– Douglas Harding
I once had a dream of having another head on top of the original, like an appendage emanating from the present noggin. In the dream I was told that I was using spiritual work to build this second head, the ‘double head-head’. Instead of using self-observation to see my present personality pattern, the pattern of experience built up through my present life forming what I called my ‘self’, I was engaging in a strange fantasy. I was manufacturing a second head, which I then ‘worked on’, rather than observing the original. This kept me safe. I didn’t have to actually face anything unpleasant about myself, for everything in this second head was created with the express purpose of keeping the ego intact and unassailed. This new head was all I really knew, it was ‘me’.
I could keep being ‘myself’ while thinking I was engaged in serious spiritual work. I could ‘see’ things about myself freely, for they would be recommended and okayed by the ego. The realization struck me that I had been doing this for decades, living in a false self-created ‘self’ that kept me a stranger to the relatively real me. I was a mystery to me, but not, apparently, to everyone.
After the shock of the dream, I began to look more closely at myself, hoping to catch glimpses of the double head-head, and how it worked. Listening to others when they offered advice or criticism began to hold value too. Group work suddenly held a new purpose. How did this work? Could I see it in others as well? How could one be so naïve?
Later, I came to understand what Alfred Pulyan had called the Ego1-Ego2 game, the ego splitting itself in two, and calling the separated part ‘ego’, thus keeping itself safe from scrutiny. And also Carl Jung’s work on the ‘shadow’, that hitherto mysterious dark side of which I was sure I was immune.
Working in an illusion serves the ego’s prime directive: survival. It feels threatened with annihilation when things such as self-observation and looking at one self directly are entertained. In order to survive, it creates an ‘ego2’, a second head, on top of itself.
This process has been going on all of our life. Many of our phobias, inferiorities, and grandiose imaginings about ourselves are only in this second head. Once we cut it off through self-inquiry, a form of productive thinking, we are free, free to begin the real work of facing the original head.
To give an example, we may feel we have something wrong with us, stemming from the negative criticism of a parent figure when we were too small to understand or protect ourselves. This may have given us a feeling of inferiority, for God as the parent has told us we are lacking. Later in life this feeling of something being wrong is what is answered to. We may be engaged in spiritual work to compensate for this: to fix our inferiority complex. In actuality, we are working on a fantasy, an incorrect idea of ourselves injected into us from outside. We may never have even begun to act on our innate positive potentials due to being sidetracked: trying to fix a false problem. Have we ever tried to find what we are, inside, without relying on what we have been told? Has this outside information kept us down, or inflated us with a grandiose expectation of things?
Living in our imagination will not set us free, for what we seek freedom from is our own false conception of ourselves. Take courage and patience, learn to look for the facts of your life, not the fantasy of the double head-head.
Here’s the Double Head-Head video:
A talk about the benefits of stilling the mind:
link to the original Breathing Underwater video: https://youtu.be/2lVE64vZvVE
Text of the talk:
Hi Folks, I’d like to talk with you today about a meditation exercise, that I’ve mentioned and made a little video about in the past, called breathing underwater. To me this exercise, which could be called stilling the mind, placing our attention into the quiet, the stillness, so that there’s no movement of the attention. This can feel at first like you’re breathing underwater because you’re so used to allowing the attention to run free. We’ve been taught to let this attention run out into the world for two reasons: One is the adventure of it. You could call this entertainment. The ego wants to go out into the adventure of the world to entertain itself, to look at all the strange things out here, and to identify with them, put our sense of “I” into them, so that we think we’re the ‘doer’. To get back past that sense of doership to the real reality that we’re just the observer, we keep this attention still, we can allow the will of God to come forth. This is like a trick of surrender. We can’t surrender on purpose, that’s just another ego move. What we can do is keep the attention still. Another thing we’ve learned is to try to escape. To let the attention run out into the things of the world in order to get away from the bad feelings inside of us, that may have been put there in our childhood, through school, through being told we’re inferior, bad. This is unconscious mostly, it’s not our fault, but if we can still this escape mechanism, not try to fix it, solve all the little details of it with analysis, but simply to be still and watch it and see that it’s not us. This little attention thing is like a cursor on your computer. If you hold it still and don’t click on it, then things stay still and there’s silence. This is like I said, a strange form of surrender, and that we can let our mind be still, but the world still flows through. Then God’s will is manifest rather than ours. This can be pretty scary at first to let go, it takes a long time for us to have Faith, so we don’t think the world will either fall apart, or go nuts on us, if we don’t have our little will in there trying to control it every minute. This practice, the more we do it, the more we try to hold our breath, our attention, our will, the easier it becomes until we find we can do it without effort, and that the world goes on. It can go from being brief seconds to being minutes, of allowing God to take over, and we can just relax and sit back and watch the show.
