Jerry Katz
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The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

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Highlights #985

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Monday, February 25, 2002


JAN: As long as we follow a spiritual approach
salvation, miracles, liberation, then we are bound by
"golden chain of spirituality."

MATTHEW: .........and even if we approch a path
expectations,hopes, ideas about what it will be like
the "great understanding" bops us on the head, it is
same thing as the path offering promises.

JAN: Such a chain might be beautiful to wear, with its
inlaid jewels and intricate carvings, but nevertheless, it
imprisons us.

MATTHEW: ..........yes, just think of all the wonderful
descriptions that ramana, and nisargadatta, (and many
others)have given of "what its like".

JAN:People think they can wear the golden chain for
decoration without being imprisoned by it, but they are
deceiving themselves. As long as one's approach to
spirituality is based upon enriching ego,

MATTHEW: .............and whose approach isn't? at least
for the first 10-15 years or so. and thats's if you're
lucky and have a little bit on the ball.

JAN: then it is spiritual materialism, a suicidal process
rather than a creative one. All the promises we have heard
are pure seduction.

MATTHEW: .............any description we hear about "what
its like" or "how it is", where we go, "yes thats it, thats
what its about", that's the seduction. that is ego
promising the pay-off.

JAN: We expect the teachings to solve all our problems; we
expect to be provided with magical means to deal with our
depressions, our aggressions, our sexual hangups.

MATTHEW: ..............which is, come on admit it, the main
reason 99.9% of us get on a spiritual path in the first

JAN: But to our surprise we begin to realize that this is
not going to happen. It is very disappointing to realize
that we must work on ourselves and our suffering rather
than depend upon a savior or the magical power of yogic

MATTHEW: ...........what? work on ourselves? but the non
dual dharma, says that there is no self to work on. and i
believe that, and if i believe it hard enough it will
become true, righ right?

JAN: It is disappointing to realize that we have to give up
our expectations rather than build on the basis of our

We must allow ourselves to be disappointed, which means the
surrendering of me-ness, my achievement.

MATTHEW: ............ah, but the little trick he leaves out
is that "i" cannot surrender "me". sneaky bastard he was.

JAN: We would like to watch ourselves attain enlightenment,

MATTHEW: .............yes, look at me, look how i am
progressing, closer and closer to enlightenment, abiding
more and more in "is-ness". LOL.

JAN: watch our disciples celebrating, worshipping, throwing
flowers at us, with miracles and earthquakes occurring and
gods and angels singing and so forth.

MATTHEW: .............or at least having others tell me i'm
brilliant, the words i say are so moving and inspiring and
are creating so much opening and love in them.

JAN: This never happens. The attainment of enlightenment
from ego's point of view is extreme death, the death of
self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher.
It is the ultimate and final disappointment. Treading the
spiritual path is painful. It is a constant unmasking,
peeling off of layer after layer of masks. It involves
insult after insult.

MATTHEW: .................oh, you are at the point where
there is no you to be insulted anymore? then you missed the

JAN: Such a series of disappointments inspires us to give
up ambition. We fall down and down and down, until we touch
the ground, until we relate with the basic sanity of earth.
We become the lowest of the low, the smallest of the small,
a grain of sand, perfectly simple, no expectations.

MATTHEW: ..............yah another tricky item here cause
it is the very ambition he is adressing that says "yes, i
want that simplicity".

JAN: When we are grounded, there is no room for dreaming or
frivolous impulse, so our practice at last becomes
workable. We begin to learn how to make a proper cup of

MATTHEW: ............what? a "proper" cup of tea? from the
non dual perspective every cup of tea is a proper cup,
right? right?

JAN: how to walk straight without tripping. Our whole
approach to life becomes more simple and direct, and any
teachings we might hear or books we might read become
workable. They become confirmations, encouragements to work
as a grain of sand, as we are, without expectations,
without dreams.

We have heard so many promises, have listened to so many
alluring descriptions of exotic places of all kinds, have
seen so many dreams, but from the point of view of a grain
of sand, we could not care less. We are just a speck of
dust in the midst of the universe. At the same time our
situation is very spacious, very beautiful and workable. In
fact, it is very inviting, inspiring. If you are a grain of
sand, the rest of the universe, all the space, all the room
is yours, because you obstruct nothing, overcrowd nothing,
possess nothing. There is tremendous openness. You are the
emperor of the universe because you are a grain of sand.
The world is very simple and at the same time very
dignified and open, because your inspiration is based upon
disappointment, which is without the ambition of the ego.

MATTHEW: ...............don't you just hate these teachers
who tell you it's all about not being special and yet their
whole lives are about being special. jeez i hate that.

........visualize whirrled peas, ..........matthew



Forward from Norbunet-For resident non dual scientists

80% Conditioning 20% Awareness?

Here is a great article from the NY Times on conditioning
(brain activity trained through reward conditioning, or
attachment) and awareness (in this case, dealing with the
unexpected). While the anlaysis is very short in reading,
it does relay the important fact of higher levels of brain
activity when you are in the state of awareness VS the
mundane state of conditioning. It makes it easy to
understand why we use methods like shock (hedava) and fear
(chod practice) as a way of experiencing heightened
awareness. Need to get those brain juices flowing so that
we can experience what we are missing!

All the best!

The brain's automatic pilot

Sandra Blakeslee
The New York Times
Thursday, February 21, 2002
Compulsive gambling, attendance at sporting
events, vulnerability to telephone scams and exuberant
investing in the stock market may not seem to have much in
common. But neuroscientists have uncovered a common thread.
. Such behaviors, they say, rely on brain circuits that
evolved to help animals assess rewards important to their
survival, like food and sex. Researchers have found that
those same circuits are used by the human brain to assess
social rewards as diverse as investment income and surprise
home runs at the bottom of the ninth. . They found that the
brain systems that detect and evaluate such rewards
generally operate outside conscious awareness. In
navigating the world and deciding what is rewarding, humans
are often closer to zombies than sentient beings. . The
findings, which are gaining wide adherence among
neuroscientists, challenge the notion that people always
make conscious choices about what they want and how to
obtain it. In fact, the neuroscientists say, much of what
happens in the brain goes on outside conscious awareness. .
The idea has been around since Freud, said Gregory Berns, a
psychiatrist at Emory University School of Medicine in
Atlanta. Psychologists have studied unconscious processing
of information in terms of subliminal effects, memory and
learning, he said, and they have started to map what parts
of the brain are involved in such processing. But only now
are they learning how these different circuits interact, he
said. . "My hunch is that most decisions are made
subconsciously with many gradations of awareness," Berns
said. . P. Read Montague, a neuroscientist at Baylor
College of Medicine in Houston, says that the idea that
people can get themselves to work on automatic pilot raises
two questions: How does the brain know what it must pay
conscious attention to? And how did evolution create a
brain that could make such distinctions? . The answer
emerging from experiments on animals and people is that the
brain has evolved to shape itself, starting in infancy,
according to what it encounters in the external world. . As
Montague explained it, much of the world is predictable:
Buildings usually stay in one place, gravity makes objects
fall, light at an oblique angle makes long shadows, and so
forth. As children grow, their brains build internal models
of everything they encounter, gradually learning to
identify objects and to predict how they move. . As new
information flows into it from the outside world, the brain
automatically compares it with what it already knows. If
things match up - as when people drive to work every day
along the same route - events, objects and the passage of
time may not reach conscious awareness. . But if there is a
surprise - a car suddenly runs a red light - the mismatch
between what is expected and what is happening instantly
shifts the brain into a new state. A brain circuit involved
in decision-making is activated, again out of conscious
awareness. Drawing on past experience held in memory banks,
a decision is made: Hit the brake, swerve the wheel or keep
going. Only a second or so later, after hands and feet have
initiated the chosen action, does the sense of having made
a decision arise. Montague estimates that 90 percent of
what people do every day is carried out by this kind of
automatic, unconscious system that evolved to help
creatures survive. . Animals use these circuits to know
what to attend to, what to ignore and what is worth
learning about. People use them for the same purposes,
which as a result of their bigger brains and culture
include listening to music, eating chocolate, assessing
beauty, gambling, investing in stocks and experimenting
with drugs - all topics that have been studied this past
year with brain-imaging machines that directly measure the
activity of human brain circuits. . The circuits that have
been studied most extensively involve how animals and
people assess rewards. They involve a chemical called
dopamine. One circuit, which is in a middle region of the
brain, helps animals and people instantly assess rewards or
lack of rewards. . The circuit was described in greater
detail several years ago by Wolfram Schultz, a
neuroscientist at Cambridge University in England, who
tracked dopamine production in a monkey's midbrain and
experimented with various types of rewards, usually squirts
of apple juice that the animal liked. . Schultz found that
when the monkey got more juice than it expected, dopamine
neurons fired vigorously. When the monkey got an amount of
juice that it expected, based on previous squirts, dopamine
neurons did nothing. And when the monkey expected to get
uice but got none, the dopamine neurons decreased their
firing rate, as if to signal a lack of reward. . Scientists
believe that this midbrain dopamine system is constantly
making predictions about what to expect in terms of
rewards. Learning takes place only when something
unexpected happens and dopamine firing rates increase or
decrease. When nothing unexpected happens, as when the same
amount of delicious apple juice keeps coming, the dopamine
system is quiet. In animals, Montague said, these midbrain
dopamine signals are sent directly to brain areas that
initiate movements and behavior. These brain areas figure
out how to get more apple juice or sit back and do nothing.
In humans, though, the dopamine signal is also sent to a
higher brain region called the frontal cortex for more
elaborate processing.


Yes Joyce, thanks for posting this. It makes perfect sense
in light of the fact that a deciding individual decidingly
doesn't exist.



Why Carry?

Hafiz, Why carry a whole load of books
Upon your back
Climbing this mountain,
When tonight,
Just a few thoughts of God
Will light the holy fire.

(“I Heard God Laughing” – versions of Hafiz by Daniel



Some time ago an article appeared with the title "It's a
wonderful lie". It suggests there is an evolutionary
advantage when deceiving yourself - it makes you a better
liar, able to convince others too. Someone mentioned in the
article goes as far as to state "the conscious mind is
largely just a social front, maintained to deceive others".
Truth, he argued, is stored in the unconscious, while the
conscious is full of fabrication.

Self-deception, when having sunk deeply in the habit-mind
(like driving), could be called 'yet another face of
conditioning' which gives another perspective on the
implicit failure of seekership. Without self-deception, how
many (and which) topics lose/retain/kindle relevance?

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Jerry Katz
photography & writings

The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

Search over 5000 pages on Nonduality: