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August 2013

This Month's Contents: Video: Let Go of All Experiences by Linda Clair | Sense of Separation by Bart Marshall | Video: The Nothing Dance by Bob Fergeson | I Brought you a Mirror Rumi | Topic Spotlight Forum Readers | Humor | Quotes | Reader Commentary |


Editor's Note
by Heather Saunders

spiritual magazine

I've walked this same route literally hundreds of times over the past 7 years.

Just a few weeks ago I noticed these 2 gravestones....


Let All Experiences Go

by Linda Clair

Learn more about Linda Clair


Sense of Separation

by Bart Marshall

"Whenever there is a sense of individuality, personality, or a separateness, you have so many wants. You want to see a movie, you want to hear music, you want to play, you want to have sex, you want to eat fancy foods, you want to consume intoxicant, but when that sense of separateness is not there, when you are one with the totality, these things are not desired. And spirituality or what you call "religion" is mainly to understand this: that you don't require anything, you are a part of the totality, or reality. When you grasp that, you don't have any of these needs. But so long as you are separate from things, you need everything.

To exist as a separate individual constitutes the entire problem. And all these things, the various sense caterings, all reading, search for knowledge, for pleasure, everything is related to that. Once all that subsides, there is no more problem. Then the bliss you experience is true bliss. The foregoing, however, is not a ban on activities. Do whatever you want, but never forget the reality, never forget what you really are. You are not the body, you are not the food, you are not this vital air (prana). Whatever has appeared is a state, and as such it has to go." ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

He (Nisargadatta Maharaj) puts his finger on the one main problem that we're facing. All spirituality is mainly to understand this one thing--that you don't require anything, that you are the Totality, that you grasp that you don't have any of these needs you think you have. But so long as you think you are separate you need everything. The much-talked-about problem of separateness in this work, in these teachings--non-duality and really all religion and all spirituality--sometimes gets talked about so much that it loses impact. We tend to say, "Yeah, yeah, that's the problem, I think I'm separate."

But there's no remedy. It's just been with us so long it seems impossible to think otherwise. There's no direct way to go at it. We get into this stuff to begin with, into spiritual work or whatever you want to call it, to enhance this separate character. We find ourselves alive in a life that causes us mostly anxiety, worry, troubles and suffering punctuated by occasional moments of happiness here and there.

Most of life is work and responsibilities, and our gratification, our happiness is always deferred. "When my schedule clears up, when I get this out of the way, when I get the lover I want, when I get enough money and all these things, then maybe I'll be happy." But it's always for this separate thing, this separate character that has all these needs before it can happy, before it can settle in any way. It has hundreds of different things that it has to have in place before it can have peace, before it can be content. And it's just way too big of a project.

I don't think anyone knows of anyone for whom that has ever worked, that the separate character is ever fulfilled. The separate character can never be fulfilled, can never have peace, can never be content. So we get further and further into this, and try to find ways to meditate ourselves into contentment, yoga ourselves into peace, and to order our lives in such a way that somehow this squirmy animal that has all these needs is going to be calmed down and say, "All right, I'm happy finally. I'm going to stay that way."

But there are just too many to-dos in that project. We gradually come to accept that this thing that has all these needs is the problem. The problem can't be solved on the level of the problem. The problem can't be solved by satisfying this needy, whiny ignorant--so ignorant that it doesn't even know what's good for it--thing. It knows what it wants, like a little two year old kid that has whims that get satisfied and then, "No that's not enough."' Then the next thing gets satisfied and, "No that's not enough." It has those kinds of things. But it doesn't even know really what it wants. It doesn't really know what's good for it in the long run. It doesn't know what's ultimately good for it.

So it's a fool's errand to keep tossing it yet another toy, and yet another toy. Eventually we admit the thing itself is the problem. Now what? Because this thing, as much trouble as it causes, is that which we love the most. It's the nearest and dearest thing to our existence. This separate vehicle that we get to drive around in--to even trifle with the notion that it's the problem, or that perhaps it's not real, or that perhaps it has never existed in the first place....

