Spiritual Musings

1 Week of Mindlessness

So last weekend I said I would try to get through the next few steps of my life without my spiritual practice.

This was kind of an odd thing to do, given that for the last year and a half, my spiritual practice has consistently provided me with a sense of peace, contentment and joy even through the drama of my everyday life.  But suddenly, I wanted to see how life would look without being mindful.  I’d begun to worry that my spirituality had become an existential crutch.

Perhaps at this point it would help to briefly explain what my spiritual “practice” looks like.  Generally, I’m not big on practices.  I don’t like rigid routines and rules. My approach to practice is in fact less about what I “do” and more about my on-going state of conscious awareness.  Rather than meditating at particular times, I’ve aimed to live in meditation and cultivate stillness.  I use techniques such as self-inquiry (Advaita Vedanta), conscious breathing and the intense experience of sense perception (e.g. focusing on the sensation of touch, the pre-conceptual experience of vision, the inner silence brought on by acute listening) to “remind” my “mind” of its own non-existence and align my attention with the All-There-Is.  In addition to these practices, I would read spiritual texts and watch related videos on a semi constant basis.

Anyway, over the past week, I stopped watching videos and for the most part stopped reading spiritual texts.  I dropped the intentional practice of self-inquiry.  I dropped most of my techniques of mindfulness.  And I generally went back to what I call conventional living.  While I was aware of my emotions and my inner state, I did not take the second step of being aware of my awareness.  It is this second step which allows for de-identification from the mind.

During this week-long experiment, I consciously allowed myself to identify with the mind – for the first time in over a year.

So what were the results?  Well, it was basically a disaster.  I found myself immediately plunged into the depths of despair.  Not because my life was objectively worse, but because I began to take my mind’s egoic tormenting seriously.  Mindfulness allows me to fully experience my emotions and thoughts, but also to know that I am not defined by them.  During my mindless experiment, I felt the sting of my mind’s critical and fearful thoughts.  And it stung like a m..fucker.  I felt small.  Mindfulness had allowed me to live beyond the confines of my egoic “self” and to identify with the expansiveness of the Universe. But living as a ‘person’ again meant defining myself as an individual entity, with individual fears, hopes and dreams.  I felt small and anxious – like I had to defend my own turf.  It sucked.

Now, in the interests of science, I should probably tell you that I was PMS’ing this week.  Therefore, we are unable to know whether the depths of despair I’ve just described were brought on by my conscious mindlessness or by my spiked hormone levels.  I’m inclined to think it was a little of both . . .

* * *

I have the great fortune of having a wonderful therapist I’ve been seeing for almost a year and a half.  Did I mention that he’s Asian?  Yes, I, Dr. Black Woman, have an Asian male therapist.  Anyway, he’s awesome.  And what’s particularly awesome about him is that he works with other academics and is deeply familiar with the demands of “the profession”.  The best thing about him, though, is that he’s very supportive of my spirituality.  And his therapeutic approach, which is grounded in mindfulness, has been very compatible with nonduality.  He doesn’t seem to know much about Buddha or Mooji, or if he does, he skillfully feigns ignorance, but when I talk about their teachings, he is able to reframe them in a way that highlights the compatibility of ‘spiritual’ and therapeutic approaches to well-being and awareness.

I used to feel more self conscious about having a therapist, until I found out that almost everyone I know in academia also has a therapist . . . or is on antidepressants . . . or both. Just the other day, another colleague told me that a good therapist helped them manage the stress of the tenure process.

[Interlude. We’re now in my weekly therapy session. ]

Me: So I decided to give up my spiritual practice for a week.  I stopped trying to be mindful, stopped reading books, watching videos, everything.

Therapist: And how did that go?

Me: Terrible.  I’ve just been incredibly sad, which is unusual.  I’ve been really good at managing my emotional life over the last year in large part due to my meditation practice.  Mindfulness has really be instrumental in helping me dis-identify with my emotional states.

Therapist: But mindfulness is also about acceptance.  You don’t want to negate how you feel.  There’s a logic to your feelings.

Me: I know, and you’re right.  But my way of being mindful is to fully accept and experience whatever comes up, but also to take that second step of awareness that involves knowing that I am not my emotions.  I am not my thoughts.  And just that step alone brings me such great peace.  Maybe there’s some negation going on that I haven’t explored.  I’ll have to give it more thought.  I usually don’t try to analyze my feelings as I’m experiencing them.  I might talk about them with a friend at some point, or sometimes on my blog or here with you, but otherwise, I try not to delve too deeply into the logic.  My peace of mind comes from knowing that I’m not defined by the logic — that there’s an observer.  Does that make sense?  Do you kind of get it?

Therapist:  Yes.  I get it.  You know, one year is not that long to practice mindfulness.   You want it to become second nature.

Me: You’re right.  I hadn’t thought about it that way.  One year isn’t very long.  

Therapist: It takes time, right?

Me: Yes.  I guess it does.  But I also feel like it was becoming my second nature — it’s the way I’ve been living on a regular basis and it’s brought me great peace.  I just started to feel like I was, perhaps, overly dependent on my spirituality.

(pause)

Therapist: So what are you going to do?

Me: I’m going to go back to my spiritual practice.  I suppose I just wanted to see what would happen if I took a break and went back to how I used to live.  I gave it a try and I don’t like it.  At all.

[/Interlude]

* * *

What was so surreal about all of this is that I knew that I could end my suffering instantaneously.  I knew that I could simply choose to “see” the truth at any moment – that I could take that second step of dis-identifying with mind.  But I chose not to.  Instead, I deliberately sat in the hell of my mind’s illusions.  I chose self-immolation – but I didn’t let the fire actually burn the “self”.  I let the small “I” – the personality – survive and even thrive in the flames.  I kept it hooked up to an oxygen tube.  I refused to take it off of life support.   And even more bizarrely, I felt bad about wanting to put it out of its misery.  I found myself worried that wanting to wake the mind up from its illusions was a form of escapism – as if the hell of living life egoically as a ‘person’ was the higher, more auspicious road.  It made no logical sense, but of course it was the mind’s way of encouraging resistance to awakening – of urging me to allow the dream to carry on, while knowing that I could choose to wake up from the nightmare at any moment.

Anyway, all this to say: I’m going back to conscious mindfulness, spiritual practice and yes, even back to my beloved Mooji.  The fact of the matter is that I do want to escape samsara and illusion and the unreal.  I’ll keep my crutches until they fall away on their own.  And today, those crutches include Midol.  Lots of Midol.

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23 thoughts on “1 Week of Mindlessness”

  1. Oh yes, I feel you Crystal!
    Now some stuff about me. Maybe I am falling in love with Silvya, a very old friend.
    Well, Daniela, my partner, is coming at 9pm in Verona airport,
    straight on from Hamburg, Germany.
    She was in a ten days group, the topic was: Projections in Relationship.
    With Thomas Huebl and Ken Wilber. She wanted to make a surprise for me.
    And she did, obviously.
    Silvya is coming tomorrow by train, from deep Southern Italy.
    Also Silvya wanted to make a surprise for me. Easter, they say.
    Now I am in a total confusion, “I found myself immediately plunged into the depths
    of despair”, it sounds perfect what I am experiencing.
    Now what i did:
    1) Cleaning up the flat.
    2) Bought food & drinks at Wall-Mart.
    3) Sent a sms to Daniela about Silvya.
    4) Sent a sms to Silvya about Daniela.
    5) Got shave and shower.
    6) Changed sheets.
    7) Wrote this mail into your blog.

    So maybe this is my last connection with you, they will kill me, I guess.
    So I am going to watch my last clip into You Tube,
    Misha lives in Ontario, Canada, please subscribe her channel.

    It was wonderful being in connection with you in this year.
    Farewell honey, see you next life, if there is another one…
    (Do not) To be taken too seriously, eh…

    Samsara, illusion, unreal and my crutches back! (I love you)

  2. Dear Dr. Black Woman 😉

    I liked reading your report on mindlessness and I can very much relate to it from personal experiences that I had. Here’s my 50cts of wisdom:
    You seem to be refering to mindfulness as something you do. Ergo, if you don’t do mindfulness you would consider yourself mindless. I would like to challenge this assumption. If you would like to follow me on this, ask yourself the following question: what’s wrong with the “ordinary mind”? You may say it is confused, identified, illusory, egoistic, etc. Now, ask yourself again: what’s wrong with that? And you may say that you don’t like how it feels, etc.
    We could go on and on with this questions but what I am trying to point at is that by trying to be mindful (to not be mindless) you are basically saying you don’t like yourself, your mind, your emotions, your drama, etc. This is a though one, I know it first-hand.
    Your therapist is right: its all about acceptance. Acceptance is unconditional, like love. However, for someone who doesn’t like him/herself acceptance is conditional. (S)he tries to accept to get rid of something. That way, it will never work. It will perpetuate the antagonism, the mistrust and disliking of oneself.
    So, in a way, there is nothing you can ever actively do to accept yourself. There is no solution. If you want to accept, you don’t. Because acceptance is letting everything be as it already is. All artificial intervention (managing, controlling, even observing, etc) is non-acceptance. This is another tough one, especially for people in our “doing-to-get” culture.

    I don’t mean to sound grim. There is a solution, nontheless, it’s just a bit tricky to understand. Ready? Here we go:

    The realization that there is no solution, IS the solution!

    How can that be? Mental noise is judgmental thought about (judgmental) thought about (judgmental) thought, etc. This is how we get all tangled up in thought and emotion and drama and despair, etc. To get out of this vicious spiral (trap!), all that is required is a trusting, unconditional “ok” at whatever point in this process. As the process is feeding on itself, on its negativity, an “ok” short-circuits it. It collapses.
    So, to make the long story short: as soon as we don’t mind our mind, our mind quietens down. All by itself. This is mindfulness. E.g. in Vedanta the realization that every single thing (incl. thoughts, emotions, drama, despair, etc) is God/Self will put us in perpetual non-objection/ mindfulness.

    It sounds so easy that we usually can’t believe it, but it’s true. Whatever form of spirituality or therapy we follow, it all comes down to this simple fact: “ok” is peace. Thus, peace is never not here. Think problem, however, and you’ve got one.

    Happy Easter from Switzerland,
    Daniel

    1. Daniel (by the way, I love that name) :

      Warm thanks for this thoughtful reply. I will preface this response by fully admitting that there are some contradictions in where I am on my understanding of and experience of mindfulness as well as some points of ambiguity imposed by talking about nonduality in words and concepts. But we have no choice but to try, therefore..

      “You seem to be refering to mindfulness as something you do. Ergo, if you don’t do mindfulness you would consider yourself mindless.”

      Yes. And No. On the one hand, I’m definitely referring to mindfulness in terms of practices that you do or do not do. Yet.. in my experience, it’s not really about doing or not doing, it’s about realizing who you really are – which does not change regardless of what is done or not done. So part of what I wanted to experiment with was: what happens when I stop paying attention to my attention? In other words, what happens when I stop consciously trying to be aware of awareness?

      “I would like to challenge this assumption. If you would like to follow me on this, ask yourself the following question: what’s wrong with the “ordinary mind”? You may say it is confused, identified, illusory, egoistic, etc. Now, ask yourself again: what’s wrong with that? And you may say that you don’t like how it feels, etc.
      We could go on and on with this questions but what I am trying to point at is that by trying to be mindful (to not be mindless) you are basically saying you don’t like yourself, your mind, your emotions, your drama, etc. This is a though one, I know it first-hand.Your therapist is right: its all about acceptance. Acceptance is unconditional, like love. However, for someone who doesn’t like him/herself acceptance is conditional. (S)he tries to accept to get rid of something. That way, it will never work. It will perpetuate the antagonism, the mistrust and disliking of oneself.
      So, in a way, there is nothing you can ever actively do to accept yourself. There is no solution. If you want to accept, you don’t. Because acceptance is letting everything be as it already is. All artificial intervention (managing, controlling, even observing, etc) is non-acceptance. This is another tough one, especially for people in our “doing-to-get” culture.”

      So, let me back up and clarify something. A lot of my spiritual practice up until now has been precisely this deep acceptance: saying ok and yes to whatever arises and affirming that nothing needs to be done/changed. I do not think there is anything fundamentally wrong with the mind, with thoughts or the ego — it is not that I do not like them. What I do not like is IDENTIFYING with them. I do not like the ILLUSION of duality and separation that comes from *believing* that I am defined by the body. my mind, my thoughts, my egoic attachments. Why don’t I like that identification? Because it is the root of all suffering. What’s wrong with suffering? Well, it’s endemic in experience, but it is also largely optional. Pain is inevitable, but suffering comes from choosing (usually unconsciously) to view ourselves as coterminous with the small “self”. Again, it is not that there is anything wrong with the mind or the ego or identity – the mistake is in identifying with those things. And I do really see this as a mistake.

      Let’s also clarify the point about disliking the “self”. I do not think it is the attitude of the conventional mind to perpetually dislike itself. I think a conventional person’s egoic sense of self rises and falls depending on the nature of their thoughts, which in turn depend on many factors including context, external stimuli and the general process of interpretation that mediates our experiences. In other words, a conventional “person” – someone who defines themselves as a person and identifies with the person’s thoughts and emotional states – regards themselves positively or negatively at various points in time depending on how the mind interprets events and situations.

      Yes, some “spiritual” people talk about the “self”/ego/sense of personhood in very negative terms, as if the self/ego/person itself is bad – as if they dislike it. I sometimes slip into language that would suggest such a perspective and I am sure even in my own experience I sometimes see the “self” as something that is “bad” because of the state of illusion which gives it a faux-sense of existence. But generally my approach is to accept that the ego/self is doing exactly what it should be doing and that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the mind.

      Which leaves us with the ‘mistake’ of identifying with the mind. Can we say that is ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’? I don’t know that those words matter, so much as we can simply examine the consequences of what results from the mistake. In my view, the result is greater suffering and the continuance of a samsaric cycle of ignorance. I am wondering if you agree with what I’ve written here so far.

      “I don’t mean to sound grim. There is a solution, nontheless, it’s just a bit tricky to understand. Ready? Here we go:

      The realization that there is no solution, IS the solution!

      How can that be? Mental noise is judgmental thought about (judgmental) thought about (judgmental) thought, etc. This is how we get all tangled up in thought and emotion and drama and despair, etc. To get out of this vicious spiral (trap!), all that is required is a trusting, unconditional “ok” at whatever point in this process. As the process is feeding on itself, on its negativity, an “ok” short-circuits it. It collapses.
      So, to make the long story short: as soon as we don’t mind our mind, our mind quietens down. All by itself. This is mindfulness. E.g. in Vedanta the realization that every single thing (incl. thoughts, emotions, drama, despair, etc) is God/Self will put us in perpetual non-objection/ mindfulness.

      It sounds so easy that we usually can’t believe it, but it’s true. Whatever form of spirituality or therapy we follow, it all comes down to this simple fact: “ok” is peace. Thus, peace is never not here. Think problem, however, and you’ve got one.”

