Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
A few nights ago I dreamt of my grandfather, who sadly passed on in 2004. I was back in his and my grandmother's house and oh my god, it was JUST LIKE I WAS THERE. Even in the dream i started crying because i realised how much i missed it, how much I missed THEM and how big a part of my life they were. Every single detail was there, even things I'd long forgotten. it wasnt the happiest time i was there in my dream, either - it was after granny had gone into a nursing home and my grandad was alone and really his whole world had disappeared. it was so difficult. i really miss them both. the end almost seems cruel from a certain perspective and yet, ultimately, all was well.
i’d like to believe they are still here, with us. recently i’ve willingly dismantled all my old beliefs and i dont currently know what to believe. ive even been open to the possibility of nothingness after death. nothingness before death as well - and even during life. in my heart, what do i feel? in my heart i totally believe in a continuity - because i believe that the form, the physical self is only a very small part of this whole that we are. we’re just a speck of dust when compared to the vastness of our true self; our true nature. does that true nature continue in an individualised fashion? I’d have to say YES. I know in my heart that my grandparents are still here. still alive. in fact, more alive than ever. the form can only express a limited aspect of our true nature, very limited, and as the form gradually dissolves that expression becomes narrower and narrower, until it's just like a very faint, intermittent trickle of water; the water being reflective of our essential nature or spirit.
I remember once sitting looking at a painting in a glass frame. In the glass I could see a reflection of the neighbours outside; I saw their car pulling into the drive and them getting out and unloading shopping bags from the boot, before going inside. It was all there, reflected in the painting. I'll never forget the dawning realisation that crept up on me as I observed this. It made me feel that this is perhaps all that our phenomenal world is; a reflected image of something on a transparent medium - an illusion, a pale reflection of something that’s actually happening elsewhere. you might look at the picture and the reflection that was happening in it and see it as the whole truth, the whole reality - but in truth, it was but a reflection of something infinitely greater. the small, limited human mind might zero in on the reflection and think it is the whole truth; but in reality, it's just an illusion and there's a whole universe beyond that phenomenal apparition....a universe that's quite beyond the capacity of our minds to even begin to imagine. this, THIS - all of it, all of phenomenal ‘reality’ is just a pale reflection of an infinitely greater reality.
So my grandparents...they've stepped out of my perceived reflection of reality for now, and yet I still feel them, very close. in some ways i often feel them as more a part of my life now than they ever were and thats rather strange, but nonetheless true. before they were separated by space and time, but now i feel those boundaries are gone - and it’s like they are linked with me even more closely. My Grandad was a gentle, unassuming presence so i ‘feel’ him quite subtly, but my Granny was a force of nature; a strong, dominant, loving and vivacious personality and i feel her very strongly; it’s almost as though i can sense her sharing opinions, and comments and laughter, as well as love and support.
phenomenal reality is a strange thing. outwardly, in the world of form i see so much loss - the loss of my grandparents, of much the rest of my extended family, of friends and health and an ‘outer life’, i can see the encroachment of aging as a reminder of the impermanence of this always-terminal condition we call 'life' - in others and even in myself. i watch as a flower i pick from the garden, radiant with beauty and the lustrousness of life gradually crumples and dissolves into a dry, lifeless husk.
and its ok. waves come and then they dissolve back into the ocean. can i be at peace with it? Well, why not? Would you want the waves to be any other way? they are as they are. we are as we are. life is as it is. flow with it, let it be, let yourself ‘be lived by life’ rather than thinking that we have to be in the pilot seat and ‘live life’ (the ultimate ego delusion and yet so so pervasive and convincing at times!). sitting in the garden, surrounded by a slowly blossoming tree, shrubs and plants bursting into life with fresh, vibrant green; cloudless blue skies, radiant sunshine, a gentle breeze rippling so delicately through the leaves and grass and all the various birds going about their business, singing so sweetly just because that’s what they do...it’s life.
