Category Archives: Jerry Katz, writings

“If nonduality is so wonderful, why do I still feel pain?”

How is nonduality going to help you if you are tied down and being tortured?

That was asked by someone who has read scores of nonduality books.

The question is another stressful thought. If you don’t understand what stressful thought is, then what good were all the books you read about nonduality?

Read the article about pain and nonduality books.

Notes on a Talk by Ani Pema Chodron

I saw Pema Chodron speak the other night. It was a fund raising event for Gampo Abbey. Here are notes I took.

The following description is from www.pemachodronfoundation.org/gampo-abbey/

“Gampo Abbey is a Western Buddhist Monastery in the Shambhala Tradition, Nova Scotia, Canada. Founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1984, it is an affiliate of the Vajradhatu Buddhist Church of Canada and Shambhala International. Under the spiritual direction of the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the spiritual head of Shambhala International, Gampo Abbey is guided by our abbot the Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and our principal teacher Acharya Pema Chödrön.”

Cultivating wakefulness, fearlessness and gentleness: Monasticism in the 21st century: a public talk with Ani Pema Chödrön given in Halifax, Nova Scotia, May 1, 2009.

Notes on the talk, by Jerry Katz

Video Slideshow

Before Pema Chodron came onto the stage there was a ten minute slideshow narrated by her. It may be watched here:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID5GSnmCNOA

Here are quotations from the slideshow:

“One could ask, ‘Why would someone choose to live at Gampo Abbey?’ It is a popular notion that people choose to live in a monastery to escape or hide from the world. In reality, the intensity and simplicity of Abbey life demand that we become more intimately involved with life, a life not driven by personal concerns and habitual patterns. The intensity of community life lived passionately and courageously in accordance with the precepts, demands that we wake up. At first, life at the Abbey seems rather idyllic, but when you make the commitment to stay for six months or when you decide that this is your life’s journey, then all those places within yourself that you don’t want to surrender become highlighted. One might want to relate to those areas in a habitual way and complain about a lot of things, but it is like complaining in a house of mirrors.”

“All who live at the Abbey live by the five Buddhist precepts: Refraining from taking life, refraining from stealing, refraining from sexual activity, refraining from lying, and refraining from intoxicants, and in general using all that arises in our lives as the path of awakening.”

“In the words of one of the nuns, ‘Abbey life has a certain simplicity and unclutteredness that makes one’s personal resistance all the more apparent and therefore all the more workable.'”

“If you become a monk or a nun you put the desire to wake up at the center of your mandala. Everything else, whatever it may be, stands in relation to that and becomes a vehicle for opening up further. Thus monastic life is actually an opportunity to make full use of your precious human birth… .”

Pema Chodron’s Introduction

We were instructed to stand up when a gong rang, and in such a way we greeted Pema Chodron as she took the stage. We all stood.

The introducer said suffering is clinging to self. Cessation is possible with insight into who and what we are. Ignorance of these truths is avoidance of liberation. He said the purpose of Buddhism is to face the questions, What causes suffering? and What causes freedom? He said Pema Chodron is a great teacher of the truths of Buddhism, known for her humility, and that he was in awe of her, upon which she gave a funny smile which got people laughing.

Pema Chodron’s talk

Listen to the teaching with the intention that you’ll hear something that will benefit you in benefitting others.

[I have not included much that was repetition of the quotations above taken from the slideshow of Gampo Abbey.]

Aspirants at the monastery are to create a mini enlightened society. Life there is like a container with reminders of sanity. If we can’t create enlightened society here at the monastery, how can we judge governments and other groups that go astray? The kick in the butt aspirants give each other is based on that demand.

There is a program for young people at the monastery which sets “a beautiful tone” for their lives.

Wakefulness: commitment to yourself to connect with your Buddha nature. Buddha nature is being awake. Opening your mind and heart to everything you encounter, even that which is unpleasant and stressful, and not faking that opening up. Be open to the experience without the story line coming into play. Opening your mind means you don’t close your mind. Keep your mind and heart open to the beauty and pain of the day. Wakefulness is learning what it means to keep open. You discover the potential for openness and bravery, and you also discover how entrapment works. Practice involves being as present as possible with rawness and harshness and letting it be without feeding it a story line.

