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Mind Breakers: Experiments in the Listening Attention

” The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitude of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” – William James

When we first start out in this business of finding the Self, the Truth of who or what we really are, we are forced to use the only tools at hand: our thinking and feeling. After a few years of trial and error with emotion-based cogitation, we may stumble upon the intuition that there’s another tool available: direct seeing, or the listening attention. Our personal heredity, environment, and karma, will lead our thinking and feeling around and around in a never-ending circle of ego-fueled projections. This mechanical tail chasing may become more and more astute as we grow older and more crystallized, but never leads us to Truth. How can we blow a hole in this armored box of mind and emotion? Is it possible to perceive without coloring the perception?

Let’s get to really know ourselves by playing some games. Drop the heavy learned pose of knowing, and instead return to the lighthearted innocence of simple seeing. Take the sense of “I” from your thinking and feeling, and allow the ever-present inner silence to be your center. We will now become, as Douglas Harding says, headless, alert idiots. Like taking a mini-vacation from yourself, drop the “you” you try so hard to be, and just listen and look. Does it sound like fun? You bet it is.

Put your conceptual thinking, precious feelings, and clever intellect aside and try the following trick: pick an object in front of you, say the tip of your finger. Where is this object in relation to you, as awareness? Now pick one behind you, the same finger if you like, and see where it is (the memory or feeling) in relation to you. Now, close your eyes, and scratch your nose. Where is this happening, in relation to you? Now, scratch the back of your neck. Look closely. Where is this taking place, in relation to you, as awareness? (Hint: having a double arrow of attention is imperative: one pointed outward towards the object, one inward towards the Unknown.)

Now, let’s play a modified version of the same little game. Close your eyes, and, while looking inside with your inner eye, scratch the back of your neck with your finger. In your mind, which do you label as “me,” and which as “object”: the finger, or your neck? If you’d like, you can try switching the subject/object relationship. If you see the finger as object, and the neck, or body, as “me,” try becoming the finger, and let the body be the object.

Let’s revert back to thinking for a bit, a relapse, so to speak, and see what just happened. The feeling of “me,” and the feeling of the “world” or “objects,” is an arbitrary designation brought about by what we call learning, another name for hypnosis. It is not a fact of our own seeing, based on present evidence. If we look a bit closer, with our eyes closed, we see that what we call the finger and body are simply tensions in the field of our awareness. They are both what we call objects, mind-made, whether we have been induced to call them “me” or “I,” the body or the world.

To illustrate this even further, let’s try this trick. Remember to keep focused, in silence, out of worded thought and the internal dialogue, and only watch what you’re seeing with the mind’s eye, on present evidence. Try and remember a moment when you were offended or hurt by someone. C’mon, this isn’t hard, we all have many such moments, I’m sure. Relive the event just as it happened. Now, on present evidence, what is it in you that is hurt? And what is the form of the offending party, right now, as you see it? Remember, this is all now only in memory, so you can look clearly into your mind, and simply watch. What is the make up of the subject/object relationship in this play of victim and perpetrator? Who is doing what to whom? Where are you in all of this?

Now, for all you intellectuals, pick up a pencil or pen, and take a good look at it. Give a thorough, verbal description of the object before you. You may even list any associations the pen/pencil has for you. Now quick, who was talking? Who was listening? Who was being spoken to? Remember, this internal dialogue is happening inside your own head. Look carefully: in which voice is the “I” usually placed?

Now, let’s finish up by giving ourselves a break, and get up and get a drink. But before we go to the kitchen for our drink, let’s prepare ourselves. First, let’s take a look at our aim, simple as it may be. We wish to get up, go to the kitchen and get a drink. This is our desire of the moment. You might even call it our longing. Now, without thinking, but by just observing in the present moment, watch what actually happens as we allow our longing to unfold. As we begin, the desk with its computer swings back and out of the way, and the view of our desired destination, the kitchen, swings into view. As our longing continues, the kitchen magically gets closer and closer. Realigning itself to our vision, it eventually presents itself to us, even if a hallway or another room has to first pass by. The water glass we need comes into view. A hand reaches out and picks it up. Then, the glass and the hand go under the faucet. Another hand appears, and turns on the faucet. The water appears and fills the glass. A hand puts the glass to a mouth and the water flows inside, becoming a feeling or tension somewhere within our mind’s field of view. Somewhere, desire is replaced by satisfaction.

