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Friday, May 1, 2015

So You Think You're The Thinker... I Think Not!

Most of us have heard the old adage you are what you eat  It's usually meant to encourage us to make more nutritious choices when it comes to the food we consume. Most people accept this as a true statement, but even that is not enough to make some people change the way they eat.  For others, it's a paradigm shift leading to a lifestyle change for themselves and oftentimes for their families as well..

I bring this up to set the stage for a different adage, perhaps even a paradigm-shifting one. Try this one on:

"You are what you think".

Notice that I did not say "You are what you think you are."  I'm not trying to teach any character building or self-improvement theories, there are plenty of books written on that topic that can show you how your thoughts can and do influence your behavior. What I mean by "you are what you think" has to be seen from the standpoint of the Absolute, or non-dual view of reality, specifically from what is called the Triad of Experience.

In the case of the experience of thinking, the Triad would consist of: the thinker, the action of thinking, and the thought. In the Triad, the thinker and the thought arise simultaneously and are linked inescapably within the experience of thinking. Remove the thinker, and there is no thought, nor any thinking. Remove the thought, and there is no thinker, nor again any thinking. Remove thinking, and there is neither thinker nor thought. There can be no separate thinker nor separate thought, only the unitive wholeness of the experience of thinking. The same is true for all of the other senses: seer/seeing/seen, taster/ tasting/ tasted etc. This is the only way we as sentient beings experience anything.

Let me try and illustrate this by using a simple sentence, then removing various parts of speech.

 I am thinking of  chocolate cake.  Let's deconstruct the sentence by leaving out each of the three elements one at a time: 1.--- thinking of  chocolate cake. (who is?) 2.--- I am  ...of chocolate cake (doing .what?). 3. I am thinking of--- (what?) Each of the examples in itself is incomplete and makes no sense when any of the other elements are missing. Do you see that each element is dependent on the other two being present? Do you see that the elements must arise simultaneously for there to be something called thinking?

Earlier I said that this must be seen from the standpoint of the Absolute, or non-dual view of reality. In non-dual reality there are not two things opposing or contrasting each other, no comparative scale, no up opposing down, no white in contrast to black, no inside separate from outside. No thinker separate from what is thought. There is only one unified reality illumined and permeated  by the Absolute to such a degree that it can be said that the Absolute is all there is.

The thinker is the Absolute, the thought is the Absolute, and in the experience of thinking, you are what you think. 

Peace Be With You,


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dancing With Oneness

I was sitting on my porch the other day, drinking coffee and writing in my note book. A gust of wind came by and I noticed my neighbor's flag dancing in the breeze. It fluttered briskly, and as the gust faded so did the flag, until it simply hung in the stillness waiting for the next invitation to dance. There was never any question as to who was leading. The wind led and the flag followed in perfect sync, in touch with every nuance of the gentle breeze.

As I contemplated what I was seeing, I realized I was watching a perfect example of acceptance  and surrender. It is the nature of the flag to hang  in perfect stillness awaiting the arrival of the wind to give it direction and life. The flag never moves of its own volition, nor does it refuse to move in the presence of the wind, nor does it seek to modify any condition the wind may dictate. It never blows south when the wind is blowing north. It never flutters slowly when the wind is blowing briskly. The wind leads, the flag follows. No conflict arises.

How different people are from flags.The vast majority of people don't surrender to the way the winds of life blow. People want to manipulate life. When the winds of life blow favorably, we are happy to dance. When the winds shift unfavorably, we stop dancing and do all in our power to change its direction back to the way we think it should be; conceding neither acceptance, nor surrender. Consequently, conflict arises.

The nature of the conflict lies in the mistaken belief that reality can't possibly be the way it is, and that I have a right to demand that it be different. My happiness is what matters. Reality must conform to my desires. "I want this, I don't want that. Change it. Make it go away. This makes me happy, this does not." Reality doesn't care whether you are happy or not; it simply is as it is.

Arriving at a place where you are willing to consider this, often leads to a place where you are willing to consider other questions regarding  the nature of reality. Most importantly is the question: who or what am I at my deepest reality, what is my true nature?

It is not my intention to go into these questions in this post, but here is a hint. The Wisdom Traditions all point to a central fact that our true nature is one with the nature of all things.We are all aspects of the One...The Absolute, Consciousness, Brahman, etc. Realizing our true nature allows us to be like the flag. We rest in the stillness that is the One, ready to dance with Oneness and as Oneness.

