"...I have come across several people who, having heard about enlightenment or Self-realisation, want to by-pass the psychological phase and go straight for the big achievement. Enlightenment is not an achievement. It is an inner transformation from false identification with ego to identification with your True Nature. It is a shift that involves a full acceptance of the hardships of life before you can go beyond them and return home to your-Self."
~ Tess Hughes
What hardships are you facing in your life?
What is full acceptance?
Do you find full acceptance of these hardships possible?
An Atom's Way of Knowing
"It would be a poor thing to be an atom in a universe without physicists, and physicists are made of atoms. A physicist is an atom's way of knowing about atoms." ~ George Wald
The Way: What is the individual person's way of knowing about individuality and non-individuality?
What Is Our True Nature?
"A kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual."
~ Carl Jung
Is it possible to be ourselves, rather than to act like the person we think we are or should be?
What is our true nature?
The Deepest Mystery in the Universe
"You don't have to peer expensively out into the farthest reaches of the cosmos to encounter the deepest mystery in the universe. Look no further than right between your own two ears. The human mind is nowhere challenged as much as by the endeavor to understand the workings of the brain that produces it." ~ The Brain: Big Bangs, Behaviors, and Beliefs
What is the source of consciousness?
Is it a product of neural complexity (produced by the brain), or is the mystery deeper within consciousness?
Does our pride prevent us from seeking Help?
What Do You Feel in Silence?
When the words stop
And you can endure the silence
That reveals your heart's pain
Or that great wrenching-sweet longing,
That is the time to try and listen
To what the Beloved's
~ Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky
Diamond Sutra, Simplified
The Convocation of the Assembly
In Jeta Grove, the park of Anatha-pindika near the once-great city Shravasti, the "city of wonders" in northern India close to the border of Nepal, twelve hundred and fifty wandering mendicants broke their fast then gathered round to hear the words of the Buddha.
Subhuti Makes a Request
The disciple Subhuti arose and, raising his hands with palms joined in respect, said: World-Honored One, if good men and women seek enlightenment, how should they then conduct themselves?
The Real Teaching of the Great Way
They should discipline their thoughts as follows, Buddha replied. All living creatures are caused by me to attain unbounded liberation. Yet when vast numbers of beings have thus been liberated, in truth no being has been liberated. And why is this? Because no enlightened being cherishes the idea of a separate individuality.
[There are 29 more stanzas.]
Beyond Senses, Beyond Thought
Is it possible to know beyond the senses and beyond thought?
Jesus said, "I shall give you what no eye has seen and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has never occurred to the human mind."
~ Gospel of Thomas
Pride & Humility
"During my near-death experience I had a descent into what you might call Hell, and it was very surprising. I did not see Satan or evil. My descent into Hell was a descent into each person's customized human misery, ignorance, and darkness of not knowing. It seemed like a miserable eternity. But each of the millions of souls around me had a little star of light always available. But no one seemed to pay attention to it. They were so consumed with their own grief, trauma and misery. But, after what seemed an eternity, I started calling out to that Light, like a child calling to a parent for help."
~ A Near-Death Journey into the Light of Creation, by Mellen-Thomas Benedict
What, beyond our control, are we unable to change?
What, within our control, are we capable of changing?
How do we discern the difference?
"A spiritual practice simply disposes us to allow something to take place. For example, a gardener does not actually grow plants. A gardener practices certain gardening skills that facilitate growth that is beyond the gardener's direct control. In a similar way, a sailor cannot produce the necessary wind that moves the boat. A sailor practices sailing skills that harness the gift of wind that brings the sailor home, but there is nothing the sailor can do to make the wind blow. And so it is with contemplative practice
~ Into the Silent Land, Martin Laird
The Hound of Heaven
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter
~ Francis Thompson
What are the limits of what you can know?
"Of all the words yet spoken,
none comes quite as far as Wisdom,
which is the action of the mind
beyond all things which may be said."
"Wisdom is the oneness
of mind that guides
and permeates all things."