      Oh Daniel, thank you for articulating this. I am familiar with this logic and it has also been central to my spiritual practice (or whatever you want to call it). It is absolutely true that surrendering, saying yes, fully accepting the reality of whatever is happening short circuits the cycle of crazy that the mind specializes in. It is also true, in my experience, that not minding the mind — that is, NOT giving attention to whatever the mind is doing (and certainly not judging it) – is the key to on-going peace and contentment. And yes, the mind does quiet on its own when we do this. HOWEVER.. and this is a big HOWEVER.. I believe there is a tricky contradiction at the heart of what you’ve described – and it gets to why I wanted to try this week of “mindlessless”:

      Saying “YES” is *still* an intervention! It is still an effort to *do* something. It is not full surrender. It is a spiritual practice. And maybe this is only true at the beginning of one’s path, when we’re still settling into saying yes – when it still requires effort.. maybe if one continues, the effort itself drops and it becomes “second nature”, as my therapist was pointing out to me. But at the onset, even the desire to find a solution is a kind of negation – a way of trying to get out of something — that is, the suffering brought on by minding the mind.

      Now, the challenge for me was that I was starting to think that there might be something wrong with that desire – the desire to “wake up”, to experience less suffering, to escape samsara. But what this experience has clarified for me is that I *do* want to continue the process of awakening and I embrace that desire as fully legitimate. The thought — that there is something wrong with wanting to wake up — came from my mind, and my paying attention to it created a cycle of suffering. My response was to say: “Well, let’s see what happens when I stop saying ‘yes’ to life, when I stop seeing the mind for what it is.” Well I saw – and it sucks. Not because the mind sucks, but because the illusion sucks and the illusion is optional.

      To the point about peace never not being here — I am of course familiar with this logic as well, and on one level I am inclined to agree (on the ultimate level). But in the world of form and duality, I do not agree at all. If peace is never not here, then there is no need to say “yes”. In fact the very need to say “yes” at all derives from the fact that there is nothing peaceful in duality. Peace is not possible in duality — except in seeing BEYOND it. And the desire to see beyond it is something I am now more fully embracing, rather than seeing that desire as an existential crutch, as if there is something wrong with needing a crutch to get out of this ridiculous state of delusion.

      Have I gone too deep down the rabbits’ hole or are you still with me? 🙂

      Warm wishes,
      C.

      1. Thank you, this is interesting!

        You are of course right to point out that saying “yes” does not work. That’s what I meant when I said that “the solution is that there is no solution”. Acceptance can’t be done. Any assertion is denial. Any denial is assertion. The only thing which works to get around this problem is to find a way to trust the universe, which can never be done in an act of faith or effort, but is the result of an experiential revelation (“grace”). That’s why some people say the whole spiritual path is a hoax. Either you get this experience or you don’t. And nobody knows how to bring it about. It’s an enigma. One is for sure, though, as long as one tries to get it (by seeking), it is obvious that (s)he hasn’t had it.

        Now, to where I disagree with you. I don’t see the world of duality and non-duality as different. Nirvana is non-objection to Samsara. Trying to get out of Samsara is what creates Samsara. For me transcending is not going “beyond” but going “with”. To be “identified” is not being mindless but it is being in constant unconscious dis-acknowledgement of one’s emotions, feelings, thoughts, etc so that one gets fully wrapped up and entangled in them. If we go “with” our inner-states (not in a forced way but as the natural result of trust) there is no duality between an experiencer and the experience. They are what they’ve always been: one stream of consciousness (= no consciousness about consciousness).
        What I wanted to say in my first comment is that as long as we don’t trust ourselves, our inner, we won’t do it. We think we will become mindless, or freaks, or uncontrolled, go bananas, start hitting anybody, or scream, turn into reckless egoistic bastards, develop a depression etc. But our innermost nature is good and there is no need to control. The very trying to control makes us unnatural, creates aggression, hatred and all that we want to avoid. And that’s of course what we unconsciously do in ordinary consciousness: we control because we are afraid.
        Based on my own experiences, in my humble view, your “mindless” episode is a going back to your un-acknowledging self, not to your natural self. Your episode “sucked” because there is this unconscious mistrust that came back right at you. In your “mindful” episodes you are taking a holiday from not-acknowledging/ rejecting but at the expense of controlling and checking on your self from a distant vantage point. This does not really solve anything either, though. Because it perpetuates the duality between observer vs. observed, mindfulness vs. mindlessness, illusion vs. truth, samsara vs. nirvana, etc In this duality lies to root of suffering as you point out. But not because suffering is inherent in duality but because duality creates fear. This fear can be transcended IN duality, when we trust to let go “with” it. So, to me the “observer” (or any other practical tool) not liberating. It is again a gimmick for the ego to try to do something to not “let go with” ones inner states.

        Which brings me back to the first statement. There is really nothing that can be done. And in that realization lies the hope of being able to finally let go.

        Love & Light

        1. Hi Daniel – thanks again for your very insightful reply. My post today was in some ways a response – but here are some other thoughts below:

          “You are of course right to point out that saying “yes” does not work. That’s what I meant when I said that “the solution is that there is no solution”. Acceptance can’t be done. Any assertion is denial. Any denial is assertion. The only thing which works to get around this problem is to find a way to trust the universe, which can never be done in an act of faith or effort, but is the result of an experiential revelation (“grace”). That’s why some people say the whole spiritual path is a hoax. Either you get this experience or you don’t. And nobody knows how to bring it about. It’s an enigma. One is for sure, though, as long as one tries to get it (by seeking), it is obvious that (s)he hasn’t had it.”

