What do you mean by “there is neither good nor bad”?
First of all, there is no “good” without “bad” and no “bad” without “good”. “Good” and “bad” are co-dependent concepts of reality. The “good” creates the “bad” and vice versa because only through their opposite can “good” or “bad” be defined and conceptualized.
Second, what we label “good” or “bad” is subjective, that is, not considered so by everyone. “Good” or “bad” are quite arbitrary concepts.
Third, “good” or “bad” depends on perspective. The universe is a completely interdependent organism that is always in balance (otherwise it would not be stable). Pushing here is like pulling there and pushing there is like pulling here. Hence, every “good” action has “bad” outcomes for something or somebody somewhere (and vice versa). There are no purely “good” or “bad” actions, ever. “No bad actions” does not mean that genocide or things like that are ok. Morals and ethics are “good” from a human perspective. But from the perspective of the rest of nature, it is “bad” news. The more people need to live on the planets resources, the more these finite resources will need to be exploited.
Where does “good” and “bad” come from?
Whenever we turn something unpleasant into a problem, we create the “bad”. So, fundamentally, the “bad” is the expression of our inability to deal with fear. It is something we humans create out of ignore-ance, not something that is inherently present in the universe.
How to get rid of desire?
First of all, realize that the desire to get rid of desire is still a desire. So, in that sense, you are trapped. You can’t do much about it, really.
Nevertheless, I suggest the following: think your desires through to the very end. I mean what if your desires became true? What if you became enlightened, immortal, famous, rich, the world’s savior, etc.? What would you do with it? What would you do when the whole world was saved? What would you do with enlightenment or celebrity status? Would you be happy ever after, “done”? Would you think “mission accomplished” and retire? Ask yourself honestly: how many times have you satisfied a desire and immediately replaced it with another one?
What I am suggesting is this: you are not actually interested in fulfilling or getting rid of your desires, you are interested in keep on looking for something that does not exist: the everlasting “goodie”. You see, even your spiritual seeking is just another facet of this game. The fascination with it arises because you dislike what is. You can’t stand it. You mistrust it. It reminds you of your unresolved issues, wounds and fears. It’s like a shadow hanging over you that you want to run away from. But because your shadow follows you everywhere you must keep going. You must be on the move always. That’s why you are doomed to be restless with no capacity to find rest in the ordinariness of the present moment. Basically, what I am saying is that you are stuck with desires because you are a coward. To try to get rid of desires is the cowards way of hiding from his own fears.
So then, to make the long story short: to get rid of desire, that is, to undermine it, all you need is to find the trust to allow yourself to be a vulnerable human being. It’s that simple. Let your heart be touched and it will provide you with unconditional gratitude for life.
How to get rid of fear?
By thinking you fears through to the very end you’ll notice they are irrational and based on separation. For example, the fear of death is the fear of going unconscious without ever regaining consciousness, like going to sleep without ever waking up. Would that be so horrible? As long as we are unconscious there is nobody to worry and nothing to worry about. And the first experience after being unconscious must be becoming conscious again. So, where’s the problem with death?
You see, (psychological) problems are mind-constructs. To get rid of them, opposition will not do. It will only reinforce the problematic nature of the problem. To get rid of a problem, you need to convince yourself that your problem has never been a problem in the first place, because it was illusory.
How to transcend thoughts? Controlling or observing them?
First of all, maybe you can ask yourself the question: what’s wrong with thoughts? As you will see if you try, doing something (e.g. managing/ controlling) or not doing something about thoughts (e.g. observing) gives them a separate and unique identity. It creates an illusory duality between “you” and the thoughts. So, whatever you do or not do to transcend thoughts, prevents thought-transcendence!
There is a solution, though. The solution is exactly the realization that there is no solution. If you want to not be bothered by thoughts, that is, if you want to transcend them, don’t mind them! You’ll see that your mind will become very quiet because most mental noise is a feedback-loop of judgmental thoughts about thoughts about thoughts, etc.
Trust the perfection of the universe which certainly has not created thoughts to torture or challenge us. Look around: has the universe ever made a mistake?
What’s the “meaning” of life?
