Haven’t Got Time For The Pain

Many may associate this 1974 Carly Simon hit with a popular advertising campaign for aspirin from a couple of decades ago. But actually, this song has a strong spiritual message. In fact,  lyricist Jake Brackman wrote this song about his own spiritual process.

But you really don’t have to be on any spiritual path (though it does help) to take a lesson from the message communicated in these lyrics. As we become more self-aware and self-reflective, we begin to recognize the behavior patterns that keep sabotaging us.

“…suffering was the only thing that made me feel I was alive…”

You could say that the emotional rollercoaster rides that keep our mini-dramas alive and well reflect the karmic load in which our egos are trapped. Eckhart Tolle calls it the ‘pain body.’ We remain attached to our pain because this state of being is familiar and the only way we know, which is why even though the names and places may change, we consistently find ourselves in the same limiting circumstances or surrounded by the same types of people. Spiritual practices show us how to “leave (ourselves) behind….how to turn down the noise in (your) mind……how to fill (your) heart with love.” Once that happens, you no longer have the time or the room or the need for the pain.

Take a listen and enjoy this great oldie through a new perspective. I’ve posted the lyrics below…

All those crazy nights when I cried myself to sleep
Now melodrama never makes me weep anymore
‘Cause I haven’t got time for the pain
I haven’t got room for the pain
I haven’t the need for the pain
Not since I’ve known you

You showed me how, how to leave myself behind
How to turn down the noise in my mind
Now I haven’t got time for the pain
I haven’t got room for the pain
I haven’t the need for the pain
Not since I’ve known you

Suffering was the only thing that made me feel I was alive
Thought that’s just how much it cost to survive in this world
‘Til you showed me how, how to fill my heart with love
How to open up and drink in all that white love
Pouring down from the heaven
I haven’t got time for the pain
I haven’t got room for the pain
I haven’t the need for the pain
Not since I’ve known you

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Catch – 22

Here’s the thing. I can blog about non-duality and you can read about non-duality until the cows come home, but until there is direct experience, there is no real understanding.  Oh, there may be an intellectual understanding to a certain point, but no real ‘gut’ feeling of those ‘aha’ moments that tell us we really and truly get it. Direct experience is the real teacher. Direct experience is truth because it cannot be refuted. Unfortunately, it also cannot be proven by the usual scientific standards, but that doesn’t preclude its authenticity.  We need to let go of our limited views of reality.  Look around.  It’s time and it’s necessary.

Now, here’s the problem.  You can’t go looking for direct experiences. They creep up on you at totally unexpected times. Even if you have a regular contemplation or meditation practice, there is no guarantee that you will have a ‘brick falling on your head’ type of experience.  You can, certainly, but with consistent spiritual practice, the experiences tend to be cumulative and therefore culminate into a broader kind of understanding, which over time changes your views about things and you begin that wondrous, scary journey from which there is no return.  Still, those ‘right between the eyes’ sort of experiences are the ones that catch our attention. But, of course, we have to be open to them.

The good news is that stories of non-dual, watershed moments are not as rare as one might think.  Eckhart Tolle, in the introduction of his book, The Power of Now, describes his life up to the age of 29 as one of immense anxiety and dread “…interspersed with periods of suicidal depression.” One night, as he was suffering through his usual panic and dread, he thought, “I cannot live with myself any longer.”  He suddenly realized the strangeness of that thought. He began to question who he really was. Was he “… the “I” or the “self” that the “I” cannot live with?”  The duality that we all experience smacked him right between the eyes and he began to wonder if only one of them (the ‘I’ or the ‘self’) was real. His spiritual transformation occurred at that moment.

Fritjof Capra in the preface of his book the Tao of Physics, describes his non-dual experience of ‘oneness’ occurring on a beach, where he suddenly became aware of the ‘…cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulses…” and how his own atoms were participating in this cosmic dance. He suddenly began to see the similarities between modern physics and Eastern philosophy, which set him on the path of writing this book.

