Tag Archives: naive

Double Head-Head

doublehead
doublehead

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.

Bob Fergeson

Here’s the  Double Head-Head video:

Freedom from the Teenager Ego

To enhance our probability of real spiritual growth, we need to get all the centers in our body/machine, the instinctive and moving mind, the emotional center, and the intellectual mind, all lit up and in working order. This brings us to maturity, or what’s known as good householder, so that we can stop living in the imagination and instead start dealing with what’s real. It’s easy in this day and age to get stuck in the teenager ego and refuse to accept responsibility or acknowledge the part of work in accomplishment. It’s necessary to learn to be capable of dealing with life head on, before we start thinking too much about enlightenment and a life with no resistance.

magical ship
magical ship

Richard Rose taught that we need to let go of the egos in the right order or else we risk becoming a functional idiot, useless in life, and to other people. If we remain immature too long, we risk having our minds become crystallized, fixed in an unreal belief system. It’s very painful to have to then break them up and start over to regain some resilience, a functional mind in good working order. It’s better to go through the pain of growing up and becoming an adult as an integral part of our spiritual path, rather than living in fantasy, waiting for our mythical spiritual ship to come in.

It’s the one thing that we can work on regardless; we can work on growing up into a mature man or woman, and therefore get used to the idea, in a practical manner, of what working on ourselves in a spiritual sense really entails.

This process of beginning work at our current level also takes us farther within, because we back out of the body, the hormones, and teenager dreams; and become older. Rose also said that he was trying to age a few young people. We can try and age ourselves; become wiser, more capable, more mature.

magical lights
magical lights

While we can’t force ourselves to surrender, or to be enlightened, we can work in terms of becoming more mature: at having a better mind, a wiser emotional center, and certainly we can get in shape physically. These are tasks which will develop a pattern of heading in the right direction, of not being afraid to work, of knowing what that really means rather than living in our head, imagining lights and magical powers and how everything will be handed to us because we’re special. This way, the way of the good householder, we’ve got something we can actually do; we can work on ourselves, every day.

Bob Fergeson

Facebook Enlightenment

We post the latest quote by Adya or Ramana, proud of our apparent spirituality. We agree with the wise men’s words when they tell us all the wonderful things we seemingly see in ourselves. For we have had our hard knocks; now we know and agree with the wise men. We’ve become humble, experienced, and oh so clever.

contradictions
contradictions

We agree with other people’s memes, the beautiful photos, wonderful quotes, yet strangely enough, never see our own contradictions. We fail to see how we act against our own best interests. How we never really work for the spirit, but stay in a perpetual dance of supporting and glorifying the all mighty ‘ME’. That feeling of uniqueness, our specialness; that which keeps us different and separate from others. Though when the need arises, we agree with them, and hope they agree with us. We may by turns argue with them, even yell and scream, stomp our big feet, but this is all just to maintain that separateness, that uniqueness. To help them as they help us; by loving or hating each other in turn. We can’t see how we never really change. We simply spin in the same old pattern of routine, base desires and needs, and never move towards anything higher. That would require that we go against that separateness, that specialness. But no, we continue our lazy dance, bumping into the furniture, oblivious, only hearing the music of our own special song.

end of fun machine
end of fun machine

Sooner or later the fun machine will wear out and die. Then we’ll have to get a new one; the party will continue. The dance can go on, seemingly forever, with maybe some new awkward steps thrown in here and there. But never with the realization that we contradict ourselves with every move. That the one thing we need to get to the bottom of all this madness, is to go against that specialness, that uniqueness, and instead find the similarities between us, the common ground that lies ever within, covered by the noise and distraction of our song. To go against ourselves; not in agreement, but in wisdom. To go against the feeling of ‘me’. Not in contradiction, but as a quietness, an acceptance. To move into the silence where we find we’re all the same. And that the uniqueness, rather than being the thing that helps us, has actually been our greatest enemy.

Bob Fergeson

recurrence
recurrence

 

Holding a Straight Line

“Zen is walk, don’t wobble.” – Richard Rose

People think they’re going against themselves, but what they’re going against is a made-up fantasy, a ‘self’ they keep handy in a box in their head. They say “I’m going against my ‘self’ “. They then pick some meaningless personality facet out of the box to work on, but they never work against themselves. That’s too close, and they’re too hooked into it; they are ‘it’. Separating from this ‘self’ is a tricky, painful business, and nothing to be taken lightly.

Say we have an insight and see a goal we would like to achieve, such as not being negative. As soon as we start to work towards it, resistance naturally comes up. This resistance, or second force, may start us second-guessing ourselves because we’re under the illusion that if we were truly on the path there will be no resistance; everything will be bliss and perfection. So as soon as resistance pops up, we say ‘oh my god, I’m going in the wrong direction, I need to turn and go around, this can’t be right!’. Thus, we get blocked, sidetracked. Then we start to second-guess the second-guessing and end up in a muddle. This is wobbling. Second-guessing and avoiding resistance keeps us from walking a straight line. It comes from a profound misunderstanding of the world and how things work. There’s resistance towards anything that involves changing; especially working against ourselves. The self that you’re trying to work against is you, and it will defend itself. It will defend itself because it doesn’t want to die, just as you don’t want to die. We will defend this ‘self’, for we have taken it to be us. This is the human dilemma.

Fog Lifting
Fog Lifting

So when you want to try spiritual work, and hear you need to go against the self, the ego, it will be difficult. At first it’s going to be hell. The only way to get to the other side, is to go through it, not to second-guess yourself and take the easy way out every time there’s resistance. The resistance means you’re headed in the right direction and need to hold a straight line.

Now this goes for the intuition too, you have to see where you’re fooling yourself. The path is not all bliss and ease, that’s not a good indicator. Ease and pleasure are indicators that you’re not going against yourself, that you just coasting, not moving. We have to go through what we fear and what’s hard for us. To work against our ‘selves’, that’s the point. Not to take it easy and go towards the magic, the rainbows, the imaginary bliss, dreaming everything’s going to be wonderful. Nothing changes then, it’s happening only in our heads.

Clearing View
Clearing View

Change is hard, change is death, death to the little ‘self’. To get to a higher place or state, you have to climb. You can’t keep turning back downhill simply because you’re out of breath and your legs hurt, and your ego isn’t being pumped up. You’ve got to keep going up. You may need to use switch backs and rest stops in order to keep from burning out too soon, but that doesn’t mean you stop and roll downhill, and then wonder what happened, why nothing has changed, why the view is still cloudy and close.

– rant by Bob Fergeson

Fasting the Mind

“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds” ~ Thomas Merton.

Feeding the head, if it’s not regulated, leads to a negative state of overload. It is the childish dream of acquisition without conflict; ‘I wanna do what I want’, taken on a mental level. If you let an animal, the animal part of your self, just do what it wants, it will eat and eat until it gets sick. It will never have time to process and digest, never get needed exercise or sharpen its wits through the trials of the hunt. It ends up fat, sick, and obsessed. The same with feeding the head. If we do nothing but read books, watch YouTube videos, even attend retreats and talks, but never actually exercise our mind through concerted actions, discipline it through reason, and rest it through silence, it too becomes fat and lazy.

overloaded
overloaded

We get caught in a downwardspiral, tending to blame everything on outer circumstances: “why can’t I do what I want, why won’t they let me do what I want, if I could do what I want I’d be happy”. If there is no reason or restraint put into action to exercise the mind and lend experience rather than ever fulfilled desire, we become bloated and sick, and place the blame for our discomfort on others and the world.

monkey mind
monkey mind

This is where isolations, or solitary retreats, come into play. If you can go into isolation, even small periods of ‘tech fasting’ during the week where you’re not putting information into your head nonstop, your mind can digest and comprehend. Otherwise, the imagination takes over and the mind gets fat and lazy, lost in the fog of information overload. You’ll have little chance for true realizations. You’ll instead be miserable; mentally constipated. And if you’re miserable, you’ll be always looking to be happy. See how this leads into a downward spiral: “I need to do what I want, don’t you understand that I’m miserable, why can’t I do what I want?” You’re not deprived, but exactly the opposite. You’re obsessed, craving more and more, and down the slippery slope you go.

beware of your head
beware of your head

If you can fast the mind through solitary retreats, no books to read, no YouTube videos to watch, no teachers to listen to, no friends to pump you up, then you can let the mind become lean and free. Even short quiet periods during the week, such as going for a walk around the block, without looking at your phone, can work wonders. You’ll think better, you’ll open the door for resolution. This is why solitary retreats can be so valuable, especially nowadays when our minds have become arrogant and obsessed through constant exposure to the internet, ‘smart’ phones, and their ceaseless stream of meaningless information. Take a walk, and watch your head rather than stuff it. Go on a solitary retreat and fast your mind, let it get slim and trim, and perhaps something meaningful will slip through.

