We need bigger egos!
Do egocentric individuals have egos that are too big, or actually too small?
I’ve come to see that what we call “big” “overblown” egos are not so. They are tight, constricted, narrow “ego tunnels.” It is their delusion of grandeur, masking how tiny their sense of self really is, that makes us call them “too big.” It actually seems that they are not roomy enough! Egocentrism seems to be an extremely narrow mindset and experience of oneself. When an individual expands their consciousness, they realize more of what they are, that they are so much greater than just an isolated little me. It actually feels like our of sense of self and of what is ME becomes bigger, vaster, when we know ourselves as an individual expression of the entire universe! It seems a mistake to say that one’s personal sense of self should be miniaturized when you wake up to your universality, but that it should expand as the sense of self grows from one of just me-centricity to global or world-centricity, in which our personal motivations are inspired by what we can do individually when plugged into our universal nature, on behalf of the good of all. You could also say, what the universe can do, when plugged into it’s individuality, on behalf of all parts of itself, rather than just one :)
The ego doesn’t go away, it discovers it is an expression of the entire universe, of the absolute, god, whatever you call it. And that opens its' heart to its' own suffering and that of others, widening your view to take in the greater context we are a part of, and that expanded consciousness that includes each particular thing, doesn’t miniaturize or make things less significant, but more, rich and full, and filled with infinite interconnection with everyone and everything. Now it's not about getting rid of suffering, but being able to be with it with compassion and tenderness, felt in the power of our shared human condition, and in even the most painful experience being an expression of god breaks our hearts open for love to pour out for both ourselves and fellow beings...
Ego dissolution isn't a final end but a stage in waking up to the formless dimension, expanding our view beyond the ego to wake up to what we are a greater part of, poignancy in the wider perspective of the whole we are an expression and a part of, enthusiasm to live this life expressing as a personal expression of the universe!
I’m more here I guess to suggest a different way to approach suffering… I think when we feel the profound significance of being incarnations of the universe and the significance of everything simply because it exists, that we and this world are somehow here, the awe of that opening up your heart and inspiring so much passion to simply be human…it can even feel like ecstasy even right with agony...ecstagony
I suggest a way to experience joy and sorrow together, a path that is fully bittersweet, and wanted that way because it is feels most whole, most inclusive and radically alive. Read More
Evolutionary Spirituality, as I relate to it, is about presence and progression, dipping into the absolute alone as a means to progression, rather than reductionist spirituality's regression and taking up of permanent residence in absolute-only consciousness. It seeks repair and reformation through conscious, mindful action, doing balanced with being, without valuing one over the other. Spirituality that values evolution encourages us to lend our individuality and personal strengths to improvement while also seeing and accepting things as they are, so that improvement is not the only goal, but comes more naturally when we see clearly the ways in which, often unintentionally, we hurt ourselves and others. It's not an obsession with improvement, nor is it complacency. It seeks to reveal our human potential for qualities like benevolence, grace, compassion, choice, and resilience. It is a catalyst for wonder and awe, for a deep appreciation of how an impersonal causeless cause, "the absolute" evolved to express itself as things like mountains and streams, skin and bones, friendship, and subjective experience itself! For how it actualizes more and more of its potential as we, as manifestations of it, realize more and more of ours.
It doesn't seek to negate or reduce anything to nothing, at least not beyond having experiences of unconditioned Beingness that can lead us beyond our limited sense of self to recognize the totality/whole of our being that our egoic self is a part of. It views the transcendence of our limitations as fixed constructs as important experiences because they so powerfully reveal the fact of our ability to eventually re-form and re-condition them, so that seeing through conditioned narratives isn't a step towards devaluing all mental constructs and the edifice of a personal self. Again, it sees in their illusory, truly un-fixed nature the possibility of reformation, of claiming choice where there was once automatized thought and behavior, and harnessing the extent of the control we do have instead of denying the existence of any control over our lives which can leave us with a false sense of powerlessness, of resignation, fatalism, complacency, the apathy of "why bother?" This reductionist approach strips the individual of agency, denying not just their choice, the capacity to control what is within their power, but also denies the individual their very reality, their existence, and ultimate worth as an individual which it sees not as a wondrous manifestation of the absolute, but as an unwanted tumorous outgrowth of it to remove.
