The Most Exciting Thing

What is the most exciting thing about being here, on this Earth, as a free agent of life—a human being with intelligence, awareness, and various faculties and personal gifts?

Before answering that question, I would ask you to consider your past. Consider especially the things that you’ve done that were very special, or interesting, or inspiring. Perhaps they required courage, or commitment, or a willingness to be uncomfortable.

Notice that, while other people were likely involved in those things in some way, you were in large part the creator, the initiator, the innovator, and the way-maker of those happenings. Without your desire to have made it happen, it would not have been. Without your willingness to see it through, it could not have been completed. Without the faculties of your mind, to imagine the end-result, understand the process to get there, and make the cost vs. benefits of taking that course, there would’ve been no motivation to pursue it. Add to that whatever other qualities you may have needed to call upon; maybe the courage to proceed in spite of the parts of you that were afraid.

Looking back, we can see that, while the people and environment around us may have influenced our thinking and decisions, above all, we are responsible for the course of our life, and we are the creators of our lives.

Every action that we take is preceded by some process of rationalization, analysis, imagination, intuition, or instinct that happens within us, within our consciousness. No one else can be held responsible for our relationship to these inner processes but us. Because we determine our relationship with these inner processes, and we decide which one we will act on (and which ones we won’t), we are the creators of our lives in a way that no one else can be.

No one else can hear our thoughts, or see the workings of our imagination, or feel the pull of our intuition, or trust the instinct coming from or gut. Only we can do these things, and only we can choose which of these will influence our actions.

We can also put more attention on these different processes and create different experiences. Putting more attention on our thinking-mind makes visible a “train of logic.” Paying attention to the imagination vivifies amazing inner imagery; and if we take it even deeper, the imagination can lead us through whole dreams, stories, and journeys within our consciousness. Likewise heeding our intuition or gut instinct reveals even more possibilities of life that we may not have considered, if we had just stayed in our head.

Now, instead of looking to the past, project into the future. With all these faculties available to us, so much is available… so much is possible.

Endowed with so much power, we realize our whole life is a canvas for painting the colors of our dreams and creative impulses. Noticing that we have what we need—and perhaps even that there is nothing to lose!—frees us to assume our identity as conscious creators. At our best, we create from joy, from desire, from a childlike excitement to explore and experience—to dance rapturously in the mystery of life.

What, then, is the most exciting thing? Not just that we are the creators of our lives, but the taken-for-granted fact that our life is, truly, ours to create.

Recognizing this fact—recognizing our creative potential—fuels the process of stepping out of our ego and into our true Self, from which we can intuit, pursue, and manifest the life our heart longs for.

Perhaps we’ll end with this, then… Can you imagine what your life can be like? Can you imagine your relationships overflowing with connection, respect, and love? Can you imagine your career being not only fun and satisfying, but helpful to others in a meaningful way? Can you imagine your monetary life being not only stable, but providing you with the resources to live where you want to, travel, and maintain a style of life that you are deeply grateful for? Can you imagine coming fully alive with your mind wide open, your heart dancing, your body grounded firmly in the beauty of this amazing Earth? Can you imagine your soul liberated and gleeful as it explores the endless spiritual dimensions of life?

We all deserve that kind of life, and we can all have it. As Matt Kahn once said, “We can all shine together.”

May you be blessed with the life of your dreams.

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The Power of Your LightSight

In Quantum Mechanics the most well-known experiment is called the “double slit.” It is well-known because of its paradoxical and startling conclusions.

It goes like this. Shoot some photons through two slits. On the other side of the slits are receiver-plates, on which the photons make patterns. Run the experiment twice—first while observing and collecting the data; second while not observing or collecting data—and you actually get two different results. When you don’t observe the photons and collect data, the photons make an “interference pattern” on the plate; that is, they make the same patterns as waves would. When you do observe the photons and collect data, the photons make a different pattern—a pattern in which they behave like particles would.

Physicists call this “wave-particle duality” because the photons can behave both like waves and like particles, in terms of the pattern they make on the receiver-plates. It just depends on whether there is observation and data collection, or not.

Another way of saying that is, consciousness, the observing variable, alters the result of the experiment. The presence of consciousness changes the behavior of physical matter. This is why Max Planck said, “we ourselves [as observers] are part of the mystery [‘ultimate mystery of nature’] we are trying to solve.”

If we interpret the results of the double-slit experiment this way, in which physicists discovered the influence, the power, of consciousness on what it is aware of, then we could say they were discovering the power of your LightSight. Allow me to explain.

In spirituality and mindfulness practice, we reach similar conclusions as physicists but from a different method and route. Rather than deal with the physical, spiritual practitioners become expert in dealing with the metaphysical—thoughts, emotions, subtle energies, etc.

In mindfulness practice, for example, one practice involves just being aware of thoughts and emotions as they arise; just to hold them in the light of consciousness without thinking about them or doing anything with them. Pure consciousness is integral to the practice.

What we find in this practice, which, because it’s a subjective experience, can only be verified subjectively, is that thoughts, emotions, and subtle energies mutate just by virtue of their being ‘shined on’ by consciousness. But they do not just mutate randomly. Thoughts tend to first lose their emotional charge before falling away altogether. Emotions, on the other hand, tend to mutate in the way of becoming more pleasant, or “high vibration,” as we say.

David Hawkins described this in his Map of Consciousness. Just being present with the emotion of guilt (vibration of 30), say, allows it over time to morph into apathy (50)  or maybe fear (100); then fear becomes anger (150). Eventually we spill into the positive side of the chart when we reach courage (200), and staying with the phenomenon even then creates, after a while, acceptance (300), gratitude, and peace (600).

I can see how people would be skeptical of this. And yet only our own experience will reveal the Truth to us. For me, I find the Map of Consciousness to be a conceptual scheme that explains my own subjective experience of staying with a phenomenon, surrounding it with my consciousness, and watching my emotional states change into higher vibrational states.

Specifically, I had a physical ailment that caused a lot of pain in… a very uncomfortable place to have pain, on my body. I actually didn’t seek out a cure or surgery for this cause of intense pain, but trusted in the power of my own consciousness to heal, by using the technique Hawkins described in his book, Letting Go. The technique is based in the power of your consciousness: just putting your attention on something (nothing else!) causes it to change in a positive way.

In the early stages of letting go of my resistance to this pain, and just being with it as the consciousness I am, and being totally honest about my experience, I absolutely hated the pain. I said “I hate this fucking pain so much!” Soon thereafter, I found out I was actually afraid of the pain. Then it became “I am angry that this pain is here and that this is happening to me.” Then that became courage to be with the pain and sit through it. Then there was acceptance that “this is my life right now, and I can deal with it.” Eventually it came to a point of profound gratitude: “this pain was given to me as a gift, to teach me how powerful I am.” When I had this thought my body had an energetic response, which I have come to associate with coming into alignment with Truth.

Today the cause of that pain is all but entirely gone. I never sought treatment outside myself. My own experience leads me to believe that it was a form of self-healing—a testament to the power of pure consciousness. But, again, everyone must form conclusions from their own experience.

