Wednesday, December 19, 2012


You can have a group of people hang out with the same teacher, or perform the same mediation practice, and their outcomes will be determined by their individual intentions for participating in the common practice.
I haven’t found a more influential factor of a practice’s outcome than one’s intention for performing that practice.
Peter’s comment at BATGAP

Peter’s comment, which I love, brings to mind a story of a local meditation teacher who one day, aggravated with her students told them, “You do just enough to feel better.” Meaning, they wanted to simply do the bare minimum and escape into the feel good airy-fairy.

Why do you bother with your spiritual practice? What is it that you really want?
Community? Stress relief? Self improvement?
Has it become mere habit?
Or, has it slipped beyond any personal choice, to become a force beyond yourself?
I find it rather presumptuous to assume that I know why anyone meditates. And I find it useful to periodically look into my own motivations, because, as Peter points out, intentions have a direct effect upon outcomes.

When I was with Adyashanti this summer I noticed that he spoke of three practices: Meditation, Inquiry, and Contemplation. I liked seeing this as it seemed to bring some new balance, order, and perspective to terms that float around inside my head.
Now, he is giving away a booklet entitledThe Way of Liberation” which you can download for free for a while. It’s a really simple, straightforward explanation of these three practices. I love the sparseness of the language, like his Summary of the Teaching:

Be still.
Question every thought.
Contemplate the source of Reality.

There it is: meditation, inquiry, contemplation.
If your intention is liberation, it’s good to know the bases.

In The Way of Liberation, Adya begins by suggesting you address your aspirations (intention by any other name…) and he states it almost as a warning:
To clarify your aspiration means knowing exactly what it is that your spiritual life aspires to, not as a future goal but in each mo¬ment. In other words, what do you value most in your life—not in the sense of moral values, but in the sense of what is most im¬portant to you. Contemplate this question.
Do not assume that you know what your highest aspiration is, or even what is most important to you.
Dig deep within, contemplate, and meditate on what the spiritual quest is about for you; don’t let anyone else define your aspiration for you…
Very few people have Truth or Reality as deep values.
They may think that they value Truth, but their actions do not bear this out.
Generally, most people have competing and conflicting values, which manifest as both internal and external conflict.

Where am I going with all this? I am not sure.
But, more and more I understand how important it is to truly value what is true.
What is it that you REALLY want?

I was reading The Seven Story Mountain recently. In this autobiography, Thomas Merton said something that simply stunned me as if I’d never before heard truly heard such a teaching. He said:
If what most people take for granted were really true – if all you needed to be happy was to grab everything and see everything and investigate every experience and then talk about it… I would never have entered a Trappist monastery

Question every thought. Question all assumptions and the rules that get drummed into you.
I don’t want to miss out on Life and yet, I do not even know what there is to miss and how best to use my time.
A friend and I compare notes.
I worry that I will waste my life by not being engaged enough with others.
I fear I am too content to sit upon my back porch and watch the sky.
And then my friend worries that she will waste her life by always being addictively too busy.

There is no such thing as a path to enlightenment… What you can do is to remove any and all illusions, especially the ones you value most…
Adya, The Way of Liberation

I read these words this morning at the breakfast table and made these notes upon the page margin:
How do I recognize illusion?
When I feel resistance to what is… when I feel separation…
What illusions do I most value?
I am in control… I exist as an individual, born and will die…
Are not illusions my most persistent thoughts?
I could do better… I’m not loved… I am a silly mess… I have failed… If I were enlightened all my problems would be solved…

I hope you will ask yourself a similar inquiry. I found it somewhat surprising and it began an opening of perspective until I heard a voice from the radio behind me shouting:
Are you crying?
Are you crying?
There’s no crying!
There’s no crying in baseball!
Tom Hanks, A League of Their Own

The Library of Congress is inducting this film and these words into the National Film Registry for its contribution to American culture. Somehow, that seemed just perfect, just perfect and the end of any commentary I might offer.
Meditate, Inquire, Contemplate. My intention is upon discoverying what’s true, despite all appearances.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Lover's Tale

One day, one of God’s lovers goes to the home of his shaikh.  The shaikh begins to speak to him about love.  Little by little, as the shaikh speaks, the lover begins to melt, becoming more and more subtle until he just flows like a trickling stream.  His whole physical being dissolved in front of the shaikh, until there was nothing but some water on the floor.
                Just then a friend of the shaikh enters the room and asks, “Where is that fellow who just arrived?”  The shaikh points to the water on the floor and says, “That man is that water.”
               This kind of melting is as astonishing transformation of state.  The man lost his density in such a way that he became what he originally was: a drop of liquid.  Originally he had arrived at human form from water, for as God has said: “We created all of life from water.”
               This lover merely returned to his original essence, the water that is the source of life.  And so we may draw the following conclusion: A lover is that being by whom everything is brought to life.
A story attributed to Shaikh Ibn al-Arabi,  as told by Kabir Helminski in The Knowing Heart.

I read this story and broke down in tears and as I mopped my face dry a whole new appreciation for what tears represent came to mind.  They reflect our opening to our true essence, our Beingness, our Love.
And immediately a song arose from somewhere deep in memory, just this fragment, out of context and yet so fitting:
We lay down and wept
And wept for thee Zion
We remember, thee remember
Thee remember, thee Zion

There was grieving heartbreak and yet there seemed to be some hope within the song, which to my surprise was sourced not in psalm but rather science fiction and American Pie.

And after humming for some time another classic came to mind regarding love and water, evil and melting:  I’m melting!  I’m melting!  ... Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness!

Yes, who would have thought?  Enjoy your tears and melting heart... 'cause we are each our own wicked witch and we do not die so much as melt back into our original essence. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What’s the Point?

I never know what’s going to happen next.  I have to roll the dice.
A mathematician, explaining the Chaos Game
 Fractals… They’re all over in biology.  They’re one solution that natural selection has come up with over and over again.
NOVA, Fractals the Hidden Dimension

A good friend has spent the past few weeks on jury duty – a death penalty, double murder trial.  It’s been a hard, very emotional period for her.  But, she’s approached it as happening for some reason and so she tends to look upon the trial as an opportunity for growth.  Her husband, on the other hand, feels things simply happen.  The trial is an odious even she has been pulled into and there is no reason for the disasters that befall us.  Our task is simply to survive the pain and move on down the road.  His philosophy has uncovered my friend’s own doubts regarding her spiritual beliefs. 
His doubts also reflect statements I sometimes hear from nondualists:  There is no reason or ultimate cause.  Things simply happen.

I think we all wrestle with this question.  Sometimes we simply voice it as, “Why me?” 

I find one answer to this question through the science of Chaos Theory and Fractals.  It’s simple and very graphic.  Fractals are beautiful complex patterns.  Each pattern is defined by an equation.  The equations are meant to be solved repeatedly with each iteration generating a point.  When these points are plotted graphically, their location pops up randomly.  It is from this random deposition of points upon a piece of paper that the beautiful fractal pattern eventually emerges.

You can watch this process for the pattern called a Sierpinski Triangle here.
You can view an emergence of this pattern in 21 seconds here.
[The game is following these rules:  Number the vertices of an equilateral triangle 1, 2 and 3. Start with a random initial point in the plane and plot this point.  Randomly pick a number: 1, 2 or 3. From the initial point, move half the distance towards that numbered vertex. This point is plotted and becomes our new initial point. Repeat this process thousands of times.]

Fractal geometry is the geometry which describes the chaotic systems we find in Nature.  Scientifically speaking, Life and the Universe itself are complex systems.  Such systems are Chaotic in behavior and Chaos Theory presents these simple, defining features of every chaotic system:
1. Chaotic systems may appear to be random but they are not. They are deterministic with equations ruling their behavior.
2. Chaotic systems are very sensitive to the initial conditions making them very unpredictable.  A very slight change in the starting point can lead to enormously different outcomes.  The famous Butterfly Effect and the difficulty in predicting weather are examples.
3. Chaotic systems appear to be disorderly, but they are not. Beneath the seemingly random behavior are a sense of order and beautiful patterns.  The orderly systems predicted by classical physics are actually the narrow situation.  

And thus, in the Chaos Game we find that the picture that is generated through this random process is not random at all.  And I think this is exactly how are lives are.  We may not see the reason for the situation that we're in.  But, that does not mean there is no intelligence or reason underlying the surface appearance of events.

Chaos and order are deeply, deeply linked.  In fact, I view them as different sides of the same coin.
You can call this phenomenon an expression of the Laws of Nature or the intelligence of God.  I think it just depends upon whether you are coming from your head or heart, and your ability to look deeply inside yourself, deeply inside the universe.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

If You Listen

Light Cone 1 by Seeking Tao
Light Cone 1, a photo by Seeking Tao on Flickr.
If you Listen you will go mad.
(I told myself these exact words)
And they rang like poetry.

I have been reading poets trying to find just the words
The perfect words
The perfect fit as nothing feels quite right
Except that one first line which surely isn’t mine
Someone must have said it. But they didn’t. I did.

I found this one. Perhaps the rhythm caught me, for I didn’t understand what he was really saying
Famously and Beautifully, under the Theme of Fire (surely they mean burning), T.S. Elliot:

Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight…

Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

Well, perhaps I am beginning to understand a thing or two as the poem improves the more I read along its lines, until I realize how close they come to YES!
And they sound finer than Lock Kelly's BBQ, highlighting fire and not so much the burning flesh.
So many ways to say it, a Google brought me this:

These inner voices are just crap. These are just fragments of your mind; they have no value at all...These are all your fragments. And if you go on following them you will go crazy…
Remember, God has no voice except silence. He never says anything. There is nothing to say; there is no verbal communication. But that silence, that utter silence, gives you clarity, gives you light, makes you capable of moving rightly. Not that it gives any directions, not that it gives you any maps, not that it supplies you any guides – nothing of the sort. It simply gives you eyes to see your path.

And then you start moving in life with eyes. Ordinarily you are moving blind. A blind man needs guides, a blind man needs voices, a blind man needs maps. A man who has eyes needs nothing. God comes to you as silence. God is silence. Remember it: only trust silence and nothing else – otherwise you will get trapped by the mind again and again. And to be trapped by the mind is to be in misery. To be free of the misery is to know what bliss is, is to know what benediction is.


Thursday, October 04, 2012

Different Qualities of Awakening

There are different things that are seen, different things that are experienced in different types of awakenings… They all have to do with a shift in your essential identity. If it doesn’t have to do with an essential shift in your identity then what you’ve had is a spiritual experience, not a spiritual awakening…
Each of these windows has their own illusions that you awake from… Awakening on the level of the mind, you realize that you are the spacious infinity of consciousness – lovely! And, you can still be an emotional basket-case… you can still be a total mess as a human being… It’s common to be awake on the level of conscious mind and still be emotionally guarded. Awakening on the level of the heart you become unguarded in your emotional body… emotional vulnerability is different from intellectual [vulnerability].
Adyashanti, Different Qualities of Awakening

And then there is the belly too.
After a certain level of clearing, the Self moves forward to absorb the “gut” as Adyashanti put it. The divine continues the decent into the world. The core identify, long sitting sub-conscious becomes conscious. This is the core of what Tolle calls the “pain body,” the driver of the drama and the ego. It is a root fear that has been holding our story. Once seen, it can be released.

This process Loch Kelly called the BBQ, when these core drivers are seen and cleared. In the process, the sense of person or “I” dissolves. There is no longer a “Fred” or whatever name you go by. We also notice there is no longer an “inside” and “outside.” This is always a unique experience. Again, the experience can be quite short or take a little time, depending on the work that remains.
Davidya, The Journey, Part 2

I’ve been feeling this BBQ for some time now. It’s uncomfortable. And it’s OK … but uncomfortable! And mostly, I just don’t care enough to write about it here. Sometimes I make notes. But, then there’s no will to carry. Through. (or brain) There’s just this pull inwards into silence and watching the body, the cellular “stuff”: the earth, air, fire, water - just be vaporized.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Resistance is Futile

Q: How do I let go?
A: You can't, you won't, you don't.
My friends and I for some time have taken it as gospel that resisting only causes suffering – so stop it!  Let it go.  And what I am finding these past few weeks is that resistance is totally beyond my control.
It resides in my tissues as attachment - my entire love of Life as I have known it.  It is a gripping in my belly and even a hint of letting go evokes terror.  I am having pretty uncomfortable days.  

My friend’s response to my complaints was, “What did the sign say? Resistance is futile!”
She was referring to a sign Adyashanti used to post at his retreats.  But, she wasn’t sure of where the phrase originated.
So, as a joke, I found this clip from Star Trek.  What I myself did not recall was how intertwined the phrase is with my all-time favorite hero, the iconic warrior with great heart, John Luke Picard.  And too, I had no idea that the phrase refers to an epic struggle between separate self and Oneness.  It indeed embraces mythic roots.

Resistance is futile.
You will be assimilated.
Your life as it has been is over.

Wow!  That is just what my body tissue is resisting.  Intellectual understanding doesn’t touch it.  The awakening of belly letting go is preverbal.  And so the teaching goes:
How do I let go?
You can’t. You won’t.  You don’t.

