Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three Poems I Didn't Write (but Which I Somehow Inspired)


     Although I have messed around with poetry a little in my life, I do not have a very poetic temperament; consequently some of the people I know are much better poets than me. (My primary fascination with writing poetry is working with the idea of conveying information and feeling in accordance with a limited, stylized form, and since most poetry in the English language lately has dispensed with most limitations that can be dispensed with, keeping mostly only the limitations shared by prose, I pay little heed to poetry that isn’t “archaic.”) It may be that over the years I have inadvertently inspired more poetry than I have written. Some of it has been love poetry from young women—of which I have received little since I became a monk, for very understandable reasons—and that sort is best left unpublished, as it is intended for private reading, maybe only by me. But some others, including my father and some good friends, have been moved by a Muse on my behalf, or to my discredit. Three of the juicier examples of this are included here.
     The first is by my father, satirizing his fanatical, extremist son. Since my lay name was (and officially still is) David, and since I really have lived alone in caves (for many years in fact), the old and well known dirty limerick starting “There once was a hermit named Dave” sometimes becomes a theme of lampoons at my expense.

A Hermit Named Dave, by John R. Reynolds

Now I'm going to tell you 'bout a hermit named Dave
     Who renounced the whole world to go live in a cave:
He didn't like cars, and he didn't like people,
     And he didn't bells that make noise in church steeples.
He didn't like dogs, and he didn't like cats—
     Didn't even like clowns who wear funny hats;
He didn't like sidewalks or clothes that were pink,
     And he really went ape when faucets dripped in the sink.

He didn't like pigeons folks feed in the park;
     He didn't like sunshine, and hated the dark.
He'd detested TV since he was a child,
     And the sound of a car horn would drive old Dave wild.
He always went barefoot 'cause shoes hurt his feet—
     So what he'd hate most was chewing gum on the street;
Each time he stepped in some he'd jump up and down
     And holler and cuss and shake his fist at the town.

So now he's a hermit and lives under a rock;
     He don't have a table or a chair or a clock;
He sleeps on a bed made of rusty tin cans,
     And he don't wash his face, or even his hands.
He eats nothing but bugs, and smears mud in his hair,
     And wears nothing but burlap, with no underwear.
So if you're out in the woods and you come near a cave,
     If you're chewing on gum keep your eyes peeled for Dave!

Actually, he was proud of me. He just liked having a little fun, that’s all.
     The next little gem may require some commentarial gloss to illustrate its peculiar exquisite tastelessness. One time an American monk, one of the few Western monastic friends I had in Burma (not because the rest shunned me but mainly because there are few Western monks in upper Burma) came to visit, and we were out in front of my cave, talking. He mentioned that, in order to reduce feelings of lust, he would often lie on his bed holding a human skull in both hands. (Human skulls are rather easy to obtain in Burma, as they can be found lying around in the weeds at old cemeteries.) I observed that his method probably wouldn’t work so well for me, lustful as I was. I told him I’d be lying there holding the skull and thinking, “Hmmm…...that eye socket…...” Conversations between Western monks can get rather raunchy sometimes. So anyway, shortly thereafter, he sent me this fine work of literature:

(Untitled, by Venerable Anonymous)

There once was a hermit named Dave
Who kept an old skull in his cave:
     The rocket in his pocket
     Just fit the skull’s eye socket— 
May all sentient beings be saved!

It’s probably best to move on quickly, without further comment.
     The next one is by my friend Conor, who usually lives in Yangon, although at the time of writing this he is in the USA waiting for his lovely mate to have a baby, while trying to seem like he’s not waiting. (He says that is the appropriate way to have a baby, and I lack the experience in such matters to disagree with him on the subject.) It may be, for all I know, that the only real inspiration I lent to the next poem, written by venerable Conor, is the term inshallah, which I rather like. It’s an old-fashioned Arabic way of saying “God willing,” or “Who knows if it will really happen! Nothing is certain.” But the poem contains some profundity as well as beauty, more even than the troglodyte hermit joke poems. There is real Dharma in the next one, a genuine reflection on the First Noble Truth and the fact that nothing in the entire universe has the power to really satisfy us. But still we may as well continue on the great adventure until we get to the end, or just get supremely fed up and quit. It’s from a recently published slender volume entitled The Glossary Lament (Vinegar Mother Publishing, 2015).

Bride of the Sun (Mantra), by Conor Adam Mitchell

Inshallah, I will pilot a helicopter
and find it wanting.
Inshallah, I will bathe in an arctic stream
and find it wanting.
Inshallah, I will wear a championship belt
and find it wanting. 
Inshallah, I will hug a corner at 200 miles per hour
and find it wanting.
Inshallah, I will guzzle chocolate melted with gold leaf
and find it wanting. 
Inshallah, I will roll on the floor with buxom, velvet women
and find it wanting. 
Inshallah, I will talk to a clairvoyant 1,000 year old fish
and find it wanting. 
I will imbibe pomegranate wine, sob underneath the stars, 
               curse every midnight thing
and find it wanting. 
I will set fire to precious tapestries, gobble endangered orchids, 
               snort mummy dust
and find it wanting. 
I will pummel a mountain, crush a diamond in my fist, 
               chop the moon in half
and find it wanting. 
Inshallah, I will finish this poem, 
and I will find it wanting.

Inshallah inshallah inshallah inshallah inshallah inshallah
               enthrall in shell and shall and shall and shall and shall
                              shall

                                             shall

                                                            shall

                                                                           aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa




Conor submitted this as an illustration.
I don’t think it really says “inshallah.”




Saturday, July 18, 2015

On the Four Stages of Meditation: or, On the Utter Futility of the Word "Jhāna"


     I’ve been intending to write this article for several years. I have continually put it off, though, as the task of writing it has always seemed rather daunting. Some articles are fun to write; some even overflow and practically write themselves; but this one has always loomed before me like a school term paper that has to be written. Still, though, the subject—the nature of jhāna—is a fundamentally important one in Buddhist philosophy and ethics, as well as a controversial and troublesome one. So I feel it is time to stop procrastinating and sit down and write the damn thing.
     The idea of jhāna is important because it holds such a central place in Buddhist practice, or at least did at one time, back in the old days. To give just one example of this, in the Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (D22)—maybe a little ironically, as it is practically the Bible for Vipassana meditators who disregard jhāna—Right Concentration, sammāsamādhi, is defined as the four jhānas. The commentarial tradition has backed away from this idea, for reasons I may attempt to discuss, maybe, but the Sutta says it pretty clearly. So according to the Sutta, if we don’t have jhāna we don’t have Right Concentration, the eighth step of the Noble Eightfold Path. Some suttas seem to imply that the eighth step is even the most important step.
     The idea of jhāna is controversial because, although the word “jhāna” is tossed around quite a lot in some circles, people, even ostensible authorities on the subject, often disagree on what jhāna actually is. And the trouble comes from the combination of the first two: important + controversial trouble. So it’s good to do a little investigating.
     One bit of troublesomeness that steps in even before the controversy starts raging good and hard is the fact that, although jhāna is declared to be Right Concentration, also it is declared in the Pali texts to be uttarimanussadhamma—a “superhuman state.” So if the suttas are to be taken at face value (which the commentarial tradition pretends to do, but really doesn’t), then in order to have Right Concentration, a requisite for correct Dhamma practice, one must be essentially superhuman, at least with regard to one’s meditation.
     Another bit of trouble, which itself is a major cause for the controversy, is that jhāna is not clearly, precisely, unambiguously defined in the suttas. Literally, or so I’ve been told, the word means something like “blazing” or “illumination,” which is not very helpful, except perhaps to imply that it is a more intense state of mind than ordinary consciousness and not some kind of semiconscious trance. Practically every time jhāna is described in the suttas, the description takes the form of essentially the same stock formula, which is as follows (this quoted from the Mahā Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta itself):

(katamo ca bhikkhave sammāsamādhi?)
idha bhikkhave bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi vivicca akusalehi dhammehi savitakkaṁ savicāraṁ vivekajaṁ pītisukhaṁ paṭhamaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati; 
vitakkavicārānaṁ vūpasamā ajjhattaṁ sampasādanaṁ cetaso ekodibhāvaṁ avitakkaṁ avicāraṁ samādhijaṁ pītisukhaṁ dutiyaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati;
pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca viharati, sato ca sampajāno, sukhañca kāyena paṭisaṁvedeti, yaṁ taṁ ariyā ācikkhanti “upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī”ti, tatiyaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati;
sukhassa ca pahānā dukkhassa ca pahānā pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṁ atthaṅgamā adukkhamasukhaṁ upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṁ catutthaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati;
(ayaṁ vuccati bhikkhave sammāsamādhi.)

