The Many Ways to Know Your True Self ~ Bob Lingvall

First, let’s see why we want to know our true self, and then let’s explore how we can do it.

Why do we want to know our true self? It brings us back into the beauty of each moment of our lives. You know yourself as the gift you have always been looking for — the love your heart desires. Knowing your true self does not answer all your questions, but instead makes them so much less important to ask. True enlightenment gives you back to yourself and to your loved ones in a fuller, deeper way. Your daily life, your ego, becomes more and more an expression of who you truly are, who we all are, each and every one of us — compassionate love, blissful awareness. That’s the “why” of it. Now, the “how.”

How do you come to know your true self? There are many varied methods and practices offered by various cultures and religious traditions. This can be confusing. Let’s look for the common thread beneath these practices. What makes each of them effective tools for enlightenment? What makes following your breath, the Jesus prayer or a Zen koan, all ways to realize your true self? Knowing this can help you use any religious tradition’s practice more effectively. It can help you avoid the distractions of the orthodoxies and cultural accidentals, allowing you to keep your focus fixed on the task of enlightenment — of knowing your true self.

The common element in all these practices is the temporary suspension of discursive thinking. This makes them tools for enlightenment. Why is suspending discursive thinking so important? Discursive thinking is the life-blood of the ego’s activity. Suspend your discursive thinking and you can begin to have a consciously lived experience without the ego. Without the ego’s activity engaging our attention we have a chance of knowing our true nature beneath our ego.

When looking for your true self there is nothing for us to create or fix, but rather to uncover and to discover. Any meditation practice, such as following your breath, engaging in a zen koan or simply being aware, gives you the lived experience of being conscious without the activity of the ego. We begin to know ourselves without the ego’s activity, allowing us to have a consciously lived moment of our true nature. Over time this process weakens your attachment to your ego as your true self.

So if we want to discover our true nature we need to give our self the experience of being awake and conscious without being engaged in our ego’s activity. Our attachment to our ego as ourself, as who we are, hides our true nature from us. This is the attachment that blinds us. Give yourself the experience of being awake and conscious without being engaged in the ego’s activity.

If you can be conscious and alive without the ego, then it cannot be your essence. It cannot be ultimately who you are, but only something you do or possess. Having the lived experience of being conscious without the ego’s activity, even for a moment, gives you a taste of your true nature beneath your ego.

So begin a practice of giving yourself the lived experience of being conscious without the ego’s activity. Pick any one you want. See what fits. What is comfortable for you? Simply do some type of practice that does not involve discursive thinking, such as following your breath in and out or exhausting your discursive thinking with a Zen koan, until it surrenders and you find rest. You can also disengage from discursive thinking by focusing on sensory awareness: colors, shapes, sounds, smells or perhaps some body awareness exercises — the touch of your shirt on your neck, your feet touching the floor or consciously tensing and relaxing the muscles of your body. There are many, many others. Just look for something that helps you stay awake and alert, but without engaging in discursive thinking.

Once you begin your practice you can start to have a new relationship with your ego, seeing it as a tool for the expression of your true nature. We are not trying to get rid of the ego. It is a very necessary, wonderful psychological structure, providing us with tools to function in society: building relationships, engaging in work and play, and on and on. Wonderful, yes, but for all its wonder it is not who we are. It is a tool for the expression of who we are. At its best, it is a tool for the expression of our true nature in our everyday life.

Seeing our ego as a tool for the expression of our true nature gives us a better chance to lay it aside for a few moments when it is not needed. We can simply be in our realized self. The ego is a necessary and effective tool for engaging in society. It has a very important purpose and function. Its joys and sorrows are not to be overlooked either. When you know the ego as a tool for the expression of your true self it can be a wonderful way to live a human life. The ego has a job to do. It has a purpose and function in our life, but it does not need all of our conscious, waking moments, 24/7.

There are times in everyone’s life when we can lay your ego aside for a few moments and live without it. We can all rest in our true self beneath the ego. It can be when you have a few minutes without any demands on you — no questions to answer, problems to solve, things to plan or do. There are moments when the ego is just not needed. Having the lived experience of letting go of the ego in your meditation practice, and knowing that the ego is not you, will allow you to more easily lay it aside for a few moments and just be. You can take a break and consciously be aware of being — nothing more, nothing less. You are loving, conscious awareness. Being awareness is satisfying in and of itself.

This direct experience of being awareness is the experience of your true nature. Your true self beneath your ego cannot be known as a fact or object, but only lived. Being is. Discursive thought will never get us here.

Again, why do we want to know our true self? It brings us back into the beauty of each moment of our life. You will know yourself as the gift you have always been looking for, the love your heart desires. Knowing your true self does not answer all your questions, but instead makes them so much less important to ask or answer. True enlightenment gives you back to yourself and to your loved ones, in a fuller, deeper way. Your daily life, your ego, becomes more and more an expression of who you are and who we all are, each and every one of us — compassionate love, blissful awareness

Bob’s studies of Buddhism and Hinduism began in 1969 and resulted in Bachelor’s Degree in American Religious Studies at Harpur College.