Thus, on the one hand, we have the physicists reporting that, based on their experiments, consciousness affects the behavior of physical matter. On the other hand, we have the “spiritualists” reporting that, based on their spiritual practices, consciousness affects non-physical phenomena in a positive way. What are these people pointing to?

It’s the power of your LightSight. When you look at something, just look at it, just see it, then the rays of your consciousness go out to that aspect of existence, and that aspect of existence receives the rays of what you are, like plants receive the sunshine and turn their leaves toward the sun. Existence is changed just be being ‘shined on.’ Thus it has been written:

You do not understand the true power of your consciousness. Your consciousness is made of Light. When you hold something in your consciousness, it changes because of that. Your consciousness is a healing force, if you do not bind it by your thinking and your addiction to “doing.” – Jeshua / Pamela Kribbe

Now we can understand why the spiritual teachings point to the practice of “not doing.” You do not have to do anything in order to change experience; just by being conscious, by putting the Light of your consciousness, your “LightSight,” on what you will, you transform reality.

So it is inevitable that you, as consciousness, will change things. You won’t stop being consciousness. But you can bind pure, crystal consciousness with thinking and ‘muddy it up.’ This robs it of its transformative power, temporarily. And yet, free of overthinking, we are empowered to direct our LightSight, at will, to all things wanting illumination, within and without.

It’s as if the Light of consciousness calls forth the Light in all of existence. It’s as if existence is transformed into higher vibrations, alchemically, through the power of presence.

Relaxation is the Key

Matt Kahn and Adyashanti are perhaps two of the “highest level” spiritual teachers of our time, yet they go about things very differently. Matt focuses more on love and loving what arises, while Adya tends to direct attention to our illusions, inquiry, and pure awareness.

But I find that their teachings display two sides of one coin, as it were, specifically on the subject of ego.

Within their teachings—and in many more teachings, besides—it is understood that the consciousness dominated by ego, or “egoic consciousness,” is a kind of consciousness much less satisfying and rich than the consciousness “free of ego.” At the same time, ego is not the problem per se, but the situation in which it dominates consciousness, is. A healthy ego is integrated into the larger consciousness of the individual to whom it belongs, and serves its proper purpose.

So “free of ego” really means free of ego-domination rather than annihilation of an ego-entity altogether. We realize we are much more than the small self we take ourselves to be, but we have no need or desire to destroy something within us. Everything is allowed to be as it is.

To turn back to Matt and Adya, they describe the state of egoic consciousness in different languages. In Whatever Arises Love That, Matt talks about ego as a product of an “overstimulated nervous system.” In Falling into Grace, Adya describes the consciousness created by the egoic mind as the “trance of ego” in which struggle is an absolutely necessary ingredient. Without struggle, the trance cannot continue! Adya writes, “Egos… are addicted to struggle.”

Actually when you combine the two pictures being painted, of an overstimulated nervous system on the one hand, and a trance perpetuating continual struggle on the other, you begin to get a more complete picture, an almost visceral feel for the way ego operates.

The overstimulated nervous system means we are always on the go. (Ego = “I go.”) We are always rushing around, trying to get to the next moment, in the thrall of anticipation, doing, worry, and “efforting” to make things go our way. This originates, Matt teaches, with an overstimulated nervous system that was created in childhood by misunderstood emotional reactions to a world that frightened our innocent, childlike hearts.

This also sheds light on the prevalence of fear within egoic consciousness.

The “trance of ego,” on the other hand, means that we are caught in the virtual reality created by our minds, which we take to be reality, and by believing in or identifying with that virtual reality, we see ourselves as separate from life. We are then combative with life, struggling with it, trying to control it, manipulate it, in order to make things go our way, so we can be happy.

During the whole time this is going on, we are unaware that it is not possible to be truly happy in the egoic consciousness, that our struggle as egos is making us more dissatisfied all the time, and all of the things that our minds are telling us are reality, are just its virtual creations.

But I believe that Adya, with this concept of a “trance,” is endeavoring to put something into words that does not easily lend itself to language. Believing in the virtual reality of the mind, and struggling with life, actually has a hypnotic effect on consciousness, in which we lose a sense of perspective that keeps us sane and, actually, in amazement of life. The state of amazement is lost within the trance; life ceases to seem amazing because it becomes something ‘I’ have to control and ‘do battle’ with.

The complete picture is interesting. We see that ego is rushing, struggling, doing, seeking, and underneath all that is… fear. And underneath that is… misunderstanding.

Peace is something foreign to the ego-mind. In a way, peace is like the opposite of everything ego does. Peace implies unhurriedness. When we are in “higher consciousness,” living from our deeper knowing, we are not in a hurry. We may not even be trying to get somewhere.

Thus, even though Matt and Adya take different strokes, their advice and insight, in terms of how to respond, astonishingly converge. In one word: Relax.

In his love-centered teachings, Matt suggests that the ego-mind and heart actually move at different speeds. The speed of ego is unrelaxed. He suggests that “relaxation in the body reminds you when you are abiding at the proper rate of speed,” and that relaxation begins to unravel the overstimulated nervous system which underlies ego.

In another video, Matt goes so far as to call relaxation “the key to all spiritual success.”

Adya, on the other hand, invites us to let go of the faith in thoughts that make us want to rush, tense up, and struggle:

You don’t need to struggle against yourself. Just the opposite. All you need is the willingness to question your mind’s conclusions, the willingness to just relax. Instead of trying to change now, just let now be as it is, even though your mind may have plenty of reasons why you should resist. (Falling into Grace, 65)

. . . What comes up for me, in comparing these teachings, is that I find resistance within myself to the prospect of awakening consciousness being so easy and “boring” (according to my mind). My hypothesis is that the ego finds the activities that unravel it uninteresting and/or not intense enough for it, so that it makes up clever excuses and thoughts to get us “hyped up” or “worked up” again, which takes us deeper into the trance, the rushing around unconsciously, and the suffering.

And yet, if we authentically desire life beyond the egoic trance—”truly living,” as it has been called—then we will do what is counterintuitive and possibly very boring to realize it. And if we are tempted to stop relaxing and get back to struggling, then it just becomes a matter of discernment and staying true to that authentic desire.

Compare with “The Yes to Life”

Which spiritual path is “the best”?

Maps will lead you in a variety of directions. And yet, no matter what direction you choose, as long as you are abiding in the speed of your heart, any direction will return you to the kingdom you’ve never left. And yet, any direction you choose not aligned in the speed of your heart, will seem to take you away from the kingdom that is always here, and seemingly remove out of your recognition an eternal truth that always remains. – Matt Kahn

. . . Writing in the Stream of Consciousness . . .

 The Power of Now was the first book that I looked at concerning New Age’ spirituality and information about the possibility of evolving consciousness, the nature of awareness, the trance of egoic consciousness, et cetera.

“Recently, revisiting The Power of Now prompted some reflections about the different kinds of spiritual teachings and the great commonalities, yet notable differences, they share.

