Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Authenticity: Part I

In my efforts to communicate the essence of liberation - that the self does not exist - I have made the mistake of being inauthentic. I believed I could strip my personality from the message I was conveying so it wouldn't get in the way.

This didn't work. People can sense inauthentic communication, and do not tend to be well-disposed towards it. What was meant to be the sharing of a single idea became a battle in which I tried to convince others to do something (look to see if there was a self) while holding back information which might have made them more willing to listen to me.

That might work in the Ruthless Arena, where everyone involved knows that they are there for one specific purpose - to free themselves from the illusion of self - and knows that everything that is being said is intended to serve that purpose. It might work for other contexts where people are ready to evaluate ideas on their own merit, without ego getting in the way. But most of the time, people don't expect you to take yourself out of the equation, and they react badly when you do.

So what is authenticity, and how does one get it?

Real authenticity has two parts: being honest with yourself, and being honest with others. Both are huge, and can utterly transform your life depending on the extent to which you master them.

Being honest with yourself takes courage. What it means is to acknowledge whatever arises in your experience, and not try to pretend it away or mislabel it as something else. Even if what arises is truly horrible to you, such as thoughts of violent murder arising when you are angry, or inappropriate desires, or deep fears that you don't want to admit you have, being honest with yourself means acknowledging that those things are really there.

There are many reasons why this is a good thing. First off, you can't face and deal with something if you're too busy pretending it's not there. You can't treat a wound you don't see. If you're terrified of something, only by acknowledging that fear can you find ways of overcoming it, or of compensating for its existence in some way. If there's a part of yourself you want to change, you can't do it until you accept that it's there.

Secondly, your predictive abilities are greatly enhanced. You can predict how you will feel in a given situation, so you can make plans ahead of time as to what situations to seek and what to avoid, and how to cope with unwanted sides of yourself coming up. Without being honest with yourself, you will consistently be wrong in your predictions, and incur great amounts of unnecessary suffering and failure.

Thirdly, it helps you understand other people. For as long as you deny something in yourself, you won't be able to understand what it is like for another person to feel such a thing, so you will limit your ability to connect with them. You are the only person you can understand from the inside, so honesty about what that inside contains is the absolute prerequisite for true empathy.

Fourthly, when you look at things directly, they invariably turn out to be less bad than you thought. This is because the thoughts are an extra layer over the top of the actual experience, one which emphasises and reinforces it. When you look at the experience itself, you tend to realise that it's not actually as bad as your thoughts make it sound. Check this out next time you feel pain or a negative emotion. Is the feeling, in and of itself, actually as intense as your thoughts about it say it is?

Fifthly and most importantly, it lets you see life as it really is. Ask yourself this - "do I, the person looking at reality through these eyes, actually exist? Or does the looking happen without me?" Then be honest about what you see when you look for that "I". There is a vast freedom in this honesty which no-one who practises self-deception will ever be able to access, a liberation from an entire web of lies that covers up the truth of life.

That's all for now. Look forward to Part II another time.

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Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Complete Liberation FAQ

Q: How do I become liberated/enlightened?

A: There is no you. Look and see if this is true.

Q: What does "you" mean?

A: The thing you refer to when you say or think "I", "me" or "my".

Note that you do need to be honest about this - people will often claim to believe they are X, but then use those pronouns in a way that shows they actually believe something else. For example, they say they are the body, but when their legs are cut off, they say "my legs have been cut off" rather than "I've been cut in three".

Q: What does it mean to say there's no you?

A: It means that "you" does not exist in reality, only as a thought. You can imagine a unicorn being in the room with you, but that doesn't mean an actual unicorn is there. The same is true of "you".

Q: What does it mean to look?

A: Exactly what it sounds like. If someone asks you to confirm how many toes you have, you just look and count the number of toes you see. If someone asks you to confirm if there's a tree behind you, you just turn around and look if you see a tree.

Q: Any other question.

A: Shut up and look.

Looking at your experience of life is something that you naturally do all the time. There are no questions that need answering before you can do it. There are no doubts that need allaying or philosophical issues that need dealing with before you can do it. Even if what you're going to see contradicts your beliefs, you do not need to deal with those beliefs before you can LOOK AT WHAT'S ACTUALLY THERE.

So shut up and look to see if there's a you. It's the best advice anyone will ever give you.

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Monday, 20 June 2011

Time on Trial

Judge: Time, already convicted of being the greatest thief and the killer of all that lives, stands accused of the heinous crime of not existing. Prosecution, please present your case.

