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Some Thoughts on the Nature of the Soul

12/26/2018

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to summarize what I’ve learned about what the human soul is.  One of my sources is the Mandukya Upanishad and the individual sentence “Ayam Atman Brahman” which is translated as “This individual consciousness is (the same as) the Divine Consciousness.”

Those who are familiar with their nature as Awareness Itself, know that in looking for the boundaries of Awareness, they find no sense of spatial boundaries and no sense of age or aging in Awareness.  In other words, the Awareness is experienced as eternal and infinite, which are two attributes that those in Western religions attribute to God.  So, the Awareness which is the deepest part of each of us has the same attributes as God and is God.

What, then, makes this an individual consciousness or a particular soul?  My experience tells me that it is the reality that this Awareness has taken on the very particular limits of one body and one mind.  It is only able to register the three-dimensional physical reality through one set of sensory organs: one set of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and nerve endings.  It is only listening to one set of thoughts, those within my own specific bodymind.  It is only aware of one set of emotional responses on a continuing basis: my own.  It is only aware of producing the speech of this mouth, and the actions of this body.

In some mysterious way, we can experience an unlimited Awareness and paradoxically experience Awareness limited to this individual bodymind.  This individual soul learns its own lessons from its own mistakes and successes and has to learn to live in a very particular time and place.

This location in a specific: bodymind, time and place, is what seems to make Awareness into individual souls.  It’s also the least developed aspect of any modern spirituality: there seems to be no relationship between most people on a spiritual path and the particular time and place that they live in.  It’s as if spiritually oriented lives can be lived without reference to culture but, if we notice, we long for spiritually based culture in our time and place, and feel bereft without it.  I will write more about this lack of relatedness between modern spiritual practice and culture bound in time and place in the next blogpost.

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Integration of Awareness and the Individual Life

41PrIv5n6YL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Once we discover that Awareness is our True Nature (not some identity composed of thoughts that we call the ‘ego’), it can be quite an upset to our way of life.  While the discovery that Awareness is who we are may take considerable time and energy, it is not the end of the process that we call Enlightenment.

The discovery of Awareness creates a seismic shift in the sense of identity.  Okay, we’re Infinite, Eternal Awareness (or Emptiness or any of the 100 other names) which has become these body-minds.  Our actual identity is simultaneously the Infinite/Eternal and the here-and-now person (in this particular writer’s case, called “Jonathan Labman”).  Both are true, paradoxically and at the same moment.

The implications of this discovery will take us a long time to embody, or ‘live out’ truthfully in the real world.  All of our ideas of who we ‘are’ or in this case ‘were’ will actually be only partially true.  The ‘ego’ doesn’t really exist?  What does that mean?  That’s what we begin to discover as we continue the journey of Enlightenment after discovering that we are Awareness.

This discovery that we are Awareness and so is everyone else, will also have a profound effect on how we interact with the so-called ‘others’ (all of whom could be seen to be aspects of the same Awareness).  How can we know we are Awareness, and exploit, harm, abuse, ‘use,’ or steal from others?

However, some people stop too soon in their Enlightenment trajectory.  This is why some people appear to be so injurious to others.  (More to follow.)

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The Spontaneous Act

The Spontaneous Act

Some time ago, I discovered that my actions are nearly always spontaneous.  There is a vibration (skanda, in Sanskrit, I believe) in the body that comes from Awareness Itself and moves outwards towards an action.  Creating my recent book was such an action.  Though I had been working on bits and pieces of it for a while, two weeks ago I had an urge to finish the book.  Five minutes ago (two weeks later), the printed copies are sitting on the desk in the office where I’m writing this blog.

If you look carefully, you’ll become aware of, and be able to follow these arising vibrations or impulses: to move, to rest, to eat, to drink, to feed the chickens, to collect the eggs, to play with the dog, to create a new work of art, to exercise…to give to others, to love, to wake up.  If the impulse doesn’t hurt you or anyone else, why not go with it and see what happens?

Usually the mind and its false thoughts and FEARS get in the way.  Whenever I write, it’s tempting to listen to the thoughts that say things like the following statements:

  • ‘You are Awareness and so is everything else, why bother writing?’
  • ‘No one will read your book or your blog, so why bother?’
  • ‘People who read your book and your blog will be nasty and critical so why bother?’
  • ‘You’re going to make mistakes and it won’t be perfect, so why bother?

