Why We Can’t Hold On To Stillness

July 31st, 2006

In this talk I want to discuss what might be our biggest challenge. To find a state of stillness, and remain productive in the world. How do we accomplish, while remaining present.

Why are most of us unable to hold on to stillness? Many of us can find stillness, but why isn’t it easier to just stay there? This talk assumes that you know what I mean when I say stillness. Some call it big mind, or a state of presence.

I did a talk before called Stillness in Motion. While this talk is similar, it will differ in the level we’re talking about. Stillness in motion was a talk about the feeling of holding stillness while we do things.

I’ve heard Ken Wilber say things like you can’t be in a non-dual state and in a state of duality at the same time. I’d be interested to speak with him about that because I have a deep sense of being still, or in a non-dual state while still seeing and being aware of, and able to function in the world full of duality.

This talk will discuss, and point out that we definitely still have the desire to accomplish and do things. We may drop the attachment to that desire, but we still discern.

At the base of our being is a function of judgement. This judgement leads to most of our discomfort. It puts us on the treadmill of time. Judgement says this situation isn’t as I would like it to be, so let’s change it. It leads to inner becoming. I’m not enough, etc. Many spiritual teachings seem to imply that this is a bad thing. But it’s important that we don’t vilify this idea. We need this function to survive. It’s the same impulse that tells us we’re in danger. It also allows for us to better the world.

We don’t lose the ability to judge when we’re still. I usually begin to describe this judgement as “discerning” to show that there is a difference. It isn’t a lost, deeply judgemental, place that we come from, but we can tell what our preference would be. We do chose to walk, and eat, and talk, etc.

Many stereotypical representations of meditation imply that the meditator is unable to discern when in a deep meditative state. That’s just not accurate. I mentioned before the Burning Monk, who had gasoline (or some flammable liquid) poured over him and lit. Then there was a picture taken of him not moving. While his experience of that might have been different than yours or mine, he still was aware that he was burning. The amazing thing is not some otherworldly state of mind he found, but rather the choice to stay. The discipline to stay.

The trick is going to be to learn to remain still while we judge and think. Can we remain aware while we judge? We need to learn to watch our judgements. The subtle distinction is this: A frustrated meditator learns about a pleasurable state of mind and then catches themselves thinking and discredits all the stillness they achieved. Whereas, a centered meditator finds himself or herself in a thinking state and watches it, thereby remaining centered.

In this world, we have things to accomplish. There is work to be done. In every moment we look at the world and have opinions about how it could be better, things we need, things we want to have, or do, or give. None of that is wrong. It’s really important that we allow for that. There is such a thing as growth. There is betterment.

So is stillness in conflict with betterment? Doesn’t stillness imply that we’re done? While it is an appreciative state, we can be aware of movement, and the need for change while holding on to stillness. Stillness is a state of awareness. One that is realized and awake to the truth of a situation. If there is betterment to be done, do it, but try to remain aware.

Our innate ability and need to create and judge is what’s impairing our ability to remain still. And that’s a wonderful thing. The work we’re here to do is to marry the two. We’re here to blend the duality. We can engage in both experiences, and do our best to remain aware of where we are and what we’re doing.

Referenced: Ken Wilber, and Burning Monk

Dealing with Death – Ours and Others

July 24th, 2006

We lose loved ones all the time. We hope for an afterlife. The self wants to grow and be powerful and young. It is completely opposed to it’s own extinction. So there is fear and panic around the thought of death for many. In fact, many people can’t even discuss it. But all living things seem to pass away. How do we deal with that?

Today we’re going to talk about death of the body, but also death of the self. We’ll talk about how meditation relates to death, and how putting your life in perspective can be meaningful. We’ll talk about the death of others and how to deal with that. We’ll talk about the desire for an afterlife, and how death really makes everything deeply meaningful. Death is a part of life, so let’s talk about it.

We’ve discussed in the past, that we are not only self. We are also in some way connected to everything. Can that other identity help us deal not only with our own death, but also the death of others, and finally other types of change as well?

All living things die. But we can expand the idea of death from there. Situations die, friends change, we get divorced. All of these things are mini-deaths. We “die” in a different way as well. I am not the same 10 year old boy I once was. That boy is gone forever. So we are all changing. Everything is in a state of change. Death s a kind of change.

