Thursday, November 29, 2012

This blog has moved

Oh, it's 7 years since I first started this blog. It's time to move on though. I find Wordpress a lot better than Blogger now, (sorry Blogger) and I've consolidated the best of this blog into my new blog, Beyond The Dream.

You'll find my reincarnated blog at:

Thanks for reading. See you there!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The End Is Always Nigh: Analysing Doomsday Mania

The clock is ticking. Expectations are high. The much-heralded date of 21st December 2012 is less than four months away. A significant number of people genuinely believe that this is the day the world is going to end.

Exactly how it’s going to end is a matter of much debate. Is Jesus going to pop in to battle the antichrist? Are aliens going to invade? Is a giant asteroid going to destroy the planet? A timely super volcano eruption? Global societal collapse? A nuclear apocalypse? There are no shortage of theories in circulation; a number of them clearly utter nonsense, while others are more unnervingly feasible.

But apocalypticism (fixation with the end of the world) is nothing new. Mankind has been convinced the world is approaching an imminent and catastrophic end for thousands of years. And we’re still here.

Any historian will tell you that Christians have been feverishly anticipating armageddon since around the time the religion first started. That’s a pretty long history of disappointment, littered with countless failed predictions, yet they’re more ardent than ever. 

(Incidentally, here’s a countdown of some of the most notable failed doomsday predictions, from the Millerites, Mormons and Heaven’s Gate cult to Nostradamus and Y2K. Worth noting that scientists and scholars have made more than their fair share of failed predictions as well).

The current intensification of doomsday mania is largely centred around the fast-approaching end date of the Mayan Long Count calendar. Most people actually know very little about it and tend to buy into the media hype, oblivious to the fact the Maya left NO prediction about what would happen on or around 2012. Experts are adamant that there’s no evidence that the Maya believed the end of their Long Count calendar would spell the end of the world. When the Long Count calendar ends...well, it simply resets again. Like most calendars do. The doomsday scenario that’s been tacked onto it appears to be an urban myth of the highest degree.

The psychology of apocalypticism and our fixation with imagined catastrophes fascinates me. I’m not sure how much research has been done in this area; I’ll have to dig deeper than a brief google search. What follows is my own analysis of what compels us to create, believe in and morbidly fixate on doomsday scenarios. 

I believe doomsday mania is largely a projection of our own deepest fears and anxieties; which, as with most fears and anxieties, is ultimately rooted in fear of our own mortality.

This innate, primordial fear is basically hard-wired into us. The so-called reptilian brain is the oldest part of the human brain. It evolved with the primary function of ensuring physical survival and protecting us from harm. The reptilian brain is the seat of our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism and is always on the look out for potential threats to our survival. It came in pretty handy in prehistoric times when there were predators aplenty and simply staying alive was something of a challenge. These days, however (in certain parts of the world at least), we can step out of the front door without having to worry about our immediate survival. Yet the reptilian brain is still just as active now as it was back then. 

It’s a part of our physiology and psychology that’s designed to be forever on the look-out for threats. We may experience this as a persistent low-level anxiety in the periphery of our awareness. Because our physical safety is rarely in immediate danger, this anxiety is often projected onto other things, including relationships and social situations. Or indeed any number of the invented, conceptualised fears we might harbour in our minds; the myriad ‘what ifs?’ that we take to be reality, but which in fact are mere fantasy. As Mark Twain once remarked, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

Ahh, the mind. It picks up on the persistent fear signals of the reptilian brain and tries to make sense of the input. If it can’t (and often there’s little reason for the signals the reptilian brain is sending out -- it’s just doing so because that’s what it’s wired to do) then it manufactures all manner of stories and narratives around that fear in an attempt to process reality. Its intent is noble; it’s trying to keep us safe. But in the absence of any legitimate threats to our survival, the mind gets us lost in never-ending fabrications and mental conceptualisations, which actually distort our perception of reality.

I first experienced the mind’s amazing ability to fabricate stories to explain the input it’s receiving many years ago when I was on holiday with my parents and sister as a child. I was fast asleep and my sister, bless her, decided it was time I woke up. She awoke me by getting a facial spritz spray and spraying it on my face (as you do!). I was in the middle of a dream at the time, but my outer senses obviously registered the sound and sensation of the spray. What happened was my mind incorporated the sound into my dream and I suddenly saw a can of coca cola being opened. In other words, my brain received an input (the sound of the facial spritz) but it didn’t know what it was, so it created a fabrication to explain the input -- a coke can being opened! 

The funny thing is, that’s what the mind is doing all the time. It’s receiving input and trying to match it to past experience. If it can’t process the input based on memory and knowledge, it simply spins a story based on the material it has at hand. It projects a superimposition over reality; something we then mistake as BEING reality. This is going on all the time! Most the time we don’t experience reality as it is, we experience it as we think it is.

It’d be easy to digress at this point, but bear with me.

Basically, as I’ve explained, we are hard-wired to feel our survival is always under threat. This primal fear is constantly being generated by a part of our brain that’s designed to keep us on our toes and on the look out for possible danger everywhere. If there does happen to be a legitimate danger, then the mechanism is fulfilling its function and we can respond appropriately. But if there’s no actual threat (and most of the time there isn’t), then the mind tends to fabricate reasons to explain why we’re experiencing this fear.

This includes, I venture, the notion that the world is approaching an imminent and horrific end. 

It doesn’t matter whether the evidence supports this story or not. Most of us invest a lot of our sense of identity in our mental narratives. We’re all religious whether we know it or not. Our object of worship is the stories in our minds, our mental maps of ‘reality’. That’s why people are often literally willing to die to uphold their beliefs and viewpoints, and why so few people are genuinely willing to question their thoughts and beliefs.

I believe our obsession with doomsday, armageddon and mass annihilation is a projection of our deepest fears and anxieties and an extreme manifestation of our fear of mortality. It’s not something I see as particularly rational or likely. The Earth has been here a pretty long time and is likely to be around for a while yet. 

This is NOT to say that we’re not faced with multiple and immense problems and challenges. We’ve reached a point in history where we face escalating issues on a number of fronts: ecologically, socially, politically and economically. Our species’ current mode of operating is largely responsible for these problems and in order to solve them, it will necessitate change at a fundamental level.

I know only too well that to sit down and start analysing all of mankind’s problems can lead to a sense of hopelessness and pessimism. There’s no denying that we’ve created a terrible mess. Yet each time we’ve been on the verge of immense catastrophe, something has happened to change the rules of the game. At our moments of greatest challenge, we often make our greatest breakthroughs: new innovations, new insights, new ways of doing things.

