Non-duality: The Corrective Lens

Non-duality: The Corrective Lens

The shared illusion that we are nothing but physical forms driven by thoughts, opinions and emotions, keeps us confused about the nature of reality and our natural role within it. This illusion locks each of us into conditioned thought and behavior until it is shattered by the explosive recognition called awakening or Self-realization.

 

Emptiness, Spaciousness and Love

Frances Bennett, a former Trappist monk and now an awakened teacher who blends Christian mysticism, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta in his teachings, put a quote on Facebook that points directly to the potential of spiritual awakening, in any tradition.

"Another way of describing the spacious awareness that is sometimes called 'emptiness' is to refer to it as 'unconditional openness...I have taken to calling it that because, this phrase of 'unconditional openness' seems to point a bit better to its essence which, for me, is LOVE."

It happened that on the same day I saw this quote someone contacted me who was concerned about the fact whenever he closed his eyes to meditate he experienced spaciousness, and he was alarmed about this.

Our human mind is used to being busy, to sorting, dividing, judging, maintaining our separate identity and staying within the social constructs with which it has identified. We panic during a spiritual emergence because experiences are arising that do not fit our belief system about what is normal and acceptable in our lives.

Sometimes we panic about energy buzzing and shaking in our body. Sometimes we are struck with unfamiliar moods and rushes of emotion long repressed in our guts and hearts. For a few people a vision or dream arises that seems inexplicable and frightening. For others the feeling of consciousness free of the body, or the moments of consciousness having no boundary, seems evidence of "losing my mind".

Why do these things arise in a spiritual awakening? Because despite what we have heard in our culture and spiritual traditions, this is what an awakening is. It is not what the mind wants it to be -- a perfect bliss and freedom from all the traps of depression and anxiety and feeling inadequate that plague many people in the world. It is not a sweet and easy escape from life. While meditation brings an inner strength and calm, a sense of a center, if spiritual realization is to arise, turmoil will usually come along with it, at least for a while.

To understand our true nature, consciousness must take a journey that reveals all that we are not. For a few rare souls this happens suddenly -- consciousness arises or expands rapidly and breaks forth into the vastness of no-self -- no personal self -- or One Self -- the realization there is One consciousness penetrating all existence. This feels like God to many people, and resolves the desire to search further. But inevitably, unless the journey to this moment already covered the territory, there will be a return of body-identification, and movements that reveal all the old conditioning and blocks that cloud this realization and its expression.

For most people who long to know God or to know what is true, this search has been a long inner journey, and thus their shadow side, stuck points of view, emotional traumas and contractions gradually appeared to be met and released. Even overwhelming energies of the collective unconscious may arise. This usually happens over months and years before the final moment when consciousness is experienced as free and is realized as the ever present now,or encountered as unconditional love when it opens the heart.

Yes there is bliss in some moments, especially as the heart releases the burden of carrying old pain and resentment, or as energy opens long blocked flows in our bodies. There can also be great moments of insight, glimpses of other lives, or visions of deities (I think of these as transitional objects that stand between our mundane lives and the radiant unboundaried source of life). There may be an emergence of psychic, precognitive or healing possibilities. Many phenomena may arise along this journey as each chakra opens and clears, or latent brain centers in the head begin to come alive. It is easy to get stalled along the way -- in the same way an intriguing or particularly challenging part of traveling the world would delay our completion of the journey.

Why would all this happen, only to dump the psyche into "emptiness", "vastness" or what Bennett has called "unconditional openness"?

Is it to clear us of all illusion of separateness, empty the mind of the need to compare and divide, offer a taste of presence without limit, or discover that what has created us feels like love and has no demand? Is "nothing" the end of the journey? What would be the point of this?

One needs to rest in this unconditional openness and allow it to permeate the cells of the body and fall into the heart so true presence, love and intuitive wisdom can permeate the life. Then it is said you will be free. You will feel your divinity in your center. It may happen that some life circumstance will pull you back into personal identification from time to time, but you will be resting in openness and return to it. The flavor of who you are, and some of the cultural conditioning will remain but these will feel more like the clothes that consciousness is wearing that will someday be discarded. The thoughts and feelings that flow through you will just be part of the landscape of your life, neither to be accepted or rejected.