(And what, monks, is Right Concentration?)
Herein, monks, quite secluded from sensual pleasures (or “objects of desire”), secluded from unskillful states, a monk, with discriminative thought and reason, with exhilaration and pleasure born of seclusion, having attained first jhāna, abides in it.
Having allayed discriminative thought and reason, with inward serenity and unification of mind, without discriminative thought or reason, with exhilaration and pleasure born of concentration, having attained second jhāna, he abides in it.
With the fading away of exhilaration he abides in equanimity, attentive and aware, and he experiences pleasure through his body, so that the Noble Ones say of him, “Equanimous and attentive, he is one who abides in pleasure”; having attained third jhāna, he abides in it.
Having abandoned pleasure, having abandoned pain, along with the former cessation of happiness and unhappiness, without pain, without pleasure, with the equanimity of purity of attentiveness, having attained fourth jhāna, he abides in it.
(This, monks, is called Right Concentration.)

     First of all I would observe that the very fact that jhāna is almost always described with a stock formula is peculiar. The Buddha himself, presumably an enlightened being, probably would not have used the same exact formula every time he described such an important part of his system. It would appear that the stock formula, easily plugged in to passages in suttas, was the result of dogmatization, possibly in the hands of people who never knew the Buddha, or deep meditative states.
     With regard to the translation above, I would point out that “pleasure” and “pain” (sukha and dukkha) are apparently referring to physical sensations or feelings, the more mentally-oriented positive and negative being “happiness” and “unhappiness” (somanassa and domanassa). So in first jhāna there is still thinking as well as physical and emotional pleasure and pain, or at least pleasure; in second jhāna no more thinking, but still the possibility of both kinds of pleasure/pain; in third jhāna no thinking, no happiness or unhappiness, but still physical feelings; and finally in fourth jhāna not even that, but only affectively neutral mindfulness (or “attentiveness”) and equanimity.
     Also I would point out that cetaso ekodibhāvaṁ, often rendered as “one-pointedness of mind,” is not necessarily the bringing of the conscious mind to a point, which would imply the narrowing of consciousness to such an extent that one could be oblivious to everything except only what is concentrated upon, as in a deep hypnotic trance. It can also mean that the mind is single or unified, whatever that means. I’ll eventually get back to that point.
     And thirdly I would point out that the above description of jhāna, which is essentially the description of jhāna in the Pali texts, can be, and certainly is, interpreted in different ways by different people, including different meditation instructors and other people who consider themselves to have attained jhāna.
     My father, among many other things, was an amateur hypnotist, and so I am familiar with the basic principles and characteristics of hypnosis; and it seems to me that most of what passes for jhāna, at least in Burma, is really hypnotic trance. For example, not far from my monastery in northwestern Burma there is a meditation center which, I’ve been told, guarantees meditators that by the end of one retreat, even if they are beginners, they will be able to sit for several hours at a stretch without moving, and furthermore they will be able to ascend into the heaven realms and descend into the hell realms in some kind of psychic body, and meet the denizens of these places. And it is to be expected that the denizens will look and act in accordance with how traditional Burmese Buddhists believe they would. That sounds like hypnosis to me. But the results are so dramatic that people are reluctant to consider that it’s not the real deal—whether or not they are sophisticated enough to have heard of hypnosis.
     But this confusion evidently does not occur only in little-known, out of the way meditation centers. Probably the best-known meditation center in Burma which advocates and teaches some semblance of jhāna is Pah Auk Tawya in southern Burma; and some of what I have seen and heard of the place indicates that hypnotic trance is confounded with Right Concentration even there (assuming of course that hypnosis and jhāna are not really and originally the same thing, which is itself a debatable subject). 
     For example, I remember reading in a book written by ven. Pah Auk Sayadaw (I don’t remember the title; it had a blue cover) a “success story” of a woman practicing samatha meditation under Sayadaw’s guidance who remembered a past life as a royal white elephant who attained human birth in its subsequent life through the merit acquired by offering a flower to a pagoda. This sort of story is easily acceptable to Burmese Buddhists, falling in line with their cultural conditioning, yet it may appear rather suspicious, to say the least, to a critical Westerner.
