Thursday, January 7, 2010

On Being and Becoming

While I was in India I was largely exposed to teachings and teachers which propound that the individual is not real and neither are others or the world at large. All of these are considered to be an illusionary appearance in Consciousness which alone is the sole reality.

That human suffering is born of the mistaken notion that 'I' exist and that the solution to suffering is to Realize that in fact 'I' do not exist, rather only Being or Pure Awareness exists, that that is our true nature and all else is merely an inconsequential movie projection which will run its own predetermined course.

While I have certainly had several experiences during my spiritual career of seemingly going beyond the problematic functioning of the 'normal' mind, try as I may I have never been able to make this a permanent solution and have always had to contend with a rather unpleasant and bumpy return to 'reality'.

That is, the seeming reality of a mind which, at least to me, seemed more prone to living in fear and depression than most. This phenomenon at least partly explains my strong and long standing pull towards meditation as a possible solution or escape from such a situation. That meditation is a form of escapism is an accustation that I have long resisted, however in so far as it is aimed at escaping the confines of a painful mind to an apparently higher and more pleasant reality then it is true.

So during my long anticipated journey to India I naturally tried my best to meditate or 'Be' my way to a hoped for Nirvana. A final dissolution of the painful ego-mind and a new birth as a ................. I don't know what, but certainly one who had gone beyond and perhaps might be able to share that with others.

While it is true that in India I had many insights, experiences and periods of inner peacefulness; and while it is also true that over the years the contrast between my highs and my lows seem to be leveling out; never-the-less, upon my return to Australia six months ago I was faced with a familiar and urgent crisis.

That is the crisis of daily living. Of having to somehow find my place and my way in the conventional, practical world which has always seemed to be a very difficult challenge for me.

Where will I live? What will I do? What is my place in society? These are the issues which engendered in me a great deal of fear, confusion and hopelessness and which, so often in my life, have lead into extended periods of collapse and inertia.

To be confronted with such intense insecurity is not much fun and generally I have sought ways to numb myself against the pain. In my case that wasn't so much alcohol and drugs but the seemingly more mundane avenues of mega-doses of T.V., food, sleep and isolation.

This time I got out of that phase relatively quickly and notwithstanding an unexpected and very painful swelling on the tailbone, by September had managed to set myself up with a stable place to live and regular work as a night-time taxi driver.

Now that my situation and state of mind are relatively balanced and healthy, then rather than merely enduring this period of earning money until I can get back to India, I am actually somewhat enjoying myself and continuing my spiritual journey even here in the midst of ordinary life.

So, to return to the title theme of 'Being and Becoming', while on the surface my journey to India was primarily about Being, behind that was also the motivation that if i could only 'do' Being well enough and intensly enough then I might finally transcend the mind and become something or someone. In my life in the West the social pressure is very much about first becoming someone or something in society and then one might 'achieve' Being happy.

Since in my earlier years I apparently squandered several good opportunities for education and career advancement in favour of pursuing my ideals of spiritual freedom, and since now, by my mid-thirties, I have apparently still not really made anything of my life in a worldly sense then I have often had to struggle with poor self-esteem and harsh self-criticism during times when my mind was caught up in the dream of conventional society.

Of course, the real issue was not whether or not I had a career but rather a deep and fundamental sense of crushing fear and inadequacy which was plaguing and tormenting me. I hasten to add that most people probably also suffer from some kind of inferiority/superiority complex which will manifest in different ways and to differing degrees of intensity.

So, taking all of that into consideration, one can perhaps see the problem. On the one hand I was trying to meditate my way to no-mind, no-person, I am the Self; and on the other repeatedly being confronted with a mind full of personal pain which just would not go away and stay away.

Couple that with a deep and abiding confusion and conflict as to whether I am actually a person or not and with no stable frame of reference, then you can see why burying myself in the T.V. and avoiding both myself and the world was an appealing option!

So what has changed? Well, essentially I have come to accept the apparent contradiction that I am similtaneously both a person and not a person. As Pure Being I am already whole and complete and as an individual I have a need to grow, evolve and to meet my challenges in life.

