Between Heaven and Hell

For me everything that re-aligns us with the bliss of being in the “Now” (sat-chit-ananda) is a form of Yoga. I’ve been writing in this blog about Yoga and in particular about the intellectual type of Yoga called Jnana Yoga. Obviously, there are other forms of “spiritual” and non-spiritual Yoga. There are the “artistic” Yogi’s who are playing with their bodies, their voices, with instruments, words, colors, material, or with other people to unite with the flow of the present-moment. And there are the mystics who accomplish the same by contemplating on the divine.

While the artistic Yogi’s invariably seek to spend as much time as possible performing and developing their craft, mystical Yogi’s try to take out as much time in their lives for contemplation. Unless mystics become monastics and artists are being paid appropriately for their art to make a living, all Yogi’s have to pursue money-earning activities that are in some sort of time-conflict to their Yoga.

I want to posit here, that this “conflict” is a good thing. In fact, it is an integral part of our Yoga.
Let me explain.

Let’s assume we could pursue our Yoga all the time and be in bliss permanently. Because that’s what we ultimate aim for, right? Would we really want it? I say no, we actually don’t. If we were to experience perpetual bliss, after some time we would forget what the absence of bliss felt like. Bliss would become ordinary and flat. We would soon enough long for some variation and seek out for thrill, for contrast. Have you ever noticed that if a game becomes too predictable, e.g. if we are always winning, we start to cheat or take on unnecessary risks to spice it up a bit? For this reason the most harmonious relationships never really work and even the most cunning criminals eventually get arrested. To experience bliss, we are dependent on experiencing piss from time to time. Heaven is a terribly boring place “where all the interesting people are missing” (Nietzsche) and deep down we know its true, don’t we?

Why, then, do we pretend to seek perpetual bliss? Because trying to achieve the impossible is how we keep ourselves in the game of oscillating between peaceful heaven and nerve-wracking hell. That’s how we get the most intense experience out of life. Without the contrast of opposites, we wouldn’t get any experience, and no life. We would end up as zombies. It is, thus, supremely ironic that, ultimately, we bliss-followers, worldly or spiritual, play the game we actually always wanted to play. A game that works for us exactly because we keep on trying to resolve it while its rules do not allow for resolution. And because we thought we wouldn’t take the game seriously enough if we knew it was a game, we had us forget that it was a game.

You might now say that this perspective on life is rather sadistic. After all, the rules of getting the most experience out of life imply that we could never really settle for anything and that suffering would be a necessary part.
On the other hand, though, suffering inherently provides the foundation for bliss and gratitude, and settling means flatness of life. One cannot enjoy winning without the possibility of ever losing. Don’t we love dramas and thrillers and pay money to read or watch them? Isn’t life without the zest of living the most sadistic game to live by?

No matter how our game turns out, though, we eventually die, and as we do, we realize it was all a dream. The dream then gets forgotten and the game starts again. Redemption is for certain.
Some people “die” before their physical death and wake up from the dream in midst of the game. It’s not that an awakened person drops out of the game. We cannot not play if we want to live. But an awakened person loses all hesitation to play. The game is seen through, accepted and ultimately revered as of perfect design. In this manner the awakened transcends the seriousness of the game and enjoys the ride going “up” and does not despair going “down”.

Nothing changes after an awakening other than we now know that we want what we get. We don’t need to pretend anymore that we don’t want the downers. We know that there will never be any settling, any final stage, perpetual XYZ, and that’s how it is supposed to be. This is it! Instead of unconsciously forcing the game with our struggling or obstruct it with our stubborn resisting, we can now consciously relax and be unperturbed as it unfolds.

As stated all over this blog, enlightenment can be seen as a surrendering into the interplay of Yin and Yang. It is not the formula for ever-lasting bliss and serenity but for a generally fuller, more intense experience of life which depends on both ends of the spectrum. When we open up to whatever “is” we feel more of everything: more pain and more gain. And as surrendering deepens, the juiciness and richness of life increases.

The more bliss we want to experience, the more pain we have to allow ourselves to feel. As we keep the sadness out, we keep the joy out. Every lower low increases the potential for higher high. That’s why when we let go of everything, we have a whole world to win.


