Ego and Mind

January 24, 2017

In our quest for “the truth,” let us not confuse ego with self. It seems easy to distinguish them on the surface. “Who knows better than I do what’s me and what’s not me?!”

Looking within, it ALL appears to be “me.” When someone or some life situation pushes one of my buttons, the reaction certainly seems to be ME. It comes from me; I feel the anger, fear, embarrassment, defensiveness, or other negative emotion; I think the thought in my head that accompanies the act and precedes the feeling.

“Of COURSE that’s me reacting!”

Nature of the Ego

We think that the things lurking in the dark nooks and crannies of the mind are–or at least are FROM–the self. This is because we don’t know any better. As part of the process of creating the ego-mind, the mind was programmed to believe that its deeper nature is unknowable. This is because to know the mind is to destroy the ego-mind; the power of the ego-mind lies exactly in the belief that it cannot be known, cannot be discovered, and is forever (safely, for itself) in darkness.

Darkness is merely the absence of light, the absence of awareness. The darkness is where demons lie, and from which they emerge to wreak havoc on ourselves and others—yes, even those we know and love.

“Why did I do that? I didn’t mean to hurt so-and-so. Am I terrible?”

It wasn’t YOU who did or said the thing that hurt someone you love. It was the ego-mind, the darkness, the unplumbed depths of yourself, which if left alone only remains to cause more trouble, pain, misunderstanding, and suffering–THROUGH you.

The ego has many names, many lenses through which to operate through you, many justifications and excuses for its behavior, many rules by which to predetermine future thoughts and actions. The ego-mind BELIEVES it has everything to defend, but it sacrifices everything for fog, for vapor–like a robot programmed by a crazy person to secure nothingness at all costs, and to destroy all that appears to threaten its own existence.

The ego-mind fears even a shingle being blown off its roof by the wind, and it’s the wind of self-honesty, courage, and experience that blows the structure of darkness away, bit by bit–in my experience.

Can the ego-mind be brought into the service of the light, though allowed to remain? Hosed off, dried gently, and hugged, then sent to play? In that case, what the hose washes away is ego; what is left to play is a part of self that the ego had “taken captive” and cut off from the rest of self.

Contents of the Ego

The ego-mind is a confusing mixture of gold and lead: the gold being parts of the self that are hidden in egoic darkness, and the lead being the “substance” of the ego that mixes with captive parts of self and produces a counterfeit self that we mistake for the True Self!

Ego is pure ignorance, darkness, and evil, with no redeeming value, in my experience. What ego releases from its grasp when we hose it off, or when the wind blows–when we shine awareness on it–is part of the self. But that part of the self was NOT itself part of ego. It was a piece of you or me that the ego had held and used for its own purposes for a long time.

Spirituality is not so much about fighting against the ego, but expanding our light so that we integrate the contents of the ego into our awareness. There are parts of us that are suspended in the egoic jelly-muck and we don’t function well without those parts of ourselves.

Indeed, when held by the ego-mind those parts, and their power, are used against us—and others.

When we free those long-lost aspects of ourselves, we can welcome them “back into the fold,” where their power and energy now is at our service instead of parasitically sucking our energy. We become more powerfully ourselves!

False Spirituality

Instead of removing mental images that comprise the ego-mind, some New Age teachers say that we can replace one thought with another, but this is equivalent to replacing a “worse” ego with a “better” one! It means replacing something that’s false and harmful with something that’s false and enjoyable!

This is the evil of New-Agey fluffiness: spirituality isn’t about getting what you WANT! It’s about removing what blocks you (on the inside) from understanding who you ARE! No mental “reprogramming” is needed, no matter what the “feel-good people” might say, or how good their intentions are!

Feeling good feels better than feeling like shit, but if one’s goal is truth, wisdom, and understanding—GROWTH—then one must welcome BOTH feeling good AND feeling like shit as teachers. In this way, one can use all of life as means to remove what is false from oneself. Then we feel better for REAL.

What is false? Anything that was put there by another person, or by oneself because of another person.

The ego-mind, emptied, is just the mind. The ego-mind is just the mind, full of crap that others put into it, probably long ago.

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Gnosis and the Entanglement of Soul in the Flesh

December 24, 2016

Entanglement. That’s a good way to describe the human soul’s brief yet seemingly long stay on this warm, wet rock we call “Earth.”

Entanglement by choice, I would say, though I have no proof of this to offer. Just my own experience.

Without a body, the soul is light and free, attached to nothing–at least not in the way that we in the flesh become “attached” during our stay in this physical world. How do I know this? Because I experience it when I dream: living without a (physical) body.

The soul may well be a “body,” but not physical in its substance. The flesh we occupy here on Earth may be an imitation of that wispy form that leaves when we die, or when we dream at night, and which sometimes haunts dark corners and empty houses in the wee hours.

The soul is the cookie cutter and the body is the cookie.

It’s hard to put chains on something that isn’t physical, like the soul. That’s why Thoreau said that even though he was jailed for not paying his poll tax, he was nevertheless free. He identified with his soul more than his body.

This means, by the way, that Thoreau had the “gnosis” for which many have suffered and died at the hands of religious authorities. Luckily for him, he lived in the USA, product of the Enlightenment, under laws that came from that enlightened viewpoint.

Enlightenment and gnosis are the same thing: realization that one is not one’s body, and that life is therefore much grander and at the same time less stressful and serious than one previously thought. It is the realization of the soul.

That soul is you, and me, and the religious authorities, and the dog that gave my cats fleas, and my cats, and the fleas, and the grass in which they live now. It is each one, and every one, depending on how you look at it.

That soul, here on Earth, is wrapped up–entangled–in energy that we can detect as waves and particles, atoms and molecules, cells and fluid. And bone.

By choice? Some say so. I think so, but I have no proof. That’s okay, because in things of the soul proof is moot. You know, or you don’t know. Knowing is gnosis. Not knowing is agnosis, no matter what the agnostic person chooses to think or say about the matter.

Agnosis can appear to be atheism, or secularism, or religious fundamentalism. Agnosis is “not knowing,” which is the state of most of us here in this tangled world of flesh. Agnosis is being tangled and not knowing it. Gnosis is knowing one’s entanglement, and (maybe) becoming untangled.

This is why monks came about. Untanglement.

Monkishness, though, is an attempt to escape from the world, if it’s pursued beyond its initial intention of separating oneself from the entanglement of others (who are also without gnosis) in order to gain gnosis. If pursued in itself, monkishness becomes a cocoon, like playing video games or snorting meth or reading fiction–a way to try to forget one’s own entanglement here.

Trying to forget one’s entanglement is the opposite of gnosis. Gnosis is awareness, not forgetting.

The point, then, is not to be untangled, but to know one’s entanglement, to see it clearly. This is not pleasant. But it means becoming aware of both of our natures: the body and the soul. The eidolon and the daemon, as some early Christians called them, respectively.

What one chooses to do with that gnosis is up to that person, which means that it’s up to the soul, the “Higher Self,” the Real You. One sign of gnosis is obedience to that inner Self, whose directions are not always pleasant.

After all, gnosis or agnosis, we’re all still entangled here in the flesh.

(Written on August 16, 2011 and freshly edited on December 24, 2016)


Neural Connections and Unlearning

November 16, 2011

The brain is often seen—mostly incorrectly—as having a short period of learning ability that ends early in life, never to be revisited. Although this circumstance is functionally the case at the present time in our culture, in reality the human brain is an incredibly flexible piece of hardware. As such, it can unlearn previously learned information as easily as it learns new things. (Indeed, how is something truly “learned” if it can be replaced by more true or valid information in the future?).

To “learn” (whether the information learned is true or false) is to make neural connections in the brain and therefore to crystallize patterns of perception and thought. Learning to unlearn, as well as learn, might be the brain-exercise needed to ward off conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which seem to result from mental rigidity and crystallized neural connections.

In other words, being closed to new ideas or ways of thinking makes us at greater risk for such conditions, and learning to break free of old habitual patterns—learning to unlearn—can help us to reduce our risk of them.

We each have a mind that is expressed through its physical counterpart, the brain. The brain’s configuration, seen (in one way) as connections between brain cells, is the physical representation of the non-physical contents of our mind. When we are born, many of these neural connections aren’t there yet; they’re made as we encounter life experience, and reinforced when new experience jibes with old experience—or, more correctly, when we believe that the new experience jibes with the old experience, whether it really does or not!

If we allow it, fear produces in the mind an incorrect idea about the reality we encounter, solidifying this idea through new connections in our brain chemistry and making it part of our conception of the world and our place in it. As always, the power of the mind to cause our experience is demonstrated—for our own betterment or detriment.

This doesn’t make us quite a “blank slate” as psychology used to teach, though. Our physical container (genetic makeup) determines our tendencies, potentials, talents, and creative abilities, which are brought forth to a greater or lesser degree in our lives through the shaping-force of our experiences. We are “nature” plus “nurture”: biology plus experience, or brain plus neural connections.

When we say that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” we’re saying that an older person’s neurons are linked together in a certain way that keeps him or her from learning anything new or different. This old saying isn’t true, though, even if you can see evidence of it at every turn. Contrary to popular thought (“common sense”), information can also be unlearned. To unlearn is to undo these neural connections, making them available for use in a new and better way.

To unlearn is to allow the possibility that we are wrong in some way, and to explore other possible ways of looking at the world. Unlearning is the way to freedom! Through it, our misconceptions are identified and corrected. Unlearning frees the mind, breaking patterns of neural communication and therefore automatic thought.

Unlearning is what I call “revolutionary spirituality.” The more supple and flexible the body/brain is (by remaining open to new understanding and experience), the more open the link is between the body/brain and the mind/spirit. Thus, what we call the “spiritual path” naturally leads to a healthier brain! It leads to a reduced risk of unhealthy brain conditions that can result from the crystallization of these brain-connections.

To take care of your brain is to take care of the rest of you—in every way—and the best way to take care of your brain is to clear out any incorrect perceptions you have about yourself and the reality you encounter: to unlearn!


Techniques for Spiritual Advancement

November 15, 2011

These are some techniques or practices that can help anyone to advance on his or her own spiritual path. Everyone is in a different place on the path, so what works wonders for one person might be a poor choice for another.

Why do all these techniques start with the letter “M”? They just do.

1. Meditation. This is the ages-old technique for “going within” and perceiving inwardly. Basically, any technique that produces bodily relaxation while retaining sharp mental focus can be called “meditation,” including self-hypnosis, pre-sleep prayer, or even driving on the highway. The important distinction that makes a mind-awake/body-asleep practice “meditation” is its purpose. If you relax your body and focus on your “inner world” for the purpose of understanding, I call that meditation. If you do it to reduce stress, I call it therapy.

2. Mindfulness. I liken this practice to the “prayer without ceasing” mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in the New Testament. This is my preferred method because it works for me. While mindfulness isn’t “prayer” in the sense of supplication or thanksgiving, it is maintaining awareness of the NOW moment at all times. In doing so, you become more aware of your actions, the thoughts that precede them, and the memories or other background mental circumstances that precede thoughts.

In fact, you become more aware of everything: relationships, sensations, circumstances, and so on. Eventually, you can use your state of mindfulness to “see” otherwise hidden parts of reality such as other people’s motives. The most important quality of mindfulness is that, if you pursue it with honesty and determination, you can bring your conscious mind to the point of perception of reality’s Oneness.

3. Memory. Everything you do reminds you of something you did before, unless you’re truly doing something new, like bungee jumping. Even then, your current emotional state probably brings up a memory from a previous situation in which you had the same (or similar) feelings.

If you’re attentive to these subtle hints of memory, you can learn to trace your present experiences back in time to previous experiences. In this way, you learn the causality that your past experiences have on your present, and you learn that you have the simple but profound power to prevent this otherwise automatic occurrence—just by not allowing that “connection” to happen.

This disconnection of present experience from past experiences leads to freedom in the present.

The automation of experience, caused by the connection in memory of otherwise unrelated experiences, is the opposite of the awakened state. Automation, or “asleepness,” is the current “normal” state of most human beings.

4. Music. Music affects us in keeping with the state of its composer when it was written, and of its performer(s) when it is played. Like the written word, music proceeds from mental/emotional states and it tends to produce a similar state when listened to. This is why we can or can’t “get into” certain kinds of music, and it’s why our friends tend to like the same kinds of music that we do. We’re on similar “wavelengths” (which is why we’re friends to begin with!).

Certain kinds of music uplift us emotionally, and others bring us down. Some music helps us to break free spiritually, and other music focuses on limiting physical circumstances. It’s important to realize that popular music more often reinforces the status quo unless it genuinely moves us to feel appreciation or other emotions of beauty.

5. Mimicry. Although not one of the more effective self-awakening activities, sometimes it’s helpful to put oneself in the shoes of an authentic spiritual teacher. This is the way of religion: outward appearances. You might not understand why a hatha yoga master would contort his body in a certain way, but if you do it yourself you might get some inkling of why.

By the same token, if you’re a yoga master you might very well produce your own methods that someone less able than yourself could use in order to grow.

6. Mirrors. Our relationships are sometimes our greatest teachers because in other people we see ourselves reflected. What does this mean? Other people constantly give us feedback about our behavior (which is the outward expression of our “inner” selves). The closer or more intimate our relationship is with any particular person (and the more aware and committed that person is), the more meaningful and intimate will be the feedback we get from that person.

It is important to understand that people with little or no familiarity with us on a personal level can give us only limited feedback, while those who know us better will give us better—more accurate—mirroring and feedback.

While not comprehensive, the information given here can and does help to improve people’s understanding of themselves and the reality they experience. A true “spiritual” path, taken all the way to its goal of realizing that the Universe and the individual operate as a single unit, will encompass many more experiences than can be contained in a single essay.


Religion and Spirituality

October 27, 2011

Religion is exoteric and spirituality is esoteric.

Religion focuses on the outer person (appearance or expression), while spirituality focuses on the inner person (thoughts, feelings, and so on).

Religion is form and spirituality is substance.

Religion imitates, but spirituality originates.

Religion fills; spirituality overflows.

Religion brings routine. Spirituality brings freedom.

Religion values ceremony. Spirituality values meaning.

Religion imposes rules. Spirituality discovers truths.

Religion says people are bad. Spirituality says they are good.

Religion empowers others. Spirituality empowers oneself.

Religion is the painting of the flower. Spirituality is the flower.

Religion looks to the past. Spirituality looks to the future.

Religion takes discipline. Spirituality takes curiosity.

Religion burdens. Spirituality lightens.

Religion persuades. Spirituality explains.

Religion fears. Spirituality seeks.

Religion defines. Spirituality expresses.

Religion teaches longsuffering. Spirituality teaches patience.

Religion takes freedom away. Spirituality affirms freedom.

Religion limits. Spirituality expands.

Religion requires the acceptance of a belief in place of experience; Spirituality requires the release of beliefs that hinder experience.

Religion is a bandage. Spirituality is the scalpel.

Religion obscures. Spirituality uncovers.

Religion is the haven of the fearful. Spirituality is the playground of the joyful.

Religion dulls. Spirituality sharpens.

Religion hushes. Spirituality laughs.

Religion cries tears of guilt and shame. Spirituality cries tears of release and joy.


Mental Patterns

October 17, 2011

Everything in life is a pattern. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the human mind. (Okay, except maybe in mineral crystals or bird migration or multiplication tables or DNA or ice or rice or the outward expression of the mind, which is behavior.)

When the mind encounters a situation that is similar to one already in its memory, it attempts to create a pattern by linking the new experience with the remembered one. In doing so, it is trying to create a feeling of safety and security by forming a direct connection between the two experiences: one that is old and familiar, and one that is new and unknown.

Of course, that’s what usually ends up happening. Similar events from different times in life are strung together and connected in the memory. As a result of this organization, patterns are instilled and reinforced in the individual, and behavior becomes automated. Because of the programmed responses (reactions) that have now been set up in the mind/brain, the individual acts without thinking consciously and becomes a human pattern of behavior.

Once again, the individual becomes a pattern of behavior. As a result of merely reacting to events instead of using the mind to produce new situations, the person becomes, in effect, an effect rather than a cause. The person becomes predictable, dull, and unenthusiastic. This behavior and the underlying neural patterns established in the brain are the cause of the human tendency to resist change of any kind.

These patterns are also the reason why open-mindedness and living the fluid life of faith are essential. When new experiences arrive (which they do unceasingly), the mind of doubt accepts the situation uncritically and treats the new experience as if it were just like any previous experience (which it never is). The mind of faith, on the other hand, evaluates each experience on its own merit, as a new event in life (which it always is). This keeps the mind fluid and supple, the brain freer of crystallized neural pathways—and even helps to keep us young.

One might respond by saying that this self-automation process is indeed good. After all, this is how we learn! Yes, that’s true to a large degree. It’s this crystallization of the mind that enables us to drive a car, or ride a bicycle, or learn geography—but there’s a point where automated thinking becomes a hindrance, not an asset.

Being a behavior pattern is the ideal state of an animal, not a human being. We are not to live by instinct, but by intelligence and intuition!  We should learn which of our behaviors are best left on autopilot, and which ones we should take charge of consciously.

This is why I sometimes say that routine is the enemy of real (conscious) living. When people are really (consciously) living, they become the cause of the events they experience instead of constantly reacting to seemingly uncontrollable events that “just happen.”

This is the difference between an empowered person and a disempowered person (a.k.a. a “victim”).

You can live all your life in one city or block or house and never become a victim of routine. Like anything else, awareness is a state of mind! It’s a matter of choosing how you respond to your environment in each moment: either unconsciously (on “auto-pilot”) or consciously (aware of your choices and especially the reasons behind them).

It’s a popular idea that humans aren’t supposed to be empowered. Does this make any sense? All change, innovation, and progress (I mean real progress, not the bulldozer-on-the-forest kind) is made because of, through, and by people! Where do progressive (new) ideas come from? They come from the “inner” world of thoughts and ideas, the world that everyone shares in differing degrees and to which all people have some access. This is the unseen world of Spirit—and it is through people that the world of Spirit is brought forth into the world of men!

To be empowered is to be an instrument of God on the Earth.

(Freshly edited on February 6, 2017.)


Purpose and Meaning

September 28, 2011

All matter in the universe tends to find equilibrium. Hot things cool down to the temperatures around them, substances break down into elements, and gasses spread out until an entire space is filled with them evenly.

Not so with life. Life forms tend to get more complex and diverse over time. This doesn’t appear to make sense in the world of matter! What is it that makes life improve and get more complex over time?

It’s whatever animates a living being, and which dis-animates the body at death. Call it what you want, but you don’t have to believe in it. It’s there! It can’t be measured as part of an experiment, which is why it isn’t in science textbooks. Nevertheless, this thing called Soul is responsible for life.

The purpose of life, in general, is twofold. First, it is the accumulated experience and growth of all life forms—learning—which leads to the second: the development of physical beings in whom this Soul can have full expression.

The qualities of Soul include love, forgiveness, peace, and unity. As the more developed humans progress in understanding, these characteristics will become more and more common.  We can see this “spiritual” development in many people today.

As we understand life more, our individual lives become more meaningful to us. As we learn, we lose our attachments to cherished objects and learn to let go. When we let go, we suddenly find that we just gained everything and that there is meaning wherever we go. We carry it with us.

People who haven’t figured this out yet often choose an arbitrary purpose for their own lives and pursue it. This still gives them some satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment, but it doesn’t compare to the sense of fulfillment that comes with understanding.

Real understanding of your own true purpose is like living with the light on, compared to being in the dark all the time.

(Written in 2005 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)


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