I used to write with another muse in mind – I used to live that way: constantly hoping to live up to some arbitrary measure; always insufficient for my estimations of myself, and always short of her’s.
Only, today, now, I dissappoint no one; for this is who I am, and I am loved for it – by myself and by the one I love in turn.
But it was not love that saved me, it was me – my desire for my own [love], which I earned, and which in turn earned me another’s.
But this is not a love song; this is my life.
The cowboy poet, finding his way home, dreaming of horses and a tree lined drive where I will lay me down beside the one I dream with.
This is our fairytale.
And we have fun in our happiness.
You see, neither of us pretend nor try to be anything we are not. In fact, I’d venture to say we like ourselves pretty damn genuinely.
We’ve been reading Ricketts’ and Steinbeck’s prosaic and philosophy laden Log From The Sea of Cortez together lately, and in it Ed Ricketts describes a donkey whom he discovers doesn’t directly dislike him so much as he [the donkey] suffers from “…a sour eye for the world”. And so it is, most opinions of us – including our own – stem from our sour eye for the world, and thus we are condemned by the very thing which might free us: our perception.
I think for a long time I felt that projection was always something that was inside out, meaning my perception of myself as something that reflected outward, but I don’t think so anymore. The donkey with the sour eye for the world has begged the question for me of whether the view of the self or the view of the world is a greater influence on ones perception – and I argue the latter, for it was only when I saw through the veil of perception that I was able to form a healthy inner reality (Or disposition if you will), and a true liking of myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want to burn the world down and sow these wild oats from time to time, but greener pastures call.
And I’ve come a long way from sowing the seeds of my own destruction – from seeing through that sour eye I once thought normal.
But today I know that it takes a long time to become the one.
And I’m not trying to escape who I am any longer.
Took me thirty years to accept myself.
Wish that were a joke but I fear some never do: stuck behind sour eyes, few seem to see the sweetness of life.
And it is sweet.
So don’t be so sour.
For it’s all over one day.
And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see that someday isn’t what it used to be.
And then, and only then, the sour will fade into the past, and the salty will be seen for what it is, and the sweet – oh the sweet – what it may be and what it is: only the heart knows these things.
Just remember that sour eyes, as the sweet do, have a way of meeting. And even the sweetest eyes can become sour in the eyes of the beholder. So look neither without nor within, but in your own heart. And perhaps it is then, that we may finally see into the heart of another.
I heard an anecdote recently in relation to John Steinbeck (Prayerhand-6god-emoji) guy pal (And total bad ass) Ed Ricketts (Add another prayerhand-6god-emoji).
Ed Ricketts is a man whom I deeply admire. He was, like all the people I admire, a stark individual.
“His mind had no horizons,” as Steinbeck wrote of him, or rather, as “Doc”, the Ricketts inspired beer-loving bohemian science-philosopher who cut himself out of the granite-like sardine-packing population of “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches.”
Yeah, Ed Ricketts was a fucking cool guy.
Perhaps one of the coolest who ever lived. Ricketts is most definitely one of my “spiritual grandfathers”. In fact, he inspired another spiritual grandfather of mine: the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell.
Essentially Ed Ricketts = Star Wars.
And if you get that reference, you might actually be kind of cool too.
If you didn’t, hold on tight.
So, the anecdote with Ricketts is that he basically learned how to like himself through others. He got the idea that if other people could like Ed, then Ed could like Ed.
So he did.
And from the myriad legacy he left, we can only surmise that his comfort in his own skin made it very easy for others to like him. And I can surmise this, because I know the opposite to also be true: having experienced how discomfort in one’s skin ultimately manifests itself in ways that strangely serve to push others away.
I actually, as a treat, just found the Ricketts anecdote, which is from perhaps the man who knew best knew Ed: Steinbeck.
The story is quoted verbatim from the philosophy laden ‘The Log of The Sea of Cortez’, Steinbeck’s 1940 month long inward journey with Ed, then aged 44, to the Mexican sea of the same name:
Once Ed said to me, “For a very long time I didn’t like myself.” It was not said in self-pity but simply as an unfortunate fact. “It was a very difficult time,” he said, “and very painful. I did not like myself for a number of reasons, some of them valid and some of them pure fancy. I would hate to have to go back to that. Then gradually,” he said, “I discovered with surprise and pleasure that a number of people did like me. And I thought, if they can like me, why cannot I like myself? Just thinking it did not do it, but slowly I learned to like myself and then it was all right.” This was not said in self-love in its bad connotation but in self-knowledge. He meant literally that he had learned to accept and like the person “Ed” as he liked other people. It gave him a great advantage. Most people do not like themselves at all. They distrust themselves, put on masks and pomposities. They quarrel and boast and pretend and are jealous because they do not like themselves. But mostly they do not even know themselves well enough to form a true liking. They cannot see themselves well enough to form a true liking, and since we automatically fear and dislike strangers, we fear and dislike our stranger-selves.
