A question has been asked in regard to my spiritual biography, or timeline, as part of an upcoming interview with Jerry Katz. All that I have been able to come up with is a kind of curiosity. Where does the impulse to seek, or anything else for that matter (to love, to work hard, to play, to learn to fly), come from? I don’t know where this came from, or where it started, was the best answer I could think of, but it seemed certain that a better response was hoped for, and that I should be able to come up with such. Read more
Who’s to say that this life isn’t concurrently an entering into selfhood, and an ongoing impulse to naturally return to this true one-thing-we-know-we-really-are? Two inclinations happening at the same time. There are stops and starts–“I am this separate person.” Yet in the next step, “What was I thinking?” and then a brief a reprieve from the role, the falsity of it all. It seems that this becoming and unbecoming, pretending and clear seeing, has always been going on. There are constant rents in the fabric of reality, constant and obvious red flags, telling us that things are not as they appear. Read more
There are a lot of discussions around, and derision for, the idea of teachers in the non-dual community. As a facilitator, I have an interest in the distinctions between the two titles, and in clarifying what we do. First of all, I’m not even sure what it means to teach. Seriously. I looked it up in the Online Etymology Dictionary and found that the Old English derivation of the word “teach” is “to show, point out.” And furthermore discovered that it shares its origins with the word “diction,” which comes from digit, or “finger.” Huh. The finger pointing towards the moon—there it is. And I thought it meant, as is noted on dictionary.com, “to impart knowledge or skill; give instruction.” It was the imparting knowledge and giving instruction parts that I was confused about. I could use instruction on how to tie a Gordian knot, but can anyone impart knowledge about that which is essentially unspeakable? Like they say in the writing world, “Show, don’t tell.”
I can say with complete confidence that, as a facilitator, I have no knowledge that you, or anyone who comes for a session, does not have. I mean “knowledge” and “don’t have” literally. The inverse is true, as well. There is no teacher, mine or yours, of whom this could be said. It is fundamentally dualistic to think otherwise. And by that I mean, it is inherently divisive to think in terms of a teacher with knowledge up here, and a student believing in his own ignorance out there.
That is not to say that there is not the appearance of teachers, and students going to hear what they have to say. And by using the term “appearance of” I do not mean some flakey version of no one here, nothing happening, transcendent foolish-wisdom-words. If a bird sings, there is a song to be heard. If a teacher teaches….No problem there. It is to say that the belief that someone has answers that you do not is the sticking point. It is the belief itself that is coming from a dualistic viewpoint and necessarily divisive. It is the belief, the concept, the culturally and socially condoned practice that, in effect, creates the appearance of teacher/student. If you did not have this particular belief, it wouldn’t be a part of your experience, and you wouldn’t care much either way. Is it a problem if you’re not thinking about it?
To facilitate is “to render easy.” The facilitators at Living Inquiries, to the best of my understanding, can and do render, or “give back,” the questions, and see to it that it is your answer to your question that is the imparted wisdom. Your experience is paramount, not the wisdom or clarity of any particular facilitator, and Scott Kiloby does the same. We’re all birds, just singing songs. Listen or doze off, as you please.
So what to expect in signing up for a session? (First, note the caveat here to drop all expectations.) But in a manner of speaking, what happens, from my point of view, during these sessions is that they are somewhat like a walk in nature. We walk through the woods or the hills, and like friends do, we point out to each other this or that tree, that bird, those tracks. It’s not a matter of labeling or categorizing the various appearances; not an expert on flora and fauna. A facilitator just happens to have made this particular walk many times before, down this particular trail, so may or may not see things that might otherwise be missed. However, someone new (or old) to this work often has the fresh eyes to see the trail in new ways, so the pointing is just as often mutually enlightening.
A friend once took me to see Black Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world. I never knew it was there, had never even heard of it before. He simply drove down a dusty old road, parked in a nearly vacant parking lot, and we walked through breezy evergreens toward a fenced precipice. I looked over, and stepped back from the edge immediately. This was, experientially, a whole new definition of “looking down.” I went back to look again, and the response this time was simply, “Oh.” We stayed awhile to gaze wordlessly at the wonder of it all. My concept of “deep” has been fundamentally altered. It doesn’t even mean what I thought it meant, at all. And the depth of the glimpse displaces any notion of this body as a limited container, or located vessel of consciousness. There, here, it is—in the looking. All distinctions fall away.
Yesterday, I had a session with someone who wanted to look for the teacher. We went to where there was no teacher, internally or externally. And finally, no teaching…nothing…but, like the glimpse into the depths of the canyon, space, vastness, emptiness. Meh, those words don’t cut it either. Lose the words, any description, all points of reference. It was like that.
