Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trade What You See, Not What You Think

Besides blabbering here like some spiritual idiot, part of my time these days is spent trying to learn how to swing trade stocks.
I love this exercise. I am constantly amazed that trading presents spiritual principle after principle.

So, I have just completed my third trade.
And once again, I am trying to learn from my mistakes.
Stopped out within the first 3 minutes of today’s trading even when the pre-market quotes showed the stock was trading up, I was out my $50, just like that.

It was a bit of a stunner.  I'd convinced myself the stock was going up, when right there in front of me, I can now see quite plainly that I should have stayed out. The stock's chart did not have the pattern that I search for and want to trade... a chart pattern I originally chose because of its inherent simplicity and easy recognition.

I can see that now, but I couldn't see that yestareday. Instead I was driven by what I thought: murmuring emotions, hopes, desires confused my eyes.  There was all that going on beneath the thoughts I loudly heard.
I wrote out a detailed plan prior to the trade and appeared to be following the rules all the rules for trading wisely. And still, I failed to see my blindness
I made an amateur mistake!! I broke a premier principle, I had heard many times and whole heartedly advocate:
Trade what you see, not what you think.
And, I am blown away by how simply the mind overthrows the senses!  Subtle mind even over throws loudly thinking, reading with your lips moving, following a check list mind.

Trade what you see, not what you think.
Can I do that?
It’s simply a material version of Fierce Freedom yelling the spiritual directive at me: Don’t think! Look!
But, can we do that?

What I love about trading – worth the $50 I just lost – is to see the incredible subtlety of just how difficult it is to quiet the mind and simply go with what you see… because we do think. We have to think. So, even when you have been told the principle of freedom and it makes sense and you agree… still to actually do it!
That is something else.

So here is a cartoon, in celebration of dear, dear (and costly) imbecility, aka “being human.”  They're talking about trading, but don't let that fool you. As seekers we do this all the time.     

Monday, July 25, 2011

Different Perspectives

i am curious how you might explain further the idea that knowing the name of my cat captures the essence of our different viewpoints.
Fierce Freedom

I thought I’d address my friends comment here, just to do it justice.
Let me begin by a story that supposedly Jeff Foster tells:
He was out walking with his mother when she said, “Oh, what a beautiful tree.” In reply he launched into a long explanation of “There is no tree!”
A year later, he realized his response had been somewhat ridiculous. Of course, there was a tree to be enjoyed while on a walk.

Having realized there is no-self, how long and how loudly do you want to keep beating that drum?
I think you and I differ on this point.
To me too much drum beating or “fierce freedom” risks inherent contradiction and outright fundamentalism just as surely as a right-to-lifer shooting a doctor does.

And how does my asking for the name of your cat address our different perspectives?
It too centers of the emphasis we place upon the experience of no-self.
I have no idea what logic initially led me to make that statement regarding the name of your cat. Memory is gone.
But, while struggling to recall my thinking, this image filled my mind:

Your viewpoint was represented by the line. Mine was somehow held by that little dot.
It was a curious situation to be asked for a stream of logic and only come up with an image. But, with time I realized that our perspectives lay rooted in the differences between the two.

Now, I can say this:
When I hear, “There were three cats: roach, spider, cricket,” I notice that my heart goes, Ahhh. I draw closer and pay attention. And when I discover, “Roach died,” again I feel my heart.
In knowing something as simple as a name a whole story springs up and with that story comes love.
I don’t want to miss that, even at the risk of being lost or hurt by what unfolds.

Now, I grant you “roach” has nothing whatsoever actually to do with ultimate truth.
And perhaps its only due to my conditioning it has an effect upon me. But, rather than jump, “Oh God, a story! Stories can’t be true.” I am happy to enjoy the wave of love.
Knowing that the tree is an illusion, why not go on and enjoy it?

You could say that this is my perspective. And it struck me that in all of our discussion of the profound experience you had surrounding the death of roach, you never named her (or him - I still don’t know that detail). And it struck me as very curious that you felt no need for naming.

It was always, “The cat died.”
It sounds almost like Joe Friday wanting “just the facts ma’am.” And Joe will get the job done.
He just proceeds from a different perspective – that of the intellect, that serially logical gray line.
The intellect inquires into the nature of the self and discovers there is no-self to be found.
It realizes the danger and allure inherent in a flowery story. It is only logical to reduce the risk of slipping back into a self, back into illusion - so shave the story back “to just the facts.”

