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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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MYSTERY Emerging….

Mystery EmergingMystery Emerging

When concepts of “I” and “awake” and “enlightened” die, what happens next?  In my last blog I said ‘Mystery’ is next.  Mystery looks like a release of deeply held muscle tension.  Hearing from a long-ago dharma buddy whose wife read my blog somewhere on Facebook.  An offer to host an internet radio show for veterans, and a whole week of almost no work….like a vacation without the planning.

This Being, or whatever one wants to call it, doesn’t miss the “I” and it doesn’t miss “awake” or “enlightened.”  The bodymind is more relaxed than it’s been in its entire lifetime.  The spiritual/therapy group that I led last night was a ‘hoot’ as we say.  (For those unfamiliar with American slang, we had a lot of fun and did a lot of laughing.)  Lunch was delicious.

What’s next, after this blog is finished, is unknown.  Not ‘good’ and not ‘bad’ just ‘unknown.’  There are some lightly held ‘preferences’ including the wish to work with all kinds of people from all over the world.  How will that ever happen?  No idea.  Also, no idea if The Absolute cares about these particular ideas.  “Doubtful It does” you say?  “I” don’t know.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s episode of “Big Mystery Living as (little) mystery.”  It promises to be as unexpected as today’s.

Have fun being the little mystery part of the Big Mystery that you are!

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The Best Things in Life ARE Free

The Best Things in Life ARE Free

In the Northern Hemisphere where I live, the daylight is waning and the darkness is waxing.  Winter Solstice is next Thursday, so the days are very short.  Nonetheless, I am noticing a few of the many free blessings of being alive:

  • Feeling the cold on my face, helping me awaken when drowsy or sleepy,
  • A crisp walk on a cold day with my dog Maya
  • being able to sleep at night,
  • the overall general health of this body though it is nearly 63 years old
  • new friendships and old ones
  • the sunshine no matter how brief in the winter
  • the entertaining play of chickens in the backyard
  • the trees, bushes, shrubs and herbs, all asleep for the winter (and so not needing to be tended!)
  • love in its many forms
  • the greeting of my wonderful spouse when I return after a long day
  • the comfort of sitting after standing too long
  • rest after work
  • air to breathe and water to drink.

In the life that I used to live, when the ‘false self’ was in charge, I was never content with myself, others, or the world, let alone grateful.  As that identity has died and the new one, Awareness Itself, has emerged, gratitude is also emerging for life’s many gifts.  See if you, too, can feel and be grateful for some of the many gifts life has freely given you.  You might even reply to this post with a few things that you are grateful for today, things that came to you without paying money for them.

Perhaps you too will come to understand that the greatest free gift you have is your true identity as Awareness Itself.

May all who read this awaken in this lifetime: it is possible!

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Worthy or Unworthy?

Worthy or Unworthy?

Whether I’m working with clients coming to me for psychological help, spiritual help or both, I notice a consistent pattern: everyone feels and believes themselves to be essentially unworthy.  On an ego level this is usually because they’ve started to notice themselves and feel inferior in comparison to others, or because someone in authority over them keeps telling them they’re bad or wrong or awful or ugly or stupid or immoral or _______________________________  (fill in the blank with almost any negative quality).

Since I often work with people who’ve been severely traumatized (due to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and/or some type of neglect), the emotional and verbal degradation is often accompanied by actual injury to the body.  When injury is added to insult, the client feels especially unworthy, often to the point of wanting to die by suicide.

On a psychological level, I work with such clients by demonstrating that it is the abuser who is primarily and essentially bad, and wrong, not the abused.  I also help them to accurately assess their attributes during therapy, to notice their strengths, strengthen areas in which they need improvement, and learn from their mistakes.

However, if people are stable enough to go deeper, we look at what is considered the spiritual dimension. In that dimension, my observation is that this prevalent feeling of unworthiness is because everyone knows that their ‘individual self’ is made up of the chattering thoughts in their heads and the emotions that those thoughts produce.  Somewhere within our body-mind we are aware that there is no substance to this ‘individual self’ since it ceases to exist whenever we stop thinking (or when others stop talking or writing about us or to us).  Therefore, we ‘know’ it’s insubstantial nature, and so are always feeling it’s unworthiness as a smokescreen for the real problem:  the ‘individual self’ doesn’t exist as anything but a mirage.  If that is so, we don’t KNOW what we are without further inquiry, but we know we’re not the ‘individual self.’

Even if people can psychologically understand that they are essentially neither worthy nor unworthy, just existing (I AM) as a neutral entity that can think, say, or do ‘good’ or ‘bad’ things, there is still an underlying question.  Is there a ‘self’ that needs to be seen as ‘worthy’ or ‘neutral’ or ‘unworthy?’  Or, is it truer to say there is no individual self at all?  This question “what is the ‘me’?” is the essential question in self-inquiry.

May all beings who read this awaken in this lifetime: it is possible!

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Using Intuition to Wake Up

Using Intuition to Wake Up

When the logical, language-generating mind is ‘foggy’ as mine has been this last week or so, I like to change the focus of attention to my intuition.  Intuition is another way of ‘knowing’ or ‘learning something’ that seems to bypass the normal channels of words and logical thinking.  It’s easier to access, the more you are willing to drop the “story of me” which could also be described as ‘the thought-feeling complex that makes up the false self.’

The Merriam-Wesbster Dictionary definition of intuition is: “(1) quick and ready insight or (2) (a) immediate apprehension or cognition, (b) knowledge or conviction gained by intuition, (c) the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.”  This useful definition leads you to intuition’s use as an important spiritual tool.

Intuition is most easily accessed for beginners, when you sit in meditation or practice being Present in this moment.  As attention is moved away from language to the breath or a mantra, it’s possible to notice certain things, especially with practice.  This ‘noticing’ is done by using physical sensations and the resulting intuitions, to give us a felt sense of What Is.

For instance, in meditation, or even when practicing Presence, have you ever attempted to find the spatial boundaries of Awareness?  Have you ever noticed that your sense of Time seems to change in meditation?  Is Awareness limited by Time?  Can you use your intuition to ‘drop into’ the ‘immensity’ of Awareness?  Can you use intuition to feel or sense that what is actually looking through your eyes is not the ‘false self’ that chatters in your head?  These are some very good uses of intuition and can be quite helpful in helping you to awaken from the slumber of the false self.  May all beings who read this awaken in this lifetime: it is possible!

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Words, Words, Words…

This “Enlightenment Now” Blog is the first time that I’ve attempted to do a weblog on a regular basis, and is the most writing that I’ve done, since writing a book in the 2000s.  Though the blog is posted here, I also post it on other Facebook pages and groups.  The purpose is to learn how to communicate better with people as a teacher of spiritual awakening and enlightenment.

Sometimes, I’ve had some difficult comments to deal with, as a result of posting.  People accuse me of acting ‘better than’ others because I claim to be Awake, and say that I look down on others who don’t know they are That.  Other people repeatedly accuse me of not writing in the appropriate, proper, Non-Dual language.  Others are offended that I am not recognizing their level of enlightenment because my words are for beginners and I’m assuming they are beginners.  (How dare I assume they are beginners?)

I feel their hurt, behind their anger.  I also wonder at the hurt and the arguments over words.  I’m not Non-Dual and Absolutist enough in my language for some.  However, how does one communicate with a person from the Absolute point of view, when from the Absolute point of view nobody exists at all except Consciousness Itself?  Communication is impossible: there is no speaker and no listener.  So, how could I hope to speak a novice’s language and help a novice uncover his or her True Nature from an Absolutist point of view? I cannot. I will fail, unless I adopt the dualistic view and treat this novice as an individual, three-dimensional entity.  Also, what’s the point of communicating with a novice if they already know everything about Who They Are?  There isn’t any.  However, ask any novice if they know who they are and see what they say?  Awakening isn’t a given, it is arrived at by uncovering the truth, and that is a process that takes practice and effort (from the relative dualistic viewpoint).  Do you forget all of your efforts to understand Awakening now that you stand in the Absolute point of view?  Do you forget where you came from?  Remember, someone reached out to you, too, didn’t they?

