Bob Fergeson and Tess Hughes will share their stories and teachings through a series of workshops, inquiry, and discussion, designed to free your own inner guide.
“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.
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.
The purpose of meditation isn’t to make us feel good or to continually inspire us, so that we feel emotionally motivated in our life. It’s also not about changing our feelings; to make us feel good, and not feel bad. It’s about leading your feelings and thoughts from a higher perspective. In other words, we meditate in order to generate a spiritual quantum or spiritual direction, a vector, which can help us to act over and above our feelings and thoughts. If we don’t feel like meditating, and this tells our thoughts to look for reasons to cop out, the spiritual direction can help us to meditate anyway, regardless of how we feel.
This is why we need to meditate on a regular basis, to develop a routine, whether we feel like it or not. Meditation will provide the energy and incentive for meditation. It’s not about “I don’t feel like meditating and need instead to lay around until I figure out how to get to where I feel like it”. It’s not about adopting ‘thought disciplines’ that make bold directives and use the guilt trips of ‘should of’s’ to force us to meditate. It’s about generating a spiritual quantum, which is over and above feeling and thought. This will enable us to act, and meditate, without the ego energy. We’re so used to acting only through ego energy, feeling good, feeling bad, and their accompanying rationalizations, that we don’t know there’s another way. Proper meditation and connection with a higher power is what gives us this ability. This is what we’re striving for, not for endless bliss, endless inspiration, or some trick to help us get high, to distract us. What we’re looking for is something above and beyond this; a change in character, a change in being.
– Bob Fergeson
20 Spiritual Tools You Can Use On Your Path, by Ricky Cobb III
1. Humor as healing energy/remedy. “One thing you must be able to do in the midst of any experience is laugh. And experience should show you that it isn’t real, that it’s a movie. Life doesn’t take you seriously, so why take it seriously.” – Richard Rose
2. Forgetting yourself. Absorption in activity or concern for others.
3. Remembering yourself. Usually after a period of forgetting yourself. “I am” (Gurdjieffian) exercises, Harding experiments, Feeling into the body, etc. Move out of thinking and look or feel what is actually happening in and around you. Stop the imagination/daydreaming.
4. Put questions to the test. At the start, questions of finders can be helpful. Later, use your own questions. How can I test this out or find out if it is true or not? Test your ideas and beliefs. Compare and contrast the ideas and see if they match reality. Experiment and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there or ask someone else’s perspective on something you always thought was true and hadn’t thought of to question.
5. Question everything. What you can’t see is what is too close to you to be seen by you. Therefore, what has been unquestioned is what is taken for granted or what you are unaware of or cannot yet see. What is seeing? What does the questioning? Distance can be gained by questioning what isn’t real. Reality withstands questioning.
6. Make it your own. Franklin Merrell-Wolff mentioned he made a modification of his own and that was a key. Give your personal twist to your practices, put yourself into whatever you do. Enjoy it, love it even. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there in some way.
7. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up. This path requires a small amount of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results). It might not be the 20th time but the 21st time you hear/see/do something that it takes effect or becomes clear within you. Sticktoitiveness.
8. Make a commitment to the Truth. The Essential part of you is already committed. Bring action to your commitment or make it real in some way.
9. Can’t choose between two seemingly equal choices? Pick one and go with it. Even if you fail you will have succeeded at eliminating a wrong choice.
10. Perception and perspective. As you see it so it is. See it good, it is good. See it bad it is bad. It is bad, because you see it bad. It is good because you see it good. Discover the connection between ideas of things and things ‘themselves.’ There are limits to this, of course, but you must discover where they are and how far they go.
11. The mind is like the body. It can be full or stuffed from over indulgence. Too many ideas can be like fat and cause sluggishness. Slow down rest in silence and quiet. Let the mind burn away what it has learned or is chewing on. Meditation, physical work or exercise where the mind is free to wander are good to allow this processing to occur.
