Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Awakening, Authentic Humanity & Disclaimers: Pretext II

[This is also from the India Blog - again to establish context]

The Great Disclaimer: This is all a lie. It is a story I have created about truth and reality, and my story about myself, truth, and reality will never be completely true. It seems that this perhaps gets sort of close to truth and reality, so it is perhaps more useful than me writing about being Mickey Mouse and the universe being Disney World. But, again, this is not totally true. I urge you, with compassion, passion, and urgency: inquire, yourself, into the nature of your experience. In the least, please, prove me wrong.

In my post, Varanasi the Teaching, I spoke about my experience of awakening (for lack of a better term) and mentioned a few disclaimers. One of the biggest issues in spiritual freedom, and development in general, is that shifts in consciousness are often given bigger than life descriptions. In developmental psychology and research, and specifically in Spiral Dynamics and Integral Theory, for example, the shift from what is termed “first tier” to what is considered “second tier” is marked by, along with many other things, the ability to discern what the world and self will be like in five years. This is actually something very advanced and reaches well beyond imagination, but brings into its consideration the constant evolutionary feedback loops of self, culture and environment all interacting within the whole of reality.

You may have just wondered, ‘what the fuck did he just write?’ I understand. Put simply, people with this sort of development can more accurately predict the future, their place in it, and act in the presence to realize this potential. However, the language used around this experience goes something like this: “ability to see and interact five years into the future.” I think this is a huge flaw in all transformative paradigms. No one, and I don’t care who, can accurately predict or see the future. No one truly knows what will happen the second after reading this sentence, much less five years into the future. Sure, some people sometimes have accurately predicted things. However, these are the people that make the news. There are thousands of predictions that are just wrong.

But we are not talking about psychic predictions of the future. We are discussing a shift in perception; one in which a being can see five years into the future. I think this is bad, bad language, as it gives the impression that what one is seeing is actually going to take place. I would suggest that this shift from 1st to 2nd tier has within its structures the ability to more accurately see and understand the future, which seems true. But no one, all the time, can see into and understand the future. Giving this description makes a stage of growth or a shift in consciousness very far removed from actual, real world experience. This current description is not helpful in assisting people cultivating this sort of growth. This, in short (probably too late), annoys me. The development, integral, and enlightenment worlds have a lot more clarification and redefining to do.

The same is generally true with teaching about enlightenment and liberation, except with a few wonderful and honest teachers like Adyashanti and Jed McKenna. I think the three most important books on spiritual realization where written by these guys. Read Adya’s Emptiness Dancing and Jed’s Enlightenment the Damnedest Thing and Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment a thousand times.

There are so many concepts about awakening floating around, most people are led far off the path, or do not even believe they are on the path. I heard that recently a teacher leading a course of practice and study said, “None of you will ever be enlightened in this life. Don’t even worry about it. Just do the practices.” I don’t know if this is true or not, but I have had several exchanges with this teacher, and by merit of these exchanges, it seems within the line of thinking he presents. It could have been a well-calculated statement to get people beyond the striving for enlightenment (and in that case, bravo!), but from what I have understood this teacher to offer, it does not seem that this is true. It is not entirely useful to tell people to stop striving for enlightenment unless you tell them why.

Stop striving for enlightenment. The thing that is already awake within you is the thing that is already free. When you strive, you resist that which is already free and present, in hope of something better in the future conforming to your ideas of what you think or have been told enlightenment is. When you stop the striving, something arises. What is that something? What does it feel like? Has it always been there?

This has become a rather long introduction. If the last paragraph created a shift in your experience then there is no reason to continue reading. If not, then what the hell, reading this will not hurt.

I am going to list a few disclaimers about the state of my so-called awake experience. After writing Varanasi the Teaching a friend wrote and said he appreciated me expressing my experience. Up until that point, he said he had not heard me speak directly about my own experience in any experience and even while teaching. He thought it was sweet and helpful. It was not entirely true, there have been a few people I have talked with about my experience, but it remains very few up until now. And it is true: that post was the first time I have publicly talked about my state of being.

There are many reasons for this, but mostly, I chose not to because it is not that important to me, and generally when people talk about it they end up becoming some kind of enlightenment teacher or end up pissing a lot of people off. I actually attempted discussing my experience with a teacher I did not know that well and he said, “You will drown in the lake of your own delusion.” I think this is great fun, and if drowning in the lake of my own delusion is this experience of freedom and joy, then please do not send a lifeguard. I do not want to become an enlightenment teacher, and I am still trying to decide how many people I will piss off. I actually expect that over the next five years, my teaching will slow down as my business consulting grows. Business consulting is ultimately the same thing as teaching: assisting people in waking-up and reducing the experience of suffering in the world. Though, business consulting takes a completely different form and approach, which does not look, in the least, spiritual.

