Sunday, July 31, 2011


Welcome to our new members and other friends.  I've had a whole lot of emails in the past couple of days, and I know people are not only watching from "within", so to speak, but also anonymously, from the sidelines.  However you are joining us, you are most welcome.  My wish is to be of conscious service to you.

A Note on Language: Just so you know, I am not going to be "Advaitically Correct" in my use of language on or off of this website.  One man's medicine is another man's poison, and all of that, while being perfectly proper elsewhere, is poison for me.  If you’re unclear what I’m saying here, may the gods bless you with maintaining that sweet innocence!

I heard from my friend Larry Coble several times yesterday and again this morning.  Larry and I met over the Internet about a year ago, in response to some Amazon reviews I’d written on some Nondual titles.  We've not yet met in person, but our spiritual hearts resonate strongly.  I have Larry's permission to reprint our correspondence here, and I will do so with some of it.  Let me introduce the situation first.

Larry is, I think, essentially the prototypical serious, mature, disciplined, desperate spiritual seeker.  That's why it's important for me to address his concerns not just privately, but publicly.  I'll be talking to a whole lot of people who haven't written me, too.  Larry is right where I was not too long ago.  I was there for a lot of years.

I can remember doing zazen back in Portland—before my drinking went from bad to completely out of hand—until and beyond the numbing of one of my thighs on a nearly permanent basis.  I guess it was a back/nerve thing.  It’s gone now, but I notice I have sciatica in the same leg.  Who knows?  To go with that, I have a wife and ex-wife who can vouch for the fact that I’ve read literally hundreds of spiritual books, everything from the ancient scripture of the Asian wisdom traditions to the current crop of neo-Advaitins, and unaligned Nondualists.

Ramesh Balsekar said that becoming a seeker is a lot like catching the flu.  You have it, you can’t shake it, and you fluctuate between bliss and misery (lots of the latter!) until it lets you go.  I had the spiritual flu.  It sounds like my friend Larry has it as well.  Maybe you have it, too?

You don’t have to have read hundreds of books or to have sat for hundreds or thousands of hours to qualify, although you could have.  Some people reading this will not even have been on the planet long enough to have achieved those time-consuming distinctions.  That’s not the bar.  The bar is the attitude.  “I want this thing, I’ve got to have this thing, and by God I’m GOING to have this thing.  Hmmm.  I wonder what "this thing" really is??

If you have a real case of the spiritual flu, the drive doesn’t come from inside of you.  You don’t even know what is that you want.  It comes from outside of you.  Granted, enlightenment sounds like pretty big fun to most egos.  What better way to make an ego truly special and thereby strengthen it?  I went through that stage, too, but it was short—not more than about fifteen or twenty years.

But with the real spiritual flu, everything is turned on its head.  The drive is coming from the thing that actually wants to wake up, which sadly enough is never the ego.  There is not a single enlightened individual on the whole of planet Earth.  Never has been.  Yet awakeness has consciously operated through a whole lot of people.  It’s operating through a whole lot of them right now.  It’s even typing this exact sentence that you’re reading.  Hi.  It's Me.  I'm You.  How about that?

It’s this "big" part that wants to wake up, and it’s not at all above using your ego or mine to get what it wants.  It’s GOING to wake up once it decides to, trust me on this.  If there’s enough resistance, it may have to “dump and jump” bodies, or something (commonly known here as death), but it WILL wake up, with or without “your” help.

In the letter I’m getting ready to print if I can ever quit writing long enough to paste it in, I talk about two men I know who woke up in the last few months, both while having conversations with me.  In truth we were in inquiry, but they didn’t know that.  They knew nothing of Nonduality.  They’d never heard of Nonduality, or inquiry, or had any concept that anything like awakening from any sort of dream state was even available.  “Dream?  What dream?  Are you crazy?”

With this experience behind me, it is spotlessly clear to me that the universe does not need even one tiny iota of help from the so-called individual in order to awaken.  Provided, of course, the individual does not have a flock of preconceived notions to cut through!  What these men had going for them was not ignorance, but innocence.

Now let’s get to Larry’s letter before it’s suddenly August 1 and I haven’t finished my July 31 post.  Where you see brackets [  ], I am offering either on-point commentary on Larry’s letter, or I am adding additional commentary to the letter I sent him.

I quote, (having first corrected any typos):


I had not been on any blogs for what seems like almost a year now. You write one and I catch it on day one. How curious! [Yes, that’s VERY curious, is it not?]

I have continued with my interest since we last talked. In fact, {I spend} at least several hours a day in formal meditation, contemplation, reading, etc. I do try to spend most of my waking hours gently watching the mind and bringing myself back with core questions, "What am I doing?" or "Who is thinking this?" Letting go is indeed where I find changes taking place. Oddly, I had little interest in Adyashanti about a year ago. Tried him and just didn't resonate. About 100 books later (no exaggeration), and after much letting go, I received a copy of Adyashanti's, The End Of Your World and listened to audio of him being interviewed "Always Being, Always Becoming" and he nails it!

