The only reality is the raw experience of life prior to the mind’s involvement.
We are constantly seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting and touching nothing but the Truth.
The mind discriminates, interprets, evaluates and judges our sensory input. Thereby it creates a parallel world that does not exist independent of our minds, a mirage of ideas, beliefs and opinions about reality.
This dream world is the source of us living out imaginary stories of right and wrong, better and worse, me and other. And both, the most exalted as well as the most painful moments of our lives are simply caused by whether reality fits our mind-made stories.
The whole of humanity is a big act. As long as we are convinced that our fictitious stories about reality hold true, we are hopelessly caught up in our roles and ideologies and forever struggle and strive on the spot.
The only way out of the story is to fully see through and acknowledge it. Transcendence is neither being lost in the story nor denying or rejecting it.
The mind is not a mistake and, so, to be human means to put on an act. But at the same time, when we are ignorant about reality and take our role too seriously, our life becomes a drag.
For playing is fun when everybody tries to win without being invested in the outcome. Thus the sages consciously play out their fake acts in a genuine manner and with compassion.
Nothing – not even ourselves – exists the way we think it does.
What is ultimately real is … this, and there is no other Truth, ever.
Shed your illusions,
wake up to reality,
and be one.
This is a song I recorded recently with a friend
The path to happiness is the grand illusion.
Leave it and you gain eternal peace.
Any path, wherever it leads must take you astray,
For peace is not looking further than what is going on where you already are.
The illusory path is built on the dragon of fear and its child desire.
And as they dull your senses you set out and wander hurried and lost.
Shedding all ideas about what constitutes the “good life” is discomforting,
but only as long as you have not yet discovered the beauty of the present.
The rich texture of any given moment is the answer to all your existential questions.
As those vanish into oblivion, the true nature of things becomes apparent.
Fixing and attuning your sensory receptors is the most important task of your life.
And so the true path is the uncovering and coming to terms with your fears.
However, we are cowards and distraction is cheap.
Unfortunately, it has been like this always.
All fears are completely ungrounded and based on misunderstandings.
But to see this, the perspective of the universe has to be assumed.
The brave will venture in, realize and have their fears burnt.
The rest will forever keep wondering what existence is really about.
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).
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
The universe makes most sense by not making much sense.
As its purpose is to have no particular purpose,
It has infinite creative potential.
It moves as it stays and stays as it moves.
As change is its only constant,
It remains forever the same.
It has always been going on without going anywhere.
As it has never started and will never end,
Time does not apply to it.
It gives rise to all pairs of opposites.
And as the source of everything,
Nothing exists apart of it.
You are neither its puppet nor its master.
These ideas are based on self and other,
But such separation never took place.
There is only all-self which is all-other,
Forever re-creating itself out of itself.
We are IT dreaming we are other.
Now, wake up.
The juice of life is in the dream.
Once we start to hang out in spiritual circles of the Buddhist or Advaita kind we soon enough come across statements like “life is an illusion” or “life is just a dream”. While teachings pointing to the “unreality” of the world as we perceive it through the filter of our minds are very helpful, I find spiritual seekers often get stuck in it. And whenever seekers get stuck, it is because they mistake the metaphor for the reference.
All the “dream”-metaphor refers to is the fact that how we perceive the world is fundamentally subjective. The image of the world as we know it is a function of our individual set of conditioned beliefs of good and bad (in time and space). The judgmental (good vs. bad) interpretation of the stream of experiences creates the illusion of an observatory experiencer, an entity separate from the stream. This split is the source of duality: there is a “me” experiencing and evaluating what is happening within and without. Accordingly, non-duality is realizing the “me” as another experience, as another aspect of the stream. It is the awakening to the truth that all there is, is the stream of experience. Thus, by entering the stream, “we”, the subjective “judge” dissolves. And by no longer objecting or trying to control the stream, we flow with it and suffering ends.
Unfortunately, for many people I have met, the metaphor seems to mean that they should suspend judgement or negate their subjective experiences. Both approaches, though, are expressions of a fundamentally judgmental nature. They can’t work, because whenever we do something to get something we are operating from a stance of good vs. bad. “I should not judge” is as judgmental as it gets.
Spiritual pointers and metaphors are not meant to make us do something but simply to acknowledge and accept how it is. Hence, to enter the stream (and dissolve the “judge”) all one has to do is to fully acknowledge our imaginary views of the world. Once we don’t care about judgement anymore, we have transcended judgement, and we enter. When we say “yes” to everything, even to our conditioned “no’s”, unity is restored. Nirvana is Samsara fully embraced.
There are certain ways to bring this state of surrender about. Ramana Maharshi for example would say that the world is unreal (a subjective image), that fundamentally only Brahman (the “raw” stream of experience) was real, but that in the end, the world was Brahman. So, even the subjective judgement (the “me”) is an expression of the sacred, because it is also an experience. There is only experience, unity, and “thou art that”.
