Suicide and The Cosmic Simulacrum

"Flamingoes" (color film using a 70's SLR & lens) • Copyright © 2018 Eric Platt

Simulacrum
1. An image or representation of someone or something.
‘a small-scale simulacrum of a skyscraper’

1.1 An unsatisfactory imitation or substitute.
‘a bland simulacrum of American soul music’

Oxford English Dictionary

Last night I learned of the 4th friend or acquaintance to commit suicide. Not to mention the list of celebrities.

This can be sad and tragic for the families and friends. I always wish that I could have said more to the friend or acquaintance, but of course the past is out of our hands.

What can be seen from this phenomenon?

I always see a pattern. It has to do with our basic outlook on life: what we think life is.

The first of them was a young woman in her 30s, a self-employed digital marketer and web developer, extremely intelligent and creative. I did some freelance work for her, and went out to lunch with and talked with her (or tried to) as a friend. She was caught up in time: time pressure, comparing herself to others, and competitiveness. She seemed to feel measured up or didn’t. She could not relax. I tried to get her interested in yoga or just doing something fun, and invited here, for example, to see a movie with me and a friend. She always had the same response: I don’t have time!! (she told me money was not a problem). It was self-created pressure, from how she was thinking about life.

Later, I heard some news about some neighbors who had become friends: a “hippie” couple in their early 60s, a freelance attorney by day and rock-and-roll drummer by night, and a housewife into gardening and her dogs. I perceived they saw one’s their lifestyle as the source of happiness: squeezing happiness from things, circumstances, or substances. The couple killed themselves together on camping trip in the mountains (a few years after I’d moved away): a suicide pact, well-planned in advance. All their friends were shocked, as they saw no warning. From our conversations, and what I gathered from friends of theirs, they had some losses from their lifestyle: a series of dogs died and they were experiencing some health problems. I also gathered from personal conversation when we were neighbors that they assumed reality was material, didn’t like religion or spirituality, and their happiness came from the health of the body, or rather was predicated on their body and the health of the body, and of their dogs they loved (their only family as it were). So they perceived losses as being related to where their happiness was coming from. When I ran into them later, after I’d moved, I noticed there was an undercurrent of fear and cynicism, a sense of drama beneath the surface friendliness and free-wheeling attitude.

Another, the latest, an acquaintance from my meditation group, a very intelligent man in his 30s, a self-employed programmer and long term yogi, widely traveled and supposedly poised to do spiritual teachings (an interesting contrast), was very serious in attitude. He appeared to be very concerned with the suffering in the world. I learned from a friend also, that sadly, he was also very preoccupied with his own psychological suffering. One’s personal misery and concern with the state of the world, as I see it, cannot be separated from what one assumes to be the cause of it’s conditions and one’s reaching for the key to freedom: if the cause is illusory and you reach within that mirage for the door, then your solution will never yield the fruit you desire.
In addition I perceived he had a sense of being somehow above it and able to know what the problem of the world was, and by and large he thought is was the capitalist political-economic-social system. Commendably, he wanted to bring balance to the world, yet could not seem to find it in himself.

Here I see a very common human practice: a habit of evaluation and judgement, of the world, of oneself and others (world & self & others) and a high regard for one’s personal opinions and beliefs. Are they really so precious such that their possible demise needs to be defended against at all costs?

But more essentially, who are these others and self and world? What is it made from? Where did it come from: are you going to believe what you were told or what someone said, that it came from a Big Bang, in time, a material process, and that is the end of the story, that science has, or even could have in theory, the final answer about ultimate question of who and what you are? Is it really believable that consciousness somehow emerged, local to brains, from what we call “matter”. Does anyone really even know what matter is? As far as we can tell it’s space with vibrations in it, a perfect dance of.. what? What we know of that dance is from math – math that came with a pre-existing harmony with a universe somehow – we can know from a mind we do not know the ultimate nature of in the first place. Mystery within mystery. Do we have to give it a name? Call it formless.

The current scientific dogma (or religion) is that consciousness arises from brains. A typical news article:

“…Consciousness is truly mysterious. It is the essence of you – the redness of red, the feeling of being in love, the sensation of pain and all the rest of your subjective experiences, conjured up somehow by your brain.” – from “Consciousness: How we’re solving a mystery bigger than our minds“, New Scientist magazine, FEATURE 20 June 2018, by Per Snaprud

Can science tell you what beauty is, what love is, and what truth is? Are you going to believe such a story, a made-up theory, so small as to be comic before the vastness of silence?

Seriousness and Control

It’s a big mistake – or should I say a basic misperception, since ultimately there are no mistakes – to take the world and oneself seriously. A mistake to feel sorry for oneself. It’s a fundamental error thinking one knows better how the universe should be according to you.

Lao Tzu, 2600 years ago:

Twenty-nine

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard, sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes down.

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excesses, and complacency.

The Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu”

But who or what is this self, this “I” that wants to change things, this “I” who is supposedly, presumed or assumed to be, a persistent, self-existing (independent), bounded entity? Who has the problem, who or what created the world & self & others?

No he wasn’t attached to misery (as one fellow meditation friend claimed), he was attached to what was at the root of his misery: to who he thought he was, and therefore creating an idea of others and world.

No, it wasn’t because his family origins, or that he wasn’t “connected” with them. Psychology is not a solution nor an illuminator of cause. We must go beyond cause and effect.

If one takes seriously the possibility that there is universal consciousness, that the body is an appearance in it and not self-existent, then killing the body is not a solution. It merely perpetuates or changes the form of the currently appearing issue. In other words he was seeing it as an object problem.

But what if there are no objects (in reality)? What if this were a cosmic simulacrum?
It’s probably no accident that I watched this episode last night (nothing is random and serendipity abounds when allowed to be seen):
Existential Crisis: Black Mirror Pushes A Philosophical Hypothesis, Popularized By Elon Musk And Physicists

In this episode about a near future, a series of co-workers are placed inside a frustrated and repressed CTO’s computer game simulation, via stealing a sample of their DNA and scanning it. The simulations come alive, are sentient, inside his game world along with the creator’s character (captain of the starship they are all on). They want to escape, but cannot. They cannot even commit suicide, because they are all under the control of the revengeful techie. At the end they finally find a clever escape and get their comeuppance.

The we-are-a-simulation-in-someone-elses-computer game hypothesis veils what is more likely (and has been pointed to by sages for millennia): there isn’t a separate simulator: you are merely caught up (identifying) with your own simulation, the mind-projected self/others/world (and time and space). You are in fact the simulator and the simulated at the same time…

Therefore there is no escape from Reality.

But why would you want to escape, if what you are is causeless happiness: eternal, imperturbable, beyond space and time, absolutely free, not subject to cause and effect? We only pretend we are not happy. As hard to accept as that may be to many, I believe it is the truth.

I have glimpsed this causeless unbounded, unlimited free range happiness more than once, but am not yet living in it full time. But “I” will get there eventually, because it is who I am, already, if only the filters of thinking, the habits, the practice of self-ing, were to stop being held onto, repeated with memory and thinking. We all get there one way or another. It’s just a matter of time. Or rather, the timeless unfolding within the seeming boundaries of space and time: the infinite potential that manifests as you and I and all phenomenon, if you allow it. What are your real limits? How much love are you capable of? How much beauty can you experience? How much truth is there to be seen? Why are you here? Freedom is what we are made of. It’s a case of mistaken identity.

If you could only wake up and realize it. It’s that simple.

But this is one stubborn and incredibly detailed and compelling dream. One in which we are addicted to being a human, to being a person.
But the answer is not to try and kill one’s avatar, because it’s the nature of the game to have avatars and a world they play in. There will always be avatars in this eternal-now playing in the infinity matrix. Rather, see who is running the show.

There can be a three-part process: first you realize what you are not – the small self, the others, the world – then you realize what you are – Consciousness – then you realize they are one and the same: Self and phenomena (objects). As in the Zen parable: first the mountains are mountains…:

“Before a man studies Zen, to him mountains are mountains and waters are waters; after he gets an insight into the truth of Zen through the instruction of a good master, mountains to him are not mountains and waters are not waters; but after this when he really attains to the abode of rest, mountains are once more mountains and waters are waters.”

(D. T. Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, First Series, 1926, London; New York: Published for the Buddhist Society, London by Rider, p. 24.)”

In this I know I may be misunderstood, and a lot of assumptions and ideas and opinions and conclusions and knowledge will come into play for many readers, but I’m telling you it needs to be taken seriously: that there is, and what you are, is not what you think there is or what you are. It needs to be taken seriously that there is what we could call for lack of any adequate term for everyone for all time, Consciousness. Language is deceptive because it’s built to point to objects in consciousness (and processes in time, for bodies, selves, persons…), but in what do the objects appear? Could it be it’s not an object but the subject of all objects, and that the objects are made of this? Is it possible? Can you entertain that? At least for a moment in your busy days, with all it’s objects to attend to and evaluations going on? Yes, with all it’s seriousness about these objects and oneself and others? Is it possible you are taking the wrong things seriously? It may sound idealistic or “out there” but What If it were true – don’t wait until you are 70 years old and worried about dying, or near suicide, or recovering from a suicide attempt, or are a drug addict, or have lost one or more loved ones, or are in some other crisis like a financial or health one, to ponder these things. The time is now. Always now.

Just Say No to 3P Fundamentalism: Mistaking the Form for the Formless

 

“Your eyes must see in the singular if you want to find the truth.”
– Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, p.69

(Note: This essay has to do with The Three Principles Psychology or “The 3P”: a successful spiritual psychology teaching model used in life coaching and countless others areas of human relations, counseling and psychology worldwide. The profound epiphany of a man-turned-mystic philosopher and healer name Sydney Banks was the catalyst for what got formed into a psychology and teaching model).

Recently a long-time 3P practitioner made a post to his blog in which he “protested” the potential divisiveness and revisionism with the field, to not taint the message, and to keep the “purity”. One of the oft-heard concerns – not just from this person – is that practitioners are believing they need something else besides the 3P to help people, are are “mixing” things they learned that are “outside-in”, that practitioners are not understanding the inside-out nature of the understanding deeply enough.

