The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

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cardinalflash
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The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by cardinalflash » Fri Jun 29, 2018 3:42 pm

I have experienced nirvana two times in my life. The first time was when I was a teenager. I felt it only for a moment. I didn't know what it was or why it happened, but I remember feeling completely at peace. Since then I had always been wondering what it was and how I might achieve it again. The second time it happened I was in my late 30s. Again it only happened for a moment, perhaps a second or so, but this time the after effects lasted a few hours. It was like a camera flash in which for the first time I could see clearly, then after I felt almost no fear or anxiety and I felt love for everything and everyone. Everything that was happening around me seemed completely natural, even the usually annoying adverts on the TV and my family members fighting.

The second experience was more potent and I remember it more distinctly, and since then I know that I want to feel like that all the time. I have been wondering for so long how to get there. I've tried meditating, letting go, surrendering but I never have reached nirvana again. But I've just realised the paradox of wanting nirvana; if I want it I can't have it because the wanting replaces the peace. If am to achieve nirvana I have to stop wanting it. All along I have been thinking that nirvana is this thing that I can achieve, but it's not, there has to be an absence of the desire to be in a certain state of mind.

I've now been grappling with this paradox. It's hard to put into words but I think I already know that Presence is the answer. If I look forward to nirvana I will never achieve it, but if I remain present then it might come to me, but I mustn't want it otherwise it will never come.

Any additional thoughts would be appreciated.

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by Webwanderer » Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:31 pm

cardinalflash wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 3:42 pm
I've now been grappling with this paradox. It's hard to put into words but I think I already know that Presence is the answer. If I look forward to nirvana I will never achieve it, but if I remain present then it might come to me, but I mustn't want it otherwise it will never come.

Any additional thoughts would be appreciated.
This might be helpful to you. The desire for clear alignment (Nirvana?) with one's true nature can be counter productive if the emotional investment in results creates a sense of success or failure. The desire itself is not the problem. Who doesn't want that exquisite conscious experience? It's the judgment on results that influences the possibilities.

I suggest you do this: Imagine what it would be like to feel the 'Nirvana' you seek. Imagination is the seed of creation. Do this simply for the enjoyment of it. Make no litmus test for success or failure, just have some fun. Here's why. The Law of Attraction flows toward like energy. The clearer your imagining (which can be enhanced and improved through practice) the more attractive power it has. Again, do it for the fun of it, not for the results.

If you feel disappointment in the experience, it's a sure sign that your looking for results rather than an enjoyable exercise. Don't tell the people around you, just do it for your own experience. Appreciation for whatever you get out of it will help a great deal. Appreciation is about as close to unconditional love as we in the human condition can get. So appreciation is a natural element of Nirvana. Use it as a pathway to that clear alignment. Happy travels.

WW

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by cardinalflash » Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:55 pm

Webwanderer wrote:
Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:31 pm

This might be helpful to you. The desire for clear alignment (Nirvana?) with one's true nature can be counter productive if the emotional investment in results creates a sense of success or failure. The desire itself is not the problem. Who doesn't want that exquisite conscious experience? It's the judgment on results that influences the possibilities.

I suggest you do this: Imagine what it would be like to feel the 'Nirvana' you seek. Imagination is the seed of creation. Do this simply for the enjoyment of it. Make no litmus test for success or failure, just have some fun. Here's why. The Law of Attraction flows toward like energy. The clearer your imagining (which can be enhanced and improved through practice) the more attractive power it has. Again, do it for the fun of it, not for the results.

If you feel disappointment in the experience, it's a sure sign that your looking for results rather than an enjoyable exercise. Don't tell the people around you, just do it for your own experience. Appreciation for whatever you get out of it will help a great deal. Appreciation is about as close to unconditional love as we in the human condition can get. So appreciation is a natural element of Nirvana. Use it as a pathway to that clear alignment. Happy travels.

WW
Thank you for this great post!

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by Webwanderer » Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:58 pm

Thank you for this great post!
Thank you for a great question. :D

WW

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by kiki » Sat Jun 30, 2018 12:17 am

Hi cardinalflash, and welcome to our community.

Your experience reminds me of something that happened to me when I was a teenager (I am now 67). I was in bed waiting for sleep to come when suddenly "I" dropped away and was left completely awake, but without thoughts. I'm not sure how or why it happened at the time or how long it lasted, but it left an immediate impression on me. Suddenly I craved to get it back, but nothing seemed to trigger it happening again, so I sort of dropped the whole endeavor because I was only experiencing frustration from my efforts.

I think this may have been the impetus for a journey of discovery for me, and when I heard about meditation a few years later I gravitated to it immediately, sensing something profound about the practice. I learned the meditation (TM) and followed a meditation routine twice daily for nine years before breaking from the organization that was teaching it and explored other types of meditation and spiritual practices for 18 more years. Something seemed close at hand, but I could never quite reach it, and there were times when I faced a wall of fear that prevented me from truly letting go.

In fact, I became so frustrated that I decided to drop my meditation and other "spiritual" practices completely. The day I made that decision I was actually in a book store when I came across an article in a magazine about Eckhart Tolle, and I felt an immediate resonance with what he was saying. He mentioned the title of his book "The Power of Now" so I checked the shelves and found one single copy of it so I bought it.

That purchase was the turning point for me, and results were nearly immediate. From Tolle I learned some important concepts that I hadn't heard discussed in a way that he was doing, but they made sense to me. I learned about what he called the "ego" or the "little me" and how it is something that prevents us from fully experiencing what he called "presence", where peace is supposedly available right "now". And of course his concept of the "pain body" seemed to make sense as well.

Something stood out about this idea of "now" being free of everything, and that thoughts were tied into ideas of past and future. I found that yes indeed, "now" was peaceful and I was able to experience this "now" in order to experience presence. An insight arose that I was using meditation as a way to get to "now", and there were moments throughout the years when that happened, but they were fleeting and elusive. Still, I clung to my meditation practice through those years in hopes of getting back to it, but they never happened often enough to suit me.

There were times when I thought "now" was a slice of time that you had to slip into, and that if I could make those slices ever thinner I could be more successful. My first forays into Tolle's teaching had me asking myself, "Is it still now?" and of course it always was. I was feeling peace and silence without even having to go into a meditation practice, but I decided to keep meditating "just in case". Then came realization that it was always now, and I could let go of my meditation practice.

However, during that "just in case" phase of continued meditation I had a very clear experience of watching how my "ego" put itself together and maintained itself. And a large part of that egoic structure centered on my being a good "meditator". I had become proud of my spiritual endeavors and my "stick to it" ability despite my perceived lack of success. I was able to see clearly and directly how identification with that ego had taken the driver's seat in my life and was trying to steer my every move in life in general and toward a goal of enlightenment in particular.

In other words, I came to see that ego wasn't actually a real entity. Ideas about who I was were quite evident and those ideas were always changing, but the actual "me" entity was nowhere to be found despite every effort to find it. This was critical for "me" - there was no me! Realizing this directly allowed me to sort of simply relax with what is. The drive to "get enlightened" and find peace evaporated when simply being present with whatever was happening in the moment.

There were times when I'd slip back into old conditioned thought patterns with their arising discomfort, but they were becoming fewer and fewer, and with shorter durations. Sometimes I'd remind myself that "It's still now" and that would be enough to nudge me back into presence. Sometimes I'd ask, "What's wrong with right now? (unless you think about it?"). and that was enough to return to presence. Incidentally, that is actually the title of a book by "Sailor" Bob Adamson.

I learned to become a keen observer of thoughts, and learned to distinguish between useful thoughts that were utilitarian and those that were part of the woven web of ideas that created the thought structure that I had identified with. Seeing those actually forming in the mind and recognizing them for what they really were enabled me to relax and let go of any belief that they were true. Thoughts were watched, coming and going, and I simply let them do that, not investing any energy of belief that they were true, even the "good" ones. This created "space" around those thoughts, and allowed me to just witness them without engaging them by climbing aboard.

As I continued in this way thought stream reduced radically, and presence increased significantly. I also realized that ego was not an "enemy", something to be hunted down and killed. Besides, who would do that other than ego itself. Ego has a purpose that's useful at times, and when it's not needed it anymore it drops out of sight. If you think it's real and turn it into an enemy it will struggle to survive and come up with lots of creative ways of doing that. So, my view of ego shifted greatly when it was realized directly that it wasn't real to begin with.

Circling back to the beginning of this post I suddenly realized why I had recoiled in fear during one particular meditation session years earlier while on a retreat when I approached a point of complete letting go, something I had convinced myself would never happen because I was such a "good meditator." It was the ego's fear of death showing up; that was its strategy to remain in its perceived post as "director and master" of my life. You see, ego doesn't know it isn't real. Why should it? It's so familiar to us we seldom question this assumption, but it's true.

When it hears about this idea it won't quite believe it, thinking it must remain "alive" for survival to continue for body and mind alike. It takes courage to explore this for oneself, but I encourage you to consider exploring directly, not just intellectually, the reality of ego. Eckhart Tolle talks about this more in his later teaching.

Finally, I'll add this: Another teacher has had great influence on me (and I consider him my primary teacher), and he has a website that is filled with lots of free stuff, written and audio. You can also find him on youtube. His name is Adyashanti, and I encourage you to check him out. http://www.adyashanti.org Rupert Spira is also very good, but he comes at this from a little different angle. Lots of youtube videos of him out there as well. Another is Mooji, also on youtube.

Once more, welcome to our community. I hope you can explore the rich source of material that you'll find here if you simply take the time to do so.

kiki
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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by Kajiwfacerock » Mon Jul 02, 2018 11:30 am

Thank you for this answer.

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by turiya » Mon Jul 02, 2018 10:36 pm

I enjoyed reading your post, kiki!

Especially this part:
kiki wrote:
Sat Jun 30, 2018 12:17 am
In other words, I came to see that ego wasn't actually a real entity. Ideas about who I was were quite evident and those ideas were always changing, but the actual "me" entity was nowhere to be found despite every effort to find it. This was critical for "me" - there was no me! Realizing this directly allowed me to sort of simply relax with what is. The drive to "get enlightened" and find peace evaporated when simply being present with whatever was happening in the moment.
:D

cardinal flash,

Forget about Nirvana. Forget about the "you" who seeks It. Forget about everything...

Now, what remains?

A great Mooji video (imo):

https://youtu.be/0pS_wPeDxDQ
“We ourselves are not an illusory part of Reality; rather are we Reality itself illusorily conceived.” - Wei Wu Wei

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by Sighclone » Tue Jul 03, 2018 7:34 am

Cardinalflash -

Of course, everything in kiki's fine post is wonderful. He and I had very similar experiences with TM, by the way. I particularly like his suggestion that "the ego doesn't know it isn't real."

Two thoughts: 1) buy and read Amoda Maa's latest book "Embodied Enlightement." This will give you some perspective on what happened to you.

and 2) Sit down and close your eyes. Make a simple personal decision to enter, observe and embrace the absolute immediate present moment. Not one ten-millionth of a second ago (not a memory) but absolutely right NOW. Be there totally. Stop everything except being in the absolute present.

Do #2 again, if you like.


And see what happens...

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by cardinalflash » Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:58 pm

Thanks for all your replies. There are some great things here to ponder, also from the 'Kill the Ego' post. There is something that I think I'm missing though.

Eckhart Tolle's book A New Earth was the first of his I read and it changed my life. I understand his description of the ego, how observing the egoic thoughts and remaining present is on the right path, and I have been practicing this on and off for years. Sometimes I am more 'at peace' than other times, and sometimes I am an egoic mess in my mind. This doesn't bother me and I understand that this is normal, but in these circumstances the ego and pain body are always there. When I observe this it feels like the ego is a projection of the pain body, and I can always feel the pain body, which seems to reside in and emanate from my heart for some reason. I remember that when I had the two experiences of what I've been calling Nirvana, the pain body inside of me felt gone, hence the ego felt gone. But they came back.

What I don't understand is, when I am observing the ego, my thoughts and pain body, am I wholly present or only partially? And, what is the difference between this and feeling no pain body or ego at all. Was I simply in a more conscious state? Because when this happened I felt everything around me, the walls, the people, the sound, the smells, my body and my thoughts (including thoughts on the future and past with which I would normally be concerned) were all truly connected and natural. It felt universal and it was a very different 'feeling' to simply observing my actions and remaining as present as I could.

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by Webwanderer » Wed Jul 04, 2018 4:08 pm

cardinalflash wrote:
Wed Jul 04, 2018 2:58 pm
When I observe this it feels like the ego is a projection of the pain body, and I can always feel the pain body, which seems to reside in and emanate from my heart for some reason.
It's kind of the other way around. The pain body is an element of the ego. Of course there is far more to ego than just the pain body as the ego is a complex belief system that has many components. All of the components have an identification factor to them - a 'me' component. The components are things like "I am... a man, woman, tall, short, construction worker, dog catcher," or any belief in self that begins with 'I am'. There is also the identifiers that begin with simply "I". "I" hate..., love..., enjoy..., dislike... this or that, etc. All of these go into making a sense of self that is unique to those identifiers.
I remember that when I had the two experiences of what I've been calling Nirvana, the pain body inside of me felt gone, hence the ego felt gone. But they came back.
Nirvana is an intense and clear alignment with our true nature. It transcends identification of and through ego. Without the mis-perception through ego, the natural elevation with our true nature is free of the emotional drag that ego perspective often creates.

By and large the emotional pain we feel is a direct result of the meanings (beliefs) we hold regarding the events and conditions of our lives. This includes of course, the beliefs and meanings we hold toward other people. How do we see things? Our emotions are direct indicators. Change those meanings and the experience we have changes accordingly. The pain body is not random. It is a structure built upon beliefs that attempt to separate and exclude certain experiences of our life, thereby creating an experience of separation and often pain.

In some ways it can be boiled down to a choice. Inclusion or exclusion. One creates a larger experience of life, the other a smaller, contracted experience. Pain of this nature might be viewed as kind of like walking around in shoes too small for our feet. The smaller the shoes, the greater the pain. Nirvana is infinitely large, thereby the feeling of great freedom.
What I don't understand is, when I am observing the ego, my thoughts and pain body, am I wholly present or only partially?
I suggest that you are wholly present, although it may depend on the context in which one looks at it. Presence is a matter of the focus of our attention. We can be wholly present in our imagination, or in the work that we are currently doing, or the response to a forum post. That's not to say there isn't a lot more that one could focus on. It's just being fully present in the task at hand.

I think your question is more relevant to presence as it relates to alignment. Here again inclusion matters. What are the components included within your focus? Are you aware from a more aligned conscious state, or is that awareness limited exclusive to the focus on specific conditions. What is included within your present awareness?

WW

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by Sighclone » Wed Jul 04, 2018 7:41 pm

Great comments, WW.

CF:
What I don't understand is, when I am observing the ego, my thoughts and pain body, am I wholly present or only partially?
Who is observing?

That is an important question. If "I can observe my ego," who is doing that. Jean Klein discusses the Witness stage in awakening, and you appear to have reached it occasionally. (JK warns against getting stuck they, by the way.) The problem with the Witness is that it still implies duality (The Witness and that which is witnessed.) But it is an important base camp.
feeling no pain body or ego at all. Was I simply in a more conscious state? Because when this happened I felt everything around me, the walls, the people, the sound, the smells, my body and my thoughts (including thoughts on the future and past with which I would normally be concerned) were all truly connected and natural.
In this condition, you are awake. Because it passed, and from your other posts, it's clear that the essence of that moment does not abide permanently. Hey, that is totally OK - it happened to me even before I was aware of nonduality as an understood concept. (Had to pull my car over - happened while driving along a river!) But yes, the absence of a localized "me" is the recognition of Self, even if momentarily. The experience is fundamentally non-mental...another phrase is Unity Consciousness. It will happen again -- meditation might help.

But it is a risky place for "you identified as ego." Next time you are observing "ego" or "pain-body," stop. Ask again "who is observing this?" Remember in the early part of PON, Eckhart asked himself if there were two selves: ("I can't live with myself any more.") So who couldn't live with whom??? The Witness is a discovery on the path. John Prendergast in "In Touch" discusses this in the last three chapters.

You are articulate, sensitive and smart. Expect a breakthrough.

Then you get to start Integration and Maturity. And that lasts until your body retires...


Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by AwakeTheCat » Mon Sep 10, 2018 7:57 pm

kiki wrote:
Sat Jun 30, 2018 12:17 am

Circling back to the beginning of this post I suddenly realized why I had recoiled in fear during one particular meditation session years earlier while on a retreat when I approached a point of complete letting go, something I had convinced myself would never happen because I was such a "good meditator." It was the ego's fear of death showing up; that was its strategy to remain in its perceived post as "director and master" of my life. You see, ego doesn't know it isn't real. Why should it? It's so familiar to us we seldom question this assumption, but it's true.

When it hears about this idea it won't quite believe it, thinking it must remain "alive" for survival to continue for body and mind alike. It takes courage to explore this for oneself, but I encourage you to consider exploring directly, not just intellectually, the reality of ego. Eckhart Tolle talks about this more in his later teaching.
Kiki - Such a great post. I look forward to sensing my way toward the direction of sign posts you have provided. The above quote was especially stirring. It strikes me that the root of dissolving identification with ego, to let go, is to truly see WHAT is so hard to let go that I feel the need to hold onto the identification with the ego in the first place. More accurately, what underlying fear cements the false-self in its place, since ego in the neutral sense seems to be necessary for a functioning human on earth. The dysfunctional attachment to the ego, the false self, is there, because something is knotted underneath. And that something persuades us that it is the necessary for the ego to step up and rule.

As I reflect on this myself, I believe that at my core, I experience a fear of defectiveness. That fear is the source of my ego proliferation: suffering, defenses, sabotage, role-playing, counterphobic fate tempting, you name it. All these manifestations are my attempts to "kill" the fear which of course is what strengthens it, and is what requires me to rely on my false self to perpetuate some level of "coping".

I can see all this as the witness. Yet, in my everyday life, it comes up so often and effects so pervasively relentless that it feels as if I need to dedicate a whole other 24 hours to "witness and meditate" so that I can live my normal 24 hours. And because I cannot possibly do that, I fall back on my egoic self to "cope."

Books I read says to just "drop it" or as Eckhart says to "transmute" it through witnessing. I keep trying. But thus far, I cope more than I can truly let go.

I am saying all this just to share. Why do I share? Because I must be missing something. The better part of me "knows" that if I truly knew, I wouldn't be in this quandary.

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by kiki » Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:17 am

Welcome to the forum, AwaketheCat.
It strikes me that the root of dissolving identification with ego, to let go, is to truly see WHAT is so hard to let go that I feel the need to hold onto the identification with the ego in the first place. More accurately, what underlying fear cements the false-self in its place, since ego in the neutral sense seems to be necessary for a functioning human on earth. The dysfunctional attachment to the ego, the false self, is there, because something is knotted underneath. And that something persuades us that it is the necessary for the ego to step up and rule.
My thoughts were from a different angle, and perhaps they might provide a different way of looking at this dilemma. Instead of looking for an underlying fear that cemented the false-self in place I simply reserved periods of time to carefully identify the many ways that ego attempts to keep itself "in the driver's seat". The tentacles of ego/mind go everywhere, and learning to spot them as they arose gave me the opportunity to simply relax and rest in awareness instead.

Most obvious were the endless retelling of the "stories of me" in the head. All of those stories were only memories that were identified with, and when they were all put together they provided an "illusion of me," but they are just stories parading before the mind's eye and are not me.

The stories may have been about the past or the future; they may been sad or happy; they may have been filled with regrets of various kinds, with hope or anxiety about the future. Whatever form they took they were only temporary distractions for the mind to get lost in. Beneath those stories was the witnessing consciousness. When stories arose and were then spotted I allowed myself the luxury of simply dismissing them in favor of resting in the actual reality of present moment that is free of everything in the mind.

Then there were things like judgment of whatever was seen, heard, tasted, felt, and smelled. Judgment of others and of self were sure give-aways that ego was busy doing its thing, thereby keeping it active and demanding attention. Next were the mind's tendency to put a name or label on everything; I became alert to this tendency and learned to simply observe what was seen as though it was never been seen before and did not yet have a name/label.

Then were the "needs" that ego threw out there - the need to know more; the need to understand; the need for approval from others; the need for enlightenment. Whatever form a need demanded beyond simply staying alive could usually be left unmet.

There are others, of course, and it's a matter for each person to see the many ways ego intrudes in their own lives. But whatever I could see ego/mind doing I took an attitude of curiosity about what would happen if I dropped them during this particular time of investigation, knowing I could always go back to them if it became necessary. And when I did that I found a great sense of freedom. That freedom expanded beyond my sit down investigation time into ordinary activity as I learned I could trust that my world wouldn't fall apart. At no time did I even think about a particular strategy that cemented it all together. Just recognizing every egoic tendency as it arose undercut the whole illusory me. Stubborn fixations and tendencies will still resurface sometimes, but it's just a matter of seeing them when they arise and recognizing them for what they are that they can dissolve again and leave me free of them.

In doing this the ego's fear of losing its perceived throne and life diminished - ego didn't actually "die" because it was seen never to have "lived" to begin with. That meant ego could come and go, but no longer would it be the troublesome factor it once was when it was believed to be and identified as me. It remains just at hand to be a useful tool in dealings with others.
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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by AwakeTheCat » Tue Sep 11, 2018 5:45 am

kiki wrote:
Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:17 am

There are others, of course, and it's a matter for each person to see the many ways ego intrudes in their own lives. But whatever I could see ego/mind doing I took an attitude of curiosity about what would happen if I dropped them during this particular time of investigation, knowing I could always go back to them if it became necessary. And when I did that I found a great sense of freedom. That freedom expanded beyond my sit down investigation time into ordinary activity as I learned I could trust that my world wouldn't fall apart. At no time did I even think about a particular strategy that cemented it all together. Just recognizing every egoic tendency as it arose undercut the whole illusory me. Stubborn fixations and tendencies will still resurface sometimes, but it's just a matter of seeing them when they arise and recognizing them for what they are that they can dissolve again and leave me free of them.
Thanks, Kiki, for the detailed response. And I am very happy to be be on this forum. I had an Aha moment as I read your response. I think I just figured out why I despite my awareness of my fundamental "flaw/fear" I have not been able to make great progress on dissolving the ego. The "flaw" I perceive is in itself a LABEL, a very egoic strategy to obfuscate. It reminds me of the what Tolle says in PoN: that the mind cannot solve its own problem just as a thief can never be found when the thief is the chief of police. Of course I never saw my own labeling till just now.

Thanks for the illumination. I will try the method you've outlined here and see where it goes. Will report back in due time.

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Re: The Paradox of Wanting Nirvana

Post by Sighclone » Thu Sep 13, 2018 1:21 am

Welcome, ATC!
I am so reminded at the gift we have in kiki, as I return to the forum after major surgery (total knee replacement.) Thanks again, kiki!

Adyashanti has a wonderful audio selection on "Healing the Core Wound of Unworthiness", here:
https://www.adyashanti.org/index.php?fi ... rod_id=648

-Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce

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