All writings herein serve to open up the world towards knowledge that matters, to piece together the greatest philosophies of living, and to expound ways towards
the path of freedom, happiness & choice.
When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.
~ Ernest Hemingway
For a long time I didn’t feel like I had a lot of people to relate to. Being shy, I didn’t find myself in a lot of conversations with people I didn’t know, and when I did, I was uncomfortable. Bonds did form, deep ones sometimes, but it was always a product of circumstance. I made friends with people I was in class with or worked with, because some interaction is bound to happen in those places. But to actually form a relationship without the help of circumstances was something I had never experienced.
I’ve shed much of my shyness through deliberately speaking up more and other forms of comfort-zone-pushing, but I eventually made a discovery that really opened the floodgates for me. I see the potential for connection in just about everyone now; I no longer feel bound by differences of age, interests, cultures, or opinions.
The secret to connecting with people is this:
Always try to understand what people really mean when they speak.
It doesn’t sound like a huge revelation. Many of you are probably thinking that you already do that anyway. But chances are you don’t, at least not very well. Certainly we know what the other person is saying, but most of the time, we don’t particularly care for the topic, or if we do, our minds are already busy forming a response. Sometimes we take the liberty of finishing the person’s sentence, or even beginning one of our own before they finish. This is fairly normal behavior, at least in my culture, and as such, it isn’t considered terribly rude in most circles.
Next time you’re out, try watching an exchange between two people. In most conversations I witness, each person appears to clearly hold his own opinions as being of primary importance, and the other’s as being worth considerably less, though each might pretend otherwise. It’s not that we’re arrogant, it’s just human nature. Each person is usually waiting for their turn to talk, perhaps tossing in some polite remarks and nods so as not to appear rude.
However, things do flow more smoothly when one person’s opinion matches the other’s. That’s when real listening happens without any effort, and conversation is unhindered. But because of this human tendency to revere our own opinions, many people find they can only really connect with people who carry similar views. With friends and family, we’ve already established some common ground, so it’s easy to really communicate with them.
But that leaves only a small segment of the population with which we have the potential to connect. Most people will hold no interest for us. I think part of the problem is that we think that the other person’s message is what they say.
What they say, in terms of what words come out of their mouth, is just a tiny fraction of what they are communicating. The real message is not what they say. The real message is why. Where are these words coming from? That why is what tells us who they are and what they value.
The speaker is rarely just trying to relay basic information to you. Almost always, they are speaking up because there is some visceral desire to express what they are feeling right now. Speech is always triggered by a passion, a worry, a judgment, a realization, or some other internal encounter with an emotion of some kind. If your friend suddenly brings up her job, it isn’t because she wants you to be well-informed about her situation at work, it’s because her job is on her mind and she wants to get it out of her mind. Respect that need and she will not only be grateful, but suddenly she’ll be much more likely to take an interest in what’s on your mind.
If you want to connect with people, make this your social mantra:
Always let the speaker be the star.
Whatever their performance is, whether it’s a story about something their kid is doing in school, a trip to Europe they’re planning, a complaint about what so-and-so said to them earlier — be the most respectful audience you can be. The chair they are sitting in, the doorway they are standing in, wherever they are — that’s their stage, their pulpit. Let them say their piece, no matter what you think of the story, or what you would do in their place.
Really, really listen to what they say, and recognize that they are saying what they’re saying because it is important to them. In every single thing every person says, they reveal what they value. When you can get a glimpse of what people value, you can see the humanity in them. And that is how humans connect: by understanding each other’s values. You don’t have to share those values, though you’ll certainly find you share something with everyone.
I am not into hunting. I have no interest in shooting a deer or a goose for fun. But I do know some who do, and in my more conscious moments, I can genuinely appreciate everything a friend tells me about hunting. The specifics of his anecdotes are not so important; it’s the glint of excitement in his eyes, and more importantly, the enthusiasm that swells in him when he realizes somebody is actually being receptive to his story. I reserve my judgments; there’s no need to batter anyone over the head with my own stances. There would be no communication at all if I did that. Judgments just get in the way and do neither party any good.
To simply know what it feels like to hold something dear, and understand that we all know that feeling — that means you can understand anybody. But only if you genuinely make a point of seeing where they’re coming from. Our failing is that we’re usually much more concerned with being understood than with understanding. Those who reverse those two priorities are very effective communicators and will never have a shortage of friends.
