By All Appearances

By all appearances, there is an individual self, a ‘me’ made up of a body-mind, in here, and a ‘world’ of people, places, and things out there.

By all appearances.

And then there’s that other old nugget: appearances can be deceiving.

By all appearances, it looks like there are two or more things going on – me and you, us and them, inside and outside, this and that, etc. But is this our actual experience?

Not only can appearances be deceiving, they are deceiving.

Just as a magician pulls a coin from behind your ear and then makes it disappear in his hand, all appearances of the mind, body, and world appear and disappear. Deception at its finest!

Check it out. Thoughts come and go. Feelings come and go. Sensations come and go. Perceptions of the world are constantly coming and going. But what one thing does not come and go with them?

The presence with which they are known.

Ask yourself the question, who or what is this knowing presence that is aware of the coming and going of all things – thoughts, emotions, sensations, and perceptions of the world – yet doesn’t come and go with them?

You don’t have to search for this knowing presence, because you are this knowing presence. Relax in this, your essential nature, and its qualities of peace, love, and happiness will permeate your entire life, especially when it comes to relationships and actions.

For Advanced Seekers!

There was a recent YouTube post with the tag line, ‘A MUST WATCH for Advanced Seekers!’ If you are an advanced spiritual seeker, or a spiritual seeker on any level, this is a wonderful clip and must be watched. The question here is, what exactly is an advanced seeker?

Someone who’s an advanced seeker has done a lot of homework – put in endless hours of spiritual study, chanted mantras and meditated for long periods of time, studied with a guru or mystical guide, attended meetings and retreats, perhaps learned yoga, maybe ingested psychedelics, spent time with like-minded people, the sangha, and tried to live a life in accord with whatever teachings they lean towards, be it an established religion or philosophy, or some new age enlightenment movement.

What is actually being sought? If you surveyed a random group of spiritual seekers, you could distill their response down to something like, ‘I am seeking lasting happiness through the dissolution of the ego and the discovery of the Absolute.’ Or simply, ‘I am seeking happiness.’

You have done all of the things you’re supposed to do and had fleeting glimpses of happiness, but nothing has lasted. So the seeking continues – the ego fights dissolution tooth and nail – and continues to fail. After a while (decades?) it might dawn on you that all the seeking is futile. But if there is never any lasting satisfaction in all of these time-tested teachings, where can you turn?

In what direction can the mirror turn to reflect itself?

As a frustrated seeker, you might ask yourself the question, who is doing the seeking? When you examine the qualities of you, the seeker, you discover there is nothing real to invest your identity in. All you find are fleeting attributes of a limited body-mind. If our actual experience shows that there is no real seeker, then doesn’t it follow that there is nothing real to seek?

No Seeker = Nothing to Seek

There is nothing to do. There is nothing not to do. Relax in this invisible and indivisible balance point between being and not being and discover the inherent happiness in and of the infinite, eternal, and unnamable Absolute.

We All Appear To Die

Death surrounds us. It’s featured daily in the national news – 30 dead in a terrorist attack; 6 die in fire; reported 1200 dead in early figures following earthquake; 17 gunned down in a movie theater; a famous actress dies at 97. We see, hear, and read about death so often that it’s easy to tune it out. Death is a part of life, but in many cases we don’t want to dwell on it. It’s not a pleasant subject, after all. It’s just too final. But when someone close to us dies it tends to bring our own mortality into sharper focus.

Death surrounds us. But do we actually die? Aren’t the seeds of birth and death contained in our essential being, the ever-present Awareness from which all manifestations arise, linger, and disappear?

We all appear to die. Eventually our minds give out, our bodies give out, and everything ceases to function. The body-mind ‘dies’, but does Awareness, that which know the body-mind, die with it?

Awareness, the sense of being that has been with us as far back as we can remember, exists prior to, during, and after any experience of the body-mind has come and gone, be it a thought, image, feeling, sensation, or perception of the world through our five senses.

If Awareness is our essential nature, we, in the absolute sense, do not die. Death is just a concept within the vast ever-presence of infinite and eternal Awareness.

Were you a witness to your own birth?

It might seem obvious that you couldn’t witness your own birth, as you, a separate self, were not conscious enough to know anything. But the reality is that you would have to be present and aware to answer ‘No’.

Could you ever witness your own disappearance or death?

Conceptually, it makes sense that you couldn’t witness your own death because you are the one that appears to be dying. But, again, you would have to be present and aware to answer ‘No’.

Stick to the facts of your own experience and live your ‘life’ as your essential Self: ever-present Awareness. Not as a temporary, and thus illusionary, separate self we call a body-mind that appears to be born, live, and die.

When you do this, life turns into timeless, wondrous moments of endless discovery. Actually, you don’t have to ‘do’ anything because this is your original nature. No doing, no effort involved in being who you already are.

So What Is The Plan?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’                                            ~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

There is no afterlife, no reincarnation, no resurrection, no heaven or hell. This brief interlude called ‘life’, this delicate bridge between birth and death, is the one chance we have to express ourselves as a unique manifestation of that which is never born and never dies.

So, in response to Mary Oliver’s classic poem, the question we might ask ourselves instead is where is this ‘you’ that can make a plan in the first place to do something with its ‘one wild and precious life’?

What do we find when we look for this ‘you’?

We find a body-mind made up of a cluster of random and fleeting thoughts, images, emotions, sensations, and the ever-changing perceptions of the world through the five senses. Not one concrete or lasting quality to invest our identity in.

So the ‘you’ that claims to make and carry out plans has no real substance. It can’t be found except in the transitory expressions of the body-mind. This being the case, we can correctly conclude that there is no actual doer – there is no one to make and follow through with a plan.

