Monday, 20 August 2012

When Such a Spacious Mirror's Set Before Him, He Needs Must See Himself.

There is talk in the "nondual community" (if that's not too ironic) of the place, philosophically and based on people's actions, of ethics and morality in the teaching of nonduality.  Much tsk-tsking and lambasting of "neo-Advaitins" and their preponderance to the pointer "there is no right or wrong".  Much made of gurus taking advantage of young, attractive and vulnerable acolytes.  The traditionalists condemn the neos for nurturing the attitude "it doesn't matter what I do...there is no me, I have no choice."  The neos, if indeed anyone dares take up that mantle these days (although there is the cool Matrix association), accuse the trads of being caught up in a story that doesn't exist.

I am always appalled when I hear stories of the fruits of such a laissez-faire attitude.  Being appalled is what comes up. There are several to many conceptual or philosophical explanations of the "no right and no wrong" pointer.  One might say that everything, absolutely everything must be let go of, including the notion of morality or right and wrong.  Such concerns, perhaps, are the last and most convincing bastion for the ego.  Certain things are just not the story is taken seriously, and the outcomes are valued, and true egolessness never occurs.  Some might quibble with the whole notion of letting go, which is an act of will by the ego...perhaps letting whatever may happen, happen, is the best approach.  Others might quibble that egolessness is not the goal...there is no goal.  Still others might find yet another facet to disagree with, just for the heck of it.

I have no answer to this debate.  There is debate, there is controversy, there is factionalism, there is right, there is wrong, there is neutrality.  Even the best and healthiest ego doesn't always know what's best for it.  The most deliberately moral person, constantly trying to do the next right thing, can get it wrong through a lack of perspective.  And surprisingly, the wrong choice can open wide garage-sized doors of opportunity.  The twists of the story are multifarious, unexpected, and perfect.  "There is no right or wrong" should probably be taken with a grain of salt, and understood in the context that in immediate presence (or whatever we're calling it today) there are no labels whatsoever, no concepts, no judgements.  And we are then free to make of the story what we will.

This is a long clip but hang in there, it's worth it.   An interesting story of right and wrong.  Is Anne Sullivan right to be so brutal with Helen?  Is this the only way to break through Helen's (somehow admirable) stubbornness?  A magnificent tour-de-force from both Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, who both won Oscars for their performances.  I can't help but wonder every time I watch this...well, to film it must have been taxing...but what about performing it on stage eight times a week?  Enjoy.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Better Far Off than Near, Be Ne'er the Near.