This is confusing two different issues: 1. using outside-in stuff – practices, tools and techniques – and 2. understanding deeply enough. The latter issue will take care of the former. In other words, if you see deeply enough, understand the essence of the 3P, then “mixing” will not be an issue. One will see the truth (or lack thereof) across all models and within all teachings, and use whatever words are appropriate in the context of the situation and the moment, and your being-ness will be a teaching in itself. A good teacher of spiritual truth is not going to pull Freud out of the bag (except perhaps as an example of insanity). It will be obvious what is bullshit and what is real.

Others have commented or complained on confusion, divisiveness, diffusion, dogmatism, and so forth within the Three Principles Psychology. They are also concerned that it’s become just a coaching model, or a business model, and it’s getting diluted as it spreads. Of course, much of this is inevitable: a deep teaching is only going to be understood by a few, and of them a smaller number will be able to teach or write about. It took me 20 years to see through the “cruft” of my own thinking, stubbornness, social programming, bodily patterns of contractions, and the encrustation of added psychology of Syd’s message before I “got it”.

Rather than combine the 3P with something else, what is needed is to take things away from the 3P. In other words, to simplify the message to it’s essence. I’ll qualify that with “often” needed and “with many”. The 3P are seen truly only in simplicity (as Syd kept pointing out). New or fresh takes on it are helpful in this regard. But don’t mistake the form for the formless essence, the non-objective nature from which all appears.

Someone using the 3P approach and having some understanding, may eventually realize that this pointing away from or speaking out against practices tools and techniques, and pointing within, is really the same as the “direct path” spoken of by so many teachers of ancient and of today (Taoists, Buddhist, nonduality…). What we are is non-objective – in other words, alive in the moment and not a memory, not a concept. It cannot be formulated and stored away. This can seem tricky to convey since it can’t be held or grasped, but also means there’s nothing to fix, control, hold onto, solve, or figure out. You are whole and complete because you are that whole, living, free, unknowable yet all-knowing intelligent life, if you stop being that little self, that little thought…

The “old” forms that are not appropriate in this regard to combine with a spiritual psychology are the old psychologies (therapies, theories, models, practices, tools and techniques, etc.), that go into the past, focus on problems, pathology, cause and effect, and get one involved even more deeply in the endless games of the personal mind. But “old” forms of spiritual teachings, which also point to the formless, are perfectly in tune, once understood. Old spiritual traditions can be useful tools to help cut away that which is not essential, not you, not true. They also reassure us that truth is truth, tell us we are on the right track in triangulating on what is true, no matter what form it comes in, and that it’s timeless. Syd would often say “there’s nothing new” and what he was teaching has been around since time immemorial. 

In other words, it’s “safe” to mix the 3P with teachings that point towards Source (formless, context) as long as you are clear with differing concepts and words, or definitions, but it is *not* safe (does not make sense, confuses or takes away from) to mix with content-oriented teachings and techniques. That would include almost all of the old psychology, which is based in theories from a personal mind of a theoretician and a divergent interpretation of phenomenon, with no underlying common framework of understanding of where all this content is coming from, or that it’s even content. Another way to say this is that these content and concept-oriented models are thought-based and not reality-based. For example all the descendants of Freudianism and other medical or quasi-medial models, and materialist belief systems (which is what most individuals in the modern Westernized world cleave to, like a religious faith) which is I understand around 3 to 400 different schools of therapy and psychology.

“To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind is the greatest of all mistakes.” – Hsin Hsin Ming by Seng-T’san

“Wisdom is found before the formation of form.” – Sydney Banks, The Missing Link, p 132

Syd realized that the world is Consciousness in various forms, including thought-forms, and that the nature of the world is duality – suffering is built-in – as a game Consciousness is playing. Listen to early Syd tapes and you can hear him talk about poverty and sickness and wars and that there’s nothing you can do to change this. The whole point it to free yourself first, realize oneself and be happy, and that will change the world inherently, through your freedom, however that freedom manifests. The world is a sea of ignorance and bailing it out with a cup of wisdom won’t make a dent in the universe. For example, teaching is done for the inherent joy and love, the giving. Helping out of compassion happens spontaneously, if there isn’t personal thinking in the way. It’s natural to help a fallen person in the street, and does not need to be legislated by religion, psychology, or techniques.

I sometimes wonder then why there is sometimes an urge to save the world or “spread the message” by 3P practitioners. Sometimes it’s driven by compassion, or enthusiasm, or by being “true believers” that they’ve found the answer to all the world’s problems, or simply a professional desire for expansion, or a mixture. But there can be a subtle mistaking-the-form-for-the-formless again. Truth doesn’t need to be spread, it’ already here now. Removing the veils of ignorance happens in it’s own time (in the timeless) – this cannot be explained or made to happen from the small mind, their personal self. This is difficult to explain, but is worth mentioning because we have seen the dangers of those that want to save or change the world: the Hitlers, the Pol Pots, those with an agenda. Sometimes the fierce desire to change others or the world is a running from one’s own pain, grief, sadness and so forth, that has not been faced. It’s trying to change the show in the world when what’s not being seen is, where is the show coming from? The simple point of “heal thyself” first is missed because it’s unconscious, and projected outward. There are deep assumptions going on (about who one is, what the world is, what life is) and the need for escape. Spiritual leaders are not immune to addictions.

“…the purity of our understanding is the vehicle for change, nothing more. We can only change ourselves, we can’t change the world, and we can’t change other people. We can only get our minds very still, very pure, and then work through the feeling to lead others to their own wisdom.” – Syd Banks

Any teaching that shows you how to be yourself is naturally going to be paradoxical: there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go to be who you truly are. It’s like a Zen koan, yet that is the paradox that the mind sees, because the mind only sees in duality.

Come to know that you *are* the world, and not the world, in an absolute sense. That’s the whole game.

There is nothing to protect, either as an illusory person or as a field of psychology. However, if there are beliefs, and a sense of separateness, or a “brand” association (related to one’s business interests) one wants to protect, that is a tainted message with respect to Truth.

“Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists” – A Course in Miracles

What is essential in all this is to make the distinction between the 3P as a teaching model, and the spiritual truth or reality that it’s pointing to. If you don’t make that distinction you are heading to fundamentalism, or a religion. You will become bound again rather than free.

There are no authorities other than your True Self, the insights via the One Teacher: your own innate wisdom, what you are. Don’t be a follower. You have everything within that you need and want, and the whole universe as a creation from the one Mind.

Fledgling Nonduality

Video: Bobby the Scrub Jay, one of my “gurus”, who I serve mealworms and peanuts everyday from my hand, had a couple of fledglings with his wife, and one of them has taken to taking baths in the water dish I put out. Kids these days…

Car notes from yesterday (digital recorder):

There is this inference, this false inference that we started doing because when we were little kids, there was a name given, pointed out as associated with this perception of sensations and associated with what was happening. It creates this concept of a self and a body, a name and a body, an “I” thought that gets reinforced as the illusion of time and space, and it seems to go on… 
Then there are various perceptions, sensations thoughts, memories arising, then we tack on a self, saying “I did it, I experienced it, I am this, I have this, I have a body, I chose this, I decided this… But there was never a border to any of these, never a separate thing in the first place.

Middle of the night notes:

So in the spiritual search or seeking in general, there’s a seeking for some thing (an emanation from our own thinking: money, fame, relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, God, enlightenment…) because there’s the assumption that what “I” am is a thing as well. 
So theres a seeking from an assumed thing for an assumed thing. If there was not a thing being sought from in the first place there would be no thing being sought in the second place. They arise together, along with apparent time and space.
It’s a case of mistaken identity since there is no thing in the first place. It’s the illusion of a thing seeking a thing to complete the seemingly incomplete seeker. 
As it’s been said a million times, the seeker is the sought.
However it’s usually not mentioned that there *is* no seeker.
How could something that’s infinite in being go out of being? It’s always here. Nothing can be lost. Or gained. 
There is: a vibration of sound. A vibration of light. Of sensation. Of smell. Of taste. Inside and outside all happening at once: all the identifications of these seem to separate them out but they must be happening in the same place, the same time, here and now or they could not be perceived.

This is all rudimentary and self-evident, “Spirituality 101” if you will, by I have fun spelling it out for others, even though there are no others. Then we get into this game of thought and language…

Love and Freedom Cannot Be Separated

 

Freedom and love can’t be separated. 

By “freedom” is meant true inner freedom, and by “love” is meant impersonal love, the nondual living truth, not human love. 

A lack of love and freedom is experienced as darkness, pain and suffering. 

But if love and freedom is who are, then how can there be a lack?

In fact there can’t be a lack, but there can be a perceived lack. 

Why is there a perceived lack? Because who we are is obscured by what we are not. 

What we are not can be characterized in various ways: as something learned, as a movement of thought, as a forgetting one is caught in a dream, as an effort. 

If what we are is effortless freedom, how can there be effort? It doesn’t seem possible for a being so powerful, so limitless, to be able to make an effort and be limited. How can it fool itself? Well, in order to create a world, a universe, a perception, there has to be a difference somewhere. There has to be a somewhere, and and if there’s a somewhere, then there is space, a here and a there. And if there is a here and a there, then there is movement. If there is movement, there is something perceiving movement, and change, and therefore the possibility of time. 

So we have a world and some kind of being in time and space, perceiving and moving about. In this world of differences, you have bright and dim, awake and asleep, good and bad, easy and hard, effortless and effortful. In other words, in our case we are experiencing what is presumed to be a person, a human being. The human being is thinking, perceiving, deciding, willing, acting doing,  having things happen to them, and so forth. 

But wait, back up. Who is experiencing a human being? A person can’t be experiencing a person, or they would be two beings: an experiencer and an experienced.
Something is going on here: more than meets the eye. 

So what do I know?

I know there is awareness, and it’s hearing sounds we call “words” in an “inner” space where other sounds appear, and I see and have the sensations of hands typing them, and the visual perception of hands and fingers moving. There are also sounds “in my head” we’ve learned to call “thoughts”. And there are also sounds that seem to come from “out there” that we call “noise’ or “music” or “speech”, but are actually experienced in the same inner space as the “thoughts” sounds when I really am honest. And there are also images and sounds we call “memories” that are “thoughts” that are repeated. They are associated with images from what we call the “past” but are experienced now.

Where are the boundaries to these perceptions? That is to be investigated, first-hand.

In the meantime, the presumption of a self can be examined on it’s own.

From these raw facts of first-hand experience outlined above, various false inferences are made.
First let’s look at examples of true and false inferences, so we are clear what is meant.

Valid inference:
You see many examples of fire, and smoke happening together, and never smoke without fire, and you infer, “where there is smoke, there is fire”.

Invalid inference:
Someone told you in childhood that smoke is caused by the Goddess Prahali from Venus, and you infer, “Where there is smoke, there is Prahali in action”.

The false inference in question is: “Where there are perceptions happening, or thoughts, or decisions, or choices, or actions taken, there is a separate self responsible, a thing, a doer of the actions, a willer of the choices, a person”. That perceiver, thinking, decider, chooser, will-er is the god we call my “self” or “me” or “I” (in the personal sense).


Love without Freedom playing out in the world is rules, religion, conforming and following…

Freedom without Love is endless seeking, wildness, chaos, instability and lostness…

True freedom is like a child running and laughing in the sheer joy of being alive, in love with Life, just Being. 

In maturity true freedom expresses as knowing one’s own nature, which is the same as love:  being aware of Being, nameless and formless. 

Love and Freedom married, lead one’s world into a self-perfecting life, ever-evolving, and
growing anew: infinite potential manifesting, the form and the formless dancing in celebreation of peace, love and beauty.

However, they were never separate to begin with…

 

Notes on “Feelings”

 

“The teaching is not in the words, it is in the love and understanding from which the words proceed and with which they are permeated. The words are just the packaging of the teaching. They are important but only in so far as they lead to the love and understanding from which they originate. As such, and in the hands of a skillful and sensitive teacher, a very wide variety of means and expressions will be used depending on the moment…”– Rupert Spyra

 
 

Sometimes in the The Three Principles field, or in nondual circles, I’ll hear the word “feelings” being used in many different ways, but with the assumption that we are all talking about the same thing. So it may be useful to flesh out what is being pointed to when a teacher or coach talks about them, especially in the context of being pointed to “a feeling” as guide to truth with a capital “T”.

This is my initial attempt to bring some clarity to the concepts, as well as spark some understanding and perhaps inspire some insight into what we mean when we say “feelings”.

First, a definition “understanding”: I’ll use the word “understanding” as it’s used in these fields to mean seeing for oneself the truth of the direct knowing or intelligence “from Source”, when we suddenly understand a problem’s solution, or have an insight into a situation or about a friend or loved one, or into life as a whole. A moment of understanding can be as tiny as it suddenly becoming obvious where you left your car keys after you’d been trying to figure it out, to as large as what Universal Intelligence is. The bigger insights are the kind of understanding that the teachers and sages are generally pointing to, or that a life coach is facilitating the insight into, for example so we can get a “grounding” in “the understanding” (of our “true nature”), but big or small understandings are all of the same nature: standing under truth. 

The Feeling of Happiness is Home

The greater context of the concern with feelings is that the most global level, all beings seek happiness, and this is generally thought to be a feeling, even if we don’t acknowledge that what we are seeking is either a feeling we assume is happiness, or we seek happiness itself. For example, someone might seek to become wealthy, or decide that living in a hut with only a pot for a possession if the path to happiness. We because we believe at some level that it will make us feel loved by others, or loved by God, or free, or safe. That is a feeling, and is temporary: someone may become wealthy and have a good feeling for a while but it will pass and change. Ot their life in a hut turns out to have as many ups and downs as their life in a large house. However real happiness is not so fickle. We all seek happiness because it’s our true nature and is our “home”, and at some level we know that, consciously or unconsciously.

So humans in particular do many things they think will bring them happiness. As children, we are born knowing how to be happy, naturally. After we are children, we do try and this with knowledge from the culture that is learned: various formulas for seeking happiness outside ourselves, through relationships (including with ourselves, such as who we think we are: our identity in the world), situations, or things. Ultimately we want a good feeling in life, and ideally, a good feeling that lasts, is more or less a permanent home we abide in, and not just an occasional guest in our house. So it certainly seems important that we look at what feelings are, especially in a field like The Three Principles Psychology, or if one is a spiritual teacher or student, since almost everyone comes to them in order to feel better, even if happiness is sought indirectly via “enlightenment” or self-realization, or just self-improvement.

It’s also important to see when wanting something is driven by fear or desire. Desire is a sense of wanting, felt in the body, that can drive thinking, and whose source is the sense or belief to be a separate entity, a person. Fear and desire can play out in all kinds of ways – the whole human comedy or tragedy – but the key thing is that there is no freedom in being controlled by feelings or thoughts. Something that is not conscious is like a robot, and it will do what it does automatically, mechanically, repeatedly. As a person, we have no control. There is only one will, the will of freedom: in contrast a separate entity will be determined by the endless chain of cause and effect that appear to exist in time and space. 

There is no lack, no wanting, no sense of desiring and fearing in a state of true happiness. And again, it is not a state – we lack words for this reality of what we are, ever-present, all-encompassing, impersonal freedom – it is reality. But it gets covered up from learning and life experience, and the repeated thinking. But once you are tired of that and desire peace and freedom more than derivative love and pleasures, ways are sought – some direct, some more indirect – to get back Home. 

Ultimately, true happiness is not a state. A state is referring to something that changes: a local, or personal, conditional state of affairs. Since we are talking about spirituality and psychology, and one that points people away from circumstances.

Feelings as Barometers of State of Mind

And as many practitioners point out, feelings are an indicator of what’s going on in terms of our thinking and state of mind, or level of understanding of ourselves and reality. If we have a true understanding, we will by nature feel better, and conversely, if our understanding of life is very low, our feelings will reflect that.

One of the bits of wisdom the field has helped to spread is that feelings can be a guide to the quality of our thinking, much like the dashboard on a car. Here is a quote from an early Three Principles book (from 1997 when it was called “Health Realization”):

‘Just as the warning lights on the dashboard of your car alert you to potential danger, your negative feelings alert you that your thinking is no longer serving you. Without your feelings to alert you that a problem is lurking, you’d have no way to determine when you have drifted off course.

If you constantly label your negative feelings – for example, “I’m angry” – instead of simply noticing “I’m uncomfortable,” you keep the negative feeling alive in your thinking, increasing the degree to which you are caught up and concerned about how you are feeling. Your thinking becomes a spiral whereby the more analytical you become about how you are feeling, the more trapped you will become.

The act of noticing uncomfortable feelings — seeing them as a warning flag — reminds you that you are thinking; it wakes you up. This simple act clears your mind and points you back in the direction of your healthy thought process.’
– “Slowing Down To The Speed of Life” by Richard Carlson And Joseph Bailey

On Thoughts and Feelings

People in the Three Principles field, by way of responding to question about how to “Get it” – the understanding – very often say “It’s in the feeling”.

One of the key ideas that is prevalent in the Three Principles field is the direct and inseparable link between thoughts and feelings. This useful insight plays out in several forms. So for example a recent thread on FaceBook (in the “What The F*#$ Are The Principles?” group):

Claire: we all have wisdom, we all feel called to help others as coach or otherwise and if we speak from ‘our heart’ (metaphor) we’re doing the best we can! So we can forget about specific words, and just go out and love people and say what occurs to us!

Julie: It’s truly in the feeling.

Pam: I find when I speak from a feeling, what I am trying to say is heard. I’m not a coach, but I do want to share what I have seen.

Amir: This is as simple as it gets

Eric: Sounds like you got it.
Only thing that comes to mind is how Sydney Banks would say Thought is like the rudder steering us through life. So surely it’s a tool guided either by either reaction or wisdom. More metaphors…

Michael: Well said

Eric: Thanks. I’m just the rudder…

Michael: Eric, So funny, I meant for that to be to Claire. Looks like your rudder is off.
Words are funny! My take on that is that the rudder (thought) is the animating force behind our experience of life. fair?

Eric: *Your* rudder is off lol – you were replying to my comment, not the main thread. 🙂 Though you can count on my rudder being at least partially off a fair amount of time. 😉

No the animating force is universal intelligence or “energy”. The rudder is just a creation, movable and changeable, part of the movie. But we can’t see it normally because we think we *are* the rudder (and the boat)…

Michael: Damn rudders. I was using animating force as that which enables how we see it in the moment (thought/rudder) not that which animates or gives life. AKA universal energy.

A later question and answer chat:

Question:
Hey Eric, you mentioned thought as the rudder. In your study of non duality is there a differentiation between thought and feeling.

Answer:
Hi Michael – Let’s see, I suppose one should first differentiate between a non-dual understanding and the path to get there. The “direct path” is what I’ve been around, or am at, and this takes as a *starting point* the fact of awareness as universal consciousness as what one truly is, rather than assuming there is a person to do something to get somewhere. In other words it starts at the top of the mountain rather than a winding path leading up.
The various things in the way – beliefs and tendencies we learned of unconsciousness (“ignorance” in the East) – are dissolved in the relentless pointing to It which is not an “it” (an object within awareness).

From the perspective of seeing the dynamic of thought and feeling, the non-dual teaching will sometimes as a practical matter, like the 3P, point out to the student how their thoughts will create or correlate to a feeling – feelings being ultimately just a sensation in the body –  or thoughts triggered by a feeling in a feedback loop, such as giving the feelings meaning or importance (seriousness), which adds to or changes the feeling reaction. 3P teachers, especially the early ones (Health Realization days and before) in a similar vein to the direct path, but more psychologically-oriented, point to feelings as an indicator of one’s quality of thinking, thus giving one an opportunity to wake up to thinking-in-the-moment. They both point out the fact that the more unconscious one is, the more identified with thinking and feeling one is. One’s state or “level” of consciousness automatically will rise when this thinking is released. There is always a choice to react or not, and a non-reactive awareness is where we want to abide. Then we are the driver and not the driven.

From the perspective of the direct path (the pathless path), they are all just *content* – and so we ask: what is aware of the thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions? It’s always pointing back to who you are, absolutely: simply Being aware of being aware, which is state-free, undifferentiated, global, real, and True. So thoughts and feeling are lies in this absolute awareness: just passing, changing appearances, relative to the unchanging nature of what we are.

Some Notes On Understanding and Expression of Truth

I’m going to attempt tease these out because maybe it will help us see more clearly what’s going on. As I see it there is the understanding and there’s the expression of it. So the possible combinations of those two – understanding & expression – are:

1. High understanding and ease of expressing & communicating it.
2. High understanding and difficulty of expressing & communicating it.
3. Low understanding and ease of expressing & communicating it.
4. Low understanding and difficulty of expressing & communicating it.