Entrapment starts with the arising of a feeling, then a habitual pattern starts and that’s when you’ve bitten the hook and you become more entrapped.

We can choose wakefulness or habit. Wakefulness is not about rejecting one part of experience and accepting another. It is about staying present with rawness longer than before.

Try to stay present. She told the story (originally told by Tara Brach in one of her books) of a tiger in a small cage. It took many years to get funding to build a large space for the tiger’s housing. When the large space was completed, the tiger was released into it, however it would confine it’s place to the same dimensions as the small cage. We, too, are constricted by habit when around us is vast space and capacity. Due to our hurts we remain confined and fearful to move. Eventually the tiger did explore it’s new surroundings.

The movie the Truman Show is similar in that it shows how we can walk beyond the boundaries of our habitual patterns.

Commit to becoming intimate to your wakeful nature.

As you leave Halifax and go north toward the monastery, everything gets more spread, vast, and in that way, like the vast space given to the tiger, wakefulness is encouraged.

Connect with the vastness of heart and mind. It is always accessible.

Fearlessness: Open to fear itself. Stay with anger and fear and find the tenderness of sadness. You don’t that by discarding fear. Fear is the gateway to fearlessness. Stay open to all strong emotions and find the tenderness. It hurts. You need role models and encouragement. “Turn towards that which hurts.” It is not a matter of wallowing in misery. It gives birth to love, smiles, listening, tenderness, and the realization that everyone has this capacity. “What you do that bothers me is what I do that bothers you.” Train to keep yourself open even a minute longer than before.

Gentleness: Place the fearful mind in the cradle of loving kindness. She spoke of the monastery again. The material you work with is what comes up every day. At the monastery, everyone is working to promote and cultivate sanity. They’re always developing deep training for everyone. It is an ongoing process and doesn’t stop.

On wearing Buddhist robes: The robes make you feel self-conscious. You have to be genuine. You have to live up to the robes through wakefulness, fearlessness, and gentleness. “It is a powerful and wonderful path.”

This is a pep talk for people with a gap in their life, of all ages.

Questions and Answers

A question by someone in the audience had to do with having confidence in the permanent. Pema Chodron said the permanent is not some thing. It is the capacity to be awake. Think of it as awakening or as something you know. For example, you get mad and then you calm down. The calming down is the wakefulness. When you wake up from a habitual pattern, there it is. It’s like the sky. It’s not yours. What’s yours is the bubble, the pacing of the tiger in the confined area, the strategies of living. All that is illusion and a gateway to discovery of wakefulness.

A question was asked about doing service in a disadvantage part of the world versus meditating at the monastery. The questioner thought it would be more valuable to do service in the world helping people. The response from Pema Chodron was that if you work on wakefulness, fearlessness, and gentleness, it will help you help others. You can stay right here and face the suffering. If you go away to help others and aren’t awake yourself, you won’t be able to benefit the others. She said people would rather travel around the world to face suffering rather than stay at home with their families.

There was a question about receiving criticism at work. Pema Chodron asked what the questioner’s habitual response was to criticism. She said anger, getting upset, gossiping. PC said that for one day do not express anger. In that way you learn to communicate from the heart. This is Buddha nature. You come to see the soft spot in another person’s cruelty.

How do you know when you’re ready for the monastery? You apply and are screened. Apply and see where the process goes. There has to be the right fit.

www.pemachodronfoundation.org/

Notes from Deepak Chopra’s Talk

I went with nondual guys James Traverse and Dustin LindenSmith and a couple other friends to see Deepak Chopra speak in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on April 22, 2009. There were about 1300 people attending.

The following are notes taken by James and me. There is some commentary, which is noted in italics.

Chopra’s main message is to find out the nature of consciousness as “I am.” He uses a variety of fascinating and popular teachings as vehicles to communicate that. As well, he is a polished speaker and very funny and engaging. The two hour talk, without breaks, flew by.

Learn more about Deepak Chopra’s work.

Learn about James Traverse and his work in nonduality .

Notes and Commentary from Deepak Chopra’s talk in Halifax, Nova Scotia, April 22, 2009

by Jerry Katz and James Traverse

Main message:

Finding out the nature of consciousness (or soul) solves our problems in the world. There is only one problem – not knowing one’s true nature.

