Those who dance are considered mad by those who can’t hear the music.
I do know that a lot of what I have written can easily be classified as weird (or crazy!) and had I gone straight from a self-orientated (“normal”) existence to my current state and could compare the two as alternatives, I would find it weird too. However, for reasons I have discussed previously (the twilight/darkness – living in darkness analogy) I find nothing odd about my current situation. Indeed, the most challenging aspect of writing this book has been that unless I do some form of a before and after reality check, I now find nothing at all unusual about the way I see and react to the world. It all seems so ordinary that recording it brings no desire to share what is actually an interestingly altered state of being, for those who are curious about such things.
What I experience is so simple and ordinary for me that it makes the endless written and verbal commentary on the subject seem distracting and over-thought.
Unfortunately, those who write about it (realisation of the truth) have a way of making it sound more extraordinary and blissful than it commonly is, and so false expectations are another impediment — we keep waiting and looking for an experience or state that never comes. If I had to put my finger on the primary obstacle, I would say it is having wrong views of the journey. BR
The other day I looked at videos available on YouTube published by Eckhart Tolle and there seems to be a talk on just about every side-track that can be imagined such as – What do I do when my Partner isn’t Awake Spiritually, Guidance on Healing – Physical and Spiritual, How do I Manage my Loneliness, How do I overcome Self Criticism of My Appearance?…….and on and on. I am not criticising Tolle. He is in the spiritual business and is only responding to the endless questions from those who follow him. Not surprisingly the mind would far prefer you to nurture its existence by cultivating a crop of questions rather than apply the weed killer and destroying it!
Stripped back to basics the answer to all of these questions is the same and I am sure Tolle takes people back to that certainty. The only solution to whatever the mind comes up with is to end the self, the ego, the mind itself, which traps us within this isolated entity. We need to stop the mind-generated internal chatter, the emotional insecurities and the endless questions that arise as a result. My suggestion is that rather than spend time searching for answers to all the possible questions, the best solution is to tackle it in reverse and focus instead on eliminating the need to ask the questions! Don’t put more buckets under the leaking roof – fix the roof 😊
My personal belief is that realisation of Truth isn’t the conclusion of an intellectual process, a “degree to hang on the wall” outcome of an intense academic semester. It’s not as if when you get an answer to the final question possible……boom……. enlightenment, or that wasn’t my experience anyway. I am not trying to be superior and dismissive by saying questions aren’t important to the person raising them. Everything that happens on the journey is entirely appropriate to every individual, questions and all, and it is not for me or others to judge them. However, these are stages along the way to be worked through and then left behind. The joy of an intellectual discovery period could be a part of your journey as it was for Amy and Bernadette but not for me, so each to their own. Enjoy but don’t get stuck there. At some stage, a point will be reached, realised or not, when you have to move beyond the mind stuff and start to actually become less in order to properly understand more by fully experiencing the changes required to complete the journey.
You are an ice cube melting into the ocean. The less you are the more you become. The form dissolves but the essence remains unchanged.
In my situation actually getting to this point in my life has been a difficult and time-consuming process, as you already know at this point in the book, but once there the simplicity of the outcome (at this stage with no speculation as to the future) makes me wonder what all the fuss was about.
I can now answer both of these questions based on my personal experience rather than quote from others, which saves me time on research 😊
The basis of what happens once one reaches Stage Three is that a disconnect happens from the mind generated distractions that take up so much of our energy and time.
Without a controlling self trying to fill every moment of our life with thoughts, emotions and memories we are left with what IS in each moment and nothing more. We have no choice but to live in the now because we no longer have access to an alternative. It is like being a computer that has no memory storage and no keyboard or mouse. We can only be what is on the screen in this now moment because there is no access to the past and no hardware to allow us to “fast-forward” to the what-ifs of the future.
This is not just a technique applied to events on “thoughtful” demand or the learnt response based on a teaching method or self-discipline, but instead a natural way of being in every moment without thought or a reversion to a mind- based self.
The most obvious question at this point would be, what is the benefit of this change, of now mindfulness, of living moment by moment, because this might sound like a very detached and clinical way to live. How can life be experienced fully without the emotional “big dipper” to give us highs and lows and power our actions to achieve more of one and less of the other? I will tackle this question but to some extent I find that I discount my own answer. It’s a bit like asking what Dubai airport terminal is like if you are flying to London. Although it has some relevance when you have a stop-over there, in terms of the longer-term destination – who cares! I believe my Stage Three is a stop-over so getting caught up in an analysis of every detail and questioning the benefit or otherwise of it all is interesting but of little bearing to the essence of the journey.
