Sunday, February 14, 9999

First Post

This blog is an attempt to help us dispel our illusions and cease the worry and stress we inflict on ourselves. It is based on observations and hypotheses, but does not purport to have definitive answers. 

The posts appear in the chronological order in which they were written. Blog software displays posts in reverse chronological order, so to get around this, each post has been given a year starting at 9999 and working backwards. This way, the first post I wrote will always appear at the top (because it has the "latest" date), and the last post I wrote will always be listed at the bottom.

While the years are incorrect, the dates and times are correct. For example, the actual date of this post is February 14, 2015. The days of the week will be incorrect about 6 times out of 7, because the blog software calculates day-of-week based on date and year, and the years are incorrect. For example, the day-of-week of this post is Saturday, not Sunday.

Note that times are Pacific Standard.

Credit for the term "selfing" goes to Paul Hedderman.

Sunday, February 15, 9998

Who Are We?

We don’t know how we came to be or the nature of existence. There is a calling within each of us to discover who we are. Until we find our true self, we do the next best thing: we create a “self” from things of this world, such as our bodies, possessions, accomplishments, beliefs, and group affiliations. Since the things we use to fabricate this “self” are not the true self, it is, by definition, a false self (also called ego).

The ego is so false that it is not even the things we use to build it - it is only a concept, a belief that we are the things we use to build it, such as our nationality, skin color, career, etc. And because it is not real, a lot of time and energy must be invested in the ego in order to keep up the fa├žade. You see, anything real exists on its own and needs no outside help; anything false disappears as soon as attention is taken from it. So we spend large quantities of mental and physical energy trying to prove that this false concept is real: we accumulate wealth, social status, accomplishments, and possessions. Since we must maintain this illusion constantly in order to keep it from disappearing, we constantly worry about it disappearing. Some people are so desperate to keep up their ego that they will steal, lie, criticize, or commit violence, all in the name of making their false self appear real. The ego is thus a heavy burden, and is in fact the most destructive thing on the planet because it is the cause of all depression, conflict, hatred, greed, hostility, violence, and war.

We might try to find our true selves. This is not so much a finding process as an elimination process because the true self cannot perceive itself, just as an eye cannot see itself. The true self can perceive only what is not itself. Therefore finding who we are really means finding out who we are not. Are we our name? Our nationality? Our career? Our skin color? Our religious/political belief? Our gender? Our Social Security number? Of course not. Those are just things we do or have, externals that we present to others, attributes that we use to navigate through this earthly life. The true self is who/what we truly are: a conscious entity. That’s all we can say about it. While we cannot directly perceive the true self, if we shed the false self then we will no longer live in illusion and we will then perceive everything else more clearly.

Get rid of what is not you, and you are what is left. You are not white or black or male or female or American or Chinese or handsome or ugly or Republican or Democrat or rich or poor. You are simply awareness, with nothing to define it: no reputation, no clothing, no name, no home, no work, no nationality, and no family. You cannot see you, nor is there a need to. This can be a difficult concept to grasp after having created a conceptual self out of our externals and seen ourselves as that for so long. 

The ego can be viewed as a shell of thought that the real self resides in. Or it can be thought of as gauze around an invisible person: remove the gauze, and we see that the false self never really existed. 

Many of us feel powerless or worthless because others have criticized, rejected, bullied, or ridiculed us. In order to compensate for feelings of inadequacy and protect ourselves from further hurt, we might create an ego based on the notion that we are powerful or valuable. The way we do this is that we assume/pretend/believe that we are more powerful or valuable than others, because any evaluation needs a reference point (for example, an elephant is big, but only in comparison to a human or an apple; it is quite small compared to Jupiter). This is why so many people need to feel that they are superior to others: the egos feelings of power and worth depend on its feeling more powerful and valuable than others.

The ego will grasp at anything as an excuse to feel superior: its skin color, its beauty, its accumulated wealth, its intelligence, its accomplishments, its gender, its beliefs, etc. Racism is a good example. In an attempt to assuage their own feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness, people make the bogus claim that everyone with their particular skin color is somehow better than everyone else. This is a lazy, ignorant cop‑out because there no evidence to support the notion, plus these people have not earned the trait that they use as an excuse to feel superior. Even if we earn something, that doesnt necessarily make us superior. We might excel at a particular academic, athletic or creative endeavor, but 1) other people have excelled in certain areas that we havent; 2) weve had better access to opportunities and education than many other people have, so maybe weve accomplished no more than they could have if they were in our position; and 3) maybe those who have accomplished less than we have are less ego-driven due to being more content with who they are.

