Category: Truth


By Amoda Maa Jeevan, author of Embodied Enlightenment

A surprising number of people, especially in today’s materially oriented world, experience a lack of self-worth.

There’s a common belief, even in spiritual circles, that not having enough money is a sign of unworthiness. This usually translates into “I am unable to receive,” “I don’t love myself,” or “I’m not good enough.” What often follows is an attempt to improve self-worth in order to attract more money in order to feel abundant, and therefore to believe yourself to be worthy. Sometimes this works (at least for a while), but mostly it does not.

The acquisition of psychological and spiritual tools for fixing yourself and getting what you want in order to feel better about yourself is a huge error of attention. By giving allegiance to the story of “me” and “my life,” the ping-pong of feeling worthy and feeling unworthy is prolonged. It’s a perpetuation of the seeking mechanism, and there is no fulfillment in this.

True fulfillment comes only when you awaken out of the dream of separation. When you fulfill your inner purpose of awakening to your true nature as the unboundedness of being, the polarity of worthiness and unworthiness collapses into the totality of now. You do not need to feel abundant, because abundance is here as the fullness of this moment. There is no one to judge you as worthy or unworthy. It was only ever yourself judging yourself. When you awaken out of the dream of separation, this is seen to be ludicrous (and a waste of time)!

When you stop right here and rest deeply in the softness of your belly, in the gentle throb of your heartbeat, in the pregnant pause between each breath, in the alive awakeness of now, you may well discover that this moment is rich beyond measure, and that there is no limit to abundance.

Amoda Maa Jeevan is the author of Embodied Enlightenment: Living Your Awakening in Every Moment, published by New Harbinger Publications. Copyright 2017.

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September 12, 2017

By The Dalai Lama: Almost six decades have passed since I left my homeland, Tibet, and became a refugee…

Thanks to the kindness of the government and people of India, we Tibetans found a second home where we could live in dignity and freedom, able to keep our language, culture and Buddhist traditions alive.

My generation has witnessed so much violence — some historians estimate that more than 200 million people were killed in conflicts in the 20th century.

Today, there is no end in sight to the horrific violence in the Middle East, which in the case of Syria has led to the greatest refugee crisis in a generation. Appalling terrorist attacks — as we were sadly reminded this weekend — have created deep-seated fear. While it would be easy to feel a sense of hopelessness and despair, it is all the more necessary in the early years of the 21st century to be realistic and optimistic.

There are many reasons for us to be hopeful. Recognition of universal human rights, including the right to self-determination, has expanded beyond anything imagined a century ago. There is growing international consensus in support of gender equality and respect for women. Particularly among the younger generation, there is a widespread rejection of war as a means of solving problems. Across the world, many are doing valuable work to prevent terrorism, recognizing the depths of misunderstanding and the divisive idea of “us” and “them” that is so dangerous. Significant reductions in the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons mean that setting a timetable for further reductions and ultimately the elimination of nuclear weapons — a sentiment President Obama recently reiterated in Hiroshima, Japan — no longer seem a mere dream.

The notion of absolute victory for one side and defeat of another is thoroughly outdated; in some situations, following conflict, suffering arises from a state that cannot be described as either war or peace. Violence inevitably incurs further violence. Indeed, history has shown that nonviolent resistance ushers in more durable and peaceful democracies and is more successful in removing authoritarian regimes than violent struggle.

It is not enough simply to pray. There are solutions to many of the problems we face; new mechanisms for dialogue need to be created, along with systems of education to inculcate moral values. These must be grounded in the perspective that we all belong to one human family and that together we can take action to address global challenges.

It is encouraging that we have seen many ordinary people across the world displaying great compassion toward the plight of refugees, from those who have rescued them from the sea, to those who have taken them in and provided friendship and support. As a refugee myself, I feel a strong empathy for their situation, and when we see their anguish, we should do all we can to help them. I can also understand the fears of people in host countries, who may feel overwhelmed. The combination of circumstances draws attention to the vital importance of collective action toward restoring genuine peace to the lands these refugees are fleeing.

Tibetan refugees have firsthand experience of living through such circumstances and, although we have not yet been able to return to our homeland, we are grateful for the humanitarian support we have received through the decades from friends, including the people of the United States.

A further source of hope is the genuine cooperation among the world’s nations toward a common goal evident in the Paris accord on climate change. When global warming threatens the health of this planet that is our only home, it is only by considering the larger global interest that local and national interests will be met.