I cannot stop thoughts arising in meditation.  Nor can I will myself to cease resisting.  That is my experience and it is backed-up now by neuroscience:
I was conscious of a decision to press my right finger down and you’re saying that six seconds earlier my brain had already made that decision.
[Yes.]  In your case, up to six seconds before you make up your mind, we can predict which decision you’re going to make.
Neuroscience and Free Will video clip

Resistance is futile.
Still, apparently, I resist right until the moment that I do not. That moment is beyond my personal control.  I’m getting this understanding with my body these days.
I can feel how cellular my grip is. 

And yet, from time to time, I notice the role of mind.  I notice how my mind can quiet as some intellectual reassurance dawns.
The intellect gets soothes and immediately there is relief: terror in the body is not as painful as a herniated disc.  So let the discomfort simply burn.
None of this struggle is absolutely necessary. 

Or more precisely:
You have no control over that… It’s something you realize when it’s pretty much done.  You look back and go, “What the hell was all that for?”
…It’s not necessary [to struggle] and if you can hear that…if it can actually be totally let into your system…which usually it doesn’t… it need not be difficult.
Adyashanti, on Effort

What I notice is that in going over the classic teachings, every now and then, some little word does get truly in.  It brings tears of relief and letting go.  The resistance in the tissue dissolves or is instantly just gone.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I Never Sleep: Part 3

Ripples, II by Seeking Tao
Ripples, II, a photo by Seeking Tao on Flickr.
I’ve edited this down to make easier reading and the points clearer. Hopefully, I have not changed Ramana’s meaning! Click here to get the unedited version of Raman Maharishi on Samadhi.

Question: What is samadhi?
Ramana Maharshi: The state in which the unbroken experience of existence-consciousness is attained by the still mind is samadhi… When the mind is in communion with the Self in darkness, it is called sleep… Immersion in a conscious or wakeful state is called samadhi. Samadhi is continuous inherence in the Self in a waking state. Sleep is also inherence in the Self, but in an unconscious state.

In TM, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi taught that wakefulness during sleep was a test for self realization untroubled by the biased mind. That is, you cannot fake it. Having this established was a hallmark of Cosmic Consciousness. In a recent conversation with a friend I mentioned that by objective criteria I might conclude that my experience is what Maharishi called Cosmic Consciousness. My point was to explain that recently I was laughing to myself, “How very disappointing.” I can laugh now. But for a while, the disappointment was quite sincere. Why? Because the mind still holds so many beliefs and troubling thoughts that I am really still quite a Bozo. Adyashanti has a nice talk he gives about Buddha seeing his reflection as a clown.

Here’s a version of this feeling from Ed Musaki:
Nirvakalpa samadhi, [is] a temporary unicity state of mind where the thinking mind does not function, and no longer imposes an artificial order on the perceived universe… However, after experiencing this state literally thousands of times, I was deeply disappointed that I was still the same person after meditation was over. I was not transformed. I did not have any great knowledge. I did not feel any smarter. I did not feel enlightened. In fact, I felt like a failure because I had experienced all these Samadhis, but they had not convinced me…

My friend, Joel’s, comment was wise:
Yes, CC is a disappointment. It's dualistic. But it is really a first step. Don't get hung up on mechanics. It happens spontaneously, effortlessly. Just look in a restfully quiet way. There is no witness! Only experience. The witness must and will disappear. Then there is only life. Drop all your concepts and just look.

Ramana’s next comments speak to this situation nicely.
Question: What are kevala nirvikalpa samadhi and sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi?
Ramana Maharshi: The immersion of the mind in the Self, but without its destruction, is kevala nirvikalpa samadhi. In this state one is not free from vasanas and so one does not therefore attain mukti. Only after the vasanas have been destroyed can one attain liberation.

So maybe, what MMY called Cosmic Consciousness can be equated with kevala nirvikalpa samadhi. Those beliefs and troubling thoughts, those lingering conditions keep the mind “up and running.” To say that Duality remains is to say the ego remains with a sense of separateness. Vasanas keep activiating ego. There is the phrase, “the mind silences.” Yes, I’m awaiting that, for the vasanas to dissolve. I’m awaiting Liberation which is a non-duality.

There is a new site that I like called Liberation Unleashed. Their premise is that awakening can be achieved quickly through direct inquiry into seeing “no self.” However, post this liberation they have a support system for clearing out the troubling thoughts, the vasanas. They suggest Byron Katie’s The Work. This is great, all fine and good. But, it is muddying the terminology.

Question: When can one practise sahaja samadhi?
Ramana Maharshi: Even from the beginning. Even though one practices kevala nirvikalpa samadhi for years together, if one has not rooted out the vasanas one will not attain liberation.

How curious.
Kevala nirvikalpa samadhi at first seemed to be a state, or at least a noun. Now, it is spoken of as a practice or a verb! Well, nouns make me think of objects and consciousness is not an object. Verbs make me think of the ever changing Relative and impermanence. That seems very fitting also. Maybe it’s that the Relative is actually a gerund –both a noun and a verb. In fact, conceiving the Relative/Life as noun-verb seems to be just another way of stating the classic:
Emptiness is Form. Form is Emptiness.

There’s a similar condensing of state and practice in two definitions I came across the other day. The first term has Hindu roots. The second is from Zen.
Turiya: the experience of pure consciousness. It is the background that underlies and transcends the three common states of consciousness: the state of waking consciousness, the state of dreaming, and dreamless sleep.Wikipedia
Dzogchen: the natural, primordial state of the mind, and a body of teachings and meditation practices aimed at realizing that condition.Wikipedia

Soon, I will be seeing my Taoist Teacher, Wong Loh Sin See. I was going over a question he asked me at our last visit: “Are you meditating?” Back then, I was doing qigong, more exercise than meditation. He encouraged me to actually sit. I did that for awhile and then slipped back into qigong. More recently, after experiencing a rather intense collapse of the witness, I realized I was always “meditating.” If indeed meditation is the activity of soaking in pure consciousness, then that was happening at all times. Sitting was not required. Looking closer, to my surprise I discovered that all of Life, all Creation, was always, and simply, only the act of meditation.

Meditation is all that’s going on! Meditation is Creation rising and falling. The state is indeed the practice. At least, that’s how it appeared to me for that afternoon. Realizations come and realizations go. What do they come and go in? The Self, and I am meditation.

