Saturday, March 31, 2007

Two Cool Links

I know I'm not always big on links and such, but I ran into these two
and loved them both:

The first is funny, but exceptionally true. For those of you who are
apparently in my age bracket (or thereabouts) you remember when the
"News" meant something. I confess that I first saw this link on
Leno, who played this cartoon from JibJab, the makers of such comic
satirical hits as "This Land". It's called, "What We Call The News"
and the link is

http://www.jibjab.com/what_we_call_the_news

It is a hysterical yet sadly true commentary on what we call
important news. Anyway, just something to enjoy!


The second video is at the website:

http://www.becomingme.com/

and
is itself called Becoming Me, based on the children's book of the
same name. It is a brief description of the author's idea of how all
"This" came to be manifested, but reflects what most philosophies
(and mystics) consider to be a 'True' understanding. But in any
case, it's very sweet and touching.

Both of these videos can be downloaded. The jibjab ones, you need to
join, but they are free. The Becoming Me video costs a couple of dollars.


Enjoy the Lila!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Some Highly Recommended Books

Two books have come across my desk (which is really the table next to my couch), but that I would like to recommend:

The first is Byron Katie's new book, A Thousand Names for Joy. Using her husband, Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching, Katie takes just a line or two from each of the 81 verses and then expresses her own recognition. Although she makes reference to her process, "The Work" and gives instructions in the back, this is primarily simply the beautiful expression of Pure Presence.

The Second is Dennis Waite's new book, Back to the Truth: 5000 years of Advaita. If you are interested in a deep and rich understanding of classical Advaita (non-duality) this book is bound to become the classic. (And not just because he quoted us numerous times.) He differentiates the various paths of Advaita from it's Upanisadic origins up to the present day; extensively and clearly expresses the various aspects of Advaita; and backs it up with extensive quotes from ancient and present day sources, teachers, scriptures, etc. Though it is intelligent and scholarly, it is not so academic as to be beyond anyone's grasp.

In order to facilitate the review or purchase of these and other books I've loved over the years, I've created a "bookstore" at Amazon. I will probably refine it later, and if you have any highly recommended books you think are MUSTS, let me know. Anyway, the link is:


http://astore.amazon.com/atmainst-20

Make it a link on your favorites page.

Shanti,
Aja

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Deeper Look at Inquiry

For years I have spoken on, and written, about Self Inquiry, but I'd like
to make a clearer distinction.

There are two basic facets of Self Inquiry: 1. The direct recognition of
Self, and 2. The letting go, or deconstructing of that which is NOT the
Self, specifically, the beliefs.

1. The direct recognition can best be described through the teachings of
Ramana (the inquiry "Who am I?) or Nisargadatta's abiding as 'I Am'. The
consistent and continuous practice of these methods, point us directly at
that which precedes our thoughts and beliefs. It is the discrimination
between what is sat and asat, or real and unreal, or permanent and
impermanent. The focus of attention is not on the objects of awareness, but
on the recognition that You ARE the awareness itself, without bounds or
constrictions - formless. Generally, in going through this process, we
'drop' into this recognition, realize our freedom, and for moments, hours,
or even days, there is just what IS.

However, what occurs is that the mind, ever present, pops up in the form of
beliefs, and our attention is pulled away from the Now and into some past
or future idea. This is where the second aspect of Self Inquiry comes in..

2. What we are NOT. This second aspect can also be done on it's own or in
conjunction, so to speak, with the resting as what IS. This part can best
be described as Jed McKenna's Spiritual Autolysis, or Byron Katie's 'The
Work'. It consists of systematically deconstructing our beliefs. It works
best by actually looking at, and writing down, what you consider to be
true, and then questioning whether, in fact, it is true. In the case of
Byron Katie's work, she asks 4 questions: Is it true? Do I absolutely know
it to be true? How do I feel when I believe this thought? And, Who would I
be without this thought? The answer to this leads to the same answer as
the direct inquiry - i.e. perfect freedom and total abidance as what is.

We are defined by our beliefs. We suffer due to believing our thoughts are
true. They are just thoughts, they arise, but they are NOT who we are.
Every time we believe a thought, we are bound by that thought. The inquiry
and resting as Who we are instantly takes us into the pure recognition of
Now, however, the systematic and complete destruction of our belief habits
will make that transition smoother and quicker.

Unfortunately, for most people, since they define themselves by their
beliefs, deconstructing those beliefs, is equivalent to dying. That's
exactly right. So, one has to decide - do you want to know (be) Truth, or
to continue to suffer by believing those thoughts?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Who Says So

Conditioning - subtle and pervasive. We can call it belief or ideas, mental
constructs, habits, it really doesn't matter. The point is that it appears
to be there, points upon which we fixate. We believe we ARE or we are NOT
enlightened. We believe that there can only be one or ten or fifty
enlightened people on the planet at any given time. We believe that
everyone is already enlightened. It doesn't really matter what the
fixation, whether it is a 'good' one or a 'bad' one - in some way it is
still holding us to an angle of vision, a perspective.

