Monthly Archives: August 2012

Logging In To Your Self

When this graphic was posted on Facebook a few days ago, it was shared widely and resonated with many of us. In so many ways the computer and the Internet have profoundly affected our view of nature, and ourselves.

Technology itself has been a double-edged sword. The proliferation of information and the requirements to keep up have stressed and overwhelmed many; for example, it was not so long ago that one had to “dial in” to get a web connection through a modem—now many of us are always connected, even while walking or driving.

No wonder so many have turned to meditation.

At the same time the Internet has acted as a planetary nervous system, connecting us in ways we never thought possible and also making many ancient teachings and practices that were once kept secret (such as meditation) suddenly available to everyone.

As with everything else online, one has to be an intelligent and wary consumer, but it is no surprise that so many sense a deep connection between the advances of technology and our own personal growth and even our evolution as a species.

But the intersection has been most profound, as this graphic suggests, between the experience of computer software as a manifestation of intelligence and our own internal processes—and in fact we now know that DNA can be sequenced by supercomputers so in reality it is software that runs our breathing, digestion, circulation and nervous system.

But how far can the connection be taken?

If we focus for a moment on the practice of meditation it can go beyond the relaxation of a blank page; in fact I would suggest that when we focus on our breathing, inner sensation and witness our automatic thoughts, what we are really doing is stopping our “programs” and getting in touch with our “operating system.”

And let’s not look at this figuratively anymore. Developing an inner witness to one’s processes is in many ways like meeting the programmer or developer of your inner software.

In fact, when the sense of “control” is relinquished, one has a sense of sort of “reading one’s inner manual” – and things begin to make sense from a vastly higher perspective.

When we begin to accept and no longer resist the automatic programs that run – anger, resentment, negative emotions and in fact download new connections to a higher level of consciousness – compassion, empathy, heartfelt union and so on – many inner and outer conflicts seem to calm down and our environment begins to reflect our newly formed inner harmony.

Rupert Spira, a spiritual teacher who I saw last Friday evening spoke about a new “non-dualistic” vocabulary which would no longer feature the eternal polarity between subject/object, good/bad, right/wrong and on and on but would be only “verbs.”

A practice of nonduality is similar to meditation (and the graphic above) in that as one begins to notice that one is the witness to inner processes – thinking, sensation, and feelings one realizes that one can be actually be none of those things—and all of these things come and go but one’s being is “always on” and connected – like the Internet.

If we go just a bit deeper one is struck by the true nature of programming—the primacy of number and logic within everything that runs on a computer—all programs and files are just zeroes and ones that can be decoded like our DNA.

But on our computer there are also two distinct classes of entities – files (like documents or pictures) which are blobs of data or “things” – and programs which actively perform tasks, achieve potential, and complete intelligently formed intentions.

Like our current dualistic language of subject and object, our relatively simplistic computer programming (compared to the programs within Nature) is composed of verbs and nouns (programs are verbs, files and nouns.

But what about our “operating system”?

Like Windows, Linux or the Mac, we are verbs not nouns – programs not files. Our operating system (on the computer and within our bodies) is constantly ON – monitoring the different “states” of our being even when no other “program” is running.

And when we meditate, and observe these inner states without calculation or judgment, we are truly logged in – that is, profoundly connected to the silent intelligent awareness within us and in all of nature.

In fact the key program which we are always running – our “I” – is temporarily silenced during this connection, or its chatter is simply witnessed and not attached to, as we sense the silent hum of our cells, blood, heart and mind…

Ohm – in electrical terms. (no resistance) Om in spiritual terms. Namaste.

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Life = Key Frames: How Computer Animation Simulates the Present Moment

When my career as a screenwriter stalled, I taught myself computer animation in order to create inexpensive corporate videos for small businesses; I saw video as just another output from a PC, like paper from a printer, so that I could use a board in the computer to “print” video into a VCR (dating myself) and ultimately “burn” a DVD.

As I look back on my experience in that realm, I am struck by how strongly it resonates with my recent work comparing software programming and DNA, and its implications.

Many teachings and meditation practices stress (pardon the pun) the need to focus on the present moment – the ever elusive “Now.”

In film and particularly in computer animation this can be brought down to the level of a single frame, or cell. We’ve all seen the Walt Disney analogy of the flip book of “cells” in which characters appear to move—and the beginnings of Mickey Mouse.

