erroneous assumptions to lose, and who knows what lies underneath the dust of our convictions?

Getting Older is not a Future Proposition

Time-PhotoAn acquaintance recently suggested that the inquiries might be useful in regard to aging, a looking into what to do as we confront the challenges of growing older. Great idea. As facilitators we regularly offer a body identification inquiry, and of course there can be a general sense of deficiency when we start to experience the limitations that we are culturally conditioned to believe are part and parcel of heading into the second half of life. “I can’t do this anymore” is a common lament, a general theme. As we age, everywhere we go, we look around and are startled to discover we are the oldest people in the room. The world appears to be getting younger faster. It’s like being on a train that’s headed in the opposite direction from all other trains, that are going the other way at an accelerated speed. Yet we are slowing down and headed back to the station where the journey began, looking out the windows at the scenery we passed by seemingly just yesterday, but was it really so long ago?

My 83 year-old mother suffered a massive stroke this weekend. My father seems more at risk of dying than she, because he has no idea how to take care of himself. These these last few days he has looked like a vision of terror, like an abandoned child. So what to do?

It is so clear that, as simple as it sounds, there is never a time of life where the central issue is not the capacity to live in the present moment. Whereas the idea of using the inquiries to address the aging mind and body initially appeared to be about the most obvious concepts of physical limitations and mental sluggishness, I now see that it’s an ageless, timeless, genderless, collective concern. Are we living in a world of regret or nostalgia, or the terror or hope of what’s down the road? Or can we be fully present in this momentliterally, abandon all preoccupation with what was, or what is to come?

My father has almost literally left his mind and body out of sheer terror. His waking nightmare has always had to do with a dire future. He is a master of worst case scenarios, and is continually living in those movies as if they are real and true right now.  My mother is resting and healing, and seemingly has a better quality of life in comparison to the horror show my father appears to be living in. Right now, it appears as if he needs drugs more than she, just to get through the day. I do not tell my father to be here now (only once, gently.) I show him how to do the laundry and find affection for simple things, like how that sock still looks like the foot it so recently covered. My mother is physically incapacitated on most of the left side of her body, from her face down to her toes. She cannot, for the moment, go anywhere or do anything, as most of us feel we must, most of the time, so she rests without compulsion, without his debilitating agitation.

If I lived in the future, I might look at these two and think, “This is our fate,” this slowing down, this incapacitation, the whole spectacle of death and dying. You don’t have to see my mother’s immobilized, slackened body in the hospital bed to know or suspect this possibility. But I might just hear my father’s starkly panicked voice over the phone in regard to an uncertain and dismal future–and just stop.

Stop all movements toward any other moment but this. No matter what your age in years, just stop all thought of an imagined bleak, or better-than-this future. Relinquish all ties, debts, and lingering resentments about an equally imagined past, right now. This is the paramount opportunity of a lifetime, because we are never really old or young outside of the present moment.

Scott Kiloby’s upcoming book about addiction, Natural Rest, has the simple yet profound prescription to rest, simply rest, into this present moment. Rest, right now, with what is. It is the age-old admonition to be here now. We can come up with all kinds of inquiries to deal with all kinds of apparent “problems.” But there has never been a better time, nor will there ever be, to live from this universal axiomatic truth in regard to surrendering all to the present moment. What else is there?

This is it; this moment. I sing this song to myself. No one or nothing from the past or the future can hear it. But the melody lingers sweetly.

 

Objects & Awareness: Smiling World

coincidence-1What are objects but a combination of sense perceptions? What is awareness but this sensing, or experience itself? Objects and awareness are inseparable. If you cannot see, hear, touch, taste or smell a cup, it doesn’t exist. Awareness is the experience of seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling. Thus the body is also awareness precisely because it is all about sensing. The cup exists because it is experienced–not by the body as a separate sensing subject, but as the experience itself, ipso facto.

Close your eyes and touch the cup. Is there, in the tactile experience, a cup and a hand? There is only an unnamable sensation. The words “cup,” “hand,” “touch,” are added on, a mental, linguistic overlay, dividing a singular experience into three things. It is this mental overlay, the naming that divides, and creates the appearance of separation. The cup and the hand are therefore inseparable, and inseparable from the experience of touch. There is only this experiencing.

This could sound like boring non-dual gobbledygook. But when you drop the words, you have the wordless, unnamable experience of inseparability. The experience itself is not boring; a sensation itself cannot be bored. Try and find boringness without the idea that there is a separate, individual, experiencer.

Or try wrapping your arms around something or someone you love. (And there can always be that, words pointing to separate something’s, or not.) There is touch, smell, sound, sight, and even smell. That’s it! And that is everything. All else is added on, is a mental overlay, a conditioned response to a belief in separation. And there is that wonderful thing we can agree to call love, just for fun. Wrap your arms around the world as it presents itself to you now, eternally now. Just love, by seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling all of it. No need to add a separate someone into the mix. Experience stands alone, and neither requires nor creates an other to behold. Only beholding.

And this is boring non-dual gobbledygook until it is experienced…and it is known that there is no experiencer…only experiencing. Loving arms, loving nothing, but everything. My love for you knows no bounds. Take out the “my,” the “you,” and all boundaries–what have you got? Poof! Love. Then put them all back together again, just for fun.

Object/awareness inquiry is not the only way to experience the inseparability of the mind/body/world. See that if you smile, the whole world smiles back; if you scowl, the whole world scowls back…with a wink. This is the only tenable use of the concept create your own reality. Take the you out of the equation, a smile emerges, and there it is–smiling world.

The Enneagram, Core Stories, and Forgiveness

There is this belief, resulting in recurring suffering in relation to, what is referred to in these circles as the core deficiency story. No one comes to the inquiries looking for the “brilliant genius,” or the “devoted peacemaker.” This makes sense in the same way psychologists do not tend to see fully integrated, content individuals. The concern here is with the concept of the inevitability, or necessity, of eventually meeting that core root of suffering and its attendant identification as if it were a requisite, necessarily painful, and therefore noble, right of passage.

When we overlay the Enneagram on this trend, what is implied is divisive differences, mainly towards the negative connotation. Fours are hopelessly dramatic, fives are frustratingly mental, and so on. Our defense mechanisms are maddeningly consistent, and ultimately at the source of all inner and outer conflict. Our compensatory style is the way we erroneously assume to protect ourselves from the world, and it is what others find to be difficult about us in relationship. It is the card you wear on your forehead in this game/life of Liars’ Poker. We cannot see it, yet we lead with it in all our interactions. Others can quite clearly see it–it’s right there on your forehead–and relate to us accordingly.

The suggestion here is to level the playing field of such divisive differences–by simply stopping, right here and right now, and fully accepting our own inherent human frailty, in whatever way that manifests in our interactions with the world, thereby creating a more compassionate and utilitarian perception of that world, and the people who appear in it. For instance, “So it seems that I am overly needy (or distant, or unreasonable) in my relations with others.” Then go from this insight/confession, to something as simple as, “Ah, there it is.” One need not be a grasping drama queen, nor a cold-hearted son of a—, or an unmitigated tyrant. See that this doesn’t imply an overarching, fixed and unacceptable identity, but simply a quirky proclivity to respond, a perceptual filter. The implication of the core story is that we will meet, just past the gates of hell, our festering inner nemesis and wrestle with it mightily until it is vanquished, and forever laid to rest (dramatic overlay added by this sometimes-four author). In short, the assumption is–there will be blood. Must we hang ourselves from a cross for our apparent sins?

“Yeah, I kinda suck at that” is an astonishingly simple yet profoundly forgiving way to view the way we show up in this comic-tragic play. We all come up short, one way or another. Knowing and allowing this is how we see we’re all in this together. Not all personal defense styles, such as despots and serial killers, will be subsumed under the designation of quirky, but there’s definitely a core deficiency story in there somewhere that was not inquired into, nor accepted.

