Keep Coming Back

Keep coming back to the things you know:

1) There is only consciousness. This consciousness is all there is. Any personal story that appears on top of that consciousness is, let's say, artificial, and does not need to be monitored in order for you to be. You are free in every moment to simply be this uncomplicated consciousness. How nice is that? How lucky are you to know that?

2) Nothing in the world needs to get fixed. There is no amount of fixing, for your own personal life situation, or for humankind, that ever accomplishes anything. There will always be, in life, good things and bad things. If a good thing occurs, great, but the rule of life is that a bad thing will occur sooner or later. The world is not the place to look for any permanent goodness.

As seekers, we have a tendency to think that there is a permanent solution — that other people may have their lows and their fears, but we aren't supposed to have that, we're supposed to have the ticket out. So I think that hard times in life are particularly hard for seekers. Non-acceptance of life's ups-and-downs seems to be built in to our seeking equation. So be easy on yourself in this regard — life is tough for you!

There IS a permanent solution, but it's not in the world. The world has nothing to offer. The world can't provide freedom from the pain of living, NOR can it provide the lasting, unshakeable freedom that we seek in our spiritual inquiry. We're not going to find either of those freedoms in the world. So it's time to remind ourselves once again: the world has nothing to offer.

We might find great joy in life, and be passionate about wonderful things, like grandchildren, or service, or work that we love. But just don't confuse passion with freedom from the duality inherent in that passion.

3) What you think of as yourself is just conditioning. Inquire into your actions, your thoughts, your feelings, and see for yourself. Is there any real "you" there that is independent? Look and see how deep it goes — see if you can find anything that is not conditioning. The layers get very thin and hard to spot, which is the advantage of using the tools of Vedanta to help you spot them. Once you peel all those layers away as "not-me," what remains? Consciousness. You.

4) There is no continuity in time. There is no connection between the "you" of your story right now and the "you" of your story a moment from now. There is nothing happening now that "causes" something to happen next. So anything that is troubling you now can be dropped right now. In consciousness, there is no law which says that a thing appearing now will still be appearing in the next moment. In consciousness, limitlessness is the name of the game. Spontaneous healings, miracles — everything is possible.

5) Ishvara (God) is taking care of the world. You don't need to worry about it. The universe is benign, and you are being taken care of. Whatever is needed, Ishvara will provide. Ishvara never screws up. Ishvara smoothes out the road ahead of you. You can relax.

These are only a few of the things that you know. I suggest you keep coming back to them, and whatever else you have in your personsal toolbox, whenever you find yourself caught up in stories of separation and pain. You will find that the more you bring yourself back to what you know, the easier it will get, and the less time you will spend wandering in the dark.

This is really true — I guarantee it!



Tired of Not Being Happy?

Is it that you are not happy now, and you want to be? If you want to be happy, that must be sometime in the future that you are talking about, right? But what about now? Don't you want to be happy right now? Maybe you already are.

Is there really anything here that you can call unhappiness? Look what is here in this moment — right now, there is peace, there is stillness. There might be some movement on that stillness, and that movement might be a thought that refers to some other time — the past or the future — but that movement doesn't actually MOVE the stillness, does it? Look in your experience and see.

Isn't the stillness still here?

Are you tired of feelings of anxiety? Let's look at those. A fearful thought can arise out of the blue. A little squeeze of anxiety might hit you in the gut somewhere. And what about it? We are all remembering that feeling, right now. And we don't want it to happen anymore. But in this very moment, isn't there a stillness, a peace? Anxiety can only be in the future or the past, but it can't be right now.

"But when I'm in it, it's awful! I run a whole story out in my head and it gets so bad!"

I'll tell you why there is only peace and stillness here, and not anxiety. It's because you are beingness, you are awareness, and your nature is peace and stillness. When anxiety appears, it's just like anything else that appears — it belongs to the story.

Yes, it can be painful and it can be convincing. But it's not in reality. You are the only reality, and you are by nature peace and stillness, aware, being.

The story is self-perpetuating. It's job is to self-perpetuate, and it can do that because of your thoughts. You create a story that is not really there. A whole world of story! As soon as your thoughts are pulled from the story, where is it?

It is nowhere. There is only stillness.

So look for things that only belong to the story. This is what
Vedanta calls discrimination. It's knowing what is real and what is story. As you do your inquiry, you will learn more and more things that are only in the story, and you will learn that things in the story have no power to hurt you, to make you anxious, or to make you unhappy.

Each time an anxious or unhappy thought appears, ask about where it is, where it lives, what it refers to. Does it refer to itself only? Its own story of itself, and the other components of the story? Yes, I guarantee, that thought of the story only refers to the some other part of the story. And you do not live in the story. You do not exist anywhere in the story. Your being is totally independent of the story.

