For Entertainment Purposes Only

    The publisher of an Australian magazine asked me to write an article for his next issue. He said the theme would be "How much deeper am I willing to go?" I liked that. I like the spirit, the edge, the almost-dare of his simple question. I like the way "how much deeper" challenges the complacency of the known and disturbs the comfort of the familiar.

    If spiritual work does anything, it challenges and disturbs with just as much force and surprise as it illuminates and enlightens. In fact, if our spiritual work does not challenge what we know, if it does not disturb our habitual patterns of thought, perception and action, then it is not spiritual work at all; it is merely a form of self-medication.

    One of the ways in which students and teachers alike self-medicate themselves is to believe what they say. This is epidemic in spiritual circles. "The world is an illusion," "Only the Self is real," "Everything is an expression of the Divine" are common mantras of self-medication. Some of the most beloved spiritual concepts – ego death, Christ Consciousness, Buddha-nature, Self-realization, enlightenment – have a similarly narcotizing effect.

    Live in the wild

    I don’t believe anything I say, and I state that several times during my talks and workshops. I make of point of saying, "Everything I say comes stamped with ‘For Entertainment Purposes Only.’ Do not believe anything I say; I don’t. And I don’t believe anything you say."

    People think I’m joking, or being glib. I’m not. I’m being quite sincere, and as honest as I can be. I have tremendous respect for people who explore reality, who question and examine their ideas, images and beliefs, who seek to discover the wellspring of universal wisdom within themselves, who are willing to abandon the prison of the known to live in the wild and free wilderness of the capacity to know. I do not regard these efforts lightly, nor those who make them. I number myself among those who have.

    Which perhaps explains why my words often affect people very deeply; my words have even been accused of causing minds to awaken and hearts to open, of stimulating intuitive centers of knowing, of setting off fire-alarms of Kundalini. If I don’t believe anything I say, how can this be? If my words are for entertainment purposes only, how can this be? From where do my words find their power if not in their respective meanings and collective concepts?

    Field of silence

    I was at a dinner party in Sydney last week. We got to talking about talking, since a number of the guests were lecturers, workshop leaders and coaches. One man asked me what I spoke about, "What is your topic?" I said that my topic was not about content, but context. That raised a few eyebrows.

    "I talk so as to create a context, or field, of Silence," I explained. "I talk to enchant the Silence beyond the mind into full view within those present. I talk to dissolve the meaning of words in favor of the significance of their halos of Silence. I talk to undermine concepts and conceptual knowing, not with a mean spirit, not aggressively, but with compassion and humor and, yes, a fair bit of focus that crosses, from time to time, the border of intensity. I talk so that the capacity to know replaces knowing, so that openness replaces dogma, so that curiosity replaces certainty, so that the eternal present replaces time, so that creativity replaces imitation, so that Self replaces self, and …." Then I stopped talking; after all, it was a dinner party, not a workshop. (Where were my manners?)

    Just as cigarettes have been described as a delivery device for nicotine, I might describe my words as a delivery device for shakti, cosmic energy-juice, which when aroused from its dormancy within individuals induces profound psychic stillness and inner Silence. Within this Silence, the mind awakens and the heart opens naturally. Within this Silence, the menu gives way to delicacies and maps to a living paradise. My brother Rumi was about as close as one can get when he said, "However you think it is, it’s different than that." By extension, however you say it is, it’s different than that.

    Whereas all students and most teachers believe everything they think and say, my thoughts and words come tagged with "For Entertainment Purposes Only." The disclaimer of "Don’t believe anything I say!" is, as I see it, the source of the power of my words to affect transformation in people, if we understand transformation as moving from virtual to actual reality. Transformation is not realized by adopting a different set of beliefs, refurbishing your self-image, joining a particular sect, being a disciple of one guru or another, or parroting "spiritual" phrases. Transformation is realized only when one awakens to and within reality, which is wholly transconceptual and well beyond the grasp of thought or language.

    Virtual reality

    I analogize believing in what we think and say to living in virtual reality.

    The technology "that generates more or less realistic illusions of reality" is language. The "operating system that simulates reality" is the thinking mind, version Concept OS X (for all manner of people, computer platforms and browsers).

    As long as we believe what we think and say, as long as we believe what our teachers think and say, as long as teachers believe in what they think and say – we shall live together in virtual reality. And so long as we live in virtual reality, our spiritual practices are sedatives, our sadness and despair will persist, our confusion and conflicts will grow, and our longing for wholeness and freedom will be unfulfilled.

    What can we do about this? How can you discover for yourself the difference between your virtual reality, and the reality you had hoped to experience? First, a metaphor, then a few suggestions.

    A movie is created as individual frames of celluloid are projected onto a white screen at 24 frames per second. The projection speed creates the illusion of the movie and its world of beginnings and endings, of sound and drama, of past and future, of characters and plot. The movie seems so real it is easy to believe in the illusion and be swept away by the on-screen events, forgetting that we are sitting in a theater eating popcorn. But, if we were to slow down the speed of the projector so that the individual frames were projected at, say, 15 frames per second, the "reality" of the movie would break apart. The sound would become garbled and unintelligible, the picture itself would flicker terribly. If we slowed down the projector even more, to say 3 frames per second, we’d have a slide show, wouldn’t we? One celluloid frame after another, interspersed with glimpses of the white screen. Nothing would make sense.

    The virtual reality of the movie cannot be sustained when the projector slows down: the illusion falls apart. We see what we had not seen before: the white screen as the unchanging background on which our "movie" is projected. In this metaphor, the screen is Silence, the capacity to know, the freedom to create.

    Seem so real

    We create our virtual reality in much the same way in our own lives. We believe in illusions that seem so real. In this case it is our own mind that creates the movie by projecting thoughts, concepts, beliefs, memories and future fantasies onto the white screen of reality. We believe everything we think and say, because we think and speak with such speed that we lose sight of the white screen of Silence, except as a concept within the virtual reality movie we are watching. As we slow the speed of our mind-projector, we begin to see the white screen of reality on which we project our movie until, finally, the illusion of virtual reality falls apart.

    Now, various forms of meditation are supposed to slow down the mind-projector enough for us to glimpse actual reality. But Concept OS X is so powerful, so habitual, that immediately we begin thinking and talking about what happened in meditation, and we, of course, believe everything. The movie is again rolling along, and we are trapped within it.

    Focus on silence

    Now, the suggestions. The experiments. The possibility of awakening from virtual to actual reality.

    Between each thought and around each word is a space of Silence and eternity. Put your attention on that space of Silence between each thought and around each word. Let the thoughts and words pass through you. Leave them alone. Just focus on Silence. Develop a sensitivity to this still space, to Silence, even while being active – especially while being active. Monitor the speed of your own mind-projector; calibrate the critical point at which you begin to believe in what you think and say, losing yourself to a virtual reality in which everything seems real and yet nothing is real.

    Be aware of each breath, as it enters and leaves your body, and as it settles deep within you for the timeless instant. Our breath is life itself, grounding us in the here and now, linking us to all creation. Our belly is the belly of the Earth herself, and of planets we have not yet seen, and stars we have not yet known, waiting to be discovered.

    When you speak, listen to your speaking: to the chosen, and unchosen, words, and to the boundless space of Silence surrounding each word, chosen or not.

    When you listen, listen to your own listening: Is it open, welcoming, and loving? Or is it suspicious, insistent and arrogant? Are you listening to learn, to grow, to understand; or are you listening to judge, criticize and defend?

    If we become still enough, we will be filled with Silence, and in this Silence, if you want, you can be an irresistible magnet towards which anything and everything from everywhere and nowhere can come at any time to illuminate, thrill and enchant every cell of your infinite being. You can dissolve all ideas and identities we project onto Life, thus separating ourselves from Life and its mystery, which can be known only in Silence.

    Before everything

    What is Silence? It is before words. It is before thought. It is before self. It is before everything. It is the unmanifest, formless, wordless Reality slowly manifesting within you, coming in to form, into words, hovering between and surrounding these two seemingly separate worlds: unmanifest and manifest, formless and form, wordless and worded.

    Before words create confusion and doubt, before all the holding tight and pushing away, before all the rushing from here to there, before all the right and wrong, the me and you, self and other:

    Isn’t this what you are: unending openness and pure delight?

    Isn’t this what you want: to breathe with the Earth and see the secret flowers blooming in your soul?

    Isn’t this what you know: Silence, Silence, and more Silence, and then…mystery…and then love? And then, more love, then Silence, then love. Back and forth from Silence to love dissolving self and other, right and wrong, knowing and not knowing, confusion and clarity, meaning and meaninglessness…all gone, nowhere to stand, only Silence and love, Silence and love.



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