The “spiritual path”, though it is about happiness – causeless, innate, not from objects (situations, people or things) – is not about feeling good all the time, while you are on it, because it’s about seeing oneself from a true and honest perspective, which can be shocking or not comfortable at moments… and it’s not even about changing something or fixing something, it’s about surrendering who you are, or rather think you are.
By nature we do not know what we are getting into: the Unknown. You get deep into it and you realize you’re on a ticket with no return trip except to go back to your old self – in other words stay stuck on the old flight or jump out the door! Then why do it? For the ego, there is no-thing to be gained. There’s nothing in it for the little, limited “me” — the image I have of who I am — unless I want to gain a spiritual ego. Pride. Pretension. Pretending. That’s a dead end too. A cul de sac, leading to the same: ups and downs, happy/not happy, problems, solutions, setbacks, progress, delusion, enlightening moments, pain, pleasure… duality in other words.
If we see someone, or meet someone we don’t like, or some situation that irritates us, or makes us angry, remember: they are you, and it is you. They are literally you, projected from your mind, reflecting what you don’t want to see. The plank in your eye, as it says somewhere in an old wise book… And that situation is you: you give everything all the meaning it has. That is an absolutely comprehensive statement. Sorry for the bad news! But it’s good news in reality. All is well and unfolding as it should.
The body is involved too. It’s not just the mind that is in the spotlight. If you were living from the mind, and that starts letting go, the body gets involved, in the play of life (will update you n this “revelation” when I can).
I’m always a beginner at this…
The good news is that, at some point, someone can swap out the old “Life’s a Bitch, Then You Die” bumper sticker with, “Life Is Fun And You Never Die”!
Joy arises, and astonishment, spontaneous freedom… then you discover you got more than you bargained for, or rather, less than you bargained for! You thought you could take “you” with you, be a new and improved self, get recognition, love, real love for being enlightened, wise… but here now, having to face the fact there’s no luggage allowed on this flight. Not even the clothes on your back.
And even though you’re being served champagne on this airline, it turns out you’re invited to sky dive without a parachute.
But you know in you’re heart it’s OK, there’s nothing real to hit. But the illusion sees illusions.
Have fun on the fall …
If someone were to ask me, “How are you Eric?” I would say, or could say, “However you are, is how I am.” with conviction, because whether it’s from the mind or from the self, it’s true: they are seeing themselves, and I am seeing myself.
So as one of my wonderful teachers – Laura Lucille – has said, “no one can help you”. Meaning, in absolute terms, especially on that final mile, that ultimate jump. You have to step off that plane yourself and fly through the air yourself. The baby hawk has to step off the branch and actually fly for itself. And thank God for that, since as long as there are persons to help that need help, and helpers, you’re helpless.
You don’t need anyone because you literally are everyone, and whatever you need will come along, in perfect synchrony with true need, love, Consciousness, or life, however you want to say it, saying, “I am here. Have no fear, I am near. Nearer than near, I am you, already.” It’s pre-destined.
And also true, the body does what it does, but it’s not a problem, because it’s just happening, whatever it is, now, and takes care of itself, through whatever means necessary now, including using these arms and brain and eyes and legs… it’s very intelligent. Or using other people, who are not really others. Funny how that works.
Everyone wants to be special. And everyone is, but only as themselves, the same as everyone, canceling out a special specialness above any other specialness. I’m being treated very well, or ignored, or even spurned, “rejected”, in my mind at least.
But what is exposed is this investment, an unwise investment. And the more unwise the investment, the greater the pain perceived when the inevitable loss is perceived to occur. As another teacher once said – George Pransky – pain is a measure of ego, of who you are not, and are trying to be – that which is of true value can never be lost or gained. Gain or loss are ideas predicated on a game of desire and fear.
My teachers were telling me all this all along, but I wasn’t hearing it, or rather able to really take it in, see it as fact, with the “filters” of the mind guarding, holding court, holding out, safety straps in the face of the unknown…
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 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, by taking away that which obscures our true self). 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 source we could call “Consciousness”: that reality, whatever it is, that is reading these words right now. The perceiver of perceptions. The Perceiver-in-Chief as it were.
When Enlightened folks make pointers to the non-dual nature of what’s going on in that unknown realm called “reality”, we start to see many paradoxes: seeming contradictions that belie an underlying unity.
The word “paradox” comes from the roots “para” meaning “around”, “outside”, “along”, or “outside of”, and “dox” meaning “belief” or “opinion”.
