The Shadow


“Malevolence exists because free will exists, and all things are permitted to exist and coexist. Life cannot know itself as one thing without knowing that which it is not. You would not know you were a loving being unless your opposite was permitted to exist and to be experienced.”


A popular theme in spiritual/psychological circles involves coming to terms with what is typically called “the shadow”, or the “dark side” of the human personality. This so-called shadow represents a semi-entified phenomena generally believed lurking in the unconscious area of the psyche, and consequently rendering it hard to access. In any case, it is believed responsible for generating all of the dubious and troublesome thoughts and deeds, motives and views, which are perceived as less than desirable in our life and relations.

When we experience episodes of greed, anger, envy, hatred, and above all, consuming self-interest, we may claim that it is our shadow side coming to the surface. Hence, it is usually designated as a negative personality figment, or at least one in need of being balanced somehow by the proper application of love, light, and thoughtful recognition to the point that it finally melts away. For example, a highly touted Western teacher, Adyashanti, writes:

“Within the unconscious lies our shadow. We call it our shadow because we often do not directly perceive it. It is usually hidden away from us deep within the unconscious. But by becoming more and more aware, we eventually begin to expose our shadow sides, those aspects of ourselves that we would rather not see and that we avoid altogether.

Mostly what is important is to simply be open to your shadow when it arises and don’t take it to be a true and real accounting of reality. Simply allow it to be without identifying with it. Don’t push it away either. Just allow it to arise without reacting to it. When you can experience it without reacting to it either positively or negatively, it will pass away on its own accord.”

In my essay entitled Prison Planet Samsara, I briefly touched on this matter, but here I am going to delve into it a little bit more, from several different perspectives, and hopefully help to clarify what is often obscured by theories and assumptions. For example, is there actually a clearly delineated dark/light dichotomy within us, or is that just another dualistic concept we employ to account for the mystery of our totality – and one that moreover ignores the many intricate grey layers that comprise the human persona? Furthermore, is it true that we can just adopt some sort of thoughtful, non-reactive attitude, and all of the various self-created disturbances that arise in the course of our lives will simply dissolve of their own accord?

Growing up, I was told there was a good angel on my right shoulder, and a bad angel on my left, and they were both whispering to me in my ears in an attempt to influence my thoughts and behavior. I decided to test that hypothesis, and so spent a lot of time in secluded areas listening to determine what I could hear. However, I noticed that I didn’t hear any angelic or devilish whispers or instructions, but only a kind of soft white noise.

Of course, having been brought up as a Christian, I was regularly informed that there is always some kind of battle going on between the forces of good and evil, and that endless celestial war plays out on the individual level in a contest for our soul. If we align with the good guys and follow their rules, commandments, and teachings, we are rewarded after death with eternal salvation in heaven, but if we “sin” and “go bad”, so to speak, we are damned to the relentless fires of hell.

Almost all human religions preach some variation on this mostly fear-based theme of reward and punishment, by means of which societies have traditionally organized themselves around desirable behavioral conditioning, aka consensus morality. Even Buddhists who claim there is no eternal soul still elaborate all sorts of colorful hells and “inferior rebirths” which one can fall into after the death of the body by failing to cultivate the prescribed (by other humans) behaviors and acceptable (to other humans) attitudes while sojourning in this suffering human realm.

What can we say about such teachings? If they are based on fear, they are certainly not doing a service at all, but rather represent deceptions and illusions. Fear does not grant wisdom, but on the contrary, only tightens the mentally fabricated chains that bind us to ignorance. To truly begin to comprehend the issue of our personal and social “shadow”, we must first discard all associations related to any dualistic religious conviction or fear-based approach to the subject.

Upon inspection, we can see that “shadow” is merely another name humans may currently attribute to something which appears contradictory to our own personal and collective value system. It is disturbing to our preconceived idealism, and that generates a programmed fear response, which in turn initiates a chain of reactivity as we scramble to tame and control it. As mentioned, religious laws and commandments have been the traditional means to do so, though in relatively recent times, a vast arsenal of new age psychological modalities are being deployed by various practitioners in the field of self-improvement to come to terms with the phenomena by dredging or coaxing it up to the surface from the “inner depths”. More often than not, the therapeutic aim is “fixing” a perceived problematic imbalance through some kind of re-integration, for instance, as if it merely represents a pesky neurotic pathology of an otherwise healthy individual.

Rather than treating the phenomena as some kind of affliction (like original sin or primordial ignorance, or even neurosis) that can become integrated, neutralized, or even rendered obsolete with the benefit of certain remedial spiritual practices, psychological techniques, and non-reactive attitudes, perhaps we would better understand the so-called “shadow” if we recognized that it fundamentally is the human persona itself. In other words, to the extent that we identify with the human bio-vehicle, to that extent we ourselves are a living manifestation of the shadow. “It” is us – not just a sketchier part of us, but what we in our human guise actually are! In that light, it’s not unlike the character Walter White, in the award-winning television series “Breaking Bad”. He was the high school science teacher turned meth amphetamine maker who famously claimed, “I am not in danger, I am the danger!”

In its absorbing play, consciousness is said to appear as both light and shadow, functioning in a complementary fashion, though in actuality that also represents a provisional view. Really, light and shadow are only linguistic terms, and terms necessarily tend to separate things into conceptual designations that are essentially one indivisible whole. In reality, there is only “what is”, and as for the human body-mind organism, it too is what it is, despite any contrived notions of value we can apply to it. From that perspective, it is a dodge to blame the “shadow”, just as it is an error to blame the “ego”, for simply being the pre-installed software programs of the total human package.