Peace be with you,


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It's Not Up To Me

Jesus taught a parable about a sower  who went out one day to sow. Though it doesn't specify how he did this, it would be safe to assume that he  grabbed a handful of seed and scattered it into the air, letting gravity and wind currents decide where the seed would land. According to the parable, not all of it fell on good soil, not all of it would sprout in the coming season. Some seed was quickly eaten by the birds. Some fell on rocky soil; it sprang up just fine, but had no depth to its roots and withered away in the sun. Some fell among weeds and was soon choked out. Finally, some fell on good soil and produced an abundant harvest in due season. Jesus was teaching his disciples through this parable that not all who heard his message would understand it and take it to heart

 I'll leave it there. It's a beautiful parable, one of my favorites, but my intention is not to discuss the meaning of the parable, as deeply insightful as it is. What I would like to discuss is the role of the sower.  

 It would seem that if you broadcast seed into the air, losing some seed to the whims of nature is to be expected, and is just the cost of doing business. What the sower knew, and what the parable doesn't say, is that he knew he was not responsible for results. He sowed his seed with the expectation of a successful harvest, what sower doesn't. But he understood his job was to sow the seed; whether or not it sprouted was completely in the hands of god/nature. The sower had no control over the elements he could only sow his seed the best way he knew how. If some sprouted, then that was a blessing; but God or Nature had the final say.

So what does all this have to do with non-duality...only this. I am a sower. My sowing is the writing of this simple blog. If someone responds positively to the message, if something sticks in their mind, that's fine. If not, that's fine too. I'm not in charge of results.  The seed I sow is the seed of awakening, the seed that ends suffering and brings freedom.When the seed sprouts in the cultivated mind of a person who is of "good soil" their understanding of reality is changed forever. Some call it awakening, some call it enlightenment or liberation.What it is called is not important. What is important is that the veil of ignorance, of who and what we truly are is ripped away. In its place is the transforming knowledge ---for only knowledge can destroy ignorance---that we are whole and complete, eternal aspects of the One, and always have been.

He who has ears, let him hear  Mk 4:9

Peace be with you,


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dualistic Parable of The Tilted Table

Awareness Has No Favorites

Two superstitious women sat at a table to have coffee and cookies, and to chat about their day and their children. Immediately the women realized that the table was tilted toward one, and away from the other. Each tried to act interested in what the other was saying, and smile at the appropriate time, but the conversation soon died and the smiles along with it.

Both women began to consider her place at the table, and what this meant. One woman looked at the table and said to herself,  "This table tilts away from me. Surely this means all my good luck will leave me, and run to her. If only I had known in which direction the table was tilted I would have chosen the other seat, and her good fortune would have run to me. This will never do." Unable to bear the thought any longer she made an excuse, and got up to leave the table.

The woman across from her had also been considering the table and said  to herself, "This table tilts toward me. Surely this means that all her bad luck will leave her and run toward me. If only I had known in which direction the table was tilted I would have chosen the other seat, and my bad fortune would have run to her. This will never do." Unable to bear the thought any longer she also made an excuse and got up to leave the table.

The next time they met for cookies and coffee they sat at the opposite side of the table from their last meeting.The smiles and conversation went on and on, each woman satisfied with her place at the table.

The table didn't care! Neither did the Universe!

Peace be with you,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Fourth of July Advaitamin

The Fourth of July is nearly here. American Independence Day- when patriotism will be in full bloom and all across America there will be backyard cook outs in the afternoon and fireworks when it gets dark. Professional and amateur fireworks displays can be heard for miles in every direction. Everybody likes a good fireworks show and every kid likes to light the fuse on their favorite ones. Hand-held sparklers are, by far, the all time favorite of young American children.

Let me give you a little scenario of one night in front of our house on a Fourth of July night long ago. My best friend Frankie and I were holding sparklers and waving them around in the air, making patterns and light trails. Just before the sparklers went out, we threw them as high as we could into the air to make them look like shooting stars as they arched through the night sky... and landed- to our horror- on a neighbor’s roof. Silence reigned as we all stared, waiting to see if the roof would catch fire. Frankie and I stood condemned. We broke the cardinal rule of home fireworks display: don't throw a burning object onto someone’s house. Fire is the bane of homeowners across the face of the earth, from the poorest in ramshackle huts to the richest in glorious mansions. No one, with the exception of insurance scammers, wants to see their house burn down. Fortunately, the sparklers went out before Mrs. Mendoza's house caught on fire. All's well that ends well.