          This resonates to some extent – especially the bit about grace. But for me, it has been a very iterative, recursive experience – maybe for you it has been as well? Some people (e.g. Eckhart Tolle, Mooji) describe some ultimate moment in which they experienced a permanent shift in their awakening. For me, that clearly has not happened yet. Instead, what I have had are profound experiences of grace that have given me glimpses into the unspeakable transcendental truth of our essential nature. I have done nothing to “make” these experiences happen – they have just happened. Even the desires of my heart, the prayers and requests I have made (like the time I demanded that God/Divine Intelligence make Itself known to me in an indisputable fashion.. and It did) – I can’t even take credit for these things either.. the urges of my heart, the working of intuition – I feel that I am just a vessel through which these things flow.

          But what does it mean to say that acceptance cannot be done? I think at the absolute/ultimate level, that is true – there is nothing to accept and no person to do the accepting. But on the everyday level of living in this world, I do think it is something that *needs* to be done, consciously. That is, even though the person/ego does not exist – and even though we cannot “do” acceptance – we must do it anyway.. I can’t even explain why it must be done, I just know that it must be attempted.. until such time as the attempt falls away naturally – perhaps as you are pointing out, by grace.

          “Now, to where I disagree with you. I don’t see the world of duality and non-duality as different.”

          On the absolute level, I agree with you. But I wonder what you think of the idea that there are different levels/aspects of truth. At the very least, there are two: the absolute level and the conventional/human level. I find that presenting everything from the absolute level is misleading and there must be some flexibility in going back and forth between the two – precisely because duality and nonduality coexist (with nonduality being the ultimate truth despite the appearance of duality in conventional living).

          “Nirvana is non-objection to Samsara. Trying to get out of Samsara is what creates Samsara.”

          This sounds true, but I am definitely still in an objection stage. I object to samsara – I know that resistance is not helping anything, but I periodically find myself quite resentful for having to experience the madness of this non-existent path. I am not even sure that we can speak with authority about what creates samsara. That would imply there is an intent and logic behind all of this. And while I am personally convinced of the existence of Divine Intelligence, I do not pretend to understand the origin or operation of samsara. All I know is that something cyclical seems to be going on and I haven’t the faintest idea how or why we non-existent creatures got caught up in all of this.

          “For me transcending is not going “beyond” but going “with”.”

          Yes. This resonates.

          “To be “identified” is not being mindless but it is being in constant unconscious dis-acknowledgement of one’s emotions, feelings, thoughts, etc so that one gets fully wrapped up and entangled in them. If we go “with” our inner-states (not in a forced way but as the natural result of trust) there is no duality between an experiencer and the experience.”

          I can agree to an extent, but I feel that the experience of individualized consciousness here in the world of form is an inherently dual experience insofar as it requires the cordoning off of one manifestation of consciousness from another. That is, because I am trapped within the subjectivity of my own perceptions and inner life, even my “nondual” embrace of experiencer and experience is still limited to a dualistic expression. At the conventional level of human experience, I do not see that it is possible to transcend duality. And perhaps that is not what you were implying.. Basically I think that the duality of human experience is irrelevant because the nondual absolute unity of all is the “real”. It is not something to overcome, it’s just something to understand.

          “What I wanted to say in my first comment is that as long as we don’t trust ourselves, our inner, we won’t do it. We think we will become mindless, or freaks, or uncontrolled, go bananas, start hitting anybody, or scream, turn into reckless egoistic bastards, develop a depression etc. But our innermost nature is good and there is no need to control.”

          On the innermost nature being good.. I do not know what that means. I am not sure what “good” means.. good/bad seem to be dualistic definitions that make no sense in the absolute realm. I experience my inner most being is nothingness. It is neither good nor bad. As far the need to control.. that is something I’m actively thinking about and questioning, especially regarding spiritual practice.. but I am not sure that practice and control are the same thing. (Are they?) I am thinking that it’s not so much that there is no need to control, so much as it is important to understand that we *cannot* control This.

          “The very trying to control makes us unnatural, creates aggression, hatred and all that we want to avoid. And that’s of course what we unconsciously do in ordinary consciousness: we control because we are afraid.”

          This seems true..

          “Based on my own experiences, in my humble view, your “mindless” episode is a going back to your un-acknowledging self, not to your natural self.”

          I don’t know what you mean by my un-acknowledging self vs the natural self – can you explain?

          “Your episode “sucked” because there is this unconscious mistrust that came back right at you. In your “mindful” episodes you are taking a holiday from not-acknowledging/ rejecting but at the expense of controlling and checking on your self from a distant vantage point.”

          This resonates, but.. what option do we have? If we fully acknowledge the inner state, that acknowledgement also reveals the “self” as non-existent. The attempt to control comes in when relying on inquiry to “remind” the mind of its own non-existence, as a kind of opiate.. but the non-existence itself is not something that is the fruit of that control – it’s just true. I’ve heard Mooji and other teachers explain that you practice inquiry consciously but at some point you stop relying on the crutch, because you simply live in that truth. But would you agree that a stage of conscious-reminding seems to be neccessary?

