Thursday, September 17, 2009


Reposted from my old blog, simply because I could (and I have no new words to share at this particular moment in time. It's all introspective at the moment, the moment there's energy to be directed outwardly, you'll have it). I hope this is some food for thought. You are not who you think you are ;)


I don't quite go with the Freudian interpretation of ego. That's relevant within a certain paradigm, but the definition I use of ego goes beyond that. I think of it as a false sense of self or, in the words of Eckhart Tolle:

'A conglomeration of recurring thought forms and conditioned mental-emotional patterns that are invested with a sense of "I", a sense of self.'

It's a huge collective dysfunction, a form of insanity that's so common that it's considered 'normal'. It's normal to refer to 'ourselves' as if we are two separate entities: catch yourself the next time you say something like 'I'm proud of myself', 'I said to myself', 'I'm fed up with myself'.

How can there be two selves: "I" and "myself"?!

Because one of them is a fabricated identity consisting of the stories we tell ourselves: ie, this is who I am, this is my past, these are my beliefs, this is the kind of person I am. We form an identity based on 'me and my story', the roles we play consciously or unconsciously, our collective identifications with race, nationality, religion, political allegiances...and we also enhance this sense of self by identifying with our possessions and achievements, our resentments and grudges, our level (or lack) of 'success' and whether we view ourselves as 'more than' or 'less than' others.


The real insanity comes when we try to uphold this false sense of self. The ego constantly needs to be fed. It's always seeking 'more'...more things to identify with, more validation, more opportunities to strengthen itself. It's precarious because in reality it's a phantasm, illusory, so we bolster it by creating 'others', people who oppose your views and ego-identity.

By fighting against them you strengthen your own ego-identity. And so we have a world filled with conflict on both microcosmic (personal, individual) and macrocosmic (global, international) levels. the basic reason wars are fought and so much suffering is inflicted on our fellow man is because we want to be RIGHT and in order to be right we have to make others wrong................

Ego is responsible for the vast majority of suffering on the planet. If we could just let go of our mental stories (and that's really all they are - STORIES), our one would have any cause to fight. We'd celebrate our oneness rather than the illusory separateness and differences.


So how do you get rid of ego? If you fight against your ego I think you might be falling into the trap of ego because you're still in the realm of subject and object (quantum theory now posits what non-dualistic schools have taught for millennia: subject and object are inseparable, are one and the same).

I like Ramana Maharshi's 'self inquiry' technique for transcending ego. You simply ask yourself WHO AM I? Looking within, you try to find this person you think you are, this ego....and you can never find it. Because it doesn't exist. How can you fight against something that doesn't exist? How can you rid yourself of a mere shadow which by virtue of its nature disappears the moment you shine the light of your attention upon it? Therefore fighting the ego isn't necessary...just being aware of it and questioning it and realising how insubstantial and illusory it's nature is is probably quite enough.

It takes a lot of work though, because we've been conditioned to believe in - and act from this 'optical illusion of consciousness' as Einstein put it. Once you make a commitment to move beyond ego you must vigilantly practise self-observation, catching yourself when old patterns such as identifying with a mental story you have about yourself or about other people/life pops up, or when you find yourself playing out old ego struggles, or basing your 'self worth' on what you or others think about you. In fact, having self-worth, self-esteem or self-belief is ultimately kind of ego in itself because you're back to 'me and myself'... (the 'I' of our innate consciousness and the 'me' of our constructed ego). I'm looking at my tropical fish right now. They don't need to have self-esteem of self-worth or certain notions about themselves...they just ARE themselves, no ego, no mental stories. If people could just BE what they are without the need for all their stories and ego-identifications....the world would be a very different place. Nothing to prove, no enemies to fight...

I really recommend the books of Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie for anyone interested in getting over 'themselves'. They are so simply and lucidly put, yet so powerfully transformative. Byron Katie once said that if she could have a bumper sticker which summed up her teachings it would be CTRL+ALT+DEL. You probably need to put her 'Work' into practise before you'd understand the relevance...but it's really about getting out of the stories in your head. Buddha noted that with our mind we make the world and that's so true. If the stories in your head are painful, you're gonna live in a painful world. When you ditch the stories you are free to simple BE and enjoy life for what it is.

As a very wise someone once said to me, you aren't going to have any interest in moving beyond ego until you've suffered enough, until you've realised that it's Groundhog Day, the same patterns, the same needs and craving and attachments and aversions over and over and OVER again...and there's no end in sight and - no matter how much you seek and strive and accomplish - it's never enough to satisfy that need for 'more'. It's a painful realisation. It's not until you've suffered enough that you realise there's no peace in ego. And I guess until you get to that point, everything I've just said will be meaningless...but that's alright too......

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Wisdom of Nisargadatta

I have felt the urge to write about Sri Nisargadatta Majaraj for some time now. So here goes!

