Friday, April 4, 2014

Strap-On Dildos vs. The Way Of Feeling


As I wrote before in Ego As An Emergent Phenomena, the ego is very much a real phenomena, if one examines it as a collection of constituent parts and their repetitive patterns of action and behavior, rather than as some literal "thing" floating around inside the body-mind. In reality, both form and our formless nature are inseparable from one another, as are consciousness and energy, which are really another way of describing the same thing. But when the consciousness aspect of reality identifies with its own form, a strange disruption seems to occur in our awareness. Our own consciousness seems to separate itself from its own form, and in the process, both are felt to be reduced from infinite non-separate realities to finite and separate illusions.

The primary effect of this reduction is experienced as this emergent ego-phenomena, in which our very sense of being aware is felt as a personal identity of limited consciousness, unable to enjoy its infinite nature, and seemingly cast adrift, lost, alienated, separate from what it needs, and associated with a limited form that is also separate and incapable of giving us what we require, unless our requirements are also reduced to the bare minimum. This is what we experience as our common state of awareness - a frustrated and frustrating small-'I' consciousness that seems to vaguely exist inside the body, and which depends upon the body for its unpredictable fluctuations in happiness, surrounded by a much larger and frightening world to which we are precariously related.


This emergent ego arises from identification with the body-mind, and it also represents a pattern of endless forms of identification with all the pieces and parts of the body-mind, each of which appears to be separate and limited. But primarily, it is simply felt as this most obvious sense of awareness, of consciousness, of being 'I' or 'me', that feels and observes the body-mind in lockstep formation. We all know what this feels like, and can't seem to help being this ego, even if it has no particular existence independent of the body-mind. No matter what kind of experience we have, no matter how pleasurable or even spiritual, we still experience it from the point of view of this emergent ego-consciousness, as if that is who we are.




Because our ego-awareness is inherently identified with the body-mind, and because the body-mind does all sorts of things, engaging in action and behavior for its own purposes, this ego-awareness tends to identify itself as the doer of the body-mind's action. We feel that we, as this ego-awareness, are the "person" who directs the body-mind's activities, including its attention to objects and action. We think that we are thinking the body-mind's thoughts, and are in control of which thoughts it chooses to act on, and which thoughts it chooses to ignore. We think that we are controlling the body-mind, and making it act as we want it to act, to fulfill our desires, and be guided by our own wisdom and whims.


But is this actually the case? I would suggest not at all. The body-mind certainly does think and act and move about, fulfilling desires, trying to feel better, and generally trying to find some sort of satisfaction in its separate state, but it would be a colossal delusion to imagine that this ego-awareness is in charge of it. Yet that is precisely the delusion that occurs when the ego-phenomena emerges from identification with the body-mind. In reality, this ego-phenomena is simply a by-product of identification with the body-mind, it is not prior to it, or in control of it somehow. The separative body-mind simply goes about its blinded, separative business, and in the process, this ego-consciousness emerges from its activities, going along for the ride, thinking it is the point of the body-mind, and its source of life, like the tail thinking it is wagging the dog. But the real source of the life of the body lies beyond this emergent ego, just as its the real source of its consciousness is prior to the ego's emergent sense of self.

I compared this process to a hurricane in my previous post, and that's an apt analogy for many reasons, including the damage the ego can do. The central point I was making then was that the ego is just as real as a hurricane, even if there is no actual "thing" called a hurricane, only a temporary, organized pattern of wind and water and heat moving according to basic laws of physics that produces a recognizable pattern when conditions are just right for its emergence. The hurricane is nothing more than these self-organizing constituent parts that form around an empty enter, bringing to life for a time a much larger phenomena than the parts themselves could be on their own. And yet, it is also a very real phenomena with characteristics of its own that none of its constituent parts have when viewed singly.

