Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

During this journey, I have started to receive questions from others. At this time, my first answer is likely to be, "Go and read such and such...". That said, I have attempted to answer these questions anyway on the basis that someone may find them useful.

Have you any advice for seeking self-knowledge or greater connection with spirit?

Not knowing anything of your background, I might offer a few suggestions from my own experience:

  • Motivation. Reflect on your intention before you start anything serious. Clarify that for which you are looking. If you give your exploration the same respect you give eating, sleeping and making a living, self-knowledge will find you!
  • Perseverance. Discouragement will happen. Take time out and try looking at things from a variety of perspectives. In particular, be aware of the many perils of the spiritual path.
  • Compassion. Cultivating compassion for oneself and others will provide inner strength. Developing forgiveness for yourself and others will help you maintain a clear conscience. Unresolved guilt may distract from your exploration.
  • Health. As much as possible, support your body-mind by treating it with respect. Add more fresh, minimally processed food to your diet. Get enough sleep. If weather permits, walk or ride, instead of taking the bus or train, or driving.
  • Meditation. A little regular breathing meditation is ideal to steady the mind-body and make space for exploration, also to sharpen the mental faculty. Moderation is important; if you are trying to achieve clarity and you meditate sleepily for an hour, you'll just be practicing dullness! 10 minutes daily, or 2 minutes during peak stress could potentially provide much greater benefit.
  • Awareness. Be aware of all the pre-conceptions that you bring to the journey. You don't have to do anything with them, just be aware that they are there. The pre-conceptions or assumptions you have that you don't know about will distort your perspective. What you are seeking may be metaphorically right under your nose.
  • Intuition. Try to develop your subtle intuition (not the voice of your mind, but your Heart) - learn to be your own 'Guru', even when you look to others for advice - be discerning.
    No one else can tell you who or what you are, though they may give you pointers.
  • Tradition. If you have an active religious practice, I would emphasize the contemplative disciplines or mystical traditions, above any doctrine or ritual practice:
    • If you are Muslim, look into Sufism, eg. take a look at poetry by Rumi,
    • If you are Buddhist, look at Dzogchen (pronounced zo-chen),
    • If you are Christian, look at Christian Mysticism, eg. Meister Eckhart,
    • If you are Hindu, take a look at Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism).
    If no tradition is particularly resonant with you, or you find you cannot relate, don't waste your time.
  • Reading. Review the short reading list on the Wisdom page. If you are scientifically-minded, you will get a lot from 'The Science of the Sages', by Robert Wolfe.

Please talk about: "you are not your thoughts".

The intended meaning of this is more akin to, "you are not the meaning of your thoughts, nor the victim of them". It is used to help people develop space in a mind otherwise full to the brim of thoughts or thoughts provoking anxiety. This space is necessary to begin to observe and understand the patterns of thinking, their origin and to delve more deeply into the nature of mind itself - to gain insight into the nature of things and the nature of our suffering.

If I took a more literal interpretation of the question, I might ask, "What are you, if not your thoughts?" A deep and recurrent examination of this question is likely to lead to another, "What am I?", which itself can occasionally provoke an answer - though not one that can be adequately expressed in words. The answer is beyond mind.

Specifically, you are everything and you are nothing! We would say you are everything because that which you know of as you, the person, are as continuous with reality as a wave is with the ocean. We would say you are nothing, because all thing-ness is only definable with respect to other thing-ness (a web of duality); no thing has any independent existence aside from that with which it can be contrasted, nor that with which it is contrasted, thus, all things are empty of inherent nature or meaning. To say you are everything could lead the ego to make up a story that you are God. To say that you are nothing could lead the ego to make up a story that nothing matters and everything is hopeless. As such, we say both, because both are true and conveniently, they balance each other out in the same way as all other aspects in duality; that is, all things are empty.

What's the difference between nonduality and nihilism, if any?

Jeff Foster has a fantastic piece on this subject. Here is my attempt:

Nihilism is a concept, that seems to deny any meaning or existence to anything. The concept of nihilism relies upon a personal, relativistic self, to hold the belief that essentially nothing matters and nothing exists. In this sense, it is a denial at the extreme end of a continuum of meaning with regard to the nature of existence. As with all dualistic concepts, it necessarily implies it's opposition, which from within the dualistic body-mind framework may appear quite absurd.

Non-duality, in the sense of that which is indicated by the word, is beyond concepts and beyond words. It neither denies anything, nor affirms anything. It doesn't even affirm the concept of nonduality. It is present regardless of whether it is seen. As such, the word is an attempt to communicate that which Is (and Is Not). It points to the realisation that any duality is only apparent from the perspective of duality, and is essentially non dual, undivided and whole. The realisation of which can only lead to the complete cessation of the appearance of clinging to the appearance of an individual self. Realisation is beyond mind, because that which is realised is prior to mind.

On a mundane level, it can be illustrated with the behaviour of two hypothetical people. The 'nihilist', appears to egotistically and dogmatically assert that everything is meaningless, and may use this as the basis for self-centred behaviour or even suicide. Whilst the 'nondualist', is completely in the moment, without reservation and without sticking. They are absent the sticking to an illusory sense of concrete separation between self and other. When the sense of separation is dissolved, so too the scientifically documented hallucination of a physical centre. As such, this second individual literally perceives others as no different to themselves, and may often be perceived as compassionate and patient, though in truth they do not adhere to any principle or position.

It is the irony of dualistic reality that in order to truely 'have' something, there cannot be any attachment to it. In truth, the one who has no attachment sees 'things' as they are. The one who is attached, sees only the concept of the 'things' and so is already one-step removed from what is actually present, experiencing a hollow concept instead of the actual reality, and sensing that it is somehow incomplete. Whilst the isness of the concept and the 'thing' are actually identical, the concept misleads the mind and so appears to obscure reality, though it would probably be more accurate to say it misdirects itself leading to the perception of suffering.

Follow on Twitter Follow on Facebook My YouTube Channel

Copyright © 1999-2017 Joshua Hawcroft, All Rights Reserved.
Social media icons by