Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Lojong 5: Rest in the nature of the present moment

If you've been following along in your own practice, by this point you've had at least glimpses of the emptiness of everything. That is, you've seen for yourself, if only for a moment, how nothing has intrinsic existence on its own, but rather depends on everything else.

It's fairly easy to notice this in the moment for a few seconds, but very difficult to hold onto this awareness without distortion. Thoughts return, life intrudes. Mind works actively and automatically to ressurect the ego, turn the flow of sensation into "things", and stop the awakening. It attributes substance, intention, and personhood to other people, groups, animals, even phenomena.

Realization comes and goes. When it's present, rest in it. When thoughts begin to return, look straight at them. Notice their emptiness, their dependence, their lack of substance. Stay with realization as long as possible. When it goes, trust that it will return.

Rest in the swirl of the present moment without words, without concepts, with just what is. Notice each sensory impression as it rises and falls away without label or judgement.  


Monday, March 07, 2016

Lojong 4: Self-liberate even the antidote

"Awareness" was a pointer to an experience that turned out to be insubstantial.

All the pointers are like this. Don't get hung up on the remedies. Don't get stuck on a slogan. After using a second thorn to remove the first from your finger, you throw them both away.

The finger points at the moon, so don't get stuck on the finger. Follow it to the moon. Enjoy the vision of the moon, but don't get stuck on it either. Don't get stuck. Keep flowing with what is, right now.

Even the idea of "ultimate truth" or "ultimate reality" is just another empty concept. Don't let it seduce you into seeking after it.

"Awareness" is not a thing you can be. It's a process and there isn't a solid you.

Just keep coming back to present moment experience, here and now. Let go of beliefs. If you've been labeling experiences as they arise, set that aside for a while and just watch the experience come and go wordlessly.

What is available to be known in present moment experience?


Sunday, March 06, 2016

Lojong 3: Examine the nature of unborn awareness

If life and dreams are not all that different, who or what is the dreamer behind them?

Consider all the objects you can notice in the field of awareness. Are any of them you?

Consider the field of awareness itself. Is that you?

As long as your answer is "yes", keep examining. Don't look for evidence to support your current position. You'll find it easily. Instead, work like a scientist by looking for anomalies, bits of evidence that don't agree with current belief.

Go ahead, examine. Where do thoughts come from? Where do sensations come from? Where do they go after they are experienced and fall away? Where does the awareness that receives the experience arise? Is there any such thing as a coherent field that we can call awareness? Or is that just an idea?

In the same way that we come to see that we are not our thoughts, we can come to see that the idea of awareness, which we might identify with, is itself just another thought, not a solid foundation for an identity. Awareness arises when senses perceive objects, just as sensory perceptions arise with awareness. It's not something we can be. There is no basis for identification. There is just what is going on now.

Thoughts, memories, feelings, objects, percepts, and concepts come and go. That is the nature of awareness. "Unborn" simply points out that there is no memory or record of where awareness originally came from or began, if it originally "came from" anywhere. As far as can be told from experience, awareness has always been present. By awareness, we mean the process of perceiving and conceiving -- seeing/hearing/smelling/tasting/touching (perceiving) and noticing thoughts as they arise (conceiving). Awareness is the only aspect of experience that has no perceived beginning or end, because when it starts and ends, it is not present.

A further observation to be made is that while percepts are (interpreted) sensory impressions, concepts are simulated sensory impressions. Thoughts are images (printed words, pictures), sounds (a voice or noises) in the imagination, smells, tastes, and/or simulated tactile or kinesthetic sensation. Mind associates meanings with simulated images and sounds to allow abstract thought, but it's all just sensory impressions, either simulated or "real" (whatever that means), appearing and disappearing.


Saturday, March 05, 2016

Lojong 2: Life is a dream

There is little difference between dreaming and ordinary experience: they both seem completely real but are both fading memories as soon as we experience them

Conscious experience consists mostly of sense impressions. Even abstract thoughts consist of visual or auditory impressions imbued with meaning. Emotions are usually a thought colored or accompanied by a sensation in the body.

