Experience (Without Wanting It To Be Different)

Living in the present moment with no judgments. This is everything. Let every moment come. Don’t judge it, simply allow it. Don’t try to make it different.

Give your best effort and care not about outcome. Simply watch and experience. Don’t try and do two things at once. Do what you are doing. If you must switch your attention, switch it, but give full attention to the single thing you are doing.

Don’t judge what you are doing as good or bad. We always want the next thing until we get to the best thing until we realize the only thing is now. Now is the best thing if we give it our full attention. We get to the point where we do not yearn for something better or wish it would not go away. We get to where we welcome each moment for what it contains. In this is bliss. In this is perfection. In this is true joy.

To see everything as it is, without wanting it to be different is the goal. That goal is not something that is off in the future. Doing this is possible this very moment.

Now

The importance of being aware and paying attention to the present moment cannot be overemphasized. This is the goal in life. Whatever you are feeling or experiencing at this very moment is all that matters. There is no judgement of good or bad. There is no sense in attempting to try to hold on to good feelings or make bad ones go away. Paying attention to what is happening and experiencing what “is” is the point.
This is where salvation lies…where nirvana is. This moment is the only time that exists. What happened before is immaterial. What will happen cannot possibly be discerned. Now is everything. If we truly want an answer to the question “Who Am I,” the answer lies in the present moment alone.

This Meaningless World

For Americans, this week might mark the deepest level of insanity possible for humanity. People will get in a frenzy attempting to get to a destination in time to be with people they may or may not like in order to fret over making a meal that is just perfect, only to eat way more than their stomachs can accommodate. Some of those will get caught up in a game or two, only to rejoice with victory or agonize in defeat. After sleeping a couple of hours, many will make their way to stores in the evening or the middle of the night to buy more crap to pile on top of the loads of crap they already have. There will be rushing around to get to the vendor they believe they can gouge the most for savings, then on to the others, whose deals might not be quite as good. There will be anger and elation as the stuff fills the crevices of their latest model vehicles. Then home to catch up on the sleep lost from saving money. By Sunday it’s time for the arduous journey back to where they came from. Then back to work to earn the money for the crap that will be purchased over the next three weeks. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the domain of the ego.

It is the roller coaster ride called life. This is the meaninglessness the ego touts as important. We are told to cherish these, the times of our lives. In reality, these special times are no different from other weeks of the year, only intensified. These are still weeks where we believe that our jobs and vehicles and positions and houses and hobbies and stuff are important. In those weeks, as well, we are embedded in the world of suffering.

How often do we step back from this lifestyle and realize how stupid it is? If we use the logical mind, we cannot come to any other conclusion. We yearn for high-paying jobs so we can buy high-priced stuff that we believe will bring us happiness. It never has. We are insane to continue to expect it to. So why do we keep doing it? Because it’s all we know. Everyone is doing it, so it must be right. The reality is that everyone that’s doing it is suffering.

I’ll borrow a phrase from A Course In Miracles: “I could see peace instead of this.” The world that seems to exist outside us is the product of the ego. Therefore, it can only be insane. Our true nature is peace. It’s just that it’s been so long since we’ve experienced it that we’ve forgotten. The world of the senses is very convincing, very powerful. It’s no wonder we keep getting pulled back into it. But it is not reality. Since we are temporarily in this world, we must abide by many of its rules: we have to eat, sleep, defecate, breathe, etc. But that doesn’t mean we have to buy into the insanity. We can choose peace instead.

The road to peace is not easy. It requires total commitment. I used to believe that everyone was looking for peace. I now understand that those of us in this world are here because we wanted separation. We made this world so that we could be separate from peace, as odd as it sounds. It is against our ego-nature to seek peace, so, the way back is a struggle. But peace is always there. It is always available to us. This world of illusion has an enormous pull on us. It is what we believe we wanted, so giving it up is not easy.

But it can be done. Ironically, the next holiday after this was originally about overcoming the world of insanity by re-discovering the peace that is our true nature. It doesn’t really mean that anymore, but for a few, it did mean that at one time. So we now, as always, have a decision to make. We can continue through the season of holiday madness in the same manner we always have, or we can step back and see the meaninglessness and decide for something better. Something lasting. Something everlasting.