I have no special knowledge to impart, no claim to be anyone or anything different from you. I would like to take you to see that canyon, watch you step up to that precipice. The “oh,” is all yours—to make of it what you will. End of tour spiel.
Or, there’s more over here, just beyond that ridge, that you just might like to take a look at before you go home again. Let’s go see.
Christmastime and the winter holidays invoke sensations that could be labeled anything from anxious and fearful, to joy and warmth, or even indifference. When you break it down, as we do in inquiry, it’s all perception–with an overlay of personal meaning. The taste of nut-buttery cookies; the scent of pine; the vision of colored lights that glow everywhere in these long, dark nights; the sounds of voices singing; and the touch of friends and family who come to share all of this. The perceptions themselves are neutral. We give them all the meaning they have for us. Hence, there are Scrooges and there are jolly old Saint Nicks, and everything in between.
For as long as I can remember, there has been the ongoing discussion of the “true meaning” of Christmas, how this not-really-agreed-upon meaning is overshadowed by commercialism and the glaring poverty of those who are unable to even participate in the excess of consumption. Tiny Tim and the Little Drummer Boy weigh in on the side of that spirit of Christmas that has nothing to do with money, though the Madison Avenue contribution is a very loud drumbeat, if not a deafening roar.
It is, officially and nominally, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Not everyone who celebrates goes to church, but many do pay homage, in their own private ways, to the underlying message of love, forgiveness, and peace on Earth.
It could be said that the last temptation of Christ was, metaphorically and literally, bearing witness to his humanness, in giving up his personal will to live and die as a man. As men and women we have no other choice but to celebrate this humanness–because we live as human beings. We can come to see both the divinity and the humanity in life, by forgiving and honoring the differences in expression that are the foundation and inexorable beauty of our fleeting personhood. The inclusion and acceptance of both, of all the contrasts is the miracle. Nothing less than the whole enchilada will do.
There’s going to be no exhortation here to live or celebrate one way or another, no plea to “love one another.” Buy big-ticket items, or ladle out food in soup kitchens. Neither one makes for a morally superior person. They’re both expressions of giving that seem to go along with the-not-really-agreed-upon meaning of Christmas. All else is opinion, that which divides and separates. Opinions are also part of this, though held lightly as opposed to fiercely.
If we can’t agree upon the true meaning of Christmas, perhaps we can agree to dispense with all judgment, and certainly any judgment about those who, either by choice or religious affiliation, do not celebrate it at all. If we refuse to give in to the temptation of believing that there is a right way to do Christmas–or anything else–then there can be no wrong, or not-quite-right way. This is how conflict is born, and world and personal peace are thereby sacrificed. We can refuse the temptation to judge in the same way that Christ refused temptation in the desert–all appeals that succumb to human frailty and neediness are responded to with trust, and the unwavering commitment to that which sustains us.
Or we simply surrender to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and the feel of the season. These freely-given and always-present perceptions are all we ever have. That is the celebration. There is no other to judge in this or any other regard. Whether the sights and sounds evoke joy, sorrow, or grumpiness, may you embrace (hug) it all, and may peace be with you in the midst of Christmastime, wintertime, and in all the seasons of (your) life. I bang this drum with solemn yet gay reverence for all the beats that have ever contributed to the symphony and cacophony that is this life. Bang that drum, however the spirit moves. There’s the meaning, whatever it means, however it manifests. Shall I play for you?
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?
What 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.
Over at Living Realization, we’ve been working on a new form of inquiry specifically designed to address addiction and compulsive behavior. It’s called the Compulsion Inquiry (CI). Scott Kiloby’s book on addiction, Natural Rest, will be out in a few months, and all is revealed expertly there, so without going into a lengthy description here, there is an aspect that is of particular interest in regard to the unfindable self.
In brief, first we look for the command to use, or engage in the compulsive behavior, in images, words, and bodily sensations. For instance, the image of a cigarette, or even the cigarette itself—Where is there a command to smoke in either the image or even the cigarette in your hand? We go through all possible associations with the behavior, even looking at a clock, the place where the behavior occurs, and other triggers, like smoking with a morning cup of coffee. No command can be found anywhere.
Then it can be seen that when an urge or a craving arises, there is an almost fleeting, flash image of the act itself, like a “ghost image” of the activity already happening. When this image is seen, really looked at, prior to using, the craving miraculously seems to disappear, or is simply forgotten.
