Be Here Now (1971/2012, read 2012) ($6, amazon.com link)
After writing reports on Sam Harris’ Waking Up and Ekhart Toller’s The Power of Now, I see that this book is the same message mystics and philosophers have said for millennia. But I read it before my own “waking up” experience in 2013, void of drugs or hallucinogenic molecules from the outside, and it makes so much more sense now (2015/2017). I may not ever revisit the entire original book, with its mystical drawings and flowery language in parts, but I don’t think I need to. I must simply remind myself of these truths regularly, and continue to develop my practices.
I’d get to a point with my colleagues when I couldn’t explain any further, because it came down to “To him who has had the experience no explanation is necessary, to him who has not, none is possible.”
He’s describing experiences with certain high doses of drugs (LSD, I believe), but the quote is just as relevant to all types of wisdom. I will do my best to communicate with you, but unless you have had the same experience as me, you’re never going to really understand my perspective. As I’ve always told my sister, “If you had had her experiences and thoughts, you would be her.” In other words, if we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, we would be that other person: it’s a good reminder for us all to live with a little more compassion.
Here’s a nice reminder to me to change the way I use the word “meditate” to refer to everything I do:
At first you “do” sadhana (work on the spiritual path) within certain time and space boundaries, such as going to church on Sunday mornings, or getting high on Saturday nights, or meditating each morning. Eventually, it turns out that SADHANA IS EVERYTHING YOU DO.
And this nugget:
We function under the fallacy (cogito ergo sum) that we are our thoughts and therefore must attend to them in order for them to be realized.
In a sense, that’s a sucker punch to Descartes’ idea: we are our breath, not our thoughts. Our thoughts get in the way. However, I’m not certain the two truly are saying different things. Descartes’ MIGHT have been saying that we have possessive/language ‘thoughts’ and ideas, therefore we exist, but he also may have been saying, “I am, therefore I am,” in the same way that Jesus did. It’s hard to tell without a) looking into it more, and b) learning their respective languages (French and Aramaic/Hebrew).
Several highlights of mine explain that we are not to drop out of society – and indeed, I see a new rationality in this book that I do not remember when I read it. It’s the same as Harris’ recent Waking Up, granted, without the science, but he’s saying the same thing: understand that once you free yourself, internally, from association and being imprisoned by a sense of self, then we are free. But we do this without dropping out of society, per se.
The following three quotes speak to this. As a young boy, I realized some Christians are quite poor at communicating this concept, saying silly things like “don’t live in the world,” or “don’t be of the world,” without really explaining the idea philosophically. And the idea is simple: we must live in the world (if we are human), but that we can do so without being completely attached to the specific roles we may play each day or each decade. Buddhism says it better: desire and attachment are problems to be minimized. Indeed, the downfall of Christianity in America is likely to be the bubble-effect: too much isolation from those “hell-bound” non-Christians.
You must see that all beings are just beings . . . and that all the wrappings of personality and role and body are the coverings. Your attachments are only to the coverings, and as long as you are attached to someone else’s covering you are stuck, and you keep them stuck, in that attachment. Only when you can see the essence, can see God, in each human being do you free yourself and those about you. It’s hard work when you have spent years building a fixed model of who someone else is to abandon it, but until that model is superceded by a compassionate model, you are still stuck.
Just because you are seeing divine light, experiencing waves of bliss, or conversing with Gods and Goddesses is no reason to not know your zip code. Keeping it together means keeping conscious at all levels—all planes—with no attachment to any of them.
To think that working on oneself requires “dropping-out” of society is to miss the point. Certainly you must drop out . . . but the drop-out is internal, not external. One drops out of one’s attachments; one drops out of one’s identification with the illusion of separateness [the ego, like Sam Harris or Ryan Holiday describes].
On getting out of your own ego:
In order to perform karma yoga, there is a simple general principle to keep in mind: bring a third component into every action. If, for example, you are digging a ditch, there is you who is digging the ditch, and the ditch which is being dug. Now add a third focus: say, a disinterested person who is seeing you dig the ditch. Now run the entire action through his head while you are digging. It’s as simple as that. Through this method you would ultimately free yourself from identifying with him who is digging the ditch. You would merely see a ditch being dug.
This is very similar to Jocko and other effective SEALs who “step out” of their own bodies in order to see the work being done, and to help with decision making. Imagining some other “self” looking at your body and your decisions is a pretty effective method for accepting what you’re doing and past/present/future decisions of what to do.
How did I randomly do this, when, at Robins AFB, I was emptying the garbage with alcohol and rotten food and vomit? How did I jump to my 80-year old self reflecting back at his life when deciding to join the military or not? Moreover, why have I naturally done this, when it seems so few other humans regularly do? (And of course, how is the nutrition of my mother in the islands, genetics, birth order, first twenty years of life, and environment responsible? At what point do “I” become responsible, if ever?)
Also, considering the poison that mirrors are in our spiritual lives, it’s one of the reasons this spiritual disconnect (or connection) is so much harder for American females than for males: too much time in front of a false self-image (the 50/50 flip in the mirror) and their own ego in general (the image).
Moreover, it’s the same concept as Sam Harriss talks about that “I have no head.”
And another way to talk about what the words spirit/spiritual mean:
Spirit is a Latin word meaning breath. It’s like breathing out and breathing in, NO THING-yup, no thing. And this no thing is basic for our life. Breathe spirit, this spirit which sustains and maintains, without which we die to this form.
Two quotes I’ve included from Autobiography of a Yogi:
“Why be elated by material profit?” Father replied. “The one who pursues a goal of evenmindedness is neither jubilant with gain nor depressed by loss. He knows that man arrives penniless in this world, and departs without a single rupee.”
He had often written to those of his disciples who were over-anxious to see him: “Why come to view my bones and flesh, when I am ever within range of your kutastha (spiritual sight)?”
I’ll close with a reminder that we can move mountains, indeed, but that if our power, connectedness, (or, the word Jesus used: faith) was the size of a mustard seed, we’d be satisfied with the mountain exactly where it is:
The cosmic humor is that if you desire to move mountains and you continue to purify yourself, ultimately you will arrive at the place where you are able to move mountains. But in order to arrive at this position of power you will have had to give up being he-who-wanted-to-move-mountains so that you can be he-who-put-the-mountain-there-in-the-first-place. The humor is that finally when you have the power to move the mountain, you are the person who placed it there—so there the mountain stays.