“For I still believe, as when I first read Eckhart’s book, that all these spiritual teachings which are based in real experience (not manipulation of any kind), that they are all based in one Truth, one Truth about our Divine identity, the ever-presence of awareness, the power of love, and the possibility of transformation.

“Because what we find, when we look at all these teachings, is that they have the same basic fundamental elements. They propose a path via the message ‘It is possible to transform your life.’ They suggest that your identity is not limited to what you think of yourself. They suggest that the human mind tends to distort the Truth and create the experience of virtual reality, that the human ego, too, tends to have a dominating influence over one’s consciousness, and one’s life, which leads to the experience of limitation and unhappiness.

“And the practices which move us along the path, so to speak, always involve (1) awareness and (2) love. It is a path ‘from ego to heart;’ from ego-based consciousness to heart-based consciousness. In the ego-based consciousness, awareness is caught by the concepts of the mind and the ego’s agendas; there is an “unconsciousness” with respect to one’s life, and the many currents of fear leave little room to give and receive love.

“But in the shift to a disillusioned, empowered, authentic consciousness based in the heart, the mind is allow to be as it is; the ego is allowed to be as it is; life is allowed to be as it is. Loving awareness awakens and the world is embraced with understanding and compassion. Peace and joy are also found here as one’s life, in all its ordinariness, is realized to be the extraordinary play of the Divine.

“This, I believe, is a generally-applicable description of the trajectory of the path, the same path which all of these teachings are inviting us to walk, in different ways.

“And yet, at the same time, we are being invited to walk in different ways. The trajectory may be common but the ‘way to get there’ varies depending on who you talk to. Spiritual teachings often express

  • Different core ideas
  • Different practices
  • Different transmissions of energy

“Let’s go through a couple examples. (I am biased to talk about the particular teachings that I have some experience with.) Consider the Toltec path first. Some of the core ideas are:

  1. Agreements (the belief system); the use of one’s Word
  2. Three masteries of awareness, transformation, love
  3. Voice of knowledge /vs/ Integrity
  4. The dreaming mind, your personal dream, the dream of humanity

And so the practices have to do with taking on new agreements (The Four Agreements), questioning the voice of knowledge, dismantling the belief system, transforming your dream and coming to live in integrity and love.

“So we can see that the core elements I mentioned earlier are there. But now let’s consider another teaching for comparison. Let’s consider the core ideas in a Buddhist tradition, specifically the Mahamudra tradition articulated by Reggie Ray:

  1. The practice of Mahamudra meditation as the primary way of making the journey
  2. The importance of the soma, basically everything not the left-brain, in the meditative practice
  3. Grounding the practice in the Earth
  4. The opening of the heart as the practice deepens and awakens us

Now in this lineage, again, the elements of awareness and love are there in the meditative practice and the opening of the heart, and yet they are there in a different way. In the Toltec tradition meditation is emphasized so much less (at least from what I can tell from the books of Miguel Ruiz), or at least so much less in the formal way that it’s practiced in the Mahamudra tradition. Also, in the Mahamudra tradition, as presented by Reggie, there actually is talk of deconstructing the belief system, as in the Toltec tradition, specifically by comparing the beliefs we have come to acquire throughout our life with the truth revealed by our meditative experience. So again it’s the same but different; it’s the same process (deconstruction) but presented and pursued in a different way.

“Let’s take at least one more, which will be the teaching articulated by Adyashanti, whom I’ve been listening to for a few years now. Now Adya’s teaching can be, in a way, hard to pin down, because there’s a feeling, at least for me, that he’s not giving you a lot to grasp onto as an ego. His most recent book-form articulation of his teaching comes in The Way of Liberation (2014), which is quite different from Falling into Grace (2011). But what these have in common, and I would venture to say that what they have in common with his earlier teaching as well, like The End of Your World, is The Direct Path. This is the same kind of path pointed to by Nisargadatta (whom Adya did a study course on), Ramana Maharshi and Papaji.

“The Direct Path points you back to awareness or I AM. In The Way of Liberation, Adya summarizes the whole teaching by saying ‘Question everything.’ It’s all about inquiry. In a talk he once said, the ‘teachings of deconstructing the Dream State [the virtual reality created by the mind] are deeper than we know.’ In Falling into Grace, too, he calls ‘Time’–or the idea of time–the ‘greatest barrier to awakening.’ This is pretty radical. This doesn’t give you anything to hold onto at all! To me it seems to reflect the idea, which Adya has also said, that ‘Everyone is the One’  and ‘Everyone is enlightened.’ We could say The Direct Path is just about dropping all the baggage, letting go, and being right here, right now, completely. It’s not even a path; it’s falling into grace. . .

“So of course the element of awareness is there, as in the other teachings. The element of love or open-heartedness is also there, but perhaps in a more subdued way. Adya has said many-a-time that Love is inherent to Reality, and it’s as if he’s just pointing directly to the Reality so we can experience that Love ourselves. From that point of view, the teaching is based in love and open-heartedness but it’s what Adya might call ‘Fierce Love’—not giving an inch to unrealities!

“There are many more teachings. Matt Kahn’s teachings are certainly worth talking about, but I have mentioned him in other posts, and, anyway, three examples is enough… Just briefly, what is interesting about his teaching is that awareness is what’s downplayed and Love is given all the attention and focus. As Matt says, ‘Whatever Arises Love That.’

“It should be clear then, at this point, that all these teachings are providing different practices and core ideas with which to orient ourselves, and yet they have the same core elements of love and awareness, and the same trajectory out of ego-based consciousness to heart-based consciousness, when you look at them.

“And an initial question may be, ‘well, what do we do with this?’ ‘Well, which path do we follow?’ ‘Which of these paths is the best?’

“To me it’s important to recognize that this question ‘Which path is the best?’ is an abstract question which desires an answer that will be applicable across the board; that is, an answer that will apply for every person in the world. ‘Which path or teaching is the best?’ presupposes this idea that everyone is the same and if we all just walked the same path to get to the ‘destination’ in the most efficient way, then that would be the optimal state of affairs. Some presupposition like that.

“But of course reality isn’t like that at all. To begin with, people are hardwired differently. We resonate with different things just because of irreducible differences in our personality types and what kind of experiences we want to have as souls in this world. Secondly, people are at different stages in consciousness. What resonates at one stage, and is applicable at one point in time, may not resonate or be applicable at all at a later point in time. You can’t know the future.

“Here I am leaning on the idea of what resonates because I believe that we do, in fact, receive inner guidance and we have an intuition about what we need to attend to in our life or what we need to change or what we may need to reconsider—all of that and more. This self-awareness comes not so much from our mind, ego, and belief system jumping to or grasping for conclusions but from our heart and inner knowing that ‘magically’ arises when are open to receiving it.

“So the question becomes not ‘What is the best path across the board?’ or even ‘What is the best path for my life personally?’, but if we are honest then we can look and see that, actually, we only have this day, we only have this moment, and we do not know if we have tomorrow or even the next moment.

“All we have is right now.

“Then my invitation to you is to look deep inside, in your heart and in your inner knowing, the deep wisdom already existing, at this very moment, within you! This inner knowing already knows the way to go. It knows there is no rush to get there. It knows that All is Well.

