This is the second day of this December 2023 2-day sesshin. And we'll continue with the text of yesterday Eckhart Tolle's Stillness Speaks.
Yesterday we spoke of silence the chapter on silence and stillness, and beyond the thinking mind. And with some trepidation, today we take on the egoic self. I say trepidation, because the word ego, at least in my experience of it, and as a parent, it can have a really negative connotation to it. So, what we're really talking about is, is really the self, the small self, the self, that we experience life as our so just to make that distinction a little clearer. As a parent, I would say that we have a great deal of suffering that we inflict it on our poor to children with the idea that ego was a bad thing, you know, and it's, it's not I mean, we have to have a sense of self, in order to experience our lives, you can't just be a no self in that way. So taking the teachings in their most strict way, without the awakening or experience of knowing what that really is, in its depth, can be very difficult. So how we use these teachings, great teachings, in our lives, with our families, with our relationships, it's important because the suffering that you experience as a young person, you spend the rest of your lives trying to deal with the aftermath. So I am happy to say that both of our children survived and and they are much wiser about the lack of wisdom in their parents. It's always good as a child or as a grown up a survivor of of parenthood to to realize that you don't have to listen to them anymore.
So here we go to the egoic self. You know, Echo somebody pointed out yesterday, it's important that Eckart Tolle doesn't actually expose a method of meditation. So his understanding though of silence, the primordial the the essence is something that seemed important to convey to us so that we might have this thing to carry with us there is a verse in the Mumonkan, which I do love and I think it's very helpful about our true nature, which is that it helps us cross the stream when the bridge is broken. And it guides us to the village or home on a moonless night. We walked so much in the moonless and crossing the stream when things are difficult. So this is our faith mind but it is a wonderful thing to carry with ourselves. So here we go. The mind is incessantly looking not only for food for thought, it's looking for food, for its identity, its sense of self. This is how the ego comes into existence and continuously recreates itself. When you think or speak about yourself when you To say I, what you usually refer to is, me and my story. This is the eye of your likes and dislikes, fears and desires, the eye that is never satisfied for long, it is a mind made sense, a mind made sense of who you are conditioned by the past, and seeking to find its fulfillment in the future. I would just say that, you know, survival is in our mammalian DNA. Um, so, we live and experience life, because we want to survive. So, a lot of the experience we is we have are dependent on our chemical makeup, you know, the adrenaline that flows in our systems, the oxytocin, all of those things for which we don't have any control, or contributing. But can you see this i that it's fleeting, a temporary formation like a wave pattern on the surface of water. But who is it that sees this, who is it that is aware of the fleetingness of your physical and psychological form? I am, this is the deeper I that has nothing to do with past and future.
What will be left of all the fearing and wanting associated with your problematic life situation that everyday takes up most of your attention, a dash, a blip between the date of birth and the date of death on your gravestone. To the personal self, this is a depressing thought. But to you it is liberating. When each thought absorbs your attention completely, it means you identify with a voice in your head. Thought then becomes invested with a sense of self. This is the ego a mind made me that mentally construct itself feels incomplete and precarious. And that's why fearing and wanting are its predominant emotions and motivating forces. When you recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you, I never stopped speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking. When you notice that voice, you realize that who you are is not the voice, the thinker, but the one who is aware of it. Knowing yourself as the awareness behind the voice is freedom. When we practice when we do when we're in sushi, and when we sit, when we reach a point when the thoughts have settled somewhat, when we even maybe get into samadhi that's when we are free of this dominant mind thinker. So that's why practice is, is really vital. There are many times when we sit on the mat and it's just a cacophony of sound in the head, or the body is really agitated and uncomfortable. We don't want to be there. But as we allow our awareness to surface then that settles and we can carry that off off the mat and into our lives. The egoic self is always engaged in seeking it is seeking more of this or that to add to itself or to make itself feel more complete. It wants recognition and this explains the egos compulsive preoccupation with future. Whenever you become aware of yourself living for the next moment, you have already stepped out of that personal self mind pattern. And the possibility of choosing to give your full attention to this moment arises simultaneously by giving your full attention to this moment, and intelligence far greater than the egoic mind enters your life. When you live through the ego, you always reduce the present moment to a means to an end, you live for the future. And when you achieve your goals, they don't satisfy you, at least not for long. When you give more attention to the doing, than to the future result that you want to achieve through it, you break the conditioning you break, the pattern you're doing then becomes not only a great deal more effective, but infinitely more fulfilling and joyful. One of the hallmarks of people who have have insight or who have been practicing a long time, is that they're, they tend to be more joyful. You know, if there is no joy in your practice, then do something else. It's not. Yeah, Joy is part of it's part of life part of what we're about here. Almost every ego or personal self small self contains at least an element of what we might call victim identity. Often for very good reason I my dad, some people have such a strong victim image of themselves that it becomes the core of their personality, resentment and grievances are an essential part of their sense of who they are. Even if your grievances are completely justified, you have constructed an identity for yourself that is much like a prison whose bars are made of thought forms. If you can see what you're doing to yourself, or rather what your mind is doing to you, this will be part of freeing. Experience the emotional attachment you have to your story, and become aware of the compulsion to think and talk about it. Be there as the witnessing presence of your inner state. You don't have to do anything. With awareness comes transformation and freedom. Here again, I would say that though, for people, survivors of abuse, this becoming awareness needs the help of trauma therapy, it can't be done just by sitting and observing Roshi Bolton, though, he is really always reminding us that noticing is the important function of our of our practice, seeing what's going on rather than trying to fix it or do anything at that moment. So just noticing, at least noticing when you are experiencing the sense of victimhood or whatever the emotion is. complaining and reactivity of favorite mind patterns through which the ego strengthens itself. For many people, a large part of their mental emotional activity consists of complaining and reacting against this or that. By doing this, you make others or situation wrong and yourself right, through being right you feel superior. And through feeling superior, you strengthen your sense of self. In reality, of course, you're only strengthening the illusion of ego. Can you observe these patterns within yourself and recognize the complaining voice in your head for what it is? The egoic sense of self needs conflict because its sense of a separate identity gets strengthened in fighting against this or that and in demonstrating that this is me. And that is not me. In his previous book, The first book that Tala wrote where he talks about the pain, body identifiable experience that we have of a pain body and how it feeds on negativity, and and that's how it sustains itself. So that's a different thing, but I'll just mention it because it's important not infrequently, tribes, nations and religions derive a strengthened sense of collective identity from having enemies. Who would the believer be without the unbelievable? unbeliever? So in your dealings with people can you detect the subtle feelings of either superiority or inferiority toward them?
Envy is a bright product of the ego which feels diminished if something good happens to someone else, or someone has more, knows more or can do more than you. The egos identity depends on comparison and feeds on more, it will grasp at anything. If all else fails, you can strengthen your fictitious sense of self through seeing yourself as more unfairly treated by life, or more unfortunate than someone else. So he asks us just to be aware of the the stories, the fictions that bolster our sense of who we are. Do you carry feelings of guilt about something you did or failed to do in the past? This much is certain you acted according to your level of consciousness or rather unconsciousness at that time. If you had been more aware, more conscious, you would have acted differently. Guilt is another attempt by the ego to create an identity, a sense of self. To the ego, it doesn't matter whether that self is positive or negative. What you did or failed to do was a manifestation of unconsciousness, human unconsciousness, the ego however, personalize it and says, Oh, I did that. And so you carry an image of yourself as bad. Of course, this can be reinforced by your family circumstances or your relationships circumstances. So take it with some pinch of salt there. Throughout history, humans have inflicted countless, violent, cruel and hurtful acts on each other and continue to do so. Are they all to be condemned? Are they all guilty? Or are those acts acts simply expressions of unconsciousness, an evolutionary stage that we are now growing out of? It's hard to see that we're growing out of it right now, I would say. And then he puts in the Christian aspect, Jesus words, forgive them for they know not what they do also apply to yourself.
No self, no problem, said the Buddhist master when asked to explain the deeper meaning of Buddhism. And there's when Roshi Kapleau was in Japan, studying with Tang and Roshi tayangan Roshi did not speak much English. I think he understood quite a bit, but he was very reluctant to speak. And he gave a teisho. Two words, I guess it was a teisho. And these are the words ego on necessary. So we're done with the ego part of this. But there's a lot of painful things in there. There's a lot of, as I say, reasons why we have that suffering, but I think it's helpful to have a small analysis of it. So we've gone to his next chapter, which is called the now
unless anybody has a question.
