Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On Positions

EVERY TIME I FIND MYSELF attempting to take a position, I see in my mind one of my mentors, Greg Goode, take up another side of it.  That’s the end of that position.  I wrote him about it today, wondering if this theoretically lofty “I don’t know” could in fact become a subtle position in itself.  He said it could and gave some good examples—one of them involving someone who should know better.  He passed along some excellent questions to look at and ask myself about, as he always does.  Let me share those with you here:

"It can indeed be its own subtle positions.  "I am a non-knower.  I da man!!!"  You can check.  Is not-knowing itself something that you feel sure about?  Is it serving a purpose?  One can notice when this position arises as something sort of solid.  [Does it arise] at times when you feel vulnerable?  Is it used as a therapeutic measure?" 

THESE ARE WONDERFUL questions to help us unearth the subtle positions ego is always trying to take.  For me, upon close examination, I can say that this relinquishing of positions upon arrival, or shortly after they arise does not feel as if it’s being directed by the mythical me.  I can’t actually know, mind you; I really can’t.  Ego is fully capable of laying out the perfect bait for Fred at every point.  Who doesn't want to get a good report card?  The fact that I'm the one who filled it out is a minor technicality.  Having said all that, I can report that this position dropping feels more like spontaneous surrender, or what the Taoists call wei wu wei, action without action, or “effortless doing”.  We'll see.

I'M NOT OFF THE HOOK FROM THIS THING, THOUGH.  I begrudgingly noticed--and reported to Dr. Goode--quiet pride arising from my having suspected the new “I don’t know” as yet another developing position that needed to be seen through.  What a fine student.  What amazing insight.  What a load of crap.  Do you see that?  Do you see how, just as we feel we’ve made it through the entrance to the foyer, ego comes in the back door to lead us right back out to the front stoop?  It’s amazing to watch; it can be painful to drop. Am I more interested in impressing a spiritual mentor than I am in making spiritual progress?  I sure hope not.  I try to make self-exposure a simple matter of habit; that way I don't have to go back and forth with myself every time.  See it, drop it, move on to the next error.  

THAT'S REALLY THE ONLY DEFENSE WE HAVE: spot it, be willing to own it for what it is, then noticing any arising guilt or pride, and be willing to report (or acknowledge) that, too.  It is no fun to tell on yourself.  Here again, what separates the men from the boys is, "Do we want truth more than we want comfort."  Sometimes it's a close call, is it not? I could easily fool myself by twisting his helpful pointers and questions into being something they aren’t, or or representing something they don't.  I have the magical ability to turn virtually anything into a confirmation of my “terrific spiritual condition” and “deep well of wisdom”.  Shine him up, folks!!  It's enough to make you shudder.  For better or worse, I don’t think I get to fast-forward through any of this.  I doubt you do either.

THE PRIMARY PROBLEM IS that if I do exercise the very dubious, but nonetheless warm and fuzzy option, rightly known as lying to myself, then I  also sabotage myself.  It’s my guess that most spiritual aspirants who crash on the rocks do so via their own guidance system which is set too far in the direction of comfort; comfort here being a synonym for ego pleasing.  I can’t back that up; it’s a visceral notion; but I bet there's a lot of truth to it.  

SO, I HAVE TO ASK, Do I want to impress a mentor, or even worse, do I perhaps just want to think I impress a mentor, or do I really want to learn?  Do I want to pat Fred on the back over how far he's come and how well he's doing, or do I want to jump the fence and open for real into not-Fredness?  These are serious questions. Spiritual alertness is all about right now.  Am I willing to be alert to this situation—the one I’m currently going through?  If not, then I’m playing the wrong game.  If I go backward very far in dedication to that sort of delusion, I may very well find out that I cannot get moving forward again.  It’s not punishment because of some shallow, egoic, faux pas; it is punishment by the shallow, egoic faux pas.  The deed itself does the damage; no outside help is needed to trap us.
FOR NOW, I'LL TAKE TRUTH. Sometimes a sock in the jaw is exactly what I need, even if I’m the one who throws the punch.

Housekeeping Notes: Posts are written and published spontaneously, under no particular schedule.  If you wish to have posts sent directly to you, you can sign up on the gadget a little ways under the Buddha statue. I see we've picked up several subscribers in the last week, and that overall readership is on the rise.  Thank you!  Most emailed posts will arrive without a hitch.  Once in a while there's a technical glitch; I apologize in advance for that.  If you go the subscriber route, it still pays to check in at the site from time to time; features come and go, just like everything else in our experience; only the experiencing remains constant.  Thank you for your precious attention.  Namaste, Fred

Monday, December 26, 2011

Silent Day

CHRISTMAS 2011 IS NOW A STORY of past instead of a story of future.  That’s absolutely fine with me.  The present story is that I have not gained much if any weight, and I am not in debt over it.  I was gifted some nice clothes so that this body can twit about in reasonable style, if only so that my wife shines more brightly on my arm.  Everything is put away, the house and my schedule are both back in order, and we are that much closer to students returning to school--which should put me to work again.  Today has been nice; just me and the cats, with no appointments, chores, or agenda.  Gus and Betsy are at her little house-office, working, which is four miles away.  From the vantage point of my second story window, the rest of the world appears to be napping.

SO, IN A SMALL, DEFINED SORT OF WAY, I have caught up on my reading.  I read a beautifully honest interview with Francis Lucille, whom I respect as much as I do anyone on our planet, and another with Mooji, whose humility and authenticity come through every word on the page.  I also read a short reprint of an Arthur Osborne article on Ramana and inquiry.  These were things I had printed up and laid aside for a rainy day.  Today’s that day, even though it’s not raining.  It’s coolish here, however, so my mind is happy to fill in the rest of the seasonally appropriate weather story.

WITH CATS UP AND DOWN FROM MY LAP, I did my ritual readings from four daily books--the entire current bunch coming from the Taoist tradition.  I like Taoism very much.  If you stay away from the scholarly stuff, which is quite easy for me to do, you are left with a gentle simplicity and a deep connection to nature.  It does not go to a lot of work establishing the neutrality of things in the way that Advaita does.  It assumes it; and carries you downstream straight from the assumption.  It rarely explains anything outright; it teaches a lot by story and example.  It is about the true experiencing of the Tao in daily life, which is where a lot of Nonduality trips up.

JUST TO INTRODUCE A YANG TO THAT YIN, I guess, I then switched over to Rupert Spira’s magnificent Presence, and then read from his teacher’s equally wonderful book.  That book is Eternity Now, by Francis Lucille.  They both grew from the Advaita Vedanta line, but they seem to put more heart into it than most authors, and thus they pull more heart out of it.  If you can't tell let me state outright that I'm in love with both of them.  I ate freshly baked cake while I read, compliments of my mother-in-law, who just may be the best cook on the planet.  I'm sorry I can't share that with you, but if only one of us can have it, then better me than thee, says ego!  If I can squeeze it in after this post and a shower, I'll pick up Deng Ming-Dao's excellent edition of the I Ching.  I've studied the I Ching off and on (mostly off) for thirty years.  It is endlessly fascinating, and this book takes you into the core of it.  I may also read briefly from the Philosophy Book, which I recently reviewed for Amazon.  It's a bit of a break from the others, but the rewards are there for the industrious student.  It's wonderful to read for reading's sake, and for seeking fuel.

IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE I'VE MENTIONED my bouts of homelessness, so I’ll catch new readers up to date.  I’ve spent a lot of time as a homeless person in my life--nine stints of it, is my conservative tally.  As I used to say in my talks at recovery centers and meetings, if you’ve been homeless nine times, then that’s not luck--it’s skill.  I was an expert at giving up all my stuff and landing myself in dire circumstances.  It’s a really dubious ability.  Those years were due to a mix of a rocky home life, general immaturity, and mental instability.  That charming baseline was further exacerbated by thirty-five years of practicing alcoholism.  On big holidays, it’s easy to remember where I was at other times, recall just how hard it was, and wonder at how--absolutely miraculously--that journey appears to have come to an end about twelve years ago.  Interesting enough, that’s when this journey picked up speed again after a lengthy nap.  Eighteen months into it I met Betsy, who is as much or more my savior than any recovery program, I promise you that.  I don’t have to plumb the depths of my being searching for gratitude.  It's right on or just under the surface--always.  I am neither alone, nor sleeping outside.  I’m easy to please these days.

IT IS AS STILL AND QUIET AS MIDNIGHT on this day-after-holiday afternoon.  I love this quiet.  I love this stillness.  With the throw of a simple switch of view, I am this quiet; I am this stillness.  I AM.  Welcome.

Thank you for your precious attention. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Silent Night

IT IS CHRISTMAS EVE.  It’s late, and absolutely silent, but for the sound of the heater.  Betsy is asleep.  Henry, Dickens, and Gus are all asleep. I am up, but I am not listening for Santa Claus.  I am just listening, without object or objective.  I think I'll write a quick post.

I REMEMBER THIS EVE ABOVE ALL OTHERS IN MY CHILDHOOD.  On the twenty-fourth of December, the world was full of so much promise.  It was a season rich with stories.  My family was Christian and my mother was quite devout, so the story of Jesus was as much a part of the holiday as the story of Santa Claus.  I loved both stories and believed both--hook, line, and sinker, as we say.  Even at four or five years-old, having been spoon fed every single bit of information my young mind possessed, I nonetheless assumed I had the real information.  I already knew I was right.

I CAN REMEMBER GOING OUT ON THE FRONT PORCH, with the bite of winter pressing against my little face, and looking up at the night sky.  I would note the brightest star that caught my eye, and for me, just that fast, that star would become the Christmas Star; meaning the star of Bethlehem.  I could see in my mind; see the three wise men trekking across the desert on their camels following that start to a manger, and finding the Mary, Joseph, angels and shepherds all gathered round the Divine Child in perfect adoration--and great timing.  We had that scene displayed in a diorama of porcelain figurines, a wooden stable, and a great big star plugged in and shining down from the wall.  Who could doubt such a thing as that?  Not I.  And now I was now staring at the sky and varnishing the story by adding my own objective facts, so to speak.  I already had my answers; now it was just a matter of swinging the facts around to match them.  It’s easy; nothing to it.

BY THE AGE OF FIVE, prior to ever stepping foot in a school, I already knew that God was on my side.  I knew he was on America’s side.  I knew we were right, because God had helped us win every war.  The Civil War was a bit confusing, because the Southerners had lost, and I was a Southerner even before I was an American.  But I was an American, so I just painted over the facts so that my team ultimately, somehow, won that one, too.  And of course the Korean thing, still fresh and raw when I was a boy in the fifties, was a sticky point as well, but I glossed right over it with the same winning logic.  After all, America didn’t lose, and we could’ve won if we’d really wanted to.  That was basically a win, was it not?  Sure it was.  God was right.  America was God’s team, and we were right and good.  I was on that team, so, by default, I was right and good.  It was absolutely critical that I live in a state of sureness.  I would’ve been terrified in an ambivalent world.  This is what stories give us: sureness.

NOT BEING ONE TO TURN MY BACK ON THE SECULAR, I used the Star of Bethlehem as a handy wish-upon star, too.  I wanted to have the perfect Christmas.  We never got a white one in South Carolina, but that never stopped me from putting in my annual order.  I painted the Santa story the same way I painted the Jesus story.  I painted it the way I wanted to see it, and by golly, it turns out that’s just what I saw.  First of all, Santa was a rich and generous American.  Clearly.  He was Caucasian, spoke English, was happily married, laughed a lot, and liked Coca-Cola.  I figured him to be a Christian as well, which was great, or otherwise poor Santa would burn in hell, like all the rest of the Unbelievers.  You can’t really be a Believer, unless you also have an Unbeliever: yin yang.  Thank goodness Santa was safe, because by extension, that somehow made me safe.  Safety was as important as sureness; they were virtually synonymous.

MY FAMILY DIVIDED CHRISTMAS UP INTO TWO HALVES: on Christmas Eve we opened all the presents under the big Christmas tree, and make a big celebration out of it.  Then, on Christmas morning, we’d run down to find what Santa had brought, and make a big celebration out of that, too.  Leave it to Southerners to draw a thing out and fill it with food.  We were a big family, six kids ranging from me, the baby, up to my oldest sister, who would’ve been fifteen or so years older than me.  There were a lot of gifts on Christmas Eve; the place was stuffed with them!  I would watch as the tree bottom filled up in the days leading to Christmas.  It was a glorious thing to behold.  After singing some Christmas carols, and having my father read the story of the Christ Child, we would then open the gifts.

AS EXCITING AS IT ALL WAS, ultimately it was also a big disappointment, kind of like a rush-and-crash from too much sugar.  It turned out--every year, if you can believe it--that most of the gifts weren’t mine.  The ones that were mine were generally not as exciting unwrapped as they were wrapped.  I won’t say there was no exception, but generally there were two packs of socks and a knit hat for every toy.  And the toys, as a rule, were not the ones I saw advertised on Saturday morning, when there were cartoon on TV.  It was not the cool stuff.  I didn’t know my family was on hard times, and I really didn’t care.  I just wanted more toys, and better toys.  I rarely got them.  Well, thankfully, for every Christmas Eve there was always a tomorrow.  It's really pretty funny how a child's mind works. On the day before Christmas Eve, when life was less than fulfilling, there was Christmas Eve coming, which was sure to fill the odd void in my young life.  When Christmas Eve inevitably disappointed, there was always Christmas Day to left to satisfy me.  I was always in a future movement, and I was always hunting for more.  I could barely get to sleep as I listened alertly in the dark for sleigh bells.

