Discussion & Retreat Topics
"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." ~ Carl Gustav Jung
> Are you dreaming or are you awakening?
Many of the artists* described being in the zone when their work seemed to flow, but "you can't be in the zone without having the vocabulary to be in the zone," said Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. "You have to make an enormous effort in order to be free."
Panelists and musicians Marin Alsop, Pat Metheny, and Michael Pope started playing music as young children, but all three started on an instrument that they did not succeed at. "There's so much intrinsic value in learning to play an instrument," Alsop said, "and in this emotional battle of not being able to conquer something and accepting that you can't conquer it and keeping going on. It opens your mind to your value, your inner creation, your inner value."
As for calling up creativity once you have the tools, Michael Pope quoted Metheny on sitting at the piano keyboard until the music starts to come to him: "If you want to catch the bus, you have to be at the bus stop."
"Much of art, as other parts of life, is practice and perseverance." ~ Nicky Penttila, Dana.org Brain in the News November 2010 article on The Neuroscience of Aesthetics
> Do these conclusions apply to knowing the self, as well?
* In a conference of scientists, fine artists, and other folks curious about how art expresses itself in the brain, they challenged one another to find answers during "The Science of the Arts: Perceptual Neuroscience and Aesthetics" organized by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's Brain Science Institute.
" The one thing neuroscience cannot find is the loom of cells that creates the self. If neuroscience knows anything, it is that there is no ghost in the machine: there is only the vibration of the machinery. Your head contains a hundred billion electric cells, but not one of them is you or knows or cares about you. In fact, you don't even exist. The brain is nothing but an infinite regress of matter, reducible to the callous laws of physics." ~ Jonah Lehrer, Proust Was a Neuroscientist
"In the dream we call life, the purpose is to answer the call to come home that emanates from our true being. Life is an experience that draws our attention outward, away from our true being. Paradoxically, it is only by embracing our life in this world that we will find our way home "back to the Father" to put it in religious terms.
"We are born into this world with this question rooted in our psyche. The body consciousness, with its need for survival, definition and self-affirming experience, obscures the answer that is our birthright. Our actions in the world are aimed at answering this question but cannot succeed because that which calls from within us can only be answered by going within. It is the returning to the question again and again, with a growing despair that, paradoxically, leads to a final answer.
"Notre Dame Cathedral, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the "Seven Wonders of the World," and many influential social movements are generally viewed as great accomplishments of humanity. But they are not evidence of man's purpose. These examples are emblematic of man's search for purpose and for himself in the external world. These are evidence of man's plight his manifest sense of lack of purpose. Their scale and magnitude is evidence of the intensity and universality of humankind's desperate search for purpose and meaning."
This pure Mind,
> Do we find perfection or are we perfection?
"[A person] is like a house in which there is a multitude of servants but no master and no steward. The servants have all forgotten their duties; no one wants to do what he ought; everyone tries to be master, if only for a moment; and, in this kind of disorder, the house is threatened with grave danger. The only chance of salvation is for a group of the more sensible servants to meet together and elect a temporary steward, that is, a deputy steward. This deputy steward can then put the other servants in their places, and make each do his own work: the cook in the kitchen, the coachman in the stables, the gardener in the garden, and so on. In this way the 'house' can be got ready for the arrival of the real steward who will, in his turn, prepare if for the arrival of the master." ~ P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous
"How is it that we need all this prodding, all these warnings and earnest invitations and promises of infinite rewards, to persuade us to take a really close look at ourselves? Why don't all intelligent and serious people make it their chief business in life to find out whose life it is?" ~ Douglas Harding, Look For Yourself
> If you want to be a great magician, focus on the one transformation that's eternal & complete: know thyself.
"One thing is for sure: as long as we are caught up in words, definitions, and all that the mind wants to cling to, we can never see how [life] works. And until we can go beyond our notions regarding the true nature of life, we will never realize how totally secure we really are, and how all the fighting for individual survival and self-security is a waste of energy." ~ Bernadette Roberts, The Experience of No Self
> Are you caught up in words and definitions?
"Pay attention to whether fear and insecurity are driving your decisions." ~ Omar Hamoui, 33-year-old founder of mobile ad network AdMob; left Wharton in 2006 and sold AdMob to Google, in a bidding war with Apple, earlier this year .
