Questions About Meditation
- How do I know if I am doing breath meditation correctly?
- How do I know if I am doing bare awareness meditation correctly?
- During the love-based meditations, I have a hard time conceiving, visualizing, or imagining the different groups of people, beings, and life forms. What should I do?
Questions About Living Skillfully
- I understand we need to accept the present moment, but some people and situations are so awful that I cannot resign myself to accepting them as they are. I still want to fix those things that need improving. Why should I accept intolerable situations?
- When I am being mindful during daily life, and I see a delusion arise in my mind, what do I do next?
- What is the best way to influence my life situation and the people around me?
- I am trying hard to apply what you are teaching, but it makes me frustrated and I feel like I’m fighting myself. Any advice?
- If the universe unfolds lawfully due to cause and effect relationships; and we are all conditioned by our biology, culture, experiences, and so on; then how are people responsible for their own actions?
- I understand the need to forgive children who make mistakes, and people who have had a rough life, but what about extreme and horrific situations like what happened to the Jews in concentration camps? Why would I even want to forgive that?
- How can I be peaceful and loving when my living situation is chaotic and cruel?
- I have a hard time thinking the world was a “paradise” before there was language. Couldn’t our ancestor’s inability to communicate have been a greater problem?
- If the creation of language led to the creation of delusion, what role does thinking play in our lives?
- Can there never be a true thought?
Questions About the Organization
- I am a humanist, free-thinker, or agnostic. Will I have to adopt a belief in the supernatural to practice and get the benefits from meditation?
- I am a Christian (or Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.). Will I have to disown my religious beliefs to practice mindfulness meditation and implement these trainings?
- If all religions are attempting to point towards the same reality, as you claim, why is their so much division between religions? And why do religions cause so many people to suffer?
- Are your trainings free because they are low in quality and value?
Questions to Freeman
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FAQ About Meditation
To evaluate if you are doing breath meditation correctly, ask yourself these two questions:
1. When you realize you are lost in thought, do you gently and lovingly return your attention to the felt sensations of the breath?
2. Do you feel calm, peaceful, relaxing, and/or joyful while you are meditating?
If you answer yes to both questions, you are doing the meditation correctly.
To evaluate if you are doing bare awareness meditation correctly, ask yourself these two questions:
1. Am I being the watcher of my thoughts, emotions, and habit-patterns, or am I “lost” in the thoughts, emotions, and habit-patterns?
2. Do I feel a sense of peace, ease, and/or joy while I meditate?
If you are being the watcher and feeling peace, ease, or joy, you are doing the meditation correctly.
What is most important during these meditations is your loving intentions, not whether or not you can hold an actual mental image that includes all of the members of that group in your mind. No visualization is required. Visualization is encouraged only if you find it helpful. Visualization is discouraged if it hinders your efforts to generate loving intentions.
If visualization works for you with individuals, but not for groups, you may simply visualize one actual or archetypal member of the group, and set an intention that this being represent the entire group.
Alternatives to visualizations include having a felt sense of an individual or group, or holding an intention in your mind that your blessings be offered to the chosen individual or group.
Ultimately, feel free to try different approaches and do what is skillful and works best for you. You will know what is skillful because it will help you keep your mind peaceful, balanced, and spacious; your heart open and connected; and your body relaxed and calm.
FAQ About Living Skillfully
All we ask you to accept is the reality of the present moment as it is. The present moment has already unfolded as it is, your resistance to it does nothing productive and causes you to suffer, be reactive, and be more likely to act unskillfully, causing more suffering to yourself and others. You cannot change what already is.
When we encourage you to accept the present moment, we are not saying you need to be complacent or resigned. If you spill a glass of water on the floor, you don’t need to throw your hands up in the air, say, “well, I guess I have to accept this; now I’m going to be walking through water all day,” and do nothing. That is apathy, or discouragement, both of which are types of the delusion of aversion, and neither of which are skillful.
Instead, accept what already is, then respond appropriately with love, compassion, and skillfulness. You accidentally spill the glass of water. You can’t take that back. Accept that. Acknowledge that it serves no purpose to resist this reality by getting upset, swearing, cursing life, condemning yourself as a “klutz,” or acting out some other form of aversion.
Now that you have calmly and mindfully accepted that the water has spilled, what would be a skillful, loving, compassionate way to respond? Out of love for all whom use this room, and maybe for the floor materials and the home (if water would wreck them), you calmly wipe up the water with patience, peace, and ease. There is no drama, no judgment, blame, hatred, impatience, or others forms of delusions that arise.
In this scenario, there is no disturbance that mars your experience. You did not become resigned to your situation, but you accepted the now and responded with ease and skill. You had a positive influence in the word. This was a simple example, to show the process clearly, but this same approach can be used successfully in more challenging or extreme circumstances.
With delusions that are not strong in you, just seeing a delusion as a delusion, is enough to deactivate the energy behind its unskillful habit pattern and make it dissolve back into nothingness. Then just go on your way doing skillful things with skillful intentions.
If the delusion is stronger and more persistent, first, spend a few seconds investigating it. Calmly notice its feeling tone (typically unpleasant). Gently notice the behavior it wants you to do (typically something compulsive and unskillful). Peacefully notice the thoughts and stories in the mind that energizes the delusion and its habit patterns. With great ease and acceptance, feel any emotions arising in the body as a result of the delusional thoughts and stories present. This mindful investigation of the delusion helps your innate wisdom befriend the delusion, so the delusion is not as scary, confusing, or compelling.
