Is there anything I can do to become enlightened?

Q. Is there anything I can do to become enlightened?

Tom: Yes, certainly, you can:

  1. Relax – make this a deliberate practice in your life
  2. Listen – Consistently expose your mind to the teachings of a teacher you trust and resonate with. Be with a teacher if possible.
  3. Inquire – Ask questions when they feel like they need to be asked. When the mind is calm and stable, ask yourself ‘Who am I?’.
  4. Relax! (Have faith and be happy) – Don’t worry too much about things as they come and go

Best wishes!

Advertisements

Meditation and Mindfulness: a complete guide for beginners

buddha-1349746_960_720.jpg

I was fortunate enough to learn how to meditate as a child, and, on and off,  it has been part of my life ever since. I have been meditating now for probably about 25 years, and I am convinced that this simple practice, which I will explain below, has given me an ‘unfair advantage’ in almost every aspect of my life: my ability to concentrate, understand and absorb information, in reducing mental distress and anxiety, and in my personal life and relationships too. Not that I’m perfect, and not that meditation will definitely solve all your life’s issues – that’s not what I’m saying – but I think life would have been much much more difficult for me, and for many others, without meditation and the physical, mental and spiritual benefits it brings.

I’m going to give you an outline of the practice and underlying principles of what worked (and continues to work) for me, and has also worked for many people I have shared this with.

My experience is that if you continue to meditate for 10 minutes at the same time everyday for two weeks you will start to notice significant improvements in various aspects of your life

The first time you (properly) meditate

If you have never meditated before or have never had a regular meditation practice, there’s a chance you may not enjoy it the first few times, or that you may feel it is not working for you. This is often true whenever there is an attempt to change established habitual patterns.

For example, if you eat chocolate every night then you will likely meet psychological and physical resistance when you try to stop or change this habit. Most people are addicted to doing and thinking, and meditation is a full-frontal attack on both of these, so attempts at meditation also often meet both psychological and physical resistance.

If you enter a meditation practice with your eyes wide open and actually expect to experience both of these forms of resistance, you are already well on your way to succeed. So don’t let the resistance put you off – realise that it is part of the course, and continue to persevere with the practice. It is well worth the effort.

My experience is that if you continue to meditate for 10 minutes at the same time everyday for two weeks you will start to notice significant improvements and changes in various aspects of your life – your ability to sleep, your happiness and stress levels, your relationship to food, your energy levels and your capacity for perspective and insight into everyday matters. If you continue to do this daily for 1 month, the improvements become more significant.

If you enter a meditation practice with your eyes wide open and actually expect to experience both psychological and physical resistance to the practice, you are already well on your way to succeed.

That said, not everyone is the same, and the main thing I would say is for you to try to do some kind of formal practice everyday, regardless of what it is, with the aim of physical and mental relaxation. This essentially means sitting with a straight back, relaxing your muscles, allowing your breathing to naturally slow down, and allowing your thoughts to reduce in quantity and improve in quality.

Some background about these techniques

Although I have often gone long spells without meditation, I often find myself returning to some basic techniques. When I was a young child my mother initially taught me basic pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), and then sometime after this she introduced me to a basic meditation technique. I used to do pranayama every night for 10 minutes before I went to bed and then I spent another 10 minutes meditating after that if I felt like it. At some point I also learnt some very basic yoga asanas (poses/stretches) and learnt to regulate my breathing in these poses.

In this article I’m not going to go into pranayama or yogic asanas – feel free to look these up too though if your are interested as they will likely enhance your meditation practice. But the point I want to convey is that what I learnt was very basic. Nothing fancy, no frills, no secret techniques or ritualistic initiations – just basic technique. But basic doesn’t mean ineffective. I have found that the more basic techniques are often the most powerful, at least that’s what’s worked for me. Feel free to find what works for you and let me know in the comments below if and how your experience has differed from mine – I’d love to hear from you.

It’s also worth noting that whilst my mother had a strong spiritual inclination, I was taught this method in a fairly secular context – ie. I was told that this would be good for my physical and mental wellbeing, would improve my mental clarity, etc. It was a few years later as a teenager that I came upon all the spiritual aspects of meditation and started to explore these things more, and I think that these basic techniques formed a good base and grounding from which I was able to explore more subtle aspects of life and my experience of it.

The method

There are various things you can do prior to meditation that will likely improve your meditation, which I will touch upon later on below. It is also advisable to meditate at the same location at the same time everyday in order to establish a ‘meditation habit’.

Now, without further ado, here is the basic method:

1) Posture

Sit comfortably with your back straight, either on a meditation cushion or chair, preferably with your knees lower than your hips which allows the back to naturally straighten.

Aim your gaze slightly down so that your chin is not too raised and position your head so that your nose is directly above your navel. This should allow for a straight upper part of your back.

Feel free to shuffle about your hips and roll your shoulders a few times so you feel comfortable.

Take a few deeps breaths and a few loud sighs to discharge any excess tension from the body

2) Technique

– You can meditate with your eyes open or closed, depending on what feels most comfortable for you.