CHRISTMAS MORNING WAS THE HEIGHT OF EXCITEMENT.  I would run downstairs and see a full stocking and presents underneath!  It was great, it really was.  Unpacking the stocking was just the best!  At least it was until the stocking was empty and I invariably saw an orange, maybe an apple, and yes, some nice little things as well.  There would be candies, and one year there was even a watch!  Oh!  That was grand.  Yet once I got my Timex strapped onto my arm, and it became a known-and-owned thing, I was back to looking, looking, looking.  Surely there was more in there for good old Fred, was there not?  Ah!  The presents!  And they were nice; they were.  But they were nicest before they were unwrapped.  Before you count me out entirely, please remember that a five year-old, spoiled American boy in the 1950's is not looking to get a sweater.  I am being a little too harsh. I admit.  Certainly there were toys; we were on hard times, but we were not absolutely broke.  That would come later, in the years after Santa had been exposed and my expectations had wound down dramatically.  I remember the year as a teenager that my best friend got a sports car and I got an army surplus jacket.  Hoorah.  At any rate, all I could see as a youngster was that the toys I got were neither as nice or as plentiful as to the toys my neighbors got.  They got the heavily advertised, cartoon character-approved stuff.  I was strictly second tier.  This was not just an optical illusion; this was a pair of loving parents making the best of a bad situation.  I get it now, completely.  I didn't get it then.
I CAN’T REMEMBER HOW I MENTALLY JUSTIFIED the disparity in Santa’s drops in those years when I learned to measure, compare, and judge.  I’m sure I had a story about it, probably a linked series of them.  I had a story for anything and everything.  By the age of five I had learned that there was the world of my experience, and the world in my head.  I abandoned the world of my body in favor of the world in my brain.  I would side with it for almost another fifty years.  My whole life fell short of the mental ideals I lived in.  No good thing was big enough, grand enough, or lasted long enough.  Bad things were bigger than anyone else’s, uglier, and lasted roughly forever.  My only respite was knowing full well that at least, thank goodness, given the failure of the day, which never went as it was supposed to go, there was always tomorrow.  In the future everything would come together; everything would be just right.

TONIGHT I'M HAPPY WITH THINGS JUST AS THEY ARE.  I'm happy to know that I'm not right.  Ever.  I delight in an ambivalent world.  I'm pleased to have found out that Fred was no more real than Santa Claus.  I'm glad to not be betting on the come, or waiting for you and God to come into alignment with my thinking.  I don't have to take my thinking seriously.  Or yours.  I am tickled to death with socks or a sweater, or nothing.  It doesn't matter; none of it.  There is deep gratitude for just being here, just sitting here, simply listening to this silent night, not waiting for anything more.  When everything is already here, there is nothing to be missed.

Housekeeping Notes: Posts will now be written and published spontaneously.  I expect it’ll be regular until it’s not. I remind you that there are technical difficulties between MS Word and Blogger, which I'm no longer going to fight to overcome.  Sometimes the post-by-emails will go out; sometimes they will not.  It'll pay to check the site for updates.  I am going to reinstate the new and possibly improved "Follow by Email" as an available option. Take a chance, if you dare!  As ever, I thank you for your precious attention.  Happy holidays.  Namaste, Fred

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday Cheer

GIVEN THAT CHRISTMAS IS JUST DAYS AWAY, and that I sell antiquarian and technical books, you might imagine that my business would be dead about now.  You’d be right.  It may end up being the slowest month in the history of the company, which is going on nine years.  Those are facts.  There isn't anything in the bare facts to cause suffering.  There’s absolutely nothing I can do about current conditions, so I can fret and whine, or I can relax and enjoy the time off.  I’ll go for the second option.  If there was action I could take to change things, I’d take it.  Since there's not, I'm going with What Is.  In the absence of my opinion, everything is always going great.

I SEE THERE IS FOOD IN THE REFRIGERATOR; the tea canister is full, the house is warm and dry on a drizzly day, and there are 3,000 books here to rumble through.  Outside of my imagination, where’s the problem?  I think I'll stay out of my imagination.

WHAT I NOTICE IS THAT I CANNOT SUFFER unless I project imaginary consequences of my current experience into a fantasy future.  There are certainly lots of available scary stories to be found in the world of make-believe.  If we were twelve years-old and sitting around a campfire, I might tell you about them, just for fun.  We aren’t, so I won’t.  I won’t tell them to me, either.  There is little actual concern here in regard to business-as-it-is.  I feel a bit of tension—meaning a bit of contraction into “me-ness” in my upper arms and shoulders, so I can’t claim my concern level is absolutely zero, but it’s close enough.  I think a taste of suffering keeps me humble and helps holds me true to the course.  Of course all of that ease could change in half a second.  All I'd have to do is tell myself a scary story and choose to believe it.  It’s nice to know that drama is always so close at hand, should I find that I want some.  Right now I don’t.

SO I SPENT THE MORNING with my head in a stack of books.  I plan to spend the afternoon the same way.  All of the animals came and sat with me.  They could care less how Henry Dickens & Co. is doing.  They know we’ve always taken care of them, and happily assume that we’ll continue to do so, given that we’ve never given them any reason to doubt me.  That doesn’t mean they won’t come roust me if I’m slow on the go at mealtimes—they will—but that’s just growling stomachs in action, not fear.  They're confidence is well placed; we'd go hungry to see that they didn't.  When I look at my life, all 59+ years of it, I find that my experience is precisely the same as theirs.  I’ve always been taken care of; I’ve no reason to doubt that support has now come to a stop, or that it soon will.  I've been rescued out of every mess I've ever gotten myself into.  How do I know?  I'm here, mess-free and happy; it's totally self-evident.  I always get what I need; it can’t be any other way.  Thus all I have to do is want what I get and I can live dilemma-free.

LIVING IN WHAT IS HAS QUITE PRACTICAL BENEFITS.  Living in "what isn’t" carries practical penalties.  It’s not about later; it’s about this very day, this very situation that I so want to think is an exception to the truth that What Is rules.  Nothing else even gets a vote.  So why give it head time?  How we look at things is a choice.  We don’t have many choices, so we might as well utilize the ones we have.  The Tao is perfectly neutral.  What we see is what we project.  I see a nice holiday season made better by some time off.  I don’t see anything beyond that, because there isn’t anything beyond that.  I hope your holiday goes well, too.  Cheers.

Housekeeping Notes: Posts will now be written and published spontaneously.  I expect it’ll be regular until it’s not. I remind you that there are technical difficulties between MS Word and Blogger, which I'm no longer going to fight to overcome.  Sometimes the post-by-emails will go out; sometimes they will not.  It'll pay to check the site for updates.  I am going to reinstate the new and possibly improved "Follow by Email" as an available option. Take a chance, if you like!  As ever, I thank you for your precious attention.  Namaste, Fred

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Flowers

WE HAVE THREE HANGING BASKETS of bright, yellow, Trailing Pansies on our front porch.  It’s a new plant to us, a fine blend between the standard, perky Pansy, and its more delicate, smaller-blossomed, vine-bred cousin, the Viola, which is often called a Johnny Jump-Up.  They are both lovely plants, and this hybrid is a grand new development.  The Carolina Wrens are crazy about all of them, and they keep the plants relatively bug free.  It’s beautiful to witness that sort of symbiosis and know that the entire world is in just this sort of harmonious relationship, although most of it is not nearly so obvious, or so easily acceptable.

