Who You Really Are (Pt. 2)

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This is part two of a two-part post. Monday’s article explained that you are not your mind or your body, but the aware space in which your mind and your body (and everything else) exist. You’ll have to read the first part to understand the context of this post.

So if you are in fact the space in which all things happen, how come you don’t always notice this space? Why does it often seem like it’s just the things that exist? If the space is you, wouldn’t it always be apparent?

Not necessarily. Think about it: you are that space, so when you are not aware of that space, it only means the space is not aware of itself. But it can still be aware of the things happening in that space, without seeing what it is that is aware. It’s a major oversight, but it is also the normal state of human existence — complete identification with form, with things.

We usually don’t recognize the space in which the tangibles of our lives happen, so we figure we must be one of those tangible, perishable things, or some combination of them. The thing, or collection of things, that we normally think we are is called the ego.

When you lose sight of the space that contains all things (including your ego) you are lost in things. You have lost sight of yourself, and the play of things seems to be all there is. Things become supremely important, because they’re all you have.

That’s a shame, because all of those things are doomed by their very nature. They’re nice when they’re around, but they are fleeting and perishable. So it’s no wonder that when we become identified with things we feel a persistent uneasiness. They are all fleeting — very certainly, inarguably, on their way out, and some part of us knows that. When life is only a race to manipulate material things into the most preferable arrangement possible before you die, it feels like a losing battle. It is.

This is how most of us live, utterly identified with our thoughts, under the impression that life is nothing but things, and that we are nothing but one of those things.

Any time you are aware of the ego, you are disidentified with it. When you don’t recognize the ego as the ego, you have mistaken it for yourself and you are again unaware of who you really are.

What is really happening is that you experience thoughts that say they are you, that say you are only a creature, and so you remain unaware of the space in which they (and all other thoughts and forms) happen. So you take at face value whatever those thoughts say, because they appear to be you. This is a major sticking point for many people: they cannot accept that they are not their thoughts. They cannot imagine that the voice in their head isn’t them, and that it isn’t necessarily trustworthy.

It actually is the voice of the ego, a self-perpetuating, free-associating collection of thoughts that tries to define you with concepts — I am 29 years old, I am a mid-level office worker, I’m not as good as Jim, I am better than Al, I have big plans but I fear I won’t realize them, I embarrassed myself at work today, I never get a break, I am really good at driving in reverse in my car, I am awkward with people I don’t know, I am a terrible dancer, I eat healthy, I don’t have enough money, I do have enough money but I spend it poorly, my kids are well-behaved, I look good in these jeans and I look frumpy in those ones…

It’s nothing but thoughts of I, Me, and Mine all day long. It changes throughout your life as you continue to think, and becomes hideously complex over time. Managing it is a nightmare. Impossible really, but we are doomed to spend our lives trying if we cannot become aware of the ego as it is: a transient collection of thoughts. When you become aware of it as such, you are regarding it from a distance, and you can’t remain identified with it.

Meditative adepts and people in the habit of self-examination learn sooner or later that the mental chatter in their minds is not who they are. When you observe it for a while, you quickly realize it is an uncontrolled, impulsive source of opinions that never shuts up and cannot be depended on to give you an honest appraisal of your situation. Many call it the “Monkey Mind.” It doesn’t take too many meditation sessions to see that it is something you can observe just like you can listen to sounds or watch your own breath. It is something “out there” in your field of awareness which can be watched like any other form, and thus cannot be you.

This is not about changing beliefs

People have known this for a few thousand years. Those best able to teach it to others have become some of the most well-known people in history.

Here’s Eckhart Tolle, talking about one of those people:

What you see, hear, feel, touch or think about is only one half or reality, so to speak. It is form. In the teaching of Jesus it is simply called “the world,” and the other dimension is “the kingdom of heaven.”

As far as I’m concerned Tolle has compiled the clearest, least cryptic description of the teachings dealing with form, space and the human condition caused by our evolving consciousness. If this post holds any interest for you at all, read his books if you haven’t yet.

There is a lot we could learn in this vein from religion, if only we could avoid becoming lost in its forms — its stories, dogmas and symbols. Religion has become so mired in form it is difficult to find this teaching in it. But it’s there.

Don’t worry about convincing yourself that space is who you are. It’s quite contrary to the conventional explanations of who we are and not everyone is going to find it immediately meaningful. That will happen automatically when you are aware of it. There is no convincing that needs to happen. It’s not a matter of changing your beliefs. It’s only a matter of becoming aware more often. Most people will flip back and forth between awareness and identification with form, with the periods of awareness gradually lengthening and becoming more frequent.

When you are paying attention to space, rather than becoming preoccupied with the objects in that space, everything suddenly appears to be in its right place. The whole arrangement of things takes on a faultless beauty. When you are lost in things, you can’t help but see them in terms of what they mean to the interests of your most treasured thing — your ego.

In the article Die on Purpose, I hinted at what happens when you look at the moment as if you aren’t there. You become able to see the moment just as it is without evaluating it in terms of what’s in it for you or not in it for you. This is egoless awareness, and a moment of egoless awareness is always a moment with which you can find nothing wrong, because there’s no “you” to suffer from any unpreferable circumstances. This is the intrinsic beauty and perfection of the universe talked about by mystics and seers, which sounds like mumbo jumbo to anybody who’s never experienced it.

This is not a metaphor

In the last post I likened the space between the stars in the sky to the aware space that is your true identity. The space out there between the stars sounds like the perfect analogy for the aware space we are. But it is not an analogy! It’s no metaphor at all, it’s the same thing. It must be. There are no qualities in which it differs, because it has no details in which it can differ. It is empty, it can contain all manner of forms, it remains unchanged and undamaged by the forms that come and go within it. It is eternal and timeless.