Now, what did we really have to do with any of this? Nothing. It just happened as an answer to our longing. The only part we actively played, in truth, was that of observer. The ever-still awareness we really are was witness to a play of desire and fulfillment. The play was created from nothing, out of nowhere, to miraculously appear in the aware space that is Us.

All spiritual work relies on the same basic principle. Our true longing eventually brings us to that which fulfills. We can now also see how the simple aim of reading this paper was not interfered with by the smaller aims of conducting the individual experiments. The end goal was achieved by progressing from one small goal to another, with our longing as the guide. As long as we didn’t cater to a conflicting desire, and thus were not distracted, we came to the goal.

Any question asked with absolute sincerity, honesty, and commitment will be answered. If we want the world of form and images, along with its corresponding pleasure and pain, we will have it. If we wish to gaze upon the miracle of existence right before our eyes, created from nothing, moment by moment, we may have that, too. If you want to know what your true desire is, look truthfully at the life before your eyes. There is your true longing, playing out before you in the events of your day-to-day life. If there is static and pain, worldly desire and anxiety, then find out why you long for it. The answers are there, in the present moment. Bravely clear your vision, and turn the subjective world of your unconscious desires and fears into a simple clear longing for Truth.

Bob Fergeson

Ghost in a Box

In the realm of spiritual seekers, many and varied are the conceptions of what the Final Realization will be. Most of these are meaningless discussions of symptoms, rather than any serious attempt at understanding the final state, much less becoming It. The projected outcomes of these students are as varied as the different schools and teachers in which they place their trust. Given this Gordian Knot of thinking and feeling, fueled by ego, and projected by unexamined minds, what can one do, and expect? How can a serious seeker find assurance that they are on the right course, and how can one be sure that they themselves, or someone they know and trust, has had the Final Realization, a Total Answer?

First off, the final judge must be the person themselves. In order to pass beyond the duality of the finite mind, we must be aware of the trap of putting yet one more level above us. This is a never-ending game of the mind. There will always be someone out there who claims to have a higher, more complete, more total realization than what we, or our teacher, may have found. Only in our Selves can we rest.  The trap of endlessly judging levels of attainment may be a way to keep our own spiritual ego afloat, but is a dangerous distraction if taken as the quest itself. We must press on within, and leave the fate of others to themselves.

The above said, there still remains the problem of the mind’s ability to fool itself with its own projections. Driven by ambition, mental laziness, and fear of the Unknown, we may unconsciously decide to claim realization by virtue of these desires and fears, and take an easy out. How can we check and compare our own level of spiritual attainment and not be misled, by our mind or the minds of others? Let us take a look at the stages of spiritual becoming, and hope that the words herein will serve as a guide to keep our vector moving and on track.

There are three states or levels of being that we find in this search, before reaching what might be called the final or absolute state. The first may be called the level of experience. The second, the level of union. The third, the level of becoming.

The first level, that of experience, may be likened to someone in his room watching a television, and being identified with the characters in the dramas as they unfold on the screen. Losing contact with himself, he has become hypnotized into believing he is a character in the TV. The freedom he began with, that he was (and still Is), the innocent observer, has been lost, traded for the mind-motion of thought and feeling projected into the plastic box in front of him. He places his highest value on the screen-character with the most motion and energy, in relation to his upbringing and education by other screen characters. The more the characters move and are dominant (whether positive or negative does not matter), the more energy is expended, and the bigger the reaction that is drawn from the person. His innocence and detachment have been replaced with the sense of motion and thought, and the thrill of losing energy. Now that he is inseparable from his role in the drama, he places a high meaning on the feeling of belonging, which he now values as part of his very definition. He has fallen deep into sleep, and is dreaming the life he thinks he lives, a mere ghost in a box of motion, emotion and thought.  He will evaluate a mystical experience in much the same way. If the experience has much motion, much release of energy, and if the character involved succeeds in his tasks, whether positive or negative, he will place a higher value on him, and claim his identity for his own.

This level is very basic and body oriented, having to do with visions of power and ego, and control over the environment. Any mystical experience or contact with spiritual systems or teachers a person on this level has, will be interpreted from this level. It constitutes no real change, or becoming, in what might be called the basic animal man, who, perhaps frustrated in his ambitions in normal life and society, has chosen a path of lesser resistance through fantasy for the fulfillment of his animal urge to power and dominance. He is the level of the mind and its motion, with which he is wholly identified. Fear and desire drive his every move, and he is firmly engrossed in his dreams.