Note the expressing & communicating are not necessarily the same thing: where I sit on the balcony as I write this, there are many birds singing. They are being very expressive indeed, but they are not communicating to me. The same bird species and perhaps other birds understand them at some instinctual level, but to me it’s just pretty noise, like music.*

For the purpose of this essay, to simplify things I’ll assume we are all good communicators, such that there’s not a huge practical difference between expressing and communicating (and we are all of the same species speaking the same language!). Therefore the issue at hand is, what do we really mean in the Three Principles Field and in spiritual-psychology teachings by “feelings” (and in non-duality and since there is an overlap in all these fields, and that is also where I’ve become familiar with other’s interest in understanding more deeply what feelings are, since we all want “good” ones and not “bad” ones supposedly, in our innate search for happiness) .

Let’s focus on #2 – an understanding and difficulty of expressing it – since it may be best to assume folks seem to have “it” to a degree (an understanding, and that’s whom I’m addressing), and I’m writing about how to better express it in words, how to “language it” (or try!). Why? So we can communicate, lessen confusion, and hopefully maybe even shed a little light on the matter at hand (a better understanding).

By the way, I like one definition of “understanding” a friend gave once: “standing under truth”. There you are, minding your own business, after struggling to understand something, and an insight comes from out of the blue, from above as it were, and you find yourself with a greater or better understanding.

So in terms of the understanding, what Syd meant when he said “look for a feeling”, at it’s most basic level was simply saying that what he’s pointing to is an an experience, not an intellectual understanding. It can’t be contained in words or concepts, but must be felt and understood as a whole. You come out of a meditation or a class, or after a great insight has shifted your outlook, and your perception of life has changed, and everything has a different feel to it that’s hard to pin down.

On a somewhat more temporal level, there are particular deeper feelings that could be said to be intimations, or perfumes of timeless truth: the hard-to-pin down experience of our shared universal reality: love, peace, deep joy, great beauty… very “quiet” feelings.

Then on a even more temporal level, there are more ephemeral feelings, like being “in love” that are exciting, like a drug. They are experienced in the body (which is the mind: sensations experienced in consciousness via the instrument of the body). They are a little less quiet.

And even shorter lived experiences disturbances we could call “emotions” (e-motion) like anger, lust, fear, “stress” – that have an intensity and may seem real but come and go very quickly. Also in-the-body-experience of course. And even noisier.

So to be helpful to others, it’s good to distinguish what feelings are experiences of lies, and what of truth.

For example, one friend in a Three Principles forum gave the example of a violent sociopath who (he claims) gets a good feeling from killing someone – a sense of glee perhaps. Do you want to say “follow your feelings”? No – in that case it would be immoral or lead to bad behavior. So it can be important to distinguish what we mean by “feelings”, on a practical as well as to make sure we are communicating.

Bondage is following feelings that are lies – not reflective what you truly are – and freedom is being lived according to true feelings, and experience that can’t be described, only “felt” as a whole.

It can be difficult to talk about or convey some of these deeper feelings: poets and mystics have been taking shots at the moon for thousands of years, and there’s never an end to the attempt to express. These feelings are not rational: they are of a non-linear reality that we are trying to package in a linear fashion via a string of sounds, or in the case of writing, some little strings of symbols that represent sounds, and by some amazing magic, these sounds in the mind are turned into, exploded into, birthed with meaning. These little marks on paper or on a screen are what a reader makes sounds in their heads with, that hopefully spark something for them (an insight, an experience, an understanding).

“If the only thing people learned was not to be afraid of their experience, that alone would change the world.” – Sydney Banks

I’ve also heard Syd on a tape say “Don’t be a afraid of feelings. Now, I don’t mean going around proving you have feelings…”

The way I read this was, “How can you dissolve these feelings if you aren’t even aware of them? How can you reveal deeper, better feelings if you are clouded by uncomfortable ones you don’t acknowledge, or that are unconscious, that are running you, that you are letting yourself be controlled by? I’m not saying change your behavior: rather, look within.” For example, I was using substances for years to try and control, reduce uncomfortable feelings like anxiety or depression. But those feelings were covers for deeper feelings that were evidence of deeply held beliefs that were untrue (for example that I was a separate and limited entity, a body that was going to die). How could I uncover, unmask the feelings and see what truth they were hiding if I was running scared from them? Like monsters that are just mirages: sensations in the body and thoughts, all of which are in the mind. And what is this “mind”? A set of activities, movement, that another thought comes in as labels as “me”, then takes seriously. That’s what gets us in trouble.

Are these feelings “rational”? For example are any of these “levels” of feelings good guides to action (in the present, or to gauge what someone has done in the past, or to decide on a future action)?

There are better words than irrational. “Irrational” can be a pejorative term, for example, an “irrational fear”, or someone is acting hysterical or irrational. We could say “un-rational”, “un-rational” or “para-rational”. Take your pick.

Here’s what I posted to a Three Principles FaceBook group recently, as an example of a feeling-as-experience:

‘This is something I’ve seen lately, but am not used to ‘hanging out with’: that spiritual truth, love, beauty…. are irrational. But in a good way. 🙂

For example, lately the focus-point if you will, has to do with the will, doer-ship, personal will, decision, choice, however you want to say it. And yes, as I was discussing with my spiritual friend yesterday, it’s paradoxical. The mind just can’t get around it, has to give up at some point.

The experience of “being lived”, as some have said it (Wei Wu Wei, Byron Katie are the one’s I’ve heard lately) happens in the moment, for example in “being of service”, or “being in love” (happens several times a week for me) and we can think about it later, conceptualize it, but it’s like the empty shell, the mold from which the sculpture emerged, or the cocoon leftover, but the butterfly lives and flies free.’

* This is true even though I “know” intellectually, that naturalists say the birds are using song to carve out and maintain their territories, sometimes I wonder if they are also expressing joy of being, since I may get an immediate impression of that when I feel there is no difference between “me” – when “I” disappear – and the bird singing. This is the difference between intuitive knowledge and intellectual, stored knowledge. Which is right? Depends on your perspective and purpose.

On Beyond Limitations of the Three Principles Psychology Model

Photo © Copyright Eric Platt 2016
Photo © Copyright 2016 Eric Platt

  

‘There’s no limit to how much you’ll know, depending how far beyond zebra you go.’ – Dr. Seuss

The following article arose from a post I made to Amir Karkouti’s the spiritual psychology FaceBook forum “What The F*#$ Are The Principles?“. 
(post permalink)

I’d like to share something, for whatever it’s worth, about the Three Principles Psychology (3P) model that has been vague for a while came into sharper focus yesterday, in large part because of participating in an online forum and becoming familiar with how people are responding to, using, and (trying to) live the 3P.

I’ve been involved with this field for about 21 years, since it was called Psychology of Mind, and then Health Realization (as student-participant, writer and occasional counselor).

Here’s the rub: the emphasis on Thought as a power, or Thinking as a function (in the moment, forming one’s perceived reality), can be powerful, if contextualized properly – which is what Universal Consciousness and Universal Mind are supposed to do – but not enough emphasis or intuitive energy is given on who or what the “I” is that thoughts occur to. So what happens is people fall back into the psychological and personal. This is especially true if one is intellectually oriented, as we generally are in this culture, some of us more than others (like me!). So we remain more or less, off and on, trapped in thinking, one’s experienced filtered by thinking and habitual, unconscious tendencies. The blind spots remain.

We respond with, or plateau at various levels off and on, of, for example “I know it’s just thinking but… How do I get out of thinking? How do I change my thinking? Can I stop thinking? I know it’s just my thinking, but that’s not helping?”… and so on, often not sure how to transcend thinking. And of course telling ourselves or them it’s just their thinking (especially without a broader, deeper understanding first) often doesn’t help, and may even irritate or frustrate (especially if it’s a loved one!).

Meanwhile we are not seeing in unity and simplicity, but in duality: A thinker with it’s thoughts, and a (separate) world.

I myself was fairly stuck, off and on, with slow progress of my understanding over the years – more often talking the walk than walking the talk – and didn’t get zapped in the way I needed until a very direct teacher said “Who are you?!” in an energetic way that shocked my thought system, and eventually led me to go hang out with non-dualists. Then the scales started to fall from my eyes. (This “zap” was by a coach who uses the 3P but was grounded in his own totally physically-lived Zen-like experience of life prior to learning about Syd Banks’ beautiful teachings, which helped him give form to what was an extremely direct and energetic understanding, for use in coaching).

I realize this is my path, and everyone is unique, but thought I’d share how I see it now: this caught-in-thought phenomenon and the sense that something isn’t quite as simple or direct as it could be in the 3P, has been bugging me for a long time.

It’s not clear yet what the solution is yet – how to introduce a kind of self-enquiry to “bring it home” – I’m just starting to explore this… and of course it all depends on the student, the context.

It does occur to me as I write that the basic situation is that the 3P are heard as a kind of objective model or description – which is made worse by it sometimes being called “scientific” – when what is needed is to point out somehow the radically subjective nature of experience. (This objective-seeming model is also why it can easily be taken on as a belief, to replace other beliefs).

However, this is all impersonal, everything that’s happening. It is happening to you, as a perceiver at the same time as it’s completely universal. The mind can’t grasp it, but you can start to chip away at the armor, the false beliefs. Eventually one will be open to see in unity, in truth.

You can also start to see why it all depends on the teacher: their “grounding” (here we go again, haha…) and what they “transmit” via their presence, life, who they are. Their happiness and love and psychological freedom are the most important substance of their message. The form (the 3P, the teaching action, the person) is just a way to try and communicate the formless. Sydney Banks always kept reminding the psychologists that it’s “spiritual”.

My two cents of the moment… (end of FaceBook post)

Some Additional Notes on the Three Principles Teachings and it’s Origins

Because it came from a spontaneous realization (for the most part: Sydney Banks did say he had read some Krishnamurti that a work buddy at the mill lent to him, but he certainly wasn’t a student of spirituality or a seeker or knowledgable) – and he had no tradition other than some standard Bible-based teachings in the orphanage, his teachings don’t belong to any tradition or lineage. He also had only a 9th-grade education. A formal education however is not a prerequisite for spiritual insight, in fact it can get in the way. The intellect, speech and the learning are mere tools for expression and investigation.