Truth vs. Comfort?
"Truth or reality is avoided when it is painful. We can revise our maps only when we have the discipline to overcome that pain. To have such discipline, we must be totally dedicated to truth. That is to say that we must always hold truth, as best we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to our self-interest, than our comfort
. Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs."
~ M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
- How do you tend to react to information that doesn't match with your current worldview?
- Do you ignore it, denounce it, dismiss it, crusade against it, examine it, attempt to manipulate the world to conform to your view, test your worldview, welcome the challenge?
- What is your biggest obstacle to being truthful?
Self-Realization: Is It Possible?
"The practice of Self-inquiry, called Atma-vichara in Sanskrit, is the most important meditation practice in the Vedantic tradition. It is the main practice of the yoga of knowledge (Jnana Yoga), which itself is traditionally regarded as the highest of the yogas because it takes us most directly to liberation. Self-inquiry is the primary method through which Self-realization the realization of our true nature beyond mind and body is achieved."
~ Vedantic Meditation, David Frawley
In What Are You Rooted?
"Today, I find there is one certainty within me, but it is described only peripherally with simile and metaphor. I am a tree that feels its roots deep inside, as if I am connected to the bedrock of existence. Where I came from and where I'm going
yes, I know this. But why am I here? No clue; no care either. Imagine a tree that believes it forces fruit to appear what an unnecessary burden. The tree is a door through which fruit manifests.
"I am here. A thought arises to write; I write. I wonder what my purpose is; I wonder. A bacteria consumes me, a stranger sells me groceries, a woman asks me for seventy-five cents, a tiny bird is struck by my car, an unkind word spoken to my mate, and a kind word to a harried clerk. A great river of action is unfolding, with feeder streams trickling in from a watershed as vast as existence. It is both a playground and a killing ground arousing fear and swallowing lives, yet providing endless opportunities for discovery and joy.
"The river flows through the life of the tree and downward to the essence.
"I am a tree that dreams. I lose my way in little worlds inside my head; in the whispers of my leaves that I turn into words. Now and then I must remember, remember where I rest and in doing that I choose the hand that guides me; choose the whisper that I hear. Is there a burden there? I think so, but not a heavy, Biblical one. I listen as best as I can to my heart and interpret that feeling into words that cause action. Let every word serve my highest light, and in that light is revealed the truth of my purpose: to be used, consumed by that which pulls my heart."
~ Shawn Nevins, The Purpose of Life in 950 Words
The most important thing?
Charlie Ellis, PhD, MBA, internationally prominent investment adviser, and author of 12 books, asked by Consuelo Mack on WealthTrack about what's the most important thing an investor can do, responded:
Sit down quietly and ask:
What do I really, really, really want to accomplish?
What do I really, really want to avoid?
What's the most realistic way of getting where I want to go?
> Does this apply to our life in general?
What tools are available in the search for ultimate answers?
"Apart from trying to identify what it was that saw this Oneness, there was still the unresolved question of what remained in the absence of self. What is this that walks and talks and is aware of the eye upon Oneness?"
"One thing is certain: with our thinking, rational mind, we'll never come upon these answers because our mind, limited tool that it is, is so continually taken up in the service of self that it cannot come upon that which lies beyond all such concerns."
~ Bernadette Roberts, The Experience of No-Self
Philosophical Self-Inquiry: An Unconventional Adventure
Philosophy: The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence
Self-Inquiry: Going within to find answers
What is your ultimate concern?
"All our concerns are finite. In the short span of our lives many of them have already disappeared and new ones have emerged which also will disappear. Many great concerns of the past have vanished and more will come to an end, sooner or later. The melancholy law of transitoriness governs even our most passionate concerns. The anxiety of the end dwells in the happiness they give. Both the things about which we are concerned and we ourselves come to an end. There will be a moment and perhaps it is not far away when we shall no longer be concerned about any of these concerns, when their finitude will be revealed in the experience of our own finitude of our own end.