Monday, August 06, 2012

I Never Sleep and Fighter Pilots

It turns out that fighter pilots accelerated to speeds that induce loss of consciousness can wake up through these same layers of light, bodily sensation, and no thought that I described in I Never Sleep. That kind of surprises me. Perhaps losing consciousness is simply losing consciousness and it doesn’t matter if that is precipitated by gravity draining blood from the brain or simply laying your head upon a pillow at night. Curiously, when the thinking brain falls behind and can supply no reason for the body’s sensations, the fighter pilot researches say that the brain then makes up a reason. I first heard this explanation of brain playing tricks on you from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He said the relaxation deep in meditation will start the body normalizing. Sensations, feelings arise for no external reason. Maharishi explained that we then experience “a mood on an abstract basis.” He went on to explain the mind cannot stand this lack of decent reason and so ascribes the sensation to some memory close at hand. “Ah, my friend is coming for a visit.”

Here’s RadioLab’s description of this research.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Never Sleep

From the point of view of Consciousness, there is no experience of a dark, blank nothingness. Rather, there is only the ‘experience’ of itself, which means only the presence …of itself. This is neither deep, dark, blank, or asleep. It [is] dimensionless, present, luminous, alive and awake.
Consciousness is not the opposite of un-consciousness. For Consciousness there is no ‘off.’ It is always ‘on.’ ...What is considered to be deep sleep from the point of view of the waking mind is ‘wide-awakeness’ for Consciousness.
Now, with that as background, we can look more closely at the question as to whether identification remains at a subtler level in deep sleep.
Rupert Spira, interview

I think most people have had the experience of waking up the morning (or maybe days) after a disaster, a death, and for a moment you’ve forgotten. You’re simply there awake, until that first thought arises and with it the pain that sleep momentarily erased returns. Apparently, there are other versions of this story.

Recently, I’ve noticed the transition from being deep sleep to lying there in bed awake with a clarity that’s usually not there. What I notice is a buzz (and no thoughts), a luminescence (and no thoughts), and then fear (and still no thoughts), except its rather intense fear and thus physically uncomfortable. My mind quickly presents a list of reasons. This week they’re financial.

But, the process is kind of strange when you think about it. Why would I wake up gripped by fear for which there is no reason? (I here equate reason with a label, or a thought.) I think identification, attachment to beliefs, must remain deep inside me. My body must be listening to unspoken fears. How else could the sensation arise?

Thankfully, not all mornings are like this. Sometimes I notice that, “Oh, I was asleep.” And with that thought comes the understanding of Consciousness as presence, alive and awake: Even though I was asleep, I was awake all night. It was this experience that actually first attracted me to the video, I Never Sleep

And so, as the fear hit me this morning, I was reminded onceagain of the images. Rupert Spira so artistically presents the transition from deep sleep into waking. It doesn’t help my belly wake up any easier, but it’s something nice to share. It’s not your usual Advaita lecture.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

When I was a Young Man

Bralley kids Christmas Card 1954 by Seeking Tao
Bralley kids Christmas Card 1954, a photo by Seeking Tao on Flickr.

This morning as I sat to meditate, or simply just to be, since I had no intention to even close my eyes,  my body seemed to want to settle and I thought I’d give that a chance.
To my surprise, my mind became filled with these old Biff Rose lyrics:

When I was a young man
I ran away from home
I went to join the circus
I went to see the cotton candy world
And make me lots of money
On my own
For Molly oh my pretty Molly
She's waitin' all alone
Someday soon I will return to her…

Well, he never did, not in the song.  (Please listen to the whole song)
But, yesterday, my brother "made him lots of money" and retired.   And I find it very moving to see the broad sweep of his story: the searching, seeking, and the coming home.  His son-in-law said, “Woo Hoo! Hard work does pay off!”  But, the journey wasn’t all about the money.  It is not even always couched in terms of money.  The journey was and is about love.
We all leave home and join the circus, in one way or another, hoping to prove our worth, hoping to prove to ourself and others that we have earned and deserve love.  Some of us eventually make it home and others seem to get lost along the way.

It starts out all for Molly, in her many forms: parent, partner, child, friends, and self.  What an amazing discovery to realize, “She loved me all along.”  At least, that is one thing I have learned through sharing in my brother’s journey.  It’s what I’m learning in my own rather cash strapped journey.

Real love is unconditional.  That's the first lesson I learned from my brother. (What better definition for the very word - my brother.)  Love is simply given, not just by God or Spirit, but often by those around us.  It seems we’re always given a second chance.  And we’ll need it! Because, apparently, we have to make the journey and hopefully we’ll come full circle. 

And there are songs along the way that say it better than the words.  In my meditation there was another lyric preceding the words from Molly.  That tune is lost in the fuzziness of past transcendence.  But, perhaps they were from this song:

And yes, I know this is incredibly and unrepentedly "SO the 60's" ... let's just call it roots :)

Friday, June 15, 2012


Watch A New Genetic Map That Could Make Your Skin Crawl on PBS.
See more from PBS NewsHour.

We're outnumbered ten to one by these microorganisms and yet less than 10% of them have ever been isolated and studied.
Eric Green

I really am excited by this.  It's worth getting past the ad and listening to the interview.  This is going to change how medicine is practiced in the future.  Understanding the metabolism of these bacteria is like discovering a new organ(s) in our bodies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Human Microbiome

Petri Plate 5 by Seeking Tao
Petri Plate 5, a photo by Seeking Tao on Flickr.
The human body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only maybe one in 10 of those cells is actually human. The rest are from bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms.
The human we see in the mirror is made up of more microbes than human.

NPR reporter Rob Stein and Lita Proctor of the National Institutes of Health

So began the radio report on the results of the Human Microbiome Project the first catalog of the bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that populate every nook and cranny of the human body as reported by 200 scientists in some sixteen articles published in four journals.

The definition of a human microbiome is all the microbial microbes that live in and on our bodies, all the genes, and all the metabolic capabilities these microbes bring to supporting human health and also human disease. The scientists had taken samples from 200 healthy adults in 18 different sites both on and in the body.

The factoids of the findings are truly amazing:
10,000 different species annotated, 8 million different genes, that’s 300 times the number of human genes by the Human Genome Project.
There were discoveries of entirely new species which have the scientists speaking in terms of opening new territory – a rainforest with new butterflies or mammals… except they’re speaking of bacteria. Those foreign little buggers  that we mostly try to sanitize away.

Well, all this info, however stunning in the moment (and I got very excited yesterday), isn’t all that new. Because, you see, the symbiosis in the human body is actually quite fractal, the pattern repeating on different levels, in different ways on subtler, more microscopic levels.

I think of Evie fighting cancer. Well, actually her Hodgkins tumors are  composed of only about 10% cancerous cells. The cancerous Reed-Sternberg cells recruit a host of immune cells that symbiotically support the cancer. And in turn within each of these human cells, both benign and malignant, respiration occurs in small organelles – the mitochondria – that are descendents of swallowed-up bacteria that symbiotically created the cells we know today as "human".

