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Why would we want to awaken?

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Why would we want to awaken?
fractals anxiety existential angst artificial freedom freedom philosophy consciousness dukkha
Answer
5/31/20 4:33 PM
Hello Dharma Overground,

I’ve never posted before and have not been reading this site for that long. If there are any forum-specific rules I am ignorant of and about to violate, I hope all know if was not my intention, and nothing is meant disrespectfully. This is going to be long and have personal backstory but I honestly do not have another place to go (no meditation teacher and also there is a pandemic outside) and the philosophy talk will probably sound arrogant or uninformed with respect to dharma topics if I don’t provide context. Here goes.

Why would one want to “awaken”?

It saddens me, being someone who has studied non-dual philosophies formally as well as had success with meditation practice recently, that this is the question I am now finding myself asking.  I know the answer commonly provided is “an end to all suffering.”  We all suffer—it seems like a solid goal.  The method is also straightforward: repeatedly and openly ask experiential, sensate-level questions about your experience, as well as about who is the one having the experience, thereby initiating a near-endless tautological cycle of questioning until the sense that there was anything asking the question to begin with is gone, thereby escaping the tautological experiential loop.  Logically, it appears this applies to getting to stream-entry as well the four paths cumulatively if you permit a truly mind boggling number of nested tautologies.  You could probably also use the word “fractal” or “cycle” here, too, as Daniel Ingram does, but I hesitate to get into a terminology debate since my dharma knowledge is not well developed and that isn’t really the point of the post.

My question is, so what?  This is not a self-evidently valid motivation to me, and logically it isn’t even “you” seeking it. Why is the end of suffering worth that, frankly, enormous sacrifice?

Before I go further, let me give (as concise as I can, I promise) background on me and my practice.  I’ve been, in the philosophical sense, existentially dissatisfied since I was a small child.  I don’t know how to explain this other than by saying it’s almost as though the fabric of reality itself just…itches.  This feeling is, as far as I can tell, permanent.  Since I began being capable of thought it has been viscerally obvious that the foundation of my knowledge is built on ontological sand—and to my horror I also discovered that essentially no one else viscerally felt this, even if they said they also knew it.  I insisted when I was about five years old that my mother explain to me what death was, and I can remember thinking to myself upon receiving that explanation: “oh, she thinks she does but she doesn’t know either”.  Five years later I asked for a book on Socratic logic, and by college I was essentially tortured by this extreme skepticism.  I went through cultural/spiritual worldviews, Western and Eastern philosophies, and scientific fields looking for one that might be “it.”  The extreme skeptics—think Socrates, Hume, Nietzsche, and I am pretty sure also the Buddha if he would have been willing to speak of the “unanswerables”—are logically correct.  It is just that their crippling knowledge of uncertainty is not actionable on an experiential level.  My interest in Buddhism was based around this notion that this single, experiential approach might be a way to actually act on and in some way live by this knowledge of uncertainty.

Now for background on my meditation.  I had access to what I now understand was probably at least the beginning of the first jhana as a child, I’ve lucid dreamed consistently since a young age, and was also able to “make things appear” in the manner of internal and external visualizations (used to do this in the dark for fun).  Much of that fell away, but I had some experience with meditation in college and thought it was amusing that I could focus on my breathing for an hour and then have, for example, my arm feel like it wasn’t mine.

I used meditation on and off, largely as stress reduction through my doctoral program (quantitative psychology with a substantive focus on nested human information processing using complexity theory and fractal systems as analogies to explain them—sound familiar?).  I always wanted to take it more seriously, but this did not happen until some fairly traumatic experiences coupled with the unmoored feeling of finishing the PhD.  I decided to go on retreat last summer before starting my “new life” and stumbled into one led by someone teaching Shinzen Young’s system.  In three days I had a textbook, albeit profound, A&P event.  Briefly, I had just gotten up from a sit in which it seemed as though I was fluidly keeping track of all sensations across all sense doors.  It felt like/was synesthesia, where each sensation crossed with the others and flashed into and out of existence much faster than I could track, and yet I knew what was happening.  I ended the sit (somehow it didn’t occur to me to stay in it and keep experiencing that) and walked outside where I, against all odds, saw a meteor that was close enough to the ground to see it as a burning rock (still not entirely convinced it was real).  I was sucked onto it, reality looked like a giant ball of fire for a few moments and then vanished.  I don’t have a clear memory but I think I fell to my knees involuntarily, and then was struck by a gigantic wave of (largely negative) emotion.  The rest of the retreat were the calmest, most open days of my life, and I struggled to remember the names of even basic objects (e.g., “rock”, “table”) but this did not seem to bother me.  I’ve been over and over this event a thousand times.  I now know not having memory and having reality flash in front of you before vanishing are superficially similar to what Ingram describes as an impermanence door cessation, but I do not think this was that.

I largely stopped meditating for 6 months after the retreat (new job and long commute made it really hard).  I started again in January in preparation for a cancelled-due-to-COVID retreat and was able to sustain it daily until now.  The point at which it really started to accelerate was during/after reading MCTB and switching to breath as the object (though I’ve binge read many other dharma books, too), and because I was able to simulate a retreat-lite style environment due to COVID (2-3 hours per day, lots of silence) to the point where my entire days have felt like I am meditating/noting in the background.  This post is largely due to what has happened in the past week, which started with several disconcerting experiences.  Largely, I experience meditations as vibrations punctuated occasionally by a formed sensation, though I would not say my concentration is necessarily great in a contracted sense.  But I started to have moments where the feeling of watching my own mind felt…weird.  And by “weird”, I mean ranging from amusing to really unsettling.  In one sit it felt like I could hold what I was observing and the sensation of observing in the same field, such that they would sort of spin around each other and pull closer.  In another, it felt as though my sense of observing would sort of shatter and fall forward into the meditation object.  I know these might superficially sound like sort of what a cessation is, but keep in mind they happened dozens of times in a short period.  And then I had a few sits where things were, what I would call, radically equanimous and completely effortless.

This is where the turn happened.  In daily life, after the initial peaceful, panoramic fog settled, I began to actually experience the fact that I was not “controlling” most of my body or emotional responses, although I did appear to be able to control my thoughts about those things (and I cannot stress enough that I don’t mean this in the way that you experience a sensation bouncing into a thought and then into an action, etc, and that these things are transient).  This was, to put it politely, profoundly disturbing.  I had moments where I had to deduce from my body’s actions and emotions where it was going, what it was doing, and why (e.g., “oh, I guess you want to go into the kitchen now”).  Yesterday morning I had what seemed to be continuous awareness of going in and out of sleep, dreaming, waking, moving, etc., sometimes seemingly anchored around, bafflingly, my breathing.  I also couldn’t “unsee” what feels like a shudder after every single exhalation, or the fact that I couldn’t seem to see without my vision vibrating.  It got to the point where I realized that if didn’t immediately find a way to contract around something I might not be able to come back and would be stuck in that, again, ridiculously unpleasant way of perceiving reality.  The fear and anxiety about it didn’t work as objects to contract around because they are made worse or, when soothed, vanish immediately.  Rage is the most effective because it has a pleasurable component to it but I’d be willing to bet this is what Ingram referred to as a “dark jhana”.  I have it reasonably stabilized at the moment, and it even appears as though I can “choose” what level I contract around (e.g., I can open up and get more information at the cost of some of my phenomenological self-integrity, or I can contract and feel like a person without the same merged sort of feeling).  The problem is I don’t know where I am standing above the gravity well of no-self, and it feels like if I slip, “I” am dead.  I (very obviously) need to take a break from the sits but the most recent ones have felt like I was walking through a minefield, except I am equanimous about my anxiety about being equanimous about being in a minefield.

To reiterate, I am reasonably sure I don’t have steam entry and have never experienced a cessation.  But given the outrageously small amount of time I have spent meditating in the grand scheme, I am certain that I could take this very, very far.

But isn’t the cost of “agency-less” perception ultimately your felt sense of free will?  It’s just that, by the time you get there, you don’t regard that bundle of sensations as “you” anymore, so it does not bother you to not “have” it.  A “fully” awakened person has spent thousands of hours cultivating new “identities” around progressively more fundamental perceptions so that they can shed each of them once they are no longer attached to the sensations of “being” them (i.e., body, body and mind, thoughts about body and mind, thoughts about thoughts about body and mind, etc, however this is experienced).

Look, I enjoy debating the notion of determinism, too.  But being able to abandon a sense of agency does not seem like the answer even if it ends suffering—and note that I have felt both equanimity towards and anxiety about what I described.  I am willing to assume the end of suffering is great, but it is also a privilege to be able to see yourself as a point in space, even if you’re like me and you’ve always sort of suspected that didn’t make sense even if you couldn’t explain exactly why.  You are just relinquishing the sense that “you” are looking for the answer, or that there ever was a thing looking for it.  Nothing has changed, and you aren’t necessarily even “seeing” more accurately—just differently.  Critically, if we reflect really carefully on topics like epistemology, ontology, phenomenology, etc., WE ALREADY KNEW THAT, just not experientially.  And if you ask a highly awakened person if they have a felt sense of free will (which is really what people mean by this term, anyway), I can imagine them watch as their own body says “yes”, which isn’t how I use the word “yes.”

My problem is that we aren’t informed enough to make the choice about awakening, and the reference point that would have made the choice disappears after it happens.  No one that I have seen really speaks about enlightenment in a way that really emphasizes this point because essentially everyone who actually knows anything about it is past the point of no return and has burned the felt sense of it’s value into themselves even if they ultimately abandoned the sense that it was “them” that did the imprinting.  Now, this is obviously partly because experiential knowledge needs to actually be experienced to be acquired, but some of it is because it is assumed that because most people respond well to such knowledge that it is “good”.  “Good” requires a referent point even if you do not identify with it being yours, and this is why the idea of non-dual morality almost literally drives me insane.  You simply can’t escape the fact that differentiation MUST apply to morality as well because you have to use referent points to establish “good” due to its epistemologically uncertain nature, it’s just that by the time you actually understand this experientially in a meditative tradition, moral habits are deeply ingrained in the mind that has the no-self and so that “person” continues to “act” morally.

I also must be honest that I feel resentful toward those who don’t try to explain this part. The Buddha’s saying of “come and see for yourself” now feels like he’s holding something interesting in one hand, and a knife behind his back in the other.  Setting aside that I am essentially Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus made flesh, and the incredible irony of responding to these experiences in the form of an identity-reaffirming narrative, why can’t I choose suffering?  Don’t get me wrong, if there was a machine that could turn full awakening on and off so I could see the difference, I’d try it without hesitation. At least then I could “choose” my level of no-self.

As it stands, though, I reiterate: why awaken? It isn’t more or less true.  It is seeing the exact same existence from a different vantage point.  It doesn’t actually matter which level you occupy—suffering is just as valid as no suffering in a reality for which the objective truth can never be confirmed from the inside.  It makes me so bitterly angry to be asking this, because I was so sure I wanted to experience this, and now I’m right back to where the quest started.  I am well aware that symptoms of depersonalization can be “seen through”, and I could do this if I wanted to, but that is not what I am asking.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
5/31/20 6:11 PM as a reply to Daniel.
Hello.
I like your way of thinking.

Why would you want to awaken?
It is just better mode of existence to have proper knowledge and perception and proper interfaces which will allow your consciousness to be able to take responsibility of itself. It is a kind of maturation process. Anyone who did go through with it seem in this sense very immature. This unfortunately applies to most people, even those which claim enlightenment as most merely moved playground somewhere else. In a sense it is always like that but at least when this somewhere else is better then overall effect is better.

Generally observations and experiments done in your mind allow things which otherwise would be not possible. It also allow you to see through confusion about concepts, both your own and that of other people. Some concepts are just dropped as invalid, and any paradoxes in them drop with them.

When you know what suffering is you can deal with any suffering easily. I described it here https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/21117103#_19_message_21153679
Only thing to add is that even suffering from loosing something pleasurable can be dealt with the same way. Suffering from not having something also. It also means that any pleasure that happens can be experienced more fully as there is nothing to worry like "what if I loose it?". One concern could be: "then where will be motivation originating from if there is no more suffering?". It seems that for most part motivation is the same whether suffering is experienced as suffering or pleasure. No point in suffering then I suppose.

The thing preventing people from experiencing themselves in the way I consider to be enlightened mind is fear, and more precisely past trauma from when they were still developing when we felt this way but were not ready for it and created different kind of home for ourselves, safer though too simplistic and limiting. In itself there is nothing hard about using it, it is pretty easy and feel more natural than anything. When you have strong fear of experiences associated with how it feels then you will do anything to prevent yourself from going there. Think of it like something you could pretty much just have as easily as moving your hand but fear blocks you from trying it out.

BTW. I think whole aspect of morality should be ignored completely as it has no place here. Merely knowing yourself better, going deeper in your soul, will make you better person. Dwelling in morality too much is the best way for you to construct some fancy morality model and then freely abuse it to be immoral. Keeping it simple is the way. Either something is immoral or is not, this we can all asses without models. Not so much with models. Hope I made myself clear.

I also think whole issue of sense of self, doer, who does, what where and why I does something, etc. can be put in to proper perspective when you consider what I call "single neuron perspective". Imagine your experience is of just a single neuron and ask yourself hard technical questions, imagine how it goes and what kind of issues there might be in this situation for you and other neurons, what kind of control can you and other neurons have, etc. From this perspective there are different kind of issues and everything is very real and directly applicable. No vague abstract concepts apply and even these can be put in to proper context. Just so you know, you really are made from ridiculous number of living beings... which at least means you are not alone in this emoticon

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/1/20 2:11 AM as a reply to Daniel.
Hello Daniel,

I doubt this will fully satisfy your concerns, but perhaps I can point you in a helpful direction.

First of all, I think in terms of your mental state and destabilization about the overwhelming effects of meditation on your mind/perception, you would probably benefit a lot from focusing on samatha, especially loving-kindness/metta meditation for a bit. It is just overall beneficial and grounding, as well as going for walks. Metta and walking might do you good.

It's also a bit stereotypical to say this but as far as I know it's fairly accepted that more gentle approaches to Satipatthana/Mindfulness can result in a more gentle path (not that it completely avoids the dukkha nanas/adverse effects, but it can still be gentler in their manifestation).
The whole Joseph Goldstein-esque Satipatthana (Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening) approach might be worth having in your toolkit in addition to the noting style you're doing now.

And perhaps another meditative tip I might have: anatta/not-self is equally true of all states. Whether you're contracted around objects, or in the sort of zoomed-out mode you're describing, anatta is equally true in any and all states, so at least don't feel like there's a dichotomy between the state of the "hard difficult uncomfortable truth of states of impersonality" vs the "more comfortable ignorance of contracting around sensations and feeling more like an agent:" anatta is equally true in both of those states, and can be found in both of those states (as in all states). The goal isn't necessarily to eliminate the sense of perspective, or of the mental faculty attention alternating and selecting/contracting between objects, but to know the true nature of these things, which is kind of hard for me to explain in words but becomes more clear as you progress. The only major dichotomy in meditation of leading to truth vs not-leading-to-truth in terms of states (imo) is whether or not you're cultivating the factors of awakening.

Second, as for your concerns about the implications of non-duality and awakening in regards to morality....etc, I think especially for someone as rigorously intellectually-inclined as yourself, you might gain a lot from reading these few texts:

Introduction to the Middle Way: Chandrakirti's Madhyamakavatara with Commentary by Jamgon Mipham
Ornament of Reason: The Great Commentary to Nagarjuna's Root of the Middle Way
Nagarjuna's Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning (Yuktisastika)
Shantideva's The Way of the Bodhisattva
and after you've gotten decently familiar with the aforementioned texts, and want to delve into a totally challenging behemoth of a book: The Madman's Middle Way: Reflections on Reality of the Tibetan Monk Gendun Chopel (although I might put this off unless you really want to become a Madhyamika wiz).

The Madhyamikas (especially Nagarjuna in the second text there, Ornament of Reason) deal a lot with the implications of emptiness on things like morality, conventional everyday life, suffering, freedom from suffering...etc, and explain why emptiness does not harm these things, does not imply nihilism. They are incredibly thorough about all this, and I'd wager that you'd appreciate them a lot as someone so passionate about philosophy and topics like epistemology (and what they mean for us as humans directly).

While it might make sense for some types of non-dual philosophy to harm or render useless things like morality and drive, to denigrate the 'relative' in contrast with the 'ultimate:' this does not apply to emptiness (despite the negative connotations associated with this English translation of the word 'Shunyata'). Not all non-dual philosophy (and certainly not all 'non-dual' realization/transformation) is the same, so reading some Nagarjuna may clear some of these things up for you. Emptiness is a bit different from radical skepticism or acceptance of total uncertainty (but it is again, epistemic and phenomenological, so empirically verifiable). Awakening is indeed truer than suffering and delusion, and is not just shifting from one equally relative perspective to another. Awakening is truer than delusion, and this is uniquely established without the use of any ontological claims whatsoever. It is the true nature of experience as we know it upon investigation, which is effectively what matters for us.
You might also find Rob Burbea's presentation of these things (especially as they relate to things like our everyday lives, psychology, to love, to our relationship to the world) in his Dharmaseed talks helpful.

As for the place of morality in an empty, essenceless existence, I will not pretend to speak from experience, but it is said (and so I have heard from multiple practitioners) that with the realization of emptiness (freedom from the four extremes of ontological imputation), profound compassion for all beings arises, not on a forced "conduct" level based on conditioning and internalizing the patterns of 'sila' which simply continue after realization, but in the most deep, instinctual, natural, effortless, direct, obvious, undeniable way. 

"Emptiness is the womb of compassion."

It is interesting how the epistemic, phenomenological truth of things (the only undeniable truth we can find upon investigation in this world) gives rise automatically to the welling up and integration of boundless compassion. This sort of relates to the inseparability of the Two Truths.

Best of luck in everything you do.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/1/20 6:05 AM as a reply to Daniel.
I've also had periods of massive expansion and subsequent contraction. It's very natural to feel fear and to question what you're doing.

Often when that happens to intelligent, left-brained individuals the rational mind goes into overdrive. But this process is bigger than that. It does not happen on the level of the rational mind. The rational mind can't really be satisfied. When the consequence is giving up its illusory seat of power, why would it?

I highly recommend the work of Iain McGilchrist if you're looking for as rational an explanation as you'll find. He's a psychiatrist / researcher and I don't think he explicitly talks about awakening, but rather about the primacy of different parts of the brain. Think of awakening as a way of rebalancing.

Iain McGilchrist: Divided Brain
https://youtu.be/dFs9WO2B8uI


Another thinker that might be worth considering is Abraham Maslow. Famous for his hierarchy of needs, near the end of his life he actually amended this model and placed self-transcendence at the top.
https://reasonandmeaning.com/2017/01/18/summary-of-maslow-on-self-transcendence/


For a more spiritual resource that helps with fear and deemphasizing the thinking I found this video from Adyashanti helped a lot. When you've faced fear and are left to wonder - why do it at all? The reasons are many, but for a lot of people there is simply not a choice in the matter in the first place. You don't do it, it does you. And eventually you find a way to accept that, and often that involves opening your heart.

Adyashanti on Letting go of Fear
https://youtu.be/PG0lXkZrImQ


As for practice itself, I agree with the recommendation of trying other meditation techniques if they're gentler or better for you. Metta and Shamatha are good, and I would also recommend more body awareness work. I did a lot of noting early on. It was ruthlessly effective, but the short term results were pretty traumatizing. After rapid "progress" I started doing more somatic meditation as taught by Reggie Ray. There's been a little controversy around his organization, but the DIY teachings (specifically his audio programs) are excellent and have been highly effective at smoothing the process, integrating and embodying these experiences. 

https://www.dharmaocean.org/meditation/somatic-meditation/


And last but not least, I would urge you to find an experienced meditation teacher to discuss fear and doubt at this stage of the path, especially if you're thinking of taking a break. I took a couple years off to focus on worldly concerns after my first deep opening at retreat. Grace came back for me, but it wasn't a graceful process.

That's not to suggest you can't or shouldn't take a break, but a teacher will help you be with your experience 100x better than text on a forum, and the good ones have a way of smoothing the edges. I can give some pointers if you're interested but not sure where to start.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/1/20 2:03 PM as a reply to Daniel.
It sounds like you are experiencing some very interesting states, including some dissociative states. I've experienced intense-meditation induced dissociation which was not very pleasant. I've also has the sensation of moving back and forth between sleep and waking with continuous awareness, which also wasn't very pleasant. I found that stopping mediation for a while and then coming back with shorter lengths and lower frequencies was effective.

I'm not enlightened, so I cannot answer your question but my experiential understanding is that dissatisfaction (the fabric of reality itching), anxiety and cumulative anger (being particularly angry in the present in view of anger in the past) are typical of the kinds of things that Buddhist practice sets out to remedy and works quite well on. The relationship between a sense of agency and these emotions is discussed, for example, in Seeing That Frees, by Rob Burbea. He argues that one can progressively reduce the sense of agency and do so in a way that reduces suffering. I have experientially found that to be the case. For example, a sense of agency of 2 or 4, on a scale of 1 to 10, feels better than 9 or 10. So I would be keen to get to zero, because I prefer the low end of the scale to the high end.

Of course, what I am talking about is pretty low-level stuff, and you seem to be at a very high level both in terms of intellectual understanding and meditative attainments. There is no doubt that you would leave me in the dust, at least in terms of intellectual background. At the same time, it almost sounds as if some of the low level stuff might have been skipped over or gotten lost. If your goal is to reduce suffering, you might consider backing off a little and spending some time on the sila and metta side of things and move forward from there. I can say that I have seen people get up close to the sorts of things you are asking about in a way that is perceived by them to be very positive in the overall, by starting from these easier positions.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/1/20 10:34 PM as a reply to Daniel.
what you have described is the non doership level of no-self. There are deeper levels of no-self that are much more wonderful and not prone to dissociation, as i wrote the distinctions in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2020/04/different-degress-of-no-self-non.html


Also Daniel Ingram said - http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2018/03/daniel-ingram-on-what-is-awakening-and.html

"
Would I trade this for anything? Maybe world peace, but I would have to think about it. Until then, this totally rocks, and missing out on it would be barking crazy from my point of view."

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/3/20 9:28 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
An Eternal Now:
what you have described is the non doership level of no-self. There are deeper levels of no-self that are much more wonderful and not prone to dissociation, as i wrote the distinctions in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2020/04/different-degress-of-no-self-non.html

I liked your observation:

Impersonality will help dissolve the sense of self but it has the danger of making one attached to a metaphysical essence or to personify, reify and extrapolate a universal consciousness.

One can see this tendency to reify in many of the nonduality speakers on YouTube. I also liked your remarks, later on, about the confusion between nonduality and passivity. Thanks for sharing.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/3/20 11:48 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
An Eternal Now:
what you have described is the non doership level of no-self. There are deeper levels of no-self that are much more wonderful and not prone to dissociation, as i wrote the distinctions in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2020/04/different-degress-of-no-self-non.html


Also Daniel Ingram said - http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2018/03/daniel-ingram-on-what-is-awakening-and.html

"
Would I trade this for anything? Maybe world peace, but I would have to think about it. Until then, this totally rocks, and missing out on it would be barking crazy from my point of view."

AEN, eloquent, clear, helpful, dedicated words these are. Thank you so very much.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/3/20 3:01 PM as a reply to Ni Nurta.
Merely knowing yourself better, going deeper in your soul, will make you better person


If by "knowing yourself better" you mean doing vipassana and stuff, then wish that were the case, but it isn´t. That´s why you have so many "enlightened" masters sexually abusing their students. I think Kenneth Folk once said that 4th path doesn´t eliminate pathological tendencies or something along those lines. It is a good way of thinking because we can differentiate both the neurological transformation that has place when someone achieves 4th path and the morality aspect. As Michael Taft also said "Some people can be awaken in some parts of the brain, in others no so much".

There is no better antidote for improving yourself and the society around us, that using our intelligence, conciousness, and empathy as species in order to develop a moral system and making the best use of it. Never disregard morality. Cheers.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/4/20 7:56 AM as a reply to Derek2.
Derek2:
An Eternal Now:
what you have described is the non doership level of no-self. There are deeper levels of no-self that are much more wonderful and not prone to dissociation, as i wrote the distinctions in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2020/04/different-degress-of-no-self-non.html

I liked your observation:

Impersonality will help dissolve the sense of self but it has the danger of making one attached to a metaphysical essence or to personify, reify and extrapolate a universal consciousness.

One can see this tendency to reify in many of the nonduality speakers on YouTube. I also liked your remarks, later on, about the confusion between nonduality and passivity. Thanks for sharing.

Yeah. Almost all neo-Advaitins with very very few exceptions (only one exception I can think of: Tony Parsons - https://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2018/02/tony-parsons-no-union-container-or.html ) reify a universal awareness.

Also, all traditional Advaitins without exceptions (except perhaps people like Sri Atmananda although Greg Goode pointed out that he basically went against traditional scriptures in his final proclamations) reify universal awareness, since it is the key doctrine that defines their entire tradition - Brahman is the universal awareness and ultimate reality, one without a second. Disagreeing with this key tenet that defines the entire tradition is likely to put you outside the tradition -- as we see happen in cases like Buddha and his disciples, and even modern Indians like U.G. and J. Krishnamurti who had an insight that deconstructs Atman-Brahman. These people, understandably, became iconoclasts that broke off from their tradition, rejected the authority of all teachers in the whole of their Indian sub-continent, and rejected all scriptural authority. Because although they may have gone through the I AM phase (we know J. Krishnamurti went through that), they later had a further realization which repudiates the Upanishads. We also see that happen with Actual Freedom Richard.

As I wrote before in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2018/12/three-paradigms-with-nondual-luminosity.html
It is my experience that deeper insights into 3)
of the non-essentialist or non-reductionist kind leads to deeper
freedoms and liberation. However there are many teachings belonging to
1) that does not see essentialism or substantialism as 'wrong' but
completely buys into this view. As Greg Goode wrote before,

Greg Goode: Oh,
another thing - Advaitins don't see (what we're calling)
susbstantialism or essentialism as a bad thing. For them, it is the only
thing. Since Brahman = truth, being and freedom from suffering, it
makes no sense to be without it. One needs it even to deny it, is the
thinking there. So even the standards of evaluation are different. Not
to mention the varna/caste system, which is defended on upanishadic,
doctrinal grounds. Oops, I just mentioned it!
February 10 at 12:33pm · Like · 3
Greg Goode:
I love the Mandukya Upanishad and the Gaudapada Karika. I think it is
effective and profound, and like many views, doesn't need to be
reconciled with other views. I know that some Advaitins shy away from
that Upanishad because of gossip about G's Buddhist influences. I
studied that text for a few years, and it never felt subversive to me...
February 10 at 12:43pm · Like · 4
As for those who hold the Advaitin doctrine as definitive and authoritative, it might be useless debating or trying to convince them. Only those who are non-dogmatic, curious, inquisitive, open to challenging their assumptions and views -- be they derived partly from their own contemplative realizations or from doctrinal traditions, may come to appreciate a non-substantialist form of insight or realization.

It is only in Buddhism where we experientially deconstruct universal awareness in all traditions, be it Theravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana (although many adherents and teachers of these traditions themselves fall into the trap of reifying a universal awareness).

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/4/20 9:08 AM as a reply to Jake Frankfurt Middenhall.
Jake Frankfurt Middenhall:
I think Kenneth Folk once said that 4th path doesn´t eliminate pathological tendencies or something along those lines.

This was one of the points Paweł K made in one of his deleted posts:

Paweł K:
Most people seem totally clueless even despite claiming enlightenment. Meditation is giving oneself more time with own mind to get to know it better. Do people know their minds? I do not see it.

I think what he meant was that, despite spending thousands and thousands of hours alone with their minds, people didn't know themselves in any conventional sense.

To put it in other words, you can have deep and permanent insight, yet still interact with other people in a mechanical and unconscious way.

Unfortunately, it looks like Paweł K wanted to withdraw from DhO, so we cannot ask him to clarify his observations.

This is another argument against equating the four paths with stream-enterer, once-returner, never-returner, and arahant. By the fetter definitions, lust and ill-will would have been eliminated well before arahantship.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/4/20 9:29 AM as a reply to An Eternal Now.
An Eternal Now:
Yeah. Almost all neo-Advaitins with very very few exceptions (only one exception I can think of: Tony Parsons - https://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2018/02/tony-parsons-no-union-container-or.html ) reify a universal awareness.


Tony Parsons:
there is no before, in or after manifestation, nor is there a "feeling of existence", nor does manifestation arise from consciousness, live and then return.


That's on the mark. Bernadette Roberts calls this feeling of existence the "feeling self," and says that it must disappear before you reach no-self. (Source: The chapter on "Self" in The Experience of No-Self, a book title she later regretted.) Looks like many of our YouTube nondualists are stuck at this halfway point, where there is still a feeling self. In English translations (though not in the original Sanskrit), they even call it Self with a capital S.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/4/20 10:52 AM as a reply to Daniel.
Have you considered seeing a psychiatrist? (Yet)

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/5/20 1:32 PM as a reply to Sleeping Buddha Syndrome.
Highly recommended, can't explain why.  

--Bill Hamilton paraphrase

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/5/20 2:41 PM as a reply to Jake Frankfurt Middenhall.
Jake Frankfurt Middenhall:
If by "knowing yourself better" you mean doing vipassana and stuff, then wish that were the case, but it isn´t. That´s why you have so many "enlightened" masters sexually abusing their students. I think Kenneth Folk once said that 4th path doesn´t eliminate pathological tendencies or something along those lines. It is a good way of thinking because we can differentiate both the neurological transformation that has place when someone achieves 4th path and the morality aspect. As Michael Taft also said "Some people can be awaken in some parts of the brain, in others no so much".

Vipassana is understood differently by different people so any answer to this question would be wrong.

I was referring to understating one's own suffering and its causes. Really there is not "morality" aspect needed when you realize how even slightest of ill will downgrades your quality of experience and throw you in to literal hell. These things are not as apparent however when your mind is numb and for many reason this unfortunately is starting position for most people. Getting numb is the main copying mechanism and a thing that need to be learned to recognize and reverse. Getting more sensitive to what happens in your mind is a way to go imho. By sensitive I mean having more detailed and rich conscious experience.

There is no better antidote for improving yourself and the society around us, that using our intelligence, conciousness, and empathy as species in order to develop a moral system and making the best use of it. Never disregard morality. Cheers.

I am not advocating not thinking about morality at all but merely to not use any religious and cultural frameworks for it and refrain of claiming higher morality because of some meditative effects and to not assume anyone have higher morality just because they do.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/5/20 2:59 PM as a reply to Ben Sulsky.
Ben Sulsky:
Highly recommended, can't explain why.  

--Bill Hamilton paraphrase
This sure sounds clever.
I am wondering if Bill actually tried to explain why or just sounding clever was satisfying enough for him...

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/5/20 3:06 PM as a reply to Ni Nurta.
I suspect it was laziness  emoticon

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/5/20 4:50 PM as a reply to Derek2.
Derek2:
I think what he meant was that, despite spending thousands and thousands of hours alone with their minds, people didn't know themselves in any conventional sense.

Level of actual insight depends on what kind of investigation practices one did of their mind.
Mechanically investigate "three characteristics" for thousands of hours and sure you will be master of seeing 3C everywhere and know what investigating 3C like a madman does to you.

Most practices are mechanical and result in changes that require no knowing what they even are. Something was being done for some time and something changed. Even this is good and often required but only as a supplement to actual practice and its core. Actual practice should have no instruction and is not about understanding concepts but understanding what actually happens and why as to define what we actually want. This defining what we want is itsel the practice. Once defined, but I mean like really defined, not merely still existing a some vague concept, it will be the end. It is what it should be taken as being done, imho.

To put it in other words, you can have deep and permanent insight, yet still interact with other people in a mechanical and unconscious way.

Actually you need to interact with other people in a way that appears mechanical and unconscious. This is what is expected.
You can do all sort of conscious observations about it but interactions themselves should be automatic.
I would even go as far as to say that human-human interactions go bad when there is too much conscious grip on own actions. It makes everyone else nervous and people will dislike anyone who does that. Behave like some kind of automatron and all is fine.
At the same time letting body do its thing makes for better observation vantage point and affecting mind on the level that is the cause for action rather than being left with merely executing these actions when it is often too late to change anything. When you have action potential built up there is often too late to change anything and because of that is is pointless. Actions can be predicted before they happen from subtle signals that come from mind and then it is good time to correct them.

What I am saying is that we are rarely ever unconscious. It is the things which we are more conscious and things we let do itself that makes the difference.

Unfortunately, it looks like Paweł K wanted to withdraw from DhO, so we cannot ask him to clarify his observations.

Similarity perhaps stems from the fact I am the same person.
I withdrew from DhO mostly to see how it will affect me and my own opinion about my own self realization.

This is another argument against equating the four paths with stream-enterer, once-returner, never-returner, and arahant. By the fetter definitions, lust and ill-will would have been eliminated well before arahantship.

That should be benchmark for 3rd path really.
Though this by itself is risky thought because definition of "ill will" and "lust" vary and not everyone will understand them properly.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/5/20 5:47 PM as a reply to Ni Nurta.
Welcome back. Or perhaps you were never away -- I visit DhO only occasionally, with long absences in between.

Ni Nurta:
This defining what we want is itsel the practice. Once defined, but I mean like really defined, not merely still existing a some vague concept, it will be the end.

I think I know what you mean. You mean that it is uncovering the real motivation behind our strivings that does the work. Once the motivation is known, obsolete responses dissipate by themselves.

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/8/20 7:46 PM as a reply to Daniel.
This is a great post. Thank you for it. 

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/8/20 8:19 PM as a reply to Ni Nurta.
I am not advocating not thinking about morality at all but merely to not use any religious and cultural frameworks for it and refrain of claiming higher morality because of some meditative effects and to not assume anyone have higher morality just because they do.
Yes! I agree

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/9/20 12:05 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I suspect it was laziness  emoticon

or sheer orneriness. emoticon

RE: Why would we want to awaken?
Answer
6/9/20 12:46 AM as a reply to Daniel.
Daniel:
Hello Dharma Overground,

I’ve never posted before and have not been reading this site for that long. If there are any forum-specific rules I am ignorant of and about to violate, I hope all know if was not my intention, and nothing is meant disrespectfully. This is going to be long and have personal backstory but I honestly do not have another place to go (no meditation teacher and also there is a pandemic outside) and the philosophy talk will probably sound arrogant or uninformed with respect to dharma topics if I don’t provide context. Here goes.

Why would one want to “awaken”?

It saddens me, being someone who has studied non-dual philosophies formally as well as had success with meditation practice recently, that this is the question I am now finding myself asking.  I know the answer commonly provided is “an end to all suffering.”  We all suffer—it seems like a solid goal.  The method is also straightforward: repeatedly and openly ask experiential, sensate-level questions about your experience, as well as about who is the one having the experience, thereby initiating a near-endless tautological cycle of questioning until the sense that there was anything asking the question to begin with is gone, thereby escaping the tautological experiential loop.  Logically, it appears this applies to getting to stream-entry as well the four paths cumulatively if you permit a truly mind boggling number of nested tautologies.  You could probably also use the word “fractal” or “cycle” here, too, as Daniel Ingram does, but I hesitate to get into a terminology debate since my dharma knowledge is not well developed and that isn’t really the point of the post.

My question is, so what?  This is not a self-evidently valid motivation to me, and logically it isn’t even “you” seeking it. Why is the end of suffering worth that, frankly, enormous sacrifice?

Before I go further, let me give (as concise as I can, I promise) background on me and my practice.  I’ve been, in the philosophical sense, existentially dissatisfied since I was a small child.  I don’t know how to explain this other than by saying it’s almost as though the fabric of reality itself just…itches.  This feeling is, as far as I can tell, permanent.  Since I began being capable of thought it has been viscerally obvious that the foundation of my knowledge is built on ontological sand—and to my horror I also discovered that essentially no one else viscerally felt this, even if they said they also knew it.  I insisted when I was about five years old that my mother explain to me what death was, and I can remember thinking to myself upon receiving that explanation: “oh, she thinks she does but she doesn’t know either”.  Five years later I asked for a book on Socratic logic, and by college I was essentially tortured by this extreme skepticism.  I went through cultural/spiritual worldviews, Western and Eastern philosophies, and scientific fields looking for one that might be “it.”  The extreme skeptics—think Socrates, Hume, Nietzsche, and I am pretty sure also the Buddha if he would have been willing to speak of the “unanswerables”—are logically correct.  It is just that their crippling knowledge of uncertainty is not actionable on an experiential level.  My interest in Buddhism was based around this notion that this single, experiential approach might be a way to actually act on and in some way live by this knowledge of uncertainty.

Now for background on my meditation.  I had access to what I now understand was probably at least the beginning of the first jhana as a child, I’ve lucid dreamed consistently since a young age, and was also able to “make things appear” in the manner of internal and external visualizations (used to do this in the dark for fun).  Much of that fell away, but I had some experience with meditation in college and thought it was amusing that I could focus on my breathing for an hour and then have, for example, my arm feel like it wasn’t mine.

I used meditation on and off, largely as stress reduction through my doctoral program (quantitative psychology with a substantive focus on nested human information processing using complexity theory and fractal systems as analogies to explain them—sound familiar?).  I always wanted to take it more seriously, but this did not happen until some fairly traumatic experiences coupled with the unmoored feeling of finishing the PhD.  I decided to go on retreat last summer before starting my “new life” and stumbled into one led by someone teaching Shinzen Young’s system.  In three days I had a textbook, albeit profound, A&P event.  Briefly, I had just gotten up from a sit in which it seemed as though I was fluidly keeping track of all sensations across all sense doors.  It felt like/was synesthesia, where each sensation crossed with the others and flashed into and out of existence much faster than I could track, and yet I knew what was happening.  I ended the sit (somehow it didn’t occur to me to stay in it and keep experiencing that) and walked outside where I, against all odds, saw a meteor that was close enough to the ground to see it as a burning rock (still not entirely convinced it was real).  I was sucked onto it, reality looked like a giant ball of fire for a few moments and then vanished.  I don’t have a clear memory but I think I fell to my knees involuntarily, and then was struck by a gigantic wave of (largely negative) emotion.  The rest of the retreat were the calmest, most open days of my life, and I struggled to remember the names of even basic objects (e.g., “rock”, “table”) but this did not seem to bother me.  I’ve been over and over this event a thousand times.  I now know not having memory and having reality flash in front of you before vanishing are superficially similar to what Ingram describes as an impermanence door cessation, but I do not think this was that.

I largely stopped meditating for 6 months after the retreat (new job and long commute made it really hard).  I started again in January in preparation for a cancelled-due-to-COVID retreat and was able to sustain it daily until now.  The point at which it really started to accelerate was during/after reading MCTB and switching to breath as the object (though I’ve binge read many other dharma books, too), and because I was able to simulate a retreat-lite style environment due to COVID (2-3 hours per day, lots of silence) to the point where my entire days have felt like I am meditating/noting in the background.  This post is largely due to what has happened in the past week, which started with several disconcerting experiences.  Largely, I experience meditations as vibrations punctuated occasionally by a formed sensation, though I would not say my concentration is necessarily great in a contracted sense.  But I started to have moments where the feeling of watching my own mind felt…weird.  And by “weird”, I mean ranging from amusing to really unsettling.  In one sit it felt like I could hold what I was observing and the sensation of observing in the same field, such that they would sort of spin around each other and pull closer.  In another, it felt as though my sense of observing would sort of shatter and fall forward into the meditation object.  I know these might superficially sound like sort of what a cessation is, but keep in mind they happened dozens of times in a short period.  And then I had a few sits where things were, what I would call, radically equanimous and completely effortless.

This is where the turn happened.  In daily life, after the initial peaceful, panoramic fog settled, I began to actually experience the fact that I was not “controlling” most of my body or emotional responses, although I did appear to be able to control my thoughts about those things (and I cannot stress enough that I don’t mean this in the way that you experience a sensation bouncing into a thought and then into an action, etc, and that these things are transient).  This was, to put it politely, profoundly disturbing.  I had moments where I had to deduce from my body’s actions and emotions where it was going, what it was doing, and why (e.g., “oh, I guess you want to go into the kitchen now”).  Yesterday morning I had what seemed to be continuous awareness of going in and out of sleep, dreaming, waking, moving, etc., sometimes seemingly anchored around, bafflingly, my breathing.  I also couldn’t “unsee” what feels like a shudder after every single exhalation, or the fact that I couldn’t seem to see without my vision vibrating.  It got to the point where I realized that if didn’t immediately find a way to contract around something I might not be able to come back and would be stuck in that, again, ridiculously unpleasant way of perceiving reality.  The fear and anxiety about it didn’t work as objects to contract around because they are made worse or, when soothed, vanish immediately.  Rage is the most effective because it has a pleasurable component to it but I’d be willing to bet this is what Ingram referred to as a “dark jhana”.  I have it reasonably stabilized at the moment, and it even appears as though I can “choose” what level I contract around (e.g., I can open up and get more information at the cost of some of my phenomenological self-integrity, or I can contract and feel like a person without the same merged sort of feeling).  The problem is I don’t know where I am standing above the gravity well of no-self, and it feels like if I slip, “I” am dead.  I (very obviously) need to take a break from the sits but the most recent ones have felt like I was walking through a minefield, except I am equanimous about my anxiety about being equanimous about being in a minefield.

To reiterate, I am reasonably sure I don’t have steam entry and have never experienced a cessation.  But given the outrageously small amount of time I have spent meditating in the grand scheme, I am certain that I could take this very, very far.

But isn’t the cost of “agency-less” perception ultimately your felt sense of free will?  It’s just that, by the time you get there, you don’t regard that bundle of sensations as “you” anymore, so it does not bother you to not “have” it.  A “fully” awakened person has spent thousands of hours cultivating new “identities” around progressively more fundamental perceptions so that they can shed each of them once they are no longer attached to the sensations of “being” them (i.e., body, body and mind, thoughts about body and mind, thoughts about thoughts about body and mind, etc, however this is experienced).

Look, I enjoy debating the notion of determinism, too.  But being able to abandon a sense of agency does not seem like the answer even if it ends suffering—and note that I have felt both equanimity towards and anxiety about what I described.  I am willing to assume the end of suffering is great, but it is also a privilege to be able to see yourself as a point in space, even if you’re like me and you’ve always sort of suspected that didn’t make sense even if you couldn’t explain exactly why.  You are just relinquishing the sense that “you” are looking for the answer, or that there ever was a thing looking for it.  Nothing has changed, and you aren’t necessarily even “seeing” more accurately—just differently.  Critically, if we reflect really carefully on topics like epistemology, ontology, phenomenology, etc., WE ALREADY KNEW THAT, just not experientially.  And if you ask a highly awakened person if they have a felt sense of free will (which is really what people mean by this term, anyway), I can imagine them watch as their own body says “yes”, which isn’t how I use the word “yes.”

My problem is that we aren’t informed enough to make the choice about awakening, and the reference point that would have made the choice disappears after it happens.  No one that I have seen really speaks about enlightenment in a way that really emphasizes this point because essentially everyone who actually knows anything about it is past the point of no return and has burned the felt sense of it’s value into themselves even if they ultimately abandoned the sense that it was “them” that did the imprinting.  Now, this is obviously partly because experiential knowledge needs to actually be experienced to be acquired, but some of it is because it is assumed that because most people respond well to such knowledge that it is “good”.  “Good” requires a referent point even if you do not identify with it being yours, and this is why the idea of non-dual morality almost literally drives me insane.  You simply can’t escape the fact that differentiation MUST apply to morality as well because you have to use referent points to establish “good” due to its epistemologically uncertain nature, it’s just that by the time you actually understand this experientially in a meditative tradition, moral habits are deeply ingrained in the mind that has the no-self and so that “person” continues to “act” morally.

I also must be honest that I feel resentful toward those who don’t try to explain this part. The Buddha’s saying of “come and see for yourself” now feels like he’s holding something interesting in one hand, and a knife behind his back in the other.  Setting aside that I am essentially Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus made flesh, and the incredible irony of responding to these experiences in the form of an identity-reaffirming narrative, why can’t I choose suffering?  Don’t get me wrong, if there was a machine that could turn full awakening on and off so I could see the difference, I’d try it without hesitation. At least then I could “choose” my level of no-self.

As it stands, though, I reiterate: why awaken? It isn’t more or less true.  It is seeing the exact same existence from a different vantage point.  It doesn’t actually matter which level you occupy—suffering is just as valid as no suffering in a reality for which the objective truth can never be confirmed from the inside.  It makes me so bitterly angry to be asking this, because I was so sure I wanted to experience this, and now I’m right back to where the quest started.  I am well aware that symptoms of depersonalization can be “seen through”, and I could do this if I wanted to, but that is not what I am asking.
Daniel, welcome to the DharmaOverground (DhO, to a lot of the denizens). This is one of the most beautiful first posts I can recall seeing, and I thank you for it, as I see so many others have. You are already an asset to this community, and your presence here is something I take as a gift.
 
One reason I like the thorough-going blackness of your post, and its desperate insistence on “Where’s the beef?” is that it makes it easy to skip a ton of bullshit and get to the heart of the matter, as I see it. You are at a point on the path, in the dark night somewhere, clearly as what we sometimes here call, in Daniel Ingram’s phrase, a chronic Dark Night yogi, someone who’s done his time and more and then Way Too Much in the dukha ñanas. I’m a similar type. The key as I see it is the truth of dissolution, fear, misery, disgust: of our honest response to what samsara shows us of transience, suffering, and the failure of any self-center to hold up. This shit is true whether we are a successful banker or a street person. What makes you different is how much time you have spent having this shit rubbed in your face. You think the warning label should have been better.
 
Do you really think that if the Good Witch had said to Dorothy, sending her off to see the Wizard, that the trip would involve tons more awful shit than she could imagine in advance, that Dorothy would have said, “Oh, wow, thanks for the head’s up. I’ll pass, then, and just live out my prudent life here in Oz in this house from Kansas dropped here by a tornado. It’s a fixer upper, at this point, and there will be some bad moments when that dead witch underneath it starts to rot, but once the air is clear and they colorize the movie, this is not a bad place to live out my meanignless but relatively comfortable existence. I’ll always have my dog, at least until he dies. You won’t die, will you Toto?”
 
Toto barks.
 
Don’t fool yourself, that nobody fucking warned you. You had that onset experience, that A & P, you saw the fucking light and chased it. It’s the bait-and-switch at the root of all spiritual practice, cosmic variable rate reinforcement at its most perverse: one fucking good day and you charge off ready to walk through hell for the Grand Prize of, uh, another day like that every ten years, maybe?
 
Those days all the fucking time, hell yeah.  But oops.
 
So here you are, pissed and fried, and surly. You’ve been slandered, libeled, you’re heard words you never heard in the Bible, you’re one step away from a shoeshine, two steps away from the county line, just trying to keep the jones for Awakening satisfied, satisfied. And it looks pretty bleak, when you do the math. You can’t imagine an Awakening worth the shit you’ve seen and known
 
I’ve been there; i am there, basically. It is unimaginable. Nothing could “redeem” this samsara shit. Forget you and think about dead innocents for a moment, until you can’t stand it. Don’t push it, just a taste. The children of the Shoah, the children of the famines and revolutions and genocides and droughts and little wars and big wars and disease. What’s Awakening worth to them? Or even to someone who just knows about them?
 
And then some guy says, there is no suffering, really, it’s all just a divine play, once we Wake Up.
 
I’ll kill that motherfucker slowly, show him some suffering before he goes back to sleep, if he says that to a grieving parent.
 
So, here you are. Awakening is an obvious farce. Useless, maybe even self-indulgent. And also: nowhere to be found. Because let’s face it, all these fuckers walking around talking about their own Awakenings tend to charge a bit too much to hear about it, and upon examination appear to be full of the same old shit as everyone else, except that they don’t call it shit, they call it your delusion. It still stinks, though. Nobody really wants it on their shoe, or in their soup.
 
So, fuck it. Give up. Go “back” to “a normal life” and just “enjoy yourself.” Good luck with that. You’re fucked, amigo.
 
It comes down to this breath, in this moment. It arives, you must know by now, without your complicity. Try to stop it and it arrives anyway. It keeps your body ticking, and it departs without your desire. Try to hold it and it will make a bit of a fuss, and then depart anyway.
 
You’re fucking stuck with this breathing shit. No way out but the one that Camus called the only real philosophical question, suicide. But suicide leaves such a mess for those we care about to clean up. You may be so unwilling to do further harm in this shit show by now that you can’t imagine leaving that mess for anyone to clean up.
 
So, another breath comes in. And I think, maybe this could just be the last one. That would be all right: a decent, no harm no foul death, Do Not Resuscitate, game over, void or heaven or hell, but no more of this shit, anyway. Let it go with your blessing, out-breath, and hope it never comes back.
 
And here it is, that fucking next breath, yet another one we never signed up for.
 
Okay, now what? Fuck awakening. Fuck that sham, “normality.” Fuck suicide, that tantrum. What are you going to do with this next breath?