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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Overcoming Illusion

Gaining Enlightenment
Overcoming Illusion

Temporary note: This essay was written a bit at a time over several years. Still working on cohesiveness. This note will go poof! when I am satisfied.

Overcoming illusion is as easy as 1-2-3!

Expecting any literature, including this essay, to reveal new truths of a spiritual nature is seeking. Expecting or desiring enlightenment is seeking, as is meditating for a spiritual reason. Likewise, believing any sort of religious concepts is holding on to that which would otherwise fall away. Seeking/desire also happens in other areas of life. Seeking is destructive to all methods presented here to. You don’t have to quit your religion - just put it aside (thoroughly!) for the purpose of this exercise - and be patient!.

It may happen that anatta (see below) may precede freedom from seeking/desire.

2. Just be (Hindu). Enjoy the aliveness. Aliveness does not need one who is alive.

3. Understand that this is it!
No angelic choirs will sing, and you will not see the face of God.

Another method based on FUN!

Have fun. Best is mindless fun where you lose yourself. When you lose yourself you gain the universe: as close as the next big smile or bout of laughter. Awe and wonder can affect one similarly. This method may not seem to have "lasting effect" - after all, fun starts and ends. Those who wish to experience bliss in the absence of overt fun may try the following nothingness method. There are, however, no unenlightened individuals, so equally valid is: don't worry about it!

Are you expecting more? Just what are you expecting? Maybe you think it should be harder. If so, see below, though it's not much harder! And, of course, any difficulty is also illusory!

Another method based on not worrying about anything at all (also fun!):

Understand that you don't need to worry about anything because you will always know what to do, because you always do.

Here is another method based on being nothing at all:

Just quit give up the idea of being! (Buddhist) Understand self as nothing, not even a concept. This is called anatta. Life happens, aliveness happens, as if in free fall, without need of any sort of "one who lives". Watch life (watch your `interest in this essay) and your body being animated without your participation. Doing tasks while cognizing anatta allows a glimpse of Reality that complements insight from meditation. Relax: this is it! Abide in recognition of the illusory nature of self. (This gives the mind something to do - which it craves.) Then come to understand that non-beingness is the ultimate wideness. There is nothing beyond non-beingness. That is as "deep" (or high) as one can possibly go (there is no one to resist such going): the Ultimate Depth. Everything else is phenomena occurring on the screen of non-beingness.

One's whole perspective is (pretty much) instantly shifted by simply ceasing to assume one's existence. This is what I term the Great Change of Perspective that is the end of seeking (yes, it's that easy!). The Change can be noticed upon experiencing closed eyes. No longer is one simply staring at the back of eyelids. The ephemeral (nature of) constructed self is most easily sensed in the midst of silence."There is Consciousness along with quietness in the mind; this is exactly the state to be aimed at." Further support of anatta as the end of seeking is the powerful experience of bliss, which happens to me instantly upon cognizing anatta, in meditation or not. Bliss-blocking may be do to the energetic constriction of "I do this" or "I suffer that"

Wholeness can only be perceived when there is no one looking for it. This (being not) is the mirror image of being all there is or "just be", above, so it is the same.

A friend of mine had trouble understanding non-beingness. A gentler introduction is in this instruction on Vipassana meditation, recommended by Sam Harris in his book Waking Up, and by this fellow. Sam suggests meditating with eyes open. Understand, after some experience, that observing rising and falling, or more accurately, knowing rising and falling, does not require one who knows.

Meditation with closed eyes is simply to sit (or lay...) with eyes closed. Do not suppress thoughts. Do nothing: do not even breathe or suppress breath. Ramana Maharshi's suggestion to "first: find out who it is who meditates" is accomplished with the perspective of anatta. Meditation with eyes open is simply to be, again while doing nothing else.

Another angle (of being nothing) is to do nothing at all: sometimes called silence. This is, perhaps, best begun by laying down, then, before sleepiness sets in, be aware of doing nothing at all. Do not breathe: breath happens. After some time, a thought might happen: continue doing nothing while thoughts rise and fall. An itch might be scratched, again, while doing nothing. Finally, life goes on, while doing nothing. This event may be repeated until a cognitive structure is built that mirrors the non-activity/silence quality of self. Paradoxically, perhaps, this is the ultimate aliveness.

It is good to have a bit of a ritual (hey, I'm autistic - I'm expert on rituals!) where one, at the same time and place most days, can enjoy non-beingness. Part of non-beingness is not experiencing desires, so a ritual obviates the need for even the desire of non-beingness. This ritual doesn't have to be long, in fact, it is best kept short. And rest assured, what is happening is the Real thing due to the Ultimate Depth quality previously described. Note also that this is not meditation because meditation requires being (one who meditates).

What happens by all methods here is that a neural structure is built by which one can recall the knowing of that which is Real.

Another method based on Mindfulness meditation:

Mindfulness works best when there is no doer involved. For this to happen - give up doership! Understand that a mindful outlook happens, then (especially when life get's hectic) does not happen. This impermanent quality is what is: understand that ego-self has nothing to do with it. Abandon, for the moment, at least, any notion of free will: mindfulness is now happening or not happening, with no one making it happen or not happen. It is best to not worry about mindfulness. That way, when mindfulness happens, the spontaneous (without cause) nature of this event is obvious.

Mindfulness practice is being fully present in all that happens. Actions are not just noted, but are noted automatically, by nobody.

Mindfulness meditation is watching one’s thoughts and sensations in a dispassionate way. Who is watching thoughts? After some experience with mindfulness, one may realize that the basic thought, which spawns others, is I am. So mindfulness can lead to observing the I am on the screen of I am not. This blissful void, from where the “I am” thought is known, is home - abide there.

A mindful outlook can also be brought to bear on Ramana Maharshi's suggestion to dive into self. Not being the doer of this can, I have noticed, cause the breath to momentarily cease. The memory formed of this can then be recalled as a reference point of illusion-free attention. This is were the Ego and the Infinite meet. In fact, I feel that this sort of directed attention may decrease the psychic distance from mind to void: from individual identity to universal identity. Life appears as a magical sort of sparkle.

What is postulated, then obviated, here, may be called the Great Change of Perspective (the G-C-of-P), or, equivalently, one's apparent awakening. Even a soft spot for any sort of religion or doctrine can hinder the G-C-of-P.

Some may question why I, a nobody, should have the audacity to hold forth on spiritual enlightenment. I am a shy electrical engineer, too shy and autistic to be a teacher or desire fame of any sort. In my defense, I state here that what is suggested above is a natural, common experience.


Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness Meditation is a practice of being fully and attentively present in the moment. Some think this must be done seated on the floor, which is silly. One can be standing (limited by fatigue), or lying down (sleepiness may set in), though a seated position may be best for extended (more than a few minutes) sessions. There are reports of negative reactions to mindfulness meditation, especially with group meditation.

Mindfulness and anatta really come to the same when one becomes mindful of being nothing. Anatta is to mindfulness as melody is to rhythm. Mindful observation of anything does not require one who is mindful. All it requires is the mere faculty of knowing. Meditation should not stop when one overcomes illusion. Mindfulness is a prerequisite of anatta. In my case, sitting in my garage (the only quiet place), I was sitting, mindful of the feeling of self. Every time "I" would experience something (any quality at all, even space), I would view that objectively, from the vantage point of nowhere (perception does not require one who perceives). Then something happened: I became freshly (but still objectively) aware of my heart. Strong bliss happened. It has yet to stop.

Just be not is my favorite approach to overcoming illusion. When you're not, you're everything! I most often notice bliss when I am not, which equates to silence.

There are no levels of attainment. Illusion is not overcome gradually, though insights that may be dependent on this will occur over time. It is also useful to note that habits of mind change only gradually, and unevenly.

The first illusion to drop away is the notion of selfhood which (slowly in my case) ceases to dominate the psyche (accompanied by less mental chatter). Once selfhood truly disappears for even a second (most likely while doing a boring or simple task), the grip of illusion has been loosed: welcome home!. The notion of no-self then occurs while doing slightly more complicated tasks, or while mentally listening to a well known bit of music. Volition is best not considered as causal: Anatta happens due to a modification of attention such as fascination. These moments of clarity may appear to increase in number and duration.

Then, in sort of a resulting cascade, one sees less of separate individual selves (souls) walking around. Now one can really see that there is no such thing as an unenlightened individual (corollary: the real, deep-down you is the entire universe). Blame, guilt and karma no longer make sense. Right versus wrong, and the right-left fight over morality are seen with clear-headed dispassion.  Pain loses it’s sting (the sage no longer identifies with his suffering), death is no longer scary , and it is only now. There is eternal nothingness (not eternity) with momentary self and without self.

Benefits of anatta include enhanced insight, leading to increased fascination with art that is transcendent. Examples from music include Beethoven's opus 130, 131, and 132, as well as his Ninth Symphony. One may consider such music to be second only to silence, the most transcendent of all.

