Paradise Found

“Yes, we love to go into this timeless background of consciousness and awareness absolutely. Very liberating, isn’t it? It’s very, very freeing; very profound and very beautiful. And yet, if taken in and of itself, all we’ve done is switched sides of an illusion. We’ve gone from form and time, to formlessness and timelessness, and we say: ‘Well, this state must be more true,’ because it’s more comfortable, basically. It just feels better.
But the truth is that it’s only when these two sides collapse together – that this world of form is the timeless – that what we call form is emptiness, it is consciousness, that’s what it is. Then, there’s no stance anymore, is there? There’s no more the sense that ‘I have to remain as awareness’. We only have to remain as awareness if we don’t really know that this wall is awareness, that your car is awareness, that this entire existence is awareness. Once we know that, then we are we finally freed, are we not? We are finally freed from the need for the ‘me’ to get into the right state, and stay there. Then, and only then, the duality of our experience finally collapses.” ~ Adyashanti

This ordinary, everyday experience that you(we) take so much for granted is the whole truth, the total perfection – right here, right now, always. There is no path that can bring you to the ‘final perfection’. You can, in fact, never leave it – except, of course, in your imagination. It has frequently been described as being ‘Awake’, which is in fact the exact meaning of the sanskrit word ‘buddha.’ [Being awake, just normally awake, is in fact all that is truly required. It has also been often referred to as ’the end of seeking,’ or ‘seeing what’s here’. However, our conditioning and our beliefs, our filters and projections, only permit us to see what we ‘think’ is here. That is problem one. Problem two is that we don’t know there’s a problem one. We assume the reality of our experience to be ‘Reality’; as in ‘Really Real.’]

Probably the most profound and generally inscrutable statement of the Buddha comes from the Prajna Paramita, or ‘Heart Sutra:’ “O Sariputra, form does not differ from emptiness and emptiness does not differ from form. Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.”

This ‘enlightenment process’, if there is one, often called ’awakening’ or ‘the unobstructed clear seeing of reality’, is reflected in the famous Zen Buddhist maxim:  “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.”  It points to the non-dual nature of all things.  It cannot be seen, felt, experienced or understood by the mind – that would, of course require an observer who was separate, and there isn’t one.  It is always and inevitably only ‘this’ – formless emptiness appearing as everything (including ‘us’, of course, and all of our stories of birth, death, separation, redemption, salvation and ‘re-union’ with the Absolute).  If ‘There Is Only God’, where could a separate one possibly be found to ‘return to Him’?  In the end, there is in fact, only Paradise – just ‘this’.               [Sorry if it may not seem quite like ‘you’ imagined!]

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…no problem.

The Catch-22 in the spiritual quest, ‘the Search for Enlightenment’, always boils down to the same core stumbling-block, which is:  the ‘one’ who seeks it.  Even among those whose keen insight has led them to the understanding that ‘enlightenment is the realization of the absence of the one who wants it’, more often than not they/we continue to trudge relentlessly onward towards that lofty goal– the death of the ego.  The challenge, and the problem (for the ‘me’), is of course that ‘I’ can never be there to experience my own absence.  The solution, or perhaps ‘dissolution’ would be more accurate, occurs naturally hundreds of times a day, when a person (i.e. body-mind) becomes so immersed/absorbed in whatever activity of life they are involved in, that they lose any sense of the passage of time or of ‘self-conscious’ awareness.  They can’t remember how long that ‘self-less’ period lasted because ‘they’ weren’t there.  And in the case of what is termed ‘highway-hypnosis’, they may have no memory whatsoever of where they were, or of what transpired, during that ‘lost period of time.’