I USED TO KEEP MANY MORE FLOWERS in winter.  I had hanging baskets of Pansies and Violas just as we do now, plus I had them in long window-type boxes on the porch, as well as having them share pots with wintering shrubs, and in the ground in patches throughout the yard.  Like everything else in my life, it was overkill.  At that time I wanted it to be very clear to even the most casual passerby that we were not just normal here, we were more than normal, better than normal, hyper-normal, as it were.  Betsy, of course, just liked the color.  I, as always, was trying to prove a point.  My whole life prior to awakening, and for quite some time after that, was essentially a series of loosely linked events bent on proving a point.  Mostly the point I was trying to prove to you was that Fred was okay.  I didn’t believe it myself, but if I could get you to believe it, then perhaps I could then have you dupe me.  It’s pretty weak stuff when I spell it out like that, but I think it’s quite common.  I think, in fact, that such displays are the norm, the very norm I was trying to put across to you, but could not buy for myself about myself.

NOW I DON’T CARE.  I’m no longer convinced that I’m normal, and I no longer wish to be.  I’m freer than that, and the way I stay free is to let you be free as well.  You get to think whatever you want to think, about me, or anything else.  Did you notice that you were already thinking what you wanted prior to my giving you permission?  So all I have really done is relinquish the myth of my control over you and your thinking, and all the world and its worlding, so to speak.  Nothing’s checking with me for permission or direction to begin with.  When I allow myself to be out of control, which I am anyway, then you and the world do what you do, and I don’t suffer.  When I excerpt my magnificent, mental magnetism, straining to keep you all firmly on the right path—as defined by me, of course—then you and the world do exactly what you were going to do to begin with, and I suffer.  Seems like a no-brainer to let go, does it not?  Yet it is far, far, from easy.  I have to first relinquish my position as the center of the universe, which is also a myth, but one of which I’m damn proud. I bet you're not too different, but of course I can't know that.  I don't know much of anything anymore.  It's lovely.

GIVING UP THAT CENTER is really the entire journey of spirituality.  As I mentioned earlier this week, I was told recently, by someone who should know, that my awakening is not yet complete--oftentimes I still privilege the hypothetical center here.  That came as no surprise to me: I’m the one who told him.  I just didn't know it indicated a less-than-full awakening.  I guess it does.  I was told, however, that I could press on and drop that privileging altogether, or all but the organism’s conditioned response to primal stimuli, like name and food.  There are people who specialize  in eliminating just that conventional holdout.  He was kind enough to offer a recommendation.  

I CONFESS I HAVEN'T GOTTEN THE FULL DOWNLOAD I've heard is available; I've never made a secret of that.  I also knew and know that a lot of that is often just a matter of time.  No matter how much of an illusion time and space are seen to be absolutely, they remain the king and queen of relative experience, do they not?  They are positively the ultimate pairing of yin and yang.  At any rate, I didn’t even know the no-privileging thing was even possible, but apparently it is, so I pass that long as the second-hand information that it is for me. It’s good advice to pursue tidying up the loose ends; I can see that.  I would absolutely follow it if I cared.  I've discovered that I don’t, or not enough to take action.  If what’s left of Fred wants to further unravel, I’m willing.  If it doesn’t, and wishes to hang around, I’m happy with this route as well.  I don't take what's left very seriously, so it's really not a big deal either way.  As I told my mentor, “I feel no sense of lack whatever.  Since the experiencing of this present awakeness feels complete, uneven though it may be, I can’t imagine more, and thus I can’t miss what you’re talking about.”  The compelling seeker’s fire is long since dead here.  Given that I feel just fine, I’m not traveling to California to see a specialist.  It’s not obstinacy; it’s simply a lack of interest.

OUR TRAILING PANSIES DON’T MISS summertime the way the birches and ferns do.  They have never felt the summer sun; it’s not their season, not their place in the mix.  Their great gift would be lost on summer anyway, because it’s here, amid the gold and auburn landscape, and heavy, overcast skies that they are most useful.  Their place is among the quiet and the dead.  While they might delight living in the full warmth of the summer solstice if it was so fated, they seem fully surrendered to its winter counterpart. I understand.

IF YOU HAVE PANSIES OR VIOLAS at your house, or perhaps even the new Trailing Pansies, take fresh note of them.  On a frigid morning they bow low, much as I do upon finding myself in inclement worlding.  On a warm afternoon they rise and stretch, just as I do when things are going in such a way that this still-privileged body finds itself in agreement with What Is.  These frail-looking flowers can take a deep freeze, or a full snow, and yet be back smiling happily in no time.  I find that I do much the same.  Oddly, however, if you look at these plants’ roots, you’ll find that they do not run deep; indeed, they are found to be quite shallow.  You can uproot them with just a little tug, or even by accident when you’re deadheading them; they do not cling to this earth.  When it’s time to move on, they do so gracefully, without struggle, commentary, or regret. I can only hope to do the same.

THIS YEAR’S WINTER SOLSTICE is coming up in two days; I think I’ll give them extra food and water that day just in the way of thanksgiving.  If one is going to engage in idol worship, you’d be hard pressed to do better than Trailing Pansies.

 Housekeeping Notes: Posts will now be written and published spontaneously.  I expect it’ll be regular until it’s not. I remind you that there are technical difficulties between MS Word and Blogger, which I'm no longer going to fight to overcome.  Sometimes the post-by-emails will go out; sometimes they will not.  It'll pay to check the site for updates.  I am going to reinstate the new and possibly improved "Follow by Email" as an available option. Take a chance, if you like!  As ever, I thank you for your precious attention.  Namaste, Fred

Sunday, December 18, 2011

On Quiet Living

IT IS COOL THIS EARLY AFTERNOON, in the low fifties, with just a bit of breeze; mild for December, even in South Carolina.  The sky is a true azure blue, and there is not a single cloud to break the color.  I’ve just been out running squirrels off the bird feeder, which is a hopeless task, but the body seems to do it, and the squirrels don’t really seem to mind it, so all is well.  The birds approve of my actions.  The moment the squirrels are gone a male Cardinal appears, a beautiful branding of fiery red against a backdrop of dying, late autumn leaves.  Then a Tufted Titmouse flutters in, pulls out a single seed in its beak, and then flies off to consume it.  In just moments it is back, to snatch and fly off with another, like an artist dabbing paint on an invisible canvas.  I don’t know if it’s a male or female.  I don’t know the difference in that breed.  In fact, I don’t care.  Sometimes the more I divide a thing, the less able I am to see it.

I MOVE TO READING IN THE LIVING ROOM, a carafe of strong, hot, black tea in hand.  I place it carefully on the coffee table that is neatly laden with two dozen books, and get the stage set ready: lights on, a blanket across my legs, iron paperweight pulled of the side table book stack, the first volume opened.  And then comes Dickens, across the side table, stepping to the leather chair arm, then gracefully hopping to the other, which is his own morning spot.  He is our 22 pound Maine Coon cat, who occasionally gusts up to 25; whereupon the vet scolds us, and then we put him on a diet.  At that point it is Dickens who scolds us for treating him so poorly, thus it’s scolding either way for Betsy and me, but everyone is moving in the same direction: a happy, healthy animal. 