Imagine if a bird developed an ego and got the notion that it ‘had a life’, with things to do, achievements to gain, plans to make and appearances to keep; I guess there’s nothing you could do to convince that bird that all of that mindstuff was ultimately a fabrication. The birds don’t ‘have’ a life any more than the blades of grass - or in fact, us. That would be a mental conceptualisation. Ultimately, we just ARE life; life living itself. If we could really get back in tune with nature (of which we are really a part) then we’d see that it’s pointing us the way back to wholeness, peace, purpose and unity: just BE as you are. Let your true nature emerge and be at one with life; you don’t ‘have’ a life...you are life.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
It’s amazing how, when you hold a question in mind and really open yourself to receiving an answer, the answer always comes to you eventually, and it will keep coming to you until you finally heed it. I’m not talking about receiving an answer from your mind - the mind has no answers, it simply regurgitates the same old conditioned mindcrap that leads you to the point of having questions upon questions in the first place. No, you have to be open to receiving an answer from...wherever else. Sometimes the answer arises from a state beyond mind; at a level deeper than thought, where it simply comes as an innate knowing. Other times the answer arises on an external level. You happen to open a book at a certain page which seems so freakishly relevant to your predicament. You turn on the TV or radio and happen to hear an expert dispensing some surprisingly pertinent advice. Snippets of old songs, poems, or inspirational quotations - these can all be sources of answers. How do you know it’s an answer? I guess, if it resonates with your current predicament and FEELS like an answer. Then there are other people - the ones you can go to who always offer sound advice and admirable wisdom.
Since I had my mini-creative meltdown the other day, in which I seriously questioned whether or not to continue persevering with getting my novel published, I’ve received a string of such ‘answers’. The moment I even posted that blog, I had a very deep and insistent feeling rise within me. It’s hard to put that feeling into words, but it was something along the lines of “oh come on, stop the self-indulgence and just get on with it!” tinged with an element of “you know better than this.” Then I started coming across numerous quotations and articles which seemed to directly speak to my situation. The advice was all the same: acknowledge the difficulties and persevere. I started reading the next chapter of ‘The Artist’s Way’ and was struck by the following passage, which I immediately attacked with a highlighter pen:
"One of the most difficult tasks an artist must face is a primal one: artistic survival. All artists must learn the art of surviving loss: loss of hope, loss of face, loss of money, loss of self-belief. In addition to our gains, we inevitably suffer these losses in an artistic career. They are hazards of the road and, in many ways, its signposts. Artistic losses can be turned into artistic gains and strengths - but not in the isolation of the beleagured artist's brain."
The whole chapter seemed to be just what I needed to read at just that time.
I received similar advice from a couple of other people; some in direct response to my blog deliberations (thanks GaySocrates!) and some because it just seemed to spontaneously arise in the moment.
The last straw was when using an iphone application last night when the following quotation popped up on the screen: “The only failure is to quit trying.”
I just about started laughing. OK, I get the message! I really do. I already kind of knew it inside me anyway.
I think genuine art is a sacred act. The artist opens up and connects with a creative force which lies within and yet beyond the boundaries of self. It’s almost like entering a stream or flow. True creativity comes not from the mind, but through the mind. By creating something through accessing this flow, it then seems disrespectful to the creative flow (call it what you will) to then criticise, doubt and give up on that creation. Many artists will probably know what I mean when I say ‘it’s not really ‘me’ who did the work in the first place - it's more like it flowed through me.’ These words that are appearing on the screen right now; they aren’t so much coming from me as they are coming through me, pouring through my mind and, thanks to my deft fingers, are appearing onto the screen, about to be beamed across cyberspace. Where did they originate? Some unknown, mysterious, invisible force. Julia Cameron says that one of the key principles of creativity is that, as artists, it is our job to DO the work and not judge the work!
It would be disrespectful to both myself and the intangible creative force that collaborated with me on my novel to let it sit gathering dust. At least if I try every agent in the world and get rejected by all of them I’ll be able to know that I tried. And heck, if they don’t want to publish my book, then I’LL publish it. Again, it’s not going to be one of those ‘I need this to happen in order to be at peace/happy/fulfilled’. I can be that without getting published. Getting published is just a little extra, just something I want to do because I can; and because I have something I would like to share with the world. The world might like it or it might be indifferent, but either way I’ll have done my part.
So, I’m going to recommit to getting published. And why not? I’m going to try to take the personalisation out of it this time: for instance, my novel being rejected does not equal ME being rejected. It just means a certain someone doesn’t relate to it. They maybe prefer reading celebrity autobiographies. Fair play to them!
We’ll see how it plays out. Who knows, I might even go from hating and despising the whole process to actually finding it strangely fun. I guess stranger things have happened. It’s all in the attitude.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I’m at a crossroads. You see, I wrote a novel (yup, that's it above!). I have tried getting various agents to take it on. No luck. The last one, a friend’s agent, seemed very keen to take a look and I duly sent the entire novel, but two months on and there’s been not so much as a peep. Oh well, I tell myself, I wasn’t actually sure if she was experienced enough as an agent as I didn’t really know what her credentials were. But I’ve reached this place where I’ve been letting go of all my old beliefs and assumptions. I used to have this dream that I’d get my novel published, that it’d be a smash-hit bestseller and that the film studios would be queuing up to make a movie adaptation. And now? Well, that hasn’t materialised. I did my part; I spent years of my life creating, writing and endlessly re-writing what I felt was a more-than-decent novel, filled with twists and turns and an element of depth that I find sorely lacking from most contemporary art. Sadly, 'life' doesn’t seem to be doing its part! I created what I felt - and I don’t mean this in any egotistical, self-aggrandising way - was my gift to the world. It was my story, my vision, with every last ounce my heart and soul poured into it...and the world doesn’t appear to want it. Doesn’t care. Doesn’t matter.
Maybe it really doesn’t matter? I’ve seriously questioned my need to get it published at all now. I’ve let go of my elaborate dreams of bestselling status and glitzy film premieres. I’ve come to a point where I wonder whether the endless stream of rejection slips signify that my book is quite simply not good enough to publish. It’s perfectly possible. And yet, I can never really know that: no one can conclusively determine whether a piece of art, be it a painting, novel, short story or poem is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Those are subjective judgements and ultimately amount to very little, unless of course like the masses you equate your personal opinions with gospel truth. The primary motivation of agents and publishers is to find something marketable and make as much £££ as possible. Although I tried to make my book as mainstream as I could given the subject matter, I am aware that it doesn’t tidily fit into a neat little pigeonhole; it doesn’t follow trends or take current styles into account. Why should it? I really don’t give damn about trends of current fads in contemporary literature. I’m one of those olde fashioned artists who really doesn’t care about commercial appeal or fitting into certain markets; I had an inner vision, a strong and vivid one and I wrote it as best I could without trying to water it down or tailor it to today’s market. Is this just excuse-making on my part? It has been suggested to me that the UK book market isn’t perhaps very conducive to the type of novel I’ve written and there might be something to that. Then again, it might just be a steaming pile of crap that I’ve written! I’m open to all angles at the moment.
Personally, I have a feeling within me that it’s NOT a steaming pile of crap. Thing is, whenever I reread I actually thoroughly enjoy it - and generally I don’t like reading over things I’ve written because I just tend to criticise every single sentence and the choice of every second word. But I really do get swept away by an engaging and fast-paced story and a character narrative that really compels me. The climax, although I might have written it differently had I done it today, moves and excites me and seems to transcend the normal boundaries of fiction.
So, my question now is really this: do I just accept that I’m not going to get it published, or do I redouble my efforts and give it one last concerted push?
I thoroughly despise sending out queries and whoring my work; I also feel that the initial sample chapters I send off (assuming they are read at all - I can sometimes tell when they aren’t!) aren’t that representative of the book as a whole, simply due to the nature of the story. Maybe I should just get over my dislike of doing this and FORCE myself to give it one last try and not simply fall into what I’ve been doing up til now; sending out 3-4 submissions, waiting for the reply and getting so discouraged when the inevitable rejection slips do arrive that I wait another 6 months til I send out the next batch, and so on.
I could always self-publish, which would give me complete creative control, although by nature I feel really uncomfortable with self-publicity and know I would struggle to get anyone to buy my book. (I would make the world's very worst salesman; even if I had a product I thought was good, my anti-capitalistic tendencies would no doubt cut in and I would lose all motivation to sell it)
Third option is just to give up. Let it go. Chalk it up to experience. And I am prepared now to give up my dream of being a writer. I held onto it tightly for so many years that it was almost a part of me; in reality, it almost seems as though life doesn’t want me to be a writer. If it did, surely it would be easier than it has been? (Then again - who said it would, or should be easy?) Maybe I should just write for myself - I have been toying with ideas for sequels and spin-offs to my novel and I enjoy exploring the various story possibilities. Maybe writing ought to be just a hobby for me. And yet, there’s a part of me wonders - what’s the point? If I can’t somehow put my ideas out there to help the world in some way, to bring just a little more beauty, or inspiration (as I try to do with my every artistic endeavour), then why bother at all?
