philosophic inquiry into life and meaning

...if truth were not for man the desire for truth would not be as a burning unrest in his heart...

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Here you will find personal musings, open ended questions,

thought experimentation and random happenings (and maybe a comic or two).

Seeker asks question to enlightened master. Enlightened master replies...

 

...and somehow the world still functions just fine...

 

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I've been busy working on the backend of this website, the design, and cleaning up the code. I'm still out there searching...for Truth...and for a job. Something to earn money that I don't feel would be unethical or "pushy." I'm thinking of leveraging my current talents and possibly branching out into other areas. In the meantime I wrote a poem:

 

Chance to Rest

Summer's warmth begins to ebb,
and days' hours shorten into lesser spans.
The Sun's rays cast a healing glow over the late evening sky,
That pure gem-like sky.

Look around you in this place,
What do you see?
Is there something amiss in this grandness?
The summer sun with it's searing rays tearing down it's victims?
Or is it the subjects upon which the light stays?
The animal kingdom, those little scurriers, might be to blame?
The people? the people who play their games?
Perhaps you might say, the mistake is the length of the day,
But that would miss the mark by a degree yet unfathomed.
You, the day, and I...and the animals too...
We last as long as need be,
All under one sky, one pure gem-like sky.

Rest a moment here with me;
Wanting nothing, Loving everything.
Give time a chance to rest;
To stop its hasty business.
That can wait for this.

 

Looking back at a recent retreat

7/27/2009

 

TAT Men's Retreat

Sunday June 7th - Friday June 12th

 

The retreat in June was very helpful in getting into a productive state of mind and for increasing my interest in the spiritual search. My goals for going into the retreat were threefold:

 

-More inspiration to move in the direction I need to move in.

-Finding out what that direction is.

-I want to get and give valuable feedback, be a mirror.

 

Before the retreat we chose practices that we thought would help us. I chose for myself, celibacy and media fast. Doing these things before the retreat felt like I was already in retreat for a month before going. I had a rough time and my mind fought for entertainment instead of watching its own mechanisms. However, the mind-state going into the retreat was one of trying based on faith -- faith that this would be helpful.

 

Some of the things on my mind before the retreat:

 

-Wondering what my purpose in life is (job, or what I'm meant to do)

-Feeling lack of motivation for anything, apathy, disinterest in life

-Feeling addicted to watching movies and playing video games (If you ever get a chance to play World of Warcraft...take my advice...DON'T! ;)

-Feeling lack of self-control and judging myself/self-sabotage

 

We were asked to write an essay about what we know so far about ourselves on the spiritual path. Here is my response:

 

What have you learned about yourself so far on the spiritual path?

 

Going into the retreat was like most meetings with friends of a spiritual nature. I'm usually happier, sometimes a bit anxious because I don't know what will happen, but usually just looking forward to a place to be open, honest and, for a while, possibly more free.

 

At the start we were asked to write down one word that describes what we're looking looking for or what we felt was missing. I wrote down 'Meaning.' We wrote these on 3x5 index cards and displayed them for everyone to see in the cabins. If our word was to change during the week, we were asked to tell the group it changed and explain why.

 

We were asked to observe every else and try to pick up on their emotional state of mind by 'listening to the mood underneath the words.'

During the retreat we had rapport sittings in silence which would help us pick up on other's moods. I didn't really get a good read on anyone but did notice there were some moods which a couple of people seem to gravitate towards -- openness -- which was a good thing.

 

Monday was our day of silence for the most part and it was very good. We all kind of synced up and the past and the burdens of life back home got set aside for a while so we could focus on the task at hand. It felt good to not have to talk during the retreat at the beginning. I wrote in my journal: "the silence feels like less judgement (or projected judgement), and makes it seem easier to get along." Also wrote down that it might be nice to try this silent time while watching a movie like Into Great Silence. I wanted to talk though during parts of the silence. We had silence in the mornings before Noon. I think this should be silence before 9AM as Noon was kind of late to be silent. The mornings were used for breakfast, meditation, walks/exercise, and quiet contemplation time.

 

During that evening, we had a couple exercises where we were counting our breath and counting our steps while walking in a circle together. This was for getting everyone in the same mind state to facilitate rapport, I believe. We also did a numbers game exercise (lots of distracting background noise from spiritual materials videos and audio as well as music) while trying to add numbers in our heads that were read to us by our partners. The purpose of this was to help intuition.

 

Art talked about prime numbers, you can only be divided by yourself and edge detection, you can see where you start and end. He talked about Jill Bolte Taylor, who had a stroke leading to a loss of the sense of self. Her body knew what do during her recovery of eight years (such as just roll over or relearn how to walk). Random note in journal from that evening: you have a say about emotions (whether to keep them going or not).

 

Art mentioned a couple of pieces of key advice of the stages:

 

Admit you don't know what you are. Ask yourself: Does it bother you you don't know what you are?

Intuit that knowing is the cure.

Knowing it.

 

1) Slow down

2) Open up

3) Get out of your own way

 

1) To slow down: First decide you're not in a hurry. Become aware of the extraneous thoughts. Thank them and ask them to go away for a while. You can always come back to them later. (This reminds me of Rumi's Guesthouse.)

 

2) To open up means really listening. Seeing what's in front of you you without allowing distractions.

 

Art relayed a quote from Chuck Norris's teacher:

 

“Your mind is not here,” he said.
I made no effort to deny he was right;
students of martial arts soon learn that their teachers
can see right through them. Standing there on the
hard ground in Korea, I just bowed my head slightly
and waited for Mr. Shin to continue.
What you are doing at the moment
must be exactly what you are doing
at the moment—and nothing else
” …
Mr. Shin’s advice, my first lesson in Zen,
came back to me again and again
during my years as a competitor.
-Chuck Norris, The Secret Power Within

 

Art said Richard Rose mentioned "I'd rather have no thoughts than thoughts that are not relevant."

 

We can procrastinate that line of thinking. I can come back to these thoughts later.

 

3) To get out of your own way:

 

1) Make the choice to get out of your own way.

2) Be very careful of your self-talk (self-talk is stuff you listen to in your thoughts and self-beliefs).

3) Focus on your ability and not your disability (always eye up the goal)

4) We can't do it alone. Need to welcome support, help and love from others.

 

Tuesday 6/9, "Did another walk this morning. The silence is hard to deal with. I just want to talk/communicate/share. My mind is starting to get bored and needs distractions. Thus this journal entry."

 

That afternoon we had a session which were to write a stream of consciousness for a couple minutes then a poem in response to what came up from this poem:

 

"All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why." -Thurber, James

 

This seemed to be the turn around point for the retreat as we all were moved by the poems and the retreat but this really put it together and brought everyone closer. It felt more serious at this point and more alive when everyone shared their poems. One suggestion that came up was to try to write a poem with your other hand (left hand if you're normally right handed) as this may come from the other side of the brain.

 

Our next session was Practical/Tactical Seeking where we shared our practices and came to some similar conclusions on what is useful. See here for more on this session:

 

Practical/Tactical Seeking (Spritual Actions)

 

Wednesday evening my mood was slipping into another mood but it was a bit subtle at first this limited my ability to take useful notes but I'll post what notes I did take.  We had another session here about Fear as an obstacle on the path. My notes from that session:

 

-Fear of death is compensated by pride.

-Pride hides the doubt which is needed for finding the truth about death.

-Admit death is real to face death.

-Is there a step on your path you feel called to take but are afraid to do so out of fear?

 

A couple of people at this point by Wednesday had already changed their 'words'. I changed my word once, mid-way through the week. During a numbers game exercise, I was feeling less and less interested in all the goings-on 'out there' and was listening to Mr. Rose from the video Mr. Rose and felt a mood of longing. This hit me more than would have usually occurred around that time and I changed my word to 'Life.' I felt that hit home as finding what I was would be to find out what is alive.

 

Also this change was noted in my journal, which went from logical list and paragraph based notes, to random notes and 'doodlings'.

 

Another session Wednesday night was about Goal Setting and Achievement based on personal development. This was set up similar to Bart Marshall's Ultimate Betweenness. We wrote down I want to.... I am .... where ... is the goal you want to achieve such as finding the Truth or being successful at something. Then this was broken down into projects. The projects were broken down into minor goals.

 

On Thursday night we did a session on dreams. The technique is from Eddie Traversa: Uber Dream Analysis. We did that then shared our dreams and those who volunteered to share allowed the others to interpret the dream as if it were your own dream. If this were my dream it would mean...this person would represent...Art suggested it's best to determine first if the dream is about oneself or about others. Do the characters in the dream represent parts of myself or are they about their waking life counterparts?

 

Has this retreat generated any new or redirected action?

 

Since the retreat, (it's been about a month and a half now), I have felt more inspired and interested in looking for an answer, the answer, Truth. The direction I wanted to know I feel I have a little bit of a clue now, by admitting I do not know what my path consists of but feel that openness is useful in this task. I might be more accident prone if I throw myself out there and continue to look under every rock, even the rocks that my whole being resists out of fear. Some practices to try and some inspirations have been gained from the retreat. My focus before this retreat was on video games and entertainment movies. Now it is more on getting down to what matters in life and wondering what it's all about.... Also it seems time is slowing down. That may just be some crazy perceptual thing as time seemed to speed up for me for most of my life but now it seems that I've lived a year in the past two months. Strange and I don't know if it has any bearing on the path but that is my experience.