And, evidently, it has the capacity to be aware. Not just aware of the things in it, but eventually, of itself.

This sounds a bit far-fetched. We tend to think of space as dead, inert, lifeless. How can space be aware of itself?

Through form.

Space gave rise to form. The current scientific theory for how this happened is called the Big Bang, but we don’t know for sure. It’s taken billions of years, but here on earth, form has given rise to consciousness. One of those forms is what you see when you look in the mirror. Human beings are conscious forms, and humans have the capacity to be aware of space itself.

Using form as its tool, space is becoming aware of itself. And that brings us to today.

Almost all of us are unaware of space — our true nature — most of the time. We are at the stage in our evolution where individuals are beginning to become aware of space in bits and pieces, here and there. Some people have been able to completely disidentify with form and we describe them as enlightened or liberated. I would guess some of these people were: Jesus, Lao Tsu, and the Buddha, to name a few, but many other regular people become aware in smaller intervals, even if they don’t know what is actually happening.

Religion’s Role

“The religions of the world are the ejaculations of a few imaginative men.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Religion is the (often misleading) collection of forms that have come to surround this teaching: stories, institutions, rules, mythologies, conventions, political ideas, idols and symbols.

The world’s religions have a poor track record of bringing people to awareness of who they really are, even though I honestly believe that was their shared original purpose. Because of our very strong tendency to identify with form (and overlook the emptiness in which form happens), the major religions have become preoccupied with beliefs, moral codes, political allegiances and other thought-forms, and the message has been all but lost.

As the teachings spread, institutions developed. Like all institutions, they became heavily focused on form, as evidenced by the elaborate ornamentation found on cathedrals, the immense wealth accumulated by medieval churches, the completely unenlightened focus on punishment and threat, the characterization of God as some kind of supernatural dictator, the demonization of questioning one’s beliefs, and the willful antagonism of scientific progress.

Churches have become a fantastic model for accumulating material, worldly power. More than anything, they have encouraged people to identify with their beliefs and their thoughts, making it much more difficult for them to become aware of anything but the world of form.

You are the Subject, not an object

Tolle again:

The arising of space consciousness is the next step in the evolution of humanity. Space consciousness means that in addition to being conscious of things — which always comes down to sense perceptions, thoughts, and emotions — there is an undercurrent of awareness. Awareness implies that you are not only conscious of things (objects), but you are also conscious of being conscious.

Douglas Harding’s method is a simple way to become aware of the Subject, rather than only objects, as we normally are. The face in the mirror is that of your ego, an object. The clear, aware space that you are looking out of is the Subject. It is who you really are.

Unconscious behavior is what happens when we are unaware of space, and become identified with things, with form. When a person is only aware of things, and not the aware space in which things happen, their life becomes a hopeless attempt to manipulate the play of form, of concepts and material things. Money, power, status, gratification and other forms become the only recognizable reasons to live. But they are only part of the picture.

We’re lost in thought, lost in form. Without awareness of that vital dimension of space, we have no perspective. That lack of perspective is responsible for all of humanity’s problems. What else would cause people to invest so much energy finding more efficient ways to kill each other and decimate the planet’s ability to support us?

Evil? Some mysterious quality of “badness” that infects (mostly other) people? The concept of evil is a weak, baseless explanation for why humankind causes itself horrendous problems as efficiently as it does.

Our lack of perspective is the human condition, and we are very gradually getting past it.

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I realize this is another long, heavy, mind-bending post, and it if you find any meaning in it, it may take a while to internalize. I have received an overwhelming response to this series in comments and emails from people who want me to keep writing about this topic. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so from here on in I’ll approach it in smaller pieces, and space it out.

You may also notice I didn’t describe any techniques for actually cultivating awareness in this post. That’s a huge topic and I’ll talk about it in the future, but I do encourage people to investigate it on their own. Nobody who is only interested enough to read a few blog posts about this is really going to benefit much, but I hope I have piqued some interest in a few people.

Eckhart Tolle’s books are brilliant, plain-language treatments of this teaching, and are a good place to start. Email me for any other suggestions, or ask questions in the comments.

One more thing. Reader Tom K linked a brilliant lecture in one of his comments that explains this far better than I have (though he goes much much further with it.) It blew my mind and I’m sure it will do the same for some of you. It’s in six MP3s:

One Two Three Four Five Six

Thank you for following along in this series, I hope you’ve gotten something out of it. As of Monday, I’ll give the heavy, cosmic-scale topics a rest for a while. Have a good weekend.

R

Photo by japokskee

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{ 66 Comments }

nrhatch September 9, 2010 at 9:24 am

Awareness arises when we step into the role of detached observer of our thoughts ~ that state of “headlessness” you discussed.

BTW: If you’re interested in the spiritual truths of Jesus, without the trappings of a power hungry church:

http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/in-spirit-lies-truth/

Deepak Chopra encourages readers to see Jesus, not as the poster boy kidnapped by the Christian church, but as a Spiritual Being ~ an eternal Spirit who temporarily adopted a mortal persona to share a message of peace, hope, love, compassion, and acceptance with the world. If we look beyond the man, and the myth of Christianity, this is the Christ who emerges from the mists of time . . . The Third Jesus who knew himself as eternal and everlasting Spirit.

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David September 9, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I bought Deepak Chopra’s book “Jesus” but I haven’t read it yet. I’ve got a huge to-read queue. I still think of Jesus as a perfectly mortal human being, but we’ll see if Chopra’s depiction changes that.

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Cory Emanuel July 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Is there REALLY such a thing other than a perfectly mortal human being ? and if so who or WHAT is not ?

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Steve September 9, 2010 at 9:29 am

David,

Once again I must thank you for sharing your thoughts on this infinitely interesting subject. I’ve just finished going through Tom K’s links after seeing them earlier in the week, choosing to slowly digest that lecture over a couple of days. Wow. Between that, your writing and Douglas Hardings excercises and books I feel so much more (for want of a better word) aware. Aware of life, aware of humanity and the physical and non-physical world, and aware of myself, or rather ‘I’ and how it all relates. I am very new to this way of thinking, but can’t wait to continue learning.

Life changing.

Thank you.

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David September 9, 2010 at 11:15 pm

That lecture is really quite incredible because it offers a concrete, scientific rationale for exploring this. I’m glad to hear this is making a real difference for you.

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harpergrey September 9, 2010 at 9:43 am

I’ve always found that the subject of awareness can get so esoteric that it turns people away from attempting to understand it, but you’re doing an amazing job of describing it in ways that are grounded and even seem obvious once you know how to think about it. I’ve really been enjoying your insight — keep up the awesome work! :)

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David September 9, 2010 at 11:19 pm

I’ve tried to avoid esoteric language, and I hope it works for some people. Thanks for saying so.

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Jason September 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Good explanation of a common spiritual meme – you are the awareness that is conscious of consciousness – in other words, you are the observer, not the thoughts and feelings that are observed.

I question this presumption and also the “experiences” that people have that convince them of it. Our brains are quite extraordinary and capable of operating on multiple levels, both conscious and subconscious. It is possible to simultaneously have a thought and think about the thought you are having. This secondary level of analysis is not divine – it is as mundane as “This is a tasty sandwich I am eating.” There is a perception/sensation and then there is a thought about that sensation. They occur at the same time. Next is probably “I think I’ll have another sandwich soon.”

So both of these thoughts or layers of consciousness are you – you can call them different things (ego, Self, etc) but it is likely that they are part of the same miraculous bundle of wiring that is depressingly organic and therefore mortal. Elevating the “observer” thought/feeling and saying this is who I really am and it is unchanging, immortal, and spiritual is “feel-good metaphysics” – it sells lots of books.

That’s my Devil’s advocate post for today…

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Michael September 9, 2010 at 8:19 pm

You may have noticed, but you are quite keen on being stubborn with your views as we are with ours. All you do is talk of feel-good metaphysics and how it’s all nonsense, but have you actually bothered to give it a try and attempt to see this space for yourself? To give those experiments and these new ideas a go? Or are you just bashing it simply because it goes against the truths that keep you safe and balanced in life?

You sound as if you actually like being ordinary and fleeting. If so, then why exactly are you here? Don’t be so pessimistic. How about putting your tired logic to the side for a little rest and exploring these concepts with a fresh, unprejudiced mind? If you find absolutely nothing, then you can go back to your regular mindset unchanged. But don’t reject these things without at least trying them.

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Jason September 9, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I, like you and David, am interested in the human condition and inquiring into all that entails.

I spent quite a few years in the feel-good metaphysics/wishful thinking camp… that was after growing up a fairly devout Catholic. Thus my comments are based on “experience” and made with the hope for dialogue, not condemnation or condescension.

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David September 9, 2010 at 11:29 pm

It is possible to simultaneously have a thought and think about the thought you are having. This secondary level of analysis is not divine – it is as mundane as “This is a tasty sandwich I am eating.”

Yes, and that is what makes it so difficult to disidentify with thought. It has multiple layers. But awareness is cannot be confused with thought by those who know awareness. There is no guesswork involved. You will know when you are unaware but that doesn’t mean you can escape the self-perpetuating trains of thought that characterizes unawareness.

You can call all these layers of thought “you” if you want to, but it isn’t what I’m referring to. “The Observer” is not a thought. Awareness is not a matter of thinking the right things, and so you will never be convinced of this, nor will anyone else. It’s not a matter of belief. You are still trying to apprehend this on the level of thought, and it’s just not possible. All that can be known of awareness is personal experience. In this it differs from conceptual knowledge, and that seems to stump many people. They do not believe nonconceptual knowledge is possible, so they don’t investigate.

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Jason September 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

“All that can be known of awareness is personal experience. In this it differs from conceptual knowledge, and that seems to stump many people. They do not believe nonconceptual knowledge is possible, so they don’t investigate.”

I’ll buy this for the sake of argument but it brings up a host of problems because people can’t stand this kind of unknown, unconceptualized phenomenon. One might have an experience of “Awareness” but thought will immediately enter and want to analyze, discuss, name, organize, and cling to it. And so a spiritual experience becomes a psychological barrier/crutch.

My personal opinion is that though one should strive to be as self-aware as possible, one shouldn’t seek out these kinds of experiences because you will likely find it. Investigation implies looking for proof or evidence wherever it may be, not just self-serving experience-seeking. In other words, often the “Ego” is leading the charge to find God and claim him as the ultimate source of satisfaction. It then identifies with whatever it finds. To me, that doesn’t seem very spiritual at all.

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David September 11, 2010 at 9:28 pm

One might have an experience of “Awareness” but thought will immediately enter and want to analyze, discuss, name, organize, and cling to it. And so a spiritual experience becomes a psychological barrier/crutch.

My personal opinion is that though one should strive to be as self-aware as possible, one shouldn’t seek out these kinds of experiences because you will likely find it. Investigation implies looking for proof or evidence wherever it may be, not just self-serving experience-seeking. In other words, often the “Ego” is leading the charge to find God and claim him as the ultimate source of satisfaction. It then identifies with whatever it finds. To me, that doesn’t seem very spiritual at all.

This whole line of reasoning assumes that one cannot really be aware of their thoughts, or at least cannot be sure that they are — in other words, that awareness of a thought is actually just another thought. Like I said before, awareness has a distinctly different character to it than thought does, and there is no confusing it once you know what you’re looking for. That’s why we call it awareness. If it’s unclear, it’s not awareness.

