Tag Archives: witness

Transcendence and Ego1-Ego2

Transcendence of thought is not transcendence of self. Shifting the focus of attention away from thought and onto breath or body is a useful prelude to a meditation of self-inquiry, but as an entire meditative technique it is an exercise in self-forgetfulness. It may lead to a wonderful experience but the mind is simply resting on the I-thought, and that I-self is having a very pleasant experience while remaining safely hidden behind the cloak of mental quietude and physical ease. The notion of “coming into the body” is a form of engaging in what Alfred Pulyan describes as Ego1-Ego2.* The experience generated from this meditative technique is not the absolute realization that Rose, Nisargadatta, Maharshi, and others speak about. There is always a desire and a need for experiences to be extended in duration and intensity in order to satisfy the ego’s need for affirmation, progress, and the nagging, deep sense of lacking a final answer to the question of ultimate self-definition.

*Pulyan wrote about the Ego dichotomizing itself in order to set up a dynamic of protecting and reinforcing a “boss” ego with the need created by having a subservient ego hard at supposed spiritual work of creating experiences and thoughts that affirmed ego-self.
~ Bob Cergol, 2014 Labor Day TAT presentation
* Alfred Pulyan, a mid-1900’s Zen Master who engaged with students through the mail, in one such letter wrote about the Ego dichotomizing itself in order to set up a dynamic of protecting and reinforcing a “boss” ego … by having a subservient ego hard at supposed spiritual work of creating experiences and thoughts that affirmed ego-self. ~ Bob Cergol

Alfred Pulyan, Ego1-Ego2 Incursus
(Devices to preserve Egocentricity)

We do not pull flowers up to see how they are growing, but Ego (Self!) cannot endure being out of the driver’s seat and so even in the “work” he tries to be both objective & subjective. To be specific, Ego1 wants to watch the progress of the work with an occasional criticism or pat on the back for the Master.

“How shall we handle Ego2?” is asked by Ego1. Or – “I don’t think I (who is “I”? – why Ego1) would have handled me (Ego2!!) quite that way.” Or: “Fine,” says Ego1, “that’s showing him (Ego2).”

This schizoidal device preserves Ego at the expense of a fictitious Ego2!! You have already started this process.

Sometimes Ego1 will say he is “seeking” & does not DESIRE TO FIND. What is this? A pleasure merely in the action of the reason? Apparently. In any case, Ego2 is not even necessary here. Ego is asserting the utmost “doubt even of doubt” & refusal to go even as far as the word “the” without definition. It is a sound & invulnerable position. So is advanced psychosis, but that seems more restful – at times! Such a position (like solipsism) is fine when one is healthy, happy, young & immortal. It gets an awful kick later.

Ego1, for all that, sometimes feels that his constant observation of Ego2 (“self-consciousness”) is unsatisfactory. He may feel that his division is a faked device. In love, he may for a time forget himself (which means – become spontaneous) & the experience is delightful, unaccustomed & turns out often to be most unwise. It occurs often when young & when judgment would be desirable (for a change!), especially if the girl is not so spontaneous! If they both are, it is wonderful, but again the claims of the everyday come in, & the magic fades away. Everything in Japan used to be a “way.” There was a “way” of sword-play, of wrestling, of flower arrangement, of drinking tea, of commerce even, of drawing & painting – and the characteristic of each was spontaneity. Even archery (incredible results even in semi-darkness, splitting one arrow with another) – & such spontaneity daunts us. We are system-minded. Zen may seem to be a “system” of mass-production, but the essence of the work is individual. I have no “system” whatever for the same reason – no two people are alike. Certainly egocentricity is always the devil to be conquered, but from that central point he (ego or self) diverges in innumerable ways & uses every imaginable device, some very snide, others really subtle. He may know it too – and still throw up a smoke-screen! He resists the means to release – to the point of murder even (fortunately, since he is free to withdraw at any time, he usually withdraws under a confusion of self-justification. But if he were trapped – as I was – oh boy!!! In the Reichian technique for example the room is often a shambles).

So we DO “protect” something. And how! What? Ego? Oh no – while we live we are of course “we” & always that remains – but the “boss conception,” the “ultimate decider,” the “second line of defense,” these he INSISTS on at all costs. So Jung & others know the truth but sit in the audience (behind their desk for example) and are never part of the play. It is ludicrous to think I could help Jung – he is heavily armed. I could get ONE letter from almost everybody by promising “a new technique” but to get involved in it. Oh dear no! Most certainly not! Utterly fantastic! – who knows what –    Thus Jesus was correct. It is the treasure of the humble & for this goodly pearl a merchant sold all he had – and bought it. I can persuade almost anybody to say “O.K. Go ahead! What do I have to lose?” It is a Pyrrhic victory, it is unreal. In that way one sells toothpaste. They must come to me and really want it. Since they can easily push God away, how can I succeed where God does not? This is not a mystery I can solve. But the truly accessible, as Jesus said, are FEW. Up to you –    And so many words!
~ Correspondence with Richard Rose

material taken from July 2016 TAT Forum, http://tatfoundation.org/forum2016-07.htm#4 –Thanks to Art Ticknor, Editor

