At a certain point every idealist comes to a crossroads, a place where he realizes he must choose between two burdens; he can either suffer the opinions of the masses, or he can suffer the world’s resistance to his own. He must now decide if his suffering – and his life – is going to be worth something. This is when he begins to delineate what he stands for, and in doing so – he finds that he has not only given his life meaning, but he has given himself his purpose.
For he now knows that to rise above the mire of the world, he needs only to give life to his passions – passions that until this day had lay in rumination, stirring beneath the ancient, unbroken soil of his soul. In this way, every heartbreak had opened him up, and every experience had given him the kindling he would now use to fuel his dreams. Dreams that no longer would rest in precarious wait, on the brink of an eternal sleep; dreams that would awaken to give light to the dark – showing all of the world it’s soul through his.
Lawrence Black, Nov 25, 2014
Post Publish Edit: Upon publishing this, I came to realize it was my 222nd entry.
Imagine you are on a plane, reclining in your seat at cruising altitude – comfortably aware of the smooth, motionless flight. Now, imagine that below you, thirty-thousand feet beneath the fuselage where you reside, there is a single person going about their day. This single individual is the central character in their life – and like every life, theirs has it’s unique share of adversities and troubles and tribulations. And like every living individual, they are doing their best to face the challenges they must face; however, as is the case for all of us – their best isn’t enough to provide them with a secure and lasting sense of inner peace. So they, like all humans, live with a fearful heart; their inner disposition is subject to their circumstances, and like the seas – their inner world constantly stirs.
But from your vantage point on the plane, wrapped in the white noise of the jet’s engines, their problems are nil.
Yet to them, as to us all – our bills, our relationships, our hopes, our dreams, our fears – all of our expectations and dreams are the entirety of the universe. But they aren’t really, are they?
Yet still, we [humans] constantly find ourselves in a terrible way – anxious, worried, nervous, fearful, completely neurotic about our problems. Yet we are infinitesimally small.
This is one of the great paradoxes of life. Over 7 billion humans existing on one planet – each finding him or herself the center of the universe. And for the last fifty-thousand years our ancestors (Homo Sapiens) – an estimated 100 billion of them – have lived before us, sharing this same experience – hopes, dreams, fears, stress, worry; their lives were as real as our own. And today they are scattered like ancient leaves, their remnants either dust or fossils. And what was their worry worth? What good did their fears and their sadness bring? Their worries were a mental illness. As Marcus Aurelius wrote 2,500 years ago, “Socrates used to call the popular beliefs ‘bogies,’ things to frighten children with.”
Take a minute to get a true idea of our place in the universe.
Tell me what you were worried about again?
As far back as the ancients, man was zooming out – mentally envisioning his place in the universe.
Observe the movement of the stars as if you were running their courses with them, and let your mind constantly dwell on the changes of the elements into each other. Such imaginings wash away the filth of life on the ground. Marcus Aurelius
View the heavens. See the vast design, the mighty revolutions that are performed. Think, in the midst of this ocean of being, what the earth and a little part of its surface is; and what a few animals are, which there have being. Embrace, as it were, with thy imagination all those spacious orbs, and place thyself in the midst of the Divine architecture. Consider other orders of beings, other schemes, other designs, other executions, other faces of things, other respects, other proportions and harmony. Be deep in this imagination and feeling, so as to enter into what is done, so as to admire that grace and majesty of things so great and noble, and so as to accompany with thy mind that order, and those concurrent interests of things glorious and immense. For here, surely, if anywhere, there is majesty, beauty and glory. Bring thyself as oft as thou canst into this sense and apprehension; not like the children, admiring only what belongs to their play; but considering and admiring what is chiefly beautiful, splendid and great in things. And now, in this disposition, and in this situation of mind, see if for a cut-finger, or what is all one, for the distemper and ails of a few animals, thou canst accuse the universe.
Donald Robertson has also created this excellent guided meditation, designed to allow us to step into the same perspective the ancients enjoyed, viewing our life from above.
I publish this because this is the truth of our place in the universe. A universe that according to Carl Sagan, contains more stars than the total number of grains of sand on all of planet earth.
We are conscious beings on a planet; we are the echo of the big bang – we are the consciousness of the universe itself. We were not meant to live in a state of misery and fear. I submit this to you, my dear reader: we can transcend the petty – unfathomably small magnitude of our problems. We need only zoom out and see the forest beyond the trees, the stardust floating in the ether – a pale blue dot, on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan: Pale Blue Dot
And if you don’t feel like zooming out – simply look at the size of the world.
Wow. What a year it has been. It’s as if I am back in the good graces of the angels.
I can’t fathom what I must have done to deserve this. This year felt like remembering.
All that I have been, all that counted – all that I am; everything that matters in my heart has crystallized, and I feel better than I have in a long time.
2013 and part of 2014 would prove to be a very neurotic time for me – just a period of trying to think my way out of things. There were bleak times, times dim enough to only be seen in hindsight. At one point there was so little light entering the aperture of my soul I was spiritually dead. You see, I was trying to solve matters of the heart with my head. Of course all that came of that approach was angst – existential masturbation, the thinking man’s enemy.
Consider the preceding paragraph a compressed version of events. The ultimate outcome however, having been that I underwent a kind of rare quantum change that only occurs once or twice in a lifetime – if at all. My chrysalis – a great unscrambling of an egg, consciousness untangling itself, brand new neural networks – biodigital jazz. Like putting my soul in a cosmic rock tumblr: in goes a Jackson Pollack, out comes a Monet. From Tom Odell’s Another Love, to Ed Sheeran’s Kiss Me – angst to romance – I fell back in love with life and my heart grew.
My heart grew.
I can’t elucidate beyond those three words, because no other metaphor can do it justice. So here I sit, big eyed and dumb, knowing that numb is the new deep.
And it’s blissful, but I’m frightened.
It’s the fright of discovering that seemingly eternal island of inner peace within yourself but fearing the tide might rise and you’ll find yourself underwater again.
You see, I’ve never said I’d never go back there – but now I’m ready to look back and declare that I’ve been to a place I don’t ever wish to return to. I’m still scared because I am still scarred. But I’m following my intuition now, something I haven’t consciously – or rather, something I haven’t bravely done for about four years. That hurts to admit, but it’s true – I spent about four years brooding – complex and angry and all alone, even when I wasn’t. It was a hell of a cave. Deep and dark as fuck.
So tonight I’m writing because I am scared of my intuition letting me down. That’s probably my deepest fear. I don’t ever want to go back there – to that magicless place – zemblanity. Total fucking suffering, unbelievable mediocrity.
Despite the fear, I am reminding myself, my intuition has never been wrong. Of course, there are times where I have made errors in judgement (also known aslessons learned), but as far as relying purely on intuition, I can’t ever recall an outcome that wasn’t opaquely intuited beforehand – that’s why it’s called intuition.
You see my dear reader, life is really like one of those choose your own adventure books. Follow your intuition and you can’t go wrong. Follow fear, and doubt, and all things unholy and you will end up fighting giants, playing the game of life on hard mode. But, unlike in the choose your own adventure books where you can take a mulligan on a bad shot, in real life, you don’t get to turn back the pages and do things differently. There is no second time around. Gatsby was wrong. So, you either learn to write the story of your life with great care – with a conscious awareness and an attention to the process, or you simply never wake up, never realizing that this is your story.
And I have awoken, I know this is my story. Infinite possibility. So that’s what I’m doing, I’m trusting the process, learning to sail it one horizon’s tack at a time.
I’m trusting that a fresh dawn will follow the darkest nights and this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. My thoughts and attachments are no more than clouds in this sky, and the squalls come and go, but the sun shines eternal behind it all. It’s a beautiful thing to trust in the power of a new day, because when you really do, you realize that each moment is a new dawn. As is said in one of my favorite movies – “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around”.
It’s just that when you do find yourself in that dark night of the soul, you don’t ever think the sun is going to rise again. As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Crack Up, “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day.” And so it was.