The ego cannot lead a person’s actions while that person is conscious of it. The pursuit of God as the ultimate source of satisfaction can only be the result of unconsciousness, because it is identifying awareness as if it’s form. You are still characterizing the cultivation of awareness as if it’s some sort of thought pattern. Not all of our perception is of thought, and we do not need to think to be aware of something. Attention is not thought.

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Jason September 12, 2010 at 11:44 pm

It’s tough to have these sorts of dialogues via short posts…especially when there are so many different definitions of consciousness, awareness, etc.

What I sense from your reply is an especially prevalent religious/spiritual viewpoint – “My subjective experience proves what I am saying…you can’t understand, let alone disagree because you haven’t had my subjective experience…if you had, you would agree with me.” This strikes me as weak and akin to that old Baptist song of circular reasoning: Jesus loves me, this I know, because the bible tells me so…”

I suppose the problem comes from trying to put into words this “mystical” feeling that seems so common…of complete attention or awareness or whatever. It can’t be just a different sort or degree of normal awareness because then it wouldn’t be so special and I would have wasted all my time and energy searching for that fleeting moment. I assume you get my point…

The reason I am beating this to death is I have seen to many people get wrapped up in themselves and their new “spiritual” identities after they read a few books or have an “experience.” Owning the “truth” is addictive and once one drinks the kool-aid, it is hard to admit how though it was sweet, it wasn’t really good for you. The same can be said of all these books and methods that help you figure out “who you really are” when who you really are is a mortal and flawed human being who like everyone else, needs to feel that life is meaningful and they are appreciated/respected by others.

Jessica September 9, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I love this topic and think you explain it very well.
This reminds me of J. Krishnamurti’s teachings on “choiceless awareness”.

In terms of using practices and techniques for cultivating more awareness, are you familiar with Byron Katie’s “The Work”?

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David September 9, 2010 at 11:42 pm

I love the phrase choiceless awareness. It’s the perfect reminder that the presence of preferences in your awareness betray the influence of the ego.

I have heard of the basic “Four questions” in Byron Katie’s work but I haven’t really explored it.

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Joy September 9, 2010 at 10:05 pm

David, thank you for this series. I have enjoyed it’s dovetailing with Steve Pavlina’s SR adventure, and my own reading of “The Disappearance of the Universe” and related discovery of A Course In Miracles. I would highly recommend those 2 writings as another avenue with which to embrace some of the concepts you’ve discussed here.

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David September 9, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Hi Joy. I have ACIM sitting on my bookshelf and I have yet to tackle it. It’s a massive book. I’ve taken little looks at it and I like what I see. It appears to be a nonreligious account of Christian teachings.

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James M. Convey September 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm

David,
As I write this I have just learned of my sisters passing from a long illness. I did do a piece on my own website about my emotions as regards her illness and the then pending and unavoidable reality of her final passion. http://www.jamesconvey.com/1/post/2010/08/a-personal-messagemy-sister.html
I have followed your postings of the series “who we really are” and also of your great admiration for Hardings concepts of reality and self awareness etc…..
In reading many of the readers commentaries, I am reminded once again of both the necessity for, as well as the existential futility of this debate, and how it presents itself to so many, at the various stages of life, and their own personal evolvement and search for satisfactory answers? What may appear as a simple concept to some, may require a more complicated mind expansion for so many others. Time is relative in this activity. It has always been thus with all philosophies, from the beginning of the age of reason!
While I admire your idealistic approach in positing this particular vein of thought (Harding et al) as a real solution, to this ever challenging and thus far never answered question, as to the purpose of life and of our own very narrow part in this big “action flick”. I must again issue a cautionary note as to the experiential reality of living one’s life in real time.
This is I believe a singular and very personal journey, and is the exhausting and ever present challenge for each and every spiritual being traveling on this human plain! Any attempt to develop a singular philosophy, that supposedly solves the equations of this ‘purpose of life’ question, is doomed to failure. The proof of this, is in the dissembling over centuries, of the many and varied mystical based philosophies, as proposed by the theistic religious movements, prevalent throughout the history of mankind. Most of which are still in various stages of “flux”, awaiting their next metamorphosis and mass approval for their a new and hopefully more modern existence?
Simply put, the answer lies within ourselves. That we have already identified as a race, through evolution, certain undeniable factors (truths) which appear to support concepts of good and evil, as they apply to daily existence, is a matter of fact! Regardless of how often we revisit, or produce “new think” philosophies that may appear more enlightened than previous norms, they always result in nothing more than arriving at the same unavoidable conclusions. Mankind must follow certain “personal spiritual” paths toward good or evil, and this equation is combined within the concept of free individual choice, again as a spiritual and personal concept. You will note that thus far any concept of “God” is far removed from this premise and yet it is the very essence of “his message” as it were? Simple rules of life to follow! If only…..?
To somehow attempt to realign the vision of an entire species, through some contextual mirror of normalcy, is I believe the very essence and the credo of those philosophies that gave birth to theistic thinking in the first place. To say that some of your readers are confused and even challenged by these concepts is an understatement. The broadest bands of belief and disbelief have been exhibited by your readership, which supports my commentary as to the futility of any debate which proposes any final solution, as to how to view “MY LIFE”.
Harding was as much a searcher as Socrates or Plato or Gibran or Luther or Christ or Mohammed, or any other of the great thinkers throughout the history of man. Evidence is clearly there, that they all came to similar and simplistic definitions (or rules) for this reality of the mixture of human and spirituality in one being. None however outlined or adequately defined its “ultimate purpose”? The general conclusion apparently being “that it is for the greater glory of “GOD”…… And so the debate will continue!

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David September 11, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I never proposed any of my posts as an ultimate solution or a unified theory of anything. All I can ever post is concepts that have helped me and presumably will help some others.