There seems to be some restlessness in the "nondual community", if it can even be referred to in that way, with some teachers who are insightful to a degree that does not tolerate the seeker or teacher enlightened only to the degree of glimpses.  Dig around in traditional Eastern enlightenment practices such as Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Jainism (part of Hinduism), and, of course, the darling of the Western interpretation, Advaita Vedanta (again, part of Hinduism).  One will find that various stages of enlightenment are named and described.  Arahant (Buddhism), Turiya or Nirvikalpa (Hinduism) or Reaching the Source (Zen Buddhism) are usually what is described as the "highest" level.  Both self and teacher are forgotten, not just Oneness is apprehended, but the nothinginess that is what truly is (hence the title of this blog).  Most of these traditions describe reaching the last stage as Nirvana, a concept at least a little familiar to the West. (Note that this last stage in Zen is not the final stage; after it comes Returning to the Marketplace.) The restlessness seems to be impatience with teacher/seekers at some "earlier stage" that are presenting themselves in an annoying fashion at Nonduality meetings as further along than they are, suffering from delusions of grandeur, or as egoless when ego is evident. 
I gather this is de rigueur for seekers, "jumping the gun" in this way. Some seekers apparently get a big glimpse and immediately start to teach with little foundation for it.  There's a lot of lovey-doveyness around, which is probably stage two or three of most of these traditional practices, where the illusion of subject/object has been noted, and the awakening human is infatuated with the Oneness of it all. I suppose I describe the absolute Source (or whatever) with the blog title phrase:  "nothing exists, despite appearances."  This is simply the phraseology that seemed closest at the time. It's a poor description, as they all must be, concepts never being what they describe. It all seems to unfold just as it must. This includes some teachers' impatience with the Advaita circus, and desire for only those who realise what stage they're at (thus displaying a little humility) to ask for their help.  
There is little difference, if any, between meeting the realised sage that seems to transfer some kind of energetic awakening by his mere presence (the purported goal of satsang) and a nice chat with the guy you meet by chance on a walk to the shops. There is no importance to attending a nonduality gathering and ascertaining which teachers/speakers are frauds, what stage everyone is at, whether one person is further along than someone else, who's in it for the money, who's in it for the fame, who's in it for the glory, or who's in it to try and help (most of them). It makes absolutely no difference whether there actually ARE stages of enlightenment or not.  All of these things are fascinating stories and judgements, but that's all they are.  Each and every apparent experience, or lack of experience, or shoe-tying incident, or bodily elevation to Nirvana are entirely equal, worthy, valid and ultimately non-existent, if we're operating on the premise that reality is illusory.  This includes superseding reality in some nifty beyond-beyondness way.  It includes even the lack of an experience, and complete return to the Source.  No matter how important our mind with its love of hierarchy makes it, or how hard we work for these magnificent achievements, everything that is or isn't is the same thing (or lack of "thing").  Nobody (or no non-person) is doing any "better" than anyone "else".
What I notice at these Nonduality gatherings is a lot of sufferers that need reassurance, teachers that are doing the best they can at whatever stage they may (or may not) be at, and a fair few seekers who are neglecting friends, children, long-tolerant spouses, their education, their bills, etc. for this dream of True Beyondness and the Absolute Best way to Be, or not Be. I couldn't say what stage I'm at.  Probably either completely stage one, if that, totally ego-enmeshed and deluded, or a full Bodhisattva who has been to Nirvana, done that, and chooses to remain human in order to help others.  Or something in between.  It doesn't matter one whit which one it is, or isn't.  They are all the same thing.
I keep saying "favourite movie" but this time it's really, really true.  I first saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on a long plane ride, and ended up watching it three or four times.  Brilliant premise - there exists a company that can wipe certain persons from your memory.  Clementine decides to do this with Joel, her ex-boyfriend, and Joel follows suit in a fit of pique.  However, mid-procedure,  Joel decides he doesn't want to forget Clementine and does his best to hide her memory as they are busy wiping her out.  (Spoilers follow!)  In the end, they find out about each other and the procedure, after having met again, after the memory wipes, by chance.  They know why the relationship didn't work out.  But they don't care.  They decide to go through it all again.  This is the scene where they decide to do this, and the whole film is the most glorious celebration of the value of getting things wrong.  Watch the film, if you haven't - it's also satisfying to see Jim Carrey in a non-gurning role.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

But Had a Rougher Task in Hand Than to Drive Liking to the Name of Love.

So many paths, so little "time".  What to do next?  Meditate?  Achieve stillness?  See the absolute and attain "continuous nondual perception"?  All of those simultaneously?

Nondual perception is this perception.  There is no other perception.  You are already there, you are already that, this is it, etc. etc.  Maybe the thoughts coming up and what they are saying about This is what you are mistaking for This, although those thoughts are also seamlessly This.  There will be many people who write about this stuff - me included, occasionally - who recommend methods for clearing the thoughts up, or for not believing the thoughts.  The thoughts come.  Just try to stop them.  But just as the images of the film happen on the still screen, the still screen is there no matter what nonsensical plot twists and turns unfold on it.  You don't even particularly have to tune out the movie and sense only the screen.  It's there. No matter what.  You can believe it, or not.  It's there.

