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Unbounded

Published on March 16, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

What you are
can never be contained
in any conceptual,
metaphysical,
philosophical
or scientific box.

Nothing can bind you
for you are free—
free from all names
all identities,
all descriptions,
all definitions,
all frameworks,
all ideologies,
all characterizations.

Unbounded.

Feel the explosive
freedom of that…

It’s quite something,
isn’t it?

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Falling in Love with Awareness

Published on March 16, 2015, by in Uncategorized.

Is the rose—it’s beauty, it’s color, it’s fragrance, the softness of its petals, the sharpness of its thorns—do these qualities exist outside of us? We could say that at one level, they do. But a rose can only be known through direct experience and experience, whether of the rose or anything else, is utterly dependent upon one thing, awareness. No awareness, no rose that could ever be known—no rose to admire, no rose to write poetry or sing about, no rose to study the molecular structure of, no rose to give to our lover…

When we consider what to worship, what to love, what to be grateful for, what to celebrate, what to revel and immerse ourselves in, given that nothing is even possible without it, it would seem that awareness—the miracle of sentience itself—would be the most logical choice, wouldn’t it? After all, what could possibly be more important than awareness since without it, nothing is even possible—no pleasure, no beauty, no music, so passion, no enjoyment, no color, no knowledge, no touch, no sensation. Given this, it makes sense then to be devoted to that which is most important, most vital, most central to everything we do, everything we are, everything we experience, don’t you think?

Check it out—see what happens if you devote yourself to the natural presence of awareness that illuminates (makes known), each and every experience, this miraculous capacity that in a very real sense, our existence depends upon for without it, there is no experience and without experience, we can fairly say there is no life. Immerse yourself in it, revel in it, fall in love with basic awareness in each and every moment you remember to. And then see what happens…

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The Continuous Discontinuity That Is Peace

Published on December 1, 2014, by in Uncategorized.

We search for love, for happiness, for well-being, and for peace. At times, we feel as if we’ve contacted it – those moments where we feel as if all is well, that we are alive, vital, happy and at ease. And then it slips away, doesn’t it for this is the nature of all experience, to disappear once it has appeared. Experiences always come. And they always go. It’s unavoidable. The waves of perception are temporary, rising up and then returning from whence they came only to be replaced by the next perceptual wave that appears.

And no matter how hard we may try to sustain those states we typically equate with happiness and peace, we’re simply unable. At every turn, we find ourselves faced with the stark reality that despite our best efforts to obtain and then hold in place our positive states of mind, we are powerless to realize this kind of continuity for all there is, is discontinuity. All there is, is continuous change. The river of experience never holds still for even a nanosecond. There are no frozen frames in the movie that is life, even if language gives us the impression that there are discrete moments with clear beginnings and ends. Life never remains the same but is always on the move. That’s why they call it a motion picture!

Now conventionally, we equate well-being with particular types of experience, right? We tend to believe happiness is dependent upon the flow of life looking a certain way (e.g., “comfortable,” “happy”) and imagine that when it appears differently (“uncomfortable” and “not happy”), well-being is somehow absent. But what if there was another order of well-being altogether, one discovered not in the discrete ways the flow of experience appears and is subsequently labeled but in the flow of experiencing itself? What if well-being was found, not in particular, seemingly discrete perceptual states that are by nature fleeting, but in the continuous flow of perceiving itself, a flow that is by its very nature, uninterrupted and at ease?

How can we discover this? Simply by no longer managing or manipulating the flow of experiencing, relaxing the habit of trying to control the movement of life, twisting it into particular perceptual states we imagine will bring us happiness and instead, discovering that regardless of how the mind might be describing it, the river of perceiving flows continuously and effortlessly and is, by its very nature, at ease. Ever-changing, yet without interruption, a continuous discontinuity, a never-ending stream of well-being and peace.

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Embracing Uncertainty

Published on May 9, 2013, by in Uncategorized.

What will happen today?  Who will I meet? What events will take place?

And what about the larger world? How will things unfold? Today? Tomorrow? A week, a month or a year from now? What is the fate of the earth and humanity? We can’t really know, can we…

And what about the next moment; what does it hold in store for us, experientially?  What will the next thought, the next feeling, the next sensation be? Will it be fear, happiness, sadness, joy, boredom, excitement? We can’t possibly know what’s coming, can we… it is all quite uncertain, quite unpredictable, quite unknowable…

But whether personal or collective, not only are our futures uncertain. The present moment itself is also filled with far less certainty than we might have imagined. Sure we have great knowledge about our inner and outer worlds. We have many names for whatever is being seen, heard, felt, touched, or tasted in any moment. But look at any of the descriptive labels we apply to experience and see if there is any real certainty about what those labels actually mean.  Take fear… Do we really know what fear is?  We have a sense of what this thing called fear is, enough so that we’ve come up with a name for it and seem able to communicate about the experience to others with some shared sense of understanding what it is that’s being spoken about. But again, can we say, with any real conviction or certainty, that we know what fear truly is?

We might say fear is a kind of clenching, a feeling of constriction or tightness in the body coupled with a pattern of thinking that seems to be focused on concerns about what might or might not happen. But let’s break that description down and really look at it. What are those sensations, actually?  What is this thing called, “tightness?”  Or “constriction”?  Go beyond the label and just experience the raw sensations themselves, very directly. What is there, experientially? What is a sensation even made of? Sure, we have a word for it—sensation. But do we even know what the word means?  We can ask the same about thoughts too. We use this word, “thought” to describe a certain type or category of experience. And we assume at some level that we know what thoughts are. But do we, really? Do we know what a thought even is?

Now, when it comes to a state such as fear, the neuroscientist might argue, “Oh, we have a pretty good idea what fear is and where it is located in the brain” They might even tell you that at some point, they believe they’ll be able to pinpoint very precisely, the exact neuronal activity that is responsible for fear. But even at this more concrete level, when we look at what makes up these things called the “body” and “brain” that are supposedly responsible for the arising of fear, our certainty very quickly begins to fade for the farther we go into the nature of the body and brain itself (cellularly, molecularly, and sub-atomically), the deeper we venture into very unknown and very uncertain terrain…

Of course the spiritual philosopher/sage might answer the question of what fear is by saying that it is merely the play of consciousness or universal intelligence. They might even proclaim such things as self-evident truths and do so with a great, seemingly absolute level of certainty and conviction.  But when one says that fear is consciousness or universal intelligence, what are they actually saying? For just as we did with the sensations and thoughts that constitute the fear experience, we can do the same with the label, “consciousness.” Look and ask yourself, “What is consciousness?” Scientists and mystics alike throw the word around a lot. But do any of us really know what it is? When the spiritual teacher proclaims that, “all is consciousness,” what are they actually saying?  It sounds like they know what they’re talking about, that they’re quite certain about it all. But are they? Can we really be so certain that we know what this word consciousness is even pointing to? Or could it be that we’re simply taking such proclamations as a matter of faith (or perhaps hope?). Whether we inquire more objectively or subjectively into a state such as fear (or the consciousness that is its supposed essence or basis), we’re still left not really knowing, aren’t we? Uncertain, in the end, about exactly what these labels of fear and consciousness are even pointing to.

Of course, this is one of the central functions of language, to create conceptual maps that help us to navigate the world of experience.  We put our experiences into linguistic frameworks and in the process, imagine that we know what these “things” actually are. But while our language tells us at least something about the way life has patterned itself (e.g., as a tree or chair or emotion or sensation), it doesn’t tell us everything about what those patterns are. Sure, we can and likely will through our powerful linguistic and conceptual capacities, continue to tell ourselves stories about the world within and around us and what it means as a way of making sense of it in order to navigate it more effectively. That is all fine and quite natural. But if we start imagining our interpretations to be the final truths about the way things are, well then we will end up with what we’ve seen for so many thousands of years in our human history, namely too much conceptual rigidity, close-mindedness, and political, philosophical and religious arrogance and intolerance. If we assume we already know and are quite certain about life and the phenomena that constitute it, then we effectively close ourselves off to learning and discovering anything new, certain that we already know what experiences are simply because we have words to describe them (“Oh, I know what that experience is, it’s fear… or it’s happiness… that thing over there, oh yeah that’s a tree… and that’s a bird sitting in it…”).

If, however, we can begin to see that our descriptions are really renderings or interpretations of life rather than definitive statements about it, we can begin to hold all of our knowledge (and the seeming certainty it brings about what things are, why they are and how we should relate to them) much more lightly, much less rigidly. We can live both in the knowing and certainty of things as well as the not knowing and uncertainty of them. As the Zen saying goes, “first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is…” Yes, we know that mountains are mountains. We have a name for that object of perception. We “know” what it is. But if we really look (whether perceptually or materially) at what constitutes this thing called, a mountain, we can begin to appreciate that we don’t really know what a mountain (or anything else for that matter) actually is, even if at one level we do. This is the paradox. That we know what things are, but we also don’t…

So, what if instead of running from and defending against the uncertainty inherent in existence, we actually embraced it? What if we allowed ourselves that much vulnerability, opened ourselves to the incredible unknowability of it all?  Are we willing to see that our stories and interpretations of reality are just that, stories and interpretations rather than statements of fact about the way things actually are?  If we adopt some framework of understanding (a religion, a theory, a philosophy) to try to make sense of our human experience, can we at least admit to ourselves that we are doing that, admit to ourselves and the world that these are just frameworks rather than imagining them to be the final gospel or truth? Can we learn to live with the reality of this great uncertainty that is staring us in the face at every turn, embrace that uncertainty, and in so doing, open ourselves to the unending, inexhaustible mystery of everything?

