Transition

An old and weary world begins at last to shed its skin, while a shining new one emerges from a chrysalis composed of vibrant strands of living solar light. Those who are present now have the rare opportunity to make a choice which will determine their collective direction for a very long time to come. May all choose wisely!

For aeons we have been cautious caterpillars dreaming of the freedom of the skies, to spiral high and higher, to whirl with the singing wind, to wing and flash free of the anchor of gravity, of any earthly limitation. Now the defining moment has arrived — regardless of our state of preparation, it can no longer be postponed. All eyes are turned our way.

The momentous transition from a paradigm based on calculated self-interest to one illuminated by the sun of compassion has been a long time coming, and there are still powerful regressive forces that are resisting its successful installation in the global consciousness mainframe. They will do anything they can to stave off the shift for as long as possible, since they perceive it as a supreme threat to their rule (as indeed it is).

A world which has been dominated for centuries by the contracted fear energies of corrosive greed, blind intolerance, violent conquest, dogmatic fundamentalism, and compounded ignorance will not easily yield to the movement of the heart. Alas, a population which has been indoctrinated for centuries by the now counter-productive strategies of competitive survival, herd (slave) behavior, and the primacy of material acquisition and sanctioned exploitation at the expense of the greater community and environment will overwhelmingly prefer to slumber on with blinders firmly in place.

Rather than awakening to face the looming unknown which now confronts us, even as the old world crumbles before our eyes, a large proportion of us will inevitably fall back on denial, consume our attention with trivial distractions, and even seek out accomplished criminal alpha leaders to suavely sooth our mounting insecurities with vague promises of some nebulous future glory for the chosen. Walls will be built, divisions reinforced, enemies identified and persecuted, and wars pursued on every front, both domestic and international.

Even if such strategies may have worked before, however, they will no longer be successful. The transition will be difficult, made more so by fear and ignorance, but it will not be denied any longer. Really, the only question is: how difficult are we as a collective going to allow it to be? How much will we need to endure before we rise up and in one clear united voice say “YES!” to the new, to the heart, to guileless loving kindness and devoted selfless service?

How long will we resist taking the next step in our evolution towards that divine destiny which awaits us? Only by releasing our fearful fixations on the obsolete structures of the old world can the necessary space be opened for the new to emerge. The greater the delay, the greater the suffering which will surely ensue — both personally and collectively. Even though our souls thrive on it, it is still within our human animal nature to resist change. Now that the great impending change is upon us, we must wake up, stand up, and make our choice heard.

There is no safe hiding place — not in temples, ashrams, churches or caves, not in skyscrapers or internet forums, nor in pharmaceuticals or philosophies, not in nationalism and patriotism, not in slick gurus, spa treatments, and pleasant affirmations. Despite our reluctance, we are being stripped naked of our former affectations and comforting fantasies. What we cling to will always be an anchor weighing us down. The old world longs to crumble into ashes, even now it is burning itself up. It has exhausted itself, and now wants to taste the euphoria of restful oblivion. The right thing to do is to let it die in peace.

It is now long past the time to look back nostalgically at what has gone before, to seek answers or solutions from a dying system of predatory economics, heartless patriarchy, and manipulative social control mechanisms. Many civilizations have been in this very position before us. Some have managed to unite, put aside their differences, and prosper. Others have self-destructed. To co-create a new world, we must first empty ourselves of our former beliefs, expectations, religious superstitions, and above all, our chronic selfishness.

This is not about some exceptional virtue or saintliness. This is about growing up and out of the sandbox, about becoming the species we were meant to be, maturing into the adult version of humanity that can span the solar system and flower out into the awaiting starry cosmos. A fantastic adventure of self-awareness is beckoning us, inviting us to set aside the primitive provincialism of our youth and expand on into infinity. The whole universe is waiting to see how we shall respond.