"I was stumbling around with meditation and discovered that if something was bothering me and an answer to the problem occurred to me, then it stopped bothering me. So when something started bothering me I knew I was looking for a specific answer, which was the golden key to the thing. Little did I realize how much work it would be. At first you don't know what you are seeking. Once you make the discovery of this inner satisfaction, then you know what you are seeking for. You're blind to it for quite a while. You just know things aren't what you'd like, but you aren't able to be specific about it. Our major appetite is the need to comprehend. Comprehension is a specific appetite and even needs to understand itself. You need to know what the mind is trying to get done so you can be more effective at it. Your internal system is entirely capable, given the opportunity, to teach you what it is trying to teach you. Your inner being knows. Your outer being is always unknowing." ~ At Home with the Inner Self, by Jim Burns
"The human brain begins to develop astonishingly quickly after conception.
"Just 16 days after a sperm has buried its head into an egg, the beginning of the brain emerges in the from of the neural plate. This single layer of cells, which develops from the outer layer of the embryo called the ectoderm, will give rise to the entire nervous system.
"About five days later, the neural plate buckles in the middle and the sheet of cells curves together to form a tube. Each end then closes so the neural tube resembles the cylindrical cardboard carrier used to mail posters.
"After the tube has closed - one of the critical points in brain development - the single layer of cells begins to rapidly divide. The neural tube expands and, between the fourth and seventh weeks after conception, a series of fine vesicles, or sacs, appear at the front end of the tube. These will become the major portion of the brain .
"Scientists who study the brain, even those who have been at it for decades, remain in awe of the astounding pace of development. It is incredible: a newborn's brain has 20 billion neurons and a trillion synaptic connections, and the fetal brain must create a profusion of brain cells during intrauterine life - about 250,000 each minute - to meet those demands .
"During this period of development, neurons are constantly being generated in the middle of the brain. The neurons then migrate outward toward the surface and self organize into different brain structures. Once the neurons reach their specific position, they extend axons, nerve fibres that send electrical signals away from a neuron, and dendrites, nerve fibres that carry signals back to a neuron, to join with other neurons. This forms the complex circuitry that allows communication between cells." ~ www.dana.org, Brain in the News [The Life of the Brain: Beginnings]
"All action is the product of the three forces of nature [the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas; associated with creation, preservation, and destruction, respectively]. Only he who is blinded by egotism thinks 'I am the doer.' " ~ Bhagavad Gita, quoted in The Master Game by Robert DeRopp
> Are creation, preservation and destruction, or other forces producing your actions?
"... Anger or resentment strengthen the ego enormously by increasing the sense of separateness, emphasizing the otherness of others and creating a seemingly unassailable fortresslike mental position of 'rightness.' If you were able to observe the physiological changes that take place inside your body when possessed by such negative states, how they adversely affect the functioning of the heart, the digestive and immune systems, and countless other body functions, it would become abundantly clear that such states are indeed pathological, are forms of suffering and not pleasure.
"Whenever you are in a negative state, there is something in you that wants negativity, that perceives it as pleasurable, or that believes it will get you what you want. Otherwise, who would want to hang on to negativity, make themselves and others miserable, and create disease in the body?" ~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
"The stage manager in 'Our Town' says of the recently deceased, 'They're waiting for somethin' that they feel is comin' ... waitin' for the "earth" part of 'em to burn itself out and the eternal part to come out in them clear....'
"Our earthly identity is all that is separating us from God and it is the thinnest of veils, a manufactured fiction, which we cling to as if not only our existence, but the existence of God himself, depended on it." ~ Bob Cergol, "The Life Behind Things"
> Is there something "way down deep that's eternal about every human being," as the stage manager in Wilder's play also says?
"Not all those who wander are lost." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien
> Is your life a vector toward an objective?
"We suffer only from a lack of self-knowledge." ~ Vernon Howard, There Is a Way Out
> Is your suffering only from a lack of self knowledge?
"Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it's the way things happen in life that's unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it's like watching television you don't feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it's all television." ~ Andy Warhol
> What's watching your life?
I don't know whether I can trust the desires I'm experiencing. I don't know whether to give them a lot of attention, or notice they have my attention and let them go. I don't have another voice piping up with a better suggestion, but know the desires that are appearing are usually not as good looking in retrospect. Do the problems that have my attention have a simple solution?
"Man sees only what he feels, and feels what he longs for." ~ Joseph Sadony
"You will not be able to reason your way 'through' to liberation. At best, you'll just be able to keep your mind busy until you can come around to accepting just what the intimations about life and yourself you've been experiencing imply about where you stand in all this and that you cannot now accept.
