Notebook Export
The Ten Thousand Things
Saltzman, Robert

Awakening And Behavior
Page 2 · Location 81
the undeniable understanding that all conjecture on the subject of "myself" falls short—must fall short—of actually explaining anything. In each moment, I find myself here as an apparent focus of awareness without ever having chosen to be here, without knowing what I "really" am, and without needing to know. I am well aware that what I see and feel is a concoction of some sort or another, but this world is the world I have, and so I, an apparent constituent of this world of mine, live in it and with it—not in a world of conjecture, supposition, and mysticism about ultimate matters, but here and now. That is what I mean by "awake."
Page 7 · Location 143
so far as any of us knows, no one is making this stream of consciousness—the river of perceptions, feelings, and thoughts that in each moment is "myself." You can tell yourself that "God" is making that stream, but hanging a name on the incomprehensible does nothing to explicate or illuminate the actual, front-and-center mystery of aliveness—the astounding fact of being at all, prior to concepts about the supposed source of this aliveness.
Page 8 · Location 159
If someone finds enjoyment or meaning in religious practice, fine by me. I don't walk through this world criticizing. But since you are asking about my experience, I must reply that "spirituality" has nothing to do with it, and the embrace of unsubstantiated spiritual beliefs, far from providing a path to comprehension, more often seems to impede it.
A Clean Slate
Page 11 · Location 199
what Chögyam Trungpa called "spiritual materialism," which rests upon the idea that there is something to gain, and that one will gain it through effort.
Page 12 · Location 202
awakening is not gradual, but sudden, instantaneous. It is not about practice. All at once you see that you are not doing anything. Not deciding anything. Not choosing anything. There is no such choosing/ deciding "myself" except in fantasy. That fantasy fades, leaving no exit from the inevitable, ceaseless stream of consciousness. The old stories don't apply any more. In each moment things are as they are and can be no different, whether you like it or not.
Page 12 · Location 205
Whatever you feel, think, and see is you. There is no choice in the matter—no escaping you. That is what I mean by the word "awakening"—a sudden awareness, quite undeniable, that everything you see, feel, and think is you. The boundary between self and other dissolves. The apparent "other" is not located "out there" somewhere, but constructed of your perceptions, your feelings, your thoughts. You see what you see. That is all you see. And that seeing is you.
Page 12 · Location 215
The deity belief was injected into your mind by random cultural osmosis at the very least, or very likely by osmosis plus intentional inculcation by caregivers beginning before the age of reason. So, that belief was put in your mind—in all of our minds—which is not your fault. Nothing is your fault. You never chose that belief or anything else. No choice, no blame.
Page 14 · Location 235
a kind of self-hypnosis that I call magical thinking. If you are thinking magically about the Absolute, or non-duality, or self-realization, or karma and causality, you are not awake, I say, but hypnotized. You don't know anything about those things. You heard about them at some point, and accepted what you heard. Embracing and constantly repeating such dogma induces a trance state of credulity. Your beliefs are your beliefs merely because you believe them, which indicates nothing about their facticity. Absolutely nothing. Zero.
Page 14 · Location 240
The traditions of "spirituality" rest upon a bundle of bald assertions that, being neither falsifiable nor in any way demonstrable, abide always in the twilight zone of pronouncements that will never be facts. Awakening mind finds no interest in that—no interest in searching for what others say they have realized spiritually.
Page 15 · Location 258
what is called "I" is nothing but a point of view, the one unique to "me" in this moment.
Awakening Never Ends
Page 22 · Location 342
The "I" who is replying to questions here is not a "person" at all, which is really only a legal and social designation, but an indefinable, unrestrained flow of perceptions, feelings, and thoughts. That flow is not happening to me. That flow is me. In the eyes of the world Robert may be a person, but to myself I am not a person, but a happening, a stream of consciousness over which I have no control. We are all like that, but not all of us know it. Most of us were put into a trance state long ago, beginning in early childhood—a kind of stupor in which the emptiness, impermanence, and co-dependency of "myself" goes unseen. We are lost in a fantasy of separation in which I am "in here" while the world I see—the ten thousand things—is "out there." It is from that confusion that one awakens.
Page 23 · Location 367
No one knows what "myself" is. No one. Assertions are made, but an assertion is not a fact. So-called "spirituality" is comprised almost entirely of assertions on the subject of "myself." But no one knows the first thing about that.
