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I am free.
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7/26/15 2:44 AM
So, I've noticed that I've almost completely lost interest in meditation, mental development, and this forum in the last month or so, and I'd like to make a kind of final thread to cap all of this off for anyone who has taken any interest in what I've written on here.  I'm posting this in the attainments section because the main reason I've lost interest in practice is because I've reached my goal and found what I was looking for - freedom.

This shift didn't happen because of a meditation event but rather a shift in thinking, or the adoption of a philosophy - which probably means it's complementary to what you all do here.  If it wasn't I wouldn't bother posting about it.  I know my first attempt to write about this caused a lot of trouble due to how excited I was about it, but I think I've found a nicer way to talk about it that might actually help people.

First, I'd like to say emphatically that the freedom I'm talking about is not "freedom from thoughts," "freedom from emotions," or even, "freedom from a false concept of self."  When I say, "I'm free," I just mean that I feel free, and this is a great source of contentment.  I don't need to change anything or fix anything anymore.  I don't have anything to practice or anything to accomplish.  I am just content.  I can't point to any event or change that might have caused this except this new understanding I have of the world.  It didn't happen all at once, and there wasn't even anything very mystical about it.  Actually, I'd say the whole thing has been kind of anticlimactic considering the way things have unfolded in the past.  I just kind of realized today, as an afterthought, that things don't really bother me much anymore.  I don't check my door if it's locked before I go to bed; I didn't worry about my unpleasant co-worker before work at all; I'm not bothered by the cat hair on the couch or the spider in my bathroom.  Unpleasant feelings come up once in a while, but they aren't an enemy or something to try to change.  They aren't even misunderstandings, just a part of life, no big deal, gone in a moment.  They seem to be happening less and less.

So, this understanding that caused this, it's actually pretty simple.  Anxiety (which I'm using broadly to mean discontent, or being ill-at-ease) is caused by a lack of closure.  There is something that needs to be done.  To be free from this feeling requires one of two things - either a person needs to be completely satisfied with their world as it is, or they need to be comfortable letting things be incomplete and unfinished.  I seem to have settled onto the second one. 

Now, before I called this "not caring" which bothered a lot of people.  Since then I've run into the concept of nihilism and absurdism which offer a more neutral way of approaching this.  Nihilism is the belief that everything is objectively without value - which actually ties into Buddhism rather well.  We can see that we are a part of something much larger, and our own insignificance is hard to overstate.  Everything we love will eventually fade away, and even if it lasts for what we might consider "forever" (say, a million year) that's nothing but a blip to the universe.  The problem is that, in spite of this, we still take ourselves seriously.  We take our lives seriously.  We can both understand our own pointlessness while still getting angry at someone.  This is our absurdism - the belief and feeling that our lives are important even though we can understand that they aren't.  It's actually impossible to escape the adsurdity.  Just by staying alive we are taking our lives seriously.

I think a story might illustrate this better.  A few weeks ago I saw a little bird on the side of the road flopping around.  Someone had hit it with their car and it was still alive.  I decided to try to help it out and, long story short, eventually had to do about three hours of driving to drop it off at a wildlife rehabilitation center.  Now, throughout this whole event, I kept thinking about the hundreds of songbirds all around the earth probably dying every minute.  At one point during the few days I had the little bird in my garage, I saw a chicken carrier truck drive by work jammed full of at least a thousand miserable chickens heading to slaughter.  On the drive up to the center, I probably killed a bunch of bugs.  The whole thing was absurd to the highest degree.  The funny thing is, though, this is no different from anything else in life.  The complete arbitrariness of everything is staggering in light of how we actually think about our lives.  I used to think I was doing something meaningful by making art.  The truth is, though, it's all just so much dust.  Right now maybe it looks nice and maybe some people actually enjoy it, but eventually the art will be dust and so will the people who enjoyed it and the civilization that it was a part of as well as anything that could ever remember it.

And yet, I still would like to make art, and I still wanted to help the bird, and I still want to be a good person and enjoy my life.  So, I am absurd, and, realizing this, I can be free.  I didn't have to escape absurdity, I just had to realize it.