Direct experience usually leads us down a whole new path in life, as it did for Tolle and Capra. It expands our awareness and life is never the same. We begin to rise above the tedium to see the big picture. But do we really need to have direct experiences in order to experience changes in our perception?

I’m not sure what the answer to that question is, so we’re stuck in a spiritual catch-22.  How do we get to a place where we can begin to perceive non-duality without direct experience? How about cultivating a bit of tolerance? Tolerance removes the obstacles that lead to compassion and kindness. That would be a huge step forward from where we are now. It requires that we lift our awareness and place it on something other than our own self-interests. When we get there, we begin thinking of ways in which we can be of service to others.  Ask yourself, “Am I serving myself or am I serving others?”  Service to others might just put you on the path toward non-dualism.

Every age thinks it has all the answers. We need to get over ourselves and realize that it’s time we wake up and move past the limited conceptual, man-made parameters of thought and embrace a more encompassing, compassionate view of reality in an effort to solve humanity’s problems. Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  We need a shift of consciousness – now. We can put our awareness anywhere we want, so put it where it will do the most good.

The Sound of Silence

“Hello darkness my old friend ……..” is the opening line of Simon and Garfunkel’s famous song The Sound(s) of Silence.” I enjoyed listening to the duo’s music in the second half of the ‘60’s, as it appealed to my poetic sensitivities.

Of course, the song title’s meaning for me has changed over the decades. The more I delve the depths of reality, the more I crave those sounds of silence, because that’s where it’s happening. That’s where the action is. Action in inaction? Sounds in silence?  Yes, reality is full of paradoxes, but one thing is for sure: the volumes of information conveyed or found in the silence when you contemplate/meditate is astonishing and the ways in which truth (information) is communicated is unique to each person.

There is a saying that meditation can’t be taught, but it can be learned. Though there are many different kinds of meditation, the method is only the tool, the map, to help the seeker reach those states of quiet. The silence and what is learned in the silence is the journey. It’s like walking a labyrinth. The path is set (in stone) but the journey is unique to each who walk it. The first time I walked a labyrinth, which, by the way, is done in complete silence, I was astounded by the ‘impressions’ that were brought into my awareness.  And each time I’ve walked a labyrinth, the journey has been different.

Labyrinth at the National Headquarters of the Theosophical Society in America

When you chant the Omkara, which is simply chanting “OM” in repetition, you focus on two things. You can put your attention on the sound of the OM vibration, but things get much more interesting when you put your attention on the space between the OMs. In yoga, pranayama or breathing exercises also emphasize the interval between breaths as the more important place to be.

The importance of silence in sadhana cannot be stressed enough. This is the place where the seeker touches the face of the Absolute, because it is in the silence where you find yourself.  It’s not even the noise of the external world that’s the problem; it’s the noise of your internal world that needs to be turned down in order for your ego to be pushed aside so you can be with yourself for a while.  And that’s when real learning or experiencing begins. You will never find the answers to the eternal questions you search for in books. Never. It is only by turning within, by spending time in the silence, that you will discover who you really are. The first line in Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks says, “When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.”

There’s a lot of resistance to living in silence even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time.  Silence can be scary for us. We don’t know what to do with it because silence has no form. Having lost the anchor of the material world, we feel adrift with nothing in the void to cling to. The realization sinks in that our beliefs and thoughts about who we are don’t matter in this place. Those false identities are negated in the formless essence of stillness. The illusion of separation dissolves and in the silence we realize that we are the “…I Am that is deeper than name and form…” as Eckhart Tolle writes.  It’s the difference between ‘doing’ and ‘being.’

Spiritual literature about this abounds. If interested, a couple of titles you should check out include:  The Voice of the Silence by H.P. Blavatsky and the aforementioned Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. Both are excellent, though if you’re a beginner in these matters, I would start with Tolle’s book as Blavatsky’s is more esoteric.


