Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Miscellaneous Quotes and Realizations

Below are some things that have come my way that I have written down over the last few months. They serve as helpful reminders for me and I felt the need to share them with you in case they might be beneficial to you in your life. Feel free to share with others. I hope you enjoy.

“As soon as you learn how to treat your wife [significant other] with respect, you will have a much better life.” by Shelby Carland.

My wife is always good at pointing out when I am reacting out of habitual programming and not from a place of truth. Her gentle reminders help me realize when I am neither being present nor mindful in my interactions. Our significant others can be very valuable teachers when it comes to recognizing our own ego.

“There’s no better song in the world than the one you are listening to right now.” note to self

This one came to me one evening while listening to the radio and a song that moved me came on. I hadn’t heard it before, but I allowed myself to open up as I listened. The message hit home with a great deal of energy but I realized that all songs can be just as powerful if we allow ourselves to listen to them without judgement, as if it is the first time we had ever heard music before. Each note disappearing forever as it is replaced by a new one.

“Give EVERYTHING you do your fullest attention.” note to self

When I realized how being fully present could be maintained in daily life, it became clearly summarized by these words. If you are giving what you are doing your full attention, there is no room for dwelling on the past or future. In fact, there is very little room for mental noise at all. Stillness and the significance of each simple thing captures the attention.

“My ego makes me do things I don’t want to do, and prevents me from doing things I want to do.” note to self

While I was paying attention to the thoughts going on in my head as I was doing something, I realized that I had stopped myself from doing something for fear of what someone might think. I’ve noticed that this happens quite a bit and feel grateful when I notice it. On the flip side of the coin, when I am identified with my ego (possessed by it is more like it), I do or say things that I did not want to do or say. The ego is on autopilot and just doing what it has done for years without my awareness. This is also nice to catch even if it is not caught until after the fact. Noticing is all it takes to be free of the ego’s control over us.

“Is there resentment in the action you’re doing right now? Did you know there didn’t have to be? Forgiveness can save the whole world from self destructing, but only if enough people participate. No one else will unless you do it first and continue to do it for the rest of your life. Once you take the first step, nothing else will matter.” note to self

This one came to me one morning when I was awakened by dogs needing out to pee. It was probably 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. and I reluctantly got up to walk them. As I was headed to the back door I realized that I was carrying resentment with me over having to do this on multiple occasions. I realized that my mind had created a mental story painting me as the victim. It was using the past to illustrate the unfairness of life (one of the ego’s favorite past times). I realized that having resentment was a choice and I chose not to engage in it. I became present and wiped my mind clear of past, as if this was the first time I had ever walked the dogs before dawn. What a blessing it turned out to be. I got to see the morning star in all it’s brilliance illuminating the woods around me. The predawn sky was just beginning to lighten and I felt honored to have seen something I would not have seen had it not been for the seeming inconvenience of being “awakened” from my sleep. I have since come to accept the role of early morning dog walker and try to use it as a way to see what it is I’m missing.

“True freedom and the end of suffering is living in such a way as if you had completely chosen whatever you feel or experience at this moment.” - Stillness Speaks, by Eckhart Tolle

I had to mention this Eckhart quote because it so beautifully sums up overcoming our ego identification. Why would there be any resentment if I chose this moment to be as it is? Why would there be any negative emotions at all? I have seen enough to feel that everything happens for a reason, which means that everything that comes my way does so for a reason far bigger than the mind can comprehend. Though we have no control over what happens in life and are at life’s mercy, we can choose how we feel about everything life throws at us. When it came to the resentment I had over dog walking, I realized I had a choice and I chose to accept what life had given me, which turned out to be a beautiful sky. Acceptance of what is is another way to sum it all up.

“The future is unknowable. The past is memory. The present is real.” note to self

Since I find myself spending time in the “what if” land of an imaginary future or dwelling on the memories of things that have already happened, I occasionally realize that these are just thoughts that are happening now. If I’m identified with my thoughts and don’t realize I’m thinking them, I am actually reliving the past or acting as if the future has already come. This makes these imaginary realms seem real. When I catch this I realize that there is only now and that the past has no power over me and the future only needs to be used for planning certain activities and not constantly through out the day. When you are able to step fully into the present you can stop to smell the roses and truly appreciate the life that is all around.

The following are exercises that I wrote down to help remind me of how I can connect with the present moment more easily. I've been trying to take mental notes on what makes it easier for me and those mental notes are typically what take me out of the Now. So it is a bit of a double edged sword, but one that I hope will benefit others. I call them Familiar Surroundings I and Familiar Surroundings II but they are interwoven.