This is evident in the language Sydney Banks used in his early talks (tapes from the 70s), which are a profoundly heart-felt mix of language that he picked up, or that occurred to him, or Christian metaphors (e.g., “Christ Consciousness”). They were used spontaneously to try and convey his mystical insights.
This, like all teachings, is a double-edged sword: whereas traditions (like Advaita from Hinduism) have the drawback of all the baggage and concept, religious attitudes and ornamentations (not to mention schisms between interpretations), a new spiritual teaching has the drawback of being difficult to interpret and understand clearly. On the other hand it has a freshness and power that is felt at the level of feeling and intuition, when the mind can’t hold onto the words.

Such new teachings do not come through a lens that has been refined through the ages. However it may have an impact in the way it addresses people in the current concerns and pre-occupations of the time – which for example for many Westerners is psychology, psychotherapy, counseling, the world of self-improvement, New Age teachings, and so forth.

That Syd then happened to meet some psychologists (George Pransky, Roger Mills, etc.) who, along with Rick Suarez and others were able to help shape the teaching into a model over the years, was a fortunate “accident” of history. There are no accidents however. In retrospect it was fate, and seems perfectly fitting. For this wisdom to go out into the world in a way that is digestible – with Thought as the bridge – by a very broad audience is an amazing, well, miracle if you will.

What “reaches you” and opens your eyes depends on your propensities, what resonates with you, what you feel you can trust. With the Three Principles, I could feel something that the intellect could try and deny but it was obvious Syd was onto Truth in a deep way. Then years later, the clarity and precision of the teachings of Francis Lucille, and Laura Lucille (Advaita vedanta mainly, non-dualism) and others from a that school of teachings, that lineage, helped open the doors and clear the way conceptually and in terms of a felt presence, since I have been able to spend time with them (Syd died physically in 2006 and I only saw him once, at a conference in 1997, from a distance).
Having a formal background in philosophy (and philosophy of science), and an intellectual bent, meant I needed that precision and clarity in order to have my questions answered, and fortunately, Francis also had a background in Western as well as Eastern philosophy and science.

I still have a way to go in the terms of the body, relationships and certain emotions (which are interrelated) but at least I know that light needs to be shed there… 

Mind, Consciousness, and Thought are training wheels.
Non-duality is the ground on which they stand.

Q: I really enjoyed reading the history of 3P and your take on non-dualism being the foundation. I agree that ultimately what Syd was pointing to was non-dualism. I have studied with Rupert Spira and really enjoy Francis Lucille as well but I have a question for you. Where in non-dual teachings is there any reference to circumstances having nothing to do with experience. I have never heard or read any non-dual teacher saying anything like that? The reason I ask is I think the Inside Out understanding is very helpful and I would like to anchor it back to spiritual truth but I can’t find it.

A: Thanks. The answer to your question would depend on the non-dual teacher. I’ve heard Laura Lucille (Francis’ wife and a “spiritual friend” as she puts it) talk about how the world we experience is a projection of mind. Her last teacher (for one year before he died) was Robert Adams. However Robert Adams saw the reality of the world differently than how Francis Lucille sees it, since Adams was more pure Indian Advaita, and Francis is influenced also by the Kashmir Shaivism school as well as Western philosophy, physics, etc. But none of the traditions matter so much as what we can uncover via this dialogue, using the 3P and nonduality as mirrors.

I could try and answer what I think they would say but it’s better to ask them. As I pointed out, it would take some time and effort to get the language and definitions straight. I tried to do this with Francis when I first met him, but quickly realized it was better to understand as best I could what he was wanting to convey than try and get him to understand 3P. That approach has worked well, because I can now shine a light back on the 3P.

I would start by saying that you could see it like this (partly tongue-in-cheek): Mind, Consciousness and Thought are like 3 training wheels. Non-duality is the ground on which that trike stands. The direct path (Francis, Laura, Robert, Ramana Maharshi, etc.), is the quickest way to get to that ground (situated on a mountaintop), but it’s a very steep path, and not very many desire to go that route.

I would say the emphasis is a little different with the 3P, and since Syd’s insight came through psychologists (in order to get it out into the world on a wider basis), there is more of a concern with an application to what is seen by psychologists and in areas where there is dysfunction, conflict, and suffering, or less-than-optimal functioning, and a greater manifestation of human potential is wanted: namely in a person or in communities. So there is more of a concern with the human than with the absolute or with looking at the ultimate nature of the self and reality. In Advaita and Buddhism the concern is with enlightenment via undoing the mistake of identification, and realizing in essence that you are not human, but a figment of imagination as it were, in the cosmic dreamer.

Given this emphasis on the human and relieving their suffering via a spiritual psychology, the powerful tool of 3P can spark the insight that one is not a victim (of circumstances or anything) because you made your experience up via the power of thinking, and it’s brought to life via the special effects department called Consciousness and the energy and intelligence of Mind behind it all. What it meant by “universal” however, in my view is played down (by psychologists, coaches, practitioners, etc), partly in order to sell the medicine, and partly because it’s so darn hard to comprehend and really “see” and live what is meant.

But this universal aspect is what answers your question: the common ground between Syd’s teaching and direct path teachings is breaking down thought patterns that are in the way of realizing what you are. In the direct path they are called “beliefs”. They both point us “inside” until we see the nature of the true self, and then that evolves to seeing the nature of the world as well, as also created and empty of objectivity.

They also show us not to take life seriously, and stop focusing on and trying to solve problems. They both point to the ego as the troublemaker. The ego is just an image – made of thought, propped up by beliefs – all supporting the belief in a separate self.

Syd and the non-dualists both point out that we have free will as universal consciousness-mind, and whatever we experience we are responsible for it. It all comes out of nothing (I heard Syd say this in an early tape) which is exactly what the Buddhists and Advaitans say too. But you have to have a proper understanding of what “nothing” is: the source that is not an object. What we are.

You have to be careful about setting up a dualism regarding thought and circumstances. You only know of circumstances via experience. The point is it’s all created, and it’s all you – you as Mind, Consciousness, thought – so take responsibility for your experience, both of circumstances and reactions, since you chose, as absolute freedom, to create it (ask yourself why you did create it if it’s problematic, and enjoy it if it isn’t problematic).

If what you are referring to by “circumstances having nothing to do with experience” is the fact that happiness doesn’t come from circumstances, I’ve heard this mentioned many times by Francis and Rupert (e.g., seeking happiness “person place or thing” is setting yourself up, etc.), or if you mean, how our feelings and experience in the moment are coming from thinking and not from “out there” then I’d say this is true but can be heard in a limited, psychological sense, and thus can be a slippery slope, heading towards solipsism or the the personal and the worldly, and I doubt Syd would put you on that slope. To put it more bluntly, experience has *everything* to do with circumstances, because they both arise from the same source (Syd used to say the material and spiritual are One, and give examples from Native American or Hawaiian spirituality teachings where they would use their own metaphors for that). In other words, absolutely everything is included in the experience you have created – thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, a body a world, a universe – and nothing is excluded in non-dual spirituality. This is the ultimate inside-out understanding: no inside and outside.

So instead, look up-slope towards the vertical dimension of the reality of Consciousness-Mind (or “awareness of being aware” as Spira puts it), once freed from its own creations of thinking patterns (beliefs), will reveal the truth of what you are: perfect, without attributes, boundless, and free.

Postscript

I should point out there is no real “going beyond” the Three Principles – all these wisdom teachings and religions, underneath, are pointing to the same (non)-thing: they are (talking about) the “beyond”. Syd said that all the time, and would talk about Native American spiritual wisdom, Hawaiian kahunas, and so forth, or say things like “keep going to your church” and listen, beyond the words, to the essence.

All I’m saying is, the form, whatever it is, isn’t it. Go beyond the form, to the spiritual (origin, essence … all just words and concepts). Syd kept saying this over and over and over again, in a thousand different forms. Find it for yourself because the form is the outer, the formless is the inner, and they are the same thing. It’s a paradox to the mind and the mind can’t hold it.

It takes no time to be who you are.

Jumping the Boundaries of Time – Syd Banks

 

Find Your Happy Work

To find your Ideal Work you will want to find the Intersection of 3 things: Love, Skills, and Market.

Here’s this “Holy Trinity” of Work Happiness as a graphic:

Without The Three Legs

People often make the mistake of taking an outside-in approach: for example seeing that there is a market for something in the world, and they have or can acquire a certain skill for it, and therefore think it’s what they should do. It’s logical but it doesn’t work over time. We are not machines that can be forced to do things forever. One way this inharmonious approach can happen is when we think an object – in this case more money – will make us happy, so we start with the object (more money) and work backwards. But when in harmony with ourselves at a deep level, life evolves naturally for us from inside-out.

Without the three legs of love, skills, and market, what happens? The stability isn’t there. I’ll show examples from my own life.

1. Only Love and Skill:
If you have love for a subject and skill for it, you might have some great output to show for your time, but of course you’ll have a hard time making a living.
Example: I loved making art, and thought I could have a career as a painter. I took to it like a sponge, gained lots of skill fast, and made some great abstract and realists paintings during this time, but I didn’t have a market (wrong city in part) or a marketing bent or drive or interest in self-promotion, so I only sold a few pieces over the years. I couldn’t make living at it (but I have some nice paintings for my home! No regrets).
I also tried my hand at photorealist painting because I thought realism would be more marketable, and I was fascinated by the examples I saw, and wanted to have great realism as a tool under my belt. I got very good at it, and learned how to be extremely focused (which served me later as a programmer) but it was extremely difficult and time-consuming such that I ran out of time and had to find another way of making a living. I still loved many aspects of it, such as the creative ideas that flowed, the energy of being inspired, the visual emphasis, and the right-brain holistic perception experience, and the interesting people I met, and so forth.

At one point I tried deliberately making more marketable art (for eBay) – a more commercial and decorative product – but it quickly started to feel forced, and it just didn’t work for me. I thought I might as well go into real estate or banking, which paid better, if I was going to work this hard and didn’t like what I was doing! In short I had the skill and market but no love for commercial painting, which brings us to the next:

2. Only Skill and Market:
If you have some some skill in a field, and a market, but little or no love, you can make a living for a while, but you will be heading for burnout, frustration, stress and struggle. This is not sustainable, or if sustainable, leads to health problems (mental and physical), addictions and dis-ease and stress on relationships. It’s not a happy situation and often affects the quality and/or speed of the work, which in turn affects the client’s feelings and your ability to make a living.
Unfortunately a lot of the world works this way, and our intellectually-oriented schooling and career testing feeds the underlying misunderstanding and the misuse of the mind and body.
Example: I did web development and app software programming for a few years. I had some skill with computers, and had been involved with programming as a hobby and occasionally built websites for clients over the years. There was also an obvious market for software development, and I was able to find clients and work. However I didn’t have a true love for the subject – it was fun at times but it often felt like a struggle to keep on-task and focused enough, and I was never fast enough. Programmers with a real love for the subject were running circles around me. I felt a little like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. Although I could solve problems, find creative solutions, play the part, and fool people playing the part of the developer, it was not an inside-out, grounded way to work and live. And I wasn’t fooling myself: at some level I knew it wasn’t quite right. It was stressful, extremely time-consuming – not leaving time for my other interests and loves – and I took to drinking large amount of Kava Kava in the evening while working to deal with the anxiety of programming and the struggle of pushing my mind towards the solutions of problems. And then there was the constant need, as a developer, to learn and keep up with a rapidly changing, expanding, and extremely complex technical field, with deadlines looming.
I burned out on this lifestyle, not being able to meet timelines I’d set for projects with clients, running out of money, and realized I had to do something different.

3. Only Love and Market:
If you have love for a type of activity, and there is a market for it, but you lack skill, you will obviously run into a situation of not being able to offer quality work, and you will lose clients or not be able to find customers or clients in the first place. The good news is you may be able to gain the skills.
An example I can think of from my life is several decades ago in the early days of personal computers, I was fascinated by electronics and digital computers, and felt I had a pretty good general understanding of them, and there was a market for consultants. So fresh out of college I threw myself into computer consulting, confident that I could solve problems as I went and BS my way along with my general philosophical knowledge and ability to talk to people. Well, some clients quickly figured out I didn’t know what I was doing, and I realized I was stressing to find solutions fast, when I was expected to already know them. I didn’t know as much as I thought: one really does need highly detailed, specific knowledge and can’t rely on general understanding in such a highly technical field. (It seems obvious now, but I was young then!). I did eventually gain enough skills in a particular area of computer consulting that I felt more at home in (Apple Macintosh Consulting – I loved Apples design and philosophy) and learned from doing and study. I did that for many years, while doing my writing and art on the side. In the long run my love wasn’t deep enough, and my marketing ability was limited, and being an artist, writer (and gardener) was taking time away from business, so it was not a sustainable career path.

All Three, To Some Degree:

The resolution for me was to find and develop work where I was able to use my innate ability and love of visual art and design, plus interest and skill in writing, and an interest and background in psychology & philosophy, and experience with computers and software, and a market in the software field such that I found satisfying and lucrative work doing specialized consulting. This consulting involves designing and advising on interface designs, doing designs for a software company, creating software prototype (demos), writing on usability and other topics, and occasional photography assignments. No doubt things will evolve as I explore, do more writing (and photography), and find ever better unfolding and match between my loves, skills and market. Work life grows and is perfected, if you pay attention and give it presence, as part of one’s life journey.

I wasted many years trying to figure all this out intellectually when I was younger. I spent endless hours writing, thinking, brooding, reading books, talking to people, trying to figure it out: who was I? Was I a writer, an artist, a computer guy? Where did I belong? Did I belong anywhere in the economy or did I not fit in at all. Was I too unique to be able to find a happy niche? I felt like a round peg trying to fit myself into a square hole.

More Notes on Skills, Love and Marketing

“I know I’m fortunate to live an extraordinary life, and that most people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes with it, have brought me happiness. But they haven’t; in fact it’s the reverse. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I am happy.” – Richard Branson

Skills and Love are not synonymous: this is often gotten backward. One can acquire great skill and still not enjoy doing something. However if you do have a natural love and bent for something – “like a duck to water” or “falling off a log” as the old saying goes – you can more easily or quickly become highly skillful. Not only will you spend more time on it, but it’s going with the grain of your being. Some people hate writing, and though they can gain skills, they never become good or great writers. I enjoy the process of writing, and do it every day: it feels as natural to me as talking (in fact easier than talking and speaking!): like a nearly direct channel between mind and page when I’m in the flow. It’s the same with photography: it felt like a calling, and I found myself doing tens of thousands of photos.

Skills are what is acquired. Love and talent are what is innate.

One of the signs of love is the feeling of joy in action when one is absorbed and free of self-consciousness, in the flow. Love is a feeling natural interest and enthusiasm that cannot be explained. Flow is best found where there is a match between the level of skill and the level of challenge.

However not everything that one has skills at and love is necessarily marketable. A market means people want it and are willing to pay for it.

Often people look at what’s marketable and then try to fit themselves into that. This is a big mistake, and accounts for a great deal of unhappiness and stress in the workplace, and n people’s lives in general.

So if you enjoy poisoning your life with “toxic goals“, have at it – it’s a free country – but why not start today creating a happier world of work for yourself, to whatever degree you can?

This is not to say that there will never be aspects of one’s work that are more boring or routine or unpleasant that you will want to get help with at some point (for example hire a bookkeeper if you have little love or skill for accounting).

The thing is to be free to do what you love and get paid for it. There are degrees of this: it is not black and white. Engaging with pure love and pure skill and getting paid a great deal, and doing this day in and day out is achieved by very few, but nevertheless there is simply no other way that is real and sustainable. So you must aim at perfecting this “art of work” and dedicate yourself to it. Choose happiness rather than misery.

Start from Where You Are; Know Thyself; It’s Not Intellectual

Forget Myers-Briggs personality tests (though they are fun party talk subjects) and the career tests that try and analyze what categories you fit into. Forget the aptitude and interest tests. There is only one way to know what’s right for you, and that is by DOING things, testing where the rubber hits the road and getting the feedback of the world. This feedback includes your own body and mind, and the feelings that are experienced. It includes the feedback of the marketplace and what people are willing to pay for what you do.
This may mean taking jobs as an experiment, even if you are unsure yet if it’s right for you: this is the whole point – to find out! It’s an adventure! (the worst that can happen is that you are fired or fire yourself, and then “good riddance!”). It can be a paid job, a volunteer job, or even a hobby that could lead to future work. An example from my life was photography: I loved doing it, enjoyed making tens of thousand of photos, and got really good: enough that I got paid 4 figures to run around shooting buildings for a client, using a fantastic camera that was paid for by the work. I got paid to have fun doing what I would do even if not paid!

Do not let fear control your life. Many people stay in unhappy work out of fear of what they imagine will happen if they don’t. They think that they have to do it. They are unwilling to take risks. Our imaginations are very powerful but they are a two-edged sword: we can imagine a rocket that will take humans to the moon (Wernher von Braun did it), and build one, and we are also powerful enough beings such that we can sit in a chair and drive ourselves into stress and insanity from mere thinking. It’s up to you. (I believe some form of meditation or mindfulness training, and spiritual-psychological understanding and insight is key to much of this whole subject, but is too much to go into for this article).

This freedom from fear is critical, but it all leaves off the question of freedom and independence in general, which I see as critical to self-realized, genuinely happy life. It works like a feedback loop: you need freedom enough to pursue independent enquiry into who you are, beyond fear and false beliefs, but is also again, inside-out: psychological freedom leading to external freedom. But I’ll leave all this that for future musings…

The Three Principles and The Direct Path

What is the difference between the Three Principles psychology (3P), a spiritual school that uses the model of Universal Mind, Universal Consciousness and Thought, and direct path methods? The direct path is a path of spiritual enquiry wherein one goes directly to truth, rather than through steps (also called the “progressive path”). It is a process of seeing through the beliefs of who and what you thought you are, and being pointed (by a teacher, if you want to go faster) to what you actually are. Paths that are indirect use various practices as well as (sometimes) objects of devotion. The practices are meant to purify, prepare, and undo conditioning. They happen through time. The direct approach is, well more direct (hard to describe how something can happen outside of time! that’s where “transmission” of truth comes in, and unconditional, impersonal Love). Practices can include meditation, bodywork like yoga, chanting, lying on a bed of nails or various forms of asceticism. There are as many forms of practices and techniques as there are potentials in the mind for creating things to get rid of (endless in other words), and ways and means of preparing a person. The direct path gets straight to the point and informs you there is no person to begin with.

Mind, Consciousness and Thought are training wheels. Non-duality is the ground on which they stand.

The common basis with the 3P then is there is no reliance on techniques or motivation, but rather the attempt to impart an understanding. The understanding – a moment of suddenly seeing for oneself, the Aha! moment – that there never was a problem to begin with, were it not for your use of the power of mind (thought), the gift of universal Consciousness, and the infinite intelligence of Mind. The traditional direct path teachings put it in terms of Consciousness, folding in Mind as that aspect that is the infinite innate intelligence of life (which is in consciousness), and talk in terms of the “bodymind”: the sum of personal thinking, feeling and perception we place in an arbitrary and illusory container we call ourselves, which really only exists *within* consciousness. Consciousness is the only reality.

The 3P are not usually taught in such a bold way as to come across as a spiritual teaching, given the secular context of our Western culture, and the psychological context of it’s origins and name (not to mention it’s taught as self-improvement, such as for business performance or in schools). For example, students will usually assume “consciousness” means some localized, personal phenomenon, probably coming from the brain. Likewise the notion of universal mind will seem a little strange, unless put in terms that sound religious, like “God” (which is also dualistic: there is a “me” and a God somewhere). Given the contexts of teaching, there are concessions made to an audience that for the most part couldn’t swallow something as direct as a direct path teaching. The 3P are also, more and more, being adopted as a coaching model, and so starts to become, or seem, as akin to a technology or system. It is sometimes even called a technology or as “scientific” (it’s not: science is about phenomenon, and consciousness is not a phenomenon, it’s what appearances take place *in*).

