THE STORY OF ‘ME’

whatswrongwithme

During the weekly group call last Sunday, my mentor GD spoke with incredible clarity for an hour about the inner monologue that makes us zombies to the present moment. That constant thrum that never allows us to be quiet even during our attempts at peace. That inner screen we are glued to even more than our iPhone screen. I thought it was so powerful and potentially transformative that I decided to share some excerpts. If you would like to listen to the full talk, it is available as an audio download from The Core Healing Archives under the title ‘The Story of Me’.

EXCERPTS:

Pause. See if you can notice the stream of thoughts moving in your head in this moment. That is what we call ‘the story of me’: it’s ‘my story’, ‘my life’. It’s like a non-stop movie inside our head. And it’s always in movement – and this movement is based on all the stories of the past and all the stories of the future. It’s a non-stop river, and it’s always about me, me, me. It’s a kind of dreaming we do even when we seem to be awake.

For most of us, the story of me is so unconscious, we don’t even know it is going on throughout the day. And the story of me can remain active only when there is unawareness. When there is pure awareness, even for a few moments, the story of me disappears. And what remains is just an openness, a stillness, a sense of being.

This story of me is always plotting, planning and scheming. It’s very clever. How can I get all the things I want and need? How can I avoid all the things that I fear? The ‘me story’ is always about avoiding all forms of pain, sickness and disease. And about acquiring all forms of happiness and pleasure. If you notice, this ‘me’ in your head is always going towards something or going away from something. It is never still… ever.

Imagine you are sitting in a movie theatre watching the movie ‘Titanic’ fully engrossed… feeling the emotions, enjoying the drama. And something goes wrong with the projection. Suddenly the movie stops. And we realize there is just a blank screen! We kind of wake up and realize the boat was not real, the characters were not real: there was nothing actually happening there. It was just a kind of hypnosis.

Similarly, there is a movie going in our mind on all the time – stories about my future, my past, my spirituality. They are all imaginary and they are all painful. Why are they painful? Because they are constantly running into the future. They are stories of unfulfillment, they are stories of neediness, they are stories of desperation. In a cinema hall, this drama happens for two hours, but for us it continues for sixty-seventy years. Morning to night, this imaginary story of me goes on and on and on.

All our conflicts with others also arise from this story of me – based on what I believe, what I think should happen, what I think is ‘right’. So the imaginary story of me is not just hell for me, it creates hell for others also. The ‘me’ tries to impose itself on everybody else. If others don’t agree with us, there is violence. The violence can be very subtle, like we may sulk and go into the other room, or it can be very loud and we directly attack the other person.

A time comes in our life when the story of me becomes spiritual – then the story of me becomes preoccupied with getting enlightenment and having the perfect state. The joke is that the story of me can never get enlightened! Because it’s this very story, this dreaming that is the obstruction to what is already always present!

Allow yourself to notice this story of me… again and again. Throughout the day, use this question: What unconscious dreaming is going on in this moment? The moment you pop this question, something will change, something will shift, and the story of me will snap. And what will be revealed is pure awareness – that which has no past, no future, and no story.

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To download the entire 60 minute talk which includes further insights and a deeply meditative space – as well as other Q&A and clearings from GD’s group telephonic sessions – go to the Core Healing India Archives.

 

Butterfly: A Poem About Meditation

Butterfly

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This body, the graveyard
of unsung emotions.
So many faces buried,
So many times, so many places.

Watching, watching – these
phantom spirits depart, until
only a sunlit butterfly floats
above swaying grasses.

*

 

Just Right

God's Light

For many years, my mentor GD had written on the wall near his bed, the line: “There Is No Such Thing As A Mistake In Existence, Only Limited Vision.” And on some dark days, this is about all the spiritual teaching one needs to hear. Here is a fragment of a Shin Buddhist Poem from Taitetsu Unno’s book ‘River of Fire, River of Water’ which reflects that same truth beautifully…

You, as you are, you’re just right.

Your parents, your children, your daughter-in-law, your grandchildren,
they are, all for you, just right.

Happiness, unhappiness, joy and even sorrow,
for you, they are just right.

The life that you tread is neither good nor bad.
For you, it is just right.
Whether you go to hell or to the Pure Land,
wherever you go is just right.

Nothing to boast about, nothing to feel bad about,
nothing above, nothing below.

