Thursday, 24 November 2011

For Certainly Thou Art so Near the Gulf, Thou Needs Must Be Englutted.

Why are we searching and what are we searching for?  What is it that compels the will to seek something more, something better, something superior than what is right here and right now?  Perhaps it is the legacy of survival.  Perhaps we are always subconsciously striving to find the bigger prey, or the more secure shelter, or the healthiest and best-looking mate in order that the species might survive.  The same imperative may well inform the spiritual search:  the mission to improve our souls, to understand fully, and to exist completely and holistically in the consciousness that makes reality appear.  A vague unsettled-ness pervades our perception.  The feeling that something is missing, and that things are never complete and accepted just as they are may very well be a healthy urge to constantly better our circumstances, and put off the death of the body and the mind by virtue of stabler shelter, ever more protective and loving relationships, and increasingly healthy and satisfying food.  The "spiritual" goals of  losing ourselves completely in existence, and flowing unhindered with the energies of life, is reflected in our fear-driven urges and instincts.  They reflect beautifully, in duality, the oneness that they actually are. 

In losing one's self, a symptom of less fear is more compassion.  Compassion may seem to go against the grain of survival, as it shows mercy to those whose bodies and minds are not best suited for mere survival, and yet paradoxically strengthens our social bonds and thus further ensures that our species endures.  On the coat-tails of compassion comes great humility and possibly the clear perception of the size of all things.  Then we know the survival of the species is not necessarily important.  However consciousness (or awareness, or God, or Brahman, or whatever label we put on totality) manifests is perfection.  It manifests joyfully, whatever the face of it; the jumble of  horror and bliss that makes the whole cannot be molded into some logical package.  We question, and the question is its own answer.  We struggle, and the struggle is its own resolution.  We falter, and that error is Being's exquisite statement of the faultless imperfection of humanity. And we land where we began, with everything everywhere, here and now, fought with or accepted, or perhaps both at once.  The search is the destination. Here is the answer; there is no other.

The Addams Family films are right up my street, or rather down my poorly-lit alley. Interestingly, the original television series starred the great John Astin as Gomez, who is the father of non-duality writer and singer/songwriter John Astin. This clip is for all my Native American friends, all my Swedish friends and all fans of justice.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

With Truth and Plainness I do Wear Mine Bare.

Enlightenment is the realisation that there are no objects or subjects: all that seems to exist is One seamless whole. Or, it is the psychological process of stripping away the identity, achieved through diligent practice of meditation and self-enquiry, often aided by a teacher in such disciplines as Advaita Vedanta or traditional Zen Buddhism. Or, it is the epiphany that everything one has ever desired is always here, always now, because there is nothing but here and now. Or, it is not a state, not a thought, not a concept, not a description, not a word, but vibrant, present existence itself before that existence can be judged and measured by the mind. Or it is all of these things. Or it is none of these things. Or it is.

Enlightenment, some say, is only the beginning. How the comprehension and apprehension of the infinite affects the finite story that the point, if there is any point at all. The story does not exist in the infinite, therefore it is meaningless; but in the disregard for its meaning can lie the appreciation for its intrinsic value, of the story’s almost infinite designs and whimsies, tragedies and glories.

Mariana Caplan is a psychotherapist, yoga teacher and nonduality enthusiast, and a pragmatic and sensible teacher of spirituality. She has various degrees and generally strikes a nice balance between modern Western interpretation of ancient Eastern philosophy and scientific methodology, if one can call psychotherapy scientific. She recently gave an interview to Nonduality Magazine and a quote truly resonated with me:

"NDM: What about the "Stink of enlightenment?" What is this and how do you know is someone has this stink?

Mariana Caplan: I think the stink, as considered from a contemporary perspective, is that there are many sophisticated techniques for nondual insight readily available these days, and that people are continually mistaking a flash of insight, or even many flashes of such insight over a long period of time, for enlightenment. All of that is just the very beginning of the path, not the end. How do we know someone has it? That’s a delicate question. For myself, I know who I want to hang out with and when I smell the spiritual gobbly-gook that I have no interest in. I am much more interested in integration. Where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. How that moment of enlightenment was helpful in becoming more intimate with one’s partner, or child. That gets exciting."

How marvellous, this concept of integration, or “practising these principles in all our affairs” as the 12-step programmes of recovery put it. How differently it can seem to unfold: either effortlessly or with much diligent, labour-intensive conscious application.
Perhaps all such concepts are roughly equal - equally misguided, or equally valid - since talking about it is not "it" except inasmuch as talking (thinking, writing, conversing) may be what is at this particular moment. Is the point of enlightenment to make the story of life “better” - how “better” is usually judged, dictated largely by biological survival - in terms of happiness, intimacy, mental stability, and the brotherhood of humanity finally getting over itself and getting its act together? Isn’t it counter-productive to have any goal or desire, even if the desire is of the highest, best kind? Isn’t it useful to “let go” of everything you have ever considered sacrosanct in order to be entirely free, and able to see things exactly for what they are? Or is it best to entirely relax all semblance of control, and let life live you? The ego, or identity, or personality, or mind, grapples with these questions and concepts, knowing it can’t figure it out, yet powerless to stop the quest for understanding. Strangely fitting, how the ego so very much wants the thing that may very well kill it.

Enjoyment can arise with all that fruitless fun. By all means, enjoy the unfolding, and let each glimpse and flash of the infinite inform the finite actions and energies of your small, meaningless yet intrinsically significant life. Why not?


Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of those films that truly resonates on a cultural reference level, and thus reveals my apparent age. I like nearly every scene in the film but this one, near the end, where Spicoli delivers his best line and Sean Penn foreshadows his career as an actor who truly crawls into a character, is the one that evokes the most spontaneous pleasure. As far as I'm concerned, both characters display integrated enlightenment. Enjoy...