Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Most of Our Thoughts are Out of Date

Our thoughts and reactions to what happens in day to day life, in the present, are mostly a product of what has gone before. Discover why that happens and you get to transform the way you see yourself.

Imagine the milk shelf in a well run supermarket. All the milk containers have a use-by date on them. The milk is on sale until the use-by date and then any containers remaining on the shelf are removed and thrown out and the shelf is restocked. The milk on sale is aways fresh. 

Now if things don’t work so efficiently, instead of the old containers being removed they get pushed to the back of the shelf to make way for the new stock. After some time the milk which is old and now out of sight goes off and begins to smell. And if something isn’t done to rectify it the smell of the old milk informs the new milk with the same impression of being off to a passing buyer. To them new milk is the same as old. Better shop elsewhere!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Let there be Peace - link to song on soundcloud

Mantra is the language of the Heart, no doubt, but you can still talk to yourself a certain way, particularly in song, that touches the same spot - Self to Self as it were - meaning that it's like speaking to the higher self within... sometimes invoking, sometimes requesting, sometimes reasoning, sometimes arguing, always reminding. If it's real you can use any kind of language. At least in any of those moments when you talk that way you are sincere, and the Divine knows that and hears you. What happens after that is anybody's guess, but connecting with the expression is the thing.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Is Thought an Illusion?

How much of what our mind tells us is accurate? 

One day in 1978 before I left UK for good I was visiting a friend who I respected very much. He was the first person I'd met who’d actually spent some time following a spiritual path. He seemed very wise. On the shelf in his room he had a picture of a very kindly face. One day I picked it up and asked who is this. He told me Ramana Maharishi. 

I didn't think much more about it until some time later when, after a few quick decisions, I had arranged to go traveling with some friends in India. When I told my wise friend about this he just laughed and said, "You… in India?" Of course I found out later what he meant by that little laugh. But he said, "…if you're going to India then you have to visit…" and he gave me the address of Ramana Ashram in Tiruvannamalai in southern India.

This is how I was introduced to the teachings of Ramana Maharshi. I spent some time in the ashram, in southern India. I didn't really understand anything very much at all but someone inside seemed to be listening and absorbing. And as it turned out from then on my life changed and seemed to take a course of its own.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Watching Duality at Play

To understand more about oneself through self-observation it helps to have something in particular to focus on. 

There's a lot here so go slowly. It starts with the basics then gets interesting later on.

Every moment in life is a play between dualistic forces, and the dualistic nature is why what we experience is always changing. Even when things seem to stay the same for some time, there is always momentum, and where there’s momentum there’s always potential for change.

Prana - vital energy; life force
Nadis - channels in which the pranic energy flows, primarily in:
Pingala - one half of the duality of personal prana: positive polarity, masculine, hot, solar force. Relates to extroversion, action, linear thought. In the right side of the body-mind
Ida - the other half of the duality of personal prana: negative polarity, feminine, cold, lunar force. Relates to introversion, concept, holistic thought. In left side of the body-mind
Sushumna - the so called spiritual force, transcending ida and pingala, through which kundalini passes when ida and pingala are balanced and harmonised.
Samskaras - Impressions from experience stored up in memory. They have energy, and a strong influence, often unrecognised, on character and personality.

Prana - the life force

All creation, all life, is multiplicity, seeming many forms. In the yogic view, multiplicity is considered to be the outcome of the play of duality - a potential for infinite outcomes between two polar opposites.

To understand better the underlying presence of duality, you can look more closely at a well recognised dynamic in yoga. It relates to prana, the life force, and the energy cycles in the mind-body. 

There are two active forces that influence both the body and mind, which are known as ida and pingala. The way we experience everything in life has something to do with the outcome of the interplay between these two forces in the personal energy field. So experientially, they are very much a part of us, part of our life, all the time.

Monday, 18 April 2016

I Am Not This Body - link to song on Soundcloud

Mantra is the language of the Heart, no doubt, but you can still talk to yourself a certain way, particularly in song, that touches the same spot - Self to Self as it were - meaning that it's like speaking to the higher self within... sometimes invoking, sometimes requesting, sometimes reasoning, sometimes arguing, sometimes demanding, always reminding. If it's real you can use any kind of language. At least in any of those moments when you talk that way, and your heart is in it, you are sincere, and the Divine knows that and may give an indication of having heard - in solace, in comfort, in harmony.

