I have never been a joiner. I have never been a follower when it comes to philosophy or religion. I’d like to say that it was because of my rugged individualism, but the truth is it was because of a Presence that resided within that said even when I was young, “Do not join. Do not join any school of thought or religion.” It was, I will readily admit, an odd thing. While people’s inner voices were telling them not to cross the street or to tell them to buy a certain stock, mine said this. For as odd a thing as it was to me, I was game. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because some part of me knew that the place where this voice came was a place I needed to pay heed to. It was one of the few things in my life that I followed so assiduously.

Over time, and with a certain degree of credulity, I must admit, I followed this commandment. I didn’t know where it might lead, if anywhere. So while I did go to church with my family, I stood up before the congregation and said that no, I chose not to join. It wasn’t easy for me at all of nine years of age, but I did it. I stayed away from books in the library (for the most part) and only grazed the Eastern philosophies. I was eager, I was deeply curious. I knew there was more. But the sense I developed over time was that this probably all meant that the answer was within.

When awakening came, the voice suddenly emerged again after years of silence. It reminded me of what it had said, but there was a more immediate tone to the voice. “Pay attention to what is happening now…” it would say. So I watched. I took notes. I observed what was happening. When I wanted to find out if there was an explanation for what had happened to me by looking around online, it injected and said, “Not yet.” Only later did the voice say “You can now search.” This happened only after I had discovered how the early Christians were on to awakening in a substantive fashion and I thought it was headed in the direction of an interesting book. Only after I had been put on the scent of a subject which I would then go on spending over a decade researching and writing about (yes there is a book in the works, I promise) did the voice finally relent. It appeared to me that for me, and no one else necessarily, it was important that I not lean upon another’s teachings.

I now belong to a nonduality group that is pretty relaxed about things and I also tend to not look at it too much because of the whole advaita angle, which I will get to. I do notice that most of them in this group cannot have a conversation without quoting this person of that person. Why?

What is your experience? I keep finding myself asking them.

What do you find to be true?

I kept being told things like, “Well I have never heard anyone else say anything about the ego being a filter for consciousness!” I was thinking to myself, “Well, brother, you have now…” There were plenty of teachers who wound up saying things that I did. We were all speaking from direct experience, no handing down from the bookshelf. There is a risk in that, and the risk is not immediately apparent. It is also entirely counter-intuitive to resist finding out more of what others have to say (so I get the impulse to want to search, really I do). What I have found, or think I have found, is that as we go up this ladder or expand our awareness, we get into an area that sometimes seems like few others have trod, and if that is not entirely true, then perhaps it is an area not trod as deeply as we might have thought (so this means we can pick up on things that other august teachers who were touted for their wisdom who just never really understood or had experience with).

Mistakes can be made, ideas picked up, no matter how wrong, and lifted up and turned into deities. The same thing happened inside of Christianity starting at about 100 A.D. and then leapt forward in near-preposterous distances far from the corpus of what may well have been its best and most significant discoveries or truths (this is a story for another time though…). It happens all the time. A teacher or person has a grand insight but in the final analysis is getting a piece of the picture, but not as complete picture as might actually be needed. Then we follow that insight, which is incomplete, taking it to be inviolate truth. Truth interspersed with some less than correct observations which then get repeated down through the agea. “But the great teacher taught these truths!” They will say. “Yes, and your teacher was only human.” (as am I…so I am one to talk, right?)

What I saw and what I experienced directly I found later was at odds with what some were discussing about enlightenment and what we experience in its brilliant realm. Instead, I asked questions of the light. I sat with it, waiting for answers. Often the answers were not answers in the usual way, but more simply a deep abiding truth about what we are. For answers that I was unable to reach within my own awareness, events would take place in perfect timing that would reveal what I was not yet ready to see clearly on my own. I began to see first-hand that in moments like these, when we do not lean on a tradition or a teacher, the teacher comes in unexpected ways in a direct way to teach very specific things that are meant just for us and perhaps no other at that moment. It is why the incidence of synchronicity during awakening has fascinated me so much and why as I looked into it, I saw a quality within reality that didn’t mesh with material science. While some might call it magical, I sank into it and experienced a sentience there, an awareness that could be used to make our thinking real, a path to understanding how thought is manifest when it is aligned in the right way. It might still seem magical, but to me that word is just a way to explain what is not understood. There was more, and I went looking for it, testing, observing, and learning.