Acclaimed author on the subject of nonduality, Joan Tollifson, coined a phrase in her most recent book, “Nothing To Grasp”, which I just love.  I believe it is about the most clear and helpful term that I’ve heard to describe the actual movement into the realm of enlightened awareness, and that term is “falling awake”.  [Although it is not truly a movement at all, but rather just a gentle falling or dropping away of the thought-created conceptual overlay we identify as ‘our world’, which has been believed into ‘being’ by its creator and imaginary center– me.]  What remains is “JUST THIS”, this inscrutable, intangible, vibrant, flowing, ever-morphing kalidescope of experience appearing magically in the eternal, timeless present NOW moment.  And it appears only in and as awareness, the ‘light of consciousness’, which is always nowhere and yet everywhere, and ever-present.  It is ultimately ‘what we are’, if it is helpful to express it in that way, or as ‘your original face’, as some ancient Zen Buddhist master’s have put it.  It is exactly that which is breathing, thinking, living, and reading these words right here, right now.  But this is a state which can neither be reached nor attained, for it is that place, NOW/HERE, which can never be lost and never be left.  Indeed, there is nothing and no-one who could ever enter THIS, or leave THIS!

Now, what most spiritual seekers end up doing at some point, is imagining that there is a perfect self-less state where they ought to be ALL the time, and an ordinary, everyday self-full state (i.e. ‘me’) where they are MOST of the time.  In the first place, there is no-one in that self-less state they pine for, and truly, there is no-one in that self-full state either!  But by believing themselves to be individuals, separate and independent of everyone and everything, they have (in their minds) fallen from grace, from ‘Eden’, and lost their souls and their true home, destined to wander endlessly through a wilderness of separation and suffering.  Realizing that they (‘you’) have never left that ‘true home’ and could never do so is the ‘pathless path’, the ‘gateless gate’, and the shortest distance ‘home’ (i.e. Liberation).  You just need to ‘fall awake’ to the fact that You (‘the BIG YOU’ – pure awareness itself) is expressing infinite possibilities ALL the time, and that one of those possibilities appearing NOW/HERE is an apparently separate human body-mind endorsing a belief that I am a unique ‘ME’ in ‘THIS WORLD’!  …and THAT’S OK!  That is just one more way in which that BIG YOU (i.e. never absent pure awareness) is showing up NOW/HERE!  Sure, sometimes living this ‘life as me’ is not the most pleasant or joyful experience; sometimes it is, but sometimes it’s just plain hell.  But like the weather where I live, you can just wait a little while and it will change.  This opportunity to experience the full range of possibilities available in the life of a so-called human being was just the price of admission to this endlessly engaging Masquerade Ball that YOU (the BIG YOU- awareness itself) chose to pay to play.

Realize that you, and I mean the really, really big YOU, have chosen to ‘be here/now’, whatever that might mean to ‘you-personally’.  But there is a huge consolation to be had for the apparently-separate individual, in awakening to the appreciation of his/her ‘true, eternal, invulnerable and joyful True Self’.  And from that place (the ONLY place), and forever and always THIS PLACE, I see …no problem.

by Les Collins

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A Meditation on the Christmas Spirit

It is my desire to share with you this Christmas season a deeply felt message of Love and Hope and Joy.

Life as we experience it has a way of throwing surprises and disappointments in our path, which frequently try our faith, challenge our beliefs, and threaten our peace and happiness.  In my own life, the shock and surprise of the recent loss of my beloved son Jon, in the prime of his life, was without a doubt the most difficult and challenging psychological and emotional shock I have ever endured.  It has, however, returned me to the awareness that ultimately there really are no endings, but only new beginnings.

Were it not for the generally held belief of the Christian world in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, it is doubtful that there ever would have been a Christ, or a Christmas.   So for me, the Spirit of Christmas can be summed up in one word, resurrection.  But not the physical resurrection of one man, but the true resurrection as Spirit, for which the resurrection of Jesus is but a metaphor.  It calls us into remembrance.  Remembrance of the one true spirit which animates and experiences every facet and every experience which each of us, and all of us, have ever known.  It is not the life identified by our name and social security number, or temporally extending from one calendar date to some future one.  Or restricted to the dimensions of this one limited human body.  It is the calm, still, loving and joyful spirit of eternal aware presence which has never left us for a moment, nor is capable of ever doing so.  It is always who and what we are at center.

It is what makes our world possible, what makes our joys, interests, friends, family, life, and all our delights, loves, and all our large and small satisfactions possible.  It is breathing us now, pumping our blood, and regulating effortlessly the billions of known and unknown bodily processes without which there would be no joy, no loves, no life.