The map is not the territory. I’m getting to know the territory better and better, but all I can ever offer anyone else is maps. Like any concept, for some it will stick, and for most it won’t, and that’s ok.

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James M. Convey September 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I understand David and I intended no slight of your valiant efforts to continue the journey of life, being the best you can be and sharing the experiences. As an older traveller I hope my input also helped to add some cautionary advices. My intentions were and always are honorable and honest. I wish you continued success in your efforts,
Kindest regards James

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XiaoMa September 11, 2010 at 6:54 pm

thank you for sharing your insights! it makes a lot of sense :)

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Murali September 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm

David,

Which of Eckhart Tolle’s books would you recommend that I start with? Again, thank you for the wonderful posts.

Murali

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David September 11, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I’d start with A New Earth. It’s less abstract than The Power of Now, and gives it a context.

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Murali September 12, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Thanks.

Murali

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Danielle September 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I’ve been following your blog for a few months now, including your series on Headlessness which I found thought-provoking and illuminating. Harding’s exercises made me aware of being aware, which prompted the question “Who is doing the looking?” To which I had no answer, until this 2-part series.

While my awareness of consciousness still has a long way to go, I’m grateful for how you laid out these concepts here. I’m curious though, to hear about how an awareness of your true nature has changed your life. I’m sure you feel more peaceful and content, but has it given you a renewed purpose for living? Has it changed how you deal with fear and life’s uncertainties?

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David September 14, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I’m glad it was meaningful to you Danielle, and I thank you for saying so. Only a small percentage of readers ever give feedback so it’s hard for me to gauge if the way I explain something is effective or not.

It’s hard to articulate how this has changed my life. Right now, most of the time I am living from my ego, because it’s such a powerful network of habits that makes us do that. I flip in and out of self-awareness many times a day, and the only time I can’t do that is when it doesn’t occur to me (which is often), and when I’m really upset about something.

I guess the biggest effect is this: I know that even if I am wrapped up in form and thought, I am always peripherally aware that I’m never very far removed from awareness, that nothing has to happen for me to “get there”. Happiness is all a matter of my state of consciousness and not what happens in my life. It is much easier to enjoy things like waiting, sitting and walking. I never get bored.

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Henway September 15, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Hmm.. I think I understand what you’re trying to point out. But I might need some clarification. Are you saying there’s no “I”, that it’s just an illusion, and that’s I’m actually the universe? That the idea of separateness is just an illusion, and it’s the mind/ego that causes that separation?

It’s a good viewpoint/model of reality.. and one that definitely eliminates the me vs I angst we see around us.

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David September 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm

No, I’m not saying there’s no “I”. When we use the word “I” we’re referring to our self-image, or our ego. The ego is a collection of thoughts and physical forms (including your body, your social standing, etc.) that we identify with, meaning we believe it is who we are.

It’s not really an illusion, it’s an assumption — one which we forget is an assumption. To say this assumption causes a lot of practical problems in our lives is an understatement. This identification with form is what causes all of our suffering, minor and major.

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Navi McNavi September 16, 2010 at 3:09 am

Ha ha ha! David, don’t blow ol’ Jason away! I’m sure he did not refer to you personally as condescending etc, just some of the other commentators. Jason, please don’t go away. Since discussion always enriches one’s knowledge, playing Devil’s Advocate is cool.

I’m using this pseudonym because I’m going to say that might rile a few people, and don’t want a deluge of hate comments against my name.

Jason, if I may try to address your grouse about labeling awareness etc as divine. “Divine” is just a word. By all means, don’t call it divine. Call it mundane. See, in a world of blind men, if there are a few odd individuals who can see, and they can sometimes show people at large a method how they can begin to see, well, some may be emotionally overcome and call this new teaching, namely sight, “divine”, but YOU don’t have to: call it “just another mundane faculty”, but it’s wondrous still, isn’t it (in my hypothetical example)? Why not try it, Jason, and see if you can see? You may have attended a camp or two, or tried sporadically for a year or two, but perhaps you could identify a system to your liking and a trust-worthy teacher, and try this seriously? You don’t want to miss out on this, believe me (or rather, don’t believe me, do it yourself and see for yourself!).

The “potential hate-mail-attracting” point I was going to make: There is no doubt that the Big Three religions (specifically, the three Judaic faiths) at any rate are drivel, plain and simple, at least the popycock that is widely disseminated in their name to the people at large. My question is, what I’m wondering is, how is it that such poppycock could cloud the judgement and claim the adherence of such a large section of the world’s populace for such a long time. Not just of the village idiots back in the Middle Ages, but also intelligent Europeans and so on.

Any thoughts? I can’t for the life of me figure how these three sets of fairy tales could fool so many people so completely for so long! It’s quite amazing, actually! Even back before the big J came along, people weren’t exactly dunces. Take the Greeks, the Romans, etc. How did the progeny of these very intelligent races get taken in by a load of absolute drivel propagated by nutjobs in black clothes, for centuries and centuries together?! (That is why they’re called the Dark Ages, I know, but HOW did this enormity come to pass?)

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Jason September 17, 2010 at 11:43 am

Hi Navi McNavi,

My 2 cents on the success of the Near-Eastern religions as well as any belief system or ideology is encapsulated in a quote from a favorite film of mine: “We accept the reality with which we are presented – it’s as simple as that.”

When your parents whom you love and trust tell you something is true, you naturally believe them. When that system of belief is reinforced by friends and the society in which you live, you come to identify with and internalize it. This has little to do with the level of intelligence or even education – it’s a powerful psychological mechanism that responds to symbols, rituals, and people generally doing strange things in hopes of conquering the great fears of emptiness and meaninglessness. In addition, at the time there were few alternatives and with the exception of some elites, freedom of thought and speech was suppressed in many early “Western” societies.

