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A Rainy Day in Philadelphia

Something a little different today. No talking. Just watching.

What do the faces say to you? Where do our minds go as we walk through this life? How many of us are really here, and when are we most here? There’s the pigeon, and the playing. The begging, and the pain… The energy underneath it all.

There’ll be more talking from me soon, but for now… It’s just nice to watch.

Song: From the Morning by Nick Drake

Introduction to States and Stages

This talk is an introduction to states and stages of consciousness. States of consciousness are our now experience, and stages of consciousness deal with the growth of self along many lines of development in time. In this talk I want to explain the importance of each of these perspectives of consciousness and begin to point at how we develop each of them.

States of consciousness are not permanent. They include: emotional states, drug induced states, meditative states, waking and sleeping states, and others. Much of our time is spent trying to manage our state experience. We feel hungry, we go for food. We have a headache, we take aspirin. We want to feel good, we have a beer.

Stages of consciousness instead deal with development along many different lines. Those lines include cognitive, value, interpersonal, moral, sexual, etc. On each of those lines there are altitudes of development. Some are more developed morally than others. Some are more developed cognitively. There can also be movement along these lines. An individual may start out as selfish, and move to nationalistic, and then finally resonate from a world view. Stages are objective judgments of subjective experience. They are the structures and beliefs from which we see the world.

Why do these altitudes of development get to be called stages? Because study after study shows that over time the answers to certain question about our experience go in one direction. The way we process and interpret the world tends to keep going in the same direction along these lines. There is a tendency to grow and widen our capacity and our understanding and experience of deeper stages. We all may not move along the line, but almost nobody goes backwards. There is a direction to the movement.

Healthy stage development, along any line looks like this: When one experience (or stage) is taken from subjective experience into objective experience. When we can look back at the prior stage objectively we have fully and healthily evolved through that stage.

Meditation (state management) practice doesn’t always show us our current stage. And while true subjective state experience doesn’t allow us to see our current stage ever (because we’re in it) we still grow through the stages over time. Working on meditation isn’t always only a direct state experience. Often it is a thinking dialog and running into walls of self, belief, structures, etc. It is my opinion that this part of the practice of meditation often leads to an understanding of the stages we’re going through. This is not because of the state experience, but rather the opportunity for introspection sitting offers.

States don’t tend to evolve, unless trained. And even then, they still jump around a lot. (Buddhas still sleep, wake and dream.) But states of mind can evolve when trained. The idea here is that non-dual awareness and the like can be developed. To a certain extent that is a stage in the realm of state experience. Once you understand and have non-dual experience, it has the capacity to inform the rest of your state experience.

Basically, we want to learn to manage our state experience as best we can, and grow through the stages of development along all the available lines as best we can. Doing those two things is what self development and growth is about, in this moment and through time.

Referenced: Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics

We May Need To Kill Faith

How can we make faith make sense? So many of us are lost in rational minds. Rational minds that are right in the external sense of “right”, but they lack the inner connection to being. Faith is something that often sounds too “religious”. But faith may end up being important, but maybe we need to change the definition.

Quoting the Tao Te Ching we read “There is no greater illusion than fear, No greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself, No greater misfortune than having an enemy. Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe.”

That quote rings absolutely true to me. I know it as fact. I know fear is an illusion. I know that knowing that makes me eternally safe. This is obviously a deep faith, so what kind of faith could rational thinking people understand? And what kind of faith won’t be winning any arguments?

Faith in a certain action, like getting the third parking space from the left, becomes ridiculous scientifically. If you have that kind of faith, great, but you won’t be successfully debating any scientists. It is not about you getting a parking space. It’s not about you winning, or getting “things” necessarily. The kind of faith that science can’t argue with is this: a deep understanding that it is all OK. It is all OK. Whatever happens will be fine. There is a deep peace in that statement when we know it to be true. There is also durability and courage.

This kind of faith makes sense because we are able to drop our expectation, and science can’t argue with that. In doing it we free ourselves of potential let downs. Science can’t argue with experience without expectation. It can only argue with expecting magical things to happen.

Letting go of how things are supposed to be is perhaps the largest spiritual lesson we can learn, and it ends up being faith. Faith in the Tao, faith in Christ, faith in the Now, or just faith in you; whatever we call it, it will all be OK. It may be painful, it may be tough, but it will all be OK. Deciding to accept whatever comes is an amazing spiritual lesson that science can’t argue with. Once we see that, and drop our assumptions and expectations the world becomes very beautiful. We are surprised instead of disappointed. We are pleased with challenges instead of frustrated. We are thrilled with quiet instead of bored.