When the awakening experience first happened, it seemed so normal, so natural, and so always forever present, that I never considered telling anyone. There was literally nothing to tell. All striving, all seeking, all questioning, all frustration, all anger, all resentment; everything from 20+ years of practice simply dissolved. In an instant, 20+ years of practice meant nothing. Wonderful! With it dissolved the fixed sense of self. I am not entirely in support of the ‘no-self’ school. I consider that to be more of an inquiry or practice that elicits a very important experience. However, I am not entirely for the Self/self or the Self schools either. It is something in between all three for me.

The essence of this continuous experience is that everything is as it is. There need not be anything in my experience or anything removed from my experience to make it better than it already is. I do not like to use the word perfect, as that involves a judgment about what I experience. However, the continuous sense I have since last January is that everything is absolutely perfect as it is and I am everything, appearing as an individual. [I will speak more about evolution and development later. Perfect as it is does not mean that things cannot, should not, or do not evolve.]

Most systems of awakening involve stages of awakening within their structure. I can understand how this can be helpful for an individual that is in what they feel is a process of awakening. However, for me, once awake, always awake. Awakeness does not become more awake; however, the implication of awakening does seem to grow or at least change.

Awakening is not the state experience of being merged with everything or an expansion of consciousness. Being merged with everything is a state. An expansion of consciousness is a state. States come and go. I sometimes feel that I am merged with everything and sometimes not. Awakening is realizing what is experiencing itself as an individual or a unification of all things. This knowing is not just an intellectual understanding, but also a deep permeating intuition of what everything always is. This intuition is constant. This intuition freed me from all striving, belief and concepts. This intuition is both a feeling experience, and something well beyond all ‘normal’ feeling experiences.

There is a whole school of thought within our modern western Tantric circle that believes consciousness expands and contracts. This is true. However, this idea is then interpreted to mean enlightenment comes and goes - moments of expansion and moments of contraction. This is not true. Enlightenment does not come and go. It is always already. If you are having an expansive experience, I think that’s great. But it’s not anything close to enlightenment. It is a state. A very wonderful and lovely state, but a state nonetheless. Enlightenment is the continuous felt awareness that you are the thing, the context, in which expansion and contraction happens. You are, in a very impersonal way, the ground of all being. You are the awareness that knows there is expansion and contraction, and that awareness, out of its own free will, is becoming expansion or contraction. Because you are the awareness that is becoming, you have nothing invested in what it actually becomes. Just as clay has nothing invested in whether it is a bowl or a mug.

I did not feel the need to speak about awakening, at all, for a very long time. I did not even tell Tara. Three months into it, Tara held me in a steady gaze for a minute, and then finally said, “You’re awake, aren’t you?”

It was interesting, as I had not considered my experience in those terms. I was free, I felt, but almost all meaning making about my own state fell away from my experience. It had not occurred to me, on a thinking level, that I was awake. I did not generally think anymore in terms of “I”, other than for practical reasons and conversations. Tara’s question caused to me pause and consider, was I, in what awakening traditions considered to be, awake?

“Well, I guess, it’s something like that.”

She was upset, stunned, and thrilled. She felt something from me. She not only observed a huge shift in my behavior, but also a huge energetic shift when she was with me. She also thought that I was now a very boring person to be with. I understood. She could not understand why I had not told her. I tried my best over the course of several days to explain to her that there was really nothing to tell – that what I was what everyone and everything was, including her. It then occurred to me that perhaps I should tell a few of my teachers; the few that had been most important to me over the last four years. One said, “cool!” Another said, “I know, but thanks for telling me anyway.” And another said, “I can feel it. Chaitanyatma, Indeed!”

As I mentioned earlier, most descriptions of awakening and enlightenment are far removed from the simplicity and freedom of the actual experience. Further more, all of the descriptions of the so-called process focus on the content of the experience. For example, I know a very sweet teacher in Austin that I have no doubts about being awake; however, he teaches a process of awakening that involves stages of awakening. All of his descriptions, at each stage, are based on content and phenomenon. That is to say, everything he shares about awakening focuses on forms. Forms are illusory, and I am not convinced that the forms and experiences of my awakening process will be consistent with the forms and experiences of others. It is not that I think I am special, but forms are bound to change and forms are based on a lot of influences beyond the consciousness that is creating them.