"But we maintain our preliminary concerns as if they were ultimate. And they keep us in their grasp if we try to free ourselves from them. Every concern is tyrannical and wants our whole heart and our whole mind and our whole strength. Every concern tries to become our ultimate concern, our god. The concern about our work often succeeds in becoming our god, as does the concern about another human being, or about pleasure. The concern about science has succeeded in becoming the god of a whole era in history, the concern about money has become an even more important god, and the concern about the nation the most important god of all. But these concerns are finite, they conflict with each other, they burden our consciences because we cannot do justice to all of them.
Even God can be made a finite concern, an object among other objects; in whose existence some people believe and some do not. Such a God, of course, cannot be our ultimate concern. Or we make Him a person like other persons with whom it is useful to have a relationship. Such a person may support our finite concerns, but He certainly cannot be our ultimate concern.
"The one thing needed this is the first and in some sense the last answer I can give is to be concerned ultimately, unconditionally, infinitely.
He who is grasped by the one thing that is needed has many things under his feet. They concern him but not ultimately, and when he loses them he does not lose the one thing he needs and that cannot be taken from him."
~ Paul Tillich
"We sleep to time's hurdy-gurdy; we wake, if we ever wake, to the silence of God. And then, when we wake to the deep shores of time uncreated, then when the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it's time to toss things, like our reason, and our will; then it's time to break our necks for home.
"There are no events but thoughts and the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times."
~ Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
What tends to draw your attention away from what is actually occurring?
"Whatever is actual is, as regards time, always in the present
. Likewise, what is actual for you must be where you are. You cannot at this moment experience any event that is, live through it at first-hand if it takes place beyond the range of your receptors."
"What is your actuality? Can you genuinely feel it?"
"Discover your resistances to doing so for instance, that you get bored or annoyed or, more likely, lose ('flee from') the sense of actuality."
~ Gestalt Therapy, Drs. Perls, Hefferline, Goodman
Unimaginable Mental Abilities?
"I was reminded, when Lilian* told me this, of a patient I had seen in the hospital some years before, who had overnight become totally paralyzed from a spinal cord infection, a fulminating myelitis. When it became evident that no recovery was forthcoming, she fell into despair, felt that her life was over-not only the great things of life but the little familiar pleasure of each day, like doing the New York Times crossword, to which she was addicted. She requested that the Times be brought to her each day, so that at least she could look at the puzzle, get its configuration, run her eyes along the clues. But when she did this something extraordinary happened, for as she looked at the clues, the answers seemed to write themselves in their spaces. Her visual imagery strengthened over the next few weeks, until she found that she was able to hold the entire crossword and its clues in her mind after a single, intense inspection, and then solve it, mentally, at her leisure later in the day. This became a source of great solace to her, in her paralysis; she had had no idea, she later told me, that such powers of memory and imagery were available to her."
~ Oliver Sachs, The Mind's Eye
> Do you know the limits of your mental abilities for solving life's problems?
* Lilian Killar, a noted pianist, was a patient of neurologist Sachs. She had told him about a Haydn quartet she had heard on the radio and arranged for the piano so she could play it herself. She had occasionally done something like that before her alexia, using manuscript paper and the original score, but this time, when the former approach was no longer possible, she did it completely in her head, overnight. She could now hold the most complex music in her mind, then rearrange it and replay it mentally, in a way that was formerly impossible for her.
Is there anything outside of you or inside of you that is constant?
Is there anything of you that is beyond change?
"You must first consider that a human life is an ongoing process that involves a constantly changing physical body as well as an enormous number of rapidly changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Your life therefore is an evolving experience, a continual flow. You are not a thing
~ David D. Burns, M.D.
Is Truth a Rabbit?
"Suppose truth is a rabbit. This rabbit is in a field a large field. Round the field are very high walls creeds and dogma! So find your damn rabbit!! And remember the rabbit knows your thoughts & so as you resolve to go one way to catch it, it knows & evades you!"
~ Alfred Pulyan
What do you really own in this life?
- to have or hold as property
- to have power or mastery over; to acknowledge as one's own; recognize as having full claim, authority, power, dominion, etc.
"Whatever can be lost is not really one's own; and what is not your own, of what use can it be to you?"
~ I Am That, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Who would you be without a past or a future? What is your Identity right Now?
"When does one experience the occurrence of any event? Now!
"Listen carefully: When do we remember the event? When do we reminisce about the event? When do we think about the past? Now; always now!
"When do we dream of a future event? When do we plan and calculate concerning future activities? Now. All experience, all activity, all memory of the past, dream of the future, thinking and thought taking are inevitably, invariably 'happening' in the now. Isn't this so?"
~ A Guide to Awareness and Tranquility, William Samuel
Nostalgia Spiritual Homelessness
"It goes back, perhaps, to the fairy tales of childhood, to Hansel and Gretel, to Babes in the Wood, to Alice and Wonderland, to all half-luminous places that pleased the imagination as a child. It may go back still farther, to racial Druid memories, to an atavistic sense of safety and delight in an open forest. And after long years of spiritual homelessness, of nostalgia, here is that mystic loveliness of childhood again. Here is home. An old thread, long tangled, comes straight again."
~ Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek, writing about the effect of walking through her orange grove
Why Should I Fear?
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Is there a dying before dying, a dying while living, where we become what no mind ever conceived?
What would you really like to know in this life?
"That it's rough out there and chancy is no surprise. Every live thing is a survivor on a kind of extended emergency bivouac
. What do we think of the created universe, spanning an unthinkable void with an unthinkable profusion of forms? Or what do we think of nothingness, those sickening reaches of time in either direction?"
"It could be that God has not absconded but spread, as our vision and understanding of the universe have spread, to a fabric of spirit and sense so grand and subtle, so powerful in a new way, that we can only feel blindly of its hem
. But have we come even that far? Have we rowed out to the thick darkness, or are we all playing pinochle in the bottom of the boat?"
~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
- A specific instance of feeling hopeful; "it revived their hope of winning the pennant"
- The general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled; "in spite of his troubles he never gave up hope"
- Promise: grounds for feeling hopeful about the future; "there is little or no promise that he will recover"
- Expect and wish; "I trust you will behave better from now on"; "I hope she understands that she cannot expect a raise"
- Someone (or something) on which expectations are centered; "he was their best hope for a victory"
- Be optimistic; be full of hope; have hopes; "I am still hoping that all will turn out well"
- United States comedian (born in England) who appeared in films with Bing Crosby (1903-2003)
- Intend with some possibility of fulfillment; "I hope to have finished this work by tomorrow evening"
- One of the three Christian virtues
"When we think of hope
we have to think of looking in other directions than we have been looking." ~ Sherwin Nuland, TED.com talk "On Hope"
> Is there a direction other than where you've been looking?
Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D., is a clinical professor of surgery at Yale University, where he also teaches bioethics and medical history. He is the author of ten books, including How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter, which won the National Book Award and spent thirty-four weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.
Do experiences affect you, at your core?
"Experience generates and affirms identity. The identity-experience becomes the lens through which all other experience is focused and measured for threat to that identity, or enhancement of that identity.
"Witnessing, or observing experience disrupts this cycle of identity weaving itself from experience. Call it psychological self-study if you like, but whatever it is called it is necessary for Self-realization."
~ Bob Cergol
What Is Awareness?
"All scriptures are only for the purpose of investigating if there are two consciousnesses."
~ Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
What do you think he might have been talking about?
Is there more to life than playing this role you find yourself in?
[Experience] may be likened to someone in his room watching a television, and being identified with the characters in the dramas as they unfold on the screen. Losing contact with himself, he has become hypnotized into believing he is a character in the TV. The freedom he began with, that he was (and still Is), the innocent observer, has been lost, traded for the mind-motion of thought and feeling projected into the plastic box in front of him
. His innocence and detachment have been replaced with the sense of motion and thought, and the thrill of losing energy. Now that he is inseparable from his role in the drama, he places a high meaning on the feeling of belonging, which he now values as part of his very definition. He has fallen deep into sleep and is dreaming the life he thinks he lives, a mere ghost in a box of motion, emotion, and thought
. Fear and desire drive his every move, and he is firmly engrossed in his dreams."