Maybe a year ago I started studying Zen, specifically Soto. While there is something fascinating, it adds to rather than takes away. Have read quite a bit on non-duality, Advaita, not as much of current writers but some like John Wheeler and Jerry Katz. Read most of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj's, I Am That but found the style to be a cultural difficulty for me. Anyway, the more I just spent most of my day being present, allowing the day to flow with me just observing and loosening my grip, with as much attention as possible and bringing myself back to the present over and over again, {the better} the teachings {would}start to manifest. I'd have a day of something experientially quite different, then I'd grasp for that which I was experiencing and bang it's gone again. So, I decrease the book time and increase the "being" time and watch and allow just being (which is actually as pleasant of an experience as I could ask for anyway.) We will see.

Your blog puts it nicely regarding the letting go. It is exactly as I see it also. But then, perhaps I shouldn't cling to "our" opinion on the matter. Hahaha! I had a thought just before drifting off last night, "You can't stop the monkeys but you can let them out of their cage."

I'll try to check your blog later today or early tomorrow morning. BTW: nicely done.

Let's have lunch in a few weeks when the kids get back in school.


We wrote back and forth a few times, and then when I had the time, I really addressed his letter.  I keep inserting the bracketed word [Larry] so that it’s clear where commentary ends and my actual letter continues.  Here is my response:

Hello, Larry. 

I've thought about you and that stack of books, all the meditation, etc.  It's just fabulous effort, it really is.  I respect that very much; I promise you that.  I'm sure you know that Nisargadatta said that earnestness was the single requirement for awakening.  I believe I had that, and it sounds to me like you do.  This is a fine situation.

I told my wife at dinner, "Larry has got the seeker thing (meaning the damn virus!) like I had the seeker thing: in spades.  Very few do, and yes, the blessing is the curse, but the curse is the blessing as well. 

Awakening always feels like it's some we want to "do to" ourselves.  Yet as your own evidence has proven to you, Larry is apparently powerless to bring it about.  Still, for most of us, whatever the "we" is has to try very hard!  Adding insult to injury, this is true even AFTER we've heard (perhaps even glimpsed!) that there is "nothing to do and no one to do it".

Paradoxes are easier to quote and abuse than they are to understand.  Deep spirituality is chock full of them.

To the comfort part of this letter:

You will consciously awaken, Larry.  No kidding.  Of course I can't know anything at all--wouldn't pretend to--but that's my best [fairly] educated guess.  It's easy to see what you really want: it's where most of your beloved attention goes.  There's a funny rule about us getting what we want, the caveat being that it's always what we really want, and not necessarily what we say we want.  If you look at the July 30 post on AC you'll see a comment there regarding "better dreaming".

[This “better dreaming is what the vast majority of seekers are after.   And that’s fine.  Dreaming better is a good thing!  Let’s tell the truth: good story is more fun than a lousy one.  Manifest and positive-think and mentally-image your way to fortune and stardom if you want to!  (And if you can!)  That’s not a problem.  The only problem with it is that it has absolutely nothing to do with authentic spiritual awakening.  Not little mind you.  Nada.

That kind of thing is NOT what the Buddha was talking about, or St. Francis, or Lao Tzu, Shankara, Dogen, or Jesus, or any of the other folks who’ve been taken by enlightenment.  If you look closely, you’ll see that their attention after awakening was spent helping others, not helping themselves to a bigger piece of a dream-pie.  If I see that there is just one, and know that you and I are not brothers or sisters, but actually THE SAME, then I’m naturally going to be interested in seeing that you suffer less, dream or no dream.]

[Larry] It sounds to me like you, however, really want to wake up.  That's great. 

I probably have a pretty good idea of where you are.  I've been exactly there myself and I would
imagine I can be of some assistance to you. I'm certainly willing to do so.  The rest is up to whichever the entire universe wants to turn.  Clearly I can't give it to you, but a teacher, or "awake friend" can certainly be a useful tool to employ.  You need never call me anything other than Fred.  That "title" must have been good enough for my parents, so it's certainly good enough for me. 

 [I mean this truly, but I also mean it from this position.  If someone wishes to call me or anyone else “teacher”, they are certainly welcome to.  SOME handle is probably helpful, just for the sake of communication.  I have a yoga teacher.  I am going to her for her expertise, so if we are doing yoga I will defer unless Pam (in my opinion) loses her mind or pushes my body too far (unlikely!).  But when the yoga class is over, we are back to Fred and Pam.  When we bow to each other, we are each bowing to the oneness, never to the Pamness or the Fredness!

I actually LIKE referring to Scott as my teacher.  It doesn’t bother my ego one bit.  He’s simply further along the same path than this body-mind is.  As Byron Katie says, “I know you’re either ahead of me—or that you’ll catch up!”  There is no higher ground when all the ground is the same.]

[Larry] You have such a wonderful spiritual background!  Probably the most important thing at this juncture is for you to really accept in your heart is that awakening is real and that it can happen for you.  Both my teacher and I have said how we somehow couldn't really imagine that there was some real line one could cross.  And there is.  We're using language here, Larry.  They are never quite on point, but we have to do something!

[Even when Scott and I were each in the midst of superhuman efforts to awaken, we both somehow doubted that there really was such a thing!  Just so you know, there is.  Pinky swear.]

[Larry] Perhaps the next most important thing [there’s not actually a list or anything, I’m here just sort of writing and listing off-the-cuff] is to ask yourself, "Am I consciously awake right now?"  If the answer is No, it's important to have that crucial bearing.  I need to know what I'm not if I'm going to find out what I am.  Otherwise I'm just playing a seeker game, which is fine, I played it for years, but it doesn't have anything to do with enlightenment.  Pretending it's Yes when it's not Yes will indefinitely forestall any chance you have of “allowing” the real thing. [‘Allowing’ is a language-trap here, but we have to say something if we’re going to say anything.]

[Larry] This line, mind you, is [indeed, of course] a gateless gate, but you know all of that.  In fact, I would suggest that the fourth [pardon!!] most important thing at this juncture for you might be to begin to open to the idea of unknowing.  Let's be clear: if someone has been reading and meditating and chanting and doing asanas and japa and everything else in the world for years and they’re not awake, guess what?  Assuming that anything at all can be done from "this side", then it's crystal clear that person doesn't know what to do.  This is another critical bearing.

[Odds are that we have to be willing to tell the truth if we really desire awakening.  If I’m in love with my seeker self and my seeker story, it’s helpful to find that out.  I’m not even suggesting you let that go.  Keep it!  I actually don’t care if you don’t care.  But only care if you care.  I’m with you.  I’m on your side.  I’m just a servant who’s here to help.]

[Larry] So, only if it applies, you might find it helpful to sit lightly with the following.

1) I am told by what seem like reliable sources with no angle or axe to grind that awakening is both real and possible for me, not only in this lifetime, but in this very moment.

2) Nonetheless, I notice that I am NOT consciously awake.  I may be pure, bright Consciousness, but I still feel a lot like Larry.

3) My own experience points to the nearly sure fact that Nondual Self-realization is not something that can be figured out.  And--again based on my own experience--it does not seem that it can be meditated into. Without discounting the many, many benefits of meditating, I notice I'm still not consciously awake.

4) Even though I have studied and sat and studied some more,[then] assuming again that there is something that can be done from "this side", if I was pressed for the truth, I would have to say I don't know what to do to awaken.  I am a great seeker, but I am a failed "awakener".

This might help to get you to zero, which is a very fine place to be.

[There’s not starting point, or vital re-starting point quite like one that’s just plain old honest.  Let’s tell the truth.  Let’s make it our practice here.  Honesty begets humility.  With humility, we’ve got a real shot at this thing.  (Or simply, in the Fred case, little humility but a big old heap of suffering.) 

Quick, which would likely be easier to wake up from, a wonderfully pleasant and fulfilling dream or the blackest nightmare you can imagine?  See?  The great thing about the truth is that it’s usually the most obvious thing in the room; we just don’t want to see it.]

[Larry] I can tell--or at least I imagine I can tell--from your original heartfelt email that you are a full balloon, my friend.  Perhaps if only for the sake of a metaphor, we could say that the only thing that separates the space from within a balloon from the space without a balloon is the belief that the "balloon material" is real and separate.

The space on the outside of the apparent balloon is visually seen and mentally categorized as having or being the quality of clearness.  The space that appears as the wall of a balloon is seen as having or being the quality of a color; perhaps red or blue or yellow, whatever our mind references and then projects. 

The assumed space within the apparent wall of color is unseen, so our minds haven't bothered to fill in details.  Mind is happy just to be told there's an existing separation.  It is the white part of the map.  Dragons be there.

[Larry] You can be your own straight pin and pop your own balloon.  You don't actually need me to help you with it unless you think you do, at which point my apparent aid becomes amusingly vital.  If I've given you anything useful here, sit with it.  If it doesn't resonate, drop it like a hot rock and move onto something else.  Don't try to make a teaching fit.  A teaching can be right as rain and not fit you, or not fit you right now.

You probably know the old Indian saying that, "No one steps into the same river twice."  They leave out other half.  The one who steps is quite different at each entry as well.

When we do that lunch, let's make it a long one.  Perhaps we could do it here, where we could talk as men of earnestness.  I have seen two men awaken while talking to me in the past few months who didn't even know there was such a thing as awakening.  Can you spot the advantage of ignorance over knowledge? [My error.  It is innocence, not ignorance.]

If it would be okay, I'd like to print this letter, as is, in Awakening Clarity.  If need be I can remove all the Larry references, but it does tend to stiffen a thing. 

In surrender,


Oh, one more thing of comfort, lest you burn your books and go eat worms and die: AFTER you awaken all that precious knowledge of yours will indeed become precious.  The broader our context, the deeper our understanding and the greater our ability to share it.  It's just a hardware thing.

All right, friends. I've got ten minutes left in July 31 to get this posted.  I think even I can do that and avoid being called a slacker by my super-ego.

Namaste, and thanks.