Self ---ish by Larry Newman

I grew up with an Evangelical Christian background and part and parcel to the teachings was our being saved and going to heaven when we die. From the beginning, for even then I was a bit odd, not assuming what I was told was the whole story, I wondered: What part of me goes to heaven? Read More...

Christ The Eternal Tao - (excerpt) by Hieromonk Damascene

In modern Western society, many people turn away from the Christianity of their formative years because they find its truths smothered under an unreal kind of religiosity. They see that the people in the churches are not changing and becoming better, but, rather are comforting themselves and each other la their unregenerate state. Read More...

"How Can The Bible Be Authoritative?" (excerpt from full essay) by N.T. Wright

I am very grateful for the invitation to give this particular lecture, I should perhaps say that my reflections here arise not so much from reading lots of books about the authority of the Bible—though I have read some of the recent ones—but from the multiple experience I find myself having, of studying and teaching the New Testament at an academic level, of regular liturgical worship in which the Bible plays a central part, and of evangelistic and pastoral work in which, again, though not always so obviously, the Bible is at or at least near the heart of what one is doing.  Read More...

“Spiritual Materialism” (excerpt from) CUTTING THROUGH SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM by Chogyam Trungpa

WE HAVE COME here to learn about spirituality. I trust the genuine quality of this search, but we must question its nature. The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality. Read More...

Of Butterflies and Egos (chapter from "30 Days of Tao") by William Martin

My needs are real,
as are my sorrows.
My opinions count,
as do my actions.
I’m the star of this production
so listen to me
and take me seriously!
When I’m gone the loss will be
horrendous for I am the

There is nothing wrong with having an ego. It’s an essential step in human biological and spiritual development. It is, however, at best a temporary necessity; a framework built by the brain in order to allow a subjective experience of life. Once it has supplied this structure it can naturally soften and fade into the background. The unconditioned mind can then move back into its natural role as the primary identity; an identity not nearly as separate, isolated, and fearful as the ego-identity.

Unfortunately the “civilization” of human society over the past five thousand years or so has moved so rapidly that the ego process/structure has lost its ability to soften. It has been pushed into an adaptive strategy for which it is not equipped. The complexity of warring nation-states, media-driven belief and behavior, over-population, and economic domination of the many by the few have all worked together to create a hyper-vigilant ego; one that is not capable of its natural voluntary softening. In order to recapture the satisfaction and pleasure of life as it was designed to be, we need to consciously help the ego release its death grip on our being.

It is not a battle. We are not at war with our ego, though it often is pictured that way by well-meaning spiritual practices. Our ego is natural, essential, and able to play its necessary role in the developmental saga of human life; but only if it is allowed to soften once it has provided structure to our experience.

Believing that the ego structure is the acme of human consciousness is akin to believing that the cocoon is the acme of caterpillar consciousness; that once the caterpillar has carefully spun the cocoon and let it harden into place the developmental work is done. Pity our species which is striving so desperately to keep the shell solid, seeing it as the only safety possible. Pity the society which extols the strongest, most impermeable, and most rigid of egos, cheering their advancement to positions of power and wealth.

Were the caterpillar to believe that the cocoon was the real and final stage of life, it would shrivel within that shell and that would be the end. Despite our bluster and appearance of control and power, that shriveling is exactly what is happening to our personal, social, and institutional life. We must begin to understand that the ego is merely a mental structure designed to let us process a tangible and material existence for a short period, while we gather the wisdom and experience necessary to take the next developmental step.

There have always been butterflies among us. Every generation has seen them. Most of them, however, have gone unnoticed because their priorities are so different from those of caterpillars. We have to look up to see them. Looking up is not something the ego feels comfortable doing, so we keep a fearful eye peeled and spin extra layers into the cocoon whenever we sense a crack developing.

Let’s all take a long, slow, deep breath and let ourselves understand that the shell will never, ever, keep us safe. It doesn’t need to. Let’s find out what’s next after the cocoon.

"The Art of Listening" from 'Power of Now' (and Commentary)

listening-under-summer-skies- by jacqueline-lovesey
---Listening Under Summer Skies by Jacqueline Lovesey

When listening to another person, don't just listen with your mind, listen with your whole body.  Feel the energy field of your inner body as you listen.  That takes attention away from thinking and creates a still space that enables you to truly listen without the mind interfering. You are giving the other person space — space to be.  It is the most precious gift you can give. Most people don't know how to listen because the major part of their attention is taken up by thinking.  They pay more attention to that than to what the other person is saying, and none at all to what really matters: the Being of the other person underneath the words and the mind.  Of course, you cannot feel someone else's Being except through your own.  This is the beginning of the realization of oneness, which is love.  At the deepest level of Being, you are one with all that is. Most human relationships consist mainly of minds interacting with each other, not of human beings communicating, being in communion.  No relationship can thrive in that way, and that is why there is so much conflict in relationships.  When the mind is running your life, conflict, strife and problems are inevitable. Being in touch with your inner body creates a clear space of no-mind within which the relationship can flower.  

—Eckhart Tolle

Personal vanity and the hypnotic state set by the illusory self may be our biggest enemies to genuinely hear and connect with others.  It’s as if there’s a constant “low frequency hum,” like dampened power lines on a cold wet Spring morning, buzzing and distracting us even when we are seemingly lucid, in control of our actions and wits . With such a deafening distraction it is near impossible to listen to anyone, let alone the "still small voice within.” In this chaotic state [‘monkey mind’], self-obsessing thoughts paralyze any form of real interaction with others. And to finalize our self induced madness, we calculably pass judgement on others — sometimes even the dearest of friends!  Our minds, now crystalized like industrial  strength adhesive, simply will not budge from this lifeless quandary!  It's as if we're operating in a sensory disabled static — that disconnects us from the universe, our connectivity with others, and our own inner-stillness.  

So if we fail to know how to listen, or consciously choose not to, then what in fact are we doing?  As Tolle points out, "most people don't know how to listen because the major part of their existence is taken up by thinking."  So… a preoccupation with our mental selves?  A inner-blindness to others that separates us from their and our Being? The obvious answer to both questions is “yes.”   The real tragedy emanating from this disconnection is our utter failure to engage, to care, to show compassion, and to love. Herein lies the crux of not just our individual mania, but also the dysfunction that grips our world. It is time to put aside prideful fear, self-righteous attitudes and all mental controls and simply listen; to humble ourselves and warmly allow others hearts to speak and touch our own. In such a energized place life is lived.

—Bei Kuan-tu

If your mind habitually wanders and you’d like to consider or explore new dimensions of thought or non-thought, here’s a YouTube video that may be helpful:

“Mindfulness" by Jon Kabat-Zinn