Awareness And Attachment

The source of suffering in this life is our over-identifying with what is going on around us. The road to joy is through non-attachment. Yesterday I experienced a bit of both.

Early in the day, after I had meditated and gone to work with the intention of paying attention to what is happening around me and within (thoughts and emotions), I felt as though I was in control of the situation. Not in the sense that I could make things happen how I wanted, but that I was not being pushed around by my circumstances. However, when I got finished with work and went home, I kind of relaxed my intention of being aware and I could feel myself being pulled back into the world of suffering. Instead of not being attached to my situations, I was becoming more and more knocked about by them. There was enough awareness to realize what was happening and not jump back into the ego-world, but little enough that I did not have the peace I experienced earlier in the day.

The ability to have enough presence of mind to realize what was happening was very helpful. I could understand the importance of awareness as well as the danger that lies in lacking awareness. Without awareness, we attach to the ups and downs of our minds and this world. We believe that it is reality and we ride the roller coaster. When we are aware or mindful, we can disengage from the meaninglessness of the ego-world while being firmly in it. We can even participate in this world while understanding that it is meaningless and illusory. At a certain point, we even begin to understand how the ego brought it about.

Awareness, paying attention to what is happening and not reacting, but simply allowing, is the key to peace. When our intention is peace, we can commit to awareness each moment. With this awareness we are able to observe the world without being tossed about by it. This awareness enables us to be one with our true self, or our original self, or God, as some put it. Contrary to what we would believe if we are trapped in the ego-world, that is our reason for existence. Unity. No other goal is possible.

Here is a link to an excellent article on awareness and attachment:

http://www.pariyatti.org/FreeResources/ArticlesExcerpts/BuddhasPathistoExperienceReality/tabid/120/Default.aspx

Awakening

October 16, 2014 was a banner day. It is the first day I liked being at work. It is the first day I felt that I was unified with God. It was the day I finally began to understand what Love actually is. Okay, maybe not the actual first day, but things were different.

First, Love is different from what I expected. It’s not so much doing stuff for other people, but that is included. It is more like a feeling you have when you have allowed everything that is not Love, in other words, everything of this ego-world, to drop away as unimportant. I realize that the preparation you are making is sort of like emptying a vessel so that it can be filled. What you are emptying is the crap of life that we have invested in which really just weighs you down and holds you back more than anything. When you empty the vessel, you allow the fullness of God to shine through. That shining feels like fullness and joy and light. When you feel this you realize how silly the world and its agendas and problems and ambitions are. You know that you are taken care of, despite being in the world still.

The last couple of weeks have gotten me the “rest of the way”. In this time I have realized that resistance is the enemy; resisting anything simply keeps me in the ego-world. I have also realized the importance of being in the present moment, though it is different from what I thought it would be.

First, resistance. I figured out that the more I resist something, the more I keep it present, or at least available for the ego’s use. The thing I’ve been dealing with lately is anger. To be more specific, impatience with others. As anger arose, the first thing I would try to do is pretend like I wasn’t angry. Then as the anger settled in, I would attempt to to get rid of it by saying to myself that I had let it go or that I had forgiven that person. What would happen is that the anger would still be there yet I would have, in my mind, realized that it was silly to be angry. This realization did not make the anger go away. The thing that I realized I must do is allow myself to be angry. It’s like I had to give myself permission to feel this way. That’s because, when you are on the road to getting to where you can let things go, the ego still wants to be involved. The ego jumps in and says, “I shouldn’t feel anger; I’m a forgiving person.” Then you resist the anger…and it stays. It stays longer during that time, and it returns because it has not been dealt with. This is the resistance.

Seemingly the strangest thing you can do in that situation is to simply allow yourself to be angry. Feel the anger. Allow yourself to feel it with its fullest rage. Simply say to yourself, “I am angry”, and let yourself feel it. One note: try not to let your rage out on a person or people during this time. It might help to tell someone how you feel, but it is important, while you feel this anger, not to go off on someone. That won’t help any more than resisting will, and it could cause serious harm.

Nearly every time when I finally relented and admitted that I was angry, the anger subsided very quickly. Allowance was the key. Resistance was the enemy.