For the man of union to Become, he must again suffer a complete disaster, and have an impossible bit of good luck, to boot. Through somehow seeing the still remaining dual nature of his mind, he may find the hint within that there is something of the intuition that led him this far, still in contact with him. He may see from time to time that he senses he is somehow behind himself, apart and unconcerned with the ‘thing’ that he previously called “I”. He may even experience moments of “headlessness”, in which he looses his usual sense of ‘self’ and instead sees the world without the noisy filter of his mind. He may even have the intuition that the secret to Becoming lies in this detachment, and not in the blissful union he values so much. This detachment has yet to become a steady factor in the present moment, but he begins to sense that the unaffected yet somehow aware screen, the very capacity for existence, and not the mind-made images that run across it in an ever-changing flux, is his true nature. That the Light and the screen it illuminates are but two different aspects of the same thing: Himself. Intuition now plays the bigger part, with reason and logic now only functions of the practical aspect of his environment.

Many little hints may come to him now, and if he is lucky enough to place a value on them, and follow them, he will continue to move. Most of these hints are along the lines of what has been called ‘headlessness’, or the” listening attention”. He may find he is observing without labeling or judging. That he is now free, for a moment, to gaze upon the world without knowing what he sees. These moments may be accompanied by a strange feeling of peace or silence, which he may come to know as the quiescence of his mind. Here, the former work on fear and desire come to fruit, as one cannot look into the Unknown if any vestige of fear or worldly ambition are still dominant. The site of the world without the minds’ interpretation can be frightening for those still attached to its false security. By continuing to look within, he may sense that the Light he feels, is not only healing him, but has a direction, a Source. If he travels back far enough to merge with this Source, he may find It to be the opposite of the ‘world’, and hence come to the possibility of triangulating the difference between Samasara and Nirvana, and so coming to Himself, as that which contains, and simultaneously is, All.

This return to our original nature extracts a high price, but only to the ghost in the plastic box. The ego, which has evolved from identification with the character on the screen, to that of the ego of the spirit united with its source, now has died. For the original awareness, this is release, yet it finds itself to be unchanged and knows it has never been any different. To friends and family, the symptoms of this final ego-death may, or may not, be visibly dramatic. The trauma of release is indicative of the size of the ego that dies, rather than of the nature of the underlying Reality. Any value we place on the size or spectacle of the resulting trauma of others may be due to our own need for distraction, and longing for continued sleep in our pride as sincere seekers. Facing our own coming headlessness is much more difficult than ruminating about the possible symptoms of the decapitation of others. Much of what may have happened in another’s becoming may not have been made available for our personal viewing, and consequent judgment.

The worded description of this final state is something that has caused much consternation in seekers and teachers alike through the centuries. Perhaps the best that can be said about it, is what it is not. It is not an intellectual conclusion reached through deduction, no matter how astute. It is not a feeling-state, not matter how sublime. It is something we receive, though we give it to ourselves. We become It, rather than ‘get it’, and then know we have never not been It.

In most schools, words such as ‘awareness’, ‘witness’, ‘absolute’, and ‘void’ are used to describe the causeless state, which we seek to become. An aware witness, void of any other qualities; an unbiased, empty Observer, having no cause, but being the cause of Itself, alone. A conditionless yet aware state that is itself unconditioned and not witnessable by other than itself, there being nothing other than Itself. Any description one hears which adds a word or words after “I am”, is not a description of the Self, but at most, a description of a symptom or view. Be very wary of those who claim unending Bliss and Peace, for any relative state calls forth its opposite, and is subject to change. You, and only you, will come to know what your final state is, and then, later, will struggle to find words to describe it.

The Interior Garden

Our garden can become infested with bugs and weeds if we have copped out of all responsibility towards it through a belief that everything is fine, simply because we don’t want to put the time and effort needed to actually do a bit of gardening.  This applies also to our inner world, the garden of the mind. We can believe that every thought that happens along in our heads is our thought, so it must be okay: we thought it.  This combination of laziness and pride is trouble. We tend to unquestionably believe our own thought, but if we did a little unbiased observation of the inside of our heads, we may see that these thoughts are not only not ours, but some do not even have our best interest at heart.

