iamom: (Default)
University of Victoria philosophy professor Jeffrey Foss, himself author of a book called Science and the Riddle of Consciousness: A Solution, reviewed this recent book by scientific researcher Michael Gazzaniga in Saturday's Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. Gazzaniga's book looks at the ancient question of whether or not humans have free will from an interesting angle: namely, by asking who's actually in charge of synthesizing the data in our brains which ultimately result in decisions being made. More specifically, he transforms this question through his profound scientific understanding of the human brain. To begin the discussion, Professor Foss explains: "[The human brain] is at least the surface at which our consciousness (or soul) contacts our body, even if it is not, as Gazzaniga believes, the very engine of our consciousness (though he admits we currently do not understand how consciousness emerges from the brain)."

Gazzaniga examines this question by reviewing the fascinating research that he and others have conducted on split-brain patients whose left and right brain hemispheres can no longer communicate with each other due to a separation (often surgical, employed to treat extreme epilepsy) of the corpus collosum, which is the body that transmits data from one side of the brain to the other.

(Technical sidebar: The Wikipedia article on split-brain provides a useful overview of how the right and left hemispheres of the brain work together, wherein the left hemisphere (typically considered analytic or logical) and the right hemisphere (typically considered holistic or intuitive) each controls and receives sensory inputs from the opposite side of the body. In split-brain patients, there's a sort of cognitive breakdown in the way that objects are perceived or understood by one side of the body when picked up or perceived by the opposite hemisphere of the brain; studying this breakdown has allowed Gazzaniga to develop insights into the way the two hemispheres interact.)

From Jeffrey Foss's review of the book comes these interesting insights:
Gazzaniga (with his teacher, Nobel laureate Roger Sperry) discovered the split in human consciousness that results from splitting the human brain into right and left hemispheres, a split that consciousness itself doesn't even notice. We have accepted our internal divisions long, long ago, and have, over the millennia, used them to explain our capacity for good and for evil. But whereas we can actually feel ourselves being influenced by Mars or Satan or our combative instinct, no amount of soul-searching can reveal to split-brain patients the resulting rent in their very selves.

The explanation for this is quite simple. The left brain, where language processing occurs, is the mechanism of the soul searching itself, and cannot, in split brains, access or report the activity of the right brain and its input into the brain-as-a-whole.

The brain, split or unsplit, has no centre of control, no centre of consciousness, no centre period: no self. Gazzaniga marshals countless scientific studies of the brain that reveal it to be a rag-bag collection of specialized modules for everything from facial recognition and counting through to distinguishing self from other.

It's quite amazing how these modules make us identify the thoughts and actions of our brain as our own, even when the cause is known to be external control of our brain via transcranial magnetic stimulation. It's quite amazing, that is, to think that our sense of self is achieved by some dozens of such modules working in loose formation with one another -- in the absence of any real self at all.

So, as Gazzaniga and the many scientists of his sort see it, they, you and I are but the imaginary focuses created by our nervous systems in order to better serve the evolutionary demand of our trillions of component cells to survive and reproduce.
I'm deeply drawn towards scientific research which reveals what I find to be essential truths about the nature of consciousness and self: namely, that we possess no particular, identifiable self as such, and that the myriad thoughts and insights that we attribute to a seemingly separate entity called "our self" are simply a collection of evolution-serving, neurochemical, electrical and biological processes that are in place solely to continue the species, and not for any particularly meaningful purpose higher than that.

I find these insights to be enormously liberating. It gives me the license to stop worrying about what's happening; to loosen up my expectations over the way I think things should be; and to allow myself to just let go and let things unfold as they will, because "I" have no control to exert over the system. The universe is taking care of itself without any express input from "me," so why don't I just stop worrying about it?

