Shoulds and should-nots – a step away from what is

384The predominant state for almost all humanity is that our sense of centre resides somewhere ‘in’ the head and everything is dominated and overridden by thoughts. When the focus of attention goes to thoughts, the content of them is magnified by creating separation and thus the illusion of a contracted me.

However, when the focus or energy flows from thinking (head) to feeling (heart) something very profound happens. The sense of centre shifts with it to the heart, but without the ‘me’. The ‘me’ is left ‘in the head’. And then there is just a spacious allowing gentle kindness, an open heart…

But when the focus of awareness is narrowed and limited to thoughts, we are missing what is really happening… reality is simply not noticed because the attention is contracted into storyland, to the story of my life.

While the content of thoughts are amplified, they can seem quite huge and very important and thus seemingly obscuring the peaceful-loving-allowing being that pervades everything.

When thoughts come up and are believed in like “this should, or shouldn’t be” the connectedness to the heart is seemingly obscured. Every time a thought is engaged in, it is a step away from what really IS.

“This should, or should not be” – But how do I know that this is true?
Have I ever considered the possibility that what is, is EXACTLY what should be?

And how do I know that this is exactly what should be? — Because it ALREADY is. It is already accepted on a deepest level, otherwise it wouldn’t be.

So who am I to argue with what already is?
Whatever is, is exactly what should be.

And this does not require any beliefs. What is is, regardless whether it is believed, argued, resisted or not. However, arguing with what already is, requires beliefs.

But do beliefs know anything about what should or should not be? Do beliefs know anything about what is? Do beliefs (shoulds and should-nots) have any effect on what is?

Every single thought believed is a step away from this. From what really is, from aliveness, from peace-kindness-loveness. Every thought believed is a step away from the heart, from feeling, from being

There is peaceful lovingness when the mind is in harmony with what is.

The heart simply cannot be touched by the story. Thoughts cannot leave any marks on the isness of being…

When the heart is felt fully, there is an overriding sense that everything is perfectly in the right place and the right time, exactly how it should be.

This is freedom…
Smile on the face… being at home…

Just feel…

(And of course, labels and thoughts cannot describe this, but please let me use these words like head, mind or heart just for the sake of communication, without taking them too seriously.)

Running away from ‘negative’ emotions

Since we experience them so often, many of us think that we know exactly what emotions are. Generally, we put emotions into different categories and label them either as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’.

340.2

When the ‘positive’ label is applied, we try to do our best to sustain the emotion, and if we cannot sustain it permanently, then at least we try to experience it as often as we can. However, when the ‘negative’ label is attached to it, we try to push it away, numb it away in any possible ways. We just want to get rid of it.

Many seekers believe that liberation is swimming in a constant, permanent state of peace or happiness. This is a huge and unrealistic expectation. If there would be only peace all the time it would stop being peaceful! Peace does not exist without its opposite. Peace can be noticed only in comparison to something else, which is labelled as ‘un-peaceful’.

There is no constant everlasting love or happiness, because after some time bathing in love without experiencing its opposite, love would fade away. Sadness and happiness depend on each other. Without the one the other cannot be experienced. But sadness and happiness are not problematic by themselves. They do not contain any innate characteristics or attributes. What creates dissatisfaction is the wish that the so called ‘pleasant’ things should last forever and no ‘unpleasant’ emotion should arise ever again, and if it still does, it should disappear as soon as possible.

Many seekers talk about accepting everything that arises in this moment, while they are still striving for having a constant state of peace and love. So you want to accept everything, EXCEPT fear, anger, hatred, sadness, frustration, grief…

Liberation is not about stopping being human and not experiencing half of the emotions. Quite the contrary. Liberation is about encompassing ALL aspects of humanness, embracing ALL emotions.

But almost all of us are in a constant run. We are almost always in an escape-mode, hoping for evading this moment, an escape from life, an escape from humanness.