But I never saw the ‘transformation’ (for lack of a better word) that would come of it. I had hoped for a comeback of sorts, and I held fast to the belief that things would one day be better, but I eventually forgot what hoping felt like. And as forgetting goes – I didn’t know that I had forgotten, I just eventually ended up holding onto a semblance of ambition, a thread of destiny hanging before me. I clung to it without knowing what lie on the other end of this thread, I just … well – frankly, I don’t even wish to recall what it was like. (I’ve spent months pushing out the kind of existential diarrhea that only befalls writers and creatives.) Let’s just say I didn’t see the man I could be. I didn’t see myself capable of transcending what felt like all of existence.
But I did; I came out of the storm a changed man. Not a different person – just different, more true to who I am. Vastly more aware of what that is.
“Once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami
The storm is a humbling yet empowering experience. I just wish I could have said to myself at the time, Don’t worry man, you’ll make it out of this, but I can’t tell you how many times I just closed my eyes and imagined going deep underwater to a place that felt separate from my experience. That kind of attempt to escape presence – there are no words for what that is. It’s what I did though. I closed my eyes and imagined going deep into a blue underwater cave. Perhaps a kind of waking dream of sorts – going beneath the surface to escape the storm. Whatever it was, it was all I could do at times to be with myself.
But now I am here.
I’ll let the beautiful poetry of Seinabo Sey close me out.
There’s a conclusion to my illusion
I assure you this
There’s no end to this confusion if you let it wish you well
-Soul to sell
Highest bidders, can’t you tell what you’re getting?
There is a light to all this darkness, I will tell you this
There’s redemption in you asking them just why it is
Some answers are better left unspoken when you know you ain’t getting any younger
30-year Tibetan Buddhist Nun (and total bad ass) Robina Courtin delivered a talk at Google in 2008 that’s chock-full of immensely refreshing, yet completely uncommon advice on happiness, neurosis, and “being your own therapist”.
Powerful, powerful stuff.
Uncommon Advice on Happiness from Rebina Courtin’s 2008 Talk at Google: Be Your Own Therapist
Overview from Youtube:
We spend our lives being seduced by the outside world, believing without question that happiness and suffering come from “out there.” In reality, Buddhist teachings explain that they come from the way we perceive and interpret things, not the things themselves.
This deeply held misconception is at the root of our dissatisfaction, self-doubt, anger, depression, anxiety, and the rest. But our minds can change. By becoming deeply familiar with the workings of our own cognitive processes through introspection and learning to deconstruct them – truly, being our own therapists – we can loosen the grip of these neuroses and grow our marvelous potential for contentment, clarity, and courage, which are at the core of our being.
Note: Typically when I watch a talk, or read a book, I am thrilled if I can walk away with one really good idea to put into my toolkit; however, at 29 years old, the following quote is perhaps the best single piece of advice I’ve heard on happiness in the last five years. It’s the psychology of happiness in a single sentence.
“Happiness is – it’s really simple, it’s what you get when you give up the neurosis.” Robina Courtin
The rest of the entry contains a WEALTH of additional wisdom from the same talk, expanding on this idea.
Giving up Neurosis to Find Happiness
“The extent of which we are caught up in any given moment in low self-esteem, depression, anger, jealousy, you name it… The extent to which we’re caught up in those is the extent of which we suffer.
The extent of which we are not caught up in those and therefore the extent which we’re involved in kind of, you know, connecting with others, empathy, being harmonious, forgiving…T he extent of which they’re prevalent in our minds at any given moment is the extent to which we are happy.
It’s an incredibly simple little recipe in Buddhist terms. We (most people) think it [happiness] is what you get when you get what you want. He [The Buddah] says it’s what you get when you give up the neurosis – so the technique is learning to know your mind, being your own therapist.”
Don’t Think About Calming Your Mind, Think About Steadying it’s Focus
“A calm mind can be a busy mind. And if you think about it, what causes the problems isn’t a busy mind, it’s when the–the busy mind is caught up in fear about yourself and worry of what people think about you, am I good enough, am I too fat, am I too thin and depression and jealous and anxiety and all the rest. That’s the stuff that causes the misery. If you’re full of thoughts about being useful to others all day and being content with yourself, well, please go for it, you know. You don’t have a problem, believe me.”
On Using the Full Brilliant Power of Your Mind to Your Advantage
“Don’t try to hold yourself back. Love the fact that you’ve got a brilliant mind, that you’re a real thinker – this is the technique, this is the tool that you can use to be your own therapist, to use this cognitive process to deconstruct your own stuff. Okay, alongside that intelligence, you need some, you know integrity, you need humility, you need the wish to look at yourself, you need the will to want to, the ability–and the wish to want to go beyond blame and hurt that alongside this intelligence, that’s a marvelous packaging I tell you. That’s the stuff that we need. Intelligence on its own is a disaster. You can still be in an infantile at the age of 90 even if you’re a genius, you know?”
On Anger, Jealousy, Fear, and Attachment
“Lack of emotional intelligence is what we have when we have anger, and jealousy and fear, and attachment because these are totally self-centered, unhappy, miserable states of mind.”
Facing Self-Knowledge With Courage and Self-Compassion Rather Than Low Self-Esteem and Self-Loathing
“It’s a question of knowing yourself well – taking responsibility, but on the basis of the fact that you can change – not, “Oh, I’m so guilty, I’m so bad”. Not that at all, which is a knee-jerk reaction we tend to have when we point out problems in ourselves. That’s not the attitude here. It’s a courageous attitude. It’s just, “Okay, I am jealous, I get depressed, I am this, I am that, what a drag, it’s breaking my heart.” You’ve got to have compassion for yourself really, which is a brand new idea for us. We love to hate ourselves.”
The Importance of Identifying with Your Positive Potential
“The more strongly you can kind of identify with your positive potential, the more you have the courage, don’t you, to see the things that are holding you back. But the crucial one for me is we take one thing from this room: I can change. It sounds so simple, it’s almost embarrassing but you check the major level at which we suffer when things are going bad, we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is why we despair.”
Mindfulness as Kind of Cognitive Behavioral Tool
“We can mold our minds, our thoughts and feelings into any shape we like, you know and this is the thing here. The level of which I’m discussing here, the level of practice based upon these really marvelous techniques where you can learn to focus your mind, you then use the skill of–of this–really a process of cognitive therapy and I’m really not kidding. Buddha is a master of cognitive therapies. You learn more and more clearly, literally to hear the millions of voices inside there that now are racing like I said out of control all day everyday.”
The Neurotic “I” – Neuroticism as a Product of our Sense of Self and Self-Centeredness
“The basis of the neurotic voices, the fearful ones, the angry ones, the jealous, the depression is a neurotic sense of self of”I.” You think about it, even if Monica and I are sitting, having a very friendly conversation, I’m listening to her and she is listening to me and I crack [her jokes]–you know I laugh at her jokes and she laughs at mine. You think about this carefully when it’s very easygoing, there’s no real vivid sense of “I” this, “I am listening to Monica” – you’re kind of connected to her. There’s a sense of interdependence, isn’t there? There’s a sense of “we.” Now you watch what happens when you start to argue, that “we” is cut in half right there. The unhappy “I” is kind of quiet like a sleeping lion, and there’s a sense of connected to otherness. But then when that’s cut, you kind of revert back into yourself and the “I” rises loudly and you’re panicking and your heart’s beating and the blood’s racing and ‘she did this’ and ‘I said that’, ‘it’s not fair’, ‘poor me’ this – that’s the voice – the “I”, the neurotic “I,” behind all the unhappy states of mind – that’s their character.”
The Neurotic Voices are Not at The Core of Your Being, They Can be Changed
“So even to think ‘wow, that’s interesting, maybe it’s possible, maybe what Buddha says is possible, that they’re not at the core of my being [the neurotic voices], that I can learn to look into these and deconstruct them and hear the voices and unpack them and slowly, cognitively change myself.’ This is the process I’m talking about here. “
A Question About Materialism and Happiness: The Distinction Between The Thing and Your Interpretation of It
Note: This might be the magnum opus of the lessons here. An attendee asks an assumptive question about the best way to live in order to be happy and the reply is just not at all what you would assume.
Question: “So since it’s pretty pointless to pursue a job and the girlfriend and the dollars and the car, would the most practical thing for us to be, is to just take care of a little bit of shelter and food and spend all the rest of the time in contemplation?”
