What the Hell is Going On Here?


Q:
Thank you so much for responding to my email. I wasn't sure if I'd hear back. I tried reaching out to John Wheeler some time back, going as far as combing the internet looking for him and eventually writing to the publisher at Nonduality Press to get some of his books and get his contact info. I was informed he no longer teaches and is pretty much unavailable to the public. Kind of puzzling and disappointing. I ended up getting a couple of his books that are no longer available online. I gave up on reaching him, then reached out to one of Sailor Bob's students, Gilbert Schultz. I ordered a couple of Sailor Bob's books and have reflected on those after studying them quite a bit. I've since read a few books of Gilbert's as well. They lay it out very simply, and leave it at that, with no room for discussion as far as particulars. Have looked into Mark West, another of Sailor Bob's colleagues, another direct disciple of Nisargadatta. He's the same, lays everything out beautifully, logically, and leaves nothing up for discussion. You are enlightened already, now you just subtract what's not needed.

These encounters have brought me to the understanding that Everything is present and available currently, in this moment, as it is. The only problem is that I have added unnecessary concepts to the simple truth and therefore, I suffer. The idea they present, is that by removing the false ideas or identifications I can see things as they truly are...absolutely simple and with no meaning whatsoever, other than the meaning I prescribe to the situation or experience. Nothing means anything, it's just a flow of activity. They propose the flow is just an energetic movement, nothing more nothing less, and that consciousness does what it wants without regard for what I want or would like to see happen. That things happen perfectly, as they are, and mean nothing...really and that all of us are perfectly enlightened as we are, just that some (most) of us have added to the perfection the idea that it's not perfect and complete and needs to be other than it is. A part of me likes this approach because it still gives me something to do, but a part of me says how can you possibly "do" anything since it's all done already. I'm paralyzed between a rock and a hard place.

I can't tell you how relieved I was when you replied to my email to you. It provided a great deal of comfort immediately, as I've had no one to speak to about what I've been going through over the many years. I'm in my early forties and have been married for nearly 20 years. My wife is a beautiful and wonderful being and has provided any support she can offer, but doesn't quite understand where I'm at just yet. I've tried to relate as a peer, but she doesn't yet see things as I do although I sense she has a very old soul and has much practical wisdom and has so much love in her heart for me. So, I've had to resort to seeking outside help. This has led me through 20 years of investigating, reading piles of books of all spiritual sorts, watching countless videos, tutorials, blogs, going to satsangs with (so-called) enlightened beings, and the rest of it. She likes Eckhart Tolle, and I find his teachings kind of like primary or middle school level, comparatively, which may or not be a fair assessment, but it's not as direct a path as others I've come across.

I don't want to bog you down with a very long life story, but I will give you a little background info if that's ok. Raised Christian (no longer), I've studied Buddhist texts, Hindu texts, have spent a lot of time exploring all kinds of meditation practices, mantras, integrating movement techniques, looked down all sorts of metaphysical and energetic avenues, and have tried to locate and devour anything by Ramana Maharshi (and have a couple of very strange encounters with him in my dreams), and have found the teachings of Douglas Harding most helpful. It's just about going by direct experience now, not theory, and looking at what is present, in this moment, and nothing imported from the mind as far as extras (memories, beliefs, judgments). Harding's prescribed method of seeing has brought me to the recognition that I'm absolutely No-thing. Nothing that can be pointed to or named. So I've been coping with the fact that nothing really exists outside of the basic Being that we are. Everything else is all imagination. And on top of that, nothing can be other than it is in this present moment. I've let my traumatic past go, don't think of a future most of the time and just rely on the immediate moment of now to provide anything that is needed. I no longer have the security I used to think I had, and realize that security is nonsense and offers no relief.

So the freefall I spoke of is the literal feeling of just falling, like jumping out of a plane and just falling for what seems like miles and miles. It doesn't seem to have a bottom. You know the feeling of going down a hill on a drive or on a big descent on a rollercoaster and your stomach just drops out of your body and leaves that feeling of waiting for it to catch back up with you at some point? That's how I feel on a pretty regular basis.

Okay, so now I think I know what everyone's pointing at, can see that at my core there's nothing there, just blankness or an awake space, emptiness that contains all and doesn't have a problem with any of its contents, a silent witness empty and full at the same time. But this insecure, fearful guy keeps waking up every day, somehow knowing nothing matters, but sporadically behaving like it means everything and suffering endlessly because I can't reconcile the two and have doubts. I don't think I'm suffering from mental illness, although a psychiatrist may argue, but I do feel I have a genuine problem that I need to figure out somehow because this process is hell. I'll be honest, sometimes I question whether or not I can keep this up. …The thought [of suicide] has crossed my mind but I think if I was going to do that, I would have done it long ago when I was weaker and had no faith, plus it seems like a huge waste of a lot of things.

You've given me a few things to look into, and I have already started looking. I'm already familiar with James Swartz, have watched quite a few videos of his Vedanta teachings and personal interviews. I've got through the first 2 of the videos on the Bhagavad Gita, and will continue with those as I can.

I've briefly looked into the amino acid therapy [for depression] but will give it a closer look as well. It's not so much a mood thing with me, as I'm usually in a pleasant mood most of the time. It's more of just a "in the body" sensation or experience where I have a fiery pit in my stomach or solar plexus and I feel like I'm just falling into that hole there, and the end of me is quickly approaching. It's scary, my hearts starts pounding, I feel like I can't breathe, and that the end is coming at any moment. Sometimes my teeth chatter like I'm freezing cold or terrified, and tears will start to come into my eyes, and other times I just break down and cry and cry and there won't be any kind of story attached, just a big breakdown. With energy just racing through my body, sometimes I'll kind of rock back and forth, feeling like the world is caving in on me and the only thing that seems to help is to go outside and sit and do nothing. These panic or anxiety attacks happen spontaneously and randomly and have been more frequent. I actually just quit my job 3 weeks ago, because the work was very stressful and I kept melting down on the job. So I've had a little bit of time recently to explore all of this a bit further. Since I left the job, the panic attacks have continued, but not as often, so I think stress may make it worse. I don't know. All I know is that my whole world has been turned upside down, I still continue to do laundry, go to job interviews, do what I need to do, but it's like torture feeling limited when I know deep down I'm the source of everything and this life is a fantasy. I feel I'm stuck in a hell-like realm in between the life I used to know and whatever is coming next but not solidly grounded in either place. You mentioned insanity in your reply. Yes, this does seem a little insane. I know I'm not crazy, at least I don't think I am, but I'm asking myself all the time, "what the hell is going on here?" You know, "what is looking at what?"

Anyway, I don't want to take up too much of your time, but I would love to hear back from you again. It's a huge relief knowing you are there to talk to. Thank you again for your time. Maybe you could offer some insight here. I have a feeling things will get worse before they get better, but who knows? I sure would appreciate any words you can offer. Your reply was very kind and I just wanted you to know how much it means to me.

A: Well, for one thing, you are having panic attacks, and you need to treat those. I went through them about two years ago, and as much as I hated to go to the regular psychiatric doctor for meds, I really had to. He gave me some Xanax, and I took it as needed. It was a godsend. The problem with panic attacks is that you can't help yourself out of the thing that is causing the panic (in both of our cases, an overwhelm and urgency to get to the bottom of the sense of separation, a desperation and coming to a head of this pain) while you are suffering from anxiety and panic. You are really helpless while that is going on. I know we're supposed to be able to fix this all with our knowledge, right? Get rid of panic attacks by resting in awareness? Bullshit. You can't. Anyway, if it's up your alley, don't hesitate to do that. I rarely take a Xanax anymore, but it really helped me through that acute period.

But if you do go, don't tell the doctor about your spirituality stuff! It will just make you frustrated. Just tell him you have anxiety and panic attacks. Stressful job, looking for work, etc. Xanax is short-acting and harmless if you don't abuse it.

It's totally understandable that your wife is not on your page, and I know that many people are in the same boat. You just have to go it solo, but as you know there is plenty of support out here in cyberspace and in real life.

I love that you had dreams about Ramana! I would love to hear about that! I dream about James Swartz sometimes, but he's about as high level as I've ever gone!

Okay let's address the freefalling. Yes, this is sometimes presented in a way that makes it seem like you are between a rock and a hard place. It says "do this" at the same time as "you can't do anything." There are all kinds of contradictions in these teachings that make it difficult to put into practical use. And honestly, after all the self-inquiry, what are we left with? Nothing, pretty much. I think this is a gigantic problem in the non-duality world right now. The bulk of people, in my experience, who have been following a non-dual path for the last decade or so are still miserable. What's the deal? It's something about the "nothing" that we are all left with – it's not complete, something is not finished here.

It's just like you said here:

"Okay, so now I think I know what everyone's pointing at, can see that at my core there's nothing there, just blankness or an awake space, emptiness that contains all and doesn't have a problem with any of its contents, a silent witness empty and full at the same time. But this insecure, fearful guy keeps waking up every day, somehow knowing nothing matters, but sporadically behaving like it means everything and suffering endlessly because I can't reconcile the two and have doubts."

Beautifully stated.

I think what fails to be communicated in the non-dual teachings, which all derive from an Indian source, originally, is the notion of this so-called "emptiness" actually being divine. Actually being love. Actually being joy. Your true nature is actually divine! It might be that something is lost in translation – usually the word "consciousness" or "awareness" is used in the West, but as you may know, in the Sanskrit that word is never used. It's always Brahman (God), or Atman (the individual God in me), or Paramatman (the most awake version of the Atman) – so there is room in there to find the divinity, to find the joy and love. Somehow this Western version of non-duality has become sterilized beyond recognition. And you can see it in the seeking population. I don't see joy – I see doubt, fear, sadness.

Does the word "God" carry a lot of baggage for you, or is it a word you like? I particularly like it and am bringing it back into my self-inquiry simply because I can connect with the idea of divinity through that word. Do you have some word or thought that can bring up that idea in you that all of this is divine? Is good, eternal, beautiful? That goodness and love is what you are really made of, not "nothing"? That the whole purpose of YOU is a divine purpose, not just a blankness? If you can find some way to tap into the sense of wonder and magic that makes the whole world and makes each person, each an expression of the divine total, each one totally important as God seeing God – yes I know there is a lot of duality in this kind of talk. After twelve years of being super serious about non-duality, my conclusion is that we human beings need a little duality in our spiritual life – to give us something to feel love towards.

We all are capable of feeling joy, feeling peace, and if we are not, we are just not framing the information properly. Don't you have a place inside you that absolutely knows that you are really divine? That all this smallness of being a suffering person is kind of just a bad habit you have, a stopgap place that you are stuck in for now, until you let your true light bust down those walls? God is Light and God is all there is, and that is also all you are. You are already divine, you only have habits of thinking you are not.

Notice I'm really only reiterating non-dual ideas, but putting some emotional juice in the content of it. I believe that emotional juice has to be there. It's dual, and it would be frowned upon by many purist non-dualists. But in my experience, unless there is some emotional juice flowing between you and your divine nature, you run the risk of withering on the vine.

See if you can go inside and just ask about Love. Ask God to help you if that is something you are comfortable with. Ask about your divine nature. Just for now, stop the methods you've been using. Sometimes it's really good to just give this stuff a break. Ask for some intuitive inspiration to guide you to a new book or a new teaching, or even a church. Just ask for inner guidance and be open to whatever little miracles pop up in your path. Pray, whatever that means to you. Ask for help from the Higher whatever form that takes. This is real, and you are not alone, and God loves you so much.

I also have had many moments of just not wanting to be here anymore. I would never actually take my own life, if only just for the pain it would cause other people. We just can't inflict that kind of pain on others. But I do want to assure you that staying here is going to work out for you – you are a serious student of Light and you will soon be a beacon for others to follow. You already are in many ways.

I know I went out on a limb here – you wrote to a non-dual blogger and here I am being all dual and theistic on you. But I have seen too many people following this non-dual path end up in a really dark place, myself being one of them! In the end, we have to admit that we don't know anything, and we have to find comfort somehow, and that is going to end up having some dualism in it. "Pure awareness" is just not going to cut it in the long sleepless nights of panic and fear. You know what I'm talking about.

I'd love to hear your reaction to all this when you feel like writing back. I appreciate your kind words of appreciation!