But, “The cat died,” is just as much a story as “Roach died.”
In one case intellect, and likely ego, does a cutting back? In the second case heart, and likely ego, surrenders into love.

To me our perspectives appear either predominantly intellect or heart centered. The heart would like a name, simply for the warmth. The intellect feels no need or even prefers the nameless.

That said, I would also emphasize that it’s probably much more accurate to say, one steps forward from the left foot while the other begins with the right. You obviously are learning deeply about love. And I can use my head. Heart and mind do work together, just as surely as left and right foot do… but still, there seems to be a preference of footing.

So, to end this in the spirit of merging heart and intellect, I’d like to share this video.
I never knew that the idea of love was brought to the west by the Sufis. And I love the concluding line:
this is the shoreless sea;
here swimming ends
always in drowning

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The “Transparency of Things”

Every time I open my eyes I invite the world to take shape. And every time the world takes shape I am invited to open my eyes…
And every time it is seen, it dies…
And every time I take it in I too die and in dying am known as this
Rupert Spira

Last time I was talking about what happens after death.
To this my friend, Becky, commented “dying is happening each moment.”
Here, Rupert Spira beautifully elaborates that point.

The transparency of things is a phrase that haunts me. It speaks directly to the beauty found within this process of arising and dissolving.
If I were to utilize the Bubble Diagram that I also mentioned last time, I would place my finger at the bottom, the finest, deepest level of the mind. To me transparency is possible only at that juncture where that initial impulse of thought arises from pure Isness. 
There is a transparency that shines through material creation, as if all the world were stones that have been wetted down with water so that they sparkle in the sun. And while it makes no sense to me to speak of being able to see Being, there is the sense that this indeed somehow happens.  To call this the transparency of things seems very appropriate and beautiful to me.

In other interviews (part 1, part 2), Spira explains the ancient teaching nama rupa satchitananda which he breaks down into name, form, Isness, knowing, peace.
While Rupert translates ananda as peace, I have also heard it translated as “bliss.” But, you get the flavor. With Transparency comes joy and beauty, something to thrill the heart.
Right there too is nama rupa, name and form.
I think that is why I feel the urge to know the name of Becky’s cat. It’s not just that some cat or the cat died, but rather one particular, unique and never again, little cat… by the name of…?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Some Speculation

P. Bralley with Bubble Diagram, ca '73.
it's unavoidable that the body will die.
brain function ceased.
no more thoughts.
no more perceptions…
there is no you.
when the body dies, there's not going to be a special essence that wafts heavenward.
there is no you.
Fierce Freedom

I have a friend. At least I think she’s out there somewhere, though we’ve never met in person. Her voice and thoughts get communicated to me through the computer in a manner that leads to me to believe that someone out there exists.
However, I can also say the same thing regarding the behavior of the computer and my father. After he died, he seemed to be communicating that way too. … and at the time that really rattled me, but that’s a ghost story for another time.

I mention my friend now, because from time to time she’ll say things that stick in my head. She’s been helpful and challenging in this. The quote above is from her.
She’s an ardent “no self” advocate.

I appreciate that. But, I entitled this whole blog, “Seeing for My Self.” By that I meant, my effort in this spiritual quest has been to try to understand my own experiences. This has included past-life flashbacks, devas, guides, animal spirits, and as mentioned above, Pop’s ghost. I could put all of these experiences in quotes (because they embarrass the scientific part of me) – but I won’t. I just want to present a short list of the kind of "data” that has challenged my mind.

Given these experiences I took a fairly strong exception to my friend’s statement about nothing drifting heavenward after death. But, it seems rather speculative to argue as if I were certain about what happens after death. So, I just let the thoughts sit there.

Then, yesterday, I came across the thoughts of Rupert Spira regarding death. He makes some very interesting points from a deeply non-dual, no-self perspective:

...there is no mind, body or world, as such, so we cannot meaningfully speak of their possible survival. The mind, body and world are simply the names that thought gives to the current thought, sensation and perception…
However, this does not mean that when a sensation/perception (the body) disappears, it will not be ‘followed by’ a thought.
In that sense there is nothing to suggest that the mind does not survive the death of the body.
Thoughts keep coming after the ‘body’ has disappeared.