I’m certain some people have been nasty and critical because I’ve already experienced that.  I have no idea what will come in the future, however, or how people will respond to this individual expression of Awareness going forward (be it verbal, written, written in blog form or in book form).  The courage to allow the expression of Awareness, is itself an expression of Awareness.  The ability to counteract false thoughts and fears with the truth, typically expressed as ‘I don’t know’ is also a gift of Awareness.  All this comes from being Simply Awake.  How wonderful when I (and you) can listen to this Awareness and not let false thoughts and the fear they cause, get in the way of spontaneous action.water as spontaneous act

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Awake or Not, You’re Still in a Body

I just finished writing a book and was looking for inspiration to share in a post.  There wasn’t much to be had!  When you or I are uninspired and tired, it’s better to rest.

Remember that Brahman/Emptiness/The Radiant Darkness/The Mystery, has taken form into, as, and through our bodies.  The body isn’t a perpetual motion machine but, needs rest and care; the mind, likewise.

The particular body-mind that each of us inhabits, has its own unique requirements for balance.  We do better when we pay attention to those.  Because I’m more introvert than extrovert, having three days of social events in a row (while finishing a book) has exhausted me.  I need time alone to recharge, read fiction, and lay around relaxing.  Extroverts and athletes probably wouldn’t need this same amount of time alone and would be better with MORE company and more exercise.

Whatever kind of person you are, take time to find out what your body-mind needs.  In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, Jesus summarizes the commandments (the Western version of yamas and niyamas) and says, ‘love God above all else, and love your neighbor as yourself.’  If you’re not taking care of and loving yourself, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be much good to others nor a good servant to The Mystery.self-care-cat

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Releasing the ‘Me’ into Silence

Silence and StillnessReleasing the ‘Me’ into Silence

One thing that I’ve noticed lately is that although a ‘self’ no longer exists, the ego-mind’s lone remaining trick is to keep the body-mind tied up with MUSIC now, of all things.  Music! with all of its abilities to affect ‘my’  moods. This has been going on for a long time.  I’m sick of it.  The intention has arisen to find the Silence and Stillness underneath the music and make it permanent.  I know It’s there, what else could be aware of the music arising?

Fortunately, long ago I received a gift.  There is something called the ‘unstruck sound’ or ‘anahata nadam’ (unstruck sound in Sanskrit) that is said to be the sound of the Om vibrating the Universe.  Or, in laymen’s vernacular, the sound of God vibrating in/as/through the Universe.  Sometime around my 24th birthday in 1979, I started hearing this sound which, is not really a sound.  (No, it isn’t tinnitus and doesn’t interfere with normal hearing.  It’s like a very high-pitched, electrical, G-sharp note that plays  constantly.)  It was curious and puzzling at first.  Because I was an evangelical Christian at that time, I called it the sound of the Holy Spirit but, told no one about it.  After all, I lived in a cult in those days and only the leaders could pronounce truth.  The rest of us were to be ‘sheep’ and were taught not to use our own discriminating awareness: so that we wouldn’t notice the difference between the Truth and the lies of the leaders!

Somewhere around 2000 when I was 45, I finally read what that funny no-noise sound was in my inner ear.  Yup, ‘unstruck sound’ or ‘anahata nadam.’  The instructions said to use it as a meditation focal point and, said it would be a speedy way to ‘wake up.’  It certainly helped!

Today, I’m realizing that listening to that ‘unstruck sound’ moves me into thoughtless awareness quickly.  I’m also noticing that it pulls me in deeper, the more I listen to it.  Eureka…a way into inner Silence.  Inner Silence is to be commended….all of our pre-existing patterns eventually disintegrate there and we are open vessels for the Mystery to do with, as It will.

How will you find your own way to Inner Silence and lose your ‘me’ too?  I’m guessing you’ll love it when you do.

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Our Mind’s Ability to ‘Lay Waste’ to Our Lives

mind's waste pileOur Mind’s Ability to ‘Lay Waste’ to Our Lives.

How many times have we seen our minds make a totally incorrect evaluation of something going on in the present, or about to happen in the future?  How many times have our minds stopped us from doing some productive, fun, or wonderful spontaneous action that arose in us?  How many times have our minds made “a mountain out of a ‘mole hill.’”  How many times have our minds produced terrible ‘dramas’ and problems because of incorrect assumptions?

Usually, this is due to baseless fears our minds dream up, isn’t it?  Some prediction of a ‘bad’ or ‘catastrophic’ future that will come as a result of the action?  Or some idea in our minds that someone will hate: our actions, our words, our creative endeavors, or us?  (Such a thought occurs nearly every time I sit down to write my blog!  I’m learning to ignore this kind of thought.)  It’s a lie: we can’t predict the future or what others will think.

