How to Stop Getting Bothered by Strong Opinions

I’m about to say something that might seem surprising.

But I truly believe what I’m about to say, so I’m going to say it.

I’m in the process of getting over an addiction. 

It’s a very common addiction, and like all addictions, it’s something that serves a purpose. That purpose, however, is not a sense of peace, contentment and wellbeing. The drive behind this addiction, at least it seems, has been to lull me into a false sense of security. 

It isn’t a physical addiction, like drugs or sex or food, it’s a psychological addiction. 

I am psychologically addicted to opinions. 

And I’m not the only one. Everywhere I look, people cling tightly to their opinions like a chain smoker taking that last puff before a long-haul flight, or an overbearing and jealous partner not wanting to let go, or like Gollum, obsessively guarding his precious ring.

Coronavirus conspiracies? Precious. Trump supporters? Precious. Anti-Trump supporters? Precious. Astrological natal charts? Vegan diets? Gun rights? Preciouuuuuus.

But why do we have such strong opinions?

I have no idea, honestly. As far as I can tell it’s some sort of interaction between an evolutionary coping mechanism and a cultural and technological landscape that rewards strongly opiniated thinking. In other words: opinions are viral.

Let me explain. Do you know what a meme is? You may think it’s just those silly little images with quirky captions that go around the internet. It’s actually a term coined in 1976 by the well-known evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins used the term to refer to a cultural phenomenon that replicates in a way similar to genes. 

In an interview with Wired UK whereby they asked him what he thought of the “new” use of the term. Dawkins replied:

“The meaning is not that far away from the original. It’s anything that goes viral. In the original introduction to the word meme in the last chapter of The Selfish Gene, I did actually use the metaphor of a virus. So when anybody talks about something going viral on the internet, that is exactly what a meme is and it looks as though the word has been appropriated for a subset of that.”

Opinions are, therefore, a type of meme. The nature and structure of the internet seems to fuel polarising attitudes.

Anonymity. We can hide behind a fake name and profile picture, saying whatever we want without repercussions.

Confirmation bias. Our mind naturally looks for other people who share our perspectives and we tend to form groups with them.

Positive Reinforcement. Others who share our opinions will give us social approval that costs them next to nothing and gives us the illusion that our opinions have significant value.

Rapid popularity. Fame and status used to be earned through trial by combat – either physical or psychological. With the internet, individuals who are entirely unprepared for the responsibility of influence are made famous overnight.

People look for opinions to manage their fear of uncertainty, they then look for opinions that match theirs (confirmation bias) in order reinforce this false sense of security, and double down by creating digital in-groups and out-groups. 

Whether we know it or not, we are rewarded for our opinions. This reward is a short-term dopamine spike in response to likes, retweets or other forms of social approval.  

This is all fine and dandy. But these rewards tend to obscure our perspective. My hunch (also an opinion), is that the validation that many of us crave and receive over the internet is causing us to greatly overvalue our opinions and become entrapped by them. 

How to let go of strong opinions?

Opinions are like street signs, but most of us use them like houses. Look at them periodically for guidance, do not live in them. 

I might feel that my own opinions are special. I’ll argue that they’re relatively well thought out, educated, and from a place of less emotional intensity than those of others. However, they’re still just opinions, and therefore no matter how shiny they may seem, they amount to nothing more than a plastic trophy. Try melting down a plastic trophy and see what it gets you.

It sounds paradoxical, but if you truly want to a sense of certainty don’t hold onto your opinions tighter and tighter. Let them go. See how easy life actually becomes when you’re not marching around with a backpack of passionate beliefs. Question your opinions, challenge them. Try living without them, even if only briefly, and notice how less reactive you become, how light life starts to feel, and how life keeps on going, civilisation doesn’t crumble, and you still manage to get through the day to day.

Take a look at your opinions. Where do they come from? Are they really as special as they feel? Pretty much all of what we think comes about as a result of cultural conditioning. I can’t tell you a thought I’m going to have in the next minute let alone an opinion I’m going to hold five years from now. A little perspective goes a long way. Remember the ideas you had as a child, or as a teenager? Beliefs that felt so real and important now seem a little silly. Recognising this, does it make much sense to get caught up in your own opinions?

This is the same for the opinions of others. Sometimes it’s easier to see how people change viewpoints day by day, week by week, year by year. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about spirituality – we found that we actually agreed on a lot. We had the same conversation seven years ago when we first met, and we agreed on nothing. Who knows where we’ll be seven years from now? It doesn’t matter, as long as neither of us let our opinions take us for an emotional rollercoaster ride.

We all have one strong opinion that we could loosen our grip on today and we’d travel a little lighter for it.

Right it down. Challenge it. Let it go.

What’s yours?

The Revolutionary Potential of Mistrust: 3 Unconscious Stories That Cause Suffering

I’m about to explain something that might seem revolutionary.

When I first saw what I’m about to share, I didn’t actually understand how important it was. That was until it started having a dramatic and positive effect on my experience. 

What I’m talking about isn’t special, but it’s very profound. Yet your initial knee-jerk reaction, like mine, might be to dismiss it. I would, however, warn against that. 

I’m talking about three simple words; mistrust your thoughts.

See, at different points in my life I, like you, have felt trapped by many things. Time, money, relationships, illness, fears – the hypothetical list could go on forever. As a result, I have suffered. But deep down I have never truly been trapped. I’ve only felt and thought I was

The only thing that ever traps anyone is the story they tell themselves. I know that sounds like a platitude, but before you angrily change tabs for a rage scroll through social media, hear me out. 

Obviously, there are physical trappings in life. A man with his leg stuck in a bear trap is quite clearly trapped. I’m not about to walk past him in the woods and say, “I respect the fact that you think your leg hurts, dude, but you just think you are trapped, you’re actually free.” I like to think that I’m not an asshole. A response like that would not be compassionate and shows the social skills of a giant panda (weird reference, I know…. google it later). 

If, however, that which was trapping him was literally a story, then yes, I might suggest that he try a little bit of mistrust on for size. 

Pain and suffering are not the same thing. Pain is an immediate sensation while suffering is a response to pain, it is a meta-experience about the pain. Most often that experience comes in the form of rumination – or as I like to say: T.R.I.P.S: Totally Random Imaginary Painful Stories.

You can use the acronym or throw it away. You can even just think about it literally, like a bad trip (or a nightmare). 

But why is mistrust revolutionary? Well that depends in what you mistrust.

The definition of revolution is “an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system.”

In this case, the established government are the trips, and that which overthrows this system is mistrust.

For years I’ve had chronic pain, apparently as a result of a developmental issue with my spine (but also, apparently maybe not). 

It sucks. But the pain itself is nothing compared to the trips I’ve had about the pain. The painful mental stories of injustice, responsibility and what-ifs. They are the real suffering. 

The principle of mistrust that I’m about to explore with you could be applied to stories about any problem: depression, anxiety, fears about work, insecurities in a relationship.  I’m going to use chronic pain as an example, simply because it’s something I still have to manage, the stories still come up from time to time, so it’s easier to write about. 

Which is why I’ll say it again; mistrust your thoughts.

The Ownership TRIP: “For years I’ve had chronic pain.”

As you might have noticed, even in an article about mistrusting your stories, I’ve already presented a number of stories. That’s just the nature of language and pronouns. It’s also why I’ve mentioned this story first. It’s the original problem. The first story that kicks off all others. This is MY pain, MY problem, MY anxiety. 

But let us introduce a little mistrust into the equation. Is this really my chronic pain? I mean, I didn’t choose to have chronic pain any more than I choose to catch a cold. Whatever the chronic pain is, it’s been decided by factors over which I had no control: developmental changes in my spinal, past experiences, genetics, (at times) poor medical advice, a psychological disposition etc. 

The feeling of chronic pain is just something that shows up in this complex interplay of sensory experiences. But so is the sound of a car horn on my walk to work, so is the colour of the wallpaper in my kitchen, so is the smell of coffee in the office. None of these are taken in and called MY car horn sound, MY white (or is it cream?) wallpaper, MY coffee scented office. 

We don’t consider these experiences worthy of ownership. Why? Because they’re not painful! Our minds hold onto the story of pain in an attempt to figure them out, and in doing so, they create suffering. Whatever the trip you’re on right now, discard it. Your depression is not yours and it is not you. If you want to say anything about it, just call it something passing through your experience. 

“For years I had chronic pain?” Really? I’m sure at some point in those years I was sleeping. Maybe I should say “for years I have been sleeping” or “for years I have been growing my fingernails,” or “for years I’ve been seeing yellow cars.” Was I really, though? Or was that just something that seemed to pass through my experience.

The Justice TRIP: “It’s not fair that I have chronic pain.”

The justice story is deeply embedded in our culture. Basically, it says that whatever my immediate circumstance is, is not fair. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to make a couple of distinctions.

(Disclaimer: To doubt the idea of what’s fair or not does not mean to indiscriminately allow injustices to occur. It’s not a reason or excuse for abusive behaviour towards yourself or others. If someone else tells you that something is unfair or unjust, respect their experience.)