– Bob Fergeson

The Trap of Bigger is Better

Trap: Bigger is Better. The all too common trap of sensual thinking applied to spiritual matters. That Nirvana or the Kingdom of Heaven is just being really, really high for a really long time.

A Harsh Life
A Harsh Life

Trick: What Goes Up, Must Come Down. If being exceedingly high is your definition of Nirvana, you’ll sooner or later find your corresponding version of Hell. Instead, develop a trustworthy memory, learn to listen, and observe your self. Try being aware, in the moment, of your motivations, your experiences, your very reasons for living. Learn to wield the sword of discrimination, rather than squirming about inside the oven of pleasure and pain.

Haven’t you cooked enough?

Ennui

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.

 

553830_439267869427405_548650054_n

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.”

It’s Ennui!

 

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,

that seducer,

I want out, I want to wake!

 

Henri in ennui, again

What are you, Ennui?

A resistance born of negativity,

a lack of meaning of life, or merely,

a superfluous entity?

What an irritating allergy

sapping energy,

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?

 

Ennui

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

Henri in ennui
Henri in ennui

The cat is Henri, guru of ennui, found on youtube : http://youtu.be/Q34z5dCmC4M and FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/henrilechatnoir

A Seeker’s Story by Ike Harijanto

At some point early in life a feeling came that I was eccentric. I thought I wanted something no one around me seemed to want, and that was sincere, dependable love. All I found from people, young and old alike, was instead indifference, rejection, untrustworthiness, unpredictability. So I thought, if I was able to so intensely want something that seemed unimportant to others, that must have meant I was insane. Only in God could I put my trust, because a God unknown, unseen, nebulous certainly would not, could not betray me. God was the center of my devotion, my life. Slowly, though, the considerable commotion in my head I called intellect and reason made me abandon it.

Several more rejections and betrayals of trust from those around me, and I declared, “Love is a myth.” I was furiously baffled at the way I was created, feeling such a strong desire for something that could never be true. By declaring–––pretending, really–––I knew the truth about love, I unwittingly saved myself from feeling utterly devastated by the conviction that it closed its door on me. I began keeping a journal. Only in the blank pages of my journal could I confide safely. Something that doesn’t have any capacity of returning my love would not, could not reject me.

Young adulthood was a period of restlessness and confusion from not knowing what I sought in life. I thought I was unrealistic, “too philosophical,” wanting and doubting too much. Moreover, I saw that I was a different person from one day to the next, unable to keep a promise I made to myself. I became unpredictable and untrustworthy, exactly like those I had condemned. I looked around at my peers and saw them sail away, seeming to know where they were going. There I was, an enigma to myself, feeling I was left behind. “Did I miss a class everybody took?”

As loneliness pervaded uncontrollably, I isolated myself more by turning toward texts and dead scholars, looking for hard, solid, steely wisdom. I had a notion that it would take me superiorly beyond any dependence on others, and I would then be impervious to the pain of rejection. And dead people, they surely would not, could not reject me. The search for wisdom gave a purpose, a grand one, in fact, and a direction to my life.

My notion of wisdom at the time was a kind of knowledge I would swallow or possess, and the best chance of finding it was in the academic humanities. So I made a plan to lock myself in the university ivory tower and shut the door on any personal relationships. I was convinced that anything to do with my heart was a major distraction, complication, obstruction. I was on a lone secret mission, believing no one would understand it, or worse, they would ridicule me if they found out. I was not going to let myself be rejected ever again.

Shortly after the plan was made but not yet realized, my father died. The incident gave me an intimate preview that we all die, and we die alone, without exception. But my newly found purpose protected me, for better or worse, from being in touch with the situation of my heart. My rocket was on and nothing was to stop me.

Before the first semester even began, I met Art Ticknor at a meeting of the Philosophical Self Inquiry in Pittsburgh. During that first meeting he engaged me one-on-one, and I was surprised to find myself saying things I would never have said to others. Shortly after came another surprise in the form of trust. Brief though it may be, it was impressive because my life hitherto has shown it to be impossible. There was also an element of judging Art by his cover, as well, I suppose. He dressed typically, and I tend to peer with suspicion at people in robes living in the 21st century Western world. A massive gong fell and hit my head when I received my first major confrontation: “The direction is within,” he said. With all my might I tried to yell “No!”––but to my dismay, I was convinced he spoke the truth. I had just moved across the world on a search that had barely begun, when I realized I was to turn around. A giant monkey wrench thrown into my plan. Nonetheless I was compelled to turn around and look at the only “within” I knew. What I saw then, what was brought to light, was how separated I had been, alone and thoroughly lost in the wilderness. It reminded me of the preview I’d seen, that we all die, and we die alone. I was a lost sheep feeling certain that if ever there was God, It was not looking for me. The feeling of utter aloneness combined with an immediate conviction that the project I had taken on was too big for this little me led to the onset of a depressive period like I had never thought possible.

