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.

#121 What Blocks Happiness, by Ezra Bayda

Posted: February 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Life | No Comments »

Below is an excerpt from Ezra Bayda’s new book, Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment:

The real question we need to ask ourselves is: why do we continue to follow behaviors that don’t bring us real happiness? The answer lies in the basic human condition: that is, we are born with the innate craving for safety, security, and control—this is an integral part of our survival mechanism. We are also born with an aversion to discomfort and a natural desire for comfort and pleasure. Given these basic human predispositions, it makes sense that our learned strategies of behavior are geared to ensure that our cravings and desires are met.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with trying to be safe or comfortable. The problem begins when our survival mode takes over and becomes our main motivation. When that happens, our other natural urges—curiosity, appreciation, and living from our true openhearted nature—are pushed aside, and consequently, our lives become narrower and increasingly less satisfying. Paradoxically, we continue to believe that our survival-based control strategies will make us happy, so we keep on trying harder or seeking approval; yet these very behaviors often bring us the most dissatisfaction.

Opening our eyes to what we’re doing is not always easy. Our habits of behavior, like trying harder and seeking approval, can become so deeply conditioned that we can hardly see them. Even when our behaviors don’t make us happy, we often don’t notice because we so firmly believe that they will! One very effective way to cut through our usual blindness is to ask the following questions: “Am I truly happy right now?” and “What blocks happiness?” To reflect on these two questions only takes a few moments, and if you do it several times a day, over a period of time you will begin to observe, very specifically, all the behaviors that directly block genuine happiness.

Trying harder and seeking approval are two of the most widespread conditioned behaviors for achieving happiness.. Almost equally common are our many addictive behaviors, starting with our addictions to pleasure and diversions. In themselves, pleasure and diversions are fine, and they can certainly make us feel good. But whenever we have addictive behaviors—whether to food, alcohol, sex, or working out—we are driven by the compulsion to keep returning to whatever we’re addicted to, in the promise that it will continue to make us feel good.

Pursuing our addictive behaviors highlights the very essence of the human tendency to misunderstand happiness. We follow these seductive behaviors because they seem to promise us happiness. And to some degree, they fulfill their promise, in that we feel personally happy when we experience sensual pleasure or the hit of endorphins. But the fulfillment of that promise is always temporary, and it is always based on a temporarily benevolent external environment. As long as the environment doesn’t turn against us, we think our life is okay, and we don’t do anything to change the situation. Nor do we address the underlying unease out of which the addictive behaviors arise: why upset the applecart when things seem to be okay? Thus, we remain on the treadmill of personal happiness/unhappiness. When we don’t feel so good, we find a fix, and then we think we are happy again. The cycle goes on and on; meanwhile, genuine happiness eludes us.

We will continue to pursue the conditioned strategies of behavior that we hope will bring us happiness as long as we believe they are working. And because they sometimes do bring us some degree of personal happiness, these behaviors can get reinforced for a long time. That’s how people get caught on the treadmill of their attachments and routines for a lifetime without making any effort to change. Paradoxically, we’re actually fortunate if life occasionally serves us a big dose of disappointment, because it forces us to question whether our attachments and strategies really serve us. When we truly see that what we’ve been doing simply isn’t effective in bringing us genuine happiness, we may be motivated enough to take the next step.

Each of us has to examine where and how we get in our own way, observing all the ways we block fundamental happiness. Specifically, we need to look at all of our conditioned behaviors—our strategies of control and our addictive tendencies. We’ve spent our whole life believing these things would give us happiness, when in fact if we look deeply, they’ve done just the opposite. But until we see this clearly—until we’ve seen the many things we do to get in our own way—we won’t be motivated to go beyond our small measures of personal happiness, toward cultivating the roots of true contentment.

(For more information about Ezra Bayda, please visit www.zencentersandiego.org .)


#120 Quotes from Nisargadatta Maharaj

Posted: February 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Life | No Comments »

From ‘Consciousness and the Absolute’ by Nisargadatta Maharaj:

People identify me with their concepts and they do what their concepts tell them. It is consciousness which is manifest, nothing else. Who is talking, who is walking, who is sitting? These are the expressions of that chemical “I Am”. Are you that chemical? You talk about heaven and hell, this Mahatma or that one, but how about you? Who are you? In meditation, one sees a lot of visions. They are in the chemical, the realm of your consciousness, are they not? All these things are connected only to that birth-chemical. You are not this chemical “I Am”.

All these activities go on, but they are only entertainment. The waking and deep sleep states come and go spontaneously. Through the sense of “I”, you spontaneously feel like working. But find out if this sense of “I” is real or unreal, permanent or impermanent.

The Ultimate state in spirituality is that state where no needs are felt at any time, where nothing is useful for anything. That state is called Nirvana, Nirguna, that which is the Eternal and Ultimate Truth. The essence and sum total of this whole talk is called Sat-guru Parabrahman, that state in which there are no requirements.

Freedom means letting go. People just do not care to let go of everything. They do not know that the finite is the price of the infinite, as death is the price of immortality. Spiritual maturity lies in the readiness to let go of everything. The giving up is the final step. But the real giving up is in realizing that there is nothing to give up, for nothing is your own. It is like deep sleep – you do not give up your bed when you fall asleep – you just forget it.

The essence of the body is the essence of the foodstuff, and this consciousness lies dormant in it from the very beginning. In that state of consciousness is the entire universe. Having seen this, whoever has understood is bound to be quiet, knowing that this is only a transient happening. An enormous structure of concepts being taught to us as knowledge is based on the simple appearance of consciousness.

Recite the sacred name, that is all right, but the important thing is to recognize and understand what is the presiding principle by which you know you are and by which you perceive everything else. You must look at yourself, get to know yourself. The riddle of spirituality cannot be solved by your intellect. At the most, your intellect can provide you with livelihood.

Any thought that you have reached or are going to reach that state is false. Whatever happens in consciousness is purely imaginary, an hallucination; therefore, keep in mind the knowledge that it is consciousness in which everything is happening. With that knowledge, be still, do not pursue any other thoughts which arise in consciousness. What is necessary is to understand with sure conviction is that all is temporary, and does not reflect your true state.

You are afraid because you have assumed something as ‘I am’, which actually you are not. Suppose you find a diamond ring on the road and you pocket it. Since it is not yours, a fear overcomes you. When you put on an identity that is not yours, you are afraid. When you are the pure ‘I amness’ only, there is no fear. Presently you are this ‘I am’, but this ‘I am’ is not the truth. Whatever you are prior to the appearance of ‘I am’, that is your real nature.

(For more info about Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, please visit: http://www.nisargadatta.co.cc)


#119 What Life is About

Posted: February 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Life | No Comments »

(Him: Here’s a reply I’ve given to someone who mentioned that after learning to be in the Now, the present moment, of being nondual, he finds it hard to get things done. As in, because he is so present, his mind isn’t focused when doing something like studying because he isn’t motivated by a future reason. He felt as if time has lost its meaning, so he isn’t making the best use of it. He then proceeded to ask whether there’s any way he can feel ‘separate’ from the now again, to have a body and mind and time. This is understandable, because famous books on the “Now” subject e.g. Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle sometimes indicate that these disappear when one is emerged fully in the present moment. Of course, no one is ever wrong in these kinds of circumstances. Because the one who’s really wrong is the context. Different contexts lead to different purposes and endings. And through my reply below, I try to answer his question as straight as my heart feels is right.)

Let go…

The fullest let go is nonduality isn’t it.

In that state you neither not do or do, but follow life.

For me, the only benefit of understanding nonduality in its fullest just lets me know that I’m supposed to embrace more of life.

This means, not avoiding truth, not ignoring truth, or not preventing ourselves from being happy and at peace.

When someone holds the thought “now, now, now” all the time, one’s being attached to something, as it is the same with being attached to fame, glory, money, etc.

Rather, we live genuinely, with heart, with care, to honor our parents, and to keep our family harmonious.

Note that family here, doesn’t just apply to our blood related bonds, or close friends.

But everyone out there.

To see a cleaner, and to smile at her. To thank a maid. To do what you’ve always thought is nice to do but was shy to do it.

Making nonduality another spiritual teaching is like subscribing to a new TV channel.

But life doesn’t just happen inside the TV.

It happens out and about it.

It happens all the time, everywhere.

As the Shaolin teaching goes, “Follow fate your whole life”.

This is without making fate another concept to grasp, but an advice to give yourself when you need to remind yourself of not attaching yourself to something, and instead choose to always let go and be forgiving in times of pleasure or disappointment.

As another Chinese saying goes, “When a family is harmonious, everything one does prospers.” You see, this quote doesn’t flower when it is just made to be an advice to heed, but when it is made a devotion, a devotion to honor our parents with utmost gratitude, and to treat others as though they’re part of the family – because when your family (your heart) isn’t harmonious, many things you do will usually fail. When the above is practiced well, one will realize that his/her own actions tend to give more happiness to him/herself.

