Why is there purported to be an equation between consciousness and the ground of reality, where the objects of consciousness are in fact merely appearances, no matter how consistent and lawful, and like images on a screen being underneath mere screen, derived from and existing only as Consciousness? Thinking about it can only be via a metaphor, and image or sound in the very same consciousness, thus forming a conundrum: aboutness is not the thing in itself.
The mind is trying to grasp the ungraspable and do the undoable, since the grasping and the doing are already It, nor can it un-grasp or un-do, by any thought or effort, that which it is, being not an object, but the background of a subject-object play.
Thus the clever and pragmatic equation by a favorite nondual teacher, Francis Lucille, of enlightenment as happiness, and happiness as enlightenment. Though it’s circular, it at least gives one a handrail to grab onto via an experiential guide, a GPS, a directional beacon.
However this is not to confuse living in the moment with living *for* the moment. In living for the moment one will find that one is swept along like a leaf on the surface of a stream, one moment enjoying the open and exhilarating ride swiftly moving downstream, under the beautiful sunlight, and the next heading over a cliff in waterfall, a fantastic fun free-fall – feeling like free will – bouncing off the water at the bottom… But then drifting into an eddy current, caught in a stagnant whirlpool in the shadows under the cliff rocks, unable to extract oneself, or wondering what’s going on…
One may discover that strangely enough, you were not the leaf, or the eddy current, or the waterfall, or the swiftly moving stream, or the steady slow stream, you were all of it, the whole stream and the whole ocean the stream is moving towards, and emptying into. Because in being concerned with the welfare of this poor leaf, or enjoying it’s travels, the audience of all this got caught up in the movie and the fate of lovely leaf and t’s dramas, joys and triumphs, victories and defeats, joys and despairs… Happinesses and sadnesses, loves and hates, truths and confusions, beauties and uglinesses… What a fantastic story.
But sometimes the story can end, because the time is ripe and one wakes from the trance and says, oh my, the movie is over, time to get up and exit the theatre, go out into the sunlight and take a deep breath. The air was getting a little stale in there anyway, and one needs real sustenance, not just popcorn. Because time itself – the time in the movie, the space of moving leaves – and here, outside, in the open, there is just a calm ever-present Life. Here is an incomparable stillness, only known by itself, as it is the natural one, shared and trusted by all beings: the bird singing on the tree, and the tree, and the soil it stands in, and the rock and the sun and the water in the ground and the planet and the space of the universe they appear to move in, beauty itself. Effortless, sinless, sustaining itself; love itself, knowledge unknown by minds. Called Grace by mortals, the leaves moved by time.
To taste something sweet, is it necessary to eat strawberry ice cream, or can you simply eat a wild strawberry?
Meditation. Like yoga, it seems to be something you hear about more and more, as more and more people do it, hear about it, or feel they should do it. But I wonder, with increased popularity, is there a decrease in understanding? Like yoga, which has gone from a deep practice of mind-body-spiritual integration, to more of an American-style exercise program, has much the value of it been lost, as it’s gone from an inside-out understanding to just a another practice or technique, a thing to do – about the mind, with no understanding of Consciousness – or a de-stress tool, or just set of clothing to take on to prove yourself with and talk about with your friends?
In any case, even before any popularity, you may hear people in spiritual groups or outside talk about how much they meditate, how long they’ve meditated, or how long one needs to or should meditate in order to make advances towards one’s goal, whether that’s a short term goal or a long term one. They may do it to reduce stress, or in order to realize some special state, such as enlightenment. Or they discuss and compare what kind of meditation they do, or that they feel bad because they haven’t meditated: guilty or stressed because they dropped out of the habit, like someone that jogs and hasn’t had time. However even the sincerest meditators can misunderstand what is going on with this subtle form of self-enquiry, self-therapy, self-improvement, or whatever you want to call it.
So meditation is usually seen as a goal-oriented activity – don’t we always have goals when we do something? – where one tries to achieve something, the highest form of achievement being “enlightenment” or “Self-realization” (the distinction between those is enough subject for another article). As “seekers”, we are seeking to fill a lack, or find something. And if you achieve that, you’ve made it spiritually, and then maybe become a spiritual teacher yourself, instead of following one. That’s meant only half as a joke – there really is that thinking out there! You can see how this would plug into an achievement or competitive, comparing-oriented social mindset. This realization is seen as something that happens through time: some are told it could take 20 or 30 years, or more than one lifetime.