Art showed me a direction I thought I already had. First and foremost, he showed me trust and friendship I had stopped looking for. Deep down, though, I couldn’t help but still wanting them. To a sick, sick person, however, sweet water tasted bitter. The confrontations hit so many sensitive spots that I recoiled from pain and fright, and contracted inside. I was unable to see friendship, I saw only threats. Fortunately (I can say this now), I kept on coming to the meetings, albeit all closed up like a porcupine ball, compelled by a force I could neither understand nor ignored. Left to reason alone, it would not have made sense to keep on touching a hot stove when I already knew it was hot. But something other than reason told me I needed to take the bitter medicine to get cure.

I received my diagnosis early and am grateful for that. The sickness turns out to be ec-centricity, that is, being off-center–––that childhood feeling confirmed. The rejections I perceived in my childhood may not be the cause but actually the result of this feeling. I had lost my center long before I abandoned my childhood God. I don’t even remember how and when this happened. But once upon a time….

My life so far seems less about finding cure, than it is about realizing the pervasiveness of the sickness. Being out of center seems to also mean out of touch with reality. The idea of becoming schizophrenic, out of touch with reality, used to spiral me into panic. But reviewing over a decade of journals shows me undeniably, time and again: I live in the mind, not in the world; I interact with perceptions and stories, not reality. After years of psychological work and spiritual education, I am no more ethereal, no more sober, no more liberated. I wonder if I myself may be the cave of Plato, and not simply in it.

Coming in contact with Art and TAT rocked my boat till it almost flipped over. My life-cruising and life-building slowed down considerably. A good thing, I think, for I was only building a house of cards, and cruising through life as a sleepwalker, shutting my eyes to where my life will inevitably conclude, as I saw with my father’s. Adding spirituality to my life doesn’t seem to redirect its course either. My life is still going nowhere but toward the cemetery. For a while I used depression to deny it, but now it feels like a returning to reality. (Every impressive, sometimes seemingly out of the world, insights I ever had feel now like a simple return to reality, not an addition of knowledge like I had expected in my grand search for wisdom.) I can no longer pretend that death belongs to some distant, nebulous future and won’t really happen to me. I can no longer believe that aging is going to magically prepare me for it. My father did not have time to prepare for his death and spent his last moments in panic. If truly we all die, and we die alone, I don’t want to die in panic. Even then I still forget all too often.

That said, if self-inquiry has resulted in anything so far, it is only that I became less and less sure I know the self whose life and death I’ve been so concerned about, the one in this story, telling it, reading it. Honestly, I only claim to be a self-inquirer without having actually done much of it, because I was so confident I knew the “I” I was referring to. But everything I can refer to, perceive, sense, conceive of seems to be the mind through and through; an experience all the way down, including myself, my existence. What then? Do I just wait till this experience is over, since experience comes and goes? Is there something, anything, beyond experience? I’ve heard there’s a place: within. The work now is figuring out where within really is. I thought I knew, and that resulted in a deeper depression because I unquestioningly accepted what I saw there as “that’s it. Nothing more. Nothing else to be done. Might as well be dead now.” Pretending to know is a heavy burden, indeed!–––one I’m so prone to fall into. Truly, one must doubt everything especially one’s claim to knowledge.

Here’s another way to say it all over again. A principal intuition is confirmed, one that has been driving my life but I tried to deny. Behind the devastation of rejection and the desire for friendship and trust is a feeling for, pull toward, Utter Love. Because It was inconceivable to my mind, in my bewildered anger I called It a myth, a mere idea that could never, ever be real. Along the way, though, I learned that inconceivability does not equal impossibility. Love is possible. My contact with Art, to name only one person, has made me doubt my claim that It is impossible. Moreover, the search for Love turns out to not be a lone endeavor. It is acknowledged, praise the Lord, through my contact with fellow eccentric, off-center seekers. And this is another confrontation to one of my beloved beliefs: a challenge to the belief of being an individual doesn’t have to always be painful, after all. Now I finally hear what a French philosopher, Henri the black cat, said a while ago: “The life of a philosopher cat is nothing without friends. Perhaps I should share my treats with others.”