Whoa! I hadn’t seent that coming.
I think of Maharishi saying, “Thoughts seem to come from somewhere deep inside” - his point being most people really couldn't say from where.
I think of Adyashanti and Byron Katie emphasizing that we don’t think our thoughts. Thoughts just come. They think us.

Rupert explains his point this way:
Thoughts keep coming after the ‘body’ has disappeared.
In fact, that is exactly what happens at night. When we ‘fall asleep’ the body, that is, the current sensation or perception vanishes, but dream thoughts and images appear. This is the experience of mind without a body.
In fact, mind is always experienced without a body.
The body is just one of the possible ‘shapes’ of the mind.

One of the hardest concepts for my scientific mind to grasp was the idea that the body does not generate consciousness. Rather, Pure Consciousness, Awareness, the Self precipitates into solid form. That form may be an animate form with a brain that expresses consciousness. It may also be inanimate: a mountain with an awesome presence. Or it may be animate sans nervous system: an ancient redwood which again seems wise and conscious.  In essence, only Consciousness can become conscious. 
It is not really what I learned in biology, that unconscious matter evolves to become conscious, VOILA!  No. Sometimes though, Consciousness can become conscious - like when brains evolved.  But, Consciousness was there all along, even in the rock.

I am also reminded of the Bubble Diagram.
Maharishi used to explain how thoughts arise within the mind. He said, the mind is like an ocean with waves upon the surface. At the bottom of the ocean a tiny bubble forms and begins to rise. As it arises, the bubble expands until it bursts upong the surface. So thoughts begin the from depths of Pure Consciousness and rise within the mind, through unconscious levels, up into the thinking level of conscious awareness where they are finally experienced.
He also said those quiet, silent depths were the level at which celestial beings existed, but he didn't want to dwell on angels.

I’m thinking that it is at these deeper levels that thoughts continue without a body.
That can be after death. Or it may be picked up while we are alive.
But, in either case, a “me” is never really the author, the instigator, of the thought or of the “thought form.”
It’s non-dual. No-self. And still, and yet, a thought appears.

What is also interesting to notice is the thoughts and feelings of the waking state tend to become the environment of the dream state.
In other words, what was on the ‘inside’ during the waking state becomes the ‘outside,’ in which the dream seems to take place…
There is nothing to suggest that this pattern will not continue after the ‘death’ of the waking body, which as we have already seen, is simply the disappearance of a bodily sensation, but not necessarily the cessation of mind.
Rupert Spira

Actually, why wouldn't the arsing of thoughts continue. 
To argue otherwise seems to say Pure Consciousness depends upon a me...
Just some thoughts, I thought I’d share. And I get to use this old picture that I recently found at Mom’s house: me with the bubble diagram, during my teaching days when Madras shirts were the rage.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

This Interested Me... (aka no title today)

Buddha At the Gas Pump had an interesting interview with a fellow by the name of Jan Esman. Rather than address the points in it, I went to Jan’s website and clipped a bit of his teaching. I feel like things for me are taking a new direction and this may be a good way to kind of shift the discussion gradually.

I hope you have the time to listen to Jan’s story. If not, maybe you can read on:

Pure is-ness is prior to I AM. In pure is-ness, there is no "I" that "IS", hence no I AM.
I AM is a gross state that does resemble the absolute state of pure being, but it has a subtle ignorance at its core…
Self-remembrance [meaning inquiry or resting as awareness?] leads to the I AM state, and no further.
Once fairly established in the I AM-ness, your awareness can fold back in on itself and short circuit, so to speak.
But the step from I AM to pure being is best taken by grace and Shakti.
It is so easy to get stuck in I AM and think you have reached the goal…

In I AM ness you are a witness to everything exterior including all levels of the mind and ego, except I-ness. But the final wipe out of ignorance has not taken place, there is still an I that believes it IS and it claims to be the Self, but it is not.
In basic Self-realization, this sense goes away also and there is just serene void.
Self-realization is prior to soul.
Soul-realization is realizing one's I AM-ness…