“And it knows, too, that our anxiety about finding ‘the best’ spiritual path actually comes from a place of fear and distrust which does not belong to our True Self.

“Then rather than continue to work in the abstract, and basically waste our time with questions whose answers are so limited and so relative to circumstances, we can lay those down, and we can attend to what really needs attending to. We can meet this moment with all of our love and all of our wisdom when we stop filtering it and really get down to ‘fierce unblinking honest,’ as my friend once called it, and humbling surrender to the moment.

“That’s where the path of the one Truth is—that is what all these teachings are really pointing to.

“They are pointing to what is within you.”

Transforming on All Levels

We need to understand that enlightenment is not only a shift in perception and consciousness. It is an existential metamorphosis at all levels, which radically transforms the vibration of our energy system and the delicate balance of various elements in our brain and the subtle bodies. A sudden and complete enlightenment that skips all the intermediate steps would undoubtedly lead to a mental and emotional collapse, if not the physical death. Such a radical transformation as enlightenment requires adequate time for the body and mind to adapt to the dramatic change of energy and identity.Anadi

I used to think of the spiritual journey into higher consciousness as a process in which your point of view changes in a very powerful way, such that you see everything through new eyes. From there, you feel a lot better than you used to–you feel good all the time–and you share that with others.

This is not totally misleading, and yet, an unexamined part of this concept is the disembodied nature of it; and what goes along with that idea of disembodiment, is making the spiritual process less radical and less connected to the Earthy parts of us than it actually is.

The research of Francesca McCartney, the Dharma talks of Reggie Ray, and Pamela Kribbe’s channelings of Jeshua all point, from different angles, to the deeply embodied nature of spiritual evolution. McCartney, a life-long scholar of kundalini energy and kundalini awakening, argues that the kundalini energy is stored in the cells of our body, programmed by DNA, before it amasses at the base of the spine and travels up the spine affecting the chakras and their associated organ systems. Reggie Ray, another scholar but also a meditation master in the Mahamudra tradition, insists on the hugely important but overlooked role of the soma in the Buddha’s teachings, and teaches meditative practice that is deeply somatic and connected to the Earth. Finally, Jeshua, through the medium of Pamela Kribbe, transmits the idea that rather than retreat to the higher chakras (5-7), inner work must go down to the lower chakras (1-3; the sacral, navel, and solar plexus chakras) for the deepest transformation to occur.

Spiritual evolution is, from these points of view, a very embodied and grounded thing, in terms of practice and inner work. But even beyond that, testimonies suggest that in undergoing the process the body changes in deep structural ways. The brain re-structures; the nervous system unravels out of overstimulation. In Dzogchen, too, there is the idea of an advanced practitioner’s body transforming into the Sambhogakaya light body at a certain stage.

So this process of evolution not only creates great change at the psychological and emotional levels, but the body too, is inextricably part of the unfolding. Additionally, shifts happen within the energetic body and on the soul and consciousness levels. We are thus transforming on all levels.

. . . The remainder of this article will present an outline of the different dimensions of our individuated being (a single body-mind with localized consciousness), and how these dimensions may change in this process. It is not exhaustive of all our dimensions, and it does not include the “world of relationship,” but it’s still useful, or better yet, provocative. A more comprehensive discussion of this outline could, I think, run on to book length (which is why I am leaving it as just an outline). But I hope that by listing these phenomena, with sources, the reader will be encouraged to draw their own conclusions about what this could mean for undergoing a spiritual journey. At the very least, our conception of what is possible may be expanded.

Sometimes just acknowledging that something is possible can be… life-changing.

Physical

  • Physical body becomes a “light body.”   (Source: Jasmuheen)
  • Illnesses manifest to purge energies and deepen the process. (Jeshua)
  • Dietary, sleep, and sexual habits change at the level of need and desire, often towards a more vegan diet, less sleep needed, and less sexual desire but more pleasant sexual experiences. (See Letting Go by David Hawkins)
  • Visual field widens. (Adyashanti, The End of Your World)

Neurological

  • Two brain hemispheres find a new balance and harmony. (Matt Kahn interview series: “Now is the time.”) Adyashanti has also talked about a feeling of structural changes happening within the brain, after awakening.
    • The changes that meditation causes in the brain are now well known in neuroscience.
    • See also Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk “My Stoke of Insight” and Sam Harris’ argument in Waking Up that the self is an illusory construction of the left hemisphere.
  • The nervous system unravels out of a state of overstimulation that began, for everyone, in childhood. (Matt Kahn, Whatever Arises Love That)

Psychological

  • Detachment or dis-identification from belief system. (many sources)
  • Great shift in perception from ego to egolessness: “death” of identification with ego. From me-consciousness to we-consciousness.  (many sources)
  • Shift to silent mind. Thought processes decrease greatly in quantity. (Eckhart Tolle put the figure at 80% for himself.)
  • Habits of craving and aversion give way to equanimity of mind. (Buddhist meditation teachings)
  • Fragmented aspects of oneself re-align or integrate with Self or central consciousness. (Theories of IFS therapy (intro), Teal Swan, Matt Kahn (integration teachings))
  • “Inspired thinking” arises from a deeper source within consciousness. (Adyashanti, Falling into Grace)
  • Judgmental mind to non-judgmental mind. (many sources)

Emotional

  • Fear as the predominating “state” of the ego gives way to love, kindness, and compassion which arise from true nature. (many sources)
  • Repression of emotional states is replaced by acceptance. (many sources)
  • Increased quantity of “high vibration” emotional states–peace, love, joy, happiness, acceptance, willingness–and less of the “low vibration” states like guilt, shame, apathy, fear, anger. (See “Map of Consciousness” of David Hawkins)
  • Unconscious fear of emotions is replaced by conscious intimacy with emotions. (Robert Augustus Masters, Emotional Intimacy)
  • Overall shift from mind- (or conditioning-) generated emotions to more authentic emotions based in natural responses and direct perception. (I believe Adyashanti puts the mind-based emotions figure at 90% of all emotions, in Falling into Grace.)

Energetic

  • Kundalini energy amasses at the base of the spine and rises up through the energy channel near the spine. (Research of Francesca McCartney)
  • Seven basic chakras open, and their associated abilities come online. For example: clairvoyant and clairsentient abilities associated with the 6th/7th chakras. (many sources)
  • Auric field expands. (Marie Manuchehri said in a recent talk that one’s auric field may extend 3 city blocks, at most.)
  • The individual being’s vibration rises. (many sources)
  • Mind and heart become one integrated consciousness. (Matt Kahn, Whatever arises Love That)

Soul, Consciousness, Spirit

  • Neurotic personality becomes “sane” and reveals its unique gifts. (Russ Hudson and Enneagram teachings concerning the “Enneagram of the virtues.”)
  • Realization of enlightenment. (many sources)
  • Personal will of the individual being is surrendered to divine will, which seems to coincide with the transition from ego-based to heart-based consciousness. (Adyashanti’s talks, Matt Kahn’s talks (“surrender to love”))
  • Individual being comes “into alignment” with Spirit. (many sources)
  • Consciousness awakens! (many sources)

May these ideas inspire new realizations, explorations, and expansions of consciousness on your journey. We are all meant to live in the happiness and joy that is our inheritance and true nature.