– Gently allow your mind to focus on your breath and just notice the breathing. Don’t force anything, just gently direct your mind to your breathing.

– Allow you breath to naturally slow down. Don’t force anything, allow your breath to gently and naturally slow down.

– Allow yourself to feel happy and well (if you can). This is best done by relaxing and even smiling. Meditation is not meant to be a chore or hard work. So relax and enjoy. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come easy to start off – the more this is practiced, the easier it gets, and eventually it becomes second nature.

– If thoughts come, let them come. Just keep your mind on the breath which will take the energy away from the thoughts and they will naturally die down.

– If you get lost in thoughts, as you probably will from time to time (this happens to even experienced mediators all the time), then don’t worry, relax and come back to the breath.

– If you become frustrated or have some other feeling, then allow these feelings in. There is no need to forcibly push them away. Allow them to arise, and when you are ready come back to the breath.

– If you are able to do just this, then stay here, just follow the breath.

– If this is difficult for you then try one of two suggestions:

1) repeat a mantra such as the word ‘Om’ or the sound ‘Ahh’. Just repeat the work on every out-breath. This can be done by a verbal repetition out loud or an internal mental repetition. Try both and see which you feel more comfortable with. This forms an additional focus of attention and can allow for easier concentration and deepening of the meditation.

2) alternatively you can count the breaths. I recommend counting each out breath. Count a single 1 count for each breath up to 5, then for the next 5 breaths count back down to 1. If you lose your concentration or otherwise get distracted from counting breaths, then start again from 1.

Basic principles

The basic principles of this meditation are:

– relax, relax, relax

– remember to enjoy it – focus your attention but don’t stress and force it too much

– allow thoughts and sensations but don’t give them energy – instead focus on the breath.

– if there are strong thought patterns or feelings/sensations, then don’t try to fight them. Allow them to come in, be mindful of them, and when you can, come back to the breath when it feels right.

– if you lose concentration feel free to open your eyes or have a little stretch, but get back to the practice asap.

How to have a ‘better meditation session’

If you have trouble meditating, then try one or all of the following before your meditation practice:

-take a brisk walk or do some light exercise prior to meditation

-do 3-5 minute of chanting. If you don’t know what to chant, try chanting ‘Om’ or the sound ‘Ahh’ on every outbreath

-do some light stretches or a basic hatha yoga practice

-learn some basic relaxation breathing techniques or basic yogic pranayama and do these at the start of your meditation session

-do a ‘body sweep’ to consciously relax all the muscles in your body prior to meditation. Do this by allowing yourself to relax and then, starting at the top of your head, mentally go through all the parts of the body and consciously relax them. Places tension are often held are in the forehead, jaw, neck and shoulders.

Taking your practice further – spiritual enlightenment

There are many reasons people meditate – for improved mental health and intellectual functioning, for better sleep, to improve relationships, to improve problem-solving abilities, etc.

Of course there can also be a spiritual aspect to meditation. If this interests you there are many ways to take this forwards. One way is to gradually extend the meditation time to at least 30 minutes per day. Please explore this website which has many articles or attend one of my group meetings or contact me for a one to one if you wish.

Here are some other articles that may be of interest to you:

How to meditate for spiritual enlightenment

Q. How can one control the mind? Simple English please!

A meditation: how to transcend the ego in 4 steps

One size does not fit all

Remember, one size does not fit all, so try the above out, but find out what works for you. Above all, keep a regular practice, even if it is only 10 minutes per day, and listen to your heart.

Best wishes!

If enlightenment is unconditioned and causeless, then how can a ‘spiritual practice’ lead you to it?

Q. If enlightenment is unconditioned and causeless, then how can a ‘spiritual practice’ lead you to it, as all practices are in the conditioned realm of cause and effect? I’ve heard teachers (some of whom claim not to be teachers) say that Enlightenment is uncaused: it either happens or it doesn’t, and there is nothing you can do about it because there is no you anyway. Does this sound right to you?

Tom: Hi _____, thanks for your question. It depends how you use the words. I actually think the more radical expression of non-duality that you describe is incredibly potent and hits right at the nub of the matter, but that it is not for everyone, and for many it can also be detrimental, at least initially, as it can lead to a premature hopelessness and despair. I say premature, as later on this may be exactly what is needed to stop the apparent seeker in their tracks and for realisation to beautifully dawn!

Enlightenment is a conditioned event in time

Regarding enlightenment, I would not say that enlightenment is unconditioned or causeless, in fact quite the opposite, but let me first explain what I mean by the word ‘enlightenment’ in this context. Enlightenment, as I use the word, is a phenomena or event that occurs ‘within the dream’, so to speak, in which, figuratively speaking, the dream character realises they are in a dream and that they are a dream. Note that I say figuratively speaking as I am not saying that life is actually a dream, but just using a dream as an imperfect analogy.

There is a before enlightenment and after enlightenment, so it is something that occurs in time. Sure, when enlightenment happens, it is also seen that the enlightenment was always fully present the whole entire time, even when it wasn’t realised, but that is only realised after enlightenment! For me, I don’t even know when exactly my enlightenment happened, as it was a slow burn, and I only realised what had happened sometime afterwards, but even in this example, we can see there was still a before enlightenment and after enlightenment, and in this way enlightenment could still be said to have been an event, albeit one that took place over a longer time-frame.

Prior to enlightenment, Freedom or Wholeness is not realised, even though it was always present. It is this realisation I am referring to here as ‘enlightenment’. So that’s the first thing, to realise that enlightenment is a conditioned phenomenal time-bound event in which ever-present unconditioned Freedom is recognised.

So that’s the first thing, to realise that enlightenment is a conditioned phenomenal time-bound event in which ever-present unconditioned Freedom is recognised. 

All events have (apparent) causes

Once we accept this, then we can start to look to see if there are any proximate causes of enlightenment. As all phenomena (apparently) exist in a world of cause and effect, in which there is the appearance of rule and laws, such as the law of gravity and so forth, we should be able to investigate and see if there are certain factors that can increase the chances of enlightenment happening. If we can find out what these factors are, then perhaps we can increase our own chances of enlightenment, and this is where various spiritual-type practices and activities can come into play.

Isn’t this all just reinforcing the false notion of a ‘me’?

At this point in the conversation, some people counter this by saying that there is nobody here who can do any of this, that there is no ‘I’. Enlightenment either happens or it doesn’t happen, and there is nothing you can do about it because the ‘I’ that thinks it can do something is actually an illusion.

Now this is true. These statements are directly pointing at the heart of the matter, pointing out to the apparent seeker the illusion of separation.

However, does relentlessly pointing this out actually help the apparent seeker break through the veil of illusion? Well, yes, it definitely can. Simple repetitive hammering home the essential point can eventually work, which is why at the start of this response I said that this type of teaching is incredibly potent.

However it is not the only way, and sometimes it is less effective than other ways (and of course sometimes is more effective than other ways too).

If someone asked you how to play tennis, would you say there is nothing you can do to play tennis? That playing tennis will either happen or not happen as the ‘I’ that thinks it can chose to learn to play tennis is an illusion? Or would you perhaps suggest tennis lessons or something similar, as you know that in the (apparent) world of cause and effect, tennis lessons increases the chances of being able to play tennis, even though this is not guaranteed?

Enlightenment is a phenomenon like any other – it has causes and effects

You see, once you have realised that enlightenment is an event like any other, that it occurs following an apparent set of causes and conditions, some of which can be determined and modified, then we can start to see how powerful practices can be along this path.

If we find a set of factors that increases the likelihood of enlightenment occurring, then we can start to put these factors into place, just like the person who wants to play tennis can book themselves onto tennis lessons, buy a decent tennis racket and a good pair of tennis shoes, and learn the rules of the game.

When looking at more traditional teachings, sages in centuries gone past have discovered a variety of these factors that increase the likelihood of enlightenment. I discuss some of them here.

The Grand Illusion

On one hand there is no choice, there is nobody here, and all there is is Freedom – yes – and there is nothing you can do about any of this. On the other hand, there are proximate causes to enlightenment, which, from the point of the (illusory) seeker who has not realised ‘there is nobody here’, can be utilised to their advantage in seeing this.

When it is seen, then it is also seen that all practices are also part of this Grand Illusion, often, at least initially, fuelling the ‘I’ and the suffering that goes alongside it.

See also: Can you teach enlightenment?

 

 

.

 

 

Why do so many people practice self inquiry by Ramana Maharshi incorrectly?

ramana maharshi

Q. Why do so many people practice self inquiry by Ramana Maharshi incorrectly? Ramana said the question ‘who am I’ should not be asked but one should put the attention on the “I” inner feeling. Sadhu Om and Sri Muruganar confirmed that that’s the correct way to practice.

Tom: Yes, true. Perhaps it was because Ramana gave slightly different instructions to different people. For some he said to ask the question verbally, to others he said be with the feeling ‘I’, to others he simply said ‘Summa iru’ (Be still).

A common instruction he gave was to dive into the heart…Anyway, all these methods culminate in the same place, and that is the key.

A living teacher can be very useful in finding how the living teaching interacts with the living seeker.

To confuse things more, Ramana also said there is no fixed teaching, and to some he prescribed work and chores, to others meditation, and so on.

That said, here is a collection of quotes from Ramana’s teachings that I compiled that may be helpful to some, with a brief summary at the end, best wishes:

Ramana Maharshi: the path to self-realisation

Here is one possible summary of the essence of Ramana’s teachings:

Ramana Maharshi: Self-abidance, the ‘vision of God’ and the end of suffering

How to meditate for spiritual enlightenment

buddha side

Meditation can serve many purposes: increased happiness, improved concentration and academic performance, clarity and insight into everyday issues, improved health and sleep, etc. This article’s meditation will likely help with all or most of these, but the end goal is none of the above. The goal here is total freedom, enlightenment, nirvana or moksha (all are used as synonyms here). I have included some Sanskrit words in brackets in case you are interested.

Contemplate this

No object, gross or subtle, can lead to lasting fulfillment.

I recommend you contemplate deeply on this.

For most of us, after a little contemplation, this becomes obvious to us. However,we can go further: if we continue on this contemplation, we can start to realise that even seeking momentary pleasure or momentary fulfillment in objects is a cause of suffering. Subtlely,  we still believe that our fulfillment lies in obtaining contact with the objects of our desire. Subtlely, we are reinforcing the sense of ‘I’ or ‘me’, also known as the ego, and the root cause of suffering is continued.

Contemplate deeply on this.

First, that objects cannot give us lasting fulfillment. Secondly, that getting involved in the world of objects in order to be psychologically fulfilled is already the path of ignorance and suffering.

Similarly, seeking enlightenment or liberation in the world of objects or using an object such as thought as a means of enlightenment is also futile. So, what to do?

‘Look within’

When this is realised at a deeper and deeper level within ourselves, dispassion (vairagya) arises. We ‘turn away’ from worldly objects, meaning we no longer look for happiness in objects.

Remember, that experiences are also objects – they are known to us, they are felt and perceived, and they, like other objects, come and go. Peace, love, oneness – all these can be experienced, and all experiences come and go. Insight into the impermanence of phenomena leads to not clinging to such experiences. This is called ‘turning inwards’ or ‘looking within’.

The role of a formal practice

For most people, I recommend a formal practice of spending as much time as you can each day without engaging with thoughts, whilst still remaining awake and aware (ie. not in trance and not asleep).

Formal practice is useful as ignorance, or taking yourself to be a separate self, is so deeply ingrained, that even when the mind is ordinarily quiet in everyday life, it is still stained with this ignorance that is merely dormant, and so insight does not manifest (unless the seeker is especially ripe/ready). A period everyday of being away from thoughts, upon which ignorance depends, is of a great benefit and can greatly quicken the spiritual search.

Actually doing a formal practice, as opposed to simply talking about silence and so on, is one of the best ways of taking the spiritual quest out of the mind or intellect, and transforming clever concepts into genuine spiritual understanding and insight.

Not doing a spiritual practice is one of the best ways of remaining caught in the clutches of the intellect and ego for years to come. Often the mind will come up with reasons and select teachings that say no practice is required, so beware the tendency of the ego to find a way to perpetuate itself rather than foster its own demise.

Sit in a comfortable position with your back upright. This is so you don’t fall asleep and are able to maintain a serene stability of mind for an extended period of time. Having a practice in the same place and the same time of day can be a useful aid to this, as the mind becomes trained to become quiet at that time and place over time.

‘But I don’t like to meditate’

Meditation is not for everyone, and my writings are tips for you to take on board and apply to your life as you feel is best. If you don’t like meditation, then I would recommend you try some other kind of formal practice, be it chanting, yoga or mindfulness, as you see fit. Over time the idea is that these practices will calm your mind, and purify and balance your energies and you will start to be naturally drawn to a more contemplative peaceful (sattvic) practice.

‘I want to meditate but my mind is too busy’

If you feel drawn to meditation, but your mind is too noisy, then, like the example above, I would try some preliminary practices first, such as light exercise, hatha (physical) yoga, chanting or breathing exercises. Try meditation immediately after one or more of these preliminary practices and your mind should be considerably quieter.

Follow your heart and intuition and do what you feel drawn to. Allow this to be your practice as long as it feel right for you. There are no strict rules and better to follow your own genuine path (swadharma) rather than someone else’s if it doesn’t feel right.