It is this awareness that calls to us now; that calls to us endlessly.   It is this awareness which we are.   It is too close to us to be seen.  It is too close to us to be described.  Truly, it is us.  But we can only know it by its effects.  We know it as the joy we feel in the face of an infant.   We know it as the love we feel for our family members, our friends and life partners.  We know it as the compassion we feel for those who undergo difficult conditions and tragic circumstances.  We know it as the joy and bliss we feel in the warm company of those dearest to us, including our beloved pets.  We know it in the transporting bliss and ecstasy of complete immersion in an experience we love– music, painting, books, sports, the arts, the movies– whatever it is that lifts us up!

To you, my friends, and to you, my friends whom I haven’t met yet, I send you the deepest joy and peace of which I am capable, to express my deepest gratitude for your presence in my life, in our life!  In the light in your eyes, I see my joy reflected.  In the smile on your face I see my own joy revealed.   I thank you all for being my true spiritual presents, both now and always.  My life would have no meaning without the divine grace of your presence in it.  It is my fondest wish that this Christmas season and always, not one thing ever escapes your recognition that it is, in essence, a gift to you, deserving your deepest thanks, and your warmest embrace!

Blessings to you, both now and always, and Thank You!

Les Collins

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The Little Man Behind the Curtain

In “The Wizard of Oz,” the ‘Great and Powerful OZ’ was a dramatic and convincing illusion produced by the ‘little man behind the curtain’.  Through non-dual teachings, the irony hidden beneath the OZ story is finally revealed.  The shattering and transformative truth is that the ‘little man’ pulling the strings in the novel is in truth the absolute and infinitely free and creative Source of all that exists, masquerading, in incredibly convincing fashion, as the ‘little man behind the curtain’.   The veil that needs to be lifted is in fact the belief systems generated and adopted by the ‘human mind’ which convince it of its limits and its pseudo identity as a flawed, handicapped and virtually powerless human individual.   As a result it is consequently destined, or doomed, by its beliefs in a ‘real cage’ of limitations and inadequacies to suffer the ensuing ‘personal’ torments and failures which result– generally for the balance of his or her life.   A deeper irony here is that our Ultimate Self, which affords us an unconscious yet unlimited power and absolute control over all which manifests as ‘Reality’, and which is our core identity and one ‘true nature’, is the very power which enables ‘the mind’ to manifest, embrace and experience our ‘personal life’, the one which we inhabit and usually suffer to the hilt!
By actually accepting and acknowledging our one true infinite and all-powerful nature, at first through discovery and belief at a conceptual level, and later embracing and embodying it at an experiential and visceral level, the whole host of problems and struggles which formerly preoccupied our life either fall away completely or fade into casual and impotent peripheral artifacts barely worthy of our notice.  Spiritual Masters have taught for millenia that the Absolute Source or ‘Self’ has always been the core and substance of our very being and, in fact, need not ever be found or acquired, as its living truth cannot ever be ultimately denied or negated.  It forever merely awaits acknowledgement, recognition and acceptance.  We can, however, as a direct consequence of our true power, continue electing to play these silly and needlessly painful and often tragic pseudo-identity games for as many endless incarnations as may suit our whim and fancy, or just our cravings for drama.  Or, we can just say “NO, that is really quite enough!!”  In the end we will not have lost our lives, nor the world.  We will have only surrendered our illusions about them!  Our lives may then unfold as luminous expressions of true joy and gratitude, once obscured but now wide awake.
by Les Collins
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Just Understand What’s Looking!

It is quite often difficult to write a new blog entry for this website.  It is known that nothing which can be stated in words can be said to be True in any absolute sense, since all words and concepts are flawed dualistic tools and hand-servants of the mind only.  Normally, there are no words which, in the hearing of them, do not become instant conceptual fodder for the mind to employ in its ceaseless activity of creating, defending and controlling its self-generated personal legend and heroic journey through time, space and reality.  After all, These Are the Voyages of the Starship Self-Enterprise.

That said, there are occasionally hints offered, which may, in certain propitious circumstances, serve as beacons which can highlight ‘cracks in the cosmic egg’ which can sometimes offer an opportunity to deconstruct (or indeed explode) long-held constrictive and self-destructive worldviews, enabling glimpses of ‘Reality’ from a much freer and joy-filled perspective.  This is an example of using a thorn(concept) to remove another thorn(self-limiting concept), and then discarding both of them in the end.

