Question & Answer (3)

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

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7 Comments on “Question & Answer (3)”

  1. Bravo! These may be your “best” yet. Clear, to the point, and profoundly palatable. Thanks for sharing them. Sweet mental candies. I realize I only say this because they thoroughly fit my present paradigm of thought, but….I enjoy that. Peace.

  2. Beautifully expressed as usual. But I have trouble with this… “But a mystic who is not also a sensualist is all bones and, thus, lifeless”
    I don’t agree that you have to be a sensualist to experience a full life. In fact indulging the senses EXCLUDES an experience of Reality as I See it because you cannot simultaneously keep the veil up and down at the same time. As they say, to be a mystic is to be “in the world but not of it”
    Perhaps we are saying the same thing?

    • Thank you for your comment.
      I like Alan Watts’ rephrasing of “in this world but not of it”. He calls it to be a “genuine fake” and likens it to great acting. Any great actor can simultaneously have the “veil up and down” (your words). It is actually THE skill to have as an actor. Great acting is giving oneself wholeheartedly to the role, become one with it, but never fall apart or panic, because in the back of one’s mind it is ultimately known that the role is not who one really is, and that what happens on stage is not serious business.
      Now translate this into our lives. We are not “we” but IT. At the same time we can’t help but be “we”, we can’t help but be “fakes” (masks of IT). So, this whole thing called life is inherently playful. It’s a big act. We are all just acting to be “us”! As we awaken to this, as we become aware of our masks, the plot and the stage, we look around and see life in a different light. We can’t take it too seriously anymore. So, the question then arises, how to get the most out of the experience? The answer is by giving it a wholehearted go as a “genuine” human (“fake”) with all its strenghts and weaknesses, ups and downs, by getting fully soaked up in life and by joyously participating in the sorrows of the world (which exactly is the definition of a Boddhisattva!). After all, there is nothing to lose but a great show to miss.

  3. Awake says:

    Great post. I really resonated with the “Seeking is doing something to get something as opposed to doing something just for the sake of doing it.” And I’ve noticed how much joy I’ve been missing out on by being extrinsically motivated – its very subtle – your post helped me to identify what I’ve been doing. I recognized this especially recently when I was talking to some people and I was looking to them for approval as I was talking and then as I was watching their reactions I would change the things I was saying or the way I was saying them instead of just expressing myself for the joy of the expression itself. There is so much more natural enjoyment in intrinsically motivated actions than in the extrinsic ones. This was a very important pointer for me, thanks for these questions and answers, nice and clarifying.


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