I really don’t know. When you have ME and everyday is a struggle to get through the basics, you have very little energy left for fighting crusades. I have virtually no fight left. And yet, a little something in me really feels that this particular dream might be worth fighting for. I don’t need to achieve it in order to be happy; I no longer buy into that reasoning (you know, “I need X to happen before I can be happy and at peace”). I can be happy and at peace wherever I am. It’s more like an inner call; I don’t want to share my art out of vanity (personally I’m more comfortable not sharing what I do, particularly if it’s at all of a personal nature and I do put a lot of myself into whatever I do - and then, accordingly want to hide it away). It’s more a feeling that I have something to contribute. So much art out there is soulless and ugly. Maybe contributing something which I know has heart and beauty in it (at least I think it does) is a worthy endeavour.
By the end of this week I will try and come to a decision as to whether I give up or persevere with getting published.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
There has been a lot of stuff going through my mind lately. Thankfully I’ve learned not to take all of it seriously or give undue importance to the joys of what I’ve unceremoniously labelled ‘mindcrap’. Much of it is complete baloney, and yet unfortunately most people - myself included at times - treat it with the utmost seriousness. Some people even end up worshipping their mindcrap. What’s your religion? Why it’s the thoughts and beliefs in my head. Uh huh. But It’s really not funny. It’s the cause of so much misery on this planet.
I was listening to an interview with Zen/Advaita teacher Adyashanti, who spoke very eloquently of what 'enlightenment' or 'awakening' truly is. Basically, the way he defined it was simply as seeing things as they really are...as opposed to seeing things as we THINK they are. Most people live their lives with a mental commentary running in their heads. Every single experience, individual, occurence and situation is thereby filtered through a screen of mind; processed through a filter of our thoughts, beliefs and prejudices. Every experience of ‘reality’ is in fact quickly and neatly packaged into a story in our minds. We so rarely experience ‘reality’ as it is; instead we’re stuck in our interpretation, our story of what we THINK reality is.
The example he gave was if someone says something that we don’t like; our reality becomes “that person shouldn’t have said that”. We take THAT to be reality; when in fact, that’s simply a story we’ve spun in our minds. The reality was, simply (and it always is so much more simple than we make it) - that the person said such-and-such. Doesn’t really matter whether or not we liked what they had to say; that’s merely subjective interpretation. What is, I guess, IS. We have an in-built spin doctor living in a portion of our brain that is perpetually taking our experience and turning it into little stories and narratives and what’s ‘good’, what’s ‘bad’, what ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be happening...and we tend to utterly fall for that and see it as ‘reality’ when in fact it’s merely a phantasm, an illusion of mind that filters our perception of reality.
Is there then some truth in the ancient notion that everything we believe to be 'reality', is in fact just a dream? From what I hear, some quantum physicists actually purport that 'reality' is entirely dependent upon our perception of it; in other words, if we're not there to perceive it, then it no longer exists...that without our brain processing the information in a certain way, then it's all basically just quantum soup - patterns of energy and information with no inherent realness of its own. A possible implication is that with our minds, we create the world as we perceive it, in much the same way as dreams exists. It seems real to us while we're perceiving it, but ultimately we come to realise that it's simply just a dream.
Do you want to take the red pill or the blue pill?!
Now, I don’t suppose it matters a great deal if it's a positive, happy dream - and it will be if your mind-stories (the narrative and beliefs which drive your experience or reality) are of a positive and healthy nature. No one wants to be woken from a pleasant dream. If it works for you and you are happy, then that's wonderful. Positive people are much better to be around than negative people (unless, of course you’re a negative person in which case you probably find it mightily uncomfortable to be around people that don’t share your negative outlook).