In computer animation things can get a bit more complex and also reveal much about our own consciousness, and the way we experience reality.

Programs like Flash and Director, for example make use of a number of features that like the syntax of computer code, when compared to life (and DNA) can really be useful in comprehending the reality of our own experience.

Many of us have sometimes felt like “we’re in a movie” – but let’s look deeper.

Flash animation uses a Stage on which to place its Symbols, so that the underlying programming code (like DNA) instructs their movements and properties.

(In Director, another sophisticated animation program, the elements are called Actors and the Timeline for each Actor is placed in a Score.)

More significantly, specific frames are designated as Key Frames, and by setting properties for such Key Frames it is then the program itself that “interpolates” or calculates out the consequence, or in the case of animation, the motion of the characters in between the key frames.

Here for example (in the image above) the two dark black dots on the “Timeline” represent key frames for the animation of the rabbit; properties set for each key frame will be calculated for each “in-between” frame by software to simulate motion.

What intrigues me about this is that both Life and we as individuals experience such key frames.

As we observe our minds we notice that we frequently focus on the past and future, and only when we are present in the Now can we really do anything.

Yet our own software (perception/consciousness) generally analyzes reality on the basis of a Past and a Future unless a new quality (observer) practices focusing on the present (frame) moment.

And while every moment (Frame) is a “Now” some “Nows” are more significant.

For example, we might obsess about the future in terms of planning for retirement, but it is only that precise moment when we actually commit to an investment or buy an annuity (execute the document) that “counts” in terms of consequences in Life. Similarly we might think about going out with someone, but only the moment when we actually call or buy the wedding ring, or set the date – really have deep impact and are matters of clear choice—or so it seems.

Certainly they are our Key Frames, and Life interpolates between them beyond our ability to control things.

And indeed Life has its own Key Frames. If a rain shower hits when we’ve planned a key frame picnic, things change abruptly. More powerful Life Key Frames would be earthquakes, hurricanes and so on.

So the macro events and key frames of Life trump our own in the vast Score in which these events play out. On the greater Stage (if we get outside our “Selves and notice), we can certainly say that the Key Frames of Life override our own “conscious” decisions.

And just as DNA is software, instructing our breathing, digestion and circulation, among other systems working harmoniously (hopefully) within us it is fascinating think how the actual events unfolding on our own “stage” seem to happen according to a vast underlying program; a program that we can influence somewhat through our attention to our own key frames (in the Now) but which runs mostly beyond our control and comprehension.

Of course, our own sense of things as moments and even key frames is a complete reduction and abstraction from the overall reality, which is that whether we are characters in an animation or players on the stage of Life, it’s really all ONE BIG MOVIE of vast complexity, and we’re just one very small (and minor) track.

Greek tragedy would inform us that even if we’re a God, King or President, our seemingly conscious and perhaps heroic actions can be dwarfed by the Stage of Life. This is the Hero plot of many popular films – the Hero’s struggle between her own objectives (Ego) and reality.

And in fact when the animated movie is rendered or projected, all of those moments and scenes merge into one fluid experience when viewed by an observer in the theatre… The key frames are accessible only to the director in the editing room or the animator and programmer on an even more basic level—and never to the actors while they are manifesting their roles on a screen in the “final version.’

We can play with this analogy forever in terms of speculating about the true nature of existence, but what is striking to me is that is another powerful example of programming and some sort of binary order unfolding beneath the apparent “content” of our own lives—an order of which we are but dimly aware but when we do focus on a frame, or present moment, becomes more conscious and alive.

Going one step further, in Flash the programmer creates a character as a Symbol with certain properties (DNA if you will) and then populates the scenes of the animation with different “Instances” (manifestations) of that Symbol, which are animated using the key frames.

Sophisticated programs like Flash (or platforms like the ones that create animation like Jurassic Park) not only use massive amounts of energy (processing power to crunch the underlying numbers) but allow for Action Scripts (blocks of programming) to refine and control the deep levels of action and interaction.

If we consider the one great intelligence of the programmer creating (or living though) the Symbols that are “Us” (in his image)—running our breath, digestion, nervous system, brain, sexuality and so in with the software that is DNA, and then each such Instance merely represents a brief manifestation of that vast intelligence or consciousness for a single human lifespan.

Interesting to consider that this becomes a pretty good analogy for how many Eastern religions view Life and Nature.

The key difference from conventional religion would be that the programmer is not really a puppet master controlling every moment or key frame, but rather that Her intention instructs an infinite set of potentialities to allow for spontaneous unfolding of events and play, according to a vast set of programs.

(In ancient Egypt these programs were called “Neters” – great spiritual forces that worked according to Law like the wind, tide, planets and so on, and internally like fertility or disease; and the great Order according to which it all played out was called “Maat.” On this basis it is fascinating to consider the Great Pyramid as a repository of that mathematical and geometric order Egyptians held “sacred.”)

But for us, as Instances or even Symbols (aware of our features and properties) we are generally limited to our own uniquely individual perspective—one track on the Score of Life—and our access to it in terms of conscious choice is available only with deliberate intention in any present moment – the Now.

Great Expectations – a Recipe for Suffering?

“If I still believed in my thoughts, I would pray for one thing first: to be spared from the desire for love. This desire causes nothing but confusion and misery. It shuts down the awareness of what you already have in reality. It’s painful to seek what you can never have outside yourself. I say ‘can never have’ because obviously you don’t understand what you’re seeking. If you understood it, the seeking would be over.” — Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

Our inner programming and conditioning are so automatic and when they’re in conflict with reality, we suffer.

Two such powerful “programs” are the need to find romantic love outside of ourselves, and then the need to attract that love, either with financial stability and status for males, and beauty and sensuality for females.

Sometimes, in the short term, these drives are fulfilled and we believe we’re living in a beer commercial or acting out the scenes of a romantic movie. Often this happens in a resort or vacation setting, until reality—job, life, kids, and our own neuroses—make us drop the masks we used to attract love from the outside—and it ends abruptly.

Inevitably this leads to pain, anger, disappointment and suffering—often with the idea that it is “the other” that is responsible for all of our grievances.

But many people today are realizing it is actually our “selves” – the very inner programming that we have adopted as our belief system—that is most responsible for our suffering.

After all, taken objectively, only the sickest and most pathological among us are actually out to hurt others.

Most conflicts are the result of each person believing they are doing the best they can, for themselves and even in many cases for the other; it’s just that they’re playing out scripts and expectations in their own minds, reflected in their heart’s desire, that go unfulfilled.

Who would we be without our stories of rejection and betrayal? And who are those stories really hurting? Would we be Mr. Spock, devoid of emotion—or perhaps the Buddha?

Is such an absence of need and seeking outside oneself even remotely attainable—and would you want it if you could have it? Would that be the end of love and romance?

These are powerful questions. Many of us are so incapable of such objectivity, and so strongly attached to our need for outside validation by the “love” of another, that we cannot see what it costs us.

Recently I anticipated the presence of a woman to whom I was strongly attracted at an event where I hoped to talk to her at length and strengthen our connection. She showed up late and throughout the event I thought about her, whether she was interested, what I might say, and so on. At the end she ended up in a conversation with someone else, and I left, frustrated and a bit upset.

Then I realized that the entire drama had played out entirely in my head, according to my own expectations and desires. She, of course, was oblivious to my interest, and her own decision to talk to someone else had nothing to do with snubbing or ignoring me—it was just how things played out.

And even if she had “rejected” me in favor of someone else—I could either succumb to my inner program of self-judgment, or recognize that it was a circumstance beyond my control, and let it go.

When I saw this clearly I realized just how often my own insecurity had clouded my assessment of reality in this area, and how any discomfort or suffering I might have was purely of my own making.

The choice to suffer or accept reality was entirely my own to make.

Just as falling doesn’t hurt you – it’s landing on the cement that does the damage, so too the circumstances of life are just what they are – it is our choice whether we accept them or allow them to threaten our peace and happiness.

This is even more important when one is already in a relationship, which is why real communication is so important. Of course the key—as the Jack Nicholson character once said to Tom Cruise—is that most people “can’t handle the truth”. They would rather deceive themselves and live in illusion than to face uncomfortable facts—like the recognition that the other person both wants to be with them (sometimes) and be alone (other times). Neither reflects on who they really are—but most people take it personally.

As Byron Katie writes above, this realization and the liberation from this compulsion is an enormous relief—and counter intuitively it leads to deeper presence and more satisfying relationships.

Why is that? Because as my friend Michael Jeffreys says, nothing feels as comfortable as being with someone without an agenda—who doesn’t want anything. Then there is nothing to be thwarted and frustrated, and energy can flow freely.

When a man wants or expects sex, and/or a woman wants or expects to bask in a man’s power, financial circumstances or status, both are playing out programs that must end in a crash—they cannot be maintained and each is dating someone in their own heads—not the other person.

This is why so many men and women are “done with dating.” Because it is an artificial dance based on conditioning and programming—not an energetic response to Life.

For one thing, how do you know how you’ll feel on Saturday night? Of course, in today’s busy world (and that’s another issue—the need for distraction and “busy-ness”) we need to schedule—but when we make “plans” to love we create more expectations—”what did you do over the weekend” is mainly a question for the validation of others, not ourselves.

The reality is that when we “awaken” and recognize the extent and damage of our inner programming, we don’t need a resort setting to trigger love – although it sure helps. By shifting our attention from our own expectations to the true needs and desires of the other, and being present instead of consumed by our delusional thoughts, we create a space for warmth, affection, and yes, even romance.

Can we remain objectively non delusional in the afterglow? That’s another tough question.

Many of our inner scripts will still expect something—a repeat performance, a phone call, a kind gesture…

Here again we can learn from Byron Katie’s wisdom—if Life grants us such a lovely experience, wonderful, but if not, perhaps we need not suffer – quite as much. After all, as she says, who would you be without that expectation or belief?

I know, easier said than done—but think of the needless suffering, all self-induced, that you can spare your “self.”

 

Six Local Leaders: One Spirited Evening of Discussion and Community

 

Imagine six of the leading spiritual teachers in Los Angeles together in your living room for an open discussion of their ideas, experiences and practices focused on “Be Your Own Guru” — on Thursday, September 6th the following local leaders will get together and you can participate:

Robert Burnham
established the Pasadena Eckhart Tolle Meetup. He regularly leads Heart Circles and Spirituality Workshops throughout California. “Bobby B” is active on the Board of Directors of the California Men’s Gatherings, runs ABS Computer Services, and hosts karaoke & wedding parties around LA.

Jim Dreaver, began in 1975 with the teachings of J. Krishnamurti. Then in 1984 he met Jean Klein, a European and a master of Advaita Vedanta, the nondual path. His mission now is to guide others to the same realization, but in a much shorter time. He teaches at Esalen Institute, and in Los Angeles, and is the author of
End Your Story, Begin Your Life,

Michael Jeffreys, Santa Monica Eckhart Tolle Meetup Group, is a spiritual coach/intuitive, and the author of 9 books as well as two stories in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. If ALL your questions arise from within, why do you look outside yourself for the answer?” -Michael Jeffreys

Michael Lennox
is a psychologist, astrologer, expert on dreams and dream interpretation and author of Dream Sight: A Dictionary and Guide for Interpreting Any Dream.  As a highly sought after media expert, he has been seen by millions of viewers through television appearances on NBC, the Sci-Fi Network, CBS, Fox as well as dozens of national radio shows in the United States and Canada.

Rev. John M. McLean, Director of the Center for Spiritual Living – Los Angeles previously served ministries in Nashville, Tennessee and Bellevue, Washington since his ordination in 2003. He began his spiritual journey at what was then called Los Angeles Church of Religious Science. He was first licensed as a practitioner under Dr. David Walker and also served on the Board of Trustees. He earned a BA in Art History from George Washington University, Washington, DC and an MA in Creation Spirituality from Naropa University/University of Creation Spirituality, Oakland, California.

Freeman Michaels
is the founder of the Service to Self™ Process, a “Pattern Interruption Specialist” and author of Weight Release: A Liberating Journey. Freeman doesn’t believe you have problems, just patterns that no longer serve you. He is a member of the Association of Transformational Leaders and holds a Masters Degree in Spiritual Psychology from The University of Santa Monica

 

Perhaps you’ve followed or worked with one or more of these; now you can watch the energetic exchange between them on a variety of topics in a warm and hospitable setting.

Moderated by Tom Bunzel, Los Angeles Eckhart Tolle Meetup and Author, Presence of Mind: Journey to a New Operating System

At the Gateway Portal in West Los Angeles – 2503 S. Barrington Avenue 90064
Welcome and Networking     6:30 pm
Roundtable Discussion     7 – 8:30 pm
Break
Question and Answer         8:45 – End

A $15 donation is requested at the door but no one will be turned away. RSVP is strongly recommended as space is limited. Please RSVP on the Gateway Meetup Group