I had been aware of his book “I Am That” for quite a while (well, actually it's not so much as book as a collection of live question and answer sessions, recorded and translated and produced in book form). It is widely renowned as one of the most powerful books of spiritual awakening ever written, or as many simply put it “the first and last spiritual book you’ll ever need to read.” That’s a bold statement, but its nevertheless maintained by many people that - assuming you are ready and open to it -once you work your way through this volume, you’ll have “GOT IT!" and any further seeking is simply unnecessary. I'm halfway through the book and in my view that statement is no exaggeration.

Nisargadatta had a remarkable gift for elucidating profound truths simply and powerfully using few words. His statements - often short and pithy yet deeply transformative - jump off the page and strike me with such power. I meditate upon his words and they dissolve into me; deeply resonant and alive. Many spiritual teachings lose themselves in the attempt to use words to convey that which is beyond words and their work becomes far more complex and convoluted than it needs to be, thus losing the original essence of what they seek to point to. All words are mere pointers - some pointers are more helpful than others, I guess depending upon the nature of the subject and the ability of the perceiver to receive them, as well as the clarity and expressiveness of the teacher. The words of Nisargadatta are among the most helpful pointers I've ever been given and pack such an incredible power that I had to share some of them!

Nisargadatta was born in Bombay on 17th April 1897 and passed away on 8th September 1981, aged 84. His outward life was seemingly unremarkable; raised on a farm, he later opened a shop selling clothes and tobacco, while marrying and having four children. It was when he was 34 that he was introduced to the man that became his guru. His guru’s instruction was clear and simple and is the basis of what might be deemed Nisargadatta’s essential teaching:

“When I met my Guru, he told me: "You are not what you take yourself to be. Find out what you are. Watch the sense 'I am', find your real Self." I obeyed him, because I trusted him. I did as he told me. All my spare time I would spend looking at myself in silence. And what a difference it made, and how soon!

My teacher told me to hold on to the sense 'I am' tenaciously and not to swerve from it even for a moment. I did my best to follow his advice and in a comparatively short time I realised within myself the truth of his teaching. All I did was to remember his teaching, his face, his words constantly. This brought an end to the mind; in the stillness of the mind I saw myself as I am -- unbound.

I simply followed (my teacher's) instruction which was to focus the mind on pure being 'I am', and stay in it. I used to sit for hours together, with nothing but the 'I am' in my mind and soon peace and joy and a deep all-embracing love became my normal state. In it all disappeared -- myself, my Guru, the life I lived, the world around me. Only peace remained and unfathomable silence.”

Living a very simple life following his spiritual realisation, he gave talks in his home amid the slums of Mumbai for the rest of his life, receiving thousands of visitors and having many of his discourses recorded, an assortment of which became edited into his famous “I Am That” as well as other books. As Dr Robert Powell says, “Like the Zen masters of old, Nisargadatta's style is abrupt, provocative, and immensely profound -- cutting to the core and wasting little effort on inessentials. His terse but potent sayings are known for their ability to trigger shifts in consciousness, just by hearing, or even reading them."

His teachings defy summarisation, but could be said to be rooted in the purpose of spirituality is to know who and what you are and to be rooted in that deepest essence of Self, referred to as the sense of “I am” (the sense of "I am" that is prior to “I am this” or “I am that”). Our true nature is boundless awareness - which is the source of, but distinguished from, the personal individual (egoic) consciousness, which is related to the body.

His book “I Am That” is quite simply the finest spiritual book I have ever read and has had a profound effect on me. I have found it deeply illuminating and would recommend it to anyone who is ready (and not everyone will be, I hasten to add. You will know in yourself whether this resonates). It is available online as a PDF file at It is best to read it from start to finish rather than dipping in. It’s advanced stuff which necessitates an open mind and heart. I knew I had to order a physical copy of the book just so I could attack it with a highlighter pen and underline all the bits which really jumped out at me (and it turns out that has necessitated a LOT of flourescent ink!)

What I would like to do is share some of my favourite quotations; words which I have found very powerful and transformative. I will keep adding to them, because there are a lot!

“Stop imagining yourself being or doing this or that and the realisation that you are the source and heart of all will dawn upon you.”

“I see only consciousness, and know everything to be but consciousness, as you know the picture on the cinema screen to be but light.”

“My life is a succession of events, just like yours. Only I am detached and see the passing show as a passing show, while you get stuck to things and get swept along with them.”

“You are the pure awareness that illuminates consciousness and its infinite content. Realise this and live accordingly. Go within and enquire “what am I?” or focus your mind on “I am”, which is pure and simple being.”