And as strange as it seems, life will tend to get better as well – yes, even in the material sense of the word.

One’s life won’t necessarily prosper after studying nonduality. Rather, the main purpose of the teaching is to allow one to see life through a more real, more full, more genuine perception of the world. As a result of this seeing, one can then improve him or herself through practical reasons, and become better people.

Trying not to become a person may be another attachment.

For me, being in the now just means this, and this only –

Being appreciative.

When we can appreciate something to the fullest, anything we appreciate can be looked at as God, or the movement of God.

The funny thing is most of us in the world just don’t choose to appreciate everything, and so that amazing something/feeling subsides from everything.

Harmonious family, appreciation, being a good person.

I think putting our minds on those three things are better than grasping on an idea that leads nowhere – a direction it didn’t mean to point you to in the first place.

Hope that helps.

Thanks.


#118 Does Awareness Arise from the Brain, by Greg Goode

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Life | No Comments »

It is never our experience that witnessing awareness is not present. Therefore it is never our direct experience that witnessing awareness comes into existence based on a causal process. The process itself must appear in witnessing awareness, which was there “first.” Awareness is always and already.

There is no contradiction between nonduality and neuroscience. Neuroscience measures a subtle object. This subtle object is a kind of sentience, a local reactivity associated with a biological organism. This sentience is an arising in the witnessing awareness that is your true nature, your direct experience, infinite sweetness and unconditional love.

Nonduality and neuroscience – you can think of them as different songs.

This part on the brain is taken from a large section dealing with the body. The body is not often dealt with in nondual teachings, writings and gatherings. But it is just as much a part of experience as emotions, thoughts and feelings!

Actually, your direct experience can show you directly, in the here-and-now, that:

  • The “body” is not a physical object.
  • The “body” is not a separate object endowed with a separate sentience.
  • The “body” is not a container of awareness.
  • Rather, the body, like the world, is awareness itself.

That is, in direct experience you can discover that the “body” is actually the body of love and the world of light: pure clarity and unconditional openness. The body is actually the world – there is no difference to be found. It is the global world of experience in which there is no inside/outside, no here/there, no separation and no suffering.

But what about the brain? Many credible scientists say that awareness is a produce of brain chemistry. What about that??

…the pinkish gray meat between our ears produces the richness of experiential awareness. — Science and Nonduality Conference website

In college I dissected brains. As an undergrad student, I was a physiological psychology major. Many people, even folks attracted to nondualism, think that the brain is what gives rise to awareness. But is that our direct experience? –Greg

There is no contradiction between nonduality and neuroscience. Neuroscience measures a subtle object. This subtle object is a kind of sentience, a local reactivity associated with a biological organism. This sentience is an arising in the witnessing awareness that is your true nature, your direct experience, infinite sweetness and unconditional love. –Greg

The World

When looked at very closely, physical objects are not to be found. They melt directly into awareness. Your direct experience of a physical object is nothing more than colors, sounds, textures, sensations of hardness, softness, moistness or dryness. Each of these sensations is inseparable from its exclusive sensory modality. In other words,

  • colors are inseparable from vision,
  • sounds are inseparable from hearing
  • sensations of texture, hardness, softness, moisture or dryness are inseparable from touch
  • flavors are inseparable from taste
  • fragrances are inseparable from smell

Even in imagination, “sense objects” cannot appear apart from “sense faculties.” This is shocking if it is “grokked.” For example, if it is deeply understood how a color can never be experienced separately from seeing, then it simply makes no sense to believe that you can “see a color.” Colors aren’t objects hanging around outside awareness, waiting to be seen. Rather, the arising of color is what we mean by “seeing.” The way we ordinarily speak of seeing in the everyday sense, we allow that an object is present whether currently seen or not. In the everyday sense, if your cat runs out of the bedroom, you think of the cat as existing, but momentarily unseen. The cat can be seen, and it can be unseen. When it is unseen, it is simply “somewhere else.”

But of course in our direct experience of color, an unseen color is never experienced. The absence of a color is never experienced. If a color is not something experienced as absent, then it can’t be the kind of thing that is experienced to be present. A color, like any other “arising,” is not the kind of thing that can alternate between being present and absent. You can’t have a one-sided coin. If you can’t have one side of a pair of opposites, then you can’t have the other side either. So neither “present” nor “absent” applies to an arising.

This is our direct experience “of the world.” Neither present nor absent, but experienced as awareness itself.

(This is just half of the full article written by Greg Goode. Please read the rest of it at: http://greggoode.stillnessspeaks.com/ssblog/awareness_and_brain/)