“Possessions make you rich? I don’t have this type of richness. My richness is life.”
~Bob Marley



Short Reflections (2): On Wasting Time

I am back from a very long walk with lots of interesting observations. Here’s one of them. Many people these days are very impatient because they constantly seem to be “losing” or “wasting” time everywhere. Steering one’s ship around the whirlpools of time drainers like traffic jams, conference calls, tax filings, etc. and to “save” time has become a fetish of our age.

If we look at it more closely, the very idea of “wasting” time hinges on two premises:
a) the notion that there is a limited amount of time, and
b) the notion that there is somewhere to get to, or something to achieve within this limited time-frame.

I’ve written about the illusion of time before (here), so in this post I want to focus on the second aspect.

We all know too well that the game our Western societies are founded upon is based on the importance of “doing” and “becoming”. Before we pursue something we are conditioned to ask ourselves: “what do I get out of it?”, and make sure it serves a purpose. Implicit in this way of evaluating our actions is the belief that there is always something to improve, that it is never good enough as it is. In that logic, doing something that serves no purpose means missing out on the opportunity to create a better future and so sustaining the status quo is considered a waste of time. Not making progress is often stigmatized as failure, laziness or anti-social behavior. Thus, when we “waste” time, we usually feel frustrated or guilty.

The way we are taught to think about life in Western societies is that the future always promises something that the present does not yet provide. Things could always be better. Constantly living for the future, though, means never truly living in the present. And that way, we trade our whole lives for a future that never arrives because it can never be settled into.

How to be more present in the present has been a topic of philosophical discussion and debate for millennia. One of the highest attainments in Hindu philosophy is non-attachment or renunciation of the fruits of one’s actions, that is, acting without a particular notion of purpose to gain merit in the future. All spiritual methods of the East ultimate aim at entering this “state”. For example, Zen can be understood as the art of acting just for the sake of acting. Accordingly, the Zen method is meditation which, in its strictest sense, is the one single activity serving no purpose whatsoever. In Zen meditation one just sits: not to get anywhere or achieve anything but just to sit. Because of our “doing-to-get” mentality, though, it is one of the most challenging tasks we could ever take up. Boredom, guilt, restlessness, meaninglessness are some of the symptoms of our conditioning that will come up and which need to be overcome to make friends with what is and to live in the present.
Other methods, like Rinzai Zen or Advaita Vedanta, try to induce experiential realizations of the infinite and endless ground of existence. Such insight not only undermines the notion of time, collapsing the future with the “Now”, but it also leads one to conclude that there is nothing to get or nowhere to get to in the future that would not always be here now already.

To live truly it is important to realize that any possible future point in time will be the same “Now” when it finally arrives. Our cultural assumption of creating a better future is fundamentally flawed. To make our days brighter we don’t need to change the world or ourselves but our internal relationship with the world and ourselves, that is, we need to change the way we “see” things. This is the meaning of “true happiness comes from within”.

In that sense, the royal road to a fulfilling life is paved with unconditional acceptance, of ourselves and of the world as it is. When we say yes unconditionally the rat race of seeking happiness elsewhere stops instantaneously and we settle into the present. Then we will realize the “dirty” little secret of our social game that the only way to waste time in life is to think that we could ever waste time.

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat.”
~Lily Tomlin


What Is This All About?

I have just created an “About”-page for this blog. Check it out!
It’s quite a long article. Hope you find it helpful nevertheless.

I am going to be on holidays for two weeks now.
Looking forward to re-connect when I am back.



Yet Another Poem

Become still and receptive,
Give in,
And the gates to the Beloved open.
Hear the voice whispering softly:
“Come, come. You need not worry.”

Into this place beyond birth and death,
Fear does not fit,
And desire does not reach.
If it wasn’t for the magnificience of life,
I would succumb to the call with delight.

That I now know for sure:
Our redemption is certain.
Dying is not what it seems to be,
Neither is living.
Everyone will see this one day.

We are alive,
without ever been born,
without ever not been alive.
The wheel spins forever.
Where could we go?

The abyss we fear,
Is our womb.
Birth is the beginning of time
And space.
Death is the end of this illusion.

Become still and receptive,
Give in,
And when the gates open,
There will be nothing
You won’t be able to know.