Distraction, in some form, is what typically prevents understanding. Distraction is letting your attention wander from the other person’s performance. It could be captured by what they’re wearing, a TV screen, a book in your hands, anything around you. But the most common place for it to go is into your own (the listener’s) thoughts. Most people are distracted by what they themselves would like to say. Sometimes they want to respond before the person is finished, other times they simply have their own opinion locked and loaded to fire off as soon as there is a break in the dialogue.
Forget what you want to say, just drop all thoughts about yourself and your interests, and let them speak their mind. Think of it this way: when you are listening, the most important thing in the world is to figure out where the other person is coming from. Make it your entire purpose on earth — for the thirty-seven seconds it takes for them to tell their little story — to understand what feelings are behind what they say. If, when they stop speaking, you still don’t understand where they’re coming from, ask a question.
All it takes is putting your own interests on hold until they are able to get their point across to you.
The habit of really listening to what someone is saying is a rare one. And the people who do it can connect with anyone. I’ve understood the value of being a good listener for a long time, but I didn’t really know what it meant to be one. I know now: it means to cherish other people’s desire to express themselves more than your own desire to express yourself. Really, just completely defer your interests for as long as it takes for you to understand them.
That idea might scare some people. Surely our own opinions are important too!
Relax. You don’t have to worry about being understood, and here’s why: when you make a point of dumping your own thoughts to make room for understanding, people are so grateful that you are trying to see their perspective, they’ll be happy to listen to you afterward. By then, what they wanted to say is no longer on their mind, so then they won’t be distracted by it while you are speaking.
In other words, take turns understanding each other, but insist on going first. Let the other person have the privilege of being the first one to be understood. The biggest distraction to understanding someone else is self-importance. Needing to say something means you have to be thinking about it, and thinking about it means you have very little mental capacity left for empathy. Free up yours, and it will free up theirs.
Imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this.
That’s all anyone wants, to be understood. Give it to them. Give the greatest of all gifts, every time you have the opportunity. Unless the building is on fire, give yourself permission to let the speaker be the center of your universe, just for a minute. It won’t hurt, I promise. Forget what you were going to say. Forget how you might wish to respond. You can do that all later. Abandon everything else in the world for the few seconds it takes to let the other person finish their thought.
At first, you will probably experience some angst at the thought of abandoning what you were going to say. Drop it anyway, and see if your life suffers. (It won’t.) So what if you didn’t get to make the wisecrack you had saved up? So what if you don’t get to tell them about your upcoming trip to Europe?
Once you resolve to let all that baggage go, it’s actually a tremendous relief. It’s like dropping an armload of textbooks you’ve had held against your chest. You no longer have to struggle to keep track of your thoughts. You can safely let them all go. Let them drift away, unfinished and unfollowed. 99% of them never needed to be said anyway. And don’t worry, the truly important thoughts will be persistent enough to come back to you when nobody else is speaking. You will get your chance to make yourself understood, just don’t try to be first in line.
There is such a strong compulsion to make our own opinion known, that even the most courteous among us will often practically ignore what the person says, or even interrupt them. Most of the time the hurried remarks we do make are just little indulgences, self-important grabs at approval or admiration.
I know that I personally have a history of saying things for the sole purpose of sounding clever, or arousing the fondness of others. I built my whole identity on looking smart, for years and years. I didn’t know who I was without that approval, so I was constantly digging for it. It’s really just a bad habit, to grab at the little ego boosts those self-indulgent remarks provide. I would even call it an addiction, but that’s a whole other post. For now let’s just say many of us are very strongly drawn to seeking approval by pointing out certain things or telling certain stories, and it impedes understanding others considerably.
The truth is, your opinions probably aren’t that important. And neither are the other person’s. Opinions will come and go, they speak mostly to our emotional state at the time we declare them. There is usually very little logic behind them, just feelings. And that’s okay. There is a brilliant Zen saying: Do not seek the truth, only cease to cherish opinions. This is not a prescription for dismissing what the other person is saying, only for cherishing the human being behind the words, rather than the back-and-forth play of semantics and mental positions.
I’ll be the first to say I’m really not all that good at this yet. I’ve been getting better and better at relating to people, but old habits do indeed die hard. But I now understand clearly where I went wrong so often, and I know what to do instead. The specific concept of letting others be the star only came to me fairly recently, and I’m astounded at the results so far. My friends and family suddenly became ten times more interesting, not to mention strangers, clients, clerks and passers-by. I no longer have that bubble of angst growing inside me when someone else is speaking, because I know I can safely drop whatever I was going to say. More and more I get to witness that wonderful sense of gratitude that washes over people when someone makes a genuine effort to understand them.
And when you do get your chance to speak, their eyes will be glued to you, and you’ll probably have the best audience you ever had.