Peace.

 

 

Near Enemies on the Path

If we could practice perfect presence and perfect love without any effort, spiritual growth would be easy. Happiness would be easy, too.

But that doesn’t normally happen. The reason we set out on a path in the first place is because, at the root level, we have cultivated a consciousness that breeds discontent. This consciousness then sabotages our efforts to be free of it. (Here I am using the word “consciousness” in a loose way, to refer to predominating dispositions and habits of our mind, of our psyche, which have a momentum and “life of their own.”)

The best explanation for this self-sabotage or “corruption” is that “The mind is a dynamic and living entity that has an agenda of its own survival ahead of your emotional well being” (qtd. Gary van Warmerdam). Gary uses the word “mind” here because he is writing for a general audience, but in other audios and articles he is more specific that the part of the mind furthering an agenda for its own survival is the ego-mind. After all, “mind” can also refer to thoughts, imagination, memory, intellect, subconscious mind, etc; but these aren’t fighting for survival. The ego’s the fighter.

It’s also a shapeshifter; it stays alive by disguising itself in different forms. (But that’s another story…)

It’s important to know that the ego creates this sabotage and corruption in the form of “near enemies,” because otherwise a helpful, liberating practice can become corrupted into something that is being used against you.

Examples

A near enemy of meditation is using meditation to shield ourselves from the world in a self-absorbed way.

A near enemy of prayer is to pray from a victimized point of view, reinforcing the Victim part of the ego.

A near enemy of inquiry is to ask a question hoping to get someone else’s answer or looking for answers that support a point of view we already have.

A near enemy of intellectual discernment is to cling to the intellectual conclusions we’ve reached in a rigid way or mistake them for the Truth only experience can reveal.

A near enemy of service is to get righteous and prideful about the good you are doing for others, and reinforce the Judge or Righteous part of the ego.

A near enemy of love is to love while expecting to get something back for your love or to say that what you are expressing is “love” when it really is, in a relationship context, attachment or co-dependency.

. . . Those are just a few examples, and with respect to those practices, those are not the only ways that those practices can be corrupted. We can corrupt in all sorts of ways! Woohoo!

So basically any of our practices can be corrupted and this happens when the ego shapeshifts into a form that reinforces part of itself as we assume its identity. The example of being prideful about giving service is a good example. First, the ego shapeshifts into the Righteous Judge; then we believe in that thought-identity and assume it (like putting on clothes); then that assumption of identity trickles down into our behaviors, emotions, and subsequent thoughts. With practice, you can recognize it not only in yourself but in others as well.

What’s the good news here? An intellectual awareness of “near enemies” paves the way for an experiential awareness. This article lays out the intellectual awareness, which prepares the mind to recognize the shapeshifting when it happens in actual experience. From the Witness Observer point of view comes the possibility of just seeing the shapeshifting happening, and when we are in the Observer point of view, we are not in the ego identity—whichever form it has taken.

Then, as the Observer, we are not “feeding” the ego with our energy by believing and assuming the identities (like the Judge and Victim) that it shapeshifts into. Not only do we not create our reality from ego-based energy in that moment, but we refrain from corrupting our practice through judgment, victimization, attachment, etc.

Awareness, then, is the key to being free of the near enemies created by ego-mind. However, only practicing over time can make us masters in expressing love and presence without corrupting them. (“Practice makes the master.”) It’s just not realistic to expect someone to get it right off the bat. In any field of endeavor, you don’t expect a novice to perform like an adept from the get-go.

This is why, I think, in the Toltec tradition there are three masteries: Awareness, Transformation, and Love—in that order! Love is the “greatest mastery of the Toltecs”—perhaps because it is the most powerful—but awareness is the first mastery. Love, without awareness, can be corrupted into something that is not actually love. Awareness is the foundation.

Yet when the masteries come together in consciousness, the power of love is unbounded, and love, in all its glory, is free to awaken, heal and revitalize its vehicles. This comes about by being real, true, and trusting what we already know in our hearts.

Loving the Ego

In the last post the “synthesis of research” landed, ultimately, on the point that our own hearts are the key to transformation. The spiritual journey is “from ego to heart.” And yet, because when we embark on the journey we are netted in egoic consciousness, the strategies we employ to evolve our consciousness can be unwittingly, innocently based in that same consciousness we are evolving beyond.

Then what kind of orientation can we take that will both serve our deepest wisdom and not reinforce our conditioned tendencies to be separate, willful and combative? This is where the teachings of Matt Kahn come in. Essentially, Matt points to an orientation towards love and heart-centeredness that brings the love the ego is seeking into our present experience. We go from ego to heart by embracing ego with heart.

The following is a transcription from Matt’s course “Whatever Arises Love That,” which points to the difference between what he calls the Old Paradigm of ego-deconstruction and the New Paradigm based in heart-centered consciousness. While the energetic undertones that would normally accompany this message cannot be replicated in a transcription, such that an important aspect of the communication is lost, still I want to include this information on Words Stand Still as a way of bringing some themes together (especially from the last post) in a powerful, heartful way:

. . . The first stage of the transformation process of “Loving what Arises” brings to you is a sense of spaciousness and relaxation in the body. And so, perhaps the question becomes, “why does loving ourselves and being so emotionally in tune with the innocence in our heart, relax the physical body?”

And when I discovered the link between these two things, it was during a very auspicious conversation I had with the universe. And it was an answer that was very unexpected, as I asked the universe, “what is the core of human suffering?” And the reason I asked this question was because, in the very beginning of my journey, I had come to know about the workings of ego, and had pinpointed that to be the root and cause of human suffering, with ego being almost a fictitious character we portray through the roles we play in everyday life, whether in our family or in our work environments, or even the roles that we play in our relationships… that is this imaginary character called “ego,” who we think we are as human beings, along this soul’s journey, that has been constantly seen to be the source of humans suffering.

And yet something deep in me was not satisfied with that answer. It was a fine answer and there was so much evidence to back up [it] being true. But what really struck a chord in me, what really kept me exploration going even deeper, and what never really led to a deep level of satisfaction in that answer, was that for every person that had accepted and seen that it was the identification of ego that was literally seen as the cause of human suffering, typically it led to a strategy of trying to unravel ego [or] get away from ego. And there was something inside of me, something very deep and unexplainable, that didn’t think this was incorrect but […] actually didn’t feel that it was the most direct approach.

And something deep in me motivated me to ask the universe… and before I give you the answer of what the universe told me, which I thought was very compelling, I want to offer you a very intriguing benchmark, because as we know the highest vibration in consciousness is the energy rooted in Love, so all of our words, when rooted in Love, all of our actions, when rooted in our Love, […] when Love motivates all of our words, thoughts, actions, and behaviors, we are embodying the highest frequency in consciousnessWe are carriers of a new reality that is literally transforming reality, for the well-being of all. And so it is our highest aspiration, not just to awaken to the truth of our nature, not just to know who we are, as if it is a fill-in-the-blank word that we put into the space after “I am…,” but that knowing who you are is actually about embodying and bringing forth, through all of your actions and activities, the highest vibration of Love. 