I am both the silent non-involved witness to the process of change and I am the process of change itself. Neither caught up in the endless cycle of only becoming, nor in the staticity of only Being. Stradling both, I can move forward whilst remaining ever the same.

By resolving the conflict between Being and becoming I can take responsibility for uplifting my state of mind and functionality in life whilst remaining anchored within the ever-present stillness and freedom of Being.

Advaita philosophy and quantum physics may tell us that the physical world has no substantial reality independent of our mental contruct of it, but rather than dismiss it as an illusion I accept that it does have a practical reality within the context of living life and I embrace the possibilities for growth and experience that it offers.

For me the immediately relevant illusion is in the mistaken perceptions that I make every day. All of the false interpretations, assumptions and expectations that I project onto all of my experiences and which have their basis in the subconscious conditioning of my mind.

It is this burden of psychological and emotional wounds that almost all of us unconsciously carry around with us which generate so much suffering in life by clouding all of our perceptions and conditioning all of our behaviours. The good news is that it seems to be within our power to overcome and transform these shortcomings allowing us to develop into our true and fullest potential.

This life and individual existence may very well be a dream of sorts in the grand scheme of things, but then why not embrace the challenge and enjoy an adventurous and wonderful dream rather than suffering a nightmare of torment, mediocrity, boredom and denial?

That's what I think anyway........................


  1. The Idea or thought that the world and all that is in it is an illusionary dream, works for me in theory. I sort of beleive it because quantum theory suggests it is so, and it backs up the sprituial writings that I have encountered that suggest the same thing.
    The actuial experience of this, though, still seems to be out of my reach or capability. So much doubt still exists for me as to wether I am chasing an invisable dragon, but this idea is still coming at me from diffrent directions and because I kinda do except it, then hearing you say that is what the Avatars/Sages/Gurus etc... are expounding in India, then this is another nail in the coffin of doubt.
    These days, my main source of inspiration for these ideas comes from "A Course In Miracles", which says exactly the same thing as your introductory statement. I have just started re-reading it again.

    WHO AM I? Everything that has ever happened, been said, been done to me, been seen by me been done by me, has been stored in my subconscious and used to build up all my thoughts, beliefs, ideas, mores about WHO I AM (ego). I see the world filtered through these ideas and beliefs and then interperate and preceive what I think see. I am all for changing many of my less desirable(a Perception) Beliefs and Ideas, so I can re-interperate the world I preceive in a more positive way(another perception). it sounds to me that you have already made some large inroads to doing this your self.
    Personally, the challange for me is to incorperate my spirituial ideas and practices into my everyday, normal, life. (morgage, job, wife, etc) This has been my purpose for several years, but I keep letting the daily physical stuff take over. Meditation, processing, study and practice of "A Course In Miracles", connecting with others at a deeper level, forgiveness as well as being completly truthful, honest and reliable, compassionate and loving in all my affairs are the things that I beleive will help speed me along to fuller consciousness, at which time I can let GOD take over.
    The Idea of not being "I", Rodney, a seperate personality, a distinct physical being, is the real FEAR of my ego (I really have had some experiences where I thought I was gonna be destroyed, cease to exist, if I surrendered. This happened at my first "More to life" weekend).So the ego certainly tries it's best to talk me out of it.

    Although there is plenty to be wary of in the West, I think we have the best advantage on the planet to make giant steps on our Spirituial development. As many of us live in comfort and reasonable abundance, reasonable security of survival and enough time and freedom on our hands to allow some of that time to persue sprituial interests. People in places like India, Asia, Africa and other third world countries, where many people just live day by day, just surviving, I believe really don't have the time or oppertunity to think about sprituality. A friend was just recently telling me about a man he met in Cambodia who has to get up before dawn to travel quite a distance to a market to sell his goods/food of whatever and dosn't get back till late in the evening and makes hardly enought money to feed his family, and he dose this 7 days a week, no days off. It's pretty hard to worry about Nirvana under those conditions, yet billions live in that state of bare survival every day.
    So I am choosing to do my bit here by doing my work, and incorperating my sprituial practices into my NORMAL life, while also trying to lessen my environmental impact on our planet.When enough of us in the world have shifted out consciousness enough then we may start to seriously tackle the problems of poverty and starvation on this world, we really make only a token effort now.