Nobody believes that this ordinary, everyday perception is what Enlightened Life is.  It must be more special, more perfect, more blissful, more loving, certainly with fewer thoughts and even less judgement.  Whatever reality seems to be, and whatever thought judges and interprets it as, is yet another face of love, or of God, or of the Absolute.  It just is.  It's doesn't get any better or worse than what it is.  What it is, is miraculous, by virtue of its mere existence.  Sometimes this seems more obvious than at other times.  All times are one.  All states and interpretations are equal.  All acts, happenings, feelings, sensations and thoughts are love, playing the duality game so that they may be manifest; so that they may be something, rather than nothing.  Perhaps it is problematic to have certain expectations, and narrow definitions of what life must be like.  On the other hand, perhaps suffering due to these expectations and definitions are exactly what must be.  If it is, it must be.  Often, those who have the memory of suffering would not trade it for anything.  It seems precious, and is often seen as the story of a springboard.  Suffering, then redemption.  Hard work, then rest.  However, it doesn't matter what the story seems to be or how it is retold with hindsight.  All stories are told now. 

While waiting for enlightenment, if you don't believe enlightenment is already the case, perhaps it's a good idea to do the best possible job you can do, however that is defined at the time, with the task in hand - whatever it seems to be. If it seems to be bridging the gap between "me over here" and "you over there," don't be afraid to judge that noble.

Ah, the task in hand.  Phil Connors gets ample time to explore several tasks as he relives the same day over and over in the classic film Groundhog Day.  There are many estimates as to how long Phil relived February 2nd:  anything from 8 to 50 years, with 10,000 years mentioned on one site! A representative estimate is here.  I always thought it was interesting that Phil managed to achieve intimacy in his relationships without the usual facility of memory and continuity (on everybody else's part anyway).  Maybe it takes time to learn to play the piano, but perhaps bridging that imagined gap between people is always already done.  Working on a relationship in time is also worthy.  Both are possible.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

All Great Fears, Which Now Import Their Dangers, Would Then Be Nothing.

There is a lot of talk amongst nonduality teachers and writers about integration.  About having an "awakening experience" and then living life in accordance to this new perspective or point of view (or lack of a point of view!).  Conversely, there is much talk about there not being any goals at all, or indeed, anything at all...reality is illusory...especially the apparent moment in which some awakening experience seems to happen.  There is guru bashing, and also encouragement to find the right guru, or teacher.  There is much emphasis put upon the concept that there can be no teacher or experience that can get you any closer to what you already are.  The importance of meditation is often stressed, and firmly so:  i.e., by the latest speaker on  Buddha at the Gas Pump.  The significance of the absence of thought and thus allowing present awareness to be more obvious than usual seems to imply that a certain state of mind is necessary for "awakening" or "enlightenment" to occur.  Apparently.

The flavour of Eastern traditions - ones that minutely dissect all meditative experience and states of consciousness, and puts them in a prioritised hierarchy - suffuses the content of some speakers, teachers and writers.  This flavour hints at "glimpses" being inferior and that a more concrete, lasting state (sometimes labelled in Western scientific fashion as  "persistent nondual awareness") exists, and is desirable.  And desire!  The tangled topic of desiring enlightenment - surely a manifestation of ego identity wanting things to be just generally "better" - gets garbled with eliminating desire through some force of will or with meditation; such a lack of desire is sometimes labelled acceptance; acceptance is sometimes dismissed as an act of will by the illusory identity.  Assimilating these concepts, the conclusion might very well be:  I can't win.

It's confusing and fascinating.  Perhaps all concepts can be looked at as the interesting dualistic manifestation of human nature, wanting to understand.  They may conflict, but they arise from the same geothermal thought pool, looking and feeling different but actually all the same thing.  Such is the nature of what is seen, heard, and felt; experienced and perceived; thought and judged.  Integration of the enlightened state of mind into daily life has been the goal of mankind since self-awareness.  We try rules, we try laws, we try kindness, we try instinct.  We keep trying.  And rarely consider that this is already integration.

Self awareness gives rise to self indulgence with this clip.  This is my favourite comic scene from my favourite comic performance from my favourite comedic actress, the great Dyan Cannon.  Heaven Can Wait is showing occasionally on one of the Sky film channels and the Tivo is set to catch it next time around...can't wait to share this one with the kids.  Enjoy - hysteria arises in awareness, and arises with superb comic timing.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Wherein I am False I am Honest; Not True, to Be True.

