“Award winning film makers Boris and Claire Jansch go on a journey to unravel what it means to be alive. What if the search for happiness was based on a huge misconception, a misconception that has been drummed into us since birth, that we are separate individuals.
This radical and challenging documentary ventures into the heart of the mystery of identity, flipping the idea of spiritual endeavour on its head, revealing a message so profound and yet so simple that it might just end the search.”
Most of us are afraid of dying. One can try to combat the fear of death by concentrating on death as a practice. Recently I heard of a monastery where the monks were not supposed to talk at all, except for when they met each other they said, “Remember, brother, that you are going to die.”
What goes on in these people’s minds? What are they doing in this exercise? Essentially the resistance to being here now is the fear of dying and losing all that we know about ourselves our whole history. So can one work with this fear directly, listening openly, vulnerably, dying to ideas as they come up about myself and the world? No idea,
not being anything, no grasping to be somebody, not anything when that happens freely there is no fear of dying, because this is what we really are, what we were before we are born, and what we will be when we die.
It is our true state. Now. There is nothing fearful about it.
Q: Do you ever think about your own death?
Packer: Sometimes. I wonder how it will be. At the moment of dying I will not be the way I am right now, living. There will be a total letting go of the need to continue. I am sure of that. And that takes care of itself.
Q: How can you be so sure?
Packer: More and more the concern about death and dying is totally absent. There is just the vastness of purely being here that knows no story about itself. And then there are times when I am thoroughly enjoying being with somebody, or sharing a wonderful meal, or smelling the new spring flowers. And, at such a moment, thoughts may arise, “Oh, someday I may not have this anymore. This marvelous view here of the
hills and the snow-covered trees.” Then there could be a twinge of either sadness or nostalgia. Seeing that fully is the dying. At the moment of dying you simply do not want things anymore, there is a totally different space.
The first few weeks of Trump’s presidency have left many people feeling raw and angry. He has been brash, crude, totally un-statesman-like in his approach to anything outside his own rather narrow world–and often within that world as well. As the police-woman said, “I’ll dress like a lady when he acts like a president.”
But if we look at it logically, Trump is not to blame for who he is, and is perhaps more deserving of compassion and understanding than of hatred. I do not mean that his actions should be condoned and that there should be no legal battle against his ludicrous bans. Rather, there should perhaps be a shift in the slightly hysterical way in which people and the media have portrayed and lampooned him–a portrayal and lampooning that allows him to recreate himself afresh, perhaps against his will.
Trump is a megalomaniac, out of touch with global realities. Is this his fault? No, if we go with Sam Harris’ arguments that I had presented some posts ago. Trump is profoundly unlucky to have the genes of a megalomaniac, to therefore have the mind of a megalomaniac, to have been in environments that nourished and did not question this tendency. He is profoundly unlucky to be unable to empathize, to look only at the short term and not at the long term. He therefore deserves our sympathy. Unfortunately he is the most powerful man in the world and can cause immense damage. But there is no “Trump” in there, any more than for anyone else. There are neurons firing and emotional patterns swirling, just like for the rest of us. What a pity he is so powerful.
So–what do we do? Just let him continue on the rampage? Absolutely not: that would be to confuse, as Sam Harris puts it, choicelessness with fatalism. He should be confronted in the strongest possible terms. But: he should be confronted with understanding, and with an understanding of all the people who voted him into power (and they didn’t have any “choice” about the matter too, by the way). He cannot be confronted on his own terms–brash and megalomaniacal and hysterical. That would be merely adding fuel to the flames.
I feel the traditions of non-duality have much to teach us and our institutions–the media, political structures. Of course they must primarily shine a light into our own minds. That is the only valid beginning.
Isn’t it wonderful that you have never made a choice in your life? There is nothing to regret, nothing to feel guilty about. Nothing could ever have been any different, nothing could ever have been any other way. Isn’t that a relief? Nothing matters. There is nowhere to go. There is nothing that has to be done. There is no meaning and no morality.
There is no help and no hope. You can let it all go, you can release all the tension. You can begin to enjoy the wonder of hopelessness and the gift of meaninglessness. You can begin to enjoy your complete helplessness.
In liberation it is seen that nothing has any meaning, it is simply what it is. The story does not stop. The story continues but now it is seen that it is just a story. All the passions of your apparent life are just stuff happening. The conflicts, the loves, the struggles for control and power, the victories and defeats are simply phenomena arising in one-
ness and falling away again with no meaning at all.
As Sam Harris puts it, the illusion of free will is itself an illusion.
When we observe our thoughts, we see that they float up and pop up into our consciousness. We are not creating our thoughts. In fact, we cannot know what our next thought and emotion might be.
The present is a deep mystery.
This is what the great masters of non-duality were struggling to convey: that there is no central controller organising itself and the world. Stuff happens, and “we” lay a layer over it and make ourselves the protagonists of our narratives.
A truly liberating insight.
I am sure you are all familiar with the slump of energy during the day, when nothing seems to make sense, when the whole purpose of meditation and awareness seems utterly pointless.
I am beginning to feel these are very valuable and interesting moments.
I used to meet these times with a greater resolve, a stiffened spine, returning to some old passage or book to find a new inspiration to “move ahead.” But now I realise the rather simple truth: these ebbs and flows of energy are the nature of a rather mechanical thought-emotion-body network. Meeting them with “resolve” is merely another mechanical conditioned response.
Nothing needs to be done about these psychological moments. All we need to do is to remain aware of their transitory nature as a part of the complex webs woven by the mind. Sooner or later, the “high,” that other conditioned mechanical response, will re-emerge and the game will go on.
When I began my spiritual journey, I would blithely think (and speak) of “detachment” in daily life. If a friend or colleague was going through a difficult patch, my immediate response would be: well, s/he needs to be more detached from the situation.
But I now see the depth of my attachment to the simplest things in daily life. Routines, simple objects, thought-and-emotion patterns, relationships, bodily desires and reactions. I am amazed at the tenacity with which the mind and body become attached to, and identified with, the most most microscopic aspects in living.
Our investigation and experimentation thus have to begin at the deepest emotional levels of attachment, the visceral core of our very being. The skill of looking at attachment without judgement or violence towards oneself and others is an extremely subtle one, and it probably defines the beginning of our spiritual journeys.