Once I started seeing everything this way, the whole concept of problems just seemed kind of funny, and I stopped trying to fix anything.  I don't have anything I am "supposed" to do or be.  Taking the bird to the wildlife center was just as pointless and silly as leaving it by the side of the road.  Being nice to someone isn't any different from being mean.  That's not to say I suddenly feel perfectly okay being mean to everyone - I'm actually no different than I've ever been.  I just realize there's no need to take anything seriously.  I'm "off the hook" so to speak.

But, to get back to the mort important point, the problem was a lack of closure, not necessarily the fact that I was taking things seriously.  Something can be deadly serious and still be completely fine as long as it's okay that it isn't finished.  The reason this absurdist viewpoint was liberating was because I suddenly was seeing that it was okay to leave things open ended.  The reason I used the bird as an example was because I saw this the most clearly while trying to go to sleep one night and thinking about the bird sitting in my garage.  I was trying to align the understanding that the bird didn't really matter with the way I felt about it when I realized that even this didn't matter.  The problem wasn't that I wanted to help the bird or even that I felt the bird was worth helping - the problem was that it was unacceptable that there was a hurt bird in the garage. Realizing this, I was able to approach the situation rationally ("is there anything I can do to help the bird at this moment?" "No." "Ok.") and let go of the whole thing.

So, to put that a different way, the cause of unease and anxiety is not a certain set of problems or a specific way of dealing with problems or thoughts, it's the inability to accept the ongoing nature of life. Like viewing life as a series of events that begin and end. Something begins, happens, then finishes. The truth is, rather, everything is always just hapening. The good and bad, and the beginnings and endings, are all constructed. It isn't that this construction needs to be broken apart, but rather that it can't be relied on - it doesn't hold weight. It's much safer to simply go on allowing these constructions to remain incomplete, and only use them where they're actually useful. When I stopped trying to finish them, that's when I found what I was looking for.

I wish everyone well and goodluck.  I may still post here once in a while, or not, I don't really know, but I'm happy to say I'm done searching.

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/26/15 9:23 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
Tao

emoticon

Psi

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/26/15 11:48 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Congrats NotTao!  Sounds like some of what I've experienced too, kind of a letting go of trying to control everything, pass judgement on everything (and everyone), etc.  All that causes so much stress.  People and things are going to be what they are, regardless of what mental box we may try to force them into.  Use whatever philosophy or mind set you want to indoctrinate yourself into the habit you like, but if you learn to let go of all that, you will be much more relaxed.  All that judgement and stuff does not help in life anyway, it's just an energy drain.  One guy might use 'no self' another guy might use 'the universe is infinite,' whatever works for you, it's just stuff you tell yourself in an attempt to get to a certain goal, but there does seem to be certain similarities in the mindset that each person finds successful.  Not to say I am perfect at it all day long or anything, but the more I do that, the more relaxing life gets.  The thing with 'not caring' is that although some might think that it will turn a person into some kind of sociopath, seems like the person stays the same basic person with the same basic preferences, just that person is not stressing about life and his/her decisions anymore.  I think it's another way to explain what it can be like to let go of clinging but explained with lots of real world examples so people understand better.  I also think it's a good example of what taking meditation philosophy and self inquiry to the all day long experience can do.   
-Eva

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/26/15 4:58 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Eva M Nie:
....I think it's another way to explain what it can be like to let go of clinging but explained with lots of real world examples so people understand better.  I also think it's a good example of what taking meditation philosophy and self inquiry to the all day long experience can do.   

yeah, this!

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/26/15 7:00 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
I forgot to mention something else that was important to all this.  I think being lost in thought is a bit demonized by the mindfulness movement.  I was on this bandwagon for a while, particularly because I liked jhana so much, but there's actually a much easier way to deal with thinking - just make sure it's enjoyable.  I've always kind of liked being lost in thought, and I think this may have been a contributing factor to my anxiety problems.  Since I spent so much time daydreaming, I had trouble turning off the daydreams when they started to focus on problems.  It seems like the key to letting go of the problems was just to think about other things, or even approach the same things from a positive angle.  Like, as an example, seeing spiders as cute, or imagining a car accident as thrilling rather than scary.  I think I've probably replaced meditation with reverie.