Also, before I specifically answer that query, it came to me that asking this question is so typical of the “old style” thinking that I have covered endlessly in this book. So many of our thoughts are filtered through the “what’s in it for me?” mind process. We ask ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, how is doing this going to benefit me; how and when is the payback? It is only when we move out of a self-based reality we can see how addicted we have become to gearing most of our actions towards obtaining these emotionally “high” outcomes. We want so much to maximise the good emotions and minimise the bad that this becomes central to everything we do often to our overall detriment.
Even when we turn to more esoteric concepts, such as finding a deeper meaning to life through spiritual/self-development practices, we tend to apply the normal expectations of outcome to that process. If we did everything asked of us, the meditation, the chanting, the mind-feeding courses and all the other aspects of whatever path we chose and we didn’t get a reward in the form of a happiness boost at the end, wouldn’t that be classified as a failure? Where is the “what’s in it for me” reward? In these terms, I would certainly treat my current view on life as a let-down. I haven’t discovered a joyous nirvana nor do I live each moment in bliss but maybe that too is “wrong” thinking and not necessarily a failure of process.
Instead, what would happen if we turned this whole thing around? What if it is our expectations of life that is based on an incorrect premise and normal behaviour doesn’t require a constant “fix” of emotional hits that motivate so many of our actions, to make our lives seem worthwhile? What if the “good” feelings of happiness, joy, love, bliss and their flip side of hatred, fear, anger, worry was only applicable in a dysfunctional and illusional world that we automatically participate in and incorporate as central to a self-personality from early in life and now take totally for granted and never question?
What if just the act of being, of living in the moment without overwhelming emotional responses to every situation, without endlessly working to maximising the ups and minimising the downs, was in fact how life was meant to be? Wouldn’t then the reality of my view on life at this time and those of Bernadette, Amy and countless others be normal and natural?
Over the next months, I realised other profound changes had occurred in the whole psyche. With the absence of the ego centre, the emotional system seemed also to have undergone a radical change. Where before, family crises would have evoked an emotional response, now it was as if the emotional self had also become voided, and events in daily life whether intellectually anticipated as pleasurable or not brought little response. I found this very difficult to adjust to. One was used to looking forward to a trip to Sydney, going to a Theatre, special ‘treats’, but now there was little surface emotion as the mind seemed to have lost much of its power of projection and stayed centred in the present moment. Amy
My proposition is that by living in the now moment without self/mind activity we don’t need to analyse and react emotionally to every situation presented to us. We can still function and indeed do so far more efficiently and effortlessly when we disengage the mind’s control over every aspect of our life and this allows us to react appropriately in the moment.
To support this statement let me give you three very simple examples of how a before no-self and after no-self response to the same situation might work.
I enjoy ice cream and used to eat it by the tubful when I lived in Australia. Imagine being me in the supermarket and passing the ice cream section – yum. I would identify the temptation and the ice cream would stand out from all else. My memories would then kick in to remind me how comforting and indulgent ice cream was. My imagination would have me eating ice cream and being satisfied, happy, rewarded – an array of subtle or not so subtle benefits! The desire to replicate that outcome would then make an appearance, followed by action to transfer a tub of ice cream from the freezer to my shopping trolley.
Back at home, I would probably be tempted to eat straight from the tub, which would result in consuming too much, and then my “healthy” mind voice would make an appearance and thoughts about weight gain, “bad for you” and lack of discipline might follow. Can you relate? Use whatever product or situation that works for you – the cycle is much the same. Isn’t it true that we run to keep up with the never-ending demands of our thoughts, the emotions they raise and the desires that result? How amazingly tiring this expenditure of energy is and often how fruitless.
What happens to me now in the same situation by comparison? Firstly, it is not a given that I will even notice ice cream in the supermarket because to become a recognised individual object something must invoke a mental response from the subject. We have discussed this before with the eyes closed/eyes open illustration. If something remains just as another shape within a widescreen view, a fitted piece of the jigsaw puzzle, then without any self-response to individualise it then it doesn’t take on any characteristics that require a response.
Even if I do pick out ice cream as separate from everything else in my view it won’t trigger any automatic memory recall or thought that pushes me to buy it. I may still purchase some ice cream but I make that choice at the moment without any conscious referral to an internal “decision-maker”. It either happens or it doesn’t. I feel absolutely no difference in myself if I do or don’t buy ice cream. There is no regret that I didn’t and no pat on the back that I avoided temptation. As soon as I look away the moment fades because there is no need to file that whole scenario in my memory.
This example can be applied to most of my life. I can walk through a shopping mall and not experience one desire response to what I observe. I look and can choose to get involved or not and that decision isn’t made by any conscious process that I am aware of and it has no impact on my state of being. Buying doesn’t make me happy and not buying doesn’t make me sad.