 

Also, the shared experience of working with others at the only thing there is to really work for (Truth, Enlightenment, Peace, Life, Meaning, Etc) is something you need to see for yourself. Worth it? Definitely.

 

In Response to: What have you learned about yourself so far on the spiritual path? 5-31-2009

 

First, something to consider: Imagine you're going to write an essay to the above question. Your audience is someone who has already completed their spiritual path. How would you respond to the above question?

 

***

 

Richard Rose said there are four levels of people (following Gurdjieff's model): The Instinctive, Emotional, Intellectual, and Philosophic.

I used to think I was the philosopher, the highest level, until I gave the other levels a look. I see how in my pride I would think myself the intellectual even when I didn't have the common sense needed for ordinary living. I began to see how the wisdom of the masses worked better than my idealistic fantasies.

The intellectual level is one where a system of study is employed for some pursuit, goal, or the sheer thrill of it -- that mental snap that happens after a difficult puzzle is solved and that last piece fits perfectly into place. 

Because I was told I was gifted intellectually at an early age, it became a belief even until later years. I actually thought I was smarter than your average bear (and human).

What I actually was, was riding high the delusion of praise and lapping it up. I would do what pleased people for praise and avoid what caused commotion. After being involved in the spiritual path (of self-observation) for a time, Rose's mention of an emotional person began to show itself to me.

These pieces are like layers that peel back each time revealing something new, something unconsidered. This time, it was an emotional core behind the need to be praised and avoid punishment that hails back to my childhood. The drive to fit in and not rock the boat, both of which are freeing as they are constricting, was me as an emotional person reacting in the only way I knew how at the time.

Now I'm beginning to see how this emotional level is dependent on the physical/instinctive basis. A body with its pleasure and pain mechanisms is needed for an emotional reaction to take place. Even if I imagine someone in pain, it is my own relating that person's suffering to my own past (and maybe present) suffering that causes a mental picture to act as though it were a physical reality happening now, which sets up the emotional reaction.

So I can say that I act on all these four levels at the same time but generally react from the emotional level. The emotional level I see can get pumped up ready for action very inspired to act (and maybe even act for a short time) one minute then all the steam fizzles out and so to does my will to act. 

It is this swaying of interest, the shifting of desires that I must work with and find a way out of. To not have to want would be the same as to be free of suffering. To be released from the bondage of the mind and body...would be better than to be the slave to both.

Interest is the key I think. If you have an interest in something and it just up and leaves what does that say about the reality behind 1) the something you were interested in 2) the interest itself and 3) the 'you' that was interested?

The 'something' is like all things -- impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not you. All things come and all things go. This means I am not a thing. I am however quite 'invested' in interest as that seems to be something that is not a thing (other than a subjective observation) but is more real and closer than the objects in my reality. What I want or do not want and wanting to know what I want and why...all of this is important because I do not know.

What is your favorite color? Mine is red (and red-orange). Why? I haven't the slightest. It does produce a reaction a feeling inside that is not produced by other colors. But still I choose red even though the real reason is unknown to me. This extends to all things. Why do you work were you work (or don't work)? Favorite foods, stories, people, jokes, places, etc. And all of this doesn't satisfy ultimately but we favoritize suffering anyway. It's a mass delusion that we've bought into. Such are the 'perils of being in 3d' as Incubus sings in their song, Pardon Me.

I can say I decide my own fate. I am the decider. I choose when to get up in the morning what to wear and what to eat. This is saying I am a physical body that somehow decides. But that is not correct. Choices get made to my surprise and the reality that has the rule-set includes the rules of fate...all of which I did not decide. And in not making a decision a decision is made (for you and not necessarily in your favor). Do I choose to inspire the motivations which result in my decisions? Do I choose my framework mental and physical for deciding? No, I do not. I am not the decider of my actions but I still must claim responsibility, as the Buddha said we are the heirs to our actions.

So I have favorites and there are ways of taking the mind off of its hold of favorites, out of its rut. One is to release it and the other is to do the opposite than what you would normally do. 

Doing the opposite means to do something you would not normally do, such as perform in front of many people if you have stage fright or pick something you do not like to get to get another perspective. This is great for shaking the mind out of its comfort zone which is a tendency of the mind. Of any two choices do the one you would not do. There are others who would have made that choice as it is what they normally would have done. Ask yourself why they chose that route. What do they see? Put yourself into their shoes and try out another tack, you might just get another mind altering perspective. This may alter your understanding of your fellow man and put you on the level with him rather than on your high-horse above him.

To release the hold is basically like giving up or surrendering. This is an action that is normally called a 'non-action' or 'non-doing' in spiritual literature. It really is something that is done but instead of taking a normal route from point A, the interest, to point B, the end result, this is taking point A and staying there at point A as point A naturally changes to something else, point C.