~ Bob Fergeson, from Ghost in a Box
SELF-INQUIRY: Questioning our Views and Convictions
- "I learned that failure is by and large due to not accepting and successfully dealing with the realities of life
- "However, typically defensive, emotional reactions-i.e., ego barriers-stand in the way of this progress
. For these reasons most people don't do a good job of understanding themselves and adapting in order to get what they want most out of life."
~ Ray Dalio
How can you live life fully?
"How can you live life fully? Perhaps you know of adventurers who watch sunsets in the Himalayas. Perhaps you know of monks who tend tiny gardens with meaningful strokes of the hoe. How is your life in comparison? Are you grinding out the 8 to 5 in front of a computer, or immersed in the pointless noise of campus life? You want something called fullness of life-where your actions carry meaning; where you are aware of your actions and fully conscious of life. Vague stuff when you try to convey it to someone else, but you know it is more than a dream.
"A few people decide that experiencing more is equivalent to living a fuller life. In other words, more Pepsi in the glass will make the Pepsi taste better. An entire life is spent moving through increasingly exotic experiences, never realizing it is the experiencer which is the source of the problem. It is you that suck life dry. The telescope distorts the view of the moon-the moon is as it should be."
~ Shawn Nevins
"Loneliness is a feeling of being without the kind of companionship one desires. It is the feeling of an unmet desire, often unnameable. It is the feeling that there is something missing, usually something one percieves as essential to their happiness or sense of fulfillment. The feeling of loneliness includes feelings of lack of intimacy and being understood and being accepted just as one is, and lack of opportunity to express oneself joyfully and spontaneously in a setting of total security.
"The feeling is real and is an indication that something is indeed missing....."
~ Tess Hughes, who will be joining us for the meeting.
See Tess's presentation at the April 2011 TAT meeting.
The Tired Mind
A new message dropped down the long chute from the Unknown, one of several just like it. One of the tireless busy-men running about the place opened it and read it off: "Itch! Back of head." He walked from the chutes over to the big machine at the center of the room and dropped the message into a slot at the top. It was a miracle that this big hunk of machinery worked at all. It had a tangled shape to it, too wrapped around itself for any onlooker to figure out how it worked. It shook furiously, spewing steam, oil, and the occasional expletive as it processed the new message. Finally, just as it seemed like the thing would explode, it suddenly stopped with a ding and popped out its verdict. "Lift right arm. Scratch itch with finger. Don't bump into guy on right," the last bit a reference to an earlier incoming message about an irritable fellow apparently to the right somewhere "out there." If one looked closely enough down at the bottom of this output directive, there was another message in small print: "
but I'd really like to go Home now." These little messages had been showing up a lot recently, stuck down in the corner of the directives spewed out from the worn out old machine. "Turn left at next light
but I'd really like to go Home now." "Walk to kitchen. Get glass of water
but I'd really like to go Home now." "Keep up appearance of being professional and capable
but I'd really like to go Home now."
~ Ben Rainey
Do you seek to confirm your beliefs, or test your beliefs?
"It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives."
~ Francis Bacon
"No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong."
~ Albert Einstein
Are You Hiding from a Deeper Excursion into Your Own Possibilities?
"I don't believe in the 'evolution of consciousness' line of thinking that is increasingly manifest in thinking about spiritual work. If anything, I see a devolution as the manifestations of the least common denominators of human nature albeit well-dressed are recast en-masse as spiritual growth. The Perennial Way has become one of self-magnification and the self-delusion of 'knowing' things in esoteric literature simply because it is so widely available and widely read. Everyone 'knows' these days and seeks affirmation from others of course they know nothing as their preconceptions of spirituality blind them from seeing clearly. Real going within is experienced as a loss of self and it takes a rare and unique seeker motivated at a very deep level to weather that."