Meditation actually teaches us a death of self. We are putting down the ego and just identifying with the big mind. You obviously don’t actually die, and you can retain your “self” as much as you wish, but each time you enter this other mind, you will see it is a death of self in that moment. You will find that this type of practice can change you fundamentally. It can make you more able to deal with change, and hence your own death, and the death of others.

Truly being in the Now is about not thinking about the future. The entire thing is to watch the mind that wants to leave this moment. So in that, the Now becomes much fuller. Our entire attention is on it, and it becomes rich and thick. The understanding of this type of mind leads spiritual leaders to talk about eternity. Many talk about no death, in the death of self. So the temporary idea of you, or your ego, dies in that moment. And what is born is a fuller understanding of timelessness, or eternity.

Pulling away from your life and looking at it on a time line is very helpful and can put your life into a different context. Often we find ourselves just drifting along, but all events are precious, so it can be useful to find that context and check in.

There’s an old saying, or it might have been a viral email that went around way back, about filling a jar with a marble for every year of your life expectancy, and removing one on your birthday. It shows the significance of our lives. That could potentially give a deeper context to your life as well.

The desire for an afterlife comes from the mind that that is unhappy and wants salvation. It also may have been used as a carrot and stick for controlling people. But whether that’s true or not, it is really important to expose the mind that craves a better future, the ultimate of which would be a glorious afterlife.

We think that to stay moral, our culture needs to be held in a “proper space” with the appropriate carrot and stick. Meaning, if I were to take away the idea of living a good life being the thing that gets us into heaven, people might begin to behave poorly because there’s no point in behaving well. The idea of putting down the external carrot and stick scares many people. They immediately image anarchy and insanity ensuing from removing those guidelines. But a sincere morality comes from seeing the beauty that’s here, not a future hoped for beauty.

We need to become OK with who we are, without the hope for a prize. Because fear of not getting the prize does not work as our motivation. Fear based morality will not work. The example of extremists who die to get to heaven also cause great pain and suffering. They want the “prize” too much. Their morality is quite different, but also belief based. Either type of morality doesn’t seem to be working. To be clear, I’m not attacking peoples beliefs necessarily, I’m just saying that the mind that thinks about salvation, or hopes for it, or gets attached to it, is not the healthiest mind. It is ego based, and fear based. Seeing the beauty right in front of us, rather than being controlled by fear will work much better.

Death of others is very hard to deal with. It is very hard to lose a family member or loved one. We are attached to permanence, which doesn’t exist. This is a fault of the egoic mind. While losing things we care about will always be hard, I want to point out that the natural desire for permanence can make dealing with death and change even more difficult. If we realize that nothing is permanent, then we don’t have unrealistic expectations around things like a loved one dying. We need to learn to face non-permanence.

Fear of death and the unknown is enormous. But death makes everything matter. Living forever would take value away from lots of things. You’d be able to take literally forever to master things, so being a master chef as an example would have little meaning. We’d constantly be approaching everyone knowing everything, with no risk because we’d have forever to fix any problems, etc. It would be a very different existence for sure. Certainly different than most people would fantasize. Death is a part of life, and it is something we’ll do well to get more comfortable with.

Show Music: Live At Tonic by Christian McBride

Ending Addiction For Good

July 16th, 2006

We’re going to discuss what addiction is, and then talk about how we can come to terms with it and what can we do to stop it.  To do this, I’ll talk about addiction, in broad terms.  Then we’ll do a quick exercise that might help you find what your addictions are.  This could be considered an addiction "workshop", albeit a very short one.  Then we’re going to discuss the different quality of being that allows for better choices.  That state of mind, one of presence, can help us end addiction. 

What is addiction?  Addiction lives on the pleasure pain level of being.  So there will be lots of references to good and bad in this podcast.  What are the different addictions?  Drugs and drinking and smoking, of course, but also watching TV, shopping, eating sugary foods, and working out. Some of these are obviously better for you than others.  Some are manageable, and some aren’t.  Ultimately, addiction can end up really ruining a person, but it’s ugliness doesn’t have to wait for that extreme.  All forms of addiction stem from a choice in attention.

