Posts Tagged witness
The Listening Attention is now on Amazon Kindle! Here’s an excerpt:
No matter how subtle or astute our meditation may be, we will never realize nirvana by using yet another facet of samsara. A different level of seeing is needed, a pure awareness that is not itself a product of the world or mind, but primary to the reaction pattern we call ourselves. A looking which is attentive, yet not reactive. A listening which is not affected by circumstance and the constant changes of the mind. Such an attention would lie outside of time and space, beyond circumstance, yet be aware of them as well as itself. Such a Listening Attention would also be directly connected to the formless inner realm of our True Self, and provide a Gateway to Within.
“Man is the Frankenstein of God.” – Richard Rose
Meditation is the destruction of the sense of ‘self.’ This self has been created by the mind through ignorance, a sort of learned hypnosis, and can be destroyed by the very act of staring it in the face. This is better described as the act of observing ourselves. Thinking we observe ourselves already, we must somehow first become convinced that what we are doing is no such thing, but instead we are blindly creating our own version of the Frankenstein monster, then stepping inside our creation and taking it to be us. This created act of the imagination is never questioned until disaster strikes and the peasants with their torches are banging at the door.
We may actually begin to observe ourselves and find we are a stranger. If we are still intrigued and the intuition awakened, we may be tricked into looking for the problem inside our own head. This revelation that something might be amiss in our own interior, coupled with a bit of intuition and grace, may lead to an interior questioning. Awareness breeds more awareness and soon we may find we have reversed our direction. The creating mind with its compensating imagination may be glimpsed just enough. We may find we are hooked on this self-observation thing. But watch out. The ego and animal nature won’t like this one bit, and will do everything to bring back the good old days of dissipation, drama, and self-created misery. If we are still a tad lucky, we will see through this and have discovered another layer of that which is not us. We place meaning and value on the continual act of observing, the inward listening with attention.
Meditation also involves finding a stable point within. The body/mind is in constant flux; happiness or pleasure are fleeting at best. By sorting through and retreating from this, we eventually go beyond body/mind and find a Place of No Concern, a deep stillness. Thus we find meditation to be a changing process, different at every stage, but final in its result. Eventually we look at the looker, and even look at looking itself.
- Bob Fergeson
“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.
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.
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.
Art Ticknor and I were interviewed by conscious.tv this month in London. The staff there, Renate, Ian, and Eleanora, were awesome, great people with genuine interest:
Zen Leadership: The Toughest Best Business Decision I Ever Made
by August Turak
He cared deeply, lived carelessly, and couldn’t care less, and he died in the same obscurity into which he was born.Yet he remains the greatest leader and most remarkable man I have ever met. Everything that is best in me I owe largely to him.
For more information on Richard Rose go to : www.tatfoundation.org
How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy: Article on Jaroslav Flegr and his research into a parasite shared by humans and their cats. The research shows how T. gondii “can turn a rat’s strong innate aversion to cats into an attraction, luring it into the jaws of its No. 1 predator. Even more amazing is how it does this: the organism rewires circuits in parts of the brain that deal with such primal emotions as fear, anxiety, and sexual arousal.”
If a parasite can control the behavior of infected rats, as this one does, could our thoughts be influenced by the same or similar sources? Are all our thoughts our own, or are we just as susceptible to parasitic influences as we are to marketing?
Above the door to the ancient temple in Delphi were inscribed the words, “Know Thyself”. These words describe the process by which we separate from our false state of ignorance and rediscover true Being. But how do we initiate this process, this grand work of spiritual discovery? What tools should we choose to come to know this thing we call ‘ourselves’? If we are to engage in the pursuit of self-definition we will need to use the best tools available. To stalk our ‘self ‘, we will need something above or behind this personality to best observe with, something of a different order. Using the personality to observe the personality simply doesn’t work. It’s like trying to lift a plank while standing on it. This self we wish to come to know is a constantly changing, moving target, a veritable chain of reactions and patterns, seldom still, but always within our sight. To observe it we will need something calm and constant. Something that looks but doesn’t react; a seeing that listens.
Coming to know ourselves eventually crushes the ego, in that we find we are not what we imagined ourselves to be. We begin to see that the person we think we are is purely mechanical, a robot. Honesty and courage will be needed if we are to accept what we see, and perseverance when we find our task difficult and wish to retreat back into imagination. This process of dis-identifying leads to ego-death, as we separate from our pattern. The simple act of clearly seeing the person we were for what it truly is, is enough to bring about its death. We find we have become that which witnesses experience, where before we were experience, creating more and more experiences in an endless mechanical pattern. We are no longer the wily animal we have been tracking, which becomes cleverer with every experience, but instead something free, eternal, and indescribable.
Once we’ve had profound realizations on love and intuition, we have to watch for the ego taking these over and saying, “look how special I am, I can now do whatever I want”. You’re not special. This feeling just leads you into another trap that can be seen in the following two different ways: One, is we can think we’re special, and can do whatever we want without consequences. We treat other people however we feel with impunity, because we’re special, “I’m me” and me knows all about love.
The other one is, we think we are special and know about love, so we have to save everybody. The ego now has to fix, correct, and save everyone we meet. We forget about taking care of ourselves because we’re too busy rushing around doing everything to everyone, for ‘love’.
These two reactions basically come about from a lack of reason, brought on by base infatuation with ourselves. We have to allow reason to come into our decision-making process to double-check what the emotions, and our ego’s love, are up to. We don’t have to have reason as the final arbiter, the final decision-maker, but we should allow it into the process. It’s very easy to get tricked if we lose our heads, but not our egos, and start running around in love, thinking we’re infallible.
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.