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/26/15 11:16 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
Since I spent so much time daydreaming, I had trouble turning off the daydreams when they started to focus on problems. It seems like the key to letting go of the problems was just to think about other things, or even approach the same things from a positive angle. Like, as an example, seeing spiders as cute, or imagining a car accident as thrilling rather than scary. I think I've probably replaced meditation with reverie.

Not Tao,

You are one of my favorite posters on this forum. You show, more often than not, great skill and insight in your posts.

But if this is your idea of being "finished" with the practice, then all I can say is you have got a lot yet to still learn. I'm not trying to rain on your parade, or say that what you have accomplished isn't what you were seeking. It seems you have done just that. I'm just offering the benefit of experience and further insight.

With reference to the above emphasized passage, you've replaced seeing things as they are with a fantasy land view of reality. And that is definitely similar to nothing that Gotama ever taught (not, of course, assuming that you personally had any intention of paying attention to anything he had to teach). This is only trading one point of view for another without the accompanying insight or wisdom. But if it makes you happy and helps you get through the day, then fine. If that is so, you will soon enough learn that there is more to this thing called the Dhamma than you ever imagined.

Of course, I could also be misunderstanding what you wrote and intended to share. I'm only responding to what you wrote, assuming that you understand the definitions (and the consequences) of the words you used.

I wish you well in your endeavors. You are young yet, and there is plenty of time for a revision in your views.

In peace,
Ian

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/26/15 11:38 PM as a reply to Ian And.
eWll, "seeing things as they are" doesn't really mean anything.  Everything just is, so any time we add opinion or emotion to something, we're not seeing it as it is. Emotion is how we interpret experience. I've just decided that if I must live in a fantasy world of emotional judgements, they might as well be positive. It turns out opinions and emotional judgements can change, so why not change them to be pleasant? Seems like the most efficient way to be happy.

As to being finished, I'm not saying I've achieved an end of some practice or another, I'm just saying I'm free. There isn't anything to practice at this point because there's nowhere I want to go.

P.s. Who said I was young? ;)

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/26/15 11:57 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:

Not Tao,

You are one of my favorite posters on this forum. You show, more often than not, great skill and insight in your posts.

But if this is your idea of being "finished" with the practice, then all I can say is you have got a lot yet to still learn. I'm not trying to rain on your parade, or say that what you have accomplished isn't what you were seeking. It seems you have done just that. I'm just offering the benefit of experience and further insight.
Personally I am hesitant to agree just because different people have different ways of describing things.  One might say something was super amazing and another that it was good, and it can be the same thing for both, just that one person was more amazed by it than the other.  Everything really is perspective when you get down to it.  (EVERYTHING!)
With reference to the above emphasized passage, you've replaced seeing things as they are with a fantasy land view of reality.
I would disagree.  "Fantasyland" is pejorative but what he does is really just a positive spin.  People typical have opinions on everything, be they strong or very subtle.  From a certain perspective,, the spider is neither cute nor ugly but for most, it's going to be one or another, may as well pick the more positive experience of it.  Positive attitude is a habit that can be cultivated but it does take a fair amount of paying attention during the day.  Fantasy land would be not accepting reality that is there in front of you, but what he is doing is taking a positive view of it but not denying it.  If there is a poisonous spider, he is not deny there is a poisonous spider and he is not letting himself get bit, he is just appreciating the beauty of nature, that is not fantasyland. The positive perspect is also a lighter easier perspective and IMO, closer to letting go than a heavy negative one.   

