If your fundamental Self of selves, your most basic nature, is the entire universe, including its awareness of itself, then your regular life is an illusion, a game of make believe, like a child’s tea party. In order to live your life, you buy into that game with your soul.
Imagine you are a parent joining your child for a tea party. Your child, focused on the matter at hand, pretends to pour you a cup of tea. You sit at the little table with your child’s stuffed bear and favorite doll and daintily sip a cup of air with your pinky extended. As a parent, you are thinking of other, more important, things you need to do, but there is nothing more important you could possibly do. Those more important things are the illusion. You joined the tea party filled with love and compassion for your child. The tea party real.
When you suspect that your Self may be something other than a body trying to sustain itself in comfort and prestige, you still have to live among others in the illusion. All you can do is dress up in your fanciest hat, sit with the delightful company and enjoy the most delicious tea you can imagine.
It is important to believe that you are All That. It is not so helpful to try to prove it. You just need to believe it and move on. If you spend your time trying to prove that you are something special, you will never quite believe it, which means you will suspect that the opposite is true. You will end up creating tests. You will look for verification in things you achieve. You will seek affirmations from other people. You will look for confirmations in your moods. That is a dangerous game.
Although you may come up with 10,000 reasons why you are an amazing human being, just one stray idea to the contrary could convince you that you’re mud. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work as well the other way. If you come up with 10,000 reasons why you are worthless, one bit of evidence that you are spectacular will not convince you. That is, unless you absolutely believe it and then it’s game over.
Once you believe that you are fantastic, just because you are, you no longer have to prove it to anybody, least of all to yourself. You become free to let your light shine on the world, showing others what a silly game we play.
You are All That. Believe it.
The nature of delusion is that it is convincing. It is tricky to become alert to your delusion. If you think that you might be awakening, how could you be sure that the awakening is not just a fancier layer of the delusion? What if what you experience is actually reality? If you are not deluded, but just living in reality, then there is no hope of awakening. Dream on.
Fortunately, we can tell the difference between delusion and reality. Sometimes, when we dream, we can tell within the dream that we are dreaming. The dream feels real, but we can recognize we are dreaming. Even if we don’t notice we are dreaming when we are asleep, when we wake up, we know that we are back to reality.
In our reality, we can tell that most other people are kind of deluded. We know little kids are in their own world. The older generations also have their way of seeing the world. Every country in the world has a different view of how things are. People of different races, various sexual orientations, on different diets, and from the many religions all experience things from their unique perspectives. It seems so likely that our particular way of seeing the world will have an element of delusion to it. Yet that is reality.
Recognizing that you might be a little deluded gives you options. If you don’t like the way you are feeling, you can console yourself with the idea that things are not exactly as they seem. If you feel sad, you can feel your sadness. You can feel the richness of the emotion, while understanding that beyond the sadness there is peace and joy. There is reality and there is delusion. There is sadness and there is joy. Such is our marvelous dream.
The self help ideas of new age thinking, Buddhism, Taoism, mindfulness and such are fairly simple in theory. The simple prescription for happiness is to live in the here and now, pay attention to your thoughts, and be nice to yourself and others. What happens if you know all of that, but still struggle with happiness? What happens is you feel frustrated and miserable. It’s not so easy just to live in the here and now, watching your thoughts and being nice to people.
Living in the here and now is difficult when the here and now feels miserable. When you feel miserable, it is obvious just how difficult it is to escape the here and now. The present seems more like a trap than a gateway to freedom. Watching your thoughts is no help, because your thoughts just confirm how difficult the here and now can be and how reasonable it is to be miserable. All that’s left is being nice to yourself and others. That is good place to start.
Being nice to yourself and others prevents your problem thoughts from seeping into your behavior and making things worse. When you see what you are thinking while you try to be nice, you notice all the thoughts you entertain that aren’t nice. When you hold an ideal of living in the here and now, you also notice when your thoughts are drifting into the past and future. You can see how those thoughts interact with your moods. As you pay close attention to your thoughts and moods and time and kindness, you may notice little slivers of the here and now that seem more tolerable.
The simple ideal of living in the here and now, watching your thoughts and being nice to yourself and others, is a helpful practice for getting you through a difficult here and now. It’s not really such a good prescription for happiness. It is a good prescription for misery. That’s when you need it. When you feel happy, your thoughts are amusing, the here and now is joyful and it’s still a good idea practice being nice to yourself and others.
The drive of curiosity is the desire to know. The way of curiosity is not to know, but to wonder. When we are curious, we just want to see will happen next. We are open to the world. We are alive.
When curiosity is pure, there is no hope and no fear, there is simply looking and seeing. As soon as we expect something, we begin to wish for it, or guard ourselves against it. When that happens, our happiness or misery depends on the outcome. If we get what we want, we are happy. If we don’t get what we want we are sad. The world is closed, either way.
