Thursday, May 7, 2015

One Simple Question to Wake Up

This is from an email exchange with a seeker.  Note that Answers can only ever be met by more Inquiry....

Inquiry:  Pull this sentence apart:  "I am"
What is the "I" in that sentence. Don't think about it. Point to it right now. Then stop. Point to it again. Then stop. Point to it again. Then stop.

Seeker:  "I" is this body sitting here. The head, the body, the arms, the legs, the eyes... That's "I".

Inquiry:  If that sentence is true, why do you say, "my body"? What is the My in My Body? Point to it.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

5 Lessons from the Road to No Self

And they said the path was pathless?  Here are those I'd consider the top five of the thousands of self (less) lessons learned from this three year "trip". 

Number 1.  Yes, Virginia, there is no self.

There.  I said it.  Lots of folks have the idea that it's wrong to say "There's no you!", but I disagree.  It's not wrong.  It's exactly right, depending.  I've noticed that it's always people who have already seen through the separate self who tend to denounce that phrase.  I'd ask them to just remember, there are those who have not traversed the same path and may need to read or hear something which shakes up the paradigm.  Remember the Bahiya Sutta?  It's brilliant.  Why?  It's the same as saying, "There's No You!".   Just read it:

There is thinking, no thinker
There is hearing, no hearer
There is seeing, no seer

In thinking, just thoughts

In hearing, just sounds
In seeing, just forms, shapes and colors.

Paradigm-shaking?  It's what opened my eyes to a new way of seeing.  Had it not been framed in such a startling way, I may have missed... well... Everything.

Number 2.  But also, Virginia, there IS a self

It's just that it's not what I was taught.  The self is literally what "I" think it is, but that's all that it is.  It has or owns no history, no future.  It can't.  Impossible.  But thoughts make it seem so, moment by moment.  The sense of a me feels like a me and will continue to feel like a me.  But it's just feeling without a me feeling.

Buses and trains will still hurt.  So do my toes when hitting up against coffee tables.

Number 3.  If you're trying to make the self disappear, it won't.

Looking for a state of persistent No Self (complete with capital letters) isn't going to work because it's the very supposed self that's looking for it.  Moments of nondual seeing come through grace.  Yes, grace may be preceded by practice or inquiry, but just when there's no me looking... BAM.  And, well, that's the only way this can happen, isn't it.  Grace.

Number 4.  Big Self is not the same as No(t) self

The reason why looking for the core self and clearly seeing that it is not found is important is because the sense of self is an unimaginably persistent thought.  It colors everything, including awakening.  So you can bet that it's really easy to jump right into Big Self because it just feels so good.  It's heady.  But what about that small self?  It's a good idea to see whether it's been seen through completely, or just merged into a Big Self.  How will I know the difference?  Well, if I feel big, wide, or enlarged somehow... it's still a me feeling it.  If there is just everything.... limitless everything without a me in the mental picture, then we're really onto something.

Number 5.  There is just one Enlightenment SuperPower

Once seeing the ego's bag of tricks, the only superpower I found is that I can understand human emotions and dynamics in ways I'd never dreamed.  Without a separate me, it's much easier to see the trajectory of human interactions on scales both large and small.  The same dynamic happening on facebook posts is the one that goes to war.  Both could be diffused if everyone saw this.

Seeing and anticipating the trajectory means that sometimes I can appear to be wise. Don't be fooled.  It's not wisdom, it's just understanding.

I can see how anger is pain, how arrogance is pain, how judging others is pain, and how terrorism is pain.  I see what it is that is in pain, and how the only response left after seeing through all of this, is compassion.  It doesn't even have to be cultivated because it's a natural result.  Compassion has the effect of diffusing wars big and small, conflict, envy, jealousy, ill will, and a host of negative emotions.   And that, for all intents and purposes, is one hell of a superpower.  Too bad there's really no one to have or own it.

Friday, April 3, 2015

All I Needed Was a Lill Inspiration

I'm actually pretty tired of being direct and pointy all the time. 

While this blog is full of advice on how you should go about your inquiry, I'd begun to think that maybe the best way to do this was to walk the walk in order to DEMONSTRATE what I've been going on about here in these posts.  Because after a few years of guiding, I noticed that it was still a real challenge to communicate exactly what inquiry should look like

The answer to this million dollar question was often left unresolved and lots of folks remained frustrated.   

It's the question I continue to get on a regular basis...

"What do you mean by JUST LOOK?!" 

And just when I'd begun to wonder whether I'd ever really be able to answer this in a blog, along comes Ingrid Lill with a wonderful series of inspirational nondual doodles. You can find them all on her facebook page, Ingen Findes but I've got to warn you, they're deceptively powerful little pointers delivered in a new and fresh medium.  Why I love this new doodle idea is because like a lot of people who have done "looking" for a while, it seems that reading books can really help structure linear inquiry.  But for those of us who are visually oriented, pictures are where the juice is. 