And when I would think about how to approach ego, or how it was typically talked about, about “getting rid of ego,” “destroying ego,” and “unraveling ego,” it didn’t strike me as that was the way Love would approach a spiritual journey… that, in my experience, if Love is the highest vibration, in order to really come into contact with the deepest and wisest teachings in existence, we would have to take a journey, where everything we are encountering, even from our worst enemy, even from our most dramatic past experiences, and even to encountering the ego that we have learned to blame for every moment of suffering in our life, that even that must be met with an embrace of Love, if we are to really take a journey where love is present in every momentary encounter. And to be on a spiritual journey where we are trying to resolve human suffering, without addressing or treating something as Love would embrace something, didn’t feel to me as if I was really seeing the “bigger picture,” [like] I wasn’t seeing the heart of the matter.

[from Chapter 24]

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Synthesis of Spiritual Research 2.0

What is this? What is actually true? What is the point of this world? How do all the puzzle pieces fit together? What is this feeling inside me? And “is any of this even real? . . . or not?”

These are some of the questions that drive and fuel philosophical and spiritual quests. These are the kind of questions that live us. They live us, lead us to new frontiers, new questions, and less answers, perhaps, than we began with.

This post is a synthesis of much “spiritual research” done by the author, concerning inquiries of enlightenment and transcendent human experiences, which have the best chance of furnishing answers to our deepest questions.

Spiritual Teachers: Do you believe them?

If you do research in academia, you can check if your sources are credible by checking their credentials (level of degree, associated institutions, past publications and acclamations), and you can assess their arguments and claims against your own knowledge, logic, and primary sources. In academia, experts are people who have spent a lot of time reading and writing.

In spirituality the situation is quite different. Since the “goal” (if it can be said to exist) is not definite knowledge but exploration of states of consciousness, everything is much more subjective. The “experts,” here, are spiritual teachers and–good heavens!–they may not even have Doctorates!

The spiritual journey is marked by, sparked by, inner feelings and inner knowings. Also, one’s relationship with Life, and with spiritual teachers, must come to be based in trust. But not all teachers are trustworthy, and not all offer the same caliber of teaching and presence to their students.

How do you determine, in this context, who is a “credible source”? Contrary to common assumptions, there are some things we can look at:

  1. Inclusion of information you already know. Does a teacher say things that you already know to be true in your own experience? Can you be sure that at least some of the things that are being said are true? If you can, then you have a reason to listen to the things that are being said that you do not yet understand. It is possible that those things lie, at present, beyond your scope of judgment (to borrow a term from philosopher Michael McGhee); but your scope may very well expand, as life goes on.
  2. Attentional capacity and “Way of Engaging.” An increased ability to concentrate and be present are marks of higher states of consciousness. Having experience with presence yourself helps you to pick up on the degree of presence in a teacher. Their “way of engaging” is also telling. Beings in whom the egoic state of consciousness (ego) has diminished will be less reactive to other people and more focussed on listening and responding compassionately.
  3. Expressions of Emotion and Energy. Another mark of higher states of consciousness is the presence of peace, joy, and love—positive emotions. Conversely, “negative” emotional expressions would be a tip-off that perhaps this person doesn’t have much to teach. (The exception here is where expressions like anger and “wrath” are used in service of teaching, as in the case of masters G.I. Gurdjieff and Chogyam Trungpa. These exceptions call for holistic evaluations of a teacher.) Relatedly, presentation of teachings are sometimes called “transmissions” because of the communication that happens on the energetic level rather than just the intellectual level. Many people, it seems, have positive and profound experiences on the receiving end of transmitters such as Matt Kahn and “channels” of spiritual beings not physically present on Earth.

These are some of the most important criteria we can use to establish credibility vis-a-vis spiritual teachers and teachings. It involves a combination of intellect, intuition and open-heartedness that functions to dissolve doubt and listen more deeply.

Results of Research

Listening, watching, reading and compiling information from many different sources shows that the fundamental shift within the “spiritual journey” is the same for everyone. For humans at this time, the  spiritual journey centers on evolving from ego to heart. It’s about letting go of the egoic state of consciousness—which can be described from many different angles; in terms of attachments, mind-chatter, resistance to life, psychological time, fear-based expression, contracted consciousness, etc.—and “falling” into a way of being, and new expression of consciousness, characterized by compassion and understanding. It’s less noisy, more quiet.

On parallel lines, the Enlightened State has been described by many teachers as egoless perception. Eckhart Tolle calls it the “egoless state.” Adyashanti says “enlightenment is not seeing life through the lens of the egoic mind.” Ramana Maharishi, too, said that “Reality is simply the loss of the ego.”

(Now of course this can easily turn into the ego reacting to itself: “I’m going to get rid of ‘my’ ego!” If we just saw that it’s merely reacting to an idea, then there’s no identification with it, and no problem… This is a tangential point.)

Everyone must come to see, in their own experience, what lies beyond the ego. The only way to know is to experience it for yourself. Yet this can lead to a kind of dogmatism in which inquiry stops, with respect to why practices work, and restricts itself to what to practice–“how to get there.” How do we get there, and why does that work?

Basically, the way to “get there,” no matter who you talk to, involves “being conscious;” that is, accepting or not resisting what is and expressing love. Universally, the recommended practices are mindful, meditative, and/or heart-centered. With the exception of the ancient Western philosophical schools, the practices are not intellectual or head-centered. As Sara Beak once said, “[the journey] can’t come out of the head.”  So if it can’t come out of the head, it has to come from something else.

In a way, there are not many more options: body? heart? awareness itself? All of these are significantly involved, but the most important one is the heart. For it is from the heart that love, acceptance and forgiveness flow; from the heart that the longing for Unity is born; from the heart that our true knowing arises. Reggie Ray, a modern master in the tradition of Tibetan meditation, calls the heart the “first expression of our basic natural unborn awareness.” (We will circle back to discussing the heart soon.)

Now the spiritual practices have the same core elements of letting go and expressing love, even as there are variations in their presentation and the forms they might take between teachers and teachings. So these core elements are the keys, if you will, in terms of what to do to transform consciousness, manifest enlightenment and go the journey. But here again, focussing on what to do, or “how to get there,” to the exclusion of why we are practicing what we are practicing, is a little bit like a dog following its trainer around without knowing where it’s going or for what purpose.

