Tag Archives: Spiritual Awakening

Am I in control of my thoughts?

There is no difference in being aware of a tree and being aware of a thought.

So why is it so easy to align my identity with the contents of a thought and not the condition of the tree? The tree could be beautiful or ugly, tall or short, alive or dead, sturdy or weak, and it does not affect the “I” in any way.

A thought on the other hand can be kind or harsh, pure or impure, moral or immoral, and the “I” is always drastically affected. We align our identity with the thought and then cast judgment upon it. This judgment will either make us want to hold on to that thought or run far away from it as fast as we can. This conditioned reflex to become one with the thought is based solely upon the following statement.

“I am in control of my thoughts”

In the pursuit of our own bliss it now becomes imperative to either prove or disprove this statement above. In beginning this investigation the first and most obvious question is this: Who is this “I”?

If we are going to know the “I” we must first understand our own capacity to ‘know’. Knowledge in the conventional sense is perception analyzed with thought to create concepts. The bottleneck in this process is perception itself. What can not be perceived can not be turned into a thought, and thus not turned into a concept.

Digging deep into the act of perception we can see that there are actually three things required: the perceived, perception, and the perceiver. In the example of the tree we can understand that the tree is the perceived, eyesight is the perception, and then what is the perceiver? My first instinct is to say that it is the brain.

But is my brain also perceived? I can’t see my own brain, though I suppose I could with some major surgery and a mirror. I could also touch it through similar means. So then, can the brain be both the perceiver AND the perceived? I mean, it is the brain that translates what has been perceived through eyesight into an image.

So the brain must be a part of perception and NOT the perceiver.

Who is this damned perceiver then? The celebrated YouTube guru Mooji knowingly points seekers by asking “Can the perceiver be perceived?”. Nisargadatta Maharaj says “The very act of perceiving shows that you are not what you perceive.” Initially this leaves us with a most unsatisfying conclusion. If I can not perceive the “I”, then I can never truly know who I am.

Getting back to the original statement we are examining, if I can never know the “I” then it would be nonsensical to assume that this “I” is in control of my thoughts. In fact in not knowing the “I” it is meaningless to lay claim to “my” thoughts at all.

That leaves us with “control”. Can thoughts be controlled? Do you know the next thought that is going to pop into your mind? It seems that we often get the thoughts we want the least. Through resisting a thought, that for all intents and purposes appeared randomly in your consciousness, we empower it. Continual resistance trains your brain to think your most undesirable thoughts at a most distressing frequency. It is only when you give up this control unequivocally that you release it.

A resisted thought is like a prisoner in our brain.

Eckhart Tolle rhetorically asks “What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is?” Such a thought is being denied it’s own existence and therefore can not run it’s course into nothingness. It is the nature of things to come and go.

The idea of control is problematic on many levels. We can’t define that “I” who is doing the controlling; the thoughts that I want to control can’t even be “my” thoughts without a known “I”; and any attempts to control thinking seems to have a substantial negative effect.

Lets modify the primary sentence in question. Lets toss out the first word “I”, and along with it the last two “my thoughts” as we know them to be either false or unknowable. The middle phrase “in control of” seems to be rife with issues so lets drop it as well. That leaves us with just one word, “Am”. Seeing a similarity to ‘Amen’ I performed a quick etymology check revealing it’s intended meaning as “so be it” or “truth”.

Let us conclude with the only truth to be found in our initial sentence; Am. There is an obvious temptation to use the phrase “I Am” which is extremely popular in spiritual texts and discussions. But in this context I see “I” and “Am” as two words carrying the same meaning. There is no “I” apart from being, and no being apart from “I”. Perhaps the best way to express this is to write it: “I, Am”.

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I Am Not, Yet There Is

As it becomes clear that this body is void of any personal identity, the enigma of existence unravels.  What is left is an alarming emptiness. An impersonal organic structure of perception exists but not in service of an identity.

And as the identity vanishes, so does the haze through which I had previously seen the world. A remarkable clarity is born as the heavy emotions and burden of re-activity are lifted from my heart.

After meditating on this discovery I stood up from my trusty park bench, and somehow, I felt taller. But there was also fear of these new sensations. There is an obvious temptation to return to the old ego. To return to that familiar stomping ground. But this time I’ve come too far.

Walking back to work I feel as if I am floating. I repeat several times to myself “I am not, yet there is”. It is an accurate reflection of how I am feeling. That the long accepted paradigm of my existence is changing. I used to be a person in the world. Now there is just the world.

It is a pure awareness of my environment. I call it pure because there is no false “I” that I am trying to incorporate into it. I am not evaluating the goodness or badness of the events around me. There is simply no baseline against which they could be measured.

The Now becomes a given. Without a personality to make life conditional, things just are as they are. Thinking has not stopped, but I am not energizing it with excessive attention. There is an ease which carries me back to my desk.

