Seeking and inquiry

 

Some folks seem to reject inquiry because they see it as seeking, and – apparently – seeking is bad ūüôā

For me, a few different things comes up for me around this:

Inquiry mainly helps me see how my mind operates. It helps me see how my mind creates its own experience of the world.

Inquiry helps me release or soften seeking. I get to see how what I seek, and the lack I perceive in myself or my life is created by my own mind. This tends to soften the seeking, and sometimes it even falls away.

Inquiry helps me find peace with what’s here, whatever it is. It helps me see that it doesn’t need to change. In these cases, I seek – to some extent – finding peace with what’s here, or some form of resolution that comes from seeing more clearly what’s here.

Sometimes, I do inquiry because I notice I suffer and I know from experience that I suffer because I don’t see very clearly what’s here. Inquiry helps me see more clearly what’s here, and there is less suffering, and sometimes it falls away completely. In these cases, I seek a relief from suffering, I may seek some sort of resolution. And that seems OK too. It seems very natural¬†and very human. It’s even kind.

Seeking seems to be a natural part of human life. Right now, I seek to write this. Just before, I sought to eat (a very delicious) dinner. Soon, I’ll seek to sleep. When I do inquiry, it’s often out of curiosity to see what’s there, so there is a seeking to see what’s there. Humanity wouldn’t exist, and wouldn’t survive, without seeking. Of course, heavy handed seeking creates suffering. And inquiry helps me soften the seeking so it becomes milder and often more playful.

When I hear people rejecting inquiry because they see it as fueling seeking, I can see their point. Inquiry can indeed be used to seek something, and it can fuel seeking. And yet, that’s only if inquiry is not applied¬†to explored that seeking. If it is, we get to see how the ideas of something to seek and of a lack are created, and that seeking tends to be more transparent, and perhaps soften or fall away. Also, it may not appear as a problem anymore.

Also, it brings to mind how nondual ideas can be made into an ideology or a religion, and even used in a “good” vs “bad” fashion. It’s good to not seek, and bad to seek…! Of course then we seek not to seek, so the seeking is still alive and well, just applied in a different way than most of us applies it.

Idealism is often just another way to try to find safety, and it comes with it’s own shadow side.

It is curious to me why seeking would be seen as bad. Is it because it shows we are unenlightened or unclear? If so, what’s so wrong about that? It seems that empathy and kindness would be more helpful. Is it because seeking can create suffering? That’s clearly true, and yet it also depends on how heavy or light handed that seeking is.

As I mentioned above, to me, it’s far more interesting to see how my mind creates the dynamics around seeking, including the idea of something to seek and a deficiency in me or my life. And at least for now, inquiry is the best tool I have found to explore that.

Visualizing what I want

 

Some nondual folks speak out against visualizing what you want. I get why.

If there is identification with the visualization, it just means reinforcing those identifications. It means (perhaps) reinforcing ideas of the future, that I need whatever I am visualizing, that what’s here is lacking and not good enough, that what I am trying to compensate for (deficient selves, lack) is real, and so on.

For me, it’s not either/or. The two can co-exist, or even support each other.

When I make a list of what I wish for in my life and also visualize it (which happens as soon as I think about it), several things happen. If there are identifications there, I may have fears come up around not having it, or having it. A sense of lack, or of missing something, or a deficient self, may be stirred up.

Whatever is left for me to see or meet or love or question is stirred up.

So I get to see it. Meet it. Rest with it. Find love for it. Question my beliefs around it. I can also see if any of it is findable. Can I find an actual threat? What I am seeking? What I feel I am lacking? The compulsion for it to be different, or to get something specific? (Living Inquiries.)

This can all lead to a deeper sense of freedom. And here, my preferences are held more lightly. Some of them may have initially seemed like a need, or even a matter of life and death. And now they are more a wouldn’t it be nice if.

It can still be helpful to make lists of what I would like in my life. It helps me clarify my preferences. It helps me mentally try out different options, and see how it resonates with me. It helps me reorient. It guides me to work towards what I would like in my life. It helps me recognize and take opportunities that bring me in that direction I wish for my life, when they come up. In short, it may help me become a better steward of my life.

It also helps me see what’s left for me. What’s left to look at. Welcome. Rest with. Inquire into.

It’s all about how it’s done. I see how these types of lists and visualizations can reinforce wishful thinking, a sense of lack, deficient selves, and more.

I also see how it can be done in a more wise way, and be very supportive.

Also, research Рfor instance outlined in The How of Happiness Рshows that certain forms of this practice can be very helpful.

So I agree with the nondual folks. I also agree with the “ideal life” list making and visualization proponents. And I see the two approaches as mutually supportive, if done with that intention.