We are attaching mental labels to the experiencing; ‘this is bad’, ‘painful’, ‘sadness’, ‘I don’t want it’, and then we run.

Liberation is about STOPPING RUNNING and ESCAPING. Fear is not fearful. Sadness is not ‘bad’ or ‘sad’. Pain is not what we think it is. Anger is not angry, only mental labels suggest otherwise. But this cannot be seen while we are in a constant run.

‘Negative’, ‘bad’, ‘sad’ are just mental labels attached to the pure sensation.
But the sensation itself is completely neutral.

So stop running and observe what you REALLY are running away from.
The so called ‘negative’ emotions are not what you think they are.

You are running away from ‘yourself’. You are running away from all the stories that you believed ‘yourself’ to be.

But behind all stories, is there really a ‘you’ that could run away from anything, or is there only running?

Then why run?

Whatever IS, I don’t want it

256.2

Humans are almost always not satisfied with what IS. This dissatisfaction can fluctuate on a spectrum from mild discomfort to full blown suffering, and can be artificially divided into two categories.

Probably the most unbearable sufferings can come from self-referencing beliefs, which are the building blocks of ‘our’ seeming self-image or identity with a core belief in ‘my’ incompleteness, unworthiness, unlovingness, guiltiness or whatever it might be – because deep down most of us ‘feel’ we are somehow not good enough, not complete; something is missing. But is this really the case? Is it really true? Where is this apparently deficient self? Where?

The other type of suffering is much more subtle; it is a constant arguing with what IS. No matter what is in this moment, but one thing is sure: ‘I do not want it’. Either I want the previous moment back or the next moment, but definitely not THIS. But actually, the statement ‘this moment is not good enough’ – is just a thought, nothing more.

256In the morning at breakfast, there is a fantasy about how good biking will be later in the afternoon. However, when biking happens, the mind wanders imagining eating the cooled watermelon from the fridge when I will be at home. Later, while eating the watermelon, thoughts come up demanding to check the emails. When reading the emails happen, it is labelled by the mind with a thought as boring, with an accompanying fantasy about how much better biking around the lake in the afternoon was.

Meanwhile, the sense of ‘me’ is sustained by being lost in the story of ‘my’ life. And the whole story revolves around only one character, called ‘me’. The ‘I’ is the centre of the universe, centre of its own projection. Everything is interpreted through the filter of a huge web of beliefs that constitutes the self.

The sensations in the legs while pushing the bike, the pumping of the heart in the chest, the warmth of the sun and the stroke of the breeze on the skin, the sight of the glimmering lake and the sounds of the twittering birds, the coolness of the watermelon in the mouth – are all lost and replaced by a dream

There is a constant dissatisfaction with what IS.
Because in this moment ‘I’ do NOT exist.
In this moment, without a mental commentary, there is no self to be found.
The ‘me’ lives only in thoughts.

But the thoughts or the stories by themselves are not problematic, only believing them creates the illusion of their realness. In direct experience, there are just thoughts and images passing by – empty, meaningless. Their meanings emerge only when they are believed and not seen for what they are – simply just thoughts.

Suffering comes from resisting what IS.
Without resistance there is no suffering.
Without arguing with what IS, there is peace.

Memory is not ‘me’

Visual illusion - Akiyoshi Kitaoka

Visual illusion – Akiyoshi Kitaoka

We were taught since early childhood that there is a solid, separate entity, a ‘me’ in the body, looking out to the world through the eyes. But this is just an assumption that has never been questioned before.

When the curiosity arises to look closer and challenge this strongly held belief, it turns out to our surprise that the ‘me’ is nowhere to be found. It is simply not there. Similar to visual illusions, where it seems that there is an animation in the picture, but it is just a trick of the mind.

However, reading these lines and believing that there is no self, is not sufficient to see through this illusion. In this case, just another belief would be placed on top of the idea of the self. The belief of the mirage of the ‘me’ needs to be deconstructed and dissolved, and not covered up with another layer of beliefs.