I’m not a Buddhist, Hindu, Three Principles coach, Non-dualist, licensed psychologist, or any other brand of religion or psychological-spiritual practitioner – call me a freelance philosopher if you need a label – but from my limited perspective as a seeker, finder, thinker, and realizer of glimpses of Truth, here’s my perspective.
After spending a little time hanging out with some nondualists and meditators “non-dualists” I find myself asking this question yet again: what is meditation and what is its real value? The non-duality Advaita school of teaching – and spiritual communities in general – is one that seems to value meditation highly, and often see it as a necessary tool of self-enquiry and purification as it were, to see the conditioning and true nature of beliefs (along with intellectual self-enquiry) and habits that stand in our way, on the path towards realizing the true self.
On the other hand, mystics may say otherwise. They will point to the fact that you are already enlightened, already happy, and what you seek is who and what you are. A seeming paradox.
And within a spreading global spiritually-based psychology movement called “The Three Principles“, it’s often mentioned that meditation is not needed, perhaps seen as superfluous, or even looked down on or dismissed as a waste of time, since if you’ve seen the simple truth that innate health and wellbeing are our default state, and have an understanding that it’s thinking you taking you away from it, you can easily drop the interference and return to “home”. You are your own teacher (despite the fact that there is an enormous and growing cottage industry of coaches, teachers, counselors, therapists, consultants and so forth that want you to invest quite a bit in their teachings! But I digress…).
My view of meditation is becoming more nuanced as a result of exposure to and discussion with those in both the Three Principles Psychology (“3P”) communities and the nondual ones (online and off). And in living it: 19 plus years in the 3P and, well, it depends on how you define it, but I got interested in Zen Buddhism around 1988 (seriously anyway) and before that had a spontaneous and profound nondual type experience around 1980, when thought ended and “I” died and consciousness merged with the total absolute light, the Mind of neverything (I had no framework or understanding of what had happened, and got lost for quite a while, haha)… but I digress…
An Analysis: Being or Doing, And Understanding or Not
I see we have these two axis at play: meditation as being or doing, and understanding or lack thereof. Let’s codify this so we can play with the combinations:
Am: Meditation as Being, a mental state: a quiescent mind, or Ap: Meditation as Doing, a practice, a technique or goal-oriented activity. Bu: An understanding of what’s going on, or Bl: A lack of understanding of what’s going on.
OK now so just for fun let’s combine these 2 axis into 4 possibilities, with some examples:
1. AmBu: A meditative state, with understanding
Walking in a park, you start seeing so much beauty, feeling a happiness, like an expansive love for life welling up inside, and understanding it’s a reflection of a deeper reality that’s always with us but is obscured by what we do with our minds. This could be healing or be an upward shift in consciousness, or if less profound, simply enjoying what is, Life. “Noncausal happiness” is you will.
2. AmBl: A meditative state, with little understanding
Walking in a park, you start seeing so much beauty, feeling a happiness, like an expansive love for life welling up inside, and thinking it’s a reflection of this park where you’re walking, and your city, so you keep going back to the same park trying to get the feeling. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
3. ApBu: Meditation practice, with understanding
You sit, meditate with some friends and let your mind settle, and feel a good feeling well up as your thinking quiets down, and understand it’s a quiet mind that’s allowing the reality that’s always there to surface. You’re able to see this happen at other times too, but the practice is a nice opportunity you took advantage of.
4. ApBl: Meditation practice, with little understanding
You sit with some friends and let your mind settle, and feel a good feeling well up as your thinking quiets down, and attribute it to the technique and new habits that need reinforcement from this technique. You may bfeel bad about yourself, or in a bad mood if you miss your meditation sessions, or even become “addicted”. You might beat yourself up thinking you aren’t being good and disciplined, or maybe your mind gets scattered and lost in a stressful state and you attribute it to lack of meditation practice.
The conclusion I draw from this is that meditation as a practice can be useful and enjoyable, but generally is not necessary. Meditation as a mental state is necessary, and more or less tantamount to what makes a happy and fulfilling life.
Furthermore, with a deep enough understanding of life, or for those naturally knowing or inclined, a meditative state is a common and spontaneous occurrence.
