Leaving the Guru or Cult

There would barely be a man or woman alive who hadn’t at some time suffered the heartache of leaving a relationship, feeling let down, cheated on or have had the light-bulb moment when you say to yourself “this ain’t gonna work.”
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The Cyclone Path of Cults
Over many years I have seen the (supposed) Spiritual path littered with casualties; sometimes it’s because we have grown and the ‘teachings’ no longer serve us.  At other times we may realise that everyone around us is just crackers, clones walking around parrot fashioning words that are not based in their personal experience, borrowed from books and senior cult members.  Sometimes there is the very common story of the rumor that you don’t want to believe, the guru is sleeping with your friend or what you thought was a sacred Tantric experience between you and the guru turned out to be a situation where you were part of his harem.  If I hadn’t seen so much of it over many years I might be a little more reserved or polite in the way I talk about those issues.
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Not all gurus are fakes, I have a short list of heroes.  But there are many who are delusional; then there are those who had some type of Satori (awakening) and decided it was their duty to serve mankind and set up shop, they were well intentioned due to some profound breakthrough but didn’t realise they were just in the kindergarten stage. This heading out into the world to teach at an early stage is fraught with danger. Regardless of whether the time to move on is because of heartache, bewilderment,  or whether it’s because the Indian pajamas got too tight, there is generally a deep emotional response.
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Handing Over
One of the big problems we have with being part of a group, cult, sect or religious congregation is in many situations we forget to think for ourselves and the group mentality reinforces ideas, there is a strength in numbers and seems to confirm something even though it may be untruth. The ‘it’s all His Will’, ‘I am just the servant’, ‘This is what God wants me to do’, ‘I got a message from the Master’; although I could write some logical thoughtful dialogue to put forward an argument to support each of those statements, in essence they are all about handing over, total submission and in that is as always the potential for abuses of power.  And no doubt someone would say ‘yes I am handing over to God’. Regardless if it is fact or fiction, truth or it may be a heap of garbage, there comes a time when people say ‘I’m grabbing my rucksack and I’m out of here’
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The Strings of Attachment
Standing at the gate heading out, the fellow initiates, disciples have a deep sadness in their eyes at your parting. A lost soul heading out, a few would mumble in agreement “he/she will be back”.
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Transition time, leaving the nest is always challenging, by nature many of us are scared of the unknown, we like to feel safe in the familiar, even if it hurts.  Some people like an unknown adventure and do extreme sports, personally I feel that extreme sports are more about the flash of lightning in the brain, the rush, not so much about the unknown. When a young person finishes his or her studies or if things become too difficult in the home environment, unsettling, some just say good riddance  but finding ones way in the world can be scary.  Not all people who join Spiritual groups and Religions do so for spiritual reasons and i am not saying that people aren’t seeking a philosophical resolve, many join because of a need for community and belonging, the teachings make some sort of sense and may reflect good values, so it seems reasonable to become part of something that makes one feel good or is far better than the pain that is attached to us or our loneliness.  It seems natural that people want to BELONG, have a sense of family, to find refuge.  If we are familiar with Buddhism,  we would be aware of the three Gems, take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha (the assembly /community); there is a sensible reason for this because good company makes a less troublesome journey through life.  We know from experience that some people seem to bring with them a whirlwind of chaos.  Joining a community is reasonable but we also know they can be prison houses.
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Dragging Stuff with Us
Wherever there is more than one person there is the potential for differences, in fact just being with oneself is enough for conflict to arise 🙂  When the cult or community no longer fits and we exit, we take a piece of it with us as we go out the door.  The underlying principle of attachment is really about placing things in our subconscious mind, if we have had years of indoctrination it will go deep into us. We may keep the beads, the statues, the pictures, the prayers or even part of the designer language, it’s all legacy stuff we drag with us through life.  I know hundreds of people who have belonged to the Hare Krishna community (Iskcon) and they vary in attitudes about their relationship to their former community, some are no longer interested in Krishna in any way, many of the others still behave as if they are part of the community even though they went through the out-door years back.  We see similarities in behavour with those who have been Buddhist monks or nuns.
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It is extremely difficult to disentangle, people fall very deeply into religious groups and they associate God with the group, where a major problem arises is the joint relationship with cult and God creates the feeling that leaving the cult implies at some level that they are leaving God, the Buddha, Krishna, Christ or whoever the form or formless God may be.  There is no shortage of people who will emerge out of nowhere when going through the out-door to remind a person that the journey out into the wilderness away from the cult is a betrayal of God, you are going to be crossed off the list of God’s elect and damnation is heading your way. Depending on how brainwashed the group or the individual believers are, the harder they will push to keep you in the fold.
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It can be subtle, it will play on our thoughts, when we have been in a group for a long time we start to think the behaviors and religious practices are truly what God or the Buddha wants, when we stop doing the rituals, the prayers, the mantras, the headstands 🙂 or other crazy stuff there is a feeling that God will be disappointed.  What usually happens is people do a bit of a spring clean,  out goes the white or ochre robes, but the beads might stay hidden from view.  The picture of the guru gets burned in the backyard but the name he gave you ‘Chiiti-Chitti-Bang Bang’ stays as it’s too hard to undo the world relationships around you, after going through the complex process of changing from Johnno to Chiiti Chitti, the thought of having to give an explanation of how come “Johnno’s back’ seems too exhausting.  The mantras get adjusted to something more universal, no more saying “Guru Joe Blogs”, it becomes “Krishna Ram Krishna Ram”  The vegetarian diet sticks but you hide the eggs when your ‘spiritual’ friends come around. The saris get cut up and are turned into other pieces of clothing or cushion covers. Okay let’s get serious.
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Digging In
One of the most problematic issues in life for people is trying to understand God, to make sense of how the experiencer of life relates to something bigger or possibly invisible.  It would sound offensive, even blasphemous to some people if I were to say “men create Gods”.  Is this statement true?  Maybe, maybe not, for this article it doesn’t need to be answered but the question can bring out a number of things that we could easily miss if we don’t explore it.
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We get caught in a maze of of black and whites, yos and nos, goods and bads, spiritual and material.  This divisiveness is where many problems arise.  We can become so righteous that it is obnoxious and elitist; if we call a young child bad when they are learning and feeling their way through the world we will be teaching them an odd set of values to carry through life, simple things become their enemy and they begin to live in fear of a big stick or an oppressive God.  When religious people start saying that sex is bad, we end up with a very twisted version of reality where intimacy seems unnatural.
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I remember a woman who used to hit her kid because he’d forget to make offerings to the deities, he became a very disturbed boy.  When we create or borrow a set of rules about ‘What God Wants’ we can easily create a prison for ourselves.  I think there is s healthier way to live and it is not bound by religious thought, it is simple, just ask where will this action lead? Does something help make us kinder, compassionate? Does it create turmoil? How do i feel after doing something? This type of approach doesn’t need a judgmental God waiting to swoop on our misdoings, a God with a big stick is a tyrant and is no friend of mine.   When we are overburdened with indoctrination or spiritual teachings we can lose our naturalness, intuitiveness and sense of self discrimination. Religious and spiritual groups can come from a linage of rules and guidelines or they may have a petty tyrant who everyone is scared of.  EVERY cult has enforcers of various types, there are the bullies and also the ones who float around as if they are an embodiment of virtue and consider themselves as the model that all others need to aspire to, their farts don’t stink.
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The Unknown Future
In leaving the cult or guru there is great freedom, it is a milestone in growing up.  By saying this I am not saying that all religious or spiritual practices ought to be avoided, I am saying that in moving on we claim back a part of ourselves, we no longer need the rule book; if there is something useful we can take it with us, if it works we can implement it.  If we look at Buddha, Jesus and some of the other sages we will notice in many cases they traveled through various schools of thoughts (when I reference Jesus here I mean his time with the Essenes and his journeys through Asia that are avoided by mainstream Christians) , they knew when it was time to leave.  Sometimes the sages got booted out of monasteries because their behavior and thinking no longer suited the sect they belonged to and they were considered a threat.  Here I am not encouraging disruptive behavior but I think it is more than acceptable to ask questions of cults when you go out the door.  The way a cult responds to questioning is a very good way to help decide just how bad the cult is, when there is a closing down and ostracizing of individuals you can rest assured that it is not only a dangerous place for oneself but also others.
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Into Foreverness
Going out the door of the world of limited thought is a glorious thing. The reason why people don’t is because they are scared, worried about offending God, losing the community, feeling like they will be ostracized, that it may be a mistake and they are betraying the Divine.
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There is a Super-Consciousness that has emerged out of the Deep Silence, it has self awareness, it does not judge, it is extremely forgiving of the journey that got us to now.

May no man enslave you
May you understand that the spark inside you is same as in the great Gods
May your true nature reveal itself
May your endless potential unfold
May no God be greater than you
May you claim back your power from the petty tyrants of limited thought
May wherever you go, there be a trail littered with love, compassion and empathy as you pass by
May you rest safely in Emptiness knowing that from it emerges everything

Tilopa 2.0

What the Fudge isn’t Enlightenment

In the West we have been bombarded for more than a hundred years with information about various types of Utopian consciousness that will save us not only from the world around us, secure us a happy afterlife but also protect us from ourselves.  Some of those who arrived from the East to guide those seeking escape and the meaning of life have been very sincere and kind, others deluded and many with private agendas of proselytizing and spreading their brand and there have been those who have been corrupt, abusive and downright dangerous.  All these bods, whether they have been genuine in their quest to serve humanity, self centered or suffering from bizarre delusion, have added to the definition of the word ENLIGHTENMENT.  And from this word there has grown a mystique that this glorious fruit offered to humanity must be acquired at all costs.  Some would leave their families, others give up their life savings or even deprive themselves of basic nutrition and adhere to a diet suitable for a field rat or sparrow; then there have been those who felt it was appropriate to dress in the national costumes of other communities and use what could be described as a designer-language that only the initiated could make sense of, others are considered outsiders or ignorant. And there have been numerous ‘chosen ones’ who considered themselves privileged and saved beyond doubt because they hold to the true teachings.
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Normals
So let’s look at this Enlightenment thing.  I will start by mentioning a few things most people desire and say quality of life, happiness, a peaceful mind, good health and a kind heart are core things that may be part of ‘Enlightenment’ but they are also sought by many who do or don’t have a religious or spiritual quest, mankind sees them as normal and healthy.  These for some may be the fruits of this mysterious Enlightenment thing but when we look at them it would be fair to say that there have been numerous people who did not seek any God or paradise who would have achieved those goals and when I glance towards one of my favorite Indian good guys, the sage Ramana Maharshi, I am reminded that he died of cancer, so maybe this shortlist of desirables does not equate to Enlightenment or isn’t associated with it; they may or may not be spin-offs.
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Lighting Up
One common dictionary version of the word Enlightenment is “the action of enlightening or the state of being enlightened”, this doesn’t really say much it’s like saying there is a fishiness about fish; but we could surmise from its common usage that the word light or the concept ‘to throw light on’ would play a part. … Scene Change: Enter lots of people looking quite peaceful carrying candles and glowing.  This mind-picture has a lot of associated problems, all of us have met people who did dress-ups and looked all sparkly but turned out to be absolute shysters.  I like the idea of don’t believe what we see or hear, the senses can deceive us; in the same way that when people drink alcohol, their sense of judgement goes out, maybe we can consider that the senses can give us a false view.  So I will start by saying let’s forget what we are told.  My reasoning is based on the idea that we often hear interpreters of other peoples experiences telling us how something is, I consider this as absurd, commentators don’t necessarily know what the truth is, they assume and then create a logical story that is often very convincing.  Human nature is rather predictable, it’s like the lotteries, there are a few winners and everyone else talks about what they would do if they won. So what to do?
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Masquerade
For starters, we have heard secondhand that there is some type of elixir, something to be sought; the evidence seems to be based in scriptures and every now and then we hear of people who say they have made contact with supposed holy men or women who had that special Enlightenment thing.  And then we meet people who probably in all honesty believe that they are enlightened, whether it be true or false at this point doesn’t really matter.  I do think we need to sort the masquerade and exhibitions of devotion from what I would call depth of experience.  From my perspective depth of experience seems to be an important issue; and this translates as to see or feel deeper than what is presented or assumed to be so.
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The E Word
If there were such a thing as Enlightenment and won’t I buy in either way with a true or false argument, in an effort to make sense of it I think we would probably need to apply some basic attributes to this mysterious ‘E’ word, and yes I may be adding to the fiasco but we can be sensible about it; there also is the problem that in being sensible I am creating an assumption that the ‘E’ word must be sensible in some way, it is reasonable to say that it may not necessarily be so and an example that would challenge the ‘known sensible’ is the Zen Koan tradition.  A student is given a short text to contemplate that may seem nonsensical.  However, using analysis and critical thinking to get a number of issues sorted seems fair.  To be clear minded and create a foundation to work from is a good idea even if the end experience (or understanding it) disintegrates the foundation and common sense, we need to enter the subject in an orderly fashion.
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The Restful Mind
When we look at the numerous techniques found in Eastern, some of the Western religious traditions and in indigenous cultures we see there is a focus of what I call Taming the Bull, I will translate this as ‘to bring about a clarity of mind.’  I will use the word ‘mind’ in a particular parlance; the mind in this case means the container of thought and belongs to an associative thinker; imagine a balloon full of floating jellybeans of various sizes, each bean has attributes/stories about it, some micro and the others long sagas.  A calm mind-space may not be the definition of enlightenment but the desire or experience of such would allow ones perception to be clear without having chaotic thought in the way. What I am implying here is experience may need to be untainted by stories, is this necessary? I will commit myself here and say yes, that’s a given. The stories we have about things is what colors our view and can get in the way of ‘seeing’ properly.
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I will come back here and make it clear about what we are doing, we are looking at the word Enlightened, a word that has been dressed up and thrown around the spiritual circles, a word that has confused people, a word that has created a graveyard of casualties; we are trying to find a way to decide who may be the real deal and also if the E word exists.  Can we resolve the issue of enlightenment without others, can we either get rid of the idea, develop an approach to chase and secure the elixir or at minimum never be fooled again by wanna-be’s and shysters?
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The Illusionists
Often when some supposed spiritual expert or religious people discuss Enlightenment, they give us examples of Utopian worlds outside our vision, things that are not accessible by our senses; this type of attitude is  downright dangerous and has the potential for an abuse of power.  Whether it is Viking boats paddling to Valhalla, glowing faced Buddhas or Vedic Gods, if it is not something tangible it is good to keep them out of the mix for now or maybe forever.  One person creates a story and because it is not measurable it allows them the expert/master/guru to keep a student or disciple within their scope with a promise of a goal.  Is there something beyond our normal senses?  Yes obviously, contemporary physics tells us this, we don’t have to dig too far, does the miraculous happen?  Sure, we see it every day in numerous ways, many things defy logic and we make up stories to normalise them.  The issue is not that there isn’t something extraordinary beyond, it’s about trust, naivety, bullying of the ignorant and buying into the stories of others, not all but some of the experts would be deluded and self-righteous, others who make it up as they go and jiggle it around a bit to suit their agenda and there are those who are indoctrinated who believe in a specific tradition but have no personal experience. So what to do, do we burn the lot, give up?
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Getting Excited
We are also faced with another serious issue and it’s what I call spiritual euphoria, I have seen this many times.  An example is when I have been to events where due to overwhelming evidence I am confident that a ‘spiritual’ person/teacher is an absolute charlatan (or even criminal),  people in the gathering are having some type of temporary experience of some sort of bliss/ euphoria. When they leave the event they associate their experience with the guru or whoever; in a short period of time after a few visits they have acquired the beads, the book, the prayers, the candles and a ready made community who supports the belief that what is going on is deeply spiritual and the guru gets the enlightenment seal of approval by a naive to some degree semi-hypnotised community.  Contrary to popular opinion, there is a possibility that Enlightenment would probably not only be about feeling good 24/7 but it is fair to say that if there was such a thing as Enlightenment, feeling good may be an attribute….let’s continue.  The desire for or idea of 24/7 feeling blissful could easily be an obstacle or at least amisunderstanding.
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Spiritual Spam
These days we are bombarded with what resembles wise sayings.  I like the word discrimination, when discrimination is used as a tool of analysis and not to marginalise people or communities, it is one of the best things in our toolbox.  It is easy for people to read some words and get a temporary feeling of warm-fuzzy and get the wisdom salivary glands going, from my experience I think it is important to carefully pull apart these words of wisdom, to give them life.  Often when we read words we make assumptions based on our own history and conditioning. Sometimes the creators of the supposedly wise words have committed heinous crimes against women and children, I don’t subscribe to the idea ‘they had a temporary lapse of virtue and didn’t live the teachings’, this may be true but I am not comfortable with delusory flowery sayings that create temporary euphoria and brain sparkles, it’s a bit like fake plants, they may look okay but have no substance and just take up space.
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The Magicless Pill
And there are many people who have taken drugs and assume because the experience they have is outside the normal-known that they have opened up consciousness, I am quite comfortable to say that after forty years of meditation and explorations of consciousness, the drug experience has little to do with super-consciousness, if there were a benefit from them and I do say this with great hesitation and extreme caution, it would be a reminder that our normal way of seeing is not the only worldview but there are other ways of perception.  As the world’s mental health institutions are littered with casualties from drug experimentation, this idea is fraught with danger.  Of the great men and women I have met in my life, I haven’t met anybody who resembled a Buddha or someone similar who would encourage external substances to help awaken something inside, i have met wonderful people who are drug users and it would be unreasonable to say that drug users are not necessarily kind people, we are talking about consciousness not about integrity or character; there is now a culture of people hanging out with bods they refer as Shamans and potion-ing up;  most that I have met are a little unstable and I am yet to meet someone who has evidence of an ongoing type of spiritual experience that doesn’t seem like a type of psychosis, I have met a number who are semi-euphoric people.  We were talking about Enlightenment.
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What Would Buddha Do?
So what is it?  We do know according to legend/history that Buddha experienced something.  At the core of his teaching is detachment, when we look at the reasoning behind this it seems clear it is because if someone is clinging to things, it will ultimately lead to suffering at its loss.  Gautama Buddha also aligns with Jesus Christ, without sounding like a sermon  which this is not, I am cross referencing something from another tradition; Jesus supposedly said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal”, both of these great men have had religions and cults built around their lives and teachings, both imply that what may be worthwhile pursuing is not in things and also point out that if you hang on too tight to things you may be heading for trouble.  So is this Enlightenment? In both cases we are given a method of how to relate to things, to keep them in their place but this would not be the goal would it?  If we look at it closely we are given a hint of something worth pursuing, we see a picture that the relationship between ourselves and ‘things’ are critical, it is implied that there needs to be a letting go, a non clinging to things.  If we are not cautious and are a zealot or extremist we could easily begin to despise the world around us, to treat it as the enemy and this is a tragedy to say the least.  Many people spend their lives running away, are scared of life, frightened of natural emotions; when you take an idea too far it can become poison.
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Who’s the Boss?
If we look closely at detachment there is an implication that being obsessive about something makes us a slave to it.  So is Enlightenment about being a master instead of a slave?  The word Master (with a big m) comes up a lot among guru-speak, it’s a little challenging to someone from the West when they hear an adult calling someone in an Indian pajamas “Master”. Going back to the Jesus way of doing things I am reminded that the apostle Peter called Jesus Master and he said “I am not your master”, I would consider this to be a good yardstick to work from, assuming that Jesus was real, looking at his behavior it is clear he had a decent set of values and if any one was to be someones master, he would be in the running to get the top job.  In some traditions such as the Radha Soami and Ruhani Satsang groups in Northern India they imply that the Master is inside, it is light and sound, they also refer to someone alive as representing the Living Master, I won’t address this approach as either true or false, it is just one of many references I could have used. But there is an implication of ‘handing over’ to another, but some say, “no go”.
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Looking Elsewhere
In some traditions like the one just mentioned we hear that the guru or God is inside, beyond any doubt these words have created many problems, there’s a lot of baggage associated with this approach. And the idea also presents some marvelous questions for the inquisitive seeker of life’s mysteries.  We have also heard people say ‘I am God’, some of these are people who would be described as having mental health issues and we have heard some great noble men and women also refer to themselves as God, and we can also read in some biblical translations that Jesus said something like, “Know that ye are Gods”.  Are these great personage Divine madmen?  I would apply a little commonsense here, the word God is a variable and means something  totally different to many people. When we hear people saying that God or guru is inside, this creates a series of complications, however it does if we follow this line of thought remove the idea of running down the street and looking for a savior or some dude in an Eastern outfit.  Some say the word guru means teacher, others say remover of darkness and there are those who will look starry eyed and start babbling a stream of indecipherable words that almost seem insane as they expound their love for who they are devoted to.
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The idea of looking INSIDE may not be the solution but it is not a bad idea, if Buddha puts out a warning to not get attached to ‘things’ of the world, it would seem practical to look the other way, his attachment could also include people as they are in the world of form.  And as a back up confirmation we hear that Jesus said, “the kingdom of Heaven comes not by observation, the kingdom of Heaven is in you”.
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Opening the Box and Looking In
When we look inside, what do we see?  Fears, joys, wandering thoughts, dreams of the future, memories, and sensations such as aches, tingles, anxiety, fleeting passing images, textures.  Are these the things that we are seeking, is this what they are talking about?  Some would say,”obviously not” and consider it to be a stupid question.  I personally am never in a hurry to dismiss and arrive at assumptions about things said by those I consider as wise.  It would seem reasonable to say that these things are not what we are looking for, however they may be a useful part of the tools required to get the result which is sought to understand this Enlightenment thing people speak of.  There is a form of meditation that some people do, it’s called Neti Neti, a simple translation would be “not this, not this”.  As anything presents itself in our thought field in meditation it gets the gentle tap of the conscious-ping-pong-bat, Neti Neti not this not this. When we look towards the sage Ramana Maharshi we will see he told those who inquired about God and the mystery of life that they need to meditate and ask the question ‘who am i’, he said that meditation without self-inquiry is not so good, and also implied that self-inquiry without meditation is fraught with danger.  Both Buddha and Ramana’s methods seem to be pointing to get under the bonnet of our thinking.
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I Think I Thought
Thought can be troublesome, it breaks people, prevents them sleeping, leads to despair unless they can find a way to step away from it.  Trying to catch or stop thought in its tracks is like stretching out your fingers, putting them into a river and attempting to get reasonable handfuls of water, most of it slips through the fingers, it’s a futile quest.  If we think about it, the meditative process is in a way defined by Buddha when he reminded us that attachment is an issue, we can take that idea and apply it to our internal processes and not just what is going on outside.  When we try and stop thought we are attaching to it; thought has its own business, we assume that because its in our mind-space that it must be ours. Personally I am not fooled by this, I see thought the same as looking out the window.  If a van drives past it is obviously not my van; if thought is passing i see it as not my thought; however if I attach to it then the relationship deepens, if I follow it an action may follow, I do not need to follow it, it’s not my thought, it is only as solid as a cloud and I know clouds change shape, they move on and disintegrate. Thoughts also emerge from my inbuilt tendencies, there is an Indian word called samskaras that some people would be aware of, I am not an Indian so I will speak English instead because it’s easier to understand without adding a whole lot of spiritual jargon to the mix.  Our tendencies will relate to the world around us, we see an image, it is delightful, we want to posses it or have some type of experience with it, the hooks go in, we are attached.  From day dot, the first moment of our lives we have been creating a story on how the world is, developing beliefs that we think are truth, it may be political, social, religious or just natural preferences. Out of the stories created, thoughts stream from our subconscious; we believe we are something, someone, we have a vision of how the world is, we usually don’t doubt the stories, they are hardwired and make up our world.
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Walking Through Space
When we plunge deeper, the world dissolves, there is no ‘ground’, there is no substance; we may choose to call our awareness ‘the perceiver’ and think that it has real substance but when start digging around it becomes clear there really is nothing to grab onto, it’s the same situation as trying to look out our own eyes. It may be simpler just to say, “ok there is conscious—ness, something is aware of the movement of forms of shape-sounds in space” but I am confident there is no need to get carried away with a definition.  The mind of man likes a sense of order, to categorise things, some forms of Zen are about undoing sense, I don’t mean to become nonsensical, I am saying that logic is the wrong tool, it’s like trying to catch a rainbow in a bottle, trying to answer or do the impossible.  The sage Jiddu Krishnamurthi used to say, “can we ever ask the right question?”, he was one of the great explorers of spirituality and religion, I would not be in a hurry to disregard this simple question.
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Checking In
We are looking at what this Enlightenment thing might be and all the associated spiritual games played by many, all those experts, the seekers, the gurus, the religious addictions people have and the fanciful dreams of what it’s about. We have heard many times ‘look within’, those words have been said in great seriousness and also flippantly they are thrown around by many spiritual types of people. A question arises, so what about the outside, is it meaningless?  When we look with our eyes we see a world in motion, nothing is static, when we listen, sound is also in motion, it has a starting point and a decay, it is time-bound. When we taste, the cake is there and then it’s gone it barely touched the sides and internally in our thinking thoughts come and go at lightening speed, the one thing that is consistent is movement. And a reminder that we know from experience that stillness or emptiness is constant. Here we have the situation of EVERYTHING is in motion and there is an underlying stillness, we can almost conclude that attachment to anything that moves may not be practical because it is time-based, it has a shelf life, or we could view it from another perspective that it is permanent at each moment and may never be repeated, whichever way we choose to see it it does seem reasonable to say that anything that is time-based is probably not what we are pursuing. Understanding that attachable things, even the forms of Gods are things that at some point need to be disconnected from.
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The more we look we find ourselves in the situation that the very point of awareness, what we call the experiencer of the vision is the critical element in the picture.  And this is no new revelation but it is critical that we get rid of a lot of other assumptions, if we don’t they will get in the way and shape our understanding.  We are faced with a dilemma and it is the very one that has been used by the charlatans to delude others and in many cases themselves, there is something slightly out of the ordinary doing something, however when we look towards the real Zen teachers we can see that ordinariness may be critical part of the process, and it is not that I am saying that ordinariness is the essence of Enlightenment, but if we look closely we will notice that things are only made ordinary by ‘thought’, when something is familiar it is shrunk down into the ‘known’ and is considered ordinary, when really what is going on is miraculous. The real Zen teachers and I am saying the word ‘real’ intentionally to separate them away from religious tradition with all its baggage, there are those outside of and also a few in the traditions who looked through a bigger window at the world, and I am not trying to be disrespectful to traditions.  If I don’t clarify things an assumption may arise that I am saying that Zen is a path to enlightenment, it may be but discrimination is important.  Although the Zen tradition is diverse and the Koan tradition may seem chaotic as well as nonsensical it clearly shows that the tool we are using ‘the thinking logical mind’ may not be suitable for the job to be completed and without getting over cerebral about it all, finding the extraordinary in nature around us seems to be closer to what one is seeking than philosophical discussions or treatises on what God, the meaning of life or Enlightenment might be.
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I am comfortable saying :

  • Thought is an obstacle
  • Philosophy can be seriously flawed because it sends people down a track where they create a story that is interpreted a certain way and is not about personal experience
  • The perceiver of the experience is critical
  • The perceiver is not the same as the thoughts about what a person believes him or herself to be, people create a story based on temporary attributes
  • There is a witness but I say the W word with great caution because of assumptions people make
  • Gods and gurus may get in the way
  • External things are transitory and attachment to them has a use-by date
  • The logical mind is totally out of its depth but may be a useful tool to help eliminate what Enlightenment isnt
  • Confusing a type of euphoria with Enlightenment is common but erroneous
  • One’s personal experience is the yardstick for measuring
  • Thought divides things into categories where the familiar is not extraordinary whereas the new or unknown is

So where does this leave us?
When we look at the list above and apply the Neti Neti – Not This Not This approach, by elimination and that also means getting rid of our sh*t, we will find a type of space in our thinking.  If we enter into a quest with ideas of what something might be, everything will be colored by what we bring to it.  Suddenly I may sound like a Buddhist if I use the word Emptiness, as we know in Buddhism Emptiness is often mentioned.  Not being a Buddhist it is easier for me to break it out of the box, the conclusions or perspective may be the same as some who discuss Buddhism but any ism will have its assumptions and we don’t need them to color our thoughts even if the ism holds some truth.
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Everything’s in Motion
We can conclude without a fuss that everything in the world is transitory,  we know that things are moving in, on or are in relation to space, they arise, stay a while and fall away into foreverness. It’s the relationship with the empty-still-backdrop that allows all things to come into form or have motion.  The more we look clearly and analyse we will begin to see that WE are in the way of the view, the ME that I think I am is blocking the view of not only how I see the world, experience and see things but it also is THE thing that prevents me from seeing who or what I am.  ME is at the centre of the totality of all the experiences I have had and based on the data I throw together, a picture emerges that I use to define me.  We could simplify it down and say ‘well I am the witness’, with that approach great caution is required and here’s why.
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There is an assumption that we are at the centre, we are inside looking out at the world, people rarely question this.  We see life on a timeline going from birth to death , A to Z with life stuff in the middle.  Some people have a belief in reincarnation, this  ME we could define as other A’s to Z’s;  whether reincarnation is true or not doesn’t matter here, if somebody has an experience of their other lives then they could come to a reasonable conclusion about the existence of reincarnation, until then it’s just a concept, religious flippy floppy info that we have been indoctrinated with.  Our brain is a very sensitive machine, it translates data and sends it via pathways throughout the body.  We know that we don’t all see the same thing, we as a human community agree on certain aspects, a tree is a tree, there is an unspoken acknowledgement and orderliness, as well as rules and limitations that the community members say are possible, when someone says anything that doesn’t fit they, are defined as odd, a nutter or occasionally a Saint or miracle worker.  Let’s look at all this very closely.
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A View Through the Lens
The world we move in has a giant filter over it, the filter is in the individual, everything is being translated through filters that shape each persons view,  I am hesitant to say ‘live in the Now’, it has so much baggage and when most people are in the NOW, the filters are blocking the present experience.  But there is a great benefit to constantly come back into the present by throwing a rope around the wayward wandering mind who is self obsessed with a story of who it believes itself to be.
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I wouldn’t be foolish enough to say that there is or isn’t Enlightenment. However, it is critical to undo all the stories, myths and second hand versions of what it is; without removing the concepts of what it may be, the concepts will create a false goal and a person becomes a slave to an idea that is not based in the individuals experience.  If we need to DO anything, and I will say I prefer to NOT DO anything, it would be to come back to oneself, and the deeper we go we find that there is NOTHING, and in NOTHING is the potential of EVERYTHING.
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Tilopa 2.0

The Selfie and Self Realisation

We live in a time where many of us freeze-frame ourselves wherever we go. This is me at the Opera House, I’m now standing in front of the Taj Mahal, behind me is 100 mile beach, me eating a gluten free sandwich with Tibetan parsley, me with a coffee cup in the back streets of Kathmandu, me standing next to Jim Morrison’s grave smoking a doobie.  So many opportunities for us to place ourselves in sacred spaces and hide the view, we trivialise life and turn the magnificent into something about ‘us’.
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Feeding the Problem
I was walking down a trendy Melbourne street in my normal fashion of not being able to go forward in a straight line for more than two metres when I noticed a young mother with a child of about three or four years old. They were taking a selfie outside a shop, no big deal really, after the ‘shoot’ the mum showed the daughter the pic on her phone and the child smiled with natural excitement.  It’s normal to take photos of our kids, nice mementos for future dialogue when kids are older.  However it got me thinking.
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Who the Fudge Am I?
When we look at the human dilemma of ‘who am i?’ and all the other questions about the mystery of life, it would be reasonable to start to question how we arrive at conclusions of who we are.  For starters, at birth when the stork drops us off at the hospital, natural birth centre or cabbage patch, we arrive and immediately there’s a lot of hoohah about the new kid on the block, it’s a boy, it’s got too much hair, it’s beautiful, it looks like a monkey, it’s a Buddha, it wont stop crying, what do I do with this thing? omg I’ve got a baby.  This little person thing gradually gets defined by those around it as it moves along the arrow of time; from the very beginning the flow of external data writes to the subconscious memory bank and the kid learns who and what it is.
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I’m Not Just a Bunch of Banana Sundaes
I like to think  a little broader than the skin that holds all the bits in. For example I know the water running through my being has arrived from the outside, the clouds, the rain, glug glug down the hatch, what was once falling from the endless heavens is now in my being. The food that grew in Mother Earth transformed inside my body and is now reflected in the texture of my skin; the sun, the air, the whole of nature has allowed me to be here, wherever here may be, this body-being that I use as a vehicle to move through life’s experiences is not out on its own, it is part of a series of processes of living nature (not rocket science).
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Not Sure Who I Am
Many people in my family have changed their names, this has always amused me; I guess it was only fitting that my parents would give me a name at birth but never use it, they called me something else from day dot, I have never used the name on my birth certificate apart from when I’m startled into an ‘oh that’s me’ when it gets called at the doctors;  and then by a weird series of events I ended up with yet another name ‘Tilopa 2.0’ that I use now.  For me, I think this name change thing is not by chance, it has been a critical aspect on my journey of understanding the mysteries of life. It got me thinking ‘who the fudge am I? We humans love to name things, the concern with naming is as soon as something is named it is filed away in the memory banks, we humans assume we know lots of things but often we just know the names and very little information about things, it’s not until we enter into something that we really know it, the rest is just a story. We are a panel of experts who know about things that we have never experienced.
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Getting Out of the Way
Transformation comes about by undoing.  In education there is a filling up; and I am not knocking the gathering of information or the development of skills, I am a teacher and also love learning new things. The process of experiencing deeper Awareness works in reverse to education, a different set of rules applies; this is why academics and intellectuals have so much trouble with consciousness and out of the ordinary things, they don’t have a column in their database to include ‘other stuff’.  And this does not mean that a sharp intellect is a problem, personally I find it useful for analysis and discrimination; in my case a sharp intellect is extremely beneficial for me to compile the extraordinary into something that vaguely makes sense.  A bit like a cup full of sea water gives an example of the texture of the ocean, it won’t tell us much else but it hints that the salty water exists.
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A Montage Called Me
As we move through selfie-moments and stream them live in real-time to the social cyber-world, a chorus of onlookers joins in to the story of ‘who we believe ourselves to be’. That sentence may seem a little odd or over the top but when we come back to the core principles of Buddhism or Jnana Yoga  or knowledge of Self, (a simple definition of Self =something more expansive than the body and its environs) we know that Emptiness is at our core, as we move through life, in our thoughts we are defining who we are such as ‘i am a doctor, an idiot, a genius, i’m fat, ugly, a nice guy’, all sorts of labels.  When we look very very closely and give it a lot of thought, we see there is nothing solid that defines us apart from the body we drag through the 3D space of the world, the ‘me’ is constantly in motion, the molecules are churning, dancing in space.  It is space, the ‘field’ of creation that is consistent and also our ‘intention’ that projects into space. A selfie temporarily defines us, when we give them too much focus and stream them endlessly to the world, we are falling deeper into the abyss of  mis-identification and move further away from what we are.
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The Age of Not Me
The time we live in is an age of self-obsession and there needs to be a certain amount of awareness that we are ‘not what we imagine ourselves to be’, the image that we are creating and reinforcing plunges us further and further away from our core nature, the Emptiness.  This word Emptiness is not what it seems, it is living, it is at the heart of all creative potential, the blank canvas of life, the Silence that the Universe sits on or in and we need to get out of its way.

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Tilopa 2.0 on his balcony

That Elusive Ego Thing – Yoga Thoughts

In New Age circles we get to see a lot of nonsense about ‘how to get rid of the ego’.  There also are numerous gurus who will for a fee (either monetary or your sovereignty) will sign you up to their club to save you from yourself.  The word ‘ego’ gets splashed around like color at a Holi Festival; therapists, philosophers, counselors and back yard rubber bodied yogis and yoginis all telling you that you need to fix this evil enemy; cut it down before it swallows you or you’ll wallow in delusion for many incarnations.  Whether it be via the sledgehammer method of austerity and abnegation or sitting in groups of peaceful looking meditators with noisy heads surrounded by the odors of sweet smelling incense made from cow poo, you will eventually realise there are a million and one remedies and forms of self punishment to fix the problem that someone has convinced you exists.
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The Playfulness of Life
If for a moment we can agree there might be a God, (and a reminder that the G word has more baggage than an obsessive compulsive on their first trip overseas), I could comfortably say that God is a practical joker.  For example, I  remember going to the zoo years ago and a Tapir was lazing around on a sunny day minding its own business and a bevy of Otters were taking it in turns in swimming along a circular canal, hopping out of the water and slapping the Tapir on its behind region,  it was so bizarre, when the scenario first caught my eye, I asked the people with me to confirm what I was seeing. And to further my argument that the God thing has a sense of humor, just look at the Meerkats (“ok guys, eyes right”).  With the idea in mind that nature is hilarious, although life at times can be outrageously painful, and it may feel some days that we are in a suit that is two or three sizes too small and lined with prickles, the joke is also experienced by humanity first hand.
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In Hinduism we find a concept that there is something called Lila, without getting into fine detail, it could rather loosely be described as play, the Divine pantomime where the underlying super-consciousness plays out experiences in the various worlds. I am not evangelizing for Hinduism here, it is just a useful perspective to bring together the ideas I wish to get across about God and the practical joke. According to some wise men and also the wannabe’s, there is a view that in the Great Pretence of God, the super-Consciousness intentionally forgets who it is and wanders through the maze of the Cosmos looking for itself.  The God Being plays tricks by breaking itself in multiple parts and looks out from each window, seeks the answer to what is life and jumps in and out of bodies through various wormholes acquiring wisdom.  Whether it is true, in the scheme of this article I wont attempt unpack the supposed truth of the matter. But I do know and will state beyond doubt that everything is just ‘thought manifesting experiences through the senses’ and there is a liquidness to the environments we find ourselves in.  And with this in mind we can take a challenge to the charlatans who fill the book shops, ashrams and monasteries with information about the ‘ego’ that they really know little about.  Their work seems to send people away from where they want to be and only strengthens the old arch enemy of ego.
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The Invisible Enemy
Many people have seen the martial art of Aikido, there is a beauty in this approach.  To keep it simple, what is happening is the attacker ultimately defeats themselves, the one who is defending comes into harmony with the movements of the attacker and there is a type of invisibility or Emptiness that emerges in the defender, as there is no-one to attack, the confrontation dissolves without too much fuss.  If we take this approach or apply this type logic to this ‘ego thing’ that disturbs so many spiritual aspirants, we can quite comfortably dismantle the supposed problem and never suffer from the great lie again.
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Nothing is Static
We can, if we also follow the line of thinking that everything is just thought, the ‘supposed’ ego begins to loses its solidity, it is on unsafe ground.  If we look at contemporary Physics we will see that some physicists are in agreement on certain issues, one such thing is the world around us is not overly solid, when we dig into it with Nanotechnology we see there are a lot of particles in constant motion. We can also conclude that change is inevitable, if we gaze at nature, we see that everything seems to be in a state of rising (birth and growth) or sinking (decay), some processes happen faster than others but there is an ever constant in and an out shoot.
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Fooled by the Senses
An over identification with the body is at the core of the problem, by that I mean the five common senses of touch, hearing, smell, sight, and taste.  These are the ‘hooks’ that catches the human-fish most of the time.  There is a story built up in our thinking, we believe the information that the senses tell us; from this and the stories of others in the world around us, we build a profile of who we are. The impressions are deeply ingrained, we gather all the data and conclude ‘oh that’s me’, and those around us only enforce the idea with dialogue like ‘oh gee you are getting fat’, ‘what have you done to your hair?’, ‘you always loved donuts’, ‘i wish I had your brains’ ‘OMG you are such a dickhead’. Depending on our ability to accept or deflect the information we are bombarded with, we strengthen the idea of ‘me’ or the ‘inverted despondent me’.  There are also the numerous grayscale shades in-between that are neither positive or negative, they fill part of our mind-space with a mental picture of the ‘something identity’ who experiences the passing pantomime on the world stage.
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Something Amiss
When we start digging in, and by that I mean self questioning and exploring our thoughts, we find that this supposed identity is a little frisky and elusive to grab. There’s an old Zen Koan (thought and thoughtless provoking Parable) that comes to mind. A Zen master asks, “Show me your Original Face, the face you had before your parents were born.”  I don’t want to go too far down the Zen questioning track which has been turned into a nonsensical witty circus by many but this type of puzzle hints at a number of things.
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1) There is a possibly a false picture of who we are.
2) There is something that sits behind the experiencer and is aware in some way that the experiencer is either a charlatan or is caught in a maze.
3) Something is drastically amiss in the world of mice and men.
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The real issue with this elusive thing called ego is it has no substance and we have placed its mental meanderings in the forefront of our consciousness.  The experiencer gathers together what it knows or believes to be true and runs a program in the subconscious and makes minor adjustments as it moves through life’s experiences.  The idea of ‘getting rid of the ego’ is nothing but a concept. If we go back to basics and we are clear that there is a false association with the body and an unquestioned social belief system that the ‘thinker’ part of us is trapped inside the body, when we address this basic understanding and see ourselves as something that inhabits a much broader space and the body is INSIDE us and is purely the meeting point that relates to and perceives through the five senses and is formed by all the elements of nature we move in, then the ‘loosening’, the dismantling process begins, and it is not the dismantling of the ego, but the thoughts that obscure the view.  When we also remind ourselves and deeply contemplate that the world is in constant flux and is reforming itself moment to moment based on the ‘story of the world’ and is a projection of our consciousness,  it becomes clear that the the ‘ego’ is nothing but the intertwined fabric of thought.
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The Other Direction
The sage Krishnamurthi once stood in the Sydney Town Hall and during his discourse he said, ‘you are all going the wrong way’.  These words are a reminder that social consciousness is the prison-house and it is worthwhile to consider questioning everything that we believe to be true, have been told or assume is knowledge.   With the state of confusion and fear that runs rampant in the world, I am comfortable with going the other way.

Yoga -Unknowing the People We Know

We hold each other prisoners of the past, accidentally bypassing the fact that nothing stays the same. We do know that people grow through experience, but it seems difficult to forget what we ‘know’ about those who have been a part of our lives.  There is a petty holding on to the past, this ‘placing people where we think they belong’ could be considered our enemy or a major hurdle to jump over in our lives. Most of our enemies are inside us, the human species has a tendency to be a slave to his/her thoughts, regurgitating the ‘story’ of what and who we believe others to be, and even more serious, who we believe ourselves to be.
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Community of Humanity
Buddhists have a word called Sangha,  I like this word, it is often interpreted as ‘community of monks’, there are other similar meanings where it implies to other kindred souls on the Buddhist path. There is a broader way of looking at it, in the big picture view I would define it as ALL BEINGS, purely because we are all in this together, all with our own challenges and distractions.  If I look at it from another perspective I could define it as a tribe or people of like mind; whether these definitions are true is not overly important but it is useful for me to get an idea across.
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Impressionable Beings
We have all seen the situation where a person may not be a smoker or drinker, but if they hang around regularly with people who have these habits, they could easily take these things on as part of their lifestyle. As children we were warned about the company we keep, stay away from the ‘bad kid’ or we may end up the same. We are impressionable beings. I usually try and hang out with brilliant people and those with a gentle spirit.  If we are sensitive people when we go into a hotel where it’s rowdy and rough, we may find it very uncomfortable to be in that environment, to others it’s a ‘what’s wrong with you, get over it’. I will state that I don’t think being ‘sensitive’ is important at all, I say this as a sensitive person, there are very wise people who have the sensitivity of a sledgehammer. When we go to a place of meditation or an environment where good works are done, we often get an uplifting feeling, this is no accident, we feel the world around us.
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Network of Thought
There is a grid of thought that surrounds us, this is one of the reasons why cities are chaotic, it’s not just the noise, the pollution, the traffic, men in dark suits, the hustle and bustle with no rustle of leaves and the absence bright colours of spring or the shades of autumn, we have unconsciously created a network of thought that wraps around everything; we extend way beyond our bodies.  There are clusters of thought pollution, I could call it ‘psychic smog’ and also there are some islands of refuge, empty churches with their spacious reverb, gardens or big old trees to lie under. When we go to the country, in the open spaces we feel better because we are not getting battered by the floating ‘debri’ thought particles from others that invades our thinking.
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When we are away for long periods of time from our families or people we have spent large portions of our lives with, we no doubt change.  What life serves up brings about wisdom, we transform into different people, we may also develop new personas or patterns of behaviour, neurosis, or even drop things from our lives that were part of our shadow, we may gradually overcome those things that were not the best part of our personalities.
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A New World
However, it is an aspect of human nature to place people exactly in the same space where we knew them, even if years have passed.  The whole world is caught in the past.  I have noticed that when people come to a new country they can ‘reinvent’ themselves, it obviously does depend on the environment they move to, and the amount of personal power and energy, they often succeed in a new world; personally I think it is because they have the opportunity to reconstruct their world view and can detach from the opinions that others have of them. Our loved ones can stunt our growth and ‘hold’ us in the position where we have always been; regardless of their unquestionable love, it can suffocate our unborn future.  It is critical to those around us to see them as a creative-process-in-motion and allow and trust that they have enough insight to be able to carve out a pathway forward unhindered by our opinion of who and what we believe them to be.  I think there is a need for us to see the good in others, regardless of their habits they have that may be destructive; if possible we can try to hold them safely for a while and say ‘you have endless potential’.  People we love have a deep trust in our opinions at a subconscious level, if we can’t see the success and potential in them, we will ultimately undermine them.
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Constant Change
People often don’t feel safe when someone they love changes, they are comfortable with the ‘old someone’, the new version requires a shift in the eye of the beholder. When a husband or wife takes on new habits or friends, if the partner is insecure they often object and undermine their loved one.  In a way relationships can be like letting out a kite string, allowing someone to fly but keeping a gentle hold on the ‘attachment’ string.
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Letting Others Be
If there is a secret to life, and yes there are many, I think it is to be able to undo the story we have about others, to understand change does happen, regardless that some habits and patterns are deeply engraved.  We need to trust in the unfolding process that is a part of nature and allow others to have enough space without our opinions about who we believe them to be and holding them back.  It is strangers who usually see the brilliance in those around us, their eyes are fresh, uncoloured by history, it is their ‘unknowing’ that permits them to experience the beauty and genius of our loved ones that we can so easily miss.

by Tilopa 2.0