~ Bob Cergol
"On what authority do I have my self-esteem?
"Self-esteem being [a way] you identify yourself 'I'm identified as my self-esteem.'
And Teresa of Avila had said as long as people are stuck in that, they
don't get on to the next stage [in the spiritual journey], that this is the sticking
point. So I started looking for something other than self-esteem as a way of
defining my true value as to what I really am, and came up with this thing of
being God's child. And it opened up thinking, or it opened up something anyway.
"So what if I'm a gift from God, a creation from God? Isn't that quite a different
thing from my self-esteem program that I'm going with? They come from
different places. Sometime around that I was in front of my jewelry box one day.
It's sitting there and there are some things in it, so I'm looking at: 'There's a gold
ring, there's a gold bracelet, there's a gold brooch.' And the thought struck me:
'The value of each of those things is in the fact that they're gold, not that they're
a ring or a whatever.' And then I thought: 'So the value is in the gold-ness rather
than the thing-ness.'"
~ Tess Hughes, talk given in April 2011
Are you identified with your self-esteem?
What authority do you allow to determine your self-esteem?
A Decline of Illusion?
"Although many scientific ideas generate conflicting results and suffer from falling effect sizes, they continue to get cited in the textbooks and drive standard medical practice. Why? Because these ideas seem true. Because they make sense. Because we can't bear to let them go. And this is why the decline effect is so troubling. Not because it reveals the human fallibility of science, in which data are tweaked and beliefs shape perceptions. (Such shortcomings aren't surprising, at least for scientists.) And not because it reveals that many of our most exciting theories are fleeting fads and will soon be rejected. (That idea has been around since Thomas Kuhn.) The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that's often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn't mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn't mean it's true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe."
~ Jonah Lehrer, "The Truth Wears Off" (The New Yorker, December 13, 2010)
Are You Being True to Yourself?
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow,
As the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Where might you be being untrue to yourself?
Can you know this without knowing yourself accurately?
What do you value more, the honesty of your desires or the pursuit of them?
My Will or Thy Will?
> Q: Do you know what you are?
He says, "There's nothing left of me.
I'm like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
This is how Hallaj said, I am God,
and told the truth!
The ruby and the sunrise are one.
~ Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi, as quoted in Head and Heart: A Personal Exploration of Science and the Sacred (2002) by Victor Mansfield
My Will or Thy Will?
"If freedom is absence of limitation and of determination from without, only that can be free besides which naught else exists and is there any human will of which we can say that?
"In this sense of the word freedom, and philosophically we cannot well take it in any other sense, only the Absolute is free; the relative is ever determined by its very relations to the world of relativity."
~ Conquest of Illusion, J.J. Van der Leeuw
> Are you running the show? Did you write the script?
> What in this life is under your control? What's beyond your
> Is there a power higher than or greater than your self?
How Do You Know?
How do you know that you are?
"You now know that you are. How has this happened, because of what do you know that you are? You have to go to the source. One hundred years earlier you did not know of your own existence. You had no problems at that time. Now, because of this knowingness, all the problems have started. This 'I Amness' has happened because of the body, so what knowledge do we have about the body and what knowledge of this 'I-ness'?" ~ Nisargadatta, I Am That
Is it possible to know for sure what you are?
Sadly, in Search Of
Sadly, in search of, but one step in back of,
themselves and their slow-movin' dreams."
~ Refrain: Willie Nelson, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys
> Are you one step in back of yourself and your slow-moving dream?
Explore the Great Indoors
"Quietude, which some men cannot abide because it reveals their inward poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise, for along its hallowed courts the King in his beauty deigns to walk." - Charles H. Spurgeon
"There never was a war that was not inward; I must fight till I have conquered in myself what causes war." - Marianne Moore
* What is your inner landscape made of? *
Picture source: http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/maps_cartography_history_of_mapmaking/page/2/