That leads to the second: being in the present moment. I used to think that this meant that you are rigidly observing exactly what is going on exactly this second, continually. Instead, it is similar to the last situation. It is more like you simply allow the present moment to be with whatever it brings with it: thoughts, feelings, emotions, physical sensations…. To try and focus on the present is helpful, but it is not exactly what we’re aiming for. It is more like we are simply experiencing the present without trying to make it something else. We are content, realizing this moment is perfect. This is how I experienced work yesterday; I reminded myself that this moment and being at this job were perfect and I allowed everything to unfold without trying to make it something else. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t times when I wished I was home instead. But at those times, I simply allowed myself to feel that and continued on. Lying to myself and saying that I really wanted to be at work in those moments would have been resisting and would have kept me from actually being in the present. By allowing rather than resisting, I was able to empty myself of the ego and be filled with peace and joy.

Be

I have come to a point where I realize I am perfect and this moment is perfect and the only way to live in the present is to be content with what is. I read an article about living in the present that told of a Harvard study that concluded that people who live more in the present moment are happier.

I am just now able to work this out logically. It all revolves around being content. Discontentment yearns for the future. It rejects the past. It is anywhere but now. Contentment accepts that we are perfect right now. We do not have to do anything. We do not have to become anything. Awareness of this reality is critical to living in the present. If we are not perfect, there is no possible way we can live in the present. We will always be looking to the future for something better. A better self or a better life.

Being in the present means doing whatever you are doing with full concentration and to the best of your ability. This seems weird to me, but I am beginning to understand that I cannot possibly be happy or content, no matter what I am doing, if I am wishing I were doing something else. How can I be happy at my job if I am always thinking about being at home after my shift? How can I enjoy being with my grandchildren if I am wishing I was watching tv? How can I be happy on the golf course if I am always disappointed in the last shot and fearing the next one?

Sometimes I think to myself, “I wish I had paid more attention to my children when they were young,” but it doesn’t help to regret not having lived in the present. The best thing you can do is to return your mind to the present and attempt to stay there. I don’t have to do anything else. I don’t have to confess my sins. I don’t have to do any penance. All I have to do is be in this moment, fully.

Unbelievably, this is life. It is truly this simple. I can’t get or make or buy anything else that will help make it better. Believing so will actually make it worse. The only key to life is to be…right now.

Monday, September 1, 2014

One of the most helpful books I have ever read is “Zen In The Art Of Archery” by Eugen Herrigel. The last time I read it I attempted to apply something the author wrote about archery to my golf game. He wrote about how the archery master warned his students never to respond to the outcome of their shot, whether it hit the bullseye or missed the target altogether. He emphasized that they should be neither happy nor disappointed about the outcome. Herrigel even made it sound as though students, at first, had to force themselves to some degree not to respond. As I read (and reread) the book, I realized this was nearly the only instruction the students ever received other than technical advice on how to hold and release the bow.

As I have played golf in the past six months, I have attempted to play without being concerned about the outcome. My main thought as I get to the course is to pay attention to breathing and not to respond to the outcome of my shots. I will say that I have never enjoyed golf more. There have been times when I have become elated that I made a shot, and times when I have been disappointed when I have not. But, for the most part, I have been able to make my shots and move on…physically and mentally.

It wasn’t until recently, however, that I decided to generalize this “letting go” to other areas of my life. I have learned, through Buddhism and A Course In Miracles, the importance of non-attachment, or forgiveness. Both disciplines emphasize the importance of love or compassion, but they also emphasize letting go. There have been times in the past when I have attempted to focus on compassion, but then have found it easy to feel stepped-on when others are not compassionate as well. On the other hand, during times when I am focused on non-attachment, I have found myself forgetting the importance of being loving. At this point I believe that compassion and non-attachment are complementary and both necessary for spiritual health. In fact I am beginning to think you cannot have one without the other.

I have experimented with non-attachment successfully in a couple of different ways. I actually believe they have helped me more than anything else I have ever tried as far as living in “the world” goes. The first way, and this I have tried more recently, is the way that Herrigel wrote about in his book. I attempt to start (the day, work shift, fixing the car, playing golf) with the mindset that I will not respond to whatever happens. I will simply observe what happens and go on. The second way, which I have tinkered with a little longer, is starting off with the intention that personal peace is the most important thing there is and doing everything possible to maintain it.