One of the favorite quotes I have carried throughout my life, long before I knew the fullness of their meaning was from Longchempa. It is a pointer toward Truth. “Since everything is only an illusion, perfect in being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, one might as well burst out laughing!"

Be willing to rest in the vastness, this unconditional openness, and invite it to show you what it will. Be at peace.

Awakening: The Unexpected Process

Awakening: The Unexpected Process

What is unexpected about spiritual awakening is that it is the beginning, not the end, of a spiritual process.  Few are prepared for the shifts in perspective, energy and orientation it offers.  At the moment of awakening there is often a sweeping sense of freedom as all the identity falls away, yet a sense of radiant presence remains.  But such a change in the view of who we are and what we are can leave a mind disoriented.  Some say it is like becoming a baby Buddha -- one must learn to navigate the world in a new way.

 

 

 

Yogananda, Awakening and Transformation

Yogananda, Awakening and Transformation

I see a guru as a transitional object.  It is not the person that is a guru, but rather the guru role is thrust upon him or her through the emptiness that is available when one has fallen free of personal conditions.  This role can be used freely by those students who are seeking the understanding of their true nature until they are ready to find the guru within --  their own direct connection with inner wisdom, unconditional love and a liberated life, free of old patterns and conditioning.  When this inner realization is known there is a deep relaxation of the mind, so that inner judgment and preoccupation with the senses fall away, leaving a quiet presence and openness that allows others to feel a  transmission of peace. 

Surrender As Art

Surrender As Art

I begin to see surrender as an art, having recently witnessed the most graceful surrendering in form at the San Francisco ballet in a sequence called Hummingbird, danced to the music of Philip Glass. A male and female dressed in white, floating across the stage, she in drifting chiffon, completely releasing their bodies into one movement, a merging beyond form as she was lifted above his head, or melted her body over his back to back.  Read more...

Awakening Into The Ocean of Consciousness

Awakening Into The Ocean of Consciousness

Sometimes I walk along the cliffs in Santa Cruz and watch   the surfers rising and skimming across the waves. I have never surfed myself  but it seems to me that the skills required above all are attention to the moment and balance. The challenge for surfers and their performances are good metaphors for spiritual awakening.  Read more...

The Challenge of Being in the Moment

The Challenge of Being in the Moment

It would be challenging to consider an awakened state anything more than living in the moment, a condition everyone is prone to on occasion, and very few enjoy on a consistent basis, even when they have seen the Truth of the conscious awareness that we are.  But most of the time we cannot see the light for the clouds.  Read more...

Why the Buddha Laughs

Why the Buddha Laughs

The chubby laughing Buddha is an icon frequently seen in gift shops and not so often represented in the Buddhist teachings, which to many people appear to focus extensively on topics like suffering, emptiness, and stillness.  He may seem a hollow depiction to some, who prefer the solitary images of the Buddha in the Ox-herding pictures, or his image as a teacher, or even the sleeping Buddha, waiting to be awakened into the world.

Celebrating the Non-Dual Message of Christmas

Celebrating  the Non-Dual Message of Christmas

Perhaps it is time to write a few words about Christmas, and whatever meaning arises from this date for someone who is fairly enmeshed in the non-dual perspective. Could we be unconsciously celebrating our True Nature at Christmas? As I was raised a Catholic, Christmas had a sacred and magical feeling for me as a young child. I remember staring at the reflections in the globes on the Christmas tree and feeling entranced by the reflections of light.

Love and The Theory of Everything

Love and The Theory of Everything

I saw the movie “The Theory of Everything”, about the life of Stephan Hawking, last night. Unlike most Hollywood productions it is full of kindness and inspiration, demonstrating the miracle of love and courage in overcoming grief and limitation. Adapted from a book written by Stephen’s wife, Jane, it tells the journey from the moment they met at a college mixer, until they parted and moved in different directions many years later. Along the way their strength and devotion is evident, along with a remarkable ability to keep moving forward and defy the threat of death (he was told when first diagnosed at about age 21 that he had only 2 years to live, and is now going strong at age 72).

