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.

#129 How to Speak About Changing the World, by Robert Rabbin

Posted: June 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Life | No Comments »

I arrived in the US on 23rd May, after living in Australia for more than five years.

Since my arrival, several people have alerted me to a number of webinars and urged me to listen.

I’ve listened to about a dozen of them, all having to do, broadly speaking, with personal growth, spiritual development, and global evolution.

Well, it’s not true that I listened. I tried to listen. I wanted to listen. I gave my time and attention to listen.

But I couldn’t.

I kept getting headaches — not so much from what the people were saying, but from how they were saying it.

In spite of the following generalization, I feel it is accurate to say that in terms of speaking style, all the people, men and women alike, spoke with passion, sincerity, clarity, conviction, urgency. Perhaps the most noticeable style trait was intensity, even if the intensity was quiet and soft. In terms of content, most had well-developed, if extremely intellectual, presentations. These are positive reviews, and one might think that I should have been able to listen all the way through. I couldn’t.

It wasn’t for lack of interest, as I’ve lived in this world of personal growth and spiritual development for 40 years, as a student, speaker, writer, and self-awareness teacher. I share what I’ve learned as I travel through and work within personal, organizational, social, and cultural circles. My interest was sincere. But I couldn’t listen.

Here’s why. No one was playful. Without playfulness, I can not listen to anyone for very long, especially when the topic is something as significant as global evolution. When people speak to me without playfulness, I start wheezing. I get what I call “subtle body asthma.” I can’t breathe. My head starts to pound and my ears ring. The oxygen is sucked from the air.

Playfulness is an important word and principle, one that I use often in my RealTime Speaking programs, in which I teach people how to speak authentically. I’ve spent considerable time reflecting on this word, what it means, and why it is so important and powerful. Playfulness means “nothing to defend.”

Perhaps the greatest barrier to authentic public speaking is people’s fear of being seen. To avoid the risk of transparency, vulnerability, and intimacy in speaking, people hide. They hide behind all kinds of things, including the need to be right.

Needing to be right and it’s corollary, the fear of being wrong, blocks authenticity in speaking. The antidote is playfulness: nothing to defend. I say often: speaking authentically is about being real, not right.

Please think about this for a moment. If in your speaking you are not trying to be right, and you are not afraid of being wrong, you have nothing to defend. You shift from a right/wrong, good/bad polarity to simply, “Here is what I have to say.” We are not trying to be right. We are not afraid of being wrong. We are just expressing our “truth,” how we see things in this moment.

With nothing to defend, we fall almost inevitably into being playful. When we relate to others playfully, when we speak playful, we create such an open space for all kinds of things to happen. Within this playful space of relating and speaking, there is no pressure, no push, no pull. It’s as if we don’t even care to produce a result! We’re just playing. Who doesn’t want to join in and play?

Being playful does not compromise our sincerity, conviction, or clarity. It does, however, drain the life out of intensity. Intensity is the antithesis of playfulness. The intensity is the bully on the playground, stealing all the joy, spontaneity, pleasure, and connection that we experience in play. Intensity ruins the playfulness, beats it up with needing to be right.

I started teaching self-inquiry and meditation in 1986, shortly after spending more than ten years studying with my meditation teacher. Even then, at the beginning of my teaching, I spoke with passion, sincerity, clarity, conviction, urgency. Mostly, I spoke with intensity. I was so intense that people would literally fall over, unconscious. I mistakenly thought they had entered some state of samadhi, catapulted by my brilliance or by the swirls of shakti, energy, that were always gusting through the room.

No, they were not experiencing samadhi. They were escaping my intensity. My intensity was a bundle of passion, conviction, clarity, urgency — all rolled up into a nice little club of “I’m right.”

I’m happy to say that I no longer speak with intensity. I haven’t for years. I can still bring it, but what I bring is not intensity. People no longer fall unconscious when I speak. I am never trying to be right. I am only trying to be real. I can even say that I don’t try to influence or persuade my audiences. In a manner of speaking, I don’t care if my speaking has any effect or not. I don’t care. Isn’t that an odd statement from someone who’s motto, for 25 years, has been, “Have Mouth, Will Travel.”