The good news is that there’s at least one good explanation uniting the themes of the journey from ego to heart, enlightenment, and the recommended practices. But it requires that we put the puzzle pieces together. First, these pieces:

“Everything in the universe is made of energy that vibrates, and everything that vibrates imparts or impacts information. The amplitude and frequency of energy is what determines how (in what form) that energy will express itself. We call this a ‘vibration.'” – Teal Swan

“If you understand that everything is energy, you can also understand that everything you think, believe and feel consists of energy. Your attitude–or focus–vibrates, and those vibrations affect the quantum fields that underly, constitute and determine the outcome of physical matter.” – Bentinho Massaro

“…it is helpful to know that everything in the Universe is energy vibrating at a certain frequency. Every person, animal, plant, object, word, thought, feeling, belief (whether conscious or subconscious), and action has its own unique vibration” – Robert Schwartz, Your Soul’s Gift

Without going into too much detail, these three sources pass the tests for credibility (at least  in my view). Although The Secret, the 2006 movie, may have turned people off of the Law of Attraction and its underlying metaphysics (“everything is energy”), there’s still a truth to be acknowledged in this which doesn’t have to be presented in the sort of self-centering, manipulative way it was in the movie. There is a reality not only to ‘everything being energy’ but to the Law of Attraction, as well, and that this knowledge can be used in a heartful, rather than self-centered, way.

The perspective of everything being energy, which we are taking here, redefines our experience in terms of vibration and frequencies, and relates those vibrations to the expansion or contraction of our consciousness, through what we are believing and focussing on. Naturally, we have the same kind of experiences as before, but now we have a sense of the consequences of our attitudes, beliefs, and emotional expressions in terms of vibration, and, thus, consciousness contraction/expansion. The great David Hawkins correlated emotional expressions to an arbitrary, numerical scale of consciousness levels. If we expect that higher consciousness equates to more positive emotional expressions (love, joy, peace), then the map confirms our expectations:

map-of-consciousness

The total picture becomes more concrete. We go from “Everything is energy” to “Energy vibrates at different frequencies” to “Positive emotional expressions vibrate at higher frequencies.” But how does this relate to the spiritual journey “from ego to heart”? The final piece of the puzzle comes from material channeled by Pamela Kribbe—another source that satisfies the criteria of credibility, especially in light of the quality of the channeled information. The channeled spirit, Jeshua, identifies the third stage of the evolution from ego to heart as such:

Letting the old ego-based energies inside you die, throwing off the cocoon, becoming your new self: the end of the end.

This helps put everything together. If it makes sense that enlightenment is a shift of consciousness ‘out of ego,’ as it has been described many-a-time, and we add Jeshua’s description that it is also an energetic shift (how could it not be, if everything is energy?), then we have an explanation for what is happening within us, on the level of energy, and why the recommended practices are so widely recommended: the release of ego-based energies and growth of heart-based energies transforms consciousness

Really, the language of “energy” is a metaphor to describe what is real. So another, simplified way of describing what is happening is: some real things are diminishing or vanishing (ego-based energies) and some other real things are growing or multiplying (heart-based energies) within us, which has the effect of changing consciousness and, thus, our experience.

A related point about meditation. As teacher Teal Swan describes in this video, feeling and expressing love raises our vibration such that we are able to understand and comprehend the universe more; we get more insight. David Hawkins also writes in his book “Letting Go” that the technique of surrender (the central technique described in the book) breaks our old habit patterns, which frees up our ability to concentrate easily and enter samadhi, or a state of focussed concentration. Therefore, the technique of surrender supports and nurtures “good” meditation. So love and letting go foster the same results we would hope to get from meditation (insight and samadhi). From this point of view, it makes less sense to try and attain enlightenment merely through meditative practice. It also makes less sense to have a meditative practice but make no effort to let go of ego-based energies and live from the heart, if the goal is, still, higher consciousness and greater well-being. From an energetic point of view, it would be wiser to balance meditation with heart-centeredness and letting go. This approach is easier and kinder to oneself than a more austere spiritual path based heavily or exclusively on meditation.

So, where does this leave us? –better yet, where does this lead us? Not to more spiritual knowledge and teachings, but to a more profound experience of our own hearts. To quote Eli Jaxon-Bear, when he was remarking on spiritual teachings, “It’s all a trap… And you know it. I’m just confirming what you already know in your heart…. There are lots of things you can understand… but you can’t grasp Love…. [The teaching] is only for your heart.”

In the end, the journey doesn’t come out of the head. Instead, we are being invited to surrender to the heart. For heart knows the way Home.

Notes

  1. Link to “sequel” post: Loving the Ego
  2. Suggestions about how to improve the presentation of this information are gratefully welcomed. (I am often blind to how things are coming across–haha.)

There is No Lack in Existence

October of last year. Doi Suthep mountain, outside Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’m about 10 days into an arduous meditation retreat. My only real company has been myself for more than a week, at this point. I sleep in a room with no lights, no sheets on the bed except for one blanket. It is very quiet. And there is absolutely nothing lacking.

Sitting and concentrating has had an effect on the mind. In its focus and openness to understand, insights are received daily. They come and come, and there is always more to come.

Going to sleep on the 10th night, I go into a dream state. In my dream, I am in an unlit house which I’ve never been in before, in some room adjacent to the main living space. I am in front of a computer, and there is a man sitting next to me, talking to me. He is a spiritual teacher whom I recognize as Adyashanti. It’s an odd situation.

But it does not occur to me that I’ve never had a conversation with Adyashanti (Adya) before in my life, nor that I do not recognize the house I’m in, nor that we are using the computer for—for what? Words are coming out of my mouth but I’m not aware of anyone speaking them. There’s a sense of witnessing all of what’s happening; it’s very subtle.

I have read Adya’s books, watched his videos and radio broadcasts, so I’m familiar with his teachings. I know he teaches that ‘All is One, All is God’ and chasing enlightenment is as ridiculous as a dog chasing its own tail. So, of course, I was so excited to share with him, in the dream, my oh-so-profound realization that “dog” is “God” spelled backwards, and seeking enlightenment is God chasing itself, like a dog chases its tail. This was the conversation I found myself in the middle of.

Adya was talking to “me”—or my dream self—and responding enthusiastically: “Yeah, yeah, that’s cool. And, hey, check this out!” As he says that, he starts typing something on the computer; he’s searching on Google, I realize. A bunch of mumbo-jumbo, incomprehensible symbols appear on the screen, which are then Google translated (somehow we got to the Google Translate page) into an ancient language. I’m not sure whether its Sanskrit or Pali or something else. As I’m trying to make it out—my dream-self squinting at the computer screen in this dream-world—I suddenly have a realization that lack-consciousness is an illusion.

As I look back at Adya, or the dream-version of Adya, there’s a feeling that, somehow, this is what he wanted to communicate to me: there is no lack, at all.

At the same time as this insight dawned, it was connected to all of human life. I could see or feel somehow that human beings all across the globe, and for so much time, entrance themselves with this notion of lack. It was a very strange kind of seeing in which it was seen that humans are constantly chasing and fixating on lack—which does not exist—and that this kind of fixation, this lack-consciousness, is in a way defining the course of their lives. It was so strange because my reaction was, “This is completely nuts! You’re telling me that billions of people on this planet are running around, getting upset on account of ideas in their mind which don’t signify anything real! You’ve got to be kidding me! This is unbelievable!”

And yet, this is, I think, the profundity and kind of expanded awareness that Adya is trying to point to in his teaching. It is an awareness of what he calls “The Dream State,” in The Way of Liberation—a state of consciousness that pretty much all of humanity has fallen into, characterized by a sense of being separate from the world and—you guessed it!—lack.