All this churn is just the little dust devil that is spinning in the mind. Everything that we complain about is just a thought. All of our problems, all of our worries, all of the things we think stand in our way are just a passing thought, as Nisargadatta points out in here. He uses the example of sleep, but we'll just say that as long as those thoughts aren't there, whether it's sleep or sitting quietly not thinking about anything or worrying about anything, or not attached to any particular aspect of the character--in other words when the I-thought is not there--ALL IS WELL.

There are no problems when the I-thought is absent. You can be in the midst of an incredible amount of churn in your life, having crisis in every corner of your life, and yet in those moments where you forget that, ALL IS WELL. When the "I" that thinks it has all these problems is absent, even for a moment, ALL IS WELL. Those things that seem to have such substance, imperative and urgency completely disappear when the I-thought is not there. They have no power unless the I-thought is there to attach to.

So it seems like an insurmountable project--how to do disabuse yourself of the notion that you are a self. How does that happen? How can you take that on as a project and approach it directly? Well it's very difficult. So we have lots of practices that kind of dance around it and kind of weaken us to the idea that that might the case. But there is a way to just go after it directly, too. And that is, just look at that I-thought and constantly ask,"Does it have any validity?" Does it have any substance? It's wreaking havoc, and when it's gone ALL IS WELL. And it's just a thought." That's literally all we need to see, that the separate individual we have come to know and love for lo these many years, is just a thought.

Even the body, substantial as it seems, is just a thought. That which you truly are is none of it. When the I-thought is absent, there is no body to be owned. It's all just a part of Totality. Nothing can be separate from Totality. And yet that's what we think is going on. We think that we're so special that we stand apart from All That Is, suffer its slings and arrows and appreciate its beauty and all that other stuff. But that's the essential thing, that we are so SPECIAL that we stand apart from all else, we stand apart from the entirety of Creation, we stand apart from whatever our concept of a higher power is, we stand apart from everything, isolated and victimized by it--all because of this little thought, that "I" am separate from It.

Quite literally, all that happens when someone wakes up, becomes Self-realized, becomes enlightened, all that happens is that the I-thought goes away. And lo and behold, ALL IS WELL. All that remains is All That Is, and You are That. There is nothing else! There is no one to be anyone else. There has always only been just this, this one... let's say “Life”, this one Awareness, this one Existence. And it is alone but it's not isolated because it's All That Is.

It's a solitude magnitudes different from the solitude of this imagined individual character. We hold on to this fragment of an idea of life at the expense of True Life. Nothing else has to happen for True Life to be our experience--the experience that dominates Awareness, instead of the experience of individuality.

There's great things about individuality, certainly when there's triumphs or something good happens in your life and you have moments of exhilaration. It has things to recommend it. If we wanted to answer the question, 'Why is there something instead of nothing?" it's for the entertainment factor of being an individual in a wonderful creation, a beautiful game that's been laid out for us. But when we get to the point where the game is no longer of interest, or at least not of sufficient interest to counterbalance the downside, we start asking questions. The questions lead us down a path that maybe we don't want to look at at first, the path of, "Wait, 'I' can't have the answer. That which I think I am can never be happy. That which I think I am can never know Truth. That which I think I am can never be other than what it is, an imaginary thought passing through Awareness."

Am I willing to allow myself to become vulnerable to the leap that will be gifted to me, granted to me when I'm ready? The leap from an imaginary existence to True Existence, True Life? Once that happens, as the scriptures say, all else is added unto you. This imaginary life is given back to you, but now it's seen for what it is. You still get that, too. You get it all! But first you have to lose it all. Lose everything. You literally lose your life.

There are ways to make ourselves vulnerable to Grace. As Rose used to say, "Enlightenment is always an accident, but there are ways to make yourself more accident-prone." That's kind of what we're up to when we embark on this enterprise. How do I make myself more accident prone? How do I make myself vulnerable to the gift of Grace?