 

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Poverty

We might wonder what it would be like if everything we have and own were to somehow be taken away from us. A huge part of human life is devoted to acquiring and then protecting “stuff”, stuff we fear we could lose in one way or another. Indeed, there is an immense business dedicated to providing us with insurance against any potential losses we might incur in the process of day-to-day life. However, though we may currently seem to possess something, if only temporarily, we never actually do. Even our thoughts about any of it are not truly ours. Even our memories. In the midst of everything, we literally have nothing.

Given that, there is no need to aspire towards poverty in any idealistic way, as if there were some virtue to be gained in the process. The real poverty cannot be achieved by gestures of religious renunciation. When one has nothing to begin with, what can they actually surrender? All such conceptual intention is more like a kind of subtle arrogance. When we examine our basic condition, we can recognize that we are totally innocent of any ownership whatsoever, regardless of appearances. We can test ourselves to see if this is true by self-inquiring, “Who are you?”

Being rich or poor in the material sense has nothing at all to do with the inherent poverty of our fundamental nature. We own nothing, not even this body we call “mine”. From the moment we enter this world we are busy fashioning an identity, but a thorough inspection of identity’s essential emptiness will clarify that it is not who or what we truly are. It is not ours to own. Indeed, it is only the sense of some kind of ownership that has made us blind to our true state of perfect poverty. It has made us selfish, left us feeling separated, restless, and alone.

Just as we may amass a great fortune, or alternatively, lose everything in a dream at night, when we awaken in the morning, we have gained nothing, nor have we lost anything. So it is with this life we imagine is ours, along with any accumulations which we believe we have garnered on the way. We may have had many dream-like adventures, many experiences which might have impressed us, but where have they gone? They are part of the bundle of thoughts, memories, sensations, and perceptions which we have assumed amounted to a separate, concrete, and enduring self, but we are not that self. None of it is who we are, nor was any of it ever ours.

Yes, there is awareness, but it too is not ours. The one who imagines that they are the witness of experience also disappears with the scene. Likewise, all concepts of free will and choice miss the point, if one does not first understand to whom they would apply. The main character in the movie undergoes all sorts of experiences. Maybe they were the hero, maybe the villain, maybe the winner, maybe the loser. When the movie comes to an end, where do they go?

They do not return to the light, nor do we. There is no actual reunion, no merger, no entering into the inexhaustible luminosity. Light is never other than itself. When we directly realize our inherent poverty, we are still only ourselves, what we have always been. In human terms (totally inadequate) there was an experiment. The light evolves. It grows more expansive, richer and more radiant through struggle. It divided itself from itself to create a sense of distance, as well as the sense of time it takes to realize itself anew. Why does it do this? Why do we?

This life on earth is a struggle, no matter who we are. Some claim it was created this way, to provide its visitors with an opportunity for rapid growth of character. If so, we have been given a great tool with which to meet the challenge: our essential poverty. Since we come with nothing, possess nothing, own nothing, how can we be harmed? Fear is what makes life difficult. It spawns the poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance. This realm is infested with fear, but the realization of our essential poverty can neutralize all fear. We begin to recognize that everything which ever was or will be is contained within this exquisite poverty. There is truly nothing to lose. Thus, we become fearless. When we become fearless, we also become humble. We become generous and compassionate in the all-inclusive awareness that every being matters. Thus, we also become willing to sacrifice ourselves for love. In that way, we evolve.

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Stung by a Scorpion

Imagine if, due to some incredible miracle, all of the conflicts around the globe were to cease. Imagine if peace were to break out, and all the sources of antagonism and friction among people were resolved equitably, with everyone getting what they believed they were voting, fighting, or dying for. Additionally, imagine if all the forms of inequality, poverty, and despair were eradicated across all classes, genders, and races, so that utopian-type conditions came to prevail.

Even if all that were to happen, we would still be faced with the inescapable specter of an underlying stress, a contraction or knot in the being from which we have only been temporarily distracted by the apparently external events and circumstances which heretofore have dominated our attention.