(Him: David, the author from Raptitude.com is amazing at delivering very educational content. His articles seem to cover two major subjects: philosophy & spirituality. Combined, they become personal development. Make no mistake – he is not just a writer. David had personally gone through the obstacles of life to teach what he learned. If you prefer diamonds amongst the mud, consider reading his articles: http://www.Raptitude.com.)
I heard this story for the first time on FinerMinds.com. They recently published a video of Anthony Robbins describing Stallone’s personal story – one that was exchanged in a conversation between the two greats. After watching it, I couldn’t help but wonder how strong of a level of passion or determination Sylvester Stallone had kept to keep pushing on during the lowest moments in his life.
To hear Stallone’s story gives my blood even more confidence, energy and motivation in fulfilling my goal.
What do you think?
I hope you’ll find its message to be inspirational:
(Him: Many contents I post on this blog contradict with each other. Two posts before, I promoted a passion to live life with more effort towards the good. On this post, as you’ll soon find out – the article promotes the idea that there is nothing to actively ‘do’. So where do I stand really? My answer: Where I’m supposed to. In life, I adapt to different situations with different actions & perceptions. Where is the fine line? It’s your call.
As people say, find the balance. The only thing they didn’t say is that the balance has to be entirely, equally spread, because that’d be pretty unproductive for many. When I devote just enough time, attention or effort to each part of my life that my entire life heightens in positivity, that’s where the balance is for me. The same applies to learning. I keep an open mind and learn what I observe is able to make me a better person. What doesn’t contribute to my wellbeing, I either lay it far away or turn it into a positive source of wisdom regardless.
This article below describes who we are is more than the separate identities we think we are. It talks about how everything is an illusion. But look – if you are an illusion person, and you disturb an illusion dog, you’ll still experience an illusion bite. So just understand what the article is talking about. And allow that understanding to be with you. There is no need to force that understanding into your daily life. I guess the point is when we can grasp what this article is trying to express, life will just be lighter in general. May you find it to be a pretty cool piece to read.)
On “This” and “That”
‘That which you already are, pure awareness’ – Sogyal Rinpoche
‘Awareness of awareness – the first factor of enlightenment’ – The Buddha
‘Effortless Choiceless Awareness is our Real State’ – Sri Ramana Maharshi
Overcome fear… by seeing what’s Here!
Let go of all fear and anxiety, for awareness is always present as you are effortlessly, and choicelessly, aware of your thoughts and sensations. This awareness is a constant subjective presence, whereas these thoughts and sensations (mind/body) are ephemeral objects coming and going within this awareness. Therefore this awareness is the deepest level of our being, the unchanging presence that we intuitively feel we are, and have always been, that which has never been absent and has witnessed the pantomime of our lives. This very awareness, the home which we have never left, and can in fact never leave, is the very peace and security that we seek.
Forget about church… Just give up the search!
To enjoy this peace and absolute security we do not need any dogma, belief systems, rituals or practices. All that is necessary is to abandon the external search for this. We must stop ‘seeking for love in all the wrong places’; just recognize, and totally relax into, that pure awareness that we already are.
No need for a prayer mat… Already you are That!
For this to occur there is no need to appeal to any external ‘deity’, for this awareness is itself the ‘hidden treasure’, the Absolute Reality lauded by all religions, and is always present at the deeper (and surface) level of our being. At the deeper level as That in which thoughts/sensations (mind/body) appear/disappear, come and go, arise and subside; and at the surface level as this very awareness of these thoughts/sensations.
No Me, No you! There’s nothing to do…
In reality there is no separate individual entity (me or you) we are both just expressions of the same pure awareness, and there’s nothing we need to do to achieve enlightenment as we are already ‘That’, i.e. awareness is already present.
Nobody, No mind! There’s nothing to find…
There is, in reality, nobody, i.e. separate individual; and no entity called the mind which is just a flow of ephemeral thoughts and images. There is also nothing to find in that we cannot lose that pure awareness that, in essence, we always are; we just need to stop overlooking this.
No effort, No sweat! There’s nothing to get…
There is no need to make any effort to achieve enlightenment, just stop and turn your attention to that pure awareness that you already are. You cannot ‘get’ this as you already ‘are’ this!
Wow! There’s only Now…
In reality there is always only now as the past has already gone and the future is yet to be. If you see ‘what is’ in the ‘now’ with no reference to past (including acquired knowledge or imaginary ‘individual self’) or future, then everything seems much more vivid and alive (Wow!) than when filtered through the mind and its opinions, judgments, attitudes and ‘knowledge’.
