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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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We Have Not Been Here Before

Published on January 4, 2016, by in Uncategorized.

Imagine being transported to another world, a planet that is utterly foreign to you. Not a single thing about this extraterrestrial world could possibly be familiar or known to you because you’ve never actually seen, felt, touched or tasted any part of it before.

Now imagine your experience to be this foreign land. However you might conventionally describe it—holding a glass of water in your hand; the sight of a cloud-filled sky; the sound of traffic on the street; the feeling of the wind upon your face—just go ahead and notice whatever is present here, traveling through this heretofore unseen world, exploring the remarkable experiential landscape that lies before you.

Since everything is new to you on this planet of experience, don’t bother referring to any previously learned names or descriptors to make sense of what you’re seeing because those categories no longer apply. You’re in a different world now! Just behold the infinite detail, depth and dimensionality that is here, not one iota of which have you ever seen nor will you ever see again.

Let the truth of this sink in, this astounding fact that you cannot possibly know what this experiential world you find yourself in right now is for one simple reason: you have never actually been here before.

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Everything is Special

Published on December 29, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Personal growth technologies (be they self-help, psychological or spiritual in nature) are typically aimed at eliciting certain experiences, experiences imagined to be more important or special than the ones presently arising. However the most interesting and liberating approaches are those whose aim is to reveal the profundity and specialness of all experience.

That experience is even occurring at all is the greatest, most stupefying of miracles. And yet the only thing that keeps us from recognizing the extraordinary, remarkable nature of every momentary perception is the way in which we define and limit phenomena that are by nature indefinable and unlimited. The reality is that every experience, regardless of its conventional descriptive label, is an inconceivably rich and profound expression of crackling, sizzling, dynamic energy and intelligence.

Behold the phenomenal nature of all phenomena!

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Feeling Reality

Published on December 24, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Contemplative traditions the world over, speak about awareness as that which is most central to human experience for without it, without this capacity to know, there would simply be no experience. When pointing others to awareness, the argument frequently goes something like this: “How do you know you are having the experience of happiness or sadness; how do you know sounds are being heard, that sights are being seen or that you exist? You know these things because awareness is present. Awareness is the light that illumines everything, the light that makes everything known.

I’ve noticed, however, that for some people, the terms awareness and consciousness can at times come across as overly abstract and difficult to understand or grasp experientially. So, here’s another way to understand what awareness is—awareness is not merely that which illumines or makes things known though it is certainly that. It is also that which feels experience. We know that thoughts are being thought or that sounds are being heard because we can feel those things are present.  We know things are because they are felt. Awareness and feeling are really synonyms for to be aware is to feel whatever appears. And so just as we might discover the miracle of awareness by inquiring into what is it that knows experience, we could also ask the question, what is it that feels the presence of anything and everything?

Here is a poem that speaks to this idea that the knowing of reality is also the feeling of it.

Feeling Reality

No matter how
seemingly subtle
or gross,
here we are
feeling everything—
the light that shines
upon the waking world,
and the deepest darkness
of our sleeping nights.

Whether roaring
or barely heard,
here we are,
feeling everything—
the music of the
birds and swaying trees
and the songs
of laughing, crying
people everywhere.

Be it tangible
or intangible,
here we are,
feeling everything—
the trillions of
starlit thoughts
flickering inside
this vast and
borderless sky
and the rush
of watery emotions
as they splash and surge
upon our shores. 

Whether obvious
or hidden from view,
here we are,
feeling everything—
the unfathomable
mystery of it all,
the unknowable,
inconceivable reality
shining forth as
everything,
life feeling and
knowing itself
as the intimacy
of this.

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No Entry or Exit

Published on December 14, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

As spiritual seekers, we invariably bump up against the experience of having awakened to something we’ve aspired to wake up to only to find that it’s (apparently) no longer present. The sense is one of moving “in and out” of whatever more awakened state or perspective we feel we’ve gained access to.

The feeling that we’ve lost our connection with a deeper reality stems from one innocent misunderstanding and that is the idea that reality depends upon circumstances or experiences looking a certain way. And yet reality (the totality of life) looks like everything because it is everything! The sense that we’ve somehow lost touch with reality is as much reality as those moments when we feel as if we’ve found it. And so, the descriptive categories of “being in” or “out” of reality simply don’t apply. To be sure, reality can manifest as a seemingly infinite number of forms or sub-realities. But, whatever form it may happen to take, in the very instant of its apparition, it remains what it has always been, reality.