On the surface, it seems that the present moment is only one of many, many moments, each day of your life appears to consist of 1000s of moments where different things happen. Yet if you look more deeply is there not only one moment ever, is life ever not this moment? This one moment now is the only thing you can never escape from the one constant factor in your life. life, no matter what happens, no matter how much your life changes, one thing is certain. It's always now. Since there's no escape from the now, why not welcome it, become friendly with it. When you make friends with the present moment you feel at home, no matter where you are. When you don't feel at home in the now no matter where you go, you will carry unease. The division of life into past, present and future is mind made and ultimately, ultimately illusory. Past and future of thought forms mental abstractions. The past can only be remembered now. What you remember is an event that took place in the now and you remember it now. The future when it comes is the now. So the only thing that is real, the only thing that ever is, is the now
putting away the dishes, drawing up a business strategy planning a trip, what is more important the doing? Or the result that you want to achieve through the doing this moment or some future moment? Do you treat this moment as if it were an obstacle to be overcome? Do you feel you have a future moment to get to that is more important. Almost everyone lives like this most of the time, since the future never arrived except as the present. It's a dysfunctional way to live. It generates a constant undercurrent of unease, tension and discontent. He does not own a life, which is now and never not now. Feel the aliveness within your body
that anchors you in and now ultimately, you are not taking responsibility for life until you take responsibility for this moment. This is because now is the only place where life can be found. Taking responsibility for this moment means not to oppose internally, the suchness of now, not to argue with what is it means to be in alignment with life. What Byron Katie would say is, when you argue with reality, you lose every time. We spend a lot of our time you know, arguing with things that are actually happening. resentments come up, I don't like this, I don't want to go to a setting I don't want to, I don't want to have to meet with that person. I don't like this. But it's right there. There's no escaping it. So, to reject is to put ourselves in anguish really. Now is as it is, because it cannot be otherwise, what Buddhists have always known and physician physicists now confirm, there are no isolated things or events. underneath the surface appearance, all things are interconnected, are part of the totality of the cosmos, that has brought about the form that this moment takes.
Ultimately, we are stardust, something kind of comforting and that really goes on, when you say yes to what is you become aligned with the power and intelligence of life itself. Only then can you become an agent for positive change in the world. of simple but radical spiritual practice is to accept whatever arises in the now within and without. When your attention moves into the now there is an alertness it's as if you are waking up from a dream, the dream of thought the dream of past and future. such clarity such simplicity, no room for problem making. Just this moment as it is going to break off there. You know it in moments of crisis. People respond directly to whatever it is they're not thinking about it because there's no time and the body, the brain In a crisis will just take over the limbic system takes over. And you can't, you don't have your your neocortex kind of shuts down. But people will tell you and then you have people who do heroic things, lifting cars and amazing responses, because they're totally totally present. And afterwards they will tell you that they felt alive. So they weren't lost in thought they were just responding.
The moment you enter the now, this is back to Tala. With your attention, you realize that life is sacred. There is a sacredness to everything you perceive when you are present. The more you live in the now the more you sense, the simple, yet profound joy of being and the sacredness of all life. Most people confuse the now with what happens in the now but that's not what it is. The now is deeper than what happens in it, it is the space in which it happens. So do not confuse the content of this moment with the now. When you step into the now you step out of the content of your mind, the incessant stream of thinking slows down. Thoughts don't absorb all your attention anymore. Don't draw you in totally. Gaps arise in between thoughts, spaciousness, stillness, you begin to realize how much faster and deeper you are in your thoughts. And I think most of you would agree that that is the experience. Eventually, in such sheen, with a long sitting we get to a sense of spaciousness and stillness that normally eludes us
thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, and what you are whatever you experience that make up the content of your life, your life is what you derive your sense of self from. And my life is content, also you believe, you may overlook the most obvious fact, your innermost sense of, I am, has nothing to do with what happens in your life, nothing to do with content. That sense of I Am, is one with a now it always remains the same in childhood and old age, in health and sickness in successful failure. The I Am the space of now remains unchanged, at its deepest level
shows up in poetry I can remember from my childhood, you know, my heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky. So was it when I was a child, so is it now I am a man, so shall it be when I grow old. And the reason that we have this sense of not growing old actually, in it in a way is because our true nature is the same as it was when we appeared and it's the same now as it was when you were 510 2030 4080 Whatever.