This is from a collection of songs. They weren't written with an aim to say anything to anyone in particular. They are expression of an aspiration, a way of talking to yourself trying to find a way to touch that spot - Self to Self.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Take a Walk on the Dark Side

Put a little light on it

'Think positively. Be positive.' What’s that mean? What’s positive? What’s not? To start with, to think positive there has to be the concept of a negative. You can’t have a positive without its dark side, the negative. So what is negative? And are these absolute values where if you call it a positive or a negative just once will it always be so, in any circumstance? Then faced with this Either / Or situation, can you take a negative and turn it into a positive by thinking its opposite? 

To think positive there has to be an acceptance of a negative. Simply to 'think' positive is useless, in fact worse than useless, it’s self-deluding because, for the appearance of a short-term gain, it will only exacerbate the problem in the long run by giving the illusion of change when the nature of the problem has not been identified let alone addressed. Of course changing a negative quality by the cultivation of a positive quality can be done, but only if the nature of the negative has been identified in some way and then properly addressed. 

This may not be so easy as it sounds. To begin with there can be a real reluctance for us to be willing to go there, to actively turn and look into what we would rather not know about too deeply. And even if willing, when facing up to it, it may not go the way we want or expect. So wouldn’t it be much easier to let these things hide out, slide by, lurk at one remove, so we can continue to convince ourselves of what we’d prefer to believe? Yet at the same time there we are still searching for this elusive positive, which, when it comes down to it, will also continue to hold its distance in exactly the same proportion as the negative we have not yet acknowledged. Or, alternatively, we can decide, turn, and go directly and look into our own negative… and take a walk on the dark side.

Monday, 15 February 2016

So What Is Self Inquiry?

You want the most direct path to the truth?  
No? Sorry, wrong blog.  
Yes...? It is, but it could be just a little uncomfortable, at first.

Just for a moment suppose that everything you think about yourself is inaccurate. 

If you note that it’s not about what you think, but what you think about yourself, then it’s not so strange as it sounds at first. Even so we are so used to accepting or just not questioning that everything we think about ourselves is accurate… until, that is, someone, or events, or circumstances show that what we had previously accepted to be true irrefutably just ain’t so. 

How we react at just such moments is an indication of our actual interest in going further into self inquiry. Because honestly it’s very tempting either to deny it, to ourself, to anyone, shove it to one side; or go on to the next paradigm and take that to be irrefutably so until there is another paradigm shift and the thing has to be reviewed, reluctantly, again, because we know change will come. In any case here we are waiting for the unexpected to happen and, when it comes, impelled from a passive state into a reaction and handling it as best we can.

What is the mind qualified for?

We’re talking about the most fundamental question in life: Who am I? One that we are trying to answer in some way every day of our life. But, maybe without ever consciously asking the question directly. And to be clear, we are not talking about all our acquired knowledge of the world or the skills we acquire to deal with it. All of that, the whole compass of it, is exactly what the mind is supposed to be used for, as an instrument, as a tool toward a chosen purpose. 

What the mind is not qualified for

It’s like a computer, where skills and knowledge are the software which is installed or downloaded in order to run a program, or achieve a particular end or aim. And that knowledge and those skills go on evolving irrespective of any deeper existential question. But the mind as we know it, that instrument of knowledge and skill, is not sufficient in itself to understand the motivating force that drives our aims and desires. Can a computer understand its own motivations and actions, the why of it all? So outside all of that there still remains the fundamental question, what is that purpose?

Sorting out the difference

And this is where we get into trouble because, without really looking into it or without really understanding what’s at stake, the mind will begin to speculate where it has no real jurisdiction. Well, speculation is one thing, but we tend to believe what the mind tells us… until we don’t. And that’s the point where we came in. 

Isn’t it true that we are all looking for the source of our own happiness? If I think that happiness is acquiring and profligating large sums of money, then if I put my knowledge and skills into action to achieve that, then I will be happy. The same is true of artistic ability in pursuit of fame, or just the pursuit of fame itself; or sexual conquest; or more honourable pursuits like a career or family; or even the celebration of suffering as a means to an ulterior motive; and so on. But remember it’s the mind that is telling us what makes us happy, and so, drives us into action.