Owing to the transient, impermanent nature of phenomena, we are forever moving in and out of different states or modes of experiencing. And because of this, holding on to any insight or realization is simply not possible. It’s a fool’s errand for everything slips away. But that’s not a problem because when we slip from one state or experience into another, we never leave reality for there is only ever reality, only ever what is.

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Psychological Suffering and the Misinterpretation of Experience

Published on December 9, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Our tendency as a human culture has been to view certain experiences (e.g., fear, anxiety, worry, insecurity, confusion) as problematic and then set about to overcome, avoid, heal, transcend or otherwise improve upon them.

However, there’s another choice. In any moment, we can simply look and see what these supposedly negative states of mind are actually made of, beyond the oversimplified versions of them provided by language for despite the myriad words we’ve evolved to describe what’s happening experientially, we cannot actually say what anything is, at least not definitively. Try it right now. Try to capture in words or concepts what is being felt and experienced right now and see if that’s even possible. You might say, “Well, this is a thought,” or “that’s a feeling or a sensation.” But when we call something a thought, a feeling or a sensation, what exactly are we saying? What is the experiential reality those words are pointing to? We might say, “Well, thoughts and sensations are ultimately made up of energy or consciousness.” But this begs the question: “What in turn are the phenomena we call energy and consciousness made of, beyond the dictionary definitions we use to describe them?”

As humans, we often feel as if we are somehow stuck in or confused by some experience or circumstance and then attempt to free ourselves from our supposed bondage and confusion. But what we call “being stuck or confused” is literally defined into existence for when investigated experientially, the conceptual categories of stuck and confused are seen to be neither stuck nor confused, but a swirling dance of miraculous, wide-open, inconceivable depth, intelligence and energy. And if such experiences are as radically open-ended and ultimately indefinable as they are, how can they possibly bind or limit us in the ways we have imagined? To put it bluntly, we suffer psychologically, not because we have certain experiences, but because of what we imagine those experiences to be through the miraculous interpretive power of concepts and language.

So the next time you find yourself faced with something difficult or uncomfortable—a sense of lack, a feeling of confusion, a moment of upset—instead of reflexively trying to flee from or transform that state, simply inquire into or better yet, feel what it is made of, experientially.

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What Is This?

Published on November 28, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Presence, a word we often hear in spiritual teachings, tends to be spoken of as if it were some rarefied state, distinct from other states. And definitely not what we’re currently experiencing! Presence tends to get framed as some special realm or dimension of consciousness that we must somehow locate, cultivate, practice, rest in, commit ourselves to, and so on. But rather than assuming this to be true, let’s have a look and see if it is actually the case.

Consider the following: Has there ever been a time when presence was in fact absent or missing? Is that even possible? Hasn’t something always been present?  Hasn’t something always been alive? Look and see if you have ever lost or been separate from presence. Teachings may proclaim that such experiences as thinking or the sense of being a separate person somehow veil or keep us from realizing presence. But whether we call it thinking or feeling a sense of separation, isn’t the presence of any experience, still by definition present? Aren’t the experiences we label as stuck, twisted up in knots, frustrated, lost, grasping, or annoyed nothing but pure unadulterated, sparklingly alive presence?  Really, there is nothing but presence for if we were to experience something else, something other than what we imagine presence to be, well then that would be present too, right?

And yet, while something is clearly present, we cannot at the same time say precisely what that is for what’s present is really beyond any and all definitions. Try it right now. Feel what is here, experientially. Feel whatever is arising in this oh-so-fleeting moment.  You may have a million and one different names for it. But see that no conceptual labels apply for this that is present right now cannot be collapsed into any description or category.  Thinking? Sensing? Feeling? The seeing of light? The hearing of sounds? The deepest sorrow? The greatest joy? While undeniably present, none of these labels is capable of adequately conveying the infinite, indefinable nature of what is actually here, the pure presence and utter mystery of this.

And what is the most obvious quality of this that is present? That it is. Whatever is here, however we might conceive of it, it is all pure vitality, pure dynamism. While the myriad and diverse forms, shapes, colors, and textures this can take is absolutely staggering, that it even exists seems the most astounding mystery and miracle of all. This is. Wow! How is that even possible? How is it that anything is actually present, that anything is?

Feel that. Whatever shape reality might be taking, feel the awesome power and vitality that is its very existence. Feel the undeniable, inescapable and potent presence of presence, the here of here, the this of this. It’s not presence on one side, knowing, watching or being aware of something else over there. No, it’s all presence, all this. No inside and outside, no here or there, but simply this—total radiance, total aliveness. There isn’t anything else. For after all, what else could there ever be? If something else were to appear, something else was to become known, it would still be, just this. Were we to become aware of some other dimension, some other realm or reality, we would still be right here, knowing and feeling the presence of this. We could travel the farthest reaches of the cosmos, have the most mind-boggling, transcendental, otherworldly experiences and it would still be, this.