So, Ed is helping me like myself in the very same way that I can like an admire my friends – only, I get to be less critical of myself now. haha
Sadly, Ed died too young. But he made sure to live before he did. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
You’ve really inspired me Ed.
This past weekend I was up in Monterey (Guest of a girl I have been trying to date), and seeing the life-sized versions of Ed’s lab and some of his things, just really made me feel blessed. I’m just grateful to have found people I can admire and look up to in the ways that they too once looked up to their own little ambitious and upstart part of themselves.
Because I really am. I’m looking up to things that feel true in myself.
And it’s really nice. It’s nice to finally be at home with myself, where there are no horizons.
Inner peace is not something you are blessed with (I tried that recipe the first thirty years of my life). No, inner peace is a gift, it’s something you give yourself. And you must; it’s your G-d given right to be happy.
Do you think hapiness something other than inner peace? Pity you if you do, for I’ve already tried that recipe too.
On this blanket, writing this, the breeze playing with my face; I could do this everynight, and I practically do.
I’m grateful to Thomas Moore for connecting a lot of Jungian dots for me. His book, Care of The Soul, has been a great asset in my life. Prior, I had made progress towards consciously caring for my soul, but after his book found me, caring for my soul became my paramount duty. A duty that has given me deep and lasting fulfillment. As a matter of chance, I also happened to read Walden at the same time, which only added to my understanding of Moore’s work. Thoreau certainly cared for his soul with the dedication of a true master.
I am far from Walden Pond, but my view shares a watery reflection. And here, following Thoreau, I experience the simple beauty of life. (Although he might pass on the extravagance of my stevia sweeted tea).
This is how life is meant to be lived: simply and naturally. It is insane we confine ourselves within doors so resolutely. Those crazy misanthropes: the Eustace Conways, the Christopher McCandlesses; the Thoreaus, they are the normal ones. It’s the rest of the world, in their walled in castles; they are the very form of crazy, neurotic, anti-social type that they deem an outcast.
The outcast is merely a shadow figure, someone to pile the the scorn of their buried envy on. Don’t believe me? Buy a blanket, brew some tea, go drink it out of doors on a starry night and tell me otherwise. This is living.
Only, we’ve been sold a house with a living-room full of nice furniture so we can deposit ourselves repeatedly to stare into an electronic box until we die.
The American dream: sitting in your castle watching your box. I’m laughing but, I tell you, this stuff is stranger than fiction.
Yes, I am happy. And sure, I live in a box too. But mine is near the sea, my backyard the very form of nature and the place I deposit myself to stare out and look at the real world. Here I peacefully contemplate life, occassionally looking down into the box phone, I now type this on.
What amazes me, however, is that I’m the only one out here doing this. This despite the fact that behind me, thousands of residents in tall condominium buildings live, none ever opting for an evening spent in fresh air.
Not to say they never get out, but for me, I pretty much have to. It’s my black rock.
In the distance, the bleating siren of an ambulance reminds me that I’ll be living in LA again soon, apart from nature I enjoy at present.
It’s this bittersweet note that prompts me to walk home. On the way I see my neighbors having drinks with their friends in a house so brightly lit that I am disturbed by it’s synthetic luster.
Back in my castle, I lie in bed, the glow of my salt lamp maintaining some semblance of the organic, which I value so deeply.
Returning to my thoughts on LA, I am coming to see that I will need to find a place with either a rooftop terrace or a yard, for sitting on a blanket in LA, outdoors at ground level, is not reccomended. I love the city of angels for many reasons – it’s natural wonders aren’t among them. Sure there is Runyon and Santa Monica’s beaches, but neither offer me the sanctuary I have now; however, I do intend to recreate this sanctum using the recipe above. After all, this blanket is going to last for a long, long time.
“If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life, and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off-center; he has aligned himself with a programmatic life, and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.”
– Joseph Campbell
Reflecting, as I often do, I can today see how spiritually and psychologically unhealthy I was in a time now gone. How fortunate was I for the adversity that delivered me to a place dark enough to find hope.
I’m reminded of the Latin root of the word adversity: adverture; meaning: to turn towards. For it is only when we face what ails us that we may grow beyond it.