Nevertheless, there is a deeper truth at play, albeit one that we may not recognize without the benefit of an expanded and transformative self-realization, or more typically after returning to our truer nature as beings of light, once we have dropped off the material form at death. That is, we are not the human being, nor have we ever been the human. The human persona is very much like a holographic character in a virtual reality scenario, a projection of light and sound resonance. We as light being souls, or extensions of immortal Spirit, temporarily inhabit and fuse with the human persona (as we have done with many other types of species throughout the multiverse) as a way to experience and explore the 3-D physical realm. In that sense, the human persona is a kind of “space suit” for Spirit. By slowing down our vibrational frequency in order to incarnate in this denser environment, however, we as shards of Spirit Energy also accept a kind of amnesia so that our ensuing identification with the human persona can provide a realistic visceral impact to the virtual adventure.

On this current planetary stage, the human persona still tends to manifest as a rather primitive animal — clever, cunning, selfish, and often disturbingly violent. On the other hand, what some are calling “the shadow” might actually be a hard-wired evolutionary mechanism which historically has been required for survival in this relatively harsh and threatening environment. Nevertheless, it is our frequent failure to take responsibility for our animal nature (both on the macro as well as on the micro level), that creates much of the calamity and self-inflicted tragedy that passes for the daily news.

Nanci Danison (who has written extensively about what she learned during a remarkable experience characterized as a “transcendental NDE”) makes some salient points in that regard when she notes:

“While I was in the afterlife, I learned that human animals (like other animals) have the built-in character trait of refusing to take responsibility for the consequences of their own actions. So that character trait is reflected in human-created belief systems. Humans use violence to protect themselves from real and imagined potential threats to their ability to get what they want, to amass wealth in its many forms, and to exercise dominance over others. Aside from natural disasters, humans are responsible for the horror we see in daily life. Humans wage war, engage in gang violence, rob homes and businesses, sell and use mind-altering drugs, abuse children, rape, and murder. And humans alone are responsible for these actions.”

“All of the intelligence, creativity, love, compassion, emotional maturity, forgiveness, sense of humor, and other traits we cherish about humans do not belong to humans at all! Those are all traits of the Light Being soul inhabiting the human. As a species, humans do not have an innate sense of moral values. The ones who do lead exemplary lives are either extremely well trained or have Light Being souls who take control over their human hosts on a routine basis.”

“All of the evil acts in the world would stop today if we would collectively use the one tool that is available to each and every one of us–our spiritual ability to control our own human host’s actions. We see this power in action every time someone exercises ‘self control.’ Each of us can choose moment-to-moment whether to allow our host body to act out in typical selfish human fashion, or, to do what is best for all of us collectively. . . Each of us can allow human emotions and instincts to run our life or strive to live a more spiritual way. As Light Beings inhabiting humans as their souls, we have the innate power to control our bodies’ actions.”

By accessing an expanded angle of vision – whether by the grace of mystical experience or through certain meditative means — what we can notice is that there is an infinite potential for innumerable viewpoints and value systems to be explored and experienced by sentient beings, and it would certainly be quite naïve for us with our limited human intellects and immature judgmental capacity to categorize any of them as purely positive or negative. We simply do not have access (while identified as these dense and contracted human forms) to the higher frequencies required to make such an evaluation.

Should we somehow manage to access that universal knowledge base, we would also recognize that the only place “the shadow” exists is in our own thought fabrications and perceptual interpretations of value. As the nondual Sage Nisargadatta Maharaj once noted: “Even sin and virtue, merit and demerit are not what they appear. Usually the bad and the good are matter of convention and custom and are shunned or welcomed, according to how the words are used.” In other words, just because something manifests in such a way as to conflict with our conditioned moral mindset does not automatically qualify it as a representation of the “dark side”. That is merely more simplistic human fantasy, masquerading as discernment.

Indeed, the more we examine the issue of our imaginative interpretations on perception that create the sense of some separate “shadow” element in our being – one that needs to be brought to the surface of consciousness in order to then be balanced, integrated, or dissolved — the more we need to recognize the critical role of the conditioned human mind in our habitual and arbitrary discriminatory process. This also includes clearly recognizing the nature and function of memory (an issue discussed at some length in my essay Memory Lane Revisited).

In closing, I have found the following analysis, by the Spirit Guide Sparrow, to be well worth sharing in this regard:

“Thought, to the human being, is very much a reactive program of impulsive responses. That is, thoughts present themselves to the human being from past memory fragments of learnt behaviours or belief systems. In this, thoughts will attempt to inform you and define the nature of a thing by interpreting this moment in the present from values and belief systems held from a past event. This means your thoughts are consistently programming you to re-enact sequences of behaviour and responses you have learnt and memorised as instinctive nature. Things you observe in the present moment trigger memory fragments to instruct your conscious will to behave a certain way, or to think in a certain framework of parameters. Your thoughts then are not to be trusted with any depth of clarity until that memorised self-programming has been rewritten and relinquished from its core control over you.

When you feel negatively, two things are happening. Firstly your feelings, which draw from the wisdom of your spirit, are communicating with you to inform you something is wrong. It is your spirit’s way of informing your human counterpart that something you are doing is not in alignment with your core central values and vibration. This unpleasant feeling is a signal for your human counterpart to act. If it was not unpleasant you would not then have any motivation to change your behaviour or thinking, and thusly drift away from your own spirit connection. In the same way, your physical organism communicates to you through pain signals to inform you something is wrong, and to initiate you into a form of action to prevent damage to your biological system.

