No yoga pose means anything in and of itself. These physical expressions are forms that were all made up by someone at some point; whether a pose was invented a hundred years ago or yesterday is irrelevant because its meaning to the person practicing the pose comes from the person practicing the pose. And that meaning always comes from the mind and has nothing to do with the body.
In the same way, no moment, circumstance or event means anything in and of itself.
Kurt Vonnegut said that everything is nothing with a twist. I have no idea what exactly that meant to him, but to me, as a student of nonduality, it makes perfect sense and serves as a reminder that I alone am responsible for my interpretation of what I see.
If I add lemon to my water, I flavored the otherwise plain water, and now have water with a twist of lemon. I’m the one who added the flavor. I’m the one responsible for the flavor. The lemon just acted on my behalf because the lemon obviously can’t decide by itself to flavor my water and then do so without my agency.
In the same way, whatever my experience is of any given moment is the flavor I added to the moment. Just like I could add peppermint or orange or any other flavor to my water instead of lemon, I can and do choose what I use to flavor my experience of what I see: peace, neutrality and compassion are some of the flavors but so are judgment, anger and blame.
The very first lesson in A Course in Miracles teaches that nothing I see means anything, and the second lesson tells me that I have given everything the meaning it has for me. In other words, I am reminded that everything is nothing with a twist. And I’m the one who gives the nothing the twist, the flavor, that makes the nothing into something for me.
I know how tempting it is to discard all this as too unrealistic to practice. Seeing the world as an objective reality and perceiving myself as a victim of circumstances beyond my control is one of ego’s favorite tricks. A few days ago I found myself in anxiety over the possibility of having to live through another war. But simultaneously, I knew that I was the one who was adding the twist of anxiety to that moment. It was old trauma coming back to lead me into the abyss of fear. And I could clearly see that adding a different twist to the nothing I made into something is my responsibility and also my freedom.
The same rule applies if I actually find myself one day in a war situation again. Or any situation. Because as persons, as the separate entities we think we are, we will always and repeatedly find ourselves in traumatic and unexpected and undesirable circumstances. Just like we will also rejoice and enjoy happy moments we feel we deserve and expect life to grant to us. So is the nature of duality.
But Truth is beyond duality and is therefore the only real source of peace. If God is perfect Love, and only God is real, then it follows that everything else is made up. What we take as the objective and independently existing world of form into which we randomly get born as bodies is much ado about nothing, as Shakespeare said, because we make it into what it is by the power of our thinking. And using that same power, we can unmake what we made by taking responsibility for how we flavor what we see.
I can add a twist of spirit, which is Truth, or a twist of ego, which is illusion, to what I see and depending on how I flavor each moment, my experience will be either that of having a peaceful dream or a nightmare.
What are you consuming emotionally, mentally, energetically and spiritually?
Everywhere we turn, we seem to be bombarded with opportunities to distract ourselves from the root causes of our pain, sadness, frustration, anger and fear. Instead of a compassionate, patient and honest — and private — inquiry into our own wounds, we latch onto the conveniently pre-packaged and heavily concentrated opinions, beliefs and views of reality as they are sold to us by the media, the pop culture and other offshoots of the mainstream mind and soul numbing machine. We adopt these ready-made life “facts” as our own, without even realizing that we have been fed toxic garbage our entire lives.
Some of us digest this sort of garbage easier than others, and we keep on “keeping on,” until we can’t keep on any more, in this lifetime at least. Some seem to even thrive on the soul sucking, fear and separation hungry energy being hurled at us from all angles. But those of us who find the ready-to-wear opinions, beliefs and “facts” of the mainstream extremely difficult to digest, those of us who have been nauseated by the spoon-fed version of reality since before we could even understand why it was so, those of us who yearned for a better way, a brighter world, a love-infused life rather than wishing for fame, success and recognition: we are the ones who have chosen to detox from illusion and drink and eat from truth instead. And just like with any detox, things seem to get hell of a lot worse before they get better, but they do get better.
So ask yourself again: what am I consuming energetically and spiritually? What sort of mental and emotional food am I choosing for myself? To what sources am I turning this day, and every day, for my daily bread? If you don’t like the taste of what you have been consuming, it’s time for a detox. Unplug, get quiet, learn to be alone with yourself — regularly — and repeat the process until the process itself becomes your daily bread. All the guidance you have been seeking and all the facts you thought you needed to find out who you are, and what the world is for, are waiting for you and have been waiting for you nowhere else but within you.
After a simple guided meditation, one of my students candidly and courageously admitted that her mind was as busy as ever and that she felt a sense of almost panic. I assured her that was a normal reaction of the ego and told her that “the mind is a bitch, but you don’t have to be your mind’s bitch.”