Although empirical (based on observation) reality remained, it could not be focussed on perceptually, nor could individual objects be focussed on visually. Instead, the usual objects on the mind were seen in a global sense. BR
I find that each moment arrives and brings nothing with it that demands engagement if it’s not required. If there’s no need to respond to a situation I find that I remain in a sort of “standby” state, much like the “sleep” function on a computer. The potential to fire up is there but if it’s not wanted there is no processing happening! I still observe and see all the goings-on around me but with very little associated mental activity or emotional response.
Let me give you another very simple example to illustrate how reactions to life situations have changed for me. I find am still at that stage where I stand back and witness my reactions to things because there is an aspect of me that is still a little puzzled at the changes in my life.
Recently we drove into Udon Thani, a city one hour from our home in Thailand. It is a busy traffic-clogged place, as many Thai urban areas are and we hit several red traffic lights on the way to our destination. My before reaction to so many red traffic lights might have been frustration, anger, rants against the government for not coordinating them and who knows what else! The alternative is what I now naturally experience, which is no reaction at all. Internally I feel no different if the lights are red or green. I observe and……. nothing. The big change between this and my meditation period is that at that time I could engage the stillness of meditation and end up with the same non-response. However, that required a “manual” engagement – the acknowledgement of a situation and the application of a trained response –quieting the mind and blanking out the negative thought processes that might arise. That conscious process doesn’t happen now. The appropriate response is an automatic one and I just watch it unfold. A red traffic light needs no reaction – nothing changes if I get angry or not. The light will do what it is going to do in complete isolation to my response to the situation. Which scenario do you think works better and is healthier for your overall state of being?
And this is the last example I will share. On my family’s farm in Thailand, I built a floating raft with comfortable seating and a roof for shade. It is my favourite place to be when we visit most mornings for a coffee and chat. I end up reading Bernadette’s book or just sitting in a state of not much and it is a very peaceful time. I could spend my life there but at some stage, Gaun, my wife, will shout out in Thai “bye baan”, which translates to “let’s go home”. Now if my self was in control I might feel that I didn’t want to go home. I could think that I should decide when we go not Gaun. Maybe I want more time to read my book or have another coffee or……….
What actually happens is that I have no emotional reaction at all to her call. I just get up pack my things and we go home. I guess that if there was a strong reason for not going I would say something but apparently there isn’t because I have yet to stay longer.
You see an ego-driven response is no longer energised because the mind generated self no longer the boss and the fact is I can just as well read my book at home as on the boat. Because no alternative scenario makes an appearance, and certainly none of the ego “I should be in control” type reactions to challenge my getting up to go home, then my leaving must be perfect at that moment. No subconscious resentment or frustration is stored even if it occurred because that moment immediately fades from the now and no longer exists to be recalled and analysed.
Does that all seem very boring? Ah well, maybe it would be if boring was still an option on the no-self emotional tick list but like everything beyond the self-state if it’s not required then it doesn’t make an appearance to clutter my life!
If you take away our built-in expectations that life without emotions is NO life, then aren’t my reactions to those three small-time scenarios more balanced and “adult” than the alternatives? It’s what’s missing that is the key benefit to this new way of life. The absence of a self means that there is no option other than to live in each moment. There is no historical memory to influence or distract from the now, the desire for an emotional “hit” doesn’t happen so there’s no action required to fulfil that craving. This is the ultimate mindfulness, a technique taught by psychologists to help people to connect with the now by minimising the intrusion of thought processing. However, as I have said before, unlike mindfulness or meditation or other practices this is not an exercise that requires a conscious effort to apply predefined rules of engagement. I live this state every moment of the day without thought or effort. Unlike the transition period from Stage Two to Three, there is no alternative offered – ever, not even for a moment.
Living in the now moment there is no question of how we feel or should feel; there is no conflict, struggle, or practice of anything because this moment allows for no movement backwards or forward, either in time or along the continuum. Somehow each moment contains within itself the appropriate action for each tiny event in life without the need for thought or feeling. BR
It would be incorrect to assume that by living in the now moment we are somehow cut off from all reactions or emotions – the zombie factor. Where a response is required it makes an appearance but the difference is that it seems to only be energised for a brief period and then fades without conscious storage into memory. If I see something funny I still laugh but afterwards would be hard put to replicate the situation or emotion. Is laughing at an amusing situation or feeling peaceful having a morning coffee in our beautiful tropical garden appropriate? Of course, it is. As I wrote previously if you met me you wouldn’t pick that underneath the external I have very little happening. From an outsider’s view, I project a personality, express views and relate pretty competently. But does frustration help with the red traffic light scenario – not much, so in the context of living in Stage Three for me it doesn’t happen.
