Sunday, June 29, 2008

When to Act vs When to Accept

One of the gray areas for me on my journey has been acting on vs. accepting what is. I would like to share with you my own experiences with this in terms of interpersonal relationships, as well as what I have read.

As an example, when I am engaged in a conversation with someone and they say something that I feel is untrue about myself, I accept that rather than react to it (unless I slip up). In fact, I go a step further to look for the truth in what is being said to me. Other people tend to point out the things in us that we don’t want to deal with or haven’t dealt with yet, especially if what they are saying causes an emotional reaction in us.

Aside from that, what they are saying is true for them even if I see it as being false. Sometimes I see how another person is actually projecting their own issues onto me, but I don’t point that out to them as that is their business. Plus, I may be tempted to use that observation as an escape route from my own culpability. The main thing I do is notice how I feel when that happens and respect the other person where they are on their journey. I don’t try to convince them they are wrong.

The reality of this moment is what is being presented to us, regardless of what form that takes. As Byron Katie points out, “When I argue with reality, I lose – but only 100% of the time.” So rather than argue with reality because I don’t like what it has presented, I try to make peace with it and take action from that space. I remember that we are always being presented with exactly what we need at this moment, otherwise it would not be happening. I try to look at my life situation as if it is calling me to awaken. Life serves as my mirror. My ideas about myself are projected out onto others and I can learn from that if I am open and not in a state of resistence.

It’s also been illustrated to me that someone else's pain that they take out on you, in the form of anger or hostility, ultimately may have nothing to do with you. It has to do with their own past pain. This makes it much easier for me not to take things personally, or at least notice when I do. If someone seems angry at me, I know deep down that I am playing an important role in bringing something to that person's attention that they have not dealt with yet, just as they are doing for me. I am just a mirror of them and vise versa, so I try to look at it from that perspective. Regardless of whether we are acting consciously or unconsciously, we are all part of a universal process designed to bring about freedom in one another, whether we like it or not, accept it or resist it.

When someone close to me is suffering and I want to help but don’t know what to do, I can accept "not knowing" as it is. In so doing, I have had ideas come to me out of that state of accepting my own confusion. In effect, clarity can come from a state of confusion when we surrender to the fact that we don’t have a clue what to do. Meditation can also aid in finding the "right" action by becoming fully present and putting out an intention or question. It's said that we can not ask a question we don't already know the answer to, which I have found to be true. That means we just need to clear our minds so that answer can come to us.

At this stage I am constantly seeing how identification with the past creates hostility and suffering in myself and other people. When I see two people arguing or saying things designed to hurt, or complaining about something someone said to them, I see how simple it would be for them to release that feeling, simply by doing The Work (as Byron Katie refers to it) on the issues at hand, or by becoming fully present with no concept of an imagined past. It is not the other person causing the suffering we experience, it’s our own thoughts about the situation or person. I typically don’t offer this up to people because they may not want to rid themselves of those feelings for fear of losing their victim identity or having to admit they might be wrong. That’s a scary concept for the ego.

The conclusion I have come to is to accept, then act if need be. If I can’t accept something, I look within to see what is causing the resistence. It always has to do with me and not someone else. Once my present situation is accepted fully, I can then act more efficiently than when I am in resistence. Resistence just creates more resistence in the mirror of the world we are looking at, so it’s up to me (and you) to make the world a better place.