If you forget you forget your rootedness in being your divine reality. Confusion, anger, depression, violence and conflict arise when humans forget who they are. And yet, how easy it is to remember the truth and thus return home. I am not my thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions and experiences. I am not the content of my life. I am life. I am the space in which all things happen. I am consciousness. I am the now I am
this next chapter is who you truly are and then he goes into acceptance and surrender. And then nature and relationships I thought I'd just cover relationships and then briefly, which is a brief chapter, nature, so miss out some of the others. So this one is on relationships, since I think most of us struggle with that, or, at least are deeply involved in it. So here we go. How quickly are to form an opinion of a person to come to a conclusion about them, it's satisfying to the ego mind to label another human being to give them a conceptual identity to pronounce righteous judgment upon them. Every human being has been conditioned to think and behave in certain ways, conditioned genetically, as well as by their childhood experience and their cultural environment. That is not who they are, but that is who they appear to be. When you pronounce judgment upon someone, you confuse those conditioned mind patterns with who they are. To do that is in itself, a deeply conditioned an unconscious pattern, you give them a conceptual identity, and that false identity becomes a prison, not only for the other person, but for yourself. To let go of judgment does not mean that you don't see what they do. It means that you recognize their behavior as a form of conditioning, and you see it and accept it as that you don't construct an identity out of it for that person. This liberates you as well as the other person, from identification with conditioning with form with mind. And then your small self no longer runs your relationships.
As long as the small self runs your life, most of your thoughts, emotions and actions arise from desire and fear. In relationships, you then either want or fear something from the other person, what you want from them may be pleasure or material gain recognition, praise or attention or a strengthening of your sense of self through comparison, and through establishing that you are have or no more than they, what you fear is that the opposite may be the case. And they may diminish your sense of self in some way. When you make the present moment, the focal point of your intention, attention, instead of using it as a means to an end. You go beyond that, beyond the unconscious compulsion to use people as a means to an end, the end being self enhancement at the cost of others. When you give your fullest attention to whoever you are interacting with you full attention to whoever you are interacting with. You take past and future out of the relationship, except for practical matters. When you are fully present with everyone you meet, you relinquish the conceptual identity you made for them, your interpretation of who they are, and what they did in the past. And you're able to interact without that movements of desire and fear. Attention, which is alert stillness is the key. How wonderful to go beyond wanting and fearing in your relationships. Love does not want or fear anything. If their past was your past, their pain, your pain, their level of consciousness, your level of consciousness, you would think and exact think and act exactly as they do. With this realization comes forgiveness, compassion, peace. When you receive whoever comes into the space of now as a noble guest, when you allow each person to be as they are, they begin to change. To know another human being in their essence you don't really need to know anything about them, their past the history that story we confuse knowing about with a deeper knowing that is non conceptual. Knowing about knowing are totally different modalities. One is concerned with form the other with the formless, one operates through thought the other through stillness.
Most human interactions are confined to the exchange of words, the realm of thought. And it is essential to bring some stillness particularly into your close relationships. No relationship can thrive. without the sense of spaciousness that comes with stillness. Meditate or spend silent time in nature together. When going for a walk or sitting in the car or at home, become comfortable with being in stillness together. Stillness cannot and need not be created, just be receptive to what is already there, but usually obscured by mental noise. If spacious stillness is missing, the relationship will be dominated by the mind and can easily be taken over by problems and conflict. through listening is another way of bringing stillness into the relationship when you truly listen to someone, the dimension of stillness arises and becomes an essential part of the relationship. But true listening is a rare skill. Usually, the greater part of a person's attention is taken up by their thinking. At best, they may be evaluating your words or preparing the next thing to say, or they may not be listening at all lost in their own thoughts. through listening goes far beyond auditory perception, it is the arising of alert attention, a space of presence in which the words are being received. Far more important than what you are listening to, is the act of listening itself. That space is a unifying field of awareness, in which you meet the other person without the separate barriers created by thinking. And now the other person is no longer other. In that space, you are joined together as one awareness one consciousness.