I still don’t know what Love is. So yes, you can say this “business of seeking” has not turned its full “profit” (though thinking of anything in terms of a business upsets the bohemian in me). But acknowledging the possibility of Love, isn’t this itself already a miracle? This acknowledgment is really the restoring of my faith in Love, because faith is always in relation to something one can’t conceive of but sense possible. This alone is already worth more than whatever it has cost, if it did cost anything of value!

I’ve been living my life for a distant goal. Be serious and work hard now, and reap the reward later. If ever. But it was probably no seriousness, no real work, but a playing around in a make-belief of what life was about and the proper way to live it.   But I did not know life, and do not still. Now that depression and panic have slackened their claim to knowledge about life and death, I want to play. Not to play around, for, God help me, I no longer want to live a make-believe life toward an imaginary, distant dream. But to play to get in touch with I-know-not-what, call it my heart, that is most authentic, most alive, most actual. Then to express it, or to get out of the way so thoroughly that that Genuine What may come forth unobstructedly. To live a life of devotion again. To live in love and wonder every instant. It’s a feeling that every day I’ve been striving to contact and approach. Still much frustration, that at the end of the day I somehow miss, and I go to bed with an unfinished business. Strangely, writing this wish feels already like a prayer come true.

 

Coda: In telling this story I sounded like I knew what was happening at the time it was happening, and where everything was leading to. Actually, though, the directing and the shaping only happen here in telling the story, in selecting certain things and leaving out many others. In telling it, the story loses solidity. It’s all so neat and tidy. It may well be a creation, for my whole life is a memory.

– Ike Harijanto

Summer Love

It’s a blade of grass in the summer moonlight
A sprinkler hisses, then a mist and cold spritz
It’s a pastel sidewalk, the colors the child
A jump, a skip, a call and response

It’s a porch, its swing and lantern, the tree underlit
A mother breaking dusk, calling her son back home
A dog sniffing the ground, you can’t help but laugh
While the grasshoppers chirp and the fireflies flick

It’s the town’s outdoor pool, water twirling up and dropletting down
It’s riding at night on a Schwinn Stingray bike
On the small town streets chasing the smoke fog
of the DDT truck, the smell heaven, better than ant subway’s

It’s Wyoming on the farm, going to the Indian dance
The irrigation canals, the alfalfa and manure
Sleeping on a high bed, on soft flannel sheets
The whooshing of tires down the highway before sleep

It’s the trip down Wind River to Thermopolis Hot Springs
My mother and sister, my virgin aunt who eats her Reeses
My virgin uncle driving, he sings in the fields
My grandparents who only speak German and love

The hot soaking pools, my mother really happy
The high dive off the board, the low dive of my sister
The park with the bridges, the sulfur, the steaming streams
And riding the Screaming Mimi down into the pool

It’s Elitches Gardens, the mecca of all yeows!
The Tilt-a-Whirl, the Calypso, the Wildcat coaster
The Skyride brushing the tree branches, the Tropadero Ballroom,
The ponies, the funhouse mirror, and softie twists

The feel of bare feet on hot asphalt, then on cool grass
The slapping of street in Converse All Stars
Levi jeans, white tee shirt, no wallet
The music box rhapsody of the ice cream truck

Music lifting heavy heads behind window screens
In the parks, in passing cars, on the bed table in the dark,
The handle on the radio and the knobs gleaming fake chrome
A spaceship transporting sounds for dreaming the world

The green glow dashboard of the Plymouth Valiant
Cruising the loop over and over with bench seats filled
The Dairy Queen stop, the lime-aid and Mr. Misty
The young girls untouchable but seeable, giggly and gangly

It’s winding down in the cool basement evening
Watching TV shows before there was irony
Flickering blue plasma lava across whitewashed walls
Shirtless back stuck to the emerald green vinyl sofa

Never end day. Never end night, Never end this.
When sleep finally comes, it comes easy at first graze
Of warm skin on cool cotton, head surrendering to pillow
Dreams no more magical then life, as innocent as mornings

Children of summer, dancing and yard running
We were all awe, we were the sun god revolved ‘round
I could sing you until I couldn’t breathe anymore
Even now, knowing it was never made to last

– by Paul Schmidt

The Inner Country

“The path to Truth begins with the self. We cannot properly isolate, identify, or analyze the self, because it is the subject about which we know the least.” – Richard Rose

            The conscious attention, or ego, sits on the doorstep between two worlds: that of the outer country of our senses commonly called reality, and the world of the mind, our inner realm, the undiscovered country. While much can be said of the outer world of the senses, little is known by most of us of our inner country, a world of automatic responses and unquestioned beliefs, hidden in darkness, projected onto our hapless neighbors.

