Falling Through Fear and Surrendering

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

Once upon a time, I had major control issues.  Well really, for most of my life.  Let’s take, for example, 1991, which was a fertile year for panic attacks, anxiety, and agoraphobia with a near meltdown. Around that time, a friend and I watched the movie Silence of the Lambs which of course, triggered all my repressed control issues with my father, so between daily life, and all the crap showing up in my head, I was a mess…yet still high functioning at work, which seemed odd at the time.

During the 1990s just the thought of surrendering, losing control, and being vulnerable was so disturbing to me that I knew I needed to see a psychologist and dig around in my head for a few years about why this movie, along with single parenting and broken relationships, shook my control issues to the core.  Perhaps now I can say I am well acquainted with all forms of anxiety, especially agoraphobia and panic attacks.

If you’ve been reading these nonduality posts for a while you know I’ve written at length about our human attempts to better our selves, enhance what we are, and make our selves more spiritual, more humble, less angry, more devoted, and generally polish our selves into a bright shiny probability that awakening will seize us. We seem to get so carried away on the spiritual quest with releasing all our identities, stories, and beliefs, well I did, that we fail to understand we cannot erase the viewer, the point of where we are seeing from, the senses, the eyes, and the impersonal me that seems to be seeing and sensing. Besides, what is is the perfection appearing each moment within and through our sensory perceptions, our dear body.  Yet we name, claim, and label these intense and unsettling perceptions and body feelings as fearful, awful, and unthinkable.  Again, I did this habitually until I finally saw clearly what was happening in the body and how our beliefs shape our biology.

In 1991, I had no idea the tendencies towards panic, anxiety, agoraphobia, and OCD were natural energetic and biochemical expressions of a body hijacked by a brain to see a screenplay of fear.  I had labeled these body sensations as terrible and awful because I was living in the land of thoughts and not noticing and allowing the body to naturally dissipate these chemicals (as the body quickly does) if we don’t create or resurrect a story about what we are feeling and what is seeming to appear.

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

And here was the shocker for me…I could not fathom the biology and body chemistry of anxiety and panic would remain wired within this body after realizing that there is no lasting personal self.  Erasing anxiety, panic, and agoraphobia were the reasons I crawled down the path to awakening…so all my suffering would go away and never return.  I perceive differently now and see all thoughts, feelings, and appearances as momentary expressions of impersonal awareness though it still feels like there is a me here, now, at the center of this aliveness though now “the me” feels impersonal.

When we can gently, thoroughly, and curiously notice and practice seeing what is appearing without adding the old habitual storyline about of how this affects a lasting and solid me, suffering begins to drop away, and we begin to see all appearances as this fleeting Mystery, this Paradox, seeming playing as a dream of itself.  And though I know I am not lasting as the woman in the body, it sure feels like there is a continuity of perceiving from this momentary vantage point. Is truth stranger than fiction?  Are truth and fiction the same momentary play of light, vaporous water, and magnetism? 

Truly, we as selves, as momentary and fleeting vapors of appearance cannot gain, claim, or achieve any spiritual state of mind, if that is what we are seeking.  Again, we don’t exist the way we believe we do and all we can do is seemingly surrender, let go, (our characters have no ability to initiate or make changes) and question all the mental junk blocking our perceptions of this that we are this very moment.  Suffering is simply appearing…to no one in particular…and yet we claim it as our suffering since it feels located close to or within the body.  We believe the body is our personal territory and self-contained.  Nope.  There are no edges. Close your eyes and tell me where you believe the body ends.  See, no edges. You will only find edges if you use thinking about the past. Even the present is now the past since it dissolves so very quickly…poof it’s gone!

And believing we can direct this pathless path of inquiry and discovery is also a trap as it perpetuates that we have free will and free wont to make these “decisions.”

If you are inquiring or meditating there is no you who initiates this. 

The silly ego claims beingness as personal and wants very much for you to listen to the steam of commentary and reason to perpetuate its illusory existence.  As long as you listen and believe that the voices in your head are personal and important to your wellbeing these voices will continue to impress and frighten you.  Once you see all the inner voices and perspectives are not personal to a specific you, tension fades.  Stress begins to abate and the body seems to let go and relax.  Isn’t relaxation and ease what you are after? 

Deep peace within the body will continue to be fleeting until you see the inner voices as the momentary expressions of this edgeless perfection, this dreamy fleeting illusion, playing in its dream of itself as itself. Nothing is lasting.  There is not one shred of personal energy involved in this play of vibrations, electrical energy, and biochemical body responses.  Panic just appears and disappears as quickly as it arrives.  Two good books I recommend to learn about the biology of the brain are Dr. Bruce Lipton’s – The Biology of Belief, and Dr. Candace Pert’s Molecules of Emotion.  

I am sure I am not in control of this body. I can only verify that the body seems to be appearing here and now, and there is no belief in a sequential time concept anymore.  I am not now, and never have been, driving this human body bus.  How and why any thing at all seems to be appearing is a Mystery.

Life twinkles in and out as appearances and our brains make these energy bits into a solid and sequential story of a me where none exists. 

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

We suffer because we believe we are linear across a horizontal timeline of past present and future. All I can report is that what is appearing this moment seems more a vertical twinkling of fleeting appearance, ever fresh, ever spontaneous, ever momentary, and incredibly mysterious. It surely blew up the horizontal time line of life.  Best we can do, from my perspective, is to be very quiet, still, and notice what is seeming to appear with openness, innocence, and without any beliefs and preconceived knowings.  

Notice now what is only a momentary fleeting appearance…as an edgeless mystery…from the only perspective you and I ever have, as a me, here, now, an impersonal me, as this fleeting impermanent body. 

When all assumptions and beliefs and concepts fall way, including the belief of being a personal identity with a linear storyline living in time and space, what is appearing is known as simply a Mystery with no solid ground upon which to linger.  And this lack of time, stability, and structures makes most of us bat-shit crazy realizing we must fall into infinite not-knowing while welcoming what is showing up in front of us as fleeting appearances.  

anita

 

 

Charactering

F Minus Cartoon – News and Observer 6/22/18

I opened our local newspaper this morning and saw this nondual comic while looking to see if my name is listed in the obituaries as Carl Reiner suggests. Apparently I am still here.   