Heart vs. Mind – Reconciling Knowledge and Wisdom in Spiritual Practice – Part 2

Wisdom as truth

Humans cannot come to Truth through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest, or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. They have to find it through the understanding of the contents of their own minds, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection.” ~ J. Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti recognized that “Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized…” What he meant, of course, was that no amount of intellectual study or organized ritual can bring truth. And truth is the essence of wisdom. There has to be some internalization process that happens, some form of direct experience, which brings the seeker that which he seeks. Being regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers, it is interesting to note that Krishnamurti failed his courses at London University. And even though his brother, Nitya, passed with honors, Krishnamurti’s professors claimed that he had a much wider grasp of large concepts. His ‘mind’ was the bigger of the two.

Thinking and doing from the heart

As we have seen, the limitations of thought are many. Eckhart Tolle in his “Power of Now” addressed this issue by reminding us that one of the ways it limits is by trapping us in time and space. “This is what I think today, tomorrow I might think something else.”  See what I mean? Tolle goes on to use the following example –  If you asked your cat or dog what time it was would it look at a clock? Of course not, its answer would be “now”.  If you asked your pet where it is, you think it would say “I’m in the living room?’  No, it would say “here”.  Staying present seems to be a criteria for reaching that part of ourselves that transcends time and space. We can achieve this in deep states of meditation. All matters of form (time and space included) dissolve as we lose the boundaries of our physical bodies and nothing is left but our true selves. Our minds don’t get in the way anymore. Since thought implies the mind, it can be argued that thought arising from the true self or heart is not thought at all.  What is it then? Maybe it’s truth, wisdom. That indefinable something that can change the way we see the world.

A friend of mine e-mailed me recently about not always knowing the right thing to do in certain situations. She commented that she “is not sure what the boundaries are. I’ve stepped on enough landmines to be wary. Hate those explosions!” She is approaching with her analytical mind, instead of seeing the situation from her heart. Maybe we need to forget about boundaries. Maybe we need to love those explosions. If we think with our hearts instead of our minds we will be acting from a place of love…..and wisdom. The boundaries fall away and transformation, the alchemy, begins.

So ask your self, “How do I see? With my eyes? My mind? My heart? Try using less mind and more heart. See only with your heart. Your mind doesn’t know what you want. Listen with your heart and it will tell you. I asked a wise soul what my current preoccupation with “heart” was all about. I was told, “Heart is love. Love comes from the heart. Do everything from the heart.” Which, of course, means do everything from a place of love. The Beatles’ said it all with their lyrics, “…love is all there is.”

The Pitfalls of direct experience

We applaud and reward academic achievement. Pride is felt as one can attach letters at the end one’s name. One’s salary and status usually improve. But just as our egos can be stroked by acquiring knowledge, it can also be deluded into feeling superior through experiences. We begin to judge our ‘progress’ by another arbitrary standard. As our searching has us abandon trying to find the answers in books and we begin to experience what we have read about, another kind of pride is felt. We might begin to feel competitive thinking “Look at my experience. It’s better than yours. Therefore I must be further along the spiritual path.”  This is normal in the beginning. But we must remember that alchemy, the true transformation of knowledge into wisdom, does not begin until we get past our egos. My teacher has always told us that if we feel we must gauge our progress we should, “look to the changes in our character.” When that happens, your ego gets out of the way, and a kind of humility sets in. A simplicity in one’s character emerges. That simplicity is wisdom.

Taking the first step

Become the watcher. William Ury, the author of many books on conflict resolution, refers to this as, “going to the balcony.” He suggests that when you find yourself in conflict remove yourself mentally and become the observer of what is happening. Go to the balcony of the theater and watch the play. An interesting choice of metaphor. Of course, you don’t have to be in conflict to do this. It is a good idea to watch all you do, think, say, feel. Watch as if you are a character in a play. Watch as your role is being played out. This provides detachment from any situation, thought or emotion.  The more detached we are the more present we become because we are disentangled from the mind and the judgments that keep the mind going. The ‘watcher’ is coming from a different place, the present moment.  The watcher then has the direct connection to heart.  It removes the middleman, the ego, from the play.

We can all use a little alchemy in our lives. Think how the world could change if our actions were led by our hearts, our inner wisdom, instead of the external machinations of the egotistical mind? Healing the universe is an inside job.