Discussion & Retreat Topics
"...I have come across several people who, having heard about enlightenment or Self-realisation, want to by-pass the psychological phase and go straight for the big achievement. Enlightenment is not an achievement. It is an inner transformation from false identification with ego to identification with your True Nature. It is a shift that involves a full acceptance of the hardships of life before you can go beyond them and return home to your-Self." ~ Tess Hughes
"It would be a poor thing to be an atom in a universe without physicists, and physicists are made of atoms. A physicist is an atom's way of knowing about atoms." ~ George Wald
The Persona: "A kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual." ~ Carl Jung
"You don't have to peer expensively out into the farthest reaches of the cosmos to encounter the deepest mystery in the universe. Look no further than right between your own two ears. The human mind is nowhere challenged as much as by the endeavor to understand the workings of the brain that produces it." ~ The Brain: Big Bangs, Behaviors, and Beliefs
When the words stop / And you can endure the silence / That reveals your heart's pain of emptiness / Or that great wrenching-sweet longing, / That is the time to try and listen / To what the Beloved's / Eyes / Most want / To / Say. ~ Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky
The Convocation of the Assembly
Subhuti Makes a Request
The Real Teaching of the Great Way
[There are 29 more stanzas.]
Is it possible to know beyond the senses and beyond thought?
Jesus said, "I shall give you what no eye has seen and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has never occurred to the human mind." ~ Gospel of Thomas
"During my near-death experience I had a descent into what you might call Hell, and it was very surprising. I did not see Satan or evil. My descent into Hell was a descent into each person's customized human misery, ignorance, and darkness of not knowing. It seemed like a miserable eternity. But each of the millions of souls around me had a little star of light always available. But no one seemed to pay attention to it. They were so consumed with their own grief, trauma and misery. But, after what seemed an eternity, I started calling out to that Light, like a child calling to a parent for help." ~ A Near-Death Journey into the Light of Creation, by Mellen-Thomas Benedict
"A spiritual practice simply disposes us to allow something to take place. For example, a gardener does not actually grow plants. A gardener practices certain gardening skills that facilitate growth that is beyond the gardener's direct control. In a similar way, a sailor cannot produce the necessary wind that moves the boat. A sailor practices sailing skills that harness the gift of wind that brings the sailor home, but there is nothing the sailor can do to make the wind blow. And so it is with contemplative practice " ~ Into the Silent Land, Martin Laird
I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
"Of all the words yet spoken,
"Wisdom is the oneness
"Truth or reality is avoided when it is painful. We can revise our maps only when we have the discipline to overcome that pain. To have such discipline, we must be totally dedicated to truth. That is to say that we must always hold truth, as best we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to our self-interest, than our comfort . Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs." ~ M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
"The practice of Self-inquiry, called Atma-vichara in Sanskrit, is the most important meditation practice in the Vedantic tradition. It is the main practice of the yoga of knowledge (Jnana Yoga), which itself is traditionally regarded as the highest of the yogas because it takes us most directly to liberation. Self-inquiry is the primary method through which Self-realization the realization of our true nature beyond mind and body is achieved." ~ Vedantic Meditation, David Frawley
"Today, I find there is one certainty within me, but it is described only peripherally with simile and metaphor. I am a tree that feels its roots deep inside, as if I am connected to the bedrock of existence. Where I came from and where I'm going yes, I know this. But why am I here? No clue; no care either. Imagine a tree that believes it forces fruit to appear what an unnecessary burden. The tree is a door through which fruit manifests.
"I am here. A thought arises to write; I write. I wonder what my purpose is; I wonder. A bacteria consumes me, a stranger sells me groceries, a woman asks me for seventy-five cents, a tiny bird is struck by my car, an unkind word spoken to my mate, and a kind word to a harried clerk. A great river of action is unfolding, with feeder streams trickling in from a watershed as vast as existence. It is both a playground and a killing ground arousing fear and swallowing lives, yet providing endless opportunities for discovery and joy.
"The river flows through the life of the tree and downward to the essence.
"I am a tree that dreams. I lose my way in little worlds inside my head; in the whispers of my leaves that I turn into words. Now and then I must remember, remember where I rest and in doing that I choose the hand that guides me; choose the whisper that I hear. Is there a burden there? I think so, but not a heavy, Biblical one. I listen as best as I can to my heart and interpret that feeling into words that cause action. Let every word serve my highest light, and in that light is revealed the truth of my purpose: to be used, consumed by that which pulls my heart."
Charlie Ellis, PhD, MBA, internationally prominent investment adviser, and author of 12 books, asked by Consuelo Mack on WealthTrack about what's the most important thing an investor can do, responded:
Sit down quietly and ask:
Does this apply to our life in general?
