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The Real Diversity

Published on November 11, 2017, by in Uncategorized.

The human mind and its tools of language and conceptualization basically functions by generalizing about whatever is being perceived. Consciousness (via the conceptualizing mind) experiences some phenomenon and then takes the infinity of information it’s being greeted by and tries to turn that infinitude into something concrete, something finite, something seemingly describable and hence manageable. Whatever the experience might be, we essentially take this infinitude of data and turn it into a generalized impression. But as one my favorite teachers Peter Brown loves to say, the world is not actually made of generalities which are abstractions; the world is made of specifics! And yet we tend to miss this key point for only by overlooking the specific details can the categories we create seemingly hold together as real.

Despite whatever functional utility our perceptual habit of categorizing things and experiences and people may have, we can see its significant downside in the phenomena we know as bias and stereotyping. “Men are this way; women are that way; republicans think this way, liberals think that way; Blacks are like this; Whites are like that; Christians believe this; Jews believe that.” And on and on it goes… But whether they be more positive or negative in tone, the only way our stereotyped groupings of people can be sustained is by overlooking the utterly unique and diverse nature of EACH member of that supposed group. The truth is that groups of people, places or things cannot fairly be characterized as being any one (stereotypical) way without in a sense doing violence to the profound individual differences that make up those abstract groups.

For example, within the categories of men or women, the people that make up those categories may share certain tendencies or characteristics. Fair enough. But actually, within each of those groupings, what we actually find is unending diversity. No two men are alike just as no two women are. We may group people together as men or women, liberals or conservatives, or whatever according to some set of characteristics we argue the parts that make up those groups seem to share in common. But the truth is that the individuals that comprise any apparent grouping don’t actually think or behave or look the same way. They don’t hold the same attitudes or points of view, they haven’t had the same life experiences let alone the same genes. Similar, possibly. But not exactly the same…

Take yourself. It’s fair to say that there is not one single man or woman on the face of the earth who thinks or feels or acts or experiences reality like you do. Sure, you may be able to find some areas of seeming similarity with your male brothers or female sisters. But again, what appears at first glance to be a similarity of belief or behavior, upon closer examination is seen to be utterly unique, even if in subtle, barely noticeable ways. You see, if we look carefully enough, the generalizations quickly fall apart. Men or women are not a certain way for those categories are comprised of individuals, each of whom is utterly unique. Same with any other category we’ve created, such as race. Neither Blacks nor Whites nor Asians, nor Latinos are a certain, generalized way for again those broad descriptive categories are comprised of INDIVIDUALS who we can only claim look or think or feel or behave similarly to others in that group because we are overlooking the truth of specificity, the truth of uniqueness.

Don’t get me wrong. Categories have their place, to be sure. As I said, it’s a way we organize the world. But the existence of any category rests upon overlooking differences and distinctions. In other words, we can only group things together by pretending as if they somehow share the same set of characteristics (or attitudes or beliefs) when in fact, they don’t! Maybe we should amend the old saying that the “devil’s in the details” to the “truth is in the details,” the subtleties, the nuances, the parts of each of us that cannot be fairly construed as belonging to any particular group or class or category for the simple reason that there is no one quite like us.

We typically speak of the importance of diversity but ironically (and I would argue tragically) we can only group people together, placing them in the myriad categories that we do, by overlooking the truth of the diversity that we each are, this unique manifestation of reality that like every flower, every snowflake, every tree, every cloud and every atom, is like no other. See that person over there? Go ahead, place them in whatever racial, sexual, political, religious, attitudinal category you like. But the truth is, you’ve never met anyone quite like that person before. They’re not like any black, white, red, male, female, liberal, conservative, religious, non-religious person you’ve ever encountered. So, meet them as if they are some new species, some new category of existence, some new form of life you’ve never encountered before because that is the truth. You never have! You can’t put them in ANY category other than the category of utter uniqueness that they actually are.

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This Transcendent Beauty We Are

Published on June 30, 2017, by in Uncategorized.

The past and future exist as mere dreams. What is truly alive is only ever this flash instant, this tiny, yet infinite sliver of “now,” a now that need not be practiced or cultivated for it is always and forever the only thing that could ever exist. There is no need to cultivate or practice “being present.” Instead, we can simply notice that presence is all there is for even the supposed absence of it would simply be another present moment!  What we experience and call a sense of lack, the feeling that something is somehow missing, is actually the most astounding presence.  And so lack (of presence or anything else) isn’t merely lack but is in fact, complete fullness, the fullness of life itself, existence appearing as the experience we call, “lack.”

Meditation, prayer, yoga… we can practice such things if we find them enjoyable. But they are not actually needed to bring about presence for presence is already here, effortlessly and spontaneously, as this very instant that’s appearing, this ordinary moment shining forth.  Contrary to what conventional reality would have us believe, everything is presence. Fear is presence. Sadness is presence. Joy is presence. Pleasure is presence. Pain is presence. Harmony is presence. Discord is presence. Whether we label what is arising experientially as good or bad, positive or negative, desired or dreaded, whatever arises is presence itself for there is only ever presence, the presence of what is. From this vantage, it doesn’t actually matter what we’re experiencing in terms of its described content for everything is the miracle of presence, life arising and then disappearing and then arising again as the next instant, the next flashing forth of existence, the next appearance of God. We can never be separated from this miraculous presence because there is nothing but.

What I am pointing to here has nothing to do with belief or philosophy. It’s just a simple fact, the fact of presence itself and the reality that this that is present is in the end, simply not conceivable. By it’s very nature, whatever is here radically transcends any and all attempts at labeling, categorizing, or describing it. But this transcendental, indescribable reality (call it God if you like), shining forth as every instant, is not some grey, bland, empty nothingness. It is an unthinkably rich lusciousness, immeasurable in its fullness and completeness. It is really love itself, the radical inclusivity that rejects nothing because all that appears is none other than itself. This is the sense I make out of the biblical injunction to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” For me, these words are not so much a spiritual prescription or practice we must take up so much as a statement about the way reality actually is, the vast sky-like spaciousness of this moment that is loving anything and everything that appears within it because it none other than whatever appears. There really are no parts to this world any more than there are parts to the sea. There is just this seamless continuum of being, the ocean of existence loving and savoring itself in all its many wave-like forms and expressions.

Each moment that appears is radiating the most inconceivable, indescribable, unfathomable beauty, a beauty that is not a function of human judgment or evaluation or conditioned belief in what constitutes “beauty,” but a beauty that transcends all human notions and definitions of what beauty is. This is an absolute, transcendental beauty, a beauty that is the very nature of what is. All moments, even the most challenging ones, are themselves, at their core, unimaginably beautiful, simply because they exist. The miraculous, inexplicable fact that the universe has brought some moment into being is what makes that moment so exquisitely beautiful. And that beauty is what we fundamentally are, through and through…

Mind you, I’m not suggesting that because we can never be apart from this transcendentally beautiful presence that we should somehow not continue to seek out and try to maximize whatever we find pleasurable while avoiding (as much as we find ourselves able) those experiences and circumstances we find uncomfortable or otherwise not to our liking. Of course we can and likely will continue to do this, probably until we take our final breaths. We can continue to seek out those people, places and things that are resonant with our particular dispositions, interests and passions.

But even as we do this, we can also come to see that regardless of how experience may be described, experiencing itself is always present, always here, always available. And this ever-present presence of experiencing is none other than the primal reality itself, a reality that can never be lost because it is what we are and everything is, fundamentally, an ever-present fullness and richness beyond measure.

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Being Here Now

Published on March 26, 2017, by in Uncategorized.

No matter where the mind might travel, no matter how seemingly far into the past or future it may seem to venture, it is absolutely, unequivocally impossible to exist in any time, but now. There is no escaping the reality of this timelessness, no avoiding the fact that we are completely powerless to leave this moment for no matter what past or future time we might seem to wander off into, it always remains now, a now that is at the same time always new, always fresh, always remaking itself, forever on the move, becoming the next thing.

Similarly, no matter where we might travel in seeming space, we can never actually go anywhere for we are always in one place. Here! No matter where we might venture off to experientially, we remain simply here. There is no escaping here. Whatever we might think of or call “there” could only ever be experienced, here. As with time, regardless of whatever lands we might journey to, we can never, ever depart from here. It is simply not possible. We are always and forever here. And here is home, a home that could never be taken away for it is literally all that exists. Home… Here… Always and forever. No possibility of ever be removed from it because wherever we might go—one small step or to the farthest reaches of the universe and beyond, we always remain, here. Home…

We are literally always here and it is always now. No space. No time. Totally unmoving. Nothing happening, at the same time, unthinkable dynamism and vitality exploding everywhere. Moment-by-moment, Life, Reality, Source, God, forever becoming something else and yet at the same time, never departing from Itself. The Ocean giving rise to countless and ceaseless wave forms and yet all the while remaining Itself. Ocean, through and through.