Adversity is not transcended or surmounted but moved through like a dark mountain pass. Denial, avoidance, repression, self-deception – these only ground us in the uncomfortable place, fating our gaze upon the mount; for whether we choose to recognize the splinter in our eye or not, it is there, showing itself in the myriad of complexes and ways a human being can choose to suffer and hate.
However, those dealt adversity often create problems rather than face what they feel they cannot; and often, the struggles a person faces are engendered as outlets for pains they find inadmissable – pains lost in the chasm between the mind and the spirit.
As a result of this gulf in the heart, man is cut him off from his inner world. Diagnosing the ills of the soul is then seen as a mental problem, addressable only through therapy or self-help. There do, however, exist other doctors for the soul, we just don’t believe in them anymore.
The priest and the church once provided a doorway to the inner world and the sanctum through which a man could live life connected to his soul through a higher power; however, the institution of religion is growingly dismissed as nothing more than a dogmatic farce, instituted to control the ignorant populous. Unfortunately, it happens to be an effective one.
The name of G-d has been wielded to enshroud evil in the name of good since biblical times, but the cost of blood spilled and enemies born under the auspices of religion has been the destruction of a bridge to the sacred for many. Unable to perceive the inherent good of something so historically detrimental to man, we’ve chosen rationality in favor of an evil we no longer wish to tolerate in the 21st century. And rightly so.
However, in recognizing the evils of religion in it’s ability to inspire ignorance – as seen in wars and the beliefs that so doggedly divide the human tribe – we are quick to dismiss it in its entirety. As a result of this turning away from G-d, we are shunning something, which, at the personal level, has enabled man to better face his inner battles since before the wheel.
It’s logical to buy into the intelligent argument posited by Carl Sagan that primitive humans invented Gods so we could explain the unexplainable, things which science has now given cause to (think lighting and famine); however, such an argument dismisses the value of intangibles like hope – the only thing a man with nothing left has.
Beyond hope, ritualistic tools such as prayer and worship of the sacred provide humans with an active and cathartic relationship with the soul, which we may call G-d.
How few of us dialogue with the inner world, which as modern psychology has discovered (the subconscious and unconscious) so greatly influences our thoughts and behaviors.
I’m merely thinking aloud here, sitting on the sand at night typing this on my phone, but on my own journey I’ve found spiritual health and as a result I am happier and more at peace than I’ve ever been. My adversities are no longer a cancer, setting wildfire to my life, but, rather, they are the weeds that show me the root issues I need to attend to in order to grow so that I might maintain wholeness in the face of the constant change of life.
Carl Jung believed that there was no neurosis that could not be cured by adopting a religious outlook on life. I too share this belief. And I worry that, regardless of its timeless effectiveness, this solution may be growing increasingly inaccessible as religion’s validity in the collective consciousness continues to decline.
I worry because I think that – again echoing Jung – man needs religion. At least, to achieve the unshakable inner peace I have today, I know I do.
I’m not advising you to look to religion for your soul to be saved, but I am asking that you consider the spiritual as a means of rescuing your soul from exile – for to live cut off from the soul is to live deaf to an inner voice that’s begging to be heard – often in the most painful and eventually effective of ways; however, some may have to wait until hope is all they have left.
It’s not by coincidence that I used to pray only when things got terribly bad or that things no longer get terribly bad. I ascribe this power to the soul as much as to a G-d. To me they are one in the same, the bridge leading to eachother.
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.
I’ve been meditating on the same rocky outcrop each morning for the past month. Just north of this outcrop sits a tall lava-rock that lies out on a point, and – low tide permitting – I’ve been climbing up on top of it in the evenings and sitting there for sunset meditations.
These two spots have been cherished elements of my meditation practice and I’ve had beautiful experiences on each; however, I’ve abruptly stopped using both.
Something happened; I just came to the realization that I was this guy (albeit much better posture, and my rock is a lot cooler).
And what I mean when I say ‘I came to the realization that I was this guy’ is that I noticed my ego creeping in…
Pretty girls jogging by on the beach, and I felt cool up on my black rock. Shirtless, and contemplative – dare I say sexy…
And that’s cool, I mean – if you are living a life where meditation is more important than happy hour, and you are in prime physical shape, and you are aggrandizing yourself then you deserve to feel good about it, sure. You’re fostering a positive and healthy self-image, and that’s great.
But, what happens when those feelings of pride creep up into your meditation (or yoga) practice?
Suddenly you lose the state of flow. You lose your self-awareness of “I am” in exchange for self-conscious feelings of “These people think I am”. And that’s antithetical to meditation, that’s counterproductive to the objective of transcending the self.