12. Same goes for the body. Lack of exercise will cause sluggishness in the body as well as the mind. Exercising the body will allow the mind to be free. They are interconnected and a healthier body will lead to a healthier mind. By intentionally introducing stress to the body in a controlled manner with exercise, you will take life’s uncontrolled stresses better by being used to the body’s stress response. In fact, it may even make you more efficient and better able to respond to whatever is thrown at you. Willingly undergoing adversity is taking responsibility for life, good and bad. And you’ll feel better.
13. Acceptance. Relax in the present moment putting aside judgments, worries, and thoughts. Acknowledge the reality of what is, as it is what’s not false (like the worries). If you cannot accept something do what you can to change it if it is within your power to do so. If it isn’t within your power develop the power or pray to a higher power. Trust in your prayers or own ability or the specific combination of the two. “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” -St. Augustine
14. Should isn’t always what is. What you think should happen and what actually does happen aren’t the same. Learn what your expectations are so you can drop them.
15. How? The answer to how is yes. From the title of a book I haven’t read. The title is enough. How? By any means be necessary. If it’s important you’ll find a way or means to make it happen.
16. Why….? Any why question can be answered that there is no why, only what is. This means that an answer to why wouldn’t be sufficient to change your being; it would only temporally satisfy your intellect. Go beyond thought or kill your mind by seeing between thoughts. What is there?
17. Intuit. Feel before you think. But don’t forget to think too! The combination is common sense or practical right mindedness.
18. Triangulate. Richard Rose’s Jacob’s Ladder and Herbert Benoit’s Conciliatory Principle. Study opposites and see where you are in relation. The point isn’t to find the middle spot between opposites and stay there but to back up the swinging arm of the pendulum to the still fulcrum point.
19. Don’t confuse levels. A Course In Miracles talks about confusion of levels. This would be like taking some spiritual advice literally without understanding it might refer to the absolute level rather than the relative level. An example of that might be the saying “nothing needs to be done” and so you interpret that to mean you don’t have to do anything. Doing still needs to occur but the problem is with the identification here. If you’re still a body and stop doing things that body will be in for a lot of trouble. Another example might be taking practical specific advice for you and confusing it as some abstract nebulous thing that must occur on a ‘spiritual’ level rather than on a relative ‘normal’ level. Use common sense about what your next step is.
20. Group-work. Work with others to be a mirror and allow them to be one for you. While there is no specific recipe or instructions one can follow to become enlightened (or find what you really are) and every path is individual and unique, specific to each person, you can still work together with your fellow seekers to compare notes, discuss ideas, provide support or warnings and give inspiration or suggestions to one another. It may save you time or trouble on your path.
Ricky Cobb III
Ennui by Ike Harijanto
It is not blind
for it has no eyes.
A glob blubbery blob, marshmallowy,
yellow, bloated Ennui
blows thick smoke from a hookah drooping
off its thick puckering lips.
For Life and Love it’s an ogre so hungry.
Beware of its smoke for it can swallow
whole and drag low,
then all motions drags a clunky
laborious chain of “Why?”
Marshmallow Ennui imperceptibly
turns into sticky molasses Depression quickly.
It’s not a morphing; it’s a giving of way,
for Depression is a desperate try
against falling so deeply asleep that is Ennui.
It drags you into a gray-brown bog,
Blowing its drowsy fog.
I fall asleep without knowing it,
thinking I’m awake, thinking I’m aware.
Ennui is a know-it-all thinking, “I know too much.”
Ennui is an armchair traveller claiming, “Been there, done that.”
Ennui is jadedness yawning, “Meh,
seen everything already.”
Familiarity turns into a malady.
But don’t waste your life feeling guilty,
For it’s not you
who says, “All is done; nothing to do.”
How did I fall asleep? I don’t know;
Didn’t catch myself nodding.
In this thick heavy fog, God of Light, please show
Just a needle of Your Light piercing.
From this aggressive vortex pull of Sleep,
I want out, I want to wake!
What are you, Ennui?
A resistance born of negativity,
a lack of meaning of life, or merely,
a superfluous entity?
What an irritating allergy
this chronic, addictive serving of me.
Why are you here? What are you trying to tell me?
More importantly, how do I
widely open my eye?
