The world as projection

I have been thinking about sensitivity. We say we are highly sensitive if we experience energies and pick up on different feeling-vibrations as if they are our own. We call people ’empaths’ because they have a tendency to feel empathy and their boundaries of ‘selfhood’ are not as distinct. These people usually have a hard time, and since my teens, I seem to have become such a person.

In New Age circles, there is a big emphasis on using sensitivity and protecting it, by learning boundaries, being grounded, saying ‘no’ if we feel overwhelmed etc. But these are just coping mechanisms for what I feel is a transitory phase for the ego, just as in New Age circles there is often great activism against the perceived ‘wrongs’ of the world, which is good as it reflects the newfound feeling of compassion to balance out the old survival ego, but this is somehow still in ego because it creates a new ‘other’ to be angry at. Activism coming from true understanding of our shared being, a non-egoic sense of acting in the world, is still rare.

Coming back to empaths… The ego of strength and conviction, with clear boundaries, trust in apparent reality and good self-esteem has eventually been eroded by the polarity of experiencing the darker side of life: being let down by the world or ‘others’, feeling insecure, feeling afraid. These emotions make one doubt one’s ideas and make us sensitive to a wider circle of emotions around us, not just the emotions we ‘like’. Focussing positively out of aversion for the negative is still an egoic state (believing in a small, separate entity that has preferences). It eventually gives up its attempt to control experiences through the ‘mind’, because it is connected to a collective unconscious that it cannot always control. This sudden feeling that actually, we cannot control everything, breaks down some of our naive concrete ideas and leaves us with fewer defences against a range of emotions, often picked up from ‘others’ because our own inner emotions are projected and reflected back. The Law of Attraction is working all along, but we cannot always orchestrate it, as we believe ourselves to be people who can’t possible know our deepest beliefs or even how others’ beliefs are interacting with ours. As Rupert Spira has said, “To know your thoughts, you have to change the whole universe.” It is easier to surrender than to take this on. For people who manage Law of Attraction easily, I can only think that they are using a deep level of trust which most ‘separate selves’ can’t muster, and this is also something their mind structure has allowed them to access.

So these coping mechanisms for sensitive people may be helpful, but the real shift has to be in the feeling of selfhood that is noticing the range of vibrations ‘out there’. This time, the ego may not be so susceptible to being built up again through focussing positive on our own experience, as we realise we are deeply connected with anything we perceive outside of us – it influences the structure of our minds. This time only the gradual disempowering of the egoic identity can help us to truly detach from forms and notice the true background of love and safety that is underneath all phenomenon. From this place, if we have a preference for something, it is not as an aversion to something else or as a security for our small sense of self: it is in order to reflect our sense of true being, rooted in freedom, love, and the safety of the truth that all are one changeless reality, which we feel in the knowing of our true self.

The Judge Inside

Within the mind, there lives an entity called The Judge.

The Judge is a construct of thoughts: thousands of years of human conditioning passed along generations, helping us to define ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This little character sits within the human psyche as a very personal persona, judging not only our own but everyone else’s words and actions. It calculates rewards, punishments, deserving, and so on. It values and evaluates. Of course, its ideas could be a total fabrication. It could be missing vital facts and judging on misinformation. But still it assesses everything it comes into contact with. The worst part is that it separates life into many others ‘out there’ who are behaving in certain ways. It responds to ego because it is an egoic construct. We learn this so acutely as children, being told what is good and bad behaviour.

I am not saying children should not learn appropriate conduct. It is vital and inevitable that they learn to identify different objects and forms of behaviour. But it takes us down the road of confusion as adults when we haven’t balanced this ‘logical’ understanding with the understanding of interconnectedness – the ability to suspend mental noise and judgement and feel as One Totality that whatever is going on around, we can’t possibly know it all mentally.

The Judge that operates primarily against one’s own personality is turned inwards and creates guilt or arrogance. The one that comments on others creates blame, anger, pity, jealousy, vengeance, and so on. But it is the same construct of mental judgement of life, breaking life into tiny pieces of experience we feel we can analyse and label.

From the point of view of consciousness, everything is occurring simultaneously as part of one expression. There are no distinct separations and there is no piece of the puzzle that can be taken out and evaluated. The Judge cannot see its own ignorance until it admits it knows nothing. Once it is witnessed from the viewpoint of awareness itself, realising life is one everywhere, it loses its certainty of labels and gives in to the Unknown.

The Judge that never rests is like a poison in the mind. But eventually it creates so much confusion and sorrow that it poisons itself. The end of the Judge is the end of the subject-object relationship. It is the end of duality.

The apologies you never got…

Human relationships are strange in that we don’t know how something we said or did stacks up in the universe. We don’t know the history-future-karmic stuff that relates to each thing. We don’t know what a comment we made meant to someone, nor a gesture.