So, in that moment (specifically the one where I noticed myself consciously appraising myself via the imagined approval of others – aka ‘that guy looks cool’ = “I look cool up here”), I suddenly realized sitting high on a rock where I looked the part of mr. meditative beau was not authentically me.
It was not serving my spiritual goals to be the guy on the black rock – as much as I love the song.
And don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-ego as some spiritual teachers would advocate (i.e., Eckhardt Tolle). I think confidence is an aspect of the soul. The soul is supposed to be unique and confident. The soul is inherently a bit of a rebel and a bad ass; soul is sexy.
But confidence is not ego. Confidence is a product of internal validation, and ego is a product of external validation. Ego is the you that your inner child projects in an effort to gain approval from others. So, up on the black rock, in that moment I sensed the insecure inner child within me feeling quite chuffed with himself – and I didn’t like that, because I don’t want my inner child using the ego to feel good.
So, in my noticing of an attractive female eyeing me, I was naturally taken into a state of ego, and it’s impossible to be fully present when you are experiencing yourself through that state, because it’s externally based. So if you’re meditating or doing yoga and ego creeps in, you lose your sense of internal orientation – you start judging yourself.
Confidence is a product of internal validation, and ego is a product of external validation.
I’m not into judging myself; I’m not 24 anymore. I’m 29 and I’m coming into my mature male masculine energy. As a result I’m not as interested as I once was in bringing that kind of attention to myself – particularly not while I’m trying to meditate on the internal world, which requires no external knowing. The inner world of meditation is about connecting to your inner intuition. It’s about connecting and listening to the inner voice within you that tells you to climb down from the black rock and go sit on the comfort of the sand.
And you know what, about 25 yards south of the black rock is the greatest little meditation spot – a rounded rock shaped like a bulbous piece of modern art furniture, complete with a deep depression, which fits my cross-legged lower body almost perfectly.
So, this morning I sat there and I got into one of the deepest, most beautiful meditative states I’ve had in nature.
And my inner intuition spoke to me and told me that so many of us are always chasing pleasure as a means to alleviate our discontent, and that so few of us are fulfilled, and that we just need to take the pleasures as they come, let go of the pain, and appreciate it all. And I heard my inner voice tell me how I didn’t need to be thirsty or hungry for those states of pleasure, because I could ground myself deeply through gratitude. And I felt incredible love, and my inner voice told me that I was love, because I create love, I produce love, and I attract love. And the universe told me that others can only mirror back to us the love we have within ourselves, and that I would never have to want for love again, because it is within me, and it grows when I become it, and I am love.
Maybe you’ve been trying to grow your hair long because you think other people would find it attractive and that’s a black rock. Maybe you have been pursuing someone’s approval and that’s a black rock. Don’t chase the states. Don’t be hungry. Don’t seek internal peace through external things. Detach from looking and feeling cool, and you’ll be the coolest motherfucker in the world.
Climb down off the black rock and get comfortable with yourself, with life, with others, and with your relationship to the world. The possibilities awaiting you will bring you closer to the truth in your heart than you could ever imagine.
Bonus: Matt Kahn on Emotional Oneness
I implore you to watch the video below with an open mind and an open heart. Life changing stuff.
If I would have tried to conjure up an impression of mindfulness in my head a couple years ago I would have imagined an affluent woman in her sixties, drinking tea and looking out over her oceanfront view, with a warm and contented look on her face.
Today, I’ve come to know better. Mindfulness isn’t some far off, esoteric destination only available to those who meditate and live on a higher plane. No, mindfulness is simply the practice of observing yourself and consciously focusing on your emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
Wikipedia defines mindfulness as the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices…
Now, the interesting thing about this [this definition] is that I personally came to understand and know mindfulness not as a result of study, but as a result of practicing meditation. And when I began meditating, I did not even know this was going to happen. I wanted inner peace. And meditation helped me connect to that – but more importantly, I became aware that there was something within me more still than my thoughts, and I became aware of what it felt like to transcend that [my thoughts and feelings].
As a result, I became more self-aware. I realized when my feelings were making me feel poorly. I began to automatically notice on walks when I wasn’t being attentive to myself – when I was out of touch with the present moment. And I would focus on my breath, and I would return to that stillness. And I would feel better. I felt better because I could stop identifying with whatever I was thinking or feeling, and I could check back in with myself, with the eternal part of my soul that’s always present and connected – whether my mind is or not.
Mind you (pardon the pun), I’ve never read a book on mindfulness. And I have a lot of work to do to improve on this practice – namely, I need to not only practice the awareness of my body, thoughts, and feelings – but I need to consciously choose to practice the intentional non-judgement, and acceptance of these sensations – because for me personally, I typically go straight into self-talk, and other cognitive behavioral practices so that I can “optimize” how I feel. And while I don’t think this is a terrible thing to do, I think the act of acceptance and non-judgmental awareness will help me let go of some of these [less positive] feelings with greater ease.
