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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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Before Enlightenment I Attended to Fussy Little Details….After Enlightenment I Attended to Fussy Little Details

9/14/2018

Before Enlightenment I Attended to Fussy Little Details….After Enlightenment I Attended to Fussy Little Details

Another of the many myths of Enlightenment, is that somehow the body-mind lives in a state of constant flow after Awareness Awakens to Itself, and life is without: challenges, effort, and obstruction.  While this may be true on some days, like weekends without any scheduled events, in general it is not true.  It may have been true of some earlier teachers who lived in ashrams, and sat on cushions all day in meditation, or before a crowd of followers, basking in their adulation.  It’s not true for this guy over here: he still has to earn his daily bread, read his email, and run his financial life.

Awakening doesn’t give us a “get out of jail free” card, if anyone still remembers the old game called Monopoly.  We don’t somehow ‘wake up’ and then magically disappear out of these bodies into some new dimension of reality where the principles of gravity, entropy, disease, aging, and death no longer apply.  We also don’t get out of a world full of people endlessly pestering us to get “located on Google maps” or “get a great network of referrals from the Better Business Bureau” or whomever is crowding our phones, emails and airways with things we “can’t afford not to buy.”  The awake are still subject to all the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and all the immoral, unethical, untruthful, sociopathic scoundrels who ply the world or both sides of the political aisles of government looking for “suckers.”

When this body-mind, sometimes called “I” or “me” gets overwhelmed with the sheer level of detail required to live a 21st century “modern life,” the mind sometimes wonders what good ‘waking up’ did?  Oh, THAT!

What I don’t have to do is identify as this screaming, gibbering, chattering, little voice in my head that calls itself “I, me, my, mine, etc.”  I don’t have to listen to my mind spit out the lies it has been taught about Reality.  I don’t have to believe the news reports that are mere opinion, speculation or interpretation.  I don’t have to fear the future, as much as all the advertisers in the world want me too, because fear sells products and services.  Attention can fall back into Pure Awareness Itself, the peace that passes understanding.

When the agitation of life is overwhelming, I merely sit my attention down into that Pure Awareness and experience that peace.  That was worth the practice, learning, effort and attention of awakening.

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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 after Awakening: Deconstructing So-Called ‘Truths’

Integration After Awakening: Deconstructing so-called ‘Truths.’

Whathammer-sledgehammer-mallet-tool happens to you when it dawns on you that what you are is more than your mind and its ideas of itself?  When you discover the Awareness or Consciousness that you are, how does it change the way you live?

Since thoughts aren’t the interpreters of reality, they will become less important to you.  It could also become more obvious to you that they’re false.  Either they’re false because they’re only verbal representations of Reality, or they’re false because the thought itself is a lie, if examined closely.  Until the moment when you experience that Awareness is what you are, thoughts have been primary in their importance.  They define you, others, the world, and Reality.  Now they become open to testing and challenging.

“The stock market is going to crash today.”  There’s one thought that some might have been thinking just yesterday, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost over 400 points.  With that thought, there will likely have been a jolt of adrenaline and a very unpleasant bodily response.  However, was this thought really true?  No, the market’s going up right now, one day later.

“This coffee is too bitter” is a thought I just had drinking the decaf by my side while writing this post.  Okay but, what does ‘too bitter’ mean?  Isn’t it just a subjective opinion, rather than a truth that I need to defend?  Is the thought something that needs defending? No.

“I’m a nice guy” is another thought, and this time it’s a thought about my supposed fixed ‘self.’  However, it’s not always true, so why would I want to defend the thought when someone challenges it or thinks I’ve treated them badly?  Wouldn’t it be better to consider it just a description of a temporary set of behaviors, rather than the ‘truth’ about ‘me’?

Even the thought ‘human civilizations are only 10,000 years old and before that time, we were all hunter-gatherers’ which has been the basic premise of modern archeology and anthropology has already been proven false by the discovery of relics that date back hundreds of thousands of years.  So, is this academic thought absolutely true? No!

Once you understand that Awareness is the underlying truth of what you are, all other thought-based truths can be deconstructed.  In the end, we give up certainty about nearly everything…and it’s part of the deconstruction and dissolution of our false sense of self and everything else, that is the trajectory of the Enlightenment journey.

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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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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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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.