Below are some quotes from “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie I think you will enjoy.
Be well,

If [he] says something that hurts, he’s just revealed what you haven’t wanted to look at yet. The man is a Buddha.
P 133

[W]e’re babies just learning how to live out our love. We keep trying to meet love in everything and everyone, because we haven’t noticed that we already have it, that we ARE it.
P 261

What I love most about reality is that it’s always the story of a past. And what I love most about the past is that it’s over.
P 269

“It’s a tree. It’s a table. It’s a chair.” Is it true? Have you stopped to ask yourself? Have you ever become still and listened as you asked you? Who told you it was a tree? Who was the original authority? How did they know? My entire life, my entire identity, had been built on the trust and uninquiring innocence of a child.
P 300

But even the Now is a concept. Even as the thought completes itself, it’s gone, with no proof that it ever existed, other than as a concept that would lead you to believe it existed, and now that one is gone too. Reality is always the story of a past. Before you can grasp it, it’s gone. Each of us already has the peaceful mind that we seek.
P 303

We [the world around you] don’t know how to change; we don’t know how to forgive or how to be honest. We’re waiting for an example. You’re the one. You are your only hope, because we’re not changing until you do. Our job is to keep coming at you, as hard as we can, with everything that angers, upsets, or repulses you, until you understand. We love you that much, whether we’re aware of it or not. The whole world is about you.
P 310

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I know by now you are well familiar with the idea that the present moment is all there ever is, has been or will be, but I wanted to use memories as an example of how one can touch that which is always present. Think back to your earliest memory. Visualize it as if you are reliving it. For me this was when I was two years old. My mom was going into the hospital to give birth to my brother. I was in the car with my uncle Bill and I had a can of peanuts between my legs. As we were pulling away I spilled the peanuts between my legs. As I was trying to pull them out from under me I realized that they had slid so far up under me that I couldn’t reach them. So I lifted my butt up and as I did the peanuts went sliding back under the seat and into the floor board (the back of the seat had a gap where it met the bottom seat). I also remember my uncle being a bit flustered by this.

When I think back on this memory, I look at what has not changed since then. The one who witnessed it all happen is the same one who is witnessing these words being typed on a screen. It is the same “I” that has witnessed all of my life situations and will continue to witness all of my life situations. It has not changed through out my entire life. My physical body has changed, my thoughts and ideas have changed, my likes and dislikes have changed; but that “I” that has witnessed it all has not changed. That is the ever present awareness of what goes on in daily life. Everything we experience happens in the space of that awareness, which is untouched by the mental interpretations of those experiences. The mind labels, judges and learns from these experiences, but the awareness behind it all has no stake in the outcome. It is simply here.

When you look back on any of your past experiences you are “seeing” them Now from that same awareness. Focusing your attention on that awareness is how you can “see” that which you really are, underneath the thoughts and mental labels. Asking yourself, “Who am I?” or “Who is this “I” that is witnessing all of these things happen (past or present)?” is a very effective way of turning your awareness back on itself, or becoming aware of awareness.

This awareness, which is the only thing about us that is real, is not ours alone. In fact, that awareness is what we all have in common. We are all that same ever present awareness beyond thought. That is what makes us all one.

Once you have become aware of your own awareness you can then look at others with that awareness and see them as that same awareness. They may look and act differently, have different life experiences, but deep down they are nothing more than that same pure awareness. You can, in effect, look through the eyes of another and see that there is a background of awareness behind everything they say, do and see.

It’s from this space of recognizing all as awareness where true compassion arises. Ultimately there is no difference between me and you. We are all just conscious awareness. This is what all of the spiritual teachings are pointing toward. They all provide pointers to going beyond thought so that we can view the world as this awareness, and, in so doing, Be that which we already are. Interacting with life situations from that space is how we can achieve a state of peace. A peace that most of us have only briefly glimpsed in our lives.

There are many practices that assist in disassociating with thoughts so that we can rest in that spacious awareness, but one of the most simple (other than self inquiry) is one that is mentioned in The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Ask yourself, “I wonder what I am going to think next?” Then focus your attention and wait for a thought to occur as if you were a cat intensely watching a mouse hole. When a thought occurs, let it go and ask the question again. Then go back to waiting for the next thought. While in that state of waiting, without thought, you are completely present as that awareness.

There are many other portals to connecting with awareness and I recommend you try them all. Don’t just try them once. Engage in them on a regular basis throughout your day. It will become easier and easier to go deeper into self awareness. Just be still.
In peace,