Truthfully, I don't know a lot of people who don't respond to visuals, and so Ingrid's doodles hit home in ways words just can't.  As soon as I saw them, I wanted to play with the ideas.  Soon, I realized that unlike reading articles or books, they were perfect for more focused inquiry as I was free to move into them as deeply as I wanted to without being distracted by the next sentence or paragraph.  And they were fun!

Along comes an idea!

The idea went like this:  Why don't I just collaborate with Ingrid?  I could write out the inquiries inspired by each doodle and post them in a new blog.  At the end of the post I could add some pointers or questions they've also inspired.  In that way, the blog reader can play along by using the visuals, reading the text, or just plain doing their own thing with either the structured stuff I'd place at the end, or do it freestyle as inpired by Lill.

Seemed rather like a good idea to me.  So yeah.  Hope you enjoy the new blog.

You'll find it here.  It's a joint venture called,  With a Lill Inspiration.

Fitting, no?

Now Go Forth and Look!

photo credit:  Dark Lil Angel on DeviantArt

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Doubt Nothing About Your Awakening

A question on my last post has led to this one. Specifically, the comment asked whether I was questioning my own awakening.  In reading again, I could see the confusion. Apparently, I hadn't been clear in communicating that it was someone else's awakening I'd been in some doubt over.

The comment misses the same point I did, however, and I wondered why this individual wanted to understand whether I had begun to question my own experience.  Was it possible that they were in the midst of their own lapse in confidence and wanted to compare notes?  Could it be that they only wanted to read a blog written by someone they believed to have "fully awakened" and if I didn't fit that model, they'd need to move on?  This is not an uncommon belief or desire. No one wants to be led astray by some half-baked and self important writer full of her own opinions and theories.

But is it necessary to only read or talk with someone you believe to be "the real deal"... a fully awakened teacher?  Do you need to wait until you've found a place of no doubt whatsoever?


The first reason is because there's no way to tell what "fully awakened" actually looks like because we're all operating, as soon as we take any action, from the perspective of a self.  There may be degrees of our operating from ego, but no matter what the degree, it's an act, a character. And awakening also looks like operating from a character.

The second reason is that awakening also looks like doubt.  There's no one way it appears because it is everything.  Nothing is separate or apart, and so fear, doubt, ego... it's all the same.  Doubt is free to be there and doesn't mean that any previous experience or insight should be dismissed or diminished.

This is really good news.  It means that anyone, anywhere, and at any time, is free to be your teacher, but they can only do it through, or along with, you.  When reading, listening, or watching any pointer, just look for the resonance in the moment.  There's no need to find someone to model, admire, or follow, because the world itself is a teacher but there is no teaching until you allow it to be so. The ultimate judge doesn't lie outside of you.

In other words, it's All teaching, All the time.  You're teaching yourself.

photo credit:  The World in Her Hand by Incredi on DeviantArt

Friday, February 27, 2015

How to do better than Just Fine

A brave client recently came to the forum.  This individual introduced himself by writing that he'd already seen through the illusion of self , then very carefully described the process of how it happened as well as the ways in which his day to day perspective had changed since this significant shift had occurred.

What I immediately noticed was that he did not describe his experiences using the same language or well-worn phrases I would have, and yet what he wrote resonated very strongly.  The words he used surrounding this description of waking up was so different from my own, though, that I found myself waffling back and forth between resonance and doubt, and sometimes wondering whether his experience was the "IT" everyone talked so much about.

Thankfully, I caught that mistake.

What's important.. no...  What's KEY is to trust your own awakening and no one else's.  If what has happened "to you" brings an undeniable peace and new understanding of life, or allows for a more holistic view of the world, stop doubting it, at least for a while.  Is there further to go?  Maybe.  But then again, fully and enthusiastically entertain the possibility that there is not.  The difference between your awakening and everyone else's... including that teacher you marvel at... may just be a matter of language.


Stop doubting.  Stop looking and comparing.

Just stop.

You are more than just fine. 

photo credit:  A Handful of Doubts by oo-Rein-oo on deviantart

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Key to the Got It/Lost It Problem....

On the "got it/lost it" phenomenon, something I'd written in response to a comment on the subject:

This is common but what I've found is that it signals that a step back needs to be taken. There is often an assumption going on which says that there is a you who doesn't have a you, but who now still feels all of the anxiety and suffering.

But the separate self is utterly absent except within thought. If you take a moment to inquire into that, you will see that there is no self who is experiencing anxiety, and no self who experiences no self. Can thought experience thought? Can thought experience anything? 
The sense of self is projected, but onto what?Does the ego actually have power to do anything?