The human race rarely does things the easy way. We often have to be pushed to the brink before we’re forced to take stock of what we’re doing and why immediate change is necessary. But the breakthroughs come. When we’re shaken out of our slumber and forced out of our habitual reflex-response approach to living, we can be tremendously adaptable. Although mindsets are all too easily rigid and entrenched, consciousness is fluid and the ability to shift from one level of consciousness to another, particularly when forced by necessity, gives me cause for hope.

The world is not going to end on 21st December 2012. That’s my prediction, and I don’t often make them. But you can quote me on that. 

The world is going to keep spinning as it always does. Yes, these are turbulent times. But if you leaf through the pages of any history book you’ll reach the inescapable conclusion that the entirety of recorded history has been turbulent. In many of respects things are better now than they ever have been. 

As always, events come and go. Society changes and evolves. There’s an interplay of good and bad, and they always eventually balance each other out. That’s just the way life is. It all just happens; a continuous, spontaneous unfolding. 

My best advice is to let go of the mind’s fictional projections (particularly if they’re causing distress and misery, as they often do) and simply roll with life. Life takes care of itself, especially when we stop creating obstructions and just let it. I’ve never encountered a better approach to life than that offered by the Tao Te Ching. It advises us to let go of all concepts and to be open, relaxed, non-grasping and flexible, bending with the wind as and when it blows.

Life is really just lila, a play in consciousness. Without taking it too seriously, we can respond appropriately to the needs of each situation, using whatever abilities, skills and knowledge we have. In this way we can all contribute productively, particularly once we shift out of the overriding mentality of “what’s in it for me?” and instead focus on what we can give back to life. It’s so easy to get swept up by the dramas and strife and to project scenarios of doom and despair -- easy, but not exactly helpful. The secret to life is remaining in a state of peace and balance amidst its inevitable ups and downs. That’s our greatest gift to the world and the most resourceful state of mind we could possibly adopt. 

To be sure, no one can tell us what’s going to happen in the future. Maybe a giant comet will strike tomorrow and knock us all to oblivion? But why waste our precious, beautiful life worrying over imagined events? Stop, relax and enjoy life now! Ditch all that apocalyptic nonsense and just BE HERE NOW! It’s so easy to forget that, but it’s really the only way to live.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Trapped by the mind: A portrait of human insanity

In the last post I spoke about how easy it is to be totally consumed by the mundane and to lose ourselves in an endless sea of trivia and pointlessness; distraction after distraction after distraction.

What is it with the human race and our distractions? Why do we so always feel the need to distract ourselves from ourselves?

Part of it is no doubt a response to the stressful, turbulent, unbalanced and dysfunctional society we live in, a society that's almost totally cut off from the natural balance of life. We're all victims of the capitalist/rampant consumerist agenda; brought up and conditioned to feel dissatisfied with ourselves, to feel that we're not good enough as we are, that we're not whole and complete and that in order to be happy we need to accrue as much money as we can in order to buy a whole lot of crap we don't really need in a world that's alarmingly being stripped of its resources.

We're programmed to be unhappy. Perhaps that's why we spend so much time trying to escape the basic unease we feel within. Most people simply aren't comfortable in their own skin and accordingly find it exceedingly difficult to sit alone in a room without things to occupy themselves. As Blaise Pascal noted, this is the source of all humanity's problems.

I believe this is because we don't like to be alone with our thoughts. Many of us aren't even consciously aware of our inner monologue -- the never-ending stream of thoughts constantly flowing through our minds -- even though, for most of us, it's present almost every moment of our waking lives. The funny thing is, it's not so much us that's thinking these thoughts, for they can be difficult to control and predict, rather it's more like the thoughts are thinking us. They arise and subside, constantly rumbling away like a talk radio station we're tuned into and can't switch off.

Although generally mundane, many people's inner monologue is not a pleasant one: it often comprises a torrent of abuse and negativity, focussing on the very worst in life, perceiving problems where none exist and generally creating a whole lot of needless upset. Life is actually very simple, but the mind makes it into something ridiculously complex, embellishing it with so much needless dramas and stress. The inability to disengage from the babble of the inner monologue is a dreaful affliction.

I wonder if this is a defect of sorts at our current stage of evolution. It seems to me that we're a species with minds so over-developed and out-of-control that it's causing wide-scale insanity.

Our education system fails us on so many levels, not least because we're not taught how to deal with our thoughts, emotions and the content of our psyche. We're taught just about everything except ourselves, so we're left without a clue as to who or what we are. Our understanding of ourselves is based wholly upon assumption and misidentification. We form an image of ourselves in our minds, one that is totally arbitrary and ever-changing and yet which we construe as being 'us'.  It's usually quite a distorted and negative image. Our entire experience of reality, ourselves and others, is utterly distorted by our uncontrolled minds, which run rampant, causing unaccountable misery and suffering for ourselves and others.

This insanity can be seen all around us. You need only switch on the evening news to be reminded of the devastating effect of our individual and collective dysfunction. On a small scale it's reflected in dysfunctional relationships and our personal miseries (depression and anxiety are now pandemic in our culture, as well as anger and aggression) and on a larger scale it's evident in the corruption that's evident in virtually every organisation and institution, and most dramatically in wars, conflicts, genocide and terrorism. It's not a pretty picture, and it all stems from the mind, and from believing certain thoughts and beliefs.

The dysfunctions of the human mind are destroying us.

So what is the way out of this?

First of all, we need to stop trying to simply drown out the mind by losing ourselves in mundane and mind-numbing activities or behaviours. I mean, getting drunk might have the desired effect for a short space of time (it dulls and numbs the mind, often making us feel good), but it's not exactly a long-term solution. It does nothing to address the underlying problem and when the hangover hits you'll feel ten times worse than before. We've been playing out our addictions and compulsive behaviours for what seems like lifetimes. Surely we can see by now that THEY DON'T WORK.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. That might very well be the human race's epitath. Waking up to reality means finally acknowledging that what we're doing isn't working and that we need to stop doing it. Instead we need to do something else, something that might be radically different to what we've been accustomed to in the past.

If the problem is our mind distorting our perception of reality, then surely the solution must involve taking control of the mind? Until we learn to control our mind, we are controlled by it, and this results in the succession of nightmares the human race has created throughout history. No other species is as inherently destructive and as pathologically insane as the human race, because no other species has such an over-developed cognitive faculty. The solution, according to one Zen Master could be concisely summed up as: "no mind, no problem."