So, this morning I wanted to look into mindfulness and I watched handful of videos, the best of which I have included below for you, my dear reader.
Sam Harris: Mindfulness is Powerful
This is an important video to watch, because aside from Sam Harris describing the purpose and value of mindfulness, he asserts that mindfulness should not be viewed as a religious experience, but rather as a bridge we can use to close the gap that exists between science and spirituality. I think disconnecting meditation from Buddhism makes it more approachable and less seemingly unobtainable. The power to transcend ourselves is truly within us all.
…the sense of self that we all carry around from day to day is an illusion. And cutting through that illusion I think is actually more important than stress reduction or any of the other conventional benefits that are accurately ascribed to mindfulness.
The enemy of mindfulness and really of any meditation practice is being lost in thought, is to be thinking without knowing that you’re thinking. Now the problem is not thoughts themselves. We need to think. We need to think to do almost anything that makes us human – to reason, to plan, to have social relationships, to do science. Thinking is indispensable to us but most of us spend every moment of our waking lives thinking without knowing that we’re thinking. And this automaticity is a kind of scrim thrown over at the present moment through which we view everything. And it’s distorting of our lives. It’s distorting of our emotions. It engineers our unhappiness in every moment because most of what we think is quite unpleasant. We’re judging ourselves, we’re judging others, we’re worrying about the future, we’re regretting the past, we’re at war with our experience in subtle or coarse ways. And much of this self-talk is unpleasant and diminishing our happiness in every moment. And so meditation is a tool for cutting through that.
Dan Harris: Hack Your Brain’s Default Mode with Meditation
Dead on. Selected quotes and citations follow:
There was a study out of Harvard that showed that short, daily doses of meditation can literally grow the grey matter areas of your brain having to do with self-awareness. and compassion and shrink the grey matter associated with stress.
There was also a study out of Yale that looked at what’s called the default mode network of the brain, it’s a connected series of brain regions that are active during most of our waking hours, when we’re doing that thing that human beings do all the time, which is obsessing about ourselves, thinking about the past, thinking about the future, doing anything but being focused on what’s happening right now. Meditators not only turn off the default mode network of their brain while they’re meditating but even when they’re not meditating. In other words, meditators are setting a new default mode. And what’s that default mode? They’re focused on what’s happening right now.
“Meditation’s ability to help people stay in the moment has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years,” Brewer said. “Conversely, the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect. This gives us some nice cues as to the neural mechanisms of how it might be working clinically.”
And finally, Dan Harris’ closing words on happiness as a controllable choice:
The common assumption that we have – and it may be subconscious – is that our happiness really depends on external factors: how was our childhood, have we won the lottery recently, did we marry well, did we marry at all – but in fact, meditation suggests that happiness is actually a skill, something you can train, just as you train your body in the gym – it’s a self-generated thing, and that’s a really radical notion. It doesn’t mean that external circumstances aren’t going to impact your happiness – it doesn’t mean that you are not going to be subject to the vagaries of an impermanent, entropic universe – it just means you are going to be able to navigate this with a little more ease.
Chade-Meng Tan, on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence: 5 Lessons
If you want to learn more in depth on mindfulness, I suggest watching this full talk, but Cade-Meng Tan, delivered to an audience at Google, but at least watch from 24:12 to 31:50
If you do not wish to watch those seven minutes, here are my five takeaways from that portion of Chade-Meng Tan’s talk.
The Ability to Turn Emotions Off
There are a couple of very useful things, and they’re so useful that the degree of self-awareness that you can gain can create profound changes in your life. The first example is that if you’re able to perceive an emotion the moment it is arising, that gives you the power to turn it off if you want to. It gives you choice. Therefore, you have a choice of, “Hmm, I feel anger rising. Should I be angry or should I be not?” You can choose. I mean, there are situations where I chose to be angry, and because I was getting ripped off [to be purposefully assertive]. I figured the best reaction is to put that out to other people. And the situations where you’re “Nah, I don’t want to be angry, especially since she’s my boss. Let’s turn it off.” So you have a choice. The first thing, already, this is life-changing. If you have to ability to turn off anger. Already, it changes your life.