The other side of the coin is to see these idiosyncratic proclivities as gifts–not as lifelong curses, but as the offerings we give back to the world. We do not have to do battle with our theoretical disabilities if we are willing to see the inherent strength or talent that is hidden just underneath. Perhaps Shakespeare was a four, Einstein was a five, and Mother Theresa was a two. Go with whatever is annoying about yourself, rather than suffer interminably in the role of misfit.

In relationship, use the acceptance of your own “failings” to happily allow others to be exactly as they are. See the strengths and talents that are barely obscured behind their best defense. Our core stories can all too easily become another’s deal breaker, and vice versa. The reversal of this perception is called forgiveness–the capacity and willingness to see beyond appearances–and it begins at home. Look right at the one you love, or the one you cannot tolerate (often one and the same?), and see that the love you feel for the first is what the latter desperately needs. Both reveal the world as it is, within and without. Remove the Ace of Spades from your forehead, and stand naked before kings and jokers alike. Thy kingdom come.

Beyond Compulsion

I don’t know what is true. I can only describe what the experience is from here. All the following sentences should begin with, “It seems as if,” simply to get the what-is-true thing off the table.

There is this inquiry we’re calling the Compulsion inquiry (CI). Since undergoing and working on this inquiry with Scott Kiloby, there have been significant perceptual, physiological, behavioral, and psychological shifts.

Perceptually, there is more beauty in this world than ever realized. I seem to want to take a picture, or simply stare at, everything. It’s all intricate, fascinating, perfectly stunning. Even pond scum warranted a few moments of amazed appreciation. Can’t seem to find an ugly or a plain face.

Physiologically, tension seems a curious memory. A jaw that felt clenched for millennia has to be grasped with the hand to make sure it’s really there. I must say though, these contractions had to be felt, or brought to the fore, before relaxing. So a kind of tightness was experienced first, more than once, in places I had never thought about much.

Behaviorally, I still smoke an occasional cigarette, but the need, the frantic puffing and sucking is absent. If there are no cigarettes around, there’s about as much hurry to go buy more as I would hurry to buy bananas. I like bananas, but running out of them is not a problem. As a matter of fact, I saw that there were 2 cigarettes left in a pack sticking out of my purse as I was driving yesterday. I passed umpteen gas stations during that drive, and never stopped to buy another pack. I just enjoyed the drive, windows open to this glorious fall day. Perhaps only a fellow smoker would understand that kind of nonchalance in regard to cigarettes.

A couple of times recently, I made myself a drink—but then never drank the thing. When I walked passed the full glass wherever I had left it later, I ended up pouring it down the sink. That’s not to say I won’t ever drink. It’s just that the making-but-not-drinking is a peculiar thing to report. And I have ordered one at a restaurant, yet felt no compulsion to drink it. And curiouser and curiouser–I eat when hungry, and don’t have to finish what is in front of me. Snacking doesn’t happen, seemingly because there’s no edge, no gnawing need for more or something else.

Psychologically, up until very recently, there was this certainty, this oft regaled story of being overextended, coupled with the feeling of being exhausted. This thought was believed: “There isn’t enough time in the day, or enough energy, to do what needs to be done. One person can only do so much.” Now, it’s the seeing that there are things to be done. Some get done. Some don’t. My barely perceptible jaw drops at the simplicity of that realization, and the flood of relaxation and rejuvenation that follows. There is no such thing as “too much.” And any sense of personal agency is an error of perception.

Another amazing, and recent discovery is that annoyance is a totally unnecessary precursor to a movement away. When the word “choice” is replaced by “movement,” annoyance becomes an add-on to any experience. Try this on: people are neither inherently annoying or engaging, there is simply movement towards or away from, with seemingly no one choosing the flow, like colorful tropical fish swimming around the tank. Annoyance can still happen, but it’s now seen as an elective response.