Referenced: Tao Te Ching

Realizing We Have Enough

It makes sense that people who don’t have much feel a sense of lack. It doesn’t make as much sense that people who have tons of stuff, lots of money and means, also feel lack. One point of this talk is that the sense of external lack is driven by an internal lack. If we learn to get our joy from inside, we don’t need these external things to the same extent. Another point is addressing the actual lack in people and places on this planet.

I’ve talked before about the state of consciousness that expresses enlightenment comes from a place of abundance. It has arrived. It has what it needs. It’s interesting to see that the external things we want, all the Christmas gifts, and all the status we shoot for, they are fleeting. As I make a higher salary, I still want a higher salary. There is a treadmill here, and I’m not going anywhere no matter what I get or accomplish. Can we see this fictitious sense of lack and expose it?

Real lack does exist on our planet. There are lots of people without enough food. Lots of people without homes and basic needs being met. But at what point do we realize that we are abundant? For those of us that are not starving, and do have shelter, at what point do we feel abundant? Most of us never do.

This sense of lack drives our governments and our corporations. If we were to realize, deeply realize that we are abundant internally. What would change on this planet? One way we can make a dent in the actual lack on this planet is realizing we have enough both internally and externally. If we have enough, we can begin to share.

One could argue that there has been an evolutionary need for the feeling of lack. In small circles without enough resources the strong survive. But now we can see the entire planet, and we’ve never been able to do that before. We all have enough. There is enough food. There is enough money. For the first time in the history of the world, we can see that there is enough.

Those literal external expressions of lack are probably not fixed only by a redistribution. We can’t necessarily just feed the hungry. Historically that ends up creating more dependence and corruption than help. So the issues of lack are complex. But we have the capacity at this point to realize that we all can make it. In the past only some of us, the strongest of us, were going to be able to make it. But now we have the technology and the capacity to work toward all of us making it. All of us having meaningful and productive lives.

What would change on this planet if we all realized that there is enough? There is enough joy. There is enough food. There is enough money. The world is abundant. We are not stuck. The only thing keeping us stuck is our own erroneous sense of lack.

Connecting to the Vine

How do we remember what to do when we feel lost in our daily lives? Metaphor can be a great teaching tool to anchor ideas into our reality. “Connecting to the vine” is a great way to describe connection to oneness.

What happens when a leaf gets cut away from a vine? It tends to wither and die. This talk discusses this idea as a spiritual metaphor. If we consider the expression of oneness as the vine, then our identification with self is cutting ourselves off from that vine. While identification with self can feel quite cut off, it is often called an illusion because we can never leave oneness. We can only identify away from oneness, not actually be away from it. Changing our identification back to experiencing life directly, we reconnect with the vine.

It’s simple to do. We can use times when we’re stuck in line, or in a traffic jam, to bring our focus to the physical sensation of life and reconnect to being. We can make the effort to truly listen to coworkers, instead of thinking of what we’ll say next. This allows us to be present while with others. Whenever we need to walk somewhere, we can bring our attention to the physical sensation of walking to bring ourselves back to the vine of being. And of course we can chose to allow a more formal space for connecting to the vine through meditative or introspective practices.

In this talk I also discuss Jesus and the idea that he was the expression of being connected to the vine. If we change our concept of Jesus from needing to go “through him” to understanding that he was showing us “how to be” connected, we can actually begin to emulate how he lived. If we leave it as an idea, we won’t be able to express his love.

Referenced: Jesus

Shining Light on the Shadow

Part of evolving as a human being, and part of the teaching that I’m trying to promote, is about bringing awareness to all the aspects of our lives. One of the big accomplishments in psychology has been identifying and naming what’s been called the shadow. To understand the shadow we’ll try to describe a fictional “whole self” and then discuss damage that occurs which can create shadow.

What is a whole self? We could say that it is someone fully identifying with all the ways he/she can interact with the world: Thinking for objective experience. Emotion and body for subjective internal feeling. Spirituality for a larger context. Having access to all those experiences is what we might call being whole or fully self. (FYI – This is a different meaning of self, a more healthy meaning, than what I normally use to describe self.)

Shadow literally means to obscure the light. A shadowed element of self is a part of us that we don’t identify with. Commonly that can be an emotion we don’t relate to, or it can be how we relate to our bodies, minds, or spirituality. Any part of self that we have become misidentified with can be termed the shadow. Again, our shadowed elements are any part of us that we don’t have the ability to identify with directly. Shadow elements are often brought on by trauma, and solidified by our beliefs. Working with shadow is extremely difficult primarily because we don’t see what we’re not conscious of.

How do we find our shadow? We begin to find our shadow by looking at things that bother us – anger in other people or situations – behavior we know we do, but deny as “us”. Often this will be perceived as someone else’s “stuff.” It can be out in the world, but shadow can also express itself in our dreams. Therapy can help us find the shadow, in fact most of what therapy tries to do is work on reintegrating splintered parts of self and foster becoming whole.

To begin working with the shadow we make the effort to bring aspects of our self into 1st person experience. Literally taking 3rd person experience and working to make it 2nd person, and ultimately 1st person – via role playing dialog and perspective shifting. This is a great way to reintegrate shadowed elements of self.

Referenced: Integral Theory

A New Kind of Judgement

There are two types of judgement or choice, and it is a mistake to make either of them bad. In this talk I will describe the two kinds of choice, introducing a new kind of judgement.

Many people in the spiritual community condemn judgement. They’ve had experiences where they saw the freedom in not judging a situation and so judgement becomes a bad thing (which really is just another judgement). In this talk I hope to clarify that judgement is important at all levels of spirituality, but that there are fundamentally two types of judgement for two types of levels or experiences.

When we judge something and condemn it, it doesn’t feel very spiritual. Most of the world is doing this most of the time. I’ll call this the level of “betterment”. We judge between good and bad and are always wanting the better of the situation. Very normal, and again, where most of the world resonates.

When we discern, or judge, to not attach to a situation, we are potentially coming from (or moving to) a non-dual or what many people think is a very spiritual place. Both of these actions use judgment. One is on the level of betterment, and one is on the level of non-duality or spirituality. This non-dual judgment is the new kind of judgment. It is the development of awareness.

What most of us are trying to accomplish in meditation, or learning our own minds, is an appreciation of what is. A non-comparative experience of is-ness. No good, no bad, just is-ness, or stillness. That type of experience is often called non-dual, and we try to experience it during meditation, and since meditation has a spiritual stigma surrounding it, we tend to equate spirituality with non-dual states of mind.

The more normal experience is on the level of betterment. The level where I prefer this smell to that smell, this feeling to that feeling, this person to that person. The first talk I did was on beliefs, and how beliefs are born from opinions. Well the level of betterment is the dance of comparing what we believe we are, with our situation; and striving toward the better aspects of that situation. An important point in this talk, and all my talks is to remember that we have the tendency to solidify our beliefs, but that it might serve us to soften our beliefs about who we are so there’s less “us” for phenomenon to bump into. This is not unhealthy dissociation, it is being aware of our ability to judge things in many different ways. I’ll discuss more on beliefs later.

I’m going to define a couple other words right now: relative and absolute. Relative is the dance between two or more things, and absolute is oneness (or potentially nothingness, but that’s another conversation). If I am comparing something to something else, or even something to myself, I am in a relativistic good-bad frame of mind. If there is no comparison, and there is only experience of what is, then I am in a non-dual, or what we might call a spiritual state of mind.

So the concept for this talk is this: if we use judgment to support a good or bad belief, or a betterment belief, meaning a qualitative stance on things, then we are not acting in a traditional spiritual fashion, but we are acting on a betterment fashion. On the other hand, If we are using judgment to choose a not belief based, not good or bad comparison, but our choice is to choose non-comparison itself; then we’re acting deeply spiritual, or deeply non-dual. That ability would be the new kind of judgement. The decision to drop comparison.

Many people are dancing in this space without much context at this point. They learn about the non-dual state of mind, and all of a sudden duality or the betterment level is bad. But, we’re not supposed to always act spiritual, or non-dual. To think about it differently, this entire life is spiritual, but many people take spiritual to mean non-dual experience only. You might start to feel that we can bring the term spiritual to both levels: non-dual and betterment; if we see that awareness or discernment are involved throughout. My betterment decisions become more spiritually based when I have the non-dual experience available to me.

The betterment level is where we can lose weight. It’s where we make more money. It’s where we can actually affect change in our lives, and other peoples lives. It’s not a bad place. We want to get better at dealing with the betterment level because it is a part of life. We just don’t want to remain lost in the betterment level only. We need both in our toolkit. If we don’t have any ability to just “be”, to just feel the situation, to move our solidified center of self out of the way, then we don’t have as many tools. The non-dual experiential side allows us to see the beauty in whatever comes up. Without that we don’t have the freedom side of things. So one is the work (betterment), and one is the freedom (non-dual experience). Most of us are just stuck in the work.

So this is a discussion on judgement, on good and bad, on beliefs, and on how all this stuff arises. The belief part is the me that comes up against the decision. The me that feels the pressure of the situation. So many teachings teach that we need to authentically feel our feelings, and I completely agree. But not many teachings mention that our feelings are relative to who we think we are, and what’s going on in the situation.