Answer: “How revolting. I couldn’t stand a life like that. No, you’ve gone ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with millions of dollars and jobs and girlfriends and gorgeous things, no, no you’re chucking the baby out of the bath water. You went too far, you became kind of nihilistic. No, that’s not the point. You can have your cake and eat it too sweetheart, and I’m really serious here. The Buddha makes this enormous distinction between the thing itself and your interpretation of it, and what he is describing here–the problem is our interpretation of the girlfriend, of the money – if you put all your eggs in those baskets, believing primordially that having them equals happiness, he says that’s when you will be disappointed, because you just got the wrong recipe. So he doesn’t say give them up, he says change your way of interpreting them.
Happiness is dependent upon you changing, getting rid of your neurotic attachment, getting rid of all your craving for people to love you, getting –I mean I am talking of the neurotic side here–rid of the craving for people to approve of you, to think you’re fantastic, for the dollars in the bank – the neurotic dependence on that stuff is what I am talking about, not the stuff itself. …So that’s not the answer, we’re in this world of abundance and money and things and color and shapes and music and sounds, it’s kind of a sophisticated view. The first level is maybe you back away for a while, while you go into retreat mode, you know. But eventually with skill, you’re going to have your cake and eat it too. It’s giving up the neurotic attitude towards the things, not the things themselves. That’s a major, major point. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”
Watch the full Talk Below
Note: I really enjoyed Robina Courtin’s demeanor – she seems like a definite non-people pleaser, which I mean as a compliment; although I did cringe at a few of the things she said, but watching this was a reminder that spirituality does not have to strip you of your confidence nor your personality and that decreasing your suffering can empower you to live the highest manifestation of both.
The following was a comment I posted on a thread in the Stoicism group I am in on facebook. I wanted to add it here as it relates to my own personal ethos on life, from an increasingly Buddhist perspective.
In my very limited (but growing) understanding of Buddhist teachings, I feel that The Buddha was a master of perspective. I feel like Buddhism compliments Stoicism very well; through Stoicism I gain understanding, through Buddhism I gain perspective. Definitely something I would love to see a dedicated thread on in the future. And regarding positive thought, I am inclined to agree with you, especially when examining the Stoic practice of negative visualization (imagining loss, ex: preparing for bad traffic in LA). The older I get the less I subscribe to new age positive thinking, instead favoring wisdom. There’s certainly a point at which mere positivity becomes an almost weakness, disconnecting you from the true reality of things. If there’s a lesson to be learned from positivity, I think it’s “don’t be neurotic”.
“You, and all of us, and everybody, we have a right to love who we are. We have a right to be our true authentic self – beyond our secrets, beyond our pain, beyond our past – and shadow work is the work of the heart warrior, it promises to give you a life that was like mine, unimaginable to me” Debbie Ford
The beautiful thing about having a spiritual identity is that you have a sense of serendipity. The things that you find and the things that find you have a divine purpose for your highest self.
We are afraid of our shadows. We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto outside. We are afraid of the dark; we are like children, and again, part of the mystical journey is to face that darkness. Also you need the sword of your own aspiration to go into the darkness inside yourself and to face that darkness, and then you discover that it isn’t that dark after all – the fears that you had – things change, and then you begin to discover the light that is hidden in the darkness. This is one of the great alchemical secrets, this is one of the great secrets of human transformation – that you go into the darkness, and it is terrifying at first, and then you discover this light of your own divine nature that is hidden in the darkness. It is called the pearl of great price that is at the bottom of the ocean, it is in the depths of darkness, there is something so beautiful, but most people are afraid of it, because there is a price to pay to confront your own fears, your own anxieties, and to go deep within yourself. It is much easier to project it and to have enemies outside, people you dislike. Then you can project your problems and it is somebody else’s fault. For the mystic it is always us.
Robert Bly on How Shadow Develops
Being that I want to access my full potential and claim the entirety of my being, I’m going down the path of discovering my Shadow. For a good explanation of how Shadow develops, let’s turn to Robert Bly from, The Little Book on The Human Shadow:
It’s as if we have a bag that we put our unacceptable parts in. We hide those parts of ourselves away so they won’t be seen. At first we put into the bag parts of ourselves that we might judge as bad. Maybe we put our laziness in the bag, our our anger. Or maybe we put our greed in the bag. Or maybe we hide and deny parts of our sexuality. We keep throwing who we don’t think we should be into this bag, until as you might guess – some of the most wonderful, golden parts get thrown into that bag too. Maybe we put playfulness in the bag because a parent or teacher didn’t like us to be messy. Or maybe we put our creativity into the bag because someone said we weren’t doing it right. Perhaps our ability to feel unrestrained joy goes into the bag because our life has been hard. Or maybe we hide away our loving connection of intimacy because we have been hurt too many times. As the years go by, we put more and more parts of ourselves into the bag until eventually it’s big and heavy and full with all the parts of ourselves that we have hidden away, and we drage this bag around with us and slows us down and keeps us from being who we really want to be. So, by shadow we mean anything that’s in the bag. Parts of ourselves we have denied, or repressed or have hidden away. If we are trying not to be a certain way, that part of us is in shadow.
The shadow is all the parts of ourselves that we hide, or that we deny or suppress. The great Swiss psychology Carl Jung said, “The shadow is the person that we’d rather not be”, and so it can be our worst nightmare, but it can also be all the parts of ourselves that we’ve given up – our brilliance, our creativity, our power, our voice, our uniqueness, our successful-self even, and so It’s something that’s innate to human beings, if you are human you have a shadow, and if you are willing to explore it instead of hate it or try to get rid of it, or try to transcend it, or eat over it, or drink over it, or spend over it, you can actually reinvent yourself in a way you never thought possible.
A Must Watch: Debbie Ford Explains The Shadow
Must, must, must, must, must watch.
Debbie Ford with a Short and Wonderful Forgiveness Exercise
This is golden.
The Shadow and Spirituality: Bringing The Darkness to Light
“You can’t bring the light to darkness, you have to bring the darkness to light” – Marianne Williamson
The idea being that if we try to bring “love and light” to our shadow, we only repress it by trying not to embody it, and it simply gets buried with spirituality. Obviously, I am not yet an expert on Shadow, and I will be reading Debbie Ford’s books, which I am very excited about, but I am exploring multiple perspectives, such as those of spiritual catalyst Teal Swan.
Four, twenty-five-hundred-watt Halogens
Shining from shore to sea
As I stand on the sand,
The green and white surf before me
Illuminated and backlit, I can see perfectly,
As I’m watching an Osprey –
She’s flying ’round frantically
Scattered circles, and dips, and dives
She’s combing the surf,
Where her prey normally thrives
Unable to discern between day and these Dayglo night skies,
Because there’s 10,000 watts in her fish-eagle eyes
But there’s a fire in her belly
So She flies and flies and flies
I have an affinity for the hawk, particularly the Osprey. It’s one of my spirit animals and I sometimes watch them hunt their prey in the morning light, just north of the pier near my house. Tonight I went for a walk and as I walked along the beach in front of a local hotel I spotted an Osprey flying around the surf attempting to hunt in this relatively small section of the beach that was lit up like New Years Eve. As I wrote this poem on my phone, the Osprey flew around erratically in front of me the entire time.
I felt captivated by the Osprey’s presence – it was an almost dreamlike metaphor for my own struggles to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm in light of what is.
If you enjoyed this, read my first published poem on another beautiful, albeit extinct bird, The Passenger Pidgeon
“We are afraid of our shadows. We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto outside. We are afraid of the dark; we are like children, and again, part of the mystical journey is to face that darkness. Also you need the sword of your own aspiration to go into the darkness inside yourself and to face that darkness, and then you discover that it isn’t that dark after all – the fears that you had – things change, and then you begin to discover the light that is hidden in the darkness. This is one of the great alchemical secrets, this is one of the great secrets of human transformation – that you go into the darkness, and it is terrifying at first, and then you discover this light of your own divine nature that is hidden in the darkness. It is called the pearl of great price that is at the bottom of the ocean, it is in the depths of darkness, there is something so beautiful, but most people are afraid of it, because there is a price to pay to confront your own fears, your own anxieties, and to go deep within yourself. It is much easier to project it and to have enemies outside, people you dislike. Then you can project your problems and it is somebody else’s fault. For the mystic it is always us.”
– Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee
We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto.