Now life, as they say, is brief, but it takes long enough to live. And during that time having achieved or partially achieved any aim or goal in the pursuit of happiness, we may come gradually to discover - through someone or events or circumstances - that something we had always accepted to be so is shown irrefutably to be just not like that; that happiness no longer lies where we thought it did. So we reassess, and now, I used to be like that but now I’m into this… and another attempt to find irrefutable happiness.

So returning to the original premise, if we accept that though the mind is highly qualified in dealing with knowledge and skill, it is not qualified to answer the questions that lie behind the motivating force in life. Is it then so strange to say, Hey wait a moment, suppose in that one specialised field - who am I, what am I here for, with what purpose, what is really my unqualified aim? - just suppose for a moment that everything I’ve ever thought about in that way could be wrong, or inaccurate, or not-thought-through, or wait a minute, I never thought about it before anyway, or… fergedit! But before you do say, forget it, check this out from a previous post which slots right in here so no apologies for including it again:

A salutary tale

A team of road builders set off to build a road between two places in the forest. They were an elite group and each of the men brought a particular skill which was respected by the others. Their morale was high and there was a tightly knit sense of comradeship. The clearing of the forest was under way and the road was begun. They worked hard and obstacles were overcome through good leadership and teamwork. 

There was one among the men a young chap who didn’t seem to quite fit in. He didn’t join in the heavy social evenings when the day’s work was done. He always seemed to be thinking differently from the others and they didn’t understand him. The other men were friendly enough but as he continued holding himself aloof they began to look on him with less affection and soon were implying in their tone of voice things about his usefulness because he didn’t actually seem to be doing very much.

One day when the project was well under way the young fellow shinned up the tallest tree on the highest ground. When he came down he looked satisfied. There was a meeting of the managers and foremen going on when he got back and he boldly interrupted it, 'Wrong forest,' he said, 'we’re in the wrong forest, the road's in the wrong forest' 

There was a strange stillness for a moment and then everyone started going on just as if they hadn’t seen or heard the young fellow. He couldn’t understand it. Wasn’t this the single most important piece of information for the whole project? Finally he got to talk to one of the men who was a bit more friendly. 'What’s happening? You know we’re building the road in the wrong forest?' 'Yes,' the other man replied, 'but it's a really good road.' So they went on building the road just as before.

So what is self inquiry?

So what is self inquiry? It means wanting to get some kind of perspective on the whole life, so you can come out of it at the other end and say yes, I pursued what I knew I was searching for, as accurately as I could, and to the best of my ability. This is not some unfashionable moral tweet, but a way of accurately aligning the ability with the vision. Not building a really good road in the wrong forest.

It really gets under way practically when you become pro-active in looking into the mind’s presumptions as deeply and as accurately as possible - you want to find the inaccuracies and be glad of it when you find them, instead of just waiting for events or the turmoil of life to compel confrontation with uncomfortable truths - which they do sooner or later. It means celebrating (in some small unembarrassing personal way of course) when something reveals that something in your own philosophy is inaccurate and you can throw it out and move on up to a higher understanding without hesitation or looking back. 

We all have a philosophy, even though we may not call it that. And we may not recognise it very well (even if we do think we got one) because, whaddya know, it keeps on changing, according to mind, according to circumstance, and according to convenience. So, really, no philosophy? And the measure of an accurate philosophy? What is true, what holds good, in any circumstance. This is where self enquiry begins. Because everything that follows after is predicated on that one thing - what remains accurate in any circumstance. So the question I ask myself is, How can you know that you know this, that you are not what you think you are, and not want to do something about it. Build a really good road... but in the right forest.

And in the end…

The illusory power of the mind is fascinating. In meditation just try questioning the validity of any thought you like. Hold it up to the light and acknowledge it, observe it. It’s real enough, yes, but how real? Really real? Will it be there in the same way tomorrow, a week, a year, twenty years? Does that change the way you observe it? Check anything you really believed in when you were younger and see if it's still the same. Can the temporary nature of any thought define who I am? Among so many other thoughts? Really? Question who is having these thoughts. So where then does the identity lie? Thoughts, impressions and memories are in you but they do not ultimately define who you are.