In my experience the outcome is nearly the same. I’ll run through what generally happens. First, because I have a focus, either maintaining peace or not responding to what happens, it is far easier to pay attention to thoughts and things that occur around me. Even if I get a little blindsided by someone or something (really my own mind), I am much quicker to recognize it and let it go. The key is knowing that I have to let it go. I have to be a little hard on myself sometimes and even talk myself through it. Now that’s mindfulness at work.

I have to add something else at this point: I have discovered that if the feeling has already taken hold and turned peace into anger and ruminating, it is important not to try to make it go away. At first I pretended that I was not angry or that I was wrong to be angry or I attempted to do things to make the anger go away. I found the best thing to do is to acknowledge the anger completely. And…try not to punch anyone in the process. The feeling goes away much quicker this way and sometimes I even realize that the emotion I’m experiencing is really not me.

After practicing this a while you get an evenness that is not (as) easily shaken. I still get angry much more often than I’d like, but this is helping. More than that, and this is the really beautiful thing, the clarity and evenness of that peace/lack of attachment, gives way to…you guessed it: love. Because you haven’t judged a situation or a person, you have the freedom to respond appropriately. This loving response is our true self or God flowing through us. This is where joy lies. This is salvation and enlightenment.

Over eons, my mind has created myriad defenses and responses to situations that I’m uncomfortable with. Most of them include anger and attack. Having the commitment to peace and non-attachment at the front of my mind is like a sentry guarding a fortress. And when the ego attacks, and it always attacks, I have a little more time and a little clearer mindset as to how I will respond.

Hopefully I’ll be able to continue to grow and, over time, be able to respond more and more with forgiveness and love.

 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I have been trying to wrap my head around this one for a while: all suffering is illusion. I was reintroduced to this concept as I was reading Lesson 284 in ACIM.

Loss is not loss when properly perceived. Pain is impossible. There is no grief with any cause at all. And suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream.

I know that we are spirit. I also know that the body is an illusion. I get it that love is the only reality. Well, I understand these conceptually. I am far from understanding them in the sense that I don’t even perceive the body, or that I only feel love, or that I am now above suffering.

One thing I have learned, though, is that the world we live in is truly meaningless. Everything related to this world is a pursuit of the ego. There is absolutely nothing here of any value. I have believed – known – this for a long time. I guess that’s a step in the right direction. But I have to admit I’m a long way from being beyond suffering. Sometimes I don’t really perceive myself as a body, but that goes away as soon as I bite my lip while I’m eating. I’ve noticed it’s also difficult to believe that pain and suffering are illusion while I’m at work and my feet are hurting and I can only think about being off.

I have to believe that, because our reality is experienced through a body, there is no way to completely go beyond suffering. I have to say that I experience far less suffering than I used to. Physical pain does not bother me the same way it did years before. But it still bothers me. Not because of age or anything, but because I can still feel it.

At this point I’m pretty sure that the suffering I perceive goes hand in hand with the degree I still believe this world to be real. Even though I realize it is meaningless, it is still a reality for me because I have to eat and go to work and keep things tidy round the house (sorry, felt a bit British there). That’s why I’m saying I don’t think it’s practical to expect pain and suffering to vanish completely, because, while we are experiencing this world, meaningless as it may be, we will always be tied to the body we’re experiencing it through. The same lesson mentioned earlier also offers a bit of advice:

suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream. This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth.

I’m not sure what to infer from this exactly. Does this mean that when I accept it as truth the suffering will be gone? Or will I simply cease to attach with those things that appear to be pain and suffering? Either way, I will continue to remind myself that this world and it’s suffering are illusory, looking forward to that final acceptance.