“The magical side of self-observation is to give yourself a little time before you react to incoming impressions. ” – Maurice Nicoll
The ego has been said to be legion, meaning that it can take on infinite forms in order to hide and maintain its power. One of its main tricks is to keep us identified with a series of emotionally based reactions which color our thinking, feeling, and sense of self, while believing we are observing life and ourselves objectively. Roy Masters once remarked that most of us live in an emotionally based day dream state of thought; patterns of belief formed through unconscious emotional reactions to experience. Continued belief and identification with these patterns ensures the ego’s dominance.
Another of its tricks is to pass the buck, to split itself in two: the ego1-ego2 game. It labels the separated part as ‘ego’(ego2), while it hides in judgment as ‘ego1’; the pot calling the kettle black.
The ego1-ego2 game is perpetuated by emotionally based judgment and self-critical reaction, rather than non-critical, non-judgmental self-observation. This ‘method of maintaining egocentricity’ was first mentioned by Alfred Pulyan, and describes the ego’s schizoid ability to split itself in two in order to maintain its position as ultimate boss. An example goes like this: “I’m destroying my ego, I’m never going to let it mess up my life again”, says ego as ego1, referring to ego2 as ‘ego’. In this manner, it can maintain a safe position all the while allowing the ‘me’(ego1) the feeling it’s making progress by destroying the ego(ego2) This trick insures it’s hypnotic hold over our awareness.
What I call ‘energy knots’ or ‘buzz balls’ are key to this. These are reaction patterns formed from emotional energy tied to an event. The attached energy keeps the event/memory alive and running in the mind. When we are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of these patterns in real time, and are caught off guard so as not to lapse into the ego1-ego2 trap by immediately reacting in a negative manner, we have a rare opportunity. These afflictions to the individuality sense show us ourselves and our patterns. Witnessed in real time, riled up and spinning, these energy knots give us the chance to see our ‘self’ clearly, if we observe non-critically. We then stand a chance of raising ourselves out of dualistic observation and judgment, and look with pure observation: awareness. As soon as we judge the pattern, we slip down into the ego1-ego2 trap. When we criticize and judge a part, labeling it in effect as ego2, we become the same; another ‘part’, ego1. You can’t see your pattern, much less your ego, from its own level. You have to raise yourself up to a different dimension; a non-dualistic awareness.
A facet of this non-judgmental observation is discernment. We need discernment, which is innocence, as opposed to judgment, which is fueled by fear, resentment, and guilt. If we look at these reactions to seeing ourselves (one part judging another) we can see that judging is a negative emotion, a reaction only, not an awareness. It’s on the same level as ego. If we don’t have a sense of innocence, a pure mind operating on a level above belief, we tend to lapse into judgment and negative emotion, which is again, ego.
To rise above the ego, to separate from it, we need to return to our original innocence. We can find that lost innocent state through refined nostalgia: discernment based on retreating from what is less than pure to that which is simpler, more original. This ‘spiritual nostalgia’ is a longing for simplicity, the truth, not a sentimental attachment to the past and memory. Rising above the dualistic trap of ego1–ego2 we return to true discernment, the emotional element of which is nostalgia, which has no basis in criticism or judgment. From this perspective we can see how the ego1-ego2 trap works. We can climb above it as awareness, a simple witnessing, not from judgment.
A real time pure observation of a buzz ball releases the bound up energy from the mind, giving us a sense of lightness and clarity. We are freed from a belief. It’s a backing away from the gestalts of emotionally based thinking and feeling, leading to patience and the ability to witness without reaction: true freedom.
I was thinking this morning of how I have attempted to accomplish control over the fear of death. I saw that I was comparing my efforts to accept death, and the failure to do so, only within the context of what I believed. I realized this could never be accomplished; it was trying to change an idea with an idea, working only in the realm of thought, rather than becoming that which observes thought.
