I love Joan’s way of writing about subjects that are challenging for most. A previous post in which I happened to mention free will (or the absence of it) gave rise to some passionate comments, and in this post, Joan speaks of the same, and presents it all in a down-to-earth way.
We feel that the “I” has to live! We feel like the “I” must to take credit! But on close looking, you have to admit that we could not possibly take the credit for so many things for which we do so, and for the many factors that are behind actions and activities taking place in life.
To take credit or not to take credit…to identify with a ‘me’ or not to identify….to believe in free will or not to believe….these are all simply an intellectual dance around, for example, the discussion of the word ‘tree’. But is the tree affected by what we think and say? Nope, the tree just carries on doing what it does. Whereas our own experience of touching the tree may well be affected by what we think of it or previous experiences, but in reality the tree is just the tree it is.
Another simple example which seems so very obvious to me is breathing – do we breathe? Or do we get breathed? Wider still, look at all the body functions – do we instigate them? If we put a grape in our mouth and chew it and swallow it, do we then take credit for its digestion? And even if we want to take credit for the chewing part, can we take credit for the muscles that do their job so well, our teeth and so on? Can we take credit for the saliva that helps the grape to become broken up, or for the make-up or the very existence of our mouth in the first place?
Once we break things down, instead of blindly seeing the end result and quickly slapping a badge of honour on our lapel for it, once we see all the myriad conditions behind everything, we may get an inkling into the intricacy and complete and utter inter-connectedeness of everything such that things functions as they do. This inkling can then help to collapse the sense of an arrogant self – and then, and ONLY then, will we be able to come into our own, as free entities, operating in synergy in a miraculous Whole. It is the vehement belief in free will that keeps us from being free! What a paradox and irony! You know all those sayings about being so powerful and creators and we can do anything we put our minds to – it’s mumbo jumbo! What arrogance! We CAN do amazing things, and human beings have through time and continue to do incredible feats and achievements, big and small, but we need not take personal credit for it! There is miracle everywhere. But to assign an OWNER and INSTIGATOR to such achievements is the height of arrogance. Why can’t we just let miracles be miracles, without adding any ownership? Well, obviously, the answer is obvious. Human beings are generally in a state of quiet desperation and insecurity all the time that this leads to the need to be someone, be something. And the absolute irony of that old chestnut is that this wanting and need NEVER FULLY satisfies, it just furthers a state of wanting! It does NOT reach the parts that need reaching!
The subtle point being made here is that you can be someone and something, nothing wrong with that – in fact, we all have abilities and aptitudes, so use them! Live life to the full! BUT! Just get out of the way of such aptitudes coming into their own. Then there will be free flow, and an aliveness. Fear is no more. And insecurity – well, what’s that? 🙂
The Secret and all that jazz is a wholly arrogant concept based upon making the fabricators of such concepts money, and preying on people’s insecurities and dissatisfaction with themselves. But such dissatisfaction and insecurity are themselves fictitional, and only negatively impacting as long as there is a deep-held belief that one is a creator. I mean, that’s just setting yourself to fail isn’t it? ‘What, you haven’t achieved all the wealth, fame, beauty and enlightenment that you as a creator should have achieved by now? What a failure you are! Don’t worry, read the Secret and you will achieve it all!!!’
Pah! What a fantasy they sell. Forget the Secret. Let your sense of Self collapse, and what will be left will be synchronicity, that, BY ITS OWN ACCORD, will bring to you what you need/want. By not being in the way of synchronicity, you will hear its energetic language and be uplifted.
You can tell when you are no longer run by your boooring old story as synchronicity (things happening just right) starts happening. And when it doesn’t, (ie you want X, and get Y) then that’s all its own synchronicity, just let it be what it is – imperfect. Either way the imperfect is perfect, and there is NO perfection that is 100% perfect. Even a tree can have fungus growing on it.
When the ‘me’ is not running the show called ‘your life’ anymore, perfection being imperfection is just fine and dandy.
Enjoy Joan’s words and thanks for reading (come on, you know ‘me’ by now – if I see the bullshit of some spiritual marketing machine I’m going to have to say it straight, right!)
I get many questions from people asking about free will vs. predestination, or responsibility vs. powerlessness, and also about the purpose of life.
The first thing to notice is that the confusion over these questions arises only when there is thinking. They are conceptual problems. We have different conceptual maps of how life works and each map shows us a different version of reality, and so we are confused. We wonder which one is correct. But no map is ever the territory it describes. Even the best and most accurate map is only an abstract representation. Maps are useful, but we get confused when we mistake them for the territory itself.
Opening and closing your hand is not confusing until you begin to think about whether it is an action that happens through free will or whether it was predestined to happen or what purpose it has. Then you get tangled up in the imaginary problem, the imaginary dilemma that thought has just created. But opening and closing your hand is simple and not confusing. It happens quite effortlessly.
Conceptually, as a map, we could say that the urge to open your hand in any given moment — the impulse to do this, the ability to do it, and the execution of this action depends on and is the result of infinite causes and conditions. It could not happen without your brain, your muscles, your nerves — none of which would be here without your digestive system and your lungs, and without sunlight, water, air, your parents, your grandparents, the food that kept your grandparents alive, the soil that made the food possible, and so on and on — in short, opening your hand could not happen at this moment without the whole universe being exactly the way it is.
And if we look closely with awareness for the “you” who takes credit for being the initiator and the author of this action, can anything substantial or persisting or separate from the action actually be found? “You” turn out to be a kind of mental image, a character in a story — a conglomerate of ever-changing ideas, stories and beliefs that have been learned and practiced: “I am so-and-so, a separate person with free will. I’m this gender, age, social class, ethnicity, and so on. I am the thinker of my thoughts, the doer of my actions, the maker of my choices, the executive at the helm of this bodymind, the one calling the shots and steering the ship.” But can this executive actually be found? In fact, the source of every action, when we look closely, seems to be nothing at all, or absolutely everything!
Still, it would be ridiculous to deny the ability to open your hand seemingly at will, because obviously, that ability is present. But where and how does this action begin? Who is the “you” that initiates this action? Where does the urge and the decision and the ability to carry it out come from? Can you find a source? Do you know what your next thought or your next urge will be? Did you decide to have the taste in music or food that you have, or the sexual preferences that you have, or the interests that brought you to this website? Can you choose which sources of news and information seem trustworthy to you and which ones do not?
Upon closer examination, we discover that “the self” is more of an ever-changing process than an enduring object, and that this process is inseparable from the entire universe. We find that there is no actual boundary between inside and outside, between self and other. We can describe our actions as choices we have made or as choiceless happenings in the flow of life, but both of these are descriptions of a reality that cannot ever be captured by words or concepts.
The purpose of life is an idea added on to the actuality of life. The actuality of this present moment simply IS. Thought can conjure up any number of purposes — but really, we don’t know what this is or why it’s happening or what’s going to come next. We have ideas about it, mental pictures and stories and maps, some of which are useful, but really, we don’t know. That only sounds scary if we think we need to know. We may need to know practical things such as what bus to take to reach a destination, but we really don’t need to know why this universe is showing up. It simply IS.
So if you are training an athlete to compete in the Olympics, you will probably use a map that emphasizes choice and response-ability and empowerment. If you are talking to someone about the nature of reality, as I do in my writings, maybe you will use a map that emphasizes the absence of a separate self and the choicelessness of everything that happens. If you are recovering from an addiction, you will find some recovery methods that emphasize powerlessness and others that emphasize your power to make a choice. Both can be useful. There is no One True Map of reality. By their very nature, maps (words, concepts) are abstract, dualistic, frozen representations of what is actually undivided, seamless flux from which nothing stands apart. Subject and object are one event. They are seemingly divided only in thought, by words and by a conceptual boundary line that has no actual reality. In reality, there is no-thing to be predestined or to have free will!
All our confusion is in the map. What we are seeking is already fully present. It is the territory itself, this-here-now that is unavoidable and totally obvious, ever-changing and ever-present. Even the maps (as maps) are an aspect of the territory. Mapping is something the universe is doing. Nothing is excluded. But if you notice yourself getting paralyzed or tangled up in confusion or despair over imaginary problems like free will and choice and the meaning of life, simply return to the sounds and sensations of this moment, the simplicity of what is, and the vast listening silence beholding it all. It really is that simple.
— copyright Joan Tollifson 2012 —
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