If it’s an unhappy dream you're experiencing, then maybe you do want to wake up (unless of course, you’re addicted to the unhappiness, as many people unconsciously are - but that's another story altogether). That’s when you start looking at your mind-stories (“life is terrible and everybody hates me”) and question them. Dissect them. Tear it apart and see if this belief - this religion around which you base your entire experience of life - actually has ANY inherent truth in it. At first you’ll be convinced it does. As Byron Katie said, and I think this is as apt a desciption I’ve ever heard of mind:
“The mind’s job is to validate what it believes.”
You can see that anywhere; if someone really believes something then they’ll filter every aspect of their experience in order to validate those beliefs. When our outer experience doesn’t match up with our inner ‘map’ of reality, the result is psychological stress or what I believe is termed ‘cognitive dissonance’. It’s uncomfortable so we choose to tune out any experience that contradicts our deeply held ‘schema’ (or mental map of reality). Like the person who is convinced that everyone hates him - he might get ten compliments in a day, but he’ll filter those out and use the one negative comment he gets to validate and justify his belief that people hate him. That person isn’t going to change his experience of reality until he questions his underlying belief system. If the operating system has bugs or faulty programming in it, everything's going to be affected!
Waking up to reality is realising that the screen of beliefs and mind-stories with which we interpret, understand and relate to reality are illusory, fabricated and possess none of the inherent solidity or ‘realness’ we assume them to have. None!
I’m guessing most people aren’t ready to completely ditch all their belief structures. I’ve had a taste of that lately - and its disorienting, disillusioning, sometimes painful but at the same time very liberating. It’s not for the faint of heart.
For those that aren’t really committed to this thing called ‘awakening’, then it’s probably best simply to dream better. By that I mean, if your dream of reality (your beliefs, filters and mental maps) is negative and is causing you or others to suffer, then for goodness sake switch it to something more positive. It can be done - and it can be done quite easily. This is a revolutionary concept to many, who erroneously believe that what they believe is static and unchangeable, and that they are in essence a victim to this.
In reality, the mind is fluidic; and our thoughts and beliefs, no matter how solid and ‘real’ they seem to us are merely like clouds passing across the open expanse of sky that is mind. The problem comes when we forget that we are the sky and instead identify with the clouds; which is fine when the clouds are light and fluffy but not so good when they are dark, dense, stormy and violent. If you’re stuck with stormy clouds, then switch them to lighter, fluffier clouds; ones that don’t obscure the sunlight. And if you’re really really eager to get to the truth of reality, then ditch your identification with clouds altogether; realise that you are the essence, not the content. Clouds will still appear, just like shadows will always trail you on a sunny day. Clouds and shadows aren’t the problem; identifying your sense of ‘self’ with them is.
Long long story short: even when you no longer ‘fall’ for the content of mind (the mind-crap, stories and erroneous beliefs), mind has a certain momentum and will still continue to regurgitate all the old conditioned crap for, well, as long as it does. Imagine an experience of reality totally free of mental interference, with no labels such as ‘sky’, ‘tree’, ‘sun’, ‘grass’ to distance yourself from pure experience of what is. That’s something I really strive for. Its not so much about getting rid of mind - mind serves some very useful functions, clearly - as it is simply getting back in touch with the experience of BEING. Getting out of relating to life in conceptual ways, and simply being free to purely, intimately experience the totality of what is, now. Or as a definition of Zen simply, beautifully states; all life is about is - JUST THIS, NOW.
My mantra. It completely gets me out of mindcrap and back in touch with what is....
JUST THIS, NOW!
I hope those pointers mean something to you. Equally, they might be meaningless - but that kind of proves a point; something is only as meaningful to the extent that the mind and your mind-stories and mental map of reality make it meaningful. Remember - the mind’s job is to validate what it believes. Basically, my entire point is this - if your beliefs are good for you, that’s fine. If they’re bad, change them. And if you’re really, really curious, ditch all of them altogether. It’s scary but wondrous when you start to believe nothing, least of all your own thoughts...........
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Sunday, April 05, 2009
The following is by Adyashanti whose work I have found powerful, profound, challenging and transformational...I will speak more about him in time to come. I'm too tired to write anything myself, but these words not only washed over me like healing balm but also helped me wake up out of the trance of mind for a moment of lucidity, fleeting or otherwise. In simple terms he's saying, JUST STOP. STOP AND BE.