I can say that I experience far less suffering than before, when I thought this world had something to offer. It seems that my old system is being slowly dismantled. Old ineffective beliefs and ways of doing things are falling by the wayside. There is far less suffering than there used to be but, for now, I still have to eat when I’m hungry. And I’d still rather stay home than go to work. And I’m about to eat breakfast and I really hope I don’t bite my lip.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I was surprised when the main focus of A Course In Miracles was forgiveness. I guess I had something in mind that awakening was supposed to be and forgiveness wasn’t really it. Now I’m surprised how complete forgiveness is as far as bringing us into unity with our True Self.

I understand now that we are all one and that we only seem to be separate. Because of that, if I decide to be upset with another for any reason, I actually receive that feeling. My being upset with another is the cause as well as the effect of my decision. This is the law of cause and effect. It is also the complete understanding of karma (which is simply another name for that law). The action is also the consequence.

With that in mind I now understand the importance of forgiveness. In the Christian scriptures Jesus explained that the unwillingness to forgive actually imprisons us. As I have experimented with forgiveness, I have found that saying that it imprisons is not quite enough. I would go as far as to say that unforgiveness is the root of nearly every bit of suffering we experience. It is the cause of unhappiness. Unforgiveness is the reason we feel that we are separate from each other and the Creator.

When I initially read about the importance of forgiveness in ACIM, I was able to forgive and experience a lightness and joy I had not felt in years. That was nearly two years ago. But my ego wouldn’t let go of me that easily. It quickly redirected my attention to groups of people I felt superior to, individuals who have wronged me in the past, etc. I have struggled since that time to come to terms with the reality that forgiveness is what I need and trying to let go of everything I held against others. I used to think of myself as a pretty forgiving person. I was surprised to discover how wrong I was. I found things to hold against people I didn’t even know simply because of deep-seated prejudices I didn’t realize I had.

Things seem to be coming around, at long last, and I realize how my attack thoughts toward others immediately come back to me. It is extremely helpful to understand several things that I didn’t realize before. One is the reality that we are all one, with each other and with God. Another is that whenever I am upset with another, I am really upset with myself and when I attack another, it comes right back to me. It’s only when I really began to understand the former (thanks Ken Wilber) that the latter made sense. That explains why forgiveness is so important. Love your neighbor as your self. I get it now…my neighbor is my self.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

No Boundary” by Ken Wilber took everything I have studied about spirituality and made it understandable. As I read the first part of the book I could eventually see where it was leading, which was to reveal that there is no separation at all, anywhere. The only separation I ever perceived is separation that I made. Seeing that was an enlightenment, of sorts.

Lately (the last few years) A Course In Miracles has been helpful to me, along with some teachings from Buddhism. I had been getting to the point where I could put it all together when Wilber’s book suddenly appeared. This was the (a) final piece of the (a) puzzle. All of a sudden I could understand the teachings of the Buddha, Jesus, Hinduism, Taoism and nearly every other discipline. I could also see how they had been ripped out of their contexts, dogmatized and turned into “religion”.

I have studied Buddhism nearly as long as the teachings of Jesus. I never really saw them as two different disciplines as much as I didn’t understand how they complemented each other. Jesus seemed to focus on love and serving where Buddhism focused on mindfulness and being in the present. No Boundary helped me understand that that the only thing that exists is the “original self” whose reality is love and that there is only the present moment and that being in the present fully is eternal life. Nothing else exists except for illusions that an apparently separated humanity has made up. It has helped me see Christian scriptures, which I refused to look at for a time, in a whole new light. It has helped me understand that Buddhism is as much about compassion as mindfulness.

More than anything I have discovered that all of the renowned “mystic” teachers throughout history have understood that everything is love and that only the present exists. They understood that there really are no boundaries. They have also attempted to convey to us, in their unique ways, that we do not have to be bound by fear and suffering; that these are phenomena that we have made up and mistakenly bought into because we believed we are separate from “God” or “love” or our “original self”.

Now the challenge is to return to this reality. We have spend eons inventing, teaching and reinforcing boundaries and separation. We are experts at it. It is really ironic that we have become experts at something that is really nothing more than illusion. Returning to what is real and true is not easy. I can talk about it (with my words that are nothing more than symbols of separation), but assimilating it is the (goal-less) goal. I can call my blog “life awakened” and I can know that complete awakening is possible in each present moment. However, it will take time to fully understand and integrate the reality that the boundaries really do not exist.

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