Firstly, we have justice in a finite game. A game with a limited number of variables and a set of predetermined rules – such as the judicial system or a boxing match. We might call this “relative justice.” This justice is by no means perfect, and it’s often illogical and full of contradictions, but it can be useful for attempting to curb abuses of power (then again it can do the opposite of that too). 

What I’m talking about here is a personal justice trip that applies to my life and my circumstances. Concepts like pain, life or circumstances have no concrete and defined boundaries. They are what we might call an infinite game, or “absolute justice.” Unless you believe in an anthropomorphised (human-like) god, then no, there is no absolute justice. 

So, is it not fair that I have chronic pain? I don’t know. Is it fair that I was born in a country that was not war-torn? Is it fair that I’ve had period of physical or mental illness? Is it fair that I have fresh food in the fridge? Is it fair that one sperm reaches the embryo over another?

Here’s a story that better illustrates the point. It’s a Chinese Folk Tale, originally called Sai Weng Shi Ma (Old Man Lost Horse). It’s a useful way to poke some holes of mistrust in the justice trip. 

A poor old man lived on the Northern border of China. One day, his stallion (male horse) ran North of the China border into the Northern tribes, later to be known as Mongolia. In the old days, a horse was one of the most valuable and useful possessions that a person could have. Therefore, the other villagers thought this was a very bad misfortune.

The old man did not worry, and he thought that this may actually be a blessing. A few months later, the old man’s horse returned with a mare (female horse). The mare was pregnant and gave birth to a foal (baby horse). Now the man had three horses as depicted in the painting: (1) the black stallion; (2) the white mare; and (3) the greyish blue foal. All the villagers congratulated the old man.

The old man thought that this may actually turn out to be a cause of misfortune. Later, his son became fond of riding the horses. One day, his son fell off the horse and broke his thigh bone. As doctors were not nearly as well trained in 206 B.C., a broken thigh bone meant that his son would be a cripple for life. The old man thought, “Perhaps this will turn out to be a blessing.”

One year later, the Northern tribes launched a major invasion into China. All able-bodied young men were required to fight against the Northern invaders. Unfortunately, the casualties of this war were very high, with nine of ten men dying in battle. Only one out of ten survived to return back to his village.

Since the father was old and his boy was crippled, neither were required to go to war, and both survived. The son’s injury had turned out to be a blessing in disguise – sai weng shi ma.

The Fantasising TRIP: “If only I didn’t have chronic pain, my life would be fine.”

You’ve probably heard the phrase “the grass is always greener on the other side.” What it means is that things look better in our imagination than they are. This is because we tend to focus on the positives in an alternative situation and ignore the negatives and focus on the negatives in our present situation, ignoring the positives. 

There are deeply rooted biological reasons for our habitual fantasising. One neurochemical system – the dopaminergic system – has developed to keep us addicted to our anticipations of the future. This is so we stay productive and reproductive, not because our fantasies are accurate perceptions of the world (or that their fulfillment will make us happy).

Studies have found that dopamine is initially released in response to a reward (e.g. chocolate), but as time goes on and more rewards are received (e.g. more chocolate), more and more dopamine is released in response to anticipating the reward (thinking about eating chocolate) and less and less upon receiving the reward (eating chocolate).

“Natural selection doesn’t “want” us to be happy, after all; it just “wants” us to be productive, in its narrow sense of productive. And the way to make us productive is to make the anticipation of pleasure very strong but the pleasure itself not very long-lasting.” 

– Robert Wright, Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment 

I’m going to be a little radical and take the grass-is-always-greener trip a step further. Actually, three steps further. 

  1. The only problem with the present situation is that we think there’s a problem.
  2. We have NO idea how an alternative experience would be.
  3. However, the alternative experience would be, it would NOT be like the fantasy trip.

A thought says that my life would be fine without chronic pain. But can I really know that? Maybe without the pain, I would find myself on a ski trip where I’m paralysed. Maybe without the pain, I would have little desire to write articles like these. Maybe without the pain, I would fantasise about some other, more objectively trivial issue, like how “If only I had more (money, affection, social media likes) then my life would be ok.”

Again, I don’t know, and I don’t care to know. The important thing here is that doubt continues to penetrate these thoughts, so their credibility is challenged and the intensity of belief in them diminishes. 

There are plenty more trips that are beyond the scope of this article, but these three are a good introduction to the archetypal stories that the mind activates in response to painful experiences. 

The story itself isn’t important, the principle is. What is the principle? Again; mistrust your thoughts.

Relentlessly challenging all stories around pain has been a lifesaver. It allowed me to manage what has at times seemed to be an unbearable experience. It allowed a drastic reduction in pain medication, and on top of that, a huge relief from anxiety and fear – both of which are echoed over and over again in our painful stories.

When mistrusting your thoughts becomes a habit, then the mind invests less energy in thoughts and stories, and they lose their power. And that, my friends, is the revolutionary potential of mistrust.

44 Mooji Quotes on Love, Life, and Silence

Mooji Quotes

The spiritual path can be long, complicated and arduous. This is why traditions from all over the world have emphasised the importance of finding an authentic teacher.

Of the well known modern teachers, Mooji is held in very high regard and considered to be from a well respected modern non-dual lineage. He was a disciple of Papaji, himself a discipline of the 20th-century sage Ramana Maharshi. Moojis spiritual path was primarily that of Bhakti Yoga, the path of loving devotion.

Born in Jamaica, he emigrated to London in his mid-teens and was an art teacher before a chance meeting with a Christian mystic resulted in his moving to India in search of Enlightenment. It was there he met Papaji whom many considered a living enlightened master.

Since 1999 Mooji has been teaching non-duality, a philosophy meaning  “not two,” under which a group of spiritual traditions fall whereby the intention is to see the illusion of the I-other dichotomy. After having seen through this illusion, you work towards making this realisation part of your permanent state of being and experience what some in the West would call ego death.

Here are 44 quotes from Sri Mooji on Love, Life, and Silence.

Mooji Quotes On Love and Gratitude

“If you could look inside the heart of any and every single human being, you would fall in love with them completely. If you see the inside as it really is and not as your mind projects it to be, you would be so purely in love with the whole thing.”

Your heart is the light of this world. Don’t cover it with your mind.

“Your mantra is thank you. Just keep saying thank you. Don’t explain. Don’t complain. Just say thank you. Say thank you to Existence.”

“All the ups and downs are grace in different wrappings, sent to refine consciousness. Say thanks to them all.”

“Don’t remind the world that it is sick and troubled. Remind it that it is beautiful and free.”

Mooji Quotes On the Nature of the Self

“If you take yourself to be the body and mind only, you will die! When you discover yourself as awareness, the fear of death will not trouble you any longer.”

Trying to understand consciousness with your mind is like trying to illuminate the sun with a candle.

You are human and divine. You human troubles help you discover your divine nature.

“Once you begin to recognise the divine gifts in life, you come to see that there are so many. Your life is abundant.”

“The greatest healing would be to wake up from what we are not.”

“To change the world is not your business. To change yourself is not your duty. To awaken to your true nature is your opportunity.”

“I don’t have to be anything at all. I don’t even have to be myself, because there is no such thing as not being myself. I am inescapably myself.”

It takes a lot of energy to be a person. It takes no energy to be yourself.

It is not what the ego says. It is how much it is believed.”

“Everything is just now. Your existence is just now. Just timeless Now. All the rest is just a dream due to conditioning and memory.”

“You are the unchanging manifesting as the changefulness.”

Mooji Quotes On Letting Go

“Open your windows. Open your doors. Open your mind, your eyes and your heart to Truth. Openness is a prerequisite on the path to freedom. Open up and let Grace enter at will.”

“Go beyond everything. Don’t collect anything. A king does not need to go shopping in his own kingdom….Remember, you are the inner reality, pure awareness. All that arises are appearances in consciousness.”

“Don’t be a storehouse of memories. Leave past, future and even present thoughts behind. Be a witness to life unfolding by itself. Be free of all attachments, fears and concerns by keeping your mind inside your own heart. Rest in being. Like this, your life is always fresh and imbued with pure joy and timeless presence. Be happy, wise and free.”

“Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go.

“You need nothing to be happy – you need something to be sad.”

“Surrender is not a weakness it is strength. It takes tremendous strength to surrender life to the supreme – to the cosmic unfolding.”

“The greatest step towards a life of happiness and simplicity is to let go. Trust in the power that is already taking care of you spontaneously without effort.”

“Let it be whatever it will be. Give up trying to manipulate. This is freedom.

“When you don’t want to be interesting you are free.”

“Throw everything away, forget about it all! You are learning too much, remembering too much, trying too hard . . . relax a little bit, give life a chance to flow its own way, unassisted by your mind and effort. Stop directing the river’s flow.”

Mooji Quotes On Silence and Stillness

“The way is not really a way. It is a depth. It is not a distance. It is a deepening into the stillness, stabilising in the unmoving. It is not a walking journey. Journeys are for the body and the ego-mind. But the subtlety of intuitive seeing takes you deeper into the bliss of the knowable.”

“If you give yourself one complete minute of focused presence, to simply stop; even to listen to your heart beating, it will take you out of your head and introduce you to the moment which is complete in itself. It is not on the way to another moment.”