Foss adds a sidebar to his review listing five essential books on the question of free will:
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman (2011)
Freedom and Belief, by Galen Strawson (2010)
Freedom Evolves, by Daniel Dennett (2003)
How the Mind Works, by Steven Pinker (1997)
The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation, by Matt Ridley (1996)
iamom: (coltrane)
(x-posted here to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)

This article in today's Nonduality Highlights (Issue #4483, edited by Mark Otter today) contains a great article about meditation by Adyashanti, who is one of the clearest speakers on contemporary Nonduality practicing these days. His website is here if you want to check out more of his stuff or if you happen to live somewhere that he's giving satsang.
True meditation has no direction or goal. It is pure wordless surrender, pure silent prayer. All methods aiming at achieving a certain state of mind are limited, impermanent, and conditioned. Fascination with states leads only to bondage and dependency. True meditation is abidance as primordial awareness.
Read more... )
iamom: (Default)
It's an excerpt from St. Augustine's Confessions from ca. 397, dealing with the perception of past, present and future. This portion of Augustine's Wikipedia page sets some interesting context for the part which I'm about to transcribe:

The latter part of Augustine's Confessions consists of an extended meditation on the nature of time. Even the agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell was impressed by this. He wrote, "a very admirable relativistic theory of time. ... It contains a better and clearer statement than Kant's of the subjective theory of time - a theory which, since Kant, has been widely accepted among philosophers."[44] Catholic theologians generally subscribe to Augustine's belief that God exists outside of time in the "eternal present"; that time only exists within the created universe because only in space is time discernible through motion and change.

I'm not sure exactly where the following excerpt comes from in the entire work, for I read it in a literature review called Lapham's Quarterly and its exact placement in the original text was not noted there. What I have before me also appears to have been translated into ordinary modern English, while several of the translations I saw online are in a sort of archaic format with a lot of entreaties to "O Lord" and the like. This excerpt is very clean and simple, and I really appreciate how lucidly it describes how our perception of time informs the nature of our very existence. (At least, that's how I read it!)

If the future and the past do exist, I want to know where they are. I may not yet be capable of such knowledge, but at least I know that wherever they are, they are not there as future or past, but as present. For if, wherever they are, they are future, they do not yet exist; if past, they no longer exist. Do wherever they are and whatever they are, it is only by being present that they are.

When we describe the past correctly, it is not past facts which are drawn out of our memories but only words based on our memory pictures of those facts, because when they happened they left an impression on our minds by means of our sense perception. My own childhood, which no longer exists, is in past time, which also no longer exists. But when I remember those days and describe them, it is in the present that I picture them to myself, because their picture is still present in my memory.

Whether some similar process enables the future to be seen, some process by which events which have not yet occurred become present to us by means of already existing images of them, I confess, my God, that I do not know. But at least I know that we generally think about what we are going to do before we do it, and this preliminary thought is in the present, whereas the action which we premeditate does not yet exist because it is in the future. Once we have set to work and started to put our plans into action, that action exists, because it is now not future but present.

By whatever mysterious means it may be that the future is foreseen, it is only possible to see something which exists; and whatever exists is not future but present. So when we speak of foreseeing the future, we do not see things which are not yet in being, that is, this which are future, but it may be that we see their causes or signs, which are already in being. In this way they are not future but present to the eye of the beholder, and by means of them the mind can form a concept of things which are still future and thus is able to predict them. These concepts already exist, and by seeing them, present in their minds people are able to foretell the actual facts which they represent.

Let me give you one example of the many from which I could choose. Suppose that I am watching the break of day. I predict that the sun is about to rise. What I see is present, but what I foretell is future. I do not mean that the sun is future, for it already exists, but that its rise is future, because it has not yet happened. But I could not foretell the sunrise unless I had a picture of it in my mind, just as I have at this moment while I am speaking about it. Yet the dawn, which I see in the sky, is not the sunrise, although it precedes it; nor is the picture which I have in my mind the sunrise. But both the dawn and my mental picture are seen in the present, and it is from them that I am able to predict the sunrise, which is future. The future, then, is not yet; it is not at all; and if it is not at all, it cannot possibly be seen. But it can be foretold from things which are present, because they exist now and can therefore be seen.
iamom: (Default)
This short piece came from the issue of Lapham's Quarterly that I recently quoted from about economics. This piece comes from the Zhuangzi, which I've never heard of but which the editors state is one of the most influential books in the Taoist canon.
Skilled Labour

A butcher demonstrated dissecting an ox in the presence of Prince Wen Hui. With what his hands were touching, his shoulders were leaning, his feet were treading, his bent knees were pressing, and with an artful use of his knife, he made the sounds of dislocating joints and separating bones from muscles form rhythms and a succession of musical tones.