When I awoke from this dream, I realized I had encountered this idea before, in a philosophy book. Deleuze and Guattari argue for the non-existence of lack in Anti-Oedipus, in relation to their re-thinking the concept of “desire.” As they say, “if desire is the lack of the real object, its very nature as a real entity depends upon an ‘essence of lack’ that produces the fantasized object” (p. 25). But note that they say “if” because desire is not the lack of a real object; there is no “essence of lack” at all.

This leads them to agree with Marx that “what exists in fact is not lack, but passion, as a ‘natural and sensuous object.’ Desire is not bolstered by needs, but rather the contrary; needs are derived from desire: they are counterproducts within the real that desire produces” (p. 27). Needs, like desire, are produced. According to Deleuze and Guattari, everything experienced in this world is real and produced by what is real; and yet, there is no “lack” in this world.

Now, they reach this conclusion through logic. However, it’s easier just to look with awareness; that is, just paying attention without thoughts or language ‘interfering.’ Looking around as awareness, we can ask “where is lack?” “I see people, things, nature; thoughts, emotions, sensations; all kinds of life but no lack!” Not even something like “hunger” is lacking in anything. Rather it’s a kind of force compelling an organism to eat.

So, this is the point. We cannot find this “lack” in the real world, in our actual experience as opposed to in our minds. We can only find the idea of lack in thought processes—in the mind or imagination, you could say. As a consequence, when we fixate our attention on these ideas of “what is missing” or “what is lacking” from our life as it is, we are actually engaged in a self-hypnosis whereby we imagine that we are lacking something, which in turn creates correspondently negative emotions.

Thought of lack –> Belief in Lack –> Attention fixates on belief –> Negative Emotion

This whole process happening within us—the idea of lack, assent to the idea as “true,” fixation on the belief, and generation of emotion—constitutes lack-consciousness. It is completely a creation of the virtual reality existing in our minds (an illusion), but it is something that humans are doing (“practicing”) all the time. And we suffer for it.

Deleuze and Guattari would agree with Adyashanti on another point: that lack-consciousness is part and parcel to the ego’s way of being (or, in Adya’s vocabulary, the egoic state of consciousness). It’s not just “there is lack” but what we experience is “I lack,” in which “I” is the ego, the egoic identity. By believing this thought we feel victimized, and the ego tricks us into sustaining its way of being.

The ego doesn’t really exist, either, except as our experience of the idea of ourselves. Just as we can never find “lack” in experience, we can never find an entity that we could call “ego” and say “Yep! There it is! That’s the ego right there!” In spite of the fact that we continually act on behalf of this imaginary identity, and we identify (in our thoughts) as this imaginary character, nevertheless, it is nowhere to be found in experience.

The recognition of both these illusions is freeing, even at an intellectual level. Not being a small ego frees us up to greatly expand our sense of self beyond imaginary boundaries. Seeing through the illusion of lack allows us to appreciate the abundance of what is…. There is so much abundance!! This recognition of abundance elevates and expands our consciousness to ‘higher levels,’ from which we appreciate more abundance, which elevates us more…. And on and on it goes.

The Mindfulness Journey (for “Thinkers”)

The journey into mindfulness, for a person who has identified as  “intellectual,” can be described in terms of one’s relationship with one’s mind. In my experience the journey has looked something like this:

  1. Pre-mindfulness. Identification with almost all thoughts appearing in consciousness. The perspective and content of an arising thought, which is automatically believed, largely determines the quality and feel of the moment. Thoughts may be criticized, but they are criticized by other thoughts, while identification with thought persists.
  2. Beginning mindfulness. Consciousness has a first awakening and creates a “gap” between itself and thoughts, or a “space” around thoughts. Identification with thought is still strong, creating a sort of oscillation between identification with mind (thought) and identification with silent consciousness / awareness. For the intellectual in particular, the subconscious belief “I am the thinker” persists. This belief creates the pattern of “figuring out,” which is now applied to matters of mindfulness and spirituality…. At this stage life can be perceived as more complex, because the intellectual frameworks that the mind perceives through can co-opt the insights of awareness, to become more complex. These added levels of complexity can be a hindrance to mindfulness practice, as the mind becomes less silent.
  3. Deeper mindfulness. The gap or space between mind and consciousness increases, which allows consciousness to realize more. It is realized more deeply that the mind perceives its own “virtual reality” of  a world of separate objects, linear time, and “imaginary causes.” The subconscious belief “I am the thinker” wanes in influence over consciousness, which allows the intellectual “grip” on life to loosen…. At this stage the ‘wisdom of simplicity’ returns to consciousness. It is seen that the mind’s attempts to understand often lead either to ‘running in circles’ or perceiving life as bland, boring, and stale. Being present in the moment allows the bright, fresh, and alive nature of life to be experienced and embraced.

This road-map is meant to be held loosely, since there’s no definitive markers between stages; one floats between the phenomena of these stages repeatedly. Like all conceptual maps, it provides a way for the mind to make sense of (“to see”) what is happening in actual life experience.

I would expect that, as in so many cases, people who identify as intellectuals go through the same kind of experiences in mindfulness, which is why this may be useful. We habitually assume that our private experiences belong to us alone, not realizing how many other people are experiencing the same kind, the same patterns, of problems and challenges as we are. Our experiences are universal.

One of the dominant patterns, here, will be clinging to the mind’s Reason–the mind clinging to its own habits–followed by the rationalization that “this figuring out I’m doing is helping the journey along, really!” Confusion may arise because the mind is looking for orientation, and the conceptual understandings do provide useful orientations, but not Presence or any kind of liberation. If the journey stays primarily ‘in the head,’ then it can’t come to fruition. Clinging to the mind, even in its useful manifestations, creates suffering.

It has been helpful for me, when I have enough mindfulness to see thoughts without identifying, to allow a train of thought to trail off without finishing it. It took some time to see, but now it’s apparent that the mind grasps conclusions. When a train of thought is taken to its conclusion, the mind grasps the answer as if holding something in a fist. There’s an energetic feel to this phenomenon. But it can be side-stepped by remembering that it’s not necessary to follow the thoughts to their conclusion, and they can just fall away. It is the egoic mind grasping for a conclusion. It is awareness that knows it doesn’t need one.

In reaching stage three, the subconscious belief “I am the thinker” wanes, not just on the intellectual level but on the experiential level, and we begin to ‘come back from the dead.’ (In the Toltec tradition they say that those who have not come out of the egoic mind are dead; they haven’t lived yet.) At this stage, we realize that we are not intellectuals, however much we clung to that identity in the past. Living behind a veil of concepts “killed” life; it imprisoned us by putting all our perceptions through a filter. Building a ‘fortress of knowledge’ in the mind provided a certain amount of security, but now our desire to have such great contact with reality is overwhelming, and we welcome insecurity to feel life deeply.

And this is what awaits the “intellectual” who makes the mindfulness journey: to feel so wonderfully alive again. Surrendering the control tower of the head allows us to merge with the flow of life and receive the gift of each moment with an open heart.