In our garden, we would never assume that every bug and pest that comes through is a good thing, or us. That would lead to a sad state of affairs: no more garden. If we never question our own thinking, never look at our own motivations, desires, and actions, if there’s nothing to control these through a system of honest intelligence, then any mental ‘bug’ can come through and take up residence, and since we have denied all responsibility for the inner domicile through our assuming that we’re perfect, these bugs can make themselves at home.  This infestation could be likened to a disease, not only harmful but infectious. It can spread from one to another, and much like a politically correct special interest or fad of the time, become accepted and even encouraged.

Much talk has been heard through the ages about ‘changing the world’, usually declared by the young or ambitious. The starting point for this change is never in the advocate, but always in the other guy. In order to change the world, each person must weed and debug their own garden by taking responsibility for their own thinking. The thinking can’t be allowed to go unquestioned, and assumed to be always right just because it’s us, our beloved specialness, the ego.  We may be obsessed, fanatical, unhealthy, detached, and aggressive to the point of ruining our lives and those of others, but since it’s us, we assume that it’s all okay. We don’t take responsibility for our own thinking/feeling processes and their resulting actions.  Hypocrisy may be the order of the day with politicians, professional athletes, and movie stars, but those professing change for the better had best start closer to home and make their own bed first.

Tension can be a good thing, it keeps us from getting too lazy and helps to revitalize. But tension should be used so that it maintains balance, holds a middle road rather than the extremes of the right or left. If people insist they’re ‘better than’ or ‘special’ and their particular vested interests are better than or special than anyone else’s, this tends to remove them from the domain of nature and her guiding force, as well as from common sense. If removed from tension or swung too far to one side or the other by getting their way too often, they can be rendered unhealthy and unfit, leading to even more misery for the human race, the planet, and themselves.

Some environmentalists have advocated a complete hands-off policy towards the environment by mankind, as if we as humans were not a part of nature. This ‘special’ thinking, that we as humans are somehow better, or much worse, than the rest of nature encourages pride and the thinking we’re above it all. It’s twin is the apathetic’s

Garden Rose
Garden Rose

‘why bother’, a  form of laziness.  A hands-off policy of pride that we’re above nature or a ‘why bother it doesn’t matter’ lethargy hands the bugs and weeds free rein; the garden falls into disarray and disease.  Our personal mind functions in the same manner as that of society’s. By believing in a hands off policy towards our own thinking just because it’s us or from sheer mental laziness, encourages de-evolution and decay. The ego cops out in either scenario, playing the role of God or lackey.

The dawning in the mind of the truth of our nature, the beginning glimmers of seeing things as they really are within, cannot take root in a barren or weed-choked mind. The first step to mental and emotional freedom lies in clearing the field, not declaring anything and everything there either holy, ‘special’, or not worth the bother.

Experiments, in Isolation

” What I suspect we need is not any kind of path or discipline, but a collection of tricks or devices for catching the Dark at the corner of the eye, as it were, and learning how to spot its just-waiting-to-be-seen presence, combined with strategies for stopping the hyperactive survival-programmes from immediately explaining the perception away. D. E. Harding’s exercises for discovering one’s own essential ‘headlessness’ are the best ideas I’ve yet come across for the first half of this process, but, by his own admission, most people ‘get it but simply don’t believe it’ .” – John Wren-Lewis

” Anything that pays the bills or works in the everyday world, including psychological systems, is never able to be rejected or seen for its errors. As long as you pay the bills, you have little chance of escaping your thought patterns. You never get to see how things are on the other side of the street, so to speak. If it works, it is self-maintaining, including all the mistakes built into the mind set.” – Jim Burns

In the above quote, Wren-Lewis has outlined a method for seeing our own ineffable awareness, the first part of which is Douglas Harding’s ‘experiments’ or tricks.  He outlines the second part as the need for a strategy ‘for stopping the hyperactive survival-programs from immediately explaining the perception away’, but only gives a hint as to how to proceed.