Development does follow very loose patterns that cross all borders and boundaries. Enlightenment is not development. Let this permeate every aspect of your life: enlightenment is not development.

Certainly there are much different energetic and perceptive differences in my experience now. I will probably never talk about this. It makes no difference. Energetic and perceptive differences are not awakening. They are, at best, a bi-product of awakening. Let this permeate every aspect of your life: enlightenment is not a difference in perception or a change in energetic experience.

Sharing my perceptive and energetic experience will in no why help anyone wake-up. It will just add more content to the already interpretative mess that the enlightenment path is. I will offer a few clarifications of what I feel are insanely misunderstood aspects of the awake experience.

You may recall these from Varanasi the Teaching:

1) Awakening does not mean I do not have the capacity to make choices. I am not retarded or insane. I can muster up choices and preferences should I need to. The huge difference between me and most (apparent) beings is that I have no interest in my choices and no attachment to their outcomes. This might sound rather meaningless. It is. But it’s absolutely free and blissful, so I will take free and blissful over a so-called meaningful life.

2) I know the difference between pleasure and pain. Pleasure is nice and pain sucks. Given the choice of sitting here typing and getting pounded with a baseball bat, I would choose the typing. I know the difference between pleasure and pain, and just like the next guy, I think pleasure feels nicer; however, I have no attachment to feeling pleasure and no aversion to feeling pain. That is the difference. I know the difference, and given the choice I would opt for the pleasure, but would have no aversion to pain should it arise. For example, I am sick as hell. India’s pollution is beating the shit out of me. My head is pounding, I cannot breath, my body aches, and my sinuses are so congested I can barely think. None of this feels good, but it is what is. It is free to be present, and because it is free to be present my experience is completely free. My experience, right now, is wonderful. Not despite the fact I am so sick the screen is blurry right now, but because I am so sick the screen is blurry right now. At the same time, I am taking herbs, pills, and getting a lot of rest to care for the body.

Here are a few more:

3) Thinking

I think. I have thoughts. Some thoughts are interesting, but most are not. Awakening is not the end of thinking. It is true that I think a lot less than I did before. However, in most being thinking generally involves strategizing for a better experience. [Creating a better experience can actually involve very little thinking.] The big difference in my experience now is that I am never lost in thought. The thoughts that move through me are no different than the sounds, smells, and visuals I experience, all of which are part of the one reality. Thoughts, sometimes, make the tapestry of reality richer. Sometimes, they are annoying and I tell them to go away. Other times, they realize they are annoying and go away on their own. The biggest difference I can discern between me and most other people is that I have no interest or attachment to what I am thinking. My thought does not, in the least, define who or what I am.

No thought can fully appreciate the rich, complex, and powerful nature of reality. Given this, most thinking is pointless. However, some thoughts get closer to reality and are more useful than others. The thought, for example, ‘I am Mickey Mouse,’ is not very useful or close to reality. The thought, ‘I am a human being,’ is more useful and closer to reality. If I thought that I was Mickey Mouse and believed this thought, I would spend all my time looking for Minnie Mouse, and those big, white gloves would make it hard to pick things up. The thought, ‘I am a human being,’ gives me much more to work with.

4) Emotions

I still have them. Like thinking, they do not define who I am or what reality is, but are a part of it. Since awakening, I very, very rarely experience what some term ‘negative emotions.’ In fact, it happens so rarely I really enjoy these emotions! Most emotional experiences pass through me very quickly, as I am not resisting or validating them. Both resisting and validating emotions gives them energy and generally makes them bigger.

‘Witnessing’ emotions is simply a subtle way of resisting them. Feel each emotion deeply and fully, without accepting or resisting, and they will melt away like butter in the Indian sun.

5) Practice

I think practice is fine. I did it for 20 years, and I am still involved in various practices. I am not practicing to get anything. What is there to get? I do practices because I enjoy it, and after doing this for 20 years, I am not sure what else I would do. Is there something else to do?

Practice will not make you enlightened. Period. Get it out of your head right now that practicing will make you any more awake than you already are. Stop practicing to become enlightened. If you are practicing like this, you are wasting your time.

Practice is important in cultivating an authentic human experience. If you want to be an authentic human, you have to practice. Most people practicing towards what they think is enlightenment is just a movement towards becoming an authentic, responsible and compassionate human being.