We are all seeking, and there is nothing wrong with that.  The emptiness, the darkness, the sense of being unfulfilled - there is nothing wrong with these plights.  Even in an end to seeking there arises many of the old conditioned responses, but perhaps these are not so bothersome.  It wouldn't matter if they were.  It doesn't matter if they are.

There are many suggested paths, some suggested more stridently than others, and some requiring more stringent actions.  Truth is plain at source, and is everything everywhere, but truth is malleable when concerned with ideas and concepts, even the most scientific ones.  Just pat your mind on its head and love its childlike need to have everything explained in an organised, sensible fashion...then just get on with it.  What ever It Is.

There is no one path.  (No, not even the Pathless Path. ) There is no ideal state of being other than what apparently is here and now.  There is no perfect story, no way out, no golden rules, no absolute truths, no perfect hints and no sure-fire tips on how to Live Your Life.  There is no perfect guru and no true religion.  There is just This, and what is made of it by Mind is neither here nor there.  Just enjoy it.  Be it, live it.  Try to fix it, or don't.  Improve the story, or let it organically unfold.  Try not to run away from it...but even running away is the perfect action, if that is what seems to be happening.  If you get it wrong, let me know.

I have been Shanghaied into watching every single episode of all eight seasons of Entourage by my Entourage-mad husband and son.  The joy of it is the work of Jeremy Piven, who plays Ari Gold, the Best Agent in Hollywood.  He is simply one of the best comedic actors working and I am a shamelessly big fan.  See his earlier work as the gay Versace salesman in Rush Hour 2 for a flavour of his range.  In this clip's rant he may just be a hair from "getting it wrong" when he's saying what he'd like to do to Terrence and Lloyd!  Enjoy.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

I Am Here Already, Sir.

There doesn't need to be a subtle shift in perception for enlightenment; there doesn't need to be any change at all. Change is impossible; whatever its face, eternity is always this. Enlightenment - awakening - is no more nor less than this, whether it's before thought judges it or not; the judgmental thought is this, too. The endless moment is this, always this, no matter what the mind seems to be making of it. Awakening is ordinary, mundane existence, just as it's always been, but very few minds will believe this.

There doesn't need to be a deepening of present awareness. There doesn't need to be more and more alpha waves, out-of body experiences, or the becoming of bliss and love itself. It can be about loving all, or falling in love with everybody, or frankly remaining a little wary. Although these apparent experiences may, indeed, occur, they are no less or no more this than anything else. This is all experience. Just as it always has been, is, and will be.

There is no correct method. All methods are correct. Some methods are correct in that they teach us of their inappropriateness, or untruthfulness. Life itself, exactly as presented, is always the best spiritual practice. However the story seems to unravel is unimportant. Once the pointlessness of life's story is apprehended, perhaps life's story can finally be revelled in. Perhaps realising that nothing matters in and of itself makes everything precious, in and of itself. Perhaps the loving feelings in the satsang or the therapy spread to the important relationships already a part of the story: spouse, children, girlfriend, boyfriend, mother, father, friends. Perhaps without the fear of certain dreaded outcomes, intimacy becomes natural. But even the faltering, human attempts at union with others (who are not truly other) is also beauty manifest. The muddling attempts are This; the blissful, honest communion is This; there is no escaping This. You are This.

OK, I've been looking for a decent embeddable clip of this scene for a couple of could be better, but it'll have to do - apologies for the ads. WHY do the Coen brothers continue to make fabulous movies, when M. Night Shyamalan seems to have gone completely off the rails? It's just not fair. There is no need for me to add to the accolades The Big Lebowski has garnered over the years, so I'll just say that this scene is the best crafted character introduction I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing: the socks...the nail...the purple uniform...the goatee...the hairnet...the tongue! Jesus is definitely already here, and in a big way. Enjoy.