Monday, December 28, 2009


If you believe all that you are is a separate mind and body or even a mind and body and a soul living in a universe of separate things, get used to your suffering. As long as your perspective is that there are separate subjects and objects, attachment and desire will keep you searching for everything just outside of your reach and will always win out. Food, material things, dreams, goals, love, sex, everything and anything, if it isn't you, you've just got to have it. Attachment and desire are the logical result of separateness. We can temper it, try to meditate, rationalize, spiritualize, or discipline it out of our awareness but it is always there, the dark side of separateness.

Certainly you are a mind and a body, and even if you insist, a soul, but you are those and much, much more.

Duality and separate objects obscure our true nature. They narrow and limit what we really are. Our true nature, according to many of the mystics and sages, is most closely demonstrated as the state of our being when in deep dreamless sleep. Absurd you say. There is nothing in deep dreamless sleep. How can that be our true nature?

Deep dreamless sleep is the closest state to radical emptiness. Empty of mind objects and ego and sensory awareness. Remember that emptiness is not a condition or state or object or experience. It is the foundation of everything, what I called in an earlier posting, the reflective ability of the universe (using the mirror metaphor) or unmanifested subjectivity. And that is you, all objects arising in that subjectivity, subjects and objects are one, form is emptiness, emptiness is form.

So don't meditate or contemplate on objects or visions or peak experiences unless of course your goal is just to calm and quiet your mind. They are just mind objects, projections, experiences, even mirages, no matter how glorious or temporarily fulfilling, all impermanent, destined to fade in a matter of seconds or moments. Look instead at where and how they all arise. Eventually, every mystic and sage and guru and teacher will ask this of you. Have you ever done so? We all consider our selves to be the sensations and experiences and egos and minds that envelope us. But actually we are the foundation, the screen upon which all the qualia of life is projected. Beyond words and logic and description but closest to that condition of deep dreamless sleep where there is nothing but radical emptiness. What some mystics called the Self. When in deep sleep, you do not die and then are suddenly resurrected when you awaken. Instead, there is absolutely no awareness of thoughts, senses, memories, feelings, nothing. You awareness is instead a potential, unmanifested, waiting to happen. Like a screen, awaiting the projection of images and content. But instead, your mind, awaiting everything that is consciousness, guaranteed to follow when you awaken. You are the screen, not the countless movies projected on it. We call it the Self. We call it emptiness. That is what you are and have always been and always will be.

Please read the earlier postings. I wrote them as a foundation to these thoughts.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Such a question sounds absurd, like new age nonsense. You probably believe any answer will be metaphorical, poetic, metaphysical or worse, spirit babble, with no relation to the real, material word.

Let's take an example. If you printed this posting we would say to you that the paper you are reading and your awareness are one, not two. How can that be you ask. It is material. It has color, size, weight, texture etc. You the subject are aware of it, the object, through your senses. It is clearly separate from you. Right?

But what is separate? Its appearance and color? Vision is strictly a feature of your mind and brain. There is no color, no appearance anywhere in the universe without eyes and a mind. What about its texture? Tactile feeling is also strictly a feature of your mind and brain. Its measurements and dimensions? Obviously mental concepts and representations. Everything that you experience and know about that piece of paper and in fact any object is occurring solely in your awareness.

What you experience does not exist "out there". Any object, or more accurately, all the qualities that make it what you know, exist "in here", in the awareness of all life, and those qualities are your awareness. How can that be you ask? Has anything, absolutely anything, that you have known or experienced, occurred outside of your awareness? No, nothing, absolutely nothing. Every feature and quality that makes that sheet of paper what it is to you is a feature of your mind, generated by your mind, in your awareness. You are your awareness. All life, is its awareness. All of the features of that paper are generated by your mind and exist within your awareness.

So what is left when you take these features away, with no minds and no awareness of them? Do objects even exist? Of course, but not as we have known them and almost certainly beyond our understanding.

But that is crazy you say. Do we mean that a rock deep inside the Earth's crust or a galaxy on the edge of the universe that is not being perceived does not really exist? No, of course not. What I am saying is that they exist but without all the features, all the qualia, the appearance, feel, sound etc. that makes them what they are to us. Our awareness, the awareness of all life, assigns all of that, IS all of that. What they are without our awareness, is beyond our awareness, likely beyond our understanding. The sages use terms like unmanifested, interminable flux, unknowable subjectivity, unfixed potentiality. What we define as material, those very attributes are the expression of our awareness. Scientists and physicists, who try to examine empirically and independently, are discovering that what we call material breaks down the further down they look so that on a quantum or sub atomic level, there really is nothing fixed or definable there at all...just waves and potentialities and probabilities and the stuff of theoretical physics, again beyond our understanding.

So hopefully you will begin to intuit that all those seemingly independent features of materiality that you insist are separate from you are really your awareness at work and what is "really there" is more like a set of relationships and potentialities confounding the most advanced scientific thinkers. And perhaps you will begin to see that rather than a passive player in the universal scheme of things, your awareness, in fact the awareness of all beings, is an integral component and is the subjectivity that defines and colors all that there is.

Still resisting? You are not alone. Most scientists without hesitation state that "out there" is a fixed, definable, objective reality and "in here" are the facilities that faithfully reproduce it through the senses and conceptual thought. In other words, our minds, our awareness mirrors the real world and somehow projects it internally. The task of the scientist is to be certain that the inner projection comports with that outer reality. But how in the world is that done, especially when all of the data and all the scientific analysis and explanation accompanying that outer reality is itself an internal representation, once again our awareness at work. Remember when I said above that nothing, absolutely nothing that you have ever or will ever experience is outside your awareness? So how does the scientist supposedly calibrate the "real world" with our awareness of it when the only tool he or she has and has ever had is awareness itself? There is no answer to this question because the problem is not the answer. It is the question. The question is founded on erroneous assumptions. You cannot calibrate the so called real world and our awareness because they are not two, but one. The qualia of the universe, everything that we can know and understand about it IS our awareness. It is created by our senses and our minds upon the foundation of our awareness. It is duality, dualistic thinking that separates them and creates this illusory problem.

Is it perhaps a little easier now to understand that what we know and can possibly know of the universe and every object in it, and every fact and feature of those objects, is, in fact, our awareness? So that sheet of paper with these words upon it really is identical to what you are. That awareness and the universe are not two but one. That the qualia of the universe is not fixed, but is the subject of awareness, not the object. And you are that subject, that awareness.

Please take a look at the August '09 posting "Reality Is Not Fixed" where we looked at this same insight but from a slightly different and "universal" perspective.

Monday, September 28, 2009


The answer to this question is the stuff of books, treatises, poetry, religion, spirituality, psychology, science, neuro science , and insight, with little or no agreement between them. Almost, perhaps, like the question what is love. No real consensus on the definition of the term, but we know it, allegedly, when we see it.

If you have read the prior postings where we tried to define and update some of the core terms found in any discussions of insight, transpersonal growth and enlightenment, I believe a brief and usable definition emerges. It is by no means complete. For that, one should consult the brilliant and comprehensive works of Ken Wilber and his colleagues who remain alone on the cutting edge of such issues with their works on integral theory and practice.

For now, a more personal definition will suffice. Spiritual enlightenment is realized when you awaken and know without question, without doubt, that you are not the vulnerable mind and body and separate self existing on sensory input, thoughts, emotions, and fantasies, but you and your awareness are instead one with all manifestation and the very fabric of the universe. And that insight becomes the foundation of your existence permeating all that you do. Matter, energy, and awareness are one, not three. Non-duality, no self, and emptiness realized and lived, every moment of your life. And suffering, finally, lessens because you finally recognize that the real you dwells, not on a local level of mind and body where you can be devastated by the careless words of a lover or flattened by the winds of a tornado, but on an absolute, universal level of awareness. Nothing can threaten what you really are when there is nothing outside of you. For more of this, please read Ken Wilber's The Simple Feeling of Being (as well as everything else he has ever written and will hopefully continue to write) from which much of this definition was derived and shamelessly paraphrased.

If you read the prior postings, this definition may speak to you. If you have not, it may sound like more indulgent, metaphysical, new age dharma babble. Just remember however, some of the greatest most profound minds and spiritual traditions that have ever existed have used similar terms and shared similar insights, almost always independently and across the ages. Unless there is some grand conspiracy to delude you and other seekers like you, you might just want to pay attention to what they are saying and have continued to say across the millenia.

The next posting will focus on one of the most formidable barriers to these insights and that is physicality, materialism, and your own body/mind.

Monday, August 31, 2009


The term monological essentially means that there is one fixed reality that our senses and awareness tap into. We have occasional experiences with dreams or visions or even stimulants that temporarily change our consciousness and alter our awareness but we view them as just that. Temporary and not real. The universe in all its infinite complexity, from subatomic particles to billions of galaxies billions of light years away, is real and is what it is, fixed and defined. And, we believe, we look out upon it, experience it, and live within it, reacting to it, often at odds and in fear of it. We believe that our senses effectively mirror and reproduce a fixed objective reality existing independently of us.

But to understand contemporary enlightenment, you must understand that a monological view of the universe is simply not correct. There is not one fixed, unassailable view of the universe. As surprising and perhaps even ridiculous as it sounds, reality is not fixed, it is co-created, by you and every other sentient being. Because we humans are biologically similar, we share the same senses and experience a similar consensus reality. But other life forms do not and their consensus reality is no more or less valid than our own.

In earlier postings, particularly those referencing duality and non duality, I briefly explained that the universe and all objects within it have no form, color, feel, taste, smell, or sound. Those features all exist solely in our awareness and vary based upon the being experiencing them. Everything that we see, feel, taste, smell or hear or even think about is our awareness, by us and for us. Though we believe there is subject and object, there is not. They are one. We are those features. They are our awareness. So everything we know and have ever and will ever experience about the universe is our awareness. Do you see that nothing we have ever experienced is outside of our awareness? And that our awareness and every object of our awareness whether a grain of sand or a million galaxies are one, not two.

So am I saying that your awareness creates the universe? Of course not. That is not insight, that is monumental narcissism. The true nature of the universe and infact every object within it, is beyond our knowledge. But its apparent nature, everything that we know and likely can ever know, is not fixed, or monological. It is co-created by life. We are the universe looking at and defining itself. So the mirror metaphor I used previously was not really complete. We are more than the "reflective ability" of the universe. We further co-create and define and give meaning to the image, to our reality. All of us, as well as our culture, institutions and everything else that we are.

Does this sound counter intuitive, even preposterous? Why wouldn't it when you have lived in a universe of dualism, isolated subjects viewing an infinite number of objects. In the earlier postings, I hoped I cracked the foundation of dualism for you. If you can accept for a moment that your awareness is what gives the universe form, color, feel, sound, taste and smell, in fact those features are your awareness, you will see that your awareness, as the co-creator of reality, not only makes sense but it could not be any other way. Remember, I am not saying that when you look at a tree, you create it. That tree and all of its components, all the way down to its atomic waves or particles or quantum relationships, exists in some fashion, but truly beyond our senses and understanding. What we see and feel and think and know about it, what makes it a tree and everything that implies, is exclusively us and our awareness, in the same way that the visual and sensory images of our dreams are us and our awareness. One, not two. Our awareness is the universe experiencing itself.

We should not look out upon the universe as a finished work of art. We are in fact the canvass upon which all of its objects arise and the paints that express their color and texture. And there is a canvass for every being that is aware.

Do you understand, even for a moment, even in a flash? That is contemporary enlightenment.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


The great sage Krishnamurti said that between subject and object lies the suffering of all humanity. Subject and object is dualism. Dualism means that you believe there is a subject, you and your awareness, and separate objects, everything you experience through your senses. Though it sounds absurd to you, that is merely a perspective and a limited one at that. Actually, everything you see or hear or experience, and ever will see, hear, or experience, are objects arising in your awareness and your awareness and that object are not two but one. Everything that makes that object what it is, that you experience, everything, is your awareness. Your awareness and everything we consider to make an object what it is are one and the same. It does not mean however that when you are not aware of an object, like a tree for example, it somehow blips out of existence. It is still there but its true nature is simply beyond our understanding. Its color, taste, feel, smell, sound, or apparent nature, everything you believe that makes it that tree, arises solely in your mind. There is no color, taste, feel, smell or sound without a corresponding mind. So its apparent nature, what makes it that object in our mind, is our mind. So in a very real sense, your awareness and any object are one. In fact the awareness of all beings and all objects in the universe are one. To ignore this and believe there is two, subject and object, is dualism.

Sound counter intuitive, even ridiculous? Consider this example. When you dream, do you believe the objects and images in your dream are separate from you, somehow outside of you? Probably not. You will agree they are your images, a part of you, your own awareness. Your mind is not tapping into some separate dream projection center located elsewhere. Why then is it so difficult for you to accept the same process in your waking state? Because, you may argue, you initiate and generate dream images. Waking images are initiated by and reflect objects and events separate from you. It may be true that the objects in your waking awareness are initiated by objects separate from you but everything they are, everything that will ever be accessable to you are created in your sensory awareness, no different than dream images. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and feeling, everything that any object is, is created by you, is your awareness, is the awareness of any living being, is not two but one. Nothing that you have ever experienced exists outside of your sensory awareness. This is not to say that the object itself, does not exist separate from you. But its true nature is beyond our understanding. Its appearance, sound, smell, taste, and tactile feel, in fact everything that makes it an object, is you, is your awareness, exactly as you do in the dream state.

So what, some may argue. So our awareness is like a mirror, reflecting and amplifying and interpreting the qualities already existing independently in all objects. Our sensory facilities reproduce internally what is already there outside of us, like a video recorder and player. Unfortunately, that does not hold up to inquiry. That perspective presumes that there there is one fixed state of all objects and living beings perceive it with their senses. But any scientist can tell you, begrudgingly perhaps, that it is all relative. There are immense differences in sensory perception among life forms, even among people. no one perception is more or less valid than another. Take vision for example. We "see" only a narrow band of light waves. There are far more frequencies out there many of which may be visible to different sets of eyes. So in regards to vision, and all the senses, all the qualities that make an object an object, are the products of your awareness and there is no fixed, locked in master version existing "out there". It is all "in here". "Out there" and "in here" are really the same thing. It is all you, your awareness. There is not one fixed state of all objects. All objects and all awareness are not two, but one.

The relevance of this, a non dualistic perspective, is that any notion of a separate self at odds with the universe should come tumbling down. Your awareness and the awareness of all beings defines the universe. That is why one great scientist and physicist said that the more we learn about the true nature of the universe, it is less like a thing and more like a thought. So rather than limiting yourself to a small self in a vulnerable bag of skin and bones and all the problems that come with that, recognize that what you really are, your awareness, is universal. And if you do, your view of your own life will expand immeasurably.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Take a look at the June 14, 2009 posting "What Does No Self Mean" where we initially discuss emptiness. An explanation of emptiness could easily fill a book or a series of books but there are more succinct explanations which is what Contemporary Enlightenment is all about.

Many people believe emptiness means void or even, the void, a place or status or mind state where there is nothing, empty of all form and substance. Many seek that state in meditation. Others believe it means empty of a separate status or self so that all things are connected and many gain comfort from that realization. Although not incorrect, such definitions are woefully incomplete. Emptiness is far more than that.

Emptiness is not a state or thing or process or condition or even the absence of states or things or processes. It is a term used to reference everything that is, attempting to break free of the mind's love of duality, or subject and object, and relative terminology. Trying to explain it then precisely in those same dualistic, relative terms, which is how our minds have been trained to process, can be maddening! But lets try at least an introduction.

I think it is best to back into an explanation by using existing insights. Perhaps the most famous and, I believe, profound insight on emptiness is the Buddhist Heart Sutra which said in part "Form is emptiness, emptiness is form." This statement has been referenced endlessly through the ages, and for good reason, because in referencing form it attempts to break through the perspective of dualism which is the cause of the confusion.

I initially and simplistically referred to emptiness as the reflective ability of the universe in an earlier posting using a mirror as a metaphor. To communicate with you I must use some common reference, even a dualistic one. Referring for illustration purposes to the mirror as we did in the earlier posting, emptiness is not the object reflected on the surface or the surface itself. Empty in that the reflective ability has no qualities or substance or form itself whatsoever, yet it is simultaneously capable of manifesting or reflecting any object in the universe. Emptiness is the universal ability to manifest form, the reality in which all form arises and therefore is form. For example, if a universe consisted solely of reflected images in an individual mirror, emptiness is the term we use for the reflecting or manifesting ability of that mirror, whether no objects are present or all objects are present. The point of the Heart Sutra statement is that there is no duality here. Any images or objects and the universal reflecting or manifesting ability are one and the same and cannot be separated. Yet the dualistic perspective of our minds do separate them into subject and object, in this case a reflecting ability and the reflected image. The mind must be trained to reject that perspective because it is clearly erroneous. The image and the reflecting ability are one and the same. Note that we do not say identical because that word implies two. The sutra actually says form is "none other than" emptiness and emptiness in "none other than" form.

The consequences of this insight are nearly limitless. Emptiness is often used to reference the connection and inter dependence of every object in the universe. That is true as well but incomplete. The primary meaning is that all form arises in your awareness, in your consciousness, in the awareness and consciousness of all beings, in other words, your awareness is emptiness itself. Your awareness and consciousness, and that of all life, is like that reflective ability of the mirror. Although it sounds counter intuitive and, initially, even absurd, your awareness and consciousness and all objects and form, are one and the same. Because you think dualistically, you believe there is a subject, your consciousness (and almost certainly your mind and body), and separate objects or form. But as emptiness, they are one and the same. How then can you ever consider yourself a lonely separate self at odds with the universe?

That is why the sages will say, metaphorically you think, you and the clouds you see enveloping a stunning sunset are one. Poetic license you say but logically absurd. They are there, you are here, and however pretty they may be, always separate. And as long as you think that you are just your body and your mind and only the material is "real", that perspective is understandable. But if you instead understand that you are really your awareness and your consciousness and that you are really emptiness itself (and not that vulnerable bag of skin and bones), you will understand that your awareness is part of that universal reflective ability in which all form arises and that all form and that reflective ability, or emptiness, are one and the same.

But wait a minute you say. So I create all objects, they exist in my mind? No, of course not. That is not insight, that is narcissism. The qualia or "suchness" of any object, its form, is defined by, is one with, the awareness of it. That does not mean it does not exist in some sense. But the sages say its true nature is beyond our understanding. Our awareness and the awareness of all life colors or defines or manifests all objects and phenomenon. Our awareness and that color or definition are one and the same. And, very importantly, that goes for all objects and all form, even your own mind and body. And it is this last insight that fatally attacks dualism and must eventually be grasped. Because as long as you think you are your mind and body and all of this is the object, separate from you, and you are the observing subject, you just won't get it. Your perspective must change. From a material subject and object perspective, this will never work and although you may gain partial insights, the more you look the more irreconcilable logical holes you will see until it is rendered frustratingly unsupportable and you retreat comfortably back to duality grumbling about new age nonsense.

Remember, this is not about right or wrong, correct or incorrect. It is a bit like looking at an abstract painting from a purely classical perspective. It looks like jumbled, meaningless form. But take a course on modern art, and from this new perspective, you will begin to see. But I am not asking you to broaden your perspective to look at a single canvass. I am asking you to see the entire universe.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


No. If it could, the greatest philosophers, sages, scientists, authors and poets across the ages, in effect the greatest minds who have ever lived, would have already done so. There is no secret society here guarding a secret explanation known to only a few.

The problem here is not the complexity of the question or the answer. It is the perspective from which it is asked. From the perspective of subject and object, mind and body and every other dualistic, relativistic world view, the question is invalid and there can be no answer.

To put it simply, you cannot express in relative terms the non-relative. Put another way, how do you relate an awareness of a universal, integrated whole to something else? There is nothing else. The problem in asking the question then is your limited, relative perspective. When you learn to think differently, the question takes on a very different meaning.

There actually are however "simple" explanations to the question above that can provide brief glimpses. They are expressed experientially and not relatively or dualistically.

Read a good Zen poem. Four or five lines is all it usually takes. You will find your answer but only if you really understand your question.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


"No self", a frequently utilized term in spiritual inquiries, means that your consciousness, your awareness, your being is not fixed or static or even defined. It doesn't mean you are not aware or you don't exist. That would be absurd. It means that when you look at your own awareness deeply, usually in meditation or contemplation, you will see that it is flowing and impermanent, with countless thoughts, feelings and sensations arising and falling virtually every moment of your life, with nothing fixed or permanent, and if you look closely, NOTHING in between. The accumulation of those countless thoughts and feelings create a foundation, a familiarity, a base, a flow, a sensation of continuity that is what most people call the self or "I". And it feels natural and normal and familiar and unquestionable. Anything to the contrary seems counter intuitive, contrived, and even ridiculous. That is, until you have the initiative and drive to look more closely. I believe the very process of not looking deeply creates the illusion of the fixed self. When you finally do look deeply, it is all very different from the fragmented, repetitive thoughts and mental processes you use on auto pilot to get through the day.

Where the wonder lies is the quiet or empty space in between your thoughts and other mind objects whether feelings, emotions, background sensations or whatever. That space is very hard to describe, it is best experienced which can be done easily, although initially briefly. It is frequently called "emptiness". This term itself is very difficult and easily misunderstood and is a complex foundation for many spiritual inquiries. Emptiness is a paradox in that it means although your consciousness may be empty of thoughts or other mind objects when you find that quiet space, it is simultaneously full of potentially everything in the universe. It is the foundation of what you really are, like the reflective ability of a mirror, not the actual reflecting images and certainly not the polished surface. And that reflective ability is not a thing or even a process, it is a quality, it just is. And that is what you and your awareness are, not a thing, not a process, just the reflective or conscious ability of the universe. In the same way you would never say a mirror is the actual images reflected by it or the accumulation of those images, stop saying your self is the thoughts and mind objects arising and falling in your awareness or even their accumulation. You are not that. That is not self. "No self" means that you recognize that your real self is the ineffable, undefinable quality of being, the reflective or conscious quality of the universe, void or "empty" of any detail or substance, initially experienced as the brief quiet or empty spaces between thoughts. And it is infinitely more than that, you will discover, if you stay on the path to inquiry.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Contemporary Enlightenment is an evolving guide, a dialogue, perhaps even a map for the path to growth in consciousness and spirit expressed in contemporary, clear, pragmatic and direct terms. While we respect and treasure all that has come before, many of the traditions are founded on expressions reflecting social and cultural structures long since evolved and offering diminished relevancy to today's personal and social processes. In the dialogues we hope to present, our goal is to update and express in more culturally understandable 21st century terms the path to personal growth in consciousness and enlightenment.

This site is really for those serious about spiritual inquiries who have already pursued the path to some degree. My hope is to create an easily accessible web based reference or even hand book revisiting, updating, applying and integrating the seemingly endless expressions of spirit and growth in consciousness. I hope for a collective effort of other serious investigators who may share their insights and together experience a synergy in thought and insight. Many of the insights to be addressed could easily be the topics of entire books. That is not the goal. Instead we intend to address such issues directly and concisely using accessible, contemporary terminology and hopefully conclusions permitting the reader to pursue further insight and detail independently.

Most importantly, this is not a new age self help, stress reduction, egoic comfort, or disguised search for immortality site. Those familiar with the path to true growth in consciousness know or at least intuit the pain and perils of doing so and how ultimately, the goal is the true and not metaphoric death of the separate self. The goal is genuine transformation for those who are ready. There are countless other sites for those who are not.