The (teaching-)approach which works for me is a bit different, though. I compare living with going to the movies. We all know that the whole fun of going to the movies is to forget that is a movie and to get lost in the plot. So, if we kept telling us it was “just” a movie or “just” an illusion, we could have stayed home, because it negates the whole movie experience. The same applies to life. If we keep telling ourselves that life is “just” a dream, we keep ourselves out of, that is, detached from life (see an older post on detachment). To get the most out of a movie experience one has to get wholeheartedly involved in the plot. Hence, getting completely sucked in by life without wobbling or hesitating, to live for the sake of playing out our part on the world stage, whatever this part turns out to be, that is the enlightened life. It is a sacred “yes”, which is unconditional, which does not expect anything in return and which, for those reasons, will yield constant surprise, wonder and gratefulness. A “dream” it is, but what an amazing one!
“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
I remember it as vividly as if it had happened just recently. One fine day I was walking in the streets unperturbed and without haste when suddenly time ‘stopped’. In a flash of graceful insight, I realized that time was a mere concept, an illusion fed by our social and biological conditioning.
In this post I will try to explain in words what exactly had become clear to me in that instant and the impact such an insight can have.
First of all let’s define time. Time measures a sequence of causes and effects in the interval between two ‘events’. For example, a year is defined as a sequence of occurrences within one interval of the earth leaving and returning to the same position in reference to the sun.
Now, I want you to consider the possibility that the universe is timeless, that is, eternal. What if there was neither a beginning nor an end to it? Yes, there may have been a ‘Big Bang’ that created this particular manifestation of the universe but there must be something that caused it. According to reputable modern-day scientists and ancient Eastern cosmology the universe has expanded and collapsed infinite times before and will go on doing so endlessly. Because there never was a first ‘Bang’, we can’t tell in which ‘Bang-and-Bust’ cycle we are currently in. Since there is no reference ‘Bang’ we could use to tell cycles apart, every cycle is the same cycle in different shape and form. Each cycle is just the furthermost in an endless series of cycles. If we assume an eternal universe, the time must always be the same: ‘now’. Far out, isn’t it? Eternity kills time.
Since there is no time (in eternity), none of this, not your life nor anything else, is actually ever ‘happening’. All that is ‘happening’, is change in this one, endless moment. Again, a ‘happening’/ ‘event’ is something which could be marked on a linear timescale. But without a beginning nor an end, such a scale couldn’t exist. All that has ever ‘happened’ and ever will ‘happen’, is ‘happening’ in this same endless instant. This moment is not a passing phase. There is no progression from one moment to the next. Yesterday, today and tomorrow ‘happen’ in this very same moment, this ‘now’.
Let’s make an example: raise your arm. We could say that time elapsed between these two distinct states of your arm. First the arm was down then there was a smooth sequence of movements of the arm going up and finally the arm was up. Between ‘arm down’ and ‘arm up’ a few measures of time (e.g. seconds) passed. However, from the perspective of eternity all that ‘happened’ was that the timeless, static ‘Now’ (aka Brahman, Tao, Godhead, Void, etc.) simply changed its appearance from one state or ‘configuration’ to another. That’s it. Forms, time and space are all superimposed on an infinite, static context of potentiality. Just like a movie screen can endlessly display things in all imaginable variations, the ‘Now’ can forever assume any imaginable sequence of forms. The famous 3rd Patriarch of Zen, Seng Ts’an, was pointing to this realization when he wrote: “Consider motion in stillness and stillness in motion [then] both movement and stillness disappear”. Motion is in fact embedded in the static stillness of the eternal ‘Now’. As much as the static moves, motion is static. Or in Taoist terms: there is inaction underlying every action (wei wu wei).
Why is the illusion of time an important insight?
Time is the cause of all kinds of suffering. Which is why I like to call it the ‘King of Delusions’. Time creates the notion of finiteness, coming and going, past and future. Such ideas give rise to regret and anxiety, striving and struggle, fear and desire. Realizing that all that ever ‘happened’ and will ever ‘happen’, births, deaths, achievements, successes, failures, etc., are but different ‘modes’ of the very same eternal and infinite primordial ground, stops the minds tendencies to dwell in the murky bondage of the ‘not-HereNow’ of time and space.
When (the illusion of) time is completely seen through we fully realize our essential, eternal nature. We know that ‘we’ never move nor age. ‘We’ are never affected by anything. ‘We’ are never not here. The manifestations ‘we’ can give rise to appear and disappear, but, in the end, they are just actualizations of ‘our’ potential. Because, in essence, ‘we’ are the infinite, all penetrating and everlasting sea of pixels manifesting as the images ‘we’ create. All ‘we’ ever ultimately do is playing an endless game with ourselves without any particular purpose or meaning, just for the sake of playing it.
Once the mind realizes beyond doubt that the eternal ‘Now’ is all there ever is, it strays no more but stays right here, and our very own kingdom of heaven becomes finally fully ours to enjoy.
“The Way is beyond language, for in it there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today.”
The Chromatics – Tick of the Clock