Isn’t that an odd statement for a speaker? After all, what is speaking if not a beautiful and powerful means to inspire, influence, arouse, incite, people? Isn’t our speaking a marvelous way to effect change? I suppose. But I have to tell the truth here: I don’t care about that. I just care about being real.

As an aside, I am now often told that I have an extraordinary capacity to inspire people along their path of personal growth and spiritual development. From what people say, I am equally adept in assisting people to become much more aware, competent, and responsible in their work lives. I don’t just preach to the choir. Many of my students, clients, and audiences are not already aligned with my particular point of view. They do not share my interests or values. That doesn’t seem to matter. They all listen.

Isn’t that the first order of business for any speaker: to compel your audience to listen wholeheartedly and with full attention?

I don’t try to produce any effects in my speaking. I don’t really care what happens. But people do listen, and most will say they become expanded and elevated in some way, maybe personally, or spiritually, or professionally, or relationally. If I were to attribute a cause to these effects, I would say it is simply my playfulness.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it is. I couldn’t listen to any of the speakers because to my ears, they all needed to be right. All the speakers had premises upon which their presentations were based. It is there, in their premises, that the rightness exists. A premise is a basis, stated or assumed, on which reasoning proceeds. Intensity comes from belief in our premise.

The speakers I tried to listen to believed too much in everything they said. They did not play. I could not listen.

I know this may not make quick or easy sense. It took me years and years of inner work, as well as teaching and pubic speaking and teaching public speaking, to understand. It’s subtle. It’s profound. It’s a kind of enlightenment.

I am a very effective speaker, in that people listen and are effected. I don’t care. I just notice that it happens. I’m in it for me, selfishly. I’m sorry to say that I am not interested in trying to change anyone, let alone the world. I speak because it is my high wire; it is where and when I become fully and extravagently alive. Shakti fills every cell of my body. I feel hundreds of miles tall. I feel that everyone is my friend and I am their friend. I speak because I must. But I am not in love with what I say. I am not suggesting my motive is admirable. Certainly, I’m not suggesting it be embraced or imitated by anyone. I thought I should share that as part of this writing.

All my speaking these days is wrapped up in just ten words, the ten words that comprise The Five Principles of Authentic Living. These ten words are all the content I have. Be Present. Pay Attention. Listen Deeply. Speak Truthfully. Act Creatively. Everything else I might say is a response to people, situations, and ife in the most personal and specific of ways.

I make everything up and I speak playfully. I am at the same time a serious, focused, concerned, competent, and effective person. I just don’t need to be right about anything. I prefer to play. I have noticed over the years that as my intensity lessened and my playfulness increased, more and more people would listen. More people wanted to play. Now, everybody listens, because everybody wants to play.

If we are going to speak about global evolution and changing the world, and if we want to arouse and engage people not already in the choir, I suggest we learn how to speak playfully.

That means giving up intensity and needing to be right. There are so many levels to that. Speaking to be real, not right — it seems paradoxical. Nonetheless, I recommend learning to speak playfully if you want to speak about changing the world.

(If you’d like to learn more about Robert Rabbin, please kindly visit: http://www.realtimespeaking.com/)


#128 What is Happiness, by Dhanya Moffitt

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Life | No Comments »

The Upanishads show us how to recognize the source of true fulfillment

By Dhanya Moffitt

We all want a good and happy life. Most of our pursuits are geared toward that end. What we may not understand is that the happiness gained through changing experiences and actions is fleeting. The only way to gain the lasting happiness we seek is through the recognition that our true nature is happiness itself. This recognition is called moksha, Self-knowledge or liberation.

The Vedas are the world’s oldest-known scriptures. The essential subject matter of these revered texts is happiness and the nature of your Self. The Vedas are divided into two parts. The first part is by far the longer and contains instructions on how to achieve the best life possible in the world of changing experience known as samsara.