There’s a simple solution: test our mind’s assumptions.  Challenge every emotional interpretation, subjective opinion, or prediction about the future that our minds can make.  Especially, challenge every thought we have about what someone else is saying, thinking or doing when we can’t possibly know.  And, while we’re at it, let’s also challenge every opinion/prediction that every ‘talking head’ makes in the news media, and in academia.  Let’s even challenge the notion that we know what the world is! Our senses only take in a limited range of light, sound, etc.  What IS the real nature of the world?  Can we know it as it really is?

One simple question changes everything: “Can we absolutely know that statement or thought is absolutely true?”  If not, the statement or thought is a lie.  Yes, anything is possible, but, if it’s not absolutely true, then it’s a lie.

‘Let not our minds’ lies, lay waste to our lives.’  Life is a Mystery, outcomes are unknown…now why not find out What’s Possible?

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Who IS Jonathan?

Who IS Jonathan?

One of my Facebook friends suggested that I was ‘teaching’ too much and not letting people know the human side of who Jonathan Labman is.  So, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to try to answer that question.

In previous years, I’d have answered with biographical and statistical details: 5’10” tall, male, blue eyes, gray hair, almost 63 years old, a Licensed Professional Counselor (Master’s Degree-level Psychologist), married, no children, etc.  I’ll leave out my weight until I lose the 20 pounds that my physician and I agreed I had to lose at yesterday’s check-up!  At a certain point “I” would have said that “I” was “awake” or “enlightened’ or something of that sort.  I’d have talked about a book I wrote some years ago, my website, my work helping other people to ‘wake up’ and my blogposts.

After this week, there’s a different understanding.  There is supposedly a “physical being,” “living” on the “Earth” with certain “characteristics,” who inhabits a “body” in the “Immanent, Three-Dimensional construct” we call the ‘here and now.’  All the definitions of what or who “Jonathan Labman” is, however, are man-made ideas.  The ‘story’ of who Jonathan is, is a series of memories that are strung together as if they’re somehow the ‘truth’ and form a ‘coherent narrative’ of ‘Jonathan’s life.’  It only takes asking my siblings what really happened, to find out there is no such thing as one coherent narrative: everyone’s memories of what happened are different.  So even the story arising in “Jonathan’s” own mind isn’t Truth, with a capital “T.”

All of the ‘story of who and what Jonathan is’ is composed of words that are vague representations of a Mystery.  They are not “Reality.”  “Jonathan” is more accurately a “mystery.”  Also, the idea that anyone named “Jonathan” is now “awake” or “enlightened” is another set of constructs or ideas.  There is no way to prove that in general, or to prove it to “anyone else” in particular.  As a result, in my last blogpost I wrote about this ‘little mystery’ being part of the ‘Big Mystery.’  That’s the best I can do now to accurately answer the question of who or what Jonathan Labman is.  After 47 years on an active spiritual path, the current answer is: “a Mystery.”jonathan[1]

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Dealing with Fear

Dealing with Fear

In the silence of this moment, everything is okay.  If my mind starts up again, chattering about the future, it can get ‘lost’ momentarily in the chatter.  Then fear can arise, and the whole tiger fearego-process can start up again.  This is the path of delusion, physiological contraction, and unnecessary suffering.

Sometimes this whole process can be hidden in the hustle and bustle of taking care of daily business.  This is true, especially if something challenging has come along in the external reality, and I have to ‘keep going anyway.’  If that happens, though, there will be a physiological “signal” that the mind has ‘gone off the rails of reality’ and into ‘fantasy land’ or ‘catastrophe land.’  Usually it’s physical tension in the body.  That tension is an indicator that there is some self-inquiry to do.

Usually, at that point, I start to ask a simple question, ‘when did I start to feel the body contract?’  That’s followed by ‘what was I thinking about when my body started contracting?’  Then finally, ‘is that thought really true?’  Usually, when I hit on the truth of what’s been bothering me, my body will relax.

Yesterday, I did some of this digging and realized that my mind had begun catastrophizing.  It started sometime between the unexpected death of a family member, the unusually low arctic temperatures we’ve been living with for 10 days, and the less than stellar business receipts in November and December. I started feeling ‘The Absolute is out to get me, and the future is going to be a Catastrophe.’  Of course, the moment this thought was discovered, it was obviously a lie because ‘me’ is really The Absolute in form, and why would It be out to ‘get’ Itself?  The body began to relax again with that discovery and the mind returned to silence.

May all people who read this ‘wake up’ in this lifetime: it is possible!