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Don’t Reify the Teaching

Published on April 11, 2013, by in Uncategorized.

In my experience, the clearest teachings are those that help us to realize that all the descriptions we’ve applied to ourselves, our experience, and the world are, in the end, empty of substantiality—i.e., things, experiences, the self, the world, and so on are not as hard and fast, not as fixed and definable, as our verbal renderings would make them out to be. This is the great freedom—to realize just how unlimited, unrestricted, indescribable, unknowable, and wide-open experience actually is.

However, if we look at the history of almost every spiritual teaching, it would seem that one of the greatest challenges has been to apply this same experiential understanding and realization to the teachings themselves. Whenever a teaching fails to recognize that its own descriptions of reality are necessarily partial and limited, incapable of adequately capturing or containing reality within in its conceptual framework, no matter how elegant or inspired, we end up with dogma and rigidity, however subtle.

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The Insubstantial Nature of Thought

Published on April 8, 2013, by in Uncategorized.

So much of our lives are driven by, dare I say, even ruled by thought. And yet what we call “thought” has absolutely no real, tangible substance. We cannot even seem to find a thing called thought—we can’t see thoughts, can’t hold them in our hand. The bottom line is that I’m not even sure what thoughts even are. And yet they seem to influence us in ways that nothing else does! Isn’t that something?

Let’s take one thought, maybe the big daddy of them all, “this experience should be other than it is…” What is that thought, really? Where is it? Can you find the thought? And, what the heck is that thought even made of? Why is something that really isn’t a thing at all, something that seems to be, if it is anything at all, a mere ephemeral flicker of… well, I don’t actually know… seem to dictate so much, drive so much, move us, and yes, torment us in all the many ways that it does? Isn’t that remarkable, the power that has been granted something that we can’t even see or find. The more I contemplate the unfindable, insubstantial nature of thought and the irony that it is still, despite this, seemingly able to exert such power and influence over our lives, the more it dawns on me in such a quiet yet powerful way, just how free we actually are from thought, how free we are to move in the direction thought may be pointing to, or not. Free to listen to its guidance or not. Free to follow its ways or not. Free to imagine it speaks some truth or not. Free to believe in its authority or not. After all, it’s not as if thought is some terrorist with a gun to our heads saying, “You’d better walk this way or else…” It’s just a thought! Where is the threat? Where is its power? Thought really is but… a swirl of energy, a dance of imagery, a flutter of….well, nothing. Thought is not the truth! It’s just… well it’s not really anything substantive at all. Thought is evanescent, ephemeral, invisible. It has no power of its own, save that which we grant it.

Pick your favorite thought nemesis: “I should be better at this than I am…” “This moment isn’t satisfying enough…” “I should be more like Buddha or Jesus (pick your favorite enlightened dude or dudette)…” “This experience shouldn’t be happening…” “I should be more…aware, happy, mindful… (fill in the blank)” “Something terrible will happen if they disapprove of me…” See how invisible, how insubstantial, how empty these all are and how free you are because of this?

It is quite humbling to see just how much of our lives—from what we think we should be doing, to how we believe we should be doing it, to who we imagine we are, to who we believe we should be… all of it built on this flimsy, ephemeral whisp of nothing we call, thought. It is quite liberating indeed to see through the illusion of almighty thought, to recognize that it is not the be all, end all gospel of truth we so often imagine it to be, not the final word on anything.

Just stop and notice, right now, how insubstantial thought actually is and how it has no actual power to do anything in this moment. Thought is not your commander, not your captor, not your ruler, not your terrorizer. In fact, it’s really nothing at all, nothing, but empty space, through and through— impossible to find, impossible to grasp hold of. How can something that cannot even be found or seen or located have any true power to tell you what you are or who you should be; to dictate to you what life is or how it ought to be?

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Points of View

Published on January 25, 2013, by in Uncategorized.

bigsur_29_bg_101203Contrary to what we often think, we don’t actually see the world the way it is; we see our perspective or point of view about the world. We literally see different realities, depending upon the particular points of view we hold about things. Politics is a very powerful example of this. Listen to people of different political persuasions debate some controversial topic and it will become quickly apparent just how radically different the same issue can be seen, depending almost entirely upon the particular points of view that are held about it and how strongly those views are being held to.

As organisms, we seem to be engaged in a near constant process of making sense out of experience, interpreting what each and every momentary perception means. And while it might not be possible to arrive at some “pure” or “true” view of things for the simple reason that we are always and necessarily filtering and interpreting everything that is being seen, heard, felt, touched or otherwise experienced, we can begin to recognize that we are actually doing this. We can come to see our interpretations as interpretations rather than believing them to be the gospel of truth we’ve so often mistaken them to be.

By making our points of view more objective or transparent to us, we quite literally become less subject to them. We’re no longer merely looking through rose-colored glasses and naively believing that is the way the world actually is. We now see that we’re looking through a particular set of lenses, colored by all manner of opinions, biases, prejudices, beliefs, and conditioned ideas. And as this recognition dawns and then deepens, it becomes harder and harder to believe that our view is the only true or correct one. We become less and less beholden to our particular points of view because we can now see them for what they are—mental constructions rather than fixed or ultimate realities.  And the less identified we are with our particular points of view, the less firmly we hold to the gospel of our own interpretations, the more open-minded, flexible, and undefended we will tend to be.

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Ultimate and Relative Medicine

Published on December 30, 2012, by in Uncategorized.

We could say there are two types of medicine. The first, let’s call “relative medicine.” It is the type we are most familiar with and encompasses the myriad strategies we employ in an effort to change ourselves or our experiences in order to be restored to greater health and well-being. Examples of such relative medicines would be taking an aspirin to help ease the pain of a headache, practicing deep breathing to calm our selves down or utilizing the support of a therapist in order to feel less anxious or depressed. As we know, the list is seemingly endless of the many beneficial medicines human beings have developed over the centuries.

However, there is another type of medicine, one that while known throughout time has remained largely hidden from view. And this medicine, we could call the “ultimate medicine.” To put it most simply, the ultimate medicine is the realization that no antidote was ever required for us to be profoundly okay and well, that regardless of the particular thoughts, feelings and sensations we may be experiencing in any given moment, wholeness is already present, as those very experiences. The ultimate medicine is really the discovery that we are an inseparable part and expression of life itself and that as that life, we have never actually been broken. From the experiential vantage of the ultimate medicine, health and wholeness is not some state we must achieve (through hard work and practice) but rather the ever-present, natural condition of all body-mind states. Unlike the many relative medicines human beings utilize, the ultimate medicine isn’t really a remedy one takes or a strategy one employs but is instead, what we are. We are the ultimate medicine in the sense that as expressions of life, we have only ever been whole and complete, as we are, with nothing needing to be done to make it so. Nature has never been split or divided; it is singular and whole. And we are an inseparable part of that same, unbroken nature and wholeness.

Now one of the beautiful things about the ultimate medicine is that its discovery doesn’t preclude the use of any relative medicine. For example, even if I discover that all is immeasurably well, that a fundamental well-being is present in and is inseparable from whatever is being experienced, if I have a headache, I might still take an aspirin, get a massage, drink more fluids, and so on, just as a normal or natural response to what is arising experientially. But what has changed is that there is now a much vaster context for all that I experience, in this case, the headache, for I now know that my well-being doesn’t depend upon the presence or absence of anything that might be happening within or around me.

And so I can now approach any decision to utilize or not some relative medicine in a much freer, less rigid, less reactive, automatic or conditioned way. For example, if anxiety is arising experientially, I might take a breath to calm down or if it’s really strong, maybe even a drug or herb to help myself to relax. But as I discover that states like anxiety, rather than being signs that something within me is broken and in need of repair is in fact, a natural expression of life itself, the reflexive need for relative medicines, self-help strategies or antidotes to help address (i.e., manage or control) my body-mind states will naturally relax and diminish.

All the time, energy and money spent trying to change my experience in order to feel better, happier, or more loved will naturally lessen as a function of realizing an entirely different order of well-being, one that is not dictated, as convention would have it, by the presence or absence of particular mental, emotional or physical states. My capacity to feel more rather than less, to allow an ever wider and deeper range of experiences without reflexively seeing them as either sources of or obstacles to well-being brings with it a tremendous sense of freedom and empowerment, the capacity to be present with and embrace more and more of life in all its unpredictability, all its uncontrollability, and all its mystery, to love what is, even as I may still be moved to transform it in whatever ways I am.

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