The second thing which takes place is that your thoughts re-enact negative emotional states from the past. This is, they create chemical conditioned responses in your biology which you experience as surges of emotion. Certain thoughts that you have bound in cellular memory have associative chemical attractions and attachments, which when stimulated cause a release of chemical activity in your body chemistry. You then say that you are feeling negative within a specific scenario, because your thoughts about it are instructing a specific chemical response causing you to feel a dis-ease. In a sense, your thoughts are disguising themselves as feelings, and you are confused by them.

Rather than listening to your past memory regarding how you should or should not feel about what is presently taking place, focus on the source within you where you feel love comes from. You may feel it comes from your heart, or some other energetic place or source. That is the connection to your spirit and to the wisdom of your spirit. To truly know how you feel, do not think about how you should or should not feel by invoking further thought; go to the source from which Self-love resonates. As you re-member how to love yourself, your connection to your true Self will become stronger. As you learn to focus more of your energy on Self-love and Self-identified-value you will identify a source, a place for you to tune into to recognise true feelings.

Negativity, the dark side, whatever term suits the stage of your life, will always remain ever-present, in order that experiences may be attained of Self. Being spiritual, being ascended, or being a human angel does not dictate one must cower and isolate himself within the box of his own creation. It is not for the person to reject one thing and confine themselves to another. But it is for he, or she, to open the door to all things, black, white and grey. It is for you as an infinite being to stand in the presence of all things, as THEY truly are, and be as YOU truly are, without fear, without doubt, and without expectation. It is for you to recognise the process that is all things, and that such a process is not something to be feared or fought, but loved and lived.

If one is able to stand in the midst of considerable negativity, immense darkness or one’s worst nightmare and prevail in will, in integrity and in love, he has not only mastered himself, but she has also mastered the process to which we are bound, and to which all are set free.”

Shadow Zikr sm


Nanci Danison’s writings can be found in her three published books, including the groundbreaking “Backwards: Returning to Our Source for Answers”. A fourth book is reportedly on the way, and she also has a number of videos on YouTube.

Sparrow’s writings can be found on the blog Spirit Guide Sparrow




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A Little Joke

We are usually much too busy to recognize it, but prior to our engaging adventures in consciousness – that ever-changing theater of desire, knowledge, and experience — there is only awareness, the same state in which we now exist.

Somehow, in the scheme of things, a kaleidoscopic realm of time and space miraculously appears. It’s a wild, whirling world of endlessly modifying phenomena, in the midst of which I find myself just sitting, or just standing — localized in any case as the immediate matrix of attention.

Just as in deep sleep, there is no actual “myself”, no awareness of a person, until a thought manages to dredge itself up from the back lot of oblivion and create the sense or facsimile of a subject. That subject wasn’t there previously, and yet here it is now — here “I” am.

Upon inspection, we can recognize that subjective sense for what it is — a mental construct, a fabrication created out of thin air, like a rabbit pulled from a magician’s hat. Nevertheless, our habitual assumption is to take it as our personal identity, because that is how habits work — they are simply the mind’s default position in the midst of this infinite mystery. However, when we turn our attention back to the mind itself, there is nothing there that we can grasp – no mind, no thing at all. There is definitely something humorous about that – a kind of little joke — though few are those who get the punch line.

Well and good, but beyond our contrived individual self-sense, what about the “Absolute”, one might ask. Upon some investigation, what we can notice is that humans play feed-back loops of their own mental accumulations and somehow sort out from that vast collection of sense impression files and filtered memory programs one particular fantasy of interpretation on perception which they subjectively determine constitutes the “Absolute”, “God”, the “Self”, etc..

Subsequently, they are prone to indulge their imagination with that mentally fabricated construct until another more appealing fantasy of interpretation is formulated, based on a new set of sense impressions and filtered programs arising as perception and designated as “Transcendental”.

Because the mind cannot grasp itself, it is claimed that this so-called “Absolute” cannot be known, and that is true to the extent that it has never been other than the mind itself, in the same way that the eye cannot see itself except as a reflection. For an auditory reference, the “Absolute” is the sound of one hand clapping.

Just so, when we awaken from sleep in the morning, for a moment there is only pure awareness. Then we get busy again, weaving and superimposing an increasingly complex story line on the bare bones of existence. It’s an extended narrative centered around this fictional character with whom we are habitually identified, merely by the nature of our seeming appearance in space time, which is actually a compounded mental event too, and a humorous one at that.

Now, when there is just sitting, or just standing still, there is no history of a person, no anticipation of some future for a person, no sense of a person present here, nor regrets for past indiscretions perpetrated by any such person. There are no time calculations or projections, no creation or destruction, no wanting or avoiding, nor any Absolute to be known, felt, worshiped, or denied. None of that arises to confirm a personal identity which is subject to any of it. It is not happy or sad, nor can any quality or emotional flavor be pinned on it, since it is all transparent, like empty sky.

I love the sky, I truly do, and because it is so empty I can disappear in it, as if I never was, as if none of this ever happened, as if nothing ever happens at all. Maybe suffering means to linger on, and not disappear. How dreadful! In any case, what is there to even disappear? Nothing can actually come or go, except as a kind of cloud, a cloud of moisture’s imagination. Really, there is just the vastness of sky, stretching infinitely in all directions, and yet, we all love the first signs of rain. Just so, when we hear the phrase, “Once upon a time . . .” we anticipate a good story will follow.

Beyond all stories of rain or shine, there is awareness, but it is not self-conscious. There is no “I am the sky” or “Here comes the sun.” It is all just standing still, as the sky, as aware space, as clear light that does not even think of itself as light. It does not reflect back on itself, and so there is no “itself”, any more than there is “myself”. It is not bliss, it is not anything with a name. Some say emptiness, but it is empty of emptiness too.