In the case of a person who is offended that I dare offer simple instructions or views about Awakening or Enlightenment to people on a FB Group Page, I have a question.  How would I know the level of understanding of every reader who reads the page?  Also, if Awakening and Enlightenment is the end of ego, then why is a person offended by my words?  Isn’t that ego speaking? Isn’t ego saying, ‘Oh, that man, he doesn’t see how very advanced ‘my’ understanding is, he’s talking down to ‘me’?  Who is the ‘me’ who is offended?  Also, why make the untested assumption that everyone who reads a post is already Awake?

Some people object that I am ‘looking down on’ those who have yet to Awaken to their True Nature, as if by not calling them Awake, I am making the assumption that they are inferior to ‘me.’  I don’t make that assumption because I know that we are all Awareness Itself.  However, if we are interested in truth, why would a reader make an untested assumption about me as a writer? Is that inquiry into the Truth or untested assumption?

It’s puzzling how anybody Awakens to their True Nature unless they get some help to uncover that Nature.  If the novice feels temporarily inferior and hurt because someone calls himself Awake and claims that others may not be, that is an ego idea (inferior/superior are both ego constructs) and ego/thought-generated feeling that will pass as they understand their True Nature as beyond ego.

It is difficult to make any statement about Awareness, because Awareness precedes all statements and all words.  But, “fools rush in where angels dare to tread,” and all of us who attempt to teach are that kind of ‘fool’ and ‘fail often.’  We can all argue about words endlessly but, words will never accurately describe Awareness. I don’t pretend to be a perfect speaker, teacher, or writer about ordinary things.  Trying to speak about Enlightenment to the novice is like trying to describe water to someone who never drank it.  I can speak in analogies and parables…individuals must experience Awareness themselves to know they are That.  I only hope that those who read this blog and these posts, will check their own assumptions about what is being written, and ask questions if they don’t understand something in the writing.  I do answer all the questions I can, as time allows.  I will be as tender as possible in replying.

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Don’t Pretend to Know What the Future Holds or How You’ll React to It

This is a piece written from the Relative/Dualistic Side of Life.  This morning I was driving my spouse to a 7:15am appointment for a routine test at a nearby hospital.  It was rather an unusual morning for me, since I don’t start work until 11AM and generally work until 7 or 8PM as a psychologist.  About one-quarter mile from our driveway, I ran into a deer that leaped out of a field in the morning mist.  The deer’s impact smashed my front fender and she dashed off with an injured right hip, perhaps dying somewhere nearby in the woods, perhaps not, I don’t know.

Neither of us humans were hurt, and the air bags in the car didn’t inflate, which can cause additional injuries when and if they do.  We got out of the car to check that it was still mobile (it was) and to see about the damage.  The deer was long gone.

Once we got to the hospital, I had a long wait, and was then able to feel what had happened.  I was in a bit of shock, ice cold hands, and internally shaken.  I was sad for the deer mostly.  Chagrinned that I hadn’t had an accident in 45 years and had one this morning but, only for a moment.  I was a bit put out about the car needing to be repaired, a bit more so finding out that the expensive insurance we carry had a $1,000 deductible and that I will have to pay that towards the repairs.

The surprise was that I never felt a dramatic response to what happened.  My emotional system didn’t  make a ‘big deal’ about it, I didn’t feel victimized, and I wasn’t really frightened.  I was sad that a living creature was hurt and then went on into the day.  I drove my spouse home, packed a meal for my long work day (7 clients today) and went to work.

If my mind had lingering doubts about there being no impact from Awakening, they were dealt quite a blow this morning.  My whole nervous system is responding differently.  Without the mind’s made up stories of ‘what terrible thing might have happened’ I was calm, and sad but, not ‘freaking out’ or ‘making a story out of being a victim’ (since the deer was, after all, the victim).  Once again, Awakening proves to be a life-changing, body-changing, nervous-system-changing process.