And as a bonus, look to see if there is a command anywhere, in any thought, that says “follow me,” or “believe this.” Thoughts about ourselves, the situation, or the world, do not come with a mandate to be believed. If thoughts were trains coming and going through a station, let it be seen that there is no conductor shouting out “all aboard!” Not even thoughts about non duality, or shoulds, or declarations of love, or those pesky ones that tell us what is wrong with us, have a seal of approval stamped upon them, insuring their authenticity and reliability. They needn’t be the gold standard by which we live our lives.

So essentially, there is this overall sensation of being a relaxed, content, human being that alternately engages in movement and rest; adjectives optional. There’s very little conflict or tension, but both are allowed. The thing is, there is a sense of fun, of play, relief (!), and joy, in all of this. What am I missing? Oh, yeah—this kind of talk can be seriously annoying.

To whom is this all happening, or where is this experience occurring right now? Ha! That’s the kicker. Try and find me.

Who’s in Charge?

If you identify as a seeker, the presumption is that there is something you are looking for, somewhere you’re hoping to get to? From the outset, the assumption would be that it is not already here. Oh, and that you are going to find it. Added onto that assumption is the possibility that there is something that you can or must do to get there—that you are driving the search?

There is an age-old debate: There is nothing you can do, vs the Practice/Process model. This post does not attempt to resolve that seeming paradox. However, it might be asked if the “path” you are on, whether it involves going to satsang, reading books, meditating, or going on retreat (all of these are activities in which the author has engaged), does this behavior reinforce the perception that there is an actual self, person, or separate entity who is in control of this apparently directional activity?

Just ask. Who is in charge? Don’t answer with the mind. And perhaps you’ll know if the mind is attempting to answer if a random “Yeah, but…” comes up. Yes but, so and so meditated for 30 years…and then you are back in the unresolvable paradox treadmill. Get off the wheel and simply ask, rather than when is (fill in the blank with whatever teacher comes to mind) coming to town? Look in your direct experience:  Can you actually find this character that is running the show?

Can You Find the Phony?

We spend our whole lives trying to be something we’re not. That is the state of human relations, in a nutshell. Everyone is a phony; otherwise known as the false self, because it is, well, not real. At some level this is always known. It is the creepy background that clouds all our interactions with others. This is why we seek approval relentlessly, why we are in continual need of validation. Because whomever we think we are is a fiction that we’re making up as we go along. We desperately want others to believe our story because in our hearts we know it’s not true, but seemingly, our survival as a person with an identity depends upon its acceptance. Some spend their entire lives looking outside of themselves for this acceptance. We call them extroverts. Others hide, or hole up and keep to themselves, so that their fragile/flimsy self image will not be challenged. We call them introverts.

The need to convince others that we are who we think we are is an aspect of what Alan Watts calls “the unsolvable problem.” Even if we manage to convince, there is always this lurking terror of being discovered. So in relationship, as a survival tactic, we must necessarily withhold some part of ourselves, and we must also pretend to be a certain way, to the point of exhaustion. And so the trouble begins. This is perhaps what is meant by Byron Katie’s phrase, “No two people ever met.” Phonies get married and then unavoidably, yet understandably, end up miserable. We also become, or feel as if we are, inadequate parents under the same ruse.

Essentially, the deficient self is the phony self. The deficient self is what Scott Kiloby calls that persistent sense of not being enough, not being lovable or likeable, of being inauthentic and dishonest. It is a doorway. Try to find the phony, the impostor, the wizard behind the curtain. You are not that. You are ultimately and utterly free–free of pretension, free of the fear of intimacy, free of the fear of betrayal and abandonment.

That sense of inauthenticity is the source of fear behind the mask, and how the fear of failure is born. Do the inquiry on the phony, whether he parades as a wizard or a cowardly lion. Take off the mask and be fearlessly authentic. You don’t have to pretend to be anything any more. You can simply be.