A method of meditation

  1. Prior to meditation, start by chanting for 3-5 minutes. This cleanses the energetic system and allows for a deeper and more awake meditation.
  2. Take your time to settle down and allow the mind to become calm. I find that spending 2-3 minutes allowing myself to sit with my eyes open and take in my surroundings is helpful in transitioning between being engaged with the world to meditation.
  3. Also take time to feel the body, allowing each part of the body to be experienced, and also allow each part of the body to relax. Pay particular attention to the forehead, jaw, and shoulders, where a lot of tension is often held. If you can, energetically allow the sense of you to drop down into your chest and belly area and feel relaxed.
  4. Allow the mind to become relaxed. Take up the attitude that everything is welcome here, and allow everything to come and go. Sensations, sounds, thoughts, all can come and go. Accept what is. Allow your mind to become light, carefree and happy. Happy acceptance is the general aim, not to be a state of mind that is forced, but to be allowed to arise.
  5. Now start to withdraw your  mind. Use an anchor if required: this can be a mantra (a sound that is repeated, such as ‘Om’, which can be repeated for example on every outbreath), an object (either real external object, or better still, a visualised object), or the breath. As the meditation progresses the anchor should become gradually more subtle, so I often start with counting my breaths, then I let go of counting and just stay with the breath, then I just stay with the feeling of peace and happiness for as long as I feel until I am ready for the next step:
  6. By now the mind should be relatively quiet and also stable in that quietude. There are several options of what you can do here, and as everyone is different, the exact method will vary from person to person. Essentially, notice that even peace and quietude are subtle objects. Either let them go or be aware of them whilst simultaneously knowing they are not you and that you and ‘your bliss’ do not depend on them. Here we are getting in touch with that which is not an object, that which is ever present, that which does not come and go, that which is the nature of presence-awareness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda), that which is the essence of who you are (atman), or pure subjectivity (drik). This process of separating the perceiver/subject (drik) from that which is perceived/objects (drisya) is technically known as discrimination (viveka), or discernment.
  7. Follow your intuition. The key is to not focus on objects, not to engage with the world of objects, not to identify with the body-mind and to also question this notion of ‘I’. You can rest in I AM and eventually you will see that this I AM is also an object that appears to the ‘real I’ which is not an object. This is the approach from the ‘sat‘ (being) aspect of sat-chit-ananda (reality) Or you can let yourself be aware of awareness, that which is not an object, that which you are, and allow the brightness of awareness to vividly shine and outshine all objects, consuming all objects in its dazzling light. This is the approach from the ‘chit‘ (consciousness-awareness) aspect of reality. Or you can bathe in the happiness that arises when there is no concern for objects and deriving happiness from the myriad phenomena that rise and fall – thus approaching reality from its ‘ananda’ (blissful/happiness) aspect. A fourth method is to ask ‘Who am I’, and search for the root of the ‘I thought’, as prescribed by Ramana Maharshi, and allow this to take you to the Source, which is none other than reality itself, and abide there until all tendencies to identify as a separate ‘I’ or ‘me’ are rooted out. See here for more details on this.
  8. Note that while it is important not to ultimately get caught up in feelings of bliss and peace, or get similarly locked into a trance state, it can be of benefit to linger here for a while. Why? Because it feels good and it is purifying. The effects of lingering in peace eventually do wear off, but they still have some provisional purifying effect and have value in countering negative tendencies and bad habits/psychological states we may be prone to entering into. Eventually, when the time is right, we can let go of peace and bliss too, but no rush is needed in all this. All in good time. ‘Good things come to those who wait.’
  9. Be happy, relax, do not cling, have faith

In summary

Contemplate how all objects, gross and subtle, cannot lead to enlightenment complete, and rest in your true nature, devoid of objects and full of peace and bliss.

Establish a daily practice and do not allow reasoning from the ego to convince you otherwise. Note how the the ego may resist this. The ego is prone to selecting teachings that lead to its continuance rather than its demise.

Use preliminary techniques relating to the world, body and mind as suits your disposition and take your time. Use an anchor if required, and eventually allow this to give way to a deeper silence in which you are fully awake and aware. There is no rush and this should be enjoyable and relaxing rather than hard work.

Play the long game rather than strive for short term gains. Relax.

Allow yourself to feel any phenomena – notice they are not the essence of you, the subject. Locate the sense of ‘me’, and notice this too is an object. Rest in that ‘placeless place’ where no objects are.

Trust your intuition and be careful not to fall asleep or get (too) caught up in experiences including peace and bliss.

Best wishes to you, practice, practice, practice, and please get in touch if you feel I can be of assistance

🙏

 

 

Many ways to Freedom

There are many ways that can lead an apparent individual person to freedom, a freedom that is already totally here and present and yet not always recognised or acknowledged.  There is the method of direct pointing, the path or understanding or knowledge, the path of devotion or surrender or love, the path of mindfulness, or through meditation. These are just some of the many ways, and eventually they all converge and are seen to be the same One Path (if taught correctly).

There are paths that require no belief and no faith, and others that are faith based. Some paths delve into the esoteric whereas others do not venture away from normal, direct, everyday experience. Some ways rely heavily on words, concepts and thought, (which are hopefully later dismantled) and others transmit  the teachings non-verbally.  Some (most) paths initially seem to reinforce the sense of a separate ‘I’ whereas others vehemently deny this appearance of separation from the outset.

There are countless other adjuncts that can also be useful, such as prayer, chanting, physical exercises and other ritualistic and more formal practices.

Or perhaps none of the above are required.

My view is that all these teachings and paths (including those that deny any teaching, path or way) can often play a valuable role in the journey of a seeker, and the exact shape of a seekers path varies considerably and is ultimately unique. However there are some general trends that generally apply, and understanding these tends to quicken the path as well as make it considerably easier. I summarise these trends in this article here.

In today’s spiritual market place, many teachings are available and the seeker can often find themselves somewhat confused and disillusioned with the teaching, teacher or path that was meant to lead them home, but for some reason didn’t live up to expectation. Many teachers only teach in the way that worked for them, and sometimes they denigrate other ways that are, superficially at least, contrary to what worked for them.

When I was seeking, my journey lead me to explore quite a lot of spiritual teachings, both traditional and non-traditional, and I began to see how they all potentially fitted together. I especially explored Yoga, Vedanta and Buddhist teachings, and have been studying each of these teachings for over 20 years now. My sense is this understanding of how this realisation can be shared in a number of different ways is particularly valuable in a world of plurality where seekers come from many different backgrounds with many different experiences and there are many seemingly contradictory teachings on offer. The result is the seeker is often left in confusion and perhaps even disillusionment about how to go forwards, and there is often a sense of isolation as how best to proceed.

I humbly offer you what I have learnt in order to facilitate your Jouney Back To Your-Self, to the Here/Now, in order to recognise this Freedom that already is here. My plea is that you approach what I have to offer with kindness and an open heart, be willing to look beyond the words I use and be open to what they may be pointing to, and also to be open to the non-verbal aspects of the teaching and transmission. This plea is not for my sake, but I think you will find that this open kindheartedness is a major key in unlocking the door which is always open, but apparently hides what is already fully present.

In ages gone by, as well as today, this perennial teaching has been expressed in a multiplicity of ways, and paradoxically, the most accurate verbal expression is not always the most conducive for a genuine and full transmission to occur. In fact I have found that in many cases that when a genuine realisation have been achieved, it often leads to a unique way of talking about and expressing this, a way that is not simply a parroting of myself or any other teacher, but a unique expression due to the unique body-mind it is being expressed through.

I express this Freedom in different ways at different times, and if you decide to spend time with this expression that occurs through me, I hope you will see how there is no real difference in these expressions. Seeing unity amidst this apparent diversity will surely go a long way to improving mutual respect and understanding between individuals and traditions, as well as allow the teachings to reach those whom it may not ordinarily reach.  We can also be aware of how not all teachings are equal, how some teachings are limited and even sometimes dangerous, and when certain teachings will be more effective in given circumstances.

If you feel I can be of any benefit to you, please contact me or attend one of my meetings

With best wishes

Tom

 

 

 

FACEBOOK LIVE Satsang this Thursday 8pm (UK time)

So following last week’s Facebook live event I’ve decided to hold another one this week:

When: This Thursday 7th December 2017 at 8pm (UK Time)
Where: just click on my facebook page at the time above. You can find it here: www.facebook.com/tomdas.nd

You can ask questions by posting comments in the comments bar. I hope to see you then!

With love

Tom

Here’s the link to my previous Facebook Live video last week, enjoy!

Q. How can one control the mind? Simple English please!

Insight wilderbeast non-duality nature

Q. Dear Tom, I hope you are well. How can one control the mind? Simple English please!

Tom: There are basically two ways of doing this. First of all by various practices to calm the mind and generate peace, of which there are different types (see the link below). Secondly by insight, which means seeing that there is no mind, or no thinker/doer entity, only a spontaneous succession of thoughts.

These two methods usually work together in tandem, like a virtuous circle, one helping the other which in turn helps the other, and so on.

Insight alone is usually not stable and leads to an ‘enlightenment’ that comes and goes, and calm/peace alone is not ultimately liberating, as peace also comes and goes. Both of these alone are not ultimately satisfactory. However the two together usually work wonderfully well.

I’ve written some blog posts here that goes into a bit more detail about some of this, so please take your time to read through these if you want to:

Roadmap to enlightenment: a (fairly) comprehensive guide to spiritual practices

Manifesting awakening in everyday life: purification and insight

Are spiritual teachings prescriptions or descriptions? Sudden vs. gradual teachings.

Q.  Hi Tom, often you talk about spiritual teachings as something you have to do, like a spiritual practice such as devotion or enquiry, but in my experience the most effective spiritual teachings are not really teachings or prescriptions but the best teachings are descriptions. Does that make sense? What are your thoughts?

Tom: Hi _____, yes that’s a really good point, especially as you near the end of your spiritual search or spiritual journey, descriptions become more important than prescriptions. Essentially the higher teachings are descriptions and the lower teachings are prescriptions. Let me explain:

Descriptions

The higher teachings simply describe your normal everyday experience, pointing out the Freedom that already is. This is why some higher teachings are called pointers. They are pointing out what already is the case.

They are not saying you need to do anything or become anything, they are not saying you have to improve in some way, but are pointing out the illusion of separation that when believed in causes suffering. Examples include statements like ‘there is no separate self’, ‘there is no doer’, ‘there is only god’, ‘all is one’, ‘awareness always is’.

These teachings are descriptions. These descriptions can trigger an insight, or in-seeing, into something about life as it already is, but has thus far not been recognised/realised.

Prescriptions

Now the prescriptions, the lower teachings: these teachings tell you that you have to do something, they prescribe you something do to, such as meditation, chanting, physical exercises, be near the guru or some other kind of action to do. Prescriptions are instructions to be carried out by the body mind. They are often teachings for the ego, and are something for the ego to do, and so may serve to perpetuate the ego and can often actually reinforce the sense of self/ego/separation.

Prescriptions are instructions to be carried out by the body mind. They are often teachings for the ego, and are something for the ego to do, and so may serve to perpetuate the ego and can often actually reinforce the sense of self/ego/separation.

Perhaps implicit in this type of teachings is that you are not quite good enough as you are and that you have to improve or change in some way. There is also, perhaps, the idea of spiritual progress here, the idea of a path that can be travelled and a destination to be reached. All this is implied in prescriptive practices.

Notice that I write ‘perhaps’ and ‘often’ because practices are not necessarily bad, as I explain below.

Prescriptions as descriptions

There is also a third way of looking at this, which is that teachings that prescribe certain activities or practices can also be seen to be descriptions when looked at in another way, and so what appears to be a lower teaching can then be seen to be a higher teaching.

