I like to compare our consciousness to a TV set. As kids our TV’s are naturally tuned to be able to flexibly switch back and forth between black-and-white and color programs. As we grow older glimpses of color TV become rarer and seem to be connected to “events” such as falling in love, achieving goals, having mystical experiences or blowing our minds with sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll. As we have a preference for the richer and more stimulating color television experience and since, at some point, we become convinced that switching from black-and-white to color TV can be brought about through efforts and actions, we develop an addiction to try to tune and tweak our TV sets to experience the world in color as much and as long as possible.
Addictions usually operate on a sub-conscious level beyond our realm of control. The same applies to our addiction for color television; it is unconscious and has wide reaching implications on how we live our lives. The addictive seeking for color is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that we don’t and, in fact, can’t really question it as long as it remains unconscious.
What’s wrong with seeking happiness?
There is nothing wrong with it per se. We all want to be happy. It’s our birthright. Unfortunately, though, our unconscious addiction to the seeking makes us ignorant about the fact that the very effort to tweak and tune our TV set is what obstructs color from naturally appearing and disappearing in our experience. The reason there is color when our efforts are fruitful is merely due to the fact that once we get what we want, the effort to manipulate the TV set stops for a moment, the accumulated tension of seeking has a chance to be released and the TV screen is flooded with supressed color. Instead of being nurtured by the natural blessings of color TV every now and then, we deny ourselves the nourishment for extended periods of time (sometimes for a very long time!) because, due to our addiction, we make it dependent on a triggering “event”.
The first step in any recovery from addiction is to make it conscious. All kinds of practices to develop inner awareness such as mindfulness practices are very helpful in that regard. Only when we know we have an addiction problem, can we start working on it. We need to become aware of when and how our addictive seeking gets triggered and acknowledge that it is a psychological pattern we have very little control over.
The second step is to temporarily get out of an environment that re-enforces the addiction, e.g. change one’s social environment, going on a prolonged journey or retreating into solitude.
The third step is to take enough time to let the addiction run its course before re-engaging in situations that trigger the seeking.
The classic form of rehab from addictive “TV tweaking” in all spiritual traditions is to start a formal spiritual practice, study the scriptures, going on retreats/ pilgrimages and gather with like-minded people.
While gradual rehab is very effective, there is an even more effective way of recovery, which is, “seeing through” the addiction. As opposed to making the addiction an adversary to be eradicated, one can also come to the realization that the addiction feeds on the belief of lack and deficiency. Fundamentally, any addiction is just a very convincing story we unconsciously believe in and re-enact over and over again.
In the Eastern traditions people in rehab from seeking are told that the self is either non-existent or omni-existent, both pointing to a non-duality between the inner and outer realities. All is One and, thus, no-thing exists. An awakening to this deeply mystical dimension has the power to cut through the story-telling mind, eliminating the belief in an inherent lack in what is (experienced) in any given moment. The awakening is the revelation of the unconditioned and uncaused abundance of “color” in the Now (the danger, again, is that an awakening experience can be misunderstood as an “achievement” and become a new focus of addiction).
Whenever we get caught in the mind-made story of deficiency, we will automatically relapse into addictive “TV tweaking”. Hence, although the awakening realization may be sudden it can take quite some time until it is truly understood and stabilized enough.
The Message of Awakening
What we all want, happiness, can neither be achieved nor lost. All seeking for happiness, ultimately, is futile, a waste of energy. It comes and goes on its own accord. We can never produce it but only prevent it from occuring.
There will always be a next low after the latest high. There will always be a next high after the latest low. Don’t fall for the ever-blissful “Guru” but rejoice in being truly human.
Don’t reject unpleasant or ordinary experiences. Don’t grasp pleasurable ones. Pleasurable or unpleasurable, remember that they are of single essence. Nothing is ever lacking.
“People suffer because they can’t rest in ordinariness.”
This entry is going to be short and simple. A few hints, that’s all.
As we are going through our lives we often refer to “our” body, “our” minds, “our” thoughts, “our” emotions, “our” memories, “our” sensations, “our” ego’s etc. As opposed to other people talking about non-duality or spirituality I love possessive pronouns like “my” or “mine”. I think they are a great doorway to liberation, little teachers in disguise so to speak, since they actually point right to the core of the most fascinating question of all: who is this “I” the pronouns “my” or “mine” are referring to?
Whenever we say “my”, we unconsciously objectify and separate some-thing from its immediate environment. An object that can be attributed to an “I” cannot be the “I” itself because it stands somehow apart from it. Or in other words, it is “had” by the “I”, but not itself a genuine feature of the “I”. Hence, when we say “my” body, we essentially disqualify the body from being our essential nature. Same with thought, mind, emotions, experiences etc. Unfortunately, instead of reflecting about the ultimate logic of our claiming of objects, we (unconsciously) identify with them. Once we gain enough awareness of them, though, e.g. through contemplative practices, we acquire a discriminating faculty to negate and disidentify from them.
By starting the process of knowing what we are not, we prepare ourselves for a showdown with our true Self. If we are not our bodies, minds, egos, thoughts, emotions, memories and experiences, what are we? We are that which can never be negated, that which is the eternal subject to all phenomenal objects: the bare sense of “I am” aka (pure) consciousness. All we always know for certain is that we are. And that’s essentially all we are. Simple.
All objects ultimately depend on the subject, the power of consciousness. The phenomenal world appears in and through consciousness. No consciousness, no world! Since it is forever the subject, consciousness, our essential nature, can not be objectified and known, it can only be intuitively realized as the foundation and source of reality. Just as an eye, the source of seeing, cannot see itself, whatever can be known is never consciousness but merely the content of it. All is content of consciousness.
In our dreams at night it is consciousness within and through which our dreams appear. The same applies for the waking state. Therefore, there is no way of knowing whether our waking state is just another dream or not. Neuroscience and physics do suggest that the world as we know it is in fact a virtual reality. Colors, for example, are but the perception of different wavelengths of light. In that sense the world is unreal, an illusion. Thus, in Hindu mythology we are said to be dream characters simultaneously dreaming the universal dream spun by the one dreaming faculty, which is consciousness, the creative principle of our world. All, including our selves, is One big dream of consciousness.
Since, however, this dream-world is of “divine” origin and the only world we can possibly inhabit, there is no reason to reject it. It is just the way it was “designed” to be. Absolutely flawless. All is but a perfect manifestations of the creative play of consciousness.
To stretch the metaphor a bit further, “awakening” does not point to waking up from the dream but within it. Just as within our dreams at night we can “wake up”, become aware of being in a dream and change the course of action (what is called lucid dreaming), we can “wake up”, become aware of the waking dream and live more freely (lucid living).
Living (lucidly) that way not only means to have realized that all is fine but that the self is a dream-character which can’t die because it had never actually been born. This liberating insight is the start for a whole new venture into the adventure that is life.
Enjoy the ride!
“Not what the eye sees, but that which makes the eye see, that is the Spirit.”