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The first step is always simply being aware and seeing things as they are. We can't solve a problem until we've first clearly identified that it is a problem. Denial is another defining human characteristic and it's incredibly hard to do anything so long as we're intent on denying the reality of the situation. Denial keeps us entrapped in the mind-created prison of our personal and collective suffering.

When we're willing to look at the situation openly, honestly and without whatever old baggage, beliefs and dogmas we've been clinging onto, we can finally see things as they are, and only then are we in a position to do something about it. Freedom is then within our grasp.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Don't lose yourself in the mundane!

Something I'm becoming ever more aware of is the importance of not losing ourselves in the mundane humdrum of everyday existence. Let's face it, it's so easy to lose ourselves in the neverending tasks, duties, responsibilities and, worse yet, trivialities and distractions, that are always demanding our attention and devouring our time, focus and life energies.

To an extent this is unavoidable. We have to exist in this world, we have to eat, sleep and get up in the morning, eat again, work or study, take care of our responsibilities, pick up the kids from school, feed the cat and walk the dog. That's just the way it is and it's best to take care of these things with the right mindset -- a mindset of ease and grace, which helps enable our lives to flow smoothly and without too much obstruction. I heartily recommend the approach of karma yoga, wherein our every action is undertaken with an attitude of devotion and detachment, for everything we do is offered up to the benefit of all life. If the busiest and most stressed of people could consciously adopt this mindset, a great deal of their stress would simply evaporate. Worth a try, no?

Where things get really sticky is the area of leisure time. We've done what we needed to do during the day and what time we have left over has to be filled somehow, right? So we plonk ourselves in front of the television and spend hours watching soaps and reality shows or whatever else tickles our fancy. If there's nothing on the TV, we could always while away the time gossiping on the phone or by text, or catch up with our social networking? Or we might read magazines or books we secretly know aren't worth the trees they're printed on, or trawl the internet watching silly videos on YouTube and engaging in flame wars with people who dare to have opinions that differ to our own on internet forums.

We'll do whatever we can to keep ourselves engaged. Only we're generally not very engaged while doing those things. Instead, we're kind of unengaged: unengaged from life, from the world around us, from other people and from ourselves. Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing inherently wrong with any of the above activities in themselves. But what may be harmful is using them compulsively as a means of distraction and escape. I always used to be fascinated by the concept of 'escapism'. It always seemed a strange notion to me. What is it we're trying to escape? I believe what we're generally trying to escape is ourselves.

Most people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to distract themselves…from themselves. Our culture is almost designed to facilitate this. There's an infinite number of distractions, each seeking to consume our attention and numb our minds. It's a never-ending merry-go-round and one that's self-perpetuating; for once you've lost your attention in one distraction, it usually remains there until the next supercedes it. And that's the way we generally like it. This is what I call being lost in the mundane. It's pandemic in our culture: it's 'normal'.

The problem is, we can easily spend our entire lives lost in the mundane, never taking the time to consider what's truly important: never stopping to ask who we are, what we're here to do and how we can make a difference in the world. I remember being at a funeral and when the minister stopped to talk about the person who'd died, aside for the obvious factual statistics, about all I remember was "she loved watching her soaps". I mean, when you get older, you're wholly entitled to enjoy your soaps and that's wonderful. But I remember being struck by a sobering thought: what if, when it comes to my funeral, about all that can be said of me was that I liked watching TV? That thought filled me with horror. The thought of being so totally side-tracked by the mundane that TV programmes and entertainment become more important than my truest priorities, hopes and dreams was enough to jolt me awake.

It's pretty clear to me that we're not here to spend our lives watching TV, reading trashy books or picking fights with strangers on the internet. I can't tell you why you are here; only you can figure that one out, but really, you must take the time to do that and to make it a priority. Otherwise you'll probably tend to slip into mental default like everyone else and lose yourself in the endless sea of distractions that seek to swallow and entrap your minds, numbing you into a false sense of satisfaction (or stupor). We get totally lost in the matrix when that happens; with no idea who we are or what we're here to do...just totally consumed by the phenomenal dream.

Next up: analysing WHY we seek perpetual distraction and why this is causing immense dysfunction in our lives individually and collectively.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The silence wants nothing

This is kind of an addendum to the last post, as I felt compelled to clarify something. The overall message of the ‘Living Without Rules’ essays was essentially a simple one, and one that could probably be summed up as: stop living by the rules and demands of the mind, and instead ‘drop into’ the expanse of wordless stillness that lies at the core of your being, and let action arise from there. 
It’s not easy talking about this kind of stuff. In India there’s an entire vocabulary -- heck, an entire language -- for defining and understanding the various states of mind and consciousness, concepts that are quite alien to most people in our Western culture. 

You can only really understand this by having experienced it yourself. The good thing is that what I’m talking about is replicable. There’s a science to it. It might sound very subjective, but it’s actually objective -- and with a little self-investigation, just about anyone can verify it for themselves. 

There are prerequisites, however, such as a reasonably still, stable and enquiring mind. Enlightenment is seen as some kind of superhuman feat, but actually anyone can dip into the ‘enlightened state’ -- on rare occasions quite spontaneously, but most the time with a little bit of practise first, to clear obstructions and what is known in Vedanta as a ‘sattvic’ state (which means clear, lucid, balanced and harmonious, mentally, emotionally and physically).
This might seem rather abstract until you’ve experienced it for yourself, and it seems to me that I maybe ought to try and convey the practical aspects of it at some point, offering some clear pointers that can help you tap into this for yourself. If you’ve already experienced what I’m talking about, then you’ll no doubt be on the same wavelength. 
What I’m talking about is the baseline awareness that exists beneath all thought, all emotions, all feelings, perceptions and memories. It’s a stateless-state, ever-present and unchanging, and although it’s something most people are rarely conscious of, they wouldn’t be conscious at all without it.
It’s always there, beneath the apparent obstructions of the mind, and it’s the very same awareness and sense of being that we’ve had throughout our lives. Although our bodies, minds, beliefs, circumstances and self-concepts radically change over time, the baseline awareness and sense of being remains ever the same. And the funny thing is, it’s not personal in any way -- it’s the very same sense of self -- of existing; of being an “I” -- that every single man, woman, child and animal possesses.
I tend to just call it awareness; not awareness of ‘this’ or ‘that’, but just pure awareness -- consciousness at rest. Other names for it are the Self or the no-Self (I love the delicious paradox of it all -- both point to the very same ‘thing’!), Being, or the sense of ‘I am’.
Basically, it’s a return to our original nature that we’re all really seeking, although virtually no one realises this, because most are still too busy trying to seek fulfilment and happiness in maya, the outward world of illusion (which is really just an experience in our consciousness, like everything else). 