What is extraordinary to me is not that these “nutjobs” succeeded in propagating their “fairy tales,” but the modern mind is able to compartmentalize itself so well that cognitive dissonance does not make engineers, biologists and others who should know better immune to religious dogma.

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James M. Convey September 17, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Navi and Jason,.
Pardon me for interjecting myself into your discussion. The answer I believe, as to why people continue to accept the irrationalities that are theistic mysticisms, is simply comfort, and is rooted in their subconscious fear of the dark, and of what would seem to be the appearance of some ‘unfillable’ vacuum on the other side of choice, should they ever force themselves to actually confront the issue and abandon these inherent belief systems?
Historical indoctrination from birth and the exclusion of outside influences. Meaning that one would be born and raised and married, inside a cocoon system of spiritual and societal beliefs, that appeared as the normal accepted method of thought and living, for hundreds of years. The “sect” mentality of the early stages of human existence perpetuated this nonsense. The modern era has begun to dissemble these traditions somewhat, but we still have a very long way to go. Communication technologies have certainly added strength to the debate platforms, and hopefully with each subsequent generation, we shall see the arising of the purity of scientific thought to it’s proper prominence. Even as it refers to the spiritual aspects of the existence and purpose of mankind. The fear that we will somehow lose a connection to God or our spirituality or our sense of community, simply by embracing a more analytical scientific approach to life, is unfounded and irrational. We are however only at the beginning, of what I see as the initial stages of a rending and tearing of the fabric of these longstanding humanistic and base belief and control mechanisms. The threat of change is already attracting resistances from all over the planet, and from all of these traditional sources of “faith”. Some are more benign than others in this resistance. The Theisms of our western cultures are becoming ‘reluctantly’ more open to the need for a change in this dynamic, while the extreme and more violent resistance to change, is of course more apparent in those communities, where the tradition is more pervasive and more entwined and seemingly more essential, within the overall fabric of their societies. Islam etc. Again fear of the dark or the vacuum being the essential factors.

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MegN January 28, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Navi McNavi, you ask how could “very intelligent races get taken in by a load of absolute drivel”. Could you open your mind to the possibility that the “absolute drivel” contains some truths? Whatever makes a good novel great, resonant, and long-lasting are the truths included in that tale. For believers the texts may be seen as the stories worked out to explain those inner truths. (I say “may” because not all believers agree on much of anything) The mind that observes the observer is developed in silences and watchfulness. In ages past, particularly before TV and radio and suburbs, there was much more opportunity for that mind to develop naturally amidst daily life. Awarenesses and practices could be assumed, yet as this mindfulness was forgotten in the rush of modern history, the stories stayed the same. A quick superficial reading of any text will make it seem like twaddle, be it Christian, Buddhist, or Science.

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Andrew September 29, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Hey man great post! It took me a bit to get what you were saying but it finally sunk in. I’ve actually been aware of this kind of thing for a few months now. Have you read “How to See Yourself as You Really Are” by the Dalai Lama? That’s the book that introduced me to this concept. It’s written in a more esoteric way but it is very enlightening. Emptiness is a rather tough thing to wrap your head around but it is definitely worth doing.

Did it ever strike you as strange though that the simple desire to be happy can lead to such mind bending stuff? I try to relate these ideas to my friends who have issues, to try to help in any way I can, but even though I understand it to a large extent at the same time it seems so detached from everyday experience as to be nearly useless. I know for a fact it is not useless as it has made my life much better, but just the same it is so hard to relate to others in a meaningful way.

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David September 29, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Did it ever strike you as strange though that the simple desire to be happy can lead to such mind bending stuff?

Yes! Isn’t that fascinating? Being happy is such a simple, obvious desire, but if you follow it to its source you end up talking in cosmic terms that completely redefine reality as we know it. And that creates the problem you’re referring to: it seems so abstract and so far removed from day-to-day life that it’s not always obvious where to apply it. I try to represent these topics in everyday situations, so it doesn’t remain an abstraction. In this series I did get a bit esoteric though; I hope I didn’t lose to many people.

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Howard Douglas Rosbury March 5, 2011 at 8:27 am

Religion is the spirits voice designed to get our attention. It tells us that we are not the animal but the spirit itself within the animal and
that the spirit resides within all created forms. Our true self therefore
is not the animal but the spirit residing within the animal form.
By agreeing that this is the truth, and identifying with the spirit self,
We set our feet upon the path that leads us back to full consciousness
of life in and as the spirit and in oneness with the great spirit or
God. One who recognizes this wonderful truth, rises above the need for religion and enters within to be with God.

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Howard Douglas Rosbury March 5, 2011 at 8:31 am

To believe is one thing but to know is to be.

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Tobi March 18, 2011 at 10:31 am

You have, once again, inspired me. And I will look into it much further and hopefully get back into meditating. But… I’ll worry about it later because I just read both posts and my brain hurts x_x lolz thank you so much.

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Brad June 30, 2011 at 10:20 pm

The title of your website is sheer genius.

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jamar August 15, 2011 at 8:28 am

i disagree with everything you said… i used to practice islam but when i started to study the Bible to prove it wrong, i found out that i was the one who’s wrong. everything the Bible said is true in the past, present, and future.. it’s just sad that people resort to other ‘theories’ or ‘explanations’ just because they cannot accept the simple teaching in the Holy book. everything in that book is accurate. i hope you will read it and experience it’s power to change.

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Helen Chris August 15, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I love the photo!!Great shot!!

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reshiagirl August 17, 2011 at 12:36 am

I don’t know what you are up to. I don’t know what is your stand, and I don”t know if this is some sort of the result of a bored mind but to tell you, there are some part I agree with what you say but if religion is misleading then what it is for men to follow about their God?