Being that I am awakened on a spiritual path, I enjoy exploring numerous teachers from across nearly every era and doctrine. That being said, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee blows me away. And not just because he is a quote-unquote true mystic, but because he has a PhD in Jungian Psychology and is a truly bright intellectual. This lends an incredible depth to his knowledge of the human interior world and his keen sense of understanding on psychology, myth, and symbolism is evident within his lectures.
The arrival of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee in my life could not have come at a better time, as I am growing increasingly interested in the shadow after having recently had an experience where I faced certain aspects of my shadow for perhaps the first time. I understand innately that I am intrinsically afraid of the shadow, and I don’t like fear – I desperately wish to overcome it, and this has been a relatively consistent focus of mine this year, but I’ve lacked a deep enough understanding on the mechanics of fear to truly dispel the underlying fear that exists in my psyche. It’s one thing to have a transcendental experience of fear where fear is overcome, but it’s another to get to the root of it, where fear is effectively dissolved.
In listening to Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee speak on the human psyche in a spiritual context, I knew that I had happened on something that was the next piece in my journey to facing the inner dragons, which occupy a seat in all of our souls.
In a nearly hour-long interview, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee faces a myriad of what are often borderline sophomoric questions (i.e., “if you had one wish what would it be?”), but nonetheless manages to deliver answers with great grace and timeless wisdom. Integrating the topics of the psyche, the shadow, and fear into a cohesive narrative on spirituality, Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee provides a rare glimpse into the keys to unlocking the inner world.
On Suffering as a Process of Purification
And if you look at it [suffering] from a spiritual point of view, anyone who has begun the spiritual journey knows that suffering is a process of purification, where we clean out the debris that we have accumulated inside of us, the denseness, the darkness within the psyche, and that suffering – that purification, the Sufis call it polishing the mirror of the heart.
Note: I recently dreampt I was pulling dead branches down from a tree [clearing debris], an experience I wrote of here.
Problems as Essential Paths to Growth
In this world of duality, nothing is perfect, nothing is pure, it is part of our dynamic of life; Carl Jung, the great psychologist, he said you should never take somebody’s problems away from them because it’s through their problems that they grow, it is through this friction of light and dark that we grow.
On The Divine Spark Within Us All
We have in us a divine spark, you can see it – it’s a light that shines in the human being. It’s our direct access to truth, our direct access to God, and the purpose of all the spiritual practices that exits are to awaken that spark, to give it life, to give it energy – so that it can transform you.
On What Keeps Most People From Living Their Full Potential
Fear – it stops them stepping into the light of the of their own self. And there is this saying that ‘people are not so much afraid of the darkness as of the light’ – of their own power, of their own potential, because then you have to become a responsible adult, and most people prefer to be children and to blame somebody else, but it is never anybody else’s fault. Once you take full responsibility for your life – it is your destiny – it is your life. Nobody else can live it for you.
Bonus: Free Audios – Mystical Life and the Inner Worlds
From the description: These talks explore the inner worlds of the mystical journey, focusing on the symbolic, archetypal world and the interior dimension of the Self. The symbolic world is an intermediate dimension whose archetypal images have a powerfully determining influence on our outer life. The Self belongs to a world beyond time and space that exists within the heart of each of us. The mystical journey gives us a direct experience of these interior realities.
Jung defined the shadow as: “The Shadow describes the part of the psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge. It contains the denied parts of the self. Since the self contains these aspects, they surface in one way or another. Bringing Shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power, however, comes from having accepted your shadow parts and integrated them as components of your Self.”
Shadow Work is the work of the heart-warrior – C.G. Jung
I’m assuming if you read the quote in this entry on The Shadow you are likely interested in learning more about this hidden, yet vital aspect of your psyche. The following books are on my reading list for future study / self-work.
Gaining a Sense of Your Own Destiny Through Personal Mythology
I think it’s incredibly important that each of us cultivate a knowing of our own personal mythology and a sense of our own destiny. These things intertwine past and future into a grand story – something bigger than our present circumstances.
This [having a sense of your own destiny] will provide you with an unwavering feeling of inner security, even in the face of your greatest challenges. It’s the knowing that you are “on path”, but it’s also a larger than life understanding that to be reborn we must be crucified. (DO Watch the four and a half minute video at the end of this entry.)
It’s more than the belief in fate, it’s loving that which is fated for you – all of it, because you know you are the hero of your own story, and even heroes face the mundane (from the Latin mundus, meaning “world”), and all heroes must face their own unique adversities (from the Latin adverture, meaning “to turn toward”).
It’s the ancient idea (From The Stoics) that the obstacles in our path become our path. This is the heroes journey that we are all taking. Knowing this will help guide you, and will greatly strengthen your inner intuition.
What Makes a Hero: Must Watch
Note: The seed of this idea came about from four separate things that came into my life.
I came across the following quote, which I felt should be added here. Ironically, I am a big Carl Jung reader; however, I certainly did not gain this notion from reading Jung as I had innately felt my own “sense of destiny” long before I knew of Jung; although, I am not surprised to have read the following quote from a man who was deeply in touch with his own inner world.
“From the beginning I had a sense of Destiny, as though my life was assigned to me by fate and had to be fulfilled. This gave me an inner security, and, though I could never prove it to myself, it proved itself to me. ‘I’ did not have this certainty, ‘it’ had me. ” C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
Future Reading on Myth as a Mirror For The Ego
I want to continue exploring the idea of myth as a mirror for the ego, as Joseph Campbell called it. The following books have been added to my reading list:
Update: I am not a big fan of Ted talks; however, I was doing more research on personal myth after I published that and I came across a TEDx talk titled, Personal Myth Busters: Opening the Door to Possibility, and I am very glad I watched this talk all the way through as it led to the following.
The Stories We Tell: Creating Your Own Destiny Though Personal Myths
If personal mythology is your story on a grand scale, then personal myths are the slogans and paradigms that shape the way we see our lives on a daily basis. They are the myriad and often limiting lenses of our perception.
Viewing personal myth as slogans that define our limits and our destinies, Heather Evans gives a valuable talk on “the stories we tell each other (and ourselves) everyday”, and whether or not they are serving us. On the purpose of these micro-myths she says, “We create these myths because we find comfort in them”.
Heather Evans on Personal Myths as Limiting Slogans
In the talk she covers three phases of personal mythology. The first phase she describes our beliefs as being restricted to the myths we learn through our parents – even absurd ones, such as eating a watermelon seed and having a watermelon grow in you. These stories we grow up serve to keep us safe. The next phase she talks about is that we start playing with different personal myths – trying them on, much as someone would put a bumper-sticker on their car. During this phase of deciding what we want and “dipping our toe” in the water, these myths start playing themselves out in our lives. For example, the person who subscribes to the personal myth that “Everything is a lesson” begins to learn from everything – but not necessarily the lesson they need. As an aside on this, for a long time I subscribed to the personal myth that “I grew through adversity” – as such, I created a lot of adversity in my life. And the final stage, she doesn’t go into great detail on; however, she describes it as finding new myths by asking “what is calling me?” As an example of this shift, she provides a cartoon from the New Yorker, where a woman is saying “I don’t want to be defined by who I am”. We can learn a great deal here. By changing our personal myths – the stories we tell ourselves – we can change our life, and as I wrote about yesterday, perception is reality.
Personal Myth as Story Reading List
While the above reading list deals with personal mythology as a way to navigate our way through life, this list focuses on myths as stories that define the limits in our day to day lives.
Note: I just realized that I wrote about changing your life by changing your story almost exactly one year ago to the day, and in revisiting that entry tonight I have such a clearer perspective on the matter – so much so that some of the things I wrote in it are almost uncannily ironic. Having now watching this TEDx talk, it’s clear to me what my therapist had meant in telling me that it was important for me to cultivate my own personal mythology.
Meditating on the beach this morning and feeling my fearful heart beating in my chest, anxious and over-paced, just like all of us – I started thinking about what the hell I was so afraid of.
And so, I lie in the sand looking up and thinking about this, asking , how can my soul fly everyday – how can I feel grand and limitless, and connected to the universe and my dreams, and my power as the creator of my life – while still staying grounded? How can I resolve this paradox.