Why? Because, paradoxically, it is filled with everything, everything is here. It never goes away. Things seem to come and go to the mind entangled in a duality of subject and objects, but that is only the play of consciousness, which is a kind of miracle too: that there is anything at all, rather than nothing whatsoever.

Yes, it is like a little joke, a quiet and relaxed bit of lighthearted humor that is barely noticed at all, and only mentioned because it is a good reason not to take anything seriously, especially the character called “myself”, the one sitting or standing still and just staring out into itself.

Maybe there is a slight hint of a smile, because that is all there is, this nameless mystery filled with everyone and everything — all just fervently going about the humorous business of characters juggling props in a dream theater of itself, the totality of the universal existence, both manifest and unmanifest, absolute and relative, and so forth and so on, right up to the end of this run-on sentence.

Just so, we may be both asleep and awake simultaneously, though we tend to imagine that we are this or that exclusively, based on ideas that have no real source anywhere but in our own mind. Perhaps it might seem as if others appeared who implanted programs and filters that conditioned our perception along the way. However, even that illusion has been part of the play, the convincing drama of self and others and all the stuff they get up to — tears and laughter, and sometimes just sitting or standing, like imagined characters in a dream.

We love our dream characters, because creators love their productions, and thus time enters the picture, just so that all these various interdependent stories can unfold at their perfect pace, allowing for ingenious subplots to modify consciousness and reveal the endless nature of experience as it expands, smoke-like, to infinity.

Then, once upon a time, a temple bell in primordial space reverberates at the break of dawn, and we immediately forget everything all over again. This too is part of the little joke, barely noticed in the scheme of things, the source of that smile on the Buddha’s face, the unfathomable gift of an amazing grace.


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First of all, relax.

Now, turn your attention to the thoughts that are appearing.

Notice how they are, more often than not, based on the past or the future.

In this experiment, simply continue relaxing, but refrain from entertaining any thoughts about the past or the future.

Sustain that attention for a few minutes.

When you can remain for a few minutes without thinking of the past or future, then also let go of thinking about whatever is happening now. Just withdraw your attention.

Whenever thoughts or emotions arise about the past, present, or future, don’t try to suppress them, just refuse to grant them energy, or the fuel of attention.

Now, release the mind’s focus on any sound, sight, smell, touch, taste, or any bodily contact with the environment. If any sensation does arise, don’t try to suppress it, just refuse to grant it lingering attention.

Notice here that, even though you no longer are dwelling on thoughts or physical sensations, the mind stream or the body, something is still present.

Consider now: if you are no longer identified with the body, or the thoughts and emotions which arise within the body, what is it that is still here, still present?

Does it come and go, or does it simply remain as it already is, and as it always has been?

Whatever this presence is, remain as that for as long as possible. When thoughts or sensations arise, refuse to grant them energy. They will vanish on their own. Just stay with what persists, prior to, after, and regardless of whatever appears.

When you find yourself becoming preoccupied by some thought or sensation, simply return attention to that which persists regardless of the thought or sensation — the gap between their appearance and the next appearance — this motionless timeless presence.

Notice that the more you experiment in this way, the more spacious that gap grows, and the easier it is to remain relaxed as that — free of thought or fixated identity.

This innocent, transparent presence: it is just pure awareness, without object or subject. It requires no name or praise, no temples or worship places.

It is not holy, sacred, enlightened, mysterious, superior, or magical. It is just the simple awareness that we all are, prior to, during, and after our adventures in thinking and feeling, prior to, during, and after our identification with an idea or sensation, or even of being some individual person, age, size, gender, race, nationality, or matrix of attention in time and space.

Experimenting by relaxing as this presence provides no special advantage, except freedom from the complications we tend to create for ourselves by identifying with any thought or feeling, any separate sense of person, age, size, gender, race, nationality, or matrix of attention in time and space.



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The Fundamental Space

“You can’t get stuck in space.”
~ Chögyam Trungpa

Whatever appears does so within the space of fundamental reality – “what is”.

In our natural state of knowing awareness, “what is” and “what we are”, are not two.

Likewise, in its primordial state, mind is empty of any contraction or contrivance – sky-like, limitless, and luminous — and yet with no inherent substance, solidity, or self-identity.

When the mind moves, various views are spawned, in the form of fantasies of interpretation on the perception of “what is”.

When such fantasies are superimposed on “what is”, mind chronically tends to imagine and then confirm an independent and enduring person – a separate subject in opposition to the objects projected by mind.

This apparent separate self-identity manifests in time as a limited and limiting identity-story which then must be preserved, enhanced, satisfied, and defended.

In this way, complications proliferate and multiply, further obscuring the simple innocence of “what is”.

Those who pay attention to the useful hints from the wise may be subsequently inspired to investigate this apparent self and its compounded narrative of “me and mine” in order to determine if it is real, or merely a phantom creation, a mental fabrication.

While investigating the mind, attention can be turned around to that which is investigating.

When nothing is seen, one can relax right there.

In that conscious process, all views are spontaneously self-liberated without resistance or conceptual meddling, allowing “what is” to be appreciated as the fundamental reality, innocent and transparent, empty and full.

Regardless of whatever has seemingly appeared and vanished within the space of fundamental reality, we have never actually departed from the innate sublimity of the natural state, the clear light of knowing awareness.

By letting the mind rest in and as the basic space of the natural state, “what is” and “what we are” are revealed to be none other than the radiant display of the Great Perfection Itself.

All praise and homage to That!

Light of Knowing Awareness 2

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Meditating on Death

chess with death

As noted in the authoritative Buddhist online archive “Access To Insight“, the standard Buddhist Meditation on Death is given by Buddhaghosa in Chapter VIII of the Visuddhimagga (“Path of Purification”), summarized in the quote: “Now when a man is truly wise, his constant task will surely be the recollection about death . . .”

