Ok, one more old article. I did some editing and feel more or less satisfied with the results. I realised it’s too much information to take all at once. This is the second last for now in my Karma and Reality tunnel series. The next coming will be about ecstatic illumination, spontaneous channeling of the Genius and the Secret Chiefs
Expansion of a reality tunnel
In last chapter I discussed briefly the death of ego in its relation to the enlightenment process. I explained that ego is deeply connected with samsara, cause of most human suffering. Most people are not willing to give up on their egos but sometimes the reality forces the change upon us. Every time we are faced with events that “break” us and make us feel as though our lives were ruined what we really face is a powerful resistance of our ego. Our egos demand that things would stay the way they were before and it refuses to accept changes Events like death of a loved person, loss of precious property, natural disaster etc. are examples of how the outside forces can disturb our lives. We can not control these things and very often we can not prevent them from happening. When something like that happens many people suddenly feel as though all their pride and self- boost were wiped away. They can not pretend to be in control any more. These are the moment when human ego gives up. Pain of the loss is so severe that the only way to deal with it is by acceptance.
How much we learn from what happened to us is another thing all together. Some people prefer to believe that every event in our life is directed by higher forces, others prefer to believe that everything happens randomly. None of these attitudes bring many advantages on its own. As long as we passively wait for what the life brings us and we don’t make effort to move forward we will feel hopeless and powerless. Only thing that makes a real difference to our perceived quality of life is our reaction to the unpredictable or undesired events that we face.
Death of ego can be a very slow and painful process but it is unavoidable. Physical death of a person completes this process. No matter how powerful someone’s ego is during their lifetime its existence is linked directly to the lifespan of the physical body it inhabits. Buddhist mystics believe that because of that death is a terrifying experience for most people. Last seconds of an average person’s life are spent in the agony when their mind finds itself slowly drifting away from everything it has always been connected with. All their belongings, achievements, even memories are falling away from them and there is no way of stopping it from happening*. This is why Buddhists mystics spend all their lives training their minds to accept death when it arrives. They believe that physical death is the final and biggest initiation of a person’s life. When properly prepared one may experience death as a journey- similar to the shamanic journeys. Although unlike with all previous journeys time traveling consciousness never comes back to its physical body but instead it moves on to the higher forms of existence.
Since none of us can avoid physical death it seems prudent to try being prepared for it. Unfortunately our culture not only denies such a need, it also treats the very topic of death as a taboo. Death is always seen as a tragedy and never as a positive thing. This is because out culture is based in the reality of human egos. The realisation that the world of ego is just an illusion brings realisation that death itself is also illusionary. Our perceived separation from the surrounding world makes us feel as though we were an individual being born at some time and place and living independently of its surrounding world. If we manage to make our consciousness shift onto a “higher|” plains of existence we experience ourselves as part of the great whole- part of never ending movement of energy within the universe. The matter and energy constantly move and shift from one shape onto the other. We are no more than one of those shapes. When you think of yourself as an element of universal movement you perceive yourself as limitless, infinite being. In my opinion this vision is a lot more beautiful than Christian concept of heaven as a static world that allows our egos to live indefinitely in their present forms. Personally I consider such an option as incredibly boring.
If you think of death as merely another CHANGE it becomes more apparent why it is so difficult for us to accept. As I mentioned previously we usually don’t like any changes that we can not control. Mental preparation for death could therefore start by conscious training towards more flexibility and tolerance of all changes that come our way. To make this process more pleasurable we can start practicing what I would call “expansion of a reality tunnel”. The more ego-less states we experience every year/month/day the easier this process becomes. Strong meditative or ecstatic states, powerful trances and other mind-altering techniques help us to detach from our everyday egotic self. They help us to break out from our attachments and awaken more open child-like attitude to life. Altered states of mind help us to break out of our everyday life mode of thinking and help us to see ourselves and things around us from a different perspective. Intentional inducing of such states can help us to speed up the process that could take us years to achieve otherwise. In many ways it is a sort of spiritual short-cut.
It is worth pointing out that these techniques aren’t always as successful as we would wish them to be. That’s because each time we recover from a trance/mediation we immediately come back to our egotic self. If our ego/our belief system are very strong it can take a lot of reprogramming before they finally give up.
*Although that doesn’t match many reports of the close to death experiences when people report traveling through a light tunnel and are filled with the feeling of bliss
When discussing concept of karma I mentioned that karma manifest itself in our actions. I mentioned that our actions are the effects of our learned behaviours, and I mentioned that these behaviours tend to be repetitive. When we make a decision about something we base it on what we believe is right/true. From there it seems obvious that if we change our beliefs we will change our actions. Unfortunately the whole process is more complicated than that.
The truth is that in reality we have very little control over our decisions in the first place and often we don’t understand our own actions. Our personality forms over the course of many years and most of it is rooted in our subconscious. Since every minute of our lives we are bombarded by thousands of different stimuli from the outside environment our brain learns how to filter through this information. Only its tiny fraction makes its way to our conscious memory. When we once establish something to be a “common knowledge” we usually never bother to verify it anymore. For example when we learn how to tie your shoes or how to ride a bike we tend to do it the in the same way for years to come. The only reason we ever bother to change such a habit is if for whatever reason we feel dissatisfied with the results or if someone else shows us another way of doing it which we find more practical.
We form similar habits in the way we talk, walk, eat and in many other areas of our lives. We even form habits in our emotional reactions. Modern neuro- science teaches us about neural paths created in our brains. Each time we do something new we create a new connection between neurons. The next time we repeat the same action our brain follows a preexisting path/connection of neurons to conduct it. The more we repeat something the stronger this connection becomes until action becomes automatic. If we repeat certain reaction/bahaviour many times over and over it becomes a habit. We don’t think about it, we just do it. This is why change of one’s karma is so difficult. The only way to change an automatic reaction is by overwriting it with something else. Those of you who ever tried to make corrections to the way you walk, smile or speak will surely now how difficult it is. As soon as you loose concentration and forget about your intentions you immediately come back to your old way. Changing the old habits takes hell lot of work.
Similar process can be observed when trying to overwrite our perception of reality. Even the most powerful illumination is not going to cause a permanent change unless we make a conscious effort to do so. When looking back at my personal path I notice many such illuminations that never lead to a permanent change. Thanks to my habit of writing a diary I can “move” back in time to see what I was thinking and doing many years ago without having to rely on my memory. Very often I find notes about things that I have completely forgot about even though they were very important to me back then. I also tend to find thoughts and reflections about things that haven’t really changed still despite my constant effort to do so. One of them is my life long tendency to low moods. My moods seem to even follow certain patterns during each year. What amuses me is the fact that my outside circumstances changed a lot during these years. If it was the outside circumstances that influence my moods I should have seen more variety. So it becomes kind of obvious that their source is inside and not outside of me.
Realisation that I have stuck on some level is an illumination of its own, even though it is perhaps not an ecstatic one… This struggle with low moods is the main reason why I started researching on the topic of karma. I realised that even though I wanted to impose a change some powerful force was holding me back and I needed to identify it. This search helped me to understand just how complicated beings we are. Seeing my own effort with applying changes made also more compassionate towards other people since I realised how difficult it is to change who we are. Changing old habits is way more difficult than learning new things. When you do something for the first time ever your brain doesn’t have a preexisting connection to follow. When learning a new thing you give it your full attention and concentration. To over-right the old habits we need to learn how to be alert and focused at all times. This is itself is a huge challenge as it goes against one of our most common habits of switching off and drifting away.
In the western culture we get conditioned to boredom since our early years. Most of our lives we spend on performing routine tasks like school or work related activities. Most of us don’t enjoy any of these activities so we condition our minds to switch off and submerge in a stream of thoughts. We fantasize about our future actions, think about things we already did or are planing to do. If possible we’re watching TV or listening to the radio. All that with very little attention paid to the actions we currently do. The art of life in a present moment becomes a skill of its own. Since couple of years I have bee training myself to do so and so far I have failed. It only takes me a couple of minutes before my mind starts creating thoughts. It can start of innocent observation. For example when looking at the sky, I will say to myself “nice sunshine” and soon afterward the other thought follows”I wonder if it is going to last”. From there I can easily drift off thinking about plans for the rest of the day trying to decide what to do in case if it rains. Before I know it I depart the present and spend whole ten minutes imagining what my evening will look like. If by any chance my plans involve other people I might even consider topics of our potential conversions. This will lead onto memories of our past conversions and maybe even arguments we had recently. At this point I can start feeling irritated or tense or maybe even angry. And then I catch myself- “I did it again!” I have just spent a the whole fifteen minute walk completely unaware of what was happening around me.
Our streams of thoughts have the life of their own too and they too follow certain patterns. If you ever try to observe your thoughts as though you were an outside observer of your own mind you will notice how your thoughts jump suddenly from one subject to the other without any apparent connection between the two. When looking deeper you will see that the connection might have been really subtle. Jump might have come from some outside trigger like a smell or sound that reminded you of something but it might also been an effect of arsing emotion. If someone made you angry you’re very likely to think of other times when they made you feel in a similar way. In this case your emotional reaction is likely to follow a preexisting neural path and it can become very exaggerated. Arguments between family members often follow such pattern. The outcome of such an argument can be painfully predictable and for as long as people don’t learn how to redirect their reactions they will continue fighting for years to come. The only way to reprogram an old habit is by rewriting it with something new. A change of circumstances might be helpful but in the end it is the inside not the outside of you where the change needs to occur.
I mentioned that enlightenment can be a painful process for many people but what I want to add is that not everyone is afraid of pain. Pain has always been associated with the learning process and in most cases it’s unavoidable. On the other hand learning on its own is also exiting. It seems to me that most people forget about that. When you learn how to walk you will fall many times. And yet somehow we all did it. Children never seem scared or tired o learning no matter how difficult it is. On occasions when they hurt themselves they can become upset for a while but it never lasts for too long**. By the time we’re adults we try to avoid effort at all costs. We’re no longer interested in learning unless we can see some immediate gain in it. We grow impatient. Why and how this happens I don’t know. In case of enlightenment the final goal is not clearly defined. We can not be sure what we will gain from it. This makes it not a good enough goal for the most.
**this is not always true in case of learning is forced upon them by somebody- like learning at school. Plus I’m sure some people are naturally more lazy than others too.