If we say yes, I am the doer, I am in charge of my life, it would be like the wave saying, ‘I am in charge of the ocean. I am in charge of how the ocean behaves.’ Experience shows that the ocean dictates the wave’s behavior, as the wave is born of the ocean – without the ocean, no wave.

If the ocean is in charge of the wave’s identity and destiny, what is you’s counterpart? What is in charge of you’s identity and destiny? The wave is made of the ocean. The ‘you’ or ‘I’ is made of?

A better question we might ask ourselves is who or what is doing the looking in the first place?

~*~*~*~

Do we really think that we are in control? By the haphazard and sometimes despairing way in which many people lead their lives, we obviously know deep down, intuitively, that we are not in control, but we think that if we put up a good front, act like we know what we’re doing, maybe someone will believe us. Cult leaders know this to be true.

Many of us spend our lifetime identifying with a false sense of self, a personal I that when looked for can’t be found. Yes, there is evidence of a separate self, but only in fragments of passing thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations. The only thing that the I can say for sure is I am. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is a key.

~*~*~*~

Will you spend your precious life clinging to and defending an illusory separate self, a body-mind made up of a collection of conditioned thoughts and emotions?

Will you try to impose your will on others because you only feel good if others bend to your ideas or even crumble under your hardnosed scrutiny?

Will you withdraw into your insecurities, inadequacies, and failures, living a lonely life distanced from friends and family?

Or will you use this one and only chance to discover your true identity and express the peace, love, and happiness inherent in the gift of simply being? Of simply saying, knowing, ‘I am’?

~*~*~*~

You can look closely at the personal ‘you’ made up of passing thoughts, sensations, and perceptions, and discover that whoever or whatever is doing the looking, observing the coming and going of all things, reading the words on this screen, is actually the foundation, the source of all appearances. The ever-present background of all experience.

Or you can be buried forever under the ponderous weight of the illusory, temporary, so-called individual self.

So what is the plan?

This Too Shall Pass

There was a recent feature on NPR about the success of a program called Zero Suicide, founded by Dr. Ed Coffey and his team at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan (http://zerosuicide.sprc.org/). Program offshoots are springing up around the country.

The commentator was interviewing a participant who had attempted suicide many times. She said that the program had taught her that whatever she was feeling, e.g., depression or suicidal, she knew ‘it would pass.’

This too shall pass.

This phrase, or a variation of it, has been attributed to many different cultural, philosophical, religious, and spiritual traditions.

What we’re interested in here is the source of the phrase. Who or what knows that ‘this too shall pass’?

If we can answer this question, depression and suicidal tendencies will have no more influence on us than a reflection has on a mirror.

A thought says, ‘This too shall pass,’ but the thought itself passes, so it can’t be the source.

All phenomena – anything that can be observed or experienced, such as a thought, feeling, sensation, or perception – pass. All appearances, all objects, arise and pass away. Everything we know changes.

Whatever knows that ‘this too shall pass’ is an ever-present witness to the arising and passing away of all things.

Whatever the feeling, thought, emotion, sensation, or perception of the world, it’s guaranteed it will pass. And this passing is observed by an ever-present, changeless awareness.

Us.

One us.

Invest In Silk

                       ‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.’                                                                                                      ~ 16th Century English Proverb

No matter how hard we try, the individual self, that cluster of thoughts, images, memories, feelings, and perceptions we think of as ‘me’, cannot be transformed into that which knows ‘I am’ – pure consciousness or unlimited awareness.

‘Me’ is a hodgepodge of random thoughts and ever-changing bodily sensations that relates to the world from a limited point of view. As a matter of fact, everything about the individual self is limited. All its so-called attributes arise and pass away. When you look for this ‘me’, it can’t be found.

That which says ‘I am’ is the limitless awareness that is ever-present, unchanging, and unaffected by anything that happens in the body, mind, and world.

No matter how hard we try as individual selves to become better human beings, to become enlightened beings, in other words, to try and make something out of nothing, is like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

But what can be done is to simply recognize our true nature. Invest our identity in that which is ever-present, unchanging, the witness of all appearances – unlimited consciousness. Then we won’t be deceived by appearances and can clearly see the false as the false – that the sow’s ear can never become a silk purse.

Your spiritual advisor recommends: ‘For limitless, timeless security, invest in silk.’

With this new effortless understanding, the absolute truth of our shared being is revealed and its essence of silent stillness, happiness, and love permeates all things.

Now throw away the silk.

Consciousness By Any Other Name

     “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”                                                       ~ Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

What’s in a name? In a label? A thought or a concept? Perhaps a practical convenience for communication’s sake, but what is at its source? Is its source?

Consciousness by any other name still radiates the essence of consciousness. No matter what the appearance there can only be one source, and that is consciousness – the unchanging knowing presence that is available 24/7 whether we are aware of it or not.

For a moment become aware of the word . . .

ONE

Meaningless black symbols arranged randomly on a white screen. They might mean something to you, but that would only be a coincidence. Focus on the word . . .

ONE

For the sake of investigation, let’s say that this word symbolizes the body, mind, and world – the thoughts, feelings, sensations, sights, sounds, tastes, textures, and smells – all in . . .

ONE

Now notice the screen that ONE appears on. The screen, in this case, represents the source of all appearances, the background of all experience – infinite and eternal consciousness.

We seem to have two separate objects: the screen and the word. But this isn’t actually the case. Without the screen, there is no word. The word is made of the same substance as the screen, is inseparable from the screen. But the screen doesn’t need the word. The screen is always itself regardless of what does or doesn’t appear on it.

In other words, ONE by any other name is still ONE.

One consciousness, and we are That.

And the fragrance of That?

Sublime.