Secondly, do something skillful. Your mindfulness practice will help you see how different delusions have different unskillful habit patterns. For example, when the delusion of apathy (a type of aversion) arises within me, its habit pattern is to have me squander many hours watching TV, aimlessly surfing the internet, binging on unhealthy foods, attempting to sleep when not tired, and so on. As you see these delusional patterns clearly in your life, playfully imagine how you would like to respond when these delusions arise.
One way to do this is through journaling. After your daily meditation, or at another time when you are peaceful, calm, and thinking clearly, journal a list of healthy, skillful things you would like to do when the delusion arises instead of the habitual, compulsive, unskillful patterns the delusions want you to do. With my apathy example, skillful responses include nearly everything that is not the habitual responses: meditate, make a healthy meal, call a friend, do yoga, go for a walk in the park, weed the garden, clean house, write in my journal, and so on.
Having this list of healthy, appropriate responses to the delusion in advance gives you an edge when the situation next arises. The list takes away the need to think “in the heat of the moment,” when your mind is lost in the confusion of delusion, what would be a skillful response. Do your best to mindfully implement any of the skillful actions you listed, choosing whichever one seems the most doable given your situation.
You may find it helpful to remember that all peace, joy and satisfaction comes from within. Are you seeking something externally to bring you joy or peace? Do a mini-meditation to try and connect with the inner peace and joy that is always within you. As you do something skillful, remember the inherent value of what you are doing, and how it serves yourself and others, regardless of the ultimate outcomes.
Finally, no matter what happens, be mindful so you can learn from your experience. Were you able to do something skillful? What was it? What helped you do it? What did that feel like? Were you unable to do something skillful? Did the delusion overpower you? What did that feel like? What were the effects? How might you do things differently the next time? Which skillful action might be easier to do than the one you tried? The more you learn, the more your wisdom grows.
Each delusion is its own monster, with its own peculiarities, stories, thoughts, emotions, and habit patterns. Each one you will have to get to know with mindfulness and play and experiment with what would be a skillful way to respond to it, without pushing it away, or acting it out.
With a lot of delusions, at first, it is best to simply be mindful of the delusion’s presence and refrain from acting it out in speech or action. In the beginning the emotional charges may be quite strong, so do your best to follow the three steps as outlined above. Every time you mindfully see the delusion, even if ultimately the delusion overpowers you, you are weakening that delusion within you.
As you progress on the path, and you gain more skill and understanding of your inner landscape, you will eventually be able to gently, yet firmly substitute delusions with their opposite. For example, if you hear about the perpetrator of a mass shooting, and thoughts of hatred and ill will arise, you spot those delusions, and substitute them with love and compassion for the perpetrator, the victims, and the survivors in a very genuine manner.
The ego mistakenly believes that we get what we want through aversive strategies such as judgment, blame, hostility, resentment, ill-will, cruelty, and violence; or that we get what we want through greedy strategies such as wanting, striving, forcing, stress, and strain.
If you accidentally spill a glass of water, the ego, using an aversive strategy, might seek to punish yourself or God through abusive language. The ego hopes this berating yourself will entice yourself to be more careful. Or the ego hopes your berating of God will encourage God to not let things like this happen in the future.
In contrast, your true self sees unobserved aversion and unobserved greed to be a hindrance to the smooth and effortless flow of life. Your true self uses the intentions of love and compassion to create positive change in yourself, those around you, and in your life situations. The true self knows that love and compassion helps calm and relax the body and mind; helps us be mindful, open, intimate, and receptive to seeing the truth clearly; allows us to be creative, flexible, and skillful. All of this increases our chances of having a positive influence on ourselves, those around us, and our life situations.
But you don’t need to take my word for it. See it in your own life. Be mindful and investigate these patterns.
Reflect on your life and the role that these different strategies have played. When you had to make big, challenging changes in your life, what was helpful to you: Judgment and condemnation from self or others? Wanting, greed, and the discontentment that it creates? Did these move you forward, or set you back? If they moved you forward, was the change lasting and how much stress, struggle, and suffering did they cause in the process? When you were trying to change other people, did these energies often lead to counterproductive arguments and fights? Did they tend to polarize the situation and create a wider gulf between you and them than existed before the conversation? Did things tend to escalate?
Then reflect on times when you were mindful, peaceful, calm, open, and receptive when challenging situations arose. How did you fare then? Were you more skillful? Did the change come easier than before? When you were trying to influence others, could you more readily see their point of view, come up with more creative solutions, and at least keep things calm and friendly between you both? Has the love and compassion from a friend or family member ever inspired you to make positive changes?
Mindfully pay attention to the patterns of how these different strategies work in your life and which is more successful, more skillful, and allows you to more fully live a life of peace, tranquility, and harmony with those around you. If you watch all of this mindfully, the wisdom inside you will grow, and you will naturally become more skillful and awake.
First, when frustration or a sense of fighting yourself arises, notice what delusions are active in your mind. Is their greed for the fruits of your spiritual practice? Is there self-view that makes you feel that given all of your work and effort you deserve to be farther along? Alternately, is there self-view that maybe you are doing the practice incorrectly? Is there futuring, where you are imagining a future reality where you are perpetually peaceful and happy, and then finding the now to be disappointing in comparison? Is there doubt that you are not doing the practice correctly, or maybe that the practice does not or cannot work for you?
See these delusions as the source of your frustration and sense of fighting yourself. When you identify the delusions and see the harm they are causing you, you may be better able to drop them like you would drop a hot coal that is burning your hand. If you are unable to drop them, then mindfully watch them with as much peace, ease, and joy knowing that you are doing the practice and making progress by seeing these delusions. Keep watching them until they go away on their own as is their nature to do.
