• July 4, 2016

    I find that I do not feel very much compassion for the less fortunate, the victims of terrorism and so on. Perhaps I have no heart?

    If you find compassion in your life, it will be in your immediate surroundings, among the beings you meet, not events on the news. Compassion is shared feeling, not just shock or pity.

    Before you can have a heart, you must expose your heartlessness. Before you can have compassion, you must see your hatred and intolerance. To have success on this path, we must go ‘by way of the negative’, not asserting what we want but rather exploring what is. To find compassion, explore its opposite because that is something you can know with certainty, as you are.

    The ancient masters said: “The undesirable must be relinquished before the desirable can be attained.” We would all like to set out on a wonderful journey to remake ourselves in the image of our ideal. The journey must begin where we are.

    I cannot make compassion. It arises naturally in a heart which is not preoccupied with me, my wants, my thoughts, my reactions and, especially, my ideals. There is nothing less compassionate than an idealist.

    What do you mean?

    Idealists want the world to conform to their ideas. By its nature, idealism has the arrogance of prejudice and judgment. It looks to the future rather than the present. It makes the perfect the enemy of the good.

    What does it mean to relinquish?

    To relinquish is to voluntarily cease to keep or claim…to give up. This is the key. The problem is that we involuntarily hold on to the things we most want to change. With one hand we reject them, but with the other we hold them fast. This struggle occurs in the nervous system, electrically and chemically, the result of conditioning. It’s an addiction of sorts. Who would we be without this struggle?

    Relinquish the undesirable, it is said. Begin by observing yourself, not afterwards or analytically but in real time. Learn to adopt an impartial attitude—it is more important to see what arises in you than to influence it, judge it or defend it.

    You will begin to see the habitual linkages of sensation and thought that hold you together as you are. You will begin to uncover the self-images and personal narratives that get you through the day. They have been there all along, running in the background, influencing nearly every thought and action, nearly every posture and gesture. When you have seen one such pattern long enough, when you have exhausted all your emotional reactions to it, when all that’s left is a subtle distaste for what you see, you will be ready to relinquish. It is a death of self, one of many on the way. In my understanding, this work is never finished.

    Does something desirable arise after an undesirable thing has been relinquished? Surprisingly, it does.

    Related Post:

    Objectivity – July 29, 2015

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  • September 19, 2015

    I have trouble deciding to work on self and I find that I often cannot remember to work.

    You are describing the functioning of the head brain. You assume that thinking, the little voice in your head, is you…who you are…and that it is the thinker that actually remembers and decides to do things because thinking appears to precede the doing. This is a false assumption.

    Almost everything we decide to do in our daily life begins in the body, with sensations and impulses to move and speak. Once these impulses are underway, the thinker comes along to take credit for deciding the actions that are already proceeding. It will take many years of observing self to see this clearly. Impartial attention can know this immediately but your early efforts to observe will likely use head brain attention, which is attention intermediated and interpreted by thought. Head brain attention is too slow and limited to enter real time; it lags behind the occurrences of ordinary reality, so much so that it can falsely think it is the one who decides.

    If you want to remember to work, you must be able to plant the impulse to do so in the body. For example, impartially observing the momentum of sleep in your machine for many years, certain gestures become clear indicators of mechanical sleep functioning. When observed, these gestures spontaneously provoke the immediate recognition of sleep and activate the impulse to invoke attention and presence. Related thinking may then arise. This process can be described as making ‘conscious habits’. By nature, habits are the foundation of sleeping behaviour but they can be made otherwise.

    If the thinking ‘I’ is an illusion, who am I?

    A good question. In the sleep state, no one is home. There are various rotating identities…haphazard assemblages of self-images, loops of self-talk, personal history and past conditioning…which take their turn on the stage. When an identity is operational, it provides a semblance of predictable behaviour and thinking until it is displaced by another. Observing self makes clear that there are no real decisions in the sleep state because there is no one there to make them. Everything is already programmed.