“Stay grounded in our being right now,” Chopra said. This is the solution.

Chopra Center Halifax

He mentioned that Steven Joyce and Karen Whynot were local contacts for Chopra’s work.

Mind/Body

He said immune cells and thoughts were conscious beings, that the immune system is a circulating nervous system. The mind, then, is the body. Body is in mind, and mind is in soul (or spirit, or consciousness. We’re going to mostly use the term consciousness and also awareness).

Comment: Just as breathing is the intercourse of your respiration and your circulation; your nervous system and your immune system are complementary partners of the same system

Our identity IS consciousness. Body/mind is a projection of consciousness. If I am consciousness, it follows that the mind is in me.

Awareness (Consciousness) is the only thing that has an inside. The body/mind is an expression of awareness – it is aware; awareness is it in this form.

Structures and Processes

All objects, all things in existence are projections of consciousness. As such, they are processes. The body is like a river. “The real you cannot step into the same blood and bones twice.” 98% of our atoms are replaced every year.

Comment: It is extremely important to embrace this truth because then one can be clear that all there is – is function within Awareness.

And like everything else even this clarity is within Awareness and it is awareness in this form as it functions… this shift from the understanding of things as structures to the functioning of processes, and the shift in understanding from me being in the universe to all things being in me as Awareness, is the way of being that ‘works’… which means that it is a way of functioning that is in harmony with the process – the flow.

“Who the heck are you?” Chopra asks

He quotes Shakespeare, that we are made of the stuff of dreams.

Prospero:
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on;
and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
(The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158)

What is our identity?

He refers to Information Technology as a demonstration that nature of the world is not material. IT is based on the electron, the atom, which is mostly space. Only our nervous system gives us a sense of solidity and continuity, when the world is turning on and off at the speed of light and is therefore discontinuous. He used the example of the frames of a movie, each frame turning on and turning off before the next frame turns on.

What happens to electrical signals in the brain?

Electrical signals become known to us as sounds, sights, etc., however the sounds and sights cannot be found in the brain except as electrical signals. The experiences of the senses are found in consciousness. The whole world is found in consciousness.

What is consciousness? There is no evidence that consciousness is in the brain.

Consciousness/Awareness is what you are – it is its own knowing.

The real you is an interpreter and a choicemaker (controller)

He cited the work of Dr. Penfield of Montreal.

He gave the example of a man who was awake while his brain was being stimulated. Even though a certain stimulus to the brain caused the man’s arm to move, he was able to resist and even reverse the movement dictated by the stimulus. Hence, we are a choicemaker.

He next gave the example of a woman who, as the result of a stimulus to her brain, experienced herself enjoying ice cream with her family, even though, at the very same time, she knew she was in a hospital bed experiencing brain surgery. Hence, we are an interpreter.

The choicemaker and interpreter cannot be found in the brain or body.

He gave examples that Penfield was puzzled by the fact that the actions of the controller-choicemaker and interpreter were clearly evident yet he could not find the interpreter or choicemaker and neither has anybody else in all of the history of humanity… later he talked about the principle in science that the simplest explanation is usually the best explanation (the principle is called Occam’s razor)… in this light the best explanation for why the interpreter and choicemaker could not be found in the brain, etc., is that they are not there!

Using these examples from brain stimulation experiments, he says that the real you is an interpreter and a choicemaker who imagines and perceives and cannot be found in the body. We are not in the body.

“Where are you?” he asks. We are non-local, that is, no location in space or in time. The window to that knowledge is discontinuity, the “off,” the moment when thoughts and images are absent or off.

Comment: Awareness is prior to thinking (it is actually timeless and spaceless yet we use timebound language to describe its function).. thinking itself is not a problem yet the ‘wrong turning of the mind’ as acting from the id-entity generated out of the mental activity of thought, memory and experience is the Mistaken Identity that is the source of all conflict.

One way the off switch or discontinuity happens is when the mind is silent – then it is self-evident that the only thing that can be said to have continuity is Awareness (you do not lose your mind when it is silent… it simply rests in the filed of all possibilities/awareness/consciousness until it is called on again by some electrical signal… and when the mind is silent you have not lost consciousness.)