"You want liberation for you. Perhaps liberation comes when you are liberated from yourself. You cannot be liberated. You are the very experience of attachment to everything in the field of consciousness. Something which has no life of its own cannot be liberated."
~ Bob Cergol, excerpt from correspondence (see the rest in the Jan. 2009 "TAT Forum" online magazine)
"Start to cultivate self-discipline. Become a person who can make a decision and carry it out. Set yourself a task and follow through with it. It doesn't have to be anything spectacular. I've advised people to just take a walk around the block every evening after dinner. Literally, just walk once around the block each night. Do that simple thing for one month and you'll have power. Power you can use to take the next step.
"But no, most people think that's too simple. That's not worthy of their great spiritual potential. They want to get right into the heavy work and do something big. The result is that they end up doing nothing." ~ Richard Rose (1917-2005)
"If I were to distill one main lesson from the research described in this book, it is that we are pawns in a game whose forces we largely fail to comprehend. We usually think of ourselves as sitting in the driver's seat, with ultimate control over the decisions we make and the direction our life takes; but, alas, this perception has more to do with our desires with how we want to view ourselves than with reality." ~ Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational (Photo graphic by Ben McLeod)
Avatar: 1. Embodiment, incarnation (a new personification of a familiar idea), "the embodiment of hope"; "the incarnation of evil" 2. The manifestation of a Hindu deity in human or superhuman or animal form; "the Buddha is considered an avatar of the god Vishnu"
"In the consciousness of my right mind, we are all laced together as the universal tapestry of human potential It understands that we are all connected to one another in an intricate fabric of the cosmos, and it enthusiastically marches to the beat of its own drum. Freed from all perception of boundaries, my right mind proclaims, I am part of it all. My right mind sees unity " Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey
Q: If you could get the answer to one question, what would the question be?
~ from Latin resolvere, to untie
> Are you a composite of constituent parts, or are you as you feel an irreducible self?
[Graphic: HMS Resolution in a storm.]
"More often than not, the gems of the Heart are diametrically opposed to the world's proud common sense. Mankind argues loudly about matters it does not understand. Man is ruthless with whatever points out the nothingness of his personal ego. Those still satisfied with their misidentification as great judges of Life are not bubbling over at the prospect of losing their dearest possession, the intellect. Truth is the absolute destruction of all that goes to make up the personal belief and dream of a world filled with intelligent, mind possessing mortals. It marks the end of the old nature, 'man with breath in his nostrils,' the 'old man' to be put off.
"The belief in a separate personality capable of possessing this Now-Awareness is exploded and ended in the Heart. Here in the Heart one finds Truth, the Eternal Flame, the all-consuming fire destined to overcome the world of fictitious separateness.
"First, mankind looked for Truth to come as something from out the sky in the future. Then, it was determined to be from within that it would be found, but the "within" was thought to be within a personal mind, contained and controlled by man. Man has been looking for Truth within his intellect, within his reasoning and calculating mind; but no Wisdom, no Truth, no Reality will ever come from the thinking, reasoning, planning, evaluating, judging, opinion-holding intellect. It comes forth from Self-Identity." ~ From A Guide To Awareness And Tranquility, by William Samuel.
[Calligraphy: Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love]
When the flute players
they laid down their pipes,
Is there something to listen for
"There is a story of a police officer who tried to persuade a supersalesman to abandon an attempt at suicide. After a little discussion, they both jumped in the river. If I had a discussion with Jean Paul Sartre, the originator of Existentialism, there would be no doubt about the outcome, I should finish up in complete despair, thus joining the third Earl Russell, Bertrand Russell, who stated in his urbane way that he rests securely 'on a foundation of unyielding despair.' At least, I might....
"It is characteristic of modern philosophy that its main dish is despair, with little items 'on the side' like boredom, dread, and anxiety, to give zest to the meal. Men have reasoned about the mystery of existence until all avenues have been explored and now are reduced to studying words themselves, what we mean when we say something, what meaning itself means. We seem to have arrived at the very end of one era and the beginning of something entirely new - that is, if we are able to keep our fingers off the rocket-button .
"As the word 'Existentialism' shows, we are in very deep waters. We are concerned with what it means just to 'be.' The very conception of 'being' is the problem. Why even should 'being' be?
"Leaving such little problems on one side, it is a fact that many persons who think at all put everything in one box labeled 'being.' Naturally this suggests the opposite to them that is, non being nothing, vacancy, the void, etc. However, where is nothing? Obviously nowhere! Then we have no problem there.