Page 24 · Location 369
No one knows how electrochemical changes in the brain become sights, sounds, flavors, odors, textures, and the rest of what we see and feel. Those qualia somehow exist and are perceived, but no one knows where they are located, what perceives them, how they are perceived, or what they really are. No one knows the wellsprings of feelings, thoughts, emotions, and memories either.
Thoughts Don't Hang Me Up
Page 28 · Location 423
Everything you see, feel, and think is you.
Freedom From Unwanted Thoughts
Page 34 · Location 490
the inauthenticity of imitators who adopt, and sometimes even preach, the guru's world view instead of facing the uncertainty and loneliness involved in living by one's own lights.
Page 34 · Location 492
forget what some "saint" says about life, and make your own way.
Page 34 · Location 496
The notion of an eternal, changeless "Self" as an imagined goal to be attained through "realization" engages me not at all. I have no spiritual goals myself, and would not accept someone else's if proffered on a silver platter with gold-plated guarantees.
Page 35 · Location 505
I'm out to see what I see, not to confirm or "realize" what someone else saw. The fierce inevitability of seeing, in this moment, whatever one sees, like it or not, is what one "wakes up" to, I say.
Page 35 · Location 507
I follow no path at all, and would not follow one if you told me it led directly to the Seventh Heaven. When the path peters out, and you find yourself alone and without assurances of anything, this aliveness, unmitigated, is apparent. Unless you find yourself alone like that, without taking refuge in second-hand notions, no matter what their source, you will never be free, but will remain always an adherent, forever a disciple or an epigone.
Page 35 · Location 513
Ramana's advice about making "spiritual progress" advocates taking control of, and thus hindering, the natural flow of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Such advice—again, straight out of yoga dogma—is about disciplining the "mind," about mastering it. That dogma advises judging pure from impure, and sticking only with the pure. It is about focusing the stream of consciousness and channeling it into one and only one quest: union with the supposed eternal, changeless Self. That is not my way at all. Awake, I am co-existent with whatever thought, feeling, or perception happens to be front and center—" pure" or not (and who is to judge?)—until it isn't. Far from trying to control the stream of consciousness, for me it's all about non-resistance to the motion of that stream, which is "myself." This has nothing to do with progress, but with the inevitability of continual self-expression through thought, word, and deed in each and every moment. It's about the mercurial impermanence of aliveness, which is never still, never changeless.
Page 36 · Location 525
The "spiritual progress" you mentioned aims at a goal to be attained in the future through yoga, mental concentration, austerities, and philosophical inculcation. I aim at nothing. This is it—right here and right now.
Page 37 · Location 539
Suppose there is no "Supreme Soul" at all. Suppose, in other words, that the evolved brain—not some "higher power"—is the original source of consciousness, so that religions and their spiritual goals are, like the rest of human culture, a projection of desires, aversions, and basic animal drives.
Page 39 · Location 569
one can just be, and let the stream of consciousness flow where it will. That is what I mean by "awake."
The Freedom To Be
Page 41 · Location 581
Choice is a story we tell ourselves after the actual "decision"—there never was any decision—has already been determined unconsciously as the resultant of the interplay among different parts of the brain. What feels to us like choice is not a voluntary decision at all, but the attribution of that neuronal dance to a fictional boss or overseer called myself. The overseer-myself is a ghost in the machine. There really is no little "myself" sitting in the middle of your skull deciding anything.
I'm A Different Person Now
Page 47 · Location 662
Myself is like a river of thoughts and feelings that cannot be controlled, but keeps flowing, like it or not, where and as it must. No one can stop that flow. The myself of the last moment is gone forever—water over the dam. Even this moment—this present "myself"—slips away before we can begin to get a grip on it.
Page 48 · Location 665
Observe the stream of consciousness you call "myself"—not the content of consciousness, not the details of thoughts and feelings—but the stream itself. Notice how thoughts and feelings morph and change endlessly—one thought or feeling flowing into the next. That flow, I am saying, is "myself"—the only myself one will ever really know.
Page 48 · Location 671
The seeming continuity of myself is an illusion that arises partly due to cultural indoctrination, but also because the apparent center of awareness always calls itself by the same name: "me." That unvarying name suggests an identity which also does not change: me, the perceiver of perceptions, the feeler of feelings, and the thinker of thoughts. However, although the name never changes, that ostensibly unchanging center of awareness is flowing along with everything else, in no way separate from perceptions, thoughts, and feelings. If locked into a point of view that sees oneself as the thinker of thoughts, it will never even occur to that myself that "myself" is also a thought, ephemeral and entirely transient like any other thought. Yes, there may be a thought in the next moment also called "me," along with a presentation of feelings and thoughts about "me," but it will not be the same "me" as the previous "me-thought."
Page 49 · Location 681
That "used to be" is a story you tell yourself confected from memories and images of countless events, each of which happened to a different "me", which now are blended together as if they all happened to one durable, but now bygone "me."
Page 50 · Location 701
In my student days, American universities were cauldrons of free speech with students defying all attempts to limit their self-expression. Nowadays, many students clamor for the polar opposite. It is not the right of uncensored expression they are demanding, but the "right" to be kept safe from such expression—safe from having to even hear ideas they do not like. In this new version of what a university should be about, professors have been fired from their jobs because they used a "trigger word" in a lecture, or even because they put a "trigger book" on the syllabus.
Page 54 · Location 750
have since been thinking of trauma almost like a toxic spill in a river. The poison becomes part of the river in the same way that trauma becomes part of one's life experience. This toxic spill can be felt, and possibly cleaned up some through therapy or whatever method one uses to heal. But I don't know that it can ever fully be removed because you can't undo an event. At least in my experience, once something comes into awareness, it doesn't seem to want to leave. Before I was looking for ways to make it seem like the trauma never happened, but now I get it. It happened, and I will be forever changed by it. There is no going back, period, no matter how hard I try.
What Makes Us Unique?
Page 58 · Location 801
even if there is a tree "out there" in some ultimate sense—a tree, I mean, that exists separate from your perception of it—you are never actually seeing it. All you know is mind. The tree you see is an impression upon mind. So you know impressions, not trees.
Page 58 · Location 813
It is not "my" mind. I don't own it. I cannot control it. It will not mind me. It seems to flow like water all over the place. Nothing will keep it contained. I cannot force mind to stop coming up with thoughts and images, and like a mirror, whatever is put in front of mind seems to be reflected instantly, whether "myself" likes that or not, and with no effort or intention anywhere to reflect anything. So the notion of "my mind and your mind" seems questionable. Is there a "myself" that has a mind? Or is "myself" better understood not as a possessor of mind but as a collection of impressions in mind like the tree?
A Dog With A Bone
Page 64 · Location 894
"I" am not observing anything. The observer is the observed. A dividing line between inside and outside is a feature of Fantasyland, and I don't hang out in that theme park. It's all me. I have no way to distance myself or be rid of anything. After all, where would I put it?
The Hero's Journey
Page 69 · Location 941
The human neural complexity seems to leave available a surplus of brain-power which may be devoted to self-justification, self-aggrandizement, religious fantasy, and other such cogitation. But all of that is a fool's errand in my book.
Page 70 · Location 958
each of us experiences not "the world"—although we call it that—but "a world," a personal realm built of our perceptions, feelings, and thoughts—particularly the kinds of thoughts called beliefs. My seeing, feeling, and thinking is my world, and your seeing, feeling, and thinking is your world. You can talk to me about your world, but I cannot know it, and you cannot show it to me. Each of us lives, I am saying, in his or her own world.
Page 71 · Location 970
There is no you who has thoughts—no homunculus sitting in the middle of your skull doing thinking. You are thoughts. You are feelings. You are perceptions. "You" are in no way separate from them, nor are you the owner of them.
Magical Thinking
Page 75 · Location 1011
We humans, whose minds evolved under pressure to identify threats, are voracious in our appetite for explanations, and thus prone to seeing false causality everywhere.
Killing The Buddha
Page 81 · Location 1082
That's how thoughts enter the mind; we pick them up by contact. That contact can be random, or someone may intentionally inject those thoughts, such as parents do with children "for their own good," or spiritual teachers preaching to their flocks. Thoughts, including the kinds of thoughts we call intentions, arise unavoidably, and there is no "myself" apart from them except as another thought.
Page 81 · Location 1087
We are what we are in this moment.
Page 81 · Location 1090
The understanding that awareness is choiceless is the birth of compassion both for oneself and for one's fellow beings who, one sees, have no more choice than you do but to be what they are.