It strikes me that much of what we call ‘spiritual work’, but isn’t direct inquiry, is this phenomenon in one form or another.
Whether it be death, anger, or whatever else we believe we need to make peace with or become, before we awaken.
Awakening is not an accomplishment. Its road is not a series of modifications, but rather a direct seeing of what is.
This is not the same as struggling with thought to ‘remove’ thought. You see thought directly. You are ‘behind’ even thought.
It’s when we believe we see from the same level as thought (that seeing is possessed by an object we take as our self) that we attempt to modify it. We believe this modification will allow a more direct seeing as the object we believe ourselves to be changes.
You cannot see through objects. Thought cannot be made more transparent (a movement to its opposition) or more opaque (a movement towards its reinforcement) and thus solve the problem of identity.
When thought is seen as an object and not as a lens, you may ‘see’ seeing itself and thus be the truth of yourself, even here, in the world.
You can’t accept anything before its actuality presents. This ‘acceptance’ would only be an idea and ideas can only be believed in. They should not be accepted at their own level, the level of ideas. True acceptance comes as the ‘I’ is chased down.
The pride of accomplishment is a sneaky bastard. Be it positive (I did good) or negative (I did bad)
The pride of accomplishment and the pride of ownership are the same pride as that of doer-ship. They occur at the unquestioned level of identity. An identity of thought only pointed at but never fleshed out in what can be directly viewed as actual. Much suffering comes from this.
– wisdom from a friend
“Nurturing the now is a way of living in the present with peace and optimism. You must yearn to return…to the living experience that you are.” – Vicki Woodyard
Vicki Woodyard has brought the fruits of her life and suffering into a teaching that is inspirational and a comfort to those in need. She speaks from the heart of wisdom, without pretense, a valuable rare thing in this age of non-duality spin doctors. Her path was one of finding inner wisdom through grief and loss. She has taken this suffering and turned it into spiritual gold, helping others to find their own inner teacher.
- The first step should be into silence. Begin with the silent witnessing of your thoughts.
- The next step is into surrender. Let the thoughts be there without fighting them.
- Thirdly, admit that you need higher help. This will bring in the principle of humility – Vicki Woodyard
Her latest method of passing on her insights is through a series of short videos. This very effective approach can almost immediately drop one down from the head into the heart, as we listen without argument or agreement. Here’s a sample:
She has a couple of Facebook pages she posts to, as well as her web site and a youtube channel:
A fellow Southerner and a teacher of integrity and patience, Vicki studied with Vernon Howard, who imparted his no-nonsense way of teaching to her. I recommend everyone who is interested in finding their own inner wisdom, to give Vicki a serious listen.
This is a fine example of her insight put into prose:
“I am intensely fierce, a warrior. My teacher this lifetime was and is Vernon Howard, who taught the Work of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, esoteric Christianity. Christ was concerned with living the truth and letting the chips fall where they may. He counseled his disciples to shake the dust off their feet when encountering uninterested people.
The Work undercuts the ego at every opportunity, which is why it is never for the masses. The masses settle for church and social institutions, believing that by good works they can save the world. Vernon used to say that if you cleaned up a slum, it would recreate itself before you could turn around. How true that is. Charity begins within.
I believe in the power of the living truth to change me when I am ready to face it. Until I am ready, the truth will wait on me as long as it takes. Love is patient and kind.
It takes a lifetime to make any progress, a total dedication to seeing how bad off you really are. To see it is to be free of it. But no one stays free for long. It is an ongoing witnessing that must take place within one’s own consciousness.
If you are involved in the work of waking up, the older you get the better your life becomes. Why? Because you always get your spiritual gold. Your outer life is a reflection of your inner one, so a simple life is always best.
Simple living and high thinking is the phrase Yogananda used. To be economical on every level is to be simple. Just as you get rid of junk, you get rid of emotional disasters in your personal life. This requires a cutting away of worldly ties. The true way is not for the timid. There is always new ground to break and old ground that falls away.
A warrior, when afraid, remembers the truth within that will never desert him or her. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” And we walk on, preceded and surrounded by the light.”
This past Sunday, March the 20th, I was privileged to talk with Regina Dawn Akers from Awakening Together. We discussed many topics relevant to the spiritual search, a good evening that I hope will be informative to those longing to look within.