"Apart from trying to identify what it was that saw this Oneness, there was still the unresolved question of what remained in the absence of self. What is this that walks and talks and is aware of the eye upon Oneness?"
"One thing is certain: with our thinking, rational mind, we'll never come upon these answers because our mind, limited tool that it is, is so continually taken up in the service of self that it cannot come upon that which lies beyond all such concerns." ~ Bernadette Roberts, The Experience of No-Self
Philosophy: The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence
Self-Inquiry: Going within to find answers
"All our concerns are finite. In the short span of our lives many of them have already disappeared and new ones have emerged which also will disappear. Many great concerns of the past have vanished and more will come to an end, sooner or later. The melancholy law of transitoriness governs even our most passionate concerns. The anxiety of the end dwells in the happiness they give. Both the things about which we are concerned and we ourselves come to an end. There will be a moment and perhaps it is not far away when we shall no longer be concerned about any of these concerns, when their finitude will be revealed in the experience of our own finitude of our own end.
"But we maintain our preliminary concerns as if they were ultimate. And they keep us in their grasp if we try to free ourselves from them. Every concern is tyrannical and wants our whole heart and our whole mind and our whole strength. Every concern tries to become our ultimate concern, our god. The concern about our work often succeeds in becoming our god, as does the concern about another human being, or about pleasure. The concern about science has succeeded in becoming the god of a whole era in history, the concern about money has become an even more important god, and the concern about the nation the most important god of all. But these concerns are finite, they conflict with each other, they burden our consciences because we cannot do justice to all of them.
" Even God can be made a finite concern, an object among other objects; in whose existence some people believe and some do not. Such a God, of course, cannot be our ultimate concern. Or we make Him a person like other persons with whom it is useful to have a relationship. Such a person may support our finite concerns, but He certainly cannot be our ultimate concern.
"The one thing needed this is the first and in some sense the last answer I can give is to be concerned ultimately, unconditionally, infinitely.
" He who is grasped by the one thing that is needed has many things under his feet. They concern him but not ultimately, and when he loses them he does not lose the one thing he needs and that cannot be taken from him." ~ Paul Tillich
"We sleep to time's hurdy-gurdy; we wake, if we ever wake, to the silence of God. And then, when we wake to the deep shores of time uncreated, then when the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it's time to toss things, like our reason, and our will; then it's time to break our necks for home.
"There are no events but thoughts and the heart's slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times." ~ Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
"Whatever is actual is, as regards time, always in the present . Likewise, what is actual for you must be where you are. You cannot at this moment experience any event that is, live through it at first-hand if it takes place beyond the range of your receptors."
"What is your actuality? Can you genuinely feel it?"
"Discover your resistances to doing so for instance, that you get bored or annoyed or, more likely, lose ('flee from') the sense of actuality." ~ Gestalt Therapy, Drs. Perls, Hefferline, Goodman
"I was reminded, when Lilian* told me this, of a patient I had seen in the hospital some years before, who had overnight become totally paralyzed from a spinal cord infection, a fulminating myelitis. When it became evident that no recovery was forthcoming, she fell into despair, felt that her life was over-not only the great things of life but the little familiar pleasure of each day, like doing the New York Times crossword, to which she was addicted. She requested that the Times be brought to her each day, so that at least she could look at the puzzle, get its configuration, run her eyes along the clues. But when she did this something extraordinary happened, for as she looked at the clues, the answers seemed to write themselves in their spaces. Her visual imagery strengthened over the next few weeks, until she found that she was able to hold the entire crossword and its clues in her mind after a single, intense inspection, and then solve it, mentally, at her leisure later in the day. This became a source of great solace to her, in her paralysis; she had had no idea, she later told me, that such powers of memory and imagery were available to her." ~ Oliver Sachs, The Mind's Eye
> Do you know the limits of your mental abilities for solving life's problems?
* Lilian Killar, a noted pianist, was a patient of neurologist Sachs. She had told him about a Haydn quartet she had heard on the radio and arranged for the piano so she could play it herself. She had occasionally done something like that before her alexia, using manuscript paper and the original score, but this time, when the former approach was no longer possible, she did it completely in her head, overnight. She could now hold the most complex music in her mind, then rearrange it and replay it mentally, in a way that was formerly impossible for her.
"You must first consider that a human life is an ongoing process that involves a constantly changing physical body as well as an enormous number of rapidly changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Your life therefore is an evolving experience, a continual flow. You are not a thing " ~ David D. Burns, M.D.
"Suppose truth is a rabbit. This rabbit is in a field a large field. Round the field are very high walls creeds and dogma! So find your damn rabbit!! And remember the rabbit knows your thoughts & so as you resolve to go one way to catch it, it knows & evades you!" ~ Alfred Pulyan
"Whatever can be lost is not really one's own; and what is not your own, of what use can it be to you?" ~ I Am That, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
"When does one experience the occurrence of any event? Now!
