Expectations about liberation (part 1)

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What is an expectation? An expectation is nothing more than a mental concept. In order to compare it with the current experience, the current experience needs to be conceptualized. As a result, there ‘are’ two mentally fabricated constructs that can be matched up, with a ‘result’ of putting a label of either “this is liberation” or “this is not” onto the experience.

Every expectation is in the way of seeing what is here, right now. Every single expectation is a ‘hindrance’ in realizing what IS. Expectations are about the future. But liberation cannot be found in the future.

#1 Expecting that identification with thoughts and stories would never happen again

136.3Liberation is not a one-time event. After seeing through the illusion of the self, being lost in the content of stories and identification with the I-thought still happen. Because both believing thoughts and the identifying with the I-thought are nothing more than conditionings; they are only conditioned habits. And just because seeing through the illusion of the ‘me’ has happened, it does not necessarily mean that X years of conditioning will go away at once. But without a centre, a ‘me’, there is nothing they could attach to or stick to, so gradually they fall away. This falling can last until the end of the organism.

Like when you go to the cinema, being lost in the story happens with the identification of the character on the screen. But sooner or later there is a sudden ‘awakening’ with the realisation that this is just a story and the characters on the screen are not real. But in the next moment or so, being lost in the story can happen again and again.

However, every time it is checked ‘What is this me?’, ‘Where is it?’ – it is clearly seen that it has never been, except as the content of a thought – nothing more, nothing ‘real’.

#2 Believing that liberation is a meditative state

What can be experienced in meditation is an altered state, a state where thought processes lessen. But no states are permanent. Seeing ‘no-self’ is not about having a constant meditative state, or any kind of state. It is simply about seeing that there is not and has never been a ‘you’ at all that could control or govern life. There are no altered states involved.

#3 Wanting a previous spiritual experience back

Whatever those glimpses were, they are over. Finished. They are only memories, only thoughts (stories) arising now. They can be hindrances of seeing what is, if you try to compare any current experiencing with those memories. So it is better to let them go and be what they are, only thoughts (memories) arising in the present moment.

Continued in part two…

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.

What is suffering?

109In order to answer this question, first, we have to make distinction between pain and suffering.

Imagine that you have bought a beautiful framed picture and you are just up to put it on the wall. You position the nail to the marked spot on the wall, lift the hammer, but a sudden sharp noise distracts your attention and you hit your thumb with the hammer instead of the nail. Abruptly, you feel a sharp pain.

Just in a few seconds, a chain of self referencing thoughts emerges: ‘What a fool I am! I should have been more careful. Oh, it hurts so much! What am I going to do now? What if I am not able to work tomorrow? I won’t be able to type, I’m sure. How will I explain it to my boss?’ – and it goes on and on. This is suffering.

The physical pain is real, but the suffering is optional.

When this string of selfing thoughts, which is a story put onto the experience of pain, is seen for what it is, and not believed or taken seriously, then what is left is just the raw experience of pain in the thumb.

Suffering is the byproduct of a belief in the illusion of the self, who ‘lives’ separately from the rest of the world. When the ‘I’-thought is seen through then there is nobody who could suffer from anything.

From the point of view of the separate ‘individual’ the suffering seems very vivid and real, because all the thoughts that generate suffering are believed. Like in the movie analogy, when the character identifies with its role, all the happenings in the movie of the flow of life are taken very seriously. As the story of ‘his’ life plays itself, the character is just tossed around in the endless waves of the ocean being at the mercy of the elements.

When the story is seen through, it becomes translucent and loses its sharpness and seriousness. It becomes lighter and entertaining as a movie intended to be. Even if the story takes a ‘darker’ turn in the form of sickness or some kind of loss – pain, sadness, frustration or anger may arise but they cannot stick to anywhere and linger, since there is no ‘you’ to stick to, who could suffer from them.

Suffering is optional.
Without believing thoughts, there is no 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

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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.

How is the self constructed? (part 1)

Human suffering originates from the belief that there is somebody inside the body, a solid entity, an individual, who is separate from the rest of the world. As a result of thinking, a seemingly existing ‘me’ energy is ‘created’, an autonomous entity, with free will and doership, who acts independently from everything else.

103But how is this self created? What is the sense of ‘I’ made of? When ‘I’ was a baby, before learning the language ‘I’ think in now, the aliveness of the body was there, but the ‘I’ was not. As the brain developed and acquired the capacity to learn a language, the word ‘I’ was learned – alongside with thousand others, but not being particularly more important than any other words – as a means to localise bodies in space, to differentiate this body from others. Consequently, the sense of aliveness in the body has become associated with the word ‘I’.

In the meantime, the body was given a name, ‘Here comes Charlie’, and it is learned that this name refers to this particular body. From these associations, an idea is constructed in the developing brain: ‘I am Charlie, I am this body’, – and the sense of self was ‘born’, believed into reality.

Later on, as picking up the language went on, different verbal names for emotions were adopted from the surrounding environment and labelled the pure sensations that arose in the body. Thus, the sense of self expanded with the inclusion of ‘my feelings’. ‘I am Charlie, I am this body, and I’m happy’.

Meanwhile, as the developing brain reached the capacity to retain long term memory, the sense of ‘I’ further expanded with images from the ‘past’, thus the ‘story of my life’ started its journey with the hero, the ‘I’, at the centre of the dream. From there, the self, which is constructed from the ‘past’, is being projected into the ‘future’.