This releasing can be affected by being aware of it. It is most noticeable in the body in the abdomen region. A holding there means there is holding elsewhere – in the mind too. A relaxing of this body tension can allow the mind to relax a bit, the clutching to give some space, and in the space the mind is freer to think, the machine operates more efficiently if it's not grinding gears all the time.

An emotional person can get really psyched up about something only later to have something else take it's place of importance. If it is not acted on that is the normal way this happens. Releasing happens on it's own, automatically. You prevent your actions rather than following through. It gives you another option to act, rather than re-act.

I've been mostly writing about emotions and reactions but would now like to write about memory and thoughts. This essay is about what has been learned on this path. What is learning? I believe learning is an integration of experience into one's being that is dependent on memory. Memory is quite often faulty and unless constantly refreshed, volatile. One who learns not to touch the hot stove would not touch the hot stove out of curiosity unless their memory was not with them at the time. Memory acts to prevent the organism from dying of stupidity.

Richard Rose said we don't learn the Truth, we become It. Becoming is not a change in self-definition but a wearing away of the delusion of the current self- definition until only Definition remains. This is becoming by identity, not learning, and isn't dependent on memory as far as I know.

What about thoughts? Your thoughts stream by nearly endlessly from a source unknown and disappear just as quickly. Some thoughts may not be your own. Observing thoughts means they are not you. I am not my thoughts. Thoughts are useful and can be used to create or destroy. A strong thought that is acted on will manifest given time and energy. You may choose to observe thoughts and empower them or turn away and disempower them. Thoughts appear as words and images within the mind. They have their own reality within the mind dimension, and as any lucid dreamer knows, thoughts can change reality, as small 'r' 'reality' seems to be a series of condensed thought forms with their own finite time-frames of 'existence'.

But there is a mechanism watching thoughts, observing thoughts, that is more me, than the thoughts. This seems to the key to my current self-definition (that and the emotional aspect of this). When, randomly it seems, some hold relaxes, there are moments of life acting itself out without me. I was absorbed or forgotten for just a moment and the whole world was brighter and did not need me to control it, it did just fine. This is scary as hell sometimes as my own hands, my own thoughts become unfamiliar to me for a brief instant until my mind takes control again.

Sometimes those moments happen in crisis moments when I or someone I love is about to face death in a immediate manner and for a little while, I am more alive, the world is more alive and everything is right even though it is so wrong to the normal mind-state.

These times may come in periods of meditation. In movement of the body and stillness of the mind. Or stillness of the body and mind. When the body settles down there is a corresponding settling in the mind and when the mind settles down there is a corresponding settling in the body. The mind and body are the same organism and there is a link there that cannot be denied.

I suppose the only learning that can be done is to rule out what I am not. 'Back away from untruth' is the axiom to live by. Rule out the obvious error and by the process of elimination the more real answer remains. There has to be a limit to this as there are infinite possibilities to rule out. How then am I to proceed?

The two [mental] tools proposed we have are the logic and the intuition. The logic is the necessary support for the initial problem solving. We live in a world that is mostly logical and can be reasonably approximated by Newton's laws of physics. But living in a Newtonian world is just that, an approximation, no closer to the real exact truth. At this point a less logical and more intuitional approach is needed. 

When I get interested in something and study it and think about it all the time, eventually I'll get what is meant by something and there is a mental realization of what it means, where the comprehension finally reaches and matches up with what was known all along. The intellect takes time to catch up to reality. But there is a fight going on, the knowledge and the doubt. Behind this is a recognition of the fight, a watcher, watching the mind split in two try to make sense of all the input.

The above has been about trying to come up with a working self-definition as to pare down the obvious 'not-me.' But I would like to take a different tack now and talk about others. Friendship and the search is very important. Sharing a difficulty makes it less personal and allows some room to deself from the process. Having the opportunity to mirror off on another's views is also invaluable. If you get together in a group and do something, say meditation, it becomes much easier to follow through than if you tried to do it all on your own. A group of friends provides the extra incentive (or decentive depending on your friends) to keep commitments, try new practices, read new books, and help one another along the spiritual path.

 

I alternate between feeling my energy low and then, as it is now, build back up to a kind of frenzy where I focus on my goals and they are checked off one-by-one.

 

The only way to get anything done is to stop doing things that interfere. If I want to write up and type up notes and articles then idle browsing of ezines and technology news sites must be stopped. Priorities must be set and the search is always first...except when survival is right in my face. Survival in this modern world means having and keeping a job to continue paying bills. It would be nice to give up all of that but that means facing discomfort and is possibly very foolish when a job can support the search rather than interfere with it.

 

The best job might be one where we're paid in free time. The more work you do the more free time you get (assuming basic physical needs of food and shelter are met). This would allow the greatest part of our time for contemplation rather than frenzied doing. There is never enough time.