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Believe NOTHING: Validate Everything for Yourself by Your Own Experience

Walking the dog this morning, I was remembering a conversation I had with a client this week about belief and faith.  Awakening or Enlightenment is NOT a faith-based activity.  You do not have to believe the arcane religious dogmas or doctrines of any faith in order to wake up.

In fact, quite the opposite.  You have to test everything for yourself to determine if it’s actually true or not.  If, in an earlier article this week, I tell you that you can awaken with three essential practices: meditation, practicing presence, and thought-busting….why would you believe my word?  You need to test out what I, or anyone says, to see if it’s actually true or false.

Many of the world’s current religions are closed systems that are self-referential.  In other words, they tell you to believe what they tell you because they say it’s true!  You’re not allowed to question the basis for that truth.  You’re just told that you ‘haven’t believed strongly enough’  if you’re having doubts.  You’re also told to ignore the obvious inconsistencies, hypocrisies, and blatant contradictions in the sources of the faith or its followers.  Your rational mind isn’t allowed to question the sources of doctrine or dogma, it’s only allowed to ask for clarification on the content of the doctrine or dogma.

You don’t have a rational mind so that you can ignore it.  You have it because if you allow your mind to ask the single question ‘is this really true?’ it will free you from the oppression of everyone else trying to control you with their interpretations of reality.  Usually they want you to give them attention or money or both.  While it might be helpful to have a guide to help you awaken, the role of guide is not permanent: you must eventually be your own guide.

Our experience of being Awake, may be guided by a history of others who were able to awaken from delusion.  However, it doesn’t need to be guided by their rituals, or their preferred way of doing things.  We also don’t have to believe their books, just because they tell us they are holy books.  Awakening will happen when we go deeper than thought, even religious thought; not when we get inundated or lost in thought.  Our experience of The Absolute/The Divine/God or even if we call it Emptiness, is not mediated by words, it is a direct experience.  Aren’t your most peaceful moments of communion with whatever you call The Absolute actually wordless?

But, don’t believe me: test it out for yourself!

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Enlightenment Now: Three Essential Practices to Uncover Your True Nature

In my many years of spiritual practices, and the study of various religious and spiritual traditions, I find myself offering three basic practices to those who come to me for psychological or spiritual guidance:

  • Meditation
  • Practicing Presence (meditation in the midst of everyday life and activity)
  • Thought-busting (challenging all thoughts for truthfulness)

There are so many other practices and experiences and accessories that we could have in our possession to make us look spiritual or feel spiritual but, these are all unnecessary.  I don’t even consider one particular guru, or only one particular path to be important or ‘the way.’  People wake up using the resources of many gurus and many paths.

Bottom line: the simpler the practice, the more widely you can apply it to your life, and the more impact it has.  Complicated things might be helpful for a while but, you will forget them during stressful times and then they will be useless.

Let’s look at each of the three practices that I’ve mentioned above briefly.  Much more can be said about each practice but, this post serves as an introduction.

To begin with we have meditation.  Meditation is deceptively easy: it is simply the act of moving your attention from your thoughts and emotions, and directing it to the physical sensations of breathing (usually focusing on the sensation of breath in the nostrils).  I say it’s deceptively easy, because that seems like a simple task to do.  However, the body-mind’s attention is addicted to listening to the thought-generating capacity of the mind all the time.  To break the fixation of attention on thought takes a tremendously strong intention.  However, it is worth it.  Once you have a continuing experience of a level of awareness or consciousness deeper than your own thought-feeling processes, your whole view of yourself, the world, and life will change.   For a breathtakingly excellent book on how to meditate, I recommend a book by Culadasa (also known as John Yates, PhD,) The Mind Illuminated.  I’ve been meditating for nearly 30 years and this is the clearest set of instructions I’ve ever read.