Rebirthday by Douglas Harding

The best day of my life – my rebirthday, so to speak – was when I found I had no head. This is not a literary gambit, a witticism designed to arouse interest at any cost. I mean it in all seriousness: I have no head.
headless
headless
It was eighteen years ago, when I was thirty-three, that I made the discovery. Though it certainly came out of the blue, it did so in response to an urgent enquiry; I had for several months been absorbed in the question: what am I? The fact that I happened to be walking in the Himalayas at the time probably had little to do with it; though in that country unusual states of mind are said to come more easily. However that may be, a very still clear day, and a view from the ridge where I stood, over misty blue valleys to the highest mountain range in the world, with Kangchenjunga and Everest unprominent among its snow-peaks, made a setting worthy of the grandest vision.
What actually happened was something absurdly simple and unspectacular: I stopped thinking. A peculiar quiet, an odd kind of alert limpness or numbness, came over me. Reason and imagination and all mental chatter died down. For once, words really failed me. Past and future dropped away. I forgot who and what I was, my name, manhood, animalhood, all that could be called mine. It was as if I had been born that instant, brand new, mindless, innocent of all memories. There existed only the Now, that present moment and what was clearly given in it. To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in – absolutely nothing whatever! Certainly not in a head.
It took me no time at all to notice that this nothing, this hole where a head should have been was no ordinary vacancy, no mere nothing. On the contrary, it was very much occupied. It was a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything – room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills, and far above them snowpeaks like a row of angular clouds riding the blue sky. I had lost a head and gained a world.
It was all, quite literally, breathtaking. I seemed to stop breathing altogether, absorbed in the Given. Here it was, this superb scene, brightly shining in the clear air, alone and unsupported, mysteriously suspended in the void, and (and this was the real miracle, the wonder and delight) utterly free of “me”, unstained by any observer. Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.
Yet in spite of the magical and uncanny quality of this vision, it was no dream, no esoteric revelation. Quite the reverse: it felt like a sudden waking from the sleep of ordinary life, an end to dreaming. It was self-luminous reality for once swept clean of all obscuring mind. It was the revelation, at long last, of the perfectly obvious. It was a lucid moment in a confused life-history. It was a ceasing to ignore something which (since early childhood at any rate) I had always been too busy or too clever to see. It was naked, uncritical attention to what had all along been staring me in the face – my utter facelessness. In short, it was all perfectly simple and plain and straightforward, beyond argument, thought, and words. There arose no questions, no reference beyond the experience itself, but only peace and a quiet joy, and the sensation of having dropped an intolerable burden.

Douglas Harding

This is an extract from On Having No Head by Douglas Harding, first published in 1961, available now through the Sholland Trust.

Breathing Underwater Part 2

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.

On True Observation

 “The magical side of self-observation is to give yourself a little time before you react to incoming impressions. ” – Maurice Nicoll

dawn of awareness
dawn of awareness

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.

-Bob Fergeson

path to freedom
path to freedom

True Inquiry – Wisdom from a Friend

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.

Road to Awakening
Road to Awakening

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.

Facing the Unknown
Facing the Unknown

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

Light of Awareness
Light of Awareness

Wisdom of Vicki Woodyard

“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:

Author Vicki Woodyard

Vicki Woodyard

Vicki Woodyard – Nonduality Now

Vicki’s 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.”

Vicki Woodyard

The Paradoxical Loop

We must somehow acquire a quiescent mind in order to truly turn the head and go within. To initiate contact with the inner self, or higher centers, the mind must be capable of receiving from within, as opposed to its usual obsession with the unconscious projection of thought. Now, if we find we are not capable of a quiet mind, one that can discriminate within the inner realm, to receive intuition and insight, why not? What is bothering us? It is usually compensations based on our chief feature. Since we are largely unconscious of our chief trait or pattern, observing the compensations we have in place to deal with it may be our best bet. We may even think the compensations are themselves our chief feature, meaning we’re even further out from our center than we thought. We must deal with what our problem presently really is. We cannot afford to get lost in imagination, such as the realm of archetypes, or concept structures such as ‘oneness’ or ‘non-duality’.