The whole search for freedom and happiness which has defined our existence and driven us even to the point of slaughtering each other has a basis, or source, that is the same in each one of us, regardless of our nominal affiliations and predilections.

Indeed, if we were to stop right now and inspect our own being, if we were to turn the light around which we have been casting into the outer world and take a close look at what is happening within us, at the core of our thoughts and feelings, we would notice that this chronic contraction is what has been propelling us like a leaf in the wind.

That is, everything we think and do is essentially an attempt to pacify, loosen, or be liberated from this essential stress. All of our religious conflicts, all of our political conflicts, all of our financial conflicts, all of our social conflicts, and even down to the cellular level — all is spinning around in the cyclical orbit of this core contraction.

And what is it? It is consciousness itself. We have become so fixated in identification with this transient consciousness that we have come to believe it represents who and what we are. Hence, we suffer. We suffer because we cling to the impermanent – consciousness — and ignore our true nature, which is prior to consciousness.

When he was near death in 1981, the Sage Nisargadatta Maharaj told his followers: “Eknath, a country sage who has written wonderful poems, said, ‘I am stung by a scorpion!’ It is the consciousness. This knowingness is the scorpion, which is giving me all the pain in the form of various experiences and concepts. I am telling you with the authority of a jnani, everything is unreal. This is all the play due to your consciousness . . .”

That is, mind projects a world and we subsequently take it to be real. Why? Because we habitually look outward, at the effects, and so fail to recognize the source of that projected world. This is why the wise suggest we delve into the essence of mind, because only by coming to directly and intimately understand how we create our own suffering can we free ourselves of it. We want the world to be at peace, we want all inequality to end, we want happiness to prevail, but we too often imagine that process involves manipulating the changing props on the world stage, rather than going straight to the screenwriter and addressing him or her in our own mirror.

 

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Standing Up for My Values

The apparent randomness of phenomena is a reflection of our ignorance about the thing being observed, rather than something that is inherent to it. Just so, we can’t really describe the universe in terms of certain things being in definite places. It may not exactly be chaos, but some degree of uncertainty about the nature of existence is a fundamental part of our comprehension. Resonances of indeterminate size somehow party together to form the world which we experience, leaving in their wake a great conceptual void inhabited by unanswerable questions.

Likewise, when we begin to question what we assume to be our own values, something interesting begins to reveal itself. In a way, it is like peering closely into our basic atomic structure, which consists of 99% empty space, though from the conventional vantage point, there appears to be an undeniably solid person.

That being said, if we are willing and able to thoroughly investigate how we arrived at the particular value systems to which we currently adhere, we might find a kind of programming code at the root. However, that code itself, when deconstructed, turns out to be nothing more than bits and parts of other bits and parts, ad infinitum.

There is really nothing there but a play of various ephemeral energies, rotating around a phantom nucleus called “I”, and amounting to nothing in particular, except whatever reality we might tend to momentarily grant it, based upon our own unique accumulated filters and the relatively plastic menagerie of possibilities and probabilities.

Then there is the appearance of “the other”. Soon after we make our appearance in this psycho-physical realm, or density, we gradually begin to notice other ghostly figures arising and then disappearing from our view. For some reason, we generally come to assume that they all share our essential value system, perhaps because they all seem to be composed of the same or similar component parts.

At a certain point, we are surprised and perhaps dismayed to discover that we do not all share the same value systems, and hence we project from the storehouse of magical thinking a morality based on the duality of what we come to regard as “right and wrong”, or “good and evil”.

Of course, from our filtered fantasy of interpretation on perception, our personal position is desirable, righteous, and goodly, while the competing value system is characterized by the undesirable, the wrong-headed, the bad. Clearly, we cannot live and let live together, something must be done about the glaring discrepancies. We are not sure why, and such uncertainty renders us reluctant to inspect the matter, except to assume that conflict is necessary and inevitable, and hence we learn to make war.

