Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mind Weeding: Freedom From Thought

I think this is what they call "baggage".  Although I'd always pictured it as something carried on my back, it's more accurate to say it's carried on my head.  Like a potted weeds I water with worry or anxious thought, the spindly growths become top heavy. 

It's time to weed, or at least begin a good pruning.

Thoughts seem to give rise to other thought, but what if I got myself a good batch of weed killer and doused the roots?  And I think I've figured out a way to do just that.  It's deceptively simple, as all effective inquiries seem to be. 

Here's how it goes.

In looking at thought itself, I can see that there's no way to predict them, no way of telling what sort will show up next.  But they're amazingly varied and lots of times, the content is just plain ridiculous.  So how do I know which to choose as valid or 'real'?  By what criteria is that choice made?  And do I even have control over which of them seem to carry more weight than the others?

When looking closely, it's evident that the worrisome ones are just a repetitive pattern.  They seem to take on 'weight' simply because they pop up often.  A feeling of "there must be something to this thought" comes up, even when the contents never materialize.  And most of the time... maybe more than 99% of the time, they never materialize.

Statistically, it's ridiculous to fret.

If I look even closer, I can see that thoughts are very mysterious and have no business causing anyone issue.  They come from nowhere (no material substance).  They exist nowhere (can't pick them up or collect them).  They disappear into nothing (can't even find them once they're gone).

In what world does something non material, something that has no shape, size, color, or texture become threatening or cause harm?  This makes little sense.  What if I gave thoughts the weight they deserve... none?

I have to admit that the last thing that would help with this inquiry is to think about it.  Rather than stopping thought, which is what a lot of spiritual folks tend to try to do, it seems to me it's much better to just see through it. 

Freedom from believing in ghosts we call "thoughts".  Right now, that makes sense.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Myth of Separation - You are not alone

If my beliefs truly had any substance the world would long ago have become overpopulated with fairies, leprechauns, and regular disasters from imagined house fires, accidents, and an assortment of personal embarrassments.

That's what I know about beliefs, but I'll take a closer look at this particular inquiry!

I have a body
In looking for what has a body, or owns one, I've admitted in previous posts that there's really nothing there as owner.  The owner is an assumption that just doesn't stand up to examination.  You can read about that inquiry here.  And in one simple question to wake up, here.

I need to compete
Normally, I'd say that I'm not a competitive person, but selves are always trying to measure up against other selves.  It seems to be a very good way to solidify a self, actually, because there's a subject/object kind of dynamic going on.  I can see that without an "other" who is different, whether I'm being snarky and making comments about their being worse or better, there's really no "me" here.  They cancel each other out very nicely.

I am not good enough
This is the same as "I need to compete", but dressed in drag.  It's still a comparison born of creating an other.  Is there actually an other?  It doesn't seem so!  It's happening only in my mind because there's nothing in reality that says that "my body" belongs to something that exists here in any essential way, so how could something other over there exist separately?  Mysterious.

I have to try harder
Oh, this is a good one.  I can see that at this point, we have a cascade of beliefs which started with the very first fallacy, that there is something here that has a body.  Owns a body.  That there's a little Delma in the head steering Delma's mind and body (talk about redundant!)   So what exactly would have to try harder?  I can't find anything!

These inquiries always leave "me" mysteriously empty of self consciousness, and the heavy burden of trying to *be* something or someone special. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Really Short Tale About the Internet

I've been marveling about the fact that as I read messages from my online friends, they're not there at all.  They're off hiking, golfing, washing dishes, fighting with their significant others, or maybe even at the pool.  

It's the future and the past, at once.  We are living in a virtual reality with different time zones that aren't measured by a clock, but by the lag in online communication.

Even when we're simultaneously on line, we often exist in different time zones.  So.... What time is it on the internet?

What's more, on any given day, when I engage in online conversations, what I'm reacting to are actually just squiggles made of dots on a computer screen... This is another oddity, especially when I find that there's someone on the internet who is just plain WRONG and needs to be corrected.  Perhaps you know the type?   All I've done when that happens, is to interpret the pixels, get all riled up about them, and then spend time crafting more squiggles that I post up on my screen.  I fuss with the juxtaposition of these lines and curves and set them in ways I believe make me seem smarter than they are.

Squiggle wars.

Very strange.

What exactly am I reacting to?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

When There's No Escape, Look for the Escapee

Artwork by Ingrid Lill

This simple little drawing holds the key to breaking through some points of inquiry I've been trying to get at for a while.  Only I didn't realize I'd been trying.

It's funny how when you need something (and I don't mean material things, I mean life lessons), it comes right to your doorstep.  In this case, it came to my computer screen in the form of Ingrid's next doodle in her facebook doodle stream,  Just this morning, rather than try to stop my habit of negative thinking, I sat down with it.

Like a lot of people, a generalized sense of anxiety about a nebulously uneasy expectation can sneak up on me.  This usually happens in the middle of the night and kicks off with one of those dreams with a repetitive themes.  For me, the theme is generally centered around an apocalyptic event.  A tsunami.  Nuclear War.  Something fun like that. 

The secondary theme both within the dream and outside of it seems to be about escape.  I just want to run as far from the situation as possible, and without a glance back.  I want to escape my own skin.

But what if there is no need for escape from anything at all?  What if the situation doesn't apply to anyone and is just a situation, happening?  What if the troublesome habit IS the self?  It has to be because there's actually nothing holding onto it.  I just checked.  And there was no sign of an owner of a habit.

