The World You Thought You Knew

In our constant search for meaning in this baffling and temporary existence, trapped as we are within our three pounds of neurons, it is sometimes hard to tell what is real. We often invent what isn’t there. Or ignore what is. We try to impose order, both in our minds and in our conceptions of external reality. We try to connect. We try to find truth. We dream and we hope. And underneath all of these strivings, we are haunted by the suspicion that what we see and understand of the world is only a tiny piece of the whole.― Alan Lightman, The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew

A few weeks ago a friend said to me that we experience  many deaths in a life time. And it is true. I think that as Lightman indicates  we are conditioned  early in life to attach to a rather fixed identity of who we are and how to live. It is not necessarily to believe that what we have become and what we believe ourselves to be  is an ultimate truth.  It is more of a relative reality, a product of our cultural and collective conditioning. It could be no other way considering the  lack of  options, for a more authentic realisation, at that time of being born and raised.  I think that in my own opening to life I have begun to  let go of these layers that have influenced my perception and way of being that has been more of a contraction as opposed to an expansion into life. Awareness has been the tool that has aided in understanding the limitations of traditional and conventional concepts and perceptions.    This unfolding into unrealized and mysterious areas of being seems to be ongoing now that I am beyond the fear and habit  that so hypnotically fed a static existence.

These days there are more options and there is  more collective awareness.

An example would be the Buddha. In his book  ” The Scientific Buddha” Donald S Lopez writes that the “Buddha presented a radical challenge to the way we see the world, both the world that was seen two millennia ago and the world that is seen today. What he taught is not different, it is not an alternative, it is the opposite. That the path that we think will lead us to happiness leads instead to sorrow. That what we believe is true is instead false. That what we imagine to be real is unreal. A certain value lies in remembering that challenge from time to time.”


The Self Gets in the Way

In the movie “Birdman”,  Michael Keaton’s character is an aging celebrity movie star who has lost what he once had in terms if stardom and desires to return to it. He goes about creating a theatre production about love in New York City hoping for a positive response from people. Possibly there is something of a desire to be a true artist that is inflUencing him as well but I think even he is a bit confused. He encounters numerous barriers along the way to achieving what he desires. He finds himself in crisis at  times throughout the movie that take him to the edge of collapse into nothingness . He can’t seem to see beyond his extremely focused plan of becoming something and how he will achieve that. Out of the crashing of all that he thought himself to be into nothingness something compassionate, loving and creative emerges however short-lived it may be. The Birdman,s self quickly kicks back in, in a most habitual way and things begin to fall apart again. His ego is perpetually destructive and he id aware of that at moments but at the same time its delusions are immensely seductive to him. He imagines happiness where there is none, mostly out of his return to celebrity status, public attention and success and in that striving and pursuit relationship is not a priority.

Consciousness is not dependent on self as the self is to consciousness. These days I am more aware than ever that much of what human kind declares to be meaningful or truthful is a product of the self and I am as well so aware that the self is so often mistaken. The deeper connection to consciousness seems to be something that is generally suspect in our collective ways. Peter Ralston writes in his book “The Book of Not Knowing” that “although the truth is already so and is profoundly simple, it is not accessible within the world as we know it.” We have come to know the world through the “self”.  It seems to  be extremely focused in its perception to the point that it is at times blind in it,s seeing and at times it seems to filter out  fundamental aspects of connection to the perceived. Perhaps in its development it has in some way become cut off from consciousness that is whole and its capacity for a more encompassing seeing has become limited. In moments that the self is absent there is a deeper seeing, being and discovery of meaning that is absent of the doubt that is the self.

Care of the Soul

I went for a very enjoyable walk through the woods today. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Germany is about a month ahead of Canada in terms of the seasons,  so spring is approaching here. There has been no snow this winter outside of minor flurries.  I have walked almost every day through these woods this fall and winter. It is my place of refuge here in Germany. The trees are my sangha here. But still as I encounter people and rural villages in the area that I walk through, I am left with the image of how firmly set every thing here in Germany is. Life has been carved out and established  and any effort to take it in a different direction is resisted. People are set in their way of being in the world and seeing life and I am not part of the permanence, nor do I desire to be. I am a visitor here largely because I feel that I am learning to embrace change: more than they are prepared to deal with it here. German life has great respect for privacy so I am able to find my own way in peace but at the cost here of being alone.

I write and meditate and I read and I paint. Others would surely be happy to have the options that I have. I am coming to know myself and to go with that. It  seems to be a more authentic way than I have ever known. Maybe it is that I am getting older and to have to shift and shape myself to the needs and norms of others is not so attractive to me, although it seems that I am partly here because I have been able to be open, adaptive and flexible in my needs at times.

I have been wondering why it is that I write and paint? It doesn’t seem to be out of a need for affirmation or attention.  I can relate to what Thomas Moore writes:  ” I’m not interested in achieving happiness. I think of happiness as an important but fleeting sensation. I want the calm of not having to get anywhere or know anything. I enjoy the end of a certain kind of craving, not for things but for thoughts.”