Even the day and month that you die,
even they are just right.
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Did The Buddha Really Say That?!

buddha quoteLast month, by chance, I found out that movie stars are not the only ones blatantly misquoted. Here’s how it happened: for a few weeks last year, as my signature on email, I had used this Buddha quote – ‘when you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky’. Reading it every day, it struck me as odd because Siddhartha Gautama wasn’t exactly known as a laughing into the sky kinda dude. On a hunch, I tried my luck on Google.

Thus, I stumbled upon an amazing website called www.fakebuddhaquotes.com run by a light-hearted Western Buddhist Bodhipaksa. Turned out this quote is a total fake. As are the following common ones that I betcha didn’t know were fakes too.

1) “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” A quick 0.27 sec Google Search tells me this quote has been circulated at least 102,000 times online. But it’s a fake – unless the Buddha suddenly spoke these words privately in the late 1990s.

2) “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” This common one, according to Bodhipaksa, is from page 112 of Jack Kornfield’s “Buddha’s Little Instruction Book,” where Jack “distilled and adapted an ancient teaching for the needs of contemporary life.” Some readers mistook Jack’s yarn as ol’ Siddhartha’s homespun wisdom.

3) “What you think, you become” This is actually similar to something the Buddha did say: ‘whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.’ But there is no record of the Buddha saying this current crisp version. Maybe because if you think about Lady Gaga, you will not become Lady Gaga, no matter who says it.

What was more shocking to me was that Bodhipaksa’s site lists over 50 such fake Buddha quotes which are doing the rounds of the net. So when I see one now, I put Buddha’s teaching of discernment into practice before passing it on!

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Banner image from Bodhipaksa’s Website

The Buddha Mask (And Other Spiritual Facades)

spiritual masksAs seekers, we may believe we have become aware now and dropped our false personas, but sometimes we have only traded it in for a new mask – a spiritual persona. In a hilarious group session a few months ago, my mentor GD helped us dissect and laugh at the masks we may wear as seekers, healers and therapists. Here’s my light-hearted summation of the key spiritual ‘displays’:

The Buddha Mask: You’ve seen the statue, now meet the person. Unaffected by others, far removed from worldly emotions, this mask says: You can’t touch me… I am beyond it all. Behind it hides sensitivity, fear and confusion. During my early Vipassana days, some people called me ‘aloof’ instead of ‘aalif’!

The Positivity Mask: Those who practice affirmations and positive thinking sometimes feel compelled to uphold an abnormally high frequency of ecstasy. Ask them how they are, and an automated voice reply comes: “AMAZING! Life is full of miracles!!” But when it is a mask, their eyes, their energy, and their aura tell a different story.

The ‘Superior-Seeker’ Mask: They enter a room, and the whole room suddenly feels unworthy. They carry a subtle air of superiority. They are on the high road to heaven and they smile beatifically upon all the creepy crawlies with an air of cultivated compassion. Proving superiority all the time is a dead giveaway for a sense of inferiority inside.

The Messiah Mask: They are out to change the world – one flailing, resisting human at a time. These are the givers of support and nurturance and advice… whether anyone asks for it or not! But give they must, because they need to avoid the confusion and emptiness within. A beautiful, socially approved mask and hence more difficult to let go of…

The Pundit Mask: References obscure texts and uses big Sanskrit words. Will disrupt a conversation to quote a 16th century Indian mystic or a little-known modern non-dual teacher. It’s a mask when they talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.

The Lost-in-Space Mask: They find a way to bring Pleaedians, Archangels and Entities into every normal conversation. They would interrupt you to whisper conspiratorially that there’s a 6th dimensional entity behind you right now! They take name-dropping to a whole new dimension.

While the masks may be twisted and rigid, the people underneath these masks are not foolish or nasty. They are you and me, GD said, innocently trying to cover up a wound of not-being-enough by putting on a show. Masks are a way of saying ‘I am special’ but ironically, each mask ends up proving the opposite: each mask reveals a lack of self-love and self-acceptance-as-I-am.

All of us play a variety of roles in life. When we are conscious of the role playing, there is no problem. Masks are problematic because they are compulsive and unconscious, and the behavior comes from ego not insight.

And whenever the ego creates a mask, it has to suppress the opposite in oneself – a compulsive giver finds it hard to ask for help; the intellectual ceases to listen and ask questions; Buddha-face cannot show vulnerability or intimacy when needed.

When someone asked GD at the end of the workshop how she could prevent the mask from coming back on later, GD replied, “Make a joke of it, phone us all up and say: ‘Hey look, my mask is back!’ The moment you become aware, it loses its power. And once you make it a joke, it disappears.”