When I discovered this fact about mitochondria back in 1969, I shivered with a thrill. I’ve quoted Lewis Thomas before because the impact went so deeply into me and he expresses his own feelings that so well echo mine:
there is the whole question of my identity… It is a mystery.
There they are, moving about in my cytoplasm, breathing for my own flesh, but strangers. They are much less closely related to me than to each other and to the free-living bacteria out under the hill. They feel like strangers, but the thought comes that the same creatures, precisely the same, are out there in the cells of sea gulls and whales, and dune grass, and seaweed, and hermit crabs... Through them, I am connected… This is a new kind of information, for me.

Lewis Thomas

And, I guess until a deeply non-dual awareness is established, I shall continue to be shaken to my core by such incontrovertible evidence that the boundaries I draw around myself are actually quite arbitrary and ultimately rather artificial.

It seems that experience is a very dualistic affair. Experience, we are taught early in life, has a personal inner observer who gets in touch with outer objects through the means of the senses, and communicates through language to other inner observers. There is an impassible barrier, we are taught, between in and out. …
This subject /object duality is perhaps the most fundamental duality of all. How you see yourself affects how you see the object of your experience. “What you be” determines what you see.

Greg Goode, How to Stand as Awareness

Monday, June 11, 2012

Into the Great Silence

When we discuss akedia, we are discussing the mystery of why people fall out of love.

Miek Pot was interviewed recently on Conscious TV. The episode is entitled Into the Great Silence and it perked my ears up because Silence has so very often crashed upon my consciousness heralding a shift. Miek Pot tells her story of discovering this Silence, which she equates with God, upon entering a
Carthusian monastery. This was the women’s version of the monastery of the Grand Chartreuse that was the subject of the 2005 documentary film, Into Great Silence. The Silence in that film was so powerful that many people simply fled the theatre within the first few minutes. And while I squirmed at first, I stuck with it and discovered beauty.

But, as I listened to Miek Pot describe her experience this morning I was stunned for a different reason. When asked, Let’s talk about “the demon of the eleventh hour.” Pot replied: Akedia… someone hanging around, but formerly, I didn’t know the name. But, in the monastery I learned to give it a name. It is something that is with me in my actual life again… Life is boring. There are no changes [or] new things. And then, Akedia is coming. Akedia is different from depression. Depression is something you know like a mental illness, while Akedia is more a no caring. It is a hardening of the heart. It’s like indifference.

Akedia! I leaned forward and tried to listen more closely to what exactly she was saying. Acadia? Could that be right? Acadia? A demon called Acadia? No!

This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Since I was a young girl these words have meant Acadia to me. But today when they came to mind I was only confused since they are from the poem, Evangeline. I puzzled over their link to Acadia having long forgotten the next lines:

This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe…
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers…
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?

No. Today I heard Acadia and then was told, “It’s not depression.”

I have been asking myself about depression for some time now. “Is this depression?”
And always I have concluded, “No.” It seems like something else; some not quite integrated way of being in this largely “life of solitude” I have fallen into. I wonder if I need to make more friends, find a partner once again, do volunteer work – do something, anything to not feel this discomfort of somehow missing out on Life, of somehow not connecting. And yet, I know all those supposed solutions do not hold the answer and offer no appeal. Basically, I simply want to sit – and yet, I don’t. Still, I feel the answer lies inside myself. I know I must go deeper and find happiness within. I know I cannot pull away from feeling ANYTHING. Whatever arises, I must feel it and accept it. I must come to peace with everything.

And so, when Miek Pot says that it is a hardening of the heart, I know she is correct. And I know she is describing things from something of a different angle and I want to understand. I think of the anonymous comment someone left at one of my blog entries. It urged me to cultivate devotion to God… even if that seems a dualistic activity for someone into nonduality. I think of Adya telling me of the flaming heart putting an end to the isolation of the witness.

So, I Googled this new word, unsure even of the spelling, and found:
Acedia: Spiritual torpor and apathy; ennui.
Acedia was originally noted as a problem among monks and other ascetics who maintained a solitary life. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but distinct from depression. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one's duties in life...

because one no longer cares. Suddenly, I was reminded of Adya’s comment in his interview at BATGAP. He mentioned that there’s a “dirty little secret” in non-duality in which people can become “spiritual shipwrecks.” They get lost in the not doing and the not caring. Maybe, this is just another flavor of what’s been called spiritual bypassing. But, as in comparisons with depression, there is a notable difference.

Acedia is essentially a flight from the world that leads to not caring even that one does not care.
For Aquinas, acedia is "sorrow about spiritual good in as much as it is a Divine good."

The demon of acedia holds an important place in early monastic demonology and psychology. Evagrius of Pontus characterizes it as "the most troublesome of all" of the eight genera of evil thoughts. Evagrius sees acedia as a temptation, and the great danger lies in giving in to it.

Aquinas's teaching on acedia contrasts with his prior teaching on charity's gifted "spiritual joy" to which acedia is directly opposed. As Aquinas says, "One opposite is known through the other, as darkness through light. Hence also what evil is must be known from the nature of good."

Hum. I found this all quite interesting. But, the real lesson here, I think, goes back to the Silence and how many people actually fled the theatre not even wanting to deal with it on film, let alone real life: Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven …
The polarity is too great. Intuitively, we know that more is required of us than we are willing to give. We become afraid and we contract. We either freeze or run away.

At another site I found this explanation of Akedia as one of the Seven Deadly Sins. (I have taken liberties with ellipsis… and yes, this is a very Christain explanation involving “sin” – a word I like to define as “that which separates us from God” and thus a useful concept for the serious non-dualist.)

The pattern of sin we are going to discuss today is very different from the other patterns of sin we have discussed in previous weeks… Other sins treat something bad as a good thing and run after it… But are all sins defined in terms of things we do?
What about sins that are problem because of things we don’t do?

Because our culture is focused on action, we are very quick to look at outward actions and pass judgment …[but] When my sin lies in the fact I don’t act, there is no outward action to give me away.
No one will see that my heart was wrong and this led me to refuse love’s claims…
The early church believed that not acting because one refused to do what love asked of us was the deadliest and most dangerous of sins.

They called this sin akedia (“indifference,” “spiritual apathy”).

When we discuss akedia, we are discussing the mystery of why people fall out of love.

Wow, The Mystery! – now, there’s a word that keeps coming to my mind these days. I find I do not feel I can really understand anything these days. Last blog I wrote about these spiritualize migraines where my vision becomes uncoupled from thinking. It’s almost like a sensory version of Life becoming more and more “ungraspable.” The mind cannot hold onto vision. The mind cannot grasp hold of Life in the way it once did. It no longer makes all that much sense. Someone is here and then they’re not. How can that be? What does a Life mean? What is its weight? And can you waste it? Do I waste it?
Who am I, anyway?
It is a Mystery.
And now, there is this mystery of why people fall out of love - And that is called akedia.