Ram Dass titled his iconic book, “Be Here Now,” words that countless seekers (myself included!) took to be a kind of spiritual prescription or practice to take up. But as it turns out, rather than being a prescription, be here now is really a description of the ways things actually are. There is nothing but being here now! There is only ever the presence of what is, being. And that which is present is always present, always simply and effortlessly here and now. No need to practice being here now for it is already the case. Being here now need not be cultivated or contrived but simply seen to be the sheer, unavoidable, ever-present fact of existence itself.

So much freedom, so much ease, so much love in this simple, inescapable fact, this truth that no matter what lands we may venture off to, no matter what states we may enter or exit, what places we may visit and then depart from—pleasure, pain, happiness, sadness, life, death—we are forever Being—Here—Now.

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The Vast and Fathomless Depths

Published on June 5, 2016, by in Uncategorized.

Imagine a vast underwater world that stretches as far as the eye can see, a world filled with unthinkable beauty and diversity—thousands of exotic creatures large and small, psychedelically colorful fish and coral, magnificent formations of rock and sand, a phantasmagoric display of life everywhere you turn…

Now imagine that your gaze suddenly falls upon one little part of this underwater scene that lays before you, a tiny yellow fish swimming around in this vast oceanic world. You find yourself captivated by the fish, your attention drawn into the orbit of this colorful little creature, like a moth to a flame. You begin following the little yellow fish around. And as you do so, the rest of this scene you’ve been beholding begins to fade from view.

Our everyday experience is very much like this underwater world—a seemingly infinite array of sights, sounds, textures, colors, images, and feelings filling every instant. So rich, so colorful, so deep. Presented with the vast, underwater world that constitutes our moment-to-moment experience, we invariably try to make sense of it all. We interpret it, map it, model it, conceive of it, describe it. And while all of this is completely normal and natural, there’s one fly in the ointment and that is the belief (largely unconscious) that our interpretations of the vast, mysterious, unfathomable world of experience are somehow equivalent to it.

It’s completely understandable that we would latch onto and believe in our interpretations and descriptions of things for they bring us some measure of comfort and security, a feeling of greater certainty, a sense that we know the score so to speak and have a handle on what’s going on here, how it works, and what it all means. But just as we found ourselves doing with the little yellow fish, we become captivated and ultimately blinded by the interpretations, taken in by the narratives and stories that claim to know what reality is and why it is, transfixed by the bright light of our descriptions of things, orienting so powerfully to them that we temporarily lose sight of the rest of the scene, forgetting that the interpretations are but one infinitesimally small part of a sea of experience that is simply too vast, complex and richly detailed to ever be captured by any definition or classification.

Bear in mind that the little yellow fish of our interpretations needn’t go away; after all they are part and parcel of the vast and beautiful underwater world that constitutes our moment-to-moment experience. But what we can begin to do is to feel what is actually present here, the exceedingly subtle, rich, and fathomless watery depths of experience that lay beyond the reach of anything we could ever define or conceive.

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The Many Flavors of Here

Published on June 3, 2016, by in Uncategorized.

While spiritual traditions are fond of telling us that we must strive to be more here (i.e., more present, more aware), the reality is that here is all there is. What do I mean? Well, the one thing we can be certain of is that something is happening, right? Call it life, call it experience. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that something always is, something is always here.

And so from this vantage, there can be no entering or exiting the reality of here, no finding or losing it for here is self-sustaining and self-generating, each fleeting moment transforming itself into the next. To be sure, this here that’s appearing is endlessly diverse, each momentary flash of experience carrying its own distinctive flavor, e.g., sweet is not sour; light is not sound; thought is not feeling; blue is not red. But regardless of the particular flavor on display, it’s all simply here.

Just as you might feel the wind or the splash of cold water upon your face, simply feel the vitality and power of whatever is here, this blazing aliveness that is present as each experiential apparition, each spontaneous, unpredictable eruption of life. See the blue of the sky, the red of the rose? Here. Feel the cold of the rain or the warmth of the sun? Here. Hear the roar of the sea, the deafening sounds of the city or the quiet of the night? Here.