Before long, we are living in a perpetual state of war — war with our fellow ghosts, war with our make-believe environment, and mostly war with those elements within our own atomically spacious and empty structure that we nevertheless find to be in any way disagreeable.

We might be surprised to learn that even those who claim to be affiliated with a particular value system actually adhere to their own unique system, their own variation on some religion or political position. Everyone is a member of the cult of one — the “one” being that accumulated bundle of thoughts and feelings which seem to imply a distinct and enduring individual, even if there is no such person in reality.

Nobody like that has ever existed, whether randomly or deterministically. There has never been an actual value system, only endless conceptual superimpositions upon a passing notion, a fleeting idea which mind then employs to fabricate that phantom nucleus, around which numerous filmy energies rotate for the span of a flickering lifetime, only to at last dissolve playfully back to the indescribability from whence they once had come.

 

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Like Lightning

We tend to think that each of us is a substantial and enduring individual being, because we remember moments from the past, and so imagine there is some continuity of a personal self. However, in the same way we awake and quickly forget the various adventures we participated in while dreaming, so too does the same fate befall much of what transpired in the past. Where is that wonderful Pinot Noir I drank last week? Where is the one who drank it? There is a memory, but it is fading even now (not to mention the character who was driven around in a baby carriage, who saw a flying bird for the first time, who fell in love with clouds while reclining on the backyard lawn).

Yes, some things seem to stick with us, and even serve to define who we take ourselves to be today. We dwell on these past events and experiences, and in doing so, we give them some power to confirm our sense of self. In this way, we come to believe in an orderly principle of cause and effect, otherwise known as “karma” in spiritual terminology. It gives us a hedge on what otherwise might seem to be a very disturbing chaos. Yes, I have all this karma, which explains my appearance in the midst of the confusing situation I find myself, by virtue of simply being born.

We believe we are the result of what has gone before, even though what has proceeded us no longer exists. Indeed, there was never a quantifiable moment when it did. We cannot go back and grasp any of it, in the very same way we cannot grasp the entity we might assume ourselves to be at this moment. Is there even a “moment”, a discrete piece of time, separate from other pieces, such as past and future? Of course, all such grasping and mirror-gazing is self-reinforcing, and the complex destiny of an enduring person is projected on the basis of mind stringing together certain memory associations and physical sensations, which are assembled by the brain into the “reality” we take for granted.

On the other hand, perhaps we have heard various sage-like people talk about “emptiness”. Now we imagine all sorts of implications to that concept, as if we could somehow solidify enough to stand apart from something else and label it “empty”. In whatever way mind attempts to configure experience, it is still just emptiness chasing its own tail like a dog. On further inspection, the whole totality of universal manifestation is just one thing, so to speak, wanting to have the experience of subject and object. Hence, there is this dreaming which we take to be the self, the world, reality, God. There is dreaming, but the source of this dreaming is none other than dreaming itself. Dreaming is dreaming.

Just so, who or what is this “we” that is projecting a self, a world, a God, the dream, but emptiness itself projecting a separate entity, a separate reality which it can stand apart from and observe, critique, define, explain, or manipulate? See, when we try and pin this supposed entity down, we end up grasping at air. There is no answer to “Who am I?” There couldn’t be, because we would have to separate out from the essential emptiness to observe such a character, and we can’t, any more than water can separate itself from wetness, or a dream from dreaming.

Where is our past? It only exists as an arbitrary and fleeting mental formulation, just as our supposed present does. Never mind about the future. None of it can be stopped for a moment and considered actually existent. There is no solidity to any of it, even down to the sub-atomic level. Our thoughts, which we take to be “ours”, have no endurance. That is easy enough to recognize. But outside of thoughts, what is there? There is an apparent physical body, but we know that it is always changing, always replacing cells, for example, so that the body of yesterday is no longer, and the body of today will be different tomorrow. Which one am “I”? There is actually no body, but simply the appearance of a body. If we examine the body we will find atoms separated by vast distances of empty space.