Practicing Presence, or Staying Present, is another essential practice.  It is essentially a form of meditation in which you are standing up, walking around, and doing things.  However, while in the midst of all of this activity, your attention is NOT focused on thought, it’s focused on the simple perceptions of your five senses: smelling, tasting, touching, hearing and seeing.  When in conversation with another person, staying Present means simply listening to the other person with total attention, rather than paying attention to your own thoughts OR trying to formulate a response to their comment before they’ve finished making it!

Thought-Busting is my name for the process of challenging the truthfulness of your own thoughts.  In psychology, this is sometimes referred to (in a more complex form) as ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.’  Most of us never learn that our thoughts are inaccurate, or just plain lies.  We accept that whatever thought arises in our mind is true!  Upon a simple examination, we find this is not the case.  First, all thoughts are merely mental representations of reality, not reality itself.  Second, the content of most thoughts is false.  If you have a thought about the future, it’s not the absolute truth, and therefore it’s false.  How could you possibly know what’s going to happen in the future?  Thoughts about what other people are saying, thinking, or doing when they’re not in your presence, speaking to you, are also false: they are simply your fantasy about the other person.  Even most thoughts about yourself are false.  In coming to the ground of Being, we need to eliminate every falsehood from our experience.  While we can’t stop the mind from generating whatever thoughts it does, we CAN STOP LISTENING TO THEM and treating them as if they’re true.  If your thoughts aren’t absolutely true, then they are lies; plain and simple.

I have made a lifetime spiritual practice out of these three varieties of practice.  I highly recommend them to you.  You can awaken to your True Nature as the Absolute with only these practices, plus a little guidance.  Try them for yourself and find out if what I’m writing is true or false!

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Enlightenment Now: I Don’t Know

One of my favorite personal expressions is “I don’t know.”  If someone asks me ‘is that really true?’ about almost anything, I will say ‘I don’t know.’

There is wisdom in ‘not knowing.’  In reality, what humans consider ‘knowledge’ is usually expressed in words.  Words are a poor approximation of reality.

If I ask myself what someone is saying, thinking or doing right now, I have to answer ‘truthfully, I don’t know, unless they are with me in the same shared space, and they are telling me what they’re saying or thinking, or I’m watching what they’re doing.’  I might have some idea of what someone might be doing but, I don’t actually know.

If I read yet another speculative opinion piece in the information/entertainment (infotainment) industry about the future, I can be deluded into thinking the person who’s writing knows what’s going to happen.  The real answer is ‘they don’t know, and neither do I.’  No one is able to accurately predict the future because of literally quadrillions of factors that go into creating every moment.  Attempting future prediction is futile.

Even if I ask myself ‘is this true about me?’ I am likely to have to inquire deeply to find out.  Do I have this quality (for instance sloth or laziness) and not its opposite (energy or industry)?  Do I look the same as I did yesterday?  Do I think, speak and act the same way I did 40 years ago?  Is there actually any continuity to the ‘ego self?’  No, there isn’t.  So, anything I can even say about myself may likely be false.

Religion used to speak only in certainties: this is true and this is false.  However, it’s easy to question the foundations of any religion and find direct contradictions in doctrines and practice.  Science speaks in certainties now, as if it were the New Religion of the world; however, it’s theories are theories and change as new discoveries are made.  Is the anthropological record true? No, it is only an approximation of what might have happened.  Is the archeological record true? No, again it is only an approximation.  While scientists can be quite as close-minded and theory-bound as religious conformists, neither group is really speaking Absolute Truth.  100 years from now, all such truths will have changed again, sometimes many times.  (If you doubt this, look at the science of nutrition and diets!)

There are as many arguments about what’s true in religion as there are about what’s true in science.  We go to war, literally, over what’s true in religion.  We go to war, figuratively, over what’s true in science.  Other than an exercise in ego-supremacy, there is no purpose to these arguments.  Even inventions can be created without claiming the ‘supreme truth’ of the theory behind the invention.

Finally, when it comes down to the realms of knowledge, all I can really say is ‘I don’t know what’s true.’  I can talk as if I do but, I’m lying to myself and others.  Thus far, the only truths that I’ve been able to really know are ‘I Am’ and ‘perceiving happens.’