          “This does not really solve anything either, though. Because it perpetuates the duality between observer vs. observed, mindfulness vs. mindlessness, illusion vs. truth, samsara vs. nirvana, etc”

          I don’t think I agree. When I practice inquiry, the boundaries between observer and observed dissolve.. there is just the profound experience of oneness that can’t be verbalized or conceptualized. My issue has been that the bliss this experience produces seems to be a kind of crutch or escape hatch .. it seems I need to do some more work around acceptance of my particularity before I experience the on-going peace of deeper nondual realization. Does this make sense? Or am I making an error you can point out?

          “In this duality lies to root of suffering as you point out. But not because suffering is inherent in duality but because duality creates fear.”

          I don’t know – interesting and tricky point. I have felt that suffering is inherent in duality because the experience of separation itself is what engenders fear. Maybe I need to understand more about why you do not distinguish between duality and nonduality.

          “This fear can be transcended IN duality, when we trust to let go “with” it. So, to me the “observer” (or any other practical tool) not liberating. It is again a gimmick for the ego to try to do something to not “let go with” ones inner states.”

          Hmmmmmmmm. Tell me more about what your everyday life has been like since letting go of the observer?

          “Which brings me back to the first statement. There is really nothing that can be done. And in that realization lies the hope of being able to finally let go.”

          But if it’s really true that there is nothing that can be done, nothing to do, no practice that is useful, no observing that can help anything, then I do not understand why you have a blog? What is the point of expressing all of this wisdom?

          Gratitude and love for your engagement,
          C.

          1. Interesting remarks & observations.

            “Some people (e.g. Eckhart Tolle, Mooji) describe some ultimate moment in which they experienced a permanent shift in their awakening.”

            For me it was not a one time permanent shift but more a cascade like process. The insights came and the reflex to struggle and control weakened. But it definitively took several “beatings” like that.

            “But I wonder what you think of the idea that there are different levels/aspects of truth.”

            I don’t see a dichotomy between absolute and relative level/ aspects. The relative is what the absolute is doing. The absolute is what the relative is doing. The waves are the ocean, the ocean are the waves. When we perceive, we can’t perceive but both “levels” at the same time because they are the same thing. Or in other words, they have never been two separate things. There is no dual reality whatsoever, but in our conceptual thinking.
            Saying there are two levels which are actually one is a contradiction in terms. That’s why the philosophy is called “non-duality” and not “oneness (of duality)”. It’s a subtle difference but it an important one.

            “I am not even sure that we can speak with authority about what creates samsara. That would imply there is an intent and logic behind all of this.”

            For me, Samsara is a psychological state, a state of consciousness, in which the selective rejection of aspects of reality creates a sense of dis-ease with life. The whole notion about the wheel of birth and death, reincarnation etc is symbolic language to bring this story home. We are talking poetry here, not actual reality. This is the fallacy of mistaking the symbol for the reference (or the finger with the moon, as Buddha said).
            So, yes you are right, intent and logic is “behind” Samsara because logic divides reality in bits and pieces and intent creates the illusion of linear time, or progression.

            “At the conventional level of human experience, I do not see that it is possible to transcend duality.”

            I mostly agree with what you say. But I have a comment.
            Duality is transcended when there is no more idea of there being a duality. Duality is a concept, an idea, a mirage. Not in a metaphysical sense but in a factual sense. If we think there is duality it becomes a mental reality, covering the reality as it truly is: just so. The crux, though, is that as long as we think of “non-duality”, we implicitly give duality credit. As long as we think “my” there is an “I”. To navigate through the world we need to establish relationships like that. So, we are in a way “trapped” as you say. But there is an un-trap mechanism. The knowing that all knowledge (even this very knowing) is subjective interpretation. There is no objective reality other than our bare sense perceptions. As soon as our mind comes into play, there is subjectivity (there is the dream, illusion, etc as they say). If we truly
            know that, we are not dropping out of the dream (unless we amputate our mind), but we are freed from believing in the substantiality of the dream. We know we are “playing”. And that’s ok because we know we can’t help it. It’s a very funny situation. It makes me laugh so hard sometimes. But most importantly it makes me take myself and everybody else very lightly. And as G.K. Chesterton noted that’s how sngels defy gravity (“Angels fly because they take themselves lightly”).

            “I experience my inner most being is nothingness. It is neither good nor bad.”

            When I say our innermost nature is good I mean it can be trusted, and in fact, must be trusted. If we can’t trust our selves, our emotions, reactions etc whom can we trust? Nobody. There will be mistakes. It is a gamble. But what other option do we have? Constantly checking on ourselves is strangling ourselves. Too much self-consciousness “hangs” us up. Any system based on mistrust is disfunctional (see 20th century communism), because it creates paranoia (aka the problem of “who’s guarding the guards?” and “who is guarding the guards guards?” etc).

            “I don’t know what you mean by my un-acknowledging self vs the natural self – can you explain?”

            I mean going back to into self-defense/ rejection mode as opposed to self-trust/ allow vulnerability mode.

            “But would you agree that a stage of conscious-reminding seems to be neccessary?”