Each experience that appears is simply the unique taste of reality in that instant, the many flavors of here.

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Experience Deviates from Our Interpretation of It

Published on June 2, 2016, by in Uncategorized.

As human beings, we are in a near constant state of interpretation, conceptually mapping and modeling what is happening here experientially. [In fact, even the notion that we are "human beings" is itself an interpretation, but that's a matter for another post!] In and of itself, the fact that we are conceptually and linguistically rendering experience is not a problem. It appears to be what we do, quite naturally. However, what creates the lion’s share of the unrest and suffering we experience is mistaking our interpretations and resulting definitions of reality for reality. In short, we believe the interpretations as true, imagining our ideas about experience accurately represent it when in truth, those ideas are merely ideas, approximations or conceptual oversimplifications of something (the field of experience) that simply cannot be reduced or collapsed into any interpretive framework, no matter how seemingly accurate or true it might be.

Freedom from this innocent tendency we have to believe that our mental interpretations of reality (i.e., our points of view about it) accurately represent what it is can be realized by exploring the ways in which the interpretations deviate not just somewhat but completely from the actuality they endeavor to define. We don’t need to stop interpreting; that’s probably not even possible. But we can see the interpretations as interpretations and stop mistaking them for truth.

Here are several examples of the ways in which experience deviates from our beliefs about it:

While we think of ourselves (and the apparent world) in terms of an inside and an outside, experience has no discernible inside or outside to it.

Conventionally speaking, we conceive of things as having a beginning and end. However, no clear beginning or end to experience can actually be found to exist.

We imagine that the people, places and things we experience have continuity and coherence, being more or less what they were a moment ago. But experientially nothing actually lasts; experiences never repeat themselves, each flash instant being utterly distinct from the next.

While we believe in the existence of things that persist over time, in reality experiences have zero duration; each thought, feeling and sensation literally vanishes no sooner than it appears.

We conceive of a world that is divided into this, that and the other thing. And yet in the field of experience, no actual lines, seams or divisions can be located.

Conventionally, we think of reality in terms of past, present and future. But in direct experience there is only ever this flash instant. No before or after can be found experientially.

We imagine that things have a kind of stable, static nature. However, experience is utterly dynamic. Reality is always changing, never holding still for even a nanosecond.

While spatially we conceive of ourselves as being “here” and the world as existing “out there,” in actual experience, “here” and “there” cannot be located or distinguished.

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Awareness is Experience

Published on May 23, 2016, by in Uncategorized.

In many teachings, an emphasis is placed on “recognizing” or “resting as” awareness. In this modeling of reality, awareness (i.e., that which knows) is portrayed as a special, separate privileged domain apart from, untouched by and free from its perceived content (what’s known). However, this purported separation is simply not the case, at least not experientially.

In direct experience, awareness and phenomena never appear alone but always co-occur. The perceiver and perceived always arise together and therefore represent a singular movement or reality. They arrive as a package deal. There is never actually a perceived object without a subject that perceives it, nor a perceiver without something being perceived. While the two (perceiver and perceived, subject and object) appear separate and distinguishable, in point of fact, they can never be teased apart. The subject literally depends upon the object for its existence and vice versa, awareness and its content, each known by the presence of the other.

Now some teachings will claim that there exists a domain of “pure” awareness, an awareness that has no phenomenal content in it. However, a content-less or object-less awareness is really an abstraction for in order to exist as an actuality, awareness must be experienced. And the moment it is experienced, that experience (of awareness) becomes the content of awareness. It may be an exceedingly subtle, barely perceptible content. But it’s still content, still experience, still an “object” of awareness that is known, even if that object is awareness itself.

From this vantage, we can say that to experience anything is to experience awareness (i.e., the faculty of knowing or perceiving) for awareness is inseparable from whatever is being experienced. They are one and the same reality. And because experiencing never comes to a stop (i.e., it’s continuous), recognizing awareness must also by definition be uninterrupted. In other words, there’s no need to try to sustain awareness for awareness is self-sustaining as the flow of experiencing itself, a flow that is always happening!

And so there is no actual place to go to “find” something called awareness that we can rest in, no need to quiet or stop thinking in order to recognize awareness. Awareness is simply this, this perception, this thought, this feeling, this sensation, this present experience. After all, what else could awareness possibly be?

