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Both Real and Unreal

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Please feel free to contact me with email questions or comments that I will address in this blog.

Here is a question I received in an email:

I guess if I had to frame a question it would be: how can life, me, the world, etc. be so real but at the same time be so illusionary? Sometimes I see that I am just a presence, no one, and this is full and peaceful, other times I am very solid, so pulled in by it all. This is challenging.

And here is my response:

You are clearly describing the situation. This reality is kind of like a one way mirror that is transparent when you see it from one direction, but opaque and seemingly solid when you view it from the other side. From the inside of the illusion it looks solid and real, and from a more expanded and subtle perspective the same reality suddenly appears transparent and as insubstantial as a pure illusion. And no matter how many times you have experienced the bigger truth where it appears as an illusion, when you contract back into identification it all appears solid and real again.

But just as when you have been on both sides of a one-way mirror, you can begin to remember that someone might be watching you from the other side even if you can't see them, so too you can develop a sense of trust in your more subtle and clear perceptions. Then you can simply know they are real even if you are not experiencing them in this moment. We have this trust when it comes to physical objects. Even if you are not experiencing your car right now, you probably still trust that it exists. You can also trust your deeper knowings. They are even more real than physical objects, even if the experience of them comes and goes

PS: There is a wonderful article about this same topic by Alan Jacobs at http://luthar.com/is-the-world-an-illusion-by-alan-jacobs. I especially appreciate his point in the article that "Maya or Illusion, the powers of veiling and projection are inherent powers in Brahman". It gives a sense of how even though illusion is not real (especially in the Advaita sense where the real is that which is eternal and does not come or go), illusion is still a part of Brahman or the ultimate Reality. It is not some separate problem or mistake that needs to be rejected or denied, but an integral power or capacity of the Real that can be honored and respected and even treasured, even as its nature as illusion is discriminated. Thank you Alan for sharing your perspective.

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The Present Heals by Gina Lake

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Here is a guest post from my wife, Gina Lake's blog where she posts frequent messages about living in the now. It is an excerpt from her book Embracing the Now: Finding Peace and Happiness in What Is, which is available on Amazon.com.You can read much more on her website at www.radicalhappiness.com.

What heals the past? The old adage claims that time heals. If that’s so, why does it heal, and is it really time that heals? Over time, our memories weaken and our ability and desire to bring the past into the present through thought weaken. Life starts getting in the way, as whatever was lost gets replaced by new life. That new life begins to get our attention more than what happened in the past. Time heals because life moves on to something new. Life brings us new experiences, opportunities, challenges, and relationships. Since we can only give our attention to one thought at a time, after some time has passed, our memories are naturally given less attention, they fade, and other thoughts take their place.

If this is how time heals, that is very good news, because that means we can speed the process of healing sorrows from the past and release ourselves from suffering over the past just by moving our attention away from thoughts about the past onto the present moment. Being in the Now is actually what heals old emotional wounds, not time. Shifting our attention to the present moment is not denying or repressing the past, but simply not creating unnecessary pain for ourselves. It is a very wise choice. We can continue to recreate, or reanimate, the pain of the past, or we can choose to leave the past in the past once we see that bringing memories into the present moment doesn’t serve us, but only extends the pain and keeps us at a distance from life.

Putting our attention on anything other than our painful memories heals the past. Whatever we give our attention to becomes our experience. If we put our attention on the past, we will re-live the pain of the past and probably create more by telling ourselves upsetting stories, such as: “This shouldn’t have happened.” “If only I’d done something differently.” “Why does this always happen to me?” By doing that, we create more pain for ourselves on top of whatever loss we had. That suffering isn’t necessary. Dredging up memories and telling negative stories about the past isn’t a healthy way to grieve, but a way we unknowingly increase our suffering and remove ourselves from the Now, where peace and happiness are available.

The past is a diluted memory, and the future is a figment of the ego’s imagination. The past and future only exist as thoughts. The ego creates a sense of time through thoughts about the past and the future, and we can become entranced by the ego’s world when we believe such thoughts are the past and future. What we imagine can seem very real, especially when those imaginations create feelings, which make our thoughts seem even more real. The painful feelings related to a loss often come more from what we tell ourselves about the loss than from the loss itself, especially the farther away in time we get from the loss.

There’s a difference between grief and suffering unnecessarily over the past. Grief is a natural release of emotion over a loss, which takes time to adjust to. But many people grieve far beyond the time required to adjust to a loss because they continue to reinforce their pain by going over the past in their minds and telling themselves painful stories. Doing this isn’t helpful and only prolongs the healing process.

Stopping this re-stimulation of pain by not giving our attention to memories or stories about the past heals the past and helps us move on to what life intends for us now. With every loss, come new possibilities. When we are present to anything other than our thoughts and feelings, we are likely to pick up on what life’s intentions are for us and where life is leading us. Moreover, by being present to life as it is right now, we can discover the acceptance, joy, and excitement Essence has over being alive, even when life is challenging.

Life is always good, and we are always having the experience we need. If life doesn’t seem that way, you are listening to the mind’s sad or negative story about life. This kind of suffering is so unnecessary. When we drop out of our egoic mind and into this simple moment, we discover the truth about life. Life can be lived very well from this place of Presence, or being in the Now, because Presence is what’s real, and the ego and its thoughts are not real. The good news is we have never needed the ego’s thoughts to live our life, and therefore freedom from suffering is possible.

Gina Lake, Nirmala's wife, is a spiritual teacher who is devoted to helping others wake up through counseling, intensives, and her books. She has a masters degree in counseling psychology and over twenty years experience supporting people in their spiritual growth as an astrologer and a channel. She is the author of eight books, including Radical Happiness, Loving in the Moment, Living in the Now, Return to Essence, What About Now? Anatomy of Desire, What About Now? Embracing the Now, and Getting  Free. Her website offers information about her books and consultations and free e-books, book excerpts, a monthly newsletter, a blog, and audio and video recordings: http://www.radicalhappiness.com.

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Trusting the Heart

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Here is a comment someone sent me in an email in response to my previous post about the recipe for Truth, where I suggest that an opening or resonance in the heart is the most important ingredient in knowing something is true, just as chocolate chips are the most important ingredient in chocolate chip cookies:

I have been suffering with a lack of chocolate chips in the areas of my life work, finances, and moving to a new area.  Although I felt into this article I still could not reach the chocolate chips to move myself forward.  I just felt the dough. I feel off purpose or stagnant, like my pot is boiling dry and I'm not sure how to expand deeper into me.

Here is my response:

Trusting the Heart is particularly challenging when you feel contracted and dry. But that is the right way for a small or incomplete perspective to feel. When life seems off purpose and there is no Heart resonance with what is happening, the invitation is to be with the experience of contracted dryness just as it is. Sometimes it just isn’t time for the truer direction to appear, as the bigger mystery often has its own timing, which doesn’t always fit with our agenda. Sometimes there is something more to be seen about our resistance and conditioning, and often we are only willing to look at our conditioning when that conditioning is no longer working for us. The dryness and difficulty may get us to finally pay attention to something that needs to be seen.

When the Heart is contracted, it is still working perfectly to show you the nature of your experience. The real art of inquiry is to give space and curiosity to the tightness itself, instead of trying to push through to a bigger truth. Our conditioned reactions are showing up to be seen, accepted, and loved. Once this conditioning is seen, it naturally falls into proper perspective. These small truths don’t need to be gotten rid of, but just seen as small. There’s room in our awareness and in our Heart for all of life’s experiences, including very small and limited perspectives.

While questioning the truth of our limited or stuck places may be challenging, doing so can also be profoundly liberating. The discovery that even an experience of dryness and stagnation is something to be valued and explored frees us from the compulsion to try to fix or change our experience. There are insights and treasures to be found in every aspect of our experience. We can explore our experience, not to get a better one, but to fully taste and digest the treasures found in every experience.


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Nothing Personal leads you to the experience of your true nature and helps you explore its depth. Through exposition, questions and dialogues, it brings you to a place of realization of the Truth: you are the spacious Awareness in which everything appears.

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