I have a personal connection to this issue because Tibet is the world’s highest plateau and is an epicenter of global climate change, warming nearly three times as fast as the rest of the world. It is the largest repository of water outside the two poles and the source of the Earth’s most extensive river system, critical to the world’s 10 most densely populated nations.

To find solutions to the environmental crisis and violent conflicts that confront us in the 21st century, we need to seek new answers. Even though I am a Buddhist monk, I believe that these solutions lie beyond religion in the promotion of a concept I call secular ethics. This is an approach to educating ourselves based on scientific findings, common experience and common sense — a more universal approach to the promotion of our shared human values.

Over more than three decades, my discussions with scientists, educators and social workers from across the globe have revealed common concerns. As a result, we have developed a system that incorporates an education of the heart, but one that is based on study of the workings of the mind and emotions through scholarship and scientific research rather than religious practice. Since we need moral principles — compassion, respect for others, kindness, taking responsibility — in every field of human activity, we are working to help schools and colleges create opportunities for young people to develop greater self-awareness, to learn how to manage destructive emotions and cultivate social skills. Such training is being incorporated into the curriculum of many schools in North America and Europe — I am involved with work at Emory University on a new curriculum on secular ethics that is being introduced in several schools in India and the United States.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the 21st century does not repeat the pain and bloodshed of the past. Because human nature is basically compassionate, I believe it is possible that decades from now we will see an era of peace — but we must work together as global citizens of a shared planet.

Source: dalai lama


We do need to have certain narratives about the world that alert us to real danger. We also need to recognize when those stories are taking over, blinding and separating us from our hearts, our awareness, and each other.

Nothing is Personal

There is an ancient and well-kept secret to happiness which the Great Ones have known for centuries. They rarely speak of it, but they use it all the time, and it is fundamental to good mental health. This secret is called The Fine Art of Not Being Offended. In order to truly be a master of this art, one must be able to see that every statement, action and reaction of another human being is the sum result of their total life experience to date.

In other words, the majority of people in our world say and do what they do from their own set of fears, conclusions, defences and attempts to survive. Most of it, even when aimed directly at us, has nothing to do with us. Usually, it has more to do with all the other times, and in particular the first few times, that this person experienced a similar situation, usually when they were young.


Study of the Soul

Yes, this is psychodynamic. But let’s face it, we live in a world where psychodynamics are what make the world go around. An individual who wishes to live successfully in the world as a spiritual person really needs to understand that psychology is as spiritual as prayer. In fact, the word psychology literally means ‘the study of the soul’.

Every statement, action and reaction is the result of our total life experience to date.

All of that said, almost nothing is personal. Even with our closest loved ones, our beloved partners, our children and our friends. We are all swimming in the projections and filters of each other’s life experiences and often we are just the stand-ins, the chess pieces of life to which our loved ones have their own built-in reactions. This is not to dehumanize life or take away the intimacy from our relationships, but mainly for us to know that almost every time we get offended, we are actually just in a misunderstanding.

Are They Hurting?

A true embodiment of this idea actually allows for more intimacy and less suffering throughout all of our relationships. When we know that we are just the one who happens to be standing in the right place at the right psychodynamic time for someone to say or do what they are doing—we don’t have to take life personally. If it weren’t us, it would likely be someone else.

This frees us to be a little more detached from the reactions of people around us. How often do we react to a statement of another by being offended rather than seeing that the other might actually be hurting? In fact, every time we get offended, it is actually an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering—even if they themselves do not appear that way on the surface.

Getting offended is an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering.

All anger, all acting out, all harshness, all criticism, is in truth a form of suffering. When we provide no velcro for it to stick, something changes in the world. We do not even have to say a thing. In fact, it is usually better not to say a thing.

People who are suffering on the inside, but not showing it on the outside, are usually not keen on someone pointing out to them that they are suffering. We do not have to be our loved one’s therapist. We need only understand the situation and move on. In the least, we ourselves experience less suffering and at best, we have a chance to make the world a better place.

No Harm to Self

This is also not to be confused with allowing ourselves to be hurt, neglected or taken advantage of. True compassion does not allow harm to ourselves either. But when we know that nothing is personal, a magical thing happens. Many of the seeming abusers of the world start to leave our lives. Once we are conscious, so-called abuse can only happen if we believe what the other is saying.

We don’t feel abused because we know that what the other is saying is not about us.

When we know nothing is personal, we also do not end up feeling abused. We can say, “Thank you for sharing,” and move on. We are not hooked by what another does or says, since we know it is not about us. When we know that our inherent worth is not determined by what another says, does or believes, we can take the world a little less seriously. And if necessary, we can just walk away without creating more misery for ourselves or having to convince the other person that we are good and worthy people.