By reversing the focus of our attention from outside to inside, and consciously seeking this inward source, we finally find the joy, aliveness and fulfilment we were desperately searching for in all the wrong places. Consciousness resting in its source is often experienced as a tremendous bliss. What you’re really seeking is inside of you, and it’s more amazing than anything you could ever possibly experience ‘out there’.
The paradox that I inadvertently walked into with my last essay was this: when you are in touch with this baseline awareness, this innate sense of Self or being, you realise that it doesn’t really want anything. It’s characterised by an immense sense of allowing. It is unconditional love in the truest sense. It’s as though it pervades everything, without judgement and without any desires or preferences. It IS everything. 

Consciousness at rest has no need to accomplish or achieve anything, no need to judge or separate. When you tap into this state, when you allow yourself to just ‘drop into’ it, you probably won’t feel it wants you to do anything except relax into it, and just BE. You’ll know that everything is fine, that the phenomenal world runs itself according to natural laws and the innate programming of all creatures. Life just happens. Creation doesn’t strain, it just occurs freely and spontaneously. There’s so much we can learn from that.
Our desires, likes, dislikes and preferences, and all our goals and ambitions arise from consciousness-in-motion, with the mind and body. Mind and body have no innate ‘life’ of their own, but are illuminated and animated by the reflected light of the baseline awareness, in much the same way as the moon is illuminated by the reflected light of the sun. 
So, although the baseline awareness has no desires or ambitions of its own, its light is expressed by and embodied through the mind and ‘subtle body’ (our psyche, or active, aware consciousness as we know it; the mind and all its content). The way consciousness expresses itself through each of us is unique. If something feels good to us, if it ‘clicks’ with us, and brings a feeling of expansion and aliveness, then that’s a sure sign we’re in touch with the Self as it expresses its reflected light through the mind and psyche. Feeling good -- and I mean really good, not just superficially good -- is a sign that we’re connected and in tune with our essential nature. If we were to simply follow those good feelings and allow them to guide us through life, we’d pretty much have it sorted; we’d be in constant alignment with Self.
Basically what I wanted to highlight was the paradox of the Self and action. The baseline awareness, our essential Self wants and needs nothing: it doesn’t judge, compare or compete, because it’s already absolutely whole and complete. It’s entirely non-dual; permanent, ever-abiding non-dual awareness. 
Yet, once we get in touch with this fundamental, primordial aspect of our nature, we may feel compelled to do certain things, to take certain actions that are in alignment with our unique nature as it expresses itself through mind and body. Actions thus taken -- actions that arise spontaneously from this deeper place of stillness and wholeness -- will always yield better results than those taken from the limited, grasping and constricted surface-level of mind. The latter will feel good and will usually have far greater results, while the former will feel desperate, anxious and will invariably create unforeseen problems.
I don’t expect you to just take my word for this. I invite you to try it for yourself. 
I’m still working with this; attempting to re-wire my mind in order to stay in constant alignment with the baseline awareness, rather than being driven solely by the tides of the surface-level mind. It doesn’t happen overnight, yet to say the effort is worth it is an understatement of incredible proportions. For this is, I have to say, the difference between a life of suffering and a life of genuine happiness. I do not make that claim lightly. If you feel so called, why not investigate for yourself?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Living without rules part 3: Living from the heart

“A liberated man is extremely law abiding. But his laws are the laws of his real self, not of his society.”
-- Nisargadatta
The noise you just heard was the sound of Nisargadatta Maharaj hitting a very large nail on the head!
In some ways there's little need for me to say any more, for that basically sums up everything I’ve been endeavouring to convey in this ‘Living Without Rules’ topic. But I’ve been wrestling with this beast for several weeks and I'm determined not to give up until I've found a way to wrap it all up. 