Thrill is not its remedy,
for Ennui’s not a hole
for the Muse to fill with lively creativity.
Maybe it’s a bothersome additional
to simply shoo, shoo.
Can’t reason with that entity.
Need I take it so seriously?
Ennui, ennui, go away
Come back another…
Well actually, don’t bother!
– Ike Harijanto
* The hookah is a reference to a poem by Charles Baudelaire entitled “To the Reader” in his Flowers of Evil
A Zen teacher once remarked that one of the things we can do to get started on the spiritual path is something very simple: take a walk around the block. Give ourselves a break and some time to think about spiritual things. Take a simple walk around the block, and do some thinking on your feet. Take a few minutes where you’re not being disturbed, turn off your phone, don’t think about work, and let your mind drift towards spiritual matters. Allow your deeper questions to come to the surface, while you’re walking along. Just the simple act of walking can give the body/mind enough to do so it will give us a break to look at higher things. Too often our minds believe spiritual matters to be affairs of the head and the imagination only, not something we actually have to do.
This teacher also said that until we realize we do nothing, we must face the fact that we are what we do, not what we imagine ourselves to be. The simple act of walking while allowing our inner problems and questions to surface for review can lead us into two places. One, a greater consciousness of who, or what, we really are and what we need to work on: our blocks and obstacles that stand in the way of our direct realization of ourselves.
And two, we begin to equate walking or ‘doing’ with spiritual work. We perform the simple act of walking around the block, with the even simpler act of allowing ourselves to take a look at our selves. We may eventually come to see that we ‘do’ nothing, but this is not an intellectual concept or conclusion. It comes after much work and loss of face. We can only become that which is nothing, that which is One, from the position of the doer, not the imagination. We then will walk while noticing that the body/mind (that which is walking) is not us, and we are only the witness of the action. Not in our imagination, just after the fact, but as it takes place in real time. Then, our mind can take a walk, while we rest easy in our Self.
So give yourself a break by ‘doing’ some work: take a walk.
– Bob Fergeson
Dance along with me in the Nothing Dance, celebrating Nothing at all:
” I’d come to realize that if a man is ever going to grasp anything it won’t be by learning. His being has to change. You are what you do, not what you know. A man never learns, he becomes. To become, you must find ways and means to change your entire state-of-mind. This in turn will lead to a change of being.” – Richard Rose
Take meditation into the world of action, rather than just imagination. It will then lead to a change of being, rather than just new patterns of isolated thoughts. For meditation to help us, to bring about a change in being, we need more than just thought. We need to put our lives on the line. We need energy as well as concept, transmutation as much as conviction.
Does this scare you? It should. Do you still feel a longing? Good, you’re not just in your head.
If a fear of death, and a longing/remembrance for something better are within you, you’re heading in the right direction. If not, for you think you’ve solved the problem and are at Heaven’s doorstep, you’ve become too clever. Are you heading farther into the head and the imagination, playing it safe, sleeping in the superior position of your dream?
On the other hand, are you wallowing in your fear and self-pity? The inferior position of the dreaming ego isn’t the right direction either, is it?
Sensitivity and cleverness can become enablers to our self-love, just as much as laziness and self-complacency. This can happen when we ignore our guts, not realizing that transmutation, and the resultant change in being, depends on generating and saving energy. Meditation shouldn’t happen just in the imagination. We transmute energy through exercise, from doing what we say, not being afraid to sweat and be uncomfortable, from facing our faults and mistakes: going against ourselves. Action as well as thought. This can’t happen if we remain soft and secure, yet collapse like a house of cards when push comes to shove. If every time things get rough, we copout to distraction and escape instead of standing tall and clear, we’ll never generate and save enough energy for real change.
Transmutation through meditation also needs a vector, a direction. It needs applied wisdom, a will, to direct the saved energy. Saving and directing our generated energy can transmute our cleverness into insight, our sensitivity into self-awareness, our self-indulgence into strength. This is the result of a change in the direction of our love, from love of self to a new found love for our higher potential. A faith in things unseen but felt, insight and intuition: allowed, carefully reasoned, and acted upon.
– Bob Fergeson