When I did have a teacher come, that teacher was curiously much like me in my approach. That teacher just showed up. I didn’t go looking, but our conversations were the very same conversations I was having with the light. Was it just birds of a feather? Or was this part of a promise that if I approached all of this in a certain way I would find the answers that were most immediately needed? My ego didn’t pursue a teacher, or a guru, or any of that. I was already used to the voice saying what it said. My own awareness was pushed forward in this friendship in the sense that I was advanced in my awareness about a great many things because of our friendship, our many talks, and how I was illuminated by them. I also found later that a lot of it stood at odds with what many in the Advaita and Neo-Advaita communities preached. I say they preached it because, for me, there were parts that made little sense. Isn’t preaching the kind of thing that we often tend to disregard anyway?

They speak of there being no self, that the self is itself an illusion. I knew that these people had arrived at this through serious inquiry and I was myself curious why they had arrived, in such large numbers, at this conclusion. Over time, what I found was a type of blindness or lack of awareness to the experience as the simplest way of teaching and showing a person the way. I also saw a kind of rationality that was used to launch them into this space of thinking. I also saw that I too had this rationality in me, and it had always tangled me up. My friend, patient and forgiving, helped to tease me out of the hole I had made for myself. There was more, she just sat waiting as I found myself more and more comfortable coming out into this new light of day. A lot of the people advocating this very rational approach to enlightenment also tended to be men, and a lot of them seemed to get this odd satisfaction at saying these completely….knackered things. They sounded good, but they felt…awful really. I always just shook my head and had to walk away. They spoke their knackered truth smiling, gently, even humbly sounding. It was all a kind of a sham, though, at least these ideas. No, more like a near-miss. They came so close. It was a hamburger with everything but without the burger or maybe some parts of the “everything.” I figured if they could get taken in by this, who knows what else they had been taken in by. I could see their childhood bed with a dusty box of X-ray specs packed away under it. I just knew they must have sent off or wanted to send of for those glasses. They were the type to believe. I want to be careful because if I do too much of this you will think I am making fun. I know I am. I am sorry. I kind of wanted those X-ray specs too, but even I knew there was just no way…

While I was learning about the art of surrender and opening my own mind and awareness up to something still larger, ineffable, I was beginning to read here and there about how all of this is just an illusion. I had already seen in a pitched state of samadhi how matter was formed moment by moment. Was this what they meant? To me, though, while you could say that what I saw about how matter was formed in those early days in states of samadhi was a clever slight of hand on the part of the universe, but I never saw it as illusion. Ask any mother if they think their child is an illusion. No. That baby is a creation as they cradle it’s head as they nurse them. While all of it did not appear as we see with our physical eyes (it was all much too small, belonging well within the realm of quantum physics and its investigations), I saw that the main thrust of this phenomenon was instead creative. It wasn’t trickery, it was a creation, and it was happening nano-second by nano-second. Later, I would find many of the things that I saw expressed within theoretical physics in thick papers that were hard to follow in some cases, but much easier to grasp having already seen parts of what they were describing in the language of math and energetic intensities or charges. It seems entirely unlikely that someone like me could glimpse such a thing, and yet there it was, described and shown in such clear terms that I felt that I had seen it rightly and felt I could not dismiss it out of hand. For the skeptic, this might have been easy to brush off as a self-made delusion. I saw that I was much too close to what the most learned minds were saying about the behavior of these particles and how, when they got to the bottom of it, as Heisenberg said, “God is waiting.” Cast the feminine aside, right?

Just like those “quasi” particles as I call them would stream into the “form” of a subatomic particle in matched pairs, I read about how physicists were considering that matter is formed in just this way. In my version, the particles were aware. Not only were they aware, they rode on a stream of energy which came from a source which was beyond our ability to even imagine. All of it was joyful, jubilant, and purposeful. It was directed in an incredibly precise way, choreographed for our benefit, a way in which consciousness had figured out how to turn energy into the appearance of matter. We, too, rode astride this stream of energy which we think in such mundane ways as “just” matter. More, these particles knew the part they played and they followed very strict simple rules but with incredible joy and a sense of mission. All of this was being coordinated for our benefit. It wasn’t just an illusion, the illusion was beside the point. The point was creation, creativity. It was a no-holds barred activity that was staggering in scope. The implications led me to begin to glimpse the nature of at least one aspect of the divine (whatever it is you imagine that to be). Likewise, the self, myself, was like this, a real self, a real quantity created in order to serve a certain purpose in both my development as well as the unfolding purpose that seemed to be driving the universe (although I have to admit that what this purpose was often escaped me in its larger scope….but it did seem I had the tip of its tail in all of this). These same particles which had no mass, also had identity. That identity was important, and I sensed that how everyone gets involved in this vast amazing and miraculous drama is to give the parts some skin in the game, which is to say a chance at value fulfillment. Without it, what is the use? But with it, we are offered the opportunity to create however we wish. Yes, that creation may be constrained in some ways by being physical, but we had chosen to be here. I knew I chose to be here, I have a direct memory prior to coming into the body.

All of this was happening because I had opened up myself to feel. No, I wasn’t rationalizing. I wasn’t like some computer ticking away bits and bytes. Some great intelligence that didn’t even read as intelligence did this amazing magic trick that was like pulling information straight out of the air. When I say magic that means that however it was done by my consciousness remains at least partly a mystery. I later learned that this was what is termed “remote viewing” and realized I wasn’t really so strange or off on a tangent as I had thought.

When I dropped into or was raised up by this bliss, parts of me softened and it was like I achieved a new gear. Suddenly I would find myself in states where I became aware of a supreme consciousness that “sat” quietly watching all of this, seeded craftily inside of all of creation, but which remained silent. I saw this image of All That Is inside a kind of atom or electron but seeing out through all of creation. The image, I knew, was itself symbolic of the arrangement that this consciousness had with creation. I could only see this or feel it when I could soften those parts of my consciousness which were the most accustomed to physical sensory experience. I observed that my rational mind went silent and another more capable part of my awareness took the reins. And even as this would happen, I knew that these structures of the mind still existed. I always came back to them. In fact, for all the talk about the self as illusion, all of the teachers of this strand of thought within Advaita and neo-Advaita also did just the same. For all the talk of ego-death, the ego remained. I didn’t know a single person who had killed off the ego. So why did we call it ego death? What I realized was that whoever came up with this term didn’t understand what really was at work in all of this. My friend calls this a “near miss.” It contains some truth, but it also contains distortions. Close but no cigar.

The more I observed these teachings the more I saw what might have been an unrecognized inner loathing that existed within many of these people for self. It might sound harsh or hard to say, but that was my sense. Over and over I kept seeing traditions where in some way or another the self was treated like it could not be trusted, as if it was somehow less. It was like saying that the wheat in the dough which rises because of its nature is unimportant. Something didn’t jive with that at all. Instead, I sensed that the self was important within consciousness for dealing with life here in the physical. But just as we have id, ego, superego, we have parts of ourselves that are perfectly made for comprehending the infinite. These are just different aspects of self. Taisen Deshimaru, the Zen master who lived recently once pointed out that even as one embraces Cosmic Mind, there is a form called super ego that knows itself to be the one touching Cosmic Mind. It was his simple way of explaining that despite how much we might downplay the role of ego and self, self is always there.

Self is not to my mind something to entirely transcend, but instead to use, much like we use a tool. Ego comes and goes now for me, and this is a relief because it allows me to expand my awareness in ways it isn’t designed to do. Sometimes certain tools can get overused. But if you remain flexible, you will find that quite naturally, and without direction or teaching from some old tradition, you can find your way naturally. You drop the tool, you begin letting it go over and over until one day you might realize as I did, that ego mind is simply a part of us that we so reflexively grab in the moment. We don’t need to.

It is helpful to have a teacher sometimes, if only to point out what you might be missing. I like it best when the universe sends them at just the right moment without my having to go looking for them. That has always been the teachings that have struck the deepest gold and which took me the furthest in that moment. For me, no teacher has ever been able to come to any sort of absolute truth, just pieces of it. Same for me. While I can sense an all pervading consciousness cleverly hidden within all of creation and I can experience myself in a form of oneness with it, I also am only still experiencing a slice of the much bigger cosmic pie. I am inconsequential, small, unimportant, and yet, I can feel how everything that is is cherished by All That Is. This is befitting a process that is itself evolving. We have so much more to know. In some emergences, we will have different capabilities. We have what we have here now for what we are to learn through being in the body. It is a worthwhile journey and we have still this amazing capacity to still know the infinite as it awakens within us.

I will just say that all this talk of illusion or who is the one asking the question is nonsense. It is nonsense because of how unnecessary it is. You do not need to render the self false in order to know what is true. You do not need to pretend that the physical self is unimportant, because clearly it is or else you would not be here. People seem to ignore the most pressing truths on their way to trying to find others which only take them away from what is in front of them. But here is the thing, I think that if you feel you need to explore this, do so. I don’t think it is the most direct route, but your freewill and your own individuality and ego allows for it. None of this though was made to be some big trick of the mind. It has shown me that all of this, this business of awakening, is set up simply with some very practical things in place to keep our body safe in this existence so that it can continue to grow and learn in this environment. The path is so simple that you must be like a child in order to grasp it.