The great challenge of our world is to live a life of contentment regardless of what other people do, say, think or believe. The fine art of not being offended is one of the many skills for being a practical mystic. Though it may take a lifetime of practice, it is truly one of the best kept secrets for living a happy life.

Published on Aug 4, 2017

A participant asks Rupert to elaborate on freedom in intimate relationships.

The following is an excerpt from the unpublished words of Gangaji.

The moment I looked into Papaji’s eyes, I recognized the whole cosmos existed there. There was a force and clarity that literally and metaphorically stopped me in my tracks. He took me by the shoulders, and he gently shook me and said, “Don’t miss this chance. Who knows when it will come again.”

Through mysterious grace I recognized that whatever the results, truth could be found here with him. His warmth and love melted any emotional resistance. His humor and mental sharpness opened the gates of my mental defenses. Remarkably, I was able to give all attention to him, to what he was showing me in his be-ing and what he was inviting me to investigate with my full being.

When I questioned him regarding how to attain eternal truth, Papaji replied, “Lay aside every technique, every tool, every concept. Just be still, just be quiet, and see.”

After a moment of fearing what would be lost (all the ground I had gained!) if I were truly to give up all strategies and techniques, I stopped. And in that stopping, I was simply able to hear what he had to say. What he said, and how he said it, and how he invited me to investigate for myself what he was pointing to, was exactly what I had been praying for.

I knew he was speaking the truth. In meeting with him I saw that there was something huge, something more vast and more mysterious than the capacity of any thought process to own, to conquer, or to process.

To be able to hear it sounds like a simple thing. But with the complexity of our personalities, and our ideas and beliefs, there is usually much complication covering simple hearing. If one is preoccupied with past techniques and definitions and paths and defeats and victories, one is too busy to really hear the truth. The truth so simple, it is usually overlooked.

Finally, I realized that whatever I thought, it was always just a thought, subject to disappearance, and therefore, impossible to be eternal. To discover eternal truth, I could no longer rely on thought. Thought was no longer the master. The previous fear of not knowing was transformed to the joy of not knowing. To not know was the opening of my mind to what cannot be known by mind! What a relief, what profound release.

When you don’t know who you are, there is an opening; there is a crack in the structure of the mind. In that moment the mind isn’t filled with the latest definition of identity, or the battle between the latest and the habitual definition. In that moment there is silence. There is no disagreement with that definition. There is just silence.

And Papaji said, “That, right there. That’s who you are.”

What followed cannot truly be put into constaints of time. Although time did pass, time passed through (continues to pass through) what is revealed to be eternal.

Past, present, and future, all phenomena of mind, exquisite, mysterious and deeply entertaining, but not real.

Reality indefinable, unprocessable, unholdable, yet undeniably here. Eternity here. Regardless of thought, regardless of event, regardless of experience (even regardless of experience of appearance of ‘me’ or disappearance of “me”).

Unspeakable moment that neither began when I think it did, nor ends. Now happening, while really not happening at all.

Impossible to understand because it is always closer than understanding. Alive with the energy that gives rise to the entire cosmos as well as every speck of dust; every cathedral as well as every mundane thought.

All.

All is here. Here is eternal God, eternal Truth. Here I am. All.

After some passage of time, with the challenges of released latent tendencies, he saw that I had recognized the boundless indefinability of true Self. He then asked me to go “door to door” and speak with others of my experience.

Great ideas and discoveries don’t come from thinking or doing, but from being.

In general, there are three different modes in which we can live our lives: doing, thinking and being. Most of the day we’re busy doing – working in our jobs, doing chores, following our hobbies and enjoying ourselves in our free time. Thinking usually takes place between activities, when there’s nothing to occupy our attention, or during activities which are more repetitive and undemanding, when we don’t need to concentrate too much.

And being? In general, we don’t spend much time being. Being occurs when we’re relatively inactive and relaxing. It’s when our minds aren’t chattering away with thoughts, and when we aren’t concentrating our attention on tasks or activities. In this mode, we usually pay a lot of our attention to our surroundings, and to our own experience. We’re in this mode when we go for a leisurely walk, do sports such as swimming or running, meditate, do yoga or listen to music.

Of these three modes, our culture prizes the first two far above the third. Doing and thinking are seen as the engines of achievement. Thinking logically enables us to solve problems and come up with ideas. If we have a problem, we sit down and think it through. And doing – working and being busy – enables us to achieve our goals, to be productive, to make money and become successful.