There is also the fact that the 3P originated, or were catalyzed, in the response of a enlightenment experience (of Sydney Banks) and his early exposure to modern psychology. This exposure came in the form of psychologists like George Pransky ( a very ambitious man) and Roger Mills, who came to visit him, curious about reports of people getting happier. Thus their form reflects the history and the intent. While the field has changed in the 20 years I’ve been observing or participating in it, I did witness a liberating focus on the contrast with traditional psychology and therapy (something I also had exposure to, as a patient of therapists and as a student of psychology). Sometime this contrast was put in terms of, seeing how psychology looks to ones’ past, digs into memories, and tries to solve problems using the tools of the mind, thus re-creating the very source of the problem in the first place. The analogy is telling someone that the cure to burning one’s hand on a stove is to place the hand back on the stove! Sometimes the contrast was in terms of “processing thinking” versus “flow thinking (or experience)”. Indeed, it was a 180 degree turn from traditional therapy to not be directed to get involved in memory, and be told one is already healthy. Most importantly, the attention was directed to the function of thought, and the total context in which thinking in the moment is taking place, rather than the content of thought. Almost all other approaches are focused on content: how to change it, fix it, explain it, access it, talk about it, control it, and so forth. Indeed, for some it is so eye-opening to be told they are the thinkers of their thoughts and that this is what is creating their experience, that it totally transforms them. For others, it was little more difficult (myself included: I needed a more direct and intellectually clear teaching).

One can start to see what some of the difficulties are for a teaching model that tries to get at the core of what we are, in order to release greater human potential, such as happiness, love, harmoniousness, creativity and peace of mind. What is being pointed to will be taken in by the “small self” – the mind, or “ego” – and turned into a new set of beliefs, or rules to follow, or something to be understood by the mind. This is the model we grow up with: we go to school to gain some knowledge and skills and get a grade and award and stamp of approval. But here we are asked to stop believing things, unlearn what we learned, and let go of who and what we thought we were. Such a thing has to be introduced gently and gingerly. It is as radical as you could get. The word “radical” come from “forming the root’ and ‘inherent’”. It is being pointed towards what is inherent: freedom and happiness.

The false self is akin to an entrenched political bureaucracy. It will do anything it can to preserve itself, including lying, trying to control, manipulate, beg steal or borrow another day of existence. It will absorb any new teaching and claim it as it own. The ego will morph into infinite forms to pretend to be what it is not: real. It will even pretend to be spiritual in the name of a new self, trying to get out of self by more self-ing. What a cosmic joke! What it fears s non-existence: absolute disappearance. Ironically, the functioning of the false self just is this movement of thought: a self-preserving illusion. As such, it takes effort to maintain, and this energy and effort is felt in the form of tension, stress, depression, conflict with others and with oneself, and a million other symptoms of unhappiness and dis-ease of body and mind. This goes on outside of the direct awareness, and thus is called “unconscious” or “blind spots”, and is the reason why becoming conscious of these patterns and games spells their dissolution. When light is thrown on a shadow that looked like a snake, suddenly the snake disappears: it was never there in the first place!

This message is quite in contrast to the culture at large, which trades in what are supposed to be the objects of happiness: persons, places, and things. But many come to feel at a loss for why they are not happy even though they have it all. Or, they are at a loss to why they can’t get anything at all, the things according to which they were told or assumed, would make them happy.

Notes:
see also Direct vs Indirect paths. (Immediate vs Progressive paths)

About Needing “Grounding” and Spiritual Teaching

"Grounding"

The question often comes up, what is meant by “grounding”. Am I “grounded” and how can I tell if someone else is “grounded”? The question was spurred by my participation in forums of the spiritual psychology movement known as The Three Principles (3P)*, which is where I hear this question often, and occasionally in the context of other spiritual communities, such as Advaita vedanta.

What follows are some of my initial thoughts: think of this as an editorial (but with a large grain of truth, based in experience, happily!).

That one needs “grounding” is not the best metaphor in my view, as it bring to mind an image of a *thing*. Or it sounds like achieving a certain state. It really simply means you can only give or teach who, or really, what you are. You can only teach what you know.

Would you go to a poor man to learn how to be rich? No, you would go to a rich man and get some clues from him. Likewise, would you go to a teacher who is miserable, or worried, or driven, or somehow not completely free and happy, in order to learn how to be happy?

So ask yourself:
1. Are you happy?
2. Is it lasting?
3. Can you show others the way?

Then, if your answer is yes to all three, some tools are handy:
A. Being a teacher (not everyone is born to be a teacher or wired that way, or have learned the skills).
B. Some good tools or metaphors, stories and analogies, like The Three Principles teaching model.
C. A strong desire to teach or a call from others who need your services.

But the model is not the territory: a grounding in the 3P is not about the 3P, it’s about what the 3P are pointing to: what’s been called the “inside-out nature of life”. This is often confused. You could take 300 classes and seminars and study the 3P for 30 years and be certified and stamped as “grounded” and learn everything backwards and forwards and be able to recite it and write books and give seminars, and still not be actually, truly grounded.

As a side note, Jack Pransky interviewed George Pransky, for Jack’s book “Paradigm Shift: A History of The Three Principles”, about trying to implement a certification system back in the early 1990’s, and looking at grounding, but they realized there was no objective way to measure it, and the project was scrapped.

“We began to see that this work was all about grounding, and that grounding is hard to evaluate. It’s a large, subjective component. There were no techniques that could be evaluated, as in other approaches. The only thing that mattered was the person’s understanding, and that was difficult to quantify. …We concluded that this understanding does not lend itself to an objective qualification program. I feel that way to this day. I think that a certification program in the Principles would be fraught with insurmountable difficulties.”  George Pransky, in Paradigm Shift, p.74 

Who is to say who is “grounded”? Would it be the highest guru or teacher? Who certifies that? It would have to be God, but unfortunately, the various direct channels to him are alas, back to square one: us imperfect, generally incompletely realized, subjective humans. So… only you, the “grounded”, know for sure, and the students may get an inkling too, as well as other teachers, from how happy they become and the kind of vibe they pick up from you. But no one but you can say for sure. It’s just like with religious or spiritual teachers: you can only measure it, as it were, from the fruits of the teaching and understanding: are people becoming happier and more free, or are there all kinds of shenanigans going on, that indicate ego at work (an extreme example would be religious or cultic leaders like Osho or Jim Jones).

So how can you measure it? You can’t, but you could tell by the fruits (see the 3 questions at the start of this essay).

And like “grounding”, Mind, Consciousness and Thought are not a thing, not tangible, but a message, a metaphor used by teachers and students, indicating towards the source of experiencing, the reality of which cannot be grasped by the personal, limited mind or understood intellectually. It is pointing out what is behind your every experience, right here and now. The understanding is experiential in essence, as it is not only about experience, but is experience. And the quality of that unfolding experience will change, yet be “grounded” in that which does not change: the unnameable reality of “Mind” or “Consciousness” or whatever you want to call the source of experience. It is a self-rewarding process, not dependent on externals. It’s a love affair with Truth, as it were.
The 3P are just a tool to show the way to knowing what you are, just like all paths: non-duality, Buddhism, mystical Christianity, whatever.
The 3P are not a thing, just a pointer, a teaching tool.

Sometimes I think the 3P are too complicated, because in being put out through psychology, or as an answer to the old psychology, or packaged as a kind of psychology, it becomes a thing to understand, learn, study (another thought form). But what it’s pointing to is a “vertical dimension” that transcends thinking, that accounts for new thinking and complete changes of outlook. as in non-dual teachings, what one needs to do is *unlearn* all the false beliefs about what you’ve concluded is “you” and allow the unfolding, the flowering of what you really are: that is what the 3P and all the teachers have been trying to point out. It’s about reality as fact, not as thought (what you think you are, or thought you were, or what you thought reality was…). In this sense it is similar to the Direct Path.

Why do you think Syd Banks (the enlightened founder) kept pulling the rug out from under these psychologists who were developing the models, and coaches, laying down the law, and for example having them pull their tapes that were getting too much into detail about specific psychological issues, and telling them “You don’t understand the Three Principles!”, and saying “It’s Spiritual!” to psychologists like Mark Howard, before he was about to give a talk? (See Jack Pransky’s book, Paradigm Shift, for more details about historical incidents like these).

Ground down to its essence (no pun intended), the 3P’s aim is to show you that right now, there is only one thing in the way of being happy: your thinking. And parenthetically, I believe this is why the “Single Paradigm” teaching has arisen, thanks to folks like Dr. Keith Blevens & Valda Monroe, to try and get to the “purity” (another deceptive word and concept) of the teaching or message or method. But the purity is to see that whatever you think The Three Principles are, that’s not it. The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.

The result of this insight or grounding is that one sees things from the inside-out instead of outside-in. Peace and happiness are seen to be innate, and things “out there” in what we took to be a solid objective reality, we realize couldn’t be causing unhappiness or distress. Of course, there is no inside and outside – that’s the point – we created a duality and set ourselves against a world: a world of our imagination. Ineffably, reality is found to be friendly and harmonious. It has built-in super-intelligence, that goes beyond our piddling personal will.

On top of that is the commercialization, the attempt and desire to “apply” it, making it more of a thing to study and commodify. Therefore you have to certify or prove your “grounding” and worth in the marketplace. It also becomes goal-oriented: you’re trying to get something out of it, for the self that needs to be looked at for it’s reality in the first place: so do you come to the teaching with ulterior motives, or is it a truly impartial looking and investigation?
There is nothing wrong with getting paid for a service, and trying to help others to be happy and free, but if a business or career goal is the initial or primary motivation, before one has even found one’s “grounding” and Source, you are playing a game with your mind. It’s just like the game of self-improvement: you will never “get there”, because you are starting from the assumption of what is the problem in the first place: the little self, the thought-derived false entity, or “ego” (I don’t like that word because it carries too much baggage from psychology and Freudian concepts of self). So one, in essence, ends up applying a tool without knowing what it’s for!

In my opinion, no one should be teaching the 3P or other spiritually-based teachings unless such an impulse came about as a spontaneous realization – whether from studying the 3P or not it doesn’t matter – and they are a (born or made) teacher, and their primary motivation is love of what they do, and a continual subjective flowering of their true self. If they have a object-oriented outlook (i.e., they see themselves an as object, the world as objective, and they have an objective, and see you as an object…) and see others as means to an end, watch out: misery-lane ahead, confusion will ensue, and/or you could end up wasting a lot of time (and money). Although, the truth is, whatever “mistakes” you make, or “bad” teachers you encounter, will also be a part of your true path: they will help you discriminate the wheat from the chaff.