So, here we are.

~ Transcribed by Augie Monge from a talk Bart gave at a weekly SIG meeting in Raleigh, September 12th, 2012.

Note: Bart Marshall and Deborah Westmoreland will be in Crestone Colorado for a 6-day Self Inquiry Retreat from September 16th through the 22nd. Click here for details and registration.


The Nothing Dance

by Bob Fergeson

Check out more of Bob's videos and other creative output.


You have no idea how hard I've looked
for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.
What's the point of bringing gold to
the gold mine, or water to the Ocean.
Everything I came up with was like
taking spices to the Orient.
It's no good giving my heart and my
soul because you already have these.
So- I've brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.

~ Rumi


Topic Spotlight

Editor’s note: This spotlight is focused on last month's article, An Art of Unknowing, by Ally Milo. At the end of his piece, Ally had included “an incomplete list of questions” that he felt was important for us to consider and to discuss “amongst ourselves, Enlightened or otherwise."

Here are some Forum readers' responses:

Spiritual Magazine

Dear Ally,

Thank you for your honest exposé of your particular stage of the journey and thank you for your courage to share.

I'll let you distinguish whether any of the following commentary is observation, experience, opinion, belief or understanding. Because in the end, the writer/ commentator/teacher is irrelevant and it is the reader/receiver/student's responsibility to discern and look at what is being said, not who is saying it. Let's face it; if the truth comes from a despicable thief and liar, it's still the truth.

Character flaws, as you call them, and more benign socially acceptable personality traits such as kindness, should all be scrutinized. The very belief and condition that let you divide and separate favourable traits to nurture and unfavorable ones to eradicate is where the unknowing should begin. One of the biggest traps I found myself in was playing the role of the surrendered, selfless, caring mom, wife, friend, etc. That was when I had the biggest meltdown and suicide ate, slept and walked daily with me. Even THAT is only another level of context and it does not matter how "nice" it feels. A completed journey is one where that too is eradicated and seen for what it is.

Are there various depths of "enlightenment" or "seeing"? Only in duality. In duality there can be as many as any one person wishes to invent and see and participate in. Truth, enlightenment (as defined as direct knowing/seeing), simply is. Non divisible, definable, knowable.

Perhaps a good question to add to your list is whether one can vacillate between "seeing/enlightenment/knowing" and delusion. Many writers say it can't. I never had an "experience" like Rose did. The "seeing" that is in this character was a slow progressive process that had 3-4 key moments of direct exposure to the vastness. Between those were big gaps of time during which more and more of "me" was subtracted. Slowly. Like slowly taking a bandage off a wound as opposed to ripping if off violently. It would have killed me otherwise. There are many different paths. We can borrow from many but ultimately we find our own way and that will likely be influenced by our personality traits. Because character CAN spin character. But it will, and can, only do that as long as that character is vibrant. Should that character begin to diminish there is less and less to spin. Then it just isn't.

Selfless love? Get rid of it and see what is left.

~ S.

*

Very thoughtful and appreciated. In the past I would have gone over each question and thoughtfully answered what I "knew". After being a member of TAT for 3 years, it seems as though such questions take me into the thought realm "I" am trying to quiet down.

So, I'll only comment on one of the questions that I have direct experience of: #8: What seems to occur for me is that I am aware of a particular character defect (for instance, arrogance toward a co-worker). I see that what my co-worker has interpreted as arrogance is that my behavior toward her is dishonest, trying to manipulate her into doing something, instead of honestly asking her to do it, because I have a judgment that as a licensed professional she should KNOW to do it. Quite frankly, that's not going to change through any effort of my own without awareness. Just stepping back and seeing that this is happening and then asking for Grace to show me the way to be more honest without increasing the tension (i.e. having the courage to honestly ask her to do what I want her to do...that's it).