     Another example was told to me by a young Western meditator at Pah Auk many years ago. He had been assigned the practice of seeing, with the “samādhi eye,” the internal organs of himself and others. (This is not supposed to be just an exercise of the imagination, but an actual seeing, through finely honed concentration, of those organs.) He told me that once he was in the meditation hall “seeing” the bones of the person sitting in front of him. He was doing this with his eyes closed, since the physical eye is not what is supposed to do the seeing. So after looking at the other person’s bones to his own satisfaction, he finally opened his eyes to discover that, without his knowledge, the other person whose bones he had been observing had gotten up and walked away—so he was “seeing” bones that weren’t there. When he reported this to his meditation instructor, he was informed that it didn’t matter.
     These two cases (and I could give more) are not so much cases of doubtful jhāna as cases of doubtful psychic powers derived from a jhāna-oriented technique, and they illustrate the possibility that what is called jhāna and psychic powers may really be, in such cases, hypnosis and the power of suggestion influencing one’s imagination. Hypnosis is not bad or wrong, and may really be useful in some situations, yet if that’s what it is, then the person experiencing it should probably be aware of the fact, and not call it something that it is not. It would be interesting if some scientists from a hypnosis lab like the one at Stanford University were to bring a PET scanner or some such to a place like Pah Auk and test whether the practitioners of jhāna were hypnotized or not. The results might result in some heated indignation from the teachers and devout practitioners of the method, however, and a denunciation of the tests. Human nature being what it is, that could be expected with a fair amount of confidence, assuming that the tests came out positive.  
     This is not to say that all jhāna at a place like Pah Auk Tawya is hypnotic, but I would guess that most of it is. I’ve been told that even ven. Pah Auk Sayadaw has acknowledged that much of what people have experienced along the lines of past life regressions and so on have just been vivid figments of imagination. Yet hypnosis appears to be inherent in the system.
     It would seem that this confusion of jhāna with hypnotic trance (again, assuming that they haven't been identical from the beginning) did not originate in Burma, but began even in ancient times. The traditional meditation technique of kasiṇa, for instance, described in detail in the great hypnosis—I mean, eh, meditation manual Visuddhimagga, is very similar to techniques employed to induce hypnotic trance. The aforementioned hypnosis lab at Stanford uses, or has used, a method involving the subject gazing at a small circle on the wall before him or her, which, aside from the smaller size of the circle, is pretty much the same as a kasiṇa disc. I do not remember if it is mentioned in the suttas themselves, but tradition has it that while one is sitting in fourth jhāna one’s breath and heartbeat slow to virtual nonexistence, and one becomes oblivious to one’s environment, including even physical injury…which is also symptomatic of deep hypnotic trance. Yet I fail to see how going into a state of suspended animation like that of a hibernating squirrel could be called higher consciousness or “purity of mindfulness.”
     Bearing this in mind, I consider it possible that the alleged confusion could have occurred relatively early, even before Theravadin orthodoxy set in, during the first century or two while the system was undergoing its phase of explosive systematization. I know enough about early Christian history, and have seen enough of modern Asian Theravadin ecclesiasticism, to know that orthodox doctrine is usually decided by members of the system more interested in scholarship and Church politics than in actual practice of Dharma; and even with the best intentions the truth can become very distorted by fellows who are working not from personal experience, but from intellectual theory. And thus, somehow, what may have originally been a convenient, rather loose description of the progression of stages in Buddhist meditation ossified into a stock, formulaic description of superhuman mental states, in the same category as psychic powers and the four stages of sainthood or Ariya-hood, accessed only by a relatively tiny minority of monks. At this point I suppose I should explain my theoretical version of jhāna.  
     The very same formula found in the texts can, as has already been mentioned, be interpreted in different ways. One way is to see it as a progression in the development of meditation in general, not only the most advanced, “superhuman” stages. Thus first jhāna could be elementary meditation in which the meditator has a perceptual “primary object” of meditation, and in which he or she has not yet entered any particularly deep or refined mental states. It could still be a relatively “normal” state of mind, although clarified and pacified by the meditative practice. In Roman Catholic monastic traditions this level of meditative practice is simply called “meditation.” 
     But with second jhāna one enters the realm of what the Christian mystics call “contemplation.” At this stage one is not only no longer indulging in discursive thought; one is no longer focusing the attention on any perceptual primary object at all. The mind becomes clear, luminous, and relatively silent. Thoughts may begin to arise, yet they simply pass away under the dissolving light of mindfulness and do not reach the stage of linking together into a “train of thought.” At this second stage of meditative practice one’s more basic mental processes of feeling are still in the dualistic realm of positive pleasure and negative pain, however. One may still experience physical pleasure and pain, and one may still feel the exhilaration and joy from conscious expansion; and, although the stock formula doesn’t explicitly assert it, one may still experience various feelings of happiness or unhappiness. Feelings of grief or anguish could theoretically arise at this level, although they would not lead to any elaborated dramatic story being cooked up, since one is not focusing on them specifically, and the linking together of perceptions into narratives or themes has already been abandoned along with first jhāna.