HE CAME TO US ALMOST NINE YEARS AGO, a tiny kitten, an only kitten, breeder-raised, with little handling by humans.  Without his mother, he was terrified of everything.  Sometimes he still exhibits instant fear if there is change in his environment: an odd noise, a sudden move, a rearrangement of furniture or rugs; the appearance of anything new.  They say that wolves are like this also.  He doesn’t know that with his power and claws he could back down anything that entered the house.  Like most human beings, he is unaware of his strengths, and only conscious of his deficiencies.  And for Dickens, just like for human beings, whichever one he focuses on most expands in his experience.  Fortunately for our big cat, there is not much physical change that happens here, beyond Betsy’s constant tweaking of the d├ęcor, and books that come and go as they are bought and sold.  This apartment exudes a remarkable sense of peace, serenity, and stability.  It is always quiet.  People never fail to mention the sense of peace when they visit.  It is not a tomb; it is a womb.  Betsy and I are given fresh birth here every morning.  She goes to work early, and then returns for nourishment in the evening.  Because I work from home, I rarely leave it.

I READ PASSAGES from a stack of wisdom books every morning.  It’s a habit I’ve had for years, and now even the ritual tuning of the process every morning brings fresh depth to my daily experience.  This body is like a ghost that slowly meanders through an unfluctuating stage set at a given time each day.  I am reading mostly Taoism right now, from five different volumes, plus one volume on Western philosophy which is equally fascinating, and also a bit every morning from Rupert Spira’s Presence, which is like a lighted wand in a dark room.   Presence is art, it is jnana yoga, it is bhakti, all rolled into one.  It is wholly remarkable.  I am lost for the next hour or hour and a half.  I take long pauses as I read.  I look up the definition of a word or foreign term.  I close my eyes and feel what has been said; I read another paragraph or two.  I am like wood soaking up water; the process is slow, but once soaked, it stays wet for a very long time.

HENRY, OUR SMALL, BOSSY CAT, who seems to be in remission from lymphoma, comes and sits on the as yet uncatted arm of the chair.  I am comfortably wedged between two warm beasts made entirely of fur and purr and love; it is heavenly.  Reading is done, so I just sit with the cats.  I am not doing anything at all.  There is nothing to do.  There never is.  It’s all being done for us, not by us, or to us.  For this moment, as I sit in stillness, in silence, reality is Realized, and the mask of Fredness collapses.  All that is left is boundless, space-like awareness.  That is all that was ever here.  There is not even a here here; never was.  

NO-THING TAKES TO ITS FEET, climbs the stairs, comes to the computer, sits down, and begins to write.

Housekeeping Notes: Posts will now be written and published spontaneously. As ever, I thank you for your precious attention.  Namaste, Fred

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Turning Point

I AM SURPRISED TO FIND myself writing a post for today, which is Saturday, instead of for tomorrow.  This is a clear sign that Awakening Clarity is once again morphing.  Let me see if I can figure out what's going on so that I can share it with you.  

I DIDN'T START THIS BLOG, and I neither write nor direct it.  It simply happens.  Just like you, I am along for the ride.  My feeling, which is little more than a guess, is that I’m going to be moving into a series of shorter, more personal posts.  With the publication of last week’s column on teachers and our relationships with them, I find that I have written all that I’m interested in writing on Nonduality from an expository position.  I also find that I have nearly zero desire to be an actual teacher.  So, what I’m going to do now—until I don’t—is just share what it’s like here to have awakeness continuing to discover itself, while consciously witnessing the always-functioning awakeness. It seems like something of a paradox, but really it’s not.  At any rate, we’ll see how it goes.

THERE ARE TEACHERS AND THERE ARE MASTERS.   I’m not much of the former, and I'm simply pleased to be rubbing up against the latter.  I have been doing a great deal of emailing with a true Western master of Nonduality, Dr. Greg Goode, for a couple of months now.  He has shown me where my understanding is not yet complete, which is a very handy thing to know.  I knew going in that I wasn’t finished, so to speak.  While I don't expect to ever be "finished", I’ve often said here concerning another of my mentors, Scott Kiloby, that “there is less Scottness there than there is Fredness here”.  I've also referred to levels, which may not be the right word, but I use it, given that I don't know the right word.  So, I knew going in that there wasn't absolute clarity here.  What I didn’t know was that there was an active methodology beyond my reading, writing, and little teaching practice for further deteriorating the Fredness here.  There seems to be.  It’s called the Direct Path, which comes to us from Shri Atmananda Krishna Menon (or Krishnamenon, as Rupert Spira writes it), whom I’ve mentioned here before.  He was a contemporary of Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta, and equally as wise and awake.  I had already read Dr. Goode's book on it, and watched his DVD set on it, prior to writing him.  He is an authority on Atmananda’s Direct Path, as well as wise, awake, patient, and generous.

UNDER MY OWN STEAM, I had only seen the Direct Method as a highly refined tool for coming to initial awakening, which happened here years ago, but it seems I had only scratched the surface of its power and usefulness.  This is why we need teachers: we are most blind to our own shortcomings.  As an aside here, if you’re interested in discovering more about it, I highly recommend Greg’s book, Standing as Awareness. (  He will also have a new book, provisionally titled The Direct Path: A User Guide, coming out this spring from Nonduality Press.  I’m set up to review it, and will probably see a PDF of it earlier than that.  I’ll keep you updated.  You might also want to check out the Illumination video available from the Stillness Speaks website.  What I hadn’t seen was that the Direct Path could be a great tool for me, not just to confirm what’s already seen here, but to open that up yet further.  It’s interesting how that path has arrived just where my feet are.  Scott Kiloby uses that method without naming it.  Rupert Spira uses it, and both his teacher, Francis Lucille, and Dr. Goode are authorities on it.  As fate will have it, I’ve found myself strongly pulled to that group in the last year or so.  

WHAT REALLY MATTERS TO ME, at least in regard to my own spirituality, is that I can be useful without being a reigning prince of Nonduality.  I live in What Is, not what isn’t.  Awakeness, which has always functioned through this body (indeed, it is this body), is now conscious of itself.  This is a grand thing; I don’t have any sense whatsoever of lack or incompleteness.  We are complete at every point, which presents no barrier to spiritual evolution.  This unit no longer vacillates between “I got it” and “I lost it”, which is a hell of a comfort.  Seeking, per se, is gone, which is a great relief.  I accept where I am.  I am open to being more open, meaning that I am happy to have awakeness blossom further here if it wants to, to whatever "level" it chooses.  It's all good with me.  If you find this blog useful to you on your path, I welcome you with open heart and invite you to drop me a note.  But in general terms, I think I would treat both this blog and it’s author as friends, not teachers.  You’ll find your teacher when you’re ready; you can’t fail to; that’s just how it works.