Examining these questions is what I call "stepping back". No one steps back, but it's seen that these things, too, happen to no separate individual. They are then free to happen, just as they are. 

Just some opinions. Hope that comment is useful in some way.

photo credit:  Lost_and_cold_by faintsmile28 on deviantart

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Spirituality Forums: A fresh take from LM Cargill...

If you've signed up for any of the numerous FB groups on spirituality, you've probably noticed the endless bickering. I was just about to dump FB and clear away when I heard from an old friend.

We talked briefly about the state of communities, and he proposed to write a piece on it. There's been something missing in the spiritual community, and maybe we need to address it.

Without further ado, here's Cargill.  .............

Facebook is a Hot Mess of Spirituality

I'm sick of Facebook. I'm sick of forums.

And I bet you are too.

If you've been in Spiritual Facebook land at all, you'll know that there are a ton of groups devoted to no-self, advaita, nonduality, enlightenment, awakening, etc. etc. etc.

You'll typically find two types of conversations.

a) insert quotation or spiritual belief -> everyone agrees and says it's beautifully said


b) "I disagree with" insert quotation or spiritual belief -> everyone takes a position and starts throwing arguments

But either way, neither of these conversation threads are helpful. It's about agreement, or disagreement, but it's not a mutual pursuit of truth or betterment.  You're not looking to better yourself, they're not looking to better themselves, it turns into a flamewar.

And regardless of whether or not you've seen no self, egos get flared up.

These conversations are not conducive to anyone. They're a distraction from real searching. And if you haven't crossed the gate, they're not doing you any good.

The other option, is where things just get monotonous and robotic. It becomes procedural. 

Which ends up looking something like this:

a: I'd like a guide to see no self
b: I'll help you see it. here are some questions.
a: I believe the self is __x__
b: it's not because __y__. look.
(repeat as long as necessary)
a: I get it now! Thanks!
b: Congratulations. Will you stick around to help show it to others?

It's transactional. You're unliberated, you get liberated, and then you're supposed to help liberate others.

The problem runs deep, and it's structural. This sort essay examines how we can make these groups better.

##Why try to fix this steaming hot mess?

It's all in the game, right? Everything's perfect as it is, so just leave it alone.

Not quite.

Because you know, there are people that want to be liberated, folks that are genuinely trudging along in their quest for awakening. And they want help, and need help.

Is this the best we can do for them?

People want enlightenment. They just don't know how to ask for it and how to get it. It's our job to make it as easy as possible.

Put yourself in their shoes. Try to remember from before you woke up, and how hard you searched.

Imagine running into facebook groups or forums where it's all about which belief system you subscribe to, or which guru you study under. Where the conversation always devolves to petty bickering, conflicting ideas, or pulpit soapboxing. Where the mods are supposed to be awake, but they're the ones most full of ego.

Imagine that being the impression you get of awakening.

You'll either join in, and continue to perpetrate the error, or you'll run away screaming.

"Fuck those advaita people, they're assholes. The mystical ki power/ energy healing people are much nicer. They teach that everything is love, and practice compassion, kindness, etc. etc."

And they'll have every right to ignore you based on how you act.

As someone interested in genuinely helping others wake up, it's your responsibility to communicate in a way that is receivable by the other person. It's their responsibility to look, but it's your job to make it as easy as possible.

That's why this is important.

How can we fix the community?

The most common approach to fixing the issue, is to set up rules.

Often times, you'll see rules like:

  • no using abusive language
  • no comments that are constantly disruptive or off topic
  • no spam
  • no trolling
  • no advertising or selling

And these do work to prevent the most common abuses. These are good ground rules. I think everyone community should at the very least, have these rules.

Rules don't address the root cause

Rules act as a sliding scale.

The less rules you have, the more freedom a community has. But this invites folks who abuse "free speech" and turn the place into a pulpit, bullies, and egos that just want validation for their beliefs And you also get a lot of weird, erroneous thinking, that if left unchecked, WILL take over the group. You'll have a bunch of myths and errors being spread as if they were true.

On the other end of the spectrum, more rules and more moderation makes a place feel dead and empty. It becomes a nepotistic circle jerk where the only ones allowed into the club are those that conform, everyone else is banned. You're all just confirming each other's beliefs and status.

And ultimately it gives a small, elite, moderatorship all of the power. A community ends up becoming a dictatorship.

What was once a community of people who are brought together by a common cause, is now loosely held together by rules and common belief. It's not fun to stay there anymore.

And so guess what? We fractionate ourselves more and more. We break off into new groups, with a slightly modified rule set. And we just keep forming more and more groups that are essentially, cliques.