            Conscious reminding is not necessary. It is an ego strategy as long as we are mistrusting our inner. You see, when do we consciously remind ourself about the “Truth” normally? When we are “hung-up”. It is a form of trying to improve the situation. We are implicitly thinking that we must have forgotten the “Truth” otherwise the “hang-up” would not have happened. It is the good old control-game on another level. The “Truth” is always what is happening, whatever that is, full stop. It is so simple. We just don’t want to face our emotions because deep down we despise them. So if you ask me if conscious reminding of the “Truth” is necessary, I could ask back whether it is necessary to remind ourselves that we are seeing the color red when we look at a rose.

            “It seems I need to do some more work around acceptance of my particularity before I experience the on-going peace of deeper nondual realization. Does this make sense? Or am I making an error you can point out?”

            What is non-dual realization? The realization that there is no samsara nor nirvana, observer nor observed, etc. because these are all ideas to try to make sense of reality. But there is nothing of this, at all. That does not mean there is literarily nothing, but that there is something we don’t know what (that’s usually a tough one to a scientific minded person).
            Yes, bliss is an escape hatch as you say. If you want bliss you don’t need to practice even, you can have it in a pill (it is called MDMA aka Extasy). It does not solve anything in the long-term really.
            From my own experience, maybe you can ask yourself: why do I want non-dual realization or peace? The answer is, because you want to get “out” (of samsara) or get “in” (to nirvana). So every seeking is also a form of escaping and vice versa. But peace is the peace of not having the itch to move anywhere. But it is also not having the itch to stay with what is. It is having no itch at all! It is the absence of any idea of intervention or non-intervention. The natural state is peace. But as long as we don’t trust naturalness, we’d rather to stay in control of the “peace-process” by “doing” something.

            “then I do not understand why you have a blog?”

            Two reasons. First: I love this stuff. It’s a love affair, just like I love to play music, go dancing and sing. Second: I’d like to point out that not finding IS finding! By giving up trying to find peace you get it. It’s like trying to teach somebody how to relax his muscles. It cannot be taught directly. Relaxation is not something one can “do”, because the only thing we can do with our muscles is the opposite of relaxation, contraction. Relaxation is the absence of contraction, that is, the absence of trying to do something. So, to teach somebody to relax, I have to undermine the impulse to contract/ do something. I can do that by either getting the person to contract so hard that (s)he eventually gives up, or by making the person realize that they are themselves preventing themselves from relaxation, by saying things like “you can’t possibly get it by doing something”. Other approaches to foster letting go and trust include devotional practices, but that’s not my style, although my poems try to convey some sort of devotional attitude.

            Hope that helps!

  3. Oh I can so relate. My teacher’s guru, Swami Chinmayanda (great guy, one of the most famous vedanta teachers in India in 20th century) said “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. Ignorance (ie, ignorance of our true nature) is hardwired into us. It’s a program that’s been running for lifetimes, and is part of the core human functioning. Until we reach that tipping point, when Self Knowledge is so firmly established that it becomes our permanent modus operandi, it’s necessary to work pretty damn hard at continual self inquiry, self honesty and continual recalibration of where we’re placing our identification etc (ie, am I identifying with my thoughts, my emotions, my body, beliefs, etc, or with my Self as pure awareness).

    I’m not generally a fan of Mooji, Gangaji or most of the western satsang or neo advaita crowd. They generally (but maybe not all) teach that enlightenment is effortless and there’s no one to do anything so no need for spiritual practise, etc. But while from an ultimate perspective that’s true, from the relative level we still have to deal with minds/emotions/conditionings that are hardwired to keep us feeling separate, etc. So practise is actually necessary to condition the mind, to create a peaceful, sattvic state, to enable Self knowledge to take root. It takes a heck of a lot of work actually because every single thought has the capacity to pull us in and make us identify and suffer. Of course, once we reach the tipping point it does (so I’m reliably told) become effortless and there’s no longer a need for practise. Even then though there’s still the need for vigilance. There have been so so many fallen gurus, who prob were enlightened but got contaminated by ego (or repressed sex drives) creeping in lol.

    I stopped my practise last October when I went on holiday. I started drinking and partying, and then got involved in *that* relationship which caused a lot of pain. I mean, I got back to my spiritual practise and focus v soon after, but it was just enough to kinda send me flying in a direction I didn’t want to be. The drinking skewed my energy somehow and I felt totally off balance. Old relationship vasanas/programming kicked in and I ended up identifying with that old little needy incomplete pseudo-self that caused so much problems in the past. It’s taken months to really get over that. It’s sobering!!!! Oh dear. Hopefully there will come a point where I don’t have to be so disciplined and regimented lol. But for now, vigilance is the price 🙂

    Great post by the way and so interesting to hear of a similar experience.

    Much love, R x

    1. Warm thanks for this comment, Rory! I will reply in detail this week, but just a quick note to say that Mooji isn’t anti-practice. He generally teaches that practices can be useful in the way you’ve described, but the focus is on the inquiry / direct experience of oneness w/ consciousness. I am not sure it makes sense to lump all “neo-advaita” teachers together. I’m not very familiar w/ Gangaji but I have to say, I have not disagreed with almost anything Mooji has ever said, but it takes listening to the whole corpus of his teachings to get it – you can’t just read a caricature of someone else’s report of him or see one video. Not that you’re doing that, but some folks do.

