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"The primary focus of this path of choosing wisely is learning to stay present. Pausing very briefly, frequently throughout the day, is an almost effortless way to do this. For just a few seconds we can be right here. Meditation is another way to train in learning to stay or learning to come back, to return to the present over and over again."
~ Pema Chödrön, from Taking the Leap  
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Entries in illusion (48)

Wednesday
Apr162014

Changing the Plane of Focus 

Sam Harris in conversation with Dan Harris, "Taming the Mind" (April 12, 2014): 

Everyone has had the experience of looking through a window and suddenly catching sight of his own reflection staring back at him from the glass. At that point, he can use the glass as a window, to see the world outside, or as a mirror, but he can’t do both at the same time.

Sometimes your reflection in the glass is pretty subtle, and you could easily stand there for ten minutes, looking outside while staring right through the image of your own face without seeing it.

For the purposes of this analogy, imagine that the goal of meditation is to see your own reflection clearly in each moment. Most spiritual traditions don’t realize that this can be done directly, and they articulate their paths of practice in ways that suggest that if you only paid more attention to everything beyond the glass—trees, sky, traffic—eventually your face would come into view. Looking out the window is arguably better than closing your eyes or leaving the room entirely—at least you are facing in the right direction—but the practice is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. You don’t realize that you are looking through the very thing you are trying to find in every moment. Given better information, you could just walk up to the window and see your face in the first instant.

The same is true for the illusoriness of the self. Consciousness is already free of the feeling that we call “I.” However, a person must change his plane of focus to realize this. Some practices can facilitate this shift in awareness, but there is no truly gradual path that leads there. Many longtime meditators seem completely unaware that these two planes of focus exist, and they spend their lives looking out the window, as it were.


See also: 

Harris, D. (2014). 10% happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works--a true story. New York: It Books. [library

Harris, S. (2014). Waking up: A guide to spirituality without religion. S.l.: Simon & Schuster. [library]

Thursday
May232013

Not Our Dream

 

Illustration by Debbie Millman 

Saturday
Dec292012

Question Your Answers

December 29, 2012

Excerpts from The Way of Liberation: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Adyashanti

As a guiding principle, to progressively realize what is not absolutely True is of infinitely more value than speculating about what is. Many people think that it is the function of a spiritual teaching to provide answer's to life's biggest questions, but actually the opposite is true. The primary task of any good spiritual teaching is not to provide answer's to your questions, but to question your answers.

...

In our modern society we expect to have everything given to us in easy-to-consume bite-size portions, preferably very quickly so that we can get on with our hurried lives. But Truth will not conform itself to our frantic avoidance of Reality or our desire to have the whole of something for the very least investment of time and energy. 

...

Summary of the Teaching

Be still. 

Question every thought. 

Contemplate the source of Reality. 

And keep your eyes open. You never know when something that seems entirely insignificant will split your whole world wide open into eternal delight. 

Download free ebook version of The Way of Liberation...

Friday
Oct052012

Awakening is Not About Positive Emotions

Upper Arlington Senior Center, September 19, 2012

"There may be bliss with awakening, because it is actually a by-product of awakening, but it is not awakening itself. As long as we are chasing the byproducts of awakening, we will miss the real thing. This is a problem, because many spiritual practices attempt to reproduce the by-products of awakening without giving rise to the awakening itself. We can learn certain meditative techniques...and certain positive experiences will be produced. The human consciousness is tremendously pliable, and by taking part in certain spiritual practices, techniques, and disciplines, you can indeed produce many of the by-products of awakening—states of bliss, openness, and so on. But what often happens is that you end up with only the byproducts of awakening, without the awakening itself.

It is important that we know what awakening is not, so that we no longer chase the by-products of awakening. We must give up the pursuit of positive emotional states through spiritual practice. The path of awakening is not about positive emotions. On the contrary, enlightenment may not be easy or positive at all. It is not easy to have our illusions crushed. It is not easy to let go of long-held perceptions. We may experience great resistance to seeing through even those illusions that cause us a great amount of pain."

~ Adyashanti, from The End of Your World

Read a longer excerpt at Tricycle...

Tuesday
Jun192012

Relentless Search for the Next Magical Something

100 Acres, June 16, 2012

Excerpt from The Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels: 

Everyone one of us has a fantasy of a "magical something"—a relationship, job, achievement, or possession—that will remove us from the treadmill that is real life...Phil [Stutz] calls this fantasy of living an effort-free, undemanding life "exoneration." Most people think of exoneration in terms of being cleared of a crime, but it has another meaning: to be excused from a task or obligation. Here, it refers to the ultimate obligation—to make an effort for the rest of your life. 

Deep down, we all wish for a magical something that will exonerate us. It could be money, an award, a high-achieving child, looking cool in front of your friends, etc. Take a moment to identify what it is for you.

It doesn't matter what it is, it could be the smallest thing; just be honest with yourself. Then, try the following exercise:

Let yourself fantasize that you get the "magical something" and it does take the struggle out of your life. Let yourself feel that for a moment. Now, crush that fantasy: imagine it can never become reality. How does it feel knowing you can never escape life's endless struggles? 

...Exoneration is impossible—for an individual or for a society. When, inevitably, this false hope for "easy street" is shattered, we're left demoralized. This is an inescapable law: exoneration always ends in demoralization.

There's a path that can lead us out of this mess. But we have an enemy that's dead set against us taking it. It attacks us every waking moment: when we turn on the TV, go on the Internet, or read a magazine; it gets to us even while we're driving, and especially when we enter the dark, inner sanctum of its power, the shopping mall. 

The enemy is called "consumerism." It speaks to us through every advertisement, endorsement, logo, roadside billboard, etc. Its underlying message is always the same: there's something out there you must have. Helpless to resist, we feel compelled to acquire thing after thing. Yet we don't enjoy each new item for long; once we possess it, we shift our focus to the next thing. 

Inevitably, consumerism insinuates itself into all of our activities, not just shopping. We consume life experiences the same way we consume iPods, jeans, and European cars. A given song, idea, or friend is new and different until it's not. Then we discard it and go on to the next thing. Consumerism has become our model for living. This is the tail wagging the dog...

This "treasure hunt" is a quest for the impossible, but rather than admitting that, we relentlessly search for the next magical something. 

This misdirected search for magic surrounds you every day. Consumers might deny this, but it shows in their behavior. They pursue something—a new spouse, a new wardrobe, a new hobby—with tremendous expectation. The expectation is never met, and that just makes them search even harder...

But you're not really free until all hope for magic is crushed. 


See also: