Monday, December 28, 2015

Ego just wants to realize its own nature

In, I believe, 2006, I attended a retreat co-led by one of my teachers at the time, Dorothy Hunt. Dorothy said something that I wanted to have been the one to have said. What did it matter who said it, as long as the wisdom was imparted? Nonetheless, I wanted to be the one who got credit – because I'd been thinking it as well but no one called on me.

After the retreat was over, we were all enjoying lunch, and I was telling someone sitting across from me about how I wanted to get credit for being wise and enlightened – how my ego craved that. Dorothy, to my surprise, responded from the other end of the long table, “You did say it.” I looked over at her, puzzled. “You did say it,” she repeated.

And suddenly, I was bowled over with the truth of what she said. It took a year or so before I understood in words what I had realized in my body: I am everything, so of course I am also what comes out of Dorothy's mouth.

I was recently re-telling this story to someone who hadn't heard it, and this caused me to consider it from another vantage point. For one thing, it was a miracle that Dorothy was so attuned to me that she knew exactly what was the right thing to say to me at that moment. But I also see now that her statement undercut my assumptions about ego. I've always thought ego – the wanting to make the personal self bigger and more important – was to be admonished and kept under control, if not eliminated. But now I see that ego is a pointer: we really are bigger than our apparent separate selves make us think we are. The ego is striving to realize that largeness. So Dorothy, rather than cut down the poor ego that was only trying to help, said, essentially, “Dear ego, you don't have to try so hard because what you want to make happen already is true. The apparent separate self is already as big as it can possibly get. It is infinite.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is Obedience Necessary?

I've been wondering, not for the first time, why so many religions, especially those with a monastic component, stress obedience as part of the spiritual path. Of course, if one lives in community, there have to be rules for practical purposes, but most religious communities go far beyond what is practical. Obedience seen as is part of what will bring you closer to God, or spiritual realization as it is conceived in a given tradition.

What are the reasons one would obey another person instead of one's own heart? It seems one must believe not only that another person somehow personifies the goal one wants to attain spiritually but that one does not have within oneself the wisdom one is seeking. I find it hard to believe that there is any way that obedience can come from anything other than denial of one's True Nature.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Poem on Separateness

"You know, this friend called mind,
it's in a role.
It was given to us
to create identification out of nothing.
It's such an ancient divine servant.
The Self took the form of thought
to help itself play the game.
So could you bow down to thought
as an ancient retainer?
It's the Self in disguise."
-- Pamela Wilson

I hope Pamela doesn't mind my borrowing this moving poem from her website ( I love it because when we bow down to the separateness, when we stop calling it names but rather honor it, we see that it really isn't separate. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Is It Ego to Acknowledge One's Awakeness?

Recently, a friend told me that she wondered if she only wanted to go to see a certain teacher because that teacher recognized that she was awake. Was it only her ego that wanted that acknowledgement, she wondered.

I said that since ego doesn't exist, how could that be? Maybe it was just that that which is awake in her wanted t be seen, I suggested.

As I ponder this answer, I don't think it was complete enough.

I always go back to Adyashanti's saying to me, years ago, “Only ego wants to get rid of ego.” This turns the whole question on its head.

I define ego as the thought of separate-hood. We come to think we are separate – perhaps mainly because we see “me” over here and everything/one else “over there.” (This explanation doesn't completely satisfy me, however, because after awakening it doesn't quite look like this anymore. So it seems that this way of seeing is also just conditioned by thought.) Anyway, whatever the reason, there is a “me-thought” and that me-thought is threatened when it realizes it isn't absolutely solid – that it is just one aspect of the emptiness that is everything. So it starts to tell stories that the awakened person, now seeing things from a different perspective, will buy. One of those stories is, “It's egotistic to let on how awake you actually are.” You have to hide your Light under a bush, in other words. So the awakeness gets to peek out once in a while when it is summoned, but it doesn't get to show itself on its own.

The me-thought can't just deny the awake-ness entirely because that won't be believed anymore, so it makes up the story of how owning the awake-ness smacks of ego. Very clever of it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Altruism and Unity Consciousness

In the current issue (May2015) of The Atlantic, Sam Kean delves into the current research on altruism. It appears that our pleasure centers are stimulated when we give.

I'm not a generous person – I tend to hold onto what I have pretty tightly. But there came a day in 1982 when I encountered a beggar in the financial district of San Francisco. Suddenly I had the urge to give him something.I pondered this unusual feeling, unable to determine where it might have come from, but finally decided to give him just a quarter. Maybe I'd find out, in the giving, where the urge came from.

I did. Suddenly I was thrust below the level of ordinary consciousness, to a realm where the beggar's “thank you” seemed to come from me or through me rather than from the outside. I wrote of this encounter to my first spiritual teacher, in Japan. “You are the beggar,” he wrote back. Indeed.

So I wonder now about this research Kean explores. The possibility of going beyond the separate self into another realm where giver and receiver are not separate doesn't occur to any of the researchers into altruism – nor to author Kean. But because the initial urge when I saw the beggar seemed to be an altruistic one, I have to wonder what changes in the brain when we go to that place where we know unity with another.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Anyone can awaken

One of the myths about enlightenment is that it's very difficult to attain, and that only an august few human beings manage to do it.

I remember many years ago at my teacher Adyashanti's satsang, a man came up to dialog with him. The man asked several questions, all of which were in the vein of, “Can someone who is not awake have a reasonably happy life?” Finally, Adya stopped him because he saw the assumption this young man was making: awakening was impossible for him. Could his life be worthwhile nonetheless, he was asking.

Adya finally stopped the man and said, “Let's see who's here tonight.” He looked out over the gathering, which was small enough in those days that he knew personally most of the people present. “I'd estimate,” he said, “that fifty percent of the people present have had an awakening, so why not you?”

This is the little secret, you see. Most people think that awakening is somehow this difficult thing. You have to meditate for years, or do some other kind of practice, and then maybe, if you are the right kind of person, you will be blessed with a little glimpse of the truth. No! Someone needs to tell the truth: we all have access to this. And there are no preconditions. It is our true nature. How could it not be available to us – whoever we are, whatever our past or present circumstances?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Will and Thy Will

Recently, I went to a discussion group about Buddhism. I thought I'd like it, but I was bored to tears. For me at least, having found out that words are empty, I can't handle abstractions anymore. I wanted to shout out, “But you don't exist so none of this means anything!” But I knew how that would be greeted. Everyone at the meeting was very nice, and no one would have responded rudely, but they would have just ignored my outburst, perhaps looked at me a bit askance, and then continued on with more abstractions.

I remember how being told that I didn't exist did absolutely nothing for me when I was trying to wake up. What did it even mean?

Similarly, I remember my teacher once giving a talk about how when we are truly awake we have surrendered our will completely to the larger consciousness. I remember thinking, “Then I'll never be awake because my will isn't going to lay down, I'm sure of that.”

This are both aspects of the same issue. Our mind has an idea that we have an identity separate from the whole. That identity is based on a history of experiences which the mind has put together to form an image of “me.” But there is a beingness of ourselves that is deeper than that and this is what those teachings described above point to. Before realization, though, they didn't make much sense to me.

Recently, I came across something in a Christian context: “Thy Will be done.” Same message but it sounds so much better somehow – maybe because it doesn't explicitly oppose one's own will to the larger consciousness. After all, it's all the same will. It's finally just a matter of knowing that – not as a fact, but experientially – and then the struggle ceases. I think for me this happened without my even being aware of it. It hasn't felt that anything was laid down – more like an awareness gradually dawned: my will is also That.