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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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Alone or All One

Alone or All One

It occurred to me today that when we human beings speak about feeling or being alone, what we mean is that our ego-minds are isolated within ourselves and they end up chattering to themselves.  No one else hears the contents of our minds, except us, or the rare person who is willing to listen to us for a little while.  Even in this latter case, the person only listens to our minds communicating via external language (talking) for a brief time.  The rest of our waking hours, our minds are alone with their own content.  If we think of ourselves as only an ego or language-generating mind, we are bound to feel alone, walled up within ourselves with this content.

What happens if we allow silence into this picture?  Then the mind feels really, terrifyingly alone, since our individual consciousness is now deaf to the mind’s chatter.

For the spiritually awake, however, the experience of Awareness is that it has no end, either spatially or temporally.  For those who don’t live in the ego-mind as the integration point of human life, there is no felt boundary in space or time.  Awareness goes on forever and is everywhere and, in some way, is also everything.  In this case All is Awareness or All is One, and so there is no “one” to be alone, there is just unending Awareness experiencing Itself in its many forms.

Sitting within the confines of the human ego-mind I am alone.  Sitting within unbounded Awareness, I am part of the One.  Yet, paradoxically, I am both ego-mind and Awareness together; a Mystery.

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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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Awareness Is

Awareness Is

The great joke about waking up is that there isn’t actually anyone to wake up and nothing for the mind or ego; and awakening or enlightenment is undefinable in verbal terms.  Awareness awakens to Itself.  Awareness is that which looks AND that which is seen.

Awareness looks out of these eyes at a sofa and pillows, registers mantras on the stereo and a clock ticking and traffic in the background.  The traffic can be heard because the window is open as It registers unseasonably warm temperatures in the northern hemisphere in February: 70F or 21.1C.  Objects are given names by the mind not by Awareness.  Awareness knows itself.

Each person, dog, squirrel, animal, tree, rock is, in Itself, the same Awareness.  Awareness exists in many forms and as the Formless.  Awareness is registering Itself ‘out there’ by every sense that aids in perception.  Awareness is in all form and beyond form: immanent and Transcendent.  It’s everything and You are IT.  Wake up beyond your mind if you can…and as simply as you’re able…it’s indescribably delicious.

Simply Awakesimply awake leopard

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When Awakening Happens

waking upWhen Awakening Happens

When Awakening happens, one realizes the big joke…there is no one to awaken, and there is only a condition of being part of a Mystery.  Words can never describe what the Mystery is.  Try as teachers have through many thousands of years, even the best teacher can only ‘fail better this time than the last’ at describing the indescribable.

What one is, is the Mystery Itself.  No one needs to mediate that for anyone else: no priest or guru needs to be an intermediary between us and the Mystery.  No one can discover it for us, though it may be helpful if they point the way.  Though ‘one’ doesn’t really exist as a discrete “I,” that Truth can only be uncovered by certain basic practices that this one, a seemingly ‘discrete person’ does, until realizing paradoxically that one was never really a discrete person at all.

These practices need no special garb, no beads, no jewelry, no crystals, no singing bowls, no banners, no decorations, no special languages and no actual money.  (Money might be an exception, if one is being helped by a mentor or teacher, and if there is no other way the teacher supports herself or himself.  The Buddha himself carried a ‘begging bowl’ and Jesus told his disciples ‘the workman is worthy of his wages’).  Truthfully, however, all the practices necessary are available in open source literature: meditation, practicing presence, seeing thoughts as inaccurate or untruthful, valuing and speaking truth to oneself and to others.

Make the practices simple and you may uncover the Truth: in your essence you are Simply Awake as The Mystery.

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The Core Discovery that Heralds Awakening

Awakening as Sunrise

Once you’ve had enough practice at meditation, staying Present, and seeing through thoughts so that you know that you are NOT thoughts, it’s time to explore what you really are.  If, in meditation, you’ve reached the ability to experience Silence and Stillness, you can ‘sit’ in that awareness for a good length of time.

If you can sit in meditation for a significant time, you can get to the heart of what awakening is about.  As you have begun experiencing your deepest identity as the Mystery or Consciousness or Awareness or Emptiness or Christ Consciousness or Holy Spirit (to name a few of the names various traditions use) see if you can explore the boundaries of that identity.

Does Awareness (to use one name for sake of brevity) have any sense of time at all?  In your inner Being is there any sense of age?  When you look for the spatial boundaries of Awareness can you feel them?  Are there any Boundaries to Awareness?  Is there some felt place where Awareness ends and no longer exists?

My own experiential answer to these questions is that the Awareness within has no sense of time so it’s Eternal or Immortal.  It has no sense of SPACE or spatial limitations and so it is unending.  Awareness can be felt to transcend time and space; you can know by your own ‘experience’ that this is the Truth.  The Awareness within you and the Awareness ‘outside of’ you is the SAME AWARENESS.  It is the Transcendent Awareness.  In the Mandukya Upanishad of the Hindu tradition the Sanskrit uses the words “Ayam Atman Brahman” to summarize the finding (loosely translated) that “this individual Awareness IS the Divine Awareness” in other words they are one and the same.  Or, for my Buddhist friends “this internal Emptiness is THE EMPTINESS” that the Buddha discovered.

Sitting deeply in meditation, you can feel, sense, and intuit the Truth which is that there is only One Awareness and you are part of it.  So is everything and everyone else.  Also, you’ll find it true that even if you lose touch with the feeling/sensing/intuiting of Awareness (usually due to some physical and emotional stress), it doesn’t go anywhere.  You are Always That Awareness, which is in a mysterious way what is registering your feeling, sensing and intuiting of Itself.  This is The Mystery that We Are.

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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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Infinite Mystery

Infinite Mystery

A recent interaction with one of my gurus (currently alive) has left ‘me’ puzzled and looking at the search for ‘awakening’ and ‘enlightenment’ in a whole different way.  I think I got addicted to the approval of teachers, so I have wandered around for the last 45 years looking for it.  Now that I’ve got it from some and don’t have it from others, I wonder what I’ve been looking for.

‘Awake’ and ‘enlightened’ are human constructs like any other human construct.  The ‘ego self’ is another such construct.  It’s true that there is something deeper than the ego self.  What it is, perhaps will always remain a Mystery.  We can try to explain it but, words ruin Mystery.

What we are and what Reality is can’t really be known in any final way.  It has to be lived from one moment to the next without clinging to any identity, even the identity of being ‘awakened or enlightened’ or ‘a teacher.’  Sometimes it takes failing to get a teacher’s approval to realize the truth that’s right in front of one’s nose all along.  No ‘I’ to get ‘awakened’ or ‘enlightened.’   No final ‘understanding’ that will be universally accepted.

Today it also seems that there is no condition called ‘awake’ or ‘enlightened’ that can be universally verified in all traditions.  “I” could chase “it” eternally and never be “done” depending on the latest teacher’s vision of ‘done.’  So “I” am giving up.  What remains, lots of tools and methods for going deeper and a desire to help others deepen.  What doesn’t remain?  Ultimate Answers or Identities.

What’s next is…a Mystery.