I really liked the statement you made about enlightenment ...."Who cares about being enlightened if you are still going to interact (on this dual plane) like an asshole?" Perpetual openness of heart is all I can strive for, and praying for the accident of grace. It's the only thing that has settled in my bones after all these years of "spiritual" searching. As a side effect, it makes me easier to get along with, but it doesn't make me enlightened.

Thank you for writing.

~ C.K.

*

From the TAT forum article questions:

My unenlightened perspective below.

1. What are character flaws or reaction patterns? From what do they arise in the psyche?

They are patterns of the personality. And that they are flaws is because of a pattern that labels them as such. Generally they are 'flawed' because they are unlike others or unlike the majority of others or are a detriment to survival/getting along. They arise from the past conditioning and history. Benoit wrote about the mental 'compensations.' It might be worth a look for you. In other words, where we are strong is a pointer to a compensation to a prior or current weakness. All have opposites and are in fact defined that way. That's how the brain/nervous system/personality thinks and acts.

2. What impact do your character flaws have on your level of awareness of the world around you? What are their effects on others?

The flaws in this case are limits to perception or accurate readings of reality (lowercase r reality). If I misjudge, that is a flaw. The impact this could have to my level of awareness could be from 0 to 100% depending on the severity of the flaw or what I do not want to see or simply cannot correctly interpret due to lack of experience or knowledge or direct insight into the situation. The effects on others could be nothing to everything.

3. Is there a relationship between your level of awareness of the world around you and enlightenment or the depth of enlightenment?

I'm not enlightened so I don't really know. I can say from my observation of those who I trust to be enlightened that they have a better relationship with the world and themselves after their breakthroughs. Could be my projection though.

4. What impact do our character flaws/foibles/imperfections and our level of awareness of the world around us have on the "accident" of enlightenment—and on "becoming more accident prone?"

This is tricky. The accident prone you speak of is something Richard Rose mentioned. He was talking of betweenness and will. We can will to do but must let the results be as they will. In other words, as St. Augustine says: "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you." -St. Augustine

Our flaws will be the work we need to do. The rest is up to the Self/God/Universe/Fate but that doesn't mean we leave it all up to Self/God/Universe/Fate. The need to work is there with effort. But then the effortless might come into play too. Betweenness would be not caring about results and still acting with confidence. The general consensus is that those who tried on the spiritual path with purpose were more likely to find results (THE Result) than those who did not consciously seek it. Sure it might come to some as a Grace but the general studies show effort was needed to 'erode away the effort.'

5. Is there something from which all conflict in the world stems? What is it?

I've read but am not certain on this. They say it is the ignorance or false delusion of self or separation. Think about when you get offended or angry. Why? Because the input you were receiving didn't match your predefined way of how things should be. We have these predefined ways and don't see they may be false.

6. What are the relationships between your answers to the preceding questions and a Love that is empty of personal motivations? And to your capacity to feel such Love?

If Love is the feeling of non-separation/union then it would be a better insight/discrimination reality with the 'self' filters 'ways of how things should be' removed or more accurate. I think the capacity to feel that Love would be increased if Reality was realized.

7. Does capacity to feel Selfless Love have anything to do with "becoming more accident prone?" Does it have anything to do with your depth of enlightenment?

Perhaps. Rose said something about (paraphrasing) a person able to love is more likely (to find the Answer). I think being open is the key but you still have to be tuned to the right channel in case the 'signal' starts broadcasting (or rather we tune in on the correct frequency of Love and become more and more in tune with it). I don't know about the depth of enlightenment. I take enlightenment to be Permanence or that which is or some realization of that but I don't really know if that is it or if there are layers or depths to it.

8. What do you observe about the possible importance of eliminating one’s character flaws? Is this important for seekers? Is it important for those who have "stopped seeking?"

I think it is important. In TAT we call this personality or psychological work rather than pure self-inquiry. It can be helpful to some but maybe not to others. I guess it depends on the person and if something or some flaw is holding them back. Perhaps it is only a belief that they have a flaw that is holding them back and they can make progress regardless but who is to judge? I don't know about those who have stopped seeking or enlightened ones if they still need to work on their psychology. It might help them become better teachers...maybe or it might be irrelevant to them.