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Death is Our Companion

tutankhamun-death-mask-pharaonic-egyptDeath is Our Companion

My 13-year-old nephew died of a rare blood disorder that stayed hidden until three days before it took his life.  The shock of the statement is enough to stop people in their tracks, let alone the reality behind the statement.  Death can come at any time, at any age, in any circumstance. If we are wise, it is our constant companion, reminding us to stay awake. It can rattle us out of our normal calm and complacent acceptance of the dreamstate, if we are still unaware of Reality with a capital “R.”  However, even aware of Reality, the shock of the sudden death of a young person brings a palpable heartache.  Certainly, it has produced a shattering of the hearts of those close to him.

The human body is frail.  Even those who take exquisite care of their bodies, and have the resources to spare no expense, will eventually succumb to illness and death.  How do we live in light of this truth?  Soberly.  Compassionately.  Adroitly.  As the shock wore off, and the numbness gave way to feeling, grief was and is my companion, as well as Death.  There is no adequate explanation to offer the bereaved, even though inwardly my thought is ‘The Absolute is taking back a part of Itself: it gives Itself into human form, and returns to Itself when it decides to dissolve that form.’

Whether we’re here in this three-dimensional construct, or awake from this dreamstate, we’re still in a body.  We can say, speaking a bit too imperiously from the Transcendent point of view, that “Nothing is happening and Everything is perfect, even the death of a boy.”  Yet even as we speak or write those words, we feel the sensation in our throats, or the perception of our fingers striking the keyboard.  Death will take the one who takes refuge in the Transcendent and refuses to acknowledge the Immanent (here and now 3-D world), just as quickly as one who denies the Transcendent and acknowledges only the material world.

What do we do in the face of Death?  Wake up to our True Nature as the Absolute Itself.  Live as free from the distraction of the chattering mind as possible.  Serve The Absolute in as many ways as possible.  Comfort the grieving, even if they are ‘lost in the dreamstate’ and without denigrating their lostness.  If we are no longer lost, we once were!  The Absolute goes ‘down’ into form, awakens in and as and through these bodies, in order to serve Itself and know Itself in a multiplicity of ways.  Our job is to cooperate with that, to surrender to that, and to accept the real suffering that exists in many forms here, including in saying goodbye to a wonderful 13-year-old boy.  May our grief serve the good purpose of breaking our hearts open, so that more light shines through them in all directions.

May all people who read this ‘wake up’ in this lifetime: it is possible!

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Embodiment: Awakening Occurs in a Body

Human Forms Heart pexels-photo-256807Embodiment: Awakening Occurs in a Body

Today I’ve been thinking how very esoteric the terms ‘waking up’ or ‘enlightenment’ often sound, and how very divorced from our bodies and our human experience they are ‘advertised’ to be.  One of my early fantasies about being ‘awake’ was that all physical and emotional distress would somehow disappear with ‘waking up.’  With my 13 year old nephew suddenly and currently fighting for his life, I can tell you that the latter is definitely NOT true.  There were other ‘enlightenment myths,’ some passed down via spiritual traditions and religions, and some made up by my own fantasy-oriented mind.

One thing that most people who ‘wake up’ know for sure is that the way we ‘sense into,’ intuit, or ‘feel into’ Awareness is through the body.  The body can be perceived as a ‘receiver’ of Awareness, a ‘transmitter’ of Awareness, or perhaps both.  The Absolute or Awareness or Consciousness takes form in, as, and through these bodies.  The body isn’t something that needs to be ‘wrestled into submission’ as if it’s the origin of sin, or starved into submission (starved either from food, or sex, or human contact), or treated as an ignorant and destructive ‘thing.’  It is a living form of The Absolute.

Just as it takes the perception of the body to begin to intuit Awareness or The Absolute, so it takes listening to the body, its physical sensations, and its emotions (a subset of physical sensations, entirely composed of them) to live an awakened life.  Though the body is temporal (most cells are being replaced at some regular pace), it is more reliable than the ego-mind in terms of the accuracy of its reporting.  It is also the vehicle through which The Absolute serves and knows Itself in Its many other forms (animals, plants, inanimate objects, human beings).

Waking up, doesn’t produce freedom from physical pain, disease or death.  It doesn’t automatically produce freedom from all deeply held traumas (such as in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), or from physiological reactions to physical dangers.  It doesn’t produce physical perfection, in short.  Perhaps a few mythical human beings have moved into some exalted and perfected physical state but, the vast majority of people who wake up are still subject to every human, physical limitation.  Some of the well-known masters even died of cancer.  It does, however, offer a brilliant, clear, unobstructed view of Reality….much to be appreciated and grateful for.

May all people who read this ‘wake up’ in this lifetime: it is possible!