Secondly, try to relax your effort. Be more loving, compassionate, and forgiving with yourself and the process. Appreciate the fact that you are on the path and putting one foot in front of the other, which is all you can do in the space of the now. Take each step with as much peace, love, compassion, and joy as you are able. Let go of future-oriented goals by holding them mindfully, so they do not become futuring. Focus on being mindful, peaceful, and joyful in the now out of love for yourself and all life.
Finally, one paradox of this practice is that you are already perfect, and, at the same time, you are evolving.
Your deepest essence, your formless nature, is already complete and whole, is already limitless love, peace, compassion, and joy. There is nothing you can do, achieve, or accomplish that is going to make you more worthy, valuable, or deserving of love. You already are these things. In other words, be mindful of self-view and judgmental thoughts that you are in some way “broken,” “unworthy,” “undeserving,” or “incapable.” Such thoughts are egoic delusion. Life gave of itself for you to exist. Life finds you worthy of love. What higher authority is there? The mindfulness practice you do will help you feel, experience, and know this reality of your own inherent value and worth.
Despite the formless in us already being perfect, on the relative level of form, we are still evolving. On this level, we can see that we still have ego that cuts us off from this deeper reality, and causes us to suffer and behave unskillfully. Thus we walk the path of mindfulness and love. Seeing the progress that others who have walked this path have made, and seeing our own progress, we walk the path with confidence, patience, persistence, and joy knowing that we too will experience the benefits of the practice.
Awareness of this paradox of our perfect, yet evolving nature, allows us to skillfully respond with another beautiful paradox: we are peaceful, content, and joyful knowing our own self worth and value, yet still motivated to move forward in our spiritual evolution.
In short, when the ego is running our life, we are not responsible for our actions. Causes and conditions lawfully unfold according to universal laws. When we believe a falsehood, then we lawfully act unskillfully. We have no choice in the matter. This doctrine is called determinism. It states that all events and human actions are caused by forces outside of the human will.
When imprisoned in egoic delusion, determinism reigns. In such a situation, we have no free will and live at the mercy of our conditioning, much of which is delusional. Our conditioning, which we do not control, determines the degree of our skillfulness or unskillfulness. Our conditioning, which determines our behavior, is determined by good fortune or bad fortune, grace or a lack of grace. This is why many philosophers have argued for centuries that humans have no free will.
But don’t mistake this understanding of determinism to be an absolute truth. To do so, would be to fall prey to the delusion of apathy which says that “nothing matters” and “everything is pointless.” Apathy uses the idea of determinism as a license to indulge in unskillful actions. Apathy causes more suffering for ourselves and others, making this a delusional and unskillful way to interpret this idea.
In truth, determinism only arises when we are not mindful. Therefore, we can hold this understanding skillfully to inspire us to be mindful in every moment of our life. Through skillful effort, we effortlessly strive to be mindful and present. When mindful, we transcend our egoic conditioning, and have true choice, free will, and agency to live skillfully, peacefully, joyfully, and harmoniously with all life. Moreover, when we are fully present, only skillful actions make sense, so when mindful, we choose between a range of various possible skillful actions. This is why many philosophers have argued for centuries that humans do have free will.
However, the first time we know and experience mindfulness is due entirely to grace and good fortune. Consider the grace and good fortune required by you to be exposed to meditation, to be open to learning about it, to be willing to find the time and space to practice it regularly, and then to be mindful in your daily life. Many people live their entire life trapped in ego. Through our mindful and skillful actions, and by our example, we can be the good fortune and grace in other people’s lives that help them to wake up and come out of their misery.
To summarize, when not mindful, what lawfully unfolds is a mixed bag of skillful and unskillful depending on our how fortunate or unfortunate our conditioning has been. Yet, when mindful and present, we have the clarity, wisdom, and love necessary to transcend our conditioning and have true freedom of choice.
Thus, when people act unskillfully, they are enslaved by their ego, and are not responsible for their actions because their conditioning is acting through them in a lawful manner. When people are mindful, they have true freedom, yet only choose from various skillful actions.
What I am saying contains paradox. It may be difficult to understand with the egoic, thought-based, conceptual mind which lacks the subtlety and nuance to appreciate this understanding directly. Therefore, do not believe what I say on faith alone.
Be mindful. Observe your own inner life and the lives of those around you. In moments of great clarity, try to experience what I am saying directly in yourself and those around you. Only when you experience this truth directly, should you accept it as true. Until then, simply be open to this idea.
When you experience this understanding directly, first-hand, it will dramatically help you let go of judgment towards yourself and those who harm others. This allows us to be genuinely more unconditionally loving, kind, compassionate, respectful, and understanding towards all unskillful people (who, technically, are all people who are not fully enlightened. Haha!).
Another way to interpret your original question is, “If people have no free will, then should society hold them accountable for their actions?” In case that is what you are asking, let me address that now.
Large societies will most likely always operate on the assumption that people are responsible for their own actions. To do otherwise, would probably invite even more unskillfulness within that society.
Thankfully, holding people accountable for their action can be a skillful part of the process of helping us evolve into mindful, awake beings. However, to do this, we need to skillfully deal with people who harm others by lovingly seeking to reform, rehabilitate, and help these people overcome their delusions. In this way, they come out of their suffering and delusions, and use their life-given gifts and talents to serve all life. In such situations, they benefit and all life benefits.
Ideally, our laws, police force, courts, and prisons would align with this purpose of helping reform, rehabilitate, and heal people. In those situations where laws, police forces, courts, and prisons seek to punish and harm wrong-doers, they act from unskillful intentions and create unskillful results. In such circumstances, the delusion of judgment reigns, perpetuating the cycle of delusion, unskillfulness, and suffering for all life.