The meditation was as simple as can be (and simple does not imply easy): I guided my students to simply observe: first to notice all sounds, then the outer edges of their bodies, on to the their mental activity and finally their breath. Some types of more creative guided meditation can be relaxing and very helpful, but the ego mind can sort of co-opt the experience and appoint itself as the producer of the calm you feel as the result of the meditation. There is a misconception that meditation should always make us feel good. Meditation is a practice of guiding us to truth, and the way there is not always a spa like experience.
The purpose of the simple, bare bones meditation I chose for my students the other day was to point to that part of us that’s always observing what is, without evaluating it, judging it to trying to change it. Which is why this meditation can be so difficult: the ego mind finds itself out of its job since the ego is the part of us that is constantly analyzing, judging and commenting on what it perceives. Out of its job, the ego mind starts to panic, and does whatever it can do get its job back. Hence the anxiety during the meditation.
Experiencing discomfort or even panic like my student did is in no way a bad thing, no matter how much the mind despises states it labels as negative. It’s not a sign of spiritual immaturity or proof that you’re a messed up person. The only thing this meditation, whatever it looks like for you on any given day, proves is that there is something in you that is aware of the perpetual fear mongering of the mind. It’s a powerfully healing and extremely insightful technique of exposing the mind for what it is: a set of beliefs and a collection of thoughts held in place only because of our overwhelming fear to look beyond this whole construct.
Remember the Wizard of Oz? Once Dorothy sees that behind the curtain is not the great and all powerful Wizard of Oz, but just an ordinary guy who learned to perform some clever tricks, she starts to realize that she had been worshipping a ghost. What a great metaphor for our own process of exposing the fake authority of the ego mind. The ego may be the king of clever tricks, and the cleverest trick it has up its sleeve is convincing you that it IS you. But a trick is just that: an illusion. And no illusion can sustain itself indefinitely.
So don’t be afraid to sit in meditation, friends. The purpose of meditation is not to check out of reality and magically slip into some blissed out state. That may happen, of course, because anything can, but any projected outcome is just the mind’s attempt to control the process. The ego mind will do anything to keep you believing that you have no choice but to be its bitch. And that’s exactly why the ego doesn’t like simple meditations that leave it temporarily unemployed: you finally get a taste of freedom from it because you see that there is a presence in you that is aware of the ego mind and therefore not subservient to it.
This process shows us what it means to be present. It’s not a matter of forcing the “me” to somehow drop all thought and stop being human. The part of me that identifies as that “me” can’t be in the now because it can’t accept what is; it’s not equipped to do that unless what is happening agrees with what it wants (and that never lasts long). But the other part of me that’s aware of the “me” can and always does live in the now and has already accepted what is; it always accepts what is because it doesn’t see itself as separate from what is, which is life. Shifting to a state of presence, or freeing yourself from the mistaken belief that you have to be your mind’s bitch, is as simple as adjusting your focus from the mind to that which is aware of the mind’s activity.
This is the great secret that is not a secret at all: To experience freedom, you don’t have to change yourself or your surroundings or your circumstances. You don’t need to wait for that elusive one day. But you do have to be brave enough to pull open the curtain of the ego mind. Like Dorothy, you will find that the power and greatness you sought were in you all along, and you will be able to take yourself back home and, at the same time, realize that you never left home.
Recently, I invited my yogis to mull over this question: do I have my head screwed on the right way? Our practice focused on the neck and shoulders, which helps a lot of us who keep tension there. But more importantly, the practice was supposed to inspire every one of us to examine where in our lives we slip into the state of delusion and forget that we are here in the earthly classroom to remember what we are in reality, and not to change the people, events and circumstances of this planet.
Most humans have no idea what they are in reality and mistakenly identify themselves with the bodies they occupy and the belief systems they hold. Doesn’t that make most of us delusional? To not have any awareness of the very essence of who we are is to live in complete ignorance and guarantees a life based on fear. And living such a life is the scariest hallucination. But good thing hallucinations aren’t permanent, or real.
When the foundation of a building is shaky, the rest of the structure can’t be solid. In the same way, if we’re not aware of the most vital aspect of ourselves, how can we expect our perspective to reflect reality? We may just be caught in a hallucination.
A hallucination is something that doesn’t exist outside of the mind. In other words, it’s something we conjured up, but believe to be reality. And when most humans are having the same or similar belief system and collectively conjure up “reality,” no wonder we humans are like the blind leading the blind. We say we want change, we want peace of mind, we want a better life for ourselves and our families, but we keep holding on to the same belief systems that took us down the rabbit hole of illusion to begin with.
Little do we know that waking up from our hallucinations would give us everything we ever wanted by showing us what we are. Because once we get a taste of our true nature, we start to see that nothing is ever out of order. Our heads stay screwed on the right way, no matter what happens in our life.
When I’m going through a stressful situation, I often call to mind the image of the old fashioned wheel: as the wheel’s outer rim spins and its spokes rotate, the hub, the center of the wheel, stays still.
The events in our life, including our thoughts and our perception of the world, are like the rim and the spokes, constantly moving and revolving. And that is the nature of life and of the mind, just like the nature of the rim and the spokes is to spin. The nature of the hub, however, is to stay steady and stable, no matter what is moving. There is also a part of us, our own hub, that stays still in the midst of the eternal spinning of the mind and the surefire whirling of life’s events.
Our own hub also happens to be our true nature. Not that the body and ego mind part of us is bad; it’s just that they are not real, since they only seem to exist in this dream of separation we mistake for reality, and as such, the body and the ego, which is its master, simply have no credentials to point us toward any sort of stability. If we are trying to connect with our true, or permanent, nature, which we may describe as our center, then we better not take guidance from our passing form, or else we’ll find ourselves in a constant spin cycle. Unfortunately, that’s the state most humans live in most of the time.
And for that exact reason, you will not find direction or validation in the world if you’re yearning for more stillness in your life. This is not an invitation to become a hermit and meditate all day. There’s no need to hide or avoid anything. Each one of us is having the precise human experience we chose and that very human experience is also the optimal learning tool you — the real you — picked as your curriculum. The direction and guidance we humans are desperately seeking throughout this learning adventure can only be found by turning toward our own self, our hub, the center of our being. And it may seem like a paradox that this center is not a point at all. The hub that never rotates is infinite space, pure formlessness. The true self is actually no self.
From the ego mind’s point of view, this is insanity. Why would I turn to pure formlessness and no self for help?! Ask yourself this: what success rate have you had so far toward abiding in stillness in times of stress, while you followed the direction of the ever-twirling contents of your ego? I’ll share with you my success rate: it’s zero.
Turning to the ego for stillness is like asking the rim or the spokes of a wheel to stay still, while at the same time, expecting the wheel to do its job. We’ve simply made an innocent mistake, and have been repeating that same mistake for eons, by confusing what part of us is meant to do what. The ego mind will spin itself into exhaustion if you let it, and will still not lead you to peace. All you have to do is go to the already and ever-so still part of yourself when you find yourself in need of calm.
Remember that the hub is also the part of the wheel without which all the other parts would be useless. It seems foolish, then, to keep turning to the rim or the spokes of our being for validation of our true nature and direction in life. Your own hub is just patiently waiting for you to acknowledge that the goldmine you seek, you already have within you.
I see only the past. (A Course in Miracles, Lesson 7)
How many of our present moments do we actually spend in the present? Most of our now moments are colored by our memories of the past. We’re seeing what is not here because the past is not here. When we mentally wander off into the future, all we are doing is project our past experiences into the future. Again, we’re seeing what is not here because the future is not here. We’ve created a double illusion: we use something that is not real (the past) to create something else that is equally unreal (the future). Where is the present moment in this whole mental maze of illusions?
I see only the past because everything I see now, I am seeing through the filter of the past. From Lesson 7:
Look at a cup, for example. Do you see a cup, or are you merely reviewing your past experiences of picking up a cup, being thirsty, drinking from a cup, feeling the rim of a cup against your lips, having breakfast and so on? Are not your aesthetic reactions to the cup, too, based on past experiences? How else would you know whether or not this kind of cup will break if you drop it? What do you know about this cup except what you learned in the past? You would have no idea what this cup is, except for your past learning. Do you, then, really see it? (W-7)
Let’s say you see someone today you have not seen in 10 years. Your picture of that person will be based on what you know about him from 10 years ago. But is this who he is now? How do you know who he is today if you see him through your filter?
Now let’s say you see a stranger, someone you’ve never met before and know nothing about. But she looks just like this other person you know! Your evaluation, you picture, of this new friend will be colored by your experience with the woman she reminds you of.
How many times have you judged someone wrongly by assuming he was just like an old friend of yours because he looked like your friend, was related to him, or was from the same country your friend comes from? What is your current evaluation of people who have hurt you in the past, or those whom you remember as being kind in the past?
Every encounter we have with someone else is colored by our own judgment, by our own evaluation, of that person. This is why we only see the past, and do not see our friends as they really are. The instant I see someone, whether I know him or not, I color him in with my own opinions, beliefs and judgments. How can I see him as he truly is when I do that? I can’t.
We always evaluate people based on how they were at some point in the past, and not how they are now. The ego’s favorite thing to say is: “Of course they are the same way now as they were back in high school because people don’t change. I don’t trust anyone.” Or, another one of ego’s favorites is: “I don’t care if she’s saving a million babies from starving every day. What she did to me way back then was horrible!”