IT'S MY HOPE THAT my writings here will help others.  Certainly they will help me.  Given that there is only Oneness, even that should be enough.

Housekeeping Notes: Posts will now be written and published spontaneously. As ever, I thank you for your precious attention.  Namaste, Fred

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Clarity Is a Two Way Street

SPIRITUAL TEACHINGS ARE TYPICALLY LAYERED.  For example, sacred literature, whether it was written a thousand years ago, or the day before yesterday, can only reveal to us what we’re already prepared to see.  There is a wealth of terrific information, and a ton of fabulous pointers in plain sight every day.  We can't see them until we can.  We don’t understand them until we do.  Yet once awakening occurs, things that were once overwhelmingly vague and arcane become as clear and solid as glass.  Of course all that arcane stuff is then replaced with new esoterica we don’t understand, but that’s both the nature and the joy of the game.
THE SAME GOES FOR OUR TEACHERS AND MENTORS.  They may be telling us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but we’re only going to get what we get until we’re ready to receive more. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “He who hath ears, let him hear.” It’s not all up to our teachers.  Most of it is not up to them.  Most of it is up to us.   It’s also rather like the Mark Twain story about a boy and his father: the older the son got, the smarter his father seemed to get!  The longer we pursue the spiritual quest with a teacher, the smarter they will seem to get--all because we grew a new set of ears.  So, whether we get our information and pointers from life itself, or from books, practices, or teachers, the same rule applies.  I’ll stick with teachers in this column in order to maintain reasonable brevity.

WHILE THIS ARTICLE IS BEING WRITTEN for a worldwide audience, my experience is mostly with Americans, so I’ll stick with what I know.  In the United States, we are a people in a hurry.  We are like a nation of cats: we want to be wherever we aren’t.  We want to start a practice, or work with a teacher, just so we can graduate.  This is such a no-win approach.  If we’re not established in Nondual awareness and our teacher is, we shouldn't minimize the theoretical gulf between us and them.  Patience and earnestness are critical if we want to walk through the Gateless Gate and join them. The good news here is that this apparent wide gulf  simply means the teacher has a lot to offer us.   As one of my mentors says, we don’t want to be in the position of following someone who’s twenty minutes ahead of us.  Yes, they may be able help, but the deeper the well the longer you can draw from it. 

NOW THAT I’VE MADE THAT FLAT STATEMENT, let me swoop in and take it away as well.  Many of us begin as followers of the really well known teachers.  I’ll wager that Eckhart Tolle has reached more people on the planet than just about all the rest of them put together.  Followers of the famous Watkins Books spiritual book store in London recently voted him the most influential spiritual personality on the planet.  It’s a no-brainer.  And if you’re Jim Carey or Oprah Winfrey, I'm sure Eckhart is a very cool person to hang out with.  But how about us?  Most of us are neither rich nor famous, and won’t come anywhere near to even meeting Eckhart, much less getting any direct teaching from him.  I’m using Eckhart as the example here, simply because he’s so well known, but a similar situation exists with Adyashanti, Gangaji, Byron Katie, and a few other big names.

YOU MAY GET TO TALK TO Adya at an intensive or a retreat, and you might get to sit on the dais with Gangaji or Katie for twenty minutes in one of their meetings, but none of them are going to be able to do much for you directly and at length in the way that a hands-on teacher can do.  Frankly, a lot of that is show-biz.  It's fine, I'm on board with it, and I love all of those people, but we need to recognize their limitations, too.  Even if your teachers and mentors are all long-distance, as is often the case, the difference between walking this path with a one-on-one teacher and a big name you’ll never, ever chat privately with for an hour, or two, or ten, is beyond large: it’s unfathomable.  I never had a one-on-one teacher until after I woke up, and the cloudy awakeness of those early years cannot compare to the clarity and stability that teachers have helped me find.  If we have a teacher, our journey is also less likely to remain being about ego. Nearly all of us start with egoic spiritual desires.  That's fine, it's a stage.  What matters is where we end up.  Teachers can help us stay out of that stew but calling us on unconscious thinking or behavior.

IT’S NICE TO GET OUTSIDE CONFIRMATION of what we’re experiencing, and where we are along the path.  It's important to realize that without a teacher we're trying to guide ourselves to a place we've never been.  No wonder it's so difficult!  Is confirmation necessary?  No.  Is it generally beneficial?  Oh yes.  For one thing, it gives us confidence that, as I shared with a friend recently, “We aren’t just sitting in our living room smoking hash.”  That's really easy to do.  Ego is more than happy to grant confirmation of all our grandiose notions of where we are on the path, and what's going to happen when we're discovered.  Such a seeker is more likely to be found out than they are to be discovered.  From the beginning of our journey, ego has been looking forward to being enlightened, and is happy as all get out when it decides it’s gotten there!  Oh, the specialness of it! This is always a false reading; no exception granted.  

THERE'S NO PROBLEM IN BEING either a seed, or a sapling.  All great trees were once the same.  Trouble only starts if a seed or a sapling begins to believe it’s already a tree.  We can do a lot of damage to ourselves and others if we end up in that position.  And it's all too easy to stay there, because the only way we can get out of it is to admit we're wrong. Who wants to do that?  The willingness to jettison "rightness" and "righteousness" are not common, and neither is the humility required to remain in an open, not-knowing space of being. 

THERE ARE NO LAWS IN ANY OF THIS.  Awakeness can and does work anyway it wants to, any time it wants to.  Having said that, it’s fair to say that the general sorts of directions handed out by well known spiritual teachers with large followings, however good that advice or those pointers may be for a specific questioner, may not work well for us, and almost certainly will not work for us indefinitely.  The further we go, the more specific information we're going to need.  Once we awaken, we’re still going to be able to benefit tremendously from guidance, and media may not be the best place to get it--unless, of course, it’s the only place we can get it.  We may need a sharper finger, one that knows something about where we are on the path and in our lives, to do some pointing for us.  

THERE ARE PLENTY OF GOOD TEACHERS available if we’re simply willing to avail ourselves of them.  Ego, of course, if it's not going to be groomed by the famous, often wants us to do it all ourselves, because then there’s no close scrutiny of our thinking and seeing, and we get to magically advance to any level we wish, just as fast as we want to!  Sadly, we also get to pay the ultimate price for that, which is suffering.

IT’S CERTAINLY NOT THE FAMOUS TEACHERS’ FAULT that they may ultimately become limited in their value to us.  No matter how awake they may be, no matter their long experience, they are still human beings.  Human beings come with limitations, and time is one of them.  How can you be on a personal level with thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of followers?  It’s patently impossible.  We can influence that many people, we can sort of obliquely steer a crowd that size, but on most paths, a much more personal touch is going to be needed if we're really going to get where we're going.  Unless it isn’t, of course; I fully understand that possibility.  But we wouldn’t want to bet on that possibility.  If we’re genuinely sincere, if we really want to wake up and then go beyond that initial opening, then we probably want to place ourselves firmly in the hands of the Law of Large Numbers: we want to do what the majority of people are doing who are getting concrete results. 