The ‘I’ seemingly lives in memories and beliefs. But in the present moment, where is this ‘I’? Not in a memory, not in a future image, but here and now? Is it in the body? Exactly where?

A memory is nothing else than simultaneously arising mental images, thoughts and bodily sensations, which are firmly welded together and appear as a coherent and real depiction about the assumed past. But this mental construct of a seeming past experience arises in the present moment. There are no little shelves in the mind holding small segments of the past as memories. All memory is constructed again and again in the here and now every time ‘we’ think about it.

The image of me playing in the garden as a five-year old is not ‘me’. Although, the thought label of ‘this is me, playing in the garden’ is fused with the picture of the five-year old body and the bodily sensations of the associated emotions. But thoughts, mental pictures and emotions arise in this body, here and now. The emotions and the remembrance of warmth of the sun on the skin are felt now.

There is nothing outside of the present moment. The ‘I’-thought that emerges as part of the memory is nothing more than a thought.

There is no ‘me’ looking out of the eyes, who is separate from the rest of the world. The idea of separation is created by thought. Only thoughts separate.

Between two thoughts there is no ‘me’.
The sense of me emerges when an ‘I’-thought label is put on the felt aliveness in the body. But the sense of self is NOT the self.

When a memory is dismantled into its components – thoughts, images, emotions, bodily sensations and beliefs – and each piece is examined closely looking for the existence of ‘me’, the glue that hold the memory together creating the sense of self, releases and dissolves. What is left is just the pure experience of thoughts, images, sensations and emotions, without a ‘me’ who could own the experience. There is no individual person.

This is what ‘we’ are seeking.
This is peace.

Why do we have a need to enhance our self-image?

It is commonplace in our culture that we try to improve our self-image in many different ways. Many people attempt to enhance their self-esteem by positive thinking, different types of therapies, or being nice and follow social norms to fit in, in order to get approval by others.

230The ‘I’ is constantly seeking appreciation in some way or another and feels it has to make an impression on others to make them like ‘me’. It is trying to push an image to imprint into others’ minds, how it wants them to see ‘me’ and think about ‘me’.

We relentlessly try to improve our self-image, because deep down most of us feel we are not OK, we are not complete; something is missing. We push our desired self-image forward to win others over. ‘This is how I want you to see me’. The irony is that this image that depicts how I want you to see me is the exact opposite of how I see myself.

So, who do I want to convince that I am better than I think I am?
You or me? Is there any division between ‘you’ and ‘me’?

Without believing that there are two solid, separate selves, ‘you’ and ‘me’, the ‘I’ could not feel better or worse than ‘you’. Without comparison there is no division.

The ‘I’ wants to improve its self-image because there is a belief in an incomplete, deficient self. This belief can take many forms: ‘unlovable me’, ‘unworthy me’, ‘ugly me’, ‘I am not good enough’, ‘I am not successful enough’, ‘something is wrong with me’, ‘I am not strong enough’, and so on. The list is endless.

The illusion of the self is constructed from millions of beliefs, but the belief in the incomplete, deficient self has the strongest and most enchanting effect of all. This core belief is the basis of ‘our’ so called self-esteem and identity. All relationships reflect back this central belief, because the mind cannot help but project all its content ‘out there’. And since the world mirrors back the incomplete self, the reflection seems as a proof for validating its deficiency. As a result, the core belief is fortified and kept in place.

No matter how hard we try to override the belief in the separate, deficient self by positive thinking, or spending hundreds of hours in meditation or in different practises, the suffering is guaranteed.

But the existence of a deficient self is just a belief.

When this core belief is seen for what it is – just an unexamined thought taken seriously – it naturally falls away. But for the ‘I’ this can be frightening, since this belief is the basis of its ‘existence’.

Without believing in the incomplete self, there is no self, there is no ‘I’ to be found.

There is no need to enhance ‘my’ self-image and imprint onto ‘your’ mind to make a desired impression. Self-image and self-esteem become empty words, not referring to anything real.