For example, the practice of mindfulness in which the seeker is instructed to ‘be mindful’ or ‘be aware of the present moment’ can be instead seen as a description of the way things already are, ie. awareness is already aware of whatever is being experienced, regardless of whether or not the mind is caught up in thoughts or not. The instruction of ‘be aware’ has been trumped by the pointer or description that ‘you are already aware’ or ‘awareness is already here.’

Similarly with ‘be unattached’, or ‘be loving’, or ‘be at peace’ – these prescriptions can be seen as descriptions of life as it already is, without having to lift a finger:  ‘be unattached’ becomes a description of awareness that is already unattached and ever-free, ‘be loving’ becomes a description of awareness that already fully embraces, ‘loves’ and is one with the totality of every experience, and ‘be at peace’ points out that awareness is a synonym for peace in that it is a constant in a world of impermanent transitory objects. All things come and go, awareness just is. We could continue: the prescription ‘let go’ becomes a pointer at  the fact that awareness has already ‘let go’ as it is and always has been unattached.

Descriptions are not necessarily better

As I said at the start of this answer, descriptions become more important towards the end of your seeking journey and they are essentially the higher teachings. Descriptions act as pointers that can trigger insight into the illusion of separation. Does this mean they are better? Many would say yes, but I disagree, at least partially. Both prescriptions (practices) and descriptions (pointers) are useful to different people depending where they are.

Practices are useful to purify the mind, reduce neurotic and addictive habitual tendencies, which results in a calm and peaceful mind that is able to better understand the pointers. As the mind becomes calmer, more psychologically integrated and mature, and happier, the pointers work much better and can trigger a ‘shift’ as intended.

Practices are useful to purify the mind, reduce neurotic and addictive habitual tendencies, which results in a calm and peaceful mind that is able to better understand the pointers.

Here, where the mind is already relatively pure, happy and calm, pointers/descriptions become increasingly important. What is interesting is that most spiritual teachings in the public domain tend to be action orientated, ie. practices/prescriptions. Most people when they encounter spirituality never even hear of direct pointers or so-called radical non-duality, so in this context of lack, the pointing teachings/descriptions become even more important.

That said, many seekers do not possess calm, contended happy minds, and so a practice/prescription becomes much more important, at least initially. I often come across seekers who are addicted to the radical non-dual teachings but their minds are still gripped strongly by illusion and as a result the chaotic and addictive habitual tendencies of body and mind doesn’t allow the pointers to truly hit home apart from on the intellectual conceptual level. The pointers do not penetrate the heart as the heart is barricaded in by a barbed-wire fence of intellect and concepts, often non-dual concepts.

These seekers are often lured in by the possibility of a quick, easy and instantaneous enlightenment in which one single ‘ah-ha’ moment will result in the total annihilation and vapourisation of all their pain, suffering and negative habits into a giant puff of smoke, and they will emerge An Enlightened Master from the Instantaneous School of Awakening. And while that may apparently happen for some, for most a process of purification is required, both before and after awakening.

Non-dual prescriptions

Yes, purification is also often required after awakening, and this is why I said ‘perhaps’ above when talking about the prescriptive teachings. Even when the illusion of separation has been seen through, spiritual practices may still be useful. Here, after awakening, practices no longer perpetuate the ego or false sense of self/separation that may happen during seeking.

Just as an enlightened sage can take driving lessons to learn to drive or buy an electric toothbrush to better clean their teeth, they can also utilise spiritual, physical and psychological practices to make their lives more comfortable on the social, physical and psychological levels.

Now practices fulfil a practical function. Just as an enlightened sage can take driving lessons to learn to drive or buy an electric toothbrush to better clean their teeth, they can also utilise spiritual, physical and psychological practices to make their lives more comfortable on the social, physical and psychological levels. They refine the body and mind and remove negative habitual tendencies which in turn results in less suffering on the relative level (of things or objects) and eases the flow of energy in the body. This improves alignment with life and also improves social and physical functioning as a result. As the mind is purified, psychic and intuitive channels are also allowed to more fully open and wisdom can pour in this way too. Lastly, it is this purifying aspect of the teaching that leads to a more ethical way of living and is the link between love, ethics and spirituality.

Lastly, it is this purifying aspect of the teaching that leads to a more ethical way of living and is the link between love, ethics and spirituality.

I often describe this as a process of heart opening in which the conceptual understanding sinks down into the energetic and emotional heart and eventually the knot of the ego is cut when the egoic tendencies have been removed, either by life or with the additional help of a more formal spiritual practice. Here the sense of individuality is lost at an energetic level as well as the intellectual knowing, but the perspective of the body-mind continues as long as the body-mind lives.

Descriptions can also purify

Pointers and descriptions, whilst their primary purpose is to trigger insight or recognition into an aspect of ordinary life that was previously overlooked, they can also have a purifying function, that is they can also have a role in removing negative habitual tendencies which is the usual role of spiritual practices.