Falling out of Love. Refusing to do what Love asks of us.
How is that possible? For is not Love another word for God? - which is just another word for Silence and The Mystery. The impossible is happening and how is that possible?

It’s a hardening of the heart. It’s like indifference. For me when it comes, it is for me to find a way to go into my heart and it’s by my [inner] child… and then all that hardening, that indifference… falls away, collapses. And then, I am in my heart and acedia is away.
Miek Pot, Into the Great Silence

Saturday, June 09, 2012

What is Pain

In order for there to be pain, there also has to be something else, a story, resistance, or fear…
There’s the sensation and then there has to be an idea about it…
When the sensations are strong you can suffer with even a little bit of story.

For years now I’ve had bouts of migraines, but during the past year they have gradually changed into something I’d not even label as a migraine if I’d hadn’t seen the gradual evolution of the symptoms.

What began as head splitting pain, nausea and vertigo has become a painless slight nausea shakiness and rather transcendent buzz.  In many ways it feels as if I have jumped up out of a deep meditation and my body feels shocked.  Something happens to my vision.  At first, cloudy or blurred seem descriptive but then I’ll realize that’s not it.  More accurately, it seems as if the process of vision, seeing, has become uncoupled from a neural circuit that usually processes visual information.  Usually, what I see goes through a loop that adds a story.  I see something and then think about it with words.  During these migraines now, I simply see.  If I am at work following written instructions, thinking things through becomes an almost impossible task.  I go home and fall asleep immediately.

I think that this shifting in quality of the migraines has been caused by the calcium channel and beta blocker medication I take for high blood pressure.  But, as the shift has become more pronounced it has seemed less and less a physical phenomenon and more and more like some spiritual experience, some adjustment that allows life to be lived with a bit less story.

We all experience pain.  Here, Nirmila finely draws out the mechanics of its arising.  May it help us all live with less pain in the future.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mistletoe and Healing

It was not until I had spent some time in Järna that I began to understand that it is possible for buildings to have a nurturing or healing quality. This understanding occurred through my experiencing calmness in this place, through my sense of ease.
Gary J. Coates,architect

And it was not until I came across this video on mistletoe, that I was brought back to something I’d noticed long ago: that simply sitting and being with a homeopathic medicine can nurture and calm my soul.
I realize now, this is a version of Adyashanti’s teaching and admonition: If you want to become enlightened, hang out with enlightened people, or enlightened mountains and trees and lakes.

The past few weeks I have been like a woman possessed to find a cure for cancer.  Not for the entire world, but simply for dear Evie.  I have come to believe that just as every individual awakens in their own particular manner, each cancer survivor, each person who makes it after Statistics and Medicine have said there is no hope – each person who heals finds a way forward uniquely for themselves.  It may be Qigong, it may be some other renegade molecularly based therapy… but in each case, it becomes their own revelation.  And yet, this unique path is based upon a universal.
Something moves from deep inside.
Something moves from Silence.
This is a beautiful video about mistletoe and the love and attention people put into transforming this plant into a medicine called Isacador.  I never knew such care is taken.  This video stopped my frazzled searching cold.  It returned me to a centered silence.  And so, I want to share it.
But don’t click on it grabbing for transcendence.
Simply rest a moment in the feel, the images, the yin and yang and weave of plant and sky and people.
Take it as a work of art – not as medicine.

And if you still want more (as I did) continue on along to visit the medical clinic at Jarna.  A community now comprised of 3000 people living lives centered on the philosophy of scientist and mystic, Rudolph Steiner.

Architects  Gary and Susanne Coates  provide this description on Jarma in Journal of Healthcare Design, vol. 8, 1998: (I’ve edited it for brevity)
What if we had an architecture whose forms, surfaces, materials, character, moods, and so on, were derived from the same principles that underlie the forms and processes that we respond to so positively in nature itself? What if we had an organic architecture that was truly functional and spoke to the needs of the whole human being? This is what the architect Asmussen offers us Jarna.

Asmussen is now an extraordinary 82-year-old man. He rides his bicycle from the apartment in which he lives through a beautiful garden landscape to the office in which he works. I have seen him turn compost heaps eight hours a day, on a Sunday, just to relax. He's Danish by birth, was educated in Denmark, moved in 1939 to Stockholm just before World War II began. He met his wife there and he has lived in Sweden ever since.

I should have mentioned before that Asmussen has followed the impulses of the Austrian scholar, scientist, artist, clairvoyant, and spiritual researcher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), who founded anthroposophy, which is both a body of knowledge covering the whole of life and a spiritual path for the direct attainment of such knowledge. The entire community of which Asmussen is a part and for which he has designed comprises people, organizations, and initiatives that have been inspired by the ideas, writings, and research of Steiner.

I noticed an attentiveness to all different kinds of details at the clinic.
The sewage treatment garden is one of the most beautiful aquatic gardens I have ever seen. It comprises seven ponds in which communities of plants and other organisms digest the human wastes of the college.

The care that is lavished on the chickens, who live in beautifully designed wooden houses surrounded by sculptures created by students, gives some sense of the care with which Vidarkliniken itself is designed. Even the plants are thought about and cared for in a way that is most uncommon. Once we saw one of the gardeners planting flowers around a manhole in one of the vegetable fields and asked him why he was doing this, and he said, "Well, I got to thinking about the carrots and the cabbages and how they put so much energy into making food for us that they don't have enough energy left to make flowers, so I thought I should plant flowers for the cabbages and carrots to enjoy."

When this kind of attention is given to all the beings and processes in a landscape, it becomes a living environment that quite literally radiates those same qualities back to people.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Softening into the Sacred

People are scared of their own experience… its really fascinating how much time is spent not to experience what is truly here, not to feel. And of course we are trained like that in the Western world… “don’t be a cry baby”… But, sooner or later life will really help us to learn to experience.
Marlies Cocheret, My Biggest Love is Silence interview

As I typed out this quote once again I was reminded of the difficulty my dyslexic brain has in distinguishing between “scared” and “sacred.” It always brings me to a complete stop. Which word have I written? So I have to slowly sound them out.

I get scared a lot these days. And too, these days are so filled with the sacred. There is this yin yang dance between the two.

Two weeks ago Eve’s PET scan showed her lymphoma was progressing. She had delayed the 3 month follow up an extra month for several reasons. But, in the end she had to look. And once again, in the midst of all our efforts and confidence in our therapeutic choices, we got thrown back. The hot spots are getting larger around her heart and throat and lungs.