Prince Wen Hui said, "Ah! Excellent! How could your technique reach such perfection?"

The butcher laid down his knife and answered, "What I have wished is Tao, far more superior to technique. When I first dissected oxen, what I saw was nothing less than the whole ox. After three years, I no longer saw the whole ox. And now, I let my intuition, not my eyesight, lead the way, such that functions of the organs are accessories to initiatives of the mind. I proceed on what comes naturally, attack the hollow cavities between tendons and bones, and sink knife into joints, taking advantage of their natural structures, without interfering with the big and small blood vessels around small muscles and bones, let alone bigger bones.

"A good butcher changes his knife every year; he uses it to cut muscles. An ordinary butcher changes his knife every month; he uses it to cut bones. I have used the same knife for nineteen years to dissect several thousand oxen. It looks like new from the sharpening stone. Since the bone joints have empty space in between and the knife blade has no thickness, inserting what has no thickness into where it is hollow leaves plenty of room for maneuvering. Therefore, after nineteen years it still looks like new from the sharpening stone.

"Even so, every time I come to complex formations, I find it to be a tough job and call for extreme caution. I look at it with great attention and proceed with deliberate slowness. With a slight movement of the knife, the dissection is over, as swiftly as throwing mud to the ground. The ox doesn't even know it is dead!"
iamom: (riker muzzle)
An ordinary man seeks freedom through enlightenment.
An enlightened man expresses freedom through being ordinary.
--Adyashanti
iamom: (suntrees)
From Issue #4148 of the Nonduality Highlights come these two interesting excerpts edited by Mark Otter:
Nothing matters so much that we should throw ourselves into a state of panic about it. No happening is so important that we should let ourselves be exiled from inner peace and mental calm for its sake.

— Paul Brunton
Weak desires can be removed by introspection and meditation, but strong, deep-rooted ones must be fulfilled and their fruits, sweet or bitter, tasted.

Nisargadatta Maharaj, from I Am That - Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
These two quotations reflect two sides of the same coin, I think. Many of my deepest-rootest desires are anchored in coping mechanisms I've developed in order to avoid feeling panic, depression, or other negative emotions.

The way I read these quotations is that we should deeply feel all of our emotions as they naturally occur and bubble up from within us, and in so doing we can avoid creating the sort of inner conflict that can lead directly to maladaptive or addictive behaviours.

If something bad or troublesome is happening in our life, then we should feel upset or angry about it—it's only natural! Then once the initial anger has been experienced, we can move on to do something constructive about the situation. But if instead of experiencing that natural anger we turn to some activity to dull that emotion (such as food, drugs, alcohol, excessive sex, the internet, etc.), then we doom ourselves to an endless feedback loop of unhealthy, mindless behaviours which do not provide any constructive solace to the original situation. What may have started as a necessary coping mechanism soon develops into an unhealthy addiction, and we end up worse off than we were before.

(x-posted here to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)
iamom: (nisargadatta)
Just posted an entry in [livejournal.com profile] nonduality about the author Leo Hartong and what I think was his first book, called Awakening To The Dream.

For reference, the post is here.
iamom: (looking out)
In Issue 3966 of the Nonduality Highlights, Jerry Katz presented the following blog entry by a young-looking guy I'd never heard of before named Howard "Howdie" Mickoski. From Howdie's website, it's hard to tell how old he is or where he's from, but he posted some wise words here that Jerry reprinted. Here's a tasty excerpt:
Everyone has the constricting belief that enlightenment or God is over "there" somewhere and their job in life is to "find" it. The problem is that we are "here" and will always be "here"- but if enlightenment is over "there", how can it be found? Actually enlightenment/God is also here, always was here, but what it is, is actually not what 99% of seekers really want. Seekers want the enlightenment they have been sold: being happy, important, full of love, no more problems. Like a continuous orgasmic or drug high. That is the reason they are seeking in the first place, the wished for blissful finish line. If anyone really understood what awakening was, no one would want it. Enlightenment is about "alone."