Familiar Surroundings I
“View the world as if it’s the first time you’ve ever seen it. Pretend you’re a visitor to a place you’ve never seen before and get in the mind set of trying to take it all in as if it’s completely new and fascinating. Be in awe of everything around you, without judging it or getting caught up in the story behind it all. Then, do that in everything you do from going to the refrigerator to get something to eat or drink, to walking down the hall or street. Start doing it with all of your routine activities and it will breath new life into everything you do. You will start to see the truth in it all.”

I can typically connect with the present moment for short moments through out each day, but it is sometimes easier than others. It takes practice since we have been identified with our thoughts for so many years, but it does get easier with practice. The key is not to get frustrated when it seems hard to do.

Familiar Surroundings II
“Look out a window or stand outside looking at some trees, or the forest, or whatever happens to be in the surrounding area. Then ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before and this was the first time in my life I had ever laid eyes on this? What would it look like to eyes that had never seen such a thing?" Then look around at everything in that context, as if it were all totally new to you. Allow a sense of awe and wonderment to fill your body over the miracle that you are witnessing. Let that sweep over your body and filly you with warmth. If thoughts arise, be the witness of those thoughts and don't follow them. Let them fall by the way side and continue to focus on the totally new and foreign sites you see as you look around. It may be helpful if thoughts come to stop and ask yourself, "Where am I?" Stay with it for as long as you can and just enjoy the feeling while it lasts.”

Distractions ultimately pop up that take away our attention, but the more times you can do that, the easier it gets. You may not feel the same warm and tingly feeling you would get from other experiences, but you are none the less in a state of limited or no thought. You are present in what you are doing and not focused on the future or past. Every little bit helps and makes it easier.

The last exercise I will leave you with is a popular form of self inquiry that has been suggested by many different spiritual teachers. It too can have a profound impact on connecting with who you truly are. We’ll call it the Who Am I exercise.

Right now, sitting where you are, reading these words, take a few moments to breath deeply and feel your body. Settle yourself... relax... come fully into this moment. Close your eyes for a moment if you need to, then proceed. As you look at the print on this page, ask yourself, “Who is here seeing these words?” Rather than searching for an answer with your mind, shift your attention to what is behind your eyes looking out of them. Ask yourself, “Who am I?” If thoughts arise notice them and ask, “Who has these thoughts?” “Who is the thinker of these thoughts?” Let thoughts fall away as you continue to look for who is behind them. Continue to ask questions and look deeper within. “What is it that sees these words?” “Who is looking through my eyes?” Feel for the answer. Turn your awareness inward and direct it at the one who sees. Look within to see who sees. Ask yourself, “Who am I?” on a regular basis and don’t try to find an answer, just experience what it’s like to connect with who you are.
In loving peace,

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliminating Time

Quote from A New Earth:

"You cannot make the egoless state into a future goal and then work toward it... because it will always seem that you have not arrived yet... Look carefully to find out if your spiritual search is a disguised form of ego. Even trying to get rid of your “self” can be a disguised search for more if the getting rid of your “self” is made into a future goal". - P 206

When reading the quote above under Eliminating Time, I reread that first paragraph three times, with the full meaning hitting home harder and harder each time, taking me into wakefulness, as if I were watching a movie of my hands holding the book and the print on the page. A sense of joy pervaded me, as well as a little fear of the unknown. I realized that I had indeed made my quest for truth, to be free of ego, into just another obstacle to finding it. I realized that I could never find it if I was in search of it. It’s right here. Just step out of time.

Upon later observation I found that I unknowingly spend a great deal of my time thinking about what I’m going to say or do at some point, and wondering what to do or say next, what might happen if I do it next, what other people (or dogs) think of me, how I’m shaping that image, what’s expected of me, why I do these things, etc. I’m always looking for distractions to avoid being fully present, even if those distractions involve ways to get to the present moment. Lost in thought or doing, but not in what I’m doing right Now. Touching presence periodically but not committing. Where am I now? Words that help pull me back to center.

"So instead of adding time to yourself, remove time. The elimination of time from your consciousness is the elimination of ego. It is the only true spiritual practice... What we are speaking of is the elimination of psychological time, which is the egoic mind’s endless preoccupation with past and future and its unwillingness to be one with life by living in alignment with the inevitable isness of the present moment." - P 207

After reading this I stopped and tried to feel what that actually meant. I asked myself, "What would it be like if there was only now?" Rather than try to answer it with thoughts, I just experienced what life would be like if there was only Now. There is no past. There is no future. No yesterday or tomorrow. Any thoughts that arise regarding either are arising now. There is no five minutes from now. Only Now. I repeated to myself, "There is only Now," as I continued to walk, wash my hands, etc., knowing that each step I was taking was in the Now. Each thing I looked at I was looking at Now. The words I am typing I am typing Now.

Though the full impact of these connections may only be felt for a brief while, it is an exercise that can be done at any time and I highly recommend you give it a try. Feel what it would be like if there was only ever Now. Everything else is a figment of your imagination.

There is only now. Just immerse yourself in it.