There Is No "How" To Be Free
Page 84 · Location 1110
mind engaged in denial will never notice that freedom is a natural quality of mind that does not have to be earned or deserved, but only noticed and appreciated.
Page 84 · Location 1113
a so-called "spiritual path" is a means, however unconscious, of avoiding freedom, not finding it. Here and now, in this very moment, is where freedom exists, not in some imagined location farther along the imagined path.
Page 84 · Location 1115
the escapist dream of the quest, the path, and the method.
Page 85 · Location 1122
We are, I mean, so identified with the concepts with which we have been impregnated as to be rendered incapable of noticing the freedom and ease of not knowing answers to ultimate questions—of not believing in dogma of any stripe—unless that freedom comes right up and slaps us in the face.
Page 85 · Location 1131
In each moment, I see what I see, and that seeing is me. When I comprehend that—not just in words but moment by moment—I don't have to believe in anything. And, since I don't have to believe in anything, I am relieved of having to question anything. That is what I mean by freedom: just be.
Page 87 · Location 1159
Facts are facts whether you in particular believe them or disbelieve them. Articles of faith, on the other hand, are never facts, even if you and millions of others believe in them.
Page 88 · Location 1172
belief does not make something true, nor disbelief falsify it.
Page 88 · Location 1176
As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
Love And Fear—It's All You
Page 91 · Location 1211
Long before the age of reason, by means of reward and punishment, cultural norms are foisted upon the child, wedding that child to a permanent identity called "me." A chief aspect of that identity is the supposedly clear, unambiguous separation between myself, the doer, and what that doer does. That erroneous separation benefits the individual not at all, I say, but societies require it so that each person (" person" is a cultural designation, not a biological fact) can be held legally and socially responsible.
Page 91 · Location 1216
"Myself," I say, is better understood not as a fixed entity, not as a doer, not as a person, but as the entirety of perceptions, thoughts, and feelings in this very moment. Except as a social convention, there is no other "myself."
Page 92 · Location 1226
Myself is a flow—a process, not a "thing."
Page 92 · Location 1230
the flow is a fact, whereas the person, Johnny, is fictitious—only a social construction.
Page 92 · Location 1231
we fall readily into the illusion of a myself that is not a flow, but a fixed presence that persists over time, and the frequent replay of memories—including nowadays photographs, recordings, and other memorabilia—seems to confirm the existence of "myself" in the past, deepening the illusion of permanence. But an image in a photograph is not myself. It never was. The photograph portrays a body, not a self.
Page 93 · Location 1234
Perceptions, feelings, and thoughts are not objects, so they cannot be recorded by a camera. And even if the photograph seems to evoke somehow a myself who existed in the past, that myself is not here now and can never come back again.
Page 93 · Location 1239
That flow of perceptions, feelings, and thoughts is me.
Page 94 · Location 1247
The stream of consciousness—including any thoughts about decisions and choices—is a river that just keeps flowing as it must, and that river is me, the only me I can ever know.
Page 94 · Location 1259
Perceptions, feelings, and thoughts are revealed only moment by moment, never in advance.
Page 95 · Location 1263
Except in fantasy, "future" has no existence. Future is everything we don't know.
No Security In Being Human
Page 97 · Location 1293
You have tried the religious approach, as I understand is central to your social milieu, and it's not working for you. And so you find yourself resorting to me, whose view of "God" is this: "Just because something can be conceived of and named does not mean it really exists."
Page 97 · Location 1296
"God" is a concept—an idea in your mind—and you didn't think it up.
Page 98 · Location 1306
This constant juggling of concepts about supreme beings, souls, reincarnation, transcendence, self-realization, and enlightenment serves only as a tactic of postponement. All we really know is now.
Scared To Be Honest
Page 99 · Location 1323
Unless we are able find our own authenticity and freedom apart from inherited belief systems, which many humans never arrive at finding, we rely upon the imagoes for a sense of security. That is why it can feel so frightening to have introjected beliefs called into question, even by one's own logical aspect.
Page 100 · Location 1338
As I see this, mind is conditioned by everything ever seen, heard, or otherwise experienced, as well as congenital tendencies encoded in DNA.
Page 101 · Location 1350
like Rilke on this: "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."
