Wasting my Time


Recently I’ve grown tired of the whole spiritual enterprise.  The seeking seems like only the subtlest and most ‘noble’ of addictions. At least the alcoholic knows he is deluded. The spiritual seeker thinks he is doing something worthwhile.

Last year I did a 5-day silent Chan retreat and the only insight I had while trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to stay awake, was that everyone there was completely wasting their time. Of course, they wouldn’t have seen it that way. True, all of them ( by their own admission) had long-since given up the quest for satori, or liberation. These old hands had smiled indulgently at me when I stated during the introduction that my reason for being there was to attain enlightenment. This was seen as somehow naïve and childish.

But why else would I be putting myself through this self-imposed torture, if not to rid myself of suffering for once and for all?

Of course I don’t know what was going through these veterans’ minds as they settled down for 5 days of turbo self-abuse. Perhaps they were expecting to get into the ‘zone’ for a while. Maybe they just like that sort of thing, or use it to get away from their spouses for a few days, without running the risks of an affair, or the 19th hole of the golf club.

Either way, satori wasn’t on their agenda, by all accounts. Of course they were right. Satori is no more or less likely to fall upon one in the zendo than the boozer.

But I didn’t know that at the time. They were right. I was naïve. But the advantage I had was that I wasn’t signed up to some tribal behaviour of the Buddhist kind, obediently going through the prescribed rituals like some well-trained monkey.

I suspect that if any of those people had attained liberation they wouldn’t be wasting their time with this nonsense. If I was totally liberated I would probably spend my time more productively, or at the very least enjoyably. You see, I suspect that at the heart of it, these people secretly still believed that if they did this sort of thing long enough or often enough it would lead to the end of suffering; to the end of the agitation, restlessness, and discontent that is the lot of the unawakened.

So what now? It seems to me that Joe Bray is an imaginary person, that this show is just happening, that I have no real influence over what turns up next, and that my true nature is just this ‘on-ness’, which seems to be there all the time. Whether I am asleep, drunk, happy, sad, seeking or absorbed in some task, ‘on-ness’ is just there making it so.

It is faithfully registering everything that arises, constantly changing in this ceaseless eternal moment. So I am already dead, already eternally fucked, eternally redeemed. No need for Jesus or the Buddha, or Mohammed to intercede for me.

Of course I don’t get this, don’t understand this, don’t practise this, don’t realise this, don’t comprehend this.

But it is definitely the way it is.

As Wei Wu Wei said, 99.9% of what you say and think and do is for yourself, and there isn’t one.

All else is bondage…


The Ego and its Shenanigans

By Andrew Cuthbertson

In the interests of balance here is my reply to one of Fiona’s comments about the concept of the self and enlightenment. I also answer the question directly:

Fiona “I don’t believe it is possible to achieve enlightenment and stay there with no effort.”

If that is what you believe then that will become your truth. Your belief system is what shapes your view of the world and it is part of the EGO. When your mind is quiet you have no beliefs you are only present in the moment.

Why are you spending time trying to figure out the concept of the self that the EGO has generated?

“Meditation and inward focus is a continuous reminder of our short comings”

Who do you think is analysing who when you go on an inward journey? Do you think your EGO is analysing itself for it’s shortcomings? Your true self has no shortcomings. It is a creator. Your feelings of shortcomings are generated by the EGO and have no relation to your true self. Feelings of insignificance are generated by the EGO as it compares itself to others. Your true self isn’t interested in such things, it loves itself completely regardless of the views and opinions of other EGOs.

If you want to get a sense of your interconnectedness with others then sweep away all thoughts of the past and the future and become conscious only of the moment.

In answer to your question “How did we all become so unenlightened?”

We believe we are something we are not and we have never been taught who we really are. We have been lied to so we can be controlled and manipulated by others. The truth has been hidden in plain sight within ourselves. We are all in a locked room and we have been convinced that the room is all there is and so we don’t look for the key which is in our pocket.

The Pre-Trans Fallacy (continued)

ImageBy Fiona1968

This outlines the Trans Rational Theory as seen in the video Joe has posted.

I would like to point out that this contradicts what the late British Philosopher Douglas Harding has to say on the subject. His view is that Children and Animals exist in constant enlightenment. Not that this makes him right, just another viewpoint.

Ken Wilber appears to me to have a very formulaic and dare I say very Alpha Male approach to spiritual thinking. I can just imagine him as a banker or large corporation CEO up on the podium justifying his bonus to shareholders.

This is not helped by the fact that all his tables and diagrams are identical (and copied from) popular charts and diagrams used in the study of the Masters in Business Administration (MBA), namely the balanced score card, the pest analysis “Political, Economic, Social, and Technological analysis” and describes a framework of macro-environmental factors used in the environmental scanning component of strategic management or and the Swot Analysis, (alternately SWOT Matrix) is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses/Limitations, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve that objective.

Here is his blurb…The “pre-trans fallacy” (popularized by the noted American psychologist/philosopher/writer Ken Wilber) is based on a simple idea that is very important to understand. It is the idea that “trans-ego” states of mind (so-called spiritual states) can be confused with “pre-ego” states (child-like states), resulting in erroneous views about spirituality, and issues related to responsibility.

In many models of developmental psychology and spirituality, three basic levels are recognized. Those are:

1) Pre-ego (roughly birth to age 2 or so)

2) Ego (roughly from age 2 on, with the development of language skills)

3) Trans-ego (possible in adults who commit to working on themselves)

One of the meanings of “trans” is “beyond”. When we commit to a spiritual path (in whatever form) we are basically attempting to “wake up” to our higher nature — or, to go “beyond the ego”. But what does this really mean?

First, it helps to ask, what is the ego? Basically, it is the sense of separate identity — “me”, “mine”, etc. The ego is basic to individual development and is not inherently bad in itself. In fact, it is necessary for both survival, and individuation (recognizing who we are in distinction to others). Something can be initially known only in contrast to something that it is not. For example, a white dot with no border around it placed on an equally white background will not be visible — for all intents and purposes, it does not exist. But a white dot on a black background immediately leaps into appearance. In the psychological realm, the ego is what provides this basic contrast. “I am me, and you are you, therefore I exist.”

As children growing up we had to learn how to separate from our parents (in particular, our mother, as we were originally joined with her body). This is sometimes called the process of “differentiating”. The development of our ego was basic to this process, and thus it is important that a young person develops a “healthy ego”, which means, good boundaries, solid sense of self, good self-esteem, and so on.

Problems with ego-development are, however, common, and often make it difficult for someone to embark on a spiritual path, because we cannot begin to go “beyond” the ego if we have not first developed it in a healthy fashion. This is why many who begin to work on themselves have to do some form of psychotherapy (whether spiritually oriented, or more conventional forms) in order to heal and integrate old wounds, forgive parents or siblings, come to terms with their family history, their self-esteem, and so on.

Failure to come to a reasonable degree of healing with our past (in particular, our family roots), and with our basic sense of personal identity, increases the likelihood of falling prey to the “pre-trans fallacy”. That is, venturing into spiritual practices and beginning to confuse altered states of consciousness that can arise from such practices with early-life memories of “oneness” (like being merged with what was around us), along with an abandoned sense of responsibility, precisely because we desire to relive our childhood in a way that we think will get us what we didn’t get back then.

Spiritual states of mind do indeed include a sense of “oneness”, but they do not abdicate our basic sense of identity. We do not lose the ability to recognize our own name, and thereby successfully answer the phone or reply to an email (for example). More to the point, we do not abandon responsibility, and all the areas of life in which that is important.

Likewise, concerning the role of “rationality” on the spiritual path, there is also much confusion. Trans-ego states of being (deep connection with others, or life, or the universe, deep peace/joy, etc.) are non-rational, which can lead to the belief that all rational states are therefore non-spiritual.

From there, it is a short leap to assuming that all non-rational states are therefore spiritual. This however ignores the fact that pre-rational states are different from trans-rational states. That is, the “oneness” felt by a child is not the same as the “oneness” experienced by a mature, responsible adult. The former is more a state of “fusion”. The latter is a state of deep connectedness in which the ability to use the mind (or personal identity) is not lost.

The main difference between ordinary rationality, and the rationality of trans-ego states, is that in the latter there is less identification with thought. It’s not that the mind becomes non-functional or somehow disappears, it’s rather that we come to recognize, more and more, that we are not our thoughts, anymore than we are our body. But recognizing that we are not the body does not mean that we abandon the body, mistreat it, or pretend that it is not real (or “not spiritual”). Likewise with the mind.

For those who are heavily identified with the mind (common in academia, for example) there is a tendency to dismiss all spiritual states of being as “pre-rational”, that is, a type of regression to immature, self-absorbed states of being. This was one deficiency in Freud’s views, for example, as he saw all spiritual states of mind as a regression to an infantile oceanic state of oneness with the mother. That is also pre-trans fallacy; in this case, confusing post-ego states with pre-ego states, and in so doing, dismissing all spirituality as a childish attempt to avoid being a responsible adult (or “navel gazing”, is it is sometimes derogatorily referred to).

Contrarily, it’s common in new age or personal growth communities to develop anti-intellectualism, by confusing pre-rational states with trans-rational, and thereby assuming that any non-rational state must be spiritual — even though many non-rational states are actually highly egocentric or narcissistic (self-absorbed), not to mention simply disturbed (pathological).

The natural development from ego to trans-ego is a process of transcending and including. That is, the mind and sense of individuality, along with the capacity for responsibility, are not abandoned, they are rather included on the journey, even as we deepen our sense of who we really are, and orient ourselves toward greater wisdom and compassion and skilful ability to help others.

Why real love is not a feeling

What Is Real True Love?

The feeling of love is about oneself—how we feel about a person or how a person makes us feel is completely about us, not the other person. And that’s not love—not real love. Real love is about the other person and how we treat the other person, how we act towards him or her, how we choose to show up moment to moment in our relationship with that person—whether we do so with love, honesty, courage, openness, warmth, gratitude, appreciation, care, concern, an open heart; or whether we show up petty, resentful, moody, bitchy, depleted, unmotivated, dishonest, fearful, unopen, closed off, armored up, resistant, impenetrable, and vent ourselves on that person.

The moment a relationship becomes more about how another person makes us feel rather than the type of person we are to the other person, we doom the relationship, because how we feel about another person is completely about…

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The Pre-Trans Fallacy of Ken wilber

Here is the man himself describing the Pre-Trans Fallacy. The link below is to Part 2. Part 1 is entitled

‘Ken Wilber on Astrology and Pre/Trans Fallacy part 1’, but the link from Youtube is incorrect. Sorry. You should probably listen to Part 1 first.


I hope this will clarify the issues raised by Fiona’s post https://josephbray.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/the-journey-to-unenlightenment/#comments

To arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time.

By Padraic Mulholland


Fiona, I may be wrong but it seems to me that your premise is that all children are born enlightened and that there is something in the world or in human society/culture that then conspires to destroy that inherent quality. If I am correct in this assumption, then I don’t think I can fully agree with you.
In my personal life I have seen babies who, from the moment they were born seemed calm, joyful and at peace with themselves. I have known others who seemed to come into this world in a state of considerable agitation and suffering.
Professionally, I work with primary school children and I see a significant minority who are deeply troubled and who struggle and suffer a great deal. I cannot say for sure if they arrived on earth in this condition or if environmental factors were responsible, but my guess is that it is a mixture of both.
My own memories of childhood include some happy and joyful memories but also many that are coloured by anxiety, confusion and fear.
I am very wary of projecting an image of innocent perfection onto childhood as I don’t think it reflects everybody’s reality. The work of Melanie Klein, D.W. Winnicott and a host of other child psychoanalysts and psychologists is of great interest in this regard. The picture that emerges from their work is of a complex and often very difficult reality for many children.

When you talk about ‘adults hav[ing] to spend a life time trying to find themselves when they were born with the very answer’ I think you have come close to what seems to me to be our purpose on this planet. I think that this is borne out by many stories in a wide variety of cultures throughout human history.
We have the Christian narrative of being expelled from paradise and having to become conscious of our condition before we can re-enter the kingdom of heaven.
There are any number of fairy tales where the children start off in a condition of happiness and are then thrust into difficult circumstances which they must overcome before regaining a new and deeper level of happiness.
Siddhartha’s story is one where he starts off wallowing in sensual pleasure before becoming aware of suffering. He then spends his life seeking various paths to happiness before finally awakening as the Buddha.
The Greek myths provide many examples where the hero must embark on a difficult journey and overcome many obstacles before returning home with the treasure (the hard won knowledge).
Such is the ubiquity of this narrative that Joseph Campbell constructed his theory of the ‘monomyth’ or ‘the hero’s journey’ which he described in The Hero With A Thousand Faces.
It seems that there is a crucial difference between knowing something unconsciously and knowing it consciously. It may be that it is only as human beings that we have the opportunity to develop this particular aspect of consciousness. This is the reason that human incarnation is so prized in the Buddhist tradition – even above that of the gods.
In the Gnostic traditions, God requires human consciousness to co-create the world (at least that is my impression – I am open to correction on this).
Here is an excerpt from Little Gidding by T.S.Eliot:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

So, I think this searching and exploration is central to human existence. However we can choose to see this as a burden and a torture or as a privilege and a blessing. For me that is the difficult bit!
For anybody who is interested here is the final section of Little Gidding, the fourth of the most excellent ‘Four Quartets’ By T.S.Eliot :
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Broken Hearts in the Forest

I was walking in the Forest yesterday with the dog. The sky was overcast, the grey light coaxing the outrageous and impossible green from the trees and grass and bracken. The air was mild and damp, the familiar nineteen degrees of my childhood, any hope of summer gone, swept away on a southerly from the Atlantic. Relinquishing my fate to autumn, I felt a certain sense of relief that I was finally accepting the dying of the year. In November no doubt I will rail against the fading light, but for now it was alright, it was really alright.

As I walked I listened to James Finley on my wonderful piece of technology, talking about Thomas Merton and the contemplative life. He spoke about our brokenness, and how it needs our love and compassion, rather than the abuse and criticism we usually hurl at our wounded selves.

I thought about my father and his brokenness, and my broken mother, my brother and his brokenness, even my children, already broken and suffering; and my broken self, my own broken heart.

And the Sacred Broken Heart of Jesus, and Mary, and the Saints, and every broken Christian Brother who ever taught me; the broken hearts of my dear friends, and that of my beloved wife whose broken heart I know the best.

Finally for the broken hearts of every atheist who is still fighting with the God he says he doesn’t believe in.

All I can offer these broken ones, and to myself, is love and acceptance, just as we are, sacred in our imperfection.

I remembered the words of Joni Mitchell from The Refuge of the Roads:

‘I met a friend of spirit

He drank and womanized

And I sat before his sanity

I was holding back from crying

He saw my complications

And he mirrored me back simplified

And we laughed how our perfection

Would always be denied’

For a few moments the sense of injury and anger and betrayal at my own hands and the hands of my parents was dissolved in an ocean of Grace.

I saw an unbroken chain of sorrow extending back through the generations to the very single cells from which we are descended. The guilt and the innocence all at once, the result of feeling abandoned by God for having dared to take on flesh and bone and blood.

But there He was all the time, hidden in the fading deep green of a September day, still burgeoning with ripeness and flower, poised before that moment when the sap gets cut off, and the whole lot tumbles to the ground in fungus, brown, chill, damp, and decay; in the voice of James Finley, in my dog, and in me.