‘Now’ has no meaning to the ego. The present merely reminds it of past hurts, and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. The ego cannot tolerate release from the past, and although the past is over, the ego tries to preserve its image by responding as if it were present. It dictates your reactions to those you meet in the present from a past reference point, obscuring their present reality. In effect, if you follow the ego’s dictates you will react to your brother as though he were someone else, and this will surely prevent you from recognizing him as he is. And you will receive messages from him out of your own past because, by making it real in the present, you are forbidding yourself to let it go. You thus deny yourself the message of release that every brother offers you now. (T-13.IV)
Everyone you meet offers you an opportunity to release yourself from the past by seeing the other person as he is now, and not how he was then. Your release of him is your release of yourself.
When we hold onto the past, we choose to do so. It’s not an automatic or natural response, but a conscious choice. It is, however, a conscious choice of the ego, which is not the real you. But as long as you identify with the ego, you will think that the ego is you, and you will keep listening to its insane reasoning.
Does holding onto past grievances make you feel liberated and at peace? No? Then why do you do it? We justify holding grudges by this insane idea that we deserve justice and that this person needs to pay for what he did. But what he did is not real now because whatever he did, he did in the past, which is not here anymore. You are bringing this hurt into the present and therefore making it real for you now. The only question you need to ask yourself is this: Does bringing the past into the present bring me peace?
The ego has a strange notion of time, and it is with this notion that your questioning might well begin. The ego invests heavily in the past, and in the end believes that the past is the only aspect of time that is meaningful. Remember that its emphasis on guilt enables it to ensure its continuity by making the future like the past, and thus avoiding the present. By the notion of paying for the past in the future, the past becomes the determiner of the future, making them continuous without an intervening present. For the ego regards the present only as a brief transition to the future, in which it brings the past to the future by interpreting the present in past terms. (T-13.IV)
We mentally live in the past, while, in reality, we can only live in the present. By using the present to stuff it with past experiences and future anxieties (and all anxieties are projections of the past into the future), we obliterate the present and are ultimately residing nowhere, since now is the only time there is. Why do we wonder, then, why the future turns out to be just like the past? We made that choice by bringing the skeletons of the past into the future. The ego will say that history repeats itself. Of course it does, because we allow the ego to bring history into the future.
The shadowy figures from the past are precisely what you must escape. They are not real, and have no hold over you unless you bring them with you. They carry the spots of pain in your mind, directing you to attack in the present in retaliation for a past that is no more. And this decision is one of future pain. Unless you learn that past pain is an illusion, you are choosing a future of illusions and losing the many opportunities you could find for release in the present. The ego would preserve your nightmares, and prevent you from awakening and understanding they are past. Would you recognize a holy encounter if you are merely perceiving it as a meeting with your own past? For you would be meeting no one, and the sharing of salvation, which makes the encounter holy, would be excluded from your sight. The Holy Spirit teaches that you always meet yourself, and the encounter is holy because you are. The ego teaches that you always encounter your past, and because your dreams were not holy, the future cannot be, and the present is without meaning. (T-13.IV)
Love is ever present because love is the only reality. But by seeing the present through the filter of the past, we can’t see love because our filter obscures it. Since all of our judgments are based on the past, we can release all judgments by being in the now. By holding a grievance, we bring the past into the present and ensure that the future will be like the past. But the past is not even real, so we’re making ourselves a future that is based on illusion. Who can find peace in an existence based on illusion?
Heaven, therefore, is a letting go of the past entirely. Once we let go of the past, we let go of all judgments and grievances, since they are always tied to the past. The past is the barrier to the love’s presence, which is our natural inheritance, as the Course says. The past is an illusion, and is therefore nothing. It is only a perceived barrier. There is actually nothing that keeps us from experiencing Heaven, or our true nature, right now.
The now moment is the closest we can get to eternity while we are still believing in time. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but no time. Eternity is a state beyond time. Time is a device of the ego, set in place to keep us tied to the past, ensuring that history will repeat itself. Remember that the ego is not your friend, but a parasitic fear thought that can only survive if you believe in it. The ego can only live in the past or in the anticipated future (which is an extension of the past) because the ego, being not real itself, can only reside in time that is not real. The Holy Spirit, which is your true self, teaches you to be in the present moment because the now moment is the closest you can get to eternity, which is your true home. The Holy Spirit uses time to reinterpret it, showing you that time is not a linear phenomenon, existing independently of you, but simply a teaching device. Once we have removed the barrier to truth (and the barrier is the past), time, like any learning device, will become unnecessary.
If you accept your function in the world of time as one of healing, you will emphasize only the aspect of time in which healing can occur. Healing cannot be accomplished in the past. It must be accomplished in the present to release the future. This interpretation ties the future to the present, and extends the present rather than the past. But if you interpret your function as destruction, you will lose sight of the present and hold on to the past to ensure a destructive future. And time will be as you interpret it, for of itself it is nothing. (T-13.IV)