Thanks To The World

This time of year I start to think about the interconnectedness of all beings. It’s something about Thanksgiving and all the foods along with all the people who sit around my table who attempt to articulate what they feel thankful for during the year. But my mind wanders beyond my self and the immediate family. What if we really sent a message far and wide to all the thousands of people who contributed to our capacity to enjoy this meal? Have you ever considered how many people are involved in the food we enjoy.

Presence and The Release of Stress

Have you ever taken a step away from your mind long enough to notice the relationship between stress and the thoughts you carry in your head? Can you imagine the release if you only could stop all thoughts for a few minutes? Of course we do this every night for a few hours. We realize that if we were to stop sleeping these same thoughts that maneuver us through the day would force us into mental bankruptcy and we would lose our minds. So we try to get our sleep.

Going Beyond Resistance

As we face the prospect of another war in the middle east, acknowledging the bombings that have already happened there for weeks, and now are recognized officially as they will be continuing indefinitely, where do you feel resistance? Is it resistance to the engagement of U.S. people and funds in another war, resistance to killing, or resistance to a terrorist group who brutally eliminate the lives of others?

Awakening As A Return to Vulnerabiity

Unbeknown to him, I watched through the hospital nursery glass as my son-in-law gave his newborn son his first bath. Gently and with awe he touched the tender new skin and lifted the tiny child with the palm of his hand. It nearly brought me to tears.

 How essential is touch to a newborn infant who as yet has no thoughts or impressions of life? It cannot yet see but it can feel. How essential are the first words it hears, the tastes and smells and sights it later meets as it first opens its senses to the world? Imagine this state of having no idea of what to expect, no mental impressions, only awareness and senses.

 This is how we all begin. Perhaps in the womb we received our first intimations of what human embodiment would be. And then we are brought into the light of delivery and the hands of human experience, available to absorb whatever is given.

We are open and receptive, caught in wonder and longing.

I sat in bleachers once at a rocket launch in Florida, behind a young woman with a little toddler in her stroller. This child had beautiful dark eyes with long lashes and a face ringed by dark curls. Her mother was intent on the rocket launch but the little girl was focused on the mother and spent the whole time searching her mothers face and trying to catch her eyes. Her whole body was intent on connection.

We do not remember being this way as young children -- memories before the age of reason seem to be scarce and vague. The impact of our experiences are held at a deep emotional level, as if our inner child is entangled in the emotional body, stored along with early impressions about the nature of human beingness. Our early sensate knowledge and understanding of connection likely color our relationships at an unconscious level the rest of our lives. When a child knows safety and love it moves comfortably into the world. When exposed to violence and rage at early ages, it is burdened by psychic scars that are too deep to remember.

 What has this to do with spiritual realization? With awakening? Everything.

The longing in us for God or Truth or understanding is the inherent longing of consciousness to remember its source, to restore its connection to that pristine awareness with which we entered and exited the womb. We were once free of all the impressions we have acquired over the years from the actions of parents, teachers, classmates, relatives and strangers. Each encounter or lack thereof left marks like little post-ums all over our psyche, and at a certain point we made a decision through these filters about how to be and what to be in the world. We may have felt accepted and safe or we may have felt unseen and irrelevant. We may fit in somewhere or always believe we do not belong. We may have waves of anger, fear or depression, feeling needy or lonely, all arising seemingly out of nowhere. There will be moments of feeling lost and out of control, overwhelmed by some circumstance of life. We did not come in with fear and foreboding, despair and a need to be in control. We came in open and available.

 A challenging part of spiritual process are those moments when we see our conditioning, relive uncomfortable memories, and begin to see the primal need to be vulnerable again, to open the heart. It is our vulnerability that makes us available to spirit -- to realization -- to a connection with our roots that will eventually overwhelm our patterns and conditioned responses to life events, freeing us from ourselves. This longing for Truth or awakening is consciousness longing for itself in its most expansive and unbounded form, knowing its connection to every bit of creation, knowing itself as love of creation, remembering itself as availability to wonder. Human life is full of challenge and unavoidable sorrows, but the pure awareness with which we entered has a sweet openness to all experience without the contractions the body learned along the way. It knows at the core it is okay. It remembers that it is eternal.