“Your self-image is the most changeful thing you have. It is utterly vulnerable, at the mercy of a passerby. A bereavement, the loss of a job, an insult, and your image of yourself, which you call your ‘person’, changes deeply. Separate consistently and perseveringly the ‘I am’ from ‘this’ and ‘that’ and try to feel what it means to BE, just to BE, without being ‘this’ or ‘that’.”

“To take appearance as reality is a grievous mistake and the cause of all calamities. You are the all-pervading, eternal and infinitely creative awareness - consciousness. All else is local and temporary. Don’t forget what you are.”

“All I say is: wake up, know yourself, be yourself.”

“When the psyche is raw, undeveloped, quite primitive, it is subject to gross illusions. As it grows in breadth and sensitivity, it becomes a perfect link between pure matter and pure spirit and gives meaning to matter and expression to spirit.”

“All perceivables are transient and, therefore, unreal. Only that which makes perception possible, call it Life or Brahman, or what you like, is real.”

“Mine is a non-verbal world. In your world the unspoken has no existence. In mine - the words and their contents have no meaning. In your world nothing stays, in mine - nothing changes. My world is real, while yours is made of dreams.”

“When the mind is quiet, we come to know ourselves as the pure witness. We withdraw from the experience and its experiencer and stand apart in pure awareness, which is between and beyond the two.”

“The person is a very small thing. Actually it is a composite, it cannot be said to exist by itself. Unperceived, it is just not there. It is but the shadow of the mind, the sum total of memories. Pure being is reflected in the mirror of the mind, as knowing. What is known takes the shape of a person, based on memory and habit. It is but a shadow, or a projection of the knower onto the screen of the mind.”

“Your mind projects a structure and you identify with it. It is in the nature of desire to prompt the mind to create a world for its fulfilment.”

“Your personal universe does not exist by itself. It is merely a limited and distorted view of the real. It is not the universe that needs improving, but your way of looking.”

“Be fully aware of your own being and you will be in bliss consciously. Because you take your mind off your Self and make it dwell on what you are not, you lose your sense of well-being, of being well. [...] True happiness is spontaneous and effortless. Happiness is unshakable. What you can seek and find is not the real thing. Find what you have never lost, find the inalienable.”

“Within the prison of your world appears a man who tells you that the world of painful contradictions, which you have created, is neither continuous nor permanent and is based on a misapprehension. He pleads with you to get out of it, by the same way by which you got into it. You got into it by forgetting what you are, and you will get out of it by knowing yourself as you are.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Do You Trust the Media?

I felt the strong urge to write a blog on the media, as it’s been something that’s been on my mind for some time now.

I never questioned the veracity of the media in any great depth until I studied Press and Broadcasting and Sociology as part of my Social Science degree. It was during my first P&B lesson that the lecturer said something which had quite an impact on me: “you’re led to assume that the news you watch on TV or read in a newspaper or online is some kind of impartial window to the world, but it’s NOT. There is no such thing as impartial news coverage: news is always gathered and constructed according to a strict framework of criteria and agendas.”

The media is not your friend, and it’s not simply gathering news to “keep you informed”. It is selling product and it will use whatever sales techniques it needs in order to sell as much of that product as possible; whether it’s newspaper copies, TV ratings or website hits. In order to do that, the news stories they filter (the very fact news items are called news “STORIES” is incredibly telling in itself) are done so in accordance with strict criteria. I don’t recall the entire list of criteria, but very near the top is NEGATIVITY. Any honest news editor will admit that negative stories generate much more interest than those of a more positive nature. This immediately explains why we are bombarded by so much negativity in the news.

What’s also important to realise that the news editors will manipulate and distort their news stories in order to create maximum punch. “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story” is the old journalistic cliche, but it is a sad fact - and so many people are still falling for it. “Stories” can be spun in any number of different ways; a positive can easily be re-interpreted as being a negative and also vice versa, as often is the case when we’re being fed propaganda.

I don’t like sounding so negative or cynical, but I feel it’s such an important understanding, particularly as so many people are mass-hypnotised by the media. The media is in so many cases simply POISON. The news editors are not just selling news STORIES, but also a WORLD VIEW; a certain way of interpreting the world and what’s ‘real’ and what ‘isn’t’. This is a dangerous thing, particularly when one of the top criteria of this world view constitutes over-emphasis of negativity and an almost complete ignoring of positivity. I’ve known far too many people who watch the news like zombies (and not just once - but they insist on soaking up every last news bulletin on TV like junkies getting a heroin fix). They believe everything they see and think that’s ALL that’s going on in the world. Personally I only have to watch 5 minutes of the news to feel a grim pall descending - but at least I’m aware of that and can fight it off while reaching for that all-important ‘off’ button.

Those people who aren’t quite as conscious of what’s happening are trapped in a horrendously bleak worldview and they live in a world of misery - even though there’s often VERY LITTLE WRONG in their own lives - in fact, these people often have countless blessings and live relatively easy lives. The grim worldview presented to them by the media blinds them to the beauty of life all around them and the countless things they have to be grateful for.