Here are three possible consequences that can ensue from carelessly throwing sparklers in the air.
If your sparkler lands on a neighbors roof and it catches fire, that's bad.
If your sparkler lands on your roof and it catches fire, that's worse.
 If your sparkler lands on a house on the next block and it catches fire, that's bad… but not as bad, since you don't know them.

The list of consequences is tongue in cheek of course, but there is an underlying principle that gives it meaning and validity. What's at play here, is in one word, "other”  In the  conditioned  world view into which we are all born, there is a concept that takes center stage and insists that it is the only truth of existence. It goes something like this: There is “I” and there is other. Other, being defined as people, and the world we interact with. “I” is subject, other is object. “I” defines, other is defined. “I” knows, other is known. “I” is me and mine, other is you and yours. “I” is most important, other less so. If my sparkler burns down your house I'm sorry, but not as sorry as I would be if I burn my own house down. I, me, mine, are priority. The reverse is also true if your sparkler burns down my house. Why? Because you and yours are other; other in the context we are speaking of is equivalent to separate. Separate implies independence. Where there is independence there is the potential for conflict because now there are two "I's" and two “others”.  
Two people, two families, two religions, two nations all seeing themselves as priority one, and everyone and everything else as other. I, me, mine, we, our, ours; separate, different, open to conflict, willing to hate, willing to enslave, willing to kill, even in the name of the Lord.

I can't change the way of the world. I can only open myself up to the realization that in the understanding of one-ness the end of conflict is born. I'm not writing here to prove it - - it's not provable - - but it is a living reality for some.

What better day to contemplate the inter-connectedness, the one-ness of all things, than on a day that celebrates the opposite: The Fourth of July: American Independence Day.  

Peace be with you,

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Problem with Bliss-ters

Dancing in bad shoes; Ow! Blisters! 
Won't dance for a while.
Learning guitar with bad strings; Ow! Blisters!
Won't practice for a while.
Meditating with bad understanding; Ahh! Bliss-ters!
Do it again tomorrow.
Enlightenment can wait!

Peace be with you,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

One, The Loneliest Number?

I'm writing this post without the usual vignette from my life, because frankly I can't think of anything that fits. I am also writing this post in the belief that you are reading this because of interest in the concept of non-duality, and are familiar with the terms and expressions used in my previous discussions.

In non-dual circles a word that has become synonymous with non-duality is the Sanskrit word Advaita which translates as "not two", and often heard in these same discussions is the phrase "one without a second". Both are in reference to the understanding that reality emanates from and is nothing other than an aspect of the Absolute (God, Consciousness) manifesting itself as all things, physical, mental, and spiritual. There is no separate existence. There is not the Absolute and the world, there is only the Absolute. Adi Shankara (788 CE-820 CE) preeminent philosopher of Advaita is often quoted thus:
The world is an illusion
Brahman alone is real
Brahman is the world
 According to Advaita, if reality is not two then it must be one; it would seem then, that the concept of oneness should follow logically. In fact, Oneness is an accepted description of this understanding. The sages affirm that reality is not two, but in defiance of logic, affirm that reality is also not one. This clarification finds expression in the term "not two, not one". Attempting to explain this seeming contradiction is the heart of this posting.

Trusting that a simple explanation is often the best explanation, I begin this discussion with a limited definition of the word before: A designation in time or sequence in relation to a future time or sequence, designated by the word after. It is in the nature of the relationship between before and after, that the understanding of “not two, not one" can be found. Continuing with the theme of relationship; most of us think of, and experience reality in a dualistic manner. If I say black most people will say white, if I say up most people will say down, if I say near most people will say far. It is how we are conditioned to think and reason, and it comes as naturally as breathing. Advaita seeks to lead us beyond this conditioned response in a way that is simple yet profoundly intuitive.

Let us designate before as "one" and after as "two". In this obviously dualistic example: "one" (before) anticipates "two" (after) both temporally and sequentially. In our experience this has always held true.  Advaita raises the question; what happens to "one" (before) if "two" (after) never appears? Can you have a before if there is no after? Can you have an after if there is no before? Likewise, without two, the designation one is meaningless. One no longer has a reference in time or sequence. One is no longer one. One is now all there is, one just is. The Is-ness of reality...which is what we are discussing... is now all we see.

Let's return to our earlier description of non-dual reality, using the new parameter we have established. When we hear the phrase "one without a second" referring to the Absolute, we understand we are not talking about time or sequence, but about a concept beyond our ability to completely comprehend. When we add the clarifier "not two, not one" we become aware that the Absolute never was, and has never been before anything, and that nothing can, or ever will come after.

Peace be with you,