Last year I asked Adya about being stuck in the witness. He said he couldn’t tell me how to do it, but I had to learn to witness from the heart and not the mind. I had no idea even what “witnessing from the heart” might mean. A heart does not observe, a heart dives in and unifies. Although, yes, a heart can look upon with love. And, something seemed to soften. The gap began to close, or so I recollect. Still, despite a feeling of emptiness, I still remain with ego.
I also seem to have lost the interest or ability even to practice self inquiry, resting as awareness, seeing into no-self:  all the things I have been doing.  No more doing!  I have flung myself off some cliff.
I want to just drop the thinking and trying, and simply do. 
I want to drop deep and let the energies I've cultivated through my Taoist practice and working with Evie (helping her with her cancer)... I want to just drop into That.  Even, I would say, even something, the sweetness, beyond all Those.

Access to I AM is not access to the Self.
It is access to "a higher self", but not The Self.
You can use I AM as a doorway, but it is easy to get stuck there…
I AM is thick as a brick, so to speak. It is really a kind of voidish, subtle self without form.
Personality can observe. When I AM and personality get mixed, you have ego.
I AM wants to be something, so mind offers its dubious services. This is the birthplace of personality.

Access to “a higher self” that is still not what I’d call The Self seems to be the essence of my Taoist teaching. I have considered this a shortcoming, and yet I have enjoyed and benefited immensely from the practice. In fact, I’d even say, “It has been necessary.”

Access to Self rather than I AM is best achieved by "riding" on a surge of Shakti since Shakti is the Self. This usually requires shaktipat (kundalini-awakening). If you, however, can experience awareness as pure being-energy and let awareness become fully aware of itself, then you can momentarily snap out of I AM-ness and into pure being, or is-ness.

I am wondering if spontaneous qigong and channeling are another means to “riding on a surge of Shakti.” It seems to be the way I am naturally progressing.

Try the shakti-breathing… Here it is:
1.Breathe in to the count of three. Sense energy rising up the spine to the brain.
2.Hold your breath to the count of three. Sense energy radiating from the brain in all directions.
3.Breathe out to the count of three. Sense energy radiating from the brain in all directions. (or from the entire body).
It is important to find a nice and relaxed tempo so you can keep at it uninterrupted for 45 minutes. If bliss comes or shakti fills your body with love, just surrender to it and merge.

This doesn’t seem that far removed from what I was recently telling my friend Mary to try, though it was something I just made up as I saw the truth in it.
Mary can rest in a solid quiet meditation. But its very solidness has becomes a restricted solidity that she’d like to grow/go beyond.
“To go higher you must go deeper,” my Taoist teacher says.
I saw a rock dropped into a glass of water. As the rock settles, notice how the water rises, maybe even overflows. Mary needs to do this.
Breath out, exhale through the eyes.
Feel the breath, the energy and light resting in the belly on the inhalation and then direct that out through the eyes, exhale.
I told her about Annie – consciousness streams out through our eyes. Practice that consciously.

How did I know this? I was channeling and could see and feel it and even facilitate the flow by moving my hand along her torso. My Taoist practice seems to be providing access to a gentle Shaktipat ability.
It’s not the “direct path” of the neo-advaitist, but it seems to be “my path.”

P.S.   In the BatGap interview, near the very end, Jan says:
Kundalini is not a restricted energy within the body-mind, astral system, where ever... it is a condensation of the Self, like a contraction. And as such, it contains the essence of your ignornace.

These words hit me like the beauty of a poem. I understand yet for a moment cannot explain. There were only tears.  True Self becomes our ignorance, even as it moves to set us free.  My God, the beauty!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Eye to Eye

The Boy by Seeking Tao
Bennie, my other little dog
I take many photos of my face… I do not know why I do this.
I am not particularly fascinated with it, and I cannot say there is anything at all I hope to find there…
Whenever I see myself in the mirror, or in a photo, it is in some way like looking at a newly made map of a continent surveyed and explored for the very first time.
Excitement and possibility.
Unknown and dangerous.
There are no memories or experiences of the thing.

Takuin, Self Portrait

I like Takuin. I like him a lot. He is so obviously awake.
It feels soft and good to visit his site and the Asian flavored beauty there.
But, when I read these words, I felt such a wave of dismay.