“SECONDARY AND TERTIARY” LINES OF TEACHERS--I say that only in reference to name recognition--stretch around the globe.  They are populated by awake, talented and devoted teachers.  For the most part, these folks are good at what they do.  Awakeness is necessary, but it's not enough.  One can be a great receiver of these teachings and still be a poor teacher.  Don’t assume less known teachers are less awake than their better known counterparts.  Many of them are not.  Some of them may be sharper than their better known contemporaries. Any currently awake teacher can help the great majority of as-yet-unawakened seekers that they have the luxury of spending time with; there’s no question about that.  And remember, progress in Nonduality is measureable.  We're awake, or we're not.  Others are waking up around us, thus proving the effectiveness of our teacher, or they're not.  Clarity is a better measure than charisma.

WHEN WE TRAVEL THROUGH ALL of these channels, and tread all the paths most of end up trying out, we want to use our common sense to guide us.  We don’t ever “give ourselves up or over” to a teacher or a teaching.  In my opinion, we don't want to follow any teacher or teaching who suggests we do that.  Awakeness would never care about that sort of concession; ego would be crazy about it.  We are lost before we begin if we do so.  It's good to remember that we are always surrendering to what the teacher represents, not the human being who happens to be delivering it. We want to use a teaching to help us cross the ocean, not fall in love with an anchor.  We can love and respect our teachers and their teachings without getting stupid.  After all, it’s our path; let’s take some responsibility for it.  
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Saturday, December 3, 2011

On Free Will, Destiny, and Truth

SO WHICH IS IT?  Do we have free will, or are our lives driven only by destiny?  Or is it some of both?  Most often it feels like some from this pile and some from that pile, does it not?  Even the degree of free will or destiny that we seem to experience varies from situation to situation.  Certainly this is not a new question to explore.  It’s one of the oldest questions known to man.  Great philosophers and theologians, many who were smarter than we are, have argued one side or the other for centuries.  For millennia, in fact.  So, why don’t we just go ahead and wrap it up right here?  We could, you know, at least to our own satisfaction.  Perhaps we will even do it for some of us here today.  What may be most important here is to recognize that it could happen for any one of us who is open enough.  That's not to say this is the true view.  It's just to say that it can be our true view.  "True", as I am learning, is a rather slippery term.  In my experience, the question at hand does have a thoroughly satisfactory answer.  Only almost nobody wants to hear it; that’s the real issue.  It’s the tune few want to actually sing, but which many want to sing about.

THERE IS A SAYING in environmental circles that is sometimes used to explain the widespread denial that industry, government, science, and the individuals who populate and support those institutions—namely us—cling to in regard to wholesale pollution, resource waste, energy consumption, climate change, all of that sort of thing.  The observation goes something like this: “It is nearly impossible for a person to understand any fact when their ability to earn a living, and have a life of security, ease, and comfort is contingent upon their not understanding that fact.”  What is this a prime example of?  Self-interest.  We know just what’s right for the world and we really want everyone to do their part.  Except us, of course.  We’re busy; don’t bother us with annoying and inconvenient truths.  

THIS NOTION BRINGS US right back in front of our question of free will versus destiny.  Why has this question so rarely been answered?  Never say never: it has been satisfactorily answered many times over the last few thousand years.  Many trailblazers not only got the point I'm bringing up here, but they left us strategies to help us find it, and writings to confirm our suspicions once we reached an appreciative level.  The numbers of these explorers would be pretty impressive if, say, you were buying all of them lunch.  That would be an expensive undertaking, because the actual numbers, although unknown to anyone, have to be fairly large. We know of a good many who solved it: Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu, Rumi, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila,  Moses, Meister Eckhart, Dogen, Rinzai, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, and Nisargadatta among them—all of the historical celebrities of Nonduality.  Yet for every one of those we know about, there are surely hundreds of others that we don't, perhaps many, many more than that.  I am not an expert in the counting department.  Nonetheless, the percentages would have to be nearly immeasurable.  As a species we are happily stumped, primarily due to self-interest of the deepest and most primal sort.

FIRST, LET'S LOOK CAREFULLY at the question.  Notice that the two sides are diametrically opposed.  One declares that we are forging the earth’s future and our own with simple pluck and luck.  The other says that our life’s course is already a closed case upon our arrival in this strange land.  For those of you who’ve been with us on Awakening Clarity for a while, or who came here carrying a light of your own, you will perhaps spot a pattern. Two sides. Polar opposites. Either or.  What’s that tell us we’re looking at?  Duality.  What do both answers hinge around?  My free will.  My destiny.  My life.  My past, present and future, yes?  It’s all personal and positional. The real answer, however, is well outside the box.

ENTER TRUTH.  There is no “you” to either have free will, or be the victim of destiny.  There is no “your” life.  There is no “your” timeline.  There is no “you”.  You-as-you-think-you-are, do not exist.  This is not a mystical thing, and it’s not a metaphysical-philosophical thing.  This is a practical, fact-type thing.  Let’s break it down.  In order for there to be free will, there has to be a carrier and user of it, correct?  In order for there to be destiny, there must be a steered and affected entity—right?  Yet if neither exist, then the question itself is utterly moot.  We will go into proving the negative of individual existence the best that we can within the brief space we are allotted, in just a moment.  Accept it for the sake of argument for just a little while.

THIS CHASE-THE-MOOT-QUESTION is the kind of game that duality loves to play best, and it’s masterful at it. Get virtually everyone on the planet for all of history taking opposite sides of a mythical condition that’s without sides at all, and what have you got?  I suggest that you have the ideal tool to keep a willing population sleeping.  The play steadily goes on, act after act, actor after actor, civilization after civilization, completely uninterrupted—until it is.  Perhaps this is your very own is time.  Who knows?  It’s got to be fairly near that moment, or you wouldn’t be reading this column.  That’s just the way it works.  Of course “fairly near” suggests time, and the seeing of this takes place outside of time, so "your" realization could be ten minutes from now, or in another hundred years, with an entirely different form finding the freedom you seek here today.  That’s my way of saying, do not relent.

NOW, LET'S MOVE ON to the proof in our pudding.  Where is this entity that is supposed to be either the bearer of free will or the victim of destiny?  Don’t let this be hypothetical; find out—find out right now, and pledge to yourself that you’ll be satisfied with the answer that you come up with.  Don’t go looking for a better answer.  That seeking activity IS the dream.  We typically come to spirituality to offload our suffering.  Fair enough.  If you have a higher calling than that, bully for you, but most don’t.  I didn't.  We are lost and we are suffering when we arrive.  We come to spirituality in order to find answers to our questions.  Yet we enter authentic spirituality only when we begin to question our answers.