As an example, let’s consider the thorny terms ‘Liberation’ or ‘Enlightenment.’   Those concepts can only have meaning and significance to a mind which actively conjures a limiting self-concept conditioned and constructed of location, duration, and autonomous existence.  In so doing, mind creates the only context in which such concepts as liberation or enlightenment could have any meaning whatsoever.  For ‘The Absolute,’ the ultimate and only True Reality (beyond concepts of time, space or objective existence), absolute freedom is implicitly its nature, and is necessarily ‘your true nature’ as well.

Your identity or self is a thought believed into being in a fully-imagined mental realm, a self-referential delusional state.  And by ‘inhabiting’ the concept of being a spiritual seeker embracing Liberation as a goal, you ensure your ongoing experience of that of a separate and limited entity– forever blocked by your fully ‘assumed’ identity, from ever knowing the Freedom which you eternally ARE.  In the immortal words of Pogo’s famous cartoonist, Walt Kelly:  “We have met the enemy… and THEY IS US.”

The resulting psychological damage and human agony caused by the viral, self-referential concepts about self-existence, life and death is incalculable.  Their acceptance and embrace as the absolute true-human-condition has spawned eons of collective fear, dread and suffering, as well as virtually the entire history of philosophy, religion, mental dysfunction, and psychological sciences.  The truth about life and death and selfing has been revealed for millennia by sages, gurus and mystics.   Your true identity is the impersonal, immortal life energy itself which has always animated and sustained your only-apparent physical body.   Your personal-sense (but a sense or feeling only) dies and is reborn with every thought and feeling which comes and goes– millions of times each day.   You are not the ‘same person’ you were as an infant or a child or an adolescent.   In fact, you are not the same person you were last year, last week, or even a second ago.   Only holding the concept that you are a time-conditioned separate entity that had its birth at one particular moment, and who is destined to meet its end at another specific future moment, enables you to even worry or think about ‘personal life and death’ issues.  But in truth you are only and always the life that “looks through your eyes” and is utterly birthless and deathless.   Every moment you have ever experienced is endlessly ‘life after death,’ in which there is no beginning and will never be an end to YOU (i.e.- the Real and Only One).   You can forget about reincarnation, or ‘the afterlife,’ or ‘spiritual growth’– THIS IS IT!  You are here;  you have arrived;  the struggle is over.  This Is Heaven, as Jesus helpfully pointed out quite some time ago.  Very few understood him then, either.

You are on an eternal vacation in a conscious field of virtual existence.  But you went ahead and mucked it all up by imagining all sorts of problems and absurd complications for a someone.  [And a someone, no less, who never even really existed, at least in the way that you thought!]   SO PLEASE — JUST STOP!!  Rejoice and be Thankful– there is nowhere you need to go and nothing you need do to be FREE and fully AWAKE right here, right now!

Ages ago, Sufi masters taught that “everything upon which your eyes have ever fallen is the Face of God.”  And remember… it’s only a reflection (…of whais looking)!

by Les Collins

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Heaven Restored

One of the most powerful metaphorical stories in the Bible is for me the tale of the prodigal son.   Its innate power derives from its perfect depiction of the human condition, and the light it shines on the nature of its misery and the secret to its salvation.

Because we are blind to the effortless magnificence of our natural state as God itself burst into ecstatic expression, we twist ourselves into powerless contorted caricatures of our divine and perfect spotless nature.   From this dark and fear-driven outcast and desperate state we grasp for sips and crumbs from the table of life from which we have been banished by our own limited and misbegotten self-conceptions.    We who are Kings of the very kingdom we evoke and sustain by our timeless aware-presence, search endlessly for secrets and clues and hints of progress in a world which is the very offspring of our very own being itself.    We spend endless hours and herculean efforts at gleaning clues and tidbits of the ancient wisdom of the masters to climb one more step up the infinite stairway to Heaven, never seeing that the Mind of Christ, the Wisdom of the Buddha, and the ultimate Krishna Consciousness is that which has always been looking from behind our eyes; and never has any ‘other’ ever looked.    All the yearnings and all the efforts of the entire history of human spiritual and religious discipline and practice has been only to gain insight into, pay homage to, and feel closer to the omniscient and timeless Holy Spirit (aware-presence) which views and sustains all from your eyes now!  You indeed are that ultimate mystery of life and existence which you have always been seeking!  Though we shall never objectively or conceptually understand that mystery which we (“I”) am, we can rest in the timeless awareness that we absolutely are that mystery independent of time, space, and fantasies of mortal limitation.