Geez, I look into the mirror and I have memories. Or at least a head full of thoughts and is that not experience?
So, I exhale in dismay. I am nowhere near awake!
I am flooded by the very kinds of impulses Takuin encourages one to drop.

I read his words again in some desperate attempt to understand, only to find more failure:
When I look into a mirror or at a photograph I am fascinated.
I can be stopped cold by fascination: “My god, is that what I look like?”

It seems the deepest mystery.
“I am that.”
It is totally astounding…
“There are no memories or experience of the thing.”

Suddenly, I understand!
Takuin just chose different words like:
newly surveyed, explored for the first time, unknown, excitement.
Now, I see they fit. Their poetry was just slightly at a different angle.

I have been wrestling with the question , “Am I awake?”
But, looking in the mirror and being presented with my supposed face, simply undercuts so much confusion.
I KNOW that I am not my body. Who I am is Mystery beyond words.
Otherwise, the mirror could never be so strange.

It is so obvious.
I had a little dog once, Annie. She loved to climb the kitchen stairs so that she could peek through the banister and meet my partner or me directly eye to eye.
Eye to eye.
Even a little dog recognizes that she and I, that consciousness, pours most clearly through the eyes. Forget this body stuff.
And if a little dog knows this, surely I can get it too.

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water.

But, you see, we can look into a mirror with a couple different levels to the focus.
Sometimes I look and focus on my face, the reflection of the Light.
Sometimes I look and instead notice a greasy smudge or scar upon the glass. The moment my attention goes to the imperfection, I lose all notice of my reflection. And I get lost in the mirror's dirt.
But, that doesn’t mean for a moment that the image, the reflection, has disappeared.

Eye to eye, there is only Light.
And of course we are awake.

But, there will be times the focus falls upon the flaws.
That is an interesting phenomenon, that little subtlety of focus. Even with the routine of looking in a mirror  sometimes we look and notice the glass instead, if only for a moment.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Fourth of July

Martha Raber, Patty Bralley, Mary Raber ca. 1964
You’re not much of a farmer if you don’t have tomatoes by the Fourth of July.

My father spent his boyhood summers on his cousins’ farm in North Carolina working the tobacco fields. For an only child being raised in a boarding house by a widowed mother, summer was a time for being “all boy”, having brothers, and listening to rain falling on a tin roof deep into the night.
Yes, this gentle, sweet man made wonderful attempts to appear tuff.  So, from time to time he'd come out with these kind of pontifications like this one on tomatoes.
It was a challenge to me and my city gardens well into my fifties. Finally one spring, I resorted to the planting of a new hybrid that already possessed small fruit.
Voila: tomatoes by the Fourth of July!
Except, I felt I’d cheated.

Growing up, the Fourth of July was a day celebrating freedom and family, in essence what I’d now call: fullness. By the Fourth of July summer seemed the only existence. School was long forgotten and a lifetime in the future.
We lived at the swimming pool on burgers, Seven-Up, and fries. Our bodies were brown and strong.
There were colorful swim meets every Saturday that we always seemed to lose, but somehow that didn’t matter in the least. It was enough to try our hardest.
Today, this optimism seems remarkable and somewhat inexplicable.
But, I suspect an explanation rest somehow in love. It was enough to simply be together in the elements of sun and water, family and friends. I was in college before I realized that not everyone enjoyed this norm.
I never really recognized my blessings.

There’s a buzz to summer, a drone below and subtler than all the hoopla and fireworks.
Cicadas hum in the still, damp mornings before the heat silences subtlety.
Cicadas buzz this cyclic sine wave, crescendo passing from treetop to treetop like some cosmic OM .
There’s more here than meets the eye. Something is occurring that you might not notice.
Within the hot, white fullness of the Yang, there is that one black dot, the turning point of Yin.

It is this turning point that I notice now.
It’s this turning point that’s become the Fourth of July’s significance to me.
The dogwoods that bloomed in April now show one little tuff of red leaf. They weren’t there on the thirtieth. But, today they are.
The tulip poplar dropped its first yellow leaf on my house deck last night.
Amidst the watermelon and fireworks, road trips, swimming pools and grills, the tide has already turned…
even as the day is full and warm and wondrous.

What season are you in?
It’s sweet to notice both the surface and the subtleties.