I took myself quite seriously until the early 1990s when I began looking more deeply into the Eastern religions and philosophies. Something akin to Grace swept me towards A Course in Miracles and the teachings of Buddhism in the early 1990s when I saw that I was under the spell of a deeply rooted belief of appearing as a me, a personal self.  I learned through ACIM and the Buddhist studies and meditations that I was being lived as this fleeting appearance of life. 

And yet it certainly feels like we have a center, yes?  On the one hand, it appears this moment I have a centerpoint…yet this moment falls away, so on the other hand, I do not.  I certainly thought I was separate until one day in 1990 I noticed I as Anita was a well-developed concept and set of beliefs.  This beginning of an intellectual seeing was absorbed by studing and practicing the teachings of Gautama Buddha while attended the Kadampa Center in Raleigh.

A realization that we are not separate and lasting is not easy to uncover with all we have been taught and learned about ourselves.  We feel the aliveness streaming through our body and infer there is a center to this sensating  streaming, that there is a me, a thinker, a doer, who is experiencing the streaming aliveness in time and space, right? 

And I know I’m in a minority since most believe there is a personal consciousness with private thoughts experiencing the world.  There is not.  You can begin noticing what is breathing you…walking you, sleeping you, and filling the brain and mind with a steady stream of thoughts and bodily feelings as you claim this river of thoughts as yours and personal to a you.  

And since we can feel this aliveness and these sensations of sight, sounds, touch, tastes, smells, thoughts, emotions, and feelings, we are certain the indivisible symphony of perception has a separate me and you to experience it…but there is no separate perceiver: what seems to be appearing, if anything could appear at all, is impersonal consciousness, aware presence, awaring itself. I love this word “awaring.”  I use it more since I’ve read the writings of Alfred Sorrenson, now known simply as Sunyata. This word “awaring” points more clearly and naturally to the true essence of “awareness” than does the word awareness, in my opinion 🙂

This wondrous and impersonal aliveness, this awaring, fills you, is you, dissolves you, leaving you feeling breathless, and yet, feeling just as ordinary as the oatmeal in your breakfast bowl. And you feel this aliveness but you cannot capture it and squeeze it into a personal body…nor step outside of it…it’s undivided, limitless, and has no edges, like the illusory nature of the sky.  

And for those I’ve spoken with that have become the final answer, most report this awaring is nearly unbearable at first…this realizing you are it, that it is you, and all there is is impersonal consciousness/ awareness awaring and dreaming a relative dream, and not even that.  

This realization can feel like the dry death of all you know and love until the heart finally and completely opens to infinity with unending compassion flowing across all you see as God in action. And I am, and you are, That.

You appearing as a character may be rendered immobile by this seeing, or not. You many perceive and feel this seeing and awaring in the body as a naturalness like walking in the rain or watching a sunset, or not.  And perhaps the acute awe and shock of it all seeps in slowly, or not, and wipes the metaphorical mental slate as clean as a whistle. And sometimes the slate of mental debris appears to continue falling away.  Some pilgrims and teachers feel the deeply rooted mental debris continues to rise up to the light and shed as long as the character seems to appear.  The more I know the less I know.  

Yes, most everyone you know and love may believe you are nuts at first for going against the grain of what we are taught.  If you are lucky enough to be in a tribe of pilgrims searching the depths of the heart and mind – you are blessed.  I cannot imagine not having someone to talk with while walking this pathless path away from untruth.  This compassion is the motivation for writing these posts for you.

On the path, I seem to have left a wake of family and friends who did not understand my need and yearning for questioning everything, for  different paths of spirituality and philosophy, and my perpetual silence, aloofness, and seclusion.  And yet I felt, and still feel, deeply compassionate for all beings and all suffering, my character included, arising as appearances of a dream of what is.  And yes, even the emptiness is empty as Buddhists say. 

If you relate to this post, consider commenting below as I know others readers value your comments.  Sharing your words and perceptions may be just the perfect pointer or question readers of this blog want to read.  And of course, you cannot mess up, make a mistake, or make a wrong turn.  All is well and is as it is my friend.  

anita

 

http://www.nondu.org/understanding-nonduality/

http://www.nondu.org/philosophy-of-nonduality/

http://www.nondu.org/nonduality-self-inquiry/

Addicted to Me

Image – Pixabay – Elisa Riva

In last month’s post I wrote about believing in a consensus reality with a personal me located at the center of experiencing.  We’re wired in this centric way to survive, so lets go a bit further into how we are programmed and addicted to this imaginary self we believe ourselves to be. For as long as we are addicted to beliefs about being separate we will not realize this aware presence we already are.

The bottom line is we just don’t exist the way we believe we do – the way well meaning parents, teachers, scientists, mentors, leaders, and most spiritual teachers and traditions teach and tell us. It’s as though this belief in separate selves, subjects and objects, and forms is a scientifically proven fact and not simply consensus.

Can I Improve?

Have you ever wondered why humans believe it’s possible to improve, to be a better, or more spiritual, more conscious, or a more aware person than we are this moment? This question was helpful in my inquiry practice.  Once we begin unraveling this need or desire – to – be – better – thread, we may eventually, at the end of the thread, find ourselves naked and illusory, but only if we are fierce, diligent, and deeply committed to seeing the workings and ways and beyond the mental stream. And as long as we attempt to better our self, enhance it, release it, open it, cull it, or in anyway polish it…we’re just chasing our tails as my friend Bill says.  Truth shines perfectly as this moment…as you and not you, as me and not me, as form and not form, but we cannot see this perfection for all the “concrete” and mental programming and habits of thinking.

Truly, we cannot GAIN anything if that is what we are seeking on the path to Truth. Again, we don’t exist the way we believe we do. From my direct experience, we can only jackhammer all the mental cement blocking our perceptions of what we are seeing, and what we already are.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Here is a quick experiment that really helped me. If you like experiments then I also recommend the Douglas Harding’s headless experiments.  Stop reading now and go gaze at a mirror….and then come back to this post and keep reading 🙂

What you are seeing and perceiving in the mirror is the emptiness momentarily appearing as form, as perfection, as aware presence, this moment. And you’ve likely labeled this reflection in the mirror as a “me” with all it’s stories and programming. And your brain continues on auto-pilot spewing the tired old labels and stories of a “me”  “in a body”  “a male or female”  “a seeker”  “feeling anxious”  “feeling desperate” all these mental comments (beliefs) are programmed and firing within the brain at warp speed.

You likely know that these beliefs veil this aware presence…all the while you are simply looking (or glaring) at the mirror. And remember, all this story-telling in our heads is taking place those few nanoseconds we are noticing a reflection in the mirror. The brain automatically draws a split second conclusion that it already knows what it is seeing based on the past perceptions that are stored in the brain.

Paying Attention

But knowing intellectually about the brain’s antics and completely disregarding and ignoring these antics, these mental programs and beliefs, is another matter all together. This is one more reason why I found meditation so helpful in spotting the stories and beliefs. The brain is doing what it does, it comments, judges, compares, and takes inventory every single waking moment. I’ve learned lately while we sleep at night our brains are quite busy organizing, rebooting, and cleaning the neural pathways. Read, if you are interested, these short articles about the brain from Scientific American here, here, and here.

Without question, meditating, inquiring, and observing how the brain functions and creates stories and concepts about me and my life has been, by far, the hardest work I’ve ever endured. With meditation practice, I slowly seemed to gain some measure of distance between the thoughts and the illusory thinker and learned to ignore the flow of thoughts as the brain and it’s mental processes run their programs.  This work took me decades to uncover some basic inner peace, and I was not seeking to become awakened or enlightened at that time, in fact, I did not hear or know of such a possibility until 1989 when I began studying A Course in Miracles.  This study entirely changed the way I was seeing and thinking and helped me as I was seeking the end of misery and suffering from anxiety, agoraphobia, and panic disorders. Here is a good article about the brain benefits of meditation.

Gently Hit the Concrete

At this point, I’d like to add that a good measure of compassion is necessary, in my experience, for how deeply programmed we are and how we suffer because we believe the thoughts racing through our heads. I also feel it helps to cultivate some slight amusement mixed with sadness at how easily we are duped and confused. This ability to take our suffering a bit more lightly will also help us loosen the concrete that glues our identity so tightly. When we glimpse (I feel this is something akin to Grace offering a peek behind the curtain) how deeply in mental and intellectual bondage we are – then the difficult work begins.

And gratitude, I have found, is one of the keys that also helps the cement lose its hold on us. Surrender is another. When we are holding zero resistance for all of life, all pain, the misery, the incessant suffering, the despair, then we have a bit more evidence that the cement is beginning to shift and loosen.  Suffering, fear, confusion, anxiety, pain, illness, they all appear – but not to a personal or separate me or you. These emotions and states are just passing through just like peace, joy, and hunger pass though. These physical and emotional appearances are simply the body’s amazing biological and chemical processes on display. It is what it is.

Addicted

I’ve also found that addiction to a personal self and to physical form (the world) is THE most powerful addiction there is. I’m a recovering alcoholic with multiple addictions. Dismantling my beliefs and dependence on a personal self was much harder work for me than acknowledging and treating a chemical/substance addiction. With any addiction, our brains, neurochemistry, and bodies are out of whack along with our perceptions.

Addicts like me believe their distorted stories and programming influenced by the toxins we’ve ingested. Our brains are not operating at a healthy level so we’re attempting to heal a physical, mental, and emotional addiction to a substance using a sick brain. Over time, these warped and unchallenged beliefs, along with the damage we do to our bodies, changes our brain chemistry and the biology of the body to the point that the stage is set for protracted and deadly addiction.  Our brains are literally sick and addicted from the chemical toxins we ingest through our mouths, noses, lungs, and in and on our bodies. And now I see that sugar in all forms is more addictive than cocaine.  I miss ice cream in a big way.

Honoring the Messenger

Surely you notice the incessant streaming of thoughts…judgments, commentaries, descriptions and opinions that arise each moment inside your head?  Killing this thought stream – the brain/the thought stream – will not work – for you cannot kill the flow of what is appearing. This incessant flow is the divinity, the grace, the perfection of what is. Let’s honor the flow, the stream, even as we explore it and see how we have mistaken what it is and judged it as good or bad.

That being said, investigating, inquiring, and meditating seems to work – it worked for me to uncover the illusory personal self.  Turning the head, so to speak, and disregarding the thought stream is the beginning of peace. This mean disregarding all of the thought stream, all the mental processes, regardless if they are labeled or judged as positive, negative, or neutral.

It really all boils down to this: be here now as this present moment. There is nothing to hang your hat on as there is no permanence, no time, no distance. There is no solid ground upon which to linger…there is nothing behind you nor in front of you, there is only this brief, sacred, precious appearance, this breath, and then…Poof!  What is.. is precious and a mystery.

Brain Researchers

So what is the mind and where is it located? Can it be located?  Have you ever known anyone to find a mind and place it on an exam table?  Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson along with neurologist Dr. Richard Mendius scientifically describe the illusory nature of a fixed, permanent, separate self in the book The Practical Neuroscience of Buddha’s Brain.  These behavioral and brain specialists compare the separate self to a unicorn, a truly fictional character, …as the brain strings together moments of selfing and subjectivity into an illusion of homogenous coherence and continuity.”

Dr. Sunil Pandya, a neurosurgeon and thinker on medical ethics, summarizes the scientific aspects of the mysterious relationship between the mind and brain and how this mystery persists, even with each technological advancement.  For deeper reading about the mind, this excellent research paper by Dr. Pandya provides a medical/scientific take on the mind as well as a philosophical and spiritual perspective. 

In short, Dr. Pandya indicates there is “a clear connection between mental functions as we understand them (‘mind’) and the structure that produces it (brain).”  Dr. Pandya’s paper goes on to report the mind… is a virtual entity, one that reflects the workings of the neural networks, chemical, and hormonal systems in our brain.”

Further, Dr. Pandya reports “The mind cannot be localized to particular areas within the brain, though the entire cerebral cortex and deep grey matter form important components. Consciousness, perception, behavior, intelligence, language, motivation, drive, the urge to excel and reasoning of the most complex kind are the product of the extensive and complex linkages between the different parts of the brain.”

Defining ‘Mind’

For most of us, we use the word mind as a general term for the process of thinking, the thought stream, and perceiving while most scientists and doctors refer to the mind as entirely the workings of the brain.