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whatdhell5 September 8, 2011 at 8:53 pm

One who recognizes this wonderful truth, rises above the need for religion and enters within to be with God.

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kenoboy9 September 12, 2011 at 1:52 am

Will you please simplify your account about the role of religion on ones life?
I am not comfortable with what you say about it. Please do study more about ones religion, I cannot imagine a world without religion which tells you about your God. I don’t know if people know what compassion is.

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Nene September 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Yeah right we all need the appreciation and respect. Such a great post, very interesting interaction. Had fun reading it….very informative.

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Kimberly September 21, 2011 at 9:47 am

That lecture is really quite incredible because it offers a concrete, scientific rationale for exploring this.. I’m glad to hear this is making a real difference for you..

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sakura September 22, 2011 at 8:33 am

One who recognizes this wonderful truth, rises above the need for religion and enters within to be with God. | :P

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mystica03 October 5, 2011 at 5:00 am

I am very new to this way of thinking, but can’t wait to continue learning.

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sophixia October 10, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I like the way you said it “I am the subject not an object” Yes, I am somebody and I should love it I am not just a thing in this world with no value. I will be following this post often. I like your style, it’s self awareness of our role here on earth.

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David October 10, 2011 at 9:06 pm

You pulled out the key line in this whole series. That’s what all the great religions are essentially about: you are The Subject, not an object, and all problems arise from experiencing oneself as an object in the mind.

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Rebecca October 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

I like your blog and sympathize with much of what you write. If I really thought you were a wacko, I wouldn’t waste my time.keep posting.

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colbie5 October 20, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I still think most of it is totally off the mark to say the least. But all that BS developed around something incredibly useful and powerful, simply because people consider the possibility that not every worthwhile understanding can be proven and laid out in objective conceptual terms. | :P

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Jamal Uddin October 25, 2011 at 4:58 am

I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely can i encounter a blog that’s the two educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail over the head. Your idea is actually outstanding; the issue is a factor that not enough people are generally speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that stumbled across this around my search for something relating to this.

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Mine01 October 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm

certainly don’t think you are in the cult category or akin to Jim Jones and the like. I am simply laying out some critical observations in the hopes of dialogue, nothing more. In fact, I like your blog and sympathize with much of what you write. Thanks for stopping by!

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Mine01 October 26, 2011 at 3:26 pm

certainly don’t think you are in the cult category or akin to Jim Jones and the like. I am simply laying out some critical observations in the hopes of dialogue, nothing more. In fact, I like your blog and sympathize with much of what you write. Thanks for stopping by!..

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Krishna Baidya October 28, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Hello. I wanted to give you a note to verbalize my thankfulness. I have been watching your blog posts for a month and have got a ton of excellent tips and appreciated the way you have built your web site. I’m going to make my blog however I feel it is too general and I need to concentrate more on particular issues.

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puala October 31, 2011 at 7:50 am

, I don’t think you can rely on any of these “spiritual authorities” or your own experiences which are always colored by your memories and desires.

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janine November 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I don’t think you can rely on any of these “spiritual authorities” or your own experiences which are always colored by your memories and desires.

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Zian November 9, 2011 at 10:53 pm

t can’t be just a different sort or degree of normal awareness because then it wouldn’t be so special and I would have wasted all my time and energy searching for that fleeting moment. I assume you get my point…

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Zian November 9, 2011 at 10:54 pm

t can’t be just a different sort or degree of normal awareness because then it wouldn’t be so special and I would have wasted all my time and energy searching for that fleeting moment. I assume you get my point…..

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tensiometro March 5, 2012 at 12:28 am

bAmnxN I`m so grateful that you enlightened me and the most important thing that it happened in time. Just think, I have been using the internet for six years already but it`s the first time I`ve ever heard about it!…

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nrhatch September 13, 2010 at 8:37 am

Jason, talk about circular reasoning!

You want “us” to ignore the direct observational experiences we’ve had . . . because they are subjective.

To support YOUR position, you use subjective observational experiences: “I have seen to many people get wrapped up in themselves and their new “spiritual” identities after they read a few books or have an “experience.”

WoW!

Why would we ever want to substitute your view of the world for our own???

You continue by saying: “The same can be said of ALL [emphasis added] these books and methods that help you figure out “who you really are” when who you really are is a mortal and flawed human being who like everyone else, needs to feel that life is meaningful and they are appreciated/respected by others.”

Quite sure of yourself, aren’t you? That’s cool.

“Absolute certainty is a privilege of uneducated minds and fanatics.” ~ C.J. Keyser

What flavor of Kool-Aid have you been drinking?

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nrhatch September 13, 2010 at 9:01 am

Oh, one more thing . . .

Our direct observational experiences are NOTHING like the song Jesus Loves Me. More flawed “reasoning” on your part.

That song asks children to believe something based on HEARSAY (what the Bible says) ~ it doesn’t teach them to know something by experiencing it directly.

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Jason September 13, 2010 at 12:32 pm

@nrnatch. I certainly wouldn’t say ignore whatever experience you had…rather I would warn against seeking them out, getting attached to them, and/or claiming they are proof of something. We are too prone to flatter ourselves…saying what we felt proves we are old souls or indigo children or we have special auras and perceptions. It’s childish but it’s very real among many “spiritual people” I encounter. I would also warn against assuming any “spiritual experience” was based in reality and not just a self-fulfilling illusion.

For more “flawed reasoning,” see below:

My subjective truth (based on my experience) is that I like peanut butter and onion sandwiches. It’s strange for some but I know there are others who do as well. I wouldn’t claim my experience of eating PB&O sandwiches is an indication that all human beings should eat and enjoy them or that my palate is wiser and more perceptive than most. We are different. Some eat things that I wouldn’t touch with a 10-meter pole. The objective truth is we all need to eat to survive.