Between 1941 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its collaborators methodically murdered 6 million Jews, roughly two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe. This was part of a larger genocidal campaign to eradicate not only the Jews; but also the Roma; ethnic Poles; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; the disabled or “incurably sick;” Jehovah’s witnesses; political opponents; and others. Some Nazis and their collaborators physically and psychologically tortured their victims during gruesome experiments, or at concentration camps, before mercilessly killing them. All together, this grim historical event is called the Holocaust or Shoah, the Hebrew word for “catastrophe.”
Given the enormity of the suffering caused, it makes sense to ask, why would we even want to forgive the perpetrators? My answer to that question may shock you: We need to forgive the perpetrators in order to prevent another Holocaust.
Forgiveness is the voluntary process of letting go of the delusion of judgment. When we grasp that the root delusion that caused people to create concentration camps is judgment, it highlights the need for us to abandon all judgment right now.
Hitler, the Nazis, and their collaborators, mistakenly judged the Jewish people to be monsters, problems, trash, and the source of their own suffering. Mistaking this falsehood for the truth, it lawfully followed that Nazis would try to exterminate and rid the world of Jewish people. The Holocaust is a shocking example of the lawful, cause and effect consequences of the delusion of judgment, and it is exactly why we must let go of the delusion of judgment in all situations.
When we judge the perpetrators of the Holocaust, we perpetuate the delusion of judgment. Judgment says that some people (or life forms) are better than others. Judgment says that some people (or life forms) are more deserving than others. Judgment says that some people (or life forms) are so bad that they need to be despised, punished, abused, killed, or otherwise eliminated. In short, judgment justifies harming other people or life forms.
In truth, everything belongs. All of life is one organism, one entity. Each life form is a cell in the body of life, and all life is important, valuable, and worthy of our love, kindness, care, and protection. The Judeo-Islamic-Christian tradition expresses this sentiment when Allah/God, after creating all of creation proclaimed it all to be “very good.” Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism reference this truth by saying that we are all one; that all forms share the same fundamental formless essence of unconditional, infinite love.
Numerous indigenous traditions point to this truth by talking about our interconnected and interdependent nature. The delusional idea that a human being is somehow separate, or apart from, nature can easily be seen as false when we try to imagine our life without a family or guardians that raised us, or without all of the gifts of food, water, clothing, shelter, and companionship that all other life generously provides us.
Can there be a human being without all the bacteria that originated most of the DNA in our so-called “human” genes? Can there be a human being if the planet earth never existed? Can our planet earth exist without the existence of a solar system? Can our solar system exist without the existence of the entire universe? Everything is interdependent on everything else. Thus, we are all one, and everything is good and worthy of our love.
Even those lives enslaved by extreme and violent forms of delusion, such as the people who perpetrated the Holocaust, belong, and are important. Such life forms warn us of the grave and serious costs of believing delusion, and inspire us to let go of delusions like judgment, and live with more love and compassion for all life.
Now that we know the loving truth that shows the lie of judgment, it is helpful to make a distinction between judgment and discernment. Discernment objectively distinguishes between skillful (beneficial to all life) and unskillful (harmful to self and others) actions, while honoring the inherent dignity, worth, and value of the actor. The path of love requires us to develop a high level of discernment between what is skillful and what is unskillful, so we may always be skillful.
Clearly, those who perpetrated the Holocaust behaved very unskillfully. That said, we must never allow our discernment to arouse us to punish, harm, kill, or cause suffering to the unskillful. To do so would be to fall prey to the delusion of judgment, the same delusion Holocaust perpetrators used to justify murdering and torturing millions of people. Instead, respond with love and compassion for the perpetrators. All who harm others suffer under the tyranny of delusion, and by modeling love and compassion, we help them come out of their delusion and out of their misery.
All people, no matter how violent or deluded they behave now, were once innocent newborn babies. No one is born hating, despising, and wanting to harm or kill others. Imagine what abuse, fear, and terror they must have experienced growing up to become so distorted and confused? Who were the adults in their life, and how must those adults have treated them for them to think such harmful behavior is appropriate? Imagine how much they must be suffering from fear, arrogance, and hatred, to think that their violent actions make sense? People filled with such hatred are suffering immensely and in need of our love and compassion.
At times, out of love for all life, people enslaved by judgment who are prone to violence need to be lovingly restrained or imprisoned to prevent them from harming others. Once they are safe from harming themselves and others, we need to use the powerful, healing forces of love and compassion to help these people heal.
We teach them love and compassion by showing them love and compassion. Through our unconditional love for them, we help them reconnect with their deepest self, which, like us, is unconditional and boundless love for all life. In this way, our love and compassion helps them come out of their delusion and misery, and helps them see the truth that all life is valuable and worthy of our love and care.
As always, none of this needs to be taken on faith. Be mindful in your own life. See how judgment works in you, and in others, to create anger, hatred, bitterness, and resentment, and incite unskillful, harmful actions towards yourself and others. Feel how the unsustainable emotions and moods of judgment poison the body, and both cause and worsen health problems.
These unpleasant emotions and moods of judgment exist to lead us back to our true selves of unconditional love for all life. They appear when the delusion of judgment is active in the mind on a conscious or unconscious level. They encourage us to wake up, be mindful, and notice how we are indulging in the delusion of judgment. Once mindfully aware of this, we can right our course through an intentional act of love, such as offering a silent blessing to the person or people we are judging: “May you be free of suffering and free of delusion, which is the root cause of your suffering.” In this way, the emotions and moods of judgment serve as inner signals that warn us of spiritual danger and guide us home to the light.
Unfortunately, our ego, in its delusion, mistakes these unpleasant emotions of judgment as a sign that someone else is bad, unworthy, trash, and deserving of punishment. Don’t fall for this lie.
Our ego will also try to minimize our own judgment, saying, “Well, my judgment is not that harmful to me or others.” Maybe you refuse to physically hurt others, but you are fine hyperbolically calling others you dislike “bitch,” “garbage,” “filth,” “worthless,” or other derogatory terms and assume that others know you are saying it partly “tongue-in-cheek.”
However, another common delusion we all fall prey to is that of fixed-view. Fixed-view mistakes words, thoughts, concepts, and stories to be the full truth. Words are symbolic representations of something else. As symbols, they inherently simplify reality. Mistaking concepts, words, and stories, to be the truth, leads to massive suffering for ourselves and others.
I bring this up so you don’t ignore judgment that seems to your ego to be “pretty harmless.” You may have the awareness you are exaggerating, and you may have the restraint to not act out your judgment in physical violence, but given the pervasive delusion of fixed-view, how might your words influence those around you who may be more enslaved by delusion that you? At a time in the U.S. history when anti-gay hyperbolic rhetoric was rife in the media, many of my LGBT friends were victimized by judgment-inspired gay bashing. Is the hyperbolic and judgmental comments and the gay bashing connected? In an interconnected and lawful universe such as ours, how could they not be?
Our ego will also try to justify our own judgment, saying, “That person (or group of people) is so bad, that they deserve my judgment.” Really? That is precisely what the perpetrators of the Holocaust thought of those they tortured and murdered. Justifying judgment in this way allows judgment to thrive in people of good will, and plants the seeds of the next Holocaust, genocide, school shooting, world war, and terrorist attack.
To create a world where all life thrives; where all beings live in peace, safety, and harmony; it requires us to be wise and discerning, loving and compassionate. It also requires us to abandon all judgment, delusion, and falsehood.
Through a regular meditation and mindfulness practice, fueled by loving intentions, you will eventually experience some unusual, paradoxical experiences. Things that used to upset, bother, or annoy you will continue to happen, but now you will relate to them with peace, calmness, acceptance, and skillfulness. People may still insult or berate you, but you will feel love and compassion towards them, and their words will be unable to harm you, or disturb your peace and love. Because what used to bother and upset you no longer does, you will feel as though you have transcended these conditioned experiences.
These unusual experiences point to the unconditional nature of the four kinds of love, which are: kindness, peace, compassion, and joy. When we mindfully experience the powerful, healing, and skillful nature of these states, we become inspired to relate to all life and situations with love. The more we relate with love to all life and situations, the more that we transcend our egoic delusion, and the less that our external conditions – no matter how chaotic or cruel – have the power to upset our peace and contentment.
Transcendent experiences happen during challenging situations in moments when the mind is free of all active delusion. Typically, challenging situations trigger delusional thoughts to arise, which is why these experiences may be rare for new and experienced meditators.
If you haven’t had these transcendent experiences yet, don’t worry. Keep practicing. You may have to practice for months or years before you experience one of these life-changing insights. Be open to experiencing them. When they do happen, mindfully investigate them so you can learn how to repeat them. Then you will be better situated to have these transcendent experiences happen more and more frequently in your life. Eventually, these transcendent experiences will become your new normal.
First, it is important to realize that the Islamic-Judeo-Christian origin legend told in the Mindfulness Fundamentals class is a story too. Like all stories, it simplifies a lot of complex realities to emphasize the important points that spoken language paved the way for delusion to enter the mind, and that the creation of judgment changed human life for the worse. Yet, like all stories, it is not the full truth. Here are some details the story leaves out:
Most anthropologists believe that our pre-verbal ancestors communicated with each other using primarily facial and bodily gestures and accompanying vocalizations. While such communications could not describe rocket fuel combustion or how to build a skyscraper, it would have allowed them to communicate immediate needs to each other, work collaboratively, and deal skillfully with situations that arose in the present moment.
Our minds were not entirely free of thought, as we could think and remember with pictures, and dreams could be dreamed. However, compared to language-based thinking, this kind of thinking seems less problematic and less prone to delusional thinking.
You may also wonder, if delusion is the source of all emotions, and our pre-verbal ancestors were free of delusion, were they also free of all anger, hatred, cruelty, and fear? No, but they experienced these states less frequent than we do today. Delusion is not the source of all emotions, just most of the emotions that we experience today. Prior to language, these emotional disturbances arose contextually when we were presented with an immediate physical threat that required an immediate response. These emotions inspired us to fight, flee, or freeze. When the threat had passed, the emotions were gone. Now that we have language, active delusional thoughts trigger these emotions to arise and we feel them even when we are in a safe environment. This can allow us to chronically feel feelings of anger, fear, and so on, despite no actual threat being present.
Those are just a few examples of the subtle complexities excluded in this story. Also, I only call this time “paradise” because that is traditionally what people have called it. However, such a label can be easily misinterpreted. During this time, people still aged, became sick, got injured, and died. The law of impermanence still existed. Yet this time before thought and delusion, which we could call the age of sense-experience was paradise relative to the age of mind-dominance which we currently live in.
During the age of sense-experience, the mind was free of language-based thoughts.
This made our experience of life far more simple, peaceful, and calm. We naturally lived in the present moment. We could neither dwell on the past, nor be fearful of the future, because we lacked the language to do either. The now was all there was, and we focused on relating to the truth of the now.
We naturally inhabited our senses. Because our time, energy, and attention was not directed towards thinking and obsessing about our thoughts, as we do now, it was available to feel the inner peace of the body and know the deeper wisdom that goes beyond words. This allowed us to relate more skillfully and truthfully to the present moment and whatever situation arose.
When emotional disturbances arose, they provided us needed energy to respond to an actual physical threat with an appropriate fight, flight, or freeze response. When those threats were no longer present, our body quickly returned to a peaceful, alert homeostasis.
Contrast this to today, where the egoic mind responds to every offense, disagreement, or “failure” as if it were a serious life-and-death threat, and then keeps the emotional disturbances alive for days, weeks, months, or years by dwelling on the incident, reliving it mentally, or rehearsing how to do it differently next time.
Still, if the word paradise trips you up, then set it aside. Instead, just think of this time before delusion as a time in human history where we lived more skillfully and with more mental peace than we do now.
Furthermore, whether you believe any of what I am saying or not, is unimportant. I share this info to shed some light on an old story and to help make it more relevant to what we have been learning. If you find it helpful for you on your mindfulness path, great! If not, then set it aside.
What I find of value from this understanding is that it makes me contemplate and try to experience with my senses what life was like for our pre-verbal ancestors. What is it like to have a mind free of language-based thoughts? What is it like to put more awareness in my senses than be obsessed with what I am thinking? Here are some suggestions on how to further these contemplations in your own experience:
Notice how you feel when your mind is free of thoughts, or even when it has relatively fewer thoughts than normal? Does it feel as though a great burden has been lifted off of your shoulders? Does the mind feel more bright, buoyant, and engaged? Are you more peaceful, calm, focused, and present in the here and now? Explore these questions experientially in your own life.
Of the thoughts your mind has, notice how frequently those thoughts contain delusional stories? The delusions of futuring and pasting have a story about the future, a fantasy, or the past that runs in your head. The delusions of aversion includes a story about why you don’t like something, or why something is bad or wrong, while delusions of clinging contain a story of why you need or must have something, or why something is good or right. Delusions of fixed-view are simply stories that you believe, and this makes us less able to accept the truth of the fluid, dynamic, changing, and complex nature of reality. The delusion of self-view is simply the story you have about yourself: who you are, what your purpose is, what roles you play, and so on. Notice in your own experience how all delusional thoughts have a conceptual, language-based storyline to them.
Now contemplate what happens if the mind has no language, and thus cannot create stories? To what degree would delusions even be possible? Observe and contemplate beings who have no language to see how they live: robins, squirrels, foxes, deer, and other wildlife; plants, shrubs, and trees. Like us, they grow old, get sick, become injured, and die, but do they turn these situations into a suffering-inducing story about “me” and “my problem”? To what degree do these beings foster hatred or anger? To what degree do they live in states of nearly-continuous anxiety and dread? To what degree do they harbor envy, jealousy, and resentment? To what degree do they hold prejudices or act bigoted? To what degree are they suicidal? To what degree do they start wars or harm their environment?
These life forms, having no language, live through their senses. Through their senses, they are intimate and responsive to the present moment. When no immediate threat or danger is present, they are peaceful and calm. For many of us, simply spending time in nature helps us feel more peaceful, calm, and relaxed. There is much we can learn from observing other life forms and how they live.
But let me add one caveat to learning from other life forms. Domesticated animals, or animals who live in close contact with humans or in human-created environments such as zoos, factory farms, research labs, and so on, often develop egoic attitudes and behaviors. Just as a nonsmoker who associates with smokers can develop health problems from second-hand smoke, domesticated animals seem to pick up “second-hand delusion” via the conditioning they get from their interactions with us and the human-created environments they are forced to live in. Despite this potential for “second-hand delusion,” many of us choose to have dogs and cats in our lives, because they allow us to share our love freely and also be loved in return. For many of us, our dogs and cats allow us to experience what unconditional love looks and feels like.
To summarize, prior to the creation of language and delusions, our human ancestors lived with quiet minds, attuned to their senses, in the present moment. This was a far more skillful and well-adjusted way to live than how we live today where we are lost in thoughts, many of which are delusional and cause a chain reaction of emotional disturbances and unskillful behaviors.
Through mindfulness we learn how to relate more skillfully towards our experiences, so we keep all the benefits of language, while setting aside all of the harmful delusions of language. We also regain the benefits of the age of sense-experience that allows us to know the truth of the world directly and rest in our inner peace and love.
Our task is to take what is good from language and keep it, while noticing the delusion of language, and leave that to the side. We do not advocate trying to revert to a time before language, but we do advocate for letting go of delusion.
Language is helpful in communicating with each other and continuing to expand our knowledge into very technical, scientific, and even spiritual realms. We want to keep this helpful aspect of language that allows us to communicate with each other.
That said, we must always be mindful that when we deal with language, we are simplifying life, and dealing in relative understandings rather than absolute truths. Thus we want to hold our language-based thoughts in a loose, flexible, gentle manner. Try and experience the truth of what the words are pointing to directly, rather than mistake the words themselves to be the truth (which is the delusion of fixed-view). Prioritize your direct experience of the truth through your senses over that of your language-based, conceptual understanding of the world.
When it comes to skillfully living life, there is no need for us to constantly narrate our life to ourselves. Such language-based thoughts make us prone to falling victim to a wide array of delusions. Seeing in your own experience the harms of language-based thoughts will help your mind be less obsessed and concerned about the thoughts that arise, and will even help your mind become more and more quiet.
However, until you gain the ability to stop thinking, continue to be mindful of your thoughts, see them as impermanent, impersonal, and a source of delusion. Consider all thoughts to be guilty until proven innocent. If a thought is safe, you can believe it and remain peaceful, calm, and skillful. If it is delusional, believing it will cause emotions and unskillful behavior to arise. See the falsehood and unskillfulness in delusional thoughts so you don’t believe them. Then mindfully and peacefully watch delusional thoughts arise and pass away. Every time you mindfully see a delusional thought arise and pass away, you weaken its ability to take you over and cause you to behave unskillfully.
To summarize, language-based thoughts are helpful in communicating with others. We want to keep the benefits of language, while recognizing and letting go of its delusional aspects that create a lot of needless suffering and unskillfulness. Outside of communicating with others, we need to prioritize relating to our experiences directly and mindfully through our senses. This keeps us grounded in truth.
Correct. Some thoughts may helpfully point to something true, but the thoughts themselves are not the truth.
As an analogy, we could ask, “Can there never be a true picture of lentil soup?” Well their can be a true picture of lentil soup. But if you are hungry, you cannot eat the picture. Even if you try, it will not nourish you. Just like with thoughts, a picture represents something else, but it is not the actual thing.
The distinction between the words we use, and the reality that the words point to, may seem very small and insignificant. Yet this subtle distinction, when not clearly seen, has very serious consequences for our psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing.
Our mind has a my-thoughts-are-true-bias that causes it to generally assume the thoughts it thinks are real and truthful. The mind gets so attached and invested in believing the words, thoughts, and stories, that it loses its ability to accurately perceive the truth of a situation. For example, if a person walks along a dark street at night imagining robbers hiding in the shadows, they will feels terror, fear, and panic, even when no threat is actually present.
When I think and believe the thought, “I can’t work right now because I am too tired,” this thought becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. My tiredness grows and my ability to work becomes incapacitating. However, if I mindfully see that thought as just a thought, I can use the agape arsenal technique called Test It to test if that is true? How do I test it? By trying to do the work and seeing if I succeed. More often than not, I can do the work and the thought is exposed as a lie.
Words are too static, fixed, and rigid to fully describe the dynamic, fluid, nuanced, and subtle reality we inhabit. The proof that everything changes is all around us, yet because we believe our thoughts, we constantly become shocked, surprised, outraged, or grief-stricken when changes happen. Because we believe our stories, we refuse to accept the truth of reality as it is, and we suffer dearly for this.
For example, let’s say “my bike” was stolen. (True story, haha!) Now, the story of “my bike” is basically all of the reasons why my bike is vitally important to me (After each sentence the delusion(s) it contains are listed in parenthesis: I don’t have a car, so I need my bike to get where I have to go (craving, fixed-view, futuring, self-view). My bike cost a lot of money and I worked hard to make that money (self-view, fixed-view, pasting, craving). We have had some great times together (pasting, fixed-view, craving, self-view). I love this bike (craving, self-view, fixed-view). (Note, “love” is being used here in the common egoic sense to denote that “I am attached to this bike.” True love solely concerns itself with the welfare of the other, and can be offered to another whether they are in my life or not. True love would say, “may this bike be happy, healthy, strong, and have a caring guardian who keeps him well maintained!” But that is clearly not the meaning of this comment. Haha!)
When I believe or cling to the story of “my bike,” then when it gets stolen, I get terribly shocked, angry, upset, and grief-stricken. I am choosing to believe the thoughts in my head, rather than accept the truth of the present moment. Part of this story points to a past reality, but that past is dead and gone. How are stories of the past relevant, helpful, or truthful now? Simply put, they are not. All that exists is the current moment, which we can either accept or resist. If we resist it, we suffer.
On the other hand, if I am more concerned with accepting the truth of the present moment, rather than the story in the mind, then it is obvious that I no longer have control over my bike. Rage, resentment, and frustration will not change that reality, and these emotional storms feel unpleasant, and lead me to behave unskillfully. Thus, the wise thing to do is gracefully and peacefully accept the reality that the bike has been stolen.
Of course, accepting the present moment does not mean resigning myself to being someone’s doormat or punching bag. I can still file a report with the police and ask my friends to keep an eye out for the bike in an effort to get it back. Calmly accepting the truth of the present moment just means I save myself from the drama of becoming angry, upset, sad, vengeful, and so on. I can still respond skillfully and appropriately to the situation, and now I will have the mental clarity and inner peace to do so.
To remain calm and peaceful during change, however, one must be more concerned with accepting the truth of reality as it is, rather than clinging to the false, misleading, unhelpful, outdated, conditioned stories generated by the mind. Admittedly, the mind is predisposed to automatically believe its own thoughts. Thankfully, our mindfulness helps us stop getting confused and sucked into these delusional stories that cause us to suffer.
We commonly cling so tightly to a story in our mind, that we live in denial, unable to recognize the truth of reality that is right in front of us. Denial is easier to see in other people. For example, an obese person says he eats healthfully and he is genuinely bewildered by his inability to lose weight. He has coffee and granola bars for breakfast, fast food for lunch and dinner, and several cans of pop throughout the day. When asked why he considers his diet healthy, he says, “I don’t eat the buns on my burgers.” This poor soul is living in denial, because he clings to a story in his mind. This example seems outlandish, but it happens to all of us in different ways. It is simply very hard to see it in ourselves because when we believe a lie, it changes our perceptions, making it hard to see evidence that contradicts our view, and easy to find evidence in support of our view. Psychologists call this confirmation bias.
Given all these reasons and more, it is best to recognize and appreciate the reality that thoughts are never the truth. This helps train your awareness to be more interested in what your senses are telling you, rather than what your thoughts are saying. When you are more interested in what your senses are telling you, rather than the noise in the mind, you gain access to a deeper wisdom that goes beyond words and allows you to navigate the world with more peace, ease, and joy.
FAQ About the Organization
Not at all. Mindfulness meditation and the related teachings help you see the truth, live from love, and have the courage to come out of your suffering.
We encourage critical thinking and ask that you not accept anything to be the truth until you experience it for yourself. That said, we also encourage open-mindedness, experimentation, and giving the techniques and teachings a fair chance to work. It usually takes committing to them for six months to a year to start seeing significant benefits and gaining the first-hand experience necessary to better understand and evaluate the effectiveness of this technique in helping you see the truth, live from love, and come out of your suffering.
As part of being open-minded, we encourage you to be willing to learn wisdom from any and all sources, be they secular or religious. When we share quotes from religious texts or people of faith, it is not in an effort to convert you to their religion, rather it is because the words they say express a truth clearly and helpfully.
Our intention is to help you learn how to know the truth, live from love, and come out of your suffering and misery. Still, if anything we say offends or upsets you in any way, put it aside and ignore it. It is not important. Pay attention to that information we share which makes sense, resonates with you, and inspires you. Focus on that, patiently apply it to your life, and enjoy the benefits.
Not at all. Mindfulness meditation, and the related teachings, will help you better understand, go deeper into, and fully live your religious beliefs in day-to-day life. Mindfulness meditation does not ask you to disown your religious beliefs, but it will help you to fulfill them. Give meditation a solid try (six months to a year) and see if this is not the case.
All religious and spiritual traditions attempt to use words to explain, and point to, a reality that cannot be described in words. In essence, they are all pointing to the same thing, but using different words to describe it. All religious teachings, when fully understood, and lived, have the power to take you to the end of suffering, now, in this lifetime, and in what lies beyond.
The Boundless Love Project promotes truth, love, and awakening. When we live from truth, we do not suffer. When we live from love, we have boundless joy. When we are committed to awakening, we have the courage and motivation to step outside of our comfort zones and grow. If any saints or sages, from any religious or secular wisdom traditions, express a truth well, we happily share it for your own benefit and the benefit of others, to learn from it, and help you better know the truth.
Our intention is to help you learn how to know the truth, live from love, and come out of your suffering and misery. Still, if anything we say offends or upsets you in any way, put it aside and ignore it. It is not important. Pay attention to that information we share which makes sense, resonates with you, and inspires you. Focus on that, patiently apply it to your life, and enjoy the benefits.
When wisdom traditions unite us in love, care, and respect for one another; when they encourage forgiveness, acceptance, and understanding, they are in alignment with the deeper Truths of their tradition. When wisdom traditions encourage judging, hating, or harming others; when they foment self-righteousness, hostility, and division, they are out of alignment with their traditions deeper Truths and are unconsciously lost in delusion.
Delusions arise when faith practitioners attempt to follow the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law, that their faith teaches. All religious and spiritual traditions attempt to use words to explain, and point to, a reality that cannot be described in words.
Because the normal state of affairs for humans is to be imprisoned by egoic delusion, it is not surprising that the ego has corrupted all religious traditions, and distorted their teachings to serve the ego. This corruption was even present when their texts were being written, selected for inclusion into the holy canon, and translated.
Blatant examples of this corruption can be seen when religious bodies instigate wars and justify the killing, raping, and enslaving of people, or when self-proclaimed religious bodies, or practitioners, torture and kill “heathens,” “blasphemers,” “infidels,” “witches,” “adulterers,” “homosexuals,” and others deemed to be “sinners” in the name of their religion. (These words are in quotes to remind you that defining a person by one aspect of their form or behavior is the delusion of labeling.) Less violent, yet still harmful, examples of this corruption include any time a religion encourages its followers to hate, judge, despise, neglect, or ignore the needs of another individual, group of people, or life form. Such teachings harm both the followers, as well as those who are targeted.
Despite this widespread egoic corruption, the spirit of the teachings lives on in all religious traditions. Their sacred scriptures and writings by their enlightened Saints and Sages can still inspire us to know the truth; to unconditionally love all people, all beings, and all life; to live lives of peace and skillfulness; and to have compassion, forgiveness, and patience for ourselves and others who are still imprisoned by, and suffering from, our delusions. The Boundless Love Project emphasizes and shares those words and teachings inspired by truth, peace, and love, and ignores those teachings that are mired in delusion and lead to suffering for ourselves and others.
The Boundless Love Project’s trainings contain valuable, practical, and useful information to help you live your best life. We freely offer these trainings to you as a gift, for your benefit, because your happiness makes us happy. Please honor and value our gift to you by using these trainings to let go of your misery and be happy.
Some mindfulness and meditation trainings cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. The Boundless Love Project is committed to providing our trainings online for free, so as many people as possible have access to them. It is through the generous donations of those who have benefited from these teachings, that we are able to provide these trainings to you freely.
If you have benefited from these teachings, and would like to help make them available to others, then feel free to joyfully give a donation to support our work. Wishing you much peace, joy, and wisdom.
FAQ for Freeman
When I learned meditation, it was very helpful for me to use guided meditations. The instructions helped reminding me what I was doing, notice when I was lost in thought, and return my awareness to the meditation anchor. Without the guided meditations, I would have had far fewer moments of mindfulness during these meditations sits.
Moreover, the instructions help keep you pointed in the right direction. When self-judgment arises, the guided meditations remind you to be kind, gentle, and compassionate with yourself. When greed for results arises, the guided meditations encourage you to relax your effort, let go of concerns about the results, and to be content with doing the best you can. It’s important to hear these instructions enough that you know what you are trying to do when you meditate.
Now that I have been meditating for over ten years, I understand the technique and instructions, and my mindfulness and concentration are strong enough that I remain quite mindful for the duration of my meditations. At this point, I generally meditate in silence. But when I learn new styles of meditation, I prefer to practice with a guide for several weeks until I am confident I understand the technique. I also enjoy hearing guided meditations by other meditation teachers. This not only benefits my practice, it helps me learn how other teachers teach meditation, and improves my ability to teach these meditations and these materials.