A true encounter with the Absolute/God reveals that no one is doing the experiencing, only the absolute revealing itself to the absolute. Nothing exists, yet there i s the appearance of existence. Realization is alone (all-one). But everyone fears alone, so they run to spiritual practice, patterns, lovers, food, booze, any distraction to avoid the only true fear. The fear of no self (often called emptiness) the fear that "I" do not exist. Fear of no self is not the fear of death, but the fear that you as a human being do not exist at all. That is where all the "spiritual groups" get caught, they are looking for what's in it for "them" or "us". Realization is one and alone for there is no other. Everything that tells you that you are separate from a nything else falls away. Thus you are alone, with the appearance of others. The initial glimpse of this is so terrifying to ego it responds with the emotions of meaninglessness and despair. But as soon as the mind falls away, those emotions go too and all that is left is What Is, and the marvelous curiosity about the dream and what is going to happen next.

read the rest of my excerpt here )
To read the full article on Howdie's site and browse his many others, click here.

Not much particularly new is being expressed here, but I believe it's being expressed quite lucidly. What rang my bell in this excerpt was the sentence, "Suffering is the belief in the story of me." My own personal struggle right now is with my diet and my weight, and despite how wise and spiritual I feel sometimes, I still find myself more often enmeshed in mindless eating habits that keep me terribly unhealthy from a physical perspective. I read passages like these every day, but they obviously don't quite sink in all the way. If these statements are all true, then why I am I still so apparently wrapped up in my own story? Why do I continue to turn my back on the truth of my essential reality? Why, after all the exposure I've given myself to these wonderful teachings, do I act seemingly in opposition to them?

I think that the answer to this probably lies somewhere in the fact that I'm still thinking of myself as a separate "I" with problems to overcome and obstacles to climb over. I'd hazard a guess that when I completely "get" that there is no separate "I," that there is no separate entity to which I can ascribe these qualities, then the worldly behaviour of this so-called "I" will settle down into something more natural.

Augh, what a mind-bender. I think I'll go outside and meditate now. God knows that sitting in front of this computer isn't helping me! :)
iamom: (iam)
Jerry Katz's edition of Issue #4045 of the Nonduality Highlights includes a really interesting dialogue about nonduality involving Deepak Chopra. Jerry introduces the exchange like this:
As nonduality stands on the brink of a presence in major media, let's look at how Deepak Chopra addresses a question about why he has held back on delivering the full teaching of nonduality. The bottom line may be strictly commercial. However, ask yourself whether the times are a-changing and whether major media can absorb the full and diverse teaching of nonduality.
These are interesting questions. Certainly, the concept and discussion of nonduality is becoming more prevalent on the internet: dozens, if not hundreds, of individual seekers have created blogs and other forums which outline their expanding awareness and insights into nondual reality. Googling the word "nonduality" in 1997, when Jerry Katz first initiated Nonduality.com, yielded nearly nothing on the topic. Now, it yields 83,500 results.

In all of the higher levels of attainment possible in the major contemplative spiritual traditions, there has traditionally been a certain guru-disciple relationship and a particular path that is followed in order to attain enlightenment. (Now of course, in radical nonduality you learn that there is no separate self and therefore nobody to attain that enlightenment; however, the apparent self in the form of the physical body-mind does seem to be drawn towards the state in some cases.) The impetus for this guru-disciple relationship is that full realization of nondual reality can be a bit mind-blowing, to say the least, and can easily have the effect of either making you question your very existence, or else making you drop responsibility for your thinking and your actions because there's no individual self anyway. There are other ways that someone with insufficiently mature spiritual and moral foundations can interpret the most radical teachings, but that gives an idea. And furthermore, the most radical teachings are usually incomprehensible to most laypeople anyway.

I say all this as preamble to the exchange I'm about to quote with Deepak Chopra in relation to Jerry's initial question above: Are the major media, and by extension, the broad general public, ready to absorb the full teaching of nonduality? As much as I might like to think so and as much as I think that the ground is becoming increasingly ripe for it, I'm inclined to say "not yet." I don't believe that lay practitioners or lightly-interested parties can really soak up the deepest insights available from nondual teachings. Without some sort of pre-existing insight or well-grounded spiritual practice which has trained the mind at least partially to reside in stillness and not to be completely enmeshed in the stories of our individual personalities, I don't think that the radical teachings of nonduality are too helpful.