This works by being exposed to pointers repeatedly over a length of time. Over time, the pointers seep into the mind of a seeker, infiltrating the mind’s hidden depths, slowly rooting out false thoughts and notions based in ignorance, slowly rooting out ignorance. Then one day a critical mass is reached and the penny drops, the bottom of the bucket of water falls out and the illusion of separation is seen through. If the seeker-finder now continues to expose themselves to the pointers, even though the essential insight/realisation has occurred, these same pointers can have a purifying function in removing residual and vestigial habitual tendencies that may still cause discomfort and suffering on the phenomenal level (ie. the everyday world of objects in which the person/we live)

Gradual vs sudden path

Basically what we have been talking of here have historically been called the gradual and sudden paths to enlightenment. The gradual path is sometimes called the progressive path, and the sudden path can be called the instantaneous path or no-path school. Pointers may form part of the sudden school, whereas practices predominate in the gradual paths. There have been arguments between these ways of looking at enlightenment teachings and technologies/practices for many centuries across various traditions, most notably Buddhist schools.

Hopefully in this answer I have outlined how these two approaches can be utilised together to maximise success in achieving both insight into the Freedom that is already here, as well as remove the negative addictive habitual tendencies that perpetuate relative suffering and egoic decision-making.

Purification and  insight

Purification takes time and energy – it occurs at the level of the body and mind and results in a maturation in the psychological and energetic domains. I liken it to weeding a garden. Insight is quick, takes little energy, and most readily occurs in a relaxed but awake and aware state of mind relatively free of thoughts. I liken it to looking up and noticing the sky that was always there for the first time.

Purification involves change and improvement of the body-mind, insight is noticing that which was always there but was overlooked.

Don’t all practices just perpetuate the false-self? (Seeking vs teaching)

Now I’m sure many will disagree with what I am saying. Particularly the staunch non-dualists, those who say no practice is required and say that all practices just strengthen and reinforce the false-notion of separation/self.

However I have always been interested in what actually works and am not really one to cling to dogma. It was when I started sharing or ‘teaching’ this that I really came to realise how important practices are. Of course, there is such a lack of pointing/descriptive type teachings in the common public domain, this form of direct pointing inevitably becomes very valuable, especially to those seasoned seekers who have not encountered it before.

However I have always been interested in what actually works and am not really one to cling to dogma. It was when I started sharing or ‘teaching’ this that I really came to realise how important practices are.

However I have seen many seekers who need to learn to relax, learn to be more positive and deal with their psychological issues first, as these are the overriding issues that are causing suffering and preventing insight from occurring.

Often what happens is that as a seeker becomes more advanced and purified, the direct pointings become more important and it is these that are ultimately liberating. When the seeker becomes a finder, often they stress the importance of the teachings that directly led to their own realisation – ie. the direct pointings.

However to ignore the indirect teachings, or practices and gradual path, we do a disservice to those who need them, and we may also prevent further purification post-insight from occurring.

However to ignore the indirect teachings, or practices and gradual path, we do a disservice to those who need them, and we may also prevent further purification post-insight from occurring.

Some final words

Whilst I try to map some of this out in order to aid seekers, especially those who are unable to find the answers they are looking for in a teacher or teaching, I acknolwedge that the path is different for everyone. These are some general trends and I am sharing what I know. I hope you find these words useful. Don’t cling to them too much either and remember this is difficult, if not impossible to put into words.

Best wishes to you and please contact me or join me in one of my online meetings if you think I can be of service.

Tom

 

How to have peace and a challenging job?

Q. Hi Tom, thank you so much for sharing your experiences through your blog. It’s very helpful. In my journey I have learned a lot from the folks you have read Ramana Maharshi, Kirshnamurti, etc. I have experienced the sense of oneness almost like a peaceful black hole, and this feeling is now always accessible to me, although the strength of it varies. This access has changed how I experience life and a lot of suffering has diminished.

However I have a pretty intense, stressful leadership job and I find that my reactions to some people that I think are not being effective in my jobs is just as intense as it used to be before I found this state. I find myself suffering in navigating these situations, but I have to address these types of problems as a natural part of my job responsibilities.

Is there some guidance you can share that might nudge me to navigate this differently? I really suffer every time I confront this situation, and I have found myself making good decisions but causing pain to both myself and the people who are impacted by this decision. I know you are busy, but anything you can nudge me on would be helpful. I want to stay in the world and be effective in whatever role I am playing at the time, but want to not cause suffering to me or others in my path.

 

Tom: Thank you for your kind words and sorry it has taken me some time to respond. It’s great that your suffering has reduced and that you have instant access to that state of peace whenever you need to take shelter there.

I think I understand what you mean by the situation you face at work. As you know, I also have a job and family life and am in some ways very much in the world.

With these kinds of issues, there is no one fixed solution that works for everyone. I can give you some suggestions, but it is for you to experiment and find what works for you.

My recommendation is to start the day with a sense of gratitude, perhaps even a formal ‘giving thanks’ meditation session/puja in the morning to start the day.

Thereafter try to love everything that happens to you. This sadhana is described here in more detail: Start the day with love, fill the day with love, end the day with love

Thanks again for writing to me, best wishes and let me know how it all goes 🙏🏾