A Whole New You

A question I often hear in our weekly group boils down to this: “What’s in it for Me?”    Nondual teachings can sound very interesting and intriguing from a metaphysical point of view, but in the end people want to know what tangible benefits can be gained from the struggle to penetrate to a deeper understanding of what can seem a very difficult and often perplexing teaching.

The answer to that question resides deep in the core of our own personal identity.   Some ancient eastern yogic traditions point to various etheric ‘inner bodies’ existing at more subtle ‘inner levels’ which are said to be no less real than our physical bodies.   In fact, it is claimed that they are more real and long-lasting than our flesh and blood varieties, and can be accessed and experienced through particular techniques and practices.   Whether or not we choose to believe in the existence of these ‘inner dimensions,’ there are practical insights to be gained from even a metaphorical interpretation.    It is taught that from the absolute perspective none of these bodies or ‘levels of consciousness’ is real in and of themselves.   Plus, as one progresses through the various levels it becomes obvious (self-evident) that the previous level(s) were merely dream states as seen from the awakened perspective of the current ‘higher level’!   This explains a great deal about the ‘nature of reality’ itself:  Reality is relative.   Each ‘dream level’ is experienced as absolutely real because at every level we experience ourselves to be absolutely real, and the world that we experience from our current state is always a perfect reflection of our self-concept in all respects!  And of course this also applies to the personal experience of our own life as we continue to progress on our own spiritual path and inner growth.

Our self-concept, our very identity, is constructed and conditioned at each and every level by our unique history of perceptions, experiences, relationships, interpretations, and personal narrative.   This self-construct is generally an extremely vulnerable, mortal and self-limiting belief system fraught with fears, anxieties, neuroses, helplessness, guilt, remorse, unhappiness, pain and suffering.   Do we see any problem here?   Well, the good news is that as we begin to ‘make progress on the spiritual path,’ as it is called, we undergo a gradual and nearly imperceptible evolution of our self-concept.   We cease to be the old, miserable and self-limiting wretches we once were, and find ourselves now ‘traveling lighter.’    And the innate joy, love, happiness and freedom which has always characterized our inner ‘true Self’ gradually but inevitably becomes more and more the face that we present to the world, resulting in a greatly enriched and more profoundly satisfying life experience.    This transformation can occur rapidly, or it may seem to drag on endlessly, but the rewards which await the patient and persistent spiritual seeker more than justify the journey, which, in the end, will appear to have happened in just the blink of an eye to “A Whole New You!”

by Les Collins

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The Real Illusion

Advaita-speak, particularly from its Eastern roots, is full of references to the World being an illusion, or a dream.  Naturally this does not seem to make a great deal of sense to Western ears and minds, being themselves products of a very solid materialistic cultural worldview.  Let’s see if we can unravel this a little bit and arrive at a deeper insight into exactly what’s being pointed to here.

In the first place, if we take a very close look at our immediate direct experience (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting) we understand that at the very root, all we know of  ‘the world’ is derived, or ‘constructed’ from, those sensations- in mind (or in consciousness).  Remove those five senses, as in deep, dreamless sleep, or in a state of unconsciousness, and for all practical purposes the world ceases to be!  Of course whenever we ‘return’ from that ‘detached’ state, the world (as we conceive it to be), pops right back into place, more or less just as it was before we ‘left’ it.

Let’s look now at what really constitutes this ‘world of our experience.’  As we saw above, ultimately (absolutely) all that we really have to work with is a bundle of sensations, upon which is running our old standard ‘OS’ (operating system), built upon the root belief that ‘we’ (or ‘I’) is a separate autonomous entity encountering and interfacing with an exterior ‘outside world’- the ‘not me’.   That OS software is our ‘GUI,’ a graphical user interface, much like ‘Windows’ on your computer.  It automatically assigns an icon (form) and a label (name) to everything that pops up on your ‘screen,’ or in your ‘field of awareness’ in our case.  And, “Wallah!”  Now we have created an apparent world of objects and people in space and time which we can now apparently manipulate and interact with to our heart’s content!  Naturally this is an incredibly useful and powerful situation to be in (just ask Bill Gates), as it enables us to fully embody the sense of being a ‘real person’ who is having a ‘real life,’ interacting and functioning in a ‘real world!’  Who ever said you were not a Great Magician!  And in spite of perhaps a few little glitches and drawbacks, ultimately what could really be better than this!!

The fundamental problem with continuing ‘to run our lives’ and operate 24/7 with this dependable OS operating system in place is that we wind up believing it!   In the end what we are, all we are, is that state of pure, aware presence from which and in which, all sensations, perceptions and thoughts (including the thought ‘the world’) appear and disappear!  This that we are is a constant, unending and timeless presence.  It is that which ‘we‘ have never left, and cannot truly ever leave.  There are no problems, nor illness, nor death, nor lack, nor needs, nor pain nor suffering there (i.e. here)!  And the most wonderful thing is that it cannot be your destination or goal, since ‘you’ cannot get there, or achieve it, or find it!  There is no spiritual journey, nor practice, nor mantra, nor secret formula, nor act of grace, that can bring you to that which you have always been!  You are, in fact, in Heaven, as Jesus thoughtfully pointed out to us in “The Gospel of Thomas,” and you just cannot ever leave!

But you really are the Great Magician.  You know that now.  So if it happens to be your sincere wish to continue pretending that you are a tiny, mortal, pathetic little creature dragging its sorry ass ever onward to death and destruction, with no hope of salvation, Go For It!

by Les Collins

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Moving Mountains

Recently, I heard an amazing Zen story for the first time.  I think it was related by author and teacher Rupert Spira.  The story goes:  There was a Zen monk living in a monastery who had read in the Bible that faith can move mountains.  He was very excited to hear this and went to the Abbot to ask if this was really true.   The Abbot replied, “Of course!” So the earnest monk asked if he could learn how to do it.  He was led by the Abbott to a spot on the grounds which offered a perfect view of a distant mountain range.  He told the monk to meditate at this spot for as long as necessary, focusing solely on the task of moving mountains.  As the weeks and months turned into years, the monk persisted in his efforts.

Eventually, after about three years had past, the Abbot decided to check in on his monk’s progress.  “You’ve been sitting here for about three years now, but the mountains do not appear to have moved a bit.  What seems to be the problem, if I may ask?”  “Well,” said the monk, “eventually I found that I was indeed able to move the mountains, but I also realized something far more incredible.”  “And what would that be?”, asked the Abbot. The monk explained, “I came to realize that I was the one who originally placed each of those mountains exactly where they are, and that that is exactly where they are supposed to be!  I would not move even one of them by so much as an inch.”

The events which compose the fabric of our lives can seem joyous or painful, wonderful or dreadful, ecstatic or horrific at the time they occur.  But often the most difficult and challenging to endure, seem on reflection to be the most significant and transformative and essential experiences we have ever known.  Nevertheless, so many people never cease striving for this, that or the other outcome, accomplishment, acquisition or relationship which will finally make their lives transformed, complete and perfect.  The Zen story above reflects the deepest truth that anything and everything in our lives and in the universe cannot, and is not, less than absolutely perfect, and exactly as it must be.  [Of course, our actions and responses to conditions that require remedies or corrections are also exactly as they must be, also.]   But in the end the final solution to a life filled with pain, fear, resistance, struggle and suffering, which is the experience of so many, lies in just a simple willingness to embrace whatever situation is confronting us in this moment, and love what is.

by Les Collins

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