This is not to ignore the many terrible things that do happen in the world. There is of course much suffering happens in the world. But I fail to see how condensing every bad thing that happens in the world into a 20 minute new bulletin which is little short of torture porn is of any value.

It is for this reason that I REFUSE to watch the news or waste precious moments of my life reading the bullshit that gets printed in newspapers.

This would horrify some people. “But you have to stay informed!” “You have to know what’s happening in the world!”

WHY? The news almost brainwashes people into believing that the world is a place filled with NOTHING BUT murder, rape, genocide and inhumanity. It does sadly exist, but the fact is for every one act of cruelty there are a hundred small acts of kindness. I remember one time watching the hideousness of the evening news and feeling disillusioned with humanity, when I saw an elderly men walking down the road and stopping to kneel down and stroke a cat. It was a clear effort for him, but he still did it. A simple, yet everyday act of kindness and beauty. It made me realise how the countless acts of kindness, love and compassion in the world are deemed ‘un-newsworthy’ and so don’t exist for many people. Only the bad things matter.

In my experience, we each create our own worlds; there is no objective world out there. “Consciousness itself is the greatest painter,” Nisargadatta said. “The entire world is but a picture.” This should be self-evident really. The depressed, unhappy or neurotic person lives in a terrible world filled with negativity, tragedy and futility. A more adjusted, optimistic and joyous person lives in a world filled with possibility, excitement and wonder. They both might occupy the exact same point in time and space, but they live in completely different worlds. Most people are unconscious and believe themselves to be a helpless victim to the world in which they find themselves. However, the truth is that we are solely responsible for the level of our consciousness, for the thoughts and beliefs we entertain in our minds and ultimately for the very world in which we exist. Bombarded by the constant negativity and heaviness of the media it’s easy to fall into this victim mode and to buy the worldview they are selling. The ability to question, however, is the first step to freedom.

I strongly recommend that people try a complete news fast.

Try it for at least a week and see how different you feel. The rationalisation that you need to “stay informed” doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. Believe me, I hardly ever watch or read the news but I ALWAYS hear what I NEED to hear and am informed about the things that are RELEVANT to me and about which I can TAKE ACTION about. In times past, before the globalisation of today, people were only ever informed of local news and events which affected them directly. The rest was irrelevant - it was other peoples’ news. That still holds true today.

The bottom line is we are each 100% responsible for the level - and content - of our consciousness. Bombarding your mind with the hideous pictures and sights of the news is a sure-fire way to make you feel depressed, helpless, deflated and disempowered. Part of me sometimes even wonders if this is intentional in some way. How do you keep the masses weak and disempowered and completely under the thumb of the current status quo? Why, bombard them with a barrage of horrendous stories and images and make them believe that we live in a dreadful, hopeless world in which change is useless and nothing amounts to anything.

I don’t buy it. I really strongly encourage others to come to the same realisation, if they haven’t already. I don’t deny that a great many horrendous things happen in the world and I don’t want it to sound that I shut myself off from such things, because in truth I am more active in social, political and environmental causes than perhaps the average person who simply sits passively observing the television news as though it’s some kind of sado-masochistic entertainment. Perhaps they’re even desensitised to the images of destruction and tales of murder and woe? Some people even get a perverse kick from images of violence. That’s something else to be avoided at all costs.

The negativity and sensationalism of the media has escalated to heights of near parody - and government is often just as much at blame. The recent swine flu pandemic (if it is in fact a “pandemic” at all, the jury is currently still out) is a case in point and I will say no more than that. If, in the course of his predictions Nostradamus happened to have tuned into our news broadcasts then it’s no wonder he thought it was the end of the world. In fact, there are fewer deaths from war today than at any other point in recorded history. Statistically, people are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. And there is a growing level of consciousness and awareness taking place upon the planet; something which many believe is part of an evolutionary process, a shifting from egoic consciousness to a more heart-based mode of being. All of this, of course, is unlikely to ever be reported, acknowledged or examined in mainstream media outlets.

My ultimate point is simple: switch off the TV, put down that newspaper and be very careful as to where your web-browser is taking you. Stay in your own power; take responsibility for the world you live in, recognising that it is a fully subjective realm. Take action for the causes that are dearest to your heart but don’t feel the need to continually soak and bask in the agenda-driven news feed that continually blasts at you. Question the unwritten assumption that you have to stay informed of every single negative thing that happens in the world. WHY? Why do we feel that it’s somehow appropriate or necessary that we add further negativity and suffering to the world by subjecting ourselves to the media torture porn?

The following is a quote and I can’t for the life of me remember who it’s by, so a gold star for the first person that can tell me: “Think differently if you please. But in all cases, think for yourself.”