     With third jhāna, in accordance with the hypothesis, not only thinking but also a dualistic experience of emotional states would be transcended. Physical pleasure and pain would still be discerned, however subtly, as dualistic “realities,” though.
     Finally, with fourth jhāna, the entire dualistic complex of perceptions and feelings, from top to bottom, would be transcended—not necessarily suppressed or eradicated, but no longer a focus of consciousness, no longer a variegated, dualistic “reality.” The mind would be like a mirror, reflecting whatever naturally comes to mind (which would be relatively little, quantitatively), without discriminating it, without focusing on it, without attributing significance to it. The mind would, temporarily, be free from the self-generated limitations of the mundane mind. But even fourth jhāna, supreme meditative state that it is (setting aside further and presumably later elaborations of the system, like formless jhānas and the state of “the attainment of cessation”) is conditioned, with a beginning and an end, and is not true enlightenment.
     The evolution of jhāna into trance states, even superhuman ones, going with the hypothesis, has resulted in traditional Theravada splitting into "two sāsanas," two teachings. Sometimes in Burma one may be asked, "Which Sāsana do you belong to, the Vipassana Sāsana, or the Samatha Sāsana?" But I really don't think the Buddha originally taught two rival approaches to Nirvana. My experience as a long-term meditator, as well as a person who arguably thinks too much, leads me to feel that mindfulness is really the key to Dharma practice—not so much the eradication of unskillful mental states as the neutralization of them through the detachment and non-identification of mindful awareness. The thing is, though, that we cannot detach from what we are oblivious to. Deeper jhānas, which are "purifications of mindfulness," allow the meditator to be mindful of subtle states that the ordinary person walking around and making noise does not even suspect the existence of. 
     The more awake and attentive one is, the more subtle the phenomena one is able to observe, thereby "transmuting" it into awareness. The four jhānas are, according to this interpretation, the progression of meditation from the most obvious, crudest phenomena, which is all most people tend to be aware of, to the most refined, until the whole field of consciousness is no longer subconscious, or semiconscious, but conscious.
     Even in fourth jhāna a meditator would be conscious; in fact he or she would be more conscious than an ordinary person in an ordinary waking state. One would not be oblivious to anything; it would simply become irrelevant, and remain undiscriminated. In this sense advanced jhāna may be said to be a kind of temporary, artificial enlightenment; in the texts jhāna is called “temporary liberation” (samaya vimokkha). Thus it would mean more than just temporary liberation from mental defilements by lapsing into a tranced pinpoint or laser beam of attentiveness.
     But trance states have always been in vogue in India, as have their dramatic psychic effects, and scholar monks, church politicians, and even conscientious Dharma practitioners who were not strong in meditation, or maybe just not strong in discernment, could be misled into thinking that popularly revered trance states, and the seeming powers that they can evoke, were the real thing. And thus the four stages in which Buddhist meditation progresses, including the most elementary level, mutated into superhuman mental states, and became almost unapproachable to the majority, almost mythical. 
     It seems to me that, practically by definition, anything a human being attains would by that very fact not be “superhuman.” If a human attains it, then it is human. So in this sense even enlightenment itself would not be a superhuman state. But if consciousness expands beyond what is characteristically human, transcending humanity somehow, for example by transcending form, then I suppose it could be called a superhuman state, although a person technically would not attain it; it would be attained by somehow leaving the person behind. In this case, transcendental states, say, from second jhāna on up, could reasonably be called superhuman; but elementary first jhāna, still bound to human thought, could hardly be above the human level. 
     So anyway, I consider the word “jhāna” to be futile, a useless word now, because the meaning of the word is so controversial, with different people meaning different things when they use it, that it simply results in more confusion than information. Better to describe a meditative state in one’s own words, or just to remain silent, than to use a word as vague and non-descriptive as “jhāna.”
     I suspect that the state of being a “stream enterer,” a sotāpanna, was not originally a superhuman or transcendental state either…but we needn’t get into that here. That’s a whole different kettle of wax.