 To reconnect with this is to be awake. To live as this is liberation. To gently touch the infant consciousness, whether within ourselves or in the children around us, is a way to make the human journey more easeful, to offer a sense of security in this world of form we all pass through. It can help the individual and the world awaken.

Jesus as Metaphor for Spiritual Awakening

I'm facilitating a study group around Adyashanti's latest book Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic. This book is a wonderful invitation for those of us who have drifted afar from Christian teachings to rethink the story of Jesus, reflecting on his life as a metaphor for spiritual awakening. Great myths are metaphors for deep truths, and have a way of grabbing the unconscious and paving the way for transformation of the psyche. When they are penetrated and taken in they bring new hope and a bit of understanding of the mystery of human experience. They impact how we think and act.

This book about Jesus is ground-breaking, because Adyashanti brings to it his deep realization and the depth of his years of Zen practice, blending this with a transformative recognition of love that he encountered when exploring the deeper meaning of Christ. In a world that sorely needs hope and fresh ways of understanding the true radiant source of human life this book offers a way to penetrate the experience of the early Christians, before the church fathers created a business and behavioral philosophy around it. He says churches have ignored the sacred and the true potential for understanding how all of us are the sons and daughters of God, and instead limit that potential for the divine to the man Jesus, and tend to preach politics, morality and guilt, rather than transformation. It appears they ignore the model Jesus gave us of living a radiant life that reflects our own divinity, and is anchored in truth.

The story of Jesus parallels the journey to enlightenment -- the simplicity and the gifts of the magi at his birth (we all have both), his disillusionment with organized religion, His initiation symbolized with baptism, the release of his siddhis or powers and the need for healing, the struggle with his inner demons in the desert and in the garden of Gethsemane, the surrender to his fate, forgiveness, and transcendence. Implied in his life is also the theme of an engaged spirit.

 Today, as in the time of Jesus, spiritual awakening must go beyond transcendence and calls for an engaged spirituality. Those who fully awaken are reborn into a service or destiny with the world, not one defined by the ego but rather a movement from the depths that longs to be followed. Adyashanti blends the wisdom of awakening with service through his teachings and his transmission, and this book in some way catches that energy and gift so that it can be an experience for the reader and not just an intellectual study.

He urges us to clarify our "aspiration" and to reflect on our two "orders of being", the human and the divine, the form and the formless. Just as Jesus expressed his humanness and his divinity it may be possible, even essential, for more and more humans to discover this possibility, go through the shedding of our old identities, and surrender into our destinies,

I've always felt the tragedy of the death of Jesus, not because he was god but because he was human. All humans that are subjected to the betrayal and horrific suppression that he was dealt are equally caught in tragedy. Every violent death is as horrid as the death of Jesus. As we learn of people, innocent or guilty, who are slaughtered by those who are ignorant of the sacredness of life we can feel the suffering that the family and friends of Jesus must have known, and find some hope in the archetypal resurrection of this timeless story. Jesus lived the whole of life, the beauty and the trauma, just as most of us must. Can his life as myth or metaphor give us hope, and new direction for awakening out of the blind collective adherence to the mind's divisive point of view about who is valuable and who is not? This is never the perspective of an awakened heart.

If Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and all the rest of us alike began to see the truth of who we are, just as Jesus did, who would be left to cause such harm as crucifixion? Or murder families? Or drop bombs?

 

The challenge is that all of us must crucify our blind adherence to separation, collective belief systems and conditioned reflexes before we can be awake as a species. It may never happen, certainly not in our lifetimes. But if we as individuals can play our small part in the whole perhaps in time the collective field will transform just as the inspiration of Jesus must have intended. Ignorance may always exist but so does the potential for transformation and resurrection.

Turning Points

I’m going to lead a discussion group on turning points tonight, which made me think of the importance of turning points that occur in life, perhaps through a chance meeting, a decision, a trauma or a loss, a career or relationship change. Turning points occur as well in a spiritual process. Even the choice or internal movement toward seeking Truth, or God, or freedom from suffering (however this impulse has arisen in you) is a turning point. From that moment every choice you make as a “seeker” turns you in a new direction.