"Listen carefully: When do we remember the event? When do we reminisce about the event? When do we think about the past? Now; always now!
"When do we dream of a future event? When do we plan and calculate concerning future activities? Now. All experience, all activity, all memory of the past, dream of the future, thinking and thought taking are inevitably, invariably 'happening' in the now. Isn't this so?" ~ A Guide to Awareness and Tranquility, William Samuel
"It goes back, perhaps, to the fairy tales of childhood, to Hansel and Gretel, to Babes in the Wood, to Alice and Wonderland, to all half-luminous places that pleased the imagination as a child. It may go back still farther, to racial Druid memories, to an atavistic sense of safety and delight in an open forest. And after long years of spiritual homelessness, of nostalgia, here is that mystic loveliness of childhood again. Here is home. An old thread, long tangled, comes straight again." ~ Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek, writing about the effect of walking through her orange grove
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
Is there a dying before dying, a dying while living, where we become what no mind ever conceived?
"That it's rough out there and chancy is no surprise. Every live thing is a survivor on a kind of extended emergency bivouac . What do we think of the created universe, spanning an unthinkable void with an unthinkable profusion of forms? Or what do we think of nothingness, those sickening reaches of time in either direction?"
"It could be that God has not absconded but spread, as our vision and understanding of the universe have spread, to a fabric of spirit and sense so grand and subtle, so powerful in a new way, that we can only feel blindly of its hem . But have we come even that far? Have we rowed out to the thick darkness, or are we all playing pinochle in the bottom of the boat?" ~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
"When we think of hope we have to think of looking in other directions than we have been looking." ~ Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D., TED.com talk "On Hope." (Nuland is a clinical professor of surgery at Yale University, where he also teaches bioethics and medical history. He is the author of ten books, including How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter, which won the National Book Award and spent thirty-four weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.)
Is there a direction other than where you've been looking?
"Experience generates and affirms identity. The identity-experience becomes the lens through which all other experience is focused and measured for threat to that identity, or enhancement of that identity.
"Witnessing, or observing experience disrupts this cycle of identity weaving itself from experience. Call it psychological self-study if you like, but whatever it is called it is necessary for Self-realization." ~ Bob Cergol
"All scriptures are only for the purpose of investigating if there are two consciousnesses." ~ Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
What do you think he might have been talking about?
" [Experience] may be likened to someone in his room watching a television, and being identified with the characters in the dramas as they unfold on the screen. Losing contact with himself, he has become hypnotized into believing he is a character in the TV. The freedom he began with, that he was (and still Is), the innocent observer, has been lost, traded for the mind-motion of thought and feeling projected into the plastic box in front of him . His innocence and detachment have been replaced with the sense of motion and thought, and the thrill of losing energy. Now that he is inseparable from his role in the drama, he places a high meaning on the feeling of belonging, which he now values as part of his very definition. He has fallen deep into sleep and is dreaming the life he thinks he lives, a mere ghost in a box of motion, emotion, and thought . Fear and desire drive his every move, and he is firmly engrossed in his dreams." ~ Bob Fergeson, from "Ghost in a Box"
> "I learned that failure is by and large due to not accepting and successfully dealing with the realities of life ."
> "However, typically defensive, emotional reactions—i.e., ego barriers—stand in the way of this progress . For these reasons most people don't do a good job of understanding themselves and adapting in order to get what they want most out of life." ~ Ray Dalio
"How can you live life fully? Perhaps you know of adventurers who watch sunsets in the Himalayas. Perhaps you know of monks who tend tiny gardens with meaningful strokes of the hoe. How is your life in comparison? Are you grinding out the 8 to 5 in front of a computer, or immersed in the pointless noise of campus life? You want something called fullness of life-where your actions carry meaning; where you are aware of your actions and fully conscious of life. Vague stuff when you try to convey it to someone else, but you know it is more than a dream.
"A few people decide that experiencing more is equivalent to living a fuller life. In other words, more Pepsi in the glass will make the Pepsi taste better. An entire life is spent moving through increasingly exotic experiences, never realizing it is the experiencer which is the source of the problem. It is you that suck life dry. The telescope distorts the view of the moon-the moon is as it should be." ~ Shawn Nevins
"Loneliness is a feeling of being without the kind of companionship one desires. It is the feeling of an unmet desire, often unnameable. It is the feeling that there is something missing, usually something one percieves as essential to their happiness or sense of fulfillment. The feeling of loneliness includes feelings of lack of intimacy and being understood and being accepted just as one is, and lack of opportunity to express oneself joyfully and spontaneously in a setting of total security.