Some of us use mind to mean the same as thought and thinking and the way we seem to talk to ourselves and use phrases like these:
“living inside your head”
“making up your mind”
“changing your mind”
“are ya outta your mind?”

Most of us also want to believe the “mind” is personal and private to a “me” and that no one else can ever know what is “on our mind” or what we’re thinking.

Wiki has a few words to offer here about the mind.

And the dictionary offers us this definition of mind.

Summary Brain Keywords

Let’s get really simple and basic here and look more deeply now into the inner workings of the amazing brain.  Being a predominately right-brain human, I wanted a simple and basic understanding of my brain so I created a listing of brain functioning keywords so I could better understand how my brain is wired. I used this information in meditation and self-inquiry as I investigated what creates the sense of a personal and separate me, as Anita. I offer you these simple brain notes just in case you were also asleep or passing notes in anatomy class.

The brain’s left and right hemispheres communicate through a thick band of 200-250 million nerve fibers called the corpus callosum.

Brain – Right Hemisphere Keywords

  • Being
  • Selfless
  • Silence
  • Openness, enthusiasm
  • Big Picture
  • Images
  • Facial recognition
  • Music
  • Perceives longer wavelengths of light
  • Visual field softens to see boundary-less energy
  • Edgeless
  • Creative
  • Intuitive
  • Forgives
  • Fluid movement/kinesthetic
  • Perceives slower frequencies of sounds
  • Perceives body sounds
  • Unity
  • New possibilities, openness
  • Embraces what is appearing
  • Free from perceptual boundaries
  • Disregards past and future
  • Disregards rules, norms, mores
  • Controls left side of body
  • The ocean as a metaphor

Brain – Left Hemisphere – Keywords

  • Doing
  • Ego Center
  • Analytic – commenting/analyzing/chattering
  • Reminds me I am me
  • Details, organizes, analyzes, memorizes
  • Language – based
  • Perceives shorter wavelengths of light and discerns space between energy packets
  • Visual field narrows to gather details
  • Perceives higher frequency sound waves and discerns and interprets verbal patterns creating/memorizing
  • Weaves stories from memory banks and makes up details to fill in the blanks of actual data inputs
  • Creates boundaries distinctions, categories
  • Logic
  • Judges, worries, ruminates
  • Calculates constantly
  • Identity – reinforcing the (illusory) separate self
  • Focused on the external world
  • Draws conclusions from minimal inputs
  • What I know and what I believe I know
  • “What if”
  • Controls right side of body
  • Wave in the ocean as a metaphor

Here is my Reading List for Learning about the Brain:

 

Mind Time – Temporal Factor in Consciousness – Benjamin Libet, Ph.D.
Thoughts Without a Thinker – Mark Epstein, M.D.
Molecules of Emotion – Candace Pert, Ph.D.
Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.
An Alchemy of Mind – Diane Ackerman
Minding the Body, Mending the Mind – Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.
Why Isn’t My Brain Working? – Datis Kharrazian, D.H.Sc., DC, M.S.
The Seven Mysteries of Life – Guy Murchie
Thinking in Pictures – Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
The Volitional Brain – Benjamin Libet, Ph.D. Anthony Freeman, Ph.D., and  Keith Sutherland, Ph.D.
Buddha’s Brain – Rick Hanson, Ph.D., and Richard Mendius, M.D.
Toward a Psychology of Awakening – John Welwood, Ph.D.
The Body Electric – Robert O. Becker, M.D., and Gary Selden
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain


Compassion

The good news is that personal suffering is optional.  This is not to say that suffering doesn’t happen to me anymore.  It surely does as all human emotions and feelings flow through this body and brain like water trickling down and dripping off the end of a melting icicle.  Now there is no longer a personal Anita believing this suffering is specific to her personal life.

Now I see that suffering is just as pure, perfect, and holy as joy, peace, intuition, and creativity.  There is no longer any psychological or emotional suffering.  Thoughts and stories no longer shout and vibrate personal commentaries that judge, compare, evaluate, and claim any ownership or need to define, explain, nor defend what is appearing. All appearances are seen as holy, complete, and perfect as they are and even the seemingly unpleasant ones are met with compassion.

The thought stream still rolls across the mental processes of this brain/body as before, but now the steam is blessedly more like a gentle trickle than the tsunami that swallowed and terrorized me because I believed all those thoughts were personal to Anita.  I’ve endured thousands of panic attacks, multiple phobias, and many intense fears of what life might bring for more than fifty years. I was a mess in so many ways. Thank God for good therapists and healing practitioners. If I can peel this messy and teary onion of beliefs and stories and heal, so will you my friend!

I know this may sound crazy but now I love and appreciate the mental processes still intact and running the body that help me walk, drive the car, create a new recipe, pay the bills on time, and read a book and a map. I also cherish the processes that provide the swearing, sweating, and a sense of funk and depression.  All is as it is. And if we do not label it we are left with only raw and immediate sensations and openness to embrace this Grace, this Mystery that is appearing here now.

Before Signing Off

As I’ve said many times before, know this: you cannot mess up, you cannot get this human thing wrong, you have never made a mistake, you are perfect just as you are, even if you do not believe it. There is only this…here…now..beyond words and I am, and you are, this…here…now.

I encourage you share your comments and questions about this post below…I’d love to hear from you (yes – you!) and read your comments and critiques and I also value your suggestions for specifics topics and questions you might want to read and explore in new essays topics.

anita

 

Removing Ourselves from Ourselves

Lake Gaston – Island Goats – 2010 – Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality

Consensus Reality

Have you ever pondered the beliefs we cherish about the world we perceive? For instance, do you believe in an external, concrete world that’s tangible, independent, and outside of you? Most of us do, I did, until someone asked me if I ever considered all the beliefs I had accumulated about life, about reality, about the world. It was a head-scratching moment for me.

We are taught to believe a consensus reality of the world with us/me located at the center of what our senses are comprehending.  This is how we are wired to survive. Maybe one percent of us are eventually able to see beyond the relative world to see aware presence, aware of itself as aware presence, as the character or doer, and as Absolute dreaming its own dream as Itself.

When there is a consensus of beliefs this sets up an alternate reality which is innocently shared, and communicated. The world is flat. There is a past and a future. Humans will never fly, or go into space, or land on the Moon. Most of us at one time believed there was one consistent and enduring reality referred to as the world and the universe. We now know this is not so, but I definitely would not have believed this in 2010 even though I had studied the nondual teachings and A Course in Miracles since 1989.

Our human brains are wired to label and compare this to that for our very survival — to measure, judge, and separate reality into inner and outer realms based on a belief in an objective and relative world of subjects and objects. I was surprised to realize the volume of beliefs I held to be truths without ever investigating them for myself. I was living from a consensus belief of the world, and when I realized this I felt stupid. Why had no one ever mentioned we were living in an illusory consensus reality? I wondered if others had been seized by this realization, and if so, where were these kindred folks? I found them at a local Inquiry Group quietly peeling the onions of beliefs and concepts. (This is perhaps one of the greatest blessings in my life, finding my tribe).

Trusting in a consensus set of beliefs, we “miss the mark” of perceiving what simply is because we ignore nature’s laws which are governed by quantum principles and not by mere human beliefs. Did you know the definition of sin is “missing the mark” and this language, as I understand it, is used widely in the sport of archery.

Pivoting

But honestly, how are we to remove ourselves from ourselves while perceiving the world?  We cannot remove ourselves as long as there is a body but it appears we can surrender to being confused, being in pain, suffering, being clueless about what we really need. It is at that tender moment that God/Grace seems to open an interior door allowing us to see we are traveling in the wrong direction and comprehend just how programmed we really are. It’s frightening to realize we are living as robots and readily swallowing a conceptual consensus overlay (culture, science, education, religion, history, philosophy, etc…) added over and covering what is simply original, fresh, pure, and fleeting…as this moment.

How humbling it is to see we are seeking truth in exactly the wrong direction. What is the direction? Close your eyes and pivot, and you have it  — it’s this breath…here…now. The direction of the pathless path is never deeper into the brain/mind. The direction is in the opposite direction, it’s out of the brain and towards the heart…from claiming, naming, and labeling to letting go, surrendering, and being here now without the mental commentary about the now…just innocence, freshness, newness, without needing or knowing a single label, name, or description about what is appearing as this moment.

That’s perfect peace…living here, now, open, completely vulnerable, simply not knowing, and knowing that no amount of knowing will ever explain the unexplainable. Yet we still try to communicate what is beyond words and understanding through music, art, dance, writing, and pointing towards nature.

Brain/Mind Internal Storage – Separate Me and My World

When we pivot, we begin to see the brain cannot record and store this present moment, this now. The brain is only capable of storing and recording a story about the now-that-just-zipped-by in awareness.  In other words, the brain only stores the past, a memory, a story about the moment. The brain can never record this moment since this moment is too fleeting. This moment appears and disappears so quickly that any perception of it or description of it is always in the past. Mostly, we are living the stories of the brain’s memory banks that we tell ourselves about this moment or about me. Rarely are we awake to what is here, now, fresh, original, as this.

I urge you to examine your beliefs, and then examine your examining, and then examine you. This work of dissolving our identities as personal selves is not for the average human as most of us are too comfortable being our illusory selves. I’ve seldom met an original thinker as most of us just swallow what we are taught and graze on the fodder of well-meaning parents, teachers, preachers and the tribal and ancestral customs. I notice there are very few with a profound and burning desire to peel the layers of falsehoods, to deeply look within and explore the dark shadows of beliefs and grasp how we create separation and reality with these beliefs, and finally awaken as original, edgeless, absolute infinite identity.

Subtraction – Backing Away from Untruth

I found out directly that we cannot move towards Truth/God/Absolute/Divine (we already are that) but it seems we can back away from, subtract, and dissolve all the beliefs and concepts that are not Truth thus making an easier go of seeing Truth in all its radiant glory. This process of backing away from untruth is really the basis of the teachings the great sages (Jesus, the Buddha, St. Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart) have been pointing towards.  Sadly, most of us do not have ears to hear nor eyes to see these paradoxical truths, nor are we willing to surrender deeply enough to realize the Truth already burning brightly within and without, here, now, as this fleeting perfect moment. 

Dark Night of the Soul

So few are willing to spend time and energy in solitude examining the layers of the little self to see all the layers building up the walls of separation and personal identity. I’ve read a few stories where awakening is spontaneous… Ramana Maharshi quickly comes to mind and there are a few others but most authentic awakenings seem to arise after years, even decades, of solitary introspection, inquiry, and painful dark nights of the soul. There is much peeling away and dissolving into thinner and thinner versions of self. And yes, the peeling and thinning continues. This was/is the case for me and most of the dear ones I know awakening within the dream as the dream.

Know this: you cannot mess up, you cannot get it wrong, you have never made a mistake, you are perfect just as you are, even if you do not believe it. There is only this here now.

Before I close, I encourage you share your comments and questions below…I’d love to hear from you about this post and also read your suggestions for topics or specifics for new essays.

anita

Perhaps a Book

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Mystic Creek Bridge 

Happy New Year to you dear pilgrim friend!  May all your days in 2018 be full of laughter, insight, surrender, and love.

I am compiling a first draft of a book about the pathless path. I was writing from a rough outline but now see the writing is writing itself in a direction that surprises me.  So we’ll see where this goes. Read more here.

I’m addicted to reading as much as I am to writing and this may be one of the reasons why our house is often dusty and there are used dishes and utensils in the kitchen sink. Sigh.

Below is a listing of the books open beside my reading chair and I don’t have enough vowels to list all the books stacked in the queue on the floor, by the bed, on the desk, and on the nightstand. Just imagine how in the advanced stages of addiction I might want all my favorite books in close range in case I need to make a hasty exit to a place that has no books. Perish the thought.

The Naked Now  – Learning to See as the Mystics See – by Richard Rohr

The Heart of Centering Prayer – Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice – by Cynthia Bourgeault

An Alchemy of Mind – The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain – by Diane Ackerman

Happy New Year!

anita

 

 

Winter Solstice Gifts

Foggy sunrise at Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality

I awoke at sunrise today and welcomed the Winter Solstice rays into my soft belly. Winter’s fading light yields to the darkness so we may dive deeper into the nature of this Mystery, this Creation, this appearance of what simply is.

Over the decades I’ve come to see the Winter Solstice as a perennial teacher reminding me of the power of the unseen and for being thankful for this darkness, especially as some of our 23,000 garden plants are now hibernating below the garden floor preparing for their re-emergence in early spring.

For us humans, embracing Winter’s darkness allows us the quietness and stillness to heal and jettison what is no longer needed – beliefs, opinions, judgments, and toxic emotions and ideas that keep us feeling and believing we are separate, distinct, and small. As we rest in the dark fertile lightness of aware presence, we notice the gifts within all appearances, along with increased creativity, intuition, and wisdom.

So today, and every day dawning, let’s walk slowly, smile, and notice and give thanks for what breathes us. Notice the moment without judgment…it’s present so it’s perfect, until we claim it isn’t.

Let’s pay attention. Listen, smell, touch, taste, see, and above all, smile, and breathe deeply into our soft belly.

We cannot mess up, get this wrong, or be anywhere or anything other than what we are right this moment, this appearance of aware presence awaring itself.

The sun is now rising over the gardens and greenhouses as I type these words. These holy solar offerings of lightrays are songs to tune our hearts and brains. Listen closely and quietly to your heart and know that we are the edgeless, perfect darkness and dawn.

And if you are inclined, be quiet and go within to notice who or what wants answers, solutions, and wants what is to be different than what it already is.

anita

Thinking About Thoughts?

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

When we begin to soften, to let go a bit, and perceive with an attitude and lens of not-knowing, we ease into vulnerability, rawness, and a willingness to meet and greet what is appearing instead of living in our mental processes (thinking, thoughts, ideas, beliefs, memories, and imaginings).

A deeper understanding of what is appearing resides beyond the brain’s conditioned mental processes and this deeper knowing unfolds on its own when we deeply question and meditatively inquire into our cherished inner dialogues and stories. But what does this jargon mean in simpler terms?

The ability to see how the mental processes operate provides a few ways to “crack open” and explore the habitual mental processing mechanism which many refer to as the mind or brain. I like Paul Hedderman’s use of the term “mental processing” since it shows no mercy for the habitual and sneaky mental machinery – so we’ll go with his term here.

During meditation or prayer, or while sitting quietly, we may turn our attention to thoughts and notice the thought stream, aka, the mental processing, until it plays itself out while we offer no merit to be placed upon the content any more than we place content upon the clouds passing across the edgeless sky.

During meditation or sitting quietly we may also notice our thoughts roaming free in all directions. Again, we place no judgment, opinion, or rule about how thoughts “could or should be.”

We may use thought to detect thought.  Notice to see if you can watch thought without using thought. How did that go? Seeing how this mental processing works is the first step towards living as our natural and abiding inner peace which never moves, nor changes…but is obscured and ignored when we live as the mental processes.

You’ve likely heard the metaphor comparing thinking to a river. You are relaxing on the bank of a beautiful and peaceful river just watching the water move along as it does. You can do the same with thinking and thoughts…just watch thoughts as you would watch a river – allowing all thoughts and thinking to pass freely across the screen of awareness without going into a story or thinking. Just notice thoughts and when you go into thinking, move attention back to noticing, again and again. Eventually you will quickly notice when you are in the story of yourself instead of the rawness of the moment because the story feels heavy and constricted and/or flooded with yearning, resisting, or grasping.

Do you know the difference between thoughts and thinking? Perhaps this will clarify some of the stickiness for you: A random thought like – “I need to wash dishes” is passing across awareness.  It’s just a thought, one of millions passing across awareness. I do not claim it or make a story about it with the mental process of naming, and claiming. If I do claim this thought as mine and how it impacts my life then I’ve gone into thinking and story-making All thinking is story-making and vice-versa.

Thoughts are just raw, random, energy flowing as pure awareness. Thinking pulls in the emotional and psychological land-mines we create in support of our personal narrative – I’m a clean-freak and keep a clean and tidy kitchen or I’m a slob with a weeks worth of dirty dishes stacked in the sink. See what I’m pointing towards?

Simply paying attention to what is appearing without the mental processing machine allows the raw and fresh seeing of what is appearing without any story or commentary about a personal me. But first we must begin to see the workings of the mental processing machine in our head. This is why meditation and meditative self inquiry is so important in seeing what is and uncovering our natural and abiding inner peace. And sadly, many confuse our seeing of what is appearing with the habitual story projected by the mental processing machine over the pure awareness of what is.

It is difficult if not down right painful to inquire within as the mental processing is serving up defensiveness, jealously, anger, envy, and hatred for what is arising. Where do these reactions arise and to whom? What is noticing these passing states and feelings?  We must be open, raw, and vulnerable to allow a quiet blanket of unknowing and a hot cup of tea to warm and enfold us as we quietly sit and unravel these prickly threads that weave the illusory personal self into a believable entity.

Paying attention to how we are responding to what is offers us clues to where we are on the pathless path to peace. And when we deny our shortcomings we often see them appearing in others so we can remember to do the work of self-inquiry. Are we open, raw, vulnerable to the moment or closed and habitually already knowing “the content” of the moment because we are going into the depths of memory? Memory is dead. Some nostalgia feels good but this too is a trap for staying in the mental processes and missing the beauty and gift of this moment. (Eventually we will see that nostalgia and all memories are actually new and fresh this moment, but that comes after we see the inner workings of the mental machinery and we’ve explored all the repressed stories that promote suffering.)

Only this moment is alive, raw, fresh and pregnant with the possibility that we will actually open to it like a small child accepts what is appearing – and really experience the wonder and delight of beholding what simply is. Once we are able to behold what simply is showing up without any judgements and stories we are on your way to uncovering our natural inner peace that passes all understanding….in other words, we see and swim within the deep inner peace that is beyond the mental processing, when all the naming, labeling, comparing, and claiming are seen for the nonsense they are. This is seeing through the delusion and misperceptions that the mental processing.

Deeply explore and listen within to what is appearing here now with openness, with fearless honesty, and really see the patterns and habits of clinging to and defending a personal self. Only with clear, raw, and innocent inquiry will the mental processing begin to free itself from its mechanical conditioning and relax as this natural aware presence and compassionate understanding of and for this moment.

