Do I Have to Address the Conditioning?


Q:
In your view, does body-mind conditioning (i.e. emotions/tendencies/vasanas) play a role in attention getting drawn back into the belief in a separate I/me, as Sailor Bob and Rupert Spira seem to suggest? Or does it have nothing to do with it, as John Wheeler would seem to suggest? John seems to believe that body-mind conditioning doesn't matter at all, and that if belief is still going into the separate I/me idea, that it is only because one is not yet 100% clear on the two main points he makes... namely: 1. That you are non-conceptual presence-awareness, and 2. That there is no separate person.

So, is there any point addressing the feelings/conditioning at all? Or is it best to simply focus on making sure points 1 and 2 above are crystal clear?

A: You absolutely have to address the conditioning. You can’t just deny the person and the human experience.

Here's the catch in John’s thinking: When we try to solve the problem of separation with fervent denial of the separate person, with what is that denial being attempted? It is being attempted BY the very conditioned human being that is being denied. How's that gonna work? Awareness doesn't deny anything, but conditioning sure does. So is the conditioning going to ever admit to you that it does not exist? Is the body/mind complex that you've taken a lifetime to build, and that you have pride in, and that is who you think you are – is that going to just say one day, “Okay, there is no separate person”? Never. No matter how much you tell yourself that it's true.

Why? Because the belief in the separate person keeps itself going with a very powerful framework of misconceptions we know as Maya, or the world. In
Vedanta it is called "ignorance." Ignorance is taking what is unreal to be real. In order to be free, one has to know the difference between the real and the unreal.

How do you think the world operates in such a convincing manner? How does it trick us into all day long believing we are separate? It does it with layer upon layer of disguise. If you just look at some of those layers in your experience right now, you will see a separate body, first and foremost. You think you're that one. Then you see more subtle layers – the emotions, and the intellect. You also think you are those. Then it gets even more subtle, into your "enlightened one" layer and beyond. None of these are the real you, but you take yourself to be them. And this is where the conditioning resides – in all these layers. And in order to be free, one must be able to tell the difference between the real you (awareness) and that which is only apparently real (all the layers, the separate idea of you, and the projected world). This is what
Vedanta is good for.

I can really only speak to John's teaching. I thought John and Sailor Bob were exactly in line, since John is Bob's disciple. And I'm not sure about Rupert though I would say he is reliable. I can't recall what Rupert or Bob say about conditioning but I'll take your word for it that they put some emphasis on it, which is good. The thing is, the "direct path" teachers, which these guys are, are telling the truth about reality and they are very good at it. But they are not offering a way for you to find this reality yourself. They just say, "it's right here."
Vedanta actually gives you a way, a method, a means. I never would have gotten free without it. It takes a while – it's a process – but it's worth it.

Some people may have a spontaneous experience of knowing that breaks through the illusion, and they may see reality and never go back. But I think this is rare. More likely, people who do have a breakthrough experience, some number of years later find the suffering returning, and then are really confused about what's happening and try to deny it for a long time. This happened to me a few times! So I've gotten to the point where I don't take much that I read online seriously anymore. Jeff Foster, for example, was very hard-core direct path, and then he had some event in his life that caused him to have to rethink the whole thing – he got depressed and had to address the "person" and the emotions and the pain. It has turned him into a much better teacher, in my opinion.

But my recommendation is
Vedanta and James Swartz. I prefer his earlier recordings (from the 2010-2012 time frame) and his earlier book, “How to Attain Enlightenment.”

Yes, you are awareness. But it's a person who needs this knowledge. Awareness doesn't need anything at all. So it's not logical to just dismiss the person, since that's the only one who's suffering. And in order to do that, the conditioning needs to be addressed.

Sounds like a lot to take in, but Vedanta unfolds it all really logically and systematically, and finally the "person" sees through the illusion of itself, and awareness remains. Life goes on, then, but with a freedom borne of seeing it from the perspective of the non-attached, non-time-bound beingness that you are.

Okay enough rambling! Let me know if I can help you with the Vedanta or answer any more questions. There's a Vedanta tab on my webpage. There's another Vedanta guy I like called Swami Sarvapriyananda. He's on YouTube. With either guy, it's good to listen to a whole series from beginning to end. It's a logical progression. And then listen again and again, ad nauseam LOL!

Q: Wow. Thank you so much! What a fantastic reply. Everything you've said really rings true.

Your view on addressing the conditioning confirms my own intuition and experience with John's teachings over many years. It never made sense to me to ignore the personal conditioning. Also, John Sherman, when I asked him years ago, told me to ignore the vasanas/ tendencies, too... saying that "looking at yourself" would automatically take care of them, but that didn't ring true. That hasn't worked so far either as I've done a lot of looking and I'm apparently still here still thinking I'm separate!

I get glimpses of there being no person here and that the me is just a thought/idea/concept, but just one emotionally-charged situation where it seems my survival is being threatened, and boom! It's "back" as if it's real.

Also, whenever I address the conditioning, I find myself lighter and freer each time. That doesn't happen as much with straight inquiry/ questioning/discrimination alone, though these definitely play a major role. It seems it takes two wings to fly this bird.

A: I like that you say it takes two wings to fly this bird. Well put! I like to think of it as trying to push a plank along the ground – first you push the right side ahead, and then you have to push the left side, and back and forth. That's how it is with seeing yourself directly through insights and moments of clarity, and then buckling down and getting to what's keeping you identified with the body/mind. You'll see it talked about as what-you-are vs. what-you-are-not. They are both big jobs, frankly.

I sat in John Sherman's hot seat once, years ago! As I went into my story, he provided me with a nice moment of clear seeing, right here right now, this is it. And I saw what he was pointing at, and my mind quieted immediately. It was nice. But there's no way that's enough. Like you say, all it takes is one situation – and the fact that you say "emotionally charged" is right on. It's the emotion that drags you back in immediately. So this is what the work is – learning to tell the difference between that "you" that is always okay and that which appears to be "you," but is only a well-crafted trick.

I think the best exposure to Vedanta starts with reading James' book – “How to Attain Enlightenment” – as opposed to the videos, unless you are going to listen to an entire series from beginning to end. Because the method is a logical progression, and you have to hear it all unfolded in order, or it won't make sense. When I first found James back in 2010, he didn't have short video excerpts on YouTube, and I find them to be a hindrance to understanding because they are taken out of context. I read the book first, then watched a few series all the way through, and then listened to them over and over.

You sound like you are serious about getting to the bottom of this. Please don't hesitate to reach out with questions.