Now, imagine for a moment that all of those parts, those elements of nature that make up a hurricane, are themselves conscious, and that the whole of their parts becomes conscious as well, in an even greater fashion, so that this hurricane is actually self-aware on a scale not comprehensible to the parts it is made of.


That's fairly similar to what the body-mind is - a temporary conjunction of much smaller physical processes, organs and nerves and cells, each of which is composed of ever smaller parts, each conscious in their own tiny way, all coming together to form an organized system of much greater complexity and awareness than any of its parts. And out of that, emerges a consciousness and identity greater than the consciousness of its parts. That's how we get the sense of being a singular bodily consciousness, even though we are composed of trillions of cells, each of which is alive in its own right. Our own bodily sense of identity emerges from all of these cells, and processes by which they organize themselves and function, and it is completely dependent upon that process continuing, even as individual cells grow and die and are replaced by new ones.

Let's also be clear, this personal consciousness that emerges from the body-mind is simply an after-effect, an emergent artifact of that temporal organizing process. As the body-mind grows and ages, that emergent consciousness grows and ages also, because it emerges from the body's own process. It doesn't control that growth or aging, it is merely a product of it. The hurricane does not control its own constituent parts and pieces. It can't decide where it will move, how big or fast its winds will become, what kind of damage it will do and where. If it becomes self-aware, it may well have some grandiose notions about itself, but even these are merely by-products of its own organization, they are not something it actually is responsible for organizing or controlling in some inner, mystical manner.

In that sense, the ego-phenomena is utterly useless and has no real practical purpose, other than to go along for the ride in the body-mind's developmental travels, moving from birth to growth and development to death without having any real say in that whole process. It is the original Emperor's New Clothes, which we like to think has vast power over its domain, but is actually nothing but a facade hiding the ego's naked impotence.

So what is this ego-phenomena, and what can it actually do? Well, if we look towards its origins, we can see that the original separation of consciousness from its own form created two strange domains of life. One is the separative body-mind, which is form and energy in movement through time and space. The other is this observing consciousness, the ego, which is aware of and identified with this multi-faceted form. And yet that is all the ego can do - observe. The egoic consciousness that emerges from the original process of identification and separation is itself separate from its own form, the body-mind, and all it can do is observe the body-mind suffering or enjoying whatever the body-mind experiences. That is all it is - an observing consciousness, with no control over what it observes, or even where its attention is directed.

And this is what the ego rebels against, and tries as hard as it can to overcome - this wall of separation between its own observing nature, and all that it observes. The ego tries like crazy to become one with what it observes, to feel it and direct it and unify with it and even be it, but it can't accomplish the task.


My former Guru Adi Da once made a wonderfully apt - and delightfully crude - analogy to the frustrated observing consciousness of the ego. He was an avid purveyor of pornographic videos, sometimes watching several in a row for his evening's entertainment. On one occasion, he mentioned to a small group at his house that we weren't quite understanding what he was talking about when he referred to the ego's dilemma. He said that he had recently seen a particular porno movie that really struck him as illustrating this point. In it, two women were having sex, one wearing a strap-on dildo, the other in the receiving position, doggie-style. What struck him about this video was the woman with the strap-on dildo, seemed to him to be a genuine lesbian, for whom this was not just some acting gig, but something she was really into. It seemed to him that this lesbian (or possibly an aspiring transsexual) was really trying as hard as she could to get the feeling of being a man with a penis fucking a woman. She wasn't acting, she was really trying to get it on with this other woman. But there was a problem she couldn't overcome, as hard as she tried. As Adi Da summarized it, "She doesn't have the dick for it!'
He pointed out how inherently frustrating her desire was, of wanting to have a dick to fuck this woman with. A strap-on was a poor substitute for the real thing. It was never going to give her what she wanted no matter how hard she tried, because she didn't have a real dick. And then he pointed out that this is what our whole problem with the body-mind and the world boils down to. We, as the observing consciousness, want to get it on with the world. We want to fuck the world, even literally, and so we strap on this body-mind vehicle, and try to get the sensation of having a dick, so to speak, to fuck the universe with. But the observing consciousness has no real dick. It can't ever attain the goal it seeks, because it lacks what that requires. It doesn't actually have a body-mind, it just attaches itself to something it is not. At best, it can imagine itself having a body-mind, identifying with it in its imagination, and strapping on a substitute to feed that imaginative desire fulfilled. But it won't ever be the real thing, and it will always end up leaving us frustrated and separate, like a lesbian wearing a strap-on.