Curious to get other’s perspectives on how they saw meditation in light of the Three Principles, I had some online conversations with various folk from that field.
Elena Castro, a Three Principles coach, said it like this, first quoting Sydney Banks, the enlightened man from which sprang, with the later help of some psychologists, the whole field of Three Principles psychology:
From “The Ultimate Answer” (an audio CD of Syd Banks speaking):
“You are looking for silence. That is why people meditate all over the world, trying to silence their mind so that this wisdom will come in. Now, that’s one way of doing it, and I am not going to say any more about that. But you know what 3 principles do? They direct you into it.”
– Sydney Banks
My own experience, Eric, was kinda similar to yours: decades of meditating with nice feeling while doing it, having no idea what that really was. 3 principle made it clear what was happening while meditating and that that experience is not a result of a practice, but it is me feeling mySelf. Never had a need to meditate afterwards – I experience myself, knowingly, relaxing into myself regardless of what I am doing.
I found this in an early audio tape of a Sydney Banks talk from 1975, in Victoria, Canada:
I’ve been picked on so many times about [meditation]. It’s a beautiful thing for your mind, it’s a beautiful thing for your body, it’s a little like taking a tranquilizing pill. The state you get from it will [inaudible] last two hours or who knows. But the mind searching for itself cannot find itself, this is the game of life. If you sit thinking about Life, you’ll never make it. The mind searches for itself belongs to a form. And we’re all forms playing the game of life. This is what we’re supposed to be. We’re not supposed to know what the game of life is. This is what we call the game of life. And what we’re supposed to do is to try find our way back…
Mindfulness is balancing… the Principles are Gravity
Do what makes you happy, and not because you should. Use meditation as an occasional tool to “see” such things as a feeling you just can’t seem to get a handle on, or a mood that you can’t shake. Don’t make it mechanical habit. It’s a beautiful “thing”, and life is not a thing!
Draw your own conclusions. I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights.
The Highest Meditation
Rupert Spyra’s teacher, Francis Lucille:
Nonduality 13 of 16 – What Is Meditation?
Meditation 6 of 24 Regarding the Apparent Contradiction Between Self-Inquiry and Meditation
At the end of the above video, Francis says – and this is a nice way to end this article:
“…The great secret is that consciousness is universal. You have to be open to that – before you do all of these exercises, be at least open to this possibility.”
I had some wonderful insights, after a friend confronted me with some powerful questions (when I was complaining), the central one of which was “Who are you?”. That stopped me in my tracks. Here’s what I realized:
If anything is spiritual, everything is. All experiences.
If everything is spiritual, all thinking is.
Your unhappy thinking is no big deal. No one cares so why should you.
You’re already happy, you just didn’t know it.
You don’t have any problems.
It’s all happening right Now.
None of this is personal.
If you want to feel love, give love.
Everyone is already enlightened. It is like running around clutching a handful of diamonds, complaining you are poor, seeking riches.
The logic of the mind that keeps one limited to an imaginary jail is not real, and can be dissolved, evaporated by a love and energy that *is*. So … expand, open, and
It’s all a mystery.
Is life a problem to be solved? The philosophers and scientists who are trying to figure out how the mind works are basing their models on an orientation towards problems solving.
They look for example, at animals in the world surviving, and see them solving problems: how to hunt for prey, how to build a nest, how to navigate through space and so forth. Then they try and build machines to do tasks. And this is all very interesting and useful. But does it tell us anything if applied more broadly?
When I was towards the end of the years of studying philosophy in academia, I was listening to a professor’s lectures who was talking about some theory about the mind based on models of the brain. That was their schtick, their career. It was very clever. And it was very fascinating, but something was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it. For years I’d been digging. I dug and I dug and I dug, trying to figure out, trying to understand how the mind works and what the relation was between the mind and a program, or in her case, a brain, the material and the physical. How do you get a mind from matter, from some machine or brain thing or pieces. How do you put the pieces together, the parts. It was a fun game but oh so frustrating because it was so elusive. It was hard to even know what you were chasing, what to solution would look like, what the definition or outlines were. We were using language to try and understand what was going on and get to a solution.
They were working with what they call “representations”, which is basically a fancy term for models, or what we use to build a model of the world and use it, the thinking structures or schemes.