As Moore also alludes to,  maybe I am fooling myself. If I am writing maybe the need is deeper than I am able to  yet see. I am sure that I don’t want others to follow my way. I’m not so convinced that it has been the right way so I do not write or paint for these reasons.  It has been a life of searching although even that has fallen away and as Moore adds questions seem to be more important these days than the answers.

There is something creative in this place of contentment. It seems to be something that is not so concerned about the self or the needs that arise from it.  There is a craving for expression that emanates from it and possibly it is what is at the source of what I am and why I  paint, write and what I do .

I identify very strongly with what Thomas Moore has written in this article that I have included. Maybe it is age but I have a sense that these days it is  as necessary as ever, maybe more so,  that we should  find a way to allow ourselves to experience life, aging and death in an authentic way. In my contemplation I am aware that a long-term commitment to awareness has been required to have avoided being swept away in a confusing tide of conventional wisdom.  Societal and cultural norms, common sense,  science, knowledge, religion and tradition are some of the resources that are a part of an  external milieu that has offered expertise and assistance to me in  finding my way. Gratefully through a shift in awareness I have been enabled to include something more of my original face that has come to be an  essential source of a more valued guidance for me.

The Care of the Soul: The Place Beyond Seeking  by Thomas Moore


The Grand Design: Beyond Thinking

e has two years to live he quickly responds with what about my brain. It is quite evident that thinking is for him a fundamental way of negotiating his life.

Iris and I watched the Steven Hawking movie  “The Theory of Everything”  last evening. During the film a deep realisation was triggered for me that was quite profound. How to put it into words is the challenge. The movie clearly presented  Hawking as  being mistrusting of  our human tendency to rely on religious belief. It seems to me as well that blind belief can interfere with clear thinking and seeing. It can at times be more closely connected to our thinking than we realize in that we embrace a concept that does not allow for the questioning of pre-established assumptions.  As Cheryl Hamilton says it is a passive process because we are not really open to examining it.

In our curiosity, when film ended we began reading Hawking`s book the “The Grand Design”. He writes that reality is unbounded and that it is more of a whole experience than can be understood from our reductionist thinking.  The use of a map is helpful as a flat map of the world helps us to understand the earth, with the  realisation that the map does not directly represent the land masses as they exist.  He indicates that a theory of everything is similar to this. The map is in an ongoing way refined  due to the fact that our conceptual and theoretical understanding is constantly changing and evolving. He adds that we will never reach a  point where our understanding through thinking will be ultimate, so the map is ever-changing and that our human perception is not as objective as we once believed it to be.There are many factors that influence our perception.

I find that in Hawkins writing despite these claims that he makes, he often makes assumptions periodically that are quite absolute. Maybe he knows something that the rest of the world doesn’t know or could it be that he himself is conditioned to return to a search fueled by the habit of thinking. Even in the deeper insights that he has made he seems to return to a reliance on thinking to fill in the gaps. At one point in the movie when he is informed that h

In my own contemplation I see that humans are conditioned to think our way through life, a consequence of this being  that we lose something of our wholeness in doing so. We habitually return to a very conditioned way to look for answers concerning what we have lost through our conditioning, (which is most of all a way of being). This in fact only serves to further perpetuate the separation that has occurred. That separation seems to be from our humanity and from our wholeness. A more authentic awareness of what we are in life comes from going beyond our concepts. The very awareness of what is, is itself a liberating process. So long as we are unaware of what we are and our way of trying to become something else and to look for something of what we are outside of our wholeness  so long will there be distortion and pain.

Thinking is useful in creating concepts and a map as Hawking writes as a tool that points back to what we have come to understand through awareness and as a tool to understand in a more relative way. But when we attempt to understand life and life events without having direct awareness of the whole than we are always returning to searching in a way that will leave our conclusions incomplete. Stephen Batchelor says that “in a world of constant flux, we cling to ideas of “truth”and “certainty” as though they’re solid. We need instead to learn to navigate the vagaries of this brief life with irony and care”.



Reality is Much More Than Our Thinking and Much More Mysterious

I am currently reading A H Almaas most recent book, “Runaway Realization”. In reading these kinds of books, I find  that some writers, who have been involved in spiritual life, have a gift for describing things not always easily amendable to being described. It is as if their words are pointing to something beyond them.
In his book Almaas describes something that I have come to understand, that has been more later than sooner revealed to me, that “reality is far more indeterminate, far more mysterious than anything we can conceive of”. So I ask why it is that I have ben involved in a search for some kind of truth that can be expressed in a literal way for nearly all of my life. it seems that somehow in our conditioning we come to abandon the more direct experience and the insights that come with that. This realisation has changed the nature of the search for me. To discover what is beyond time and what is constrained and limited by it we must go beyond our thinking. Realty has no boundary where as our thinking and the concepts that are created from it have boundaries. Practice or meditation, is for me attending to the direct experience which is without boundaries, beyond thinking and impossible to capture in any effort to express it.