The Harding experiments are simple and direct, but must be practiced rather than read about for any effect to occur. I’ve noticed through the years what Wren-Lewis describes as the survival programs immediately explaining the trick away occur again and again, in myself as well as others: someone has a breakthrough at a Harding workshop, after practicing the experiments at home, or even after a spontaneous event while driving or eating, but soon the ego grabs hold of the ‘experience’ and lays claim to it. “Look what ‘I’ did,” it boasts, “’I’ saw what ‘I’ was looking out of, as now I’m seeing it, as I always see it, and so now don’t have to do anything more, so lets get back to the real business of doing whatever we were doing before this seeing nonsense came up.” This last part about getting back to business isn’t actually admitted, even in private, nor announced in public. Soon the person has no connection with the anterior seeing other than a vague memory and a new storyline about how they’ve finally made it to the promised land, end of the road, they’re off the hook.

There is nothing unusual about this. It’s the valuation that’s wrong, for it’s placed on observing a projected memory, rather than on actual seeing in the moment. The person believes that one instance of seeing what they are looking out of has somehow made the seeing permanent, when actually they are being fooled by the ego’s penchant for taking unconsciously referenced and projected memory, as reality. This process happens much faster than conscious worded thought. In a manic mind fraught with the demands of modern living, it is for practical purposes, invisible. The person thinks he is ‘seeing’ when he is actually remembering his seeing, and thus is fooled into never seeing again. How can this survival program of the ego be seen through, and how can we stop it from fooling us so completely? Can we admit our seeing is something that we must practice, perhaps for years, before it becomes an actual real time spontaneous state?

A possible answer occurred to me when I remembered the above quote by Jim Burns. We must somehow still the mind from its pressing quest to believe it has day-to-day life under control in every aspect just long enough to allow the survival program to relax. Then, when a breakthrough such as a moment of seeing what you’re looking out of occurs, you can observe the entire event without the ego’s overwhelming need to add it to its bag of survival tricks, thus relegating it to memory, projection and self-trickery.

A plan of action would require a period of isolation, a time set aside with no human contact. Especially no contact with the human system of emotional reactions such as family, the workplace, and all media, including the news, cell phones and email. Once isolated from outside influence, a person’s hyperactive reaction pattern will lose steam, and any event such as a glimpse into the anterior realm will not be immediately rationalized as a deed of the ego, but can be seen for what it is. The entire pattern of self-deception can be noticed, without identification, from the moment of ‘seeing’ to it’s relegation to memory and the ego’s attempt to claim it, and henceforth project it as proof of its accomplishment. This combination of isolation from outside influence long enough to still the mind, coupled with a earnest desire to perform experiments designed to see our own awareness at work, is a possible scenario for upping our chances at a breakthrough. For some a few days might be enough to break the pattern of mind chatter, for others, several weeks may be necessary. Aids such as fasting, meditation, and a resolve to watch for the need for distraction however it tempts, will help to calm the mind. It is getting harder and harder to find a place where one can be free from the mind’s manic reflections, and still stay reasonably comfortable so as not to spend all one’s time and energy battling the elements and other irritations, but it’s necessity has never been greater. Any effort towards this would be beneficial, any actual practice of it invaluable. The greater the resistance, the greater the reward.


The Inner Ashram

Inner Ashram
Inner Ashram

To find a still place within that’s free from the drama of the working world is paramount in our attempt to contact intuition and higher thinking. Once we move out of the patterns of mechanical thinking, we must also leave behind the emotional motivators that cause them, and instead allow the questioning and intent of our spiritual search to come forth. Mechanical thinking will continue to assert itself if we try to solve spiritual problems from the level of mechanical emotions. A vector towards inner truth is the path out of outer reactive tail chasing. We can’t win the battle for control of our thinking if we try from the realm of the battle itself. A higher realm is needed, one of higher emotion than found in the jungle of life.

If we find ourselves afraid to do something because we don’t want to face the emotional reaction the act brings comes up in ourselves, this is a clue that we’re buying into the false world of mechanical reaction.  We imagine how we will react when faced with another person or circumstance and cramp up, remembering how we may have mishandled it previously. We become afraid to do what we need to do, for the thoughts of other’s possible offences raises our defences, and avoiding the situation altogether is added to the mix as well. Fight or flight, the law of the jungle, becomes our only mode of thinking, and the residual emotions from it linger throughout the day, long after the events are over. By the time we get home, we’re full of the unconscious but active vibrations our mechanical upset has created, leaving us in a state of inner turmoil. No wonder week after week goes by, and our spiritual vector remains just below the level needed for dynamic action.