A new message dropped down the long chute from the Unknown, one of several just like it. One of the tireless busy-men running about the place opened it and read it off: "Itch! Back of head." He walked from the chutes over to the big machine at the center of the room and dropped the message into a slot at the top. It was a miracle that this big hunk of machinery worked at all. It had a tangled shape to it, too wrapped around itself for any onlooker to figure out how it worked. It shook furiously, spewing steam, oil, and the occasional expletive as it processed the new message. Finally, just as it seemed like the thing would explode, it suddenly stopped with a ding and popped out its verdict. "Lift right arm. Scratch itch with finger. Don't bump into guy on right," the last bit a reference to an earlier incoming message about an irritable fellow apparently to the right somewhere "out there." If one looked closely enough down at the bottom of this output directive, there was another message in small print: " but I'd really like to go Home now." These little messages had been showing up a lot recently, stuck down in the corner of the directives spewed out from the worn out old machine. "Turn left at next light but I'd really like to go Home now." "Walk to kitchen. Get glass of water but I'd really like to go Home now." "Keep up appearance of being professional and capable but I'd really like to go Home now." ~ Ben Rainey
"It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives." ~ Francis Bacon
"No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong." ~ Albert Einstein
"I don't believe in the 'evolution of consciousness' line of thinking that is increasingly manifest in thinking about spiritual work. If anything, I see a devolution as the manifestations of the least common denominators of human nature albeit well-dressed are recast en-masse as spiritual growth. The Perennial Way has become one of self-magnification and the self-delusion of 'knowing' things in esoteric literature simply because it is so widely available and widely read. Everyone 'knows' these days and seeks affirmation from others of course they know nothing as their preconceptions of spirituality blind them from seeing clearly. Real going within is experienced as a loss of self and it takes a rare and unique seeker motivated at a very deep level to weather that." ~ Bob Cergol
"On what authority do I have my self-esteem?
"Self-esteem being [a way] you identify yourself 'I'm identified as my self-esteem.' And Teresa of Avila had said as long as people are stuck in that, they don't get on to the next stage [in the spiritual journey], that this is the sticking point. So I started looking for something other than self-esteem as a way of defining my true value as to what I really am, and came up with this thing of being God's child. And it opened up thinking, or it opened up something anyway.
"So what if I'm a gift from God, a creation from God? Isn't that quite a different thing from my self-esteem program that I'm going with? They come from different places. Sometime around that I was in front of my jewelry box one day. It's sitting there and there are some things in it, so I'm looking at: 'There's a gold ring, there's a gold bracelet, there's a gold brooch.' And the thought struck me: 'The value of each of those things is in the fact that they're gold, not that they're a ring or a whatever.' And then I thought: 'So the value is in the gold-ness rather than the thing-ness.'" ~ Tess Hughes, talk given in April 2011
> Are you identified with your self-esteem?
"Although many scientific ideas generate conflicting results and suffer from falling effect sizes, they continue to get cited in the textbooks and drive standard medical practice. Why? Because these ideas seem true. Because they make sense. Because we can't bear to let them go. And this is why the decline effect is so troubling. Not because it reveals the human fallibility of science, in which data are tweaked and beliefs shape perceptions. (Such shortcomings aren't surprising, at least for scientists.) And not because it reveals that many of our most exciting theories are fleeting fads and will soon be rejected. (That idea has been around since Thomas Kuhn.) The decline effect is troubling because it reminds us how difficult it is to prove anything. We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that's often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn't mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn't mean it's true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe." ~ Jonah Lehrer, "The Truth Wears Off" (The New Yorker, December 13, 2010)
To thine own self be true,
He says, "There's nothing left of me.
> Do you know what you are?
"If freedom is absence of limitation and of determination from without, only that can be free besides which naught else exists and is there any human will of which we can say that?
"In this sense of the word freedom, and philosophically we cannot well take it in any other sense, only the Absolute is free; the relative is ever determined by its very relations to the world of relativity." ~ Conquest of Illusion, J.J. Van der Leeuw
> Are you running the show? Did you write the script?
How do you know that you are?
"You now know that you are. How has this happened, because of what do you know that you are? You have to go to the source. One hundred years earlier you did not know of your own existence. You had no problems at that time. Now, because of this knowingness, all the problems have started. This 'I Amness' has happened because of the body, so what knowledge do we have about the body and what knowledge of this 'I-ness'?" ~ Nisargadatta, I Am That
Is it possible to know for sure what you are?
" Sadly, in search of, but one step in back of, themselves and their slow-movin' dreams." ~ Refrain: Willie Nelson, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys
> Are you one step in back of yourself and your slow-moving dream?
"Quietude, which some men cannot abide because it reveals their inward poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise, for along its hallowed courts the King in his beauty deigns to walk." ~ Charles H. Spurgeon
"There never was a war that was not inward; I must fight till I have conquered in myself what causes war." ~ Marianne Moore
* What is your inner landscape made of? *
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