But there are times with hindsight, when we can see that something felt unfair to us. Or in other situations, we reacted unfairly to someone. Unknown knowledge becomes a little more known, better understood. For instance, our boasting about our kids or our lifestyle could make someone feel uncomfortable or competitive, or we could feel judged as inferior by another person bragging to us.  In situations where such emotions get aroused, or reactions are created, there is usually a karmic string attached…necessary for our own growth of consciousness. We can go about trying to ‘put things right’, by manipulating what appears as our external, objective world, not realising that the objects are a secondary appearance.

If there is immediate need, most would respond to a situation without calculation or mental commentary. But if we are pondering the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’, then the judgemental mind is further trapped into the karmic thread which created the situations in the first place. Often the thinking mind takes hold with strong force or habit, and there’s not much we can do. But the moment we realise this, is the moment of true ‘choice’, where we can become the observer of this play rather than the actor trapped in its template.

The work we do within is always forgiveness. Not as an excuse for harmful behaviour, but as a surrender and letting go, with the knowledge that we do not know the reasons. This is forgiveness towards the apologies we never got, and also the ones we did not utter.

The collapse of Beliefs

It seems so obvious that certain statements are true: that we are humans, that we are born, that we will die, and so many other things. But the most profound realisation that comes with awakening to reality is knowing that all beliefs are conditioning, and as such, all beliefs are false. This is because all beliefs exist in the realm of ideas, which may refer to something we experience, but they are not an experience in themselves. The idea that we are born is one fundamental belief that we cannot refer to in our experience: none of us knows the experience of being born as a reality. Can you find, in your self, the experience of your own beginning? Maybe we can recall being a child, but even then, that experience refers to an idea in the past which is not being experienced right now and is therefore in the realm of memory or imagination. The future is the same. What about beliefs and ideas in the present, such as ‘I am a man or woman.’ This belief is just as questionable as beliefs of past and future. The concept of gender, for instance, assumes an identity based on physical perceptions, but these perceptions are temporary and changeable and last only as long as we believe ourselves to be bodies. Are we bodies endowed with consciousness? Or are we consciousness having a temporary experience as a body? The idea that ‘I am a body with a gender or race’ is breakable. Every idea is breakable.

When belief collapses, reality begins. It doesn’t begin in time, but flowers in a timeless moment, for time is just another belief along the illusory past-present-future continuum. Time has never been experienced by anyone except as an idea in our minds. The things we demand from time are projections of our thoughts. The ever so complex interplay of form, manifestation and time is not so much our experience but our beliefs being taken for experience. What do we experience without beliefs? Emotions are the residues of decades of beliefs imprinting themselves on our physical perceptions. Without a belief in an enemy, there would be no emotion of anger or revenge. So when wiped clean of beliefs, what is left of thoughts and emotions? Nothing.

In this space of nothingness, reality is experienced. This is the letting-go we are practising: unlearning the conditioning of being born a human.

The Value of Desire

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Desire is a tricky thing when it comes to the human psyche. It is usually seen as the beginning of man’s downfall. The Bible depicts Eve’s desire for the apple as the beginning of sinful temptation; the Bhagavad Gita wtinesses Lord Krishna urging Arjun to ‘act without desire’.

In the New Age, however, desire is seen as the motivator of success. Having goals, aspirations and desires to better ourselves is encouraged. Looking back on religious texts, we in the West generally see the rejection of desire as an attempt to control the masses – take away people’s aspirations and rule over them more easily so that they will be subjugated by guilt and fear. Maybe there is some truth in this, because fear of punishment is something that keeps society in check after all. But on a much deeper level, on the level of heart and soul, what is the relevance of desire? Can it be truly useful for our betterment, and if not, can it be so easily rejected?

In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, a wonderfully concise book by Deepak Chopra, the author discusses the value of desire as the primary motivating force of humanity’s progress. At the same time, he advises ‘detachment from desire.’ I found this very hard to grasp, for the desire is in itself a form of attachment to something, so how can you have a desire that you are detached from? For instance, if I want to be rich (desire), I obviously have some longing. If I became detached from wanting to be rich, would it still be called a desire?