A recovering alcoholic learns quickly that he can no longer associate with his former so-called friends and their negative thought patterns, called “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” in AA. The same may be true for us. The circumstances of our karma and lives may not allow us the freedom of the ashram lifestyle with it’s quiet seclusion, but we can find a place within that gives solace and room to think. Just the humble acceptance of the above quandary will bring help into our soul, and show us the path to inner freedom. This calm mind that can allow our vector to assert itself is found when we drop the pattern of the false self and move into neutral territory long enough to let our defences down, and listen. Move within to a place where reaction is no more, and watchful listening prevails. There you may feel a longing for even more stillness, a faint remembrance of something better, whispering a direction home.

Ache of the Heart

One way to spot the emergence of the false self, the sleep walker and its pattern, is by an ache in the heart, by that tender nerve that gets touched, a longing for escape or


relief.  This nerve is tender and sensitive from our believing in the world of the false self.  Think of a valid action or event you like, that’s natural and healthy, and the negative guilt reaction it may induce, such as a quiet walk in the park. There’s no material or emotional profit from it, it doesn’t put bread on the table, or pump up someone else’s idea of us, but it helps clear our mind and gives us time alone to think. If during our little walk we find our thoughts drifting to duties, to should’s and could’s, to having to make excuses why we aren’t being productive or perfect(why do we need quiet time, to meditate, what’s wrong with us?), we can shift our attention from the inner world of our negative imaginings, and instead focus on what’s going on in the moment. We then leave the false world of manufactured worry and come back to ourselves. We leave the false world, we wake up.  The ache is because of our attachment to the world of our worry and imaginings: it’s the knot.  Our heart does not ache because things aren’t the way they should be, it aches because we have become attached to our false idea of things, of how we are told we should be. People poke at our life, we get defensive and feel that ache. It’s a sure sign we’re buying into their take, into their false world, it’s hurting our heart because we’re connected to their projections, we believe it, therefore we have to react to it as if it’s real. If we could keep ourselves in our own heart, in ourselves in the moment, then we wouldn’t react to them. When we react, we believe them, for we’ve lost our reason and fallen asleep.  This causes the pain, because we come out of ourselves and allowed the world of imagining and projecting, the land of sleep, to touch us through our believe in it; the knot of the heart.

A Pattern of Becoming

Over the Shoulder Man-web
Reactive Man

If we buy into the anger, criticism, or praise of others by believing in it, and by believing that their take on events is realer than our actual perception, the innocent perception, if we buy into their criticism by reacting to it defensively, or their praise by getting puffed up, this means that we agree with it, and are fast becoming it.  If this agreement causes an emotional reaction inside, this sets up dissonance and the inner conflict.  We come to not trust our own take on what we see, and believe instead in the critical or flattering take from outside. We develop our own defensive reaction pattern to this outer offensive pattern.  This reaction pattern to the criticism/praise creates a false self in us in order to match the false world that we’ve agreed to through our belief in it.  This sets up a reactive little universe of drama in which we are trapped. We say “I” to this false self for so long we come to automatically believe it to be us.

When we get into situations that cause this to be acted out, such as work, social situations, and around certain types who are overly critical or fawning, we defend ourself against this criticism/flattery and start criticizing, flattering, patterning our “I” to be just as they are. We lose track of our innate innocence, most of our reason, and the connection within. We’ve been drawn outward into a false emotionally reactive universe of defensiveness: a fake self.  This entire thing has to be dropped, it can’t be improved, it’s a desperate down hill ride through a dark swamp with a messy ending. A clean break, a return to our own direct perception of the world, the acceptance of own capacity to be aware, is the way out. This drama and its pattern forming can never be solved at its own level.

If we make a mistake, can’t do something the way other people insist we should, or find we are planning ways to garner praise, reacting emotionally by believing in the drama, the way out is to stay connected to our own innocent perception of what’s actually taking place, a pure non-judgmental awareness that is not formed from experience, but is aware of and contains our experience. Our reaction pattern, which is a reaction to other reaction patterns, and all entirely in the imaginations of those involved, can by definition only progress along set lines, there is no lasting relief.  Some people are almost completely this false self, walking bodies, trouble. Is that all you wish to become?


Osprey and Full Moon
Osprey and Full Moon

Learning to observe, or watch oneself without attachment, is so easy that most of us overlook it, thinking that we must need to be doing something more complicated.