The audio of the interview is available on their web site through this link:
“Sometimes we might have the feeling that there’s a better place, a home so to speak, that we’ve lost touch with. Maybe a better state, a better way to be. And if we could just hold our head on the right wavelength, we could find our way back there. The longing for that place, that’s what I’m asking about. You’ve felt this, I’m thinking, haven’t you?”
Bobby just sat there. Yes, he thought. I feel that longing a lot, especially of late. In the fall it would become almost unbearable. He felt as if he was on the verge of seeing his true home, that it was just around the next bend. But soon the troubles of the world would come rushing back in, he would be lost again in forgetfulness.
“Yes, I feel that longing. It’s very strong sometimes. But it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere. It’s like sentimentality, it can be strong and even hurt, but what does it mean? Not much, as far as I can tell. It’s like a tease.” He suddenly felt cynical. Longing had other connotations, like the longing for a family, for true love, for security. And yet these things seemed to be dependent on circumstance more than anything. It all seemed to amount to just more pain.
OD’s smile began to reappear; he was looking at Bobby’s face.
“It can lead us somewhere, just not where the body or society might want. That longing can give us a direction. It can show us the way within.”
– OD Magee from the new book, Dark Zen – A Guru on the Bayou
Ever wondered about the connection between Zen and self-knowledge? If you have even a glimmer of interest in these matters, this book can open a new dimension for you. This much prized knowledge is delivered via the friendship that develops between a lost young man and a Zen master.
Nostalgiawest photographer Bob Fergeson has just released a new book, set in the swamps of Louisiana. Bob couches Zen lessons and a methodology for spiritual development into a simple story that allows the teachings to shine through. This book has something to offer the complete beginner and the more seasoned seeker – simple explanations of profound truths.
The book is available on amazon, in both print and Kindle editions. The Kindle version has full color photos taken by the author in southern Louisiana.
To receive answers to important spiritual questions, questions that concern the inner self, such as ‘who am I’, ‘what should I be doing with my life’, we will need to use the appropriate method. Big questions such as these shouldn’t be put into the emotionally based associative thinking we habitually use, the kind of thinking we use to balance our checkbook or schedule the day. In answering higher questions associate thinking gets us nowhere. Being cast into the wrong realm, these questions endlessly spin around the brain in a negative feedback loop, tying up our mind.
For great questions, we need a different level of mind, something patient and insightful. There is a gap between our associative spin thinking, and the place of tension that can contain the great question; a quiet space in which to ponder. We find this space through meditation; practicing methods to strengthen and calm the mind. People who are really busy, with kids and careers, will tell you they don’t have time to ponder. If you were as busy as they were, they insist, you’d know this. But would they meditate 2 to 3 times a day, conscientiously, they will find sooner or later that they do have time to ponder. Most of our so called thinking, is actually an emotionally based form of worry, guilt, or anxiety; it doesn’t serve a valid function. Once you see this through self-inquiry and meditation, the worry and anxiety will begin to evaporate. You find you do have time to ponder. You begin to understand how to put spiritual questions to the inner self, the unknown.
We find great answers by putting our great question up against the unknown, and holding it there with attention. We wait patiently for the unknown to respond. It requires true patience and courage, for the answer may not come immediately, it’s not associative. The process takes a while. Maybe a minute, an hour, maybe a year, even longer. Sooner or later, if we keep the tension there, against the unknown, the Inner Self will be stressed to respond with the answer, bringing resolution.
This tension-based thinking is hard to do, for there’s often no immediate satisfaction. It requires being able to both hold tension and be patient. The tension and waiting serve to break the associative loop, putting the question instead to a higher source, something not in space and time. Emotional thinking and rationalization are on the mundane level, and have no access to matters beyond.
One caveat is that we may find we’re getting answers in this tension based thinking, but not to the questions we expect. Instead of our present question, questions in the background can be suddenly answered, for the tension, once created, will jump to the next question on our list, whether we’re conscious of it or not. This can happen because the questions we’re putting to the unknown may not interest the inner self, or we may not have put them in in the right form and need to rephrase and clarify them. Or, we may not be ready for the answer, we might refuse it.
Questions held with tension in a quiet mind draw to them the corresponding answers; a process of resolution. Patience, courage, and humility are key. Remember, we ask a question because we do not have the answer; we are admitting our ignorance, and are asking for release in a determined and humble manner.