I recently gave a talk at TAT and in Philadelphia, which I organised under the analogy of a medical problem.
Here’s the notes from it.
Essence of Wisdom Teachings
Diagnosis: Seeker, seeker of Truth, of who/what you really are. Symptoms include feeling confused about something fundamental, anxiety about belonging and love, not sure about why you are doing what you are doing – your goal. Looking for meaning. Ultimately, fear of death.
This condition is recognised by someone who reads a lot of self-help, psychology, philosophy, books, listening to spiritual teachers, attending various retreats etc. It is usually difficult to explain why one is attracted to such activities but still one cannot quit them.
Explanation of disease:
We are cut off from who we ultimately are, Self, God, Absolute, True Nature. We are cut off from ourSelves, our True Nature.
Something, usually referred to as “the ego” “I”, is an imposter,(a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain – dictionary definition) claiming to be us. The ego is formed by conditioning: the beliefs, assumptions, motivations, expectations, etc that we absorb unconsciously from the world around us when we are growing up.
We are identified with the ego, meaning, this is what we take ourselves to be, (not consciously but in how we act) a roving identification. It roves between the body, “I am hungry”, the emotions, “I am depressed”, the mind, “I think…”, the experiencer, “I am who experiences…..” , the doer, “I did this and that” with the assumption that we are the controller of our lives, and any combination of these.
Prescription: To be self-administered.
How to break this mis-identification and allow or facilitate connection and transformation into who we really are. Some tried and tested methods of reconnecting with ourSelves.
Pray: Opening a conversation between self and SELF/God/Absolute/True Self.
Vocal: Speak, write, ask, use the words of other, prayers that speak to your heart, write letters to Self/God/Source/Our Creator and tell her what’s on your mind, etc. Read books you find inspiring around the topic of spirituality and try to absorb their message into your daily life. Ask for help, understanding, guidance in your search and notice when some grace is given to you. Your True Nature often responds by alleviating some situation in your life, or by putting a book, teacher, or friend in your path. Express gratitude for the help you are presented with. It doesn’t have to be much. Simply noticing that help was offered is enough. Use whatever word or language is most meaningful and natural to yourself. This is an intimate conversation between you and You.
Mental: Listen, not only with your ears but take notice of graces/gifts that come into your life, have gratitude for what’s given, listen for subtle thoughts, thoughts that do not come from the world or usual thought streams. Have a dialogue with an inspiring book that you read. Absorb the words in the book, as if it is a letter to you from the author.
Mentally list the gifts you take for granted, the simple things in life that are easy for you. Talk to Self throughout the day as if to a best friend and be on the lookout for thoughts that may be a response to some request, for some change, for understanding of an idea or simply for guidance how to proceed with your efforts at connection.
Spiritual: Let every thought and action be a prayer, Let God/Self share in your daily experiences and dialogue with Self throughout the day whenever you remember. In other words let self and Self be one being, intimate, natural, trusting, best friends, closer than any worldly friend could be. Be of ONE mind.
Meditate: Take vacations from the ego, the imposter.
Any meditation practice is taking a vacation from ego. This is why it feels so good. There is a great variety of meditation techniques available nowadays. All have value, I am inclined to think. Go with the one that appeals to you or is easiest for you to practice.
Types of meditation:
Relaxation – repeating a mantra, following the breath, etc
Insight – observing thoughts, introspection, observing your inner life in terms of emotions, bodily sensations, thought categories etc. Get to know yourself intimately in your mundane manifestations.
“Seeing” – Douglas Harding meditation practice. Challenging ego conditioning with an alternative. He has written many books. “To Be and not to Be” is a good place to get started with his writing. Check out his website: www.headlessway.org for more information.
Body scanning – putting attention on body sensations, taking attention away from the mind, the imposter. This can be done throughout the day but usually needs a bit of intensive practice first. Sensations are always in the present tense, and while the attention is trained on the senses, it is off the ego or mind and this inhibits the automatic chatter that goes on. With this practice the ego gradually loses its domineering hold on the attention and the self feeding mechanism of the ego is interrupted.
A program of observing, noticing, categorising and questioning, every aspect of yourself, with a view to finding something within yourself which is being overlooked.
The goal is to learn to recognise your beliefs, assumptions, expectations, and motivations in your daily actions and reactions. It’s about becoming aware of your mental, emotional and behaviour patterns because patterns or habits are unconscious. It’s about bringing what is unconscious into consciousness, in order to examine and analyse it, not with a view to improving the personality, but with a view to seeing how your hidden beliefs etc are causing your suffering. The aim of all spiritual work it to alleviate your suffering by uncovering the hidden roots and checking them for veracity. Most beliefs were unwittingly absorbed as children, with a child’s mind and do not stand up under mature consideration.
Why do I think…..?
What am I angry, sad, hopeful, hopeless, stressed about?
What do I value, value most? and why?
How are my values chosen? Have I picked up my values from those around me or have I chosen my own values? On what basis do I choose one value over another?
What is my greatest fear and what are the assumptions it is based on?
How do I know what I know? – from my own experience, from what someone told me, from my body, intuition?
What am I searching for? What “knowledge” would satisfy my soul?
What causes my greatest suffering?
What does the expression “existential angst” mean to me?
Can I see it in myself?
Can the world satisfy my soul?
Can I trust my emotions? Do I dismiss my emotions as lesser than thoughts? What value have emotions to an organism?
What is my fundamental idea about what my life is about?
How or where do I start looking within myself?
What kinds of things get my attention? Can I control my attention? What controls my attention?
What do I think is the purpose of spiritual activities?
Why do I do what I do?
Am I making progress on my spiritual path? If not, why not? How important is this aspect of my life? Is it an interesting hobby? Am I confident that there can be an end to spiritual seeking for me? What evidence have I got for or against this idea?
What are my ideas about enlightenment, self-realisation, moksha?
Is it for special people and who or why are these people special? Am I special and what would be the basis for it?
Best of all, generate your own questions, ones that are relevant and meaningful to yourself.