Since the notion that were powerless and worthless is a lie, the notion that we build in reaction to it - that we are superior - is also a lie. So it is a lie on top of a lie. If weve carried this idea around for a long time, it can be very difficult to see how false it is.

All the creating, maintaining, and worrying about our false self is referred to as selfing. That term will be used throughout this blog.

Tuesday, February 18, 9997

Shedding the False Self

Shedding the false self is difficult because we have been conditioned for a long time to pretend we are it. Rather than being simple and quiet and experiencing things as they come, we act from the assumption that we are the false self, and that this false self must process, approve, and take credit for each experience. For example, we experience something pleasant, such as a sunset or music or the softness of our bed. We have a nice immediate experience of it because we are not thinking. Then, within seconds – or even a fraction of a second – we step back and evaluate the experience. “This feels good.” “I am experiencing this.” “I’ve experienced this sort of thing before.” “I want this experience to last.” “I want to experience this again in the future.” This thinking takes us out of experience. We are now experiencing thoughts. They crowd pure experience out of our being. We might then try to enjoy the sunset, music or bed, but we can’t because the act of trying is also a thought process. In order to truly experience we must let go of the false self, i.e., stop evaluating and trying to control things. We can enjoy things only when we are not trying to, not thinking, unintentionally.

If you had a bacterial infection in your brain that made you miserable with aberrant thoughts that produced stress, worry, fear, anger and resentment, you’d run to a doctor for antibiotics because you’d want this parasite out of you ASAP. But if you didn’t know that it was caused by a bacterium, you’d just accept it as part of you, and you’d suffer with it (or commit suicide). Well, that is exactly what the false self is: a parasite that we believe is us. We don’t realize that it’s just made up, an erroneous idea that we torture ourselves with every day. We believe that we can’t kill it because if we did, we’d be killing ourselves.

The false self needs to be in control. It will not “let go”, because that would mean its death. It will steer, allow (or disallow), filter, and analyze every experience, and thereby keep us from having any genuine experience. As soon as we forget the false self and start to enjoy something, the false self will feel frightened because it is not sailing the ship, so it will once again take the helm, allowing us only supervised visitation with life instead of pure experience.

We cannot shed the false self while we are pretending to be it, because the very act of pretending to be it makes shedding it impossible. As Einstein said, We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.Trying to meditate or “go deep inside” is futile if the false self is the one doing it. All that will happen is that the false self will try to have a “spiritual experience”. It might temporarily decrease its activity and fool itself into believing that it has become spiritual, but it will resume normal operations once the meditation is over.

Initial attempts at stopping the selfing process are difficult. We are very used to generating thoughts. Some of these thoughts hijack our experiences. Others cause us to judge people, worry about the future, or regret the past. We must remain relaxed and ignore the urge to think about or try to enjoy what is happening. This is a very subtle thing, and can be understood only by practicing it.

We cannot “beat” the false self. Since it does not exist, “fighting” it will only give it reality that it does not have. Thinking, “I am fighting the false self” will only make it seem real because we are referring to it. Instead, we must simply not allow selfing to occur. Selfing is nothing more than a thought process, a bad habit. When we start to have fearful, resentful, or regretful thoughts, we can decide to stop, just like we can decide to not bite our nails.

This is easier said than done, of course. Our thought processes are largely shaped by genetics, life experiences, and the false self we have built around them. This causes thoughts to appear in our minds, uninvited and unwanted. There is an urge within us to keep selfing, like some sort of demon, and it is uncomfortable to not go along with it. If we keep in mind how much pain the false self causes us, that should be incentive enough to ignore the urge. As we practice this “thoughtlessness” over time, the bad habit will lose momentum and weaken because we are not feeding it, and the discomfort of starving the demon will diminish.

When we are not selfing, we simply perceive everything around us, with no desire or fear. It’s almost as though we “become” what we perceive. There is a perceiver, but no thoughts of “I am perceiving”. There is no “I”. No need to uphold or defend anything. Just perception. This “blank” state of mind is unconditioned awareness: the state of being aware without any thoughts, beliefs, knowledge, desires, expectations, or concept of self, past, or future. There is no fear, disappointment or frustration, nor can there be, because there is never a thought process that differs from reality.

When we get rid of the false self, with all its judgments, fears, illusions, and beliefs, we feel free, clean, and light. We see things as they are. When we do think, we think clearly. We no longer carry the burden that used to cloud everything. There is nothing left but us. What a great feeling!

Monday, February 19, 9996

The Human Condition

Why is the human condition one of pain? Why not constant well being? You know those infrequent times when everything seems right and you have a warm feeling inside and the people around you are enjoying each other? Why can’t life be like that all the time? Why is there so much emotional pain? Why is there resentment, hatred, arrogance, and drama? Why would anyone choose negativity over positivity?

Answer: the false self (ego). It creates stories about itself and others. Because this self is false, the stories it tells are false. The false self is incapable of telling true stories, just as the true self is incapable of telling false stories. The false self claims that it is better than others and/or that others are bad and therefore deserve criticism and punishment. Because the egos falsity requires it to be constantly maintained, the negativity it generates will be constant. This causes us pain, but the pain that our false self would experience if it were to lose its constant support would be even greater, so we keep up the ego’s I’m-better-than-you attitude in order to avoid greater pain.

The falsity of the ego is easily seen when we compare it to things that are true. For example, if someone were to say that our skin was green, we would not experience pain because the color of one’s skin is an undeniable fact. Being true, it is not part of the ego because nothing true can be part of the false self. But if someone were to claim that everyone with our particular skin color was inferior, then we might experience pain. Why? Because it contradicts the ego’s belief that it is superior. The idea that skin color is an indication of one’s abilities or self-worth is false, and being false it can exist only as part of the ego (because only the ego could possibly believe it). Since the egos belief in its own superiority is therefore false, it can never be sure of this belief, so whenever anyone questions it, the ego feels pain because its fragile feeling of being correct and superior is shattered. If we are wise enough to not have this erroneous ego belief, then there is nothing to shatter and therefore we will not experience pain.

Much of human activity is nothing more than desperate upkeep of ego. People constantly need to feel that they are more likeable, athletic, attractive, praiseworthy, wealthy, intelligent, correct, moral, or valuable than others. Why? Because deep down they do not really believe it (and they will never admit that they have any self-doubt because they are frightened to be exposed as the frauds that they are). No matter how many times they “prove” that they are “superior” or “correct”, they need to keep proving it by acting cordial, bragging, exhibiting athletic prowess, wearing fashionable clothing, obtaining sexual partners, buying/flaunting expensive possessions/meals/trips, criticizing, or getting into religious/political arguments. This constant proof is necessary because they are defending a false belief, which causes their proof” to disappear just after it appears, so they keep needing new proofeach moment. Remember, anything true stands on its own and needs no defense or advertising; anything false disappears as soon as it is no longer maintained.

Monday, February 20, 9995

Belief


What is a belief?  An idea that one chooses to accept as true, even though there is no conclusive evidence to support it. Religion and politics are good examples. Belief should not be confused with knowledge, which is something that we know to be true from direct experience, such as that fire will cause us pain (we’ve all been burned). Beliefs, because they are based on hearsay and/or incomplete evidence, are always tenuous, unascertainable, and subject to revision.

We live without complete knowledge of the Universe. This can be frightening because we never know when death, disease, injury, financial loss, or some other unpleasant calamity will occur. Many people cannot handle the state of not-knowing, so they would rather believe something that has not been proved than not believe anything at all. This pushes some people to make up stories, and other people to believe them, in order to fill the knowledge void and give them a sense of certainty and comfort in an uncertain and uncomfortable world. Beliefs are therefore a security blanket. For example, religion makes people secure in “knowing” that they are headed for a posthumous utopia after they die, and politics makes people secure in “knowing” that social and economic problems can be solved merely by electing certain politicians.

Belief can be thought of as a lens that we all look through. Our beliefs thus color our world. We see everything in terms of what we believe, not necessarily what is true. This is why two people can look at the same thing and see two different “realities”. A Republican looks at Barack Obama and sees a moron; a Democrat looks at Obama and sees a wise man. An atheist enjoys a ham sandwich; a Muslim won’t dare touch it because he’s afraid he’ll be punished by a judgmental deity. Anyone who stubbornly holds onto any belief cannot possibly see reality because he will reinterpret what he sees or hears in a way that fits his preconceived notions. That is, no matter what input he receives, he will twist it in such a way that it makes what he already believes seem true. Thus there will never be any learning or growth.

Any belief system is a mental prison. It limits what and how people think. If only people would drop their beliefs, their not-knowing would set them free to see things with fresh eyes and make their own assessments instead of dishonestly conforming to a set of notions that they accepted earlier in their lives.

People are most susceptible to being brainwashed into believing something when they haven't yet developed any other beliefs. If someone is told from an early age that, for example, his particular form of Islam is the one and only correct religion and that all who disagree should be murdered, then he might come to accept that as absolute truth. This same person could also be convinced that Christianity, or Judaism, or Buddhism, is the one correct religion, if he just happened to be taught one of those beliefs from a young age. But people can’t see this because they have had their particular beliefs drilled into them from before they can even remember, so these beliefs have become unquestionable “givens” and they cannot fathom that they could possibly believe anything different. There is no logic or proof for what they believe -- they simply have faith that what their parents and community have told them is true, because the thought that they've been duped is too horrible to bear. They prefer comfortable lies over uncomfortable truths.

The only chance we have to perceive reality, find truth, and grow, is to live without beliefs. We must make sure that nothing “interprets” reality for us. Knowledge, on the other hand, should be kept, because hard evidence proves it to be true. For example, if we learn that fire burns us, then it would be foolish to approach every new fire without any preconceived notions, for if we did, we would keep getting burned.

Religion and politics are the two subjects that people become the most defensive about because 1) they identify with their belief (i.e., they make a false self out of it), and 2) they cannot prove that their belief is correct (so they are not 100% sure that it's true). If you question their belief, they will be reminded of their own doubts and insecurity, which are painful, and they will erroneously blame you for their pain. They will perceive your questioning as a threat not only to their belief but also to their very selves, since the false self cannot survive without the belief it is based upon. In what they perceive as self-defense they will argue vehemently against you, ignoring or discounting any evidence that suggests that they're wrong. 

One of the most often used excuses for violence and hatred is religious belief. Christianity and Islam are by far the most violence- and hatred-producing belief systems because they are based mostly on fear. They are black-and-white constructs that relegate each person to eternity in either a good place (for believers) or a bad place (for non-believers). Any belief system that makes threats in order to gain converts is a miserable one. It is for cowards who can be scared into believing something merely by adding “or else!” to it. The threat of posthumous punishment makes people afraid to not believe their religious teachings. If they begin to look at these teachings logically, which causes doubts about the stories they’ve heard and read (because there is no proof that they are true), an inner conflict arises, causing emotional pain. This can cause them to resent non-believers out of jealousy that those “heathens” are getting more enjoyment from life. The ego needs to feel superior to others, so when a religious fanatic sees someone else enjoying life more than he is, his ego experiences pain. In response, the egoic person tries to make himself feel superior by criticizing non-believers for taking a different road (which, although less painful, is still “wrong”), or by causing them to suffer more than he does (e.g., committing violence against them).

Political extremists adopt a set of black-and-white beliefs about gun control, abortion, welfare, immigration, defense spending, etc, and refuse to budge, because to admit that there are gray areas or that their views could be wrong would be tantamount to ego-suicide. They will not admit that a politician from their own party could possibly make mistakes because they fear that it would make them look mistaken. Meanwhile they will villainize politicians from other parties, sometimes making fearmongering statements such as, “President So-and-So is ruining this country!”, in order to make themselves look “right” by claiming that others are “wrong”.

Why is it that other beliefs don’t cause such desperate clinging? For example, why doesn’t anyone react with pain when someone questions the idea that Earth revolves around the Sun, or that smoking is unhealthful? Because we are 100% sure that it is correct. No one who claims otherwise can shake this belief, so there is no possibility of being wrong and therefore no threat to the ego. Thus, if someone becomes upset when you oppose his belief, it shows that he is not very sure of that belief. Many religious and political extremists are not really sure that they are right, so out of frustration they argue, yell, threaten, and/or commit violence in an attempt to “win” by silencing any opposition.

The less sure one is about one’s belief, the more imperative it is to get others to believe it, the idea being that the more people believe it, the “truer” it must be. This is one reason that religious and political zealots often proclaim their beliefs in order to convince others to believe the same thing. The thought is, “Certainly all these people can’t be wrong.” Yes they can. There was a time when most people believed that Earth was flat and the Sun revolved around it.

Many people are proud of their beliefs because they believe that they have accomplished something by adopting them. Believing something is not an accomplishment. Beliefs are nothing more than opinions that we refuse to reconsider because we are afraid of finding out that we are wrong. Holding onto a belief regardless of evidential support is an ignorant, irresponsible evasion of truth for people who are too lazy and/or frightened to question the stories they’ve been told.

Monday, February 21, 9994

Desire


When we place importance on the world, i.e., when we view things of the world as being important in and of themselves rather than learning aids, this illusion creates desire for worldly things. (Desire in this context means more than just want. It means that not getting what we want will result in emotional pain.) We might view our reputation, or a dogma, or a physical object, or a career, or a relationship, as sacred. This error causes a painful emotion called fear. What is fear? The unpleasant notion that a desire will not be fulfilled. We realize that the worldly thing we consider so important is unstable because all worldly things are temporary, and so we know that it can be taken away at any time. Our reputation lasts only as long as other people believe it. A dogma lasts only as long as we believe it. An object lasts only until it is broken or lost. Our career lasts only as long as someone pays us for it. A relationship lasts only as long as both people want to be in it. We live in fear of losing or not getting these things. If we can only remember that nothing here is important beyond what it can teach us, there will be no desire and no fear because 1) we can never lose anything truly valuable, and 2) the loss of any learning aid merely frees us to find another learning aid. The only thing that lasts is the true self, and since that can never be lost, there is no fear of losing it. 