In the classic text, it is suggested that “one should go into solitary retreat and exercise attention wisely thus: ‘Death will take place, the life faculty will be interrupted,’ or ‘Death, death.'” Indeed, one famous Western Zen teacher, Phillip Kapleau, remarked that the old masters recommended that the word “Death” be stamped on the disciple’s forehead, to keep them always focused on that unavoidable eventuality. A famous saying of one Buddhist school suggests that, if one does not meditate on death in the morning, the whole morning is wasted, and if one does not meditate on death at noon, the afternoon is wasted, and if one does not meditate on death at night, the evening is wasted.

Again, according to Buddhaghosa’s text, there should always be a sense of urgency in that contemplation, in order that no time on earth is wasted by indulging in frivolous activities. The correct program of mortality contemplations should include recollecting death in eight ways: “(1) as having the appearance of a murderer, (2) as the ruin of success, (3) by comparison, (4) as to sharing the body with many, (5) as to the frailty of life, (6) as signless, (7) as to the limitedness of the extent, (8) as to the shortness of the moment.”

As the commentator at Access To Insight explains, “Some of these terms are not quite self-explanatory: thus (3) means by comparing oneself with others — even the great and famous, even Buddhas, have to die; (4) means that the body is inhabited by all sorts of strange beings, ‘the eighty families of worms.’ They live in dependence on, and feed on, the outer skin, the inner skin, the flesh, the sinews, the bones, the marrow, ‘and there they are born, grow old and die, evacuate, and make water, and the body is their maternity home, their hospital, their charnel ground, their privy and their urinal.’ (6) means that death is unpredictable, (7) refers to the shortness of the human life-span.”

Indeed, many Buddhist teachings indicate that the best use of this life is to manipulate it in such a way as to attain an even better birth next time around, in order that one may accumulate beneficial merit and thus continue to advance further and further on the Buddhist path, eventually attaining enlightenment, and consequently eliminating the need to be born again as a human. Just so, the classical literature is full of admonitions to be aware of the inevitability of death, and that we are in a most precarious and dangerous situation because our life can end in any moment. For one example of a contemporary Buddhist take on the topic, see here.

Certainly, there are all sorts of variations which Buddhist teachers historically have offered on this theme, and I do very much admire and respect many of the brilliant insights Buddhism shares with us in the conscious process of recognizing our true nature, but perhaps it would be expedient to more deeply inquire into our own approaches and attitudes on the subject of enlightenment and death.

For example, is there is really an actual person who courageously climbs some esoteric ladder from life to life until finally, on one grand and auspicious day, they arrive at transcendental enlightenment? Subsequently, does this newly acquired state then cancel the requirement to keep returning to one tiny, harsh, and dangerous outpost at the edge of one mid-sized galaxy in the midst of billions, fraught as it is with primitive traps and poisons of every kind, which in turn necessitate that we keep learning endless lessons which we then forget the next time around, while relentlessly busying ourselves neutralizing old karmas, even as we are creating new karmas in the process? Yikes!

I have already addressed the issue of human enlightenment concepts in some depth in my essay The Myth of Enlightenment, but in this current consideration I would like to elaborate on what I have learned from my own investigation into death and its aftermath, which varies significantly from the fear and threat model that tends to infect virtually all human religious belief systems. Again, I have shared in some detail about this subject in my essay Notes from the Other Side (among a number of other related articles), but I feel there is a bit more to ponder on this topic, particularly vis a vis the commonly expounded Buddhist position. I could have just as easily dwelt on the more simplistic Abrahamic model of hell and damnation (although Buddhists also have their own concepts of hell realms), but if one is reading this blog, it is unlikely that particular dogma of sin and eternal punishment at the hands of a wrathful parental deity figure is given much currency.

In any case, from the broader angle of vision which yields access to universal knowledge via expanded consciousness, we might be startled to recognize that only One Actor is playing all of the many roles which we formerly assumed represented countless individual sentient beings. Some roles might portray a virtuous and disciplined Realizer, for example, while others a lazy slacker. Of the two, which one is real? Neither of them! They are roles, after all – creative vehicles for the self-expression of Spirit, just as we express ourselves in dreams at night. When morning dawns and we awaken, do we worry about the character we imagined ourselves to be while we slept – whether he or she was wasting time and not properly focused on waking up from the dream?

In my humble experience, I’ve learned that life is good, and death is also good. It’s pointless to assign hierarchical value to either, since they both are expressions of pure divinity. Emphatically, there is nothing to fear about death. This I have seen first-hand, and all my decades of research, including the testimony of intimates, has confirmed that direct recognition.

Everything is now, and always will be, perfectly OK. It is not that someday we will awaken and then everything will be OK. Whether we are “awake” or not, everything is already totally OK. What stands in the way of us allowing that to be the case? Each of us can inspect our own lives and beliefs for an answer to that pointed question.

Essentially, what I have discovered is that we came here to be whatever we are, just as we are, in a similar way in which we might try on a particular role in a theater presentation, because its possibilities for self-expression intrigue our immortal Spirit. Of course, we are not the person depicted in the role. It is a production of story lines, lighting, costumes, and stage sets in which we immerse ourselves for the sheer experience, as long as it lasts, and which is made even more impactful by the amnesia we assume, allowing us to momentarily forget that we are actually the audience.

When the curtain comes down, so to speak, the experience of death merely clarifies our true identity, while also providing us with the opportunity to share our recent adventures with those who have been traveling along with us through infinity, all within the unconditionally loving Heart-Mind of Source.