And so….you are free. Now, and all the time. If this isn't how it is for you, it's okay. It's nothing you need to get in the future. Just be present, think of stillness, and it is here.


You are Goodness

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What is your spiritual priority? Is your priority to find the truth, know the truth of who you are? Is that a goal? What happens after the goal of knowing the truth is reached? Is the priority happiness? To be happy, to live as a happy person? To live as a free person? To love everything that appears?

It's important to look past the end goal. It's good to know what all of this seeking is for. And it's also good to know that the journey doesn't end when the goal is reached.

The goal is knowing the truth of who you are. This is not a static knowledge — it is an expanding one. This means that it's impossible to get all of it through the intellect. The intellect has to be on board, at the beginning, but the real expansion comes when the heart becomes involved. Your emotional truth — LOVE — will become more and more lived and experienced as your heart learns this piece, the emotional piece of the knowledge. This piece — the expansive love of Goodness — just keeps growing in you forever. It has no end. There is no limit to the amount of love God has in mind for you, for your experience.

So happiness and freedom are not prizes at the end of the search which can be plucked off and kept in your pocket. They are invitations to expand and explore your relationship with the love of Goodness, God's love. Happiness can't be yours as a static thing belonging to a person — happiness can only be in the dynamic expression and outward flow of love, through you and into the world. That is where you see the love appear, and where others also see it appear, through you. The goodness in the world is because of YOU.

There is no end to God and no end to Goodness. After the seeking is over, the journey to Goodness begins, and there is no end to this magnificent, brilliant journey.

Your Body is the Light

This body of yours is God. How could it be anything else?

Perhaps you have an image of your body that it is a separate thing. Perhaps you think of your body as an illusion. But your body is neither an illusion nor a separate thing.

Your body is an invitation to recognizing God's love and God's light in everything and every person. It may currently feel like your body is small, constricted, heavy, even ill or failing. But it is none of those things. It may feel like you are incapable of seeing the light of God in every person, every situation, but you are not. Not only are you capable, but this is who God intends you to be.

You have an idea about God, about God's infinite love and light. Hold your body in that same idea. Breathe that love and light into your body. This is the invitation. Your body is calling to you to recognize its God-presence. It calls to you with pain, with disease, with depression, even just with the gravity of daily life. Don't ignore the signs.

You have no power to bring God into the world any other way but through your very own body. This is your vehicle for light and love. You entered this world as pure light, but over time the circuits got conditioned to be constricted through your exposure to other people in the world. It does not have to remain that way. Your body can return to light just by your intention and thoughts.

Haven't you always known this? Haven't you just forgotten? I'm just reminding you that you can begin to re-remember your nature as light anytime you want. Maybe now.

Does Your Spiritual Life Feel Good?

What makes you feel good spiritually? Do you have passion in your spiritual life, excitement? If not, then you probably need to move on and find something else. Above all other considerations, your spiritual life should make you feel wonderful. It should be nourishing to you as a person. Isn’t that the point?

Do you feel like you are on an endless intellectual treasure hunt and always feel close, but never really get any increased satisfaction? Waiting for one final answer to appear is exhausting and unsatisfying. It can end up feeling like drudgery. And is it realistic?

The idea of enlightenment – a final goal – implies that everything will be finished. Your suffering as a person will be over forever, and you will know yourself to be free. So, is that static? Is freedom a frozen thing? What is “not suffering” supposed to look like, and to whom?

Freedom is not living as a non-person. Freedom is living as a human being, unlimited by assumed parameters, journeying with God as your guide to a deeper and deeper understanding of what your role is here on Earth, as an outpicturing of God’s love in form, and trying to live up to that responsibility. Every moment of your life can be the joyous exploration of this privilege, of being human and divine at the same time.

You choose what your spiritual life is going to look like. If it is feeling dry or unsatisfying, uninspiring, it’s time to put some juice back into it. Feel wonderful! Don’t be a seeker, be a journeyer. It’s the journeying – the excitement of growing into your divinity – that alleviates the suffering, not the destination.



When is the Search Over?

When do we stop searching? When is it over? Is there some definitive sign? Is there some kind of dramatic shift or change in perception to let us know? Is there a subtle but unmistakable “click,” as we sometimes read about? It’s certainly an appealing notion, and it keeps us striving for that finality, but I don’t think it holds water, and does us harm in the end.

Is there a final door through which we walk, which when we turn around to see where we came from, we see that there was never a door to begin with? In my experience, there were dozens of those doors. Every door felt like the final door, but there was always another door. Why? Because it is the nature of the mind to look for doors, to look for mysteries and try to solve them.