It is never possible for me to gaze into anyone’s eyes without silently saying to myself, “Oh, come off it now!  You’re not fooling me!  I know who you are, by God, and frankly I’m really starting to lose my patience with this silly game of yours!  Enough already!” Please stop pretending you have something you really must do, one more amazing theory you absolutely need to investigate, one more robed holyness you must visit to make one more crucial step in this egoic game of advancement.   Come home to where you belong.  Your Father has a robe for you, and the food is outstanding!

“It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”       Luke 15:32 KJV

by Les Collins

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The Sum of All Fears

A solid case can be made that the fundamental core motivation underlying virtually all human behavior, personally, socially and culturally, is fear.   And the most basic fear, lying at the heart of all their many forms and varieties, is the fear of death.   Let us now ask:  What is the source of this nearly universal fear of death?

Obviously, the thought of personal death can only arise in the mind of a body/mind organism that has learned that all physical bodies are mortal, and that his body is no exception.   But the fear of death can only appear if the body/mind in question has first believed the thought that he is the body, or that his life is absolutely dependent on that body for its existence.  The fact is that it is not death per se which is feared, but the apparent end of “one’s consciousness” itself;  which signifies, to “our self,” the end of our life, our identity, our story, and our world.

Non-duality tries to bring us to an experiential living appreciation of the essential “empty nature” of physical reality which modern nuclear physics and quantum theory have already discovered and demonstrated.   The “substance” of the world is not matter, but a complex dance of subtile energy patterns in a field of awareness.  All we can ever know of “the world” is based entirely upon sensations, which are only experiences in conscious awareness itself.  Consequently, all our perceptions and “experiences” of an “outside world” consist only of inferences, projections, and beliefs within consciousness itself.  How then does this dream or illusion become the real, solid and tangible world of our experience?  The trick is accomplished when the psychic belief system (of thoughts) of a body/mind organism inhabits the belief and sense of its self as a separate, discrete and autonomous entity.  As such, all that appears “outside” its arbitrary borders and boundaries now becomes the “external” world.  From the point of view of an imagined separate entity, the experience of its complement, an imagined separate world, could not seem other than absolutely solid and real.  This co-appearance (by imagination, in consciousness) is called, in Buddhist teachings, an instance of “mutual arising.”

This leaves us in the unenviable predicament of having the full-on living experience of being a vulnerable, pathetic and tragic human figure engaged in its long and painful slog to an almost certain pitiful end.  The Buddha called this condition suffering.  What is always possible, however, is finding a crack in the cosmic egg – a psychological quantum leap into a radically new life of utter fearlessness, unconditional love, freedom, spontaneity, gratitude, and absolute peace.

Fortunately, it is possible, though not always easy, to follow the advice of legions of mystics and sages throughout history, to learn to “die before you die.”  This means to surrender your attachment to and your identification as the limited mortal body/mind, which is clearly the most blatant and insidious case of “identity theft” which has ever been perpetrated.   It is necessary to awake to the realization that the conscious awareness you mistook to be a characteristic of your “body/mind self” is, in fact, your only true identity and timeless essence.  It is only that in which the appearance and the experiencing of the body, mind and world could ever have seemed to take place.  And it is only that spaceless and timeless aware presence that has ever truly existed.   Its eternal nature is intangible being, conscious presence, and immutable peace. [In sanskritsatchit, ananda.]  It is that which preceded your “birth” and survives your “death.”  And it is only that which has seen every sight, tasted every taste, had every experience, and felt all the love you have ever known.  It is God.  It is Life.  It is Heaven.  It is now and it is here.  And, of course, it is only that which is reading this.


Les Collins

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