Having said all that, I do believe that the most lucid and poetic expressions of nondual insight can have profound, awakening effects on absolutely anybody who reads them, if the reader is sufficiently self-aware and open-minded. I also believe that the solution to all of the world's various problems, no matter how seemingly intractable, can be found by viewing those problems through the prism of nondual reality. So for those reasons, I would hope that the insights derived from nondual teachings can indeed be more widely disseminated and shared in the coming years, and I hope against hope that these insights may help to lead some people towards developing more impactful solutions to those problems -- even if only the smallest personal ones. Of course, it really doesn't matter one way or the other if that happens, it's just that I feel a pull towards that kind of thing "myself."

I'm going to excerpt from the excerpt below, but the full question and answer from Deepak Chopra can be found here.
Read my reduction of the exchange with Deepak here )
(Cross-posted here to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)
iamom: (Default)
From Issue #4042 of the Nonduality Highlights comes this extremely lucid burst from someone named Adi Vajra, who has a blog called Dharma Point:
http://dharmapoint.blogspot.com/2010/08/non-duality-is-very-natural.html

Nonduality is Very Natural
by Adi Vajra


Non-Duality means non-duality. It's funny how, through our manic searching and desperate attempts for control we can very easily imagine separateness in our lives. We have this in-built tendency to create very subtle conditions for Truth. We may understand intellectually that everything is One, but through our experience we always conjure up exceptions to that. In this way we tend to try to exclude what we don't want, or create some condition that prevents someone or something else from being whole. But, non-duality means non-duality...just because a person may not know all the spiritual languages, or be able to astrally project themselves doesn't mean that they aren't just as much the One as anything else.

In our truly natural state, which is just right now, there is nothing excluded from the totality of existence. But the mind would believe otherwise, the mind would organize and interpret experiences down to the nth degree, hoping to somehow get a grasp on the eternal and unbound~ but it can't be done!

Non-duality is the relaxation of the mind to the essential truth that there is nothing to fix, nowhere to go, nothing to become...

Non-duality is the basic nature of our Being, that aspect of our Being that includes everything. The aspect of of our Being that isn't concerned with analyzing reality, or making assumptions based on false evidence.

Non-duality is the direct experience of your own Self, and the recognition that your own Self is in its essence no different that anything else.
iamom: (coltrane)
The Mark Otter-edited Issue #4017 of the Nonduality Highlights contains quite a lengthy selection from a talk by Pema Chödrön, the wonderful Tibetan Buddhist nun and senior student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The excerpt deals mostly with something called shenpa, which is usually translated as attachment, but which she imbues with a meaning related to that which triggers our tendency to close down or withdraw for whatever reason.

She lists many reasons and examples for why we might close down, such as someone saying something insulting to us or our children, whatever. The parts of this passage which resonated so strongly with me relate to addictions, both to drugs and to food and binge eating. She talks about how we all feel this tension or unease about different situations in our life, especially those dealing with reminders of past traumas, and that when we get these feelings of unease, we react to them by trying to remove that unease in the fastest way possible.

I've done that with drugs and with food for years. With drugs for 10 years, and with food for more than 25 years. This constant and habitual drive I have had to dull negative emotions with food or drugs has made me tremendously unhealthy from a physical and mental perspective, and the solution as she sees it is to simply learn how to experience those emotions and then let them pass through you without hanging on to them. When we do that, when we just stop and breathe in and check in with ourselves and let ourselves really feel whatever the emotion is that's trying to make itself felt, then we don't have to fight against it anymore by zoning out with drugs or food or whatever else our addiction is (TV, the internet, sex, whatever).

This is really ringing some bells with me right now, because it also sits directly in line with what Geneen Roth teaches in her books about overcoming emotional or compulsive eating. She teaches that the only way to overcome the urge to overeat compulsively is to face directly whatever it is in our lives, our past, or our emotions that is driving us to escape from the moment by eating. When we do that, and when we do it in a very gentle and friendly and loving way towards ourselves, we will discover that the feelings we're trying to escape from are most likely very ordinary and understandable and justifiable human emotions or reactions to something in our lives, and that if we allow ourselves to actually experience those emotions, that they'll pass on through us and leave us relatively unscathed.

In other words, it's our attachment to the idea that we have to avoid these feelings at all costs which inspires us to overeat or to overindulge in any addictive behaviour we might have. Pema goes on in a similar vein in the selection I mentioned above, and I've copied the most relevant parts of that selection below:
Read more... )
iamom: (Default)
My friend Jerry Katz has a very esoteric radio show on the university radio station called Nonduality Street, and this week he had me come in to do a live interview about nonduality and parenting, a topic on which I am unbelievably expert. (heh.) He describes the show and provides a link to the half-hour show here:

http://nonduality.org/2010/09/21/1531/

Having said that, I noticed that the CKDU archive has a passable-sounding version of the show here -- just scroll ahead a minute or so to get past the initial commercial and to the beginning of the show:

http://129.173.68.249/20100921.12.58-13.33.mp3

I don't know if anyone here would listen to the whole show, but I'd be curious to know if they do, and/or what they think about it. I thought it was really fun to do and I'd love to do it again soon. I also discovered that I say "like" and "as such" too often.
iamom: (riker muzzle)
On Distraction
Our minds need to go on a diet.
Spring 2010

One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.

The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties—something that, if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves or our fellows. We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture—and, in the process, we don’t allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds. We leave a movie theater vowing to reconsider our lives in the light of a film’s values. Yet by the following evening, our experience is well on the way to dissolution, like so much of what once impressed us: the ruins of Ephesus, the view from Mount Sinai, the feelings after finishing Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich.

A student pursuing a degree in the humanities can expect to run through 1,000 books before graduation day. A wealthy family in England in 1250 might have owned three books: a Bible, a collection of prayers, and a life of the saints—this modestly sized library nevertheless costing as much as a cottage. The painstaking craftsmanship of a pre-Gutenberg Bible was evidence of a society that could not afford to make room for an unlimited range of works but also welcomed restriction as the basis for proper engagement with a set of ideas.

The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.

Alain de Botton is the author of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work and other books.

From  http://www.city-journal.org/2010/20_2_snd-concentration.html

(via Nonduality Highlights Issue #3914, edited by Jerry Katz)

iamom: (iam)
From Issue 3887 of the Nonduality Highlights, on this day edited by Mark Otter, comes a very interesting passage regarding a type of spiritual discourse in the Eastern and enlightenment traditions which tends to negate the idea of "enlightenment as a goal unto itself." I won't paraphrase the content of the excerpt, because the apparent paradox is explained very well therein -- I'll just say that I was moved while reading it, and that it resonated strongly with me.

Enlightenment topics are always really difficult to talk about meaningfully, especially amongst the so-called lay practitioners, of which I consider myself one. (I've really never had any of those blinding realization experiences that I've read about so often, nor have I had any serious kundalini awakenings or arisings or any of that jazz.) But I find it really encouraging to read this passage, and validating to consider that just acknowledging the possibility of a full-on awakening might actually lead to one -- in this lifetime.

The tradition into which I was originally initiated in my 20s -- i.e., the Himalayan Raja Yoga tradition -- appeared to teach me from the outset that enlightenment was something that would probably never happen to me personally. It was a lofty state to which I could only hope to aspire after a lifetime of extremely rigourous practice, and probably even then I wouldn't really "get it" by the time I died (unless I was unbelievably lucky, or received some kind of divine transmission of grace from a blessed guru, if I was even lucky enough to find one).

But enough preamble. Here's the aforementioned passage:
Awakening: The Modern Heresy

There are many factors contributing to our inability to recognize our Original Nature and our own inherent state of Natural Awareness. Perhaps the greatest of these is our addiction to the process of searching for meaning and truth. In our modern Western culture, we have often cleverly cloaked and disguised this addiction with a rationalization that it is the journey, not the destination, that is important.