Page 104 · Location 1385
George Carlin: "I want to live my next life backwards. "You start out dead and get that out of the way. "Then you wake up in a nursing home feeling better every day. "Then you get kicked out for being too healthy. "Enjoy your retirement and collect your pension. "Then when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day. "You work 40 years until you're too young to work. "You get ready for high school: drink alcohol, party, and you're generally promiscuous. "Then you go to primary school, you become a kid, you play, and you have no responsibilities. "Then you become a baby, and then… "You spend your last 9 months floating peacefully in luxury, in spa-like conditions—central heating, room service on tap, and then… "You finish off as an orgasm. "I rest my case."
Awake Is Not A Super-Attainment
Page 106 · Location 1395
To be awake is not some kind of super-attainment, but only the liberty to be at ease with oneself, and to live step by step without making a big deal out of anything or attempting to become something.
Page 106 · Location 1397
"awake" means being naturally present without perfectionistic striving and without chasing after what others claim to have attained.
Page 106 · Location 1399
fantasies of "transcendence," which, coming from Latin, literally means climbing beyond what one actually is presently, as if one actually could.
Page 110 · Location 1454
much of, if not most of, what is called "spirituality," which assumes, in one way or another, that one's present condition is somehow flawed, but can be corrected by following a "path" (subtext: a path that leads back to the "Garden"). Such ideas are what I meant by second-hand concepts about reality.
Page 111 · Location 1461
One may try to be mindful, but no one can try to be awake.
Page 111 · Location 1466
When the fever to attain something permanent comes to an end, and one finds oneself instead flowing along with everything else in the universe, permanent or not, one is awake, I say.
Page 111 · Location 1472
Awake is very simple. In fact, it seems to be too simple for those who would prefer to climb an imaginary hierarchical ladder of spiritual attainment leading at last to "enlightenment," at which point, they believe, all suffering will cease.
The Universe Begins Right Now
Page 120 · Location 1567
This is about suddenly tumbling into the recognition that everything seen, heard, thought, and felt is me. It's all "myself." In that comprehension, the universe begins right now.
Why Do You Dismiss Spirituality Entirely?
Page 131 · Location 1713
No one, I say, chooses what to believe. Most likely each of us is born with a certain propensity to believe what we are told, and then the substance of those beliefs depends upon what we are told. It is as if one is born with a cup waiting to be filled with ideas, but the content of that cup depends on the luck of the draw—one's family of origin and its mythology, plus the authoritative precepts of the wider cultural surround.
Page 131 · Location 1720
children will have had beliefs presented to them as if they were facts. That's how the damage is done. Once indoctrinated in that way, many people simply conform, and never even notice having been indoctrinated. Others struggle with their doubts. Some replace one set of beliefs with another. Only a few, it seems, manage to find what Jiddu Krishnamurti called "freedom from the known."
Page 132 · Location 1727
I regard most of so-called "spirituality" as a collection of superstitious behaviors and baseless conjectures passed from generation to generation via indoctrination beginning in infancy—a schooling principally in magical thinking and self-deception. The worst feature in that landscape of nonsense is the idea that the world we see with our eyes is somehow less "real" than some other "better" world, and that if we could somehow enter that "other world," either after death, like a Christian or a Muslim, or here and now like the "self-realizers," the pains of ordinary life would be magically transformed into "perfection."
Page 132 · Location 1735
The human body has no "spiritual" needs. The body needs air, water, food, clothing, and shelter, not god, salvation, or self-realization. It is not the body that spirituality aims at "saving," but rather the collection of habitual thoughts, attitudes, and feelings called "myself." That self—" myself"—when faced with its own unstable, transitory nature—including the fearful suspicion that "myself" will die when the body dies—craves a way out. In response to that craving, the story arises of another world or another way of being in which death is not "real." That story, I say, is pure, one hundred percent speculation motivated by wishful thinking. That is the kind of "spirituality" I discredit as escapism.
Page 134 · Location 1755
All the faith in the world—the credulous embrace of scriptures, prophets and saviors, practices, instructions and the rest—says nothing about reality. Absolutely nothing. You ask how I can say that. How can I, an individual person, discount an entire world of beliefs, including gods and saints, which countless millions accept as "Truth"? I say it from a perspective that sees all such beliefs as second-hand ideas imposed upon minds that were hobbled from day one by those ideas.
Choiceless Awareness
Page 137 · Location 1792
if you cling too long to a teaching, any teaching, it will blind you to your own life, your own being, your own truth.
