Question & Answer (1)

The next few posts will be Q&A’s that I have compiled over the last year writing this blog. The questions start of basic and broad and get more and more specific.
Hope you enjoy the dialogue. Further questions welcome (to: truthlesstruth[at]gmail.com).

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Why do we feel separated, alienated from our environment?
Whenever our attention is focused on our experiences (thoughts, feelings, sense impressions) there arises the illusion of an experiencer, a separate agent. The experiencer is nothing but an echo of experience itself, an experience of experience (or a self-experience). With this separate agent arises fear and a feeling of alienation. Whenever our attention comes to rest on experiencing itself (which is the natural state), this illusion vanishes and we feel at ease.
Our attention gets focused on experiences when we grasp or reject them (which happens automatically in accord with our unconscious fears and desires). When we are in a complete affirmative mind state, judging is transcended, the “experiencer” collapses for a while and we seem to flow along with life and feel “one” with it.
It is important to realize that this “flow” is always there. It’s not something we need to first align ourselves with. Everything, including our fears, our confusions, our restlessness, the boredom and our anxieties are part of it too. Mostly, though, we reject these unpleasant sensations and get caught up in the illusion of separation. In this rejection mode, the (illusory) “experiencer” goes about trying to hide from these aspects of the “flow”, push them away or channel them. However, this is an impossible task, because the “experiencer” has no control over the “flow” whatsoever. We simply cannot decide to feel, think or sense this way or that way or not at all. All such futile pursuits ever accomplish is exhaustion, depression or repression.
The only way to stop anything from moving that we have no control over is by moving with it at the same pace. Or in other words, by non-objecting to what is (already g(fl)o(w)ing on) we keep on flowing with life and find our stillness in motion.

Why do we object to reality?
As we feel separate from the universe, we live in unconscious existential angst. This angst is the driving force of Samsara, the endless, frustrating struggle to fight with or to flight from what is. Our fears make us continuously seek either control or distraction, because truly resting in the present moment would mean coming face to face with our unconscious fears. How long can you be all by yourself before you get the itch to “do” something to distract yourself from yourself or to try to become more than you are?

How to realize our unity with the universe?
Actually, our non-separation with the universe is the most obvious fact. Read any science book and you’ll get the point. However, since in our aculturisation process we were conditioned to fear and mistrust our inner selves and our environment, we are under the spell of illusory separateness from the universe within and without.
Any attempt to unify ourselves will perpetuate the illusion of a separate entity that seeks unification. So, to realize our unity is to see through our illusion of separation. The only way to do that is to convince ourselves that our fears are fundamentally ungrounded.
My advice is this: spend some time alone into nature (e.g. a cave, a monastery, etc.) try out psychedelics (in a beneficial setting, with professional guidance, respect and care!), or, alternatively, seek so hard to unify yourself with the universe (yourself!) until you get the point that “you are riding on a horse asking where the horse is!” (~Ajahn Chah).

Will I ever be able to see through my illusion of separateness?
No, not by any effort from your side. It’s an illusion to ever be able get out of an illusion, because you can never get out from what does not exist in the first place. You were there from the beginning. You are never not IT.

Is spiritual practice relevant?
All goal-oriented practices are ways to try to outsmart the way things are. So, they are inherently non-affirmative to what is and, thus, increase the illusion of separation. It’s like wearing a CIA-shirt when going on a undercover mission. It defeats its own purpose. But spiritual practices do it so consistently that the practitioner may eventually burst into a liberating awakening experience.
Practice is relevant as long as we are under the illusion of separateness. Once we “know”, practice becomes irrelevant (but not necessarily futile, because one could still go on practicing for the sheer enjoyment of practicing).

What is liberation?
Liberation is granting yourself the freedom to allow yourself every experience genuinely, to respect and non-object to it. Liberation is something you give to yourself! It’s the freedom to be ashamed, to be a fool, to be embarrassed, to be angry, to feel sad, etc. By not minding you re-align with the universe and pacify the heart and mind. Or in other words, a liberated being lives completely autonomous, free from social conditioning of “good” vs. “bad”.
So, liberation is not about freeing oneself ideologically or physically from social conventions, but about gaining the ability to move within one’s social sphere without getting “hung-up” on it.