I talk about the unhappiness that becomes so big that we end up choosing to drink or drug because we can’t face the pain.  The problem with this is that the problems grow.  We’re Pavlovian, and want to move toward pleasure.  So it is a slippery slope to not become addicted on some level.  It’s important to watch how we manage our lives.

What happens when we’re addicted?  While responsibilities are piling up, they become completely unmanageable.  We need the courage to face that, and it’s very hard to do.  We usually aren’t motivated enough unless there is enough pain.

How do we stop addiction?  What is the different quality of being that allows for change?  I mention the conscious use of pain, and also the use of being awake.  Those two things will allow us to quit our addictions.

Pain is the reason we change or stop.  It may seem odd that pain may also be the reason we started.  That makes sense when we realize that in the beginning, the thing that makes us feel good hadn’t become painful yet.  So how painful is your addiction?  Can we make our pain unacceptable before it truly becomes unbearable?  That would be like getting free from addiction early.

So here’s how to stop.  You must go into the feeling of the addiction.  When you are faced with that moment of choice, which you’ve just become aware of, how do you make a different choice?  You feel into the feeling of conflict.  You breathe into it.  In that moment you give yourself enough space to make a different decision.  If you choose poorly, just gather data and don’t beat yourself up.  Becoming aware allows us to see the moments.  Those moments, when we see them, we have the power to get free.   We can’t face all our problems at once, we need to face them one at a time.  So this is a constant vigil.  This conflict and the needed attention to it will soften over time.

In conclusion, we need to realize the pain addiction is causing us, and that needs to become greater than the pleasure it gives us. 

Can We Make It All Sacred

July 9th, 2006

If we want to evolve it would be good to learn that everything is sacred. Using certain objects to wake up is useful, but we need to watch how attached to those objects, places, etc. we become.

What good comes from making things sacred? It is normal to notice certain things as more orderly or beautiful than other things. We tend to make some of those things sacred. But we should watch how we do this. It is a certain type or quality of mind that wants to do this. Again, it’s normal, but normal is not necessarily good. We have the challenge to better ourselves by going for good, without degrading ourselves by getting too attached in the process.

What problems does turning some things sacred create? Good necessitates bad. Many religious wars have been caused by minds too attached to sacred things (Middle Eastern land, etc.). This is also one of the problems with New Age ideas of today. The mind that makes a certain charm, or symbol, or building, or area more sacred than another can become problematic as we get too attached to those objects. The more power we give these symbols as being sacred, the more we have the potential to depend on them.

So is this idea important? I think this has the potential to end wars. If we as a people could see the importance in loosening our attachment to sacred things, or rather, notice that everything is sacred, we could begin to end conflict. No land is better than any other land. Everything has the essence of being in it. Space does, objects do. That awareness is in you, so learn to foster it. Realize that when you are in a mind of preference, that you might be able to look at things differently. You might be able to see that it’s all sacred.

Show Music: Wholeness & Separation by Halou

The Pressure We Create

July 5th, 2006

We create pressure in our lives unconsciously that can end up making us very unhappy.  Some of these pressures are deeper and some are more superficial.  One person creates a "have to" situation with accomplishments he/she wants to create at work.  Someone else on a daily basis sets up to-do after to-do and then feels bad for what they didn’t accomplish rather than good about what they did accomplish.  Jobs can be self created pressure.  So can houses, cars, and salaries. 

We often aren’t able to appreciate our success once it comes, because it tends to move.  I’ve been with successful people and watched them accomplish goals, and rather than enjoy the accomplishment, they immediately and unconsciously create new goals.

So what pressure are you creating?  This talk points out that we can spend time working on, or watching, what pressures we create for ourselves.  The exercise we could do would be to learn to find your self created limits, or pressures.  Once you see what yours are, you may choose to soften them, or you may not.  It’s nice to learn that you can lose your job  You can move.  Your life could be different.  The other side of that is the fact that a conscious goal is a powerful one.  We can choose to work harder for our pressures if we really want to hold onto them.

External pressure is often actually created by us, and thus is internal pressure.  Watch when pressure is created in your life and see if it’s really external pressure.  An interesting point is how unconscious these things become.  We sit and think "Of course I have to do these things…"  It’s good to realize that we can live in the smaller house.  We can drive a cheaper car.  The kids can go to public school.  But they also may not have to.  Becoming aware of our pressures allows us to support them or put them down as necessary.  It’s up to us.