Beliefs – the building blocks of ‘our’ identities

026There is a freedom not believing any thoughts. Attachment to beliefs is the origin of suffering. Some people are even ready to die for their beliefs. But why are beliefs so precious for us? What are beliefs anyway?

Assume that you have just arrived home after a day of work. Your mind is full of the story of the happenings of the day, how your boss treated you unfairly and how bad the traffic was on the way home. The only thing you want is to lie down on the couch and tell ‘your’ story to your husband. You want him to listen to you and comfort you. As you start outpouring the intricate details of the happenings of your day, your husband suddenly interrupts you and instead of standing on your side he defends your boss. Immediately, you feel angry and frustrated due to the thought that has just popped-up ‘in your head’, ‘my husband never listens to me’. This single thought triggers a loop of other ‘disturbing’ thoughts; a very familiar and conditioned story that you thought thousand times before. ‘He doesn’t care about me, because if he cared about me he would have listened to me and stood by my side instead of making me wrong.’

‘He never listens to me’ or ‘He doesn’t care about me’ are just conditioned beliefs. Beliefs are nothing more than unexamined thoughts which are believed to be true, to be the accurate description of what IS.

Beliefs are very important for the ‘I’, because beliefs are the building blocks of ‘me’.

The ‘I’ never sees what is, because it always tries to interpret what IS according to what it learned previously, what this or that means to ‘me’. Everything is filtered through a huge web of beliefs before the interpretations and assumptions about what IS arise.

When we are talking and I believe the thought that ‘you never listen to me’, then I stop listening to you. I stop hearing what you are saying, because the thought in ‘my’ head overrides what you are saying. I cannot hear you, I cannot see you, I can only hear ‘my’ thoughts I believe about you, and see the constructed image in ‘my’ head of you. So the belief that ‘you never listen to me’ overrides what is presently here, in the now.

When you say something that contradicts ‘my’ belief systems, the ‘I’ hears them as a criticism not as a help, because it feels threatened. In defence of ‘my’ beliefs – which are the building blocks of ‘my’ identity – the mind wants to gather ‘proofs’ to support its existing belief systems, and not to take part in uncovering or destroying them.

And when you interrupt and override me is not just simply a conditioned habit, but a defence. You try to defend your point of view what you believe is ‘your’ self. You are not simply interrupting me; you are literally fighting for your life in that moment, fighting for ‘your’ identity.

Observing, examining and questioning beliefs cut through the attachment to them.

The self is ‘made of’ beliefs.
Without believing the content of beliefs, there is no self to be found.
This is freedom. This is freedom from suffering.

Who are you protecting when you protect your friend?

161Imagine that you are in a garden party held by one of your friends. As you are walking along by a group of people, you cannot help but overhear their conversation as they are making fun of somebody else who is not there. You walk on, but suddenly you realise that the person they are talking about is your best friend, Pete. Thoughts come up: ‘Wait a minute. They are making fun of Pete. They shouldn’t talk like this. Pete is a very good guy. I have to do something. I have to protect him.’ The body becomes tense, and you feel frustrated. You turn around, hasten your steps back to them to pick up a fight to protect your best friend.

What do you think who are you protecting? Are you really protecting Pete or just protecting the concept of Pete in ‘your head’?

During the ten-year friendship, an intricately detailed mental concept of Pete has been built up in ‘your’ brain. This concept is compounded of a mental image of his body, his name Pete, the sound of his voice, his habitual reactions to certain circumstances, his likes and dislikes, the stories he frequently tells, and all the good and bad memories of times you spent together.

But this mental image is not ‘him’. This construct ‘lives’ only in ‘your’ mind. Actually, there is a huge web of conditioned neuronal networks in the brain that creates and re-creates this image of Pete every time ‘you’ think of him.

This mental image of Pete serves a seemingly quite important job; to be a building block of ‘you’. This concept of Pete is a small segment of ‘your’ self. The illusion of ‘I’ lives in almost every concept and all beliefs. The ‘I’ is assembled from these small fragments. When a part of it is seen through, then the identification with that part is no longer total. A segment of ‘you’ is dissolved.