I’ve known all along exactly what I wanted to say, but the truth is I'm still much learning to live and embody this in my own life. I'm still exploring, experimenting and learning as I go. But I often find the best way to get really clear on a given topic is to write about it, so that's part of the reason I'm sitting here tapping away at the keys.
I've already argued that we enter this world in a state of perfection and that, as we grow up, we seemingly 'lose' that perfection. Well, it’s not so much lost as it is obscured by the arising ego, in much the same way as a shadow obscures the sun during an eclipse. A ‘social self’ is assembled, comprising a mask -- or set of masks -- that we wear to please others and to meet the demands of various situations. Although it has its function, it’s so overdeveloped in most people that disconnects us from our innate nature as pure, unconditioned consciousness or awareness. 
It's because of this there's a deep, fundamental conflict at the core of our being: social self versus innate self; or what we choose to be in daily life versus what we truly are and what on a deep level we yearn to be. 
The social self is a largely unconscious mechanism. It’s built upon following external rules and hinges upon our deep-seated need to be perceived in a favourable light by others.
The problem is, this mode of functioning is what causes virtually all of our suffering. We end up living deeply inauthentic lives and we suffer greatly for it. We become deadened, lifeless, stifled and robotic. We end up passionless, joyless, depressed, resentful, anxious and perpetually dissatisfied with life. That's clearly no way to live and yet it's the way countless human beings do live. It's really little wonder the world is in such a mess.
Surely a far better way to live is to step out of the prison of the social self, which has kept us fragmented and frustrated for the best part of our lives. We can then retrace the original state of authenticity, unicity, spontaneity and joy that we experienced as a young child. It can be done -- and, if we want to experience true and lasting satisfaction and fulfilment in life, it simply must be done! 
It's the difference between living by the outdated, inflexible and often insane rules imposed on us by outside sources and instead living from the heart; being directed by what brings us joy and a sense of aliveness, satisfaction and a true feeling of 'rightness'.
Instead of living by external rules, we live by an inner compass that will always steer us in the right direction, followings the laws not of society, but as Nisargadatta put it, of our inner self.  These laws are adaptive, flexible, fresh and dynamic and rather than turning us into depressed, frustrated zombies, they elicit within us a sense of aliveness, passion, joy and zest for life. 
There's no greater joy than being in touch with what we truly are and living a life of authenticity. It's as rare and precious as a pearl, but it's a pearl we're each capable of creating, with just a little awareness, reorientation and, to begin with at least, a measure of consistent, conscious effort.
If you're still reading this, it's perhaps because you've already suffered enough in life. You've tried it the old way, you've been a good little social self and done exactly as you were 'meant to' most your life, and all you've gotten from it is dissatisfaction and suffering. 
I think the majority of people are like that, although most spend all their spare time trying to numb themselves out with the Weapons of Mass Distraction: which include drugs, alcohol, food, obsessive focus on sex, sport, TV reality shows, compulsive internet browsing -- the list goes on. 
This simply creates a whole new set of problems and until we are able to let go of these compulsive distractions, there’s simply no way they can address the underlying cause of their unease and dissatisfaction. As a society we're masters at dealing with problems by simply masking the symptoms. But in the long run, this just exacerbates our problems.
So how do we live an authentic, inspired life? How do we live from our innate self as opposed to the constricting overlay of the ego and social self, the mechanism that over the course of our adult lives has choked just about every ounce of joy and aliveness out of us? 
First of all, you have to be ready. 
You need to be at a point where you have sufficient self-awareness to dispassionately gauge where you're at in your life, how you got there, what's truly motivating you and what fears and doubts have kept you from going within and following your heart rather than being directed by externals. You need to see the limitations of following external rules and how this can cut you off from your own wisdom and inspiration, disconnecting you and stifling your spirit. 
You have to be willing to look at your pain and suffering, your frustration and perpetual lack of fulfilment, and clearly see how this derives from leading an inauthentic life. This is because your innate sense of wellbeing and joy has been obscured by the sycophantic, calculating social self as it tries to conform to external dictates. Until you’re very clear on this, you’re not going to have sufficient motivation to adopt a radical new approach to living.
When you’ve seen how a life directed entirely by the social self and external rules and expectations has led to nothing but misery, you can then start to experiment with something altogether different. You can live by the laws of your real self, as Nisargadatta put it. Instead of living by the head (social self), you start to live by the heart (innate self).
It’s easy for misunderstandings to arise here. Some people will immediately take exception to this: “Are you really suggesting we should just do what we want all the time?” “That’s all very well, but it’s hardly practical!” “Wouldn’t we just end up like lazy, spoilt, self-centred brats?” “Our mind is the source of our intelligence, if we followed our hearts we’d get nowhere.” “Sentimental nonsense!”
Following our heart, living by our innate wellbeing and joy is not the same as being driven simply by our surface-level whims, desires and habits. In Vedanta these are known as vasanas -- habitual mental tendencies, or grooves in consciousness, and they form the basis of our likes and dislikes, habits and rudimentary personality structure. If you were to simply follow your vasanas unquestioningly you probably WOULD end up lazy, spoilt, fat and useless. 
Following your vasanas and being directed only by the superficial surface level of your mind is NOT living from your heart or from your innate being. It’s simply another trap, much like being stuck in the prison of the social self, only this time you’re stuck in the prison of the lazy habits of your own untamed mind. 
You have to be aware of these vasanas, which tend to unconsciously drive your behaviour and motivations and into which you so easily ‘lose yourself’. Negative vasanas and personality traits need to be surmounted, otherwise you may find yourself spending all day everyday sitting in your underwear eating junk food and playing computer games or watching trashy TV. That’s not living from your heart, although you might think it is; it’s just what your mind/vasanas/personality may be accustomed to and comfortable doing. It may bring a kind of numbed comfortableness, but it’s highly unlikely to bring the joy, excitement and aliveness that’s characteristic of being aligned with your essential self (what? You don’t believe that it really feels that good? Then you really have to try it!).
Vasanas can be healthy or unhealthy (for example, your vasanas are largely responsible for the kind of food you eat and the lifestyle you lead) and the unhealthy ones need to be recognised and consciously rewritten or weeded out. This frees up the space, time and energy necessary for you to access and follow the deeper impulses of your heart; to do what you truly want to do, what brings you joy and what you really are here to do. This is a topic in itself, but I thought I’d briefly touch upon it here as it has relevance.
Once you’ve recognised the need of shifting your compass from outside to inside, from social self to innate self and have begun to surmount superficial thought habits and vasanas, what you have to next to do is tune into your innate self. Before you can live from it, you first must find a way to access it.
This is where meditation is extremely useful. It is an excellent tool for redirecting your attention from constant focus on external and internal objects (the latter being thoughts, beliefs, emotions, memories, and all such content of consciousness) and bringing your focus to the Self, to the source of your own consciousness. Here you will experience a great sense of stillness, peace, spaciousness and aliveness. You’ll begin to experience a state of presence: consciousness without thought. Some people call this the ‘zen mind’.
In this expanse of wordless awareness lies an intelligence far greater, deeper and more primordial than the superficial mind and its continual inner monologue and regurgitation of past memories, thoughts, concepts, beliefs and future projections. It’s a state of natural wellbeing, of wholeness, lightness and ease. If the mind is especially still, you may even experience it as a feeling of great joy and bliss.
The majority of people aren’t readily familiar with the state I’m describing (I’m calling it a ‘state’ but that’s actually not entirely true, for it’s beyond all states, which are by their nature always fluctuating. It's more like the ever-present baseline of our experience: a vast, unchanging sky of ever-present awareness in which all is experienced). Although not everyone experiences this on a regular basis, just about everyone has had a taste of it at some time or another. Perhaps at the sight of intense natural beauty the mind was suspended and, if only for a fleeting moment, there was nothing but pure awareness and along with it a sense of peace, stillness, expansiveness and joy. That’s what I’m talking about.
It can be accessed by meditation, or for some people by being alone in nature, by deep concentration, dancing, chanting, painting, yoga or performing a martial art. It’s helpful to find a means that works for you; something that diverts all the mind’s energy and opens up this space of pure being.
We can train ourselves to dip into it at will, simply by learning to ‘drop’ our mind and body and resting in this baseline of pure awareness. For most people, the mind is so active and the vasanas consume so much energy that it’s very difficult to do this, even for a few seconds. The mind has tremendous power and momentum, but the effort put into training the mind and learning to tame it, still it and reach beyond it will in time yield remarkable benefits. It's an effortless effort, by the way, rather than a rigorous discipline. Sometimes it's enough to simply, completely and totally LET GO -- of everything!
It’s from this state of awareness that we come to experience our innate wellbeing and our inner wisdom. It’s here that our joy and happiness resides, never in external things, people or events (although it might seem that way, but that's another discussion entirely). It’s from this place of wordless spaciousness that we can make our decisions and ‘feel’ our way into right action. The right answers just spontaneously arise if we allow them to, and if it really is from this baseline of innate being, then they are always far better than anything the surface-level mind could have cooked up. You’ll simply have to take my word for it and experiment for yourself.
To access this inner wisdom, well-directed questions can help. In any moment it’s a good practise to be quite clear on what you want. Not what your mind or vasanas want, but what you, at a deep and fundamental level, really, really want! What do you feel compelled to do? What feels right? You don’t have to think about this or strain to come up with an answer, you simply allow the answer to arise as a spontaneous impulse of ‘rightness’. This is what gets called ‘inspiration’. It’s the source of all genuine creativity, insights, epiphanies and breakthroughs of any kind.
If you have a sense of ease, lightness and quiet excitement, then that’s a sure sign you’ve tapped into the wisdom of your innate self. If there’s any sense of unease, heaviness or tension around the answer, then it’s probable the mind and social self have co-opted the process.
Try putting this into practise. Do it for at least a week. Take some time out -- an hour or so, or perhaps even a whole day if you can. Relax into that place of stillness, ease and lightness that's beneath the surface of your mind, thoughts and intellect. Do whatever you need to access that innate wellbeing -- it’s always there, even if it's obscured much of the time by the denseness of your thoughts and emotions. 
Once you feel connected with that, try tuning into whatever spontaneous impulses you feel.