When does it end? I found that it ended when I stopped looking for doors. Of course, this took a lot of preparation, but I believe that if you are reading this website, you yourself have already had years, perhaps decades, of preparation. It may be that for you, the only thing standing between you and the end of seeking is simply not knowing you can stop.

The act of stopping is an important one. Stopping is letting go of resistance to what is, right now. Resistance is painful, and yet we hang on to it, in the belief that there is more, there is better – some final, perfect, permanent knowledge or state, and we will find it, if only we keep looking. And we feel we are close – oh so close!

But “close” is the epitome of the pain of separation. Just out of my reach. “Close” says “I am not that.”

It’s important to stop feeding this painful misconception. Stopping is an act of faith. It’s stepping off the edge of the cliff, and seeing if our wings will carry us. It may be that this is not even a choice that we make ourselves. We might get pushed.

It’s funny that when we jump off this cliff, we’re actually jumping back into the world. What we are is evidenced here in the world. The holy Presence that is our true nature is here, in the infinite variety of expression, and we are privileged to enjoy the fullness of this expression in every moment. It is in this fullness that our true nature is known, when the resistance to it is abandoned. Our wings are fully extended, are proving themselves to be strong and trustworthy, and are carrying us to new heights indeed.

There is an irony to this, and a sense of coming full circle – what we wanted so badly to transcend in the first place becomes the heaven we were looking for all along.

Free by Nature

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I am awareness.

I alone am real.

When I think, "I can't find me right now," that
is me. I am always present. A thought cannot appear without me.

I can never be lost. I can never be hidden.

The insentient thoughts appear in me, and the "I" mistakes itself for that. But only sentience — me — makes that possible.

Whatever is going on in the mind does not distract the mind from me.

Mind appears in me. Mind comes and goes. I am, free of mind.

Experience appears in me. Experiences come and go. I am, free of experience.

I remain pure, as an ever-changing world in thought appears on the movie screen of my mind. The world in thought appears, but is not real. I am the only reality.

Everything I know and experience, as an apparent person, is known because of me — awareness — the singular reality.

Whatever thought appears, how is that thought known? It is known because of me, awareness.

The thoughts are free to come and go. The awareness they appear in is ever-pure, never touched by a thought.

This awareness is who you are.

You are free.

Inquire and learn what can be negated as not real. What remains — you, awareness — is revealed as the one and only reality, free by nature.

Check out the
Vedanta page for my recommendations on how to accomplish this inquiry.

Understanding Ishvara for Liberation

Who is working “you”? Are you the operator of “you”? Are you doing your actions and thinking your thoughts? Is it “you” suffering?

If you have been studying Vedanta for a while, or are a follower of any non-dual teaching, you know that all there is is awareness. There is only one reality, and a little investigation reveals this reality to be consciousness. The bottom line of Vedanta, and any non-dual teaching, is “I am that,” or “I am awareness.” Since awareness alone is real, and you know you are real, how could you be anything else?

But where the bulk of the self-inquiry work comes in is actually taking the sense of “I,” your normal, everyday sense that you exist, and understanding that this “I” is pointing to awareness and not to the individual being that it feels like you are.

This is where Ishvara comes in.
Ishvara is a term in Vedanta that describes that which operates the field – “the field” meaning the entirety of that which appears, commonly called “the world.”

The field is only apparently real. It isn’t
really real, because only awareness is really real. But undeniably, stuff appears, and the stuff that appears is apparently real. But even though the field is not really “real,” it still operates under a totally consistent and logical system of laws. The field does not behave in a random fashion – actions are followed by reactions, and they’re usually pretty predictable, even just by casual observation.

Ishvara operates the entire field. That includes you. That means your body, your mind, everything. We think we control our body and our mind, but Ishvara actually does that, down to every last detail. There is nothing in the appearance that is not totally Ishvara’s realm.

So there is no actual “you” that exists in the apparent world! Would you still call this entity “I” if it were clear you had no control over it at all? It’s Ishvara’s job to keep you thinking that entity is you – to keep the dance of duality going, to keep you involved and playing along. But unfortunately, this role-playing robs you of the knowledge of your true identity as inherently free and limitless awareness. The real fruit of self-inquiry is putting an end to the mistaken placement of the “I” sense onto a body and mind that is appearing in the field. Goodbye and good riddance to the apparent bondage!

If you were actually controlling the body and mind, then it would make sense to have your “I” attached to that. And that’s what we generally keep thinking, for years and years, even after we have heard and assimilated the knowledge “I am awareness.” There is a tendency to try to keep both identities afloat – both “I am awareness” and “but I’m still in a little bit of control here in the body, I’m still in a bit of suffering, I still need to fix things here,” etc.