"In order to discover the perspective of liberation, which alone transcends this entire movement of ignorance and suffering, one needs to let everything end. "Letting everything end" means to stand in the moment completely naked of attachment to any and all ideas, concepts, hopes, preferences, and experiences. Simply put, it means to stop strategizing, controlling, manipulating, and running away from yourself--and to simply be. Finally you must let everything end and be still.
In letting everything end, all seeking and striving stops. All effort to be someone or to find some extraordinary state of being ceases. This ceasing is essential. It is true spiritual maturity. By ceasing to follow the mind's tendency to always want more, different, or better, one encounters the opportunity to be still. In being still, a perspective is revealed which is free from all ignorance and bondage to suffering. From that perspective, eternal Self is realized. The eternal Self, the Seer, is recognized to be one's true nature, one's very own Self.
This is an invitation to let all seeking end, all striving end, all efforting end, all past identity end, all hopes end, and to discover That which has no beginning or end. This is an invitation to discover the eternal, unborn, undying Truth of being. The Truth of your being, your own Self. Let the entire movement of becoming end, and discover That which has always been present at the core of your being." (Adyashanti)
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Thursday, April 02, 2009
WHO AM I?
Self enquiry, don't you just love it? Before I might have been able to answer that with a rattling off of statistics (name, age, nationality, gender, geographical location) along with an assortment of mindstuff (I think this, I believe that, I want this, I like that, I don't like this) and I'd maybe even through in a few memories to give a little more cohesion and substance. Et voila - "me"!
But I don't buy that anymore. That "me" is just a collection of interchangable mental content. Nothing solid, nothing concrete, nothing that has any inherent existence or realness. Much like you could start describing your car; you can name it, give me all sorts of information about it and what it does, has done or can do...but there's ultimately no inherent realness to it! What you label a "car" and assume IS a "car" simply because that's what you've labelled it is in reality just a collection of various parts; metals, nuts and bolts, glass, fabric, mechanics. It's the same with people...and I don't mean that in a reductionist and nihilistic way at all. Clearly we have bodies and we have consciousness....but beyond that, when it comes to this notion of personal identity.....IT'S ALL JUST A MENTAL FABRICATION. Just like the car, we label it with a name and collect an assortment of facts and statistics and think we know what it is.
This is going pretty deep. I'll understand if you want to bail out. For many people losing the sense of ego, of personal identity is a terrifying prospect. But ultimately it's the only real way to be free. If you're ready to shed your illusions then you'll be open to what I say next. If not, if you're quite happy to remain in the dream, then that's fine - sweet dreams. Usually it's not until the dream becomes painful (and it inevitably will) that you really have the impetus to wake up. For instance, have you ever been having a nightmare and you suddenly realise it's a nightmare and you desperately try to will yourself to wake up?! Been there, done that, wearing the t-shirt. I haven't fully woken up, but the more I practise the more I'm getting a glimpse of the twilight state between sleep and wakefulness. And it's delicious, liberating and freeing beyond all previous imagination. And I want to share it with anyone that is open to it.
The more I delve into nondualism the more I’m realising (for the first time actually FEELING) that ‘I’, ‘myself’, this ego entity is hollow, unreal, a mirage, a phantom, an illusion. A chimera. There’s nothing there. So why big it up? Why seek to bolster the ego and solidify it and add to it when...its just a shadow? The real ‘me,’ is pure awareness, is just this sense of beingness; devoid of all identity, devoid of characteristics and personality and even individual likes and dislikes. It’s the screen against which all the projections of the mind manifest - the projections of thoughts and beliefs, likes and dislikes, all conceptualisations of any kind. It’s the only reality....and its this immense, spacious void-like immensity is completely impersonal, almost like the sky or the heavens at night. Objects appear in it; clouds or stars or planetary bodies...but it’s beyond and ultimately quite detached from whatever appears in its vicinity. It’s the space in which all forms appear and disappear. It’s the ‘emptiness’ that Buddhists speak of...I never understood that before, but I do now - moreover I’m experiencing it. Eckhart Tolle speaks of it as ‘space consciousness’....again, it’s not something you can really understand with the mind because it’s beyond mind. It’s the space in which the mind manifests its thoughts. Compared to the mind - finite, quite small and ultimately very limited, the background of spaciousness - this awareness that is at the core of our being - is unbounded and limitless and free. Whereas the mind attaches to concepts and thoughts and beliefs and all manner of conceptualisation, the spacious awareness is free of those.