(more…)

Unfindable self, unfindable world

 

In Michael Taft’s book about the history of nonduality, he mentions that some traditions emphasize unfinding the self, and other traditions unfinding the world, and some may include both.

For me, it makes sense to include both, and really anything that’s part of my world that seems real and solid to me. Why leave any stone unturned?

And that’s what the Living Inquiries do. I look for deficient selves. Threats. Compulsions. My body. Other people. Situations. Awareness. Thoughts. Anything at all.

There is a¬†shift when a systematic, thorough and sincere looking shows that something is unfindable. It doesn’t mean that I am “all done”. It’s just a shift. Then there is something else to look at, and for. It’s an ongoing process. And over time, the shift deepens.

Nonduality?

 

I don’t often use the word nonduality. Perhaps it’s because it’s almost¬†too neat a way of phrasing it.

Our experience of life is already nondual, in a sense. It’s of a seamless whole which contains any other experience, including of dualities.

Nonduality is sometimes described as not one and not two. On the one hand, it’s “not one” because it’s rich and diverse, and it’s “not two” since it’s a seamless whole. It’s also neither, since both are images, an imagined overlay, and not “reality itself”. The description – not one, not two – may be as accurate a description of experience as possible, and yet – since it comes from an overlay of words and images, it’s also possible to make that¬†too into an ideology, and take it as real and solid.

Really, duality and nonduality are both unfindable. When I look, I cannot find either outside of words and images – and the sensations associated with them which lends a sense of reality, solidity and meaning to those words and images.

(more…)

Nonduality, systems view, ecophilosophy

 

I went to a talk with Stephan Harding and David Abram at Schumacher College earlier tonight, and was reminded of the connection between nonduality and ecophilosophy. (Mainly because the way they talked about it bordered on the nondual, but didn’t quite embrace or come from it.)

To me, nonduality, systems views, and various forms of ecophilosophy are natural allies. They complement each other beautifully.

Nonduality simplifies and unifies, and offers pointers to see through stories.

And the other ones are powerful stories which can transform our lives at individual and collective levels in a very much needed way at this point in our history.

What these all have in common is a recognition of stories as stories, with a power to guide and transform our lives. And of the oneness of all life, of everything that is.

Nonduality animation

 

I like what happens at the end: After a period of confusion and struggle, he finally sticks his head through the (appearance) of separation, and then tries to run away from it as fast as he can. But it doesn’t work, and he is absorbed back into oneness. I imagine that for many of us, reality has revealed itself, and we are in the struggle against what’s already here.

Leave no trace

 

In Zen and other traditions, they talk about leaving no trace, or the man that casts no shadow or leaves no footprints in the snow.

This can be understood in several ways, and I am probably aware of only a few.

In a worldly sense, it means leaving no trace ecologically and socially. To leave our ecosystems and society to our children and decedents in no worse condition than it was for us. This is the ecological and generational sense of leaving no trace.

It can also mean leaving no trace as a guest, or in one’s own home, in terms of cleaning up after oneself, and here also leave the house in no worse condition than when we entered. This is the politeness sense of leaving no trace.

In a different sense, it can mean leaving no trace in terms of the dynamics and processes of this human self, or those this human self participate in. Instead of resisting these processes, we can allow them fully and even amplify them, seeing where they lead and what they ask of us and have to show us. We could say that this is the Process Work meaning of leaving no trace.

And finally, it can mean leaving no trace in terms of not being caught up in identification with content of awareness, or as Byron Katie says, to not be at war with what is. Identification is released from stories, so also with resistance, which allows the struggle and drama to go out of it. This human self is allowed to live its own life, as it does anyway. This is the nondual sense of leaving no trace.

What is the truth in the reversal of this statement? In what way is leave traces true?

In our human life, we do leave traces. Whatever we do has social and ecological ripple effects, and we are aware of only a very few of them. So by bringing more awareness, information and experience to this, we can aim at producing ripple effects that are more likely – in our best guess – to support life rather than harm it. We leave traces anyway, so why not bring as much attention to it as possible. Why not be a little more consciously engaged.

There is another way of playing with the initial sentence: don’t leave traces of no traces. When I make a big deal out of leaving no trace, then that in itself is leaving a trace. Again, just something to notice.

The most materialistic, and the most spiritual

 

When we go out to one end of a polarity, we often meet the other end right there. For instance, by fully allowing an experience, there is a freedom from it right there (through reduced identification with resistance to it, and the beliefs and identities giving rise to the resistance). By going to the end of one end of the allowing-freedom from polarity, we find the other end.

