Friday, April 15, 2022

Twenty Points about Oneness

In 2015 and early 2016 I worked with M., a nondual teacher I met in Leo Hartong's online community. M. was not a formal teacher, but I recognized his clarity and understanding, and we worked very closely together for about six months. It was transformative on my end - both in terms of understanding what neo-advaitic folks were doing and in how their insights about oneness and experience did and did not fit into my practice of A Course in Miracles (which was basically on hold at that time). M. and I fell out of touch but his direction and kindness were essential. These notes were just a half-assed attempt to organize my thinking based on our dialogue.

1. There is nothing to do. You are perfect.

2. Truth is true.

3. Your confusion about this (#1) - your resistance, your confrontations with it, your inclination to try to change it - are how this perfection happens to arise.

4. The sense that something is wrong or not "it," includes what is right, or what is "it." How else can we know something is wrong? Or not "it?"

5. Yet what is right, or "it," may yet appear to be hidden and/or unknown.

6. This is the condition or space in which seeking begins; in which one may embark on a search for the self, for nirvana, wholeness, enlightenment, truth and so forth.

7. Seeking may take many forms - therapy, chemistry, meditation, study and so forth - but in substance it never deviates from this search for the unknown known.

8. The solution to the search - what ends it - is simple and obvious. There is nothing to find. Even simpler: there is nobody searching.

9. This apparent simplicity is the biggest obstacle of all - and the last we encounter by and large - because it is so easily overlooked, because one feels foolish at having missed it, and because it doesn't really need to be explained or accounted for.

10. Experience is undeniable. If one is writing or reading these words, one is having the experience of writing or reading these words. Stop fighting this!

11. Experience is composed of sensation - gross and subtle - and also of concepts. In concert, sensation and concept compose apparently meaningful lives.

12. "Gross" sensations are physical - sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.

13. "Subtle" sensations are the same but are produced in an apparently inward way. We think in words and images, producing sensations that are "subtle" but clear.

14. "Gross" and "subtle" are perhaps confusing; in truth, there are simply sensations.

15. Concepts like "right" or "wrong" do not have sensory qualities. They may attach to sensation - become embodied - but are not themselves sensual.

16. Concepts are ideal; not in the sense of being better or best, but in the sense of pertaining to "idea."

17. Language is conceptual (NOTE: big disagreement with M. about this, as I point out over and over that it is also sensual - sight, sound. I.e., absent sensation, what is language?) 

18. For example, one can say there is an ideal cube (m = ∛N, where "N" = "ideal cube"). Yet if one studies a six-sided die, they never "see" the actual cube. They only see a few sides of it. The concept of cube thus arises in concert with the sensation and the word used to label the experience.

19. This is true for all experience; this is what experience is.

20. Nobody has ever seen a "cat" or a "man" or "moonlight."

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Notes on Attention

Several years ago I was driving along a back road after teaching class. It was the middle of summer, closing in on sunset, and I was thinking about a relationship I had been in for about a year. It was a difficult relationship, at times inspiring, at times frightening. It was never easy to manage; a lot of time and energy was given to it.

I had a fair amount of control in the relationship - when we spoke, what we talked about, and so forth - but the deeper feelings that attended the relationship seemed to have a life of their own. I was often storm-tossed by them; they made the idea of control laughable.

Several times I terminated the relationship, but it went on internally. It continued to present itself to me. It was as if the relationship were independent of me - it didn't matter what I said or did. That was like froth on waves; the current itself, the ocean itself continued its assault on the shoreline.

When I saw this clearly - that "control" was very relative, and that the relationship was not responsive to me - I became very interested in what was going on. 

By giving attention to the feelings - by looking at them in a gentle but sustained way - I began to perceive in a practical way the boundaries or limits of the ideas that constituted both self and other.

I also began to perceive the function of attention - it was unrelated to activity. It was more a specialized aspect or condition of awareness. Attention was dual in the sense that it always had an object, whereas awareness was fluid and open, observer and observed at once.

Oddly, while I could not change feelings of guilt or shame or anger or love, I could direct attention to those feelings. And attention was neutral towards them - it looks at intense emotion or a toad and it's all the same. Attention was non-discriminatory.

This was a profound insight because it made clear that attention was not the self who was afflicted with a troubling or troublesome relationship; its nature and origins were altogether something else.

This did not end the apparently separate self, or the other with whom it was in relationship, but it did allow for the perception of that self to stop being so central. The "self" was no longer an active director or agent; it was simply another appearance within and for attention.