Albert Camus once said, and I really love this quote: “Gazing up at the stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe.”
And when you step beyond mind into awareness that’s exactly what our true nature, the which lies at the core of our ‘beingness’ feels like: a gentle, vast, incomparable benign indifference. The sky doesn’t really mind what kind of cloud formations there are, what shape or consistency they take or whether or not they offer rain or thunder. The sky just allows it all and lets it happen, without judgement or intervention or manipulation or creating any sense of personalisation. That’s exactly what it feels like when you access and tap into the level of pure awareness that lies beneath mindstuff, beneath emotion and sensation, beneath the many layers of sediment of beliefs, memories, prejudices and conceptualisation that forms our perception of ourselves and the world around us.
We create little identities out of this sediment, little selves or ‘egos’. I knew all this stuff intellectually before but now I can actually sense the reality of it for myself. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these egos, they just are as they are. The problems begin however when we give them a solidity and realness they don’t possess, when we identify exclusively with them and believe that our egos are the real and only ‘us’. That’s like continually looking behind you, seeing only your shadow and thinking your shadow is ‘you’. Some spiritual traditions see the ego as the enemy and something we have to battle and rid yourself of....but in reality you don’t need to. What’s the point in battling your shadow? No matter how hard you try you can’t make it cease to be. All you need to do is simply recognise that your shadow is not you and that in itself it has no inherent existence; its an illusion of the phenomenal world and has no substance. When you really understand that, you cease to identify with it. You cease to take your own thoughts and opinions and beliefs as seriously, because they too are like shadows, or clouds passing across the sky (going back to the metaphor of the sky as being like the nature of your true ‘self’ or core awareness). When you get a glimpse into the ‘unreality’ and lack of solidity or inherent realness of the egoic structure and all these notions of identity based upon thoughts and beliefs and conceptualisation.....you let it go. You let go of ‘your story’, the story of who you think you are, who you think others are and what you think the world is about. Thoughts cease to be the buffer between your direct awareness and your peception of reality. You can then become more in touch with life, with the reality with what IS, than ever before...when you don’t buy into your thoughts about a thing, you are free to see and experience that thing as it IS, whereas previously you experienced it only through the filter of what you thought it was...
The best way to get a glimpse of this expanded awareness, and the loosening of all mental constructs is to practise meditation. Many people who have meditated will perhaps have at least some idea of what I’m talking about. Words are really insufficient to describe the indescribable, to put what is essentially formless into form by virtue of language. If you have never tasted the experience of going beyond mind into the stillness of pure awareness, then you’ll probably not ‘get’ a word of what I’ve just said. It’ll be meaningless, confusing and probably insane-sounding. In future entries I will take more about going how to achieve expanded awareness and go beyond the mind. As the Buddhists say, ‘the mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master’. The vast majority of the human race are trapped in the prison of mind, hostage to layers upon layers of dense and sticky mindstuff. Life is perceived only through the filter of mind. This is the cause of virtually all suffering on the planet. This is the reason all wars are fought and all conflict arises: my thoughts (which I am totally identified with and which I think comprise ‘me’) are contrary to your thoughts (which comprise ‘you’). Deep down of course we know that our thoughts and identity are hollow and that's why we then have an unconscious compulsion solidify our sense of self and sadly most people do that by attacking and making enemies of those we deem to have opposing senses of self. But none of it’s real. A question that Byron Katie often poses is: ‘who would you be without your story?’ That’s a great one to reflect on. The short answer can be summed up in one word: “free”.
I share this with everyone because I came to realise long ago that the solution to the world’s problems won’t be found in better or greater technology or in more scientific advances (observe: despite all the miraculous technological advancements of the last 100 years, wars are still being fought and millions are still starving on the planet). Einstein observed that a problem can never be solved with the level of consciousness that created it. Ergo, the only way out of our problems is a shift in consciousness. I believe that the real exploration of the 21st century won’t be technology or anything outside of ourselves; it will occur within each individual and it will be a journey of consciousness.
Finally please take note that all of these words, all of what I've just said are akin to a finger pointing at the moon. Don’t get too caught up in the finger itself; just try to focus on the direction in which it points.