A paradox is understood to be two things that are seemingly contradictory, at another level actually being both true at the same time.
Why are there so many seeming paradoxes in spiritual truths?
The short answer is, Reality is One, but the mind deals in duality.
The long answer is, Reality, that absolute one-ness, in order play the game of life, that is, have an apparent universe, time and space, an apparent separate self, and therefore a non-self, and endless objects of consciousness. It has to have duality for there to appear to be anything, as distinct from the infinite truth, love and beauty of reality, which needs nothing and is both all and nothing at the same time (the greatest paradox of all I suppose: the universe both exists and doesn’t exist). So a point of view arises we call ourselves. It seems to have some kind of linear existence, and makes language to help put thoughts in forms for seeming others. So of course language is linear, but nonetheless can evoke the nonlinear. That’s why we have poets and artists: the perfume of the absolute, if you will.
Remember the very first stanza of the Tao Te Ching (one of the greatest, most timeless wisdom teachings in existence):
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.
(Source: The Complete Tao Te Ching
Translated by Gia-Fu Feng (馮家福 Feng Jia-fu, 1919–1985) and Jane English (1942–)
Vintage Books, 1989)
Like subatomic particles springing forth as opposites from nothing (which has been observed by physicists: it’s called Quantum Vacuum Energy), the play of opposites is what at every moment is creating an apparent world. To go from nonlinear, unchanging reality to linear appearances, you need differences, measurements, change, up and down, light and dark, negative and positive, near and far. Movement.
Love has no opposite, but in world there appears love and hate. In the world there is flux and the rising and falling of all things.
A sage knows there are no-things and that he or she is no-thing.
At moments an ordinary mortal can get a glimpse that unifies the opposite: a sense of something insensible and invisible, that shows truths that transcend opposites. But since these glimpses are timeless, and the mind deals in time, it cannot hold on to them, except as images, sounds, or feelings in consciousness.
In any case, I thought it would be interesting to start listing (I like lists) some of the paradoxes my mind spit out along the “pathless path” (the direct path).
From the perspective of a self, or a person, a seeming psychological entity, one may notice these paradoxes of unfoldment into truth:
Change & The Timeless
Your evolution and change are grounded in the timeless and unchanging.
In Realizing Your Subjectivity You Become More Objective
It points to the most subjective thing – the self-created nature of our experience – yet allows you to be more objective.
It’s easier to grasp or learn if you don’t try too hard. When you relax, you can get an “Aha!” moment, and see a self-evident truth in an instant.
Change & Acceptance
To change something about yourself, you have to stop trying to change it. This is called acceptance.
The only way to change anyone around you is to realize it doesn’t matter if they change or not. This is called acceptance of others.
Results from Detachment
The less results matter to us, the more likely we are to live in the present and create them. This is called detachment.
The Unknown is Pointed to With The Known
Talking about the Unknown can only happen via the known. At the highest level, this is called mysticism.
To Give is to Receive
The more we give up the more we get. The more we give the more we receive. You are giving to your Self (there are no others).
The Vehicle is not the Journey
You are ultimately responsible for your thinking but not Thought itself. This is called the personal and the Impersonal.
Your self is and is not the Self
You find yourself when you no longer know who you are. This is called the True Self.
Suffering is Voluntary (if you only Knew It) – We Don’t Want What We Want
To try and end your suffering, don’t try and end suffering. Don’t give it a Second thought. This is called Letting Go.
Thought is not Reality. Yet it is the only reality most of us know. This is called the Great Illusion: everything is made of Conscisouness (or Mind if you like), so even illusion has reality. Our experience is a real illusion.
Free Will is Fate
An act of free will is fated. It is fate for you to have free will. Get over it.
Even in the seeming imperfection of life and ourselves, there is the grand play of the whole, which is perfect, infinite, and complete. This experience is called being human.
An enlightened person knows there are no enlightened persons
(That is enlightenment! Even though there is no such thing, HAHAHAHAHA…).
There are many, many more… these were just what I thought of when I wrote this.
The great Western philosopher Immanual Kant presented what be termed “Antinomies”: timeless opposites that can’t be avoided when trying to understand the absolute in terms of the relative, time in terms of the timeless, etc.
“Immanuel Kant’s Antinomies, from the Critique of Pure Reason, are contradictions which he believed follow necessarily from our attempts to conceive the nature of transcendent reality.” (Wikipedia)
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.