Page 138 · Location 1808
The idea here is that the apparent content of a thought is “made” of awareness, and so is the feeling of being the thinker of that thought. It’s all awareness. Thoughts, the process of thinking, and “myself,” the thinker—comprise one choiceless, nameless flow. This is not about “mindfulness.” This is not about a “you” separate from that of which you are told to be mindful. This is not about learning, becoming, or attaining anything. This is not about meditation. You do not have to try to be aware. Everything you see, feel, and think is awareness, and awareness is everything you see, think, and feel. This happening, this flow, this aliveness, this sense of being, cannot be created, controlled, or managed by anyone; no one stands apart or separate from it, even in the slightest degree. If you notice this flow—this stream of consciousness—you soon become aware that the thoughts you call “my thoughts” are neither yours, nor chosen, but simply arise on their own. Whether you are sitting on a cushion “meditating,” or having an orgasm, thoughts and feelings continue bubbling up. This is a living process. You don’t own it. You don’t control it. Awareness is not yours to manage or manipulate. Awareness, this aliveness, simply is, simply exists.
Page 139 · Location 1823
Whatever arises within awareness will have its moment, and then pass away. There is no permanency in any of it. Even the story called “myself” is an ever-changing impression upon the awareness that is here now without anyone having to try to be aware.
Being Quiet Internally
Page 141 · Location 1844
If you read a book without examining its ideas skeptically as you read, then those ideas will become your new fixed ideas. If you really mean to see things clearly, open-minded skepticism is, I say, the default attitude, the baseline, the sine qua non.
Page 142 · Location 1856
In the world of technical information, experts do exist, but there are no experts in the art of living, which is an improvisational art. Another person may serve temporary duty as a transitional figure onto whom you project your own powers of discernment and understanding, but when that projection is seen for what it is, the “guru” disappears, and in his or her place stands an ordinary, standard-issue human being—perhaps wise, perhaps kind, but not all-knowing. That is a bright moment.
Page 142 · Location 1865
When I say being quiet internally, I do not mean trying to halt the natural flow of thoughts and feelings. That is not possible anyway. I mean relaxing sufficiently so as to be able to notice that flow—not the content or meaning of thoughts and feelings, but the ceaselessness of the flow itself.
Page 142 · Location 1867
Focus attention on the center of your chest. There are feelings there that cannot be named. Notice them. Notice your breathing. Become aware of thoughts as they arise and pass away again, an ever-changing stream of ideas, images, and feelings. The “materials” comprising that stream—perceptions, feelings, and thoughts—are ephemeral, entirely momentary, flowing and changing endlessly. There is no permanency in any of this. Each instant appears, and before it can be grasped at all, disappears. Let it go.
Page 143 · Location 1874
If there is any peace and joy, one finds it here and now, not after reading the next book. Myself won’t be here forever, so if not now, when?
The Fantasy Of Permanence
Page 147 · Location 1919
apart from social and legal conventions, myself is not a name, not a body, not a history, but a flow—a flow of thoughts. Those thoughts have no more permanence than ripples in a stream. A “myself-thought” arises and passes away—dies—just like any other thought. Although the subject of those kinds of thoughts is always called “myself,” it is never the same myself as in the previous moment. Nothing is ever the same, and there is no going back.
Page 147 · Location 1923
When you understand that myself is also just a thought, ephemeral and without permanency, you will see that there is nothing to which one can cling. The “myself” of five seconds ago cannot be recovered, and the “myself” that will arise five seconds hence, if it does, cannot be imagined. Clinging to “myself” is like trying to stop time. It cannot be done. Each moment is what it is. In each moment, a new myself is born, replacing the old one that just died. Many of us fail to notice this because we have been taught to believe that the name is myself, and the body is myself.
Is Everyone In My Life Only An Illusion?
Page 150 · Location 1954
The human body/ mind we call “myself” is not a neatly separate, self-sufficient island. It is a complex ecosystem—a “social network”—containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit our skin, genital areas, mouth and especially intestines. In fact, the majority of the cells in the human body are not human at all. Bacterial cells in the human body outnumber human cells.
Page 150 · Location 1962
Thoughts arise mysteriously, from whence no one knows. Like a breaking wave, a thought has its moment, then is gone forever, only to be followed by the next wave, and the next, and the next, and the next . . .
You Didn’t Make It, But You Have To Eat It.