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The Non-Conceptual Nature of Everything

Published on January 18, 2016, by in Uncategorized.

In many spiritual traditions, there is the belief that in order to be free of the grip of conceptual thinking (and the grasping, identification and suffering it gives rise to), we must either quiet the mind’s activity or discover a part of us that is already conceptually quiet and beyond the reach of thought. In such teachings, one is frequently directed to notice and rest as that which knows or is awake to the movement of the mind but is neither caught in nor defined by such activity. However, as true as it may be that awake-awareness is beyond thought (i.e., non-conceptual), it turns out that all experiences (including thinking itself) are by nature beyond the reach of conceptualization in so far as being ultimately indefinable. And because of this, there is no reason to privilege one aspect of reality (awareness) over another (thought) since both are equal in terms of their being unfathomable, indescribable expressions of life.

Here’s a little experiment—for a moment think some thought, maybe the idea of what you will be doing for dinner later tonight. Once you have that thought in mind, just feel the presence of it—something is undoubtedly there and you know that it is there, right? Something is showing up experientially which we label as thinking. But what exactly does that word tell us about the specifics of what is being experienced? What is a thought, actually? What is thinking made of, experientially? We use this term thought to describe a particular domain of experience. But, while it may be indicative of something we encounter as human beings (otherwise we wouldn’t have evolved such a word in the first place), whatever thinking actually is cannot be neatly collapsed into any conceptual or linguistic category. The word thought may convey some vague, general sense of the actual experiential territory it is endeavoring to describe. But that is all words and concepts can ever do. Language is simply not capable of capturing with any sort of completeness or precision, the intricately rich subtly and nuance that constitutes every instant including the experience we call, thinking.

However helpful they may be as pointers, the words we use to categorize and order the world of experience don’t actually tell us very much about the specific details of anything. To further illustrate this point, let’s examine another phenomenon, color. As you gaze into a clear sky, we have a word—blue—to describe what is being seen. But just as we saw with the word thought, the conceptual label blue, while indicative of something, actually conveys very little about what is actually being experienced when we see something blue. The experience of blueness is really not characterizable owing to its seemingly infinite subtlety and depth. And just as with thought, we can ask the same question of the experience of blue—what is it? What does blue feel like? What is this thing called blue actually made of?

The experiential exploration of these questions reveals that they are not answerable for we can never quite get to the bottom of what anything actually is, experientially. Simply feel the presence of any moment and you will begin to notice this, that despite the immense vocabularies we’ve developed to characterize the myriad forms life can take, each and every experiential moment is utterly beyond any way we might imagine or conceive it to be. It’s quite extraordinary, isn’t it, the ultimate indefinability of everything? Can you sense the freedom of this, the freedom of not knowing what anything actually is?

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The Field

Published on January 17, 2016, by in Uncategorized.

Imagine your experience in all its unthinkable diversity and dynamism to be like a vast, wide-open field without border or boundary. Now let’s call this field of experiencing, “reality.” It seems a fair thing to call it for without getting into the thorny philosophical question about whether or not an objective reality actually exists outside of our immediate experience, subjective experience appears to be the inescapable medium through which anything we might call “objective” is known. Put another way, what we are in direct contact with is not a world “out there” but our experience of that world.

Now one of the most interesting and also obvious characteristics of this field of experiencing is that we can never actually remove ourselves from it. No matter how hard we might try, it’s simply not possible to get outside of our experience. The specific details of the field may appear infinitely diverse. But no matter the field’s content, we can never be apart from it for wherever we may find ourselves in any experiential moment will still be the field! There can be no escape from it. Never can we be cast out of the field of experiencing, which paradoxically turns out to be our greatest freedom.

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The Fact That Anything Is

Published on January 17, 2016, by in Uncategorized.

As a rule, human beings tend to imagine that certain experiences are more meaningful or significant than others and then based on that belief, try to acquire as many of those types of experiences as they can. But from another perspective, every experience, each phenomenal apparition can be understood and appreciated as an expression of an inconceivable power and intelligence that is by its very nature immeasurably significant and meaningful, otherwise it simply could not possibly appear.

Put another way, the simple fact that a given person, place or thing even exists at all is itself a demonstration of its inherent significance and meaningfulness.

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