The second part of the Vedas is for those who have discerned that changing circumstances cannot deliver something that lasts. This part of the Vedas contains the Upanishads, the original source books of the teachings of Advaita Vedanta. (Advaita means “not two, nondual.” Vedanta means “the end of the Vedas.”)

The entire teaching of Vedanta is encapsulated in the word upanishad. The Upanishads convey the very well-ascertained knowledge (ni) of that which is most near, the Self (upa), which brings about the disintegration of sorrow—along with its cause—when the truth is revealed (sad). In other words, it is Self-knowledge that delivers lasting happiness.

The teachings of the Upanishads tell us that the cause of sorrow is taking the ever-present changeless Self (Atman) to be one with—and a product of—the body, mind, and sense organs. Thus we take who we are to be limited, subject to birth, death, and change. Vedanta tells us this is not true. Who we are is not subject to any of these things; rather, we are birthless, deathless, changeless, limitless Atman. Not recognizing the Self as it really is, we suffer.

A student of Vedanta is guided by the teachings to distinguish between that which doesn’t change (the Self/Atman), and that which does (everything else). This is done through a dual process of negation and positive assertion. “Not this, not this” (neti,neti) is the negation of the notion that our Self has anything to do with the body, mind, and sense organs, all of which change. At the same time, positive assertion is used to point out that we are “that which is changelessly ever-present, illumining all of these.”

This is not a conceptual exercise. The teachings are pointing us to recognize directly and without a shadow of a doubt the truth about the Self. People often say, “My body has changed and aged, but I feel as if I never have.” This intuitive feeling is accurate. Although the Self has never changed, it remains undifferentiated from the changing experiences of the body and mind until the teachings clearly point the unchanging nature of the Self out to you.

Guided by the teachings of Vedanta, the student examines the phenomenon of happiness in order to ascertain its source. When we obtain a desired object, for example, we experience a moment of pleasure. A variety of other experiences—such as meditating, listening to music, or watching a sunset—may also produce pleasure.

We naturally assume that the source of our pleasure lies in the situation, experience, or object that appears to have made us happy. Thus we keep trying to gain those objects and replicate those situations that seem to produce this effect. However, the same objects and situations please some people while displeasing others. Also, what once gave pleasure may later become a source of pain. Meditative experiences don’t last. In short, no object or situation is, in and of itself, a source of constant happiness at all times, for all people, in all places. How then does the experience of happiness arise?

The mind is composed of thoughts. The Atman is ever-present and illumines the mind. The nature of the Atman is pure happiness. In the instant a desire is fulfilled the mind relaxes, and the ever-present Atman is reflected in the mind in the form of ananda (pure happiness). This produces a moment of pleasure.

In the next instant another thought or desire may arise, replacing the reflected ananda of the Atman. Rather than recognizing the Atman as the actual source of happiness, the source of happiness is projected out onto the changing world of objects, and we try to gain happiness from them, an activity the scriptures compare to trying to drink water from a mirage.

Once the Self has been recognized as it truly is—ever-present, limitless, and full—we no longer need to project our well-being onto objects and experiences. We no longer need to pursue happiness; we know our nature is happiness and we can rest in that recognition.

There is only one Self, one Atman. This same Self shines in the hearts and minds of all. Step by step, as the teachings progress, using a process of logic and reason, we come to recognize that this same Self is Brahman. This very Self, from which the world has come, is the stable being of the entire world of changing experience.

Everything we see, perceive, and experience has for its actual being Atman, which is Brahman, which is the Self alone. Once we gain this recognition we know the truth of existence. Despite any appearance to the contrary, all is in reality only one, nondual, advaita: one being, one reality, one Self, which—due to the veiling power of maya—appears to be many.

This recognition takes place over time and through the teachings. Because the verses of the Upanishads are terse, and their meaning difficult to decipher, we require the guidance of a highly trained teacher who knows how to unlock the meaning of the words, and then how to use those words as direct pointers to the Self.

Having acknowledged that the changing world of experience can never be a lasting source of happiness, the Upanishads do not tell us there is something we need to do in order to be happy. The result of any action, being time-bound, will not provide lasting happiness. Once the Atman is recognized as it is—limitless, full, and complete, ever-present, never-sorrowful, and never-changing—we don’t need to look for happiness elsewhere.