People who speak of how unimportant the ego is has never been able to see what happens when ego is nearly stripped away so that the normal filters that the ego imposes are gone. I have experienced this and I can say that it is physically impossible to process so much information as what is available to us when that filter is gone. Without the filter of ego you would feel your neighbor stubbing their toe in their home, you would directly experience all of the molecules dancing in the air, their own thought, their own experience, their own concerns. Just walking by a creek has so much information tied up within it that if you had a substantive release of ego you would be flooded by all of the activity happening there, and it would be more than your own mind and consciousness has the ability to process locally (using the body). No, the ego serves an important part in your awareness. You have no idea that your body is not made to know All or experience All but to experience just enough of it to know that there is more there that can be inquired about and then experienced directly to a certain extent. When we feel that All, can you know every thought and every action which is happening through it? I don’t. Instead, I sense I am just skimming the surface when I touch Cosmic Mind. Taisen Deshimaru said that this was key in practice: stop grasping. When your hand opens, all of the sands of earth will flow through it. Grasp it, and all you get is a little bit of grit. This means that the physical mind and the consciousness that it has has no capacity for truly grasping the entirety of it. It can, though, sense it. That seems to be enough for us here in these bodies.

But a lot of Eastern teachers, most of whom are men, do not tip their hat to this reality. Perhaps they just have not had the same kind of ego-rending experience as I had. I can say that while ego certainly is overused, the opposite is not something that allows you to gain any sense of footing in your life here. And this is the point. You are HERE. Have you wondered why you are here? It is a simple thing, uncomplicated. You are here because you want to be here. There might be parts of you that despise where you are right now, but you are after all composed of more than just those parts. I can tell you that when you open to these other parts of yourself, they will tend to open you also up to the other realities that you have experienced. that alone will be sobering enough and informative enough to show you how much work there is in realizing the simple little thing that I am talking about here. We are nothing if not stubborn little badgers.

There is a lot of mental gymnastics that have to be performed in order to make sense of there being a questionable self. For me, they are simply the tools that we take on for this body in order to be present and to remain relatively safe for long enough that we might experience this incarnation so we might be able to have a stab at learning what we had hoped to learn. But those things are a cloak that can be pulled aside for periods of time in order to experience the Soul. In every encounter that I have ever had it has meant surrender. This surrender always felt like becoming naked before Soul. Every time I had to bow down to it, I had to be like a child and listen to that great cosmic parent. Then, when in its presence, I would feel it more fully and lose sense of my usual self in the process. I know that this Soul is like home and sometimes I can feel cast out, fallen somehow. I also now know that this attitude when taken to extremes only causes trouble for us, a kind of self-defeating process that is entirely unnecessary. We use shame to keep these values in place, this concept of the fallen self. It is utter nonsense. We fall because we do not know the rich heritage that we share with Soul. I also know that this self is made so that I can be here in this place and to also begin to develop and awareness of Soul perhaps even at the same time. More and more, I am more aware of this Soul. The more I bow down to it, the easier things become, the more “magical” the world becomes as it helps me in ways that I could never do on my own in this surrendered state. How could I?

Every time I read about this work related to self and illusion it feels like my being is being asked to be shoved into a tight bottle. It does not feel correct, and I am crowded. My larger awareness tells me to stay away. I prefer keeping it simple only because I have seen that this is not meant to trip us up, but to be simple. Only we make things more complicated than they need to be. Also, when we make it simple, there is an acceptance of self as it is. We don’t need to continually prop up some notion about ourselves just to keep it there. We can rest in our nature as creatures who are not broken in essence, just a little confused about things and who seem to feel badly that we are such infinite stuff stuffed into a small body. I say don’t let that bother you. Accept your nature, your body, and don’t let its limits confuse you into thinking you are anything less than you are. You are a multitude.

So it is interesting that there is this video by the same woman who I posted about recently of whom I know so little, but whose insight into the “Twin” or soul connection phenomenon was so on the mark. Here she is talking about how Neo-Advaita has gotten something wrong, something that does not belong, that isn’t necessary at all. I leave it for your consideration. She speaks of issues that have touched on my experience for years. I am glad to have found her if only to share it with you today.