Land of Paradox
Land of Paradox

If we can observe our compensations, our psychological habit patterns that keep us spinning in thought and obsession, and accept them, we can perhaps look beneath them and see their opposite, our chief feature. We do not want to fight and destroy them, or rationalize them away as meaningless. We must accept that too, if we are to be objective. We are not to blame or judge ourselves for any of this, but to bring it into consciousness and allow the higher power to do what it will.

 
Once we are blessed with a true understanding of how our mind keeps itself in charge through the compensations and chief feature, we open the possibility to find the quiet mind, what I call the listening attention. From here, we can go within; allow contact with higher centers. This itself is paradoxical, for we need the insight and intuition from higher centers to understand this, but how do we make contact until we do? Know that paradox is the sign you have reached the outer limits of the mind. From there, one must allow oneself to become; paradox yet again.

– Bob Fergeson

Learning to walk a straight line

This Tricks and Traps has to do with the value of having an aim or direction to hold to, whatever the circumstance:
 Learning to walk a straight line, regardless of the mood of the dream.

 

Trick: Thinking with our feelings. We can become mesmerized by our current mood, whether elevated or depressed.  Convinced that we are the mood, we make plans, decisions, and conclusions, based on our current level of energy, only to have the entire thing change as the energy level waxes and wanes, leading us into the
Trap of bodily existence: We take our very definition of who we really are, from our feeling of our body’s moods, based on its current energy level. If we’re tired and depressed, we plan and dream as tired, depressed beings; when we’re high and mighty, so goes our thinking. The circle of circumstance turns and spins, and having no safe harbor or aim, so go we.
On the Path
On the Path

The Cloud of Unknowing

Written around the year 1375, The Cloud of Unknowing was written as a letter of advice to a young novice just setting out on the path of contemplation.  The author, believed to have been a country parson, writes in a personal, direct style, hoping to share his knowledge of contemplation with the young would-be monk.

  The theme of the Cloud of Unknowing is of turning one’s attention within, away from the mind and its objects. The attention is turned inward upon itself, and since it is now focused on nothing the mind can understand, sees only a ‘cloud of unknowing’, a seeming nothingness. For most seekers, this can be frustrating, if not impossible, for it gives no immediate reward, or even an object or image for their mind to grasp. To simply aim one’s attention at its own source is to look back up the ray of one’s awareness, where the mind and ego cannot go. This also takes the attention off of the body and its desires and fears, along with the senses and outer environment.

Cloud
Cloud

For when you first begin to undertake it, all that you find is a darkness, a sort of cloud of unknowing; you cannot tell what it is, except that you experience in your will a simple reaching out to God [a naked intent unto God]. This darkness and cloud is always between you and your God, no matter what you do, and it prevents you from seeing him clearly by the light of understanding in your reason, and from experiencing him in sweetness of love in your affection.

 – You are to smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love. -… no man can think of God himself. Therefore, it is my wish to leave everything that I can think of and choose for my love the thing that I cannot think. Because he can certainly be loved, but not thought. He can be taken and held by love but not by thought. – Cloud of Unknowing
.
The gift of The Cloud is its simple message of going beyond the mind. We cannot find our Source, or “God”, by thinking, or through worded thought, but only through what it calls love or longing. This may be called a vector, a direction we follow through our intuition, even after we have gone beyond our mind. It leads us into an uncharted realm, a cloud of unknowing in the back of beyond, where we lose our ‘self’. If we continue into this Great Unknown, guided by this longing, perhaps we will meet our Self,  and find we have been there all along.
.
For whoever hears or reads about all this, and thinks that it is fundamentally an activity of the mind, and proceeds then to work it all out along these lines, is on quite the wrong track. He manufactures an experience that is neither spiritual or physical. He is dangerously misled and in real peril. – Cloud of Unknowing

 

http://www.mysticmissal.org/archive4_cloud_of_unknowing.htm

Simple Truth

“The daily remembering and clear admission of our internal angst is key to the eventual ability to face the moment. It gives us energy and incentive to separate from being identified with the psychological manifestations of personality in the drama of the sleepyhead-knucklehead, and how this misidentification traps our attention in the illusions of the mind. Once relaxed, we can jump straight into the still, aware silence: the listening attention. In other words, we go straight from personality right back up to what we really Are. We gofrom being a very complicated psychology, to being a very simple two-way seeing. We learn how to listen, to just look at the facts always in front of our vision, while simultaneously looking back at what we really Are. Psychological work is used only to show us that we don’t have a quiet mind, no freedom of attention, and thus cannot tell the real from the false. Once we realize that having a quiet mind is something you simply find, it’s always there just under the surface, you no longer have to think about it, put effort into it, build it up.

Peak in Upper Muley Twist Canyon
Peak in Upper Muley Twist Canyon

It’s a retreat from complicated error and projection back to the simple truth of ourselves as aware capacity, indescribable and real”.

–  Bob Fergeson, The Listening Attention