Throughout these past two years we’ve been getting these reports that seem to temporarily knock our knees out from under us. And each time, we’ve stood back up. Having reviewed all the data on all the therapeutic options we’ve picked a good one and have launched upon an new effort. What I am noticing this time is that the good options seemed to have run out. Though I still love and respect the modified Gerson regime! It’s just that is doesn’t seem to be quite enough.

What I have begun to notice in my searching is that external efforts (therapies, be they chemo or nutritional) carry one huge side benefit: you can tell yourself, “I am doing something!”
And when these options run their course, what are we left with then? Man, it stares you in the face and scares you stiff:

There’s nothing I can do.

Well, they say there are no atheists in fox holes. And the time Evie spent in a southern clinic offering alternative therapies introduced her to many Christians placing all their hopes in Jesus. It made her uncomfortable. But, choice of words can do that.

So here’s another way to say it. When external options drop off, we are left only with the internal.
And, when external doing all drops off you have almost by definition transcended and landed in the sacred.
Or, as Marlies Cocheret says:
My essential focus is Stillness; it permeates all my work. That is the only Reality there is. When we deeply know that, there is absolutely nothing we need to control anymore.

I like those words a lot. It locates the sacred within Stillness and complete relinquishing of control- in short, not doing . And yet, it is her work – her doing. Which, to translate back into the more traditional way to put it: God helps those who help themselves.

I looked up the word "surrender" yesterday. There are two flavors to the meaning. It can mean defeat, becoming a prison to oppression. But, it can also mean the giving of oneself to something greater. It is this later possibility that Marlies addresses. When there is no longer a need to control, transcendence can be invited into a new manner of expression.  Marlies and tradition calls this embodiment.

She describes a common experience of spiritual seekers: I found it and then I lost it. Yes, we can connect with Unboundedness. We can get a peek. But then we lose it. In fact, Evie has said that back in January she felt something inside her break and then for awhile everything was fine inside. “And then, I lost it.” I know exactly what she means, because it’s a lesson for me too.
It’s a lesson my entire family is being invited to take up.

And so, this morning I came across this Interview of Marlies. I’ve only had time to listened to the first half hour, but it was just too good to pass-up sharing.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Conversations at BATGAP

Asemic Shadows 4 by Seeking Tao
Asemic Shadows 4, a photo by Seeking Tao on Flickr.
I’ve seen many people spend an entire lifetime meditating and going to see every spiritual teacher on the planet, and then put forth 10 reasons (as you did yesterday,) why they wouldn’t or shouldn’t want to awaken: it might be too soon – it could be dangerous – I just want to be a good person – enlightenment isn’t necessary etc etc. So… there seems to be a contradiction, some huge conflict within.
Jill, the Ben Smythe interview at BATGAP,

Yes, I am carrying huge ambivalence over stepping into my own awakened state and this resistance makes me suffer. Adyashanti told me when I complained to him about being stuck in the witness that I would have to find my own way into ripping open my heart. He reminded me of those Catholic images of the flaming heart.
I recognize all those whispers of “yes, but” in my psyche that Jill was pointing out and her comment stung.

Listening to the Buddha at the Gas Pump (BATGAP) interviews each week as they get posted has become perhaps the cutting edge of my spiritual practice. I listen in the mornings before dawn while I do asanas or qigong. Often, a simple statement strikes home so directly and immediately, I am stunned into a deeper opening.

You may notice that the postings here have become less frequent. Chalk that up to the wrestling, the discomfort, discomfort, discomfort… with admitting I am stuck witnessing with ego so intact, and yet, at least the witness is established.
I’m posting some comments here that have prodded and eased me forward lately. I hope BATGAP doesn’t consider this plagiarism. I offer it by way of thank you and I don’t know, maybe it will help someone else along the way.

The TM self-realization – small s – is a witnessing type of realization, a primer to true realization.
It is still duality because the small self is alive and well either in the background or the foreground, but nothing has been united. It’s a state of extreme separation.

Jill, the Robert Foreman interview at BATGAP

Personally, I like Adyashanti’s expression radical duality.
Although I meet with Eve and Mary once a week to meditate and practice and share, I have been totally unable to discuss my discomfort with them because I can’t even describe adequately how strange it feels. A couple weeks ago Eve made the comment that I am her Spirit Guide. Nice to hear, but what rumbled round inside was the dissonance of definition: I cannot be a spirit, I’m not dead.
But later there was a shift: That’s it EXACTLY! I am like some character in a movie who has died and doesn’t know it. So, I walk around interacting with people, objects, events and everything is out of whack. Nothing is as it was. Nothing is Normal.
This may sound awful, but to me this shift brought relief and joy.
For the next week I felt as if I was on a retreat going deeper and deeper into realizations. But in the end “realizations” are just the mind’s saying eureka, insights that come and go. In the end, there was no shift to Unity and my discomfort returned.

Jill goes on to comment:
Maharishi used to say it was a very uncomfortable state which is why I called it painful.
I was only in it a short time before the energy took off but can’t imagine staying there.
It’s one foot in the apparent world and one out of it – not the reconciled peace I’m referring to now, where we have come to rest eternally, undivided and seamlessly moving between the relative and absolute realities.

You got it right when you said the emphasis in CC [witnessing] is on a kind of mental recognition of Self -not a living of it. According to Maharishi’s map we proceed from this witnessing state by devotion in order to close the divide between duality and unity. And that’s true, but he also said that practice is not the way after CC. It is love and devotion that closes the gap after recognition. So we must be willing to surrender to the Self – what we value most, and that would be our concepts and illusions – the biggest one of all being the illusion of self.

Jill, Robert Formen interview at BATGAP

Well, this is what Adya told me two years ago. The heart has to open and the only way I see to do that is to let go and not resist whatever comes up inside. Actually, so many of the restraints have already been burned through. I seem to have lost much of my ability to suppress feelings. Now, if I were also that facile at letting go of thinking… even as I know, all this is beyond my ability to do. Still I play my part.

I was awake to the Self for over 30 years before the shift.
I knew I was Atman but retained the ego.
Then one day, listening to an awake teacher, a word he used landed differently and something let go.
Of course, the shift didn’t match any concept of it but about a day and a half later, certainty came.
So a slow approach but the shift itself was “sudden”. Many call it “popping”.

…I know Neelam and other teachers of her lineage avoid concepts of stages. But for most, there is the experience of it unfolding in steps of experience. Adyahsanti talks about “head, heart, and gut”. This relates to the 3 major stages spoken of in TM circles, CC, GC, UC.
I describe this as the descent of the divine. When it reaches the heart, there is an unfolding of love beyond any description. We recognize all of creation exists as the flow of love and rests in a sea of love.
Also related to this is the refinement of perception and the unfolding in our experience of the extent and magnificence of creation. The profundity of a simple thing like grass or an insect is revealed.