And that is definitely similar to nothing that Gotama ever taught (not, of course, assuming that you personally had any intention of paying attention to anything he had to teach).
I would be surprised if Gautama had a beef with having a happy positive attitude about things that naturally cross your path.  When you think about it, there is a difference between that and seeking pleasure.  In NotTaos way, you are accepting things the way they are with a positive attitude.  In pleasure seeking, you actively trying to find pleasure in specific things you think willl bring pleasure.  In NotTao's way, he realizes other things can give him happiness and seeking pleasure in other things will not bring him happiness, instead he appreciates the beauty in things as they already are.  IMO, it's a good exercise that yields much wisdom and is not against the path.  Is it the end of the path?  I'm tempted to say no, but consider that I am suspicious that technical 4th path is not the end of the path either so that is not saying much when it comes from me.  ANyway, should be interesting to see how the process continues to unfold.  
-Eva



RE: I am free.
Answer
7/27/15 1:51 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Dear Not Tao,
congratulations! It's always inspiring to see someone reach what they are looking for. I just wanted to point out that the perspective you describe is somewhat similar to existentialist philosophy. It especially reminds me of Albert Camus' works. Maybe you already know about Camus, but if not, you should check out his novel "The Stranger", where the main character seems to live from a similar perspective to what you describe. Then there is also "the myth of Sisyphos", which explains the philosophical underpinnings of Camus' ideas. The main point seems to be that people can be happy even when their aspirations can never be fully realized or completed. They just need to understand and the accept this absurd situation.
I find it interesting that this is an end point for you, because for me this was something that started the process which led me to meditation. 

Best wishes 
Christian

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/28/15 5:26 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
eWll, "seeing things as they are" doesn't really mean anything.  Everything just is, so any time we add opinion or emotion to something, we're not seeing it as it is. Emotion is how we interpret experience. I've just decided that if I must live in a fantasy world of emotional judgements, they might as well be positive. It turns out opinions and emotional judgements can change, so why not change them to be pleasant? Seems like the most efficient way to be happy.

As to being finished, I'm not saying I've achieved an end of some practice or another, I'm just saying I'm free. There isn't anything to practice at this point because there's nowhere I want to go.

P.s. Who said I was young? ;)
being free is awesome, being happy is awesome. 

there's definitely something to be said for seeing things as they really are also. I'd like to have all three (free, happy, truth) but then i've always been a greedy guts!! 

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/29/15 7:55 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
I've never been very interested in religious truths, pawel.  I always just wanted to feel good, be happy, find peace of mind, and be in control of myself. This is actually much easier to attain than I thought, and this is the breakthrough I've had. It doesn't really matter to me very much whether reality is real or false or something else. Even the illusion of pain is unpleasant, and that is enough for me.

When I was meditating regularly, I did see some hints of the things you're talking about. It didn't do anything to solve the problem of suffering for me. More than anything, it threw me off-balance. I don't think dharma really has much to do with suffering, TBH. At least not the modern, western versions I've seen. Mindfulness (as in, "stay in the moment") is a kind of escapism, Vipassana is a way to increase tolerance. Maybe these eventually result in real, lasting, solutions, but it seems like there's a lot at risk and a lot of work that goes into it, and the rewards are difficult to come by and don't do much to alter mood or habits (this is just my impression based on what I've read - I don't mean to offend anyone here). The freedom I've been looking for is simple - I just wanted to be happy. This doesn't require all that much, just a willingness to change negative thought patterns, really.

I think the best way to put my current lifestyle/practice/understanding into a buddhist context is to think of it as a metta practice. I'm not trying to love everything and everyone, but rather replacing unpleasant thoughts with something pleasant. Anything can be refraimed to make it progressive. By progressive I mean "promoting movement into a more pleasant future." The examples I gave were about that, and this turns into a habit pretty quickly. I don't feel like I have to try very hard. If I notice I've encountered a bad mood, I can change it very easily, and this feels like a superpower compared to anything I was doing before.

I'm not "done" and I haven't "attained" anything, I am just free - I am free from the destructive influence of negative emotions. I am in control of myself and free to live and be how I want without expending effort or attempting to maintain something. This is what I was looking for.

P.s. How do you know you're seeing things as they are now?  Didn't you assume you were seeing things the way they were before until someone told you different?  Why is a different form of seeing worth bothering about?  What's the point?  I've been asking this since my first post on here, so I'm not expecting a satisfying response, just something to think about.  I mean, if someone is looking for happiness, is it really proper to point them towards buddhism?  I think there's a lot of assumptions that are never questioned there.

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/29/15 7:59 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Sincere question, Not Tao -- what you describe sounds like self-hypnosis to me. Is it? If not, how is it different?

TIA!

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/29/15 11:18 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Sincere question, Not Tao -- what you describe sounds like self-hypnosis to me. Is it? If not, how is it different?

TIA!
Well while you are asking that question, now that you are conveniently bringing it up, I would ask something similar of you.  How is meditation different then self-hypnosis?  You are told there are 3 characteristics and if you look for and understand them well and thoroughly from a witness perspective, you may become enlightened.  If you are sitting there for hundreds of hours, many of you probably believe it is true too.  If you have a teacher to regularly bolster your incentive (belief) and surround yourself with others that believe similarly and spend more time trying (retreats), the effect is famously stronger.  You sit hour after hour after hour trying to find the 3 characteristics and then (big surprise) many people do find them, they find that which they are told to find and spend a lot of time convincing themselves they will find. Some do it faster than others (some people are well known to be easier to hypnotise than others).  Buddhism seems to be a system where people are trained in certain thought patterns and beliefs that are expected to lead to certain experiences and for many that does come to pass if they follow the program and stick with it, just like if you go into the military, they have a different set of trainings that are designed to lead to a different set of mental characteristics and that works for many trainees as well.  Different Buddhist sects have a bit different methods and their practitioners tend to report different things, but all those things are very real to those practitioners.  Well the Heaven's Gate practitioners reported all kinds of amazing things too, just that their belief system lead to death instead of a well functioning societal member and society tends to frown on that kind of stuff for obvious reasons.  But it could still all be self hypnosis of one form or another, still 'illusion,' just a more pleasant and society friendly version for some than others.  A method to look for contentedness inside yourself instead of out there in the unreliable impermanent world around you might tend to yield a more stable contentedness though.  But really, the more I think about it and look at it, the more it all seems like just more stories you tell yourself and others, both Not Taos way and the Buddhist way and everyone else's way.  Looked at from that perspective, then the question becomes, which way leads to a direction you like more?   ;-P
-Eva

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/30/15 12:18 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I looked up self-hypnosis.  I'm not doing any kind of concentration exercise (or any exercises at all, really).  There's no effort to control anything or make myself more willing or pliable.  There isn't even any attempt to keep an eye on things ala mindfulness or self-awareness.  I'm not sure if this is true about everyone, but it's very obvious to me when I don't feel good.  If I don't feel good, there's always something I'm thinking about that's causing me to feel bad.  So I just change what I'm thinking about and I feel better.  Generally, the easiest way to change the thought stream is to change the direction it's moving and direct it towards closure, which is what the mind is looking for.

So, all this time I've been practicing various things and trying things out, I've essentually been narrowing down the core component of discontent and how to change it.  The core component of all bad feelings is a thought focused on a lack of closure - a problem that is unresolved.  When I resolve all problems, I am perfectly happy.  Originally, I thought this was going to be a never-ending battle, but most if the problems that come up seem to be repetitions of the same core few, and as the mind is redirected repeatedly towards solution-oriented (or, better, just plain positive) thinking, the problems come up less because new habits of thinking form.  Problems are no longer problematic, you might say.

The speed of the change in the emotional state is pretty amazing.  I am able to diffuse even very deep anxiety now if I happen to catch myself in the middle of it.  That hasn't happened in a while, though.  I usually catch unpleasantness fairly quickly since it's such an obvious change of state from the norm.

RE: I am free.
Answer
7/30/15 12:27 AM as a reply to Christian Calamus.
BTW, Christian, I have read about Albert Camus!  He was the fist one I ran into when I started googling about these things, haha.  I read one of his essays about absurdism and it made a lot of sense.

RE: I am free.
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7/30/15 8:54 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Existentialism FTW!
I'm glad you finally 'figured it all out' NT.
For once ;-p

RE: I am free.
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7/30/15 11:33 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Well then, Not Tao, I'm glad you've found the key to happiness!




RE: I am free.
Answer
7/30/15 11:04 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
Hi Not Tao, 

I want to say that I do, and have always had your best interests in my heart.  I know I have been blunt and rough with our philosophical discussions, which, if you are like me, which you seem to be in many ways, we have probably enjoyed the banter.  Good times...

Words are very powerful, the internet is large, and very open, we never know who may read what we say , especially into the future, and how they may perceive or misperceive what we say, and may or may not take actions,  regardless of our intentions.

For myself, I apologize to all that have misperceived anything I may have written, or things that I have misunderstood.

And, then again, maybe nobody really reads any of this, besides most people are probably on Pintrest running up the views on kitten videos and trading Vegan cookie recipies,,,  emoticon

I am not saying goodbye, you can not leave the Universe, so there never really are goodbyes. haha

You say goodbye, we say hello

Psi

RE: I am free.
Answer
8/20/15 1:30 AM as a reply to Psi.
Hey Psi,  I never saw your post here.

I really do enjoy argument for it's own sake, like you said.  I don't think I've ever been upset at you on here.  I've been upset with other people, but that's mostly because of smugness and pompous attitudes - I was trying to be nice before so I wouldn't let myself call people out on it, haha.

As for the power of words, I think we all live in our own echo chambers and just hear and read whatever we want to hear/read.  If we disagree with something it's dismissed pretty quickly.  It takes a barrage of words to change a person's mind - which means words have relatively little power in individual circumstances.

Actually, spending time on Pintrest looking at cats seems just as constructive to me now as meditating, thinking deeply, or not existing.  It just doesn't really matter - all of it.  It's kind of nice. emoticon

RE: I am free.
Answer
8/21/15 6:54 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
I looked up self-hypnosis.  I'm not doing any kind of concentration exercise (or any exercises at all, really).  There's no effort to control anything or make myself more willing or pliable.  There isn't even any attempt to keep an eye on things ala mindfulness or self-awareness.  I'm not sure if this is true about everyone, but it's very obvious to me when I don't feel good.  If I don't feel good, there's always something I'm thinking about that's causing me to feel bad.  So I just change what I'm thinking about and I feel better.  Generally, the easiest way to change the thought stream is to change the direction it's moving and direct it towards closure, which is what the mind is looking for.

So, all this time I've been practicing various things and trying things out, I've essentually been narrowing down the core component of discontent and how to change it.  The core component of all bad feelings is a thought focused on a lack of closure - a problem that is unresolved.  When I resolve all problems, I am perfectly happy.  Originally, I thought this was going to be a never-ending battle, but most if the problems that come up seem to be repetitions of the same core few, and as the mind is redirected repeatedly towards solution-oriented (or, better, just plain positive) thinking, the problems come up less because new habits of thinking form.  Problems are no longer problematic, you might say.

The speed of the change in the emotional state is pretty amazing.  I am able to diffuse even very deep anxiety now if I happen to catch myself in the middle of it.  That hasn't happened in a while, though.  I usually catch unpleasantness fairly quickly since it's such an obvious change of state from the norm.

This reminds me of Adyshanti's definition of ego - "Something is wrong.  Something needs to change".

Also similar to some of the newer guys on the scene such as Noah Elkrief.  We practise desirous and fearful thoughts because we think they help when in fact they hurt.  As you say NotTao, it's like realizing you're punching yourself in the face.  Oh... I better stop that.  Ok now I feel better.

The idea is this:  humans are blisffully happy - that's our natural state if left alone.  Just stop the thoughts that cover up this bliss. 

RE: I am free.
Answer
8/22/15 3:05 AM as a reply to This Good Self.
"We practise desirous and fearful thoughts because we think they help when in fact they hurt."

That's the golden nugget right there. Negative thoughts are a practice - something we do on purpose driven by a fear. It can feel very wrong to change negative thoughts - until suddenly things feel better. The feelings themselves start to look like baggage after a while.