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Nested Duality

What is nested duality? This talk begins to discuss the play of opposites. I talk about the importance of relating in new ways to good and bad. Ultimately this talk is trying to convey the error of nested duality which is when we make the non-dual experience something good.

As we look at good and bad closely, we see we can relate to the concepts in different ways:

  • Good and bad can feel like absolutes. Things outside us that we have no control over.
  • Good and bad can begin to define one another. Without bad, there is no good.
  • Sometimes perceived bad events end up being good events.
  • Good and bad can be seen as perceptions of is-ness. We realize that we are much more involved in good and bad than we originally thought.

As we take responsibility for ourselves and our perceptions, we learn we are intimately involved in our perceptions of good and bad. They end up being our judgements. As we learn we can “mess” with our perception of good and bad we start to wonder about non-dual experience. A non-dual experience is experience without duality, without good and bad.

When we first learn about non-dual experience we see that we can escape good and bad in a certain sense by staying in a nonjudgemental state of mind. Sitting in stillness can be very pleasurable. Often times people get the idea that non-dual states are better than dual states. This is where duality has come back in, this is nested duality.

Once we’ve made the non-dual state of mind better than the dual state of mind, we’ve been caught in nested duality. If we begin to prefer, or call good, the non-dual state of mind then it is no longer non-dual. This makes it very hard to correctly sell this state of mind, or even point to it, because when we do we are not in it. But when we treat the non-dual experience in this way, it becomes just another opinion, another belief. It becomes something we think about instead of do.

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

Informed Morality

This talk is about how non-dual experience can inform our morality. It was inspired by a magazine article that painted non-duality as morally irresponsible. Non-duality is not irresponsible. In fact, it can deeply inform our morality.

What is morality? Morality defines and distinguishes between right and wrong. Our own history and belief systems are where our morals are born. It’s important to note that our morals are not universal and can vary greatly. As much as we feel “our” morals are correct, they in fact are relative. There are endless examples of clashing morals, and this is where most wars come from.

So if we describe our relationship to morality in shades, we could say that on one side, there is a person who is fully attached to right and wrong, and all the personal beliefs that support what is right and wrong for that person. On the other side, there is someone who is experiencing a non-dual state; they drop the attachment to good and bad and do not experience duality. All different levels of attachment and morality fall in between these extremes.

If we choose to experience non-duality our morals are informed. This does not mean they are lessened, or weakened. We do not now prefer bad to good. Rather, loosening our attachment to morals can bring deep wisdom. Once we see non-duality, we become less attached, and because of this we are able to deal more easily with complex moral issues.

The world is seeming more and more complex as globalization occurs, technology increases, and more choices in general become available to us. It can often be helpful to come to that complexity with the mind of “I don’t know.” Non-duality comes from place of “I don’t know,” instead of the belief based “I know how it should be” mind set. This allows us to approach complex situations in a more authentic and capable way. “I don’t know” allows for finding out. “I already know” does not. Right and wrong attachments can often be based on beliefs that are not relevant or helpful.

People who practice meditation have the opportunity to work with their beliefs as they practice. But all people see the edges of their moral value systems when things upset them. When we get upset, it’s time to get non-dual. Take a moment to focus on your breath and become still when dealing with things, this will allow for a new morality.

Referenced: Friedrich Nietzsche

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.

Why We Can’t Hold On To Stillness

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

Can We Make It All Sacred

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

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?

You Can’t Kill God

This is a talk about fear and fear based teaching.

Any teacher that offers fear should be watched very closely.  There is nothing to fear.  You cannot kill god.  The death of bird, the Exxon spill, 911, tsunami’s and hurricanes, all of it can’t kill god.  We may not understand it, but it is OK.  Even the extinction of the human race can’t kill god.

If we can learn to identify with god-consciousness, we will see that we are a part of the whole.  That realization allows us to not fear things.  We are temporary, but we are part of the infinite.  All things in the infinite will change, but the infinite itself is timeless.

The idea that we need to save the planet is quite funny.  What we really feel is the need to save ourselves.  When we set up the idea that we need protection, we introduce the birth of fear.

The planet will be just fine whether we litter a five feet deep layer on it, or blow craters the size of Texas in the side of it.  It will be fine.  It’s us who feel we need the protecting.  Wildlife extinct itself and yet new species are born.  Change is constant.  I’m not at all saying we should try to extinct things, but as we do, we don’t kill god.

Leave a plot of earth barren or in any horribly assaulted condition and eventually life will come back to it.  We’re getting better at making it barren for longer periods of time, but we still can’t stop life.  Life wants to come forth.  And so it will.  There is nothing to fear.

Fear based teachings aren’t helpful.  We need to learn to grow past fear.  “Bad” actions, like mistakes and killing things come from a fear based mind.  If we open to a fearless state of mind, we will make better choices.  Not a reckless state of mind, but a truly fearless one.

There has always been catastrophic things to fear.  War, famine, sickness, nuclear attacks, etc.  Our current struggles are nothing new.  They won’t end until we evolve past the idea of fear.

We all die, and need to learn not to fear that.  But we most importantly need to learn to live.  The illusion is that we’re not OK.  This world is perfect as it is.  This moment never has anything wrong with it.
Referenced: Tao Te Ching #46

Language is a Lie

This talk is about the box of language. The main point is that since we are all one, when we create the separate reality (the one to talk about), we are “lying” to ourselves.

Language creates a box of agreement. But we are still separated by perspective. A smaller point but something we tend to miss. Perspective is what language is trying to relate, but we trust memories as if there was little or no perspective. Again, this is a different point than the main theme, but still important.

Language will always be incomplete. You can’t capture things with language, you can only point. The structure of thinking ends up being a detriment because we tend to remember our judgements about things. The language of the situation. We tend to get stuck in the labeling mind rather than the listening mind. The party was “bad”. But not to someone who enjoyed the party.

Language is a descriptor. It is an abstraction of truth. It adds a layer onto truth. So, what’s the point? Why discuss the box of language? Well, as we’re trying to open our minds, we need to learn that we can think differently.

I discuss the need to talk. The need to fill space with commentary. Truth comes from the act of listening, not speaking.

I also mentioned oneness and unity consciousness. Mentioned the book Cosmic Consciousness by Richard Bucke, and Ken Wilber’s No Boundary. All the greats had this state of mind, or state of being.

Other interesting points: Math is a language. We use words to define other words.

You Don’t Have to Fix It

As we grow and consciously evolve, we will find wisdom in many situations.  However, we should watch how attached to those opinions we become.  We often will want to tell other people how to be, and get very attached to what is “supposed” to happen.

The main point of this talk is that once you find yourself with strong opinions, use that as an anchor to wake up.  Even if you are morally correct, once you are attached to an idea, you start to become just as lost as someone doing wrong.  It is much more important to bring presence to a situation, than the right action.

New-agers often get lost here.  It’s not about getting to the right beliefs, it’s about seeing all your beliefs.  It may be right to not want war, but as we fight for that idea, we begin another war, or argument, or conflict.  That’s when the idea of being right, or fixing the situation breaks down.

We may have opinions about how other people should live, eat, and behave.  All those opinions can come from a deep caring, and our advise can often be sound.  However, when we get too attached to our idea we’ve gotten a little lost.  Learn acceptance instead of righteousness.

Referenced: Joel Goldsmith

Show Music: Building the Bass Castle Vol. I by Voltage