When we have no expectations and watch each moment with wonder, we are continually delighted. What actually happens can be horribly disappointing or wildly amusing, but those feelings pass quickly. What feels those feelings is a source of constant wonder. What are we? What now?
Here, drink this. With one sip, the world will open up to you anew. The problems you have been carrying will crumble. The pain you have been feeling will vanish and an intense pleasure will fill the void. Any inkling of isolation you have felt will melt away and you will feel tremendous love lifting your spirit.
This antidote is 100% natural ingredients. It may cause you to lose your ambition, but you won’t have to abandon your goals. Your goals may change. You may become obsessed with distributing the antidote. You may want to help others see what you see, feel what you feel, to understand that they are as connected as you. Although this antidote is specifically for you, once you have consumed it, you will recognize that it is available to everyone.
This? This is water. Delicious. The antidote is already in you.
Words contain our experience. They give us a sense of control. They put a lamp around our genie. They help us navigate the world as we know it and provide an island of comfort amidst the discomfort of the unknown.
Thinking is mostly done in words. We see a rose and we think, that is a rose. It becomes a word, something other than it is. We have contained it. We have defined it. We think we know it. Then we smell it and it is much more. We don’t know anymore. If we don’t have the words to describe how the rose smells, we just think good or bad. We can’t stop the words. We can’t stop the thinking. We can’t help running to the comfortable island of what we know.
When we become uncomfortable with what we know, our words and our thinking have turned against us. Suddenly, there is nowhere to run for comfort. At that point, we can either stay on our safe island of what we know and continue to suffer from our doubts and worries, or we can step out into what we don’t know and seek comfort there. Words will inspire us to take that step, and words will help us to find comfort. Instead of thinking, good or bad, we will think what? Instead of thinking, I feel awful because this is terrible, we will wonder, what is this feeling, what is going on?
When we step into the unknown, we will notice that we were always there. What we thought we knew was a lot of pretty words and ideas. There was never an island. There was never a lamp. The genie was always free.
Mindfulness is like kissing boo boos. When a child skins their knee or stubs their toe and their parent kisses the place that hurts, the child feels better. Kissing boo boos works. Mindfulness works the same way.
When a child experiences a minor bump and feels pain, the pain consumes them. Their reaction is to run away from the pain. They cry and run to their mommy or daddy to make everything better. By kissing the boo boo, the parent takes the child’s focus, which is scrambling to get away from the pain, and focuses it on the source of the pain. When a loving kiss is applied to the source of pain, the pain can be felt, accepted, associated with love, and the situation is under control. Balance is restored.
When you are older and suffer from emotional boo boos, you can use mindfulness to kiss those boo boos too. General mindfulness alerts you to your mood. With more focused mindfulness, you can watch the thoughts that contribute to your mood. When you notice yourself thinking hurtful things about youself or others, you just kiss the boo boo. Don’t judge the thought. Don’t scold yourself for having the thought. Just recognize the thought as a hurtful thought and kiss it away with loving kindness. With each mindful kiss, a boo boo gets better. Keep kissing those boo boos and you will feel a sense of control. Balance will be restored.
Everybody is enlightened. Some people notice it, some people don’t. Those of us who do not feel enlightened think that there is something about us that just doesn’t get it. We think enlightenment is something that happens to other people. We worry that we are not smart enough. We worry that we don’t have enough will power. We worry that our brains are faulty. We worry that we worry. That worry, fear, angst, self doubt, self loathing, and depression is all enlightenment.
In any moment, all we have is our experience. It takes no intelligence or special skill to feel pain. It takes no more intelligence or insight to feel happy. All we can do is feel what we feel. We feel all the time. We perceive the world around us. We think about the world. We act in the world. That is our enlightenment.
If our pain is so great that all we can concentrate on is our own pain, then that is our focus. That is our experience. When we get a break from our pain, we can notice others feeling their pain and we feel compassion. When we act with compassion for others, or ourselves, we are enlightened. When we act with malice, to harm ourselves, or others, we are still enlightened. When we are able to recognize our enlightenment, we will be filled with compassion and we will only act with kindness.
Practicing meditation is like placing stepping stones in streams. The water is always flowing. Sometimes it is a creek, a trickle through a rocky bed, which is easy to traverse. Sometimes it is a stream that presents some challenges. Other times it is a river that seems intimidating or impossible to cross without getting soaked. Spending days, weeks and years sloshing through the waters can become tiresome. Having an always available supply of stepping stones can bring great comfort to your journey.
We tend to pass time looking forward to some activities and dreading others. We worry about what we have to do, what we should do, and make compromises so that we can also do what we want to do. Sitting meditation could become another activity that falls into those categories. However, when you just sit, the categories disappear. The water continues to flow, and you observe its passing.
When you place stepping stones regularly through your life, even the most turbulent river becomes manageable. With consistent practice, the stepping stones become a bridge. After that, you just walk on water.