The universe is inherently playful. It perpetually creates “the ten thousand things” as it joyfully vibrates (goes “on” and “off” continuously). It has no specific purpose other than to dance this dance.
We are the universe in ecstatic motion. So, our lives inherently serve no specific purpose either. And neither does the life of any other living organism. That doesn’t mean that life is meaningless per se. Flowers are meaningful to bees, for example. Everything plays its part in the great song.
Ask yourself: what would you do if you did not have any external or internal expectations to fulfill? You would get together with your friends and sing and dance and play. So, the meaning of life is to live, to vibrate and dance according to the beat of our heart, the universe. What could be more simple to understand?
To seek “meaning” is non other than an expression of (an imaginary) disconnection from one’s own being. It’s the old, old search for the elusive one “thing” that will makes us forever happy so that we will never be sad again. Can you see how this immature fantasy is nothing but an escape from the “down” parts of one’s existence? Can you see that this is the stuff Samsara is made of? Nirvana is not getting this “one” thing; it’s losing the itch to escape from oneself.
Why do you say life should be approached as play?
Life makes most sense when we play, that is, when we do something that does not need to serve a particular purpose. Playing is always a goal-unoriented activity.
However, because of our unconscious fear and mistrust in all things natural (especially our inner), our main motivation, our goal, in life is to (im-)prove, better or enhance ourselves (or any other variation of one-upmanship). This is obviously serious business and has nothing to do with play anymore. In that state of consciousness, the state of lack, we miss life completely because we are so focused on our goals that we won’t allow ourselves to “play” anymore. Goal-orientation suffocates creativity. This is what Jesus meant when he said “unless you become like little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”. And this unplayful seriousness will bug us our entire life since we can never ever reach our goal of happiness and peace as long as we are not deeply convinced that everything is fundamentally ok the way it is, which, obviously, includes first and foremost ourselves.
What is love?
Love is that which comes from a place beyond “right” and “wrong”. Hence, it is unconditional/ non-judgmental acceptance.
How to open the heart of compassion?
One thing about humans is that whenever we are afraid or even slightly suspicious of another person we are retreating far into our persona, our mask and fail to see a connection. This place inside our shells is a desperate and lonely place.
We usually need to see vulnerability in others to lose our fears, trust, come “out”, connect and start to care (that’s why looking at a baby or at cute animals is a big ego-slayer!). Compassion flows as we know that deep down, behind our masks everybody is as vulnerable a human being as we are. Thus, the key to our heart is acknowledging our own vulnerability.
End of part 4 (of 5)
Underneath the surface,
deep inside the dugout,
a place of low light,
but sheltered from pain,
lies the hell of commonplaceness,
the wasteland of self-deception and struggle.
Above the surface,
out in the open,
a place of wonder and awe,
where the sun equally shines on joy and pain,
lies the promised land of unknowing,
the kingdom of self-acceptance and peace.
surrender your armor,
drop your mask,
come out into the world,
as you were born,
and every butterfly,
will awaken your inner child.
Trust and re-enter the gate,
of pure consciousness.
What do you mean by trust and mistrust?
The definition of trust I like the most is the “readiness or willingness to be vulnerable and hurt”. Trust is not mere reliability. Nor is it faith or the belief that everything will turn out fine. It is the expression of genuine openness and thus it has a risk component in it, the risk to one’s integrity.
As I point out over and over again, our un-readiness to open up to the inner world is an expression of mistrust nourished by our fears of vulnerability. As we lose this fear, we gain trust in ourselves and are thus liberated from the continuous frustration of conscious and unconscious self-doubting, self-(im)proving and self-evaluating according to peer-group opinion. With this liberation we change from the mode of becoming into the mode of being. Or in other words, while before, the “journey” was deemed a mere necessity to reach the “goal”, the “goal” has now become the mere reason to go on a journey. “Now”, the on-going process, the journey, has become more important than “then”, the final destination.
What do you mean by “life is in the dream”. Aren’t we supposed to get out of it?
Our live’s “dramas” are ungrounded, illusory since they are based on the illusion of life and death. Nevertheless, they do set the stage for a magnificent play. Every captivating story needs drama and the world’s play is no different. Only that the actors on the world stage have forgotten that they are acting and that life is play. They live in a “dream” of good vs. bad, completely one with their role (yes, spiritual seeking is also a role!) afraid to lose and eager to win. Some will wake up to this “dream”, most won’t.
Now, is the not waking up a bad thing? No, it isn’t. Just as the “salt” in every play is the dramatic turn of events, the “juice” of life is provided by its ups and downs. That’s why most people don’t want to wake up. Even if they say so, they really don’t. They wan’t to keep going (at least a bit more) because they are thrilled by the question “will I make it?”. Isn’t the adventure to wake up, or trying to drop-out of the “drama” not itself just another chapter in the drama?
Now, a realized person does not drop-out of the play either. (S)he has awoken to the fact that (s)he is dreaming, that it’s all play and that (s)he, her self, is an act, a fake, a mask of the universe (the Latin word “persona” means mask). So, by virtue of this realization (s)he has become a lucid dreamer and does not mistake the “dream” for serious business. And that changes one’s view of the “dream”-state completely. It is now seen as an open invitation to explore and flirt with the joys and sorrows of human existence (that’s why in Buddhism a realized person, a so-called “Bodhisattva”, is sometimes described as a being who “joyfully participates in the sorrows of the world”). Only the actor who in the back of his mind knows that he is playing an act in a story (in which nothing can ever go “wrong” or made “right”) is free to wholeheartedly give himself to it and really enjoy his (fake) act. Only he is a “genuine fake”, as the great Alan Watts would put it.
Is indulging in the senses a hindrance to enlightenment?
A sensualist who is not also a mystic is all meat and, thus, superficial. But a mystic who is not also a sensualist is all bones and, thus, lifeless.
Can I “follow my bliss” to enlightenment?
I love Joseph Campbell, who popularized the slogan. He taught me many things. But he was not a mystic. He even said so himself. He never had a mystical experience. For me, his mantra “follow your bliss” leans too much towards changing one’s present life for a better life rather than changing one’s consciousness of one’s present life. And that’s a big difference. One says follow your passion and you’ll find fulfillment in life, the other says fulfillment is here now if you don’t object to life. So, to “follow one’s bliss” is the non-mystic way of finding bliss and peace. It is the way of those who believe they are separate and who unconsciously think they stand in competition with the universe from which they have to first wrench their share of bliss. It is for those who haven’t realized that “one’s bliss” does not have to be followed because it never parts.
Is nirvana never-ending bliss?
No, but never-ending peace and serenity. What’s the difference? Bliss is an experience. Peace and serenity is being in non-objection to whatever experience, bliss or piss.
What do you define as seeking and why does it defeat its purpose?
Seeking is doing something to get something as opposed to doing something just for the sake of doing it. In Hindu terminology seeking it is being “attached to the fruit of one’s actions” and in modern psychological language it’s called “extrinsic” motivation (as opposed to “intrinsic” motivation).
Being “extrinsically” motivated means to put more importance on the ends than the means. It is performance (ego!) oriented with a strong emphasize on reaching goal in the future. If we work for the money, power or fame or meditate to get enlightened, we are “extrinsically” motivated. We do whatever it takes now, even things we don’t actually like doing, to reach our goals one day. In short, our behavoir is externally controlled, or, in spiritual lingo: we look for happyness outside ourselves.
On the other hand, to be “intrinsically” motivated means to make the means ends in themselves (“the journey is the goal”). It is task/ activity oriented emphasizing the present moment. We work or meditate simply for its own sake, because we enjoy it, now. Our behavior generates from inside.
Every “intrinsic” motivation can be replaced by “extrinsic” motivation, though, once fear or desire gets involved (think of artists “selling their souls”). And that’s what’s happening to all of us to some extent. Socially conditioned values and goals, low self-esteem, fear or greed catapult us into a wasteland of commonplaceness because at some point we stopped doing what we liked for external motives.
So, back to the topic. The “extrinsically” motivated spiritual search to be in the present-moment is self-defeating, because it precisely denies what is sought. It’s seeking to stop seeking. Hence, the goal of the mystic way is to undermine extrinsic motivational urges so that we are freed to lead a live according to our genuine interests. This idea is sometimes summarized in the statement: THIS IS IT!