Sense impressions come to consciousness either from the environment through the sensory apparatus or from the imagination. From the point of view of experience, sense impressions from the environment may be more vivid, but otherwise there's not a great deal of difference between the two.

We can further see that when consciousness "takes delivery" of a sense impression, it's already encoded in the brain. That happens a few milliseconds after the event itself, but it has to be after, never before, not even at the same time. When consciousness becomes aware of a sense impression, the event(s) that triggered it is/are already in the past.

Everything we experience consciously, whether in a dream or in what we consider "real" life, is a memory.


Friday, March 04, 2016

Lojong 1.4: Life is unsatisfying

For most of us, lost in the mindless trance of greed and fear, life is an endless cycle. On the greed side, we see something or someone we want and believe that thing or person or degree or skill will make us happy forever. We pursue that something or someone until we manage to acquire them, we're happy and excited for a minute, an hour, a month, whatever. Some period of time later, we're back in our normal state of dissatisfaction, again lost in desire, looking for the next thing that we think might make us happy forever.

For variety, every so often we'll go around the fear side of the carousel. We'll see something or someone or some situation we find intolerable (it may even be the very thing we thought we wanted last week) and we'll devote our life or some portion of it to eradicating that thing, person, or situation, or removing and insulating ourselves from it.

Thus, for most of us, life is an endless cycle of aversion and attraction, chasing after those things that seem desirable (new car, new house, better job, more money, new mate, more power, etc.) and running from or fighting things that seem intolerable (injustice, politicians, government corruption, rich people, corporatism, elitism, bad art, bad food, terrorism, computer viruses, etc.)

But if we pay attention, we can see that the objects of desire never deliver the permanent satisfaction and happiness they promise. And even if we manage to resolve some persistent problem, another one arises to take its place. We are never truly satisfied, happy, and content. There's always either one more thing we can't live without, or one more thing we can't live with.


Thursday, March 03, 2016

Lojong 1.3: Life has consequences

As we trundle along through life, our environment and nature places demands on us. We get hungry and need food. We grow tired and need to sleep. If the weather is unpleasant, we may find ourselves wet and cold and need shelter. We want the companionship of other people, friendship, sex, love. We want to survive, to be comfortable, to feel happy.

These innate drives push us to take action: to find food, to build or find shelter, to find friends, a mate, activities and things that bring us pleasure and joy. As we pursue these things, we are confronted with choices. Should we kill an animal so we can eat its flesh or be satisfied with plants? Should we steal our friend's woman (if we can)? Should we drive the bear (or the another tribe of humans) out of the warm dry cave so we can take it for ourselves, or would that be too risky?

Throughout life, we are constantly confronted with choices, often when we don't have enough information to make a confident decision. These choices have consequences. If I eat all my food today, I may go hungry tomorrow. If I do steal my friend's woman, I may lose him as a friend. If we drive away the other tribe, they may come back next year and attack us when they're stronger and we're not expecting an attack.

Every choice we make, every action we take may have future consequences for us, for good or ill. This is the idea of cause and effect, or "karma".


Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Lojong 1.2: Life is fleeting

It's amazing that this special chemical matter can assemble itself in self-reproducing ways that we call life. But the life span of an individual organism in this universe is very short compared to the span of the universe itself.

We measure time in units of how long it takes our planet to go around our star and call that unit a year. A person may live as long as 100 years, or a little more if they're really lucky, but the age of the universe is many millions of times that and scientists expect that the universe will continue to exist for about as long again.

A single individual does not have very much time to understand life well enough to live a good one.

So it behooves us to spend our time well, developing an understanding of existence, our place in it, and which attitudes, emotions, and behaviors will produce the most satisfying and complete life we can live. Before we know it, it will be over.