Remember though, this ever-present presence is not what we think it is for no interpretive framework is capable of capturing or rendering what is appearing experientially. But, if this is not what we imagine it to be, what then is it? What is this that is here? Well, there’s really no answer to that question for any answer would be just another attempt to define what cannot be defined, to pin down what cannot in the end, be conceived. It’s like a koan; the more we feel our way into what is here and explore what this is experientially, the clearer it becomes that there is no final answer. And yet, it’s the most important question we could ever ask.

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The Surface is the Deep

Published on November 19, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Particularly in spiritual circles, we often hear things framed in terms of there being a surface or gross level of existence which is then contrasted with some supposedly deeper, truer, more subtle layer or dimension of reality. But actually the deepest, subtlest most divinely transcendental depths are not found behind, below or beneath but smack dab in the middle of the so-called gross or surface level of things.

Transcendental, boundless infinity doesn’t lie in some realm beyond the apparently bounded or finite world. No, right here in the simplest, most ordinary of sensations and perceptions lies the most profound depth and boundlessness. All that’s needed to realize this is to begin to appreciate that every experience, no matter whether we label it as gross or subtle, superficial or deep, is by its very nature, absolutely infinite and transcendental in so far as being beyond any possibility of categorization or description.

sea_water_waves_ripples_depth

Within every sensation and perception, there is an inconceivable depth. The taste of sugar on the tongue, the feel of wind on our cheek, the ocean’s roar, the reflection of sunlight dancing on the morning dew— these everyday experiences are each in their own way, completely beyond comprehension for every experience contains an infinite number of dimensions and textures. Divinity is not invisible. Transcendental reality is not veiled, hidden behind some grosser, more surface-level way of perceiving things. No, the most profound, unfathomable depths are one hundred percent present in and as every single perception. And so we need not venture off to some other place or time in order to find transcendental reality for infinity is already present, right here in the absolute indescribability of even the most ordinary of human perceptions and experiences.

See that robin in the tree? There is no more profound truth, no greater spiritual dimension to be found, no hidden depth lurking in some other realm or plane of existence beyond whatever seemingly mundane, commonplace experiences we may be having. No, the deepest, farthest reaches of reality are present right here and now in the most ordinary and obvious of perceptions, universes upon universes contained in even the simple act of seeing a red-breasted bird, sitting perched on a tree.

2945488454_ec11f6e9c6_z

So you see, there’s no need to struggle to get beneath or beyond the surface of things in order to realize some greater depth for the supposed “surfaces” of life are themselves, immeasurably deep.

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What Is Experience Made Of?

Published on November 15, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

If I were interested in learning what some material object, say a redwood tree, was made of, I could examine the tree and through that investigation, see that it is “made up” of various parts (leaves, branches, bark, sap, roots). If I then wished to delve deeper into the substance of the tree, I could explore its various parts and discover that they are comprised of a complex array of cells which are in turn made of unique configurations of molecules comprised of billions upon billions of atoms that are themselves composed of all manner of known and unknown subatomic particles, waves, quantum probability fields, and so on.

But just as we seem naturally inclined as human beings to explore the nature and substance of material things, we can also ask the same question about subjective experience itself. To be sure, we have a seemingly endless number of ways to describe and categorize the vast array of experiences we encounter. We’ve even developed complex psychological and neuroscientific models to explain how these different dimensions of subjective experience appear to correlate with and influence one another. However, the problem with language is that it’s a little too facile in so far as leading us to believe that simply because we have words to describe experiential states, we actually know what those states are.

Sure, I may have many words to describe the myriad things I experience from moment to moment. But what are those words actually made of? What, for example is fear made of, experientially? What is consciousness, memory, desire, sorrow or any other experience actually made of? Just as with the example of the redwood tree, if an answer arises (e.g., “well, fear is made of these particular sensations or thoughts”), can we look again and ask ourselves the same question: “What are those things I call ’sensations’ or ‘thoughts’ made of?”

While there really is no final answer or resolution to this question of what experiences are made of, if I had to offer a word, I would say they are all made of meaningfulness.  But don’t take my word for it; explore the question for yourself, not imposing any set definitions or descriptions upon whatever may be appearing experientially, but simply allowing experience itself to tell you what it is.

Enjoy the lusciousness of this inquiry, the endless free-fall into inconceivability that it is.

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