Therefore, it may be fine to urge folks to practice the Buddha Dharma, but employing threats and instilling the fear and apprehension of death is really not so skillful at all. Most of those who have had NDEs will affirm that there is nothing to fear about the transition, and moreover, there is no such thing as “wasting time”. Time itself is a mental construct of the human persona, and death is simply dropping off a worn-out costume and gradually re-integrating into our natural spirit state – described by many experiencers as a blissful home-coming.

Moreover, it is rather presumptuous to designate any life as “wasted”, just because it does not meet a certain conditional religious criteria (which itself was established by humans), since as long as we are fitted in these bio-vehicles we do not have access to “the bigger picture” of the soul’s journey, and so are not at all qualified to pass such judgment.

Since we are here to be precisely what we are, as we are, whatever additional qualifications or complications one feels compelled by their favorite belief structure to superimpose on that innocent simplicity is really just like adding another head to the one we already have. The limitations we habitually impose on ourselves are simply based on various thoughts — imaginary constructs in which we have invested a provisional reality, because we are by nature creative, and enamored of the things we can dream up in our infinite playfulness. When we take them seriously, however, we tend to get stuck within our own design, and then embark on a search to escape our own self-imposed dilemmas. Maybe we feel like we should meditate and get more “spiritual” now, in order to free ourselves from our own contraptions? Maybe we should try Buddhism?

On the other hand, there are plenty of people who have never heard of the Buddhist Dharma, and yet report transcendental Near Death Experiences or similar spiritually transformative events which include realizations about the nature of consciousness as profound as that of any would-be spiritual authority, regardless of whether that teacher has spent decades sitting in a cave and chanting invocations, or done a million prostrations to their deity of choice, or refrained from sexual contact, ate only organic vegetables, and mastered long secret texts in their original obscure language.

Again, in my opinion, we no longer need religious superstitions based on fear and threat in order to motivate us to awaken to our true nature. Truly, have we ever? My sense is that the great volume of NDE reports flooding the collective consciousness now is pointing to that much-needed change in the spiritual paradigm. For example, the human-based notion that souls are trapped within a cyclical prison of reincarnation and must keep on returning to Earth to re-experience the same limited existence in order to clean up karma is a popular religious myth, but as it turns out, one certainly may choose to return, but most do not bother, having already experienced it. (See the link below, on Reincarnation).

One has to look within oneself to see how any message resonates — that is, does it stimulate a response of love or fear. If fear, then it should be discarded, regardless of the purported spiritual authority from which it issues. Moreover, concern for some future event and the possibility of inferior rebirths has the typical effect of distracting one from What Is. Of course, if pondering death is perceived as a useful way of spending one’s time, who am I to argue otherwise? Perhaps a good question one might ask oneself, however, is “What dies?”

Furthermore, from the viewpoint of expanded consciousness (though contrary to the preachers’ claims), there is really nothing special or dramatic in need of being accomplished, no great prize to be attained other than being here already, just as we are! Showing up is enough – just breathing, and not avoiding the abundance of gifts each life generously provides, by hankering after more, or better, or different.

Of course, if someone believes there is an ascending path that they must walk, then let them walk it to their best ability, but not expect that they are going to end up acquiring some mystical state that is not already true of them from the beginning. This is why those who finally get the humor of trying to become what we already are end up laughing out loud!

Obviously it is pointless to attempt fashioning a fixed philosophical position out of such a view — unless it is directly recognized, that game is just more head tripping. That’s OK too, though not very satisfying. Relaxed and care-free philosophers aren’t too common. More often, they look pretty intense, with furrowed brows and clamped mouths.

So, what is to be done? Well, first of all, we can relax. Let go of all plans, schemes, and strategies. Let go of all cares and preconceptions. Keep letting go. Enjoy releasing it all, and enjoy what remains when all is released. Stop resisting the inconceivable Love that is pouring down on us right now in the form of What IS. That would be a good start, it seems to me, and a lot more fun than pondering the 80 families of worms dining on our innards!

  • Be Yourself

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Lest We Be Judged

FB judge


Spiritual adept or life-long failure, saint or sinner, accomplished practitioner or bumbling fool – no life is what it seems, and yet all lives are of equal value, a value beyond measure. There are no better or worse lives, higher or lower, more or less advanced spiritually. It’s not that everything has to be brought to a state of perfection at some triumphal point in the far distant future, but rather that it always already is. Every life, just as it is, is already perfect. As is said: “This is Perfect. That is Perfect. From the Perfect springs the Perfect. Take the Perfect from the Perfect and only the Perfect remains.”

There is just this all-pervading equal-ness. However, that is not what most of us have been taught, and so we might ponder how that can be – such equality. Perhaps a metaphor here can clarify. When the actors remove their theatrical masks, when the persona skins are shed, what’s revealed is the same God who has been playing all the roles, living all these apparently individual and separate lives. Call it God, Big Mind, Supreme Source, Shiva, the Ground of Being, the Self, the Absolute, the Basis, the Sub-stratum, the Heart, Dharmakaya, Primordial Potentiality, Shunyatā, Clear Light, Universal Intelligence, or don’t even bother with a label. Say it is the Un-sayable, the Un-nameable. There is only That. All are the manifold expressions of that One.

It is the same One who is living us now, the One without a second. Yes, we are being lived. There is no independent autonomy, despite appearances to the contrary. All appearances are the creative display of that One. That One is the doer, we are the vehicles, the dreamy creations that populate the Sky of Mind. Moreover, there is not now, nor has there ever been, any distance between ourselves and the Divine, so any talk of a path is moot. Where would that One go to get to Itself?

Believing or not believing makes no difference. Is purple more spiritual than yellow? In fact, adding “spiritual” as a qualifier to life is just superimposing an artificial appendage, like painting legs on a snake. If someone wants to adopt a Sanskrit name and do a lot of esoteric practices, believing they are on some progressive path to enlightenment, fine. If another wants to spend their life trout fishing in mountain streams, without the slightest concern for acquiring some strategic means to become what they already are, equally fine too. It doesn’t really matter, except in our provisional interpretations on perception, which are themselves constantly being modified by all sorts of factors, most of which lie beyond our limited human comprehension.

Fundamentally, all lives are equally precious and valuable, however they might seem to work out or fail to work out. Each one is its own perfect expression of Spirit, which cannot become more spiritual, regardless of the verbal trappings by which we might limit it in our confused efforts to establish some artificial hierarchy of being.

The point is, it is all experience, and that is why we are here, to partake in and appreciate the experience of being human, in whatever form that might take. These various lives that ensue from the prime impulse to experience Itself are among the infinite ways the Divine enjoys Itself, in the same way we might enjoy a movie in which we so identify with the main character that we momentarily forget we are the audience. In that sense, we are all the stories God tells Itself, and no story is better or worse than the next, neither higher nor lower, neither more or less profound or worthwhile.

When the wise say, “Just be”, that’s it — just be whatever we are. How hard is that? The innocent simplicity of our appearance here is actually an amazing and unfathomable mystery, the fact that there is beingness at all in the midst of vast emptiness. The embodied human intellect can’t really account for a tiniest fraction of it, and yet we act as if we are qualified to judge the worth of any particular life, usually based on borrowed opinions. That is an astounding bit of presumption, isn’t it — to suppose that we have some special knowledge of what any of this is all about!

Nevertheless, we humans continue to spend a lot of time and attention judging and categorizing each other, separating each other into denominations, clans, tribes, contrasting social groups, while assigning hierarchical values to each based on our conditional interpretations and biases. However, if we really understood the mechanics of that conceptual activity, we would also understand why this realm is so often characterized as a war planet, on both the individual as well as the macro level, and also why it need not be that way.

Perhaps if we would pause for a moment in the midst of timeless infinity and honestly self-reflect, we might realize just how preposterous our charades of knowing actually are, along with all the judgements we make regarding the ways of others that might diverge from our conditioned fantasy of what is “right”. Almost all of us indulge in opinionated speculation about what other people should be doing with their lives, even though we ourselves are often more like sleepwalkers stumbling through our own. Indeed, how many of us, while embodied in human form, have the capacity to access Universal Knowledge and see the bigger picture, in terms of any soul’s evolutionary journey?

However humbling it may be to recognize our fundamental ignorance, to that degree we just might move closer to the heart of the great matter – appreciation and sincere gratitude for this incomparable gift of conscious sentience, of living, feeling, moving, seeing, speaking, hearing, smelling, touching, thinking, imagining. Of loving and being loved. Of being born and dying, even though, as shards of Source Energy, we are forever, and utterly beyond both birth and death.

When we are able to recognize how our judgments tend to distract us from paying attention to our own process in life and relations, we can release them and thus reduce the burdensome complication they impose on the simple matter of ordinary life – life which is actually not so ordinary at all, but a rare and magical mystery tour beyond description that even the angels might envy!

“Every time you stand in a grassy field playing catch with your dog, a hundred thousand souls gather to watch in envy from above. For they not only wish to smell the sweet smell of the flowers and the wind that carries the scent of soil and grass, but they wish to experience that wind on their face. They wish to experience the trickle of rain on their heads, and feel the warmth of the sun upon their skin. They wish to be the family pet that digs its paws into the dirt as it loses itself in that playful moment, free from concern, sorrow or regret. They wish to be the ball that flies through the air and summons the dog to race and jump. They wish to be the butterfly that lands on your shoulder and captivates your attention for a fleeting moment by its elegant beauty and intimate physical interaction.

They envy you for you have not only witnessed, but you have experienced all of these things simultaneously, intimately and interactively. The flowers. The grass. The wind. The soil. The rain. The sun. The dog. The ball. The butterfly – are all perspectives, are all values, and are all relationships you have experienced intimately in that transitory moment. Just as you have influenced the ball that flew through the air, and the dog that ran to chase it, all these intricacies influence one another to similar effect. Try to perceive the value inherent within each, by placing yourself as each of such things, that you may better understand yourself and your own value outside of who, what, and where you are presently.”

~Sparrow, from The Value of Physical Embodiment


“The land of natural perfection
is free of buddhas and sentient beings;

the ground of natural perfection
is free of good and bad;

the path of natural perfection
has no length;

the fruition of natural perfection
can neither be avoided nor attained;

the body of natural perfection
is neither existent nor nonexistent;

the speech of natural perfection
is neither sacred nor profane;

and the mind of natural perfection
has no substance nor attribute.

The space of natural perfection
cannot be consumed nor voided;

the status of natural perfection
is neither high nor low;

the praxis of natural perfection
is neither developed nor neglected;

the potency of natural perfection
is neither fulfilled nor frustrated;

the display of natural perfection
is neither manifest nor latent;

the actuality of natural perfection
is neither cultivated nor ignored;

and the gnosis of natural perfection
is neither visible nor invisible.

The hidden awareness of natural perfection
is everywhere,

its parameters beyond indication,
its actuality incommunicable;

the sovereign view of natural perfection
is the here-and-now, naturally present
without speech or books, irrespective
of conceptual clarity or dullness,
but as spontaneous joyful creativity
its reality is nothing at all.”