How Self-Awareness and Emotional Awareness Translates into Self-Knowledge, and Opportunity
Another example is that if you have a lot of strong self-awareness, emotional awareness, the emotional awareness translates into self-assessment. You get to know yourself a bit better. You get to know your resources. This is what I’m good at, this is what I’m bad at. These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses. This is what I really like to do, this is what makes me happy, and so on. And the effect of that is that once you are able to figure out, quote on quote your “deepest values and motivations”, then you know what opportunities to look out for. If you did not have the insight, the opportunity would just come and go. However, because you had the insight, you catch the opportunity when it’s there. Therefore, you’re always successful. And then people will think you’re very lucky. I mean, you’re lucky, but at the same time, you’re there to catch your opportunities and you’re able to catch opportunities because you have deep knowledge of self.
Making the Shift from Existential to Experiential
There’s a third one, which is even more profound, which is this: if you experience an emotion, we like to think that our emotions are existential experiences. What does that mean? We like to think the emotion itself, is us. And it reflects in the language that you use. For example, we say, “I am angry. I am sad. I am happy.” So the emotion becomes me. I become the emotion. However, as the power of your mind, the sharpness of mind, your resolution, your vividness becomes stronger over time. You discover something about a process of emotion and then you read an emotion in a very subtle way that has a profound change in your life. And that profound change is this: is going from existential to experiential, which means going from “I am angry” to “I’m experiencing anger. I’m experiencing happiness, or sadness, or whatever.” What does that change? Now it changes from “I am this, this is me” to “My mind is like a sky.” Then emotions are the clouds occupying the mind, but they’re not the mind. So that’s a powerful shift.
Separating Emotion into a Physiological Experience – Changing Your Perception
But wait, it gets better. The way it gets better, which is – there is another step you can go. As your attention becomes even more refined, you discover something else, beyond being experiential. You discover that the process of emotion, the experience of emotion is physiological. You experience emotions in the body. Every emotion has a bodily correlate. And then you discover something. You discover that painful emotions are not that different from painful feelings in the body. For example, I hurt my hand. Ow! And then I know this is pain, I know this is unpleasant, but the pain is not me. It is a sensation in my body. Having that perception changes everything. Because it’s not me, I can do things about it. I can take Tylenol. I can massage. I can put in ice. Or I can ignore it. Or I can experience it mindfully. Or I can just eat ice cream and forget all about it. And so on. There are things I can do because this experience is not me.
Using Mindfulness to Practice the Habit [intention] of Loving Kindness
The first habit that is very conducive to being socially skillful is the habit of kindness, or loving-kindness. That is a habit of looking at any human being, anyone you’ve never met before. Looking at any human being, my first thought is, “I want this person to be happy.” I want this person to be happy: that’s just it. Already, you can imagine if you have that mental habit coming effortlessly, it changes everything. You go into a meeting room; you look at everybody, you think, “I want all these people to be happy.” It reflects unconsciously in your body, your face, your language, your tone of voice, your facial expression. Because it reflects unconsciously, it’s picked up unconsciously by the other person. Their feeling, their perception is, “I like this person. I don’t know why. This Meng guy, I really like him. Maybe it’s his good looks. I don’t know.” [laughter] But it’s not just the good looks, it’s because I’m wishing for this person to be happy. I want Tara to be happy, and Tara can sense it unconsciously. In a situation like meetings and so on, if you have that mental habit all the time, people want to work with you. Then you find yourself becoming successful. You’re not clear why. But it’s this; it’s just simple things like that.
The following three videos will allow you to practice what mindfulness feels like. Start with the first and build up to the third. As you learn what this feels like, you’ll be able to do each without a video guide; although, I am still a big fan of practicing guided meditation on a regular basis.
Note: I first want to preface this with the declaration that I do not subscribe to the cult of personality. Particularly, in a day and age where – as Prince Ea says: “Our role models today – sixty years ago would have been examples of what not to be”.
I simply do not believe in placing people on a pedestal (hero worship) because I believe that living things are inherently equal – and while that’s an entirely separate topic, the point I want to drive home to you is that you are as worthy of your love as your heroes are; you are as capable as they are. This is why I occasionally highlight some of my role models under the heading of Real Life Inspiration, because we should not worship people, nor compare ourselves to them, but rather – we should be inspired by their choices and their message, which should empower our own sense of choice and control over our lives. I’d like to think Prince Ea would cosign this message.
Hip-hop artist and poet Prince Ea grew up in St. Louis “I grew up in the worst part of the worst city in the world – statistically; the Eastside of St. Louis”. Having graduated with a degree in anthropology, Prince Ea said he combines anthropology with his music to provide social analysis. His messages are refreshing and they echo insights and truths that lie behind the facade of society – the deeper truths many people don’t see.
Where he is – his internal state and emotional resonance – that’s a beautiful place to be.