Like most all questions I consciously ask in the meditative state, an answer propagated itself within my mind quite automatically and without effort. That answer was that there is no ‘there’ (the universe) and ‘here’ (grounded), because “here” is a planet out in the universe. The center of the earth is as central to our position in the universe as the moon is, cosmically speaking. There is simply no difference on an energetic level; being grounded is about being grounded with yourself as one with the universe, for the here and there are one.
That might cause the uninitiated to roll their eyes. “One with the universe”. Yes: one-with-the-uni-verse. That’s something I’ve been reading about and looking into lately, this ‘concept’ of “oneness”, or, non-duality. And that’s actually what I thought of next in my meditation as I sat up and began to walk. Just this question of am I really one – a part of everything?
My first answer, looking towards the morning calm of the Pacific Ocean was, well, is a halibut one with the sea?
And then I looked down and saw a perfect white lone feather that had been cast off the plumage of a young bird. I picked the feather up and asked, well, is this feather one with the bird? To which came the immediate reply of well, was I not too once one with my mother (in the womb)?
I almost laughed at that point because it was clear the feather had given me this beautiful symbolic metaphor for oneness with creation. Of course we all know that humans share the same genetic lineage, whether you are a creationist or a Christian, there is no arguing the ancestry of our DNA is shared, traceable to a common and once very small group.
However, I of course look like this, and you yourself look like that, and this thing called consciousness is a seemingly individuated process, which, along with the innately separatist concepts of religion, country, and creed, keeps each of us quite effectively marooned in the confines of our own minds. For we are not feathers, but conscious beings.
And so I thought of this [the idea that it’s consciousness that separates us] as I twirled the feather I had picked up in my fingers and watched as a woman walking a ridiculous looking dog down the boardwalk neared. As she passed by I smiled and remarked to her, “Beautiful animal” using the most genuinely sounding tone of voice I could muster. After she had passed completely I almost burst into side-splitting laughter at how silly the damn thing had looked.
But why had I told her “beautiful animal”? This was my next thought. Of course the answer wasn’t difficult to find; I cared about what she thought. Perhaps I was even afraid of what she thought of me.
This was my next inquiry: Why are we afraid of what people think?
We fear their judgement, I pondered; although, I quickly pivoted to the realization that it wasn’t really their judgement we feared, but our own judgement of what they thought of us. After all, we cannot enter into the mind of another. It’s our own judgement about what we believe they might think of us, which we fear. We’re scared of our own judgement based on the imaginations of what we think someone might possibly think of is. This is pathetic, I thought to myself.
Continuing on my walking meditation, I thought again of the idea that we have fearful hearts, only now the feeling had lifted. I declared aloud to myself “Truly, what in the god-damn-hell do you have to be afraid of?”
In that moment, I felt completely human, only without the anxiety of being human. Something in me had become clear and free. Here I was, a temporary living entity, standing on the surface of planet earth, having realized the absurdity of my nature – and the nature of all humans – as basically afraid of our perceptions about what the other members of our species might be thinking of us. God forbid we look and act in a manner not fitting with our evolved desire to FIT IN and be accepted for who we are.
Note: Like happiness and everything else we desire, it’s best created from the inside-out, and not the outside in; however, most of us never figure that out because we can’t escape our own judgement of ourselves, that which is called perception. So we cling so dearly to a self-worth that’s extremely dependent upon what we think of others. It’s no wonder that the harshest judges of others often have the lowest self-esteem. It’s also fucking retarded that we even care. I don’t want to care what anyone thinks. Fuck what anyone thinks. Do you think your heroes lived their lives confined in the same glass houses? No way. You can’t be authentic and fear your own perception.
Walking on now, from the sand, to the sidewalk back towards my home, I saw an overweight woman who had somehow managed to charm no small part of my sensibilities with the way she had clipped her dog leash around her waist for hands free dog walking.
And so, seeing this woman on the sidewalk at the end of the street, who was dutifully waiting for her dog, I thought about how I should progress. She had looked up, aware of my presence, and I was slowly walking in her direction, debating whether I should cross the street to do as humans sometimes do in wanting to avoid having to exchange pleasantries. But then I thought just walk by say something nice to her – this being somewhat funny, since I have recently become much more aware of my mode-of-being as someone who tries to please people in an attempt to make them happy – and I realized this. Finally, it was clear, I decided no – walk by and just project and intend loving-kindness towards her. That’s it. No judgement. Just loving-kindness.
So, like a true buddah, I neared her completely unselfconscious and feeling nothing but loving-kindness towards her. And that was it! I felt completely unselfconscious because I had not only zero judgment for her, but total loving kindness. In fact, we actually ended up talking! Her dog is named Otis, and I laughed when he jumped on me, playfully saying “Jeeze, your dog’s an animal.” She was an incredibly nice woman.
Aside: Her energy reminded me of a late friend of my grandmother. A woman named Paula Sykes who also had been overweight as well, but was the coolest person I knew at 12 years old. She [Ms. Sykes as she was known] helped teach me kindness in befriending me – plus she had this quirky sense of taste that was just classic (I remember her having decoy hunting ducks on the bookshelves in her home). I wish I could remember what she had told me about them when I asked.
But I submit this to you – had I not created that reality? The unselfconscious and playful reality, and the simple beauty of my interaction with her – was that not a result of the conscious focus through which I had chosen to perceive the experience with? I had paid her my attention and my intention. Sure, she had turned out to be a kind woman, but perhaps the nervous glance she had given the strange looking guy down the street in the hombre poncho and sweats turned into a pleasant interaction because 5 million years of human evolution instilled within her an innate ability to sense my energy, the same way a DOG can read the energy of another animal and determine it’s hostility and it’s social position in a matter of seconds – the same way her dog read my energy. You’re telling me humans don’t feel that? Okay sure. Of course they do. We all know this. Except few of us ever realize that our fears – this thing called perception IS A FILTER.
In our homes, our lives, our “careers”, our perceptions are filtering all of our experiences. Like a tuning fork that vibrates with like frequency, or liquid finding it’s “level”, we are just a product of our perception. How long do you need to suffer before you realize this? You’re like the lower ranking animal in the pack – except you attribute this to circumstance, and luck, rather than mental freedom – freedom from the perceptions about who you are. These are the LIMITS and the ONLY limits.
If it’s not impossible, then it’s possible, but if you can’t perceive it as reality -you won’t.
I arrived back at my apartment, and in surveying things I laughed and said aloud “Look at this provincial shit”. I just had a sense that my circumstance was not only a product of my past perception, but that no matter what the absolute worst case scenario in my life could be, absolutely nothing could strip me of the truth that I came to know on this walking meditation. The truth is that I am bigger than my body and my thoughts – and so are you.
P.S. Thought is perception and perception is reality. Listen to the following two songs. The people on the way up have figured these things out. Now it’s your turn.
Note: If the idea of a walking meditation seems silly to you, watch this video from Thich Nhat Hanh.
But beyond merely feeling captivated by the Jedi characters and their use of the force, I truly seek to embody a similarly elite level of self-discipline, mastery and heightened spiritual awareness in my own, very real life.
So, what’s a real life Jedi to do? Simple, study the trill (true+real) wisdom of the ancients, which no doubt inspired quotes like the following.
According to Wikipedia, the poem has been much beloved by Zen practitioners for over a thousand years, and applies Taoist terminology to the Buddhist context of awakening – professing the need to take pleasant and unpleasant life experiences with a sense of equanimity and broadly speaking, deals with the principles and practice of non-duality – that is, with the application of nonduality and the results of its practice.
Note: While I am not yet acquainted with the full depth and color of the text, I am already taken by the clear and poignant richness of it’s wisdom, which shines through from the first read. As someone who believes spirituality is about practices as much or more than experiences, I immediately knew this was a work I needed to integrate into my daily routine – hence, why I am publishing this: I am going to read this each morning – part of my training as a Jedi – plus, it’s very soothing and aligning. Having gone relatively deep on my spiritual journey thus far, I intuitively knew as soon as I came across this (whilst researching nondualism) that it was fated for me to internalize and call forth this wisdom as part of my daily waking consciousness – ahem, I mean to say that my inner Yoda told me this was part of my path to becoming a Jedi Knight : )
The source of the text is attributed to Chien-chih Seng Ts’an (modern Western spelling: Jianzhi Sengcan), the Third Patriarch of Chan (Zen) Buddhism; however, much like the Tao Te Ching, it’s authorship is not definitive; although, I quite enjoyed the story that when Seng Ts’an approached his teacher, Dazu Huike , and requested be accepted under his tutelage, Huike exclaimed: “You are riddled with leprosy, and yet you come to me?”, to which Seng Ts’an replied, “Well, maybe my body is sick. But the internal heart-mind of a diseased one is still the same as the internal heart-mind of a whole man; how, then, is my heart different from your heart-mind?” Impressed with this insight, Huike took him on as a student.