The Upanishad is the revealer of truth. Moksha is that which is revealed. The meaning of the revealer and the revealed is the same. When that which is most near and dear (upa) is very well ascertained (ni), all sorrows disintegrate—along with their cause—in the knowledge that I am Brahman alone (sad). This is moksha—the discovery that your true nature is happiness.

~ ~ ~

The Vedanta Column is published in partnership with Advaita Academy, a nonprofit organization which aims to preserve and promote the awareness of traditional Advaita teachings through a comprehensive website and in collaboration with similar associations.

Dhanya Moffitt has been a student of traditional Advaita Vedanta for the past eight years.

(Source: http://www.himalayaninstitute.org/YI/article.aspx?id=4022)


#127 Living with Chaos, by Leo Babauta

Posted: June 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Life | No Comments »

‘In chaos, there is fertility.’ ~Anaïs Nin

Recently I wrote about the illusion of control, and living with no goals.

What I’m still figuring out is what you do if you let go of the illusion of control, and plan as little as possible.

What’s life like without goals or plans? How do we deal with the chaos?

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m learning a lot.

I went to the World Domination Summit in Portland earlier this month with few plans. I had a speech to give, a couple smaller sessions to hold, a bike tour scheduled, a plane ticket and a hotel room. But the large majority of the weekend I left open, with no plans.

It was liberating. I didn’t mind giving the talks, and I loved the tour, but meeting unexpected strangers, hanging out with people I’d never met, going with the flow of the crowd — it was fun. I never really knew what was going to happen next, and that’s scary … but strangely freeing.

As I write this, I’m on a plane to Guam for a month, and I have tons of friends and family to see — they all want to hang out with Eva, me and the kids (and vice versa — we’re excited to see them). But other than a place to stay for two of the four weeks we’ll be there, we have no set plans. We don’t know what we’re doing for transportation, we don’t know what we’ll do each day, and I don’t know where we’ll be living the last couple of weeks. It’s scary, but I know we’ll be fine.

How do you live with the chaos?

You learn to embrace it.

Living Daily Without Plans

I try to schedule as little as possible, and I have no goals for each day. I wake up and ask myself, “What excites me today?” And each day that’s different.

Sure, there are obligations that I have to meet, but mostly those are things I’m excited about. The ones I’m not so excited about, I’ll still do — unless I can avoid them.

But each moment I try to live consciously, in the moment, and ask myself … “What am I passionate about? And how can I handle each moment while being true to my values?”

I’ve been having an ongoing discussion about this with my friend Suraj, who lives in London and practices the Jain religion. He has clearly identified his values: friendship, appreciation, compassion, and equanimity. I love those values.

My value is compassion, which comes in various manifestations: love, kindness, empathy, gratitude. And every time a situation comes up, I ask myself, “How can I deal with this compassionately?”

I’m still learning how to do this. I don’t claim to have mastered it, and will probably be exploring this for years to come.

Why Plans are an Illusion

Living without plans might seem foolish, or unrealistic to most people. That’s fine. But if you want to be realistic, you should understand that the plans you make are pure illusions of control.

Let’s take a simple example. You have plans to write a report (or a blog post or a book chapter) and meet with a colleague or business partner today. The writing is supposed to happen at 9 a.m. and the meeting is at 11 a.m.

Let’s assume those things actually happen according to plan. Many days, other things will come up and the illusion of control is easily shattered. But some days we get lucky and the plans actually happen as we hoped.

So you sit down to write, as planned. Perhaps you’ve outlined your writing. But as you write, you think of things you hadn’t planned. You face problems as you think the writing through that you couldn’t have foreseen before you started writing. In fact, if you pay close attention, it becomes clear that there’s no way you could have planned the writing ahead of time — it has to unfold as you do it, because only as you do it do you fully think things through, and there’s no way to predict our own thinking (let alone the thinking of others).

And so things emerge from our writing that could never have been planned, and in fact if we’re open to it, we might write something entirely brilliant that we never could have predicted. Or if we try to stick to the outline, we might ignore the brilliant possibilities that come up.