But being is unproductive. It is equated with laziness, and wasted time. Why waste our precious hours doing nothing when we could be filling them with activity and achievement?

Our politicians and business leaders would agree with this too. They need us to work long hours to keep the economy growing. For them, doing nothing means less production, a less competitive workforce and a lower GNP.

The Benefits of Being

But all of this is very misleading. On a psychological and a spiritual level, it’s extremely beneficial for us to spend time in being. It enables us to regenerate our energies, to re-attune to ourselves, and to regain the feeling of well-being and connection to the world around us. And even in terms of achievement, relaxing and ‘doing nothing’ can be extremely beneficial. States of being and inactivity allow the creative potentials of the mind to manifest themselves. They allow insights and inspirations to flow. It’s in these states that ideas suddenly come to us, seemingly out of nowhere – when songwriters have ideas for songs, when writers have ideas for stories, when scientists suddenly ‘see’ the answers to problems that have vexed them, when inventors have ideas for new inventions. These creative potentials are usually blocked by the busy-ness of our minds and our lives. In order for them to emerge, both our lives and our minds have to become relatively empty and quiet.

This is why many — perhaps most — of the greatest discoveries, inventions and creative ideas in human history have not come about through ‘hard work’ or sustained logical thinking, but by doing nothing. That is, they have mostly occurred by accident, or unconscious intuition, in states of relaxation.

The physicist Newton described how the ‘notion of gravitation came into his mind’ when he sat ‘in contemplative mood’ and saw an apple fall from a tree. (The apple didn’t actually fall on him, as is popularly believed.) The concept of coordinate geometry suddenly occurred to Rene Descartes when he was half asleep in bed, watching a fly buzz around the room. James Watt solved the problem of loss of heat in steam engines while walking in a park, an idea which led to the industrial revolution. (‘I had not walked further than the golf house when the whole thing was arranged in my mind,’ Watt wrote.) And as one final example, the physicist Nils Bohr effectively won the Noble Prize while unconscious. Drifting off to sleep, he dreamt he saw the nucleus of the atom, with the electrons spinning around it, just like our solar system with the sun and planets – and in this way he ‘discovered’ the structure of the atom.

It’s true that these ideas usually don’t occur completely out of nowhere – in many cases, the scientists had been grappling hard with the issues before the final ‘aha’ moment occurred. But certainly the scientists needed to allow themselves to relax and their minds to become empty and quiet in order for these solutions to arise.

A high proportion of the world’s great works of art were also inspired and conceived during moments of relaxed inactivity. The most recorded song of all time, “Yesterday” by The Beatles, was ‘heard’ by Paul McCartney as he was waking up one morning. The melody was fully formed in his mind, and he went straight to the piano in his bedroom to find the chords to go with it, and later found words to fit the melody. Mozart described how his musical ideas ‘flow best and most abundantly.’ when he was alone ‘traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep… Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them.’ Similarly, Tchaikovsky described how the idea for a composition usually came ‘suddenly and unexpectedly… It takes root with extraordinary force and rapidity, shoots up through the earth, puts forth branches and leaves, and finally blossoms.’ Similarly, many writers and poets have spoken of a ‘muse’ or ‘daemon’ which is the source of the creativity, which is beyond their conscious control, and provides them with inspiration.

A New Attitude to Inactivity

All of this illustrates that we have the wrong attitude to ‘doing nothing’. Perhaps we should stop thinking of relaxation and inactivity in such a negative light, and begin to see them as essential – not only for our well-being, but for our creativity and even our productivity.

Great ideas and insights don’t come from thinking or activity – they usually come through us, when we’re sufficiently relaxed. They come when we’re open to them, and thinking and doing usually close us to them.

Therefore progress of any kind – personal, spiritual, or creative development, collective economic or political development – does not lie in more activity, more hard work or longer working hours. If anywhere, it lies in more relaxation, more leisure time, more empty time to do nothing in. As long as we ensure that we fill this free time with being rather than doing, we might find that it transforms us from tired automatons into happier, more creative and innovative beings, with a greater contribution to make to the world.

About the author:

Steve-Taylor

Steve Taylor holds a Ph.D in Transpersonal Psychology and is a senior lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Beckett University, UK. For the last five years Steve has been included in Mind, Body, Spirit magazine’s list of the ‘100 most spiritually influential living people’.

Steve is also the author of Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of Our Minds and The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era. His books have been published in 19 languages and his research has appeared in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, The Journal of Consciousness Studies, The Transpersonal Psychology Review, The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, as well as the popular media in the UK, including BBC World TV, The Guardian, and The Independent.

Connect with Steve at StevenMTaylor.com and Facebook.com/SteveTaylorAuthor.


Published on Apr 18, 2017

Tara Talks – Reflection: Living in Accord With Our Aspiration – with Tara Brach

If 90% of what we do is determined by feelings (and the other 10% by thinking aimed at rationalizing them)… which domain of feelings is in charge: fight/flight/freeze? Or deeper desires? This reflection helps us become more conscious of the driving forces in our daily lives.


Published on Apr 16, 2017

Finding your True Self, the Cure for all Suffering

Facing Your Inner Battles

The strength to face the challenges in our life always rewards us with a refinement and evolution of our soul regardless if we win or lose the battle.

We all strive to live our soul’s purpose, but sometimes our mind conflicts with our feelings and causes confusion. The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient Hindu text that has an important teaching for those of us who experience this internal struggle. In this story, Arjuna the peaceful warrior is faced with a choice to act or not act in what he feels is a no-win situation for himself. If you have ever felt confusion or inner conflict holding you back, then the timeless wisdom in this story can bring clarity and relief.

Ahimsa is the principle of non-violence, which is a fundamental tenet of Hinduism. It is rooted in the belief that all lives, both human and non-human, are sacred. This is why on the eve of a great war, the choice between duty and non-violence leaves Arjuna in a state of inner conflict in this story. Being a peaceful warrior requires you to stand firmly in your spiritual path, dharma, but sometimes we don’t have the clarity to know what the best choice is. This requires an active fearlessness and non-attachment, which is embodied in the famous parable of Arjuna and Krishna’s discussion on the battlefield.

Arjuna is faced with inner conflict about going into battle.

The story begins with a young prince, Arjuna, who realizes that the enemies he’ll be fighting in an upcoming battle are his own relatives, beloved friends, and revered teachers. He turns to his charioteer confessing his conflicting emotions and his fears. His charioteer is actually the eternally wise Krishna. Here Arjuna talks to Krishna about his confusion:

…it is not proper for us to kill our own kinsmen, the sons of Dhritarashtra. For how, Krishna, shall we be happy after killing our own relatives? If the sons of Dhritarashtra, weapon in hand, should kill me in battle, me weaponless and not defending myself, that would be better for me. – Bhagavad Gita

As he contemplates no action at all and allowing his enemies to kill him, he hopes to stay true to his dedication to non-violence (ahimsa), but Krishna recognizes this as a cop-out. Compassion is said to come in the form of a lamb and a lion. We must accept that we are not perfect. This humility allows each of us to evolve forward from the place that we stand, rather than jump to absolute ideals.

Compassion is said to come in the form of a lamb and a lion.


Though Arjuna has mentally justified that he is being fearless and selfless to let his enemies kill him unarmed, he is actually avoiding his own dharma and here Krishna reminds him of this:

One’s own duty, though defective, is better than another’s duty well performed. – Bhagavad Gita

This is a call to hone one’s own inner voice and stay true to it; trusting that there are no wrong choices, only lessons to be learned. Duty is usually associated with something we don’t want to do, but it can feel quite empowering once we accept our role in a situation. When I was in my 20s, I was passionate about the environment and saving the world, but I was broke. I had gone past being able to be picky about a job that would help me pay the bills or feed myself, so I begrudgingly took a job as a landscaper.

Swinging a pick-axe in the hot sun, I was given the task of putting irrigation lines in to grow plants and grass that should not have been planted in the arid climate of Arizona. Non-native, drought-tolerant plants waste precious water in the desert landscape. I was miserable while I worked and felt a bit self-righteous about my sustainability ideals. Angry at the universe that I should have to do such a lowly chore, I put my nose to the grindstone and woke up early every day to make ends meet.

We need to find the warrior within and face our own dharma. Photo by Robert Sturman.


If you have ever felt conflicted about your life path then you will understand this feeling. In acceptance of the task at hand comes a certain humility, self-compassion, a sense of service, mental liberation, and even empowerment. This is central to karma yoga, which teaches us not to be attached to the outcome of our work, but to do it as a form of devotion to our own inner evolution.

Your business is with action alone; not by any means with the fruit of action. Let not the fruit of action be your motive to action. Let not your attachment be fixed on inaction.Therefore, always perform action, which must be performed, without attachment. For a man, performing action without attachment attains the Supreme. – Krishna to Arjuna

Even the most mundane actions in our day-to-day life are the result of choices we have made. The parable of Arjuna’s indecision on the battlefield is an extreme expression of this common circumstance and that is why it holds such value for us today. With clarity of mind, or mindfulness, along with personal accountability and non-attachment to outcome, we can have the courage to face any battle. A situation can be terrifying and feel like life or death even if it is not. The strength to face the challenges in our life always rewards us with a refinement and evolution of our soul, regardless if we win or lose the battle.

Mindfulness gives us the power to face any daily battle. Image by Alberto Montt.

To one that is born, death is certain; and to one that dies, birth is certain. Therefore, you should not grieve about things that are unavoidable. – Krishna to Arjuna

Sometimes it is the fear itself that dies (or an ego death) on this journey. Each one of us is here at this time for something greater than we can know or understand. The world is filled with terrifying possibilities, and mistakes are easy to come by. Sometimes the fear of making the wrong choice is more scary than the choices themselves, yet we are all here to fail as much as we are here to succeed.

Anyone with great success can also boast many failures. In this process, we learn to be more compassionate to ourselves and to those who have wronged us with their own poor behavior. The journey of soul evolution continues regardless. We must always put one foot in front of the other, and the path will appear with each step.

In this path to final emancipation, nothing that is commenced becomes wasted effort; no obstacles exist; and even a little of this form of sacred duty protects one from great danger. – Krishna to Arjuna

Put one foot in front of the other and the path will appear.

Knowing that we are in line with our dharma, and on the path (not the right path or the wrong path, just on the path), we begin to liberate and empower ourselves. These ancient parables, like the one told in the Bhagavad Gita, are meant to remind us of the eternal challenges that humans face and how to conquer our demons, even if we’d rather do nothing. Arjuna contemplates not taking up arms in battle, but after speaking with Krishna he follows his dharma and fights.

Being a peaceful warrior does not mean that you should be without your sword, as you never know when you might be called to unsheathe it. You can stand fearlessly in whatever circumstance you may face, knowing that you are not alone on the journey to personal evolution.


Published on Mar 13, 2017

Gangaji speaks of the strong and flexible mind that neither indulges nor denies or fights the conditioning, triggers, habits of live. In simply being still, as very powerful waves of conditioning come to shore and wash back out, you are true to what has called you home, the truth of yourself.


Published on Feb 22, 2017

Getting Off the Hamster-Wheel of “Never Enough” – with Tara Brach (01/04/2017)

The first step is simply getting to know our habitual strategies for trying to feel better about ourselves. Then we can inquire: What really brings me happiness? This is taking refuge in presence.

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Modern humans have lost touch with their inner ‘true self’. Silence and stillness are a means to recovering happiness and contentment. In the modern world silence has practically ceased to exist.

The human race has stamped its authority over the planet Earth not just by covering its surface with concrete and destroying its plant and animal life, but also by burying the natural sounds of the Earth beneath a cacophony of man-made noise. We live our lives against the background of this cacophony, with the jagged mechanical sounds of urban-industrial society continually assaulting our ears: the roar of trucks, aeroplanes and trains, the clanging and thudding of machinery, the noise of building and renovating, the chatter of radios and TVs in other people’s cars and houses, and pop music blaring from every conceivable place.

But nothing, of course, has done more to obliterate silence than the car. In the modern world it’s very difficult to go anywhere where there’s no possibility of being disturbed by the sound of passing cars, and the only chance that city or town dwellers get to experience something of the quietness which existed everywhere in the pre-car world is sometimes on Sundays, when the mad rushing to and fro of modern life slows down. This quietness seems so foreign now that it seems difficult to believe that a hundred years ago and before it was everywhere all the time. Back then this quietness would even have filled the busiest city centres, which would have probably had a noise level equivalent to that of a modern small village.

There’s also more noise than ever before inside our houses. It’s unusual to go into a house nowadays where there isn’t at least one television set chattering away somewhere, even if the residents aren’t actually watching it, and other forms of home entertainment compete against TV to produce the most noise: radios, CD players, computer and video games etc. In fact the only sound which is largely absent from people’s houses nowadays is the voices of their occupants actually talking to one another.

Living in the midst of all this noise is bound to have a bad effect on us. All man-made noise is fundamentally disturbing. We find the sound of birds singing or of wind rushing through trees pleasing, but mechanical noise always jars and grates. And since we live our lives against a background of mechanical noise it follows that there’s always an undercurrent of agitation inside us, produced by the noise. This noise is certainly one of the reasons why modern life is so stressful as well. In modern life our senses are bombarded with massive amounts of external stimuli. Our fields of vision are always crowded with different (and constantly shifting) things, and our ears are bombarded with a bewildering variety of sounds — all of which clamour for our attention. Our senses have to absorb and process all this material, which takes up a lot of energy, and means that we’re liable to become drained of energy or ‘run down’ easily.

We can get out of this state by removing ourselves from all external stimuli and letting our energy-batteries naturally recharge themselves i.e., by relaxing. But there’s so much external stimuli around in the modern world and people are so unaccustomed to the absence of it that we may never be able relax properly, which could mean living in a permanently ‘run down’ state.

This lack of quietness has also meant is that people are no longer used to silence, and have even, as a result, become afraid of it. Along with inactivity, silence has become something which most people are determined to avoid at all costs, and which, when they are confronted with it, unnerves them. People have become so used to the frantic pace and the ceaseless activity of modern life that they feel uneasy when they’re left at a loose end with nothing to occupy their attention even for a few moments, and they feel equally uneasy when the noise they live their lives against the background of subsides. Why else is it that they need to have their radios and televisions chattering away in the background even when they’re not paying attention to them?

In other words, in the modern world silence has become an enemy. And this is a terrible shame, because in reality silence is one of our greatest friends, and can if it’s allowed to reveal itself to us have a powerfully beneficial effect on us.

Inner Noise

It’s not just the noise outside us which causes us problems, though, but also the noise inside us.

In the same way that the natural quietness and stillness of the world around us is always covered over with man-made noise, the natural quietness of our minds is constantly disturbed by the chattering of our ego-selves. This chattering fills our minds from the moment we wake up in the morning till the moment we go to sleep at night an endless stream of daydreams, memories, deliberations, worries, plans etc. which we have no control over and which even continues (in the form of dreams) when we fall asleep. This ‘inner noise’ has as many bad effects as the mechanical noise outside us. It actually creates problems in our lives, when we mull over tiny inconveniences or uncertainties which seem to become important just because we’re giving so much attention to them, and when we imagine all kinds of possible scenarios about future events instead of just taking them as they come. It means that we don’t live in the present, because we’re always either planning for and anticipating the future or remembering the past, “wandering about in times that do not belong to us and never thinking of the one that does” as Blaise Pascal wrote. And this constant inner chattering also means that we can never give our full attention to our surroundings and to the activities of our lives. Our attention is always partly taken up by the thoughts in our minds, so that wherever we are and whatever we’re doing we’re never completely there.

It’s probably possible to say that there’s also more of this ‘inner noise’ inside human beings than there’s ever been before. The hectic pace and the constant activity of our lives, the massive amount of external stimuli we’re bombarded with, and the barrage of information which the mass media sends our way, have made our minds more restless and active. We’ve got to juggle dozens of different problems and concerns in our minds just to get by from day to day, and every new thing we see or every new piece of information which is sent our way is potentially the beginning of a whole new train of thought to occupy our minds.

The True Self

Ultimately, the most serious consequence of both this inner chattering and the noise and activity of the modern world is that they separate us from our true selves.

Our ‘true self’ might be called the ground, or the essence, of our beings. It’s the pure consciousness inside us, the consciousness-in-itself which remains when we’re not actually conscious of anything. It’s what remains when our the activity of our senses and the activity of our minds cease. The sense-impressions we absorb from the world and the thoughts which run through our minds are like the images on a cinema screen, but our ‘true self’ is the cinema screen itself, which is still there even when there aren’t any images being projected on to it.

Experiencing this ‘consciousness-in-itself’ can have a massively therapeutic effect. It brings a sense of being firmly rooted in ourselves, of being truly who we are. We also have a sense of being truly where we are, realising that before we were only half-present, and everything we see around us seems intensely real and alive, as if our perceptions have become much more acute. But above all, we experience a profound sense of inner peace and natural happiness. As the Hindu and Buddhist traditions have always held, the nature of consciousness-in-itself (which means the consciousness inside us and the consciousness which pervades the whole universe) is bliss. Getting into contact with the pure consciousness inside us enables us, therefore, to experience this bliss. Indeed, it could be said that it’s only when we do this that we can experience true happiness. Usually what we think of as happiness is hedonistic or ego-based that is, based around pressing instinctive ‘pleasure buttons’ or around receiving attention and praise from others and increasing our self-esteem. But the kind of deep and rich happiness we experience when we’re in touch with the ground or essence of our beings is a natural, spiritual happiness, which doesn’t depend on anything external, and doesn’t vanish as soon as the thing which produced it is taken away. It’s a happiness which comes from experiencing the divine inside us and also the divine inside everything else, since the pure consciousness inside us is the same pure consciousness inside everything else, and the pure consciousness of the universe itself.

Making Contact with the True Self

Whether we’re in touch with this ‘true self’ or not depends on how much external stimuli our senses are taking in from the world around us, and on how much activity there is going on in our minds.

If there is a lot of noise, movement and activity taking place around us then we can’t help but give our attention to it; and in the same way, when there is a lot of ‘inner noise’ taking place we have to give our attention to that too. And when our attention is completely absorbed in this way either by external stimuli on their own, such as when we watch TV; by ‘inner noise’ on its own, such as when we daydream; or by both of them at the same time it’s impossible for us to be in contact with our ‘true self’ to any degree, in the same way that it’s impossible to see a cinema screen in itself when it’s full of dancing images. Being in contact with our ‘true self’ is a state of attentionless-ness, when our minds are completely empty.

What we have to do if we want to get into contact with this part of ourselves is, therefore, to withdraw our attention from these things. And this is, of course, what we do when we meditate: first of all, we remove ourselves from external stimuli, by sitting in a quiet room and closing our eyes. And then there’s only ‘inner noise’ standing between us and consciousness-in-itself, which we try to quieten by concentrating on a mantra or on our breathing. If we manage to stop the inner noise (and therefore stop our attention being absorbed in it) pure consciousness immerses us and we become our true selves.

And this brings us back to the most serious problem caused by the massive amount of external stimuli (including noise) which our senses are bombarded with in the modern world, and by the intensified ‘inner noise’ which modern life generates. It’s not just a question of completely closing yourself off to external stimuli and shutting down ‘inner noise’, so that you can experience a state of total immersion in pure consciousness. It’s possible to have a foot in both camps, so to speak; to live a normal life in the world, being exposed to external stimuli and experiencing inner noise, and at the same time still be rooted in your real self. That is, it’s possible to be partially immersed in consciousness-in-itself, and for your attention to be partially absorbed by external stimuli and inner talk. But this can only happen when there is just a moderate degree of both of the latter.

It would probably have been quite easy for our ancestors to live in this way, because they weren’t exposed to a great deal of external stimuli and because their lives were relatively slow-paced and stress-free, which would have meant that their attention needn’t have been completely absorbed by external stimuli and inner talk. Perhaps this even partly explains why native peoples seem to possess a natural contentment which modern city dwellers have lost because their more sedate lives mean that they’re able to be in touch with the ground of their being as they go about their lives, and that they can therefore continually experience something of the bliss of which is the nature of consciousness-in-itself.

For us, however, this has become very difficult. There’s always so much noise and activity both inside and outside us that our attention is always completely absorbed, so that we can’t be in contact with our real selves. We spend all our time living outside ourselves, lost in the external world of activity and stimuli or in the inner world of our own thoughts. We’re like a person who plans to go away for a few days but finds so much to occupy them in the place they go to that they never go home again, and never again experience the peace and contentment which lie there. This is certainly one of the reasons why so many people nowadays seem to live in a state of dissatisfaction — because they’ve lost touch with the natural happiness inside them. That natural happiness has been buried underneath a storm of external stimuli and what Meister Eckhart called ‘the storm of inward thought’.

As a result of this it’s essential for us, in the modern world, to go out of our way to cultivate silence ourselves. Circumstances may oblige us to live in cities, and our jobs may be stressful and demanding, but we’re still free to remove ourselves from external stimuli and to try to quieten our minds by meditating, going out into the countryside, or just by sitting quietly in our rooms. We don’t have to fill our free time with attention-absorbing distractions like TV and computer games, which take us even further away from ourselves. We should do the opposite: stop our attention being absorbed like this so that we can find ourselves again.

We need silence and stillness to become our true selves and to be truly happy. ‘Be still,’ said Jesus, ‘and know that I am God.’ But he might have added, ‘and know that you are God.’

Steve Taylor holds a Ph.D in Transpersonal Psychology and is a senior lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. For the last three years Steve has been included in Mind, Body, Spirit magazine’s list of the ‘100 most spiritually influential living people’ (coming in at #31 in 2014).

Steve is also the author of Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of Our Minds and The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era. His books have been published in 16 languages and his research has appeared in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, The Journal of Consciousness Studies, The Transpersonal Psychology Review, The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, as well as the popular media in the UK, including on BBC World TV, The Guardian, and The Independent.

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