If you step on my foot, there will most probably be physical pain, but most people assume there will be tons of healthy anger there as well, and there certainly might be. However, the levels of anger depend completely on my perception of the event. If I believe you meant to do it, there will potentially be lots of anger. If I have compassion for your frustrated situation, there will potentially be less anger. If I believe it was completely an accident, there is the potential for very little anger if at any comes up at all. So the anger is not absolute, it is relative to who I believe I am and you are in that situation.

Most of us walk around with a solidified self that can’t have it’s foot stepped on. Most teachings would say that we need to include the healthy anger that comes up with all these situations. But that assumes a static unmovable self. The ability to move self, or choose (which is a new kind of judgement) what we want to attach to or believe in, allows us a deep freedom and is acting on the non-dual side of things. Learning this level of judgment allows us to have more options when that conflict arises. I can change the me that is in the situation. Fully dropping the me is to fully drop the relativistic quality of the situation (feel the feelings, choose to drop the judgement). Having these options in our toolkit is the building of awareness. Awareness is what I have called discernment in the past. It is the comparison and knowledge of where we are.

So we use the tension of the betterment level to achieve, and we use the freedom of the non-dual level to grow spiritually. The two kinds of decisions we have available to us are on two very different levels, but both are really necessary.

So normal judging is between relative things and is on the level of betterment. Judging (or choosing to experience) the level of absolute is non-dual and a new kind of judgment for most people. When we are stuck without the new kind of judgement, without the discernment of awareness, we are stuck in the betterment side of things only. That is generally a reactive and not very full experience of life. Once we learn these other tools that we have available to us, it allows us to navigate and improve within the betterment level, and it also offers the entire spectrum of non-dual experience as well.

Making Changes – Intention, Hypnosis, NLP, Goal Setting

On the level of self and accomplishment, as we learn how our mind works, we can begin to use tools to achieve change and betterment in our lives. We can learn to focus better, make more money, lose weight, eat better, etc. Not only that, we can use the same tools to further our meditation and connection to being. There are many facets to living an optimal life.

We do want to be careful that we don’t get too attached to that betterment. Self and ego are attached to these wants, so we need to watch how we apply the tools I’ll be talking about today. But the tools are very useful nonetheless.

Today’s show will be a brief overview of the power of Intention Setting, Hypnosis, Neural Linguistic Programming, Hemi Sync, Goal Setting and Positive Thinking. All of these “technologies” affect our opinions and beliefs, and hence our perception of the world.

Referenced: Tony Robbins

Dealing with Death – Ours and Others

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

What Does Paradox Have To Do With It?

Question I’d really like answered for a future talk:  What, if anything, would be the best thing humans could do to make the world a better place?  Please leave an answer as a comment to this blog or email me directly.

In this talk we explore paradoxes and logic and point out where we’ll find them in learning about stillness.

One interesting paradox is “This sentence is false.” Another might have to do with using language to define impossible situations.  The logical mind doesn’t like paradoxes.

The most common paradoxes we will find in these talks tend to come from different levels of experience clashing against the same thing, or the idea of the same thing. Normally those two experiences come from a mind that feels separate from the moment, and the mind that feels at one with the moment. If you have no concept of what being one with the moment feels like, it is simply when we are doing anything without critique. That’s stillness in it’s simplest form.

Another example of paradox, as I’m defining it here, is the good/bad dilemma. Having something that seems bad turn out to be good. Or learning something from a bad thing, and finding good value in that learning. Then the thing is good and bad, etc.

What I am really trying to describe is the problem with being “away” from reality. The normal existence of man feels separate from life. We feel distinct and separate from other people and things.  I’m trying to discuss the sense of oneness, and how a separate mind will often not find logic in discussing oneness.  In that lack of logic we will often come to paradoxes.

All spiritual traditions seem to be based, or at least discuss oneness.  In Christianity, the original sin is about mankind leaving stillness, or oneness, to come to knowledge. We obtained the knowledge of good and evil. It’s man entering duality. In Christianity they say that after death we go to heaven. Is it possible that all that needs to die is the self?  Because there is no self in stillness, can we come to a heaven on earth?  Taoism speaks of everything being the Tao – that is their reference to oneness.  Buddhism speaks of stillness and oneness frequently as well.  This is all mentioned only to point out that oneness seems to exist, even though our normal experience is a separate one.

So are we OK with paradox?  Can a mind see that paradoxes exist, and move past them?  Can we put down the discerning mind to come to peace?