While it is vitally important to recognize that:
Reality is continuously manifesting through a dynamic
and on-going process of unfolding, and
in an Infinite universe, we may never actually
arrive at a final destination or end point,
...we often lose sight of the inherent completeness and
perfection of Reality, as it is, within the present moment,
and we use the popular metaphor of a spiritual journey as
a way of justifying our restless wandering and searching
for an elusive and mysterious Essence that seems to be
missing from our lives.

By convincing ourselves that there is something noble and humble in never arriving at our spiritual destination, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to recognize our own essential and fundamental nature, and doom ourselves to living within a perpetual state of psychological and spiritual homelessness.

In fact, I believe an assertion that one has experienced an Awakening or Realization has become the ultimate modern heresy, for this declaration challenges and sabotages the accepted, intellectual assumption that we must be forever journeying toward a distant and unreachable destination.

In many Eastern religious traditions, however, there is a much greater willingness to accept the possibility that experiences of Awakening may actually be a legitimate insight into, or recognition of, the fundamental and essential nature of Reality. I have begun to suspect that, in most cases, this openness and willingness -- at least to consider the radical possibility we might one day awaken into a liberating recognition of our innate and Original Nature -- may be an essential precursor to the actual experience of Realization, itself.

Without this willingness to accept the possibility that we might one day actually experience a stunning Realization of who and what we really are, we will be forever destined to wander in search of a Reality that, ironically, is inherent within the immediacy of the present moment.

-- Metta Zetty
(x-posted here to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)
iamom: (carclub)
From Gloria Lee's Issue 3863 of the Nonduality Highlights comes this very interesting passage about the difference between the awakened and unawakened states, and how, surprisingly, it is much easier to be in the awakened state because of the lack of extraneous emotional baggage.
Here's a beautiful piece of poetic clarity, from Jed McKenna...

"The enlightened state is not, as is commonly supposed, the special state. The unenlightened state is the magical, mysterious, incomprehensible state. Awake is just awake. It's not something more, it's everything less. My state is natural and easy. I carry no baggage. I labor under no delusion. I don't spend my lifeforce animating a fictional persona. All paradox lies with the unawakened state. The awakened don't have something that the unawakened are missing, it's the other way around. The unawakened possess massive structures of false belief. They create and maintain these vast realms of past, present and future; of great meaning and importance; of a deep and wide emotional range; all woven together out of sheer nothingness. Something from nothing; that's the magic, that's the special state. The unawakened state is the one that requires such ceaseless dedication and devotion and which seems so fantastically improbable. The awakened state is nothing compared to that".

and:

"The lifeforce I'm not using to project a false self is now available for much more fun and interesting purposes. It's a whole different universe once all that petty self crap has been left behind".

posted by Roy Whenary to Open Awareness
(x-posted here to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)
iamom: (Default)
From Dick Proenneke's website:
http://www.dickproenneke.com/alone_in_the_wilderness.html

Dick Proenneke retired at age 50 in 1967 and decided to build his own cabin on the shore of Twin Lakes. The first summer he scouted for the best cabin site, and cut and peeled the logs he would need for his cabin. Dick Proenneke returned the next summer to finish the cabin where he lived for over 30 years. Dick filmed his adventures, and Bob Swerer later turned the film into a video so we can all watch this amazing man build his cabin by hand.

Every year, PBS plays this video during their pledge drive, and I recorded it this year and watched it. It is nothing short of amazing. Have any of you seen it? I can't tell you how moving it is to watch his preparations for living alone in the far north like he did. An expert builder, woodsman, hunter and survivalist, he built himself the most amazing cabin with his own hands and then lived there alone until 1998! It's really an amazing story.

Other interesting bits of history are here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Proenneke
http://www.nps.gov/lacl/historyculture/proennekes-cabin.htm
http://www.nps.gov/lacl/planyourvisit/upload/ProennekeCabinSite.pdf

And I found the location of the cabin on Google Maps, but you can't zoom in enough to actually see it:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=60°38′59″N 153°48′38″W
iamom: (suntrees)

Via the Nonduality Highlights, as usual...

BEING HERE NOW ALWAYS

One of the nicest metaphors I heard was from Ajahn Sumedho.

He talked about our experience of being in a room.

We can look at, say, the picture on the wall or a chair or a foot stool.

Then have opinions or inner commentary about each of the things and their relationships...