But the models you come up with, invent, imagine, are based on what you think the mind is, what is valuable, what the mind is for – even what reality is, what life is. If you are using problem-solving and analysis and thinks that what counts or is real, then your models will be about that.
Then one day, at the end of my rope, it hit me. I had an intuition that intuition was the way to go. What!?
That this capacity to just “see” a solution was the main capacity we have, the main power. Not problem solving, but a creative light.
Life was not a process of converging on a solution, but one of creating divergent solutions, some for no purpose at all but the pure fun or joy or energy of living. Like art.
This blew my mind because there was no way to present it. I tried talking about there are no representations, but that was a flop, and the professor was embarrassed for me. And I had trouble articulation it because it was so intuitive. But I knew I was onto something. But it seemed to put me beyond the pale of academia (at least as far as the philosophy department went). I was elated…in a sense, but my philosophy career ground to a halt. I could draw pictures, but what to say?
If you figure out that there’s nothing to figure out, and the game is figuring out, where does it leave you? With no leg to stand on. So I focused on just graduating, playing the game, get the degree, and get the hell out. I needed my freedom.
So you go off and create. And meditate. meditate and create. So that’s what I did. I studied Zen Buddhism, went to a Zen school for a bit, and started taking art classes and making art.
You’ve heard the saying, which is perhaps a cliche now “Life is not problem to be solved but a gift to be opened” which is a good clue.
Have fun and enjoy life.
But that way of thinking hung with me: analyze, criticize, argue, think think think and overthink. Process, research, analyze. It goes beyond what they do in academia. It’s a habit, a way of using this beautiful brain and power to create. It helps to solve problems. But then we apply it too much, in areas that just need awareness, letting the feeling be a guide to where the thinking is at and navigate.
This is where having a guide and the support of others who have followed clues and found answers, helps. We seek spiritual solutions or insights. We go to psychologists or therapists. We read books, talk to friends.
But a lot of those solutions, those pointers, are also based on a misunderstanding. They are trying to apply a medical model, or a problem-solving model, focusing on a problem and hitting it with tools. But it’s the wrong tool. You’ve heard the “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail?” Well there’s a lot of hammering going on.
Let’s quiet down the hammering.
The other things I learned was that being smart and being happy are two different things. It’s obvious, but yet we think being smart would somehow lead to happiness. Like you could apply that smartness to the problem. Solve the problem, hammer on the nail. Or use it to get something that will make you happy. Like money or a relationship or fame. Then you will be happy, Because those things will make you happy. Out there. Conditions.
But that is all after the fact. Of life. Of being alive. Now.
The paradox about a paradoxes is that they aren’t paradoxes until they are.
There are many paradoxes one encounters, or should I say can glimpse, along the spiritual path. (The spiritual path meaning along the journey of looking to have a deeper understanding of life and lead a happier and more meaningful existence). As you notice how your experience is formed and get clues it’s not just given by outside events, you start to detect that there’s something rather subtle and and amazing going on underneath – like getting a glimpse behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. Or the physicist trying to pin down a particle with his instruments and the particle not behaving as a particle or a wave, but both, depending on how he looks at it. Unlike the Wizard of Oz situation though – instead of finding out it’s all just a show run by a particular showman – it’s a show run by… something rather hard to define. Some show-making stuff we call “Thought”, lit up by consciousness.
So you are wandering along, maybe living a life getting pointers from a spiritual psychology like Three Principles, or a wisdom tradition from the deep like Taoism or Zen Buddhism or Christian mysticism, and you catch a glimpse at some point along the way, of something that seem like a contradiction, at least on the surface. Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism, seemed quite at home in this realm, as did Sydney Banks, the former welder who accidentally founded a new field of psychology based on his grand mal insight in 1973. These enlightened folks are pointers to the non-dual nature of what’s going on in that unknown realm called “reality”.
These are paradoxes that occurred to me and wrote down as I ran, walked, stumbled, picked myself up and kept trudging and ambling along.
Change & The Timeless
Your evolution and change are grounded in the timeless and unchanging.
solipsism |ˈsälipˌsizəm| noun the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist.
This dialogue started on Facebook, where I made a posting about the book Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, and evolved into a fascination dialogue about life, the universe and everything.
Acquaintance and science fiction writer, Daniel Jeffries, who is be a fellow member at 3rdSpace, the co-working space in San Diego I work at (by day, philosopher at night), was my philosophical dueling partner.