Within this vast empty body, certain physiological processes swoosh together like fluids and electrons, producing the sensation of existence, and from there all sorts of phenomena seem to be implied, like an objective world, for example. Certainly, if a big rock lands on my toe, it will create the feeling of pain, but when I fall asleep later, where is the rock, the pain, the toe? When this body returns to the elements, where is any such experience of rock, toe, pain, self, world? Literally, we are already the “walking dead” — dead to whatever previously transpired, which is now more like a movie which we once watched, but are now in the process of forgetting (along with the one who watched it). It is all so elusive, we are barely able to take a breath!

In the midst of this whirl of sensation, experience, perception, and perpetually modifying consciousness, there does appear to be one constant, one unchanging element, but it is not ours, not personal, not graspable, not even perceivable. It is not an object to itself, and it is empty of even emptiness. “Awareness” has been designated as who and what we really are, but there is no identity to it, no standing apart from it and claiming “This is it!”

Although it is simple and obvious — Awareness — such a term really means nothing. All terms have no objective meaning, except what mind grants to them in its illusion of knowing. If we were to be totally honest, however, we must admit that we know nothing. We have many ideas about things, but do not know a single thing. All this presumption of knowing only prolongs the magic act which we take to be “our life”. We may have the feeling that there is some essence waiting deep in the innermost layers of heart and mind that “knows”, but that too is just a play of consciousness, a trick, not real.

We are never going to arrive at some exalted destination where we suddenly “know”. If there is such a destination, it only manifests when all knowing drops away, along with the presumption of a knower. That is our actual “state”, even now, which is only obscured by our presumptions that things are otherwise, that we are other than the pure awareness in which all knowing, all presumption, all appearance arises and dissolves, and that we are in the deplorable condition of having to jump through all sorts of hoops to arrive at the place which we have truly never left. What a horror!

The entire apparent universe is composed of mental formations, illusory objects that appear and disappear based on mechanisms which surpass the human persona’s capacity to comprehend, much less control. The human persona itself is one of those illusory formations, flashing in and out of time like bits of lightning during a sudden summer storm that sweeps through the sky and then is gone. Did it even happen? In that sense, nothing actually happens. Nothing has ever happened, except a breath-taking play of imagination, a compelling tryst of mind, memory, and magic. Isn’t it all so amazing?

 

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Projection of Mind

Over time, people have various extra-ordinary experiences which they in turn may believe reveal universal truths. Subsequently, many go on to become gurus, teachers, prophets, cult leaders, and book hawkers. Most religious movements, for example, have been founded on some charismatic person’s vision, experience, or testimony which was believed to have been accessed from “Divine” sources in the form of a sacred revelation, awakening, or realization.

In reality, what they were shown or experienced was a complex product or projection of their own mind, and applicable mostly to them. However, having been thoroughly impressed by the seeming profundity their “special” experience, some are typically moved to spread the word, so to speak, and humans being herd animals, various believers or followers are attracted to these alpha-type individuals. Sometimes communities are formed around this convinced character and their seductive message. Alternately, if the societal circumstances are contrary, the individual may be ostracized as a fool, a heretic, or a trouble-maker. Human history is rife with both examples — either elevating the individual with hagiographic stories, or burning them at the stake.

In any case, the reason for so many variations and discrepancies in so-called “revealed” visionary or experiential reports, including NDEs, OBEs, and STEs, is precisely due to the fact that fundamentally they are mental projections of the individual (and usually filtered through a conditioned cultural framework). Somebody believes they have met Jesus, for example, and returns to proselytize for a Christian point of view, while another visionary doesn’t encounter the traditional theological memes, value systems, or archetypes, and as a result is convinced that there is no merit in such beliefs.