Cheer! There’s only Here…
Also you are always ‘Here’, at any given moment, and can only see ‘what is’ here (and now). What you think is going on anywhere else is only speculation, which will take you away from the direct experience of ‘here and now’.
How? Just Here and Now!
How to be ‘enlightened’ (i.e. unburdened) and at peace? Just be totally here in the present moment and see ‘what is’ (here and now) with no reference to the past, future, mind, or what might be happening anywhere else.
Just This! That’s Bliss….
This seeing ‘what is’ with a still mind, from pure awareness, is Bliss. The other name for Brahman (The Absolute) is Satchitananda which can be translated as: ‘What is’, the awareness of ‘What is’, the Bliss of the awareness of ‘What is’.
Just Cease! That’s Peace…
Just cease identifying with the mind (and all of its activity to get anywhere, or attain anything) and the result is instant peace.
Just Being! That’s freeing…….
Just ‘Being’ moment to moment , with no reference to past/future or any illusory separate ‘self’, is in itself totally freeing…
Accept what is … Then feel the kiss!
Always accept ‘what is’ at the present moment with no resistance and life becomes more enjoyable as the mind stills. This does not mean that we cannot plan to change things, only that we need to accept ‘what is Now’ as it is already here and therefore cannot be changed. This lack of resistance liberates tremendous energy, and relaxation, allowing us to ‘feel the kiss’, and wonder, of Reality.
Live life with no ‘story’… Then all reveals its glory!
If you live life with no personal ‘story’ then the mind stills and everything in manifestation appears more vivid and alive, i.e. more glorious…
Each moment is enough… The end of all (mind) Stuff!
If you check you will find that Pure Awareness never needs anything to change and is complete whatever is happening. In this ‘each moment is enough’ and no mind activity is necessary to change, or seek for, anything.
This is an amended and expanded version of chapter six from Beyond the Separate Self which aims to provide a framework for direct investigation of our moment-to-moment experience. When fully accomplished this reveals that we truly are ‘pure awareness’ at the deepest level of our being. The book is available at: http://nonduality.com/btss.htm
When a person finds something he truly believes in, sometimes it is so immense, so vast, so expansive, that it can hardly be put into complete words.
It is only unfortunate that most people have never delved into this strong level of intensity before. If they do, work in general will be inspiring, exciting, and anticipated. Life in general would be filled with passion, love and exceptionality.
Why don’t they?
There are three reasons: Fear, Selfishness & Ignorance.
They fear how great they would become, and in return how big their responsibilities would be. They are selfish, so they control others and dim down the lights in people’s passion to fulfill their own agendas. They are ignorant, as pain has never taught them lessons on appreciating life the way it should be appreciated.
The ones who are aware pushed through despite these obstacles, because they know there is a worthy cause in what they’re doing.
Eventually their actions shined through the surface of people’s eyes, and successfully touched the minds, hearts and blood in people with their passion.
After reading this piece, I thought, “Might as well.”
See conscious spirituality/non-duality has always taught similar things.
Sometimes, they are expressed differently, other times the same.
After reading this article, I thought, “Might as well – it is expressed to the extreme, in a way that may not be accepted by most people’s minds. But considering how it can alter a person’s state for the better in certain situations (interpret the piece however you want), I’m sharing it here.”
Some of you after reading will think, “Hey I got something out of this.”
While others, “Man, this is over the top.”
I think either way is fine.
Seen through spiritual spectacles, this is great.
Seen through a materialistic pair, and this may seem mad.
Question is, is there a correctness that stands between them?
Author: Robert Adams
Think of the things that have happened to you in your life now. You appear to be getting older and older. Things come into your life, as it appears. You try to exchange wrong for right, good for bad. Yet you refuse to acknowledge that this too is a dream. You want to continue playing the game. You want to play hide and seek by believing there is a God somewhere, and if you find this God, all your problems will be over. So you keep searching.
You can never find your reality by searching.
Reality is where it’s always been, right where you are at this moment. It is you.
There is not reality and you. You are not in the body of God; God is not in you. For there is no you. There is no body. There is no God. You are perfect pure awareness just as you are now.
There is really no thing you have to do. You simply have to wake up. Why will you not awaken now? Even while I’m talking to you, many of you are thinking, thinking, thinking. Can’t you see by now, that this is what is holding you back from your freedom, from your bliss, from your joy? It is your thoughts.
Where did your thoughts come from? They really didn’t come from anywhere, for they do not even exist. Yet unfortunately most of us believe that thoughts exist, for we are bombarded by them day and night.