I’m not a big fan of quotes because they are no substitute for a thought-out argument. But since you put one in, here’s a favorite of mine:

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” -William James

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David September 14, 2010 at 11:28 pm

Hmm. I keep telling you I’m not concerned with proving anything here. Just getting my interpretation across as clearly as possible and seeing who can find something useful in it.

You are still bent on dismissing anything anyone says that includes words like “awareness” or “spiritual”, because you are looking for a logical treatment of your topic that matches your beliefs. Your belief system seems to include the belief: “Any talk that refers to God, spirituality or faith is bullshit, because I’ve seen so much bullshit associated with those words.”

I have too. I am not interested in owning the truth either. That’s something you’re projecting on me from your unfortunate experiences with religion. If you have survived a catholic upbringing, I fully understand your cynicism about this. Truth is subjective — it is only what is apparent to any given subject, so there’s no object named “truth” to own.

So I’m not interested in arguing with you. I am not out to convert anyone, I’m not professing an ideology, just a conceptual model that may lead people to get some useful insight into the nature of existence and consciousness.

Apparently you are a 100% empirically-minded person, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but clearly you cannot expect objective proof of something that is not objective. If you are happy to dismiss everything subjective, then there’s nothing for you here. It doesn’t make sense to me that the only things worth knowing (and which can possibly be known) are objective truths. Therefore this is worth examining, from my perspective. If it’s a waste of time for you, why are you here?

The same can be said of all these books and methods that help you figure out “who you really are” when who you really are is a mortal and flawed human being who like everyone else, needs to feel that life is meaningful and they are appreciated/respected by others.

Yikes, that’s quite a sweeping assessment. You’re painting me and a whole lot of other people with the same brush, including some of history’s most reputed scholars and philosophers. There are a whole lot of brilliant people whose life’s work you’ve just reduced to a petty need for recognition. Do you really think everything they say is self-indulgent tripe just because they can’t prove it to you? I understand though. I used to think religion and spirituality was BS through-and-through. I still think most of it is totally off the mark to say the least. But all that BS developed around something incredibly useful and powerful, simply because people consider the possibility that not every worthwhile understanding can be proven and laid out in objective conceptual terms.

And do my posts really have no more meaning to you than stuff you hear from kool-aid drinking cult leaders? I hope not. At first I thought you were commenting because you wanted to understand what I was getting at, but clearly you’ve lumped me in with Jim Jones and who knows what other flakes, and you don’t believe there’s anything useful to be learned here. It sounds like you’re projecting a lot of bad qualities on me (condescension, “owning” the truth) that you encountered in your experiences with organized religion and pie-in-the-sky new agers.

But I still do think you will like the lecture that Tom posted the other day. It is given by a noted physicist (who had spent some time as a Buddhist monk) explaining scientific findings that suggest empiricism is hugely useful but has proven limits. Obviously I’m a total nutcase but if you are unswervingly science-minded, you will appreciate his take. It’s linked at the bottom of the post above. The work of William James plays a major part, and the whole thing is fascinating.

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Jason September 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

“There are a whole lot of brilliant people whose life’s work you’ve just reduced to a petty need for recognition. ”

I wouldn’t say needing to be appreciated or respected is a petty need at all. I would say it’s a human need that is held up in the psychology literature as very important to human happiness.

I certainly don’t think you are in the cult category or akin to Jim Jones and the like. I am simply laying out some critical observations in the hopes of dialogue, nothing more. In fact, I like your blog and sympathize with much of what you write. If I really thought you were a wacko, I wouldn’t waste my time.

“So I’m not interested in arguing with you. I am not out to convert anyone, I’m not professing an ideology, just a conceptual model that may lead people to get some useful insight into the nature of existence and consciousness.”

That’s all well and good because I’m not interested in conversion or arguing either unless it leads somewhere. You are professing certain beliefs or putting forth certain observations though – wouldn’t it be boring if nobody challenged them?

I think it is great to explore but also let’s be serious…let’s separate those ideas that are self-aggrandizement and wish-fulfillment and those that may have some actual meaning. Let’s ask ourselves why – why do I find this book, idea, guru attractive and not this one? Why do I think on these things at all? What am I afraid of? Making this distinction has earned me the overused label of narrow-minded or “100% empirical” but that is not the case. I believe in having an open mind but not so open that one’s brain falls out.

For example, I think Harding belongs with Chopra, Dyer, Tolle, and others who use a combination of pseudoscience, charisma, and feel-good self-helpiness to sell books. I did try the “experiments” and they were interesting/stimulating but is that what you’re after or are you really serious about figuring things out? If so, I don’t think you can rely on any of these “spiritual authorities” or your own experiences which are always colored by your memories and desires.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that the only things worth knowing (and which can possibly be known) are objective truths. Therefore this is worth examining, from my perspective. If it’s a waste of time for you, why are you here?”

Again, I don’t think self-examination is a waste of time but I do think reading books that tell you how to do it or latching onto experiences is trivial and counterproductive. Truth must be objective by definition. You can’t have your truth and I have mine…that’s meaningless and leads to the kind of fuzzy thinking (BS I think you called it) rampant in religious circles.

As to why I am here…like you, I am interested by the “deeper” questions and like to hear what other people think about things like why we are here, what is human nature, what is reality, etc. That’s it. Sorry if I come off as overly critical or whatever but I think that is more a function of the way these kinds of short, punctuated, comment conversations work.

Lastly, I listened to part of the lecture that was posted and am familiar with many of the ideas from books like “The Holographic Universe” and the “Self-Aware Universe.” The ideas are fascinating and it will be interesting to see where science takes us in the next few decades with research into consciousness, quantum physics, artificial intelligence, etc. Meanwhile, I think we have to be cautious about jumping to conclusions and skeptical of those who tell us what we want to hear.

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