9. Are there "greater depths" or "various levels" even within enlightenment?

No idea.

What do you know for sure?

I am...but not sure what that is. Presence can't be denied because the 'denial (of reality) is an assertion (of reality)'. Logic breaks down. I have a feeling there is more to life or rather something is amiss. Years of seeking later and I still am clueless and can only say that reality 'is' but that really doesn't say anything. It sounds like a half-truth only.

From which depths do you speak?

The non-enlightened depths.

Interesting questions. Thank you for them.

~ R.

*

I have read your thought provoking article on TAT forum with all the questions. Here are my 2 cents...

There is too much thinking going and too many intellectual/mind questions. The answers you may receive may further confuse as they will be from so many differing points of views etc. At the end of the day they will just be more knowledge in your mind, which will generate more questions, doubts etc.

Over time I've learnt to really ignore the mind all together... so many doubts, so many problems.

My formula:

1. Put everything into practice on a second by second basis.

2. Observe what am I feeling... to give you a practical example, where I live there is a lot of road rage... so I do everything I can to control myself while driving, I'll purposely drive slowly... it creates some angst in me and brings out my self and puts it in its place.

Or another example when I'm dealing with a rude customer... staying calm and peaceful inside can be a challenge.

Over time as you do this you will start uncovering your self.

My advice also would be to stop relying on teachers... be your own teacher and ask God to guide you to Himself. He will find the teachers for you... and by teacher here I mean anything that teaches to come closer to Him/Home. It could be a saying, an experience, an event in your life. One has to be sincere in his/her devotion and relentless in the pursuit.

Stop relying on a physical "enlightened" teacher, only you can discover your self, they can not do it for you. They can be helpful, but as you already mentioned in your article, not always.

~ M.H.

*

1. What are character flaws or reaction patterns? From what do they arise in the psyche?

A habit of grabbing or reaching for one thought, a pleasant one, to block out a painful thought.

2. What impact do your character flaws have on your level of awareness of the world around you? What are their effects on others?

Anger always seems right at the time, but never is. Character flaws are mental processes that cover over awareness.

3. Is there a relationship between your level of awareness of the world around you and enlightenment or the depth of enlightenment?

I avoid the term "enlightenment" and prefer instead non-discursive awareness, the mind or consciousness stopped within awareness. See quotes at end.

4. What impact do our character flaws/foibles/imperfections and our level of awareness of the world around us have on the "accident" of enlightenment—and on "becoming more accident prone?"

They block out or cover the pure awareness that I suppose is what people mean by enlightenment.

5. Is there something from which all conflict in the world stems? What is it?

Identity. The delusion that everyone must be like me for me to be secure.

6. What are the relationships between your answers to the preceding questions and a Love that is empty of personal motivations? And to your capacity to feel such Love?

The love is there, but covered over by personal motivations.

7. Does capacity to feel Selfless Love have anything to do with "becoming more accident prone?" Does it have anything to do with your depth of enlightenment?

Don't think so; I guess it's a consequence of stopping the mind.

8. What do you observe about the possible importance of eliminating one’s character flaws? Is this important for seekers? Is it important for those who have "stopped seeking?"

When someone abides in genuine non-discursive awareness, are there any flaws? Is there any seeking?

9. Are there "greater depths" or "various levels" even within enlightenment? What do you know for sure? From which depths do you speak?

Yes. Many levels of stillness. Years of experience meditating.

~ G.M.

*

Here are my answers to your questions:

1. What are character flaws or reaction patterns? From what do they arise in the psyche?

Survival, I think. It’s all about survival.

2. What impact do your character flaws have on your level of awareness of the world around you? What are their effects on others?