     Well, that wasn’t so hard to write.
     
     





Saturday, July 11, 2015

How to Be Enlightened (Maybe)


Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius. —William Blake’s Devil

     Over the years (ha, it’s been years!) I have mentioned several times on this blog a person that I consider to be a “sage,” or an abnormally, extraordinarily wise person, named Paul Lowe. But instead of just mentioning him, in order to do him justice, so to speak, I’d rather let him speak for himself in this post. So I transcribed two of his Dharma talks, or whatever he calls them, from the audio section of his website, paullowe.org, one of which is included below.
     I discovered Paul about 13 years ago, when I was going through a kind of spiritual/emotional/existential crisis in Burma. A friend, a fellow Western monk, gave me In Each Moment, by Paul Lowe, or maybe just lent it to me indefinitely, apparently without considering it to be much more than an interesting book. But it was one of those miraculous cases of receiving the right blessing at the right time, exactly what one needs—which is one reason why I like Paul so much, despite the rather New Ageish angle he adopts. I can honestly say that my life was changed significantly after reading the book, and letting it sink in.
     As Paul says sometimes, the mere words themselves are really not the point, so I suppose the following words will miss the point too. The words are simply a kind of vessel for an attitude, or a “vibration.” So reading dead words on paper or on a screen will hardly have the same effect as listening to a wise teacher in person, or even on a recording. But still, it’s well worth reading—the book, as well as what follows.
     I had never transcribed a talk before, and one interesting thing I learned (interesting to me anyhow) is that there are practically an infinite number of ways to transcribe a talk, even though the words are given; there isn’t just one way, or even a right way…unless the speaker’s preferences would be considered “right.” Where does one start a new paragraph? Does a comma go here, or a semicolon, or a dash? Sometimes it’s not clear even where to end a sentence. So any transcription is also a translation to some degree, reflecting the transcriber’s style of thinking and writing. Bearing that in mind, I hope I haven’t mucked up Paul’s talk too much.
     Also, as is often the case with me, I overcame many urges to “fix up” what are essentially someone else’s words. My duty as a transcriber is simply to record what Paul said, not fix sloppy grammar or whatever. (This is one great advantage of writing: That one can go back and fix up the rambling mode of communication that spontaneous speech often takes. On the other hand, that aforementioned “vibration” is lacking, or much reduced.) So instead of fixing up sentences in which Paul suddenly changes the subject midway, or in which he slightly forgets how the statement began by the time he gets to the end, I have left it as it is, which is best.
     I assume that most of the great spiritual teachers spoke in a rambling, not necessarily grammatically correct manner, and that later disciples, in recording and editing everything, smoothed it all out for the sake of “propriety.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buddha and Jesus gave rambling, sometimes semicoherent Dharma talks, and tossed in unnecessary particles like “kinda” or “y’know?” as well as some substandard grammar. “OK, uh, blessed are they who know their spiritual poverty, y’know?”
     Anyway, here’s the transcription of Paul’s talk. It, and many others well worth hearing, may be found at www.paullowe.org/audio/. He also has talks on YouTube.