There’s also the interesting misperception in the spiritual community that if you become “enlightened” (who becomes enlightened?) you automatically become a teacher. Not so…
Likewise someone could have the world’s deepest “grounding” in the 3P and not become a teacher or coach…

Finally, it’s very important to see that by working on oneself, by becoming happier in a true way, in and of itself, becoming more of who you really are, you are automatically helping the entire world, the entire universe – because you are that. Like ripples in a pond, light spreads endlessly. Do not set out to save the world (we’ve had enough Pol Pots and Hitlers and Stalins, thank you very much). In truly and absolutely freeing yourself, you are of service to all. So start with yourself, and start from where you are. Don’t make the focus others – there are no others – or the world. Be in this world but not of it: transcend thought, be the observer of the mind-created universe. That is the best way to help humanity and the planet, etc, paradoxically. Let it unfold naturally, effortlessly…

To end, I’ll mention that in my life I’ve taken a long tour as it were, through many different wisdom traditions, all pointing to the same nothing (no-thing). And here I am, feeling very light, not knowing who I am – so it’s more like a not-taking oneself (the real, serious, fake self) seriously, and not knowing: a kind of mature innocence, a freedom.

But to teach something takes skill, and a love of it, and there are some people who are born teachers. It’s also good to have a good repertoire of tools, like a gift for or memory for words, stories, helpful concepts, a vehicle for your clear understanding. And a calling…
Personally, I have always enjoyed creating stuff and writing, and spontaneous conversations with friends and strangers. So that’s what I do. It could change – never say never. But now is now.

My 3 cents. 🙂 Keep it simple …

*(The Three Principles are universal Mind, Consciousness, and Thought).

What is Spirituality?

Cloudspiration Photo © Eric Platt 2017

 

“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere”  – Agnes Repplier

It’s interesting to see how much misunderstanding of the word “spirituality” there is in Western culture. And, I believe that same reasons that people are not truly happy are the same reasons that there is a misunderstanding of the word.

To give the simplest definition possible: spirituality is about happiness. It is about knowing who you are, and what reality is. It is living with facts instead of abstractions and projections (thinking and imagining).
This serves as a good definition because what we learn from the culture is how to be unhappy and how to be something we are not.

Indeed, we are born into this world open and innocent, naturally loving and free, and through socialization we learn how to be unhappy. And so spirituality could be said to be an unlearning: a finding out who we are instead of who we *think* we are, or are supposed to be. What we learn, see, pickup from socialization, the formula that we learn from parents, schooling, friends, the church, the culture, and so forth, are like a misdirection: a pointing away from our natural selves, our innate intelligence, freedom and love. This is not a call to become childish again, but a reminder of what one can find anew: that fresh and alive essence of what we already are.

You could call this misdirection by the culture “materialism”, but that word is so easily misinterpreted: it can be heard as anti-materialism, or as anti-consumerism, or as some kind of philosophical stance about matter. Materialism and spirituality are not in opposition but two sides of the same reality. In my definition for the purposes of this essay, materialism simply means the belief that objects in consciousness are what make us happy. By objects is meant not material objects out there, but what one is aware of in one’s experience as not being oneself. For example, you are sitting in a chair in your livingroom. You see a chair across the room. Most of us usually think of that chair as being a separate object “out there”. Or, we see an image in our imagination of a chair (such as you might be imagining right now). Or you see an chair in your dream at night. That image in all three scenarios is what I am calling an object in consciousness. Your awareness of the object occurred in your experience within your consciousness: the livingroom chair as an experience in consciousness as a perception of a chair (projected into the living room), then as an image in your mind as an imagined chair, then as an image in a dream. In all three scenarios there was a perception of a chair but in three seemingly different locations. I’m simply pointing out the location was the same all three times: in consciousness. Slow down and read the paragraph again if you don’t understand.

We do the same thing when we think of who or what we are as a person. We have an image of ourselves in the mind, based on what we see in the mirror, and on concepts and imagination, and what people have said, and what we would like ourselves to be. So we are an object, or are defined by objects of consciousness as an idea of “person” or “human being”. And therefore this naturally plays into how happy we are. Not only do we feel what we think, but since nothing in this perception of the world is fixed or unchanging, and we are holding an imagined image of who we are and what would make us happy, feel free, or safe, there is bound to be a disharmony between reality and our imagination that is experienced: either a discomfort, a confusion, a wanting, a seeking, or things not going our way. Why? Because we can’t hold into it but want to. We think we are the doer, want to be the doer of our lives but it constantly gets away from us and we feel frustrated.

True spirituality in fact it doesn’t say anything about what we should do or have, or not do or not have. In fact you could say spirituality is about living according to facts instead of theory.

Religions and cults (religion is a cult, as is materialism) says “We know what’s going on and what’s real, so you should love like this, you should do this…”. But true spirituality says “OK, you came here and are asking how to be happy. So investigate yourself, and see what actually and truly know, what makes you happy and who you are. No one can find it for you.” It says, be open to the possibility that what you are is universal and you are not who you think you are. Don’t be afraid of the unknown and unexpected. Religions claim they know. Spirituality is being happily adrift on an ocean, alone but not lonely. It is a friendly universe: you may discover it’s not out to get you.

So you can see spirituality has nothing to do with religion, but that religions grew up around spiritual insights, trying to claim them as their own, and dispense them, control them and people, and get paid for what they supposedly give the seekers.

On Materialism

You could be a billionaire and not believe in materialism, and you can be an impoverished poet living in a shed and be a materialist. The billionaire who knows who he is, is unattached to what’s happening in the contents of his consciousness, and could walk away from his millions and not be affected in his happiness, because he knows what he is (there are examples of men like this, such as Lester Levenson). The poet on the other hand, when a single cloud passes in front of the sun, could get depressed because he sees his circumstances, surroundings as being who he is and where his happiness comes from. Dropping his pencil could trigger a cascade of depressing thoughts (about himself, his life, his past and future) which he might not recover from for weeks. Or, you could have a billionaire, in fine health, who is terrified of losing his fortune and his health, and worries day and night about it, and pursues more and more money trying to fill the emptiness that lurks in his psyche or the dread just around the corner, the fear of dream of absolute disappearance. He gets a brief hit of excitement and “happiness” when a new check comes in, but then he has to set another object of acquisition or achievement, as the underlying dissatisfaction covers any new thing. He could be paranoid that enemies are after him and his money. Or, our poet in the shed could be blissfully happy, even when it’s raining and he can’t find his pencil, and his body in in pain, or whatever is happening. You get the idea.

It’s very interesting also to meet people who are judgmental or presumptuous when they find out you are into what they are calling “spirituality”. Or what they think “spirituality” is when I use the word, or that you go to a meditation group or satsang. They assume there is something wrong that started you doing that, or that you are weird or a loser or whatever – but you look at their life and they are not happy. They may claim they are happy, they may hold onto a  happy idea or image of themselves, or say that to themselves,  but if they stop doing what they are addicted to – be it working as a real estate agent and being busy busy every minute, or retired and chasing after one pleasure or another, or having to be fully engaged with family or social activity, with periods of depression cured by some kind of stimulation – their claims to be happy are seen to be hollow, or very shallow at best. Underlying it is a fear, and/or a sadness, or an anger, or a need to control. They need something outside themselves to be “happy”.

The other common interpretations I hear is that it has to do with ethics, or with religion, or with spirits, or with New Age beliefs and practices. 
I frankly think we need another word.

However, the path or practice of self-enquiry I also see as synonymous with spirituality, as long as it is bearing fruit and is not just a practice. 

If I could be happy just sitting in my living room in a chair, and looking at whatever there is, seeing the play of light, or closing one’s eyes, listening to the sounds the ears hear, or from the ears (if they are buzzing slightly) or the sounds of one’s thoughts… if one were to feel bliss or joy or happiness doing that, it’s not the usual definition of happiness. In fact some people might think you are crazy. If one could feel and see, or simply sense the perfection of all things, the totality, sitting in a chair, or just lying in a bed, the wonderful aliveness of being, that’s not the usual American definition of happiness.

Going a hundred miles an hour in a sports car, or making love to a beautiful babe or winning a huge contract and making a million dollars are more the usual definitions. I am not saying those aren’t happiness, but rather that those can be experienced in different ways. The excitement or pleasure can be experienced as happiness to different degrees by different people and will fade or might be followed by depression or let down to different degrees also. Someone who is genuinely happy, will be happy doing those things, and also happy afterwards not doing those things.

My definition of spiritual is a happiness that doesn’t go way, because it is innate, it is knowing what you are. It’s very simple, but oddly, seemingly very radical.

For most people, the body and the mind are all there are (to them, to being a human). And the material world is real, is a material thing out there. Made of matter. And spirituality often seems to mean being good or ethical, or has to do with religion, or with some separate immaterial spirits or essence … there are all kinds of ideas. But religion has to do with beliefs and old knowledge, old ideas, and social conformity to those ideas, or various schools of traditions and practices, rites and activities in the world.

But a few who start to dig into spirituality deeply realize it’s about reality. In a way genuine spirituality is more like a kind of science that looks at the ultimate nature of what is, form the inside-out. Or like a kind of philosophical journey in the search for true wisdom. But instead of being speculative like philosophy in the West, it’s is based in experience.

It’s about who you are, not as a person, but as an experience. It’s taking a look from the inside-out instead of the outside-in, the way we are taught to look.

So how is spirituality (what I’m calling it in my book) different from psychology? Well it depends on the psychology, as there are some edge-cases of psychology that are turning in a different direction from the mainstream (Three Principles Psychology for example), so for the purposes of this piece, we’ll call psychology the traditional mainstream form of it. Psychology focuses on the mind or the brain, as well as behavior. So in psychology one is examining the contents of the mind: one’s thinking, motivations, emotions, feelings, and the world of relationships, and the dynamics thereof. One could be looking at skills, and coping. One could dig into the past, into memories, family, friendships, sexual relationships, and so forth. It’s an endless game. The mind can always create new things (it doesn’t actually create, it’s just a tool for consciouness) or has an endless store of nooks and crannies.

It’s also useful for some readers (and interesting to me) to look at how spirituality is different from self-help as well as the large industry of various kinds of seminars, services and products out there. This is a large space, so it’s difficult to sum up, but we will look at patterns. Among the largest defining characteristics of these are techniques and motivation.

Why not go directly for happiness? It could save a lot of energy and heartache…