    I enjoyed reading your post. I am sorry i haven't had time to read about all your adventures in India, bus this post reveals a lot. If you ever get back to NZ please look me up and lets connect.


  2. Hi Shiva,

    Your post is the story of my life too! Remarkably similar.

    Here's my two cents worth: difficulty finding your place in the world is probably from past lives as a monk in which you didn't have to deal with making it in the world. Perhaps that habit of inwardness and dissecting the ego has continued into this life?

    When you seek enlightenment, then the past comes forward for resolution. I now realise that I don't need to deal with this, but just try and stand back from it and not bother too much about trying to fix it. I have a mantra for Lord Shiva which gives my mind something else to do instead of thinking about useless crap – it’s really been helpful. A little bit of bhakti goes a long way!

    As for meditation being escapism, Nisargadatta was asked about this and he said that escaping is exactly what you want to do. Why would you not want to escape?

    I've basically given up dwelling on these ideas about the unreality of the world and I. They didn't serve me and I've met plenty of happy awakened people who have never studied this philosophy. You’ll never forget the philosophy... I studied with a guy here in Akl and he didn't know any of this philosophy at all, and he taught me to constantly renew this intention: "I intend to be present" and then to let the light from the world fall innocently upon my eyes. This really taught me how to get out of my mind and be present. It showed me how some people awaken to the simplicity and immediacy of being without any philosophy – they’re just here, now – nothing different – just not distracted by the mind.

    There's no escape for your desire for enlightenment - it will never leave you. So do what you please and let God unfold whatever is necessary. “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.” - Psalm 127

    For me I've had many problems with food and fatigue and finding my place in the world and making a living etc. Then something strange happened. For no reason at all I started to feel better, my eating came under control and I lost weight and felt an enthusiasm that I haven't felt for ages and a desire to work. Then an email arrived about a job in the ashram, I get the job, then a few weeks later I return to my old habits!!!! I realise in retrospect that Nature organised the whole thing. She can change my habits when She wants me to take a new direction – something that I’ve never been able to do by myself despite major effort. Frustrates me about my own powerlessness, but also reassuring that She is in control.

    One of the best things I've ever done was learn to listen to the still, small voice within which I learnt from the book Divine Revelation by Susan Shumsky. Asking questions and listening for answers and knowing how to distinguish divine inspiration from other stuff has been absolutely invaluable. Absolutely dragged me out of my stuff time and time again (especially when I broke my neck and didn’t know what to do and suffered intense pain for a long time - so I now consider this technique battle-tested). I highly recommend learning and practicing this everyday.

    So it has also dawned upon me (by way of the above technique) about why so many yogis have said that psychological techniques are a waste of time. It seems to me that their method is to delve into the subconscious. According to David Frawley, this is a tamasic approach – going into the darkness to uncover forgotten pain and trauma.. The rajasic approach is action: “I have to do this all by myself.” And the sattvic way is by going to the divine directly – ie mantra, asanas, prayer etc as outlined in “Ayurveda and the Mind”. So now I give all my attention to the supraconscioussness rather than subconscious. This distinction has freed me from looking for mental and emotional cures.

    Also, Vernon Howard defined "Blundering forward" as "a fine way to advance spiritually.”

    I pray that one day soon you look back on all this and laugh!


  3. Dear Guys, thank you for sharing your own personal story and insights. It feels good to know that others too share a common experience and we are not alone in this journey which can at times feel isolated. Who said that suffering, or at least struggle, is not necessary for growth? Rock on...

  4. I've been blogging about this issue of 'Being and Becoming' over the past week as well. I wonder if this decade will mark a greater awareness of the real relationship between "Being' and 'Becoming. Here's a post on what Sri Aurobindo and others in his line of Supramental Yoga have to say about the matter: Link.

  5. Story of my life - too! :)


  6. When you said - "contrast between my highs and my lows seem to be leveling out",resonates. I guess we can say this sweet middle is the true G-Spot (God Spot) :D

  7. Thank you for this great article ! More about conditioning in my blog