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We all bring so much fear into our core belief systems, and more often than not, our religious/spiritual concepts are also subtly or not so subtly infected with it, regardless of our nominal affiliation. The preachers traditionally warn that death is lurking just around the corner, and could strike us down at any time, so we must put on our serious costumes and get straight with God, Tao, the Universe, Shiva, Dharma, or whatever programmed concept we employ to insure we stay clean and sober in the face of our inevitable death and potential afterlife destination.

“I’m not worthy, I haven’t done enough, I’ve accumulated more karma than I can possibly balance out, I’m a sinner, I’m a poor practitioner, I’ll never measure up, I’m unenlightened, etc…” are all conditioned notions which we tend to fixate on and then habitually reinforce as we ponder our fate. The proposition that life is a wonderful gift to be lived, appreciated, and enjoyed, rather than some sort of uphill path that must be traversed, a race to be won by the high achievers, or a struggle to be endured, is still a rare attitude in this realm.

Even the lamas and zen masters who one day proclaim that everything is perfect, just as it is, will turn around the next day and warn of dire consequences unless we keep our nose to the Dharmic grindstone and practice their prescribed method to achieve liberation from all this supposed perfection.

Truly, it’s fear that forms the emotional contraction at the heart. Most of us humans are implanted with the seeds of that fear early on, and carry the resulting contraction in life and relationships throughout the length of our sojourn here. The more we investigate our core motivations, the more we come to recognize that we tend to be driven by fear in our thoughts and behaviors.

Moreover, it is that contractive fear which keeps the full enjoyment of life’s adventure so out of reach. Even our greatest joys are tinged with the intuition of inherent evanescence, and so we tend to grow increasingly desperate as we sense some cosmic sword hanging over us, ready to drop without warning. It is also that same fear which interferes with any genuine sense of gratitude, even though such gratitude is the only truly effective antidote to the emotional contraction at the heart.

Real gratitude is a living, graceful expression of a love that is without conditions, the love that isn’t based on some needy clinging, nor is granted as a pay-off in exchange for services rendered. Gratitude is not only an expression of unconditional love, but by alleviating our fearful contraction, creates the space for an ever-fuller embodiment of such love.

Indeed, as we observe our human condition, we can notice something very interesting. That is, the more we tend to be fearful and complain about the way things seem to be, the more we will be given to complain about. Alternately, the greater our sense of gratitude, the more we find  within our lives that for which we can be grateful. When we are grateful, we are no longer fearful, and without that fear, the rationale for all the greed, envy, and hatred that chronically plagues this realm is no longer ruling us. Even our subconscious sense of lack is neutralized by gratitude, as is our conditioned intolerance for those who appear different than us in their life orientations.

Moreover, gratitude also gives birth to a powerful sense of trust in the functioning of the totality of the universal manifestation, and so even death is not feared, but accepted as part of the natural rhythm of things. It is not perceived as an end, but simply another door that opens in time and invites us to partake of new level of consciousness and appreciation.

When we live life as the gift that it is, then those with whom we come in contact are also affected by the fear-free frequency, and because of our natural connectivity, their own vibration is lifted accordingly. It is such a joyful practice, because its fruits are immediately recognizable, and requires no exotic rituals, complex text study, physical stamina, or revered master teacher.

As we humbly commit ourselves to the practice of gratitude, the circuitry of thought which registers our consciousness to the vibration of love, the vibration of our spirit connection, is increasingly enhanced. This joyful circuitry is established throughout our cellular and consciousness memory, connecting and reinforcing pathways of positive energy communication between our neural processes and physical body functions, resulting in an increasingly positive field of love’s energy abundance.

Essentially, we all know what it is like to be grateful, but by unconscious habit we have allowed fear to have its way. Once we begin to see how that fear has come to dominate our life, we can stop fueling it, refuse its seductions, and instead allow our natural gratitude to return to the forefront. We are not victims, we are not in any real danger, we are immortal spiritual beings of the highest order. Moreover, we have been blessed with exactly what we want, which in this case is life itself (even though at times it may not seem like such a gift, due to the veil of amnesia which accompanies human birth).

Gratitude is the real joy that is present in our being, regardless of what appears to transpire in the dreamy play of causes and conditions. The more that life’s inherent beauty and perfection is seen and appreciated, the more our capacity for such appreciation grows too. Even the very simple things, the little parts of life that we tend to overlook or take for granted, shine with a luminous luster when we pause to allow them to reveal themselves – the gently falling autumn leaf, the soft summer breeze, the freshness of a bright spring day, the majestic silence of falling snow, the smile of a child, the happy bark of a playful dog, a lover’s touch – all are gifts that are abundantly being showered on us, a feast for the soul that we must learn to value, if we are to realize our true potential for happiness.

Indeed, to immerse ourselves fully in the human experience is the very reason we came here, so we can see in that light that there is really nothing to fear, but only gifts for which to be thankful. Even our difficult challenges are gifts, because their experience permits us to appreciate the full range of life, its sorrows and difficulties, as well as its triumphs. They also bestow on us a level of humility, empathy, and deeper intimacy with our fellow beings, whose lot is often fraught with suffering and tears.

Yes, we can even be grateful for our tears, because they are a beautiful benediction in themselves. The more of this vibrational circuitry of gratitude we create and can access, regardless of the apparent circumstances we encounter, the easier it becomes to maintain a more naturally positive state of mind, body and spirit in this life, and the more of a blessing we become to all with whom we encounter.


“The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful. Look closely and you will find that people are happy because they are grateful. The opposite of gratefulness is just taking everything for granted.
Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness.
We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart. Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy — because we will always want to have something else or something more.”

~ David Steindl-Rast


Posted in Nonduality, Spiritual Practice | Tagged , | 21 Comments