Welcome to my blog---an eyes-open, no-holds-barred exploration of Western and Eastern spirituality, mindfulness, philosophy and literature. A member of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, I lectured at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry to mental health workers for 14 years and also lectured for 16 years at the University of Technology, Sydney. My interests include the psychology of religion, transformative ritual, mythology and addiction recovery.
Friday, February 6, 2015
LIFE AS IT IS---THE ONLY TEACHER
people are asleep---a deep, psychic sleep in which they do not know the
difference between living mindfully and living mindlessly.
spiritual psychologist Vernon Howard [pictured left] wrote, ‘Regardless
of exterior appearances, the vast majority of human beings dwell in a state of
inner sleep.’ How right he is!
Do you think you are awake? Of
course, you do. Well, let me ask you this simple question? When was the last time you
drove your car from A to B, and when you got to B you did not recall travelling
along this street or that street even though you did travel along those streets? Was it today? Was it yesterday? I bet it wasn't too long ago. You know, if you had driven a
bit more mindlessly you might have had a collision. And what about the others
on the road---including me---how mindful are they? I suspect that most would be pretty much like you---and me.
Here are some wonderful lines:
Caught in a dream of self---only suffering.
Holding to self-centered thoughts---exactly the dream.
Each moment, life as it is---the only teacher.
Being just this moment---compassion's way.
it mean to be caught in a self-centered dream? Well, it’s more than being
selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-obsessed---not that they are
minor things. To be caught in a self-centered dream is to be trapped in the
illusion of self---false self, lost of them in fact. There is the angry false
self (‘I am angry’), the jealous false self (‘I am jealous’), the fearful false
self (‘I am fearful’), the unworthy self (‘I am a miserable sinner’), and so
on. These selves (actually, hundreds and hundreds of 'psychological "I's" and "me's"' that collectively manifest as our ego-consciousness) are called false because they are not the real person each one
of us is, but we mistakenly believe that one or more of these false
selves---which are nothing more than self-images in our mind---are the real
person that we are. These false selves are illusory, not because they do not
exist (for they do exist), but because they have no separate, distinct,
permanent identity from the person that we are, the latter being a mind-body
complex that is ontologically real (the 'physical "I"'). False selves take many different forms in
our mind including beliefs, misbeliefs, opinions, views, assumptions, likes,
dislikes, prejudices, biases, predilections, preferences, attachments,
aversions, cravings. All this stuff is the result of conditioning or
mind-training as well as the effects of memory and habit.
hear yourself say, ‘I am angry [or jealous, or fearful, or whatever],’ pull
yourself up. Is that your real name? Is there a name on your lapel that says
that your first or last name is ‘Angry’ [or ‘Jealous’, or ‘Fearful’, or
‘Unworthy’, or whatever]? Of course, there isn’t. Well, stop acting as if that
were the case.
I teach and use in my counselling work what is known as ‘self illusion therapy’ for a couple of reasons.
works, that is, it helps people to let go of, and even dissolve, their illusory
false selves that have made their lives miserable. (It certainly worked for me many
years ago when I was trapped in the illusion of a chemically altered false self
which had manifested in my life as alcoholism.)
Secondly, I am firmly of the
view that most of our emotional and psychological problems are the result of
our mistakenly believing that our false selves are the real person each of us
is. Self is the problem and, as William Temple pointed out, ‘no
effort of the self can remove the self from the centre of its own endeavour.’
You see, the self that wants to get rid of the self that is causing problems in
our life is the same self as the one causing the problems. Self cannot change
self. That is why we need to rely upon a power-not-oneself. The person that you
are---a person among persons---is ontologically real. Self can’t change. It has
no power in and of itself in any event. However, the person that you are can
change, if you want change very much, and are prepared to go to any length to
effect change. And where does the power to change come from if it doesn't come from one's negative, conditioned ego-self? Real power is this---the absence of false power (the ego-self/false selves).
in many different forms---is the natural and inevitable consequence of being
trapped in the illusion of self (a ‘dream of self’). The suffering will
continue for so long as we hold on to our self-centered thoughts---that is, for
so long as we continue in our psychic egocentric sleep. But the good news is
that there is an answer. Yes, there is a way out.
is the answer? Is it some person, some god or god-like figure who will step in
and change everything for me? Well, there are some who assert that is the way
out, but I beg to differ. One of the many things I like about Buddhism is that
it says, ‘Only you, the person that you are, can get yourself out of the mess
you have created for yourself.’
begins when we practice mindful self-observation. Observe your thoughts,
feelings, and bodily sensations. What are they telling you? Look at them
dispassionately and objectively. You will soon discover your false selves. Just
watch them---choicelessly, non-judgmentally. Don’t resist them or try to expel
them directly or forcibly. Let them be---and then let them go.
the moment-to-moment unfolding of life’s self-expression
(things-as-they-really-are)—is the only teacher. Your life is your
teacher---and you, the person that you are, is the pupil. You need no other
teacher or guru or saviour. You don’t need a new set of beliefs. Why do you
think you need to believe? Do you want more trouble in your life? Come now. You only need to come to know and understand, and
that’s where mindfulness and self-observation comes into play. When you watch and observe your false selves at work in your mind you will come to know and understand their true nature. Observe your 'angry self' as it really is---as anger. Ditto all other false selves. You need not be the victim of your own wrong thinking, beliefs, misbeliefs, and other self-defeating behaviour.
just this moment---compassion's way.’ If you get your mind of self---all those wretched selves to which I have
referred---and begin to live mindfully from one moment to the next, your life
will change in a most dramatic way. And you will wake up. It is the way of
compassion and loving-kindness, but you must first show love and compassion to
yourself---that is, the person that you are---by doing what is necessary to
overcome your bondage to self.