Another example is the polarity of materialism and spirituality. There is a relatively easy co-existence of these two in some areas of the world, such as northern Europe, delegating them simply to different realms of existence. And in other areas, such as the US, these two are often (peculiarly?) seen as opposed to each other.

But there are also other ways to look at their relationship.

And one is to notice how the most materialistic shares many features with the most spiritual, which I see here as the nondual spirituality of Buddhism, Adveita and other traditions.

  • Infinite causes and infinite effects. Both see the world of form as infinite causes and infinite effects. Anything happening has infinite causes, going back in time to the beginning of the universe and out in space to the extent of the universe, and also has infinite causes. It is the local expression of the movements of the whole world of form
  • No free will. This comes out of the previous one. Everything happening has infinite causes and infinite effects, so there is no room for free will. There is no free will at the level of our human self. As hard-nosed as conventional science is, they usually don’t put it in such crass terms, but the nondual traditions often hold less back here.
  • No separate self. This too comes out of the first one. The world of form is a seamless whole, and any appearance of boundaries are only created in thoughts. If we separate out this human self, we see that it is maintained in structure and content by a continuous through flow and exchange with the larger whole. It is relatively easy to recognize at an abstract level, but as long as there is a belief in a separate self, then our experience of it will be of a separate self. The only way to recognize no-self, in immediate experience, is for Ground to notice itself. First, we may find ourselves as the witness, and all form – including what initially appeared as an inside and outside – as a seamless whole. Then, there may be the recognition of even this witness as absent of any separate self.
  • No inherent meaning. From a materialistic science, and also existentialistic, view, there is no inherent meaning in the universe or our human lives. And this too is what the nondual traditions report, and what we can find through our own exploration. Here now, there is just awakeness, inherently free from any particular content or form, yet allowing any and all form. And any sense of meaning comes only from a story, appearing within and is overlaid on content and form. There is no inherent meaning anywhere, since awakeness is stainless and independent of content, and also since any sense of meaning only comes from a story. And this freedom from stories and meaning allows for a free play of any sense of meaning, coming from any story. Existence already allows any sense of meaning and any story, and when we find this in ourselves, we are aligned with – and find ourselves as – that. So we are free to play with the stories that makes most sense to us, that has a practical value, fits the data more or less, and also supports – as best as we can tell – the life of ourselves, our community, and earth as a whole.
  • (more to come)

One of the reason there is such as easy coexistence, and so many parallels, between these two, is that the spiritual side of it involves a recognition of Ground, of God as awakeness inherently void of any characteristics, so then allowing and being Ground for itself manifesting in the vast variety of forms we know from our own experience. On the one hand, there is a separation of Ground (awake void) and the world of form, and on the other a recognition of the two as both expressions of existence, of God. And both of these allows for the world of form to be exactly as it is, including however it is experienced by us and described by science.

This is what we find at the extreme end of the spirituality side of the polarity (as defined for the purpose of this argument).

If we go a little further in from this end, we find forms of spirituality mainly concerned with the content of awareness, with the world of form, and not much about Ground at all. And since science is mostly or all about the world of form, they find themselves sharing the same turf, so there is more possibility for conflict. One way to resolve this is to delegate areas, and this is what we see quite often. We agree on science dealing with one area of the world of form (what we can see, touch or measure with instruments) and spirituality with another area of the world of form (what we cannot measure, such as souls, afterlife, and so on).

No Distance

 

One of the characteristics of an awakening beyond our human self – to F7 (nature mysticism), F8 (deity mysticism), and/or to F9 (witness) – seems to be a deepening sense of intimacy with the whole world, a deepening sense of no separation.

Jen has shifted in and out of the witness over the last few weeks, and I asked her tonight if she also experiences a sense of intimacy with the world. She immediately said yes, and that it seemed that the world had become two dimensional – that there is no distance anymore, although also of course the usual distance in meters or feet that we all are familiar with.

There is the conventional space, measured in meters or feet, within the context of a sense of intimacy with it all, of no distance.

Early sense of ground

And why is it so?

It seems that it is an early intuition or sense of the ground, an early taste of nondual realization. Consciousness is beginning to be aware of itself as everything, including the seer and the seen.

Early sense of God watching God

In addition to this deepening sense of intimacy with the world, there may also be glimpses beyond this – where there is a stronger realization that this is God watching God.

When I look into somebody’s eyes, it is God watching God through God. And this can be very obvious sometimes, especially with the right people in the right setting.

We can have tastes of this even as there is still a vague sense of I placed on this human self or the witness.

Deepening further

As this deepens further, it shifts into a more clearly nondual realization. There is not any inherent I anywhere. It is all just happening. There is no doer, only the doing. It is all the play of God, all emptiness dancing.