LET'S QUESTION THE ANSWER about who's reading this.  I know very well who's writing it.  I also know very well who’s reading it.  Let’s see if we can help you see what’s clearly seen here.  God forbid we should seriously step out of the all-in-our-heads analysis paralysis of the convivial satsang circle, but just for a lark, let’s try something experiential.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  We’ll borrow a tool from a friend of mine--author, teacher, and uber-philosopher Greg Goode.  We'll change it up a little so that hopefully it will carry in print, and see if we can at least plant a solid seed of doubt.  That’s really all it takes to start.  A well-planted seed of doubt will grow and grow from within until it breaks down the walls that hold our lies.  If you are going to just read this article, don’t expect to get very much out of it.  Go with me as I go through this.  Do the work.  Soon I’m going to write a column about "spectator spirituality", which is what most people are practicing.  That's fine for them.  Don't you practice it.  You're too close to the truth.  The all-in-the-head-stuff, makes for great party talk, wonderful existential walks in the dark, and exciting philosophical breakthroughs.  The only problem with it is that it doesn’t wake you up.  If you want to wake up, get involved.  Seek and ye shall find, but we had better seek with heart, or we are going to end up disappointed and disillusioned—assuming we were serious about liberation when we got here.

SO HERE IS THE EXPERIMENT. For most of you there is a solid sense of you-ness there. There is a sense of a real-live, sure-enough, separate entity right there, wearing your clothes, breathing your breath, and reading this on your computer screen.  This sense of you-ness is inside the body, is it not?  So first we have you-ness, and then we have it corralled within the container of the body.  By default, if we’re going to have a you, then there’s got to be a not-you.  Without something to compare to, how else would you know there is a you? So, we could say that you are defined by what you are not.  You call this not-you “the world”, isn’t that right?  Thus there are two things, you and the world.  There may be a zillion things within the world, but none of that really matters for the moment.  What we’re concerned here is just the elementary duality of you and the world.

THE WORLD IS KIND OF a big thing to take on in the next thousand words, so let’s look at you instead.  We’ll use what Greg would call the “Cartesian model”, i.e., the notion of a container in which the contents that compose our essential being reside.  This container, of course, is the human body.  Humanity generally believes that whether it is mind, or soul, or some combination of the two, whatever-it-is-that-we-are lives within the body. Let’s run with this idea of Descartes’ and see if we agree with it.

IT'S TIME TO DO SOME DIVISION.  Mind does it all the time, so why don't we do a bit?  If you were to divide your body in half horizontally, say, at the waistline, would the sense of you be above or below that line?  I’m guessing above.  Few people identify themselves strongly as being their feet, legs, or lower organs.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  At any point that your experience doesn’t meet with my guesses, simply convert the questions to fit your experience.  Just do the work.  Disagreement is not an obstacle between us and truth.  For the moment we’ll propose that your answer is above the waistline.

OKAY, NOW DRAW A SECOND LINE, just below your shoulders.  Is the sense of you above or below this second line?  There may be a sense of heart, below that line for some of you, and some of you may need to examine that in the same way we are going to look at the brain, but most of us don’t confuse that sense of heart with the sense of you-the-body.  Granted, it’s very easy to jump into hearsay at this point, with something along the lines of, “Well, Ramana Maharshi said…”  To hell with what Ramana Maharshi said.  He’s not here.  What do you say? You’re the one whose opinion matters here; no other opinion even gets a vote. I’m guessing the sense of you is above that second line.  In most cases I’ll be right.  Let’s move on up.

NEXT, DRAW A THIRD LINE across your neck, just under your chin.  Is the sense of you above or below that third line?  It’s still further above, is it not?  It’s not between the neckline and the breast line, is it?  No, probably not.  Let’s travel on up to the head. The head is the pay dirt for most of us. Isn’t this where the sense of you really feels like it lives?  I think this short segment I’m going to go into about loss of body parts is elsewhere on AC as well, but it bears repeating here. 

IF YOU WERE IN AN ACCIDENT, and lost both of your legs, would there still be a sense of you-ness in the remainder of your body?  Sure there would.  You might feel psychologically diminished for a while, but there has to be something there to feel diminished, so the sense of you would absolutely remain in force. What if you lost all four limbs?  People do.  And when they do, we don’t then say, “Well that unknowable blob-thing over there used to be Bill, but then he lost his arms and legs and now we don’t know what to call it.”  No, we say, “That’s Bill.  He had an accident.  He doesn’t look quite the same as he once did, but that’s still Bill.”  We say that because for most of us, the sense-of-you-ness resides in our head.  It feels like it’s sort of behind the eyes for us, and we assume it does for Bill as well, and his head is still intact, so “Bill” is still intact.  Have I said anything yet you can strongly disagree with?  Perhaps for some, but I doubt it for most.  It’s impossible to put our finger precisely on it, but this in-the-head-and-behind-the-eyes was the general feeling I had, I’ve talked to others who feel or felt the same way, and have read about still more.  It may not be the case in everyone, but I certainly think it’s common, and is almost surely the most common experience.  It is also the most common stumbling block to freedom, because this is the thing we hang our hat on as “us”.

BUT WE'RE NOT DONE. We have tracked the sense-of-you-that-you-think-you-are to your head.  Now draw one more line, please, only make this fourth line vertical instead of horizontal.  Figuratively speaking, draw a line that will slice your head precisely in half, just as you might do to a cantaloupe.  Where is you-that-you-think-you-are now?  Are you in the right side, or the left side?   After all, you’re inside the container of the body, isn’t that right?  You’re held by the body, but you’re not the body itself, so we’re just trying to find out exactly where it is in the body you are holed up.

IS YOU-THAT-YOU-THINK-YOU-ARE in the left side of the head, or the right?  Do you know?  Can you tell?  Would you have to guess?  Are you stumped?  Do you not know?  Surely you don’t think your soul, or your personality, or whatever you call it, is going to be sliced in half just as the flesh and bone would be.  So where are you in there?  Show me you.  Point yourself out, so to speak.  Can you?  If you can’t point yourself out, and you can't even tell me where it is in there that you live, the question becomes, Do you live in there?  I don’t think so.  As I told someone earlier today in an email, "I've had a hell of a time finding Fred, and I bet you're going to have a hell of a time finding you."  If this is the case with you, the person who’s reading this right now—yes that means YOU—are you willing to say, “I don’t know.”
BINGO.  NO YOU, NO PROBLEM.  No you, no free will.  No you, no destiny.  Accept the answer you've arrived at.  Sit with, "I don't know."  Sit in that lostness.  If you're not what you thought you were, or where you thought you were, what’s left?  You tell me.

Housekeeping Notes:

Let us welcome Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Switzerland to the growing list of countries visiting Awakening Clarity.  There are now 52 countries joined through this blog in awakening the Clarity that shines through each of us.  Thank you, one and all. Even a mighty Sequoia tree grows just one inch at a time.  

For those who are interested in the personal side of things here, I am updating The Nondual Diary with short bits on a regular basis.  You will also see that as of Monday, December 5, there is also a new page, Pointers Along the Path, which will also be updated as whim strikes.  As ever, thank you for your precious attention.  

This main blog post will be updated again on Sunday evening, December 11. I hope to see you again soon.  If you feel so drawn, let me hear from you.