Whether Seng Ts’an authored the work or not is a relatively moot point today – the miracle isn’t in the poem’s author, but in it’s message, which is so everlasting and timeless that it’s still applicable 2,500 years later. I love not relying on new age booksellers to tell me how to live. I prefer going straight to the source and integrating true ancient wisdom directly into my modern life. This to me is a true honor and one of the great privileges of applying a touch of intellectualism to my spirituality. I get genuinely excited about things like this.
It’s important to note that the poem’s original text was not divided into stanzas. This was something I was worried about as the translations below have been taken from various non-copyrighted sources, and as such I was unsure of their fidelity to the translator’s original structure; however, given that the lines were grouped into stanzas in modern times, I might as well decide on my own where they should go (tongue in cheek).
Note: Grab a PDF (for those non-internet situations) of the three translations here.
Eventually, I will likely gravitate towards one specific translation, as I have found with the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, but for now I’m inclined to prefer the Clarke translation; although, comparing translations certainly helps you better elucidate your own interpretation of the intended meaning.
Enjoy my dear reader, I hope this profits your soul on the path to Jedi Knighthood as it does mine. Together, we will both learn to use The Force (or The Source).
P.S. – I look forward to again writing on this subject [The Mind of Absolute Trust] at some point in the future.
至道無難 The Great Way is not difficult
唯嫌揀擇 for those who have no preferences.
但莫憎愛 When love and hate are both absent
洞然明白 everything becomes clear and undisguised.
毫釐有差 Make the smallest distinction, however
天地懸隔 and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
欲得現前 If you wish to see the truth
莫存順逆 then hold no opinions for or against anything.
違順相爭 To set up what you like against what you dislike
是爲心病 is the disease of the mind.
不識玄旨 When the deep meaning of things is not understood
徒勞念靜 the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
圓同太虚 The Way is perfect like vast space
無欠無餘 where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
良由取捨 Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
所以不如 that we do not see the true nature of things.
莫逐有縁 Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
勿住空忍 nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
一種平懷 Be serene in the oneness of things
泯然自盡 and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
止動歸止 When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
止更彌動 your very effort fills you with activity.
唯滯兩邊 As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
寧知一種 you will never know Oneness.
一種不通 Those who do not live in the single Way
兩處失功 fail in both activity and passivity,
遣有沒有 assertion and denial. To deny the reality of things
從空背空 to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality.
多言多慮 The more you talk and think about it,
轉不相應 the further astray you wander from the truth.
絶言絶慮 Stop talking and thinking,
無處不通 and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
歸根得旨 To return to the root is to find the meaning,
隨照失宗 but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
須臾返照 At the moment of inner enlightenment
勝卻前空 there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
前空轉變 The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
皆由妄見 we call real only because of our ignorance.
不用求眞 Do not search for the truth;
唯須息見 only cease to cherish opinions.
二見不住 Do not remain in the dualistic state
慎莫追尋 avoid such pursuits carefully.
纔有是非 If there is even a trace of this and that, of right and wrong,
紛然失心 the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
二由一有 Although all dualities come from the One,
一亦莫守 do not be attached even to this One.
一心不生 When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
萬法無咎 nothing in the world can offend,
無咎無法 and when a thing can no longer offend, it ceases to exist in the old way.
不生不心 When no discriminating thoughts arise, the old mind ceases to exist.
能隨境滅 When thought objects vanish, the thinking-subject vanishes,
境逐能沈 as when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.
境由能境 Things are objects because of the subject (mind);
能由境能 the mind (subject) is such because of things (object).
欲知兩段 Understand the relativity of these two
元是一空 and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
一空同兩 In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
齊含萬象 and each contains in itself the whole world.
不見精麁 If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
寧有偏黨 you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.
大道體寛 To live in the Great Way
無易無難 is neither easy nor difficult,
小見狐疑 but those with limited views
轉急轉遲 and fearful and irresolute: the faster they hurry, the slower they go,
執之失度 and clinging (attachment) cannot be limited;
必入邪路 even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment is to go astray.
放之自然 Just let things be in their own way
體無去住 and there will be neither coming nor going.
任性合道 Obey the nature of things (your own nature),
逍遙絶惱 and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
繋念乖眞 When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
昏沈不好 for everything is murky and unclear,
不好勞神 and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.
何用疏親 What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations?
欲取一乘 If you wish to move in the One Way
勿惡六塵 do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
六塵不惡 Indeed, to accept them fully
還同正覺 is identical with true Enlightenment.
智者無爲 The wise man strives to no goals
愚人自縛 but the foolish man fetters himself.
法無異法 This is one Dharma, not many: distinctions arise
妄自愛著 from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
將心用心 To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind
豈非大錯 is the greatest of all mistakes.
迷生寂亂 Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
悟無好惡 with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
一切二邊 All dualities come from
妄自斟酌 ignorant inference.
夢幻虚華 They are like dreams of flowers in the air:
何勞把捉 foolish to try to grasp them.
得失是非 Gain and loss, right and wrong:
一時放卻 such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.
眼若不睡 If the eye never sleeps,
諸夢自除 all dreams will naturally cease.
心若不異 If the mind makes no discriminations,
萬法一如 the ten thousand things are as they are, of single essence.
一如體玄 To understand the mystery of this One-essence
兀爾忘虚 is to be release from all entanglements.
萬法齊觀 When all things are seen equally
歸復自然 the timeless Self-essence is reached.
泯其所以 No comparisons or analogies are possible
不可方比 in this causeless, relationless state.
止動無動 Consider movement stationary and the stationary in motion,
動止無止 both movement and rest disappear.
兩既不成 When such dualities cease to exist
一何有爾 Oneness itself cannot exist.
究竟窮極 To this ultimate finality
不存軌則 no law or description applies.
契心平等 For the unified mind in accord with the Way
所作倶息 all self-centered straining ceases.
狐疑盡淨 Doubts and irresolution’s vanish
正信調直 and life in true faith is possible.
一切不留 With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
無可記憶 nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
虚明自照 All is empty , clear, self-illuminating,
不勞心力 with no exertion of the mind’s power.
非思量處 Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination
識情難測 are of no value.
眞如法界 In this world of Suchness
無他無自 there is neither self nor other-than-self
要急相應 To come directly into harmony with this reality
唯言不二 just simply say when doubt arises, ‘Not two.’
不二皆同 In this ‘no two’ nothing is separate,
無不包容 nothing excluded.
十方智者 No matter when or where,
皆入此宗 enlightenment means entering this truth.
宗非促延 And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space;
一念萬年 in it a single thought is ten thousand years.
無在不在 Emptiness here, Emptiness there,
十方目前 but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.
極小同大 Infinitely large and infinitely small;
忘絶境界 no difference, for definitions have vanished
不見邊表 and no boundaries are seen.
有即是無 So too with Being
無即是有 and non-Being.
若不如此 Don’t waste time in doubts and arguments
必不相守 that have nothing to do with this.
一即一切 One thing, all things:
一切即一 move among and intermingle, without distinction.
但能如是 To live in this realization
何慮不畢 is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
信心不二 To live in this faith is the road to non-duality,
不二信心 Because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.
言語道斷 Words! The Way is beyond language,
非去來今 for in it there is
The great way isn’t difficult for those who are unattached to their preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion, and everything will be perfectly clear.
When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction, heaven and earth are set apart.
If you want to realize the truth, don’t be for or against.
The struggle between good and evil is the primal disease of the mind.
Not grasping the deeper meaning, you just trouble your minds serenity.
As vast as infinite space, it is perfect and lacks nothing.
But because you select and reject, you can’t perceive its true nature.
Don’t get entangled in the world; don’t lose yourself in emptiness.