And in the absence of masks, he reminded us, we can become like the beautiful little children we all are inside – who can be all of the above when required – and their exact opposite when required – without holding onto any particular face.

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The Awake Blogger

A few months ago, when I was just beginning my blogging journey, I had asked my mentor GD for some tips on blogging as a path of reflection and self-learning.

The insights he shared in the form of questions to ask myself while creating a new blog could well be insights one could use while creating anything new. Just replacing the word ‘blog’ with cartoon/artwork/book/poem/screenplay could make the same questions a blueprint for any creative person seeking to tune into a higher and wider inspiration.

Some of the questions overlapped, but each was worthy of being asked again and again every time I sat down to create a new blog.

1. “What tiny contribution can I make to the planet today?”
Beginning with an attitude of being available for service silently opens the doorways of intuition and inspiration.

2. “Who am I being when I am creating this blog?”
GD’s one constant reminder to those around him is to develop sensitivity to who they are being rather than focusing only on what they are doing. Everything we create, he says, carries an invisible energetic signature of our state while we were doing it. The most brilliantly written post about love can have the energy of arrogance, fearful desperation or pushiness. Regardless of whether people consciously pick it up or not, they respond to the energy. So the underlying energy is as critical as the content and the awake blogger must gradually become sensitive to his energy while he is creating a blog post.

3. “Is this blog coming from a state of Flow or is it coming from a should, a must, a need-to?”
Sometimes, the starting point for a blog can come from a mind compulsion – a panic that too many days have passed, a fear that one is going to lose one’s readers, a desire to get validation, a need to project oneself as more evolved. Forget about enlightening others, GD told me once, blog for your own evolution.

4. “Do I have a desire for a specific outcome?”
If there is, GD said, you will manipulate the flow into a fixed direction. You will not be true to the natural impulse in the moment. Sometimes, just like the expensive car and house – blogging can also become another vehicle for self-gratification. Instead, consider approaching it as being an expression of me being fully, simply, me.  So the question to ask is: am I being honest to myself and my deepest integrity? Is there any form of deception creeping in? Is there any subtle greed and fear operating?

5. “Is there any part of me which wants to convert/coerce others into changing their point of view?”
The analogy GD gave to explain this was that of a handsome gulmohur tree. Seeing the tree may inspire us. But the tree is not trying to make us like it. It is just standing in his own truth. As we get into the Flow, blogging becomes as natural, effortless and spontaneous as the bird singing its own song or the flower sharing its fragrance: a spontaneous happening with no thought for the result. Along the way, GD cautioned, don’t become too attached to your point of view. ‘Don’t hard-sell,’ he said. ‘The harder you sell, the more resistance you will face. Don’t take your own wisdom too seriously!’

Finally, GD reminded me: Don’t judge your old writings – your old blogs. That was the best you knew then. Appreciate yourself for going out there and saying your piece. And thank the blog and the readers for giving you an excuse to Flow. Everything in life is a means to return to your true self. Let the blog also become another reason to dive deeper into you!

Image © Aalif Surti 2012

Life Without A Path

A few weeks ago, I began a blog series called ‘The Crossroad Chronicles’. The idea was to share some of the practices and insights that helped me out of the crossroads I faced in my life last year. Last week, after a conversation with my mentor GD, I decided to end it mid-way. And I am thrilled about it. Here’s why:

A crossroad, GD reminded me, is simply a mind-construct, and a serious, painful and scary one at that. To describe our life through that lens – to discuss and agree upon it – makes it more real. Then the mind connects the dots on the current experiences we label ‘suffering’ and ‘painful’ into a web called the ‘crossroad’. As GD puts it: “We are always in an ‘open sky’. There is never even a road – forget a crossroad!”

The crossroad concept also promotes some fantasy of fulfillment in the future. To imply that by doing certain things, going through a process or finding an answer, one can find the way out of the crossroads is misleading in my experience. It is more accurate to say that the subject of finding the perfect road ceases to trouble you after a while. What one finds is a space, not an answer.

Yet, I see many friends around the planet going through unprecedented shifts in their life. And there are tools and insights that, I feel, can help them and will continue to share on the blog. But without projecting that they are being crucified on a cross or a crossroad! More from the peaceful, joyful space of awareness, in which everything is already perfect.

That evening, GD’s words brought me back to this simple space. The space which is always HERE, even when ‘we’ are not here. The space which stays, solid and immovable, even when the mind brings in the past or future and begins to say: “Yes, but…” Most of all, the space which is accessible to all of us right now, not on the other side of the crossroad.

Gorgeous image courtesy of Idea go @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net