Often an introduction to someone new or a friend handing you a book or video can initiate a turning point. When I was 24 a friend in the market telling me to read “Autobiography of a Yogi” became, unknown at the time, a major turning point in my life, shifting me from the training and disillusion of my Catholic upbringing into a vision of what else a spiritual journey might be, and leading me into eastern studies I never before imagined. I moved through the years that followed into becoming a student and a teacher of eastern spiritual perspectives.

For some a turning point is an introduction to new values and life changes that support compassion and greater peace. For some it is a determination to go off to India or some other “promised land” to sit with a teacher, guru, monk, or some other significant guide. Or it could be clarity about leaving such a place, even when it means breaking a commitment. This can plunge a “seeker” deeply into their own resources. For others it the simple beginning of a meditation or sitting class whether it be in Buddhist or yoga communities, or with someone who has touched your spirit like Eckart Tolle or Adyashanti, or a Christian contemplation class using centering prayer. These become inward-turning points, inviting you to a new stillness and a place you may come to call your center.

There are many turning points along the way to self-realization that may arise as your meditation practice and depth stabilizes. Here are a few possibilities.

You may choose to change your lifestyle, drop an old belief system, or find a career that more clearly reflects your values.

You may realize you need to branch out and explore another teaching or practice, open up the energy body through yoga or Qigong, find a teacher who speaks to you.

You may discover something within you has dropped away or changed so that you are more peaceful, more patient or more compassionate toward yourself and others.

You may suddenly activate energy or vibration that moves up from the base of the spine or the feet and begins to unsettle your old ways of being, bringing both challenges and bliss.

You may have a startling new revelation or movement of consciousness into a new perspective or even a sense of unity with the world or the cosmos.

You may realize it is time to align your lifestyle more with your new perceptions, and move out of toxic or dysfunctional patterns and relationship, or move toward a more genuine expression of yourself.

Spiritual awakening is not (as some people imagine) a glamorous tranformation making someone into an all-powerful mystic who can work miracles. It is not living on another plane of experience outside of your body. It is more like a shedding of everything within you that is blocking your access to clear and authentic expression of your true nature, which is essentially at peace and capable of seeing the radiance in the simple things of life. Awakening does not demand that you go forth and change the world — perhaps this was so for Jesus or Buddha, but fortunately it is not meant for everyone to become a famous prophet or found a religion. Awakening does not demand anything. Instead it presents opportunities to know where you might lean in, finding a way that is congruent for you, and go with a flow of energies that lead you to doing what you uniquely are meant to do. This may be much more simple than what your thoughts had in mind for you. Undoubtedly it will surprise you. It will be discovered once all your old drives have faded away. It too will be another turning point.

I wonder if it is possible to miss a turning point, to refuse to see it, meet it or move forward. Think about the significant moves in your life. They may have been choices, inspirations, or shoves from an unknown source. What did they bring forth in you? I think we can only keep our self open to turning points. We can’t dictate them, although the small inner voice asking for change may lead us to the passage into the next step of life. Every life offers turning points — it seems to be the way we humans change and grow into the fullness of our potential. Usually they are only seen in retrospect, and if we are lucky, with appreciation.

At One With The Roses

 

 

 

 

 

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The yellow and gold roses outside my window have a way of bursting into life, falling into ruins a few days later, and then rebirthing and recycling themselves again and again. Some days their bush is a mix of baby buds and depleted blooms. It is a nice metaphor for life, which is always in a mix of birth and decay, growth and faded beauty, glory and collapse, softness and thorns. The difference between humans and roses is that the roses never complain!

How do we find that place in our self that, like the rose bush, sweetly accepts whatever arises in our place and time? It is nature's way to be in continual flux, and however we may resist this we are part of nature. We will always have new life arising with loss. We are part of constant change because that is the only way fresh possibilities and growth can enter life. Like the roses, the cells of our bodies are in continual modes of living and dying, even though we cannot feel it but only notice the changes months and years later.