So now it’s 11 a.m. and it’s time for your meeting. You meet your colleague or partner, as planned, and start talking. Of course, conversations can’t be planned, and there’s no way to predict what will come up as you talk. You might even have an agenda, but as you talk about things on the agenda, new ideas emerge, and when one of you suggests a new idea, that sparks another idea in the other person, and so on — ideas are sparked, back and forth, that couldn’t have been planned.

And so new ideas and projects and collaborations emerge from this meeting that never could have been planned. And that’s a great thing.

The two planned events, even though they happened as planned, were totally unpredictable and uncontrollable. The more we embrace this chaos, the more we embrace the brilliant possibilities that might emerge. The more we try to control our day and actions with plans, the more we limit ourselves.

Be Open to the Unfolding Moment

We try to hold onto the illusion of control, but what if we instead embraced the chaos? What if we left ourselves open to the changing, unfolding moment, and the possibilities we could never have planned for?

It’s beautiful.

Try it. Throw out your plans for the next hour. See what happens, moment to moment. Think about what excites you, what’s in line with your values.

And as you start doing things that excite you, that are in line with your values … see what new things emerge. Talk with people with no fixed intentions, and see what ideas come up from that interaction. See what new opportunities come up as you interact with people, with ideas, with your own thoughts.

It sounds nebulous, but in fact it’s as concrete as anything else. As I’ve shown, when we make plans, we think we’re setting things in concrete, but it’s always fluid — we just try to make ourselves think it’s solidly concrete.

When we acknowledge the fluidity of our lives, we learn to use that fluidity to our advantage. We flow. We are open to changing currents. We see things with open eyes, instead of trying to make the world fit to our plans and goals.

I don’t have all the answers, and in fact I’d be a hypocrite if I claimed to be able to predict what will happen when I live like this … or if anyone else lives like this.

I don’t know what will happen. Think of the limitless possibilities of that simple statement.

‘Chaos is a friend of mine.’ ~Bob Dylan

(To learn more from Leo, please kindly visit his website at: http://www.zenhabits.net)


#126 An Epic Post – About Life

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Life | No Comments »

Call it a big fat joke, it won’t matter.

I have recently read a book by Paramhansa Yogananda called “Autobiography of a Yogi”.

He is a spiritual teacher from India who was truly famous at a time in America because of the message he brought over to connect both the East and West in the understanding of spirituality.

So in this book, Paramhansa Yogananda, hereto will be referred as Yogananda, writes about his life as a Yogi.

A Yogi is somewhat like an Indian monk, except that the requirements needed to fulfill the role isn’t complete renunciation but an acceptance for a way of life that is of highest good to one’s true nature.

Interestingly, some of the experiences Yogananda shared in his book also includes intriguing or miraculous feats of the Yogis. For example, there are stories in the book which tells of how some of their actions supersede the laws of conventional science, i.e.

  • A master knowing what happened to someone and giving an answer or solution to him/her even before the person brings up his/her question
  • The manifestation of an actual physical body by the master to deliver a message miles away to a person – while the original body is seen to be sitting still by another witness at another location
  • The healing of many seemingly impossible-to-cure physical ailments and much, much more.

Basically, the average person would just simply find many events in this book to be a disconnect from our ‘real world’ – the world that provides our lives with Guccis, Pradas and Louis Vuittons.

Yet, with every page I turn, the book didn’t repel my interest – yes, even though I’m an absolute stickler for truth.

Something in my gut tells me that what he’d expressed is genuine, and the many reasonable facts & supporting statements accompanying his message helps too.

Since this post was intended to be epic, I’m going to skip on the details for most of what I’ve read and talk about a scene in the book which I’d like to share with you the most instead.

In “Autobiography of a Yogi”, Yogananda’s recently passed-away master Sri Yukteswar eventually manifested himself before his student to share with the latter some teachings about life beyond death.