After gaining increased exposure with the following video on the state of the world, Prince Ea was recently featured on Glenn Beck, which can be viewed here (the video is completely non-political and focused on Prince Ea’s message of Love). The interview really showcases how grounded Prince Ea is. We can all learn from his messages. Below I’ve included three of Prince Ea’s best video’s to date. Pay attention to what he is saying.
Prince Ea on The State of The World
It’s easy to dismiss this kind of thing as another video designed to go viral, but there are so many things he says that are just completely true. One of my favorite lines might be pride is at an all time high, humility is at an all time low.
Prince Ea on Technological Disconnection
This youtube comment a viewer posted to the video says it all:
It makes me sick to my stomach. Try MeetUp instead. Get out and connect. Touch each other. Look each other in the eye, and pay attention to the other person’s soul.
We are electric beings that were meant to connect–not connect through electric devices but to each other by touch and proximity.
Prince Ea on Love
The lessons Prince Ea offers on love are brilliant. Many people never discover these truths, or only do after years and years of pain.
See, the truth is, we have forgotten what love is. Our ideas about love come from storybooks, romantic comedies, popular songs, facebook memes – and they all show this fuzzy romantic type of love, and as you are aware, in your own life, these ideas have led to more anxiety and pain then true pleasure [fullfilment] and happiness… because these ideas themselves are flawed, they are based on ownership and selfishness “You are my bae, my boo, my sweetheart; I love you – but only if you’re with me”. That’s a possessive type of love, that’s a love with strings attached, that’s an impure type of love.
Ask yourself this question: who do you hate? It’s probably somebody you used to love right.
Thinking that somebody can fix you or that you can fix somebody else is just plain wrong. See, love is an inside job. In order to love others we must first love ourselves. We have to mature in a way that we can take care of our own emotional needs – we can help ourselves – and that way, we accept the flaws in our partner because we have already accepted the flaws in ourselves.
There’s no more anger or controlling clinginess in this type of love, there’s a relaxed acceptance, there’s kindness, there’s tenderness, there’s vulnerability.
And when you are reflecting your true self, your true soul, you’re no longer reflecting anger, pain, your past failures, and your ego – that’s when love can blossom because the souls only expression is pure love.
And I think when two people, when two souls come to this understanding – that’s rare, that’s beautiful, and that’s something we should all strive for
So word to the wise, if you don’t know how to love, you will ultimately destroy it.
Sage, sage words. This is one of those instances where I get a strange sense of reassurance at the fact that someone else has independently arrived at the same conclusions I have. If you watched the Glenn Beck interview with Prince Ea, you’ll have seen Glen Beck ask Prince Ea, ‘Where is this coming from?’, to which Prince Ea answered:
It comes from inside, it comes from me looking inside of myself… It just comes from me sitting alone, and looking inward at what is the solution, what makes me happy, looking at the world, what makes me happy, and it’s love it’s peace it’s compassion, the most basic idea that permeate all religions – but not a lot of people seem to adopt; it came from me looking inside, from introspection.
In my own relationship with inner peace and unconditional, abundant love, I too found this truth looking inward.
Be sure to follow Prince Ea on facebook and carry his message forward in your life. Be the love that you are – the love you wish to see in the world.
I’ll leave you with two more soundbites from Prince Ea (via Glenn Beck):
I’m an artist that wants to connect with people’s hearts because I think the individual is everything. If you want to change – if you’re in a movie theater and you don’t like the movie, you don’t go up to the movie and start beating up the projection on the screen – you go and change the film. So I believe that in order to have external peace, we have to have internal; peace in ourselves before any change is possible.
I honestly think that – that within everyone – that pure love, that pure consciousness is who we really are. I think that finding out who you really are is the key.
I’m glad I came across this because I thought about this very topic last night as I was working on mapping my values and virtues. In fact I opted not to list self-esteem as either a mental or an emotional virtue because I think the concept of self-esteem is garbage.
Let’s look into this further.
Famed psychologist Albert Ellis – like him or not – was a vocal opponent of self-esteem. I haven’t read (nor do I feel compelled to read) his book ‘The Myth of Self-Esteem‘ -one of about 80 books he published during his lifetime – but Ellis posited that the pursuit of self-esteem was self-defeating because it reduces our worth to the sum of our accomplishments.
Another book, House of Cards, written by Robin Dawes reflects a view of self-esteem similar to Ellis’.
Belief: Self-esteem is the key ingredient in well-being and achievement; low self-esteem is the main cause of drug abuse, violence and teen-age pregnancy.