Like we're back in high school.

Why does it end up like that? Why do they feel like there's a lack of purpose.

The root cause is that the TYPE of communities that have sprung up, are broken. The problem is inherent in how we structure and set them up.

Communitiy of Interest

They don't work, because they're communities of interest. A CoI is a group defined by a few characteristics.

Namely, they are:

* A group of people interested in sharing information and discussing a particular topic that interests them.
* Members are not necessarily experts or practitioners.
* The purpose of the CoI is to provide a place where people who share a common interest can go and **exchange information**, **ask questions**, and **express their opinions** about the topic.
* Membership in a CoI is **not dependent upon expertise** - one only needs to be interested in the subject.

It's a flat heirarchy, which allows information to spread widely. But because information is disseminated, it's tough to wade through what's good information, and what's bad information. And because the two are difficult to distinguish, we humans skip to using the next best heuristic: which argument is most convincing.

Instead of being helpful hubs of information, our communities devolve into debates and arguments, where one group or another is attacked or belittled. And so it turns into a popularity contest. Eventually, Communities of Interest dissolve into a ton of little cliques and niches.

Which is what we see in spirituality.

Surely there's a better model.

Form Communities of PRACTICE

A new type of community has a tough job to do. There are four key areas that it can improve on.

We can improve the onboarding of new members. Not only should it be a welcoming environment, it needs to be an easier learning curve.

We also need to be able to respond to new questions, new types of needs as they come up and as the group evolves. A static community is a dying community. Can we address new questions after someone sees through the illusion of self? We need to be able to do that, or we'll lose members on the back end.

Every single liberator knows the feeling of "I'm saying the same exact thing over and over again." Look. There's no you. Look. It gets FRUSTRATING. And why wouldn't it? You can only repeat yourself so many times. We need to eliminate that.

A better community will be an innovative community. You can only talk about "There's No You" so many times before you're a one trick pony. It's the core of enlightenment, yes. But enlightenment doesn't exist in a vaccuum. Let's use it to address other problems and issues in this world. It's the most powerful insight we have for dealing with cultural narcissism, for example. Let's wield it to create small, meaningful changes. 

In short, a new community needs to:

  • Decrease the learning curve of new members
  • Responds more rapidly to needs and inquiries
  • Reduces rework and preventing "reinvention of the wheel"
  • Spawns new ideas

It allows us to teach faster, respond more quickly to evolving demands, reduces rehashing ourselves, and allows us to evolve new ideas. It's dynamic. It's free-flowing. In other words, it's a living, thriving community.

That's what a community of practice does.

  • A CoP is a group of people who are active practitioners.
  • CoP participation is not appropriate for non-practitioners.
  • The purpose of a CoP is to provide a way for practitioners to share tips and best practices, ask questions of their colleagues, and provide support for each other.
  • Membership is dependent on expertise - one should have at least some recent experience performing in the role.

Seekers of all kinds, be it spiritual enlightenment or truth, would benefit from this type of community. Let's make one.

If you wanted to learn how to take photographs...

And you joined an online community, and you ask "What's the best camera to buy?", you'll quickly be directed towards the search function. It's a common question, and it's been answered again and again and again. And that answer is, "Depends on your situation and what you need."

And if you picked a camera, and you start to take photos with it, you'd have more substantial questions like, "What does ISO, aperture, and shutter speed?" And there would be links to a comprehensive blog post or wiki entry that has a complete answer for you.

As you gain more and more experience and take more and more photos, you'd be able to ask more detailed, in depth questions. "How do I recreate a photo with this style? How do I take a photo with this effect?" And you'd get recommendations based on your equipment and what equipment you'll need, etc. etc.

Detailed answers for detailed questions. A community based on practice and experience. Practical answers, demanded by practical questions.

Instead of being a community to share opinions and ideas, it's a community to share expertise, tips, and best practices.

That's the kind of community we want to emulate.

A Community of Practicing Awakening

The spiritual community is a hot mess. Every thread devolves into debates and arguments, where posts or people are attacked. It's all posturing and pontification. And that's because it's a community of interest.

We need rules, but rules are not the answer to this structural problem. We have to build communities of practice. If we want better communities, we have to nurture our communities with practice and experience, instead of argumentation over conflicting ideologies.

A community of practice is built by practicioners, in order to share tips, tricks, and best practices, ask questions from colleagues, and provide support for each other. We can do that with our spiritual community.


What do you think? If you like this post, reply and tell us how you think we can make the community better! We want to hear from you.

You can follow Cargill on facebook , where you can find out more about his upcoming step-by-step guide on awakening. 

photo credit:  colour me hot by bigheaddude2000 on deviantart