You cannot choose to be enlightened, just like you cannot choose to fall in love. Wanting to be enlightened is like wanting to fall in love before you have ever actually fallen in love. You cannot want something that you do not know. You can want your ideas about it, but trust me awakening is nothing close to what you think about it.

Most people do not have the courage and honesty to challenge everything they believe. Most people are not willing to let go of all of their opinions and beliefs, and awakening requires this, just like love requires that you completely let go of yourself (to some degree).

The great thing, as I see it, is that cultivating authentic humanity is a step in the direction of awakening. Awakening has to consume you. It has to become every aspect of your experience before it can become your experience. Though practice will not really help with this (most people use spiritual practice to avoid reality, not embrace it), there are a few things I recommend doing. Do these things with the spirit of becoming an authentic human being, and let awakening worry about itself.

Bottom line: If you want to practice, then practice. If you feel like you should practice, then stop immediately. Stop until you really, really want to. Stop until it is what you have to do. Do not do it to get anything. Do not do it to become enlightened. Do it simply because you want to.

a) Simple sitting. Sit down, relax, breath, feel, and notice. This is not the cultivation of states. Getting wacked out on states is by far much easier to do on drugs. If you are interested in states, find a good drug dealer. If you are interested in growth, simply sit down and let yourself open. You will notice that over time, perhaps just a few moments of sitting, you will begin to sink a little deeper into reality. It becomes more textured. It becomes more real.

b) Self-inquiry. I am not talking about sitting down and repeating, ‘Who am I?’ This is fine, but again, it just normally leads to more state changes. I am talking about ripping your world apart. Sit down and either write or talk through every belief you have until they all dissolve into full presence of moment-to-moment reality. Do this over and over again, until there is no belief, teacher (including me and this), system, memory, hope, intention, etc. that inserts itself and distracts you from reality.

c) Surrender. Find a very simple and beautiful way to surrender everyday. Perhaps a devotional practice or perhaps acts of selfless service.

6) Development

I think development is great. The theories and stories we have about development seem to generally get pretty close to reality, so I appreciate them. Development has nothing to do with awakening. You cannot develop your way into awakening. You can, however, develop your way into being an authentic human being.

Ultimately, I think awakening facilitates quicker development. When you are not attached to your sense of self, the content of your experience, or the structures that create these things, then these things can change very rapidly. When you can look at yourself with honesty and clarity, the whole process goes much smoother. There is generally a lot of pain involved in development, but when you develop from an awake place, there is very little pain. The pain of development is a result of being attached to a self-structure. When there is no attachment, old structures fall away easefully and new structures are rebuilt quickly.

7) Non-duality

There are now a lot of people that are speaking about having an experience of non-duality. If you think you have had an experience of non-duality, you have not. Non-duality is not an experience that begins. Non-duality has always and will always be present. Non-duality is reality. Non-duality is so free and awesome that it can appear as multiplicity, duality, and the like without ever loosing its own non-dual nature.

If you have had an experience of unity, that is wonderful. Experiences of unity are not non-dual experiences. If it has a beginning and an end, then it is not non-dual. If there is something other to it, then it is not non-dual. If, after having a ‘non-dual’ experience you go back to ‘relative reality’, you had an experience of unity, not non-dual.

8) The Relative & Absolute

They are the same. Reality is one. Period. If your spiritual understanding includes a perspective of the absolute and the relative, I would, if I were you, deeply question these perspectives. They are just ideas and interpretations. The relative is the absolute. The absolute is the relative.

9) The Other

The other is an expression of the one. The other is the one. The one that is the one recognizes this always.

10) Responsibility

Do not be an asshole. Be responsible. As long as you have the appearance of choice, why not choose to create more beauty, joy and meaning in the world? Why not chose awareness and compassion? Why not serve others until no one (including yourself) is lacking? Why not be beautiful?

11) Authentic Human Being

You cannot want to become enlightened. It has to want you. Work towards becoming an authentic human being.

12) The Great Disclaimer

This is all a lie. It is a story I have created about truth and reality, and my story about myself, truth, and reality will never be completely true. It seems that this perhaps gets sort of close to truth and reality, so it is perhaps more useful than me writing about being Mickey Mouse and the universe being Disney World. But, again, this is not totally true. I urge you, with compassion, passion, and urgency: inquire, yourself, into the nature of your experience. In the least, please, prove me wrong.

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