"It does not occur to such persons and there is no reason why it should since they are bound up in their own ideas that the opposite to 'being' might be something more, not less, than we normally know." ~ From "Life's Pretty Forlorn, as Some See It" by Alfred Pulyan
"All the while you believe you are fighting your way towards something, it is just your gentle way of comforting yourself as you slowly surrender. In a word, our life is about dying. Every human being is dying a slow death I mean in precisely the sense we take when we speak of someone gravely ill and dying. We are all desperately learning how to die coming to terms with it." ~ Bob Cergol, "Nothing to be Done?" (Beyond Mind, Beyond Death)
Is it possible to find the truth of what you are, and your relation to the cosmos without relying on what some authority holds out as the truth?
"At the end, if you go through all of this research that's been done recently in psychology, you do end up with the position that the notion of conscious will is an illusion. We make up stories that make us feel good about the decisions we make, but in fact we're not really nearly as in charge as we think we are." ~ Malcolm Gladwell, WNYC RadioLab interview, "Choice" (Nov. 14, 2008)
"Philosophy is the quest of life. It is more than a love of wisdom, unless we understand wisdom as being different from knowledge, as different as life is from death. Wisdom is knowledge which is experience and therefore life; the quest of wisdom is in reality the quest of life. It is true that the name of philosophy has often been used to cover a game of intellectual question and answer which leaves men no richer than before. Thus the average man distrusts philosophy and accuses it of giving stones for bread. But real philosophy is not the intellectual solving of problems; in the words of Plato, philosophy is the birth of wonder, and he is the true philosopher who begins to wonder about life, not he who is certain of having solved that which is beyond solution. It is profoundly true that, until we can see the wonder of life all around us, unless we see ourselves surrounded by a mystery that challenges our daring exploration, we have not entered on the path of philosophy." ~ J.J. van der Leeuw, The Conquest of Illusion
What is the source of your life?
"It still bothers me that I arrogantly believed I was in total control when the facts of course reveal the exact opposite. I had absolutely no idea what was really going on. I was merely a pawn helping the bad guys break the law. I still have no idea what events may or may not have been caused by my actions . this is so troubling that it goes to the root of my existence as Oppo[sition] Man: Even a smart guy like Oppo Man doesn't know what he doesn't know. So he's not all that smart after all, is he?" ~ Stephen Marks, confessions of a Political Hitman
"Man is continually trying to find himself. He stumbles from illusion to illusion. He rarely stands on any sure ground in his entire lifetime. His confusion begets despair, and he acts out his life toward the end like a man in a nightmare, from which he can escape only by going deeper into sleep." ~ Richard Rose, from "The Mind" (June 2002 TAT Forum e-zine)
> What does it mean to find yourself? (Are you lost?) Do you stumble from illusion to illusion? Do you rarely stand on sure ground?
[Graphic: Von Koch snowflakes fractal.]
"You want peace. There is no one who does not want peace. Yet there is something else in you that wants the drama, wants the conflict. You may not be able to feel it at this moment. You may have to wait for a situation or even just a thought that triggers a reaction in you: someone accusing you of this or that, not acknowledging you, encroaching on your territory, questioning the way you do things, an argument about money.... Can you then feel the enormous surge of force moving through you, the fear, perhaps being masked by anger or hostility? Can you hear your own voice becoming harsh or shrill or louder and a few octaves lower? Can you be aware of your mind racing to defend its position, justify, attack, blame? In other words, can you awaken at that moment of unconsciousness? Can you feel that there is something in you that is at war, something that feels threatened and wants to survive at all cost, that needs the drama in order to assert its identity as the victorious character within that theatrical production? Can you feel there is something in you that would rather be right than at peace?" ~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
"We begin the retreat from error by starting to question, to question our very beliefs, which may be largely unconscious and taken for granted. We test these beliefs and find our real values and longings.
"The first action, which we can't actually do or decide, is to come to the realization that things are not as they seem. To become honest enough to question our beliefs. To admit that we don't know, don't know what we really want, are not clear as to our real motivations."
Your current beliefs about your self also imply beliefs about others/the world, and your beliefs about others/the world also imply beliefs about your self?
Your current beliefs about your self are incomplete?
It's possible to know your self totally at the core of your being?
Total self-knowing or self-realization is the permanent antidote to existential suffering or angst?