In human relationships, there is the accumulated emotional pain from the past that you and each human being carries within both from your personal past, as well as the collective pain of humanity, manatee that goes back a long, long time, this pain body, this pain body is an energy field within you, that sporadically takes you over because it needs to experience more emotional pain for it to feed on and replenish itself. It will try to control your thinking and make it deeply negative. It loves your negative thoughts, since it resonates with that frequency and it can feed on them. It will also provoke negative emotional reactions in people close to you, especially your partner in order to feed on the ensuing drama and emotional pain. How can you free yourself from this deep seated unconscious identification with pain that creates so much misery in your life, become aware of it, realize that it is not. It is not who you are and recognize it for what it is past pain witnesses as it happens in your partner or in yourself. When your unconscious identification with it is broken. When you're able to observe it within yourself, you don't feed it anymore, and will gradually lose its energy.
Human interaction can be hell, or it can be a great spiritual practice.
Well, there's really too much in this. So I think
I'll just jump to the very end of this chapter, which is what is the quality of your relationship with the cashier at the supermarket, the parking attendant the repairman, the monitor the customer, the person sitting next to you. The moment of attention is enough, as you look at them, or listen to them. There is an alertness perhaps only two or three seconds. That is enough for something more real to emerge than the roles we usually play and identify with. All right olds are part of the condition consciousness that is the human mind. That which emerges through the act of attention is the unconditioned who you are in your essence, you are no longer acting out a script you become real. When that dimension emerges from within you, it also draws it forth from within the other person. Ultimately, of course, there is no other and you are always meeting yourself.
will end with this little chapter on nature
we had a very wonderful Sangha event last weekend here at Chapin Mill, the Uprooting Racism, of group had a weekend of investigating racism, the really great divide in our society. And Sonia started out by giving us the European view in the 18th century of what was the order of things. So on the top, in that schema is God, then angels, then man, then animals, and then nature. Notice women are missing completely from this pantheon. And if you look at our, our first nation peoples, wherever they might be, nature is not at the bottom nature is at the top, because the awesomeness the, the understanding of its importance. Is, is right there, we've put animals at the bottom so we can use them, we've put to eat them or whatever, we have nature there. So we can use nature to, to better, further our own our own ends. But so just that thought, and then we go into his view on this. We depend on nature, not only for our physical survival, we also need nature to show us the way home the way out of the prison of our own minds. We are lost in doing thinking, remembering, anticipating, lost in a maze of complexity in a world of problems. We have forgotten what rocks, plants and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be to be still to be ourselves to be where life is here and now. Wayman likes to say that we, we are human beings, but actually we're human animals and we kind of separate ourselves out something very, very special. But in fact, we are one with human animals. Whenever you bring your attention to anything natural, anything that has come into existence without human intervention, you step out of the prison of conceptualized thinking, and to some extent participate in the state of connectedness with being in which everything exists. It to bring your attention to a stone, a tree or an animal does not mean to think about it, but simply to perceive it to hold it in your awareness. When walking or resting in nature, honor that realm by being there fully be still. Look, listen. See how every animal in every plant is completely itself. Unlike humans, they have not split themselves into two. They do not live through mental images of themselves. So they do not need to be concerned with trying to protect and enhance those imaging. The deer is just itself. The Daffodil is itself. All things in nature are not only one with themselves, but also one with the totality. They haven't removed themselves from the fabric of the whole by claiming a separate existence me and the rest of the universe. The contemplation of nature can free you of that knee, the great trouble maker
you didn't create your body nor are you able to control the body's function. is an intelligence greater than the human mind is at work. It is the same intelligence that sustains all of nature. You cannot get any closer to that intelligence than by being aware of your own inner energy field. Feeling the aliveness the animating presence within the body. The playfulness and joy of a dog its unconditional love and readiness to celebrate life at any moment, often contrasts sharply with the inner state of the dog's owner, depressed, anxious, burdened by the problems lost in thought, not present in the only place and only time there is one wonders living with that person, how does the dog managed to remain so sane so joyous?
So, I think I'll end with this one. You are not separate from nature, you are all part of the one life that manifests itself in countless forms throughout the universe, forms that are all completely interconnected. When you recognize the sacredness, the beauty, the incredible stillness and dignity in which a flower or a tree exists. You add something through your recognition, your awareness, nature to comes to know itself. It comes to know its own beauty and sacredness through you. A great silence space holds all of nature in its embrace. It also holds you.