Archive | February, 2017

Deeper than Pleasure or Pain

The desire for truth is in a way a most peculiar desire, for nothing can satisfy it. For those of us who have earnestly embarked on the contemplative path for some time, we begin to realize that whatever we have imagined we have attained isn’t really our deepest desire. We are always hungering for more, and we see again and again, that what we really want isn’t tied to what we think about it. We’ve spent countless hours committing to watching our thoughts arise and pass away, committing to not harboring our thoughts. Eventually we realize that more and more, the energy of our thinking is like typing on a piece of paper without an ink ribbon; there’s no actual substance there to leave any impressions.  Our longings continue, but thought energy is simply part of the energy flow; it can’t define or confine our longing in any way.

An important insight that occurred for me is that desire is the memory of pleasure, and fear is the memory of pain. Feelings of desire and fear are also simply part of the energy flow; they can’t define or confine our longing in any way. Buddha poses a very important question for us to deeply penetrate when he stated: “Sensations by themselves don’t cause suffering no matter how intense they are, it’s our clinging to ideas about them that results in our suffering.” Deeper than feelings of pleasure or pain, is wanting to know what is true, wanting to know what actually is.

We simply don’t know what our deep longing for truth actually is, but we know that it is. This is a paradox for us because we have this deep conditioning inside us that makes us convinced that longing is longing for some thing. Nisargadatta says “The happiness you can think of or long for is not the true happiness.” True happiness as he means it doesn’t come and go, and isn’t moved, isn’t pushed around by whatever experiences are going on within or outside of us. It welcomes and absorbs the pure aliveness that is in every experience. It’s what is always here, and has always been here in every experience of our lives.

Because this true happiness is always here, we don’t need to try and grasp it. We actually can’t grasp it, it is always already totally saturating us. It isn’t going anywhere, it has never gone anywhere. The paradox of longing for that which we can’t grasp, that which is always here and now, is a double bind for our egos.

A double bind is a psychological predicament in which a person receives from a single source conflicting messages that allow no appropriate response to be made. In this context of spiritual longing and surrender, whatever we try to do, whatever we long for, or try to move away from, is an inappropriate response. Our egos simply don’t have an appropriate response. But if we’re open to our emotional life, we know we are deeply moved to act while being guided by our thoughts and feelings.

So our longing that includes the deep surrender of attachment to our desires and fears, is a participatory surrender. We become willing to surrender to the life force moving us, our ego by itself has no appropriate response. When we deeply realize this, we see there is no need for us to give expression to our longing. Consciously not doing anything, is also an expression of our longing, but we no longer need to know it is our longing. This pure longing, undiluted by conscious thought or action will speedily take us to our goal of self realization, as we learn to open to the love and compassion finding us from within. Then we are more and more free to join the spirit of our true self expressing itself in the world of our daily life.



Yogananda was once asked how can we become more humble? He replied “humility comes from seeing God, not yourself as the Doer. When you see him acting through you, how can you be proud of anything you do? I could sit here all day singing my own praises: It would mean nothing to me.  I would know that I was giving praises only to God. Humility lies in the heart; it is not a ‘put-up job.  You must actually feel that everything you do is accomplished by Him alone, through you.”

Yogananda is saying that spirit alone, our actual life force, is the real doer of all of our actions. And it is also what actually gives and experiences all that we think we experience by ourselves as separate beings. He is stating Buddha’s teaching that there is no separate self in different words. If there is no separate self, no separate entity that we can find as our actual identity, then our idea of being the doer is just as illusory as our idea of being a separate self.

When we’re willing to engage our life with awareness of these deep questions of being a separate self, of being the doer, we begin to actually live these questions in our daily activity and experience. It is our living these questions that reveals the truth of Yogananda’s and Buddha’s teachings. There are no conceptual answers to life’s deepest questions.

For me, this inquiry revolves around trying to find the actual separate self that I think I am, trying to find this doer of my virtuous and harmful activity. There is no finding here. What is actually here and now is not what we think about it. It is actually free of what we think about it. Adyashanti said about these questions, “The not finding is the true finding!”

There is also no finding of any qualities that we can possess, good or bad, including humility. The wisdom of selfless behavior is not attached in any way to being humble, or self sacrificing. It is simply spontaneous straightforward action with the clear and blissful feeling and realization that the alive mystery of our being is the true doer, and is our true identity.

So how do we live this way? What I try to practice is to just offer all desires and fears to God, to the mystery of our being, to our inter-being with all beings.  This doesn’t mean to offer all of our experience to the Divine in a dualistic way. This offering means allowing all of our desires and fears to just be as they actually are, thus we learn to no longer abide in them or be attached to them. We’re learning to live in the essence of selfless humble behavior without clinging to our ideas about what this is.