    The illusion of ‘I’ is one of the most difficult to break. Surely I can be taken seriously as someone who thinks and decides. Seeing through this illusion may initially be somewhat frightening but it opens the possibility of knowing another ‘I’, the ‘I’ of presence, which is conscious and unboundaried.

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  • June 19, 2015

    When you were demonstrating the tapping sequence at dinner, I was building up an emotional disagreement and resisted trying the movements. I enjoyed the attachment to the emotional state, or at least enjoyed telling myself I wanted to stay there.

    Really? You seem to suggest that there was someone there deliberately ‘building up an emotional disagreement’. Was it deliberate or was it a purely mechanical reaction with a corresponding little voice in your head saying that it is in charge, deciding to resist?

    It is useful that you have observed your reaction and confessed the process of your resistance. Can you go further? It seems that you have accepted your reaction as yourself, that is, you have identified with it. In doing so, have you not made it solid, more difficult to move? Can you instead be sceptical?

    Sceptical is well on the way to impartial. Sceptical means you do not know. It does not mean that you have secretly made up your mind but you don’t want to appear unreasonable. There is much to be said for it.

    You could adopt a sceptical attitude to the tapping exercise. This would mean not rejecting it but rather examining it and its effects in you. To be sceptical is to separate from the phenomena…the exercise, learning to do it, noting the results if any…and observe. Implied in this is that you do not take anything too seriously…it’s all just data, completely impersonal. Taking ordinary reactions personally, identifying with them, this is evidence of self-importance, is it not?

    First, you would have to be sceptical of your initial reaction to the exercise. What is your reaction telling you? Can you see the pattern of your resistance as a set of physical facts, particular contractions and sensations, and release them? Your emotions would then likely dissipate. Probably this resistance is habitual, frequently expressed in your daily life. Perhaps it is a reaction to authority or learning something new or fear of not getting it right or fear of looking ridiculous. This is for you to find out. But more important than naming it is observing what it physically consists of.

    Can you get to a state where the exercise can be examined objectively? That would be a practical accomplishment of work on self, likely more valuable than the tapping exercise.

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  • May 15, 2015

    Is mastery a realistic aim given the fact that humans are asleep most of the time?

    Yes, it can be a real aim which begins with a clear and certain perception of the dominance of sleep in one’s own life. Mastery is not theoretical; it is highly practical and it is gained by many small victories over one’s own sleep, moment by moment. Mastery of life is mastery of self, particularly mastery of the human biological machine, otherwise known as your body and mind.

    In sleep, the body is largely insensitive and reacts unconsciously to stimuli while thinking mostly consists of repeating ‘tapes’ directed by association.  Fragmentation and identification are easily observable elements of this condition. While asleep, we live in our personal history rather than the present.

    At the same time, let’s be clear that many of the good things that happen to us occur in sleep and almost all human accomplishment takes place there as well. Sleep is neither good nor bad and those who sleep through life are simply doing their best, having uncritically accepted the story that the world has told them. Judging sleep harshly is unwise. Sleep is a shared human condition which none of us escapes. A compassionate attitude towards yourself and others serves better than a rejecting one.

    Why wake up? Do I want to have a deeper, more complete engagement with myself and others? Do I want a larger, more meaningful life? Self-mastery can provide a way.

    How is the battle with sleep actually fought?

    First, you must be convinced by direct observation that you are asleep, that you are governed by habit and that you have no will. Your life mostly consists of liking and disliking, resistance and attraction, clinging and averting, which are programmed mechanical reactions entirely lacking in real will. Let us say that your body likes to indulge in sugar. However, one of your mechanical selves is identified with being slim and dislikes being fat. You successfully reduce sugar intake and lose weight. Is this evidence of real will? Not at all. One like has overpowered another. One unconscious motivation has overcome another. This must be seen clearly and impartially. Know thyself.

    Second, it is necessary to oppose the tendencies of the machine but it must be done cleverly. You wish to rest so you do not rest. You do not like spinach so you eat it. The gain is not only the accomplishment of your aim but also what is learned about your mechanical reactions. What is the best way to overcome resistance? Find out. Do you take pride in these successes? Then you may be feeding one false self at the expense of another. Mastery of self is not self-development, it’s self-dismantling.

