In the distance,
dove coos to its lover –
A wistful smile.
I have long morning conversations with a co-worker. On this occasion, he was home and sent an email, to which I responded.
As I thoughtfully and mindfully wrote out my response (and post it here), I realize I am reticent to commit this to the written word. I prefer leaving these conversations to evaporate as quickly as the words leave my mouth. The reason is rather simple… my “illusory self” (this ego) does not want to there to be any perception by the reader that the writer thinks he’s some sort of “guru.” He/I am not. Just a guy with thoughts.
In that vein, nor does it want to be trapped in a corner and have these words measured up against what some “great sage” has said, and found lacking or in error.
That being said, this is heavily edited, removing reference to the individual’s name, and much of the discussion in the body of the email. Just the basic questions are re-posted here.
<Questioner> How does one excise the destructive portion of the ego from the Atman / Self?
See: Watts’ comment that “attempting to transform your mind a vicious circle.” You’re trapped in one right now. Observe via mindfullness, and notice moments of destructiveness. In time, space between the thoughts of destructiveness, and actions of destructiveness widen (this thought to action link is “karma”). That’s the purpose of mindfulness… to put space between thought and action (action may just be another thought). Thoughts will ALWAYS arise… egoic, destructive, petty, angry… but when they do, that space allows us to see them, not act on them, but address why they are arising. Are they rooted in greed? How am “I” being threatened? Who is this “I” that feels threatened? Deeply investigate.
The ego isn’t compartmentalized such that you can excise one bit, leaving the rest intact. It’s all part of the interdependent, interconnected web that is Questioner/Universe. If you could excise one star from the universe, the universe would fail to be (you have to think about this to get it, and we can discuss that later).
<Questioner> Or more precisely, how can one catch the ego to unmask it?
Just this: See. Hear. Feel. Taste. Smell. These are active. Mindfullness. Why is this activity not just another tool of the ego? Because this all occurs prior to thought arising (see 5 aggregates).
Form: Off in the distance, a dove coos… there is hearing… that is, in and of itself, the central nervous system “reproducing” the experience and creating an instance of “the mind.”
Sensation: sound – timber, resonance, volume, length, frequency. The “shape” of the sound.
Perception: thought arises in reference to that sensation, and colors that shape. Is it positive, negative or neutral? These are a kind of value judgment, but are more automatic in nature. You’ve yet to recognize it as the cooing of a dove, but you can discern if the experience was positive, negative, or neutral.
Volition: Once the shape is colored, recognition of that shape based on past memory framework categorizes it. Bird. Dove. Cooing.
And then, Consciousness arises and you start to wrap that experience in a myriad of thoughts:
“He’s cooing for his mate.”
“Those birds are everywhere.”
“We had a nest of doves, and they shit on everything.”
“I hate when I see bird shit on my car.”
“My car is almost out of gas, I have 90 miles till I’m empty, so when I fill up, I should get it washed.”
“Shit, that means won’t get to work when I want to. I’ll chance it, and try to get gas on the way home.”
And there’s an instance of “Questioner Hearing Cooing Dove” to becoming “Questioner’s Ego Making Judgments.”
<Questioner> Have you listened to “Losing the Ego: the Awakening by Eckhart Tolle”
I think I’ve mentioned in past chats that I see Tolle as a “regurgitating guru huckster” out to make a buck (or a euro as the case may be). His claptrap is repackaged (aka “melded”) Buddhism/Vedanta, and poorly repackaged at that. His stuff sounds deep, but isn’t really. Nothing new from him that you can’t get from more authentic sources.
<Questioner> Tolle contends that “You are not the thought, you are the awareness.”
Yeah, um, then who is aware of that awareness? This “awareness” is the same as the folks who insist “it’s all Consciousness.” While that may be, you simply CANNOT access this Consciousness (too many reasons to discuss in an email).
It’s a lot of nonsense because we then have to ask, who is aware of awareness being aware of awareness? It never ends. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchers?)
<Questioner> Freedom from Ego is freedom from our identification with thoughts: according to Tolle, that is the awakening.
Is that true? Is it simply a matter dis-identification with thought? God, there are many a death row inmate who have tried to use that excuse… “It wasn’t me. Those weren’t my thoughts. It was the Devil. I was out of my head.”
And who exactly is going to dis-identify? Don’t you see the game he’s playing? The EGO thinks it can dis-identify with the thoughts that arise. He’s told your ego exactly what it wants to hear. And as Watts has said, as soon as you hear that, “ego” rises up to the next level – that of dis-identifier with thought – and thus it stays “in control”, but in a loftier position.
The simple fact is, you ABSOLUTELY ARE your thoughts (and much more, and much less) – you are an interdependent, interconnected Questioner/Universe, and those thoughts are as much a part of this intricate web of existence/experience.
Me, or Tolle, telling you anything to the contrary does nothing to correct how you feel, does it?. You still feel you are you. It’s great for the huckster to tell everyone that, but it solves nothing. It isn’t practical, or pragmatic. Remember, pragmatism uses whatever works. Did what his video said work? Are you now dis-identified with thought?
<Questioner> Is this something you experience? And if so, is it better to recognize the repetitive thoughts, or the reaction the body has to these thoughts? At the point you recognize the reaction the body has to these thoughts – does the thought itself matter anymore?
This wandering mind,
Always in search of something,
Leaps from place to place.
“How do you feel?”
Lost for an answer, I said:
“With my hands.”
For those generally familiar with Sam Harris‘ body of work, Waking up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3601-7) might come as bit of a surprise. Mr. Harris, the author of books like The End of Faith, Letters to a Christian Nation, and Free Will (to name a few), who holds a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, is a skilled debater and lecturer, also happens to distinguish himself as a staunch advocate for atheism in America.
Undoubtedly, the hardcore, aka “militant”, atheist will feel that Mr. Harris has done an about face and joined the ranks of the “deluded masses” he consistently criticized in the past by writing a book about (shudder)… spirituality. But, as any long time reader of Mr. Harris’ blog will tell you, that isn’t a wholly accurate characterization of Mr. Harris, nor what this book is about.
Yes, Sam Harris is a vocal critic of organized religion – and in particular, the Abrahamic religions – but he is showing himself to be far more multidimensional than many would like to admit.
Someone asked: “How do you go about achieving a practical balance in life between mindful indifference and detachment and still fighting to make the world a better place?”
Ah, that’s the conundrum, isn’t it. In thinking about this, I had a couple of thoughts (and rhetorical questions) which aren’t really going to answer the question. Just some ramblings, musings…
Continue reading “Detachment and Making the World a Better Place”