Thought I tend to share and think about these issues in terms of spirituality, a sort of quasi-Christianity perhaps, it not really about a belief system. Countless philosophers, theologians and scientists have arrived at a similar conclusion.

Ultimately, it is a matter of direct experience - of seeing for oneself the nature of their self, its effects, and what it all means in terms of life and reality.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Against Rehearsal

Life does not require rehearsal: it executes itself perfectly continuously, never pausing to reconsider, never begging a do-over. This does not mean that our response will always be one of pleasure or amusement or enjoyment; it might be the opposite.

But our response is just more of life happening: whatever label we assign it, it's still just life. 

This is simply a way of saying that what is is what is: it's this and nothing else. This is all there is. This this, and not any other this.

When we give attention to what unfolds or appears - to what is - it is always there. We are giving attention to what is given to us, in the sense that we do not have to invent or create or amend it. Here is the world, and every one and every thing in it, and every thought and idea about it - given, continuously, without condition or qualification.

We don't get ready for life because life is always already ready for us. Life lives us; not the other way around. When we observe what is given, we are there too - our thoughts and ideas, our feelings and memories, our habits and appetites, our fears and our hopes.

That which constitutes "us" and that which constitutes "life" are not different. It is like a single river flowing. There are all these eddies, flowing and following their flow, but they're still just the river.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Neither More than Less than Appearance

The sense that there is someone directing attention, or making choices with respect to its direction and function, is also an appearance within attention. The director - often consider the self - is simply another appearance, albeit a fairly persuasive one.

This isn't to say that this appearance is illusory or unreal, so much as it is an appearance. For example, we might say correctly that a shadow cast by the body is not the body, but it's still a real shadow. It's still there.

Appearances are just that - appearances. They have the sensory qualities they have, they are experienced as they are experienced. But they are not more than experiences - and it is THIS point that we tend to forget, and thus get ambushed by.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Losing Right and Wrong

There is the possibility of perceiving neither right nor wrong and of making that perception a practice, not as a goal which one focuses or obtaining a result, but merely as an aspect of attention.

Attention is given. It is here; it functions perfectly consistently. It is responsive, though to precisely what it is impossible to say. It cannot give attention to its source, somewhat the way that "seeing" cannot "see" itself, yet it is there. 

This leads to some fertile confusion for the begetting of mysticism, spirituality and so forth. Since we can't objectify attention, and can't be attentive to its source, we can call its source anything we like and mount a defense thereof.

But why bother? Rather than seek to name the mystery or obscure the impossibility and uncertainy with names and rules - essentially, belief systems - why not just let it be? If there is no there there, then why go there? Stay here. Here is full and rich and nurturing.

Given the presence and function of attention, can we simply rest in it? Notice it? Be attentive to it?

What happens when we become passive in this way - simply giving attention to what happens, to what shows up, where "what shows up" includes our resistance to it, our efforts to deny or reform it, and so forth?

It may be seen in that space that right and wrong are relative positions and that they arise concurrently. One or the other may appear more favorable at a given moment, but this appearance (of favorability) doesn't negate the other - indeed, it confirms it.

Thus, when we give attention to preference, preference dissolves. Or rather, it remains but as a practical tool to be sure we aren't eating vanilla ice cream when what we wanted was chocolate. But it is not longer seen or held as some ironclad truth, some universal standard by which all life is measured.

Monday, April 4, 2022

The Nature of Attention

It is the nature of attention from time to time to turn toward itself in order to discover - or recognize, perhaps - that it cannot perceive its source. Making this an actual practice - stabilizing what is learned - has been in my experience a good thing.

Friday, April 1, 2022

The Limits of Thought

It can be helpful to reach that space where one sees that knowledge in the sense of information and data is simply never going to be enough. You have to leave the library

This can be expressed in many ways but in essence it simply means that mind - the information processing and retrieval function - cannot undo itself which is to say it can never go beyond itself. It is like a computer - the computer cannot go beyond its programming. Even if the programming is designed to beget more programming, it remains within the bounds of its programming.

This is not problematic necessarily. It is simply frustrating. If you think the computer is going to suddenly get up and do the laundry, and you are waiting for it to do so, then you are gong to be frustrated. Just so with the mind. If you are waiting to learn how to be enlightened, or practice your way to enlightenment, it won't ever happen. 

Twenty Points about Oneness

In 2015 and early 2016 I worked with M., a nondual teacher I met in Leo Hartong's online community. M. was not a formal teacher, but I r...