And we will see clearly that this compassionate peace and pure awareness has absolutely nothing to do with any religious or philosophical trappings and beliefs whatsoever.

anita

 

Easy Breezy Waking Up

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden – Southwest Patio Garden

I am not surprised to read the misleading content below from a well known and respected website about the science of nonduality:

“Nonduality is the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental intrinsic oneness.

For thousands of years, through deep inner inquiry, philosophers and sages have come to the realization that there is only one substance and we are therefore all part of it. This substance can be called Awareness, Consciousness, Spirit, Advaita, Brahman, Tao, Nirvana or even God. It is constant, ever present, unchangeable and is the essence of all existence.

In the last century, Western scientists are arriving at the same conclusion: The universe does indeed comprise of a single substance, presumably created during the Big Bang, and all sense of being – consciousness – subsequently arises from it.

This realization has ontological implications for humanity: fundamentally we are individual expressions of a single entity, inextricably connected to one another, we are all drops of the same ocean.”

With “factual” information like the nonduality information above circulating over the web no wonder seekers are popping up everywhere lately as they “awaken to their true nature.”

“That there is only one substance and we are therefore all part of it.”  Tell me please how this works – how do you have parts and parcels of an essence that is timeless, edgeless, undivided, seamless, infinite?  Can you divide the sky and be a separate piece of the sky?

Nonduality is a philosophy of appearances as appearing as not-two, undivided, indescribable, immeasurable. But it certainly feels really good to hold hands and sing that we are all part of the same aware consciousness while ignoring the main tenets of nonduality: there is no personal self, is no personal consciousness, no personal awareness, no time, no location, no space.

The universe or reality may seem to appear as awareness here, now, this moment, but there is no external reality. There is no separation into seven billion human units each with their own private thoughts, desires, and feelings.

There is only one…as in not two. And there is not even nothing beyond nor before this moment.

Moments cannot be strung together unless you are creating a fictional story or an irrelevant running commentary about what is appearing now. Even those claiming awakening are still believing in concepts of time and space, still believing in something, some essence, lasting beyond this perfect moment.

Be careful of most nonduality teachers until you completely vet them…some will use your innocence and take your money all the while feeling good and helpful since they honestly believe they really are enlightened.

Here is the gritty grit….it’s much too difficult, if not nearly impossible to awaken to absolute truth. The nonduality and new agey groups, seminars, programs and churches popping up now are teaching oneness, nonduality, and enlightenment but are sadly misinformed and/or they are misperceiving nonduality teachings and offering pleasant and upbeat pablum to folks to fill the offering plates and their wallets.

We long to uncover the natural, peaceful, and intimate timeless perfection as awareness since we have forgotten what we are…and it feels like a wound that will not heal.

And what better way to ensure the survival of the new-agey seminars, conferences, and churches than to tell you that you are part of the oneness, part of the whole, part of the infinite love and joy. Sounds so empowering and peaceful, right?

Certainly I am not suggesting all leaders of new agey programs are intentionally misleading the public…they may believe they are teaching nonduality.  A little bit of nondual language may seem impressive, and may soothe the hurt until you come upon a fully awakened nonduality teacher and begin seeing beyond the fabrications and the pretending. And yet, this too, is the perfection of the appearances.

So what’s the difference between human truth and absolute truth?  Let’s have a brief look below while knowing this topic seems unknowable from a relative perspective.

Truth projected from the relative brain/mind of a human appears to be the sum of thoughts woven tightly from complex concepts, hypotheses, theorems, laws, norms, prevailing wisdom, consensus, facts, and conclusions accepted by all as collective truths. Like gravity, time, location, and chocolate 🙂

Absolute truth is a different critter… beyond the limits and dualistic nature of the relative human brain. So in order to awaken to what you already are – and always have been – it may be helpful to understand how the brain/mind is programmed – – to ensure you continue believing you are separate.  

  • Absolute Truth is not relative and the human brain is  relative.
  • Absolute truth is not describable with languages based on subjects or objects.
  • Absolute truth cannot be taught, shared, described…only pointed towards. If it is describable it’s not Absolute Truth.  Words like abyss and void come as close as any words I’m familiar with but even these words conjure beliefs and opinions of what a relative void or an abyss is, is not, or could be and not be.
  • Absolute truth is.
  • Absolute truth cannot be earned, bestowed, transferred, diminished, expanded, refined, defined, or claimed and comprehended or understood with a brain/mind.
  • Absolute truth is not measured with time, location, distance or any other relative system of measurement since Absolute truth is all there is …and yet is ignored, overlooked, and dismissed by 99% of humans.
  • Awakening is not what you think. 😉 

anita

Relationships

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden – image from Pixabay

Today’s essay is brought to you by the joys and heartaches of relationships.

I received a note this week from “I’m Outta Here” — a younger fella who is about to strangle his very chatty girlfriend and wonders how awakening impacts relationships. This is a good question as it sends us straight into inquiry to look at the nature of “other.”

Below is my reply to this young man in case this paradox is arising for you too.  ANDRemember we have Self-inquiry Saturday, June  10, 2017 at Juniper Level Botanic Garden from 2:00 – 3:30pm. Feel free to bring your camera and a bag lunch if you want to hang out before or after our gathering to spend some quiet time in the gardens…and you may want to bring some mosquito repellant 😉

Dear I’m Outta Here:

Bart (Marshall) told me when I awakened that the hardest part of awakening is relating to “other”  and he is so right.  Many relationships cannot weather the seismic shifts when one awakens.

 

I continually struggle with wanting to be alone and reclusive while knowing that Tony/other helps me see where I am constricted, judgmental, and selfing.

If I lived in a cave or totally removed from the flow, and I am laughing as I type these words cause I am the flow….there would be so much less texture, emotion, selfing. I am giddy with delight pondering a solitary life in a cave… yet I know selfing can sometimes be shaved clean by scraping against the grain and texture of other.

I feel your pain.  J and I have often discussed how cool it would be to have a “wise-woman-house” so we can go days without speaking or interacting with “other” with no need to explain the pull of silence or the lack of interest with interacting or in offering comments or preferences.

I’m here for you dear one. I know this is a hard topic and hindsight in relationships seems to be 20/20.  I was totally insane to marry again, yet the heart seems to have it’s way and leaves the rational brain in the dust.  Remember we are being lived.  There is no decider.

anita
 

Sounds

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

I hear the nature communicate her  timeless wisdom on many levels, but this “hearing” is not the same hearing that most people label as hearing.