In writing the preceding words I have had moments of wondering if what I experience couldn’t be classified as a state relating more to some sort of psychological disorder rather than something esoteric. I have no idea what name might be given to the attributes I have described – some form of chronic disassociation maybe?
However, on reflection, I have rejected this idea. This state hasn’t made me dysfunctional, as far as I can tell! From my side, although my interpretation of the world is different from what it was, I actually feel more not less connected. It is difficult to feel separate when the self has lost its ability to insert so many thoughts, historical prejudices and emotions between me and the reality of the moment. That historical pane of glass in my Stage Two no longer survives because for it to be there it needs a self on one side and everything else on the other. Take away the self and that separation can no longer exist, the glass dissolves and the connection is all there is – the glass and the view become as one.
I came across this passage by Bernadette after I had completed writing this section, which says much the same as I have. I always find it comforting to read that at least one person has gone through the same sort of experiences! You will be pleased to know that this is a much easier passage to read than many of Bernadette’s observations:
In keeping with this is the admission of a gentleman who said he was terrified at the thought of losing his self. What he had obviously failed to realise was that the terror and dread he felt is the self and that without a self there can be no such feelings. In fact, a sure sign the self is gone is the absence of these affective (feelings/emotions – Tony) symptoms. So as long as there is any fear of losing the self, the self remains – in which case there is nothing to worry about one way or the other. But this is why the histories of those who have truly gone beyond the self will never be found in the psychiatric literature. With no problems in the affective domain, few people would be in need of a psychiatrist or analyst; indeed, without an affective system, or without a self, this whole school of thought would be out of business.
Yet we cling to the affective system out of fear of what life would be like without it. We’re afraid that without feelings we will be inhuman, cold, insensitive, robot-like creatures, so detached from this world that we might as well be dead. Needless to say, there is no truth in this view at all; it is just another myth created out of fear of the unknown – where all myths come from. Nevertheless, to explain what life is like without this system is not easy because it must be lived to be understood, and any description of it only gives rise to an unending chain of philosophical arguments. All that need be said here is that it is a dynamic, intense state of caring; caring for whatever arises in the now-moment. It is a continuous waking state in which the physical organism remains sensitive, responsive, and totally unimpaired. When the journey is over, nothing is found to be missing or wanting. It is only in the encounter with other selves that a self – or affective system – is seen as a continuous reminder of what was.
It is imperative to examine closely and realise that the root of the affective system is a sense of selfhood; a feeling of personal being which is identical to its will, its drives, motivations, values, and goals. This branches out to give rise to memories, desires, and expectations. This fans out still further to colour every perception and thought until it reaches into every experience including the aesthetic sense of beauty, a sense of natural order, a sense of contentment, peace, boredom, tiredness, loneliness, ad infinitum. In a word, this system includes every sense of psychological interiority and feeling of contemplative spirituality that we know of.
This state (no-self – Tony) is nothing more than a simple straightforward look at what Is, a look that can no longer scan a continuum that doesn’t exist, for options that do not exist. Nor does it look backwards or forward because in the now-moment each moment is sufficient unto itself. It is impossible to step outside this moment wherein there is no choice and no standard. It was this non-relative dimension I found missing when searching through the contemplative literature for insight into this particular state. Since self is a sense of interiority, the criteria of my search for this second contemplative movement was the absence of an interior life —- which, of course, I did not find. Instead, I encountered the usual descriptions of love and bliss, lights and energies, God within and the true self, all of them descriptive of the first movement (probably an advanced Stage One in my numbering system – Tony), and all of them belonging to the purely relative affective system.
I understood some of these experiences but had to discount them as belonging to the present movement. I found no one who admitted or even suggested the complete falling away of the affective life. At most, it seems that only its negative aspects are said to disappear, and it was this fact I found most questionable. If we are to live permanently at the positive affective pole, I do not see the possibility of a balanced life, nor do I see the impossibility of sooner or later experiencing a dip in the opposite direction. With the exception of the near immovable centre, every point or movement on the continuum is relative to some other movement; thus, as long as the system exists we can never get beyond the relativity of our experiences. Feelings of love, bliss, joy, and all things ineffable are merely relative to their opposite, their absence, or some other point along the continuum; so, when I encountered these descriptions I knew they were not what I was looking for. BR
So, Stage Three finds me solidly in a less-self state, which I find to be a preferable place to be than one totally controlled by the mind. However, I don’t believe this is the end of the road and a lot more is required before any chance of realising the Truth. I try to envisage what those changes might look like in the next chapter with Bernadette’s help.