There is a reluctance to let go of the idea that I am the person appearing in the field, because it’s not readily apparent how the suffering is going to finally end unless I stay here in the world and get rid of it myself! But you can’t get rid of the suffering by arranging things in the world – not in a million years. Only the understanding that the “I” you actually are is already free ends the suffering. That means knowing without a doubt that the “I” appearing in the world with a body and a mind is not you.

So when we say “I,” there are a few tests to run through your mind to challenge your thinking. It’s just a habit of yours (Ishvara’s habit!) to associate the “I” with the person. But if you have looked into it, you have seen how there is really no control there on “your” part. Thoughts come without your willing them. Feelings arise in response to the thoughts. Actions happen based on the thoughts and feelings. Physical laws are obeyed. There isn’t any choice about any of this. It’s all just happening, according the rules of the apparent matter, and we call that Ishvara.

So if Ishvara is running the body and mind you think of as “I,” that takes away the “doingness,” doesn’t it? Not thinking, not feeling, not acting – not doing anything at all. Just being. And I’m still here, even though Ishvara is running the body and mind. Knowing that Ishvara is in charge does not take away the “I,” does it? So then, what
is the “I”? If there’s no doingness going on, and yet there is beingness, what am I?

There is only one possible “I” – it is the awareness within which all this activity appears. I am awareness. There is nothing I have to do in the appearance to make myself more full, more safe, more satisfied. The appearance will never provide the mind with a sense of safety and fullness, because the mind is a duality machine, operated by Ishvara. The job of Ishvara is to keep this appearance going. Ishvara gives your mind a duality banquet every second, and for every step towards liberation in the appearance, there is a step away. As long as your “I” is planted there, you believe you are not free.

Place the “I” in the right place – that’s all! The beingness you know right now, just pure beingness, conscious presence – take this, see the logic in taking this non-doing, non-controlling beingness as the real “I.” This is liberation.

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As always, I recommend checking out
James Swartz’s Vedanta website, Shining World. My deepest gratitude to James and his tireless work of teaching Vedanta for forty years.


Is Your Freedom a Feeling?

You are already free. This you know from all your spiritual literature, from Vedanta, from your own insights and epiphanies. You, awareness, are already free. So why do you not feel free?

Is it that you have not attained
moksha yet? And that you will feel free when you have attained moksha?

What if you’re never going to feel free? What if it’s not about feeling free?

What if the “free” that you already are has nothing to do with feelings, or with anything else that you usually associate with the word “free”?

The freedom that we are used to thinking about is the one that we find in the dictionary. It’s a noun – a thing – and it is defined relative to other things. But nothing about the Self can be put in relative terms. All relativity is duality, and the Self is non-dual, not made of parts – there is no duality in reality. So the dictionary definition of freedom is not applicable to the Self.

A person can feel free – that’s possible, of course – but only relative to other things. A feeling of freedom comes from all kinds of experiences we can have in the world. Which means that the objects, the circumstances, the thoughts, all have to line up a certain way, and this causes a feeling of freedom. This isn’t a very free freedom, is it? When I have to make sure that all the objects in my experience behave according to plan, and then I’ll get my feeling of freedom for a little while, until the objects move on and don’t line up anymore? That sounds like a lot of work and aggravation for a small payoff that doesn’t last. And that certainly can’t be what
moksha is.

So what about
moksha, liberation, the freedom that the rishis talk about? What kind of freedom is this?

It’s a freedom that doesn’t involve objects at all. And it doesn't involve feelings. Nothing in the world has to be – or even can be! – lined up to produce this freedom. It is already the nature of reality, the nature of you, the Self. There is no way to draw this freedom closer to yourself, since it is already the essence of everything. There is no way to increase it, and no point in even trying. And incredibly, it's not something that you feel. You cannot feel this freedom. It is more subtle than your feeling apparatus, and is beyond the reach of feelings.

It is difficult to conceive of this indefinable freedom – impossible, in fact. Freedom, being a word we associate with objects, is not an accurate word for it. There is no accurate word. Nothing about the Self can be conceived of or put into words, or even known by the mind.

And yet, this is what you are.
Moksha is very simply the knowledge that this non-relative, eternal, unchanging limitlessness is your true nature. This knowledge removes the compulsion to try to make freedom happen in the world, and removes the bondage to chasing a feeling of freedom. Removing this bondage leads to a nice experiential state for the jiva, but this is due to a loss of false belief, not a gaining of "freedom." Moksha is a dropping-off, not an adding-on.

Just knowing who you are – not feeling it, not experiencing it, but
knowing it – reveals the ever-presence of this “freedom” which is no kind of thing you’ve ever thought of with your mind, nor can you. And yet, here it is.

How to get this knowledge?
Vedanta and James Swartz! And self-inquiry, of course.