Be at peace in the oneness of things, and all errors will disappear by themselves.
If you don’t live the Tao, you fall into assertion or denial.
Asserting that the world is real, you are blind to its deeper reality;
denying that the world is real, you are blind to the selflessness of all things.
The more you think about these matters, the farther you are from the truth.
Step aside from all thinking, and there is nowhere you can’t go.
Returning to the root, you find the meaning;
chasing appearances, you lose their source.
At the moment of profound insight, you transcend both appearance and emptiness.
Don’t keep searching for the truth; just let go of your opinions.
For the mind in harmony with the Tao, all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt, you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free, with nothing left to hold on to.
All is empty, brilliant, perfect in its own being.
In the world of things as they are, there is no self, no non self.
If you want to describe its essence, the best you can say is “Not-two.”
In this “Not-two” nothing is separate, and nothing in the world is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places have entered into this truth.
In it there is no gain or loss; one instant is ten thousand years.
There is no here, no there; infinity is right before your eyes.
The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished;
the vast is as small as the tiny when you don’t have external limits.
Being is an aspect of non-being; non-being is no different from being.
Until you understand this truth, you won’t see anything clearly.
One is all; all are one. When you realize this, what reason for holiness or wisdom?
The mind of absolute trust is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace, for in it there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow.
Robert F. Olson Translation
The Great Way isn’t difficult
for those who are unattached to their preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion,
and everything will be perfectly clear.
When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction, heaven and earth are set apart.
If you want to realize the truth,
don’t be for or against.
The struggle between good and evil
is the primal disease of the mind.
Not grasping the deeper meaning,
you just trouble your mind’s serenity.
As vast as infinite space,
it is perfect and lacks nothing.
But because you select and reject,
you can’t perceive its true nature.
Don’t get entangled in the world;
don’t lose yourself in emptiness.
Be at peace in the oneness of things,
and all errors will disappear by themselves.
If you don’t live the Tao,
you fall into assertion or denial.
Asserting that the world is real,
you are blind to its deeper reality;
denying that the world is real,
you are blind to the selflessness of all things.
The more you think about these matters,
the farther you are from the truth.
Step aside from all thinking,
and there is nowhere you can’t go.
Returning to the root, you find the meaning; chasing appearances, you lose their source.
At the moment of profound insight,
you transcend both appearance and emptiness.
Don’t keep searching for the truth;
just let go of your opinions.
For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt,
you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free,
with nothing left to hold on to.
All is empty, brilliant,
perfect in its own being.
In the world of things as they are,
there is no self, no non-self.
If you want to describe its essence,
the best you can say is “Not-two.”
For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt,
you can trust the universe completely.
In this “Not-two” nothing is separate,
and nothing in the world is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places
have entered into this truth.
In it there is no gain or loss;
one instant is ten thousand years.
There is no here, no there;
infinity is right before your eyes.
The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished;
the vast is as small as the tiny,
when you don’t have external limits.
Being is an aspect of non-being;
non-being is no different from being.
Until you understand this truth,
you won’t see anything clearly.
One is all; all are one. When
you realize this, what reason for holiness or wisdom?
The mind of absolute trust
is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace; for in it
there is no yesterday,
I recently watched a video from Big Think featuring author, philosopher, neuroscientist, and rising mindfulness expertSam Harris. In the video he discusses an experience he had at age 18 while on MDMA, and what caught my ear was that his account is perhaps one of the most perfect descriptions of unconditional love I have ever heard.
You can hear it from the 4:20 mark in the embedded video below.
Sam Harris on a transcendent experience of unconditional love:
And what was revelatory about it was that it was an experience of absolute sobriety. It was not – there was no druggy component to it. We just became clearer and clearer and clearer in our thinking and feeling. And the crucial component of this was a loss of any feeling of self-concern. I was no longer looking at myself through my friend’s eyes. I was no longer worried about what he was thinking about me. I was no longer subtly correcting course based on changes I saw in how he was perceiving what I was saying. It was a whole veneer of fear frankly that I didn’t know was there that got stripped away. And there was just kind of naked awareness of the present moment and what came into that void was a very clear understanding that I loved him, that I – here I was, you know, 18 or 19 and I was not in the habit of, you know, thinking about how much I loved the men in my life. And here’s one of my best friends and I just realized with a, you know, it sounds absolutely pedestrian to say it but I realized that I wanted him to be happy in a way that was just – it was like, you know, a lightning bolt. And the – what was truly revolutionary about this insight was that the feeling that came crashing down to that point was just, you know, boundless love for one of my best friends and absolutely no egoic self-concern, no possibility for feeling envy, for feeling any kind of petty emotion that separated myself from him. But then I realized in the next moment that I would feel this way for anyone who walked through the door. There was nothing contingent on our relationship about this feeling. It was not a – it was not justified by my friendship with him. This was the way I felt for every other conscious being. So this is the way I would feel for the postman if he walked through the door. And that suddenly opened my mind to the possibility of being like Jesus, whoever he was.
Matt Kahn’s approach to the spiritual journey is about bringing the mind and the heart back into alignment for an internal realization of oneness for an inside out approach to oneness with others. This is achieved by reconnecting to your inner child, or as Matt Kahn calls it – “the innocence of your consciousness” and “the guardian of your soul”. Matt Kahn’s idea here is that until you give the attention to your innocence that your ego demands, it “won’t allow the things that you’re here to create and experience in your life to be recognized in your present moment reality”.
Matt Kahn on taking a heart-centered spiritual journey in Emotional Oneness:
So someone could say the most beautiful words, “all is one”, and if they’re not in the ‘all is one experience’, I would say “that’s not true” – and people would go “what is he talking about? All isn’t one?” No, all is one – when you’re in that space. And so, what I want to teach you is what’s the doorway that brings you into the space of the experience that you’re hungry for. Because when you’re in the space, the joy is: what your freed of is the hunger. The oneness doesn’t satisfy your hunger – you become satisfied by becoming freed of your hunger. So by chasing oneness you don’t get freed of your hunger, you just become hungrier.
…Emotional oneness is internal alignment; your mind and your heart are soul mates, and emotional oneness is when the soulmates of mind and heart have reunited in holy matrimony. And when that is disproportionate or imbalanced, your mind seems to be in the way of your heart, or your mind and heart are saying two different things – it’s almost like your mind and heart seem to be competing for attention – and you seem to be in the middle of this battlefield. Or you’re the one trying to keep your mind silent so you can focus on your heart, or you’re trying to ease the fearful heart, because of how noisy the mind’s being – and you’re in the middle of a battlefield, a spiritual battlefield, and it’s all because the mind at the heart are not on the same page.
So what brings the mind and the heart into holy matrimony – what reunites the mind and the heart as sacred soulmates is you deepening the relationship with your own innocence, your own inner child. In a lot of spiritual traditions the focus is on “understanding, unraveling, overcoming, transcending – the ego”. And ego gets a real bad wrap; in fact, in some spiritual traditions if you have confidence people think you have an ego – confidence is actually an aspect of your soul.
And when you take the heart-centered journey you realize ego is just a character, an inflated character that your inner child concocts as a way of getting the attention from others it didn’t feel it gained from the past. So ego is an attention seeking device on the psychological level that the inner child employs, and if you’re trying to unravel your ego – destroy it and get away from it, you’re sending messages of abandonment, resistance – isolation – to your inner child, and then your inner child has to get even darker to get your attention, saying – “I’m not going to be loved by them, but they’re never going to ignore me” – then the inner child becomes what’s called ‘the shadow’.
…Because it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard somebody say “We’re all one” and you just repeat that, what matters is if you have gone deep enough to extinguish the hunger. Cause once you extinguish the hunger then you can feel the one that you are, not just know the one that you are, or repeat the one that you are.
Note: Having spent ample money on therapists, I found massive value from Matt Kahn’s teachings in Emotional Oneness and I highly urge you to set aside a FULL Hour to watch the video. It’s something I watch every week. It always helps bring me into alignment. Keep in mind, this is a live talk and not scripted – and sometimes Matt Kahn says things that make me laugh or even shake my head, i.e., some of his more new agey, cosmic / starseed prophecy type stuff, but he delivers therapeutic and self-compassion oriented teachings that provide me with a deep sense of inner security, similar to how I feel after a really great therapy session.
