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#2234- Thursday, August 18, 2005 - Editor: Jerry Katz  

I recently received Radical Happiness, a bright and useful book from Gina Lake. Gina writes clearly on the basic teaching of Advaita, as you will see from the excerpts below.    

Excerpts from Radical Happiness: A Guide to Awakening

by Gina Lake

About life

This world is all divine play—lila—as the Hindu mystics say, a way for the Oneness to experience what it could not experience any other way. The Oneness hides from itself in this world with the intent of finding itself again. It becomes deeply immersed in illusion—the illusion of being a separate individual—so that it can explore life as these many forms, which allow it to have an enormous range of experience. The ego, this sense of separation, is not a mistake but created by the Oneness as a means for playing in and exploring this physical reality. We are the Oneness that allows the mind to spin its illusions and create the drama the Oneness is delighting in. There is no mistake here. The mind, the ego, and the illusion are all intended to make manifest the playground of life. Meanwhile, the Self participates in its creation by being aware of it all.

We are forever spinning stories about ourselves and others and about our past and future. These cause us great suffering because they are not true, or at least not the whole truth. We create an imaginary reality with these stories, and then we live in it. Meanwhile, the Self allows whatever reality the egoic self is creating. It is perfectly willing to have whatever experience we choose. It enjoys learning from it all. It is fascinated to see how the story will play out. The Self is enthralled with its creation and joyously anticipates its every move. When we awaken and our identity shifts from the ego to the Self, we feel this joy and the love the Self has for itself in all its many forms.

About the mind

The mind dictates the supposed truth to us about who we are and how things are, and we believe it—until we don’t. The mind is an imposter dictator. It spins a false reality. Behind the mind lies Awareness of the mind, the body, and everything that exists—and that is who we are.

Just as we become engrossed in movie images and forget our surroundings, the ego becomes entranced by the movement of the mind, its thoughts, its feelings, and its desires. This becomes its world, its reality. It doesn’t notice the space, the nothingness, the emptiness between the thoughts. Following our thoughts and feelings keeps us very busy and leads to a lot of suffering. It creates the drama we call “my life.” However, life doesn’t have to go in the direction of our thoughts and feelings. That is not the life intended by the Self. It intends a different story, a simpler and potentially happier and more fulfilling one. However, the Self allows us to create these dramas and learn from them until we tire of them and begin to question the cause of our suffering.

The mind ignores so much of what is present in any moment. It only experiences its version of the moment. When we are identified with the mind, all we see is what it sees: separation; and all we experience is what it experiences: thoughts, feelings, and sensory input, which are part of the illusion it is creating and living. In a sense, there are two possible experiences of every moment: the moment as experienced by the Self and the moment as experienced by the ego. The ego’s experience of the moment is struggle, conflict, effort, dissatisfaction, restlessness, and unease. The Self’s experience of the moment is freedom, happiness, peace, contentment, and joy.

About thoughts

All sorts of untrue ideas and assumptions exist in the mind, including many opposite and contradictory ones. It reasons one way on one day and another way on the next. It concludes one thing and then it concludes the opposite. It wants one thing and then it wants something different. It is fickle because its conclusions are based on contradictory evidence and beliefs. The mind’s beliefs, ideas, and opinions are not coherent and consistent; so how can the mind’s conclusions be?

Despite its unreliability, the mind is sure of its viewpoint—and it can be very convincing. A thought arises, and often a sense of great certainty is attached to it, so we agree with it without examining it. Our thoughts can be very convincing regardless of whether they are true or not. It is like having a propaganda machine in our head, but who is spewing propaganda and why?

There is no answer to who is spewing this propaganda because there is no one “behind the curtain.” Like the wizard of Oz, the ego is not what we think it is. It has no real substance. It is nothing more than a bunch of disparate beliefs and ideas. Behind the ego, there is no one who has all the answers. It is more like a computer that has been programmed with platitudes and beliefs. Like the mechanical gypsies found at carnivals, you put your money in, and out pops an answer. You never know what will pop out, but you can be sure something will if you give it your attention (your money).

Why the egoic mind acts like a propaganda machine is simple, really: It is the mechanism that keeps the illusion going. It is programmed to make the illusion believable. It is part of the Self’s game of hide and seek. Who programmed it? The Self, of course (there is no one else), but the specific programming it contains depends on our genetics and environment. Our mind is programmed to create the particular experiences the Self intends to have through us—until we awaken from the illusion and the Self becomes embodied. After that, the programming only serves when necessary.

Although thoughts may have some wisdom to them, for the most part, they are stabs at truth and tell us little about how to live in this moment. Instead, they keep us at arm’s length from the moment. They keep us living in a mentally fabricated reality—the realm of ideas—rather than in the now. They interfere with life rather than enhance it. This is contrary to our deeply held belief that thoughts are important, relevant, and meaningful. This belief is the lynchpin that, when removed, causes the whole game to fall apart; and where we land is right smack dab into Reality—into this alive, present moment.

Thinking can be like any other activity we are present to. We can be present to our thoughts just as we are present to whatever else is part of that moment. When we are present to our thoughts, it won’t feel like we are thinking them but more like we are noticing them being thought, which is very different from the usual way of thinking.

About the ego, the me

The ego would not exist without the mental drama it creates. It exists and thrives on thoughts about the past and plans of the future. It constantly mulls over the story of me: “How’s it going for me?” “How am I going to do?” “How did I do?” “What do I have to do to get things to go my way?” Evaluations and plans are the stuff the ego feeds on, which cause it to grow, until it looms large in our consciousness, blocking out awareness of other aspects of Reality. When we live in the egoic state of consciousness, life is about the story and how it is going and all the worries, fears, concerns, and problems entailed in that. This is the ongoing drama that the ego is engrossed in.

The ego—the me—appears to exist, although it actually only exists as a thought. It appears the ego is having thoughts, but the ego itself is a thought. This is another of the great illusions, which keeps us enmeshed in the egoic state of consciousness. The ego seems very real, and yet it has no substance. If you look very closely, you see that it is composed of thoughts about me and nothing more.

Absorption with the me is behind much of our suffering because the me is not only a very small part of the truth, it doesn’t even exist. This constant self-reflection seems valuable when we are engaged in it. We think it is improving us or our lives, but instead, it takes us away from life.

When we forget for a moment about the me, we still exist as consciousness. This consciousness is moving the body and aware of everything there is to be aware of. The me doesn’t need to be in the picture at all for life to be happening. The experience of no me is quite surprising when we first begin experiencing it for longer periods of time, but really, this is the most natural state.

About suffering:

The belief that things should be other than the way they are right now is the belief most responsible for the suffering on this planet. It is a lie. Things can never be different than the way they are right now because it is already too late. Life has moved on to the next moment, and that moment cannot be different from what it is either. Life is just happening, and the mind is saying no to it all. It argues with reality at every turn, but this doesn’t change a thing. It only makes for a lot of unhappiness.

The way out of this suffering is to notice that this is going on. Notice how often the mind says no to what is in this moment. Notice how it brings its view of good and bad to every moment and instantly decides it should be different than it is. We allow this to continue because we unconsciously believe that this is a good strategy for life.

The ego is at battle with life, and attacking each moment makes it feel safe, as if it can ward off trouble by declaring what is wrong. The truth is that nothing is ever wrong with what is. The mind just arbitrarily defines whatever is as wrong. It makes the moment its enemy and then prepares a strategy for fighting it. This is how it creates the drama we call life.

We can learn a lot from our feelings about the role our beliefs play in our suffering. Our feelings call attention to our mistaken beliefs and make it possible to become free of them if we are willing to look in that direction. Usually, we don’t. We are not used to thinking of our thinking as the problem but rather something else that needs to be changed so that we can feel better. Instead of looking for the mistaken belief behind the feeling and either changing or ignoring it, we try to change reality to fit our beliefs—and that is a prescription for suffering.

About happiness:

If you just notice, you will see that happiness is already here. Still, no matter how good life may be, the ego says no to it: “It would be better if….” “I will be happy when….” As long as we don’t follow these thoughts, we will be happy. But usually we give our attention to the ego’s rejection of what is rather than to what is. We give this “no” the power to steer our actions: We jump from one idea to the next, trying to make life and ourselves better.

We will never attain happiness by listening to the “no.” Happiness just is. It is inherent in the moment—in the now—in the form of joy, acceptance, and love. It cannot not be. We only have to notice what already is. That is the only reality there is, so why waste your attention on what is not?

We think that some day there will be no more “no”—no more ego arguing against reality—and then we will finally be happy. But that day will never come. If you wait for the “no” to disappear, you will be waiting a very long time.

We don’t have to get rid of the “no” to be happy; we just have to see it for what it is—the programmed discontent of the ego—and ignore it. The ego will never be happy, but we can be if we don’t give our attention to what the mind says we need to be happy. The ego doesn’t know about happiness. What can it know about happiness? Its job is to manufacture unhappiness, and it is very skillful at convincing us otherwise.

About acceptance

Saying yes to what is doesn’t mean we have to like what is. We only have to be willing to let it be the way it is. This is a lot easier to do when we see the whole truth about something and not just part of it, as the ego does. The whole truth is that every experience has both positives and negatives and that whatever is, is constantly changing. Whatever we don’t like in this moment will not exist in another. No two moments are ever the same. Even how we feel about what is changes. Feelings are another part of what is that we don’t have to like; we just have to allow. Saying yes to what is just means allowing it to be the way it is.

We could call this acceptance instead of allowing, but “acceptance” seems to imply resignation. In this case, however, “acceptance” really just means telling the truth about what is. And the truth is that what is just is. That is all we have to accept. We accept that it is. We can’t change the fact that we might prefer something to be other than it is, and we don’t have to. Preferences are the way they are. A preference for something to be other than it is, is just one of the things to be accepted, allowed.

About the Self

There is nothing closer to us than the Self. It is not something we have to go searching for. We have always been alive as the Self, but it is very quiet and overlooked much of the time because the mind is so noisy. Because our senses keep us focused on things instead of experience, we often miss the experience of this moment, which is where the Self can be felt. Who we are is not a thing but a Be-ing—we are the experience of awareness, aliveness, joy, love, wisdom, and happiness. And that is what the experience of every moment holds.

Because the entire world is the Self, a full experience of any aspect of it will bring us into the now and into the experience of the Self. The Self delights in experiencing itself. That is one reason it has created the physical world. Through it, it is experiencing itself in various forms. We make it possible for the Self to explore and experience the physical world. We are like sense organs that allow the Self to experience itself through creation.

About awakening:

The hardest thing about waking up is staying committed to the Truth. We have to want the Truth more than we want to be someone. Until we fully commit ourselves to the Truth, the ego will remain in charge. The ego has every reason to resist our awakening, but the suffering of ego-identification ultimately wakes us up. The ego is both the problem and the solution. Given this, we can’t help but wake up—eventually.

Many want to wake up, but they don’t want to pay the price. It seems very dear: the me and its story. But how hard is it, really, to give up something that doesn’t even exist? If you didn’t have a Lexus, would it be hard to give it up? Of course not. But if you believed you had a Lexus, then it would be. All we need to do is stop believing in something that doesn’t exist. Nothing else changes, really, just the belief that you exist, that you matter. The truth stays the same: You never existed in the first place. It was all an illusion.

This truth can be hard to swallow. It means giving up not only our ideas about ourselves but our ideas period: all of our opinions, beliefs, judgments, hopes, dreams, and our ideas about the past and future. These are the only things that make us who we think we are. Nothing else. These are all that have ever differentiated us from others, us from the Self. This may seem like a high price, but what are they really? They are just ideas.

The mind is the great generator of identity. It thinks the egoic self into reality. We can just as easily make this egoic self disappear by not thinking. When we stop thinking, our story about me disappears. This is proof that the me is a fabrication of the mind. When we stop thinking, or even just stop paying attention to our thoughts, the me disappears. In its place is the truth of who we are—the Self—which cannot be put into words.

About who you are

When we are identified with the mind, we believe that we are who we think we are: our self-image and the labels we have for ourselves. But is that who you are? If that is who you are, then who is it that is able to think about this question? What is it that is aware of the ideas that make up the self-image? What is it that is aware of the coming and going of thoughts?

This idea me may seem to reside in the body or the mind or both, but what is it that is aware of the body and the mind? Could that be who you are, and the body and the mind are just functioning within that awareness? In that case, would you be limited to just the body and mind, or could you actually be anything you are aware of right now? Could all of it be you? What if that were true? What would that mean? Life would be lived from a very different place.

These questions can wake us up out of the egoic state of consciousness. Questioning the assumptions of the mind is a very powerful tool for awakening. Becoming aware of the mind, its thoughts, and the truth or falseness of them can help us bust through the web of illusion cast by the mind and the ego, which fools us into thinking that we are separate when we are not. 

The peace, happiness, and joy we have been searching for, competing for, have been here all along in the space between our thoughts. We are this peace, happiness, and joy. We missed it because it is who we are. It is too close for us to see, like an eye that cannot see itself. It is so ever-present that, like water to a fish, it is taken for granted and not questioned. Like the air we breathe, it is invisible and without dimension, and the egoic mind doesn’t pay attention to such things. It has eyes only for the tangibles in life.

~ ~ ~

To read more about Radical Happiness and to order the book, please visit

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