Another cause of desire is a sense of lack, which is caused by not knowing or accepting oneself. Desiring and pursuing anything is a substitute for finding oneself. It comes from the dissatisfaction of self-ignorance. Unaware of the true cause of our feeling of lack, we might look to external objects as anchors and believe that if we could only attain that job, that relationship partner, that house, that accomplishment, then the inner emptiness would disappear. But when we manage to attain our goal, are we then fulfilled for the rest of our life? Of course not. The existential emptiness is still there because nothing in this world can fill it, so desire returns and we then pursue something else in an endless cycle of want and striving. It’s just one damn thing after another: brief periods of relief followed by long stretches of worry, toil, and frustration.

Not only is desire caused by a feeling of lack, it causes it too. There is a constant feeling of grasping and desperation. We feel as though we cannot be happy until we get a particular thing. In fact, we choose to be unhappy until we get it. We spend hours, weeks, or even years in a state of dissatisfaction, then when we attain our goal we are satisfied for a while, and eventually desire returns, making us dissatisfied again. We spend more than 90% of our life in misery. 

When we desire something, we really desire a state of non-desire, because we believe that getting the desired object will put an end to that desire. So we don’t really desire the object – we simply want the bliss of pure being. The ego knows nothing of pure being, so it mistakenly believes that bliss comes from objects. No matter how many objects it might acquire, it never reaches a state of lasting bliss, yet it insists on chasing desired object after desired object. It stays on the fruitless path because it knows nothing of the true self, which is the only source of lasting bliss.

When we focus on one thing and go after it, we miss all the other stuff along the way. It is very limiting. It is a deliberate rejection of everything else that life has to offer.

Desire is one of the main causes of suffering. (This is one of the tenets of Buddhism.) We desire a lot of things: social acceptance, health, wealth, sex, possessions, entertainment. It feels good to get these desires met and bad when they are not met. We live our lives pursuing them, sometimes “winning” and sometimes “losing”, sometimes enjoying and sometimes suffering. Additionally, we sometimes do things we later regret in the pursuit of what we desire, so that we suffer even greater pain than if we had simply let the desire go unmet.


Desire takes us out of the present moment and makes us fail to appreciate what we have. We might be taking a walk on a beautiful sunny day, but if we are thinking that we'd rather be on a beach in Jamaica, or making love to a supermodel, then we miss the good stuff that is happening right now. We are missing life! 

Desire create a psychological hole that can be filled only by what is desired. If/when the object is attained, for the most part all it does is fill the hole, so there is no overall gain. But if there were no desire, that hole wouldn't be there in the first place, so even our mundane experiences would be positive.

Desire is not a necessary part of life – it is created by the ego. Therefore it is impossible to decrease desire as long as the false self is at the helm, because that is what generates desire in the first place. This is why most people’s attempts at shedding desire fail. The way to get rid of desire is to get rid of the source: ego. When ego diminishes, desire will diminish as an unintentional consequence. It’s like putting out a fire: spraying water at the flames won’t work; it is the pile of straw or wood underneath that must be doused.

This removes the question of whether we should decrease desire. Desire is not the issue; ego is. Desire, like conceit, arrogance, hatred and resentment, is merely a by-product of ego. None of these negative feelings will go away without shedding the ego, so it is absurd to try to get rid of them directly.


When we find ourselves, there is no longer a sense of lack, and the desire for externals vanishes. We feel blissful just being, regardless of what is happening around us.

Can we enjoy things if we don't desire them? Yes. The fact that we don’t desire doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy. The company of loved ones, delicious food, and a beautiful day are all just as enjoyable as ever. The only difference is that we don’t torture ourselves with desire until we get them, nor do we worry that we won’t. This can be difficult to understand while the ego is active. The ego believes that all pleasant things must be desired. The true self knows that certain things are pleasant, and makes efforts to get them, but it does so in a detached manner, free of worry and yearning. For example, let's say our roof leaks. We call a roofer, or we fix it ourselves. Thinking and worrying about getting the roof fixed (activities of the ego) do not stop the leak. We can arrange roof repair without stressful, negative thought and emotion.