“Don’t be too quick to interpret the moment. Just keep quiet. My encouragement would always be: never think anything is against you, everything is a blessing. Why should it be different? Just be quiet. Let it all work itself out.”

“You say you want to get rid of the noise, but you and the noise go together. You have to be you without ‘you’ and all noise will stop. The real You is the formless witness within. The person, the noisy one, is only imagined. To recognize this is Freedom.”

“There is a mystery within all beings bursting to reveal itself, in the ones who become quiet enough to discover it.”

You have all the power to stay in your neutrality, in the height of your being. When you observe with detachment, you enter and move into the field of presence. This is a higher altitude than the claustrophobic realm of personhood. This is the dimension of the real.”

“There is a presence, a silence, a stillness which is here by itself. There is no doer of it, no creator of this stillness. It is simply here in you, with you. It is the fragrance of your own self. There is nothing to do about this, it is naturally present. This fragrance of peace, this spaciousness, it is the fragrance of your own being.”

Mooji Quotes On Life

“Feelings are just visitors, let them come and go.”

“When you live guided by intuition rather than thought, your life dances like writing on water, fresh and untraceable.”

“Live by the light of your own heart… but make sure this heart is silent and empty.”

“Life cannot be against you, for you are Life itself. Life can only seem to go against the ego’s projections, which are rarely the truth.”

“Your urge to control life controls you.”

You ask: How to live my life? But with that question you are suffocating life itself, for life is spontaneity.

Dying to your own attachments is a beautiful death. Because this death releases you into real life. You have to die as a seed to live as a tree.

Life is best when life is simple.

“If you seek approval from others in this world, you will not know happiness.”

“In the land of “I know,” there is always competitiveness, jealousy, pretence, pride and arrogance. It is an aggressive realm – the realm of the ego. I say refuse citizenship. In the land of “I don’t know,” the inhabitants move without conflict and are naturally quiet, happy and peaceful. The wise stay here.”

“It is not wise to compare your life to that of others, for each life stream is unique and is the expression of pure spirit and being.”

For more quotes about spirituality and awakening check out some more Project Monkey Mind posts:

35 Viktor Frankl Quotes on the Meaning of Life, Love, and Suffering

52 Michael A. Singer Quotes About Surrender

26 Carlos Castaneda Quotes To Awaken Your Inner Shaman

52 Michael Singer Quotes from The Surrender Experiment & The Untethered Soul

Michael A. Singer Quotes

Imagine this scene. 

You’re in a rigorous PhD program at a respected university, and suddenly and unexpectedly you have a spiritual awakening experience that completely changes how you see the universe. 

Instead of being driven by a mind full of preferences and opinions, you decide to let go and let the intelligence of the universe guide your life. Before long you’ve devoted your life to meditation and yoga, and you’ve been moved to live in the woods. This intelligence leads you to more insights and awakenings, and eventually back to the busy world of business where you found a Medical company that merges with WebMD and becomes a billion-dollar enterprise.

Crazy story? Sounds like something out of a movie. Well, it happened to Michael Singer. He went on to write two very popular books, The Untethered Soul (2007) and The Surrender Experiment (2015).

The Untethered Soul was the first bestselling book from Michael Singer. It was a more general book about the nature of mind, self and life, and drew heavily from yogic philosophy. Eventually, this book caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey, which exploded its popularity and resulted in international exposure for Singer.

In 2015 Singer released The Surrender Experiment, a much more personal first-hand account of his journey with yoga, meditation, life and business. The themes in this book overlap greatly with The Untethered Soul, and there is an emphasis on surrendering to whatever happens in life without resistance. Spiritual autobiographies have a long history, and Singer has mentioned that Philip Kapleau’s book, The Three Pillars of Zen, as well as Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, were influential in his life and writing. 

There is a consistency between the themes explored by Singer and other modern spiritual teachers who draw from traditional wisdom paths such as Zen and Advaita Vedanta. However, though topics such as ego, surrender and spiritual practice, are touched on, the honesty of Singer’s experience makes his work honest and palatable.

Here are 52 quotes from Michael Singer from The Untethered Soul and The Surrender Experiment!

The Untethered Soul Quotes

“When a problem is disturbing you, don’t ask, “What should I do about it?” Ask, “What part of me is being disturbed by this?” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

“True personal growth is about transcending the part of you that is not okay and needs protection.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

“The only permanent solution to your problems is to go inside and let go of the part of you that seems to have so many problems with reality. Once you do that, you’ll be clear enough to deal with what’s left.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“Only you can take inner freedom away from yourself, or give it to yourself. Nobody else can.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

“Instead of being encouraged to feel completely protected, loved, honored, and respected by the Divine Force, you’ve been taught that you’re being judged. Because you’ve been taught that, you feel guilt and fear. But guilt and fear do not open your connection to the Divine; they only serve to close your heart. The reality is that God’s way is love, and you can see this for yourself.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

“There is no reason to constantly attempt to figure everything out” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“If you want to be happy, you have to let go of the part of you that wants to create melodrama. This is the part that thinks there’s a reason not to be happy. You have to transcend the personal, and as you do, you will naturally awaken to the higher aspects of your being.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

“We are constantly trying to hold it all together. If you really want to see why you do things, then don’t do them and see what happens.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“Acceptance means events can make it through you without resistance.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“The most important thing in life is your inner energy. If you’re always tired and never enthused, then life is no fun. But if you’re always inspired and filled with energy, then every minute of every day is an exciting experience. Learn to work with these things. Through meditation, through awareness and willful efforts, you can learn to keep your centers open. You do this by just relaxing and releasing.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“You’re floating in empty space in a universe that goes on forever. If you have to be here, at least be happy and enjoy the experience.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“The psyche is built upon avoiding this pain, and as a result, it has fear of pain as its foundation. That is what caused the psyche to be. To understand this, notice that if the feeling of rejection is a major problem for you, you will fear experiences that cause rejection. That fear will become part of your psyche.”- Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“If you truly love someone, your love sees past their humanness” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“Your eyes are not really windows through which you look out into the world. Your eyes are cameras that send electronic images of the world into you.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself  

“The truth is that most of life will unfold in accordance with forces far outside your control, regardless of what your mind says about it” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“If you really want to see why you do things, then don’t do them and see what happens.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“You really don’t need more time before death; what you need is more depth of experience during the time you’re given.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“To attain true inner freedom, you must be able to objectively watch your problems instead of being lost in them.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“You don’t fight the mind. In fact, you don’t even try to change it. You just make a game out of relaxing in the face of its melodrama.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“What if you knew that the next person you’d see would be the last person you would ever see? You’d be right there soaking it in, experiencing it. It wouldn’t matter what they were saying; you’d just enjoy hearing the words because it would be the last conversation you’d ever have. What if you brought that kind of awareness to every conversation?” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“Death changes everything in a flash. That’s the reality of the situation. If all these things can be changed in an instant, then maybe they aren’t so real after all.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“Do not let anything that happens in life be important enough that you’re willing to close your heart over it.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

Michael Singer on How To Seperate The Voice In Your Head From The Real You

“You have to understand that it is your attempt to get special experiences from life that makes you miss the actual experience of life.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“Eventually you will see that the real cause of the problem is not life itself. It’s the commotion the mind makes about life that really causes the problems.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“You gain nothing by being bothered by life’s events. It doesn’t change the world; you just suffer. There’s always going to be something that can bother you, if you let it.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

“Billions of things are going on in this world. You can think about it all you want, but life is still going to keep on happening.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“What you end up experiencing is really a personal presentation of the world according to you, rather than the stark, unfiltered experience of what is really out there. This mental manipulation of the outer experience allows you to buffer reality as it comes in.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“Fear is the cause of every problem. It’s the root of all prejudices and the negative emotions of anger, jealousy, and possessiveness. If you had no fear, you could be perfectly happy living in this world.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“Imagine if you used relationships to get to know other people, rather than to satisfy what is blocked inside of you. If you’re not trying to make people fit into your preconceived notions of what you like and dislike, you will find that relationships are not really that difficult. If you’re not so busy judging and resisting people based upon what is blocked inside of you, you will find that they are much easier to get along with—and so are you. Letting go of yourself is the simplest way to get closer to others.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“It’s actually a shocking realization when you first notice that your mind is constantly talking. You might even try to yell at it in a feeble attempt to shut it up. But then you realize that’s the voice yelling at the voice:” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

“When you feel pain, simply view it as energy. Just start seeing these inner experiences as energy passing through your heart and before the eye of your consciousness. Then relax. Do the opposite of contracting and closing. Relax and release. Relax your heart until you are actually face-to-face with the exact place where it hurts. Stay open and receptive so you can be present right where the tension is. You must be willing to be present right at the place of the tightness and pain, and then relax and go even deeper. This is very deep growth and transformation. But you will not want to do this. You will feel tremendous resistance to doing this, and that’s what makes it so powerful. As you relax and feel the resistance, the heart will want to pull away, to close, to protect, and to defend itself. Keep relaxing. Relax your shoulders and relax your heart. Let go and give room for the pain to pass through you. It’s just energy. Just see it as energy and let it go.” – Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