How could they/it not impact my level of awareness of the world around me? I see through my own eyes. Only. Only rarely can I even acknowledge that there is another way of seeing, let alone step into another person’s way of viewing things. What effect on others does my character flaw(s) have? I would ask: what effect doesn’t it have?

3. Is there a relationship between your level of awareness of the world around you and enlightenment or the depth of enlightenment?

I don’t think there is any relationship between any aspect of my personality or self organization and oblivion. Or between a newborn infant and the vacuum of space.

4. What impact do our character flaws/foibles/imperfections and our level of awareness of the world around us have on the "accident" of enlightenment—and on "becoming more accident prone?"

Now there’s the thing. Each person’s “path” to Enlightenment is different. It is unavoidably different. Exactly because of “our character flaws/foibles/imperfections and our level of awareness of the world around us.” We look through a glass, darkly, indeed. First of all, we’ve got these dark glasses on. And secondly, who is this “we”?

I think the only thing we can do to become more “accident prone,” meaning, more likely to become Enlightened, is to sacrifice everything we possibly can to reach it. A very strong desire, which we encourage relentlessly, desperately, increasingly. It’s our only hope.

5. Is there something from which all conflict in the world stems? What is it?

Yes. Us.

6. What are the relationships between your answers to the preceding questions and a Love that is empty of personal motivations? And to your capacity to feel such Love?

Everybody’s got their terms and definitions for them. “A Love that is empty of personal motivations”…. Well, I think that there is no possibility of experiencing or manifesting such a thing, if it even exists, before you clean up your own mess. Before the extinguishing and obliterating of the personality person. But it’s good to try; it’s nice to try to be nice.

7. Does capacity to feel Selfless Love have anything to do with "becoming more accident prone?" Does it have anything to do with your depth of enlightenment?

The capacity to feel “Selfless Love” has everything to do with the depth of enlightenment (which is like saying “the deathness of death), and nothing much to do with becoming more accident prone. Except, as I said before, trying to be nicer to others even when you’re caught up in being yourself. Along the way, on one’s hopeless path toward Enlightenment, seeing the plight we’re all in goes a long way toward awakening the potential for being able to feel or manifest “Selfless Love.”

8. What do you observe about the possible importance of eliminating one’s character flaws? Is this important for seekers? Is it important for those who have "stopped seeking?"

Eliminate character flaws? Impossible. Not by shooting at it directly can you hit it. Can you shoot a gun at itself? However.… I think that the process of seeking one’s Answer or Truth or God is a process of incineration. And “oneself” is basically a golem of “character flaws.” These things (if they’re multiple) that you call flaws are our main and only teachers on the path towards Enlightenment. Our millstone around our necks and the cross we’re nailed to. Pick your metaphor. Our koans.

For those who have “stopped seeking” because they think they’ve found something final? I don’t think there is any importance of eliminating anything for a person who has taken their road all the way to its end. They may still be flawed, but they’re no longer only flawed. They’re something else now, and this “something else” trumps their innate pettiness when push comes to shove. And, if this otherly condition doesn’t trump their usual flawed self, then I’d say they’re not there yet; they’re pretending, both to themselves and to others.

Some people (or should I say “all” of us, eventually?) stop seeking because they’ve given up trying. It's too bad. Ironically, to arrive at the point of genuine defeat is... crucial. Continuing in the face of this hopelessness is the last ten yards. It becomes apparent that one's efforts are hopeless and totally incapable of producing "results." Never giving up, even when there is no reason not to, no reason at all to continue struggling. Who actually does this? Probably every single one of those who personally arrives somewhere unexpected and permanent.

9. Are there "greater depths" or "various levels" even within enlightenment?

It depends on what you mean by “enlightenment.” From my definition of Enlightenment, I would say no. No greater depths or various levels. No levels, no changes in depth (is there “greater depth” in a vacuum?--maybe, but it doesn't feel like it).

What do you know for sure?

One thing, for me.

From which depths do you speak?

From there.

~ M.S.

*


Quotes....

All humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

~ Blaise Pascal


Humor....



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