Try a little experiment.Take your watch or a clock with a sweep second hand, and see how long you can watch the hand as it moves. Without thinking, just concentrate on observing the hand, without thoughts. Not very easy, eh, but so simple. If the thought comes “I’m watching the hand”, or if you find you’re trying to help it move by willing it, i.e. being the doer, or think, “What an idiot, I’m watching my watch!”, then you’ve lost the observer and are now creating a scene through visualization.
Now, find some task you perform as a habit, something simple you do everyday. Watch yourself as this task unfolds. If the thought comes, “I’m watching myself do this”, or “I’m watching myself, watching myself do this”, then you’ve lost the thread, and created another observer or self with which you become identified: the subject-object visualization trap. Just realize this, and go back to observing the scene, without a sense of involvement, even as the watcher. After you’ve had a bit of success with this, move on to something more complicated, and see if you can again observe the scene without the sense of the doer, or self.
Also, begin to remember what thoughts brought you out of the observer and back into identification, and what the hidden motivation was behind them. This free association, following the thoughts back to the desire or fear that caused the loss of the listening attention and brought back the sense of attachment, will show you your pattern. Then, go back to observing until the circle of distraction and loss of the listening attention spins around again.
Practice the above meditation for awhile, and put what you’ve found in clear, concise language.

Buzz Ball or Essence?

“I want to become so lost in experience that I forget myself.  I’ve always got things to think about, lots to do, it saves me from being in the moment. Something in me doesn’t want to face the moment, because it thinks it’s missing out, it’s going to miss something.  Like needing to watch movies, or social networking, browsing endlessly on the web, channel surfing even though I can’t find anything I care about. I like to think that if I would just go home at night and sit in the dark, be quiet, stay away from the endless

Observant Osprey
Observant Osprey

electronic chatter, that I’d be calmer, happier. But when it’s that time, I find myself doing the same old same old,  because I feel that I’m going to miss something.  That if I watch the movie, browse the web, I’ll have done something.  It’s the same way with thinking.  I don’t like to just walk along, or just sit and be empty of reaction.  Something in me wants to be thinking, thinking, thinking all the time because it’s so afraid it’s going to miss something by being quiet.  It’s really strange, I think my mind is like a sort of buzz ball of static, trying to assert itself and stay alive, rather than letting what’s essential, my inner self, come forth and grow. “

If the above statement rings a bell for you, you’ve begun the big battle, the war of the selves. The inner fight between the outer and inner man. This is a huge step on the path, for it shows we’ve come to realize that the battle is within, not with circumstance or others, but with ourselves.

This buzz ball, the mind of static and habit, is opposed to our essence. It is all a matter of identification: what do I see I am? If you’re identified with the buzz ball, then you have to think, plan, do, be nervous, think you’re missing out all the time.  If you’re identified with Essence, then experience doesn’t have to be so regulated or enticed.  It’s just your awareness of existence, and what creates it, that matters. You simply enjoy watching whatever it is that’s there.

Then, words such as those in the Serenity Prayer take on meaning, for we begin to see we may not be the doer after all, but an observer who has very little to do with what’s going on in the play of our lives.

Lord, grant me
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

Brain Fog 2

Another thing hidden by the brain fog is the dual aspect of our machine and its life. Our lives are largely the process of a machine generating energy, like a treadmill. The dual motion of two pistons, action and reaction, experience and experiencer, hooked to a central drive shaft, is transferring our energy away. We can see this by observing how we spend much more energy in our lives than is necessary to simply get by. We lead mechanical lives of dissipation, which are not of our own making, but from the states of mind we have bought into.  We are hooked up to the treadmill in the rat race, and in our personal emotional lives as well. Our emotional reactions to our spouses, our parents, our careers, whatever belief system we bought into, drives the machine, takes away our energy, and we never question it.  We can never solve this problem from its own level. The harder we push, the harder too are we pushed back. We think that we know what we’re doing, that we want what we want. It’s all being forced upon us, until we begin to question it.


This questioning takes a certain amount of courage, and trauma perhaps, but in the end run it saves a lot of energy.  We have to be able to face the fact that we do not want to question ourselves, our very beliefs, our sacred cows at whose altars we pray.  Our defenses automatically jump up whenever anyone else calls us on it, keeping our ego and the system of belief safe.