Taking a decidedly mystical turn, Bob has taught courses in meditation, Hindu mysticism, and Persian poetry, in particular finding inspiration in the writings of Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, family (especially his wife, Romina, and his five children), students, friends, self-inquiry and silence.

His ebooklet, There Is a Beauty Within You – “I am” Meditation Series can be found on http://www.smashwords.com.

The Most Important App You Will Ever Have ~ Soren Gordhamer


In our age of amazing technological advancement, where new apps are created daily and we are busier than ever, it is easy to forget the most essential app we have: our own body and mind. In fact, in a recent National Sleep Foundation study, 63 percent of Americans say their sleep needs are not being met during the week. Essentially, the mind/body app often takes a toll in our constantly-connected life.

While we want the newest and coolest app available in the app store, more people are realizing that taking care of themselves amidst an increasingly-connected life is paramount. Venture investor and Twitter advisor Chris Sacca said it best at the recent Wisdom 2.0 Conference, which I organize: “People are realizing, ‘I have optimized my machines, my software … ‘ yet we are beginning to realize that no matter how great a technological device we buy or how great our network is, the real source of potential is in ourselves.”

How do we do harness this most essential app? Below are three key elements:

1) Pay Attention: Mindfulness Matters

“You must be present to win.” — a sign in Las Vegas

Mindfulness is the ability to bring our full attention to the present moment. It’s what allows us to focus on our work, discuss a subject with an open mind and feel connected to people and nature. The opposite of mindfulness is “mindlessness,” where we are constantly scattered and unable to focus on one thing.

Digg and Milk founder Kevin Rose, when asked why mindfulness is important, replied, “Because bad things happen to you if you don’t.” He went on to explain that there were times when stress has taken over his life, and he realized the need to slow down and take a breath in order to stay healthy and focused.

Zynga cofounder Eric Schiermeyer speaks on benefits of mindfulness in business, and went so far as to say, “If you want to super hyper wealthy, you really need to spend some time being mindful.”

More people in tech are realizing the power of their attention, and the need to develop and harness this, as much as they build their other skills.

2) Do Something: The Power of Movement

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.” — Plato

A second element that helps us nurture the mind/body app is movement or exercise. Our bodies are not built to sit still for hours and hours a day in chairs. We need to move. Exercise is shown to have countless benefits, from supporting positive brain activity, to decreasing stress and lowering cholesterol.
A recent medical journal study revealed that people who sit for most of their day are 54 percent more likely to die of a heart attack.

Standing desks and moving the body throughout the day, whether it takes the form of a walk, run or yoga, has significant benefit to our health and well-being.

Technology can support this, for example, through tools like RunKeeper, which provides a community for joggers, or simply setting an alarm on your phone to ring everyday that reminds you to move.

When we sit for too long, the mind easily stagnates and the blood does not flow. The human being is one app that needs movement.

3) Nourish the App: Foods that Aid

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” — Irish Proverb

It’s curious that when we buy the latest iPhone, we often purchase a nice cover for it, make sure it is protected from the elements and keep it in good working condition … We want it to last as long as we can. However, at the same time, we often treat the greater app, our mind and body, with much less care, habitually eating food, from pastries to sugared drinks, that drain our energy and make it more difficult for us to focus on our work.

We have more interest in our iPhone lasting than we do our body and mind. Not all of us need to go so far as to kill all the meat we eat like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg does, but it helps to bring greater awareness to the food we take in and find foods that give us energy and support a healthy lifestyle.

Sites like Summer Tomato are dedicated to helping people do so, including buying and eating fresh, seasonal foods. As founder Darya Pino explains, “Your daily food choices are by far the most important factors in your long-term personal health, and upgrading your health style can add more than a decade of quality years to your life.”

It can also help to find friends and co-workers who share this interest, and with whom you can share meals and offer and receive support in eating better.

Conclusion

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” — Jim Rohn

While it is always exciting to get the latest external app, if we are not caring for the body/mind app in the process, we are missing something. So as we download that latest app in the store, it is good to remember to care for the mind/body app as we do, which involves paying attention, getting the sleep we need and noticing what foods best serve us.

If you think you have a more important app that needs your attention, go for it. However, without a functional mind/body app, none of the others work as well. It’s one app that is not so easy to replace.

Wisdom 2.0 is a conference founded by Soren Gordhamer to explore the deeper connections between technology and humanity, discovering paths that lead to mindful, happier lives.

What’s True, and Not, About Stress ~ Deepak Chopra


This is one of those posts where it’s tempting to add “keep reading” to the title. Stress is the gray little monster in the corner that keeps out of sight. Everyone promises themselves to reduce the stress in their lives, yet “I’m stressed out” is said every day, and the pressures of modern life mount. Banks undergo stress tests, as do our hearts when the doctor wants to test for cardiac disease. What more is there to say about a subject that has become so well worn?

Actually, it’s worthwhile to go back and revisit the basic facts about stress, and then look at the deeper, more mysterious issues that are involved, some of which lead us into unexpected territory. The term stress was coined by the Hungarian researcher Hans Selye, who injected irritating substances into mice and discovered, to his surprise, that all of them produced the same symptoms (swelling of the adrenal cortex, atrophy of the thymus gland, gastric and duodenal ulcers). Selye observed that sick patients with various illnesses exhibited much the same symptoms.

It was due to Selye’s medical approach that stress is seen as a physical response rooted in the endocrine system. In fact, the term “stress hormones” is still applied, and blood levels of cortisol are a key indicator of someone being under stress. In the grand scheme, stress hormones were incredibly useful ways to explain such diverse things as battle fatigue, the fight-or-flight response, and the death of salmon after they swim upstream to spawn. People were taught to think of stress as being the equivalent of pressure being put on the body, which then gets stressed out.

In this scheme, more pressure equals more stress, less pressure equals less stress. Therefore, it must be good to live with less pressure. However, the picture isn’t nearly so simple. Selye recognized two types of stress. The first, which he called distress, occurs from bad events like being in battle or losing your job. The second, which he called eustress, occurs from happy events, such as a surprise birthday party or going on vacation — the latter is considered one of everyday life’s biggest stressors, even though the purpose of a vacation is supposedly to relax. The body reacts the same to eustress and distress so far as raising its levels of stress hormones, and this poses a dilemma.

Human beings are not jellyfish, passively floating through a uniform medium like the ocean. We live in a constantly changing environment, to which the body responds by going out of balance and then back into balance. Its natural set point is balanced, and the complex way that this balance is maintained — known as homeostasis — crosses all boundaries. A physical event can throw the body out of balance, but so can a mental event. Thus, being afraid that you might lose your job is just as stressful as actually losing it.

If everything is potentially a stress, and if the body is so well adapted to restoring balance, then the concept of stress becomes vague and perhaps useless. There are people who claim to thrive on pressure. Is this possible, or are they ignoring signs of stress that will catch up with them one day? Is running a marathon, which puts enormous stress on the body physically, a hidden health risk despite the satisfaction gained by the runner? A hundred similar questions can be asked, and the medical answer, though very complex and detailed, amounts to a shrug of the shoulders. To understand stress completely, one would have to understand the whole of life, it seems.

What if we step outside the medical model, or better yet, incorporate it into a larger perspective? That is what the world’s wisdom traditions have done, without using our modern terminology. Contrary to popular belief, which would label spirituality as other-worldly, the purpose of wisdom is to adapt better to this world. The same issues that lead to stress in the modern world — how to be happy, how to calm the restless mind, how to escape nervous anxiety and so on — confronted human beings at the time of Buddha and Christ. So let’s step back and rethink stress in spiritual terms first, rather than setting the soul aside as something to pay attention to much further down the road.

Here, I must speak very generally. In spirituality of every kind, the non-physical domain contains our source. We are the products of consciousness, whether you call it the mind of God or universal Brahman. This consciousness was responsible for creating the body and mind we experience every day. The good life therefore depends upon the following:

1. Being at peace with yourself.

2. Connecting to your source in consciousness.

3. Growing in self-awareness.

4. Feeling loved and worthy.

5. Experiencing the presence of God or the soul.

People struggle simply to attain the first thing on this list and yet much more is implied by the other items. An entire worldview is based on which allegiance you hold, to the physical first and foremost or to the spiritual first and foremost. This isn’t an intellectual or emotional decision made according to various beliefs, it is a conception of reality itself. In our time, which is dominated by materialism, stress is the enemy that impairs health. In the spiritual worldview, stress is the distraction that keeps you from knowing God or the soul.

The two sound radically different, and they are. But again speaking in vast generalities, the body is crucial in both cases. Homeostasis, the body’s ability to balance itself, has both a gross level and a subtle level. The gross level is needed for physical survival. When you run a mile and raise your blood pressure and heart rate, it’s vital for these to come back down again or you will die. The subtle level of homeostasis is far more mystifying. But we might say that true balance is a state of clear, calm self-awareness in which you return to the higher self. Thus, a moment of excitement that throws your awareness out of balance, whether for pleasure or pain, shouldn’t be sustained, because if you lose the connection with your soul your true self, life will be harmed.

Stress, it turns out, does spiritual damage before it does physical damage. Selye didn’t talk in those terms, naturally, but quickly upon the spread of his research findings in the 60s and 70s, it was widely reported that meditation reduces stress. That’s not a casual observation. Meditation’s ability to reduce blood pressure, for example, is secondary to the fact that the whole person is being rebalanced, not just the body. Yet the body is crucial in the process. No more profound finding has emerged in modern spirituality. One famous guru was asked what was necessary in order to reach enlightenment, and he replied, “Relax.”

Behind this simple and seemingly frivolous answer lies a wealth of knowledge about health, wisdom, well-being and the purpose of life. In the next post I’d like to explore those avenues. Stress will be our constant companion, the little gray monster trying to be overlooked, until we root out its effects as deeply as possible.

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