      That said, there is the basic divide between folks who emphasize practice and those who say the seeker doesn’t exist & seeking is futile. I think a middle way makes most sense and that’s where I would situate Mooji (and myself).

      More later 🙂

      Love,
      C.

      1. Ah OK, my misunderstanding then. I’m just generally wary of the whole neo movement, I’ve seen it mess a few people up. It’s an incomplete teaching because it takes elements of truth but doesn’t give people a framework to realise it. I should really take some time to see what Mooji is about before making such blanket comments. My bad 😛

        1. No worries! I think a lot of people lump Mooji into the Neo-Advaita category and I think compared to someone like your teacher, he’s very different, so you still probably wouldn’t like him. He doesn’t emphasize practice. But.. he doesn’t say practice is not part of the path. Strictly speaking for myself, I think where I stand on this for now is that whatever is necessary will unfold for each being.. that is, if you are meant to practice, you will practice. When practices are no longer necessary, they will fall away. I don’t think there is any one path-fits-all model.. some people need diligence, some people do not. I do not like a lot of structure and I do not like a lot of attention to specific lineages, gurus, details, etc.. I just want the direct experience and a very simple teaching, and I trust that whatever I need to know will come to me in the required experience, book, person, whatever. So all of this to say, I don’t agree with the strident neo-advaita position of folks who are “anti-practice” and I don’t agree with folks who are very dogmatic about practice – neither position feels right for me personally.. but I understand why folks gravitate to one or the other. I just like the middle way..

      2. The practise/no practise thing is worthy of its own discussion. It’s a subtler understanding that I originally realised. Practise doesn’t lead to realisation directly – it can’t *make* us enlightened because we already are That (and no limited action – as all actions in maya are – can create an unlimited result). But what it does is aims at creating a sattvic mindset, a peaceful, balanced, harmonious mind in which we can assimilate Self knowledge. The still tranquil mind is necessary or we just get swept about by our vasanas and programming. But the means of attaining that varies for person to person and some people have naturally v still minds (lucky them!). To think the practise is the end is a misunderstanding from what I gather. But for most people it’s a necessary means to getting there. Until it’s no longer necessary, when I guess the mind is stabilised in the hard-and-fast knowledge that I’m the Self and not this little pseudo-self 😛

        1. I totally agree with this Rory.. at least it resonates with my experience. Basically I feel that one should do whatever is needful until it stops being needful. And you will know what type and degree of practice is needful for you because it will happen. What is needful for everyone varies.. for me it’s what I’m doing.. for you it’s what you’re doing.. there’s no one size fits all.. there seems to be somewhat infinite variation leading to the same realization.

  4. Wow – I really enjoyed reading this post. A very unusual choice of subject but something I have been subconsciously feeling too esp the part about the spiritual practice becoming an existential crutch. Thank you for putting the entire process down in words without censoring. Thank you.

      1. Same as you, actually… Later, I realized my post was expressing one polarity of the mind which was strong at that point. The spiritual path, it seems, is being walked upon by something that is beyond the little, polarized mind. This is hard to explain in words, that’s why I appreciated your follow-up post so much.

  5. {The Source} will say on the Day of Judgment, ‘Son of Adam, I was sick but you did not visit Me.’

    ‘My Lord, How could I visit You when You are the Lord of the Worlds?’

    ‘Did you not know that one of My servants was sick and you didn’t visit him? If you had visited him you would have found Me there.’

    Then {The Source} will say, ‘Son of Adam, I needed food but you did not feed Me.’

    ‘My Lord, How could I feed You when You are the Lord of the Worlds?’

    ‘Did you not know that one of My servants was hungry but you did not feed him? If you had fed him you would have found its reward with Me.’

    ‘Son of Adam, I was thirsty, but you did not give Me something to drink.’

    ‘My Lord, How could I give a drink when You are the Lord of the Worlds?’

    ‘Did you not know that one of My servants was thirsty but you did not give him a drink? If you had given him a drink, you would have found its reward with Me.’

    In serving others and giving to others, we find our Lord. In His mercy, the path to {The Source} is one of peace and improving the world around us. Only by helping others can we help ourselves. We cannot live a life of consumption and selfishness and expect to win the pleasure of {The Source} along the way.
    It is out of the mercy and wisdom of {The Source} that He made serving others and creating a peaceful, compassionate earth one of the landmarks in the journey to Him. We cannot afford to ignore the suffering around us, because in those pleas for help is a call to getting closer to our Creator

    Brahman-Atman
    Rahman-Raheem

    “Brahman” from a root bṛh ” to swell, expand, GROW, enlarge”
    “Rahman” from R-Ḥ-M “WOMB,Mercy”

    The Matrix isn’t your punishment or reward, it’s your temporary opportunity to GROW in beauty, wisdom, patience, mercy, strength, and Love.

  6. Dr. Fleming, you’ve been blessed with so many gifts, you’ve been a blessing to others

    Let your light shine. It’s NEVER in vain!

    It matters, it counts, your blessed.
    Share The Love.

    Peace & Blessings

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