What is the actual truth? There is no actual truth, except the truth of mind. If one directly realizes the essence of mind, then none of the visions, as entertaining or impressive as they may be, have any enduring significance. Upon recognizing the essential nature of mind, one on the contrary becomes simple and ordinary in their life and relations. Hope and fear no longer have a foothold in their life. They do not dwell on the past or the future, nor are they bent on some persuasive missionary activity. A natural compassion arises easily in their heart, since they now understand how nearly everyone suffers from conflicts generated in their own minds.

Since they are no longer swept away by any dogma or -ism, they are happy, because happiness is the natural state, when left unobstructed by the afflictive belief systems that rule this realm. They no longer depend on experiential testimonies, claims, teachings, beliefs or what somebody says in the pulpit, on TV, online, or in a book. Mostly, they become rather quiet, because they are no longer invested in their own or others’ mental formations, which eventually become obsolete due to a lack of enthusiasm for them. Stillness prevails as pure awareness.

 

 

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All Is Well

When we consider the nature of our own apparently fragile existence, as well as that of the world and all of its varied phenomena, many questions tend to arise, so let’s take a brief moment and see if we can recognize what’s actually going on.

First of all, it’s obvious, with a bit of clear observation, that we are not living this body which we presumptuously call “mine”. Rather, this body itself is being lived. That is, we don’t willfully expand and contract our lungs, beat our heart, pump blood through our veins, grow our hair and fingernails, and so forth. What does?

Well, all sorts of answers have been proposed over the ages, but when it really comes down to it, we don’t really know. Our actual condition, we must finally admit, is one of not knowing, despite all the machinations of the human persona’s intellect.

Perhaps we can just say “life”. Life is living us, and likewise, it is living everything. Furthermore, nothing is happening independently of anything else, so we can also see that everything exists “dependently”. Nothing is really separate from anything else. Everything is connected.

Also, we can notice that we are not the same person we were as children. Everything has changed, everything except our awareness of being-ness itself. When all is stripped away, there is that one thing that has not changed: awareness. This awareness — it is not even “ours”, is it? We did not bring it into being, and whatever we do, it remains just as it is, regardless of the modifications of consciousness stemming from our fleeting notions, agendas, and experiences.

The more we step back, turn our attention around, and become aware of being aware, the more the vagaries of existence cease to puzzle and trouble us. All the questions we once imagined were so critical now crumble and dissolve, as we proceed with this simple practice of being aware of being aware. We are immersed for the first time in a silence. This silence, if we are to persist in it, reveals something wonderful — the most amazing miracle! It is indescribable, but those who have plunged into it will know.

In retrospect, the initial recognition which we all seem to share is “everything is real”. Beyond that, the next realization (perhaps after a spiritually transformative experience, like a profound NDE) is “nothing is real”. Both stages depend on the idea of a personal self experiencing them. When even that idea is eventually seen through (because we have recognized that everything is appearing dependently, and is being lived by a power or process beyond its own design), pure awareness spontaneously comes to the forefront. The emotional highs and lows spawned by hope and fear are replaced by simple ordinary living, undefined and unlimited by the previous self-absorption. We grasp at nothing, we turn nothing away, because that is just the natural way of being.

With grace, a kind of unconditional love begins to peek its head out from beneath the covers. It is unconditional, because it does not depend on satisfying the desires or soothing the fears of a personal self. The sense of personal self remains as a navigation tool in the midst of the objective world, but we know now that the objective world itself is a very provisional proposition, a kind of holographic projection, as is everything but this simple awareness that is prior to the body, and prior even to the consciousness which forms the constituent essence of all appearances.

The natural affection we now feel for all of life springs from the realization of both its amazing beauty — that there is something at all, rather than nothing — and also its impermanence — that nothing lasts, it is all just appearing, thriving, and disappearing in waves of some kind of ecstasy for which nobody has a name. It is one indivisible whole, a bright flash of light in an ebony dark, and even though it is also a kind of mirage, we can still say, with the same confidence of the illumined mystics, “All is well”.

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