Prosecution: Your honour, I would like to begin by pointing out that Time is not helping its case by forcing us to hold the trial in absentia.

Judge: What do you mean? It's right here.

Prosecution: Would your honour please point to the defendant?
I thought so. The present moment is certainly real, and it's what we are experiencing right now. But the past is merely a thought in our heads, reconstructed whenever we remember. The future is also merely a thought in our heads, and usually an inaccurate one at that. Time is nowhere to be seen except an abstraction in the mind.

Defence: Objection!

Your honour, I would like to present the following pieces of evidence which contradict the prosecution's statement.

First, my watch, which is virtually synchronised with the watches of everyone else in this court. Second, a receipt for an expensive lunch, which I had after my breakfast this morning, but before my dinner this evening. Thirdly, Muriel the Cat - stop trying to scratch me, dammit - whose infernal yowling wakes me up at dawn every morning without fail, even though dawn shifts throughout the year and on some mornings it's too cloudy to see the sun rise. How can you explain all this if time doesn't exist?

Prosecution: To say time doesn't exist doesn't mean that nothing ever happens, or that everything happens simultaneously. It means that what we call time is not in fact an independent entity or dimension, merely the mistaken belief in a whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

Those parts are change. There is no such thing as absolute time. When we perceive time passing, it is because we are looking at a thing, and watching it change - whether that be the sun's daily journey across the sky, or a second hand's journey across a clock face, or the sound of our own breathing.

Watch paint dry. Does your sense of time not slow down? Think about a really interesting topic so that your thoughts fly one after the other. Does your sense of time not speed up? Try spending what feels like five minutes on each of these activities, then look at a watch to see how much time has passed.

This isn't a trick of the mind. All time is relative to the thing we are watching change. It so happens that all of us are capable of watching the same thing - like the aforementioned sun, or a well-made watch - which changes at a regular pace, and that makes us think there is an absolute time. We design our clocks and watches so that they all change at the same rate, and this lets us synchronise our activities. Before any kind of clock was invented, people kept time with each other by watching the sun, and no-one would have dreamt of trying to pin down precise times for meetings or other arrangements.

So, to the evidence presented by the defence. All the watches are synchronised because they are made of such materials, and so adjusted in terms of operation, that the changes that give rise to the movement of the hands happen at the same rate. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are co-ordinated based on the rhythm of the Earth's rotation, which is regular enough so that we can schedule activities for certain points in its cycle of change. As for Muriel the Cat, she just has a very good internal clock - a mechanism where chemical changes produce certain results at a regular rate. That clock is influenced by light levels such that it keeps pace with the external world.

In short, time is relative not only in advanced physics, but in the basics of everyday life. Time is simply what happens when someone observes something changing, and assumes that the speed at which it is changing relative to other things (including oneself) says something about the objective structure of reality.

Judge: So does time exist or not, then?

Prosecution: That depends on exactly what you mean by "time".

Judge: Bloody philosophers...

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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Who is Looking?

Another great question in the comments today, this time from a gentleman named Greg. You can find it in the comments under "A Single Act of Honesty". The basic gist of it is this: if there's no self, then whom am I telling to look and see that there's no self? And who achieves liberation?

Obviously, it isn't the "you" that is being looked for, because that doesn't exist. But if there's no-one to do the looking, then the instruction to look makes no sense. A lot of seekers of liberation get hung up on this, and a lot of gurus make the problem worse by repeating "there's no-one to get enlightened" like a mantra.

Here's a provisional model of what really happens. I may come up with a better one later, but it will do for now.

There is an organic system which we call a human being. In response to input from its environment, certain thoughts arise within it and certain actions are carried out by it. This process is completely automatic.

Over time, when certain patterns of input get repeated, the brain within that system naturally generates certain patterns of thought in response. These patterns are beliefs, and all future input is filtered through them. "I exist" is one such belief.

Then, one day, the input "look - there is no you" enters the system. This prompts the pattern recognition element of the system to check the belief "I exist" against the sensory data of direct perception for the first time. The belief turns out to contradict direct perception.

As a result, the pattern recognition element deflags the belief as "true", and marks it "false".

This is liberation.

In other words, everything except the self does exist, and it's that everything which becomes liberated, with liberation defined as the recognition that the belief "I exist" is false.

The reason we say that, strictly speaking, "no-one is looking" is that the entire process is completely involuntary and automatic. To say that the system is choosing to look is like saying that the computer chooses to process data, or that the clouds choose to make it rain.