Whether the sense of personhood is amorphous, un-fixed, illusory (real, but not in the way we usually think) intangible, it is an experience of subjectivity, one through which the universe can know itself! It is a real phenomenon that clearly affects actions and measurable change. All you need to do is consider how thoughts impact the body - anxious thoughts directly lead to elevated levels of cortisol. Neuroplasticity shows how changing our thoughts literally changes the structure of our brains! We don't deny the wind even though we cannot grasp it, because you see and feel its effects, see it rustle leaves and decimate homes in hurricanes. The little control we do have is actually quite immense- the power we have to change and choose our attitudes, which change our behavior and our very experience of life. So reductionist non-dualists, please stop saying that all choice, all control, all power to affect change is a falsehood to be given up to know "truth," to be replaced with "not my will, but thy will be done," handing it over to an impersonal universe.
Tell me where the greater benefit lies - in teaching others to give up any sense of personal choice, and power over what they do in life, that agency itself is a delusion, or that we have more power to positively influence our lives, the lives of others, and the state of the world than we know? How does stripping ourselves of personal agency benefit us any more than does feeding grandiose self-centeredness and overblown egocentrism? Tell me how can believing we are inconsequential nobodies who don't matter, be any better than needing to be seen a certain way, than self-righteousness and obsession with vanity, fame?
And what real value does it serve to conflate something's inherent limitations with its utter non-existence? Evolutionary spirituality, as I understand it, sees this as a way of absolving oneself of the ability to make any kind of difference rather than getting sober on what we can change and what we cannot. On spiritual paths, especially when arrived at through one's life not turning out as planned, there's often a grieving (an important one) of the loss of a sense of total control over the outcomes of our efforts, to totally control our future - "man plans and God laughs." But instead of denying all control, this can bring us to a middle way of learning what we can do, and what is a better use of our efforts than rigid, precise planning and building an illusion of immunity to disaster, disappointment, regret. We can then continue to steer the ship in our desired direction despite knowing the inevitability of unpredictable storms that can set us off course at any moment. Just because we're always at the mercy of the sea and possible shipwrecks, doesn't mean we should stop steering altogether. Resigning ourselves to the passenger seat of our lives, or ripping out the steering wheel is no better than gripping it so tightly that our knuckles bleed. We do need to accept the fact that not everything is up to us and we can't control what obstacles may present themselves on the road ahead. What's most important is to discern when it's wiser to let go and step back in life, to ride the flow for a while, without deteriorating our sense of autonomy and will to be our own authority. To lose this is the tragic end of intentional living!
Spirituality that celebrates evolution as a sacred process of the universe expressing its' potential through us, calls upon humanity to recognize this, that the "absolute" is blooming, and coming to know itself through us, as non-dual realization shows us how the "absolute" is the relative world of form, and vice versa, co-arising inseparably. It doesn't see one instead of two, it sees the one IN two. And It finds proof of personal power in the fact that the world is actually better today than it ever was, statistically if you look at things like poverty, unemployment, hunger, these are all at all-time lows! And why is that? It's because of individual action, intention that comes with wielded agency and will. It started with caring more about what happens to one another and wanting to play a role in reducing the suffering not just of ourselves, but of others. It's because more of us are seeing through our conditioned limitations, and disempowering beliefs that we can't make a difference, and evolving them, replacing narratives of apathy and meaninglessness with calls to action saying we are more than what we think we are, not less, and if we want to, each of us, as unique expressions of the universe, can play a valuable role in its evolution.
Giving up a perfect god
Can you see that when you reject the existence of something in the name of god (or whatever word you like) particularly suffering, the ego and the world of form, you are turning away from god by rejecting god's manifestations?
To recognize this is to recognize that there are aspects of god that are not purely peaceful, bright and blissful, joyful, or even likeable and that god cannot be relegated to or sanctified in a dimension that is cut off from anything else. This can be disillusioning to us when we're clinging to a vision/experience of god as the untarnished, transcendent/absolute only, separate from suffering. To recognize this is to admit that god is not perfect, at least not in the way that we tend to see perfection as something that can only exist in isolation from the blemishes, flaws, and stains of imperfection. But paradoxically, in seeing this, we open ourselves to the revelation of a kind of perfection that coincides with the bittersweet - flawlessness that is not in opposition to but found in concert with flaws, contentment that walks alongside discontent. This warm embrace of imperfection happens when we hold the aliveness and tension of unified opposites in an inner open palm, allowing for the co-existence in which one does not have to be absent for the other to be present. Silence and noise, peace and turmoil, hunger and satiation, sorrow and ecstacy. A third thing is created that feels like blazing, heart-flooding vitality infused with equal parts surrender and a poignant urgency to feel fully alive.
When you honor that you can't open to all of god if you don't open to the full spectrum of human emotion, you may long, as I do at times, to feel radically incarnate, and cherish it when you do. Wanting all of god means wanting all of you. This can be disappointing on one hand, because it means god isn't going to save us from anything. But the silver lining is that it unravels the attempt to push parts of ourselves away, for if everything within and without is an expression of god, how can we fully know the divine by pushing parts of it away? To behold god in god's completeness is to slowly embrace a holiness that pervades the profane without erasing it, just as form is suffused with formlessness without being negated. Embracing everything as a sacred expression of god, the practice of self-compassion is infused with new meaning as the act of befriending your pain is softening and opening your heart to unwanted qualities of god, and a profound way to cultivate a connection to the divine in the times we usually feel most cut off from it. In these moments there's truly no difference between caring for your pain and caring for god. From this perspective, self-compassion becomes a beautifully profound non-dual practice of leading transcendence and immanence towards a cathartic, loving recognition of themselves in the other, and in doing so, we can even discover a deeply meaningful way that suffering can serve a higher purpose.
This post is in process, please stay tuned if it interests you...
"None of this is serious, important or even necessary. Nothing will happen anyway."
For me, the Nothing Conference exemplifies much of my previous understanding/experience of "non-duality" as well as all of what myself and many others (many of whom would have participated in the past) have realized is tragic about "radical non-duality." In this sense, it's a rare blessing because it's an extremely important case study to help us thoroughly understand the dynamics of this non-dualism (more on that later), one that is a truly double-edged sword that both helps and severely harms many people, and not just ones who are already unhealthy or under-developed. It's imperative that we bring these kinds of harm to light for the well-being of fellow humans by investigating its nature, the causes and conditions that cause it to arise, and come up with changes that could help with prevention and healing, and making it more likely that people will choose to engage with holistically healthy spiritual offerings. It raises valuable questions that well-meaning individuals/organizations in the greater spiritual community need to address, such as what degree of ethical responsibility do teachers/guides/speakers have for potential and known patterns of harm caused by their messages, their delivery of them, and their behavior in that role?
Yes, when I first started writing this, it was with a tone that matched the spiritually egoic dark humor of the event's marketing language (one that I am familiar with having delighted in reading and writing myself in the past!) I wrote...
"In 2020, an event called the Nothing Conference took place. But according to the organizers it never actually happened, and it seems that was the intention all along. To get people not to come, their website informed the public that "nothing will happen anyway," and to further ensure that no one would attend, proclaimed that "none of this is serious, important or even necessary." The advertising campaign worked astonishingly well - thousands of people bought tickets, and none of them showed up.
What didn't happen was (not) hosted by "Nothing Media," "a team of non-doers with experience in event production and technologies, interested in sharing the non-duality message."
But I want to continue this in a serious way, because the harmful side (this is not discounting positive elements) of what the event showcases, isn't funny at all. It's dead serious.
The entirety of "non-duality" is reduced to this one concept of "nothing" reflecting the reductionist perspective of reality that lies at the heart of this non-dualism. Even as someone who once shared the viewpoint of the essential non-reality of the manifest world, the chosen name would have immediately struck me as imbalanced, and cynical, even if the insider's experience of nothingness is altogether positive (or neutral). I remember laughing while writing in my journal how "nothing matters" doesn't mean that there is nothing that matters, but that what matters is nothing! It was such delicious, cathartic irony.
It could have called it so many things, including the "everything" conference, but the chosen term was one that connotes nihilism instead, and reflects the self-negation at the heart of radical non-duality - taking up permanent residence in the de-constructive stage of spiritual transformation, and guiding people to that and only that, while also presenting the "no self" stage as the final one, rather than a stage in a process of transformation that when holistic, includes emergence of a transformed transpersonal self, an evolved conscious ego that knows it is not the whole of what one is, but an integral part of the greater whole, simultaneously (and paradoxically) separate and one with all, as a personal expression of universal being.
Here's a transcript from the first promo video:
Out of the void you came from everything and nothing you appeared.
At first, there was no question of your oneness, your connectedness to everything, no line of separation between you and others. There was no self. There were no others. Then early on the patterns begin, a localized energetic contraction and a container of skin was given a name, objects of belonging, and a grouping of stories propping up this image of self.
Me in here, against the world out there. At some point, a glimpse of the truth revealed a different view, a knowing more instinctual than logical rose, revealing there's something else going on, vastly different than the stories you've been told.
A glimpse kicked up a wave of curiosity, a recognition that the longing we've always had for wholeness came not from our dissatisfaction with life but through an understanding that the dissatisfaction itself was simply a thought arising from nowhere. Not of our doing. Now we explore that wholeness in and as awareness itself, suspended as everything and nothing. Life as a freefall, floating in the space of being, realizing the self as everything as nothing.
And the second promo video:
Nothing is serious. Life isn't serious. Of course we're free to take it seriously. Free to pretend that we are somehow separate from life itself. Free to play characters with serious lives. Serious goals. Free to feel as if some greater goal needs to be achieved. But it doesn't. The purpose of life is simply to be. And when the punchline of this cosmic joke is truly understood, all we can do is have a good laugh..
Here are a few snippets from one of the keynote speakers, Kenneth Madden, who has referred to himself as "The apparent Kenneth:"
What's been said here has not been said by anybody, and it's not being said to an individual.
There is no individual, it is just energy.
The big joke is that you're not there.
Most alarmingly, someone asks, "would this message would be inappropriate to communicate to someone such as after trauma, rape etc when a person is looking for emotional attunement and healing?"
Because he is "uncompromising," apparent Kenneth evades the question by dismissing the notion that he is communicating anything in the first place...
"It's not, uh, being communicated to anyone that's the first thing. This is not being spoken to anyone. This is the major difference between the vast majority of communications which involve somebody who speaks to somebody else and tells them about a thing called nonduality and how they can become whole and complete. Absolute nonsense. It is a totally different energy to it so this has never been spoken to anybody and it it only comes from no one. It's just completely
unpredictable where it will arise I cannot say when it would arise, but it doesn't seem to
arise when there's a question, there's a kind of a question out of nothing. It's totally energetic so there's a kind of a draw to it and a question and an interest in it and that's how it kind of dances, but if there's a resistance to it, or a sense of not wanting to hear this message...since it has no agenda whatsoever, it generally doesn't come out."
Non-duality live, who seems to have hosted the videos, says on their main page that "all there is, is nothing apparently happening."
"The ideas that are expressed under Non-Duality Live, obviously do not recommend or offer any kind of personal teaching, prescription, process, method, or advice as to why or how any individual should or should not live his/her life. It is apparent therefore that any participant's response or reaction to these communications is entirely and only a product of their own interpretation and their own responsibility."
The disclaimer seems to be protecting the organization and speakers against liability, rather than also coming from a place of compassion for the audience (which knowingly includes many people in vulnerable states of extreme suffering), without disclosing any of the potential dangers (short-term or long term) of a radical approach (radical being a term many of the speakers describe their message as) that often encourages the instant obliteration of one's foundational sense of reality. No supportive resources for spiritual emergencies, for example, that are common, naturally when one's foundational sense of reality gets shattered, especially when it happens instantaneously. This is not unique to "non-duality." It happens with everything from NDE's, Kundalini awakening, clairvoyance, etc. and is a topic rapidly increasing in attention and research, and many professional support networks are dedicated to spiritual crisis.
To be continued...