"... My mind and my body are one one organism, not two . But this does not exhaust the situation. There is a pure Consciousness Consciousness that knows itself . This is unexpected and I did not believe when I first heard this that there could be two kinds of Consciousness. I only knew the one I was naturally familiar with . It may be said that the pure Consciousness is concealed in 'my' consciousness as a penny may hide the sun. A ray of this may suddenly dazzle us in so-called 'mystical experiences,' of which most persons have had a touch, but in awakening (or satori or metanoia) we see the pure Consciousness shining serenely in its own light. It is a triumphant experience since 'what has to be done' has been done, but it is also profoundly humbling as our little self sees itself as a usurper, a thief borrowing its selfhood from the Universal Self." ~ Alfred Pulyan ("The Penny that Blots Out the Sun")
" Nobel laureate Richard Axel's lab engineered a fruit fly with a glowing brain, each of its neurons like a little neon light. This was done through the careful insertion of a fluorescent protein in all of the insect's olfactory nerves. But the glow wasn't constant. Axel engineered the fly so that the fluorescent protein turned itself on only when calcium was present in high concentrations inside the cell (active neurons have more calcium). Using some fancy microscopy, Axel's lab group was able to watch-in real time-the patterns of activity within the fly brain whenever it experienced an odor. They could trace the ascent of the smell, how it began as a flicker in a receptor and within milliseconds inflated into a loom of excited cells within the tiny fly nervous system. Furthermore, when the fluorescent fly was exposed to different odors, different areas of its brain lit up. The scent of almonds activated a different electrical grid than the scent of a ripe banana. Axel had found the functional map of smell.
"But this imaging of insects, for all of its technical splendor, leaves the real mystery of scent unanswered. Using his neon neurons, Axel can look at the fly's brain and, with shocking accuracy, discern what smell the fly is smelling. He performs this act of mind reading by looking at the fly brain from the outside. But how does the fly know what it's experiencing? Unless you believe in a little drosophila ghost inside the fly machine, reconstructing its deconstructed smell, this mystery seems impossible to explain. As Axel notes, 'No matter how high we get in the fly brain when we map this sensory circuit, the question remains: who in the fly brain is looking down? Who reads the olfactory map? This is our profound and basic problem.'" ~ Jonah Lehrer, Proust Was a Neuroscientist
"What greater thing is there than this Mystery that is Myself?
"The false self is like a veil that hides the paradise that we're seeking." ~ Cynthia Bourgeault
> What in you is true and false?
"When you don't cover up the world with words and labels, a sense of the miraculous returns to your life that was lost a long time ago when humanity, instead of using thought, became possessed by thought. A depth returns to your life. Things regain their newness, their freshness. And the greatest miracle is the experiencing of your essential self as prior to any words, thoughts, mental labels, and images. For this to happen, you need to disentangle your sense of I, of Beingness, from all the things it has become mixed up with, that is to say, identified with . "The quicker you are in attaching verbal or mental labels to things, people, or situations, the more shallow and lifeless your reality becomes, and the more deadened you become to reality, the miracle of life that continuously unfolds within and around you. In this way, cleverness may be gained, but wisdom is lost, and so are joy, love, creativity, and aliveness. They are concealed in the still gap between the perception and the interpretation. Of course we have to use words and thoughts. They have their own beauty - but do we need to become imprisoned in them?
"Words reduce reality to something the human mind can grasp, which isn't very much. Language consists of five basic sounds produced by the vocal cords. They are the vowels a, e, i, o, u. The other sounds are consonants produced by air pressure: s, f, g, and so forth. Do you believe some combination of such basic sounds could ever explain who you are, or the ultimate purpose of the universe, or even what a tree or stone is in its depth?" ~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose
"Think of a scene of beauty or wonder you once saw, that had a profound effect upon you. Most of us have had this experience, one in which we are breathless, and the awe renders us speechless and quiets the mind. This feeling/perception was not just a thought-reaction but had something of the eternal in it remember? What part of you was this, that could remember the feeling of eternity, something beyond the mundane, and linked you directly to it?" ~ Bob Fergeson
> What is the source of longing?
"A person's self-image is the mental picture, generally of a kind that is quite resistant to change, that depicts not only details that are potentially available to objective investigation by others (height, weight, hair color, sex, I.Q. score, etc.), but also items that have been learned by that person about himself or herself, either from personal experiences or by internalizing the judgments of others." (Source: Wikipedia)
Is your self-image a learned construct?
"People think that focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully . Life is brief, and then you die, you know?" ~ Steve Jobs, Apple CEO
"We are automata entirely controlled by the forces of the medium, being tossed about like corks on the surface of the water, but mistaking the resultant of the impulses from the outside for the free will
> How much free will do we have?
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