Conversely, the reason we tell people to look is that the illusion of free will persists (that could be a subject for a separate post), so it seems like not only is there a person whom we are talking to, but also a choice on our part whether or not to tell them, and a choice on their part whether to look or not. In reality, none of this is true, but illusions don't automatically go away just because you see that they're illusions.

Anyway, this is a simple model, and I strongly suspect it contains certain inaccuracies, but it is sufficient to answer the question. No-one gets liberated because the thing that gets liberated isn't a someone, not because the process of liberation doesn't take place.

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Friday, 17 June 2011

Another Brief Note on Laser Focus

adsdas, if that is their real name, posted a comment which I feel deserves closer attention:

"Velorien ,how you look to see if the belief is true?I mean , all beliefs are false and all thoughts are false, and all beliefs about self are false because self doesn't exist."

There are a number of things worth saying in response.

First off, it is not true that all beliefs and all thoughts are false. If I think "the sky is blue", that thought is true, and I can verify this by looking out of the window. If I believe "most people have five fingers on each hand", again, this belief is true and can be verified (though perhaps not by me personally, because there is an awful lot of people).

Secondly, while all beliefs about self are false, I've found that beliefs are worth examining on more levels than just that. Here's a real-life example.

I am afraid of failure.
Looking at this fear, I see that the belief behind it is "if I fail, I will be somehow diminished".
I can look at the "I" part of the belief, and see that it is false because the I doesn't exist, and therefore will not fail or be diminished.

But I can do more than this.

I can look at "fail" and "diminished". I can ask "will failure really lead to diminishment?" This leads me to at least two new lines of inquiry.

What is failure? By looking honestly, I realise that failure is simply when the reality of what has been accomplished does not measure up to my pre-existing image of what needs to be accomplished. In other words, failure is when I compare a thought to reality and discover a mismatch. As a concept, it is no more meaningful or threatening than that.

What is diminishment? By looking honestly, I see that it means that instead of thinking of myself as good at something or good in some way, I will start thinking of myself as not good at something or not good in that way. In other words, diminishment is when I trade one thought for another thought. As a concept, it is no more meaningful or  threatening than that.

By putting these two insights together, I see that "if I fail, I will be somehow diminished" actually means "if one of my thoughts turns out to contradict reality, I will replace it with a thought that doesn't". I have not only eliminated a false belief, but I have gained a deeper understanding of it that will serve me when addressing other beliefs and other aspects of human experience.

Finally, to return to the original question of "how do you look to see if the belief is true?"

You literally just look. What would you be experiencing if the belief was true? Are you experiencing it right now? There's no more to it than that.

Is it true that the sky is blue? If it's true, then by looking up I will see a blue sky. Do I see a blue sky? Yes? Then the belief is true.

Now, this approach is not omnipotent. There are two points worth bearing in mind.

1) You have to be clear about the limits of what you are testing. When you see a blue sky, all you know is that you are perceiving the sky as blue. You do not know - not with 100% confidence - that the sky actually is blue. You just know that it looks blue to you, and that if it's really a different colour, there must be a good reason for the mismatch.

2) You can never be 100% certain that a belief about something beyond your actual experience is true. It will only ever take a single counterexample to prove a belief wrong, and since you do not know the contents of the entire universe, you can never know that such a counterexample isn't out there somewhere.

On the other hand, it is possible to know that a belief is false with 100% certainty. If you believe that all swans are white, and you see a black swan, your belief is false. It is, of course, your responsibility to make sure that you are actually seeing a black swan, and not, say, a painted one, but beyond that there is no possible way for your original belief to still be true.

So look. And above all, if you haven't done so already, look at "the self exists". If you see no self, then either the self doesn't exist, or it is not something perceivable. If it is not something perceivable, then you must have concluded that it exists based on various other beliefs about reality, and those can be tested too.

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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Meteorology vs. Zeus

Back in the days of Ancient Greece, it was widely believed that thunderstorms were the wrath of Zeus, King of the Gods. Today, poor Zeus has been relegated to myth as meteorology, which predicts the weather with ever-increasing accuracy based on scientific principles, has rendered him obsolete.

I think it's time for him to make a comeback. Get back in the ring, Stormbringer. You've rested long enough.

So let's take a look at our two competitors. First up, the reigning champion, meteorology.

Meteorology holds that all weather is based on specific patterns, namely natural laws. Meteorologists and other scientists are presently hard at work discovering those laws. More accurately, they are busy building models which describe what weather does, and why, ever more accurately. There are a zillion factors that go into shaping weather, and gradually scientists are discovering more and more of those factors and how they interact.

By discovering those factors, and what patterns they make, scientists can predict how the weather will change based on what is going on at any given moment. For now, they are notoriously bad at it compared to other branches of science, but that's because weather is ridiculously complex and taking everything into account isn't easy.

Now, in the other corner we have Zeus and the religion of ancient Greece. Zeus is master of the skies and thus responsible for weather. If he is wrathful, you get thunderstorms. If he is in a good mood, hopefully you'll get clear skies. Presumably, other shades of moods will result in other kinds of weather (ignoring for now the place of other gods, who also have some influence on the matter).

The problem with Zeus's activity as an explanation of the weather is that it really isn't that helpful. A very skilled priest might be able to decipher the omens that precede a given meteorological phenomenon, but he will still look like a clever child next to a meteorologist when it comes to weather prediction.

So Zeus has had no choice but to stay in retirement. If he were to come out, he'd just be a laughing stock in a world where science can explain the natural world so much better than religion (which has pretty much given up even on trying).

But now it's time for a change. Prepare for Meteorology vs. Zeus II: This Time It's Impersonal.

What got Zeus knocked out of the championship the first time round was the belief in free will. If Zeus is responsible for the weather, and the weather is in theory completely predictable, then Zeus's actions must also be completely predictable. Meaning Zeus has no free will.

But if a god has no free will and humans do, that makes gods inferior to humans. Religion says that can't happen. So Zeus must have free will and it can't be true that the weather follows predictable patterns.

An instant K.O., I'm sure you'll agree. The success of meteorology, limited though it may be, demonstrates that the weather follows predictable patterns. If a religion says otherwise, that religion must be wrong.

So how can Zeus recover from such a humiliating defeat?

Using the truth. The truth is that humans have no free will because they have no selves. There is no self that stands outside reality and says "even though the sum of past and present environmental influences should cause me to do X, I will do Y instead". You can confirm this for yourself by observing your choices - can you see an entity that makes them in reality, or do they just happen?

And if humans don't have free will, then the gods are not inferior to them when they don't have it either. The wiser of the ancients knew this, and if you dig deep into pagan religions, you will find admissions that the gods are fully as bound by fate as humans. The religions which try to deny this - like Christianity - do so at the cost of a cascade of paradoxes.

How does this bring Zeus back into the ring?

If Zeus has no free will, and we don't either, then his actions are (in theory) fully predictable, without in any way reducing his divine majesty. In other words, if the gods exist, then they and their actions are necessarily part of the clockwork mechanism of the universe just like the rest of us, not spectators who interfere on a whim.

If so, whether you're trying to comprehend the ways in which the will of Zeus works or studying the phenomena which affect the weather, as long as you're applying the same level of scientific rigour, you will get basically the same results.

No-self and its corollaries level the playing field between secularism and theism as models for explaining the natural world. Admittedly, there are still reasons to pick some models over others - wait until meteorology gets back into the ring waving Occam's Razor, for example. 

But now it's a real contest of equally effective models for explaining the world, without being compelled to either give up science, give up belief in superhuman entities or perform ridiculous mental contortions in order to reconcile them.

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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A Brief Note on Laser Focus

I'm learning the extent to which focused honesty is more than a tool; it can become a way of life.

Here's a pattern I've gone through several times over the last couple of days:

- I feel scared of something.
- I look to see what it is I'm scared of, and what the belief driving that fear is.
- I look to see if the belief is true.
- I generally have to work through several iterations before the real, correctly formulated belief becomes apparent.
- I look at it until I see whether it is true.
- It is not true.
- I stop being scared of whatever it was that scared me.
- I now have one fewer false belief.

I'd like to get into the practice of doing this every time I feel something caused by a false belief. There is still a lot of fear left in my life (you'll recall that liberation doesn't automatically clear away past conditioning; that has to be done manually), and ditching it will let me do the things I really want to.

Try it yourself. It's a powerful method, and it's absolutely free.

P.S. I'd like to post an example of working through a belief like this at some point, but the process always seems to be a bit messy and not completely linear in practice, so I have yet to come up with a suitable model case.

Disclaimer: I don't know if it'll work as well if you're still suffering from the delusion of self. Ditch that first.

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On Individuality

I've encountered a lot of people who say the following:

"Of course I have a self! I have a unique first-person perspective on the world. I am the only one who thinks my thoughts and feels my feelings. I don't have access to your thoughts, and you don't have access to mine, and we don't see the world the same way, so that proves that you and I both exist."

This is a fallacy.

Let's take it apart bit by bit.

1) A unique first-person perspective on the world.

Not to be too blunt about this, but heck, mate, what else can a human body generate?

Can you conceive of eyes that see in second or third person? How about ears that hear in second or third person? Maybe your skin should feel things that push that guy over there instead of things that push the body that skin is part of?

Ditto uniqueness. If my body is standing over here and your body is standing over there, of course their perspectives would be unique. The only way two bodies could have the same perspective would be if they overlapped so completely that they were, in fact, the same body. Do you see that happen a lot?

A unique first-person perspective on the world is the natural, inevitable, and automatic consequence of there being a body with a set of senses. Nothing more.

2) I am the only one that thinks my thoughts and feels my feelings. I don't have access to your thoughts, and you don't have access to mine.

First off, there is no you that thinks thoughts and feels feelings. Look for one in your experience. Can you see the thinker or the feeler? Can you see anything other than the thoughts and feelings themselves? Do they need you to do something before they arise?

Secondly, think about what it means for a human body to function again. Is a human body equipped with senses that let it feel another body's physical pain? Is it equipped with senses that let it feel another body's digestive processes? How about ATP synthesis? How about another body's sense of smell, or taste, or touch?

Then why would one human body be able to sense another's thoughts or feelings?

The fact is that one human body is incapable of directly experiencing the same thing as another human body because of basic facts of biology. A self is not required to explain it.

3) We don't see the world the same way.

From the point of birth, no two human bodies occupy the same physical space. They are usually not even genetically the same, so they come with starting differences. Either way, they will always encounter different stimuli from the environment, and those stimuli will cause the development of different cognitive frameworks in response, and thence the thinking of different thoughts and the feeling of different feelings.

Thinking and feeling in different ways is a natural, inevitable, and automatic consequence of being different people.

So do unique human beings with unique first-person perspectives on the world and unique thoughts and feelings that cannot be directly experienced by another exist? Yes.

Is a self necessary for them to be any of those things? No.

Does a self exist? No.

Look. You can see this for yourself, in your own experience.

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Monday, 13 June 2011

How to Develop Laser Focus

Do you value the truth? Do you want to be able to burn through lies with the speed and intensity of a terawatt laser facing a very thin sheet of paper?

Here's how.

1. Look and see if there's a you.

Start here if you don't understand what this means, or come here if you need extra help doing it.

This step is imperative. Strictly speaking, it's still possible to be brutally honest while operating under the delusion of self. But it's like becoming incredibly good at winning battles with a blunt butter knife when you have a katana sheathed at your side.

For as long as you believe in a self, you are handicapped when it comes to honesty. Being right matters. Being wrong matters. There's this mystical thing called "being true to yourself", which matters very much. There are beliefs which you need in order to withstand life's many challenges, like "God loves me" or "I have the power to keep my family safe", and the possibility of finding out that they're false is downright terrifying.

Recognising that there's no you brings freedom from all that. No-one is right or wrong. There are just thoughts which are true or false in the way they describe reality. And that means that you can afford to be 100% wrong about absolutely everything you've ever believed, and it's OK.

With this comes the courage to test any belief, no matter how deep or precious, and to shatter even the most beautiful lie on the rock of reality.

2. Plug in your power source.

Your lie-burning laser deserves the greatest power source it can get. That power source is not your finite human intelligence. It's not your personal skill at solving puzzles. It's not the strength and consistency of your belief system. It's not your capacity for analysis and comprehension.

That power source is reality itself.

What this means is that when you are faced with a belief you want to test, you do not try to pick it apart or compare it to your own beliefs. You put reality on one side and the belief on the other, and then dive the heck out of the way.

The key point here is to suspend everything you normally believe. If someone says to you "your father is actually a shapeshifting lizard from the planet Zong", you don't say "of course he isn't, because of X, Y and Z". If someone says to you "God doesn't exist", you don't say "of course he does, I believe in God". Instead, you step out of the way and let reality power your laser focus. Reality can be misinterpreted, but it cannot lie.

3. Aim the laser.

Your target is the belief in its strongest form. Assume that the belief you are testing is absolutely true. It is the truest thing you've ever believed.

Some flaws in the belief may become apparent to you immediately. Fix them. Find the best arguments you can to justify why these aren't really flaws, or why the belief is true in spite of them. That's what you do when you are convinced that a belief is true.

Now comes the fun part.

4. FIRE.

With the belief at the forefront of your mind, face reality head on. Look at your experience of life, and follow all the implications given that the belief is true.

Now, there are two things that can happen here.

A) The belief will be perfectly consistent with reality, no matter how long and hard you look.

Take your time confirming this. Hours, maybe even days if that's what it takes to be sure. If, at the end of that time, you haven't found a single contradiction between the belief and your experience, you have to accept that the belief is an accurate model of reality.

Of course, the belief could still be wrong, and could be disproved by new evidence coming to light. Every scientist knows that you can never conclusively prove something to be true. But until that new evidence emerges, you have to accept that this belief is as true as any of your beliefs can get.

or B) You will discover an inconsistency so staggering that the very notion of continuing to hold the belief will be ridiculous.

This is where laser focus really shines. Remember all that patching up of minor flaws you did earlier? You won't regret it, because the stuff you will discover by holding a belief up directly to the light of reality is in a whole other league. The most arcane, sophisticated, seemingly bulletproof structures collapse like houses of cards in a Magnitude 10 earthquake.

The great thing is that this process is not only supremely powerful. Honesty turned up to 11 is not only devastating to any lie. It is also beautiful.

The reason for this is that the truth is always simple. There may be vast layers of complexity to a belief itself, but the inconsistency at the root of a false belief can usually (in my experience, at least) be expressed in just one or two sentences.

As a lover of conciseness, I can't get enough of this. I see a brilliant, elaborate two-page argument, and in a single paragraph demolish it so utterly that those two pages become just so much waste paper.

As often as not, of course, that argument is my own. But that's just part of the fun.

So that's laser focus in a nutshell. There's just one more step, and actually, it's as important as the rest.

5. Train.

Laser focus is a skill. It can be trained. You can get better, faster, more efficient. You can learn to apply it as your default approach to life, to the point where your mere gaze vaporises deception as if you were Cyclops from the X-Men.

The only things you require for training are testable beliefs. You can get these anywhere. The best ones are your own, because whenever you eliminate a false belief, you become a distinctly more effective human being. You no longer make mistakes based on an incorrect understanding of reality, and you no longer waste time and energy trying to will a lie into being true.

But other people's beliefs work too. Sometimes, in fact, in the process of disproving a belief, you will discover that you unknowingly believe the same thing. In this case, you will be not only exposing someone else's error, but eliminating one within yourself at the same time.

Happily, with the advent of the Internet, you can find testable beliefs on any subject that interests you with ease. I've got some of my best insights, for example, by reading the arguments of people debating the topic of no-self on a personal development forum, and asking "is what this person saying true?"

I'm still learning to wield the great and terrible power of laser focus, and I may well post more on the topic once I get some more insights on how to optimise it. In the meantime, why not start developing your own? You can even use this blog as one of your targets - hold it up to the light of truth, and let me know of any inconsistencies that emerge.

Complete freedom from delusion is available to you, here and now. Do you value the truth enough to take it?

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Saturday, 11 June 2011

Turning Freedom Into a Cage

In my efforts to liberate others by getting them to look and see that the self doesn't exist, I've come across a very special kind of liberated person. They say "you don't exist, and neither does anyone else, so what's the point of trying to help anyone? Much better to go off and just enjoy life for what it is."

I spent a while really struggling with this. It seemed like they had a point. There's no me. There's no-one that is choosing to help others, there is only the act of helping taking place. There is no-one being helped by the same token. So why bother, except out of some leftover ego desire to be a saviour?

Today, I finally sat down and looked at the idea with laser focus. And it hit me. These people have made a basic mistake about fiction and reality, and turned infinite freedom into just another kind of cage.

Here's the thing. The self is a fiction. There is no self in reality. But, and this isn't my original idea by a long shot, it's a real fiction. There really is a thought which says "I exist". It's as real as every other thought. The signpost pointing to the self is a real signpost, even though it's pointing at an empty space.

In the same way, the illusion exists. It exists as an illusion. Knowing that I don't exist hasn't made this body vanish in a puff of smoke. It hasn't destroyed this ego. There have been a lot of changes in perspective, sure, and a lot of beliefs have been ditched as inaccurate, but fundamentally, the self never existed, so the realisation in itself hasn't destroyed anything.

So here's the mistake these liberated people make. They say "x is an illusion, so it doesn't exist" and then act as if this has made the illusion of x disappear from existence. As if pointing out that Bilbo Baggins is a fictional character has erased him from every copy of "The Hobbit" in existence.

This is not how reality works. No matter how many insights you have into the truth of this world, it doesn't dispel the illusion. It just lets you see through it. The stage doesn't vanish when Hamlet realises he is actually an actor playing Hamlet. But now the actor is no longer forced to stick to the script.

That's why I prefer the term "liberation" to "enlightenment". Because what it gives you is freedom. Do you play the classic Hamlet? Do you play a different kind of Hamlet? Do you improvise, trusting the other actors to keep up, and play a different character that transforms the play completely?

Liberation is knowing that, no matter what character you play, you are not them. Their experiences are not your experiences, their pain is not your pain. You do not exist.

The people I spoke of do not realise this freedom. They think "the self is an illusion, so I must play the character of an enlightened being that sees through the illusion". They think that in order to enjoy the freedom brought by liberation, they have to think, feel and act according to a limited set of rules which they've generated based upon ultimate truth.

Taking responsibility? Can't do that, there's no-one to take responsibility.
Helping others? Can't do that, there are no others to help.
Taking anything at all seriously? Can't do that, there's no-one to be serious.

But see the staggering hypocrisy it takes to act that way, to pretend that all their choices are the inevitable workings-out of a higher cosmic order. These people have not stepped off the stage. They have not miraculously rid themselves of the need to play a character. They still get up in the morning, and they still tie their shoelaces the way they did before they were liberated. They still prefer one food over another, they still have speech traits and mannerisms, thoughts and feelings. They still experience the illusion of free will after they've seen through it.

On an absolute level, maybe none of this is even happening. But on the level of illusion, they are still making the choice between helping others and leaving them to suffer. They are still choosing to let the world burn because they've made a cage of their liberation and called it wisdom.

Don't let this happen to you.

The self is an illusion, and seeing this will free you in ways you cannot yet imagine. The world we perceive is, in many ways, also an illusion, and seeing this is fun and interesting and vastly deepens one's understanding of reality.

But it's the only illusion we've got, and it's not going anywhere.

Other people's suffering is as real as any part of the illusion is real; as real as your body, as real as the ground beneath your feet. It's as real as the feeling of peace, which is, after all, nothing more than illusionary neurotransmitters being generated by an illusionary brain.

If you're going to be the kind of liberated that gets free of their own suffering and chooses to leave the human race to rot, do it with open eyes. Acknowledge that freeing humanity from suffering is as real an act as anything else you might choose to do with your freedom, and that you are willingly choosing selfishness over compassion.

Or get free if you're still not, and then join me. There are seven billion people out there who are each as real as you and me, and we finally have the tools to free them from their pain. What are you waiting for?

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Friday, 10 June 2011

How It Was For Me

Back when I was young and innocent, which is to say about a month ago, I followed a random link in a forum post and ended up at Ruthless Truth (yes, the one over there on the blogroll). I read a certain post, and it caused me to see something that changed my life forever.

I then went to a forum called the Ruthless Arena (yes, the one I link to at the top of this blog). It's a place where people who have seen the same thing gather together to help others see it. And this is what I posted:


So I read "Thunder and Sunshine" on Saturday night/Sunday morning. And I turned around and looked figuratively behind my eyes, at the space where I thought "I" was, the one to which all the beliefs and opinions and things are supposed to connect. And there was just an empty space. And I thought "wait, this can't mean what I think it means, right?" Then it hit me. If the space was empty, then there wasn't a need for it in the first place. No need for a space marked "self goes here". And then the space vanished.

So here's how I see it. I used to think that

I = A+B+C+D...

where A, B, C, D etc. are thoughts, beliefs, opinions, the body, mind, awareness etc. And enlightenment was supposed to be the realisation that this is not true, and

I = X

where X is some great mystical spiritual thing which will reveal all the mysteries of the universe to me once I realise that I am it.

Except that was totally missing the point. The reason I =/= A + B + C +D... is that there's no I. There's only A + B +C + D. And because there's nothing to identify with them, there isn't even an = sign. No equation. No equating. Just things that are.

So things just are, and just happen. Obviously, this mind, this body and this awareness (as in thing that observes thoughts and feelings, nothing more complicated than that) are connected. But I'm not the thing connecting them. They don't need a "me" to exist, and this is just as well since "me" doesn't exist, and never has.

That and I was pretty shocked when I realised nothing whatsoever had changed, at least right then. And then it was like "well, duh". The "I" never existed, so of course things would still work the same way as before with it "gone".


Now, I devote my time to helping other people see that there is no "I" the way Ruthless Truth helped me. Do you want to see the same thing? Or, if you think this is all nonsense, are you open to being proved wrong?

Then just look. That's all it takes. Look to see if there is an "I" anywhere in reality.

If you can't manage that, however hard you try, then come join us at the Ruthless Arena. Post a message in the Pit, and the finest minds of this generation will flock together to help you out. Or call me out in the Duelling Ground for some hardcore one-on-one discussion. Or, if you don't feel up for the Arena, get in touch with me via the Comments section, or any of those shiny tools to the right of this post.

The truth is waiting for you.

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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A Single Act of Honesty

Welcome to Laser Focus, a blog about seeing the truth. A blog about seeing the truth with such uncompromising intensity that every lie that stands in your way gets burned into oblivion. Does that sound like your style? Then read on.

The world is full of lies. You hear them every day. Some are little, like being asked "how are you?" and answering "I'm fine" when you're not. Some are bigger, like telling yourself everything is OK when deep down there's a nagging feeling that something is wrong - whether with one situation or with your entire life. And some are staggering, epic lies which cost lives and dictate the fates of entire nations, like "those who do not believe in my god must die".

But there's one lie that's at the root of them all. One lie that gives birth to all other lies. One lie so deep, so powerful and pernicious, that even the most honest people believe it without question. You have lived with this lie for your entire life. This lie has been your entire life. And right here, right now, with a single act of honesty, you can shatter that lie forever.

Here is that lie, pinned down, in its simplest, purest form:

"I exist".

Watch your reaction. Did you just think "that's nonsense, of course I exist"?

Then this is your test, the test of your honesty. The cowards who prefer to live in the cosiness of self-deception will close this page now, and go back to their everyday lives. Good riddance.

But I see you're still reading. You're thinking "of course I exist, but let's see what this guy has to say". Good, that's honesty. That's the ability to question what you believe to be true, the only power that can free you from any lie.

So follow along with me for a little, and let's see what we can see. Look at your body. Yep, the body exists. Look at your thoughts. Yep, they exist. Look at your feelings. Yep, feelings, right there. Now look at YOU.


It's not there.

Look, really look at this. Prove to yourself that there's more than just a body, more than just thoughts, more than just feelings. Where is the self which they're all supposed to belong to? Can you see one anywhere? Anywhere at all?

Stop and just look for a couple of minutes. Something as big as the existence of the self is worth being sure of. Stop and look.

"But if there's no self, who's reading this right now?"

Good. An obvious question. Let me answer it with another question, and answer as honestly as you can:

How do you know there's anyone reading this?

How do you know that there isn't just a pair of eyes reading this text, and sending information to the brain, which turns it into an image of the world? How do you know there's something more than just the body doing its thing? Can you see anything other than the body doing its thing?

"But if no-one's reading this, who's thinking about what it means?"

How do you know someone's doing the thinking? How do you know that the brain isn't just generating thoughts, which then trigger other thoughts?

Again, be honest. Look at the process of thinking. Where do thoughts come from? Is there someone or something there, deciding "I'm going to think this thought now"? Or is that just another thought?

Turn on that laser focus. It's a power all human beings are born with, an enormous power to see the truth with crystal clarity no matter how many layers of deception it's been wrapped in. Maybe you didn't know you had it, or maybe you use it every day. Try it on this thing now.

Can you see anything, anywhere in reality, that corresponds to the idea of "I"? When you say "I exist", is there a thing called "I" in reality, or is it just a thought, just an idea in your head through which all your perceptions get filtered?

If you've looked, with perfect honesty, just for ten seconds, you're free. Free from the lie that an "I" exists, and from all the lies it spawns. Free from "I have to try to be a good person." Free from "I am a bad person". Free from "I have to avoid suffering because it'll hurt me." Free from "there is something I need to be happy". 

You are free, even, from "I need to be happy" itself. And free from ever having to lie, because there is no you to get hurt by admitting the truth.

If you haven't looked, do it now. You have nothing to lose. I mean that in every possible sense. If the self exists, then looking at it won't make it go away. If the self doesn't exist, then you can't lose it, and there isn't even a you to lose anything.

Look. There is no you.

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