In addition to looking for the command, it is usually the case that when someone attempts to curb any form of compulsive behavior or addiction, there is often a period of abstention that is achieved, in part, by a subtle but often unconscious agreement made to use or engage in the behavior in the future. There is usually an image of the behavior—we actually see ourselves doing it—but more importantly, there is also a physical sensation that is associated with this promise we make to ourselves. It is similar to a barely noticeable relaxation that happens when, for instance, we have come to a decision about something. For most, the discovery of this point of relaxation is a discovery of the sweetest peace imaginable. This is not a fleeting experience engendered by a substance or activity, this peace. This relaxation response is the natural state, hence the title, Natural Rest. It is the complete allowance, complete agreement with what is experienced physically, and this allowance, this rest, is not dependent upon anything external—no substance, no activity required—nor is it something to seek for in the future. It’s right here, right now, always. It is the experience of the end of seeking.
“…feelings and good times are temporary energies. They arise and fall, providing no ultimate or final relief. This question is asking what you’re ultimately seeking from the thing. This requires you to look a little deeper. Beyond the experience of temporary energies such as pleasure, something else happens when you attain what you’re seeking: The seeking energy relaxes for a moment. As that energy dies, presence reveals itself naturally. Present rest is synonymous with peace and contentment.” ~ Scott Kiloby, Natural Rest
The point of relaxation reveals that the self is often felt as a barely perceptible bodily contraction. People can have the clearest seeing of no self, of oneness, yet this contraction remains or recurs, albeit slightly to barely detectable. Thus, there can be great clarity, but forms of compulsion persist.
“…there is a core type of grasping…it is our most rudimentary sense of self…It is that grasping and contracting around which all the other senses of self are constructed…awakening is the sudden releasing of this grasping in the gut. There’s no guarantee that the grasping will stay released; it may grab hold again.” ~ Adyashanti
“The body is a warehouse in which all our hurts, rejections, failures, fears and resentments are stored, long after thinking has forgotten them…It is these layers of tension and contraction that obscure the natural transparency and openness of the body and give the impression that a separate, inside self is in residence…These may be dormant much of the time but may also be triggered for irrational reasons at unexpected times, and betray in us, over and over again, the residues of a separate inside self.” Rupert Spira
Thus far, in our limited trials using the CI, feedback seems to indicate that this innate physiological grasping is at the root of compulsive behavior. The unconscious grasp within produces grasping, seeking without. Beyond the implications of reducing, if not completely eradicating compulsive and addictive behavior, it has been reported and experienced as an overall diminishment of this sense of a separate self. With the relaxation of this contraction, overall compulsion and the sense of separation relax as well.
Addiction then, could be viewed as a significant portal not only to the recognition of the residual self that remains (in theory), as well as the dissolution of both the behavior, and the root of its persistence. The Compulsion Inquiry is a radical approach to recovery. The good news is, the impact of this work goes far beyond the curbing of addiction and release from compulsive behaviors. It potentially reveals, and subsequently undermines, the sense of separation at its core.
As long as one believes there is a process, there will be the experience of being in process. As long as one believes there is a teacher who imparts some-thing to a student, there is the experience of duality, of two-ness. As long as one believes that there is either abiding realization, or “got it; lost it,” there will be the experience of “not there yet.” As such, to the extent that there is a belief in time, in others, or in a state to be reached, these things will happen, apparently.
Why not see, now, that there is nowhere to get to, no one out there to take you there, and no experience that is not a manifestation of what is, of simply this? What are the concepts, the beliefs, that keep you from seeing that you are what you seek right now? The good news is, until these are discarded, whatever comfort is provided in the experience of practice and process, in the love one feels for the teacher, and in the exhilaration of insight and realization, these experiences will be there for the sake of temporal enjoyment. The better news is also that at any given moment, one can put away “childish things.” The need for comfort, the love for an other, and the thrill of spiritual experiences can be seen as a form of bondage rather than freedom.
The most powerful form of inquiry is when there is the experience of no facilitator, no one being facilitated, and nothing to “get.” There is simply the experience of clearly seeing through these dualistic and temporal conceptions, seeing the absurdity and unnecessary suffering created at the root of all beliefs and concepts: living from the apparent illusion of separation.
If the conceptual reality demands or indicates the need for more of some-thing from someone, that someone will be there to provide that something. It is the way of a benevolent, giving, loving universe (if that is your belief). Help is provided as long as help is perceived to be needed. Ask for help and you shall receive. Then lay down all notions of insufficiency. Be done with seeking/suffering. You have nothing to lose but your most cherished opinions, and literally everything to gain.
“Let him who seeks not cease from seeking
until he finds;
and when he finds,
he will be disturbed;
and when he is disturbed,
he will marvel,
and he shall reign over the All. ” ~ The Gospel of Thomas
Who is looking through those eyes? Who is running this show called your life? Do you want to know? Investigate all assumptions in this regard thoroughly.