...nice picture, pretty colours, reminds me of a story I once heard, that footstool doesn't go with that chair...the fung shui in here sucks...etc

ALL THE WHILE MISSING THE SPACE IN THE ROOM. -

(Which is ALWAYS THERE whether the objects are or not, and no matter what our opinions, fantasies, inner dialogues about them are.)

The space is "as true" as the perception of any object.
The space is always present.
The space is a constant; a given....not dependent on any of the things.
The space is independent even of the observer.
The space exists even without the room.
The space exists independent of the idea of time.
The space is simple, obvious and ever present.
The space is so easily overlooked by the human inner verbal commentary.
A lovely metaphor aimed again at effing the ineffable and allowing direct experience of the herenow always.

- Keith Nightingale (Swaraja), from his blog http://realisingherenow.blogspot.com/2010/03/one-ness-ness-ness.html

iamom: (Default)
From Issue #3837 of the Nonduality Highlights, today edited by Jerry Katz, comes this lucid definition of nonduality among several others from a new 3-DVD box set called Science and Nonduality Anthology, Interviews of Participants at the Science and Nonduality Conference 2009. I like the idea that it's actually duality that requires explanation and not nonduality.
Thomas Ray, Professor of Zoology and Computer Science, University of Oklahoma:

Nonduality involves absence of self or sense of self and the feeling of oneness or unity with everything, with the universe. I've believed that nonduality is just the plain truth. The universe is one thing and we're all part of the universe and that it isn't nonduality that needs explanation, it's duality that needs explanation. In fact, there is a mental organ that produces duality, just one. Without the activity of that mental organ, we would experience nonduality as the normal state.
iamom: (Default)
In Issue 3820 of the Nonduality Highlights, editor Mark Otter included several interesting quotes about the nature of emptiness. This one strikes nicely at the argument that I've heard raised often about radical nonduality and its perceived acceptance of passivity in life, willingess to ignore suffering in the world, and so on:
In Buddhist thought the concept "emptiness" refers to deconstructed reality. The more closely you look at something the more you see that it is not there in any substantial way, it couldn't be. In the end everything is just a designation: things have a kind of reality in their being named and conceptualized, but otherwise they actually aren't present. Not to understand that our designations are designations, that they do not refer to anything in particular, is to mistake emptiness.

When you look closely for anything and find that you can't find it, you do discover that although the thing itself seems to be void, there do seem to be connections. In fact connection is all you find, with no things that are connected. It's the very thoroughness of the connection - no gaps or lumps in it - only the constant nexus- that renders everything void. So everything is empty and connected, or empty because connected. Emptiness is connection.

So, do things exist? Yes and no. Yes, in that experience does occur, and no in that the experience that occurs is radically not what you think it is. The Heart Sutra in a famous passage says there are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind. This doesn't mean that the sense organs and mind don't exist; it means they don't exist as we are deeply convinced they do: as separate real entities. We think we "have" eyes and ears. But eyes and ears as they exist deconstructed in emptiness can't be possessed. They are inherently dispossessed, even of themselves. Emptiness is freedom.

Why does any of this matter and what consequences does it have for living?

Three attitudes arise as a consequence of the appreciation of emptiness:

* flexibility - since nothing is real, fixed, separate, or able to be possessed what's the point of resistance?
* kindness - since everything is nothing but connection kindness is natural
* humility - who is going to feel like he's master of all this talk?

-- Zoketsu Norman Fischer
What a great question, to ask if things exist, and to answer that yes, the experience does occur, but that no, the experience is radically not what you think it is. This is a pretty subtle point that may not be easy for all to grasp right away, but it does make a lot of sense to me, at least in the abstract. Perhaps there's not a lot of real-world use for such a thought, I don't know. But then again, as he closes the excerpt he points out that when everything is nothing but connection, kindness is natural, and that since nothing is fixed or separate, what's the point of resistance? There's your solution for world peace right there, and I've thought about that before, too: If you recognize the inherent sameness and connection between you and your enemy, the point of fighting becomes moot.

Don't know how to apply that in global politics and warfare exactly, but the point still stands!

(x-posted here to [livejournal.com profile] nonduality)

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Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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