Page 157 · Location 2031
Words circulate. They are passed around as shared objects, not actually originating in any individual mind, but held commonly in the human mind. If that is seen, it’s only a short step to noticing that ideas circulate in the same manner—ideas are passed around as shared objects—so that thoughts involving those ideas are not at bottom my thoughts either, even if they seem to be.
The Source Of Consciousness
Page 164 · Location 2124
We human beings love smooth sailing. We crave assurance and comforting concepts. We want our beliefs supported and approved, not challenged and possibly discredited. That psychological fact is called the “confirmation bias.” To state it briefly, human beings tend to give too much weight to evidence that corroborates what they already believe or desire to believe, while giving too little weight, discounting out of hand, or even forgetting entirely, evidence that tends to contradict what they already believe or desire to believe. If one does not recognize, and admit, the confirmation bias, and if one does not keep working against that bias, then one’s views on all matters will be forever skewed and untrustworthy.
The Illusion Of Free Will
Page 170 · Location 2194
My best advice is to stop trying to figure this stuff out. In each moment everything is exactly as it is. Nothing is hidden or esoteric, so there is nothing to attain or realize.
Faith In The Guru
Page 182 · Location 2343
taking refuge in promises about the future only impedes embracing one’s present natural condition as a human being, which is the only reality I know. The rest is fantasy.
Page 183 · Location 2353
Spiritual seekers conjure up fantasies and visions of an extraordinary state, completely different from ordinary life with its fear, pain, uncertainty, and suffering. When finally I am enlightened, this fantasy goes, I will be as I am now, except I will understand everything, the ordinary problems of living will disappear, and I will be happy everlastingly. That idealistic vision is quite like a child’s belief in the myth of Heaven, which may help to explain why otherwise intelligent people often seem childish in their assessments of famous gurus. Like the image of mommy or daddy in the mind of a toddler, the “enlightened master” knows everything and can do no wrong. With that approach, what is being sought is not understanding at all, but just false security and an end to suffering, such as the religious indoctrination of their childhood promised would reward true believers (while the others burned in hell, of course).
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I advise you to stop trying to find refuge in gurus and their teachings. Stop trying to find safety and support in the opinions of others, no matter how enlightened you imagine they are. Just be yourself as best you can moment-by-moment, and then see where you are. That’s as real as it gets.
The Search For Meaning
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Psychological theories tend to be shaped to deal with the ills of their own inventors,
Understanding Nothing
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From my perspective, following a spiritual path, a religion, or a guru serves primarily as a means of avoidance—a way of replacing what one actually is right now with a glorified vision of what one could be. This is the fallacy of becoming. Those who purport to teach methods of “self-realization” or paths to “salvation” are not awake, I say, but hypnotized by fancy ideas they learned from previous epigones. Then, having convinced themselves of their “attainment,” they regurgitate the nonsense they learned to imitate, hypnotizing their followers in the same fashion.
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Awakening is about relaxation and acceptance of each moment, moment-by-moment, not striving and exertion in search of some later, “better” state of mind. You can be only what you are right now, and right now is all you ever have. You do not have to be, and you cannot be, anything which you now are not. But the path-followers, who want to imagine that their efforts, if pursued seriously enough and long enough, will lead them to some exalted or special state—some attainment—do not like that idea.
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My friend, the esteemed Buddhist teacher, Robert K. Hall, and I were talking last week about the desire to know the “self.” He said that after a lifetime of looking he had found “nothing.” The self, he meant, is empty at its core, so if you search for a lasting, permanent self, you find no-thing. If you try to “realize” the self, you will arrive at no-thing at all. Like peeling an onion, if you peel long enough, you end up with nothing. I agreed that I too had found nothing, and added, “So all of this religion, and practice, all this conversation about noble truths and such, is just a wall they build to keep out nothing.” Robert laughed, and nodded his head yes. This may sound like defeat or failure, but it isn’t. It’s quite a relief, I say, to stop looking for assurances of an eternal future, and to spend one’s time instead in the eternal present—a human present.
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I recall a group of bonobos I watched, surprised not just by the intelligence in their eyes, but by their acute social comprehension as well. Always the photographer, I soon had my camera out and up to my eye for a portrait of the alpha male. He instantly twigged what I was up to, and gazed into the lens patiently while I made adjustments and got off a couple of shots. Then, apparently weary of the game, turned his back on me and showed me his ass.