So having found this experience of unconditional love that Sam Harris described, and having begun to work to consciously reconnect to my inner innocence and cultivate an internal sense of emotional oneness as Matt Kahn teaches, I’ve become far better at getting out of my own way and experiencing oneness with others. And this is important to me. My highest spiritual value is “Unconditional love and heart-centered living”. My affirmation for this value is: You are unconditional love for self and others at all times and live a heart centered life.
As anyone on this same journey of unconditional love knows, embodying this value requires dedicated, conscious effort on many levels – from meditating and maintaining your health, to being mindful of the conversation happening in your own head.
Unconditional Love is Not Exclusive to the Psychedelic Experience
It’s easy to think that it would be great if I could just be an enlightened trust fund baby and take pure MDMA whenever I needed to reconnect to that deep sense of oneness, but that’s not a viable option – for anyone. And although Sam Harris states that his experience with MDMA was ‘indispensable early in his inquiry’, even he knows not to dismiss the dangers.
Returning to the content of the Big Think video in the beginning of this entry, Sam Harris references his own pursuit to recreate this original experience through meditation and spiritual study abroad, and he also acknowledges that this experience is possible without MDMA:
And it prompted me to seek to have this experience in other ways, you know, for many, many years. I spent years studying meditation in various contexts, mostly in India, Nepal. And, you know, I can say you can have this experience without MDMA. It’s not, MDMA isn’t the only way to have it. And the truth is virtually any experience you can have with psychedelics you can have without psychedelics because all psychedelics do is modulate the existing neurochemistry of the brain. They’re not doing something that the brain can’t do on its own. You’re just playing with neurotransmitters or mimicking neurotransmitters. I have had the same experience to more or less a similar degree just through meditation. But it’s clear to me that I would never have suspected that such an experience was possible but for my experimenting with MDMA in the beginning.
I appreciate that he does not dismiss the value of MDMA as an initial catalyst for his journey, but had he not believed this experience were possible through natural means – he very well may have gone on to become another burnout who eventually took too many drugs and had too many bad trips, eventually abandoning his spiritual journey altogether. Thankfully this was not the case, but I have encountered numerous anecdotal stories from people for whom this was the case. I can think of nothing more of a nightmare to me than losing my spiritual identity – this is in essence, my connection to my intuitive self.
Psychedelics are a Key to The Door Guarding the Path, Not The Path Itself
I’m glad Sam recorded the original video for Big Think, because it’s difficult to be “pro psychedelics”, while maintaining a rational and grounded perspective. Unfortunately, their illegal nature has prevented mental health professionals and university researchers from establishing a safe and well studied framework for facilitating these experiences. In my eyes the psychedelic experience is merely one key that opens the door to the self, but it [the psychedelic experience] is not the path itself.
Long before I ever ingested a psychedelic in a spiritual context I had read something from Deepak Chopra that essentially said ‘the same experiences are available through meditation’. So, for me I inherently understood this could be attained through natural means.
If your only experience of spiritual unity has come through hallucinogens, you are more inclined to think you need them in order to have that experience, instead of recognizing that higher states of consciousness are your natural developmental birthright and can be awakened through the meditation practices.
Having heard this at an early age gave me the foundation to respect psychedelics as agents of change and not ways of being.
Psychedelics vs. Meditation
Edit: 11/3/2014: Terrence McKenna on Meditation vs. Psychadelics
Just came across this video clip with Terrence McKenna discussing meditation vs. Psychedelics. I tend to take the view that McKenna was more of a psychedelic lover than a spirituality lover, simply based on the impression I get that McKenna was not very self-aware, but nonetheless this short clip does provide an additional perspective on the matter. Particularly of note is McKennas assertion in the beginning of they video that the key difference between meditation and psychedelics is that with meditation you don’t hallucinate.
Anyone who has taken LSD knows that it’s an intense experience – one that will invariably provide you with a dramatically different perspective on life. Asserting that the same thing is available without taking LSD seems a major stretch; although, I would say it is not – sure, you aren’t going to be blown away by the glowing colors of Pandora’s user interface like you would on LSD, but you can go deep below the self and into your own unconscious awareness without the use of psychedelics. And this is where the real magic happens – what people call ‘connecting to source’ or ‘higher consciousness’. It should also be noted that my meditation practice is still in it’s relative infancy, and someone like Deepak Chopra or Sam Harris has far more experience traversing the meditative plane than I do, so when they say the same thing is available, they may likely have had deeper experiences within their minds than I have yet had with mine.
Note: If I have one complaint about the new age community it’s that those who seem to have abused psychedelics as a path to spirituality dilute both the meaning of spirituality, and the purpose of psychedelics. For me, spirituality is about optimizing my mental health, rather than jeopardizing it. I keep in mind the fact that Steve Jobs did LSD, but he most certainly did not abuse it, nor center his life around it; however, he did delve deep into Zen principles, but according to an article on Jobs’ spirituality: “he didn’t stay long enough to get the Buddhist part, the compassion part, the sensitivity part”.
Keeping it Simple: It’s About Spiritual Practices, Not Spiritual Experiences
I want to continue to mature spiritually; however, I know that it’s important to keep the path simple – and that’s why I’m writing this. It can be very difficult to distill the spiritual path into something that’s simple, yet effective – something that doesn’t rob you of the other aspects of your identity. To me this is the danger of those like Eckhart Tolle who advocate a very hard line approach to “enlightenment” that can lead followers to dive head first into full on dissociation from who they are.
I enjoy some of Tolle’s ideas, but I do not place others on pedestals, nor do I subscribe to the cult of personality. This is one of the reasons why I enjoy those like Sam Harris who promote a kind of psycho-spiritual approach to spirituality. which melds ancient truths with modern neuroscience and psychology.
To me, the spiritual path is about spiritual practices, not spiritual experiences.
So, when I heard Sam Harris define unconditional love for his friend as ‘wanting him to be happy’, something made me want to look deeper into this simple phrase.
The Four Immeasurables Meditation referenced in the video above is available for free, if you join as a guest of GoBeyond.org (I have no affiliationn with this organization.)
The Four Immeasurables from Wikipedia:
Loving-kindness: the hope that a person will be well; “the wish that all sentient beings, without any exception, be happy.”
Compassion: the hope that a person’s sufferings will diminish; “the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering.”
Empathetic joy: joy in the accomplishments of a person—oneself or another; sympathetic joy; “the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings.”
Equanimity: learning to accept loss and gain, good-repute and ill-repute, praise and censure, sorrow and happiness all with detachment, equally, for oneself and for others. Equanimity is “not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind—not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation.”
While it’s too early to offer an educated opinion on The Four Immeasurables, I immediately love that these tenets are not only a powerful set of paradigms for relieving suffering, but also a set of very healthy, humanistic principles for living gently. It blows my mind that at 29 years of age I have never been exposed to this. This is precisely the information our society should be teaching the next generation – lord knows I could use it.
However, even without exposure to The Four Immeasurables beforehand, I already had a preexisting understanding and appreciation for these virtues individually as a result of my interest in mindfulness and my own inquisition into my soul and the soul of the world.
Putting it All Together
I’ve covered a lot in this entry – and please keep in mind that 7Saturdays is very much a personal, non-commercial blog, and as such is a living record of my own journey through life.
Ultimately, my spirituality is central to my identity – but I am not a spiritual teacher; although, these entries are designed to profit you too, my dear reader.
At the end of the day, I truly want to embody unconditional love – and I know that it doesn’t come from taking drugs, or watching hours of spiritual videos, but living in a way that’s harmonious with my own nature, and the nature of the world.
I’m a heart warrior and an idealist, and that means I will always hold dear to the principles of kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. While these are among a myriad of virtues I value, unlike many of the other virtues I desire to embody, I know these things come from within. Unconditional love, and oneness, and connection is what you are, and provided you have been blessed with good mental health, these things are all naturally in your nature, whether you know it yet or not.
Being born into the complex world of modern society is not conducive to unconditional love, but it’s not prohibitive either. You just have to dive a bit deeper to find it.
Bonus: Tara Brach on Unconditional Love
Psychologist and Buddhist meditation expert Tara Brach gives a compassionate and wisdom-rich talk unconditional love.