It is not a beautiful day here by any means. It is rainy, windy and an unseasonable humidity is in the air keeping it slightly warmer than normal. It is a day that could have easily lowered my mood, but I am quite content. There is an ineffable beauty to it. Not so much from an aesthetic perspective, but in the energy of it. It is the energy of life simply living itself.

True Strength And Depression

“Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you’ve been strong for too long.”

This is one of the most popular quotes on depression but it has me wondering, what does it really mean to be strong?

Culturally, strength is often associated with size, power, and aggression. But the concept of being strong in the face of depression has nothing to do with any of those. It is entirely an internal battle. One voice in your head says you’re worthless, and the other says you’re awesome. I would say that many people view strength here as carrying on with daily living even as the negative voice starts to completely drown out the positive.

Another purpose of this quote is to address the idea that people who are much less affected by adversity are much stronger than those who respond with anxiety and fear. The truth is that there are internal factors at play in every individual that no one can really understand. If that apparent strong individual had to listen to a persistent internal negative voice for 15 years they probably would not appear so resilient. But does that mean strength is the absence of negative self talk?

Perhaps, those that appear strong have just never been forced to discover the true depth of their strength.

So then what exactly is the depth of true strength? It can not be that unending desire to reinforce the positive in opposition to all of the negative. Yes it may work for a while but it seems like so much effort, especially for the one who is already in a weakened state. But in the realm of duality there is one very relevant, eternal truth at play. The idea of good creates the idea of bad, right creates wrong, happiness creates sadness. If you want to get rid of the negative voice forever, you also need to lose the positive voice.

This does not in any way mean giving up. But it is the beginning of a spiritual transformation. It is the realization that whatever your mind says is, for lack of a better word, horseshit. But you are not meant to stop your mind from thinking. You are simply meant to stop giving it authority.

When I observe the most spiritually transformed individuals on the planet they appear to be immune to the debilitating effects of depression, anxiety, & fear. Or in many cases it was the intolerable suffering from these conditions that created their transformation. And they didn’t achieve this state through any kind of superior strength. They simply took a step back from the fight and saw it all as just a play of the mind.

Could it be true that being strong actually causes depression?

If your strength response to a negative thought, is a more powerful positive thought, then this quickly turns into a runaway train of a stronger negative thought. So the next time someone tells you to stay strong in the face of suffering, smile at the beauty of their intent but know in your heart that strength is not the way. Instead stay quietly present in your belief that whatever your mind says has no authority over the definition of who you truly are. Your true strength appears when you offer no resistance to any thought that your mind creates.

There is no “I” in Self

For many years I had been attempting to follow the teachings of several spiritual gurus and, honestly speaking, I had experienced very limited progress. The teachings are similar throughout the spiritual realm and they primarily focus on these approaches:

  • Presence
  • Acceptance
  • Surrender
  • Stillness

I had attempted to practice each one of these many times. I had practiced presence by focusing on my senses and attempting not to interpret what I perceive. I had practiced acceptance by trying not to resist my current situation no matter what it may be at the time. I had practiced surrender through utter frustration by lack of progress and to a certain degree giving up. And I had practiced stillness through meditation and daily long walks in a local park.

But yet I wasn’t making the kind of progress that I wanted. I was most definitely going through a healing process but there were still plenty of moments of suffering. Then I noticed one major flaw in how I had practiced those spiritual techniques.

They were all practiced from the place of “I”

I cannot be present. I cannot accept. I cannot surrender. I cannot be still. It is the “I” that subsides in order for any of the above to genuinely occur.

“I” is a concept. It is a vast collection of thoughts, often contradictory, that one accesses relentlessly in maintaining their false identity. Each one of the approaches above demands an absence of thought. No “I” can coexist within them. Instead, the techniques all act as gateways from the “I” to the real self.

What they offer to the seeker is a taste of the true self. A hint of truth. Evidence that there is a self that exists beyond that limited “I”. If for only a moment you experience true presence, acceptance, surrender, or stillness you will see for the first time a separation from the “I”. You will step back from the life you have always known and become it’s witness. If only for a moment. And you will have awakened.

Water

“Water has no shape, its nature is to flow. If you put it into a vase it will take the shape of the vase. In this cup, it has assumed the shape of the cup. If poured into my cupped hands it will take the shape of the hands. But water has no shape. It is the same with the consciousness, which is subtler than water. It similarly has no form, but it assumes the form of whatever concept it is poured into or identifies with, but it will never be the form.
It remains ever its formless nature.”

-Mooji

Poem by Adyashanti

If you prefer smoke over fire
then get up now and leave.
For I do not intend to perfume
your mind’s clothing
with more sooty knowledge.

No, I have something else in mind.
Today I hold a flame in my left hand
and a sword in my right.
There will be no damage control today.

For God is in a mood
to plunder your riches and
fling you nakedly
into such breathtaking poverty
that all that will be left of you
will be a tendency to shine.

So don’t just sit around this flame
choking on your mind.
For this is no campfire song
to mindlessly mantra yourself to sleep with.

Jump now into the space
between thoughts
and exit this dream
before I burn the damn place down.