Even those of us on the spiritual path, professed seekers of truth, rarely enough venture into the unknown country behind our eyelids. We tend to avoid this inner space, side stepping it in favor of imagination. We create a conceptual idea of ourselves in our head, one which fits our needs and fears, and then believe in it. The true state of our mind and emotions is avoided and exiled, an active but unconscious shadow in the darkness within.

Ski Trail
Ski Trail

This refusal to look at our inner state is not only because we are cowards, ignorant, and/or blind. It is necessary. The mind could not go on about its business in day-to-day affairs in the hustle of modern life if it questioned itself. Things could come to a halt.

One of the ways we avoid the inner realm is through what I call the game of ‘stay away’. We refuse to look at anything about ourselves that doesn’t fit the script. An extreme example of this is found today in neo-advaita types, while a generation or two ago it was seen in the radical side of Hare Krishna’s, and even earlier with ‘Jesus freaks’. The game is played by having a tight 5-10 minute circle of unbreakable logic which is repeated over and over, both to oneself as well as others. This is a very effective form of self-hypnosis which enables it’s practitioner to stay away from all consciousness of any inner emotional turmoil.

Another trick is that of placing the ego in an intangible form so that it cannot be attacked. These folks have no practical ego to speak of, meaning they have no real skills, no career, no interest which is actually carried out in the world. But to function the ego has to have an object, so if they are unwilling or incapable of identifying with a practical aspect of life, they find a concept, an archetype, or an image with which to identify. These images are invisible and intangible, so there is no risk of failure or success associated with believing in them. The trap is almost fool proof and extremely hard to break free of. Examples are seen often in New Age archetypes, such as the ‘goddess’, the ‘warrior’, the ‘sage’, etc. Even political and religious concepts can be effective shields against our personal truth, such as being politically correct or morally self-righteous. The common thread is an inability to handle tension or resistance. There can be no failure or questioning of an inner goddess, it can’t be seen or corroborated, so the person has an excuse not to face themselves, no matter what.

The trick of transference is seen in those who avoid their inner country by projecting it onto others. They have nothing to work on in themselves (being perfect, the ego’s main characteristic) so they spend their time helping others less fortunate (the rest of us). In this manner, they never have to see themselves as they are, for all imperfection surely lies in others, out there. They feel they are fortunate to be able to spend their time in helping, while their victims, their unlucky friends and acquaintances, must bear the burden of the ‘helpers’ unresolved inner conflicts.

ski for light
ski for light

An example of this was driven home to me when I worked at a ski resort. A group of blind cross country skiers came for a week, from the wonderful organization Ski for Light. There were over a hundred of the blind skiers, along with their guides and coaches. I assumed that the skiers, being blind, would be in need of much help, and their guides must be selfless saints to volunteer for such an undertaking. I had it exactly backwards. The skiers were the ones with the greater being, and needed no help traveling freely about their inner country. The guides on the other hand, while sighted in the outer world, were, perhaps unknowingly, being taught humility, faith, patience and wisdom by their unsighted charges.

I’ll never forget this surprising contrast: the guide bragging at dinner how she had been blessed not to have to work so she could give her time to ‘helping’ the less fortunate. The resort staff soon became fully aware of who was helping who. Her blind student was easy to wait on, not at all demanding, while the guide required constant attention, everything had to be prepared to her individual specifications, running us ragged for no real reason other than her inability to act in any way other than self-centered. The blind skier (the true guide) spent the week in infinite patience, a shining example of courage and wisdom, expecting nothing in return.

While these examples may illustrate our ignorance of our own psychology, it also serves to show how our values are reversed by life and its demands. The inner country, the basis for our character, is undiscovered and lacking in meaning, while our outer life of body and ego is given first priority and the highest value. The soul, with its connection to our inner self, is discarded in favor of saving face and ego. Only when the inner atmosphere is clear and quiet can we hear the true message from our Self. A long and hard journey within to clear the air and underbrush may be arduous, but in the long run, worth any price.