…And then there is the “gut” and the end of that which divides inside and outside, the dawning of Unity. Ironically, we again find ourselves in kindergarten.
There is much more. The descent continues to the root and embodiment, then rises back to the point most suited for that persons roll.
This is why I say kindergarten. One cannot underestimate the value of awakening. But it is the platform for living our potential. It is the end only of the seeker, not the goal.
It is such a pity to miss the fullness of our potential due only to a dumb idea that we’re done.

David, the Neelam interview at BATGAP

I am so grateful to have BATGAP providing intelligent interviews and presenting awakening from many different personal perspectives. It helps to have clear theory. Perhaps it helps even more to have ordinary people tell you what it felt like.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Illusory Self & Healing

What you saw was an illusory me running up an illusory tree.
Advaita founder, Adi Shankara, explaining his escape from a wild elephant

The Nour Foundation and Krista Tippett recently hosted a conference entitled To Be or Not to Be: The Self as Illusion. I found the discussion interesting as it introduced a point of view I don’t usually consider:

during cardiac arrest (we) know that the function of the brain stops; there's no blood flow in the brain. Within two seconds patients become unconscious, and the function of the cortex is gone, so there are no body reflexes, no pain reflexes; but also the abolition of brainstem activity is demonstrable, with the loss of the gag reflex and of the corneal reflex. Fixed and dilated pupils are found. The function of the respiratory center, located close to the brainstem, fails, resulting in apnea (no breathing). The clinical findings are that there's no function of the brain… the electrical activity in the cerebral cortex (but also in the deeper structures of the brain in animals) has been shown to be absent after 10–20 seconds (a flat-line EEG)…
I was raised as a physician and on the idea that consciousness was just a product of the function of the brain. As a cardiologist I was involved in many, many resuscitations. The moment I started to ask patients who had survived a cardiac arrest…if they had memories of the period of cardiac arrest, which is called clinical death… To my big surprise 12 out of 50 patients who had survived a cardiac arrest told me about an enhanced consciousness during this period of a supposedly nonfunctioning brain...In my view nonlocal or enhanced consciousness is received and not produced by the body.
Pim van Lommel, MD

Or, as Tippett restated the conclusion, “it’s not so much that the body produces consciousness, but rather that the body resides IN consciousness.” And this is what they discovered when the breathing stopped. The image of the breath stopping and consciousness continuing brings to mind the Taoist technique of primordial breathing during which the breath becomes increasingly more subtle, and may cease altogether. This can also happen during meditation and the feeling I’ve always experienced is that at this point breath is drawn not from air, but something much subtler - from prana or the life energy itself. At such moments you really feel beyond bodily confines.

I had out-of-body experiences myself as a young man, and in the beginning, they were extremely realistic and very convincing…They occurred in the context of very long ten-week meditation retreats. In the beginning I thought to myself, “Oh, boy, have you been so arrogant! All these stories about soul travel and astral bodies are literally true!” It was really shocking.
Now, I think they’re all complex hallucinations…
What gave me doubt about out-of-body experiences was that a friend, a professor of psychology asked me, “In an out-of-body state how do you move, say, from one point to another; when you’ve left your body and then you go to try to flip a light switch and it doesn't work and then you go to the window and try to fly out.” Initially, I was firmly against my friend's inquiries … And then I realized I don't walk during an out-of-body experience, instead I am in one place one moment and then in another place another moment, without any awareness of moving between the two places. So there are actually breaks or holes between memory points in terms of how movement is experienced in the out-of-body state. These breaks show us that out-of-body experiences are actually internal models the brain tries to create, and that these models have certain gaps because the brain creates them.

Thomas Metzinger, philosopher

The breaks and holes that Metzinger points out sound very much like Buddhist emptiness teachings on the arising and dissolution of any experience. The Buddhists conclude: there is no self or, at best, only an illusory self.

Yet too, this arising and dissolution reminds me of quantum physics’ story that discrete particles of material creation arise from the emptiness of the vacuum only to dissolve. Yet, we like to think that material reality is REAL - there is an objective reality existing “out there” outside the subjective nature of my mind.

I have been questioning what exactly is Real and what hallucination for several decades now. That’s why I call this blog, “Seeing for Myself.” I wanted my investigation to be experienced based. My Experience: real or illusion? How am I to rationalize experiences I have had, but would never have expected, given the scientific perspective of my upbringing? DO I need to go outside the paradigm?

Over the years my conclusions have swung dramatically. I had just about decided there is no such thing as a hallucination – all the “myths” are real, “all possibilities exist”… when the exact opposite: “it’s All an illusion,” could no longer be ignored. These days I am left straddling the fence. And I think this might be useful.

I revisit this issue again as I think about healing. How does healing really work? I mean nitty-gritty, rotting disease getting reversed. Mystics can proclaim “The world is illusion” as much as they want, but in the end, no one wants a brick dropped on their foot. The damage appears quite real. Sometimes it’s irreparable. And sometimes, the doctors have to hit “control, alt, delete” because observation doesn’t seem to jibe with pre-established fact.

But, if it is deeply true that reality springs into the mind in a discontinuous manner remarkably similar to material creation springing from the vacuum, then I think from time to time we ought to come across an example of the brick’s damage also presenting its self in discontinuous fashion, arising moment after moment from the gap in consciousness of self – and sometimes, changing just like that (snap the fingers) into another form called “healed”.

And so, I come to the story of Anita Moorjani, given 36 hours to live as her organs shut down from Hodgkins lymphoma. I don’t take this as a miracle or hallucination. I take it as mechanics of creation andmechanics of deep healing. Moorjani calls it, “Dying to be Me” which is great because yes, this is an issue ultimately rooted in the self, the true self and an illusory self. Curiously, she says that while on the other side she knew that if she chose to live the results of the blood tests would be changed to reflect that her organs weren’t in collapse. This is remarkably like the retroactive prayer and healing Joseph Rael described in House of Shattering Light.

...confusion exists because spiritual teachings point to something that doesn’t exist in the usual way. The nature of reality can’t be described or explained with words, and it can’t be experienced through the ordinary senses...
So we are left with a dilemma: It’s incomplete to say that there is no doer, it’s incomplete to say that everything is the doer, and it’s incomplete to say that I am the doer. It’s like a multiple choice test where all of the answers are wrong! Yet, what is it like to not have an answer? What’s it like to hold the question even when you’ve exhausted all of the possible answers?

Maybe it’s a way we can open ourselves to new forms of healing and new ways of being in the world.