What do you want to do? 

Don’t just live by your existing habits and routines -- open yourself to what you’d really, REALLY like to do, to what you feel would be fun and joyful. Then do it! Do whatever comes to mind, no matter how random or unusual. 

Let these spontaneously arising impulses direct your actions. Look upon it as an experiment. I’m willing to bet you’ll end up feeling infinitely more refreshed, light, joyful, fresh, alive than you ever were when you were living by the rules and habits of your mind and other people.
I suggest starting with little things, minor actions you can take. Then, when you’re comfortable allowing yourself to be directed by this flow of inspiration, move onto the bigger things, and allow it to guide you when it comes to the larger aspects of your life, such as job, relationships, home environment, and so on. But do learn to walk before you try to run.
Again, people might argue that simply following their impulses is what leads killers to murder people and pedophiles to abuse children. Those are NOT and could never be the impulses of the innate self. Those are surface-level vasanas and mental aberrations. They don’t feel good; they are driven by immense pain and they cause immense pain. Dysfunctional behaviour is a clear sign that a person is massively out of alignment with their innate self. No one was born to kill or abuse others; to do so is a distortion of our true nature caused by a deeply damaged psychology.
The concept of dharma is helpful for ensuring our desires and impulses are in fact guided by the Self and not simply by our superficial likes, dislikes and whims. 
Dharma is something that is built into us; an instinctual knowledge of what is right and wrong. Nisargadatta was once asked to made a differentiation between ‘good’ and ‘evil’. His answer was that that which brings peace and has a positive affect on self and others is good, and that which brings unnecessary suffering is evil. If you need any rules at all for gauging your action and determining whether they are derived from the innate self or the lower levels of the mind, this is about the only one you’ll ever require. Whatever you’re planning to do, keep in mind that actions arising from the heart will only ever be motivated by peace, harmony and an integral regard for the whole.
Our dharma is not driven by self-interest and self-gratification, but by a deeper sense of harmony with all life. When aligned with the innate self, we find compassion arises spontaneously and we intuitively act in service of others and the totality. We don’t act irresponsibility, but with a clear understanding of the nature of cause and effect. Sometimes we need to question our motivation for doing certain things to ensure it’s based upon our dharma or if the mind, ego or vasanas have taken over the show. If the latter is the case, suffering will always result. We’ll lose the sense of lightness, ease and peace we experience when rooted in the Self and we’ll instead begin to feel tense, desperate, grasping and constricted.
Pain is a signal that lets us know we’re off track somehow. If we’re experiencing psychological pain of any sort, it’s because the mind has obstructed our connection to our innate wellbeing. This is usually a sign that we have to slow down, take some time to rebalance and again dip into the ease and lightness of our innate self. From here we can see what action we are compelled to take. This action will always feel good -- although it often might nudge us out of our comfort zone, so we may sometimes feel a little nervous or uncertain at the same time.
When determining the correct choice to make it’s helpful to notice the signals our body is giving us. ‘Right action’ is usually experienced in the body as a sense of expansiveness, a warm glow, a feeling of opening up or a kind of ‘inner click’. ‘Wrong action’ usually creates a tightness and constricting feeling, a subtle sense of unease or tension in the body. Many of us are so disconnected from our bodies that it might take some time and practise to be able to tune into these sensations and to sense what the body is trying to tell us. 
Again, our dharma -- our sense of right action -- is  already built into us at a core level. The signals will be there to guide us, and the body is one of the greatest means of reading these signals. When we live our lives directed by our heart (aka our essential nature and innate self), we feel good! When we go against our own nature, we feel bad. It’s as simple as that. 
I believe the real reason so many of us are depressed and unhappy is that we’ve become disconnected from who we really are and what we truly want. We’re living inauthentic lives and we’re suffering greatly for it. There’s a kind of civil war raging within most people on a largely unconscious level, the battle between the mind/ego/social self and the expansive, free-flowing, adaptive and limitless intelligence of our innate Self.
It’s essential that we end this battle now, for our own sakes and for the sake of the planet we’re systematically destroying.
People that are happy, at peace and able to freely express their true nature are generally highly functional people. They tend to be compassionate, caring, creative and usually a lot of fun to be around. They have a natural regard for themselves, others and the whole -- and, by heck, it’s contagious! On the other hand, people that are deeply disconnected from their true nature are often very dysfunctional and create an enormous amount of needless suffering for themselves and others. If we as a species are to survive and thrive, we need to learn to be embody the characteristics of the former and not the latter. We need to be authentic and to live, embody and express our true integrity, creativity and aliveness. The choice is really up to us. 
If the old external rules are no longer working for us -- and on both individual and collective levels, I’d say it’s clear that they aren’t -- then we need to make a new and radical shift in the way we’re living. We need to start following our own rules, the rules of the heart.
I will conclude with one of my favourite passages from the Tao Te Ching, for it succinctly sums up everything I’ve been endeavouring to say:
“When the greatness of the Tao is present,
right action arises from one’s own heart.
When the greatness of the Tao is absent,
action comes from the rules
of “kindness and justice”.
If you need rules to be kind and just,
this is a sure sign that virtue is absent.”

(There appears to be some really annoying formatting glitches with Blogger these days, the text either appears too big or too small! Sorry, this is the best I can do!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Living without rules part 2: The innate self, the social self and the root of human suffering

As I concluded last time, we come into this world in a state of wholeness. In fact, it could be said that we come from a state of wholeness, from the totality that is everything -- the limitless potentiality of the unmanifest. The moment the formless takes form, the limitless becomes limited as an apparent singularity, an object existing in time and space. (Bear with me!)

For the first several months of life, the new human being remains in a state of undifferentiation. The ego has yet to develop, and with it the sense of duality that arises from seeing oneself as an apparently separate and autonomous entity that’s quite apart from the environment around it as well as other people. As I said in my last entry, young infants exist in a state of oneness with the world around them. There are still objects perceived, but the notion of being separate from them has yet to arise in the developing consciousness.


When the sense of “I”, “me” and “mine” arises -- and along with it the notion of “you” and “the world” as being something quite separate and alien -- the developing individual contracts into a ‘self’ and adopts a newly compartmentalised perception of reality. The sense of being a separate ‘self’, an individual entity that’s distinct from everything else (‘ego’), brings with it the need to protect, sustain and solidify this sense of individuality. That’s an important point because it’s this need to solidify the ego that underlies and motivates the behaviour of just about every human being on the planet.

This process is clearly part of the collective mental development of humankind, at least the stage of evolution we’re at. I already used the analogy of our sense of ‘self’ being like a knot in consciousness. The knot has no independent existence of its own, for it is just the rope folded in on itself. But it has an apparent existence and appears separate from the rest of the rope. This knot forms the basis of our sense of self. Like gravity, it draws objects toward itself, and as the layers build, our sense of self becomes ever more solidified and complex.

The objects that attach to the knot and form our psyche comprise various layers of conditioning, beliefs, opinions, likes and dislikes, habits and ways of relating to oneself, others and the world. Our gender, nationality, religion, social class become part of our identity and who we assume ourselves to be. These layers of mental content form the basis of our ego, of our self-image and sense of who we are.

Virtually all of this is programmed into us as children. With this realisation, we can see that there’s actually not a lot that’s ‘personal’ about it. Most of the material that makes up the ‘person’ we believe ourselves to be, is in fact second-hand and impersonal. The content is highly interchangeable, and is in fact changing all the time. It’s not solid and it’s certainly not ‘who we are’ in essence, yet we heavily identify with it. The original limitlessness and openness we experienced prior to the emergence of ego becomes contracted into a limited cluster of thoughts, beliefs and conditioning.

This conglomeration forms the basis of human identity and is what motivates just about every action and reaction throughout the course of an individual’s life. I often used to wonder what it is that motivates people’s behaviour, what it is that makes us do the things we do and what it is we’re ultimately trying to achieve. I came to the conclusion that one of our core motivations is the unconscious need to uphold and bolster our sense of self and identity. In other words, it’s all about ego maintenance.

Any perceived threat to -- or diminishment of -- our ego is almost tantamount to death, or oblivion. This primal fear of somehow losing what we take to be our ‘self’, is what’s unconsciously running the show. That, and the desire to maintain and expand our sense of self in order to feel better about ourselves and to make others perceive us the way we want to be perceived. People are willing to fight and die to uphold this image they have of themselves, and they frequently do.


The funny thing is, it’s not really who we are! We just think it is.

Our natural state, prior to assuming the mantle of an ego and all the mental content that comprises it, is boundless, open, unlimited and undefined. I believe this is our natural state because what’s natural feels GOOD. Our bodies and minds are designed to let us know what’s good or bad for us. Ease and peace are signals we’re in balance, while pain of any kind is a symptom that something is wrong, that we’ve slipped out of our natural wellbeing and must take action to resolve it. In a sense we were born to feel good! Feeling bad is a signal that something needs attention.

When we’re aligned with the ease, lightness, spontaneity and freedom of our innate self, expressing our deepest desires and loves without fear or restriction, we feel expansive, joyful and alive. Why wouldn’t we? Our innate self is completely natural, authentic and uncontrived. It’s simply pure and unconditioned consciousness/awareness, expressing itself through our bodies and minds. When we’re very young it effortlessly expresses itself, freely and without censure.

The developing ego, however, becomes like a lampshade that obscures the light of our innate or authentic self. A sense of contraction begins. We’re motivated by fear to behave in certain ways that might have originally been quite alien to us. We begin to believe that what we essentially are isn’t good enough somehow, and that we have to do, act or be ‘better’ in order to gain the favour of others. If there truly was a ‘fall’ of mankind, this is it, and it happens to each of us as a matter of course.


A very large component of the ego is what might be termed the ‘social self’, which ties in with what Freud termed the ‘superego’. The social self developed in response to the people and the world around you. From a very young age we learn that it’s necessary to have other people think favourably of us. We depend on this for our very survival. If we behave in certain ways, other people can be predicted to respond in ways that are conducive to our wellbeing. If we behave well as children, we are rewarded and if we misbehave, we are punished. (Of course, in some children where there’s been a breakdown in natural development and nurturing, behaving badly may be adopted as a means to get attention, but that’s another story.)

It’s here that the social self is born; a mechanism by which we seek to manipulate the environment around us by curtailing the impulses of our innate self in order to get the most favourable response from others. In a sense, we learn to become false. We do so to meet the perceived wants and demands of the people around us. Once the ego and social self develop, they take up residence in our psyche and, unchecked, will continue to hold the reins for pretty much the rest of our lives. The social self is about following rules and structures, doing what’s expected and behaving in ways that will get us maximum benefit and desired outcomes. It’s calculating, imitative and results-oriented.

I remember back in my Social Science days learning about sociologist Erving Goffman and his famed book ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’. Goffman basically asserted that all our behaviour is like that of actors on a stage. We’re all playing roles, presenting ourselves to the world in ways that we believe will bring us the results we want as well as maintaining the image of ourselves that we want others to have of us. This is the social self through and through.

A large part of what drives the social self is the fear of rejection. I believe the fear of rejection and stigmatisation is part of our genetic makeup. There’s something almost primal about it. Back when we lived among tribes, it was essential that we fit in with the tribe, for to be ostracised and cast out would be to invite almost certain death. So it’s possible that our great need to fit in with the ‘tribe’, to meet expectations and elicit approval is actually a survival instinct. Little wonder it drives so much of human behaviour and forms the core of the social self. The social self is essentially an approval-generating mechanism.

It certainly has its use. It enables us to function in the world. It provides useful guidelines for us as to what is ‘acceptable’ behaviour in the world. The untamed innate self requires boundaries, if only for practicality. If we’re to live in society, we must, to a certain extent, adhere to the norms of society. It’d be too easy to get into trouble otherwise. You might have an impulse to run through a shopping centre stark naked, but unless you’re happy to spend the rest of your day in a police cell, it’s probably best that the social self overrules that particular impulse.