Everything is constantly so amazing in the midst of anatta. I mean, all this stuff! All this animation, all this life! It's such a trip to be watching life go on, watching meditation happen, even watching gasps due to sudden temperature change in the shower (autistic sensory issues).

Much ado, particularly in Eastern spirituality, is made of "non-attachment". Devotees invoke "neti, neti" (not this, not this!). Usually implied is attachment of mind to concepts. It is true that preoccupation with concepts tends to obscure that which is Real. But it is the mind's nature to latch onto concepts - so let it latch onto anatta. Mindfully watch this happen, knowing that mind is not self.

Pursuing the notion of diving into self (as suggested by Ramana Maharshi), "I" was, for years not "doing it" mindfully: not watching the diving. That is perhaps the most sure-fire way of coming to understand "this is it": there is, after all, no phenomena to be found as a result of diving into self. All "phenomena" is "what is". This diving is, after all, secondary to quietness of mind, achievable via anatta.

Some proclaim self as witness. Is it? Who is watching the witness? The witness is appearing, or being, on the screen of non-beingness. It is from there, beyond the reach of concepts, that we know being witness,that we perceive the prior sense of self.

A fun little approach is to, immediately upon laying down, say to oneself “this is it”. Knowing that after that final imaginary “t” sound, there is only awareness which is it. “It”, of course, is that awareness without an object of which mystics speak. The memory of this may be recalled as not having been produced by any sort of volition. All action and thought and story telling rests in that awareness. Arrive at the other shore by knowing that this (anything that is perceived) is not self.

I have found bliss to be different than most think. I experience bliss as a thickening of the air, as though I am swimming is a sea of divine love/oneness with all (I am atheist). Sometimes, though, this spills over into a more overt high, similar to the experience of cannabis. Bliss can co-exist with any emotion, though negative emotions tend to get washed over with bliss, so they never last long. I am most likely to experience bliss when I am aware of anatta.

Some believe that keys to insight are more likely, or at least possible, to be found in ancient texts, the more ancient the better. Truth was the same then as now, but communication was tedious at best. What texts survive are those preserved by the powerful. Nondual teachers have no need of power or of proselytizing. What videos we have of the modern sage Ramana Maharshi are grainy and taken as though he was uninterested. And he wrote almost nothing. Contrast that with the crystal video revealings of Tony Parsons, Mooji, and the like. Only now do we enjoy a surfeit of illuminated text and video.

Many teachers labelled spiritual will claim that gains somewhere are inevitably balanced by losses elsewhere, sometimes called the zero-sum game. This concept is pernicious, and basically not true, no matter where it is found, be it politics or new-age mysticism. I mean, why not that most (bodies who believe they are souls) "people" agree that now is better than what we agree was 10 years ago - 20 years ago. Maintaining our charade as separate beings: go forth and do great and wonderful things!

Science and Reality

Scientific naturalism rules out any supernatural realm, as does this essay. Panpsychism, though, may be gaining scientific ground. There is some indication that the future affects the pastGiven that such particles are not just in the lab, but in our brains, then our thoughts are likewise influenced by the future. And we all know that the past, in the form of memory and genetic programming affects the future. So it all moves in lockstep, even chaotically, exactly as it should. Past-present-future is illusory because immutable self is illusory. To the degree that self exists (not necessary for life), the role of such is clearly to appreciate, to play the role and enjoy the ride.

Concerning what it is to be (an ever so aware) human, science tells us, quite clearly, that free will is illusory. Nature + nurture (environment)reaction, so when we think we are acting (or not acting), we are really reacting, even with complicated tasks. There is no role of conscious self (there is only experience), which is to say it is not. Which is why pernicious concepts such as free will are beyond illusory: they have no meaning, except for convenience and self concept. This illusion of self happens to no one.

One may counter the claim of the non-existence of self with "gut feeling" or "I obviously am!" (am what: the centre of narrative gravity?) The consciousness that is home to such separate mind plus body assertions is, in fact, a mere bag of tricks, one of which is a non-conceptual theory about itself, gained through experience. Or, possibly, an emergent calculable state of matter. This collection of cooperating (?) cells we call our body has evolved the pro-survival tactic of postulating a self which then plays host to impulses, memory, and a sense of separateness.

Psychedelic drugs, such as psilicybin, ketamine, and LSD, can increase neural "global signal" diversity, which some interpret as higher consciousness. I suggest here that occasional use of such drugs may help one glimpse "the other shore".

It is unfortunate that influence by the future does not result in better decision making! Society then makes use of the (consensus) concept of free will in reacting to those bad decisions reactions.