Then I started to see this idea of desire in Chopra’s book more in terms of preference. I might prefer being rich to being poor, but I don’t have a strong longing or need for it, so I can be emotionally detached. This puts the idea of the old religious desire into perspective. What the texts were really warning about was not aspirations in themselves, but the attachment and neediness that comes with those aspirations. Hence, Krishna urged Arjun to act (towards a goal), but let go of the need to win (the battle). Why was it so important to let go of the attachment that came with having ‘desires’? Because the attachment feeds the ego, the belief that we are separate entities that need something ‘out there’. Why is the ego described as such a bad thing? Because it makes us believe we are something we are not; it separates ‘us’ from ‘the world’ and starts within us all kinds of misconceptions that lead to suffering. The ego is a psychological construct we hold so dear that we are willing to hurt ourselves and others to protect it. And the ego is closely linked to desire: it is those desires we have become attached to for our own sense of worthiness to stay intact. So along with the attachment to a desire is the FEAR that our world will collapse if we don’t get our desires. This fear is a intuitive knowing that we are chasing after something which will ultimately cause us pain, as a mirage in a desert. Knowing all this theoretically makes little difference, though!

Rupert Spira’s talks focus a lot on the desire for happiness as the primary motivator within all humans. It is the search for happiness that keeps us going until we realise we actually never find happiness out there. It is the despair at knowing this that makes us give up. It is the giving up (relinquishing of desire) that leads us to turn inward. After much pain, like the prodigal son, we turn towards what can never be found in the ‘world’. It happens to us through repeated struggle and suffering, it cannot be forced by following the dictates of texts and applying superficial knowledge. As Rumi said, “the heart must be broken several times until it opens.”

Awakening

When I started thinking spiritually around 15 years ago, going to meditation centres and reading spiritual texts, the word ‘awakening’ did not come up much. Now it seems to be everywhere in spiritual circles. Anyone who has entered the realm of spirituality will have come across the idea of spiritual awakening. There are two layers of meaning here, and the second layer goes pretty deep into a place that’s hard to even explain, a non-place, if you will.

The first aspect of spiritual awakening has been popularised by the work of Eckhart Tolle, which has reached millions of us across the planet. The Power of Now emphasises again and again the immense importance of living in the present moment, mentally. This means not dwelling in the psychological aspects of past and future, but being in the moment without mental commentary. Another writer that drew attention to this in the West is Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now. The awakening spoken of here is mainly to wake up from mental ‘unreality’ into the reality of the present moment. The whole art of Buddhist mindfulness meditations focus on this.

But there is a second layer to awakening. This one takes us down the rabbit hole, and it is the waking up from our perceived identities. This act of questioning or knowing who we are starts in the present moment but takes us beyond into the realm of timelessness. Time is understood as an illusion by those who can live in the present moment (neither past nor future can be experienced except in the present moment as memory or imagination). But those who take awakening to the next level of questioning their own identity (the process which Sri Ramana Maharishi called atma-vichara), enter a level of awareness in which even the manifestation of the present moment loses its objective qualities: they no longer experience a world outside of themselves, but rather experience themselves as the consciousness in which the world is appearing. This is why the world, in Vedanta and Buddhism, is referred to as illusion. It is not a magic trick but rather that our concepts, superimposed onto it, have made it unreal to us. The fact that we hear the word ‘awakening’ so much now is evidence of the fact that our shared consciousness is waking up from the illusion, albeit in faltering steps…

Unperturbable Byron Katie

I have been reading some of the works of Byron Katie. Her main process is simply called “The Work”, or “inquiry”, which, by name, is reminiscent of Ramana Maharishi’s “self-enquiry”, but has a different approach and format. In her books, A Thousand Names for Joy (a discussion of The Tao Te Ching) and Loving What Is, Katie explains her main process which involves questioning thoughts we hold to be true, and effectively deconstructing our beliefs so we realise nothing is inherently true.

I admit that I was slightly blown away by reading A Thousand Names for Joy. Katie’s way of describing the world is so unconventional that I could only read a bit at a time. But I always wanted to come back. Katie confesses she had been depressed and suicidal for many years. She describes a moment of transformation in which a cockroach crawled across her foot, and she realised she no longer needed to suffer by believing these things that went through her mind, called thoughts. She doesn’t believe in mind-control; she speaks of accepting whatever comes up, be it anger, remorse, loss, death, birth, or whatever, and advises questioning our beliefs around these occurrences.

Poetically written with sensual turns of language, her ideas resonate deeply with the philosophies of Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism. But she had never been exposed to any eastern teaching: she didn’t even know what “namaste” meant and thought that when people greeted her with the Sanskrit word (meaning “the god in me sees the god in you”), they were actually saying “no mistake”, because according to her awakened way of living, reality makes “no mistake”.

The book has excerpts from her work with different people suffering with different issues. One man she writes about was a prisoner who held a great deal of anger. He wrote down the reason for his rage, which was that he could not forgive his wife for burning their house down, which resulted in his daughter losing her life. Deeply traumatic to read about, Byron Katie described how this man was able to do The Work or inquiry in order to see that he didn’t need his daughter to be alive, and he could not know for sure that she was truly gone. There are many other excerpts relating to people’s issues with jealousy, fear and possessiveness.