Michael Singer On How To Free Yourself From Negative Thoughts

The Surrender Experiment Quotes

“Each of us actually believes that things should be the way we want them, instead of being the natural result of all the forces of creation.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection

“I was not in charge, yet life continued to unfold as if it knew just what it was doing.”  – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“That was the essence of my experiment with life: if it’s down to a matter of preference—life wins.”  – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“Just kept letting go and practicing nonresistance, whether I liked what was happening or not.”  – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“At some point there’s no more struggle, just the deep peace that comes from surrendering to a perfection that is beyond your comprehension.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection

“No matter who we are, life is going to put us through the changes we need to go through. The question is: Are we willing to use this force for our transformation? I saw that even very intense situations don’t have to leave psychological scars, if we are willing to process our changes at a deeper level.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection  

“It seems as though life knew exactly what it was doing, and as usual, my mind knew nothing.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection

Michael Singer on Why We Are Afraid of Change

“Instead of trying to free myself by constantly quieting the mind, perhaps I should be asking why the mind is so active. What is in the motivation behind all the mental chatter? If that motivation was to be removed, the struggle would be over.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection

“I could see that the practice of surrender was actually done in two, very distinct steps: first, you let go of the personal reactions of like and dislike that form inside your mind and heart; and second, with the resultant sense of clarity, you simply look to see what is being asked of you by the situation unfolding in front of you.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection

“How could I possibly explain the great freedom that comes from realizing to the depth of your being that life knows what it’s doing?” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“Time and again I was seeing that if I could handle the winds of the current storm, they would end up blowing in some great gift…Challenging situations create the force needed to bring about change. The problem is that we generally use all the stirred up energy intended to bring about change, to resist change.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“Clearly remember deciding that from now on if life was unfolding in a certain way, and the only reason I was resisting it was because of a personal preference, I would let go of my preference and let life be in charge.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“My formula for success was very simple: Do whatever is put in front of you with all your heart and soul without regard for personal results. Do the work as though it were given to you by the universe itself – because it was.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“Because I had inwardly surrendered each step of the way, no scars were left of my psyche. It had been like writing on water – the impressions only lasted while the events were actually taking place.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“There was not much I could do but let go of my reaction.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection

“I am so grateful that surrender had taught me to willingly participate in life’s dance with a quiet mind and an open heart.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“Am I better off making up an alternate reality in my mind and then fighting with reality to make it be my way, or am I better off letting go of what I want and serving the same forces of reality that managed to create the entire perfection of the universe around me?” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection 

“Surrender – what an amazingly powerful world. It often engenders the thought of weakness and cowardice. In my case, it required all the strength I had to be brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown.” – Michael A. Singer, The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection

35 Fyodor Dostoevsky Quotes on Love, God, Life, Death and Beauty

Fyodor Dostoevsky Quotes

“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth” – Albert Camus

We read the quotes of great men and women for a number of reasons. To learn something new, to feel better about ourselves, to inspire love for life, because we’re bored, and sometimes simply out of a childlike curiosity.

But behind all these there’s a fundamental reason; to change the way we see the world.

The above quote by Albert Camus changed how I saw the world, and particularly how I saw the role of fiction in the world. I was always a lover of non-fiction books, and at one point I even thought fiction to be nothing more than entertainment.

But fiction can echo the most honest truths, truths that may be so profound (and at times disturbing) that we can’t even explain them explicitly.

And there is perhaps no novelist whose novels explored truer themes than Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky.

Born in Moscow in 1821, Dostoevsky, like his contemporaries Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, and Alexander Pushkin, is considered one of the most important novelists of the Golden Age of Russian literature. The words and quotes of Dostoevsky are incredibly profound.

He is known for the psychological and philosophical quality of his books, with characters that inhabit a vast moral spectrum and take on wildly varying positions as they examine and challenge social conventions. From nihilistic criminals to devout monks, his complex personas wrestle with difficult questions and disturbing truths.

In his twenties, Dostoevsky joined the Petrashevsky Circle, a group of progressive intellectual idealists. A few years later, he and other members of the group were arrested, put on trial, and convicted for anti-government activities. He and the others were sentenced to death and brought in front of a firing squad in 1849, but their sentences were commuted at the last minute.

Instead of being executed, Dostoevsky served four years in a Siberian labor camp before being released in 1854. These experiences had a significant influence on all of his subsequent writings, including his most famous works: Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Brothers Karamazov.

Dostoevsky is often referred to as one of the first existentialists. While the term “existentialism” was not coined until after the end of World War II, the school of thought is typically traced back to the mid-to-late nineteenth century and the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Soren Kierkegaard, and Dostoevsky.

Nietzsche rejected religion, but both Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky were devout Christians. However, what unites the three is their emphasis on a person’s responsibility to reckon with spiritual questions as an individual. Each in his own way examined what would become one of the hallmarks of the philosophy: the idea that freedom is not easy. To an existentialist, an individual is who they freely choose to be, defined by actions and choices instead of a pre-existing “essence.”

Traditional Christian virtues, especially selfless love, were of utmost importance to Dostoevsky. However, he did not assume these to be the default state of humanity, but achievements borne of spiritual discipline. To be moral is not to surrender freedom, but to act from freedom: to choose a moral course, even when it means turning toward suffering and sacrificing pleasure and comfort for the sake of others. Living in this way allows a person to overcome the corrupting forces of the world and to fully experience the beauty and goodness of life.

Dostoevsky Quotes

Dostoevsky Quotes On Love

“Fathers and teachers, I ponder, ‘What is hell?’ I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Learning to love is hard and we pay dearly for it. It takes hard work and a long apprenticeship, for it is not just for a moment that we must learn to love, but forever.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love, and in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest form of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal in satisfying his vices. And it all comes from lying — to others and to yourself.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day, and you will come at last to love the world with an all-embracing love.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“I am sorry I can say nothing more consoling to you, for love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams. Love in dreams is greedy for immediate action, rapidly performed and in the sight of all. Men will even give their lives if only the ordeal does not last long but is soon over, with all looking on and applauding as though on the stage. But active love is labour and fortitude, and for some people too, perhaps, a complete science. But I predict that just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting farther from your goal instead of nearer to it — at that very moment I predict that you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of the Lord who has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Love is such a priceless treasure that you can redeem the whole world by it, and cleanse not only your own sins but the sins of others.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

To Dostoevsky, love is the utmost virtue—the defining element of the Christian path and the moral life. In his view, love is not simply a feeling, but a course of action. To become able to love, a person must resist the urge to serve the self at the expense of others and choose to do the opposite: to serve others, even at the expense of the self. To love is to choose forgiveness over vengeance, generosity over self-indulgence, and hard truths over comforting lies.

The loving soul is forged in suffering and hardship, yet transcends them, opening up to a happiness that is independent of external circumstances. At times, love is hard work, but the one who loves needs little else to be happy. To love is to respond purely to life, to celebrate and affirm it even when it is difficult or painful. Love is its own light, a healing force that not only purifies the soul it arises from, but the souls of others who come into its presence. In Dostoevsky’s world, it is often the saving grace that allows a person to face a world of chaos and corruption.

Dostoevsky Quotes On Family

“And indeed, what aim in life is more important and sacred than a father’s? To what should one adhere, if not to one’s family?”

-The Idiot

“Even toil will be a joy, you may deny yourself bread for your children and even that will be a joy, They will love you for it afterwards; so you are laying by for your future.”

-Notes from Underground

“As the children grow up you feel that you are an example, a support for them; that even after you die your children will always keep your thoughts and feelings, because they have received them from you, they will take on your semblance and likeness. So you see this is a great duty.”

-Notes from Underground

“From the house of my childhood I have brought nothing but precious memories, for there are no memories more precious than those of early childhood in one’s first home. And that is almost always so if there is any love and harmony in the family at all. Indeed, precious memories may remain even of a bad home, if only the heart knows how to find what is precious.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Love is a holy mystery and ought to be hidden from all other eyes, whatever happens. That makes it holier and better. They respect one another more, and much is built on respect. And if once there has been love, if they have been married for love, why should love pass away? Surely one can keep it! It is rare that one cannot keep it.

And if the husband is kind and straightforward, why should not love last? The first phase of married love will pass, it is true, but then there will come a love that is better still. Then there will be the union of souls, they will have everything in common, there will be no secrets between them. And once they have children, the most difficult times will seem to them happy, so long as there is love and courage.”

-Notes from Underground

Through his novels, Dostoevsky examined the ways families generate and sustain love, as well as the ways they can be corrupted and torn apart by hatred, jealousy, and vice. One of his most well-known books, The Brothers Karamazov, depicts the downfall of a family through the self-centred actions of its patriarch, Fyodor Pavlovich. Despite the profound goodness of one of the brothers, Alyosha, the life of the family is defined by the sins of the father and the son who is most like him.

Dostoevsky saw children as supremely vulnerable in their innocence and showed how profoundly they can suffer at the hands of cruel parents and the whims of a cold society. Yet just as an individual can embrace a spiritual path of love that defies worldly corruption, a family can provide a haven of love that protects and nurtures its members as they are tested by the world. To Dostoevsky, home should be a place of healing, a place where loving actions forge memories that live on in the hearts of the children long after they have grown up and left. The gifts of home are not given, however; they depend on the parents’ ability to embody and act from love, as well as on the children’s ability to recognize and accept the gifts of home.

Dostoevsky Quotes

Dostoevsky Quotes On Beauty

“Beauty will save the world.”

-The Idiot

“Silence is always beautiful, and a silent person is always more beautiful than one who talks.”

-The Adolescent

“Beauty is a terrible and awful thing! It is terrible because it has not been fathomed, for God sets us nothing but riddles.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“We don’t understand that life is heaven, for we have only to understand that and it will at once be fulfilled in all its beauty, we shall embrace each other and weep.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“She was very fond of thinking and getting at the truth of things… This naive combination in her of the child and the thinking woman, this childlike and absolutely genuine thirst for truth and justice, and absolute faith in her impulses—all this lighted up her face with a fine glow of sincerity, giving it a lofty, spiritual beauty, and one began to understand that it was not so easy to gauge the full significance of that beauty which was not all at once apparent to every ordinary unsympathetic eye.”

-Humiliated and Insulted

“The children of the sun, the children of their sun — oh, how beautiful they were! Never had I seen on our own earth such beauty in mankind. Only perhaps in our children, in their earliest years, one might find, some remote faint reflection of this beauty. The eyes of these happy people shone with a clear brightness. Their faces were radiant with the light of reason and fullness of a serenity that comes of perfect understanding, but those faces were gay; in their words and voices there was a note of childlike joy. Oh, from the first moment, from the first glance at them, I understood it all! It was the earth untarnished by the Fall; on it lived people who had not sinned. They lived just in such a paradise as that in which, according to all the legends of mankind, our first parents lived before they sinned; the only difference was that all this earth was the same paradise. These people, laughing joyfully, thronged round me and caressed me; they took me home with them, and each of them tried to reassure me. Oh, they asked me no questions, but they seemed, I fancied, to know everything without asking, and they wanted to make haste to smooth away the signs of suffering from my face.”

-The Dream of a Ridiculous Man

Dostoevsky appreciated true beauty as the outward appearance of a loving soul, a radiance that emanates from underlying virtue. He was deeply suspicious of seductive surfaces and lamented those for whom beauty was all surface, an invitation to lust and to seek sensual pleasure even at the expense of others.

In The Brothers Karamazov, he compares the “beauty of the Madonna” to “the beauty of Sodom,” noting that while the former is more profound, the latter is what most people choose, often to disastrous results. Unlike that which activates the appetites, the deeper spiritual beauty Dostoevsky admired is a gateway to contemplation for the one who beholds it: an invitation to love and to look deeper.

The kind of beauty that nourishes rather than corrupts the soul arises from the perception of an underlying perfection. This is not the perfection of form, but of the spirit, and often lies beneath an apparently imperfect surface. To Dostoevsky, beauty arises from the recognition of paradise, or Heaven, in this very world. A beautiful soul is faithful, loving, and honest, uncontrived in the same way Eden was uncontrived. To such a soul, untwisted by vice and grasping greed, joy arises naturally and becomes a source of light for others.

Dostoevsky Quotes On God

“Without God all things are permitted.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“My friends, God is necessary for me if only because he is the one being who can be loved eternally.”

-The Possessed

“God is necessary, and therefore must exist… But I know that he does not and cannot exist… Don’t you understand that a man with these two thoughts cannot go on living?”

-The Possessed

There is no sin, and there can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant! Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God?”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“Obedience, fasting, and prayer are laughed at, yet only through them lies the way to real true freedom. I cut off my superfluous and unnecessary desires, I subdue my proud and wanton will and chastise it with obedience, and with God’s help I attain freedom of spirit and with it spiritual joy.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“If I seem happy to you . . . You could never say anything that would please me more. For men are made for happiness, and anyone who is completely happy has a right to say to himself, ‘I am doing God’s will on earth.’ All the righteous, all the saints, all the holy martyrs were happy.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky characters represent his own process of dealing with faith. While he was ultimately a believer, and while he felt a special affection for his most devout characters, Dostoevsky admitted that he struggled in his spiritual life: “My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt,” he said. The suffering he witnessed in the world was hard for him to reconcile with God’s omnipotence and love. Yet in his own life and through his characters’ journeys, Dostoevsky saw how love and suffering were deeply connected—the latter of which often gave rise to the former. He observed that true joy was only possible through the practice and realization of active love, which is tested and strengthened through suffering.

While it is impossible to know exactly what was in his mind at the end of his life, his life’s journey mirrors those of his most faithful characters. Biographies show that Dostoevsky’s final years were a period of increasing peace for him, a time when he turned away from former vices and toward the redemptive, loving faith he wrote about in his final work and magnum opus, The Brothers Karamazov. His life and works stand as a testament to a man who took spiritual questions seriously and was ultimately able to reconcile himself with his life and with God.

Dostoevsky Quotes on Love

Dostoevsky Quotes On Death

“Take a soldier and put him right in front of a cannon in a battle and fire it at him, and he’ll go on hoping, but read out a certain death sentence to that same soldier, and he’ll go mad, or start to weep.”

-The Idiot

“Where is it I’ve read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he’d only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once. Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!”

-Crime and Punishment

“He went up to his room like a man who has been condemned to death. His mind was completely empty, and he was quite incapable of filling it with anything; but with his whole being he suddenly felt that he no longer possessed any freedom of thought or of will, and that everything had suddenly been decided once and for all.”

-Crime and Punishment

“But man is a frivolous and incongruous creature, and perhaps, like the chess player, loves only the process of the game, not the end of it. And who knows (one cannot swear to it), perhaps the only goal on earth to which mankind is striving lies in this incessant process of attaining, or in other words, in life itself, and not particularly in the goal which of course must always be two times two makes four, that is a formula, and after all, two times two makes four is no longer life, gentlemen, but is the beginning of death.”

-Notes from Underground

“He spoke of many things, he seemed anxious before the moment of death to say everything he had not said in his life, and not simply for the sake of instructing them, but as though thirsting to share with all men and all creation his joy and ecstasy, and once more in his life to open up his whole heart.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky was haunted throughout his life by how it felt to face death. After standing in front of a firing squad, believing he was about to die, only to have his execution stayed at the last minute, he wrote to his brother:

“When I look back at the past and think how much time has been wasted in vain, how much time was lost in delusions, in errors, in idleness, in ignorance of how to live, how I did not value time, how often I sinned against my heart and spirit—my heart bleeds. Life is a gift, life is happiness, each minute might have been an age of happiness… not to be downhearted nor to fall in whatever misfortunes may befall me—this is life; this is the task of life.”

His letter overflowed with love and an unwavering conviction in the goodness of life. He was grateful not only to have his life, but to have been startled into a deeper appreciation for it.

To live is not just to enjoy the sensations of being alive, but to be able to love, grow, and change. As his characters affirmed, confronting mortality allows a person to spent less time resisting life and more time accepting it. For those who live a full and spiritually wise life, the final moments before death can be profound and expansive, a final outpouring of life’s goodness, a celebration rather than a moment to lament.

Dostoevsky Quotes On Life

“Love life more than the meaning of it.”

-The Brothers Karamazov

“But how could you live and have no story to tell?”

-White Nights

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

-Crime and Punishment

“We have all lost touch with life, we all limp, each to a greater or lesser degree.”

-Notes from Underground

“It’s life that matters, nothing but life—the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all.”

-The Idiot

“I do not wish you much happiness—it would bore you; I do not wish you trouble either; but, following the people’s philosophy, I will simply repeat: ‘Live more,’ and try somehow not to be too bored; this useless wish I am adding on my own.”

-The Possessed

“For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance. “

-The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky’s conception of life is consistent with existentialism, the philosophical school with which he was later associated. Other likeminded thinkers who have explored similar themes include Viktor Frankl and more recently Jordan Peterson. To an existentialist, it is important to question life’s meaning, but inauthentic to accept a formulaic answer. The question must be lived; the meaning of life can only be found in a living, breathing experience. For someone like Dostoevsky, who was brought to the brink of death and spared, no simple belief could answer to the vast consciousness that experience opened up in him. From the point of his return from exile onward, he never stopped depicting characters who recognized the same thing he did: that life is like a river that bursts the banks of anything that can be thought or said about it. The way to live a meaningful life is to live it as fully as possible, which for Dostoevsky meant embracing the world in an all-encompassing love.

If you’d like to learn more, here are 50 more deep thoughts and saying by Dostoevsky.

25 Carlos Castaneda Quotes To Awaken Your Inner Shaman

Spirituality is universal. It couldn’t be any other way. 

What do I mean by this?

In reality, independent of cognitive labels, there is no split between the physical, psychological or spiritual worlds. When you look in your direct experience, you can never find a line distinguishing them. We only separate these domains for the sake of communication and scientific investigation. 

Why, however, is this important to point out? Well, because religions and belief systems are simply pointers from apparent mental and physical worlds to the spirit world. 

To say that one tradition has the answer is an oxymoron, the answer lies outside of tradition. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that each tradition has its own unique way of explaining things, and different ideas will connect with different people. 

My mother was raised a catholic and my father Jewish. I was raised an atheist – but later turned to Buddhism, before becoming interested in Yoga and Advaita Vedanta in search of something more. Ultimately, however, no teaching was more believable than actual experience. 

Along the way I’ve explored Christian mysticism, Sufism, and even neo-shamanism. One of the most well known neo-shamanistic writers was a Peruvian-American who draws inspiration from the ancient Toltec culture of Hidalgo, Mexico. I have spent years in both Mexico and Peru respectively, and I can tell you that their cultures – both modern and traditional, vary greatly. Make no mistake, he was not born into the tradition he introduced to the world.

Born on Christmas day, 1925, in Cajamarca Peru, Carlos Castaneda went on to study a PhD in anthropology at the University of California Los Angeles. In the early 1960s, his work as an anthropologist took him to Arizona, where he met Don Juan Matus, a shaman who was shrouded in mystery and promise. After a series of initiation ritual of sorts, whereby Castaneda was supposedly introduced to a series of hallucinogens, he returned to Los Angeles and wrote his first book The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. 

Published in 1968, the book was well-received by the Californian counterculture of the time, and spurred two further works; A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan (1971) and Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan (1972). Castaneda was reclusive, despite the fact he developed a degree of fame and unintentionally became a figurehead for the new age movement. 

His books have been translated into seventeen languages, and are still well known, now 50 years later. Admittedly though, they have not been without controversy. The three books have been criticised for appropriating the shamanistic cultures from which he drew his ideas. It’s a valid criticism, it should be made clear that his books are one academics modern interpretation of Toltec spirituality. He doesn’t speak for their culture. Also, though Castenada had a PhD in anthropology and his first books were initially taken to be works of non-fiction, they are now largely regarded as works of fiction. 

However, none of this takes away from the value of the ideas presented in his work. 

As you will see below, from wherever you are reading this article, his words often still resonate over half a century after they were written. Ideas will always be just that, ideas. If, however, they can point you towards something important, then they are valid. 

Whenever wisdom is repackaged form the modern age it becomes stripped of some of the authentic culture presented in their original form, and even to some sense diluted. This is clearly what has happened with mindfulness when Jon Kabat-Zinn brought it over from Buddhism to Western Medicine. 

So without further ado, here are;

25 Carlos Castaneda Quotes To Awaken Your Inner Shaman

Death & Spirit

“In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.”

“Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, ‘I haven’t touched you yet.”

“We hardly ever realize that we can cut anything out of our lives, anytime, in the blink of an eye.”

“Malicious acts are performed by people for personal gain … Sorcerers, though, have an ulterior purpose for their acts, which has nothing to do with personal gain. The fact that they enjoy their acts does not count as gain. Rather, it is a condition of their character. The average man acts only if there is a chance for profit. Warriors say they act not for profit but for the spirit.”

Many shamanic traditions have a different attitude towards death and spirit than modern culture. Though specific beliefs vary between cultures, there is commonly a ritualistic partaking in some form of acted death – such as psychedelics or long periods dancing or in a fasted state. Like many esoteric traditions, spirit is something that is more fundamental than the body, and therefore the death of the body is not feared, as it is simply a natural process of the essence returning to the earth. Castaneda often talked of ‘The Warrior’ and contrasted this to ‘The Normal Man’ – a warrior is someone who has seen the truth of spirit, and as a result, does not fear death.

Dreaming & Awakening

“Once it has learned to dream the double, the self arrives at this weird crossroad and a moment comes when one realizes that it is the double who dreams the self.”

“Forget the self and you will fear nothing, in whatever level or awareness you find yourself to be.”

“Through dreaming we can perceive other worlds, which we can certainly describe, but we can’t describe what makes us perceive them.”

“The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.”

“What makes us unhappy is to want. Yet if we would learn to cut our wants to nothing, the smallest thing we’d get would be a true gift.”

“Beware of those who weep with realization, for they have realized nothing.”

“There is no beginning, the beginning is only in your thought.”

“Don Juan had always said to me that our great enemy is the fact that we never believe what is happening to us.”

Dreaming and Awakening are often to domains and metaphors that are used to examine the nature of experience and question our assumptions about reality. In 1993 Castaneda wrote a book called The Art of Dreaming, which explained the process of lucid dreaming and its application in spiritual endeavours. Lucid dreaming has been used for thousands of years as a spiritual practice, most notably in Tibetan Dream Yoga. Don Juan Matus’ approach to dreaming, as described by Castaneda, takes the dreamer through 7 gates which are obstacles to pure awareness. 

Intention & Emotion

“To worry is to become accessible, unwittingly accessible. And once you worry you cling to anything out of desperation; and once you cling you are bound to get exhausted or to exhaust whoever or whatever you are clinging to.”

“A warrior takes his lot, whatever it may be, and accepts it in ultimate humbleness. He accepts in humbleness what he is, not as a grounds for regret but as a living challenge.”

“The trick is in what one emphasises. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”

“A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance.”

“Once you decide something put all your petty fears away. Your decision should vanquish them.”

“Think about it: what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellow men. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.”

“I have no routines or personal history. One day I found out that they were no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped them. One must have the desire to drop them and then one must proceed harmoniously to chop them off, little by little.”

“…only if they remain totally detached can they have the energy to be free. Theirs is a particular type of detachment which is born not out of fear or indolence, but out of conviction.”

Like many psychological systems throughout human history, Castenada emphasised intention and its impact on our emotions. This intention meant the literal emotional intention, such as trying to think positive thoughts, but it was also a broader way of engaging with life. Notably, he had a very controlled and strict diet and believed that what you eat was a direct reflection of mental content. “Si comes mal, te sientes mal y ves todo mal” he told one reporter – meaning “If you eat bad, you’ll feel bad and see everything negatively.”

Life

“A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you . . . Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”

“A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting.”

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”

“The art of a warrior is to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.”

“You say you need help. Help for what? You have everything needed for the extravagant journey that is your life.”

Life, from Castaneda’s perspective, was something that was both eerily short and vastly expansive. This is because the shaman lives from a place of connectedness with the absolute, and radical honesty with his humanity. The human experience of life is brief and is to be lived as such. Fear is put aside and challenges are confronted head-on, the senses are to be enjoyed but not to the point of hedonism. Level Headedness is what guides the warrior.

32 Ram Dass Quotes on Love, Life, Silence and Suffering

In 1963, in the midst of the psychedelic revolution, a Harvard professor of Psychology was dismissed for allegedly giving psilocybin to one of his students.

The professor, known at the time as Richard Albert, along with another professor, Timothy Leary, established a communal group for exploration of consciousness with psychedelics. Their experiments had a profound impact on the culture of the time.

Albert became fascinated by achieving states of higher consciousness. He was beginning to realise that drugs offered only a possibility to see some aspect of truth, they wouldn’t allow you to become that truth. In 1967 he decided to travel to India, where he would meet his guru Neem Karoli Baba and receive his new name Ram Dass meaning “servant of God.”

Ram Dass since became a lead voice in the movement of Eastern Spirituality to the West. Despite having suffered a severe stroke in 1997, paralysing the right side of his body, Ram Dass has continued to teach. Now in his mid-80’s, his wisdom is a testament to an intense fifty-year devotion to spirituality.

Here are 32 of the greatest Ram Dass quotes on love, life, silence and suffering.

Love

“The heart surrenders everything to the moment. The mind judges and holds back.”

“We’re all just walking each other home.”

“I’m not interested in being a “lover.” I’m interested in only being love.”

“I would like my life to be a statement of love and compassion – and where it isn’t, that’s where my work lies.”

“When we see the Beloved in each person, it’s like walking through a garden, watching flowers bloom all around us.”

“Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.”

“We are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply interconnected with one another.”

“What you meet in another being is the projection of your own level of evolution.”

Ram Dass comes from a traditional called Bhakti Yoga. This path is oriented towards using love as a tool for awakening. That love typically manifests itself in the form of worship, either towards a guru or a deity, however even love towards someone else or an idea can be powerful enough to create long-lasting change. Existential Psychologist Viktor Frankl similarly believed that commitment to something greater than us, in the form of love, was the way to create unbelievable strength in human beings.

In psychology, love is in generally known as an emotion that requires directing towards something else – an object or concept. However, in the form of spirituality that is practised by Ram Dass, love is universal and can be perpetuated for its’ own sake.

As Ram Dass says:

“The most important aspect of love is not in giving or the receiving: it’s in the being. When I need love from others, or need to give love to others, I’m caught in an unstable situation. Being in love, rather than giving or taking love, is the only thing that provides stability. Being in love means seeing the Beloved all around me.”

Life

“The spiritual journey is individual, highly personal. It can’t be organized or regulated. It isn’t truth that everyone should follow one path. Listen to your own truth.”

“When you know how to listen everybody is the guru.”

“Every religion is the product of the conceptual mind attempting to describe the mystery.”

“In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring one another that our costumes of identity are on straight.”

“The game is not about becoming somebody, it’s about becoming nobody.”

“It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.”

“Learn to watch your drama unfold while at the same time knowing you are more than your drama.”

“As long as you certain desires about how it out to be you can’t see it how it is.”

Ram Dass was one of the first well known Westerners (and academics) to popularise the philosophy of the East. One of his strengths, therefore, was the ability to explain Eastern concepts in a way that was relevant to the way of life of practitioners in the United States. This is clear in his advice, which is simple and concise and continues to be sought out by thousands of people every year from all walks of life.

Silence

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

“Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story, instead of the actor in it.”

“In mystical traditions, it is one’s own readiness that makes experiences exoteric or esoteric.

The secret isn’t that you’re not being told.

The secret is that you’re not able to hear.”

“If you rest in the silence inside, all those you meet will have their spiritual hearts resuscitated.”

“External silence can be the doorway to inner silence.”

“All spiritual practices are illusions created by illusionists to escape illusion.”

“We’re fascinated by the words- but where we meet is the silence behind them.”

Many of Ram Dass’ teachings often use the experience of silence as a directive. As is common in nondual traditions, silence is used as a pointer to experience deeper peace, presence and equanimity. This is because silence is something we can all relate to, and though we often fear or resent noise in our life, it is typically because we can’t look beyond (or behind) the noise and experience the silence that is simultaneously permeating our moment-to-moment experience.

Ram Dass explains that silence “is something [he’s] been cultivating for 45 years now.” While thoughts and feelings arise and sometimes leave us agitated, if we can focus on the silence in even the most chaotic moments, we will be able to experience a profound peace that becomes a great assistance in our daily life.

Suffering

“The most exquisite paradox… as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.”

“Suffering is the sandpaper of our incarnation. It does its work of shaping us.”

“Compassion refers to the arising in the heart of the desire to relieve the suffering of all beings.”

“A feeling of aversion or attachment toward something is your clue that there’s work to be done.”

“I would say that the thrust of my life has been initially about getting free, and then realizing that my freedom is not independent of everybody else. Then I am arriving at that circle where one works on oneself as a gift to other people so that one doesn’t create more suffering. I help people as I work on myself and I work on myself to help people.”

“The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.”

“Suffering is part of our training program from becoming wise.”

Suffering is an inevitable part of human experience. In the Buddhist and Hindu traditions however, our attention allows it to become something that is inevitably transforming. Ram Dass himself experienced a near fatal-stroke that greatly impeded his ability to express himself physically. However, his spiritual training allowed him to use this experience to teach him something about the nature of reality, experience and being a human being. In his book Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying, he says:

“Before the stroke I wrote a great deal about the terrible things that can happen in aging, and how to cope with them. Now I’m happy to say that having gone through what some would view as the worst, it’s not so bad after all.Getting old isn’t easy for a lot of us. Neither is living, neither is dying. We struggle against the inevitable, and we all suffer because of it. We have to find another way to look at the whole process of being born, growing old, changing, and dying, some kind of perspective that might allow us to deal with what we perceive as big obstacles without having to be dragged through the drama. It really helps to understand that we have something — that we are something — which is unchangeable, beautiful, completely aware, and continues no matter what.”



BONUS: 5 Ram Dass Lectures to Drastically Change your Perspective on Life

Ram Dass on Psychedelics and Enlightenment

Ram Dass on Dissolving the Fear and Finding Your Own Beauty

Ram Dass on How We Can Accept Ourselves More

Ram Dass on the Dark Night of the Soul

Ram Dass on Suffering and Karma

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The Hidden Truth about Mindfulness

I have an opinion that many people don’t agree with.

You might be on the same page. You might not. But you’re definitely going to want to hear me out.

I think that Mindfulness is Bullsh*t. I don’t believe that it does what it promises to do.

But hold on a second. Before any mindfulness junkies reading this article mindfully spit out their coffee and mindfully slam their laptops closed, hear me out.

Let me clarify my opinion; I think modern mindfulness is bullsh*t.

A brief history of mindfulness

If you haven’t heard of mindfulness by now, you’ve probably been living under a rock. But just in case, I’ll introduce a brief definition.

Mindfulness is the state of directing one’s awareness to the feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations that are being experienced in the present moment. This also includes acknowledging and accepting them without judgement. It is commonly used as a therapeutic technique to manage emotions and reduce stress.

Modern mindfulness (which I will now refer to as McMindfulness) has largely taken over from Vipassana, at least to the degree that it is far more well known in the West. Vipassana (aka Insight Meditation) is a serious practice. In fact, beginner vipassana courses are usually 10-day silent retreats. Insight meditation requires intense effort, which is absolutely necessary for real change.

Mindfulness, however, when applied outside of a traditional Buddhist context, is typically taught as a continuous ‘light’ effort. Try to “be mindful” or “be aware” of your daily activities. The instruction that is given is not the same – in either context, practice or outcome – as a punctuated, committed effort, as used in Vipassana.

The word mindfulness comes from sati in Pali. Originally, it was not considered a stand-alone meditation technique; it was an indriya, a faculty or quality you’re supposed to have in vipassana. It loosely translates to remembrance, that is, the remembrance to be fully aware of the contents of experiences.

So how did it become distorted?

MIT professor Jon Kabbat-Zinn brought mindfulness to the West after having studied meditation under serious teachers, including the widely known Thich Nhat Hanh. He went on to establish the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979, where he developed the now famous Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.

Note that it is a ‘mindfulness-based’ program. Zinn’s attempt to remove any Buddhist framework was understandable; he was trying to introduce a novel and somewhat radical approach to Western medicine. At the time however, it was impossible to predict what effect MBSR would have on the culture of meditation.

The problem is not in mindfulness itself; it is in the fact that what we are exposed to in the West varies greatly in degrees of authenticity. What is clear however is that an Insight based practice that has been stripped of all Buddhist framework is inherently flawed.

“Mindfulness has become pernicious, diluted, and distorted by the prevailing narcissism of our time. The problem has somewhat less to do with how it’s practice and more to do with how it’s promoted. People aren’t necessarily learning bad breathing techniques. But in many cases they are relying on breathing techniques to deliver magical benefits. And all the while they are tediously, non-judgmentally focused entirely on themselves.” – Thomas Joiner

Another concern is that as mindfulness continues to be misused, it will go through a hype-cycle. First there will be an over-promise, then it will be a fad, later it will be discredited, and finally it will be forgotten. This is a huge pity, because the degree to which a number of styles of meditation could benefit Western culture is still largely untapped, and our fast-paced consumer society is largely at danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.



How to Practice Real Vipassana and not McMindfulness

There are a few things you can do to assess the quality of your mindfulness and make sure that what you practice will make a real difference to your life.

Attend an official retreat. This is the quickest and most effective way to have an authentic experience. Retreats typically run for 3,5,7 or 10 days. If you’d really like to know what meditation is about, attend a 5 day or longer retreat. Though they can be a challenge to novice meditators they have the benefit that the monkey mind tends to go through cycles of overactivity, tiredness, and deep calm – so you truly get to see what meditation is about.

Understand the context. If you have a well-respected meditation teacher in your city or state, then most useful you can do is learn from them directly. However, this isn’t always possible, so the next best thing is to read some books. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh is a good starting point, as is anything by experienced American Buddhists such as Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein and Pema Chodron.

Hold yourself accountable. This is the trickiest thing to do for beginner meditators. With that said however it’s the most useful skill to have because it’s something you’re going to use for your entire life. Basically, you need to act as an internal auditor to your own experience with the question “I am truly being mindful right now?” This means, am I really completely engaged in the experience or am I only half-heartedly being aware.

For example, when you initially start with exercise, everything feels like a workout. However, once you’ve gained some experience, you can tell the difference between a real workout and a half-baked effort. Ask yourself what can convince you that you’re really being mindful? What does it feel like from a bodily sensation?

In the pilot episode of the Deconstructing Yourself podcast, long-term Vipassana practitioners Michael Taft and Kenneth Folk dive deep into this process, it’s definitely worth a listen!

Here’s a guided Vipassana meditation by Tara Brach

The key difference between this style of Vipassana and concentration meditation is that in insight meditation, holding awareness of either the bodily sensations or thoughts or awareness of the breath is fine. As long as you are aware of the contents of the experience, and not lost in mind-wandering, you’re following the instructions of the practice. The main focus is that you remain aware of the experience in the moment and don’t get lost.

In concentration meditation, the attention is directed exclusive towards the breathe, and awareness of other feelings or thoughts should be met with a re-directing of the attention back to the breath.

There are dozens of ways you can practice mindfulness. As long as you focus diligently and non-judgmentally on the sensations of an experience, you are engaging in vipassana.

Other examples of Vipassana

Some Insight meditations you may want to experiment with are:

Rising and falling. In this practice, you notice the sensations associated with the rising and falling of the abdomen as you breathe. Simply place your attention on the motion of rising and falling of the breath from the beginning of the inhalation to the end of the exhalation. Don’t judge or describe them, simply feeling the experience from a purely sensory perspective. You may notice that the abdomen stops for a split second at the end of the inhale.

Mental noting. This is the most common technique used in therapeutic contexts and has been proven to be effective for dealing with anxiety. Simply watch closely what feelings, thoughts, and sensations arise, and give them a short name before letting go of them.

Some notes you may want to start with are: hearing, feeling, thinking, seeing, touching. As you gather more experience you might want to use more specific labels such as; fear, anxiety, anger, joy, surprise, heat, cool, hard, soft, smooth, rough, remembering, planning etc.

Walking meditation. If you have any issues with your back or other physical pain, walking meditation is going to be a great ally.

Here’s a basic walking meditation from the Vipassana Dhura Meditation Society.

 

  • Observe the standing posture, noting “standing” for a few moments. This means to focus awareness on the posture of the body as you stand (for a more detailed description of how to observe posture, see Exercise 4). If this is difficult you can choose one point to focus on, such as the soles of your feet, being aware of the feeling of pressure from touching the floor.
  • Before moving, note “intending to walk.” (Don’t skip this step).
  • Slowly lift the right foot and place it down, taking one step. This should be a single fluid motion without breaks. Be aware of the entire arc of movement from beginning to end. As you do so, label the step “placing” (remember to label while the motion is happening, not afterwards). The left foot should not have moved and the left heel should still be on the ground. After placing the right foot down, stop completely for a moment.
  • Slowly take a step with the left foot, noting “placing.” Stop.
  • Continue walking, making sure to stop completely after each step. Only move one foot at a time.
  • When you reach the end of the walking path, place your feet together on the last step, noting “stopping.”
  • Note “standing” for two or three moments.
  • Now you will begin to turn, in four steps. Note “intending to turn.”
  • Lift the toes of your right foot and pivot on the heel, turning to your right. At the same time, say the mental note “turning.” The right heel should stay on the ground. Be sure to keep your head in line with your torso. The left foot should not move. Stop.
  • Lift the left foot and place it down next to the right, while noting “turning”. (The left foot doesn’t pivot, but steps.) You should have moved about ninety degrees. Stop.
  • Pivot on the right heel again, noting “turning.” Stop.
  • Lift the left foot and place it down next to the right, noting “turning.” By now you should be facing in the opposite direction, having turned one-hundred-and-eighty degrees.
  • Repeat steps 1-12 as many times as you wish.

 

Practicing Vipassana Meditation with intention and diligence can lead to real insight, which is why it is such a fundamental part of Buddhist teachings.

If you’ve been struggling to get the hang of mindfulness for a while, it’s likely that it’s because you’ve yet to receive appropriate instruction or context. Try some of the practices I’ve mentioned above, or better yet, find an authorised Vipassana retreat.

What’s your experience with Mindfulness, Vipassana, or other styles of meditation? Let me know in the comments!

23 Ramana Maharshi Quotes on Silence, Life, and God

Ramana Maharshi Quotes

What does it really mean to be enlightened?

This is a question that’s been argued over for millennia. Who has experienced a real awakening, and who is simply trying to profit from the seeking of others?

At very best we can come to a consensus on certain figures. One of those beings was the 20th-century sage Ramana Maharshi, who was one of the first gurus to introduce the nondual teachings of Advaita Vedanta to the West.

Born in 1879 in what is now Tiruchuli, Tamil Nadu in India, Maharshi had a strong death experience at age 16 that sparked in him an awakening that would impact an entire generation. Six weeks after the experience he moved to the holy mountain Arunachala, where he stayed until his death in 1950.

Throughout his life, a community sprouted up around him as he was regarded by many as an enlightened being, and is now generally considered one of the most advanced sages of the last century.

Because of the time in which Ramana Maharshi lived, there is a certain degree of mystery surrounding his life story. A strange man by our cultural standards, he sometimes spent years in complete silence throughout his life, only answering questions by drawing with a stick in the sand. In his early years, he would often meditate for hours through the attacks of ants, mosquitoes, and even scorpions.

As he recalls:

“Days and nights would pass without my being aware of their passing…When anyone thought that I should have food, I would stretch a hand and something would drop into my hand. My hands were not useful for any other purpose. I would eat and rub my head on my head or body and drop again into my continuous mood. This was my condition for some years from the time of my arrival.”

The teachings of Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi mainly advocated the path of jnana yoga, which emphasise a method of self-inquiry. By constantly paying close attention to the feeling of ‘I’ and asking questions around that sensation, particularly ‘Who am I?’ and ‘To whom do these thoughts arise,’ he believed your ego would dissolve and you would become one with the infinite Self.

Maharshis most famous discipline, Papaji, went on to influence the west and become teacher to some well know modern gurus such as Mooji and Gangaji.

Note: In the following quotes, when Maharshi talks of the Self with a capital S, he is referring not to our idea of self, but to the infinite.

On Spiritual Awakening

“Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”

“Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.”

“Realisation is not acquisition or anything new nor is it a new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage.”

“Aim high, aim at the highest, and all lower aims are thereby achieved. It is looking below on the stormy sea of differences that makes you sink. Look up, beyond these and see the One Glorious Real, and you are saved.”

“Time is only an idea. There is only the reality whatever you think it is, it looks like that. If you call it time, it is time. If you call it existence, it is existence, and so on. After calling it time, you divide it into days and nights, months, years, hours, minute, etc. Time is immaterial for the Path of Knowledge. But some of these rules and discipline are good for beginners.”

“Thoughts come and go. Feelings come and go. Find out what it is that remains.”

Through his teachings, Ramana explained that to realize the truth of existence would be the best way you could give back to the world. Instead of trying to please everyone, he emphasised the importance of dissolving the ego and understanding the nature of Self. This, in turn, would lead you to act as an expression of the infinite, which would be spontaneous, loving, and more fruitful for your community than acting from the perspective of personhood.

On Happiness

“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”

“The explorers seek happiness in findings curiosities, discovering new lands and undergoing risks in adventures. They are thrilling. But where is pleasure found? Only within. Pleasure is not to be sought in the external world.”

“If one’s mind has peace, the whole world will appear peaceful.”

“All unhappiness is due to the ego. With it comes all your trouble. If you would deny the ego and scorch it by ignoring it you would be free.”

“Man’s search for happiness is an unconscious search for his true Self. The true Self is imperishable; therefore when a man finds it, he finds a happiness which does not come to an end.”

“Everything in the world was my Guru.”

Happiness, as Maharshi explained it, was something that you essential were, not something that you had to attain. Through diligent self-inquiry, you would strip away the ideas that got in the way of your peaceful nature and contentment would become your permanent state.



On God

“The greatest error of a man is to think that he is weak by nature, evil by nature. Every man is divine and strong in his real nature. What are weak and evil are his habits, his desires and thoughts, but not himself.”

“Have faith in God and in yourself; that will cure all. Hope for the best, expect the best, toil for the best and everything will come right for you in the end.”

“Know that the eradication of the identification with the body is charity, spiritual austerity and ritual sacrifice; it is virtue, divine union and devotion; it is heaven, wealth, peace and truth; it is grace; it is the state of divine silence; it is the deathless death; it is jnana, renunciation, final liberation and bliss.”

Though he wasn’t as big an advocate for Bhakti Yoga, the path of love and devotion to god, as some of his predecessors and disciples, Ramana was still entirely committed to the expression of the infinite he saw in Mount. Arunachala. As he explained when asked “Is it good to love God, is it not? Then why not follow the path of Love?”

“Who said you couldn’t follow it? You can do so. But when you talk of love, there is duality, is there not – the person who loves and the entity called God who is loved? The individual is not seperate from God. Hence love means one has love towards one’s own Self.

On Stillness and Silence

“The method is summed up in the words “Be still’. What does stillness mean? It means destroy yourself. Because any form or shape is the cause for trouble. Give up the notion that ‘I am so and so’. All that is required to realize the Self is to be still. What can be easier than that?”

“If the mind falls asleep, awaken it. Then if it starts wandering, make it quiet. If you reach the state where there is neither sleep nor movement of mind, stay still in that, the natural (real) state.”

“There is neither creation nor destruction, neither destiny not free will, neither path nor achievement. This is the final truth.”

“Silence is truth. Silence is bliss. Silence is peace. And hence Silence is the Self.”

“You can only stop the flow of thoughts by refusing to have any interest in it.”

“Remain still, with the conviction that the Self shines as everything yet nothing, within, without, and everywhere.”

“Become conscious of being conscious. Say or think “I am”, and add nothing to it.” Be aware of the stillness that follows the “I am.” Sense your presence, the naked unveiled, unclothed beingness. It is untouched by young or old, rich or poor, good or bad, or any other attributes.”

“When one remains without thinking one understands another by means of the universal language of silence.”

Stillness was a core motif throughout Ramana’s teachings. He saw the path of inquiry as leading to stillness and the perspective of stillness as leading to truth. The early years at his ashram saw him spending years meditating, often perfectly still in both body and mind.

If you’d like to learn more about this method from modern-day teachers who are better suited to explain in language we may understand, search YouTube for talks by any of the following experts:

  • Mooji
  • Adyashanti
  • Rupert Spira
  • Gary Weber
  • Gangaji

What experience have you had with self-inquiry? Let me know in the comments!

What Happens to Your Brain on Meditation? (Infographic)

 

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