Why won’t I get it that I am IT?
You won’t get it because you are already IT. There is nothing to understand or get. Since you are IT, by trying to wake up to IT, you stay asleep. So, you need to dispel the persistent illusion that you are not IT. But you don’t want that really, because you like chasing the illusion that something “grand” could be realized. It gives you the permission to be disconnected with yourself, your feelings, emotions, your innate vulnerability.
I want enlightenment so bad, why can’t I get it?
Desiring (or not desiring) is expressive of objection to what is. Hence, to want enlightenment is to miss it. To not want enlightenment is to miss it, too. If you want to wake up, you will forever stay asleep, because enlightenment is simply to be in non-objection to what always already is.
How to be in the “now”?
It’s always now. When else could it be? Whatever we are experiencing right now, is what is now! Even if we wanted, we could never not be “now”. Why would you want to go where you already are? That doesn’t make sense at all.
But somehow this seems very hard to grasp. Why? Because we don’t want the “now” unconditionally, we want the blissful, happy variation of it. And we call that the “now”.
The tragic-comic predicament of mankind is that we seek what we already always have because pretending we haven’t found it yet gives us the pretext to distract ourselves from the more difficult variations of reality. In that sense, the whole spiritual quest is just another way (usually once we have exhausted most other ways) to fool ourselves into thinking that we are “on track” to hit the ultimate jackpot while it actually serves the purpose to remain in cozy distance to what is going on right now.
Even in the earnest spiritual seeking, what we ultimately still secretly want is always staying “up” without ever going “down”. That’s what’s keeping us trapped in Samsara, no matter how disciplined or piously we practice.
Why can’t we see that the reason we create all sorts of ideas about how to “access” the present-moment, is to avoid being unconditionally touched by it? What are we afraid of? I think we are afraid that reality may hurt us, that it may remind us of our vulnerable side, of our mortality. So, the self-help, self-improvement and new age section in bookstores is where fearful people like us find their excuses to keep on seeking that which they wish to ignore through the seeking: their tender and vulnerable heart. It’s a very cunning mechanism. Let’s face it: seeking is cowardice in action, it’s the way of avoidance.
Now then, there are two ways to come to rest in the present moment. We could either try and find a way to always do things we enjoy doing. For most of us, though, this is not realistic. And even “bliss followers” bounce back and forth between bliss-states and piss-states, probably even more so than the John Doe’s amongst us. The other option is to realize the futility of escaping from what is by seeing that the universe is our very own nature and can’t be escaped from, that there is nowhere to go and that there is nothing to achieve ever because life has no specific purpose. This undermines our extrinsically motivated urge to always “get somewhere” (else) in life and to perpetually keep avoiding ourselves. Once we stop living for the sake of ignoring our fragility because we are afraid, we start living life for its own sake because its too great a thing to miss out.
Will I get enlightened by only thinking positively?
It is true that the quality of life depends on the quality of one’s thoughts. However, if you hold unconscious fears you will inevitably have fearful “negative” thoughts. Trying to override these thoughts with affirmative statements creates struggle, self-condemnation and hypocrisy. Let your thoughts alone. They come and go. There’s nothing wrong with them.
Can I “manifest” my wishes mentally?
Maybe, I don’t know. I doubt it, though.
What’s more interesting, though, is this: why would you want your wishes to be fulfilled anyway? To me that shows one thing: you feel separate and you are afraid (because desires and fears are co-dependent, they are each others symptoms). So what I am saying is that if you weren’t afraid you wouldn’t have a catalogue of wishes to manifest.
End of Part 3
Yesterday I heard a song on the radio that for some reason inspired me to write an alternative text for (see video of the original song below). I figured out the chords in case you want to try it on your guitar. Hope you like it.
Next time Q&A Part III.
You only know peace when you let life flow
Only be here wanting nowhere to go
Only know real love when trust is your own
You only seek the high when you reject the low
Only feel bad thinking you need to grow
Only miss life if you won’t let it go
But you can let it go.
You can come home oooooooooome hoooooooooooome