Discontinuity

The state of discontinuity is known by no qualities: no energy, no information, no space/time, no objects.

There are 5 characteristics of the discontinuity:

1. It is a field of infinite potential and possibility.

2. The field is correlated and connected with everything else in a relationship that is so intimate and immediate that even the speed is light is not a limiting factor. This may be called interconnected spontaneous Synchronicity

3. It proliferates with uncertainty – thus anything’s possible; the greater the uncertainty the greater the opportunity for creativity… the converse is also true as certainty negates creativity…

4. Since degree of creativity is related to degree of uncertainty, it is a storehouse of infinite creativity.

5. Observer effect: observing the universe from the place of discontinuity makes the universe exist. Therefore you are a co-creator…. you are of the image and likeness of your source – comment: you are a holographic representation of it which means that you have the same abilities to create that your source has… the differences are in degree – you are the same in kind… the full establishment in and as your true nature is to be source itself…

Comment: Another aspect of the function is that it is fractal like… Chopra mentioned that consciousness ‘turns back on itself’… this functioning process is described mathematically as fractals… examples are those kaleidoscopic movies you see that endlessly unfold out of itself – a simpler example is trees – another is your family tree … the process is simple as each iteration that manifests is re-introduced into the system that is now different by one as the process has unfolded and the interaction with this change generates a new outcome that is reinserted –endlessly.

Another term for discontinuity is consciousness or God, and you are part of it.

Meditation

In a guided meditation, he asks us to put attention on the heart and ask, “What do I want?” He says to follow that by silently repeating, “I am.”

Comment: This locating attention in the heart first is a highly significant part of the process as it is a means of getting the functioning order correct – which is heart using the head rather than the head attempting to control the heart, etc… and another appropriate name for our true nature is Love – the homeground of Love is the heart.

Karma, memory, and desire are the software of the soul, of consciousness. When you ask what you want you are using desire, memory, and becoming involved in karma. “I am,” he says, has no karma.

“I am” or some other mantra, when it meets thoughts, cancel each other out and you find yourself in the “off,” the discontinuity, the non-local, or consciousness. You experience the feeling of infinity and the sense of creativity. You surrender to the mystery of existence and intuition and creativity improve. You feel your presence, and that too is soul, consciousness, the discontinuity, or the non-local.

Comment: This is akin to Ramana Maharshi’s – Atma Vichara as the question ‘Who am I’… the answer is ‘experiential’ I am or amness – anything more is mind stuff.

He says, “You are not a space/time event, but that in which space/time happens.”

Is existence an accident?

No – it’s order as the order you see in your tremendously complex body/mind vehicle that makes it self-evident that it is intelligent – the action/process of this intelligence is what is called existence.

He had an insight in 2001, when he went to cremate his father and saw the records showing the cremation records of his ancestors going back hundreds, even thousands of years ago. The insight was that nothing is an accident, but that we create this existence through one field of consciousness interacting with itself “for ever and ever” (or beyond space/time, to be consistent with his previous teaching). In his cremation experience he even saw himself being cremated, thus he experienced a great sense of oneness and timelessness in which all these cremations were one.

By way of explanation using quantum theory, he said intent collapses possibility waves around an uncertain event. You have created “this.” You is me. That is, you and Deepak are not separate.

His books since 2001 are inspired by his experience of nonlocality brought on by the cremation event.

He asked a lady what she had to eat earlier; she responded ‘pod thai’… then he asked her ‘where was the memory of the pod thai before he asked her what she had eaten…

– it was in the field of all possibilities; if you dissect the woman’s brain or examine it with modern medical instruments you will not find the memory of pod thai…

Deepak’s asking the lady the question was the electrical signal that collapsed the wave from all possibilities to the certainty of the one thing that she had eaten which she reported as ‘pod thai’…

– in this way memory is in the filed of all possibilities… and since this is what we all are then each ‘individual’s’ memories are available to everyone else – this explains telepathy, esp, and even precognition etc. as in this field there is no time – only possibilities.

Secrets of Enlightenment

  • There are hidden dimensions to our existence.
  • The world exists in you. The window to that understanding is discontinuity.
  • There are four paths to unity: (1) Meditative – positive mind control; Raja Yoga; (2) Bhakti, or expressing and surrendering to love or God or the discontinuity; (3) Action or karma yoga; (4) Intellect or jnana yoga
  • All fulfillment comes from within. Happiness is the most important thing in life. The happiness formula involves re-setting the brain so that you see opportunity instead of seeing a problem, not being swayed by the conditions of life, and serving others. One question he asked was, ‘Have you ever heard of an unhappy person having a great relationship?’

    The greatest gift that you can give to others is to be happy… this is also true of health, freedom and peace of mind – in other words you get these priceless gifts when you live them for others – this is another powerful illustration of the fact that there is no you – there is only awareness/consciousness and its functioning…

  • Suffering is the result of not knowing the true reality (which is consciousness, soul, spirit, non-locality, the discontinuity, or who you really are).
  • Freedom comes from choiceless awareness. In other words, living from the place of consciousness or soul…be established in and as that because it’s Truth.
  • The world is a mirror of the self – it reflects consciousness; all that is seen are appearances in consciousness.
  • Evil is not our enemy. Evil is the personal and collective shadow. “If you’re standing in light, there’s a shadow.” No shadow if you’re standing in darkness.
  • You live in multi-dimensions: Deep sleep, Dreaming, Waking, Soul consciousness (the strong awareness that your true nature is consciousness), Cosmic consciousness (the actual experience of oneness, which he experienced at the cremation), God consciousness (you see God as everything), and Unity consciousness (“you are that.” You no longer see God as everything because “you are that.”) Unity Consciousness is the goal of life.
  • Death makes life possible. Death is the “off,” discontinuous with birth. Death and birth are opposites. Life is the flow of birth and death.
  • The universe thinks through you.
  • The only time is now, so do not worry about tomorrow.
  • You are truly free when you are not a person.
  • Consciousness becomes reality through karma, synchronicity, memory, desire, thought, intention.
  • The goal of life is unity consciousness.
  • Comment: this can be numbered in a variety of ways – see samkhya

    Points from his upcoming book

    Awareness is the key to transforming and reinventing the body. Awareness is the Agent and the Actor.

    Your body is a process (not an unchanging structure). There is only functioning.

    You can turn your genes off and on. Energy follows attention.

    You can change your relationship with time. There is no you and no time – there is only Awareness as infinite possibilities; what manifests is what awareness focuses on.

    Grace, love, spontaneity, and creativity are associated with resurrecting the soul.

    Comment: Resonance is another word for grace – it simply means connecting with intelligence beyond human comprehension – and since it is intelligent it acts in the manner that is of the greatest good… this is what is really behind Chopra’s request to take a vow of non-violence – it is really a vow to not violate natural order (there is no such thing as non-violence; there is only violence and that which is when violence is absolutely absent – although we understand what is generally meant by non-violence, violence does not have an opposite).

    Learn more about Deepak Chopra’s work here: deepakchopra.com/
    itakethevow.com/

    Learn about James Traverse and his work in nonduality.

    Neo-Advaita and the Silk of Paradox

    A reader of the Nonduality Highlights writes in reference to teachers who approach nonduality in the neo-advaita style:

    I always wonder why these people are called teachers as most of their students do not understand their teachings or leave any way different. I always wonder is any of them “enlightened” or just selling the nonduality belief system. All of their stories can easily be dismantled and shown to be based on thought and copied from others. I always wonder this. One even said to me privately, “I worry less about death!” Certainly despite reading their books and going to their lectures I only left with ideas in my head.

    Response:

    For me, these guys are reminding the reader or listener that he or she exists. If someone picks up on that and values it and pursues it, then they may find they don’t exist!

    That’s paradox, to exist and not exist non-separately. If inclined, that one may spin claims, confessions, declarations, assertions, reports about … that. Whatever it is.

    It’s true that it’s easy to copy the neo-advaita way of talking without ever having actually spun the silk of paradox. A few may be doing that.

    Since so many people don’t realize they exist and don’t value and pursue that, or are hesitant to talk about it, they will consider the one who does have a familiarity with his or her existence, and who speaks confidently about it, to be a kind of guru, even if that familiarity isn’t very deep or stable.

    It comes to be seen that every atom is the guru. Then in the seen suchness of the guru, the guru falls away, and what remains is … what? What to call it? Out of the silk of paradox spin something.

    Truth, Not the Disrupter

    Dont confuse Truth for the disrupter that exposes Truth. There’s only Truth. Whether a curtain beautifully and gracefully opens, showing you what you are, or whether a machine gun tears the curtain to shreds, mutilating everyone and everything that stands before it, does not matter.

    Be drawn to Truth rather than the disrupter of that which keeps from you the recognition of Truth.

    Coffee Does Not Induce Enlightenment

    I’m hypersensitive to caffeine. I can only drink one cup of coffee a week, and not too strong. Usually the caffeine energizes me. I can work 14 hours straight. It’s like speed.

    Other times I get panic attacks. They’re managed through slow and deep breathing and are more of a nuisance than anything else.

    Today, after a cup of coffee, I am experiencing what I understand to be dissociation. I can’t feel my body. I feel as though I am air. I went through my daily workout like butter. I felt no tiredness. I had to force myself to stop so that I would not injure muscles.

    This experience has happened before. It makes you realize that when you associate with the body and the mind, how much it slows you down and weakens you.

    In this dissociative state I can see more clearly where people are adhering to body and mind.

    This state feels like liberation. Is it? No. It’ll pass.

    Is it like an out of the body experience? Not at all. An OBE is a separation from the body so that you know yourself as awareness while viewing your body. It feels like a true separation.

    This caffeine-induced dissociation is more like a body dissolution experience. There is nothing to be “out of.”

    How does this experience I’m having relate to enlightenment or liberation? This experience passes. Soon I’ll be back to feeling tired, dragging sometimes, back to my old self, which, don’t get me wrong, is a good self.

    Do I like these dissociative experiences?
    No. You need to be in touch with your body in day to day living. In crisis situations or extreme events, your body may kick into a dissociative state in which you function with superhuman strength and ease. Athletes, dancers, anyone who gets deeply involved in an activity may know of such states. But for everyday living where I’m watching TV, chatting online, and building a new website, who the heck needs it?

    How do you terminate a dissociative state? Probably a tranquilizer would work. For me, food helps. The deep and slow breathing that alleviates panic attacks doesn’t help with dissociation because “there is no body” to calm. I’ve also used Mystress Angelique’s Grounding Exercise, which seems to re-draw the body.

    The bottom line is that this experience is not enlightenment.

    The Diamond Sutra Would Suck Without You

    There’s a good chapter on the Diamond Sutra in my book, One: Essential Writings on Nonduality.

    In that chapter I quote some key sections from the Diamond Sutra. They’re followed by Wei Wu Wei’s explanation from his book, Ask The Awakened.

    Here are a couple of quotes from the Wei Wu Wei section:

    … this world-system the Tathagata has taught as no world-system. Therefore it is called a world-system.

    ‘Beings, beings,’ Subhuti, the Tathagata has taught that they are all no-beings. Therefore has he spoken of ‘all beings.’

    Wei Wu Wei writes, “[Buddha] taught that things and concepts (dharmas) are not, and that is why things and concepts (dharmas) are.”

    The only way to understand the Buddha, is to experience or “know” what he is saying. In these days where it is commonplace to hear that there is no you, it should not be hard to understand this:

    You, you, there is no you. Therefore, there is you.

    How to Run a Nonduality Conference

    One way the teaching of nonduality is becoming present in the real world, rather than strictly on the Internet, is through conferences dedicated to nonduality.

    Very little has been done. Peter Baumann has run at least two private conferences, one at Princeton and one in Boulder, Colorado. Baumann, formerly of Tangerine Dream, works toward understanding how the knowing of nonduality is imparted.

    Gurus do that imparting, and Baumann studies what they do, how they communicate, and he tracks the progress of their students.

    His work is not widely known and, since it has recently begun, there may not be much to report.

    Anyone with the energy, desire, and the means, can start a conference on nonduality.

    If you are starting from scratch, you must approach the task with a plan. The first serious steps should not be about who is going to speak or give workshops.

    The first steps are questions to answer:

    1. Why do we need to hold it?

    2. What do we want to achieve? Objectives. Mission statement.

    3. What do we want our audience to go home and say about the meeting, apart from the fact that they had a great time?

    4. What are the key messages we want our audience to remember?

    5. What action do we want our audience to take after attending this conference?

    6. Audience description: Who should attend?

    7. When should the event be held?

    8. Where should it be held?

    These questions have been taken from two documents:

    How to Run Your Greatest Conference Ever

    How To… run a conference

    From the latter paper:

    Though one might feel that organising conferences is a daunting and thankless job, it is not true. In fact, on the other hand, the task is varied, challenging, and rewarding, notwithstanding the heavy work load. It is, therefore, necessary that the whole process is approached in a systematic manner.

    The Fox and the Headlights

    Once I was driving at night on a country road. My headlights shone upon a fox. It was frozen by my headlights. I, in turn, became frozen by the fox’s large and gemlike green eyes reflecting my headlights. For less than a second we were locked in entrancement. I slowed down and the fox ran off.

    That’s what happens with spiritual teachers. You become locked in the headlights of their words, their reputation, their appearance, their charisma, their celebrity, and you stand there like the fox.

    The guru, in turn, is fascinated by the look of his light in your wide and beautiful eyes.

    What comes out of that is a mutual fascination and the need to keep the light interesting so that you’ll stay fixed and so that the guru will remain fixed to his light as reflected in you.

    There are countless projections finding their ways to your eyes, going back outward, and returning again.

    “You” are the fox and the headlight in an interplay that happens on countless levels, reverberates, and never ends.

    There is nothing you can do. Nothing is happening.

    Lucid Dreaming: Facing the Dark Areas

    I’ve already written on entering the darkness when you are experiencing a lucid dream.

    I want to repeat that the dark areas in dreams mark where the play of inner light ends. The play of inner light is known as dreams. If you lucidly enter the dark area within a dream, you will leave the dream and experience awareness itself.

    You may note that there are protectors of the dark areas who direct you away from them. They can be ordinary people, wild animals, even gurus. Usually your own fear of the dark areas is sufficient to keep you away from them.

    The dark area is prior to all light. The instruction to “follow the light at the end of the tunnel,” at your time of death, makes sense if you want to be re-born. Otherwise move into the blackest black (not simply a dark blue, for example) and you’ll be gone. You’ll know that at the time of death and, as in a dream, you’ll be directed away from the dark area and toward the light. You have to be strong at that point. Most are led directly to the black area or to the light or to some intermediate level without lucidity about what’s happening.

    All dreams, all existence arises in the dark area. It’s a very small event, that arising. Brains have been evolved to make that incredibly small event incredibly huge. By being a lucid in a dream, or within any experience, you can see that. You can see what you are.

    Nondual Nova Scotia

    Something I like about living in Nova Scotia is that while there is strong presence of the nondual teaching here — Shambhala Buddhism headquarters and Gampo Abbey, Zen, the Ramana Maharshi ashram, Nidra Yoga, Celtic mysticism in the land and the music — there’s no sense of a popular culture of nonduality. There’s no nondual buzz. Nonduality isn’t breathing down my neck. There’s just Nova Scotia.

    Nonduality Isn’t Blowing In The Wind

    If someone picks up a piece of nonduality and tries to say it is or isn’t nonduality, it falls into more pieces. They can keeping picking them up and saying that each piece is or is not nonduality, but nonduality isn’t keeping any piece of itself together. All the pieces are blowing in the wind. The answer to the questions of what nonduality is or is not, isn’t blowing in the wind. The answer is the wind.

    What’s Your Have-to?

    Nisargadatta Maharaj said freedom is the ability to do what you need to do.

    What do you need to do? What’s your have-to?

    Is it teaching? In what form?

    Is it living in the woods as a hermit?

    Is it getting married and raising a family?

    Is it painting?

    Whatever it is doesn’t matter.

    You may not know what your have-to is. Then not knowing what it is, is it. Relax!

    Public Nonduality Gathering 2009

    We’re working on putting together a public nonduality gathering in the San Francisco area in October, 2009. It will be part conference, part event, part festival.

    The focus of the conference portion will be nonduality and science. The arts and music will be included.

    We are keeping it undiluted by new agey teachings and free of the domination by any particular teacher or teaching.

    Right now we can’t make any promises other than to say we’re working on it and so far so good.

    If you want to sign up for a discussion list in order to receive updates and talk about your ideas for nonduality gatherings, join the YahooGroup NondualityGathering2009.

    Walt Whitman: Perfume and the Atmosphere – Form and Formlessness

    Continued from Walt Whitman: Living the Paradox of Nonduality

    Song of Myself continues. In the line preceding the lines that follow, Whitman was loafing, leaning, inviting his soul, observing a spear of summer grass. The sense was of solitude and focus. Now the next passage:

    Houses and rooms are full of perfumes …. the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
    I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it, and like it,
    The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

    The atmosphere is not a perfume …. it has no taste of the distillation …. it is odorless,
    It is for my mouth forever…. I am in love with it,
    I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
    I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

    From solitude to crowds, to the smells of life, humanity, and the world, Whitman likes it. He knows that if he lets his attention drop, he could be swallowed up by the concerns of man, worry, consumerism, desperation, and fear. He will not let that happen.

    While he says he likes the perfume, he sings that it is the atmosphere that he loves. Forever he speaks from atmosphere itself, not from the crowd of perfumes. He speaks authentically, undisguised, naked. He is mad to know the atmosphere, to touch it and feel it touch him. Notice is now sent that this writing is not going to cater to the multitudes. This is not going to be a hack writing job that will find a place on a shelf with a thousand other perfumes. However, Song of Myself, too, is a perfume.

    In the first lines of Song of Myself, Whitman revealed the paradox of nonduality, that we are the same — “Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” — and that everyone and every thing, every atom, is distinct and individual: “I lean and loafe at my ease….observing a spear of summer grass.”

    We know and see how we are different. Each one of us, each and every thing is a perfume on the shelf. That’s the world. How easy is it to see we are all the same at the very same time that we are different?

    Now Whitman is going deeper into the claim that we are the same. Our sameness is the atmosphere. To know the atmosphere is to know the nondual nature of reality. We hear talk of gurus stripping us of our egos, of standing naked before the truth, of shedding the veil that hides the truth. Whitman knows that to contact the atmosphere is to be natural, in nature — “by the bank of the wood,” where water meets soil, where man meets atmosphere — and “undisguised and naked.”

    In the lines that follow, in case the reader hasn’t already realized it, Whitman declares the reader “shall possess the origin of all poems,” which is the atmosphere. The poems themselves are perfumes, each one different, each one arising from the same atmosphere, which now the reader, naked and undisguised in the mind, may come to know.

    Perfume and atmosphere stand for form and formlessness, respectively. Song of Myself is the revelation that the perfume is the atmosphere, the atmosphere is the perfume, and that they are exactly each other. Joy and celebration are the natural emanations of this realization. Read the first few lines of Song of Myself and identify celebration, sameness, and distinct individuality:

    I celebrate myself,
    And what I assume you shall assume,
    For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

    I loafe and invite my soul,
    I lean and loafe at my ease….observing a spear of summer grass.

    Yet Whitman says “The atmosphere is not a perfume.” He must make it clear that the perfume and the atmosphere are a duality in order for the atmosphere to be seen. Whitman must separate the water and the land. He must get the reader to see the two before seeing the one. He addresses contradiction later in Song of Myself in a famous passage beginning, “Do I contradict myself?”

    Walt Whitman: Living the Paradox of Nonduality

    whitman_walt_1
    In Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, he begins Song of Myself:

    I celebrate myself,
    And what I assume you shall assume,
    For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

    I loafe and invite my soul,
    I lean and loafe at my ease … observing a spear of summer grass.

    These lines describe the paradox of nonduality and how to live.

    The paradox is that while we are the same — “…what I assume you shall assume.” “…every atom belonging to to me as good belongs to you.” — everything is distinct: “observing a spear of summer grass.”

    And how to live through the paradox? “…celebrate…” “…lean and loafe…” leaves-of-grass_mm

    “I … invite my soul,” Whitman says. The soul is the paradox. It is who he is. Paradox is “myself.” “I celebrate myself.”

    Read the second part of this treatment of Song of Myself.