The question is, "Who the hell said it had to be this way or that way???"
People are constantly quoting someone or some scripture to me to prove
their point, as if I give a damn! Sure, I love quotes as much or more than
the next person. I collect them like stamps or coins, but I also recognize
that they give a flavor, they point a direction. I never take them as
unalterable Truths. "It takes three million lifetimes to become
enlightened." It's not even about believing you're enlightened right now.
It's about seeing what you are holding onto. That's all. Choose to let it
go or choose to live with it. It doesn't matter. But don't let it define
you, bind you, constrict you.

Now, look and see how you react to what I am saying. Do you agree? Do you
disagree? Doesn't matter one way or the other, does it? You simply hold it
in your own mind as 'true' or not. Yes, it leaves you dangling, without a
particular idea to hold onto, but that's sort of the point now isn't it?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Phacinating Phenomenon

"The mind & body happen to you because you find them interesting." -
Nisargadatta Maharaja

I saw this quote and loved it. It doesn't matter how you find it
interesting - it's just that it is more interesting than the alternative:
the emptiness. So when it comes to the body, and particularly, when it
comes to the mind, it doesn't matter if we hate it, or love it, or love to
hate it, or hate to love it, or, well, you catch the drift, it's downright
interesting. We'll look at every aspect of it. We will analyze it until
we're blue in the face. But let it go? Ignore it? Inquire what precedes it?
These are not our first choice.

I once heard an interview on the radio with Fred Rogers...you remember him,
Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. In this interview, he was pointing out how
powerful silence is, and how we have an aversion to it. He then proceeded
to stop talking for only about 10 seconds, but it was the longest 10
seconds I had ever heard (or not heard) on the radio. He had successfully
made his point. Similarly, we may put an emphasis on talking. Or, we might
put an emphasis on silence. In either case, we are focusing on the
phenomenon because it is interesting. It's loud, it's quiet, it's good,
it's bad. It's just 'stuff' happening. It's stuff that is changing. What is
it that never changes? What is it that is always Present and witnessing
that body, that noisy mind, or even that silent mind?
This is where that inquiry comes in. Question, not the mind, but where is
this mind? To whom or what is it arising? Like a vast empty space, the
body, the mind, the world are all arising within You! You are that Great
Presence, the Empty Awareness within which all of it arises. Notice that...
Become That... Rest as That!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Freedom's Just Another Name for Nothing Left to Lose

The title above really says it all, but it recently popped into my head,
and I rememer singing this song (Me and My Bobby McGee) and that wonderful
line - "Freedom's just another name for nothing left to lose." These days,
however, most people think of freedom as nothing more to gain - in other
words, that freedom comes through getting more and not losing everything.
Freedom (Enlightenment) comes not by gaining, but by losing everything that
is personal, or rather the personal identification with it.
There's a wonderful story in Yoga Vasistha where a king goes to the forest
to renounce everything. He becomes more and more austere, giving up his
hut, his clothes, eating less and less (all the suggestion of his teacher)
who keeps saying "Renounce more, renounce more". Finally he can think of
nothing else to renounce. The teacher says to him, "You have failed to
renounce the one thing that really needs to be renounced - your mind."
You see, it is the mind which is the obstacle. When you have renounced your
attachment and identification to the mind's collection of beliefs, you have
lost all that obscures What IS. You have lost the shackles...you have
nothing more to lose. Lose the beliefs, and you have nothing more to lose.
And then, 'Living life is easy!'

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Beyond Thoughts

How long can you rest as 'I Am'?
Perhaps you'd like to take a moment to try it now...simply resting as that
sense of I-Am-ness. Go ahead...I'll wait...........

Well? How did you do? Judgments perhaps? There are always two things
happening: 1. Is the actual thing happening, and 2. Is the story about
what's happening. The problem is that we normally focus on the story about
what is happening. This even includes our thoughts. So, for instance, in
the exercise above, you may have had thoughts, and then you proceeded to
have numerous thoughts ABOUT those thoughts. So, like anything, there are
two things happening...in this case, the first is that there are thoughts
that are happening, and then we proceed to feed those thoughts by having
thoughts ABOUT the thoughts.
These initial thoughts are generally harmless. They simply arise, like the
sun. But because we impart supreme importance to our thoughts, we then
judge them, or believe them, or chase after them, or rationalize them, or
... You get the picture. So, when those intial thoughts arise, simply
recognize their arising from and as the space of Presence.
This is always the case....something happens...every moment, things
happening. But then, we have a story about it. Why? Generally what happens
creates no suffering. However, our story about what is happening generally
has the potential to create great suffering. The sun came up. "Oh my GOD!
Why did the sun come up this morning?" When you have a belief or an
expectation about what happens moment by moment, there tends to be
suffering. When there is no expectation, simply allowance, surrender,
openness, embracing...no suffering.
A thought arises...no expectation...no suffering. Just remain as the ever
present Now-ness.

"There is something beyond our mind which abides in silence within our
mind. It is the supreme mystery beyond thought. Let one's mind and one's
subtle body rest upon that and not rest on anything else."
Maitri Upanishad