"Being Open for What We Need," by Paul Lowe

     As we start to be less asleep, more awake, we start to realize that what we've been accepting as "the way it is," is not the way it is. There really is something else. And is seems that this happens in degrees; we have a certain level of waking up, and we go, "Ohhh…right, it's not like I thought is was! It's like this!" And then, we start to assume that this new "this" is the way it is, because we want to be safe and secure and predictable—you want to say, "Ah, this is it." And it isn't it. I don't think that there is an "it." It's moving and changing all the time.
     So we have an awakening, you see the way it is, and that's the way we want to see it now. And it isn't the way it is, 'cause if you can see it, there's still a seer and a seen. There's still a separateness. So, to have our realizations and then say, "Great! And is there anything else?" be grateful for where you are, and be open for something else. 
     Now one of the things that people wake up to is, that they've had a fixed idea about what's possible and not possible. Of course we were indoctrinated with that from birth—"This is the way it is"—and it's a different "This" depending on whether you're a Catholic or a Muslim or a Jew or a this or a that. The "This" is different. 
     When you realize, "Oh, it's not that way; things aren't as fixed as I thought; so therefore: I can change it! I can manifest it."—in fact there are workshops about manifesting—which is certainly a better idea than being stuck in the old, but what we don't realize is, when we manifest something, we manifest it from the old, 'cause that's all we've got. We don't have the new, we don't know what the new is. So when we manifest something we take the old, and squeeze it into a shape we like better, and project it into the future and say, "That's what we want." 
     Marilyn Monroe sang, "After you get what you want, you don't want what you got at all." So when you get there you realize, "Oh, this is out of date already," or "This isn't the way I thought it was," or "I didn't realize that." I didn't realize that. And we can't, 'cause we don't see in the future. Even a psychic, when they see what we call "the future" is the future based on now. You can say, "Oh, this will happen to you in the future," but only if you keep on doing the same thing in the same way; so if a psychic says you're going to have a car accident on the 19th, you don't get in a car on the 19th. You've already changed what's called "the future."
     So when we manifest, we manifest from the old—and we put a lot of energy into it—getting something that may, almost certainly, [be] what we want, but not what we need. And what we really need to be open for, is, "What do we need?" Whatever it is, however it is, we need to be open to what we need; so then people say, "So don't manifest," and we go into extremes again. 
     What I suggest is this: Sit, close your eyes, turn everything off, and listen. Be still. And then, allow coming in, "How would I like things to be, ideally? Where would I like to be, what would I like to be doing, and would I like to be—" get it all very clear, because you see, that is your reality, whether you know it or not. That's your matrix. That's your pattern. That's what goes on in the background all the time; that's why you keep getting upset, because things aren't the way that you would like them to be. In the background. But get it clear, bring it all to the fore, see it, get it clearly and say, "That's the way I would like things to be." And then, disconnect and let it go. As is appropriate. 
     Don't make things happen. You use your will and almost certainly you'll regret it. Because the will…let's say it…bends things, your will bends things, you bend peop—you know, when you convince somebody against their will to do something, they're never happy, and neither are you! 'Cause you know you made them do it and they didn't want to do it. Disconnect from the will. Acknowledge it, see what you would like, and disconnect from it. Make space. Open up, and say, "As is appropriate. That's what I'm available for."
     Let's go back a little bit. Almost everybody all the time has a fixed place, and if you say, "Aw, that'll never happen," you have put out a frequency that that will never happen! "Oh, I'll never meet anybody that—" You've just created it! Acknowledge that thought, and then say, "and, I don't know. Existence, I'm open for whatever you'd like to bring me, however you'd like to bring it." Open up, be available, for whatever. 
     Have you noticed sometimes some of the most intriguing things seem to happen, by what we call "accident?" Do you know, many of the great breakthroughs in science were all an accident! Look at the guy that developed LSD: He had no idea what was happening to him, going into these states, he didn't know where it was coming from. He was just imbibing the fumes and going into a state—oh, and so many things; Madame Curie, and—and, uh, Einstein had it come in his sleep, and so, we don't know.
     Now this is what I'm telling you: Listen. Listen. Dare, "Don't know." Don't know. There could be a knock on the door any time, or the phone will ring, or… Anything can happen. Anything. Way, way beyond what you imagine, because you're imagining the old in the old way, and it's usually contracted and it's usually complaining. "Aw, that doesn't happen to me. Aw, I never win anything." Well, you keep going on like that and you probably won't! You're creating an aura around you. And existence will respond to that. "Oh, so you think nothing will happen? I'll make sure nothing happens!" Instead, say, "I don't know, and I'm available, and it may come in some unexpected form, and I'm ready. I'm available. Every time the phone rings, I pick up, not knowing. Every time I meet somebody, I don't know whether I'm not going to say anything, I'm going to have a deep conversation, or I'm going to live with them for the rest of my life!" Don't know. In each moment. 
     Here's something else to review, not getting what you want. So, as I say what I'm about to say, watch where the mind tends to jump, and have a reaction to it. Just, just listen. Just listen. You see, most of the time, most people are not having fun, because they think they don't deserve it. Do you deserve it? 
     You take a look inside, and you'll probably find that somewhere, you're not honoring yourself. You're not accepting yourself the way you are. You think you should be another way, or you think about all the things where you were not kind, or you could have done something else. And so, at some level down there, you don't think you deserve what you would like. And that keeps blocking your blessings. Allowing existence to bless you, to shower on you, to pour all over you—abundance. 
     Nothing's a coincidence; everything has some link somewhere, and if you look deep inside—oh! I used to do this in the groups—I used to say, "Say a long lost uncle had left you some money; how much did he leave you?" You'd be amazed at the piddling little amounts people gave themselves! Instead of millions and millions and millions they'd say, "Oh, he left me a hundred dollars" or "a thousand" or "ten thou—" but they're restricting: they just wouldn't open up to a total amount beyond their imagination. And that's what we do, we just don't allow ourselves to be that open to an abundant, unexpected gift. 
     In each moment…ofttimes—oh, especially when I was born in England, it was, [moaning] "Uhhhr, yeah, oh we're going on a picnic, it'll probably rain." Just…And where I was, if you'd say, "How are you feeling," if somebody was feeling really good they'd say, "Ahh, I could be worse." You see, that's a frequency, that's a vibration, that's what you're putting out, so that's what you get! 
     And I'm not talking about the opposite of being positive, I'm just talking about not being negative. Just being open. "Yes, it could rain, and it may not. And even if it does rain, maybe…" and so on. Keep looking for possibilities that you enjoy, and not keep looking on the dark side. 
     Here's another aspect to not getting what we would like to get. What we don't realize is, as I was saying before, is we've got a fixed place inside—it's fixed—and…see it as a box, and inside the box are all sorts of little compartments about, "This can't happen unless that happens." And so, these are the conditions that you're setting up for what you want to happen; and you make it pretty well impossible. Here's an alternative. Just for a moment, imagine you're semi-transparent; instead of being a fixed idea, you're a not-knowing energy. Now, everything's changing and moving and shifting, and if you look, everything's growing. You just put a tiny little seed in the soil and water it, and in no time at all you've got this incredible being coming out of the ground. And trees that you imagine, "Oh, it's a tree," but keep looking at it, and you'll find it's growing, it's moving, it's changing—everything is growing and moving and changing. If you are less fixed, life will flow through you, because you're not stopping it in any way, you're not fixing it in any way, you are not putting conditions on it. You're saying to life, "Live me. Live through me. Be me." And you're part, then, not a-part, meaning separate, you're part of this incredible abundance. Go out into the forest, go down to the river, look at the fields, bursting with energy, with life…and movement. Moving, always moving. 
     So when we get a fixed idea, we've anchored ourselves in a spot; and as soon as you're not moving, you're miserable. The joy, the bliss, the ecstasy, is Being With Each Moment, as it takes place, flowing with it. And when I say "with it," you're not doing anything; you're just not stopping yourself. 
     A classic one—you jump in a river. If you're trying to achieve something, you're swimming up against the tide. Or, you're a negative person, you're fighting your way down the flow. Instead of, just let go. Bernie Gunther used to say, "Waterfall? No trouble at all." Just be with the flow. And it'll take you here, and it'll take you there, and it'll always take you exactly where you need to be at exactly the time you need to be there! You say, "Isn't that amazing I met you at this point!" No, it's not amazing. That's what happens when we get out of the way. When we become part of life instead of apart. 
     And then, you know, you really do feel blessed. You say, "Oh! Isn't that amazing? Isn't that wonderful?" And the thing is, you see, the more you feel blessed, the more blessings you get, Tiddly-Pom. That's the way it is! Gratefulness creates a space for more to come to you: exactly what you need, in exactly the appropriate moment.                          


Thank you, Paul.