    Which “you” has adopted this agenda of mastery? Is it another identity that seeks to satisfy basic egoistic needs such as feeling special, powerful, secure or better than others? Or is this an expression of being, stemming from a basic wish to be free of slavish habits, able to engage in the aesthetic qualities innate to being’s nature? Genuine acts of mastery provide their own evidence as moments of presence. A mechanical impulse that is not indulged is a source of energy and a possibility of making a conscious gesture. If this energy is appropriated by the machine to fund more mechanical behavior, the action judges itself as counterfeit. Impartial observation is the cleaver separating real from false. The real is uncovered by relinquishing its counterfeit.

    Observing and interrupting your mechanical programming in this way has serious consequences. The momentum of your life is the momentum of sleep. When you begin to interfere with the programming, you lose momentum and become less able to do what you normally do. Perhaps you will be unable to do your job or hang out with your friends. You may have to find new motivations, perhaps even conscious ones. The risks are great.

    We will inquire more into this subject at another time.

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  • April 27, 2015

    Is there an alternative to clinging and averting? Like and dislike? (See previous post on Agreement).

    Consider hand gestures. Clinging is the hand grasping. Averting is the hand held up to push away. What can we say of the gesture of the hand held open, palm upward? Can we call this releasing?

    Is there a middle way that is not based on the opposites imposed by conditioning?

    The middle way is releasing, a conscious gesture which allows phenomena to occur without interference. An impulse to cling is observed, just data, and released. What is released? The gesture of clinging, its muscle tensions and posture, its sensations noted and also released into space. No judgment or justification.

    Can troublesome thoughts be averted? This is difficult and usually employs defenses which require distraction and cost energy. These thoughts can be released, beginning with the physical tensions and sensations which always accompany them. Without the physical, do the thoughts continue?

    In releasing, there is freedom to respond to what comes next.

    Before the ability to release, much observing is required. Can this observing be impartial? To be impartial, the observed must include the automatic reactions of judging and justifying. The would-be observer, presumed entity-in-charge located in the head brain, becomes part of the scene.

    Ironically, it is possible to respond rightly when there is no longer a mechanism for self-evaluation.

    Living in a like/dislike world is sitting on a drain. The drain is for your energy. It goes somewhere but not for your benefit. The movement is down and out. Up and in is evolutionary, transformative.  Can you sense what is needed to reverse the flow?

    Related Post:

    Agreement – April 23, 2015

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  • March 12, 2015

    What is the benefit of this exercise?

    Perhaps it is an exercise. Perhaps it is more than that and you begin to observe yourself as a matter of habit, a different kind of habit, a conscious habit. Reading your manifestations in real time provides much useful data.

    You will be shocked to discover who you are and what you are doing.  It is especially valuable to witness your insincerity.  You may become uncomfortable with yourself, a real bonus for those who wish to wake up. Layers beneath layers are slowly exposed.  If you are gradually able to see yourself without judgment or justification, your reactions may subside and you may begin to have the possibility of responding differently.  Patterns are worn away by impartial observation.  Can you learn to be impartial about what you see?

    Working with a group in a work space helps this process immensely.  We see ourselves most clearly in interactions with others. In the presence of others who are engaged in this work, there is more seeing and greater objectivity.  It is contagious.

    What do you mean by layers beneath layers?

    Observing muscular tensions, you find that, in making a mental effort, you clench your left forearm, an unnecessary contraction which probably signals anxiety, reduced awareness and loss of energy.  Over time, you see this is the end of a chain of physical reactions that begins with an in-breath, followed by a tightening of the abdomen, then a tightening of the jaw followed by the forearm. It does not matter when or why this set of reactions began.  This is not psychoanalysis. Seeing it now, in the present, is the aim.

    Knowing the chain makes it possible to stop it by releasing one of the links—releasing that particular muscular tension interrupts the set of reactions.  Knowing is not knowledge.  Knowing is an action of perception while knowledge is not.

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