So sages come along and invent methods, means, in order to obliterate the thoughts. Meditation was invented for that purpose. Self-enquiry, all of these yogic exercises, pranayama, mantras, kriya, they’re really used to stop your thoughts from blossoming, to keep your mind from thinking.. All of these procedures are to make your mind quiescent, quiet, still. If you’re able to do this without the methods, then you would be realized. You would be your self. You would be liberated. But you refuse to do this. You want a teacher to give you methods to wake you up.
But I say to you, wake up now. Awake. The methods will keep you back because you get stuck with the methods. But it makes no difference what I say. You are still going to identify with the world, with conditions, with your body, with your mind. We therefore have to think of a way, the quickest way for you to awaken. Of all the methods I, know, self-enquiry is the fastest if you are mature enough to be able to handle it. You begin to understand that the I is only a thought; it is an idea called the I-thought. It is the I-thought that dominates your existence. True?
How many times have you said “I” today? “I” am going to hear Robert. “I” am going to eat breakfast. “I” am going to take a nap. “I” don’t think I feel too good. “I” feel great. “I” need this. “I” need that. The first person pronoun I, dominates your entire existence.
Yet it has been known by Sages, if you were only able to annihilate the I, destroy it, kill it, you would be free. The I is attached to all of your thoughts. Therefore, begin to follow the I to its source. I have to tell you in truth and in reality, there is no I and there is no source, but you will not believe me. You want to play with I. You therefore follow the I to the Source, and when the I has been dissolved into the source, you become free.
You do this of course by enquiring “to whom do these thoughts come?” Or, whatever is disturbing you, you enquire “to whom do they come? Who is experiencing this? Who is going through this? Who thinks they are human? Who feels depressed? Who feels discouraged? Who feels there is a difference between birth and death? – I do.” Can’t you see now, that if you get rid of the I, all those feelings, depression, and worry would disappear?
So you ask, “Who am I? Where did this I come from?” You never answer that question. When thoughts come to you, you enquire “To whom do they come? To me? I think these thoughts. Who am I?” You do not answer. As you continue to do this process, you find that your mind is becoming quieter and quieter. The confusion stops. You begin to feel happier and happier. You are no longer reacting to person, place or thing. You become spontaneous in everything you do.
You live in the now, but you’re not doing that. It’s doing you. In other words you have not decided, “I’m going to be spontaneous from now on. I’m going to live in the now.” As you are aware, how many times have you tried that without avail? You can’t make up your mind that you’re going to be spiritual, that you’re going to be consciousness, that you are absolute reality. How many times have you tried to do that, and the first thing that comes into your life, you become upset? You react. Something bothers you. Or something good comes into your life and you become elated. You react in a positive way. They’re both impostors.
Remember you’re not trying to change bad into good. You want to transcend everything, and become absolutely free. See how you’re thinking? Your mind won’t stay still, will it? Whose mind is it that won’t stay still? Do you really have a mind? Are you the mind? Who told you this? There is no mind, there is no body, there are no thoughts. Accept this if you want to. All it can do for you, is liberate you. We listen to the birds, we see the beautiful trees. Who sees? Who listens? Why, I do. You’re caught in the trap again. For many of you believe, if I behold the beauty of the world, that’s good. It’s better than beholding death, I suppose.
But the world is an illusion. It is not real. The so called beauty is here today and gone tomorrow. Change is the only permanent thing of the relative world. Everything changes continuously.
Therefore as you go through the vicissitudes of life, and you get rid of your dogmatic thinking, you open your heart, you begin to feel something different. You begin to loosen up.
The first thing to understand is that everything that has transpired in your life has been necessary. No matter how it looks. No matter what has happened. Everything has been necessary.
The second thing to understand is, everything has been preordained. In other words, everything was supposed to happen the way it happened. There were no mistakes.
The third thing to understand is that the first two things are a pack of lies. For these things don’t even exist in reality. Everything is preordained, as long as you believe you are the body. Everything is karmic, as long as you identify with the world and believe you are the doer.
(Him: Watched the movie “Inception” by Christopher Nolan? Perhaps this piece can appear more understandable if you connect the subject of ‘I’ to a dream main character. As real as the dream character is to you, it is just a dream character. It doesn’t exist. We think the characters have a body, mind, emotions and can be happy, sad, fearful, etc. but they really are just played out automatically in a dream. It seems like it has a sense of ‘I’ to its body. But does it really own that ‘I’? Or is it played out somewhere else?)
“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
– Eckhart Tolle, from A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose