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Going naked

28/09/2014

My experience of October 2012 left me with an incredible gift. Since then I’ve had almost continuous awareness of the lack of reality of my ‘self’ or ‘ego’. Even better is that now I can ‘shuck off’ my ego almost at ‘will’ (the wrong words, but I don’t have any better substitutes) leaving me in a blissfully non-dual state entirely in the ‘now’. This is something I had experienced before but only briefly or in situations of extremis (i.e. oxygen deprivation, psychosis or under the influence of psychedelic drugs).

But I don’t walk around in permanent samadhi.

What I’ve learned is that I’m far less mindful than I thought I was. The truth is that in such a state I just can’t function. I can carry out a few simple, familiar tasks but anything that requires planning ahead and anticipating developments is beyond me. Just making up a shopping list is impossible. And social interactions are problematic to say the least.

I’ve sometimes been accused of just saying whatever comes into my head and damn the consequences but when I let go of my ego it’s almost literally true. Stream of consciousness conversations can seem pretty odd to those on the receiving end. I suspect a few people have come to think of me as insane and even though they’d be right it’s not helpful for those kinds of notions to get around too much in this society.

Another thing is that when I’m egoless manifestations of ego can be incredibly funny. Sometimes people think I’m laughing at them and even were I to try to explain that I can’t see their ego at all and am really laughing because they reminded me of my own I don’t know the distinction would be appreciated.

So mostly I put on my ego – or rather one of my egos – before I go out, try to communicate (including when I write this) or carry out extended tasks.

But surely there’s an alternative.

An ironic thing about the situation I find myself in is that I only care about getting rid of my ego for good when I’m ‘inhabiting’ it. Having an ego seems perfectly OK to me when I don’t have one. Everything does. But right now, sitting here in/as an ego, the question of ditching it entirely and permanently seems an important one. Can I ever fully discard my ego and remain truly naked and open to the immediacy of the eternal now? If so, how to do it?

I have some feelings on the matter I’ll try to articulate but I suspect I’m missing some pieces and wonder if I’m on entirely the wrong track.

First there’s the question of mindfulness.

Perhaps if I could be more fully aware of all my ‘internal’ and ‘external’ sensations it wouldn’t be necessary to try to work out what will happen from moment to moment. Every instant implies the next so in a sense there is no difference between ‘now’ and everything that has or will ever happen to me. Would a more complete mindfulness extend the moment so that anticipation and remembering would become redundant? There would be no planning as such, just appropriate reaction to everything as it ‘always’ is and will be. Maybe that would explain why beings such as the Buddha were said to be able to recall their past lives even though cellular memory of them would have been long dead and rotted away – even more so than in dementia patients – and there is no core self or soul that could carry them from one body to another. ‘Memories’ of events are just as much encoded on the universe as a whole as they are in the cells of the brain. But wouldn’t that also imply the Buddha could equally have recalled everyone’s past lives – or at least those of anyone he had come into even the most indirect contact with? In fact couldn’t he even have ‘recalled’ the future lives of those unborn, or did the eventual extinction of his karma break his connection with subsequent events even as his Dharma continued to touch the lives of millions? I’ve never seen any such suggestions in the Buddhist canon. This feels a lot like meaningless metaphysical speculation to me, except that there have been occasions in my life (the earliest before I had even heard of the Buddha) when it felt like it was true. That there was only the thinnest ‘membrane’ separating me from all experience of what had or will happen and that maybe I was on the verge of ‘knowing’ absolutely everything (or at least everything phenomenological) if I could just … push … through. Jungians would probably link that sort of thing to birth trauma. Is there something trying to be ‘born’?

Then there’s the question of spontaneity.

Shortly after my enlightenment/awakening/epiphany/insanity of October 2012 my existence was touched by a Goddess. A dancing Goddess. And while I think it’s almost certainly a projection, it seems to me that She’s been trying to tell me something about maya and dance. Maybe She is saying I need to stop interacting with the universe as ‘other’ – because I know it’s not – and to merge with it in a sort of dynamic, loving worship. To accept that I have reached the limits of my jnana (of thought and knowledge) practice and try to understand things with my heart. To become a bhakti.

I’ve never considered myself a dancer. Us old punks hate disco. But when I’m absorbed into the sort of pounding, raucous music I love I just move. It doesn’t even feel volitional. It’s the music, not me. To an observer it probably seems more like I’m having a seizure than dancing but to me it’s as if my body and the noise have become one. I feel I am completely synchronised with the music and even at its most chaotic my body seems to be able to anticipate every note and beat and just ‘be there’ when it happens. A former colleague of mine – a professional dancer – once told me she was amazed when she first saw my response to a Radio Birdman gig, so perhaps there is more to it than a purely subjective experience. Or maybe she was surprised I would make such an idiot of myself in public.

Is that it? If I could hear the harmony of the universe and love it as completely and unconditionally as I do my favourite live music would I just naturally respond ‘in tune’ without having to think about what I’m doing? Do I need to learn to dance with everything?

Finally there’s the question of desire.

Is that what’s holding me back? Is the craving for a final break from my ego the very thing that keeps me from letting it go? When I’m egoless the question doesn’t even seem to exist, or if I’m aware of it at all it seems some kind of joke. Is even the idea that I should care about shopping, eating and talking to people part of the craving that makes it impossible to do without hiding inside my ego? Maybe I should stop pretending I have any control whatsoever over what happens and just let it be so. It would probably become true after they’d filled my butt with haloperidol and thrown me into a rubber room. Should I care?

What do you think?

Is it possible to be permanently free of ego while living a suburban existence or is that sort of thing just for renunciates and monks?
Is it even desirable? I’m here, I’ve got an ego, everything is as it should be. Why not just settle for that?
Am I missing something important? A vital piece of the puzzle?
Or is everything I have just written merely a manifestation of my psychotic ‘illness’ and of no interest to anyone but a psychiatrist? Even the Buddha made it pretty clear there’s no place in the Sangha for loonies like me.

Does any of it matter at all?

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14 Comments
  1. Dance..yes..just let it all go..just flow..and don’t think about it..no lessons required..no ego of course..and then when you ‘come back’ make whatever ego you want..as yes..ego is necessary for social interaction..as important as the other part..in what is real..that part and this part..is all the same..the difference is the illusion….

    i think…

    i try not to know…

    It is.

    🙂 smile added in for ego…

    by a way….

    It’s just another word for

    personality.

    And yes..that’s ‘cool’ too. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make it seem so bloody obvious sometimes.

      If I could have read your comments first I doubt I would have made the post. Until the craving for extinguishment arose again and I’d used my ego to invent another reason to get rid of my ego.

      Forget about the naked dancing though. Literal – as opposed to metaphorical – dancing only happens to me at live concerts and cops these days just don’t remember the summer of ’67.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. And yes..hell yes..dance naked..it’s the best way to ‘connect’..wHere legal.. of course…

    just a suggestion…;)

    Like

  3. ‘Would a more complete mindfulness extend the moment so that anticipation and remembering would become redundant’
    Had to sit up and pay attention here… then later, about mindfulness and whether we stay with the ego and to what extent. Then this:
    ‘Maybe I should stop pretending I have control whatsoever over what happens and just let it be so.’
    The word ‘integrity’ comes to mind in the triangulated Sila, Samadhi, Punya – and I’m looking for words here: wisdom, arrived at through focus, and integrity? How can you be sure about Integrity?

    Like

    • Yeah, I think this gets back to what I was saying about my spiritual balance.

      As far as what happened to me in October 2012 goes I’m pretty sure I didn’t ‘earn’ it in any conventional sense of the word.

      It sure wasn’t with punya, but I find the way that concept is defined in the canons to be kind of culture bound anyway. From where I sit, if you look after the sila the punya looks after itself. The notion of building up a store of karmic merit just doesn’t feel right to me and I’ve wondered if it isn’t a decontextualised economic metaphor that was used to transmit a concept with connotations I just don’t get from a modern Western perspective.

      And while I didn’t earn my gift, I don’t believe it could have happened without my samadhi practice.

      Did my sila practice contribute? If it did it was in a pretty paradoxical way.

      This post gives a bit more background on what happened. It tells of how the ‘breakthrough’ was achieved by breaking my moral code, which was not really a morality at all but hypocritical moralising. There was a quite traumatic physical sensation of my moral code being ripped away and I can tell you it was devastating when it happened.

      The next to go was my knowledge, or at least my fetishisation of it. It left me with the overwhelming sense of knowing nothing. It may have been a free pass to a ‘beginner’s mind’ but that too was a horrible experience.

      Then when I was absolutely abject and without hope, there it was, tears of bliss pouring down my face. Everything perfect. And it just stayed with me. I didn’t break samadhi for about three days except for naps – or maybe not even when I was sleeping – and when I did my whole way of looking at everything remained completely transformed.

      So I think my sila practice may have been necessary in two ways. Firstly there was the ‘dysfunctional’ way in which I’d built a hypocritical edifice of moralising that was brittle and ready to shatter. Then there was my prison and mental health activism that had resulted in a lot of thinking about how to empower seriously disempowered people enough so I could serve them. A lot of activist groups lose touch with the people they purport to help as the dynamics of the organisation itself takes over (that meta-organism thing we discussed) and I was determined that wasn’t going to happen to Justice Action while I was a member. I think it was that experience that gave me enough insight to recognise when I broke my needed-to-be-broken moral code and to finally see it for what it was.

      I guess you could say that my activism was mostly what built up the necessary store of punya but that still doesn’t feel true to me. I just don’t get punya I think.

      Samadhi was definitely the main contributor. I’d been through some serious psycho-spiritual gymnastics in the lead up to this of an intensity and – goddamn it – virtuosity that I had never managed to come close to before. I’m not going to pretend false modesty here. I think I have an innate talent for it and of all my practice that was always what got by far the most attention. I honestly don’t think there’s too many people around who could have come close to what I’d been doing over the prior few days. I was so focused it’s a wonder I didn’t burn a hole in my skull.

      So, finally, back to the question. Integrity.

      My spiritual practice is a complete mess. Some of it so hypertrophied as to be almost monstrous and other bits hardly there at all. I don’t think there’s too much integrity to be found there.

      But as to my relationship with the universe, there is nothing but integrity. It all fits together so seamlessly and beautifully. Everything balanced, with all internal states and attributes matched to external ones. To drop my ego and dualist perspective it’s only necessary to bring the matching parts together again and they just dissolve/resolve. It’s quite a simple and gentle mental exercise unless I’m being distracted by something like conversation or loud noise. Not like my usual mind laser approach.

      I’m being misleading by contextualising it according to my feeble grasp of the Dhamma. The whole thing was a better fit for my understanding of Advaita at the time and future events would bring me closer to seeing it as more consistent with Kashmir Shaivism (which I then had only the most superficial understanding of). However the intensity of my samadhi definitely owed a lot to my decades of anapanasati practice. About six months earlier I’d got back into intensive practice after several years of slacking off due to extreme depression and by October I was at peak performance.

      I’m not sure that was the question you were actually asking though. Please clarify if I have misunderstood it.

      One of these days I’ll try to explain why morality was such an important part of my practice – it had little to do with Buddhism – and tell the story of how I’d burned off a big lump of anger I’d been lugging around then had a weird experience of ‘poetry’ a week or so before the events described here.

      Like

      • Thanks for the amazing description of losing everything, then samadhi for three days. Sila is what happens after the ‘moral code’ conditioning is broken and you’re figuring it out with nothing to go on. ‘If you look after the Sila, the Punya looks after itself…’ Says it all for me, maybe ongoing, maybe it settles one day and the ‘balance/imbalance’ thing is discoverable. I have to go now, v poor connection here in S Thailand, a house in an old rubber plantation. I’d like to say more when I’m properly online…

        Like

  4. Interesting internal struggle of ideas you describe here. The different tensions pushing and pulling against each other. I don’t know why, it reminds me of fish swimming in an aquarium. Like lots of little fish, making schools, darting first this way then that. Very colorful fishes, exotic and tropical, with their myriad of opalescent hues, so subtle and so garish at the same time. Very pretty, hypnotizing to watch.

    As I explained in my one post (http://dondeg.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/experience/), years ago I realized I was a fiction of words in my own mind. Nietzsche described the stages in Thus Spake Zarathustra: First you struggle to see it, then you see it, and you freak out because its so cool, then you want to tell everyone, then everyone thinks your nuts, then you get discouraged, then you think getting disciples is a good idea, then one of them betrays you, then you just shut up and relax.

    For being such a nut job, he got that one right.

    But yeah, being a fiction in my own mind doesn’t make it easy to communicate with others. I developed what I have never given a name to before but if I had to call it something, I’d call it “the philosophy of being a chameleon”. Which is to say, for the sake of getting along with others, (which of course is a personal choice, one need not make this choice), one momentarily pretends to be this or that.

    It’s not phony, nor fake nor anything like that. It’s a method. Because not everyone is at the same stage or level. So, I pray to God to give me the wisdom to be able to assess the level someone is at, then reflect back that level to them, and whatever else needs to be in the transmission (e.g. if there is some hidden impulse that also must be addressed – they usually can’t see it, but “I” can intuit it).

    Why go through all the trouble? Again, it’s a personal choice, a self-expression. Whatever I am, it likes harmony, and mixing lots of colors into really cool and beautiful patterns (“Oh the pretty colors! Look at them shift and change!”). That really is the basis for this approach to things. No other reason really. No necessity. Just that I would rather have peace than conflict.

    That’s how I’ve adapted to all this. It doesn’t always work. But nothing ever does!

    Thanks for sharing and for reading my ramblings!

    Best wishes,

    Don

    Like

    • Since October 2012 I’ve found myself far more accepting of Nietzsche than I was. Other than getting disciples that pretty much describes my own progress (why should I try to get even more people accused of being nuts?).

      The most obvious change in me to others was the immediate lifting of the utter despair I’d been living under for almost a decade. There was a girl living next door who is also bipolar and had been having a really rough time with the episodes of depression and for a while I was unable to accept that I couldn’t tell her something that would do for her what it had for me.

      I doubt I would have started blogging except for wanting to experiment with ways of expressing how I see things. With one or two notable possible exceptions I don’t think I’ve had much success (as the comment of When the Shine Wears Off demonstrates) but an unexpected upside was that I found lots of other bloggers facing a similar dilemma so at least there was someone to talk to about it.

      It’s a bit like when I was a kid. For years after my first asthma induced mystical experience I thought I was the only person in the world who had ever had one (naturally I thought it was a sign of insanity and I still don’t think that’s necessarily untrue). Then I heard Russell Morris’ song, The Real Thing and listened to Alan Watts tapes and realised there was a world full of people out there who ‘knew’ what I ‘knew’ and not all of them were in looney bins.

      Like

  5. Dude, what are you crapping on about?

    Like

    • If you know you know.
      If you don’t, there’s nothing I could say that’s gonna help you. It’d be like trying to explain ‘red’ to a blind man.

      Altered states of consciousness. Different modes of perception. Alternate means of knowing.
      All empty words unless you’ve experienced them yourself.

      Like

  6. States of conscious alterations.
    Perceiving modes of difference.
    Mean knowings alternate,
    All experiences are empty;
    Word them
    Your
    Self

    *berryrasp blows*

    Like

    • Nice poem.

      You seem to know the objective truth about purely subjective experiences.
      Have you considered becoming a guru? I’ve heard it pays well.

      Like

  7. Followers get dudes killed, haven’t you noticed?

    Like

    • Surely a small price to pay for peace, tranquility, equanimity, enlightenment, universal love and a carpark full of Rolls Royces.

      Like

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