Whatever Adi Da's limitations were as a teacher and a realizer (or as a human being for that matter), he had a point here worth repeating. This observing consciousness can't ever be satisfied, it can't ever get it on with the world in the way it would like, it can't actually love fully or unconditionally, or be loved in unity, it can only imagine these things, aspiring towards something it is incapable of ever reaching. And neither can the body-mind itself experience what it wants to experience either. As long as the two are separated from one another by the principle and process of identification, they are going to feel this same unbridgeable awareness. That doesn't mean they can't feel pleasure or pain, or even all kinds of spiritual delights along the way. But even then, it's all merely imaginative self-fascination, not a literal unity beyond separation, because the emergent ego-phenomena has no dick that can actually penetrate its separative nature and find unity with the body-mind or the world.


The ego-phenomena is just an observer with unrealistic expectations. Some spiritual traditions have made much of this, talking about learning to "be the witness". Advaita in particular often teaches that realization is a matter awakening to this "witness consciousness", or turiya, the fourth state of consciousness beyond the ordinary three of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. But what does even that amount to, other than simply becoming self-aware as this separate ego-phenomena? In itself, the witness is merely this emergent ego, not some free or liberated infinite state beyond the ego. At best, being the witness is merely being more in touch with our own separated egoity.

So what to do? Literally, what can we do, if we are simply this emergent ego-phenomena? Well, not much, to be honest. We can't really "do" anything, because we don't have the dick for that. We can live in our imaginations, seeing ourselves as doing all sorts of amazing things, even as heroic supermen and women doing great and important feats of splendor and creativity, even reaching for and attaining the spiritual heights, but that only gives us an imaginary and temporary satisfaction. At best, it really does seem that all we can do is be observers of the body-mind and its world, witnesses without portfolio.

This leave only one way out of our confusion. As I've said before, this involves getting back to the root of the matter, and no longer identifying with the body-mind, and instead merely letting ourselves be what we are before identification messes up our whole scene. But what does that even mean, in any practical sense, if we can't actually do anything?


What we must realize is that, as much as it might seem that we have separated from our original nature into these two halves, and from that emerged as a separative ego-consciousness, all of that has merely occurred within our imaginative consciousness. And though we live in that imaginative consciousness, lost in a world of illusions, even there, a thin thread remains that ties us to that original reality, regardless of how deeply immersed in the multiplying illusions of identification we have become.

As I mentioned in a previous post on The Cosmology Of Reality And The Ego, within the realm of the ego-illusion, in which our infinite reality has been reduced to a finite world of limitations, there remains one living, conscious link to that infinite reality - the Goddess Power, also known as the Guru. I'll write more about that in a future post, but for practical purposes, we can describe the Goddess Power in the simplest possible terms as "The Way of Feeling".


This is what even the separative, emergent ego-phenomena can do. It can learn to feel. It cannot initiate action, it cannot think for itself even, it cannot discriminate or understand itself or pursue anything real, other than strap-on solutions, but it can still feel. It may not be able to determine what it feels, or where, or how, or with whom, but it can nonetheless feel whatever its state or condition is in any given moment.

This is what it actually means to be the witness, or the observer, in the positive sense. All observation and perception tends to separate consciousness even further from its objects, regardless of the medium. But when we feel these without any discrimination or imposed values, we begin to bridge that separation. This is because the true nature of consciousness is feeling.


By examining ourselves through the simplest mechanisms of feeling, we can begin to see that this is the first casualty of identification. In effect, identification suppresses our ability to feel. It reduces our ability to feel the infinite, until we can only feel limitations and obstructions and fleeting forms of pleasure and happiness that are themselves limited and obstructed. Because these involve pain and suffering, we reduce our feeling capacity even further, so as not to feel these, until we become essentially numb, unable to feel anything but the most rudimentary sensations. accompanied by that dull ache that Buddhism calls dukkha. We further numb this ache by engaging in bodily activities that either distract us from it, or numb us even further. And we produce even more imaginary realms of excitement and pleasure from these.


The body-mind pursues this numbing in one direction, the ego-consciousness pursues it in another direction, and the two synchronize their efforts in a wholly dysfunctional pattern of alienated life. Identification with the body-mind screws up both our consciousness and the body-mind in ways we can barely fathom, unless we allow ourselves to feel what is going on in each. Otherwise, we simply become lost in their respective forms of separation and disturbance. So feeling becomes our only way out of this mess, and feeling is not an action of any kind, or a thought process, or even an emotional or physical sensation. Feeling is our original nature, returning as a reflected echo in the chambers of separative consciousness, reminding us of who we once were, and who we can know ourselves as once again if we listen to what it is trying to tell us.


The Way of Feeling is ridiculously simple, then, because our problems all boil down to simple dissociation from the original feeling being. Therefore, the solution is merely to feel, even within the ordinary context of our dissociation. Not to act, not to think, not to imagine, not to make plans, not to pursue answers in the various forms and experiences available to the body-mind, not to dissociate from the body-mind into the witness position, not to see or perceive or understand anything at all, but merely to feel whatever we are, whatever we happen to experience - including all our crazy seeking and delusional perceptions and activities. At core, it is to feel this primal disturbance that is identification with form, this primal dissociation, and to feel the very source of it all. Everything else is simply another form of the same problem, the problem of identification and all its extensions in life and consciousness. And since all our ordinary feelings are merely versions of this original disturbance of feeling, our only recourse is to feel them, whatever they are, regardless of their content. By feeling everything that arises, our dissociation is not only made conscious, it is also healed in the process.


In practice, this Way of Feeling simply means to allow everything to be felt, the whole process of identification and its results felt as it is, in whatever forms we experience, for better and worse, regardless of the results. The ego cannot do anything more than this, when it comes down to it. We can feel ourselves feeling pleasure, we can feel ourselves feeling pain, we can feel all the ramifications of this, and we can feel the basic sense of egoity itself, this feeling of "me" that is always present regardless of what the body-mind goes through. This requires no change on our part, other than in our feeling-orientation. This can be done, because even the emergent ego still feels. It is not a dead zombie of feelingless awareness, regardless of how diminished its capacity to feel has become.


The ego may seem like a zombie much of the time, but even the walking dead have a connection to the feeling being, and this can be revitalized at any time. We do that to some degree, it's just that we limit the process by only allowing ourselves to feel things we like feeling - and even those not too strongly - and running away from or suppressing feelings we don't like. That doesn't entirely work, because what is suppressed or avoided always comes back to bite us on the ass one day no matter how hard we try to keep them at bay. The unconscious has a way of making itself known regardless of our wishes that it just go away. And so much of our life is actually ruled by these unconscious forces in us, either by proxy, or by our efforts in life being ruled by this principle of avoidance. We try to associate ourselves with desirable phenomena, but the undesirable is always lurking in the background, ready to strike, often when we are least aware of its intentions. Although we live by the principle of separation, we fail even to separate when it comes down to it. Unconsciousness becomes the only working form of separation we can achieve, and even that is illusory.


So the Way of Feeling means allowing ourselves to feel the very feelings that we have relegated to our unconsciousness. All that we do not want to feel cannot help but arouse our curiosity, until we feel compelled to open Pandora's Box and let them out. Although this might feel at first like a terrible mistake, even a catastrophic error, the restoration of our feeling-being must begins with this kind of direct self-knowledge.

The Way of Feeling isn't merely about feeling the Divine Being in some really juicy loving manner that every fool could enjoy. It also means feeling its dualistic opposite, all the horrid and wretched feelings that have been suppressed and exiled to our unconscious. And as these arise, we will also feel our tendency to identify with both. We will want to identify with these Divine feelings of bliss and presence, and also with the terrible feelings of being a wretched and depraved personality filled with desires and lusts and hostilities of all kinds. Maybe we will want to identify with the Divine, and dis-identify with the bad stuff. Or maybe we will go the opposite way, identifying with the dark things and feeling bad about ourselves, but praising that Great God up there in the sky. Or we may alternate between the two. Either way, it doesn't much matter, as long as we allow ourselves to feel the whole process as deeply as we can.


If we allow ourselves to simply feel the process of identification, desire, and aversion, we can begin to actually feel the source of these. We can actually begin to feel the inchoate clinging and holding on that is identification's trademark. We can feel the way this clinging actually suffocates us, and separates body-mind from consciousness, each becoming dysfunctional seeming-entities in the process, rather than infinite patterns of infinite being. And the more we actually feel, the more we feel the feeling being who feels, and the more the feeling being feels the being that feels the feeling being, the more feeling comes to dominate every aspect of our lives. We begin to feel the feeling of feeling feeling feeling to the point of infinite regression in feeling.


This endless recursion of feeling feeling feeling mirrors the same recursion that occurred when identification itself began to separate our consciousness of feeling from our own form, but in reverse. And by reversing the process, we find ourselves approaching the very source from which we have separated. The feeling of that separation becomes overwhelming and unmistakable. The primal emotion of fear rears its ugly head in its purest form, as the very fear of death itself, the loss of what we identify with, comes to the fore. And this allows us to consciously identify the very identification that originated it all, and relinquish it. That's what enlightenment comes down to.

This is evident in the account Ramana Maharshi gave of his own enlightenment. He became overwhelmed by a completely unavoidable fear of death. But instead of running away from this fear, or trying to solve it or push it into his unconsciousness, he simply allowed himself to feel it completely. Rather than running away from his fear, or trying to solve it or make it go away, he consciously encouraged it to overwhelm him, to the point of actually living through a psychic death process, just to see what it was about, and what would remain if he died. And in the process, his whole egoic identification with the body-mind simply died. The emergent ego died in the process as well, because without identification with the body-mind, there was no fuel to feed that illusion.


Instead, what emerged from Ramana's consciousness was what he later called the Self. But that was not what it originally was to him. That was merely the phrase from traditional Hinduism that he felt corresponded to his own direct experience when studying about it years later. In the moment, it felt to him that he had become possessed by some "Great Spirit" that took him over and left no trace of his previous identity. This leads to a very interesting conversation about what emerges from enlightenment, that will have to wait for a later post. For just as the ego emerges from the process of identification, something even more powerful and profound emerges from the relinquishment of identification.


For now, it is enough to merely focus on the process of feeling what we are, even as egos identified with a body-mind. Passing through that great fear, as Ramana did, or as Jesus' teaching about taking up his cross and following him into crucifixion recommends, is our only meaningful path, and that requires that we feel not only our fears, but everything else in us that avoids reality through identification with and contraction upon the body-mind. All our doubts, our pains and sorrows, our joys and pleasures, must be felt nakedly, with real interest and openness, so that our feeling being rises to prominence, even within the limits and structure of the ego.

In the process we will find, if we allow ourselves to feel deeply enough, even to the point of tears, that we have help from within the limited world we find ourselves in. The help takes many forms, and like the ego, all of them emerge from a single source, in this case an infinite one that is free of all identification. That source is the Guru, who emerges from the very source of this entire realm, even from within ourselves as we begin to feel more deeply, and allow all experience to be felt, rather than avoided. The Guru is therefore just as real as we are - even more real, because the Guru is not limited by the process of identification, even if we can seemingly limit Her by our own identification with Her, and our own limited perceptual imagination.


We have to be warned, of course. The Guru is not wearing a strap-on dildo. She has the real goods to love completely and unconditionally, because she is not separate from the world She appears within. Her purpose is not to play-act at fucking with us from some separated position far away or above and beyond. Her purpose is to help bring us through our own fear, to the place in which all our identifications with the body-mind have begun, and where they also have their end. The Heart is Her place of worship, Her source and being, and also the altar upon which she sacrifices our egoic identification. She experiences the Heart as Her very Self, not as a separate place to go either deep within or high above, but everywhere, and in everyone, simulataneously. Her method is not dildo worship of some substitute image or idol in the mind, but unconditional feeling. It's the practice we have all feared and tried to avoid, but which resistance to does us no good, and cannot last in any case. It's merely a matter of when and to what degree we will submit ourselves to our own feeling being. We each have our holdout strategies and our procrastination, but feeling will always win out in the end.

And yet, even these forms of resistance to feeling can be felt. We can allow ourselves to feel our own numbness. Anything that obstructs us, whether in ourselves or in the body-mind or the world, can be felt, and by feeling it, we can move into the deeper levels of our feeling life. Eventually we will come to see that the only real choice we ever have in any given moment is whether we are going to allow ourselves to feel what is going on or not. Whatever bizarre tendencies of the mind or body that have led us to this moment, we cannot control or change, but we can feel them. And oddly enough, feeling them is the only thing that actually changes them, even if not by our direct intention. By feeling what we are up to, even the body-mind starts to change and become purified, even without our control over the process. It just happens spontaneously, because the feeling being is at the root of the body-mind as well, and even of the world. So the feeling practice can actually change everything in our experience, but in ways we cannot easily predict or control, and without our direction. It may even move in the opposite direction than we intend, for precisely the plain fact that every action tends to produce equal and opposite reactions. But even those reactions can be felt, and by feeling them, purify them as well.


As the body-mind opens up in feeling, strange and bizarre things may begin to happen. We may even seem to get "psychic" and spiritually awake. We may run off in pursuit of those remarkable, shiny things as well, as if they are the point of this process, which they are not. Whatever arises is merely something else to feel, not something to identify with and pursue as if it offers some avenue by which the ego really will fulfill itself. And by feeling these, our feeling becomes purified of them too, and moves on, and on, feeling ourselves more and more deeply, through thick and thin, until the feeling-being itself stands out as the only reality upon which our life turns. And then there is the possibility of genuine, penetrating insight that upends the whole illusion.

That, too, isn't something we can control or direct ourselves towards. We can't do anything but feel the source of our own process, the feeling-source of our own mind and life and awareness, and allow grace to do the rest. The Goddess Power will show us how that is done, through whatever means She chooses to use. It certainly is an amusing ride, however, and worth feeling every bit of as we slide down the roller coaster to the next rushing adventure. Or, we may simply sit still in the midst of all that rushes about us, feeling the whole of it. That's what meditation is, after all. It's simply sitting in feeling, and feeling the feeling of feeling, and feeling that too, ad infinitum, until there is only infinite feeling in all directions at once.








4 comments :

  1. Try to think of humans as creator gods in a 3ed dimensional wave function. It is a work in progress and not a finished product.

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  2. The internet is bogged down with bogus blogs with no real message but the post was fantastic and well worth the read.Thank you for sharing this with me. vibrators

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. The dildo strap on analogy was really helpful for me to get my head around that elusive concept of the illusion of our experience in our human bodies in this material world relative to absolute reality that our current senses cannot perceive. The sense of desperation and desire match between the two that make the analogy work better than most, though usually a story about a strap-on dildo would sort of scare me off, haha. I appreciate this thoughtful, helpful blog post, thank you.

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