What I am pointing towards is a pure HEARING, a pure sensation just at it meets the ear canal and before it is processed by the brain and labeled and categorized as the sound of surf, and seagulls, and wind.

Consider there is an instantaneous pure hearing and then a second later there is the human hearing after the brain processes the hearing.

Perhaps you might play around with what you hear without placing labels or judgments on the sound vibrations inside your ear.

The singularity of creation becomes evident when the personal identity dissolves.

anita

 

Memory

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

What is memory and what perpetuates this belief-trap?

Long ago and far away I lived in a state of mind that enjoyed and cherished pleasant memories and disliked or feared the icky and gut-wrenching memories…like the day I peed my pants in second grade…all the kids pointing to me, laughing about my lack of bladder control before dear Mrs. Southerland rushed to my rescue.

We are so deeply programmed by society and well-meaning loved-ones that we naturally struggle deeply with the “concept” of memory when inquiring into our cherished and rock-solid beliefs about the nature and mechanisms of time and relativity.

We discover that a “personal” memory can only operate with a belief in time and space… and a concurrent belief in a personal “me” or “I.”

In fact, the belief in a personal “me or I” also requires believing in the concepts of time and space. Are you seeing just how tricky the split mind is at convincing “you” that “you” are real, are separate, by creating and sustaining the concepts of time and space?

As the character Anita, it certainly appears I experienced a richly textured life with plenty of memories of all shades…bright, white, and grey…pleasant memories, painful memories, repressed memories, and traumatic ones.

We cannot imagine that what we know as a memory is simply an arising thought stream or image appearing here now as this aware presence or impersonal consciousness.

I surfed over to Wiki to look up memory…click here to read more at Wiki.

We so want to believe we exist in time and space, at a location, and a finite point on the map.  Memory helps reinforce this illusion. But don’t take my words for this…inquire for yourself. Is it possible for a memory to appear separate from an arising thought?

If you believe memory can exist without thought then how specifically does this occur?

Investigate – to your own satisfaction – that all thought streams and memories are not what is appearing here now…as aware presence or impersonal consciousness.

anita

Politics

Center for Mindfulness and Nonduality at Juniper Level Botanic Garden

I received these current events questions below via email:

Anita, here are some questions for you regarding conscious responses to the current political unfoldment:

  1. How to Be the accepting of all as is while saying no to actions that create suffering?
  2. How to resist harmful actions by seeming others without inner resistance? 
  3. Having no idea that anything should be other than it is while outwardly speaking and acting to create change?
  4. Would you share anything that arises for you about this?
 

Replies:

  1. How to Be the accepting of all as is while saying no to actions that create suffering?
    True nature, what you already are, accepts all as it is and welcomes all. True nature does not suffer. Suffering only arises to an illusory “you” a split-mind, a relative/dualistic mind that maintains separation of  “what is” into subjects and objects to name, label, measure, and compare.  The illusory person wants change so finding the source of the illusory “you” will help unravel the beliefs in a world of separation with a “you” at the center.
  2. How to resist harmful actions by seeming others without inner resistance?
    What wants to resist? Find the source of resisting…is there a personal “you” offering incessant commentary, labels, and descriptions of what is?  If so, inquire and locate this “you.”  
    Resisting may appear but there is no one resisting…there has never been a person who resists. Resisting appears spontaneously and uncaused, but not to a separate “you.”   Resisting is the same perfection as not-resisting, and neither is prompted by or owned by a personal and separate “you.”
  3. Having no idea that anything should be other than it is while outwardly speaking and acting to create change?  Changing may appear but there is not a personal or separate “you” initiating change.  Again, changing is the same perfection as not-changing, and neither is prompted by or owned by a personal and separate “you.”  Changing and resisting arise spontaneously as the dreamscape, but not to a separate you, a separate person.

Would you (anita) share anything that arises for you about this?   Notice the thought stream that is not happy with what is appearing and wanting change.  This is key.   Be still and inquire to uncover and notice the source, the root of what wants to divide, name, claim, and label life into subjects and objects…me and you…yes or no…good or bad…right or wrong…here or there..now or later.  Notice the energy, the voice, the thoughts wanting life to be different than what is appearing.

Once you determine the source of what resists, what wants change, what does not fully accept what is…that is the work of self-inquiry….of uncovering the millions and billions of beliefs, concepts, stories that appear to create a separate self and cover the infinite and changeless stillness that never moves, was never born, will never die.

Self inquiry was pivotal in perceiving and uncovering the silliness of maintaining any beliefs and concepts that supported an identity as Anita, as a separate self.

Here, now, as aware presence embodying as the concept of Anita, the imaginary personal self died in 2011 and nothing remains to prefer or desire what is appearing to change. There is only infinite capacity to accept all that is appearing and what is appearing is seen as perfection reflections of the intelligent light of awareness. Personal suffering and fear fell away.

As an aside, I see the newly elected POTUS as sadly entertaining storyline…the candidate I voted for did not prevail. Regardless of who is elected as POTUS, or what is appearing as life, the character as Anita is watching the nightly news, reading newspapers, and living life…and it feels like sitting in a theater chair and watching a juicy movie.

Life appears as what is ….just streaming upon a giant screen. In this analogy, I am the movie, I am the movie screen, I am the characters, I am the movie projector, I am the theater, and I am the edgeless, infinite, indivisible empty space of presence that all appearances seem to be appearing upon.

I am, and you are, indescribable…infinite, edgeless, formless, vastness, and more like the glowing no-thing-ness that holds the vaporous appearances of the every-thing…. and I would not change a tiny particle of this perfection we call reality….it’s how as human dream characters we feel and experience self and other as duality.  What a miracle that anything at all appears…and yet we as characters want to change it…aren’t we silly?

The dreamscape is an imaginary stage where the concepts of self and other can play as characters in a relative/dualistic movie script to experience the textures and feelings of duality, of separateness. And yet, not even no-thing truly exists, there are only fleeting appearances, just like the appearances of dreams while you, as a dream body believe you are sleeping.  When you inquire into the concept of time, you will realize it does not exist.  Not kidding.

Please email anita@nondu.org if you have questions.

anita