So, if I try to find the thing that escapes a physical situation, it would be the body moving away from a point in space or time.  But if it's an escape from the habit of anxiety, it's all about getting away from thought.

What would get away from thought?


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Gap Analysis- Finding the Space Between Thoughts

In trying to wrap my head around this doodle, it occurs to me that before using it for inquiry, I really should take a hefty dose of my own medicine by reviewing a few earlier investigations.  Because there were two critical turning points in this path-  one in which I was astounded to find that there's actually no separate me.   The second one was this moment of realization.

Bringing the two revelations into this scenario sets up an interesting framework for today's investigation.  Why?  Well, because if there is truly no separation, then what am I supposed to do with the nearly unquestioned assumption that there's a me doing the thinking and inquiring at all?

Here's a head scratcher:

Why should I try to begin this session by thinking that I need to look for separation between MY thoughts?.  What I can easily now see is that dragging the 'me' into this is entirely automatic  In truth, whether there are gaps or not doesn't matter!  (or at least not yet!) The elephant in the room is this question:

What is thinking?

or better yet,

What IS it that is thinking?
This is the first question.  Until it's examined and answered, looking into whether there are gaps just brings up a loop of more thinking.  But if I clearly see that there is no separate me doing any of it, then the gap becomes an unbelievably amazing mystery.  I mean, what IS that "space"?!  Is there anything at all there? 

(Here's a little secret.... I'm finding that it's incredibly quiet and peaceful there, especially without "me" in it.)

The next time I have one of those days in which I just want to choke the incessant voice in the head, maybe all I really need to do is to look for the thinker first.  Once this is fully understood, the work on exercises in which I spend hours looking for gaps can begin in earnest, and with abandon. 

The gaps are thoroughly enjoyed by no one at all.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Meditation: Just Practicing for the Big Game

Artwork by Ingrid Lill

I've never been a meditator.  Yes, I've tried it here and there but the exercise has never really amounted to anything life altering because I much prefer inquiry for shattering my paradigm, thank you.  With annoying regularity though, this so-called inquiry would decide to show up at around 3am at which time it would keep me up for at least an hour or two.  And that is when I find myself locked into a stare contest with my bedroom ceiling until the idea dawns to start relaxing with a little meditation.  (The ceiling wins every time, by the way)

As you can see, I've got meditation issues.

The biggest realization I've gotten out of a cramped-leg sitting session is that finding the space between thoughts is nearly impossible at first.  This, I know for sure.  Because as soon as I notice that the space is there, it's no longer a space.  Instead, a comment appears and the space is quickly filled with the newly discovered thought.  After a while, this cycle of thought birth and death becomes painful to note.  From what I understand, though, this is kind of the point. What you begin to do is to take a good look at the process rather than paying attention the content. 

It's practice for the Big Game.

And yet, here's what I think makes a session of meditation on Thought a bit more interesting.  Remember my investigation into the nature of Now and how staying in it is a crock?  Well, in this meditation I've noticed that thoughts are always in the past.  What I mean to say is that while I can't catch them midstream, I can just sort of take note that they've happened.  I've never caught a thought in the act, or at least not in the middle of the act.  They're awfully wily that way.  They're never now.

I do have to be honest and report that on one or two occasions, I have indeed noticed the elusive mind state of Nothingness.  This would be cause for celebration if such things weren't frowned upon by the enlightenment police.  To congratulate yourself for noticing Nothing is hypocrisy!  Besides it doesn't lend itself to conversation.

"Hey, what's up?"
"Yeah.  Been working on that for years."

Instant conversation killer.

Ok, back to the exercise.  As you can see, noticing thought ends up being quite a crazy game of hide and seek where the success of achieving the goal is fleeting as well as almost entirely elusive.  It takes some time to just notice what happens with thought because it's much to easy to begin spiraling into it.  It's like a cosmic swirling drain that seduces you right into the vortex. 

I need more time with this.  And that's quite likely the reason it's called practice.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Waking Up: A Zero Sum Game

The idea of living in a constant state of enlightened bliss is usually trumped by my habit of swimming the murky waters of self improvement.  Call it a desire to become EverBetter.

What's EverBetter?  Well, it's a drive that has lead me by the nose and straight into a spiritual search.  After all, to be enlightened is the Most Better one can ever get, isn't it?

Yes, that's all well and good but this blog is about holding every assumption up to Inquiry, and so I have to ask myself the most basic question:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hell in a Handbasket: Laptops, Cars, and Other Spiritual Vices
artwork by Ingrid Lill

Quiz Time:

In this bright, big world of good and shiny things, there are possessions, and then there are things that are MINE, right?  What I mean is that possessions as I usually think of them are things like My House (which belongs to the bank, thank you), My Jetta (which belongs to yet another financial institution), My Samsung laptop (Ok, this actually is something I paid for in full).  You get the idea.  Those are my things, the very items I'd mourn if they went missing.  I mean seriously cry because I've invested some hard-earned cash.

Spiritual perfectionists would tell me that I need to ditch those things to be happy, or at least not be so god-awful attached to them.

Meh.  I'm not that spiritual, I guess.

The next level of stuff I own is this entirely amped up level of possessions. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Wake Up! There are sharks in the Think Tank

One of the most frustrating and freeing inquiries I've ever come across is the one spawned from this doodle.

Here.  Let's think about that.

The first reason for the frustration is exactly what the doodle notes.  The truth of things is that I just cannot ever predict what the next thought will be.  This is a problem because in the middle of inquiry, a thought about what happened at work last Monday will just pop.  There is absolutely no control over this no matter how hard "I" try.  This invading thought may be followed by one involving a plan for dinner, or maybe even an entirely ridiculous and imaginary scene I happen to enjoy because it involves Chris Cornell. 

Yeah.  You really don't want to think about that.

The second reason for my vexation is the impossible situation I find myself trying to unravel, which is that inquiry itself IS thought

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Keeping That Cute Little Monkey On Your Back

I've been in a deep crisis about my job lately and that's because I know it doesn't align with my desire or plan to have fulfilling Life Purpose.  How ridiculously typical for a spiritual seeker of my less-than-tender age!

There's no time in the linear trajectory I like to think of as the 'history of my life' that I wasn't looking for the next or better thing.  It's been a real source of dissatisfaction, if I'm honest. More than that, it's been a source of pain, and you might even say Suffering.

Oh, you too?

Only after beginning to work with this particular inquiry did I discover that the suffering is completely false.  Firstly, because I don't recall learning about a predetermined or neatly paved path which I have been commanded to follow.  What's more, there are zero accounts of Maps to the Universe having been handed out by the OB-Gyn who tended to my birth.  And if he was in the business of handing out life maps upon arrival, it's long since been lost.  There's no absolutely no GPS for This, and therefore, it's impossible to get lost.

So where did this idea of Sempre Further, Stronger, Faster, Better come from?  Why the dissatisfaction with my current state of affairs?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Neverending Universe of Inquiry

While the urgent energy of spiritual seeking can end at some point, it's my experience so far that inquiry can't.  It's an ever expanding universe of wonder and awe.  Well, when inquiry isn't leading up to a headache, that is.  And if it's giving me a headache, that's probably a good sign that I'm working it like a logical math problem instead of a simple check of reality. 

This brings me to an excellent blog comment on my last post.  I see it as an invitation to an Inquiry Challenge Round. 

"This is a textbook case of realizing the difference between actual experience and thought overlay."I'd think that thought overlay is part of actual experience, and that the realising is just another overlay.

"Where this hold true for me, it must also hold true for him."......Must? 

- Neony

How and where to start!

I think of inquiry as an art form.  Or maybe it's an eternal musical composition.  Either way, it's always a good idea for me to not call a session "closed" or "done".  Instead, I let it just keep opening doors and before writing out the results of an inquiry here, I've more than likely spent a full week in contemplation even when I've done these countless times before.  Finding a breaking point at which to write is always much more challenging than I expect.

Neony's right.  When I look, I see that thought overlay is indeed part of actual experience, and realizing IS just another overlay.  Everything is experience.  There is no escaping it, even if I think about falling asleep at night and experiencing nothing, that's not true.  I can't possibly know whether I've actually missed anything at all.  

My recommendation to you, dear reader, is to take none of these inquiries as complete, closed, or finished.  Challenge each one and see whether you can take it further. 

Because you can.  Always.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Friends, Lovers, and Other Strangers?

The question is....Exactly what is it that I see when looking at another?

In the midst of trying to give this inquiry my full attention I find myself giving several distracted glances in my husband's direction.  I note the rounded shoulders of his seated form as he reads from his laptop.  Then I remember that he hates that laptop.  Or maybe it's just a healthy disdain for Windows 8.


Besides the visual cues of shape and color, I'm pretty proud of my spiritual acuity in easily noticing that there is absolutely nothing there that says "husband".  That notion, I understand, comes in a series of thoughts which claim to tell a story about that particular shape and form.  This is a textbook case of realizing the difference between actual experience and thought overlay.

I get 10 bonus points for this round of inquiry and move onto the next space on the board.
Next, I start looking at the question of how and where these particular thoughts came to be. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ingen and Her Guru's Promise

I've been avoiding writing out this inquiry but having been playing around with it for a few weeks.  That's because I've always harbored a bit of disdain for gurus as a whole and realized that the reason for the judgment, as in most stereotyping, was due to laziness.  My preconceived notions needed to be torn down in order to take a good look.

So I took a sledgehammer to them.

Though I haven't had any experience with gurus outside of YouTube videos, I've got a mental image that teachers like Mooji or Gangaji, (or any ji) can easily fill.  Anyone with robes or long and flowing clothing, beads, a slow blink, and a bouquet of flowers nearby or hung round the neck qualify as the stereotypical guru.  There are those who skirt the edges.  Adya and Rupert Spira come to mind, but with those guys, I think it's really just the flowers that throw me.

Putting all of that aside, I realized that there's a really very good purpose for the "guru look".  Sure, it's part of a sort of uniform, but it's also a signal.  They provide visual and auditory cues which tell me to SLOW DOWN.  That's all there is to it.   They cues are employed to assist in carefully listening to the questions, and the pauses are there to allow me to consider and inquire.  In other words, STOP.

We've come to the part where I let you know the outcome of this inquiry.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Love, Algebra, and Unconditions

"Unconditional love" is a phrase I've read in nearly every spiritual book .  It's an appealing enough set of words that flows very nicely and makes a fine new age mantra.   If you're into that sort of thing.

Me?  I find New and Age to be at odds with itself.  But I've got to start this inquiry somewhere, so why not approach it from a more practical perspective.  Like a dictionary.


[uhn-kuh n-dish-uh-nl]
1. not limited by conditions; absolute :
an unconditional promise.
2. Mathematics, absolute (def 12).

It seems, after pondering the above for quite a while, that "unconditional love" is a completely redundant phrase.  Because "without conditions" would mean that anything and everything is accepted, as it is.  Not a single condition can apply.  Not even the Acceptance because that, itself, implies a condition of welcoming.

In thinking this through, I've never experienced anything without conditions.  Or, maybe it's more accurate to say that the "I" has never experienced without conditions because the job of the Me seems to be to judge and classify everything in its path.  Relentlessly.  So, what is the only thing that doesn't judge?  Well... that would seem to be what I'd call LOVE. 

By my own definition, Love itself, then, is unconditional.  The two words first define each other and then ultimately cancel themselves out.  When looking at this closely, the canceling out leaves me still and silent.  The only thing remaining is THAT which IS.  And absolutely nothing more can possibly be said because to do so would be to spin back into conditions. 

It's suddenly grown really very quiet around here.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"All There Is, Is This", The Remix

In continuing the inquiry from my Part I of this dramatic mini series, I realized that I'd missed something RIDICULOUSLY obvious.  Gobsmacked (to put it mildly), I wondered whether this new discovery was the flip side of the enlightenment coin, so-to-speak. 

The entire idea of approaching these queries as a child really took on new meaning this time. The resulting realization felt like a thunderbolt delivered from the right hand of Zeus.  It became pretty plain that seeing "This is all there is" is so utterly real ,true, and startlingly irrefutable, that any child could easily have picked up on it if asked for an honest report.

The impact is so dramatic that it's going to take me a while to unpack this one.  Probably years.

You see, This is ALL there is, means Everything Out There.  Right?  Which is fine, but then I realized that I couldn't find a damned thing IN HERE.  Nothing.  No matter how hard I tried.  And if I couldn't find anything In Here, then why am I even calling it, Inside?  Inside what?   Let me break this thing down....

The only thing missing, anywhere I look, is me

I am absolutely nowhere in All that Is.  How do I know this?  Because it's the senses that detect anything we deem "real" or "existent".  If our senses can't do it, science has instruments to measure it.

Senses detect: Wind.  Heat.  Cold. Vibration.
Instruments detect:  Electromagnetic waves.  Atoms.  Tiny vibrations. 

There is no sense that can detect a self.

There is no scientific device that can detect a self.

No one, and no instrument has ever seen, heard, felt, tasted, or smelled a self.

Hmph.  How'd you like me now?

Questions for Investigation:
When looking out at All There Is, can You find a You?  Where is it?

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:

Keep checking.  If a You is ever found along with All There Is, let me know.  Leave a comment right here and we'll look at it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ingen looks at All There Is and asks "Could this be IT?"

What if enlightenment looks just like this?  That's the question I've asked myself ever since hearing the phrase, "This is all there is" and seeing that it is just one of the ways used to explain what enlightenment looks like, in a nutshell.

Not helpful.  

So let's look at this often repeated statement to see whether we can approach it as we have done with all inquiries so far, which is to see it in its simplest and most obvious terms.  Why?  Because I don't believe that all of the folks who point to truth realization by saying this are trying to drown us in the mysteries of waking up.  I do believe that there are lots of them who are trying to be really very helpful, and attempting to state it as plainly as possible. 

Here we go:

"This is all there is.  All there is, is this."

My first thought:   What the hell am I supposed to do with that statement?  There's not a lot I can read into to make some grand vision of waking up, so I'd better roll up my sleeves and look closely.


Well, 'this' has to be about Right Now and Right Here, and so we're back to that whole Being in the Now business.  THIS is everything being experienced, only now. 

"is all there is."  Ok, so that bit seems to say that what is experienced right now is the Universe... the whole Shebang, in no less than its entirety.  Full Stop.  There is nothing else, because this is all.  

Is that possible?

I can see that the benefit to this being the truth of reality is that it pretty much eliminates a whole lot of complications.  There's no time.  There's no history and no baggage that comes with it.  But then again there's no future.   No big news here.  We've covered that in previous posts.

But wait... there's nothing other than this, meaning that right now, my husband is here as this, but not the rest of my family... my job... my coworkers... traffic... tourists jam packed at the restaurants and sidewalk cafes downtown.


No tourists?  Bonus!

Anyway.   Back to inquiry..... If I look at the truth of reality, all of those things are experienced only within thought right now which means that while the things themselves cannot be this, the thoughts about them have to be!   From this perspective, all of that 'stuff' is just an idea with no real location or time.  There's a freedom in that because there's no need to even worry about any of it, at least not right now.  And not in the next now either.

For some reason it feels a bit claustrophobic to see this.  Because apparently, there's no escaping this This!  Except for the supposed next moment in which this experience is wholly different, thankfully.  It might look like "work tomorrow" or "going to sleep tonight".  But whatever happens, it will still be This, and it will be all there ACTUALLY, REALLY is, all I can know for sure, and all I can stake my life on.  The rest of it could all have vanished completely and it wouldn't affect This particular experience one iota.

I'm going to sit with this one a while.  I mean, what if this experience could then be rested in?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ingen Takes a Swat at her Pesky Ego

Day after day, as I investigate this thing called reality, the world gets weirder and weirderer.  And this doodle so very aptly depicts the tornado of thought that whips up whenever I try one of these inquiries.

First of all.... WHY are there three things represented here when they are all supposed to be referencing just one.  One.  The one.  Me.

Me:  Right here.  This me in this body somewhere. 

And My:  Ok, so now this goes off the rails.  There's already a Sybil effect going on as though there can be a 'me' and a 'my'.  What is My if not Me? 

Ego:  Now we've got this spaceship circling the body where the me and my is.  So whose ego is it?  And if it's outside circling around, how is it mine?  Me?  My?

Does the ego belong to someone here?  Is it owned by something?  If so, WHAT?!  What is the thing that owns the ego?

I guess I could say that 'my' body owns the ego but if it does, it certainly hasn't been able to control it.  Just look at it buzzing around in circles, kind of like this logic.  If I own it, why isn't there a remote control for this thing?

It's odd how looking for the me always turns into a frustrating circle jerk. 

I am looking for the me.

I am looking at my ego.

What and where is this supposed I that is looking?!

"Who Am I?", I ask.  No one answers.

Questions for Investigation:

Are there two things, a you, and then a separate ego? Can the idea of an ego ever exist apart from the idea of a self? Where does the concept of a self end and the concept of an ego begin?

Most importantly, do either of these things exist as more than an idea?

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:

Like the self, check for whether either actually exist outside of thought? What is the thing or entity that "has" or controls the ego? Then do the same check in reverse. What is the thing that “has” or controls the self?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Meanwhile, Ingen Discovers Eternity.

There I was in my last post, dangling on the precipice of my sometimes regrettable past while trying to not fall to hard into a hazy but hope-filled future.  This incredible feat was a tip-of-the-toe pirouette on the sharp and cutting edge of this single point of time called "Now".  Why the treacherous balancing act?  Because that's what all of the spiritual books say will make me happy.

It wasn't working. The "now" was too small to fit all of the thoughts about I was supposed to be doing at the moment, in the one immediately previous, and all the while ensuring I didn't fall into the next one unprepared.  It seemed exhausting.

It was also very obvious that the inquiry into Time and Now wasn't over.  Further investigation into "Reality-As-It-Is" was called for.

Here goes.

I'd already come to the understanding that there is only Now (see my previous post).  But it still seemed that there was this time-bubble called 'me' which was separate.  This was the thing that reflected on the past, sat in the now, and worried about the future.  It's as though there were four things, all somehow related to a me who had to track her place relative to each one.  It's no wonder I'm tired.

So then where is this Past that is not here, and therefore is separate from the me that's in the Now?  How would it be possible for it to exist as 'my past' without yours truly as central character?  The same question holds true for the Future.  If it's out there without me, then it's certainly not My future, because I'm not there yet.  I'm right here in the Now.  Or at least I thought I was before that last inquiry when I couldn't find This Moment either, except as a continuous eternity without measurement.  Time has no edges for me to be contained "in".

Does this make me eternal?!!

There is Past, Present, and Future, existing nowhere, and I've just discovered that I'm not in any of them.  When am I?

Questions for Investigation:

Does "Your" past exist outside of the idea of a you who has experienced it?  Where is the past or future right now?  Is the Past, Future, and Present separate from the You?

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:

Note the times you feel that you are not Living in the Moment.  Is that feeling happening outside of the present moment?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Newsflash: "Staying in the Now" Is a Crock!

Oh, how I have tried to stay in the now!  Let me count the ways...

It's frustrating to suddenly realize that I'd been thinking about a problem at work while actually gazing at the sunset on a beautiful beach.   Or maybe it's a snap back to the delicious dinner with friends instead of getting lost in thought about which bills were due this week. 

We all do it.  We've taken the mantra of 'staying in the now' and turned it into another reason to berate ourselves for falling short of some spiritual or enlightened goal.

With the help of Ingen Findes, let's take a look at the "Present Moment".  To do that, we'll need to look at the nature of time itself.

Time.  It seems to be a measure of change rather than something I can get my hands on.  That's evidenced by the fact that when I'm indoors, I have to look at a clock in order to keep track of my day.  Outdoors, it's much easier because of the changing angles of the sun, or just the multitude of changing events.  Time is change.  I can't seem to define it more than that.

Before understanding how to stay in the now, I'll need to define it.  And I'm having a real problem with that.  When I look for an "incoming" now, I just get... Now.  When looking for the end or "outgoing" now, I get... Now.  I cannot find a demarcation or line between the past, present, or future.  It's just one long continuous now!  Past appears only in thought, and so does future.

Guess what that means?  There is absolutely no way to not be in the now.  That's the good news.  But then what's happening to cause the feeling of not being 'here, now'? 

It seems that the only time I'm not in the Now is when I've framed a scene in my mind, or compartmentalized life into segments.  THIS is dinner time.  THIS is beach time.  THIS is writing a blog post time so I shouldn't be thinking of sushi.

But what happens if the compartments are false?  Are there actual compartments in reality or is this just some lame left-brained idea?   Doesn't that mean that no matter what is happening, it's happening NOW and is the NOW?  Why have I imposed false rules about what is supposed to be happening at any given time as though I can structure every single aspect and moment?

Seems kind of weird to think about this.  But no matter what happens, I'm only ever in the moment. And when I realize that instead of thinking of bills, I'd rather think of the shoreline in front of me, then that's what I do in THAT moment.  Mission accomplished.  Struggling with this is wholly unnecessary.

Questions for Investigation:

Is it Now, now? What about Now? Try to leave the present moment and jump into the future, or move back into the past. Is it ever possible?

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:

Keep trying to leave the now. When the thought that you are not "living in the now" comes, when is that thought occurring? Can you ever fail to stay in the present moment? Are you a time traveler? If you could travel through time, what time would it be when you got there?

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Real Meaning of Manifesting Your Life

Just look at this doodle.  It looks like a lot of stuff doesn't it?  Almost too much to process?  Yes, that's exactly where I'd landed when I realized that this was the very point. 

Every day I'm bombarded by sensory input and it's a gigantic soup of experience.  Life buzzes, chirps, whizzes, and whirs and the only way to make sense of it all is to group, categorize, and name parts of the soup and call them Things.  I need to understand that a part of the soup that we label BUS just might run me over if I step out in front of it.  But it's not separate from the scenery and so the mind does its job of separating and pulling it apart... car, bus, motorcycle, street.  None of it would be separated except through thought because from what I can see all of the images are just present in one large canvas.  Sounds overlap and intrude on each other, but I can separate music from car horns.  Look!  See?  I've just named them!

Are there ever not things?  I realize that when I'm daydreaming or lost in the world of thoughts about future or past, I can stare at the scenery or listen to the sounds for moments at a time without recognition of any specific thing at all.  I literally think the things into existence.  As soon as thought enters, things magically appear.  You might even say that they 'manifest', though not in the way the new age books like to tell me they do.

Questions for Investigation:

What separates things? What makes up the borders? Can we pluck a thing out of the scenery in front of us? If not, is it truly separate or is it thought about variation in observed qualities which makes it so?

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:

The next time you are watching television, look at the screen and see whether you can pluck an object from the scene. Are there objects existing inside the screen or is the image a seamless whole? What is it that makes it seem as though there are separate objects in the picture? Are they truly separated?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

How I Woke Up with Just One Look

Here's an excerpt from something I'd written the very first time I was asked what my moment of "seeing" looked like.  Every time I read this, the AHA! comes back to me fresh and new, but more than that, the account is simple and direct, exactly as the act of seeing happened.

To set this up, know that I'd been working on the inquiry by reading a forum which came before liberation unleashed but the idea was the same.... it consisted of dialogues between seekers and guides, though "dialogues" is not exactly accurate.  That's because the guides had distilled the message or pointer to "Just Look".  The directive became my mantra and two weeks after finding the forum, "it" happened.

Here it is:

Last Sunday after a couple of weeks of reading (yet more new) posts on this [Ruthless Truth]  site, then finding the exercises on, I dropped all the assumptions and spiritual "knowledge" and just looked. Plain and simple. 

(and now it's amazing how easy it was if your advice had been followed from the beginning.)

Yes, I saw my computer monitor. I saw my lamp... the mouse, the pen, the windows, sheets of paper, legs, arms, fingers, and became annoyed by a film of the tiniest specks of dust. Then I looked for the smallest evidence of a tangible Me. That's when it first hit. How was is possible to see a single speck of dust more clearly than I could see a Me? Where the hell was I? And if I wasn't able to find myself RIGHT THERE WHERE I THOUGHT I WAS SITTING, then WHERE COULD I POSSIBLY BE? 

It's plain and simple. Look for the Me, the Myself, the Self, the Doer, the Thinker, the Seer, the Hearer and you'll not even be able to find something less than those specks of dust piling up on the printer.

That was it.  And every time I do a new inquiry, I follow the same strategy and distill it down to "just looking".

It's the key.

To read more about the moment of seeing, you can read it on my other blog here:  Tabula Rasa

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Enlightenment by Selfie

This doodle asks a simple question but as inquiries go, I've done enough of them to know that it's always the simpler ones that rock my paradigm the most.  They have a habit of helping to reveal that in the world of the mundane, there are some really very extraordinary mysteries.  Forget about the Secrets of the pyramids, to find a real mind bender, apparently, all I need to do is to look in a mirror.

Let's start.  I hold a mirror.  I look.  After a few seconds of reflexively thinking that there's a me here and an image 'there' that represents the me here, I pause, breathe, and go back to the basic rules of inquiry.

Do it like a child.

Ok, fine.  I'm going to do this one like a toddler.

So what's going on?  Well there's a feeling that is recognized to be a 'me' and a feeling recognized to be 'here' becomes a mashup of me/here.  It's just a feeling, though. When I look for an image of a me here where the feeling is, I come up empty.  Nada.  The feeling itself is actually floating in empty space and has no precise location.  To look for it, I have to imagine my body, then try to further imagine the place in that body where the feeling exists.  I give it a minute and find that I think it's sort of in the head and heart.  I realize that this is a complete guess because I can't touch the feeling at all. I begin to notice that the more I try to zero in on this feeling and location, the more vague things become.  It's a little LOT disconcerting to notice that I'm now using words like


This self has been here for years . For something that feels so real and true, why do I need to use such weak-kneed terms?!

Time to look in the mirror, because that's where I can find something solid and real which is measurable.  Besides, I know I can be sure of finding it.  But Ugh.... here it comes....  doubt.  Why do I need to look at something outside of this right-here/right-now feeling of a self in order to find myself?  This doesn't make sense.  The image is "out there" and yet it's the only thing I have ever recognized as me.

What in the world?  

Don't get me started about selfies.   They now make even less sense than ever, and I want to deconstruct it. Here goes the selfie...

There's a feeling here
Close to the feeling, there's an image of a hand and camera
The feeling faces a mirror, and the hand, together with camera, takes a photo of 'over there'
The 'over there' is suddenly the same as 'right here'
The hand flips the phone and sees the image 'in there' of 'over there' which represents 'right here'.

Ack!!  Ms. Lill, you have done me in.

Working Questions for Your Own Inquiry

Questions for Investigation:

Are you "here" or is it more accurate to say that you are "there", in the mirror? Are you somewhere in between the two, or are you in both places at once? Where is the space in which the You exists?

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:

Notice images of "you" in different mirrors. What space does the You occupy in those moments? Why does it feel as though the space occupied is different from where the image is found? What evidence doyou have to support the idea that there is a 'me' here, and a 'me' there?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How to Come Out Smelling Like a Rose

This inquiry seems fresh every time I work with it.  That's because when I really GROK this one, it becomes pretty evident that the story happening in my head is somehow able to completely override or REPLACE reality as-it-is. 
How?   Well, let me see whether I can write this out in clear terms...
The panel on the left always seems to reflect the truth of what happens when I smell a flower.  It's a great depiction except for one major flaw!  If I run outside right now to smell the about-to-bloom magnolias on the scrawny and newly planted tree in my front yard, the reality is that the event is actually going to be experienced as the panel on the right.
When I tell you the story of how things happened when picking up the magnolia and taking a good strong whiff, the panel on the left is truer to the story.  It IS the story.
And therein lies all the difference.
That left-hand panel is the MAP of experience while the one on the right IS the experience.  (Well, as close as I can get when trying to communicate this concept with concepts, but that's another post.) 
When I look at the truth of reality-as-it-happens, my experience is immediate, fleeting, unstructured, uninhibited, and unplanned.   On the other hand the story of my experience is:
  • Long (it takes longer to tell it than the time it took for it to happen)
  • Structured (the story, whether told in thought or aloud, has a linear movement)
  • Inhibited (I could never tell the entire story or I'd never get to the point)
  • Planned (The words are formed in thought and sentences are structured according to rules)
The contrast between the panels becomes clear but the results leave me with a strange dilemma... the left tells a fictitious story that was never my experience at all while the right, even when truer, just doesn't work in the way we usually communicate. 

Ok, so now I understand what a doodle is supposed to do... tell a story.  No wonder they're always drawn like the one on the left.  They're not really accurate at all, though!

Care to go down a rabbit hole with me on this one?   After more inquiry, I found that both panels can only ever represent thought, and it's thought twice-removed.  That's because there is the scent happening, and there is sight, but only thought has said those are the experience of a rose.  Only thought says there is a thing called scent and only thought says there is a sight called "red", "flower".......  All I ever really experience is... !!!

I'll let you know whether I make it back from this one.

Working Questions for Your Own Inquiry

Questions for Investigation:

Which of the two panels is the image that usually comes to mind when thinking about the experience of "I smell a flower"? Is the panel on the left a true representation of what the experience of SMELLING, ITSELF looks like from your point of view, or is the panel on the right more accurate? How does understanding the difference between the two feel? How does seeing the difference feel?

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:

Notice all of the differences between the story we tell ourselves about an action, and the action itself. When looking out at the view, do eyes see an image of you looking at the view, or is there just the view? Where do "you" live... on the panel on the left or the one on the right?


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Broken Sound Barriers

This inquiry is a sort of follow up to the question of Peacocks found here, but it can certainly be done solo.  It's an amazing exercise.   Though I've done this work before I keep returning to it because I never get tired of of looking at the questions. 

It's a lot of fun to examine sensory input such as sound because once you dive in, your previously hard and fixed view of how it's experienced can dramatically shift.  What often results is the finding that we live in a world filtered by layers of rigid assumptions.  To see this brings a sense of playfulness and ease which can open us up to a more unexpected and wonder-filled world view.

So let's start.

Where is the border between me and sound?

When looking at this question, the first thing I find myself trying to imagine is what's meant by the word "border".  Obviously, it can't be a line or edge, because sound doesn't come to me by passing through a border as though it required a passport for entry.  Nope.  Sound seems to 'find' me whether I want it or not, as evidenced by the fact that right now I find the dialogue coming from my television set to be a whole lot louder than I'd like.  If there was a border, I'd make it stop before entering my hearing space.  So no, I can't turn away a sound.  It's here, and heard, and doesn't care about my wishes or opinions on its existence.  Besides, I've never heard of a border between me and sound, so this one seems straightforward.

That was pretty easy, so let's push a bit more and take it further.

What does it mean to find that there is no filter or border?  Doesn't the lack of a line or demarcation dissolve the idea of there being a me AND a sound?  Does the evidence show two things interacting, or does it show just one? 

Listening.....  There's dialogue from the TV.

But I can't hear a me HEARING the sound.  There isn't a hearer running interference between the act of hearing and what's being heard.  The dialogue is happening, and the sound is immediately just here without any interruption.  I can't find three things... hearer, hearing, and heard.  Sound just appears.  Out of nowhere... thin air.

This finding has a quality of wonder because the assumption of language is that there are three parts to the story.  Even the simplest sound has just one part, not many. (for example, the ding of the kitchen timer that just went off).  It did not take multiple steps....


Those are all words used to tell a story about a single event without borders.  There was simply, Ding!  Though to be able to tell you what happened I'd need to express it in a way which suggests that there were multiple parts and players (nouns and verbs), the truth is that the reality of experience is completely collapsed into just the raw happening, the.... Ding!

Is that what's meant by One-ness?

Working Questions For Your Own Inquiry:

Questions for Investigation:

When a sound appears, check for the existence of a filter or barrier between the sound and the ear.  Does the ear need to work to hear the sound or is the sound simply there, experienced effortlessly.

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:

Try to actively block a sound from being heard.  Look for the boundary or blocking point between what is heard and the hearer.  Is there any way to stop the sound from being heard by placing a wall in front of it?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bird! ... I think...

This doodle is one of my favorites, possibly because it involves trees and birds, or because the sound of a bird is so distinct and clear that using it for inquiry is easy.  Or at least it should be!

There are plenty of birds around to help me with this one, including the peacocks caw-caw-ing loudly a few houses away.  The sound is sharp and draws my attention.  I notice that the word "bird" doesn't even comes to mind because the image that pops right up is a generic one that signifies Peacock. 

Hmm...  Ok, so the first thing I note is that there is absolutely no reason for the symbol for a peacock to come to mind except for a learned association.  There is nothing about the noise that would convey, to someone who has never even heard of a peacock, "huge iridescent feathers, large plume, or lovely shades of blue".  As a matter of fact, there's nothing in the auditory sense experience that would even say "bird".  This has to mean that somewhere along the way, that image in my mind is an entirely Pavlovian response.  But it's so strong that I'm having a hard time shaking it.  It takes effort to do this inquiry and to see the truth of things, and even when I do, it's really pretty weird to try to reconcile.  But I want to dig deeper.

So, let's dig.  I need an answer I can stake the farm on. 

Is there a bird at all?

Remembering that this inquiry is supposed to take me back prior to knowledge, and that this question should be examined in terms as simple and direct as possible, I have to admit that there is no bird inside this sound.  There is only the experience I call sound.  There isn't a shred of evidence that I'm not hearing a cat, radio, screeching children, or anything else.  The best I can say is that I BELIEVE there's a bird somewhere but all I really know for certain is that there's just sound!  There isn't anything "making" it.

And yet... peacock!

Working Questions For your own Inquiry:

Questions for Investigation:
Is there both a sound and a bird, or just the sound?  Does the bird travel inside or on top of the sound?  Where is the bird? 

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:
Close your eyes and listen to the sound of a plane or bird.  In that moment, with closed eyes, where is the plane or bird?  Is it in the ears or is there sound simply appearing without location.   Is the bird or plane there in the view or does the image come up in imagination only?

If, in addition to hearing the sound you can see the bird or plane, what connects the sound and the image? 

Are they connected through thought and imagination or is there an actual physical connection there?  Is there a tether, string, or chord?  Is thought the connector?

Can a sound (chirp) be seen (image)?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Separation

It seems there's always been an imagined separation between a me, here, and Life, everywhere else. Sometimes it's more pronounced than others, but in conversations with friends and family, it's pretty clear that I'm not alone in this feeling.

There are two roads this imagined separation have taken. Sometimes it appears as feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, or isolation. On the other hand, a sense of being special, privileged, or important can often also result.  Is either true?  Are either of these paths actual or real, or are they simply an imagined state of affairs?  Has this feeling of being a separate self been brought on by belief in the stories I've been told since childhood?  Is there real or tangible physical evidence to support this belief?

Examining these questions is the intent of this doodle and inquiry.

The method I will use for this inquiry, as mentioned, is to look at the truth of reality as plainly as possible, without the overlay of thought.  I'm looking for direct evidence rather than anything learned from parents, teachers, friends, or society.  As the Buddha suggests, the idea is to Be a Lamp Unto Myself, and to take no one's word on anything at all.  The truth of how life presents itself will be determined by the senses.  I'm going to do NOTHING more than what's asked.  And I will examine this for direct evidence only, using the simplest of tools, those given to each of us.  If it's true that this is something a child can see or understand, then I will need to use a child's mind to do this.  Here goes!

"Is there a dividing line?"

I'm Looking.  Right now there is a computer screen and keyboard, a living room with furniture, a television, and walls beyond.  My husband is sitting next to me.  When looking, there is no line, no demarcation, no division between what feels like it's "Right Here", and what feels like it's "Over There".  When looking out at the view, I cannot find the place or line where I end and everything else begins, though there is still a felt sense of the existence of a division.  Where does this felt sense come from?  There is absolutely no evidence of it.  It seems that the sense of division comes from a very old belief that there is a me here and that this Me exists inside a body.  Funny.  I can't see this inside of the body.  As a matter of fact, I can't even see the whole body to figure out where the inside actually is.  The parts of the body which I can see are not separated from the view of the room, or even the computer.  There are hands on a keyboard, but there is nothing on or in those hands which say, "mine".  If I'm relying on visual evidence only, they could be anyone's.  There does seem to be a correlation between a feeling of fingers on a keyboard, and the visual of typing, but those experience do not, in and of themselves, mean that there is actual separation.

The separation seems to be happening only within thought and "feelings" which go along with the thought.  The feelings are sort of vague and I can't really define or pinpoint them.

I've noticed that language confuses the issue.  At every turn, it reinforces the idea of an "I" here.  "I'm looking."  "My husband is sitting next to me."  These thoughts keeping looping back to the idea of separation even when the evidence very clearly shows that it's not at all how life is actually appearing.

It seems important to note that language is part of the structure which confuses and reinforces an idea rather than direct evidence of reality.

If what is plainly seen with the senses is truer than what thought imagines, then can the idea of being special, separate, lonely, or isolated actually be true?  Can they be any more than just ideas?  And since ideas change so often and radically, is there any reason to lend them any importance at all?

What if the feeling of separateness is just an idea with no substance?  From the results of this inquiry, it certainly seems that way.


Working Questions For your own Inquiry:

Questions for Investigation:

Where does your division or demarcation appear?  Is it hanging in the air between you and life, or is it a line on the ground which you aren't allowed to cross?  Exactly what does it divide?

Tools for Ongoing Inquiry:

Look at the view right now.  Can a boundary or dividing line be seen anywhere in the view?  Is there a median or separation? 
Check and re-check for the thing that stands between You and Life itself.  Can anything at all be found?