A separate individual was ‘born’ out of nothing, without any real substance.
The only reality is the sensations in the body, the sensory perceptions and the arising thoughts.

But where is the self?
Has there ever been a self, or is it just a trick of the mind?
Where are ‘you’?
Is there a real ‘you’ in the body?

Or there is just a movement of energy, like the waving of the ocean, the blowing of the wind or the warmth of the sun.

Being lost in the story of ‘my’ life

043.1How many hours a day do ‘you’ spend in storyland? Is it noticed when being lost in the content of a story happens, or ‘you’ are just tossed around in the endless ocean of thoughts from one story to the other? In our everyday lives most of us do not live in the present moment, but in a constant stream of stories.

Let’s have a look at an everyday scenario. On a sunny afternoon, after work, the body is driving home on the motorway, while the ‘me’ is still in a story about what happened in the meeting. ‘My boss was so unfair to me. He shouldn’t have said that. I’m so pissed off…’ – and the story goes on. Tension and contraction arise in the body due to anger and resentment towards ‘my’ boss. Suddenly, a sense of hunger takes place which triggers another story, a story about being at home eating ‘my’ favourite pizza. Then, unexpectedly, a ‘mad’ driver cuts ‘me’ off almost causing an accident which sets off a new stream of story with images of being in hospital due to severe injuries. ‘That crazy, stupid bastard, he almost killed me. When I’m out of hospital I’ll track him down and give him a lecture on good behaviour’.

In the meantime, the body is still in the car and just arrives home, unharmed, but the ‘me’ doesn’t even remember how it got there because of an endless dreaming about the story of ‘my’ life.

And this is how most of us live, almost constantly falling in and out from one story to another hundred or thousand times a day, hardly noticing the blooming trees on the side of the road, the warmth of the sun on the skin, the whispering of the wind and the pleasant tingling sensation in the hands. All this is missed for only one reason: to keep the illusion of the self ‘alive’.

But the ‘I’ lives only in stories.
Without story there is no ‘me’.
If the stream of stories stops just for a second, the ‘me’ vanishes.
When there is no ‘me’ then there is peace.

Driving happens, seeing happens, steering the wheel happens but nobody is doing it.

It is not even necessary for the story to stop; it is enough to see the story for what it is, a stream of thoughts passing by. When this seeing happens, the ‘I’, who is the hero of the story, is also seen through.

‘Me’ is just another thought.
‘Me’ is nothing, an empty word.
‘Me’ does not refer to anything.

Thoughts are not facts

051The human brain produces more than 70,000 thoughts a day. Most of these thoughts are repetitive, meaning that most of them are the same thoughts that ‘we’ have had for decades.

There is a tendency to believe that thoughts are accurate descriptions of reality; however, this could not be further from the truth. A thought is just a label on what IS, never the thing itself. The experience is gone in the moment when thinking about the experience has happened. Thought has ‘replaced’ what IS, and the experience has become the content of the thought.

Thoughts can be artificially divided into two categories: practical or problem solving thoughts and self referencing thoughts. Not surprisingly, most of our thoughts are self referencing thoughts which all our apparent troubles ‘originate’ from, and all these selfing thoughts revolve around one single thought, ‘I’.

After seeing that there is no separate self to be found, Descartes’ most famous existential statement ‘I think, therefore I am’ can be viewed from a different angle.

The ‘me’ exists only in story which is nothing else than a stream of thoughts. So, ‘I exist’ only as a concept in thought. If this thought is taken to be real, the illusion of the sense of ‘I’ emerges with a conclusion that ‘I think, therefore I am’.

But can a thought think?
Can a thought exist as a solid entity in space and time?
Is thinking a proof of the existence of ‘me’?

Thinking happens as a functioning of the organism.
‘I am thinking’ is just another thought.

You are not who ‘you’ think you are.

Because ‘you’ are NOT.

What is the meaning of life?

This is an all-time favourite question; does life have a meaning?

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But what is the ‘I’ that wants to know the meaning of life? What wants meaning? Why is there a need to assign any meaning or purpose to life? Why not accept life as it is without putting any interpretation, intention or meaning on it?

Have you ever entertained the possibility that life does not have a meaning?

What comes up, how do you feel or react when you read these lines? Is there resistance? Do ‘you’ want life to have a meaning?

What is this ‘I’ that doesn’t like to hear this?

The ‘I’ desperately wants to find or assign meaning to life because for the ‘I’ life is equal to ‘me’. It says: “I have a life and I want to have a meaning and purpose of my life”. But without life having any meaning ‘my’ life does not have a meaning either. I am nothing.

This is the last thing the ‘egoic mind’ would like to hear because it could lead to the conclusion of its annihilation.

But is there a self in the first place that could own life?

While the ‘I’ try to find or assign meaning to life, there is being lost in the heavy veil of dreamland – made of mental constructs – lost in the content of the story about life and not seeing what IS. Life is happening right here, right now and nobody is living it.

Searching for meaning is just a form of seeking.

The ‘mind’ always wants to put meaning on everything.
The ‘mind’ is a labelling machine.
Meaning is just a mental label on what IS.

Life is living itself without any purpose or meaning.
Life is as it IS.

This is freedom. This is peace.