Yet we’ve lost all balance. The social self has become a gargantuan dictator that has suppressed all opposition until pretty much nothing else exists. Any component of body or consciousness that overdevelops like this becomes like a cancer, threatening the health, wellbeing and even the survival of the organism.

The social self has all-but suffocated the innate self and there’s a conflict at the very core of our being. No matter what we achieve in life and what we become, as long as that conflict is simmering within us, we’re not going to be happy or at peace. In fact we’re going to be miserable, depressed, frustrated, unfulfilled and lost. There will be a continual YEARNING eating away at us, an insatiable craving for...something, but we don’t know what. This state of being is what the Buddha called ‘samsara’ and it’s characterised by a deep and profound discontent and dissatisfaction at the core of our being. This is the root of pretty much all our suffering.

It’s the result of a case of mistaken identity. We think we are our egos and social selves, which are but overdeveloped mechanisms in consciousness. Most people are so identified with them and with the roles they’re playing and the image they have of themselves, that they’re aware of nothing beyond it.

That’s the problem of the human condition. We think we are what we think we are -- but we’re not! It’s not real.

We’ve become so disconnected from our true nature, that it’s almost as though a part of us has died inside. Our self esteem and self image have either artificially inflated or plummeted because, at a very deep level, we feel inauthentic and inadequate. And actually that’s true, because we’re totally identified with a mechanism in consciousness that has nothing to do with who or what we truly are. If you don’t feel good enough, it’s because the ‘you’ you’re identifying with isn’t YOU at all.

Life then becomes a drudge and misery, bereft of all spark and joy, and we can never quite fathom why. Buying into the mass hypnosis of our consumer-driven culture, we assume it’s because we don’t have enough ‘stuff’ yet, or because we haven’t achieved enough success or recognition in the eyes of the world. So we keep chasing after objects and attainments, even though they’ve never quite us the lasting peace and wholeness we so desperately crave. Because most people’s attention is almost entirely fixated outwardly, we’re seeking this elusive ‘x factor’ outside of ourselves in objects, situations, experiences or other people.

But the problem isn’t that we haven’t measured up to our culture’s ideal of materialistic success. The fundamental problem is we’ve sold our souls to fit in with what the world thinks we ought to be. A society full of nothing but social selves is inauthentic, superficial, joyless and fundamentally dysfunctional. This distorted view of oneself and life is evident on both a personal and collective level, for it permeates the institutions and structures of society.


What we’re really looking for our SELF and we’re looking in all the wrong places. What we truly want is to reclaim the joy, freshness, aliveness and expansiveness we knew as children before our authentic nature was cemented over by the constructs of ego and social self. And it’s wholly possible to do that. The innate self is never extinguished. What is real can’t be destroyed, for it is the essence of what we are. It is pure, unrefined, unconditioned consciousness or awareness. Without it, we’d cease to be. As in sleep, no consciousness equals no world and no self.

Recovering and reclaiming this core essence is a process of excavation. To get to what is true, you have to dig through the layers of sediment that have built up around this knot in our consciousness, the phantom self of the ego. The social self can still operate and advise, for it has a necessary function enabling us to live harmoniously with other human beings. But it is no longer the driving force behind our lives. We no longer take it, or the ego as being ‘who’ we are, for they clearly aren’t.

The source of our suffering always seems to come down to mistaken identity. It’s therefore essential that we know what we are, or at least what we are not.

Ego arises within us, and a social self is built up based upon the expectations and ‘norms’ of the culture we live in. But they are not us. How could they be? We existed prior to either and we exist beyond either. Both arise only as clusters of thought crystallised into beliefs, habitual reactions and behaviour. Stop thinking, if only for a few seconds, and they cease to be. But something else exists in the stillness. Something prior to and beyond the content of our consciousness -- the pure, simple, direct awareness that we experience when everything else is stripped away. The one constant throughout our entire life, is simply our awareness. All else changes -- our body, thoughts, beliefs, self-image and identity, our circumstances and environment and the roles we assume -- but awareness always remains present, unaffected and unchanged.

This awareness, the base-light of our existence, is our true nature and it expresses through our body and mind as our innate self. We experience it as openness, expansiveness, spontaneity, peace, inspiration and often as a very deep joy, even bliss.


Tragically, we’ve been taught to mistrust our innate nature and see our natural impulses and as something dangerous and harmful. Whether consciously or unconsciously, most people have internalised the assertion of poisonous religious doctrines that assert our essential nature is somehow rotten, deficient and lowly, that we’re all ‘born sinners’. We’re led to believe that if we followed our innermost nature and allowed our actions to be directed by our innate self we’d all be lying, thieving, murderous monsters. We’re taught by society that we need rules, regulations, laws and doctrines in order to curb our innate wickedness.

But this is simply a form of psychological warfare that’s been perpetrated upon the masses for millennia in order to control us. It’s not true and it’s actually very harmful. First of all, it’s an inescapable conclusion that so many of the rules and doctrines imposed on us are archaic, inflexible, outdated and no longer serve us as a society. And secondly, because as I have said, a society consisting of nothing more than deadened social selves is inherently dysfunctional. The living become the living dead and society becomes rife with violence, ignorance, hatred and mass depression. This all stems from the conflict at the core of our being; the conflict between the innate self and the social self which has subjugated and smothered it. The external is always but a reflection of the internal. Inner conflict will inevitably be reflected in outer conflict. The only way forward is to resolve that core conflict once and for all.

I’m not talking about destroying or vanquishing the ego, superego or social self. That’s not the answer and would in fact be very harmful. Violence does not beget peace. The answer, as with all things in life, is balance. Currently we’re out of balance and we desperately need to regain our equilibrium.

Because of our conditioned distrust of our innate nature, many might fear that if we follow our innermost impulses and promptings we’d end up being lazy, selfish and hedonistic blobs. I do not believe this is true. That’s far more likely to be the case when we’re disconnected from our selves. In fact, the innate self, as a reflection of the Absolute consciousness/awareness, is characterised by joy, aliveness, compassion and inspiration. It has a natural regard for others and the whole for it does not see itself as in any way separate. We’re not truly alive until we learn to embody that most essential element of our nature. What’s more, we’ll never find lasting peace and happiness until we learn to resolve the conflict within us and learn to balance all aspects of our nature. The time for change is now...