Fact: Literally thousands of studies have failed to support this belief, which guided the California Task Force on Self-Esteem. As Dawes observes, the task force performed an unintended public service; it demonstrated that “the Holy Grail of pop psychology”–the belief that high self-esteem is the ticket to happiness and low self-esteem is the cause of social problems–“is nothing more then a mirage.” What research does show is that children need a sense of competence and mastery at learning new skills. Self-esteem will follow.
My personal views support this. I feel self-esteem is a concept rooted in classic American egoism that has passed its pop psychology expiration date. If there is such a thing as self-esteem, then it is the product of self-sufficiency and competence, rather than the cause of. Further, I view the concept of self-esteem in a similar light to Ellis in that I feel it is too externally rooted in achievement and accomplishment, and therefore does not provide an individual with an accurate self-assessment of his or her actual potential to achieve what he or she wishes to accomplish.
As a result, an individual’s tendency to focus on self-esteem and ‘feeling good about oneself’ causes them to base their confidence in performing specific tasks on their overall perceived worth, rather than their self-efficacy in a given area.
So if not self-esteem, what then?
As previously noted – I excluded self-esteem from my own list of mental and emotional values and virtues; however, I did include self-compassion, self-confidence, rationality, as well as optimism and a positive mindset. (This was among many others listed according to my ideal of my actualized physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, professional, social, and intellectual self).
In focusing on the above concepts, I can apply this combination of self-compassion, self-confidence, rationality, and an optimistic and positive mindset, to examine a given area of my life in a manner that enables me to provide myself with a supportive and encouraging inner-voice. Without this, I would be limited to the biased and narrow-minded viewpoint that the cult of self-esteem has doomed so many of us to.
It’s troubling to me that the cult of self-esteem places self-image and self-worth on a pedestal – for the problem is not in building lasting overconfidence, but that this inflated sense of worth (a bubble if you will) inevitably bursts once an adult faces a world devoid of the teachers, parents, and suitors who for so long held their ego up in an unsustainable light.
This video illustrates this concept perfectly:
Maybe we all need a little tough love mixed with unconditional self-acceptance in order to shake off some of the vain baggage and insecurity that self-esteem has wrought so many of us with.
Fuck self-esteem. Ah, doesn’t that feel good to say. Seriously, the more you demistify the constructs of society that are designed to provide you with unsustainable and worthless pleasures, the more you can free yourself to pursue the kind of lasting fulfillment and self-worth that no one can ever deny you – least of all yourself.
I’m reminded of a zen proverb (ahem, sorry – ‘Ancient Toltec Wisdom’) from the book The Four Agreements, in which author Don Miguel Ruiz states that we should take nothing personally, in other words – someone should be able to tell us we are the best person in the world, or the worst, and either should mean nothing to us.
“Consider both the praise and reproach of every foolish person as ridiculous”
In short, do not derive your own worth from the appraisal of others.
Now, I task you with reading the Wikipedia entry on self-esteem and thinking for yourself as you read it – maintaining objectivity as you review the widely held notions on self-esteem, and the overwhelming societal and intellectual value of self-esteem as a whole.
It would seem to me that any rational human being with a healthy self-confidence should realize what an absurdly maladaptive practice it is to subscribe to the idea that positive self-esteem is something we should aspire to be able to posses.
It is your right – it is your duty – to feel good about who you are, to love yourself with compassion, to be rational, and to be optimistic and positive about your present and future potential.
I will leave you with the image of a raccoon. Do you think the raccoon denies himself the fulfillment of his nature, his raccoonness? Do you think the raccoon is thinking he is not worthy of being good at being a raccoon and having what he deserves and wants? Do you think the raccoon lets anyone else deny him of that? Hell no. So why the hell would you as a human do any of this? Oh that’s right, because you’re human and other humans told you that your value was dependent upon certain conditions, and that if you didn’t meet those conditions, then you weren’t good. Right now I want you to claim your value back; reclaim your innate worth that existing as a unique living being entitles you too. Don’t subscribe to the idea that someone else’s opinion of you has to become your reality. Because ultimately that’s what subscribing to the cult of self-esteem is signing you up for. If your reality doesn’t dictate the world, the world will dictate your reality – stop giving self-esteem that power over you. Internalize the rational animal confidence into your psyche, and stop following the cult of self-esteem that so many humans buy into.
Am I anti self-esteem? You betch’ur raccoon ass I am. I am rational, self-loving, confident, healthy, optimistic, and positive minded – and I would never let someone or something else decide what I am worthy of feeling, accomplishing, or possessing. That would be [thinking I need self-esteem to be worthy would be] madness for a raccoon king like me.