In their ecstatic conversation, Sri Yukteswar talked about three different worlds:

  • The physical cosmos
  • The astral cosmos
  • And the causal cosmos

You can accept or reject what follows – although I’m compelled to follow the first choice in this circumstance.

Sri Yukteswar describes our current world, the world that is filled with Guccis Pradas and LVs as the physical cosmos. In this world, our physical bodies greatly depend on food, drink and oxygen to survive. Our senses sight, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling serves their own individual purpose and is hard-connected to our bodies to maintain sustenance of our lives. In this world, the mental & emotional world thrives, guided by the impulse of an egoic self. We believe we are truly separate people, since our awareness seems to be bound to a particular individual since birth.

The second world is called the astral cosmos. According to Sri Yukteswar in this particular encounter with Yogananda, you could associate almost any out-of-conventional-science phenomenas and religious origins of our current life to this world, i.e. telepathic or psychic realizations, the mysteries of Karma & reincarnations, supernatural feats & etc. Ever heard of a parallel universe? The astral world is like a ‘higher dimension’ – although I don’t really like to use that word – to the physical cosmos. Whether you’d like to understand this through the lens of science or spiritual understanding is your choice. While our universe is considered immense, it exists only as a part of this existence. In the astral cosmos, lives are reborn in subtler ways. Beings are described to still have the same sense features such as eyes, nose, tongue, ears, and skin. However, physical limitations as we have now aren’t imposed on its beings. As mentioned in the book, souls are able to manifest themselves foods, waters, plants and even different appearances through subtle thought. They still maintain a physical existence, but in the astral cosmos, the world is just very subtle. Good and evil beings are limited to different astral planes. If you were to ask me to identify a name for this place, I’d liken it to my understanding of heaven in the bible, and a reincarnation source for our physical cosmos according to the Buddhist or Hindhu religions. Sri Yukteswar briefly described that here in this astral plane is also where beings work out their remaining karmas, some accomplishing that through the cosmos, while some having to clear themselves through the hardships of our physical world. My understanding of the astral plane according to New Age descriptions is that it’s a higher-dimension. Like how our world functions with certain laws i.e. gravity, reincarnation probably also works in the same way.

The causal cosmos is even subtler. This plane may be slightly harder to grasp if one has never ventured into the subject of science and spirituality deeply enough. Sometimes, YouTube helps. There are descriptions from quantum scientists about parallel universes and dimensions which touches upon this plane of existence. Sri Yukteswar describes the causal cosmos as one where a being has an existence that encompasses space & time, and where perception plays the greatest role. Every thing that has to do with the this plane is connected to the subtlety of perception. At a single thought planets are created, organisms are brought into beings, and distances are leapt. A being has almost no physical existence, and carries a similar nature to the universe. Of course, information like this can be a little hard to digest by some. Well, let time do its work. There are enough academic or scientific explanations out there that can help anyone visualize this existence. If that doesn’t work, perhaps you can try the spiritual way and meditate – do it deeply enough and you may grasp a feeling of this. After all, our bodies’ atoms appear out of this same field.

There are a lot more interlinking in Sri Yukteswar’s descriptions of these worlds with life.

One of the biggest expressions I appreciate from him is that as vivid and solid as it seems, life is God’s dream.

It talks about something like the physical cosmos actually appearing out of the astral & causal cosmos’ dream, and the astral/causal cosmos out of God’s dreams.

From what I understand, God in this sense represents an everlasting Nothingness that in our physical world, can be understood as an all-time exhilarating existence.

It could be described as the One Consciousness.

And the punch is, we are already That.

Except that our existence is God, dreaming.

Yet we are It.

So this is my epic post, about life.

At the end of the story, if you were to ask me if I think this is all absolutely true, I’ll most probably give you an out of the world answer.

Although my egoic self latches me closely to the individual I am in the physical body which I’m using to type these words now – making me feel as though this personable identity is ALL I am – a little deeper introspection into the whole spectrum of life and myself is all that’s actually needed to convince me of existences beyond the understanding of our limited conventional wisdom.

So, which makes the big fat joke?

The absoluteness of the physical life we’re living in, or the existences of cosmoses beyond this world?

You tell me : )