So, who do ‘you’ protect when protecting ‘your’ friend?

‘You’ are protecting ‘your’ self.
The self that does not exist.
‘You’ protect an illusion of ‘your’ existence.

‘I’, as the centre of the universe

168

When the identification with the ‘I’ thought set forth, from then on, literally everything is viewed from the perspective of a separate individual. The ‘I’ becomes the centre of the universe, and contrary to popular belief, this egoic perspective never stops until the end of the organism. The only way to break the spell is to awaken to the realisation that there has never been a self, who could own life, in the first place.

The sense of ‘me’ is constructed by the brain from the concoction of the mental image of the body, the collection of memories – which is the base of ‘my’ life story –, the compilation of thousands or millions of beliefs with the associated emotional responses and conditioned, habitual judgements.

With every thought and every belief the sense of ‘I’ is ‘created’ again and again. ‘I’ am the centre of everything. The ‘I’-thought is so pervasive that it is there even in the most seemingly innocent judgements, like ‘This flower is so beautiful’. Apparently, the word ‘I’ is missing from this statement, and yet, it is still there implicitly, because ‘I’ am the one who makes this judgement about the flower, according to ‘my’ definition of beauty. A flower does not have an innate attribute of beauty. The flower just IS. ‘I’ project beauty on it. ‘I’ put the mental label of beauty on it.

Reality is neutral.

All the input that comes from our senses is filtered through a huge, intricate web of beliefs. As a result, a flower may look like ‘for me’ as if it has independent and inherent attributes as its own. But in direct experience, there are no attributes, just colours, shapes, movements, scents, textures.

When these judgement and beliefs are seen for what they are – simple thoughts passing by – then the heavy veil of life gently becomes translucent until it disappears back to nothingness.

This is peace.
This is what ‘we’ are seeking.
Freedom from ‘our’ selves.

How is the self constructed? (part 2)

Around the age of two, the ‘story of my life’ started its lifelong, ragged journey. The ‘I’, who is the centre of the story, has been constantly and uncontrollably expanding out to the universe.

119The human mind is a labelling machine, meaning that it interprets and judges everything it encounters. It cannot help doing it, this is its job.

The original self-construct, which is an identification with the ‘I’-thought – ‘I am Charlie, I am this body’ – is further expanded with a huge array of adjectives picked up from the environment, like ‘Charlie is a good boy, so I am good’, and later, generated within the system itself by thinking, ‘I screwed it up, I am a failure’.

These deductions that ‘I am good’ or ‘I am a failure’ later become beliefs and the attributes of the ‘I’, which are nothing more than unexamined thoughts. In addition to these self-generated beliefs, a huge web of social norms have been gradually internalised into the dream of sense of ‘me’.

‘I’ have learned what is good or bad, what ‘I’ should and shouldn’t do in order to be accepted by the seeming ‘others’. But social norms are nothing more than beliefs – unexamined thoughts – but we believe that they are accurate descriptions of what IS.

So, when a slim body becomes the beauty ideal of society, then the slimness is labelled as high value, as a means for the ‘I’ to gain approval and attention from others, while its opposite, a ‘fat’ body is tagged undesirable, ugly and worthless. But these labels are just beliefs. The body itself does not have any innate attributes of worth, beauty or ugliness, regardless of its size. The body cannot be young or become old. ‘Young’ and ‘old’ are just mental constructs, labels put onto the mental image of the body. The body just IS, as it IS.

But since these labelling thoughts and beliefs are believed and not seen for what they are – a stream of thoughts passing by like clouds in the sky – they become the attributes of the sense of ‘I’, which leads to suffering.

But this is just a story, nothing more.
There has never been a self, an ‘I’ in the first place.
The self is just a fiction, an illusion.
‘I’ do not exist.

This is freedom.