Katie also describes a moment when her bag was stolen. She says she felt a great joy at wondering about the treasures the thief would find in her bag, that were no longer meant for herself. Another incident she describes is being held at gun point by someone who wanted to kill her. She felt little fear, knowing that the attacker could not have done anything other than believe his thoughts.

I found it wondrous to read Katie’s book, and I think she is a great example of someone who is living the truth of spiritual oneness. In Ramaji’s book, 1000, he lists the levels of consciousness of current spiritual teachers, and he has ranked Byron Katie as enlightened. I agree that only someone with an enlightened awareness could have written such a book.

 

Mysteries of perspective

Very often as I am walking down the road or doing something quite ordinary, I notice that the sky is streaked with red light, or there is complete silence all around. Perspective changes within seconds from the micro to the macro, and I feel like a small (but still relevant) part of a huge design.

We are aware of so much more than we know, and a small shift in perspective can lead to big shifts in our lives and even in our universes. We know that we only use a very small part of our minds at any given moment, and that subconsciously we are aware of much much more. If you close your eyes whilst in a moving vehicle, you may find that you can visualise the road ahead before it even appears. We have awareness beyond our awareness! But habitual activities take so much of our power away from all that is going on, and we get so influenced by what everyone else does that we forget to tune into our own minds.

Recently I have met some truly inspiring friends and colleagues who remind me of my own magic. I realise that the world of conventional, habitual things drains me because it’s all been done before, so many times. I do enjoy the day to day, but only if I am able to balance it by having time to reflect, think about the hows and whys in the corridors of my own mind. And another thing that’s become so clear is that the corridors of our mind are linked together.

Good fruit and bad fruit

I have been thinking about CHARACTER, and whether there is such a thing as natural good and evil, or whether we are just products of our environments. Understanding character helps us understand more about how we fit into our environment and how we can relate to each other. But it’s difficult to be objective when trying to assess our own or another person’s qualities. Some say that if you want to know a person, you should look at the friends they keep. Yet another way of seeing a person’s character is explained in the Bible through the analogy of trees bearing fruit.

In this analogy, the qualities of human beings are revealed by what they do, just as the quality of a tree is shown by the type of fruit it bears. This is an interesting metaphor, and the way I understand it, it has nothing to do with materialistic accomplishments (e.g. a tree can bear a large quantity of fruit, but the fruit could be good or bad, just as a person could have a lot of wealth, but the wealth could come from good work or unethical work). What we give out to the world in terms of our service to humanity, our contribution of time and effort is what matters in this analogy.

But I feel that a label such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ leaves little room for development and does not take account of the fact that human beings have the potential to change. Even a tree, if it receives good soil, water and sunshine, will bear better fruit than if it grows without vital nutrients.

People, like all things in nature, depend on their environments. The big difference is that human beings have the conscious ability to change themselves and transform their environments.

Film-making

Last night I had a ‘bad’ dream. I dreamt that I was watching a horror film, and I knew that the film or movie I was watching was not ‘REAL’. In the dream, I was sitting next to a friend, watching a horrific scene which he found entertaining but I found very unpleasant. When I woke up, I wondered why I’d dreamt about watching something like this, which is seemingly unrelated to my life. It consisted of a mentally disturbed serial killer who eventually gave himself up.

Eventually it occurred to me that this was a way for me to understand the ‘scenes’ reported by the media about what is going on in OUR world, like the reports about crimes, violence etc. If you believe in universal spiritual laws, you probably believe that reality as we know it is a projection of our collective imagination. I don’t feel the need to argue this idea through quantum physics, because you either agree with the view or you don’t. What I wanted to understand is: why are we creating a world which has these horrific elements? It was almost like trying to understand why people enjoy watching horror films. Watching and experiencing are different, though. I think we watch in order to understand things that are not in our experience, to have a feeling of catharsis. But why do we want to make these things a part of our world?

Then it occurred to me that, in a sense, we are making a film on the ‘world stage’ (sorry, Shakespeare, your descriptions are too perfect to change). The horrifying elements have come from our FEARS being realised and played out. Why are we fearful? Because we feel the world is UNKNOWN to us. In a gist, we’re not aligned with our true selves, and a myriad of inexplicable, sometimes horrific things have surfaced as a result of that.

But if we are film-makers on this stage, wouldn’t we want to create the MOST BEAUTIFUL PLAY IMAGINABLE? I think we would, but we just don’t know how. Maybe we think it’s GOD (or Godot) rather than we who has the power to write the world script. There are some limitations to what we perceive as our CAPACITY to change things right now. But I think a better reality is definitely possible. It’s time to retrace our steps back to the core issues of who we are so that we can let go of the fears that feed a horrified imagination and embrace the knowledge of a beautiful mind.