Wouldn’t civilisation fall apart if we all acted genuinely without a control feature?
I think its the other way around. I think civilization is falling apart, because of too much civilization. As we are trained to not attend properly to our emotions, feelings and urges we not only develop the dangerous illusion of a separate self but also act them out in harmful ways. Think of priests molesting children in the name of God, or the general violence against our natural habitat, mother earth.
Our cultures and societies in general deeply mistrust our innermost being. Therefore, it emphasizes the need to control it. But go, get lost in nature and ask yourself this question: has the universe ever produced a mistake? Has there ever been a “wrong” snowflake or a weird constellation of stars? All is happening perfectly coordinated and orchestrated by itself. Why not trust the universe’s intelligence? Or ask yourself the following question: if you can’t trust the universe, the fore- and background of all there is, whom could you trust? You couldn’t trust anybody, not even yourself! So you would have to come up with checks and controls and because you couldn’t trust the checker and controller either you would have to come up with a check for the checks and a control for the controllers, etc. As a consequence, you would never find peace, you would never be at ease. So then, tell me what reasonable option do we have other than to take the risk to trust the universe?

How to quiet the mind?
The desire to quiet the mind is a rejection of the disquiet mind. In other words, the disquiet mind is rendered into a problem. To try to get rid of a problem is to enforce it, because the very trying validates the problem by giving it credit. So, the attempt to get rid of a (psychological) problem by problematizing it is as accomplishable as trying to not see an elephant when you think you see one. It can’t be done. The source of any psychological problem is the thought of a problem. You can never ever not have a problem as long as you think you have one.
How to solve this dilemma? What to do? Do nothing. Do not mind the disquiet mind and it will calm down by itself. Once you realize this, the problem of a disquiet mind ceases to be problematic and will not bother you again.

End of part one

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True Autonomy

A few days ago I came across this brilliant article called “Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen” by Alan Watts. It discusses a topic that I have wanted to write about on this blog for some time. It’s about what Zen or Vedanta does to the practitioner who “digs” it.

To me, the ultimate goal of training in these schools of thought is to become an undivided being, that is, an in-div-idual in the strictest sense of the word. An individual is a person who has no sense whatsoever that anything (s)he does, thinks, feels or looks like could be any other than perfectly natural. For him (or her) nothing exists apart or separate from nature. Any system that attempts to classify nature into “good” or “bad” aspects is understood as a social convention just as a half-filled glass could either be classified as half full or half empty. Such an individual lives in complete (self-) acceptance and does not have the “itch” to justify him- or herself through “works” (achievements) or “faith” (reasoning). For this reason, (s)he lives without getting hung-up on life and “flows” at-one-ed with it.

So, the (wo)man of Vedanta or Zen is a being who has grown out of its cultural and social conditioning. (S)he has emancipated from the struggle to either fit into or to revolt against the social order but has matured into an truly autonomous being, independent of popular beliefs and opinions.

In contrast, the practitioners of Zen or Vedanta (or any other Eastern philosophical school of “liberation”) could be classified into two groups. Alan Watts calls them “Beat Zen” and “Square Zen”. Working under the assumption that we are all already free and enlightened, Beat Zen postulates a sort of “anything goes” mentality where effortless practices and a drop-out from the dominant social order is emphasized. Square Zen, on the other hand, is a drop-into a new (social) convention of rules, techniques and hierarchy where effort is key for “attainment”. Broadly speaking we could think of these two groups as tantrics / indulgers and monastics / renunciates, respectively. Obviously, there are many blends of these two extremes.

What is important, though, is to recognize that both, Beat or Square are still fundamentally immature ways of dealing with the problem of adaptation to authority. While the Beats try to solve it by revolting and turning away from authority, the Squares just exchange one for another. It’s like the child who, feeling unable to adapt to the parent’s wishes, is faced with the choice of either revolting against them or looking for a cooler family.

Now, Alan Watts is not saying that there is anything wrong with Beats or Squares. The way children learn is by “persisting in their follies”. At some point it will dawn on them that to be freed from the demands of the parents, the only reasonable solution is to grow up and become independent of them. Similarly, Beats and Squares will eventually mature into individuals once they realize the futility of their attempt to become free from outside authority as long as they keep giving any authority credit.

Luckily, there are (authoritative) teachers out there who know how to make this fact obvious. All they need to do is keep letting their students follow their orders ad absurdum until they surrender. And when the student does, (s)he will realize that all that ever kept him (or her) in bondage was the mistaken belief in an authority on how things “ought” to be. The Truth is that there is no absolute truth because it is beyond any absolutes.

“The Westerner who is attracted by Zen and who would understand it deeply must have one indispensable qualification: he must understand his own culture so thoroughly that he is no longer swayed by its premises unconsciously.”
~ Alan Watts

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