 What if the rose bush complained and wept over each fallen rose, or agonized about the coming of winter? What a noisy and less joyful world it would be! But we humans have that privilege. We can think ahead and worry and fret that things might get worse, loss might happen, we might make a mistake or take a bad detour when we make choice. Unlike the rose bush, which is unlikely to ever count its losses over time (how many roses have I seen and lost?) we can feel emotional pain for every dream or opportunity we missed or lost along the way. We can miss enjoying our present beauty and the wonder of the new potential always in our grasp.

 People who read my books "The Awakening Guide" or "The Kundalini Guide"  sometimes write me asking help to awaken their energy with the idea it will change their life into something more magical, more powerful or more successful. They have not yet seen that the culmination of such awakening is more like becoming the rose bush or the tree -- more at peace, more present with the essence of our true nature, engaged as the pure beingness of life itself.

It is the dropping away of resistance to what is, along with the openness to change that leads to creativity and beauty, compassion and appreciation for what exists. Whether spiritual awakening will help anyone become more of anything other than his or her true nature is impossible to predict. More likely they will become less of their conflicts, regrets, and neurosis. With awakening it becomes possible to stand where you are free of the past and the future, be aware of what is true, and move with clarity, spontaneity and acceptance into each unfolding in life. We not only "stop and smell the roses" but we recognize our oneness with them. You really do not need a spiritual awakening to do this, you simply need to let go for a moment and be your true Self. But awakening energy and consciousness will help to prune away the old faded debris of the psyche and shift with more stability into the natural state.

Finding Resonance With You

At a conference this weekend to learn how to connect with all the people out there who may benefit from knowing about my 30 years of doing spiritual work both personally and professionally.I am at a generating stage of life, eager to pass this on.  The web is the new way for finding those you are resonant with and who can support you even when lost in the chaos of transformation, the confusion of emotion, the drama of awakened energy, and the sense your life is crumbling about you. Do you go to the net? to twitter? to amazon? to blogs?  I don't know yet but I expect to explore these outer dimensions of consciousness caught in the media and search for those who might like to hear what I have to say. There is a way through and out of your pain, confusion and sense of being all alone .  There is a way to shift fear into curiosity, discomfort into ecstasy, fogginess into clarity.  There is a way to transform out of you and into the real you that has been hiding all along in the shadows of your personality waiting to be noticed and brought to the surface.

Spiritual awakening is not an improvement of your present condition. It is peace and presence reclaiming you from the confusion of your present condition and encouraging your to see the world in an entirely new way, a way that is not corroded and conflicted by past experiences, disappointments and pains.  These must be dropped with compassion, accepted as the difficulties of living in a human condition, and recognized as irrelevant to the free expression of who you really are.  Freedom means only that we become free of our old selves, and thus free to live!

Waking up can be sudden or it can be gradual.  It happens when positions beliefs, attachments and pains are dropped, because it is underneath all the debris of our mind that our clear awareness shines, free of all burdens, seeing into every moment of our life. No one can force you to drop these burdens.  It is up to you and a secret moment called fate.  It may happen spontaneously or it may happen because you suddenly see with a flash that none of these moments of problems are true -- they are all thoughts  of memories in the past now floating in the mind that have the power to keep you from living the full expression of who you are. How much weight are you carrying?  How many arguments are you having each day with yourself? Is that what you want for your life, or would you rather meet each day as a fresh adventure, a curious possibility that might offer something new, something you had never considered before? What thoughts would you need to toss into the waste bin of history to live today fearlessly and openly?

There are many portals into an awakened life. I hope you will explore The Awakening Guide (on  amazon) as I have tried from experience and heart to show these doors to any who wish to enter. I am eager to see who will enter, what they will discover and what gifts they will bring to the table of our shared human experience. I can't say where my life has come from nor where it is going, only that these discoveries are what have poured through me along the way. I hope you will let me know your response. I hope it will lead you to love and peace.

What is Truth?

I got in a heated discussion once with another psychologist over who was the better analyst -- Carl Jung or Sigmund Freud. In the middle of a sentence my mind suddenly stopped. It was a futile discussion leading nowhere based on two disparate points of view, imbued with our unique conditioning and personality styles. There was no point to be made. I laughed and ended the conversation. I've thought of this encounter occasionally, while looking at opposing points of view and wondering how it can be that each person can be so convinced of the truth of what they believe even when it is the opposite of someone else's belief, who is also very convinced. What then is true? Is it relative to personal experience? Is it only a projection? Are all opinions true or are none of them true? Like everyone else I sit with a set of beliefs about life, death, experience, what is good and bad, right and wrong. But perhaps this is all it is -- beliefs. Perhaps my beliefs have little to do with what is true. They are the accumulated data I have collected through my experiences, reading and what others have said that I agreed with. Isn't this true for everyone? My teacher, Adyashanti, sometimes says that nothing we think is true. None of it is Truth. Truth cannot be known by the mind. This does not mean that if we label a color black it would not always be called black, or if someone gave you the name Mary or Bill you won't always answer to that name, or that you do not own the house (with the bank) that you have purchased. These are relative truths, called by the names we give them because we have agreed upon them. They are truths spun out of language and agreements within our illusionary identities. Even then they are not very reliable -- the color black has a different word in other languages, someone else may lay claim to property we think we own, we may change our name to Willow or Buddy just on our personal will. In school we are trained that certain facts are true and must be remembered to pass exams and go on in our learning. We tend to think that because we agree on relative truths and so-called facts (most of which have changed over the last 200 years) that there is such a thing as fundamental and philosophical truth. But theoretical and philosophical beliefs make very unreliable truths because most of our beliefs depend on where we grew up, who taught us, what we like to hear because it makes us feel like we know what we are doing or where we are going, or because the people we prefer to hang out with are complicit in the same beliefs. In the non-dual world there are only a few "Truths", the primarily One being that everything is One, or part of a whole, and the nature of this wholeness is consciousness (or that consciousness is the portal to realizing it but what is behind this has no name). It is understood that believing this alone has great limitation and the only way to really "know" what is "True" is to directly experience it. When this is reported it is usually because of a deep meditation experience, or a surprising and spontaneous awakening, when the mind seems to stop and awareness is shifted into a direct knowing called Oneness or Self-realization. This knowing does not feel like other truths -- it feels essential, or primal, and it collapses a person's interest in the spiritual search, upsets their conventional mindset and sometimes uproots their life. All of the truths produced by thought might fall into 4 categories -- agreed-upon Truths that are learned such as labels for things (i.e. names, grammatical rules, tools used in a specific way); working truths that are predictable like doing math, driving a car, or using a recipe; philosophical truths that are learned but unproven (i.e. beliefs in the afterlife, beliefs about how people ought to behave, points of view about politics or the environment); personal truths about ourselves and others (often not true at all.) Perhaps all of these so-called truths are only the product of neurons firing randomly in the mind, linking together all we have heard and been forced to learn throughout our life. How is it possible to know the real essence of what is true about life and who we are if we are dependent on these four channels? Spiritual practices, as opposed to spiritual beliefs, are aimed at breaking through all these patterns of belief and discovering something prior to thought, prior to belief, prior even to the housing of spirit in our bodies. Although they may not be successful, and in fact often are not, when a person is fortunate to break through the limitations of thinking and falls into the unknowing world of consciousness before there was a name, before a teaching, before philosophy or a personal belief about who they are, there is an opportunity to discover a Truth that brings peace and ends argument with life as it is. After this it is difficult to hold hard to any belief (although easy enough to use the working tools of mind) because the world of not-knowing offers the adventure of discovery, of seeing experience from many diverse perspectives, of moving in harmony with the moment instead of being propelled by the past. Drives fall away but the impulse to expression does not. Anyone who honestly seeks Truth might do well to forego collecting all the horizontal data provided by life, and begin to plunge deeply down into the inner core of their own personal experience, letting all the extraneous accumulations fall away. The mind most likely will resist -- all of us have worked hard to become what we think we are, to choose patterns that we believe support us, to have friends